Thursday, July 10, 2008 60 Comments

OLXIII: tactics and structures of any prospective restoration

Dear open-minded progressive, I've been holding out on this one way too long. What is to be done? Let's try and actually answer the question this time.

To be precise: by what procedures might a 20th-century liberal democracy be converted, safely, permanently and with reasonable continuity of administration, into a sovereign corporation that can be trusted to deliver secure, reliable and effective government? If you, dear open-minded progressive, chose to agree with me that this is actually a good idea, how might we go about trying to make it happen?

As I've mentioned a couple of times, my father's parents were CPUSA activists, so I do have a personal heritage of quasi-religious conspiratorial revolutionary thinking. But revolutionary tactics and structures are not, in general, useful to reactionaries. A restoration is the opposite of a revolution. Both imply regime change, but both apoptosis and necrosis involve cell death. There is no continuum between the two.

The signature performance of the modern revolution is the irregular military parade. Ie: cars or pickup trucks full of well-armed youths in their colorful native attire, driving up and down your street while (a) honking, (b) waving hand-lettered banners, (c) chanting catchy slogans, and (d) discharging their firearms in a vaguely vertical direction. Occasionally one of the vehicles will pull up in front of a house and discharge its occupants, who enter the building and emerge with an infidel, racist, Jew, spy, polluter, Nazi or other criminal. The offender is either restrained for transportation to an educational facility, or enlightened on the spot as an act of radical social justice. Yes, we can!

Whereas in the ideal restoration, the transfer of power from old to new regime is as predictable and seamless as any electoral transition. With all rites, procedures and rituals correct down to the fringe on the Grand Lama's robe, the Armani suits on his Uzi-toting bodyguards, and the scrimshaw on the yak-butter skull-candle he lights and blows out three times while chanting "Obama! Obama! Llama Alpaca Obama!", the Heavenly Grand Council releases itself from the harsh bonds of existence, identifies its successor, asks all employees to remove their personal belongings from their offices, and instructs senior eunuchs to report for temporary detention.

Obviously, we live in America and we have no Grand Lama. However, our government has a clear procedure for 100% legal closure: it can pass a constitutional amendment which terminates the Constitution. While it would be foolish to insist on this level of legal purity, it would be crass to not aspire to it.

But let's acquire a little neutral distance by saying that we live in Plainland, we are presently ruled by Plaingov, and we wish to replace it with Plaincorp. The transition should be a total reset: the policies, personnel and procedures of Plaincorp have nothing in common, except by coincidence, with the operations of Plaingov. Of course, Plaincorp inherits Plaingov's assets, but with a completely new decision framework. Arbitrary restructuring can be expected.

For obvious reasons, I prefer the word reset. But English does have a word for a discontinuous transition in sovereignty: coup. Not every coup is a reset, but every reset is a coup. The French meaning, a blow or strike, is a perfect shorthand for a discontinuous transition of sovereignty. If this transition involves a complete replacement of the sovereign decision structure, it is a reset. For example, if Plaingov's military initiates a reset, as obviously it will always have the power to, we would be looking at a military reset.

I am not a high-ranking military officer and I doubt you are either, and if the military reset is the only possible transition structure neither of us has much to contribute. While in my opinion just about every country on earth today would benefit from a transition to military government, the whole point of a military coup is that unless you are actually a member of the General Staff, your opinion doesn't matter. So why should we care? It is hard to be interested in the matter.

(I should note, however, that according to Gallup America's most trusted institution is - you guessed it. Followed directly by "small business" and "the police." The military is almost three times as popular as the Press. It is six times as popular as Congress. You do the math, kids! When the tanks finally roll, there will be no shortage of cheering. (And oddly enough, the other half of the Cathedral did not make the poll. Perhaps it fell off the bottom, and was discarded.))

The only alternative to a military coup is a political coup, or to be catchy a democoup. In a democoup, the government is overthrown by organizing a critical mass of political opposition to which it surrenders, ideally just as the result of overwhelming peer pressure. Certainly the most salient example is the fall of the Soviet Union, including its puppet states and the wonderfully if inaccurately named Velvet Revolution. (Again, a reaction is not a revolution.) Other examples include the Southern Redemption, the Meiji Restoration, and of course the English Restoration.

In each of these events, a broad political coalition deployed more or less nonviolent, if seldom perfectly legal, tactics to replace a failed administration with a new regime which was dedicated to the restoration of responsible and effective government. Note that all of these are real historical events, which actually happened in the real world. I did not just make them up and edit them into Wikipedia. Yes, dear open-minded progressive, change can happen.

If there is one fact to remember about a restoration via democoup, it's that this program has nothing to do with the traditional 11th-grade civics-class notion of democratic participation. Obviously, we are not trying to replace one or two officials whose role is primarily symbolic. We are trying to replace not the current occupants of the temporary and largely-ceremonial "political" offices of Plaingov, but Plaingov itself - lock, stock and barrel. Indeed, we are using democratic tactics to abolish democracy itself. (There is nothing at all ironic in this. Is it ironic when an absolute monarch decrees a democratic constitution?)

By definition, a reset is a nonincremental transition. To the extent that there is some gradual algorithm which slowly weakens Plaingov and pulls it inexorably toward the brink of implosion, gradualist tactics may be of use. But the tactics are useful only as they promote the goal, and the goal is not gradual.

We are all familiar with gradual revolutions, on the Fabian or Gramscian plan. And tactics are tactics, for good or evil: in the war between the hosts of Heaven and the armies of Satan, both the demons and the angels drive tanks and fly jet fighters. So why is it that history affords many examples of sudden revolution, many examples of gradual revolution, some examples of sudden reaction, and almost no examples of gradual reaction?

Even if we had no explanation for this observation, it is always imprudent to mess with Clio. But we do have an explanation: revolution, being fundamentally antinomian (opposed to law and order), is entropic. Revolution is the destruction of order, degradation into complexity. Slow destruction is decay, cancer and corrosion. Rapid destruction is annihilation, fire and gangrene. Both are possible. Sometimes they form a delightful cocktail.

But reaction, being pronomian (favoring law and order), is the replacement of complex disorder with simple geometric forms. If we assume that disorder snowballs and creates further disorder, a common entropic phenomenon (think of the cascade of events that turns a normal cell into a cancerous cell), any attempt at a gradual reaction is fighting uphill. You treat cancer cells by killing them, not by turning them back into healthy, normal tissue.

Of course, this is just a metaphor. We are not killing people. We are liquidating institutions. Let's try and keep this in mind, kids.

But not too much in mind, because the metaphor of termination is critical. Metaphorically, here is how we're going to liquidate Plaingov: we're going to hit it extremely hard in the head with a sharp, heavy object which traverses a short throw at very high speed. Then we'll crush its body under an enormous roller, dry the pancake in a high-temperature oven, and grind it into a fine powder which is mixed with molten glass and cast as ingots for storage in a deep geological cavity, such as a salt mine. The shaft is filled with concrete and enclosed by a dog-patrolled double fence with the razor-wire facing inward. This still may not work, but at least it's a shot.

Less metaphorically, the starting point for a democoup is a program. Call it X. Success involves (a) convincing a large number of people to support the proposition that X should be done, and (b) organizing them to act collectively so as to make X happen.

To define the democoup we have to explain what it's not: civics-class democracy. Let's try a farcical experiment in civics-class democracy, just to see how pointless it is.

We start, obviously, by forming the Mencist Party. A new product in the marketplace of ideas. Of course, we have new ideas, so we need a new brand. In the classic democratic spirit, our new party must organize itself around either (a) a shared vision of government policy ("racist corporate fascism," let's say), (b) a flamboyant personality (me, obviously), or (c) both.

The Mencist Party faces obstacles so huge as to be comical. First: what is racist corporate fascism? Since Mencism is out beyond the fringes of the fringes, it will only attract supporters who are genuinely passionate about our vision of racist corporate fascism. Of course this label is designed to attract only the most independent-minded of independent thinkers - to put it gently. Therefore, racist corporate fascism must become a "big tent" which, for the sake of enlarging itself and appearing important, embraces all supporters whose views can be vaguely described as racist corporate-fascist.

In fact I have no idea what "racist corporate fascism" might be. I just like the name. But this is reckless, and it causes problems. For example, is RCF anti-Semitic, or not? Of course, I, Mencius, am not anti-Semitic, but do I strain every muscle to purge Mencists who express what may be very mild anti-Semitic views? If so, the Mencist Party will become an Avakianesque exercise in cult leadership. If not, it will become a blurry, lager-soaked exercise in vulgar plebeian puerility, a la Stormfront. Of course, all Mencists must support the political candidacy of Mencius (who will no doubt decline into referring to himself in the third person). But will anyone else? Ha.

More generally, it's easy to see the organizational difficulty of constructing a movement around a vision of government, whether a detailed policy vision (Sailer's plan for school reform comes to mind), or a general theory of government such as libertarianism. If our supporters are required to think in the democratic tense, to imagine themselves or at least their ideas in power, we have taken on an extraordinary boat-anchor of unproductive internal infighting. What is libertarianism? Dear god. There's a fine line between herding cats and being herded by them.

And if supporters are required to elect a public personality whom they conceive as a personal friend, much as the readers of People imagine that they know Brad Pitt, it (a) only takes one tiff to estrange this fragile bond, and (b) does not ensure that the Leader will have any actual power when he does get into office. Like today's Presidents, all of whom have been actors (that is, their job is to read from scripts written by others) for the last 75 years, he will spend most of his time trying to retain the fickle sycophants who put him where he is.

Our modern democratic elections are an extremely poor substitute for actual regime change. As we've seen, democracy is to government as gray, slimy cancer is to pink and healthy living tissue. It is a degenerate neoplastic form. The only reason America has lasted as long as she has, and even still has more than a few years left, is that this malignancy is at present encysted in a thick husk of sclerotic scar tissue - our permanent civil service. Democracy implies politics, and "political" is a dirty word to the civil-service state. As well it should be. Its job is to resist democracy, and it does it very well.

Therefore, any attempt to defeat the sclerotic Cathedral state by a restoration of representative democracy in the classic sense of the word, in which public policy is actually formulated by elected officials (such as the Leader, Mencius), is a bayonet charge at the Maginot Line. The Mencist Party could go all the way and elect President Mencius, and it would still be shredded into gobbets of meat by presighted bureaucratic machine guns. In short: a total waste of time. Much better to bend over and pretend to enjoy it.

When we think of a democoup instead of a democratic party, all of these problems disappear. (They are replaced by other problems, but we'll deal with those in their turn.)

Supporters of a democoup propose a program of action, not a policy vision or a personality. The demonstrators who chanted "Wir sind das Volk" were not seeking election to the East German Parliament. They were seeking the termination of state socialism. Everyone in the crowd had exactly the same goal. The movement was coherent - a laser, not a flashlight.

"Racist corporate fascism" is a flashlight. "Elect President Mencius" is a flashlight. Even "secure, responsible and effective government" is something of a flashlight, although the beam starts to be reasonably tight - compare, for example, to sonno joi. "Restore the Stuarts" is a laser. It may not be the best possible laser (we'll look at others), but it is definitely a laser.

One common democratic assumption is that a movement cannot succeed in wielding power without accumulating a proper majority of support. In fact, none of the movements involved in the fall of Communism mobilized anywhere near a majority. The demonstrations did not have half the country in the streets. They were pure exercises of brutal democratic power, and they succeeded, but they had nothing to do with elections or majorities.

And of course our Western version of socialism, largely because it has not entirely pulled the fangs of democratic politics, is much more responsive to public opinion than any Communist state. Last year the immigration-restriction lobby NumbersUSA almost singlehandledly deprived the Inner Party of the pleasure of importing what would have certainly been millions of loyal voters. How many people contacted Congress at their behest? I'd be amazed if it was a hundred thousand.

When we look beyond elections and consider direct influence on government, we see the tremendous power of cohesion, commitment and organization. It is pretty clear, for example, that a minority of Americans supported the American Revolution. But the Patriots were far more motivated and energetic than the Tories. We may deplore the result, but it certainly can't hurt to look into the tactics.

A curious example of reactionary cohesion has emerged recently, in - of all places - my hometown of San Francisco. SF's awful local Pravda, the Chronicle, recently introduced a comments section. Unlike its more careful large competitors, the Chron (a) supports comments on every article, and (b) allows commenters to vote each other both up and down. Note that this allows the casual reader to compare the respective political strength of two opposing currents of opinion - because up and down votes do not cancel each other.

And the result, in the progressive capital of the world? Threads like this one, in which comments like
This makes me embarrassed to live in San Francisco. This scenario is absolutely absurd. Why not just invite all escaped convicts, paroled sex offenders, child molesters, and drug dealers to SF and give them free housing and free food. Simply ridiculous.

LOL, "Hello!" innocent or not, Deport ALL Illegal Immigrants. As long as it's illegal it's NOT innocent. Fair is Fair. Our Government is insane on this issue.

Far left-liberalism is not a political philosophy, it is a form of mental illness.

OK (expletive deleted), that does it, that's it. I've never had even a traffic ticket in this mid-lifetime of mine, but that's it, give me a six-shooter, some ammo, some places to rob and pilfer, who's gonna join me in one long party of criminal behavior? Look, face it, we're SUCKERS, SUCKERS. There's no incentive in God's Earth to obey the law anymore, why? I've been doing it wrong all this time, there's no sanction for crime anymore. I could use $5,000 for a vacation, I'm just gonna borrow it by force. Why obey laws anymore?
can be "elected" by scores of, respectively, 426 to 4, 371 to 17, 346 to 55, and 484 to 15.

(The best one of these threads ever, though, was one I saw about the "homeless." There was one page in which about a third of the comments were "deleted by SFGate," and the remaining two thirds were peppered with ones like - and I remember this specifically, I am not making it up - "I used to really care about the homeless, but these days I could care less. As far as I'm concerned, we might as well roll 'em up in carpets and throw them in the Bay." To wild virtual applause, of course. Congratulations, San Francisco! The city of Herb Caen, the Hungry 'I' and the Barbary Coast has delivered a new treat - the Bürgerbräukeller @ SFGate.)

Even more interestingly, after the Honduran crack-dealer articles and these reactions appeared (the latest thread, which promises to be glorious, is here), our notoriously spineless mayor, or rather his producers, chose to pseudo-reverse his earlier pseudo-non-decision. Where did he get his pox vopuli from? Where do you think? The Chronicle has spawned a monster.

This humble corporate BBS, intended as anything but a weapon for reactionary information warfare, is on the way to becoming a real thorn in the side of its Pravda masters. Indeed, the tone of all minor newspapers in America is increasingly reminiscent of Soviet Life. The cheery self-adulation, the sock-sucking worship of venal petty bureaucrats, and everywhere the icy plastic chill of Occam's Butterknife:
On many occasions I had the opportunity to discuss the service industries with Western colleagues. They invariably noted differences with the services that are available in the USSR and what they are accustomed to at home. They told me that, compared to Western standards, this sector is poorly developed in the USSR, but they didn't hesitate to add how fabulously inexpensive most of our services are. For instance, the cost of laundering a man's shirt is about 10 kopecks (20 cents). However, this second point is not widely known.
[...]
People are now buying more. A separate apartment for every family, a rarity in the mid-fifties, has now become the rule. Today eight out of 10 urban families live in their own apartments. And many more refrigerators, TV sets, vacuum cleaners and shoes are being produced in the country. The demand for laundries, dry cleaners, repair shops and car-care centers has risen accordingly.
[...]
To speed up progress in all areas of the service industries and to more efficiently employ the advantages of a planned economy, the USSR State Planning Committee (Gosplan) has developed a comprehensive program for the expansion of consumer-goods production and the sphere of everyday services for the period 1986 to 2000.
[...]
From 1986 to 1990 the number of telephones will increase by from 1.6 to 1.7 times as compared to the current five-year period, and five times by the year 2000. By then it is projected that all residents of small towns will have their own telephones installed in their homes.
Etc, etc, etc. No wonder the most successful new newspaper in America can make a steady living by parodying our version of this material. The form is deathless. It speaks from beyond the grave of socialism. (We're not filling the shafts on those salt mines for nothin'.) Imagine if Pravda, in 1986, had set up some little comment board - using paper and cork, probably. The threads would have filled up with exactly the same flavor of reckless petty dissidence.

This little board has become what might be called a focus of political energy. A couple of crucial points about the SFGate Sturmabteilung - who might also be described as the Ku Klux Chron, or more historically as the Third Vigilance Committee (I can just picture a hip 3VC logo).

One, the denizens of these boards are a tiny minority of San Francisco voters. A thousand votes is not a hill of beans in a city of 750,000. Many of them probably live in the suburbs, not SF proper. The idea that they are representative of SF public opinion proper is ludicrous.

Two, these lopsided percentages are not even representative of the opinions of Chronicle readers. There are certainly plenty of articles on which progressive commenters and comment upvoters congregate, though the ratios are never this glaring. I suspect that there is a small hooligan community which skims SFGate for a certain type of article, and flocks as naturally as any specialized moth to its rare orchid in the dankest, fleshiest navels of the urban underbelly. It is simply obvious that these are not good and healthy people. Why should their opinions count?

They count because the power of a democratic signal is proportional to five variables: the size of the antenna, the material of the antenna, the coherence of the message, the broadcast wattage, and the clarity of reception. In other words: the number of people who agree, the social status of those people, the extent to which they actually agree on any one thing, how much they actually care, and the extent to which the decision-maker (the signal's recipient) can trust the poll.

If you have 10% of the American population who answers 'yes' to a cold-call telemarketer pitching some stupid survey which asks a dumb question whose answer no one knows anything about, like "should the US bomb Iran?", you have a pathetically weak signal. People of average social status are being asked an obvious question that they can be expected to have a casual opinion on, and no more. They have about two neurons devoted to Iran policy. One of these cells may know where Iran is, and the other may know that they wear turbans there. No one will be tempted to bomb Iran, or even consider it, on the strength of this signal.

If you have 10% of the American population, each one a homeowner whose identity has been validated and whose preferences are regularly refreshed in the database, who are on record in favor of abolishing Washington and restoring the Stuarts, and have agreed to vote as a bloc toward this objective, you have a very different phenomenon. Is this enough to abolish Washington etc? Probably not, but it might be enough to get a Stuart prince in the Cabinet. While it is not clear that this would be of any value, the principle should be clear.

I suspect the SFGate signal is getting through because it is extremely clear, the people expressing their opinions are extremely vehement, and it is clear that no one is vehement enough in opposition to them to descend into the muck of the dank-orchid articles and vote the Nazi comments down. So the hooked cross rises again, in the cradle of the United Nations. How ironic.

(Of course, in reality I'm sure the commenters are all good people, and I regret being tempted to refer to them as the Ku Klux Chron. In fact they are constantly saying things like "I'm not a Republican, but..." Conquest's law is always at work.)

In any case: back to the program. We have already described X, but our program is incomplete. We have the formula for a responsible and effective government: a financial structure designed to maximize tax receipts by maximizing property values. We have a program for converting Plaingov into Plaincorp: deliver the former, bag and baggage, to a bankruptcy administrator or Receiver, who restructures the operation and converts its many financial obligations to well-structured securities. We have even suggested some restructuring options - although these matters cannot, of course, be predecided, as the Receiver's sovereignty is undivided.

We do not know whom this Receiver guy or gal is (other than Steve Jobs). (Let's say it's a gal. If Steve wants the job, I'm afraid he'll have to have himself cut.) We do not know who selects the Receiver, and/or reviews her performance. In other words, we have the second half of program X, but not the first.

Frankly, I presented it this way in order to make it sound as shocking and unappealing as possible. Dear open-minded progressive, you have already read through the dramatic climax. Your mind is as open as an oyster on the half-shell. You have seriously considered the idea that your country might be a better place if democracy is terminated, the Constitution is cancelled, and the government is handed over to an absolute dictator whose first act is to impose martial law, and whose long-term plan is to convert your country into a for-profit corporation. Now we can try to translate these shocking suggestions into a more palatable form.

First, it is a mistake to focus on the Receiver. She is not a dictator in the classic sense. A dictator, or even an absolute monarch, has both power and authority: his person is the source of all decisions, his decisions are final, his position is not subject to any external review.

The Receiver - or her long-term replacement, the Director (you might say I subscribe to the auteur theory of management; the Receiver's job is to convert Plaingov into Plaincorp, the Director is the chief executive of Plaincorp going forward) - is in a different position. Her decisions are final, so she has absolute authority. But she is an employee, so she has no power. She is just there to do a job, and if she is doing it badly she will be removed.

In the long term, power in Plaincorp belongs to the proprietors - the shareholders, the owners of Plaincorp's equity instruments. But as we discussed last week, the right people to hold initial equity in Plaincorp, probably for the most part holders of Plaingov's old paper currency and equivalent obligations, may not be the best people to manage Plaincorp. Especially during the critical transition period.

Rather, any plan in which Plaingov relinquishes its sovereign power must involve a transfer of that power to an agency which is intrinsically trustworthy. Let's call this the Trust. The Receiver is an employee of the Trust, which selects her, reviews her performance regularly, and replaces her if there is any doubt as to her excellence. Sovereignty is an attribute of the Trust, not of the Receiver.

Once Plaincorp is on its feet and running, it will provide a test of the proposition that good government equals sound stewardship of sovereign capital. However, the Trust must start off by assuming this proposition - that is, its mission is to provide good government, on the assumption that good government maximizes the value of Plainland to Plaincorp. If this assumption appears mistaken, the Trust should not complete the transition to neocameralism. Rather, it should find something else to do, and do it instead. All responsibility is in its hands.

Of course, a degenerate form of the Trust-Receiver design is the old royalist model - the Trust is the royal family. There may even be just one Trustee, the Receiver herself. This is the result we'd obtain by restoring the Stuarts through the House of Liechtenstein. It succeeds, if it succeeds, by putting all the eggs in one very sound basket. The Princes of Liechtenstein are experienced rulers and blatantly responsible, the royalist design is tried and tested (if hardly perfect), and the option can be described without too much genealogical contortion as a restoration of legal authority in any country which traces its sovereignty to the British Empire.

Still, the saleability of the proposition has to be considered. Most people living today have been heavily catechized in the virtues of democracy, the magical wisdom of crowds, and the evils of personal government. There is no getting around it: we have to change their minds on the first point. Rearing a fresh crop of Jacobites, however, may exceed even the Internet's vast untapped potential as an information-warfare medium.

So there is a more palatable design for the Trust: a good, old-fashioned parliament, updated of course for the 21st century. This is not democracy, however. Its members each have one vote, but they are not chosen by any sort of election.

Voters raised in the democratic tradition will only be willing to trust sovereignty in the hands of a collective governing body, which operates internally on the basis of one man, one vote. Internally, the Trust is an extremely simple and elegant democracy of trustees. Presumably, following the classic corporate-governance model, the trustees elect a Board, who select the Receiver and review her performance. Just as the Board can fire the Receiver at any time, the trustees can fire the Board. All true power is held by the trustees.

Ideally there are at least thousands, preferably tens or even hundreds of thousands, of trustees. In a pinch, sovereignty can be handed to the Trust simply by running Plaingov's present-day electoral system, but restricting suffrage to trustees - an ugly, but functional, transition plan. The only question is: who are these people? Or more precisely, who should they be?

Think about it, dear open-minded progressive. Presumably you believe in democracy. Presumably your belief is not motivated by the opinion that the average voter has any particular insight into or understanding of the difficult problem of government. Therefore, you believe that there is some sort of amplification effect which somehow transforms the averageness of hominids into the famed "wisdom of crowds." (Actually, as Tocqueville noted, at least when it comes to government by crowd we are generally looking at an information cascade at best, and a particularly wicked feedback loop at worst. But never mind.)

However, whether or not you believe in the wisdom of crowds, you surely believe that any wisdom they may express is derived from the wisdom of their component individuals. There is certainly no hundredth-monkey effect in which simply collecting a large number of bipeds and collating their multiple-choice tests can somehow draw truth out of the vasty deep.

Therefore, you will always be able to improve the quality of representatives generated by any democratic system, by improving the quality of the voters. This is the point of the Trust: to dramatically improve the quality of government by replacing universal suffrage with highly qualified suffrage. Our Trustees should be just that - extremely trustworthy.

Okay, this is good. Let's say our goal is to select the 100,000 most trustworthy and responsible adults in Plainland. They will serve as the trustees who oversee the complicated and dangerous transition from Plaingov to Plaincorp. By definition, each of these individuals is in the 99.95th percentile of trustworthiness and responsibility. (I am certainly not in this group.)

Is it not obvious that these people would select competent management? I think it's obvious. But the plan is unworkable, so there is no reason to debate it.

By what process will we select these individuals? Who shall recruit the recruiters? It is difficult and expensive to find just one individual with these executive qualifications. Moreover, in a sovereign context, the filtering process itself will serve as a political football - many progressives might decide, for example, that only progressives can be trusted. It is impossible to end a fight by starting a new fight.

This insane recruiting process cannot occur either under Plaingov or under Plaincorp. It cannot occur under Plaingov, because it will be subject to Plaingov politics and will carry those politics, which are uniformly poisonous, forward into Plaincorp. At this point the reset is not a reset. But it cannot occur under Plaincorp, because the trustees are needed to select the Receiver. And there can be no intervening period of anarchy.

But there is a hack which can work around this obstacle. You might think it's a cute hack, or you might think it's an ugly hack. It probably depends on your taste. I think it's pretty cute.

The hack is a precise heuristic test to select trustees. The result of the test is one bit for every citizen of Plainland: he or she either is or is not a trustee. The test is precise because its result is not a matter of debate - it can be verified trivially. And it is heuristic because it should produce a good result on average, with only occasional horrifying exceptions.

My favorite PHT defines the trustees as the set of all active, certified, nonstudent pilots who accept the responsibility of trusteeship, as of the termination date of Plaingov. The set does not expand - you cannot become a trustee by taking flying lessons, and any rejection or resignation of the responsibility is irreversible. In other words, to paraphrase Lenin: all power to the pilots. (There are about 500,000 of them.)

Let's look at the advantages of this PHT. I am not myself a pilot - I am neither wealthy enough, nor responsible enough. But everyone I've ever met who was a pilot, whether private, military or commercial, has struck me as not only responsible, but also independent-minded, often even adventurous. This is a particularly rare combination. To be precise, it is an aristocratic combination, and the word aristocracy is after all just Greek for good government. Pilots are a fraternity of intelligent, practical, and careful people who are already trusted on a regular basis with the lives of others. What's not to like?

If we caore to broaden this set, we can extend it by adding all practicing medical doctors, or all active and retired police and military officers, or better yet both. Believe it or not, doctors were once one of America's most reactionary professions, in the forefront of the struggle against FDR. They also made housecalls. Now they are a bunch of Communist bureaucrats. But the boys in blue can keep them in line. Our fighting men know what to do with a Communist, if they have a free hand. More to the point, each of these professions is a technically demanding task in which the professional is trusted with the lives of others.

So we have a nice, clear, laser-like program. Washington has failed. The Constitution has failed. Democracy has failed. It is time for restoration, for national salvation, for a full reboot. We need a new government, a clean slate, a fresh hand which is smart, strong and fair. All power to the pilots!

Continue to part 14...

60 Comments:

Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Pilots. Yeah, it's cute, but for the love of god, keep the MDs away! If you think the current nanny state is bad, just wait until they get their hands on it. You've got to be either a pure-hearted believer of the Cathedral or a master of ketman to get into med school.

July 10, 2008 at 4:30 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Pilots indeed!

So, is anyone readier to embrace my suggestion that the path forward consists in working with the Arabs and the Chinese on the great restructuring? Seeing as how they're going to have quite a say anyway.

July 10, 2008 at 5:09 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

I've found that referring to your reader as 'dear' is somewhat homey if used sparsely and a gooey saccharine mold if used too often.

Calling politicians spineless is a pretty dishonest insult. If they actually believe in democracy, they should be as spineless as possible. They should vacillate with every twitch of the popular mind.

Typo: caore.

July 10, 2008 at 5:33 AM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

I should note, however, that according to Gallup America's most trusted institution is - you guessed it. Followed directly by "small business" and "the police." The military is almost three times as popular as the Press. It is six times as popular as Congress.

The military is popular precisely because it has nothing to do with politics. If the military decided to take charge of the political process, its popularity would suffer an immediate dramatic decline.

In a democoup, the government is overthrown by organizing a critical mass of political opposition to which it surrenders, ideally just as the result of overwhelming peer pressure. Certainly the most salient example is the fall of the Soviet Union, including its puppet states and the wonderfully if inaccurately named Velvet Revolution. (Again, a reaction is not a revolution.) Other examples include the Southern Redemption, the Meiji Restoration, and of course the English Restoration.

In all of these examples, the coup succeeded because the government lacked the will to crush the coup by force. Is WashGov tired of ruling yet? Don't launch your coup before they are.

Even if we had no explanation for this observation, it is always imprudent to mess with Clio. But we do have an explanation: revolution, being fundamentally antinomian (opposed to law and order), is entropic.

Revolution is not anti-law and order. It is opposed only to the current law and order, which it proposes to replace with its own.

One common democratic assumption is that a movement cannot succeed in wielding power without accumulating a proper majority of support. In fact, none of the movements involved in the fall of Communism mobilized anywhere near a majority. The demonstrations did not have half the country in the streets. They were pure exercises of brutal democratic power, and they succeeded, but they had nothing to do with elections or majorities.

Again, they required that the Communists lost the will to power and the will to turn loose the security forces on the demonstrators. What's the difference between 1989 and 1956 and 1968? Gorby, unlike Nikita or Leonid, was not willing to crush the demonstrators with tanks.

Yeah, it's cute, but for the love of god, keep the MDs away! If you think the current nanny state is bad, just wait until they get their hands on it.

Nah. They detest bureaucracy, they are focused on results, and they are used to having very obvious indicators of success or failure (i.e. the patient died or he didn't). Don't confuse the MDs themselves with all the administrative hangers-on who infest every hospital.

July 10, 2008 at 7:10 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

In all of these examples, the coup succeeded because the government lacked the will to crush the coup by force. Is WashGov tired of ruling yet? Don't launch your coup before they are.


The legal and demogaphic isalmization of W. Europe, most dramatically in the UK, can be seen as a slow-motion coup. Auster has speculated on that being a sign that European elites are simply tired of ruling.

On the other hand, I suspect that any attempted coup, slow motion or not, by Veklams B. or BNP would be met with a swift and crushing response.

A selective fatigue?

July 10, 2008 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

So let me get this straight. You think that all of us free-spirit types are going to agree, laser-like, on "all power to the pilots, and maybe the MDs and police and officers, and maybe a few other folks". And then, magically, people will rally to this call -- laserlike, again -- and reset the government, agreeing to replace the current set of political institutions with a trustee board of MDs, Officers, Police, Pilots, etc. MOPPs. All power to the MOPPs. And these folks will, somehow, agree to set up an all-powerful dictatress, except she's not actually all-powerful, because they somehow restrain her, even though she is all-powerful. And then she, for some reason, will implement your ideas and emplace a corporation as the state.

Hmm, still seems a bit far fetched to me.

July 10, 2008 at 8:00 AM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

The legal and demogaphic isalmization of W. Europe, most dramatically in the UK, can be seen as a slow-motion coup. Auster has speculated on that being a sign that European elites are simply tired of ruling.

I don't see it that way any more than I see the mass importation of Hispanics as a sign that the political elite here is tired of ruling. In both cases the elites are bringing in the immigrants as tools to maintain their rule, not because they plan to abdicate their rule to the immigrants. All the pandering to Islamics (there) and Hispanics (here) is political theater, not a sign of rulership fatigue.

July 10, 2008 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Gerard said...

"Hmm, still seems a bit far fetched to me."

Yup, like all big ideas written long, very long, a series always seems to lose its narrative drive somewhere out on the far turn.

July 10, 2008 at 9:23 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I like the breezy way you jump from pilots (who, I agree, are generally a competent, confident, independent, and reliable bunch) to military and police officers, who are a very different kettle of fish. Being in the military or police means being a willing cog in a bureaucratized violence machine. With all due respect to the well-intentioned and competent individuals in these professions, I have absolutely no desire to be governed by them, and neither does anyone else with an ounce of authentic libertarian spirit.

The deeper problem is, who is going to make this determination that pilots, or cops, or sous-chefs or whover, consititutes the sole class with political power? And how is this decision enforced?

A new (or old) government might not require violence to establish itself, but it requires at least a Schelling point -- some common locus that serves as a natural point of agreement as to what constitutes legitimate authority. This is how monarchy works, insofar as it does. The Stuarts don't work in the US. The closest thing we have are celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who managed to leverage his fame into political power and I'm sure would be happy to serve as king/CEO of Plaincorp.

July 10, 2008 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger BGC said...

Who are the best Americans? The Mormons, without a shadow of doubt. Utah is _by far_ the best run US State. And the only one with viable fertility:

http://sdt.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/

online/sdt_at_paa2007.pdf

See especially Figure 6

If anyone is to be given control it should be the Mormons.

But this will happen anyway, if the present regime survives, in about 3-5 generations on the basis of back of envelope demographic trends.

The Mormon elite double in size every 30 years (c. four babies per couple), the currently dominant secular intellecuals quarter in size every generation (that's right - half a child per couple on average).

That's an eight-fold differential in fertility (maybe more...)

Do the math...

July 10, 2008 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See, we can't avoid a squabble over who the Trustees are going to be. Mtraven doesn't want any cops or military - no doubt he'd prefer every US college professor to be a Trustee. I myself would not wish to submit to the rulership of Mormons. So how are we going to resolve this fight?

July 10, 2008 at 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

On the importance of the SFGate commenters, MM has made the same point as that great historian the earl of Clarendon: "that three diligent persons are a greater number in arithmetic, as well as a more significant number in logic, than ten unconcerned."

I concur that pilots are a great choice as representing aristocratic virtues in a modern setting. I suppose flying is the successor of horsemanship, shooting and fencing. As for Mtraven's point about military and police officers being "willing cog(s) in a bureaucratized violence machine," a little more subtlety and distinction should be applied to these classes of people.

From his placement of the word 'officers' after the word police, I am not sure he wishes it also to refer to the military, and hence to exclude enlisted personnel from those in military service he deems "willing cogs." Surely in the present all-volunteer armed forces, all military personnel are in some sense "willing." The question is then to what extent they are "cogs."

Junior enlisted personnel have a wide variety of motivations. The old saw was "If you want to learn a job, join the Army. If you want a clean berth, join the Navy. If you want to fly, join the Air Force, and if you want to fight, join the Marine Corps."

NCOs of all the services are great reservoirs of common sense and motivation. No army could run without its sergeants. In my observation they all have a healthy scepticism of the judgment of most of their officers, though they are careful not to trespass into open defiance of them. In turn the better sort of officer will often defer to the practical judgment of his senior NCOs. If they are "cogs" they can certainly seem to be under independent drive.

One becomes a junior officer in a few cases by going through the service academies, but more typically by commission upon being graduated from a university having a ROTC program. This commissioning is accomplished by a massive act of Congress that is quite impersonal and unconnected with the political preferences of any given newly-made subaltern. Again, motivations of these people vary widely but could be said to evince a considerable amount of independence and willingness to defy surrounding convention, considering the usual academic atmosphere even at those universities where ROTC has an active presence. If these young officers are "willing cogs" in one bureaucratized machine it is by virtue of their unwillingness to be cogs in that of another.

One rises from subaltern status through the ranks of the officer corps, given adequate internally generated performance reports, on a more-or-less automatic track through the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, or commander in the Navy. At this point the process becomes somewhat political, since the next promotion must be by the action of the secretary of the given service, who is a political appointee. The result is that vast numbers of officers retire at the ranks mentioned. Those who go on to become full colonels or naval captains face an even more difficult challenge to advance to flag rank, which again requires an act of Congress. This time, though, unlike initial commissioning, it is an individual process and there is sometimes intense political scrutiny.

It is useful to bear these points in mind when considering Gen. Wesley Clark's strictures on John McCain. Reading between the lines what one sees is the scorn felt by a deeply political officer of flag rank, West Point class valedictorian and Rhodes Scholar, for the sort of officer McCain was - fifth from the bottom of his class at Annapolis, airplane jockey, and who probably got his captaincy only because of his harrowing personal experience, rather than because of the sort of refined military judgment someone like Clark believes himself to have.

If we are to include military personnel in the class of Trustees, it would seem to me to be wise to exclude officers of flag rank for precisely the reason that they are likely to be in thrall to the old political system, and "willing cogs" in it to a much greater extent than are senior NCOs and officers below the ranks of colonel or naval captain. People of Clark's kidney may be relied upon to turn out to be bosom-serpents.

As for police officers, here again is a widely varied class. Rank-and-file cops can be remarkably sharp folks in some cases, while others are equally remarkable in their dullness. At command levels there is inevitably politicization. I recall, when in my misspent youth I attended a somewhat pretentious private university in the southern U.S., hearing of a sheriff in a neighboring county who was braced by a newspaper reporter for not doing enough to stop moonshining in his jurisdiction. He replied to the young whippersnapper, "I am an elected official. My job is to give my constituents as much law enforcement as they want." I believe this attitude is much more widely present in rural and small-town police agencies than many people recognize.

Even so, it is probably not as harmful as the sort of bureaucratic politicization of large municipal police departments. All one needs to do is to observe the behavior of police chiefs and commissioners in cities like Los Angeles, New York, etc., which is only slightly less bad than that of district attorneys. Again, such specimens would be untrustworthy Trustees.

July 10, 2008 at 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

"First, it is a mistake to focus on the Receiver. She is not a dictator in the classic sense. A dictator, or even an absolute monarch, has both power and authority."

Well, why didn't you say so? I've been wondering that for quite some time.

I'll mull over the pilots things for a while ... seems like a fair idea. I'm surprised at the addition of physicians, actually. I would have thought accountants and/or civil engineers would be next on the list. Just goes to show I'm Not Moldbug.

My dear Leonard, the process isn't supposed to be magical. It's supposed to be the fruits of ordinary discourse among thinking people. If it doesn't work, well, you can hardly blame someone for trying. If you're saying something more than, "These ideas seem unfamiliar and ipso facto I'm quite sure they'll never take hold," then you should revise and extend your remarks.

A question Moldbug needs to ask himself is, What did the early progressives and democrats say when they were met with responses like Leonard's? I've always wondered myself.

July 10, 2008 at 8:41 PM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

You seem to be working on the same heuristic of choosing trustees that Heinlein does in starship troopers. people that put the lives of others above their own (showing a social responsibility) are the ones to be trusted.

This seems socialistic to me. Why should we trust people that put others before themselves? Wouldn't these people be apt to continue down the same liberal road we are marching now?

I'm not sure it's so easy to avoid the pitfalls of liberalism. Liberalism is extremely strong because it is self-reinforcing, while individualism is self-defeating.

July 10, 2008 at 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

bgc:
The Mormon elite double in size every 30 years (c. four babies per couple), the currently dominant secular intellecuals quarter in size every generation (that's right - half a child per couple on average).

That's true, but misleading: political orientation is not written in the genes. The secular humanists can hang on forever as long as they convert enough of the Mormon's spawn. The Left is very attractive to children of religious and right-wing households, but the converse is definitely not the case.

July 10, 2008 at 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why should we trust people that put others before themselves?

Because the alternative is trusting people who put themselves before others?

July 10, 2008 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

I just realized that Chicago is the perfect place for a trial legal-sterilization.

It's a good location, but already half a ghost town. The land is already devalued to its natural state cost.

Additionally, like many economic backwaters in America, still contains a large number of potentially productive adults. The situation is a lot like Cuba, actually.

So why won't Plaingov at least try letting Jack Welch run the place with no taxes or exherently-enforced laws? Because it's full of shit, that's why.

July 11, 2008 at 3:13 AM  
Anonymous Proofreader said...

Great series of essays, Mencius!

Pilots are fine, but Bush and McCain are out of the question.
What a fine pair of "supermen" these two have proven to be!

July 11, 2008 at 5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

when I think about pilots vs. MDs I think of George W. Bush vs. Ron Paul. Maybe the trustees should be limited to male gynecologists in their 70s.

Also, regarding pilots, here is a random quote from the internet:

"Greater than 50% of all aircraft pilots in the US are union members."

Yikes! you want to put the unions in charge of bringing about your reactionary utopia? That seems far-fetched to me.

July 11, 2008 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Chicago is a ghost town? Not in my universe. Maybe you are thinking of Detroit.

July 11, 2008 at 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Last anon., are you sure the 50% unionization figure does not refer just to commercial passenger and transport pilots?

There is a large number of persons of widely varied background who fly in "general aviation" rather than for scheduled commercial transport. I have known quite a few such people, suspect MM intends to include them amongst the trustees, and understand why. It is their competence to master the physical and intellectual skills of flying, and the underlying qualities of mind, that he values - the modern equivalent of "to ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth." Union membership is merely an unfortunate concomitant of piloting as a commercial employment.

July 11, 2008 at 11:29 AM  
Anonymous statsquatch said...

Mitchell is correct. Our moslty foreign bond holders need to have a say in the restructuring. Holders of USG debt should be paid off first. It is the pronomun thing to do. Then the "stock holders" can fight for what is ever left.

If we let the emir of Dubai be the receiver he will at least make sure we can pay our debts. Not sure if a Pilot would do this.

As for the Mormons, I thought we were trying to get religion out of govenrment. It would be a shame to replace one mystery cult (Quakerism) with another.

July 11, 2008 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Yes, I clearly meant to type Detroit. Oops.

July 11, 2008 at 2:44 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I find it rather amusing that a Freemason should be so dead set against labor unions, seeing as they have something of a common heritage.

July 11, 2008 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Criminals and I share a common heritage, but the similarities stop there.

Mormons are quite good at keeping their religion (not their views, mind you) out of politics. At any rate, part of political orientation is genetic AND it certainly has a lot to do with nurture. As more and more non-progressives refuse to put their children in public schools (or any formal schools at all) there will be less and less of a chance to indoctrinate them into state-worship. Hearing about passionate environmentalism and equality for all is great and moving when you're an idealistic 12-year-old. By the time you're in college (which is 20+ if you're a Mormon) it just sounds like tripe.

July 11, 2008 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The situation is a lot like Cuba, actually.

Oh gawd, can we please have a thread without any mention of Cuba?

"Greater than 50% of all aircraft pilots in the US are union members."

Who can blame them? Airline management is constantly trying to screw the pilots.

Moreover, many airlines require their pilots to be union members, and the best and most lucrative routes go to the most senior members of the union.

Pilots are fine, but Bush and McCain are out of the question.

MM said "active and certified" pilots, which these guys are not.

July 11, 2008 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Oh gawd, can we please have a thread that isn't infested with anonymous?

Glass houses and all that.

July 11, 2008 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Alrenous:

Anon can be a productive and insightful guy, sometimes.

It's more likely than you think.

July 11, 2008 at 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, if you knew anything about Freemasonry you would realize that that the speculative craft originated amongst royalists in Britain during the English Civil War (what the Scots call the "War of Three Kingdoms"). Elias Ashmole, Sir Robert Moray, Col. Mainwaring, and the Sankeys (who produced the Sloane MS of the ancient charges used in 1646 for Ashmole's initiation at Warrington) were not operative craftsmen. They were country gentlemen and/or soldiers.

In any event, the medieval operative guild from which speculative Freemasonry took its organizational pattern was a guild in which both masters (entrepreneurs and managers) as well as fellow-crafts and entered apprentices (journeymen laborers and trainees) were included. Masters had both voice and vote, fellow-crafts voice only, and entered apprentices neither.

Guilds represented the interests of their particular branch of commerce and industry in dealing with their customers. Their object was to get a better price from the public. A survival of such medieval guilds is seen in the livery companies of London.

Labor unions do not represent the interest of owners and managers as the old guilds did, but rather are adversarial to them. Their object is to hit the boss up for a raise.

Surely a person who claims to be a scientist can discern the difference between the two.

July 12, 2008 at 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better to have no tag and say something sensible than to have a tag and keep blathering idiotically about Cuba.

Glass houses and all that.

The accusation fails. Being anon is not living in a glass house. The owner of the forum permits it, so who are you to say it's bad conduct?

July 12, 2008 at 5:24 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Lawful Neutral

It's more likely than you think.

Ah, but why would I think otherwise? This phrasing also suggests that it's not just me that's found anonymous to be, on aggregate, at least as useless as Cuba references are claimed to be.

July 12, 2008 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

US law permits corporations to be based outside of the US so that they don't have to pay any taxes. It also allows corporations to move production outside of the US so they can pay cheaper workers.

While not illegal, nor improper, these actions are at the least impolite and certainly impolitic.

"Because it's allowed" is justification by moron.

July 13, 2008 at 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, but why would I think otherwise? This phrasing also suggests that it's not just me that's found anonymous to be, on aggregate, at least as useless as Cuba references are claimed to be.

One measure of uselessness is the tendency to whine about anons rather than address the substance of what they say.

July 14, 2008 at 6:37 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Man, comments at UR sure jumped the shark. Post-human robot worlds, Cuba, anon-pissing contests....

Is it because MM shifted his focus from describing reality to proposing an alternate one?

July 14, 2008 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

No, it's because there's not a lot to talk about with this installment.

And anon-baiting is fun.

Almost as fun as putting up a neo-cameralist government in Cuba.

July 14, 2008 at 1:34 PM  
Anonymous statsquatch said...

MM needs to get back to bashing Quakers. That was fun.

I find most of the solutions here to be more depressing than the problems.

July 14, 2008 at 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

One point that MM nails is that you don't need anywhere near a majority to make the restoration happen. If you had a situation where 95% of the voting population were moderately against the Restoration, 1% were ardently against it, and 4% were single issue voters in favor of it, the amendment would likely pass. For that 3% difference translate into a 15% swing in a mid-term election ( since so few people vote). Few state senators would risk that kind of swing when a simple yea vote is so easy. Building a party of 3 million restoration zealots would be hard, but not impossible.

I like the creativity of the pilots idea. But I'm not sure I'd trust the stability of something so arbitrary.

In an earlier comment I proposed an alternative election scheme:

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

What do y'all think? Better than our current system? Better than pilots?

July 14, 2008 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

The problem with anonymous is, ironically, exactly as Lawful Neutral describes. Sometimes, they are insightful.

However, this anonymous is a troll. Allow me to demonstrate.

"One measure of uselessness is the tendency to whine about anons rather than address the substance of what they say."

Um...about that. Remember what I said about glass houses?

"than to have a tag and keep blathering idiotically about Cuba."

Since they don't have a name, I don't know who to ignore, and I am reluctant to simply ignore them all because of, for instance, the person who became Saturday's Anonymous.

This anon just wants to troll me in particular, apparently, but that's fine. It's like I've got a fan or something. Still means they're a troll and it still means that I will ignore them if I find a way.

But it's okay, writing about it seems to have sorted out a solution for me.

As an idle aside, let's test my theory. Assume this anonymous isn't a troll. Why do they vigorously oppose the need to acquire an anonymous pseudonym?

Assume this anonymous is a troll. Suddenly, the mystery disappears. Either their trolling is facilitated or they are, in fact, just trolling me on the issue.

I eagerly await further evidence.

PA

Man, comments at UR sure jumped the shark.

The more people we have, statistically, the stupider we're likely to be. Go look at the old posts where Mencius was active in the comment section.

Is it because MM shifted his focus from describing reality to proposing an alternate one?

Partly it may be because Mencius is playing around some here. He used to be a lot more blunt. Part of the downside of appealing to a wider audience is that you get a wider audience.

Saturday's Anonymous

One point that MM nails is that you don't need anywhere near a majority to make the restoration happen.

When the gulags were being populated, it's been estimated that if 10% of soviet citizens resisted, it would have bankrupted the secret service.

But I'm not sure I'd trust the stability of something so arbitrary.

It's arbitrarily defined, but once defined it's not arbitrary anymore. Pilots are, in fact, a particular kind of person. Note that this is a transitory scheme, and there isn't enough time for people to train to be a pilot in pursuit of power. Unlike now with professors, journalists, lawyers, etc...

Better than pilots?

Too complicated for me to easily parse. The problem is that, like the traits that make a good movie, nobody really knows the traits that make a good leader. Pilots may be great. Or awful.

My guess is that your test ends up being just as arbitrary as pilots but is less predictable.

G. M. Palmer

You noticed that too, eh?

July 14, 2008 at 11:39 PM  
Anonymous m said...

pa writes: "Man, comments at UR sure jumped the shark. Post-human robot worlds, Cuba, anon-pissing contests....

Is it because MM shifted his focus from describing reality to proposing an alternate one?"

Seconded...

July 15, 2008 at 6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um...about that. Remember what I said about glass houses?

Um, yeah, and you're still whining, I see.

Why do they vigorously oppose the need to acquire an anonymous pseudonym?

Because it isn't necessary or even desirable. Why do you keep vigorously whining about the need for a tag? If you stop whining about the need for tags, I won't need to say anything about it, will I?

The more people we have, statistically, the stupider we're likely to be.

Your glass houses remarks are apropos here...

Almost as fun as putting up a neo-cameralist government in Cuba.

As I've said before, good luck with that! I'd love to see you try. It would be the most hilarious effort in making bricks without straw since the ANC took control of South Africa.

July 15, 2008 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Score one for the trolling hypothesis! Let's see what's in the bag.

Yeah, the rest of you can ignore this. Move along, nothing to see here. I'm just testing some new sub-routines.

Um, yeah, and you're still whining, I see.

Ad Hominem!

Because it isn't necessary or even desirable.

Implicitly accepting my point! Not desirable; yes, I would ignore you if you had a handle, and you wouldn't like that.

Why do you keep vigorously whining about the need for a tag?

Ad Hominem!

If you stop whining about the need for tags, I won't need to say anything about it, will I?

No logical content that I can see. My brain is trying to tell me that this isn't even language.

Your glass houses remarks are apropos here...

Tu Quoque! Mister, you're funny. That one's, like, infinitely recursive, or something.

Oh look! Not even a denial of the troll hypothesis. Bit weird considering they did attempt to imply denial of the anonymous name point.

(I would have accepted, "I just like to." Or, "I'm not particularly concerned what you think." This isn't difficult to rebut, people. At least try not to walk directly into my traps. I would even accept, "That is a trap." or "I refuse to answer." More likely I hit a nerve.)

Additionally, if you didn't ignore this, you can go look at the myriad points that weren't addressed even with a fallacy. These are, I think, even more telling.

July 15, 2008 at 11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Whining" is not an ad hominem attack. It is a factual description of your behavior.

Implicitly accepting my point!

A faulty assumption on your part. I have made many substantive anonymous posts on this and other sites. I see no connection at all between "not having a tag" and trollishness. I have seen many trolls with tags; I have seen many non-trolls without tags; the two issues are simply unconnected. I just don't see any need to post with a tag, period.

yes, I would ignore you if you had a handle, and you wouldn't like that.

Your track record of ignoring me is pretty unimpressive!

No logical content that I can see.

It's not obvious to you that I wouldn't need to point out that you're whining if you stopped whining?

Tu Quoque!

You are the originator and repeated user of the "glass houses" accusation, which is itself a form of tu quoque argument. Is it a fallacy now to call attention to your fallacies?

Not even a denial of the troll hypothesis.

Naturally, as a self-appointed expert on logical fallacies as well as a self-appointed forum nanny, you are aware that it is a fallacy to claim that a proposition is true simply because it has not been proven false.

I mean, really, look at your posts in this thread and ask yourself who is the troll...

At least try not to walk directly into my traps.

Your "trap" was to expose your own inconsistencies and advertise your hypocrisy. Devilishly clever!

you can go look at the myriad points that weren't addressed even with a fallacy.

Again, it is a fallacy to assert that every claim that has not been addressed is proven true. A simpler explanation is that I don't have an unlimited amount of time to deal with your buffoonery.

July 16, 2008 at 5:58 AM  
Anonymous Blode said...

""Whining" is not an ad hominem attack. It is a factual description of your behavior"

No. "Whining" it the quintessential attack-word of the web's macho set. It has no meaning other than "I used "whining" first, so I win the argument!" or perhaps "Since I can relate to my own problems, descriptions of them are legitimate, while descriptions of your own problem are inappropriate because you are different from me. And I had 12 years of taxpayer-funded education on the subject of my own perfection."

"Whining" would simply not be used in serious discourse if it weren't for the Prussified American education system.

July 16, 2008 at 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My own view is that the previous posts that described the nature of the problem with democracy generated a lot of comment because most everyone agrees that the current system is seriously broken. MM's major contribution is to show that the current system is the problem, not the solution. You cannot fix the current problems with a reset to 1789 or 1860 or 1933 or whenever you think things went off the rails. So, people who want to tinker at the margins, or limit the franchise, or return to some Golden Age, are doomed to failure and are wasting their time.

Why does the question of "what is to be done?" generate so little comment? Because Americans cannot imagine not living in a "democracy" any more than a fish can imagine not living in water. Too hard. Nor can Americans imagine how to get from democracy to some desirable form of not-democracy, any more than someone in the early 1980s could tell you how the Soviet bloc could make the transition from Communism to not-Communism. In 1981, the death of Communism was less than 10 years away, but the vast majority of observers would have vehemently rejected the idea that Communism would fall, and any scenario for the transition out of Communism would have been scoffed at as wildly implausible. Why should we expect the fall of democracy to be more easy to envisage?

MM has advanced some ideas about how to make the transition, and it is like a fish trying to explain running on land to other fish. They feel there is something not quite right about the idea, but they don't quite know what, and after all, the water remains comfortable enough for now. Perhaps we can ignore him and keep swimming...

July 16, 2008 at 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Whining" has a very specific meaning. Whining = repeated complaints about trivial issues. The description is precisely apt in this case.

July 16, 2008 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

You cannot fix the current problems with a reset to 1789 or 1860 or 1933 or whenever you think things went off the rails.

Normally I'd agree, but I just realized it's a complex system.

Assume for a moment that such a reset is possible. Having done it, will it follow the same path again?

Hells no. Of course, it's very likely to follow a path that leads somewhere equally broken, but simply because it went here last time is a very flimsy reason to think it will do so again.

Because Americans cannot imagine not living in a "democracy" any more than a fish can imagine not living in water. Too hard.

That's exactly the impression I'm getting too. Yay for independent verification.

Personally I find it useful simply because it opens up the file, so to speak. Having thought about it once, I have gained some small perspective for thinking about it again.

---
Again, the rest of you can ignore this bit. Nothing to see here.
---

Even if I were whining, it's still an ad hominem fallacy to use it in an argument.

A faulty assumption on your part.

Give me an 'n'! Give me an 'o'! What's that spell? No!

I have made many substantive anonymous posts on this and other sites.

Irrelevant.

Also, it's unverifiable, since you were anonymous. I have no choice but to assume that it's untrue.

I see no connection at all between "not having a tag" and trollishness.

You might want to try reading my comments, then, as I explained it.

I have seen many trolls with tags; I have seen many non-trolls without tags; the two issues are simply unconnected.

Correlation is not causation.

I just don't see any need to post with a tag, period.

Irrelevant.

Your track record of ignoring me is pretty unimpressive!

Ad hominem!

I may, possibly, have addressed why this might be. Once or twice. Every post. And, in fact, in the sentence immediately preceding the sentence you quoted. You're not welcome to ignore this. It's extremely dishonest.

Like something a troll would do. Score two for the hypothesis.

It's kind of interesting having a fan. I have a name. You could refuse to communicate with me. And yet...

In the same vein, your accusations can stick to me, but mine cannot stick to you. I'm simply not afraid of putting myself out there like that.

It's not obvious to you that I wouldn't need to point out that you're whining if you stopped whining?

Still no logical content that I can see.

Naturally, as a self-appointed expert on logical fallacies

Ad hominem!

Not even like true. I use quotes so that each person can make their own judgement.

But, let's assume it's true. As an expert, I can declare you logically unfit and just leave it at that. I would certainly do so.

as well as a self-appointed forum nanny,

Ad hominem!

If you don't like nannying, why are you attempting it?

You are the originator and repeated user of the "glass houses" accusation,

Tu Quoque!

Is it a fallacy now to call attention to your fallacies?

No. Are you going to start?

Again, it is a fallacy to assert that every claim that has not been addressed is proven true.

It's a good thing I don't do that, then!

I mean, really, look at your posts in this thread and ask yourself who is the troll...

Tu Quoque AND ad hominem!

But, let's assume for a second I am a troll. Trolls troll on purpose. It seems to be working; you're trying to flame me! Yay!

Similarly, if you want to see what I really look like when I'm trolling, I can totally link you up.

Your "trap" was to expose your own inconsistencies

Indeed, since I have none, I reveal all of them all the time. I just can't help it.

and advertise your hypocrisy. Devilishly clever!

Ad hominem!

A simpler explanation is that I don't have an unlimited amount of time

Perhaps you should stop wasting it, then?

to deal with your buffoonery.

Ad hominem!

Ad hominem:6
Tu Quoque:2

For third parties; again, look at the points not addressed. For example, I claimed that he wouldn't like if I ignored him. His defense was...ad hominem. It wasn't a rebuttal; there was no statement of contradiction; it was about me, not him. That's an implicit acceptance...again.

I'm honestly a bit baffled as to why people let me do this. It's so easy to avoid.

That plus he's not talking to anyone else. I know I'm charming but I didn't think I was that charming.

I mean, I'm sure that other people think that talking about Cuba should be avoided. So they don't.

July 16, 2008 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger The Ashen Man said...

I return, like Odysseus, to find the place overrun by hoi polloi. These two idiots should be banned.

July 16, 2008 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

I would accept that judgement. I don't think it will happen.

However, if you don't like it, just don't read it. It's really easy!

July 16, 2008 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

However, as clearly shown by my forgetting, my algorithm still needs practise.

overrun by hoi polloi. These two idiots

Ad hominem! Ad hominem!

If you want to rail against the trolls, you should probably do so from a position of not trolling.

July 16, 2008 at 5:40 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Lugo wrote "Other examples include the Southern Redemption, the Meiji Restoration, and of course the English Restoration.
In all of these examples, the coup succeeded because the government lacked the will to crush the coup by force."

I can only comment on the last of these; the government did not possess the force, General Monck did, and the Royalists got him on side. (One may of course argue that at an earlier stage the government had failed to have the necessary will to keep the power on side, but it appears more likely that it merely lacked the skill to do so.)

Michael S. wrote "One becomes a junior officer in a few cases by going through the service academies, but more typically by commission upon being graduated from a university having a ROTC program. This commissioning is accomplished by a massive act of Congress that is quite impersonal and unconnected with the political preferences of any given newly-made subaltern."

Not so very long ago, and deliberately structured to maintain a connection between the armed forces and the elected representatives and also to keep the size of the standing armed forces down (i.e. part of the constitution in the British sense), US officers could only get there by being sponsored into a service academy by an elected representative, e.g. Robert Heinlein - apart from a hereditary way into the academies, for sons of holders of the Congressional Medal of Honor [sic], e.g. Douglas MacArthur, and possibly other special ways in that I don't recall.

Michael S. also wrote "Guilds represented the interests of their particular branch of commerce and industry in dealing with their customers. Their object was to get a better price from the public."

In part, but also partly to maintain the security of their positions.

Alrenous wrote "When the gulags were being populated, it's been estimated that if 10% of soviet citizens resisted, it would have bankrupted the secret service."

At that level of resistance, you don't use gulags but what the Germans called special treatment (take him round the corner, give him a noodle, usw).

July 17, 2008 at 7:33 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Uh huh. And, according to the analysis I read, the SS still goes bankrupt.

Sadly I read it a long, long time ago and don't know where to point you to review it yourself.

July 17, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
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January 31, 2009 at 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 2, 2009 at 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 6, 2009 at 6:43 AM  

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