Wednesday, December 3, 2008 67 Comments

Patchwork 4: a reactionary theory of world peace

UR is hardly the first to propose a theory of world peace. So why bother? What could possibly be new?

History records quite a few previous attempts at world peace, some of which even worked pretty well in practice. For example, one was called the "Roman Empire," another was called the "Qing Dynasty," a third was called the "British Empire." All three being extinct, and therefore ot entirely successful. But there's no denying that in their day they turned out quite a bit of peace.

But the world of 2008 has its own theory of world peace. Which everyone believes, as usual. This theory, which needless to say I think is utter crap, owes most of its theory to Kant's essay on Perpetual Peace. In practice it more deserves its most parochial name: Pax Americana. (For an amusing personal history of the mapping from Kant to Turtle Bay, try my fellow Brown alumnus Michael Soussan.)

We will go into this whole strange theory of the Pax Americana, in just a bit. But our first question has to be: does this Pax Americana work? Well, in some ways, yes. The 2008 that history sent us to contains less carnage, surely, than many other 2008s which chance might have produced. On the other hand, when I open my friendly local newspaper, I am seldom greeted with pictures of smiling, happy children. I feel, dear reader, that we could do better.

And, more importantly, my general impression is not that this system, this Pax Americana, is getting better over time. I am not an old man but I was not born yesterday, and I was listening to the BBC and reading the IHT and Economist well before I had hair in my pits, and my general feeling is that across history as I have seen it, basically since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world order that was created in 1945 has not been becoming a more and more cohesive, harmonious, efficient and effective operation. I think it is quite incontestable that the entire planet, in 2008, is safe for democracy. Indeed it is clearly safe for nothing but. Yet I notice no particular absence of conflict, armed or otherwise, nor anything like a decrease. Rather the contrary, actually.

This, to me, spells entropy. What peace we have is mostly stable. But it is not perfectly stable. Whatever disorder it has seems good at escalating itself.

Since, as a good citizen, you are familiar with the theory of global warming, you are familiar with what is needed to take slowly rising curves and project them into the late 21st century. Citizen, if I share your concern for the gaseous composition of the atmosphere, can you please share my concern for the breakdown of the thin membrane that distinguishes our world from Jimmy Cliff's? "Mango season bad this year."

So our theory of peace is a little different. It is reactionary rather than progressive, which means that it is designed to work with hominids not as they should be, angels without wings, but as they are: bipedal land apes.

Progressive thinkers throughout history differ widely on the means by which said land apes can be converted into angels, philosophers, or (ideally) angelic philosophers - much as no two alchemists agree on how to synthesize gold. For instance, Kant, taking the popular "null-hypothesis" or sugar-pill strategy, roots his claim for the inherent peaceability of republican government in the following logic:
Now the republican constitution apart from the soundness of its origin, since it arose from the pure source of the concept of right, has also the prospect of attaining the desired result, namely, perpetual peace. And the reason is this. If, as must be so under this constitution, the consent of the subjects is required to determine whether there shall be war or not, nothing is more natural than that they should weigh the matter well, before undertaking such a bad business. For in decreeing war, they would of necessity be resolving to bring down the miseries of war upon their country. This implies: they must fight themselves; they must hand over the costs of the war out of their own property; they must do their poor best to make good the devastation which it leaves behind; and finally, as a crowning ill, they have to accept a burden of debt which will embitter even peace itself, and which they can never pay off on account of the new wars which are always impending. On the other hand, in a government where the subject is not a citizen holding a vote (i.e., in a constitution which is not republican), the plunging into war is the least serious thing in the world. For the ruler is not a citizen, but the owner of the state, and does not lose a whit by the war, while he goes on enjoying the delights of his table or sport, or of his pleasure palaces and gala days. He can therefore decide on war for the most trifling reasons, as if it were a kind of pleasure party.
In other words, Kant is assuming that since voters are generally reasonable people, they will vote for reasonable governments that will act reasonably, and only undertake reasonable wars.

The modern reader, reading this, must quickly remind herself that Immanuel Kant was not a fool. In 1795 the world's experience with democracy (a word Kant, like almost everyone at the time, considered a slur; in Perpetual Peace he goes to great, hilariously spurious lengths to distinguish "democracy" from his beloved republicanism) was minimal. The French Revolution could be dismissed as an aberration, and the follies of the late colonies in the Articles of Confederation period was no doubt no better known in Königsberg in 1795 than to us today.

So it was easy for Kant to make the fatal assumption that the People, in their new capacity as rulers, would display the same common sense in considering problems of government as they had when no one cared what they thought. (Kant was biased in this matter by the success of England, whose glory at that time was attributed on the Continent to its constitution's new democratic elements - rather than its corrupt medieval survivals, which turned out to actually be the glue that held the Whig aristocracy together. If Kant could see the results of the Reform Bills of 1832 and 1867, he might well sing a different tune.)

Kant reasons: people are generally reasonable. As they are - except when unreasonable. If you entrust them with the power of government, you create an easy exploitation target for an oligarchy that controls the State by directing the opinions of the people. Such oligarchies come in two categories: conscious cults and conspiracies, in which at least some top echelons of believers is insincere and consciously malicious, and true religions, in which everyone can be sincere. The former are bad, and the latter are worse.

And the most effective. (Ours is the modern iteration of mainline or ecumenical Protestantism; I call it Universalism. Head here for a brutal, syrupy dose.) And such religions, which may be polytheistic, monotheistic or atheistic, have no reason at all to maintain the reasonableness of the minds they control - at least on the subject of government.

In fact, the parasite must be able to profit at the expense of the host: it must at least convince the host to fund the parasite and ban or discredit its competitors. Thus Kant's whole argument about self-interest is void and can be discarded, destroying his theory of republican virtue and thus his entire preposterous edifice of peace.

An edifice that has worked, basically, like ass. Again, experience confirms logic. Empirically, the expected outcome of a Kantian republican federation is that either (a) the federation becomes a mega-state of its own (which is, of course, ideal, because bigger is always better), (b) the federation breaks in half and creates a massive civil war (in which the good guys always win), or (c) the federation never has any real existence and quickly becomes at best a joke, at worst a festering glob of pompous, corrupt sinecures (but still a symbol of human progress and unity).

Thankfully, the result of the last two attempts has been (c1) and (c2). Do we need to pull the lever again? No, I think not.

But the basic armature of Kant's argument is solid, and we will reuse it. The argument is that warfare is not a policy to which a responsible sovereign will resort without good reason. Kant's fallacy is in equating "republican" with "responsible," and lacking the imagination to see that popular government has the power to produce far more irresponsible leadership than the classical monarchies he knew, with their little family spats and mild, fancy-dress wars.

The world of Frederick the Great and Louis XV, while Kant was no doubt a keen judge of its imperfections, exhibited a quality of order which we of the Pax Americana can only imagine. What would Paris be, if the regime that created Versailles had the technology of 2008? A kind of supernova. A place as far above Paris today, as Paris today above Kinshasa. Certainly, the center of the world, even if you plopped it down in Siberia.

Why don't we have this now? How did things come to such a pass? Before we get into reactionary world peace, let's try and figure out this Pax Americana.

Kant had no trouble in describing the obvious principle its name suggests:
Nevertheless it is the desire of every state, or of its ruler, to attain to a permanent condition of peace in this very way; that is to say, by subjecting the whole world as far as possible to its sway.
Amen. The great fraud of our current "international community" is its preposterous disguise as a Kantian federation of equals. In reality, the "international community" is Washington and her clients - at least, when it is in proper working order. It sometimes approaches such order, but never seems to quite reach it.

The agencies in foreign capitals which we call "governments" are fascinating entities in many ways. Each is different, but in general what they are is clear. There is no accepted English term for the relationship, although "client" or even "puppet" state is close.

We do see something like sovereignty in the post-Communist world: Russia, China, plus the Iran-Syria-Venezuela axis. Russia and China treat each other as sovereigns, and they are clearly intent on preserving some of their sovereign independence, although the imbalanced financial relationships with the Western world that they find themselves in are clear no-nos. Nonetheless, they are generally quite submissive toward the US, an approach which is probably prudent. Iran, Syria and Venezuela are in the position of perpetual hostility that Russia occupied in the heyday of the Cold War, one which is arguably inconsistent with true sovereignty (since the hostile regimes are so dependent on the continuation of the conflict), but one which certainly separates them from the rest of America's sheep.

As for the rest of these "governments"? In many ways, these agencies really do resemble actual sovereign authorities. This is certainly their formal status. However, if you were to describe them as locally-staffed branches of the State Department, you would be also be grasping at a truth.

The official role of State is not supervisory, but advisory, a distinction we discuss in some detail below. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the function of a US mission to a non-US country is not comparable to the function of a non-US mission to the US. I am quite confident that the French Embassy, for example, expends very little effort on telling the US how to reform its financial system.

This is all very confusing. What, exactly, is the difference between supervising and advising? Is Washington supposed to be running the world, or isn't it? Please allow me to explain.

Perhaps you've wondered how a perspective that considers "imperialism" and "American exceptionalism" taboos reminiscent of the Big H himself can produce phrases such as:
The possible decline in America’s power does not mean that the United States would not remain powerful. This country can and must continue to lead.
or, more gloriously (Chauncey Depew would be proud),
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world: our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
Is Washington supposed to be ruling the world? Is Washington supposed to be leading the world? Is there a difference between "leading" and "ruling?" If you replace "lead" with "rule" above - a new dawn of American rule is at hand - you definitely don't have a line that either the President or the Times could be imagined uttering.

So there must be some difference. But what is it?

Clearly, if America "leads," its relationship with those it is leading must be anything but equal. Neither the Times nor President Obama will tell us that, while America should "lead" Europe, Europe should also "lead" America. Not even such scoundrels can torture English so.

Any unequal relationship between any two parties, be they sovereigns, colleagues or family members, must involve some combination of two models of control. Call them authority and dependence.

A holds authority over B if B must obey A's instructions. Authority is executive control, as practiced in the workplace, in the (traditional) family, and of course in the military chain of command. Readers who have read the previous essays will remember the Latin translation: imperium.

B is dependent on A if A is gratuitously assisting B. And why would A do that? The relationship is the ancient one of patronage, of course. A is the patron, B is the client. This is one of the oldest forms of alliance in the book - I'm pretty sure chimpanzees practice it.

Note that, in most cases, the two go together. For example, your relationship with your thirteen-year-old includes both A and B, authority and dependence. She eats; you tell her what to do.

The analogy suggests the unusual nature of dependence without authority. Ordinarily, if A is rational, A will insist on authority along with the dependence. No authority, no gratuities. Can this break down with the thirteen-year-old? Absolutely, but a complete breakdown requires fairly bad parenting as well as, of course, a bad child.

But what we see in the Pax Americana - at least, its mainstream or Barackian form, not its renegade, crypto-imperialist Bushitler morph - is exactly that. For example, Pakistan is dependent on Washington, and yet Washington cannot say: get rid of Lakshar-e-Taiba and the like. Washington can certainly not say: clean up your streets, get rid of the madrassas, seal the border, etc, etc, etc, and in general start behaving as if the Raj was back on.

Because Pakistan is sovereign. At least, it is supposed to be sovereign. Yet if the US cut off the flow of dollars, Lord only knows what the country would turn into. Whatever that is, it surely has nothing to do with what Pakistan is now. (The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine, thoroughly Westernized but with parents in the Pakistani middle class, and he was describing how in the cities of Pakistan there are many attractive colonial-era neighborhoods that, in the lives of those now living, have fallen into complete disrepair and become slums. Funnily enough, very similar phenomena can be observed in, say, Ohio.)

So why doesn't Washington simply tell it: obey, or no more dollars? Well, the answer is not simple. The answer has to do with the internals of Washington, the structural conflict between Pentagon and State, the history of Pakistan and of the British Empire, etc, etc, etc. We could be at this for some time. But note, again, the analogy to the thirteen-year-old. Why won't your daughter obey? Why don't you make her? Well, it's complicated. It is always complicated.

Suffice it to say that American citizens gain nothing at all from this bizarre pseudo-empire. It might be useful to have all these "allies," perhaps, if we were in a war against somebody. And also if they would fight, and stuff. Neither of these things seems to be true. We do trade with them, but this does not require us to manage their governments, or in fact care at all how they are managed internally.

Conclusion: American foreign policy for the last sixty years has produced neither security nor anything else for Americans. Nor, I believe, has it been particularly good for the rest of the world, which would otherwise have to defend itself and behave responsibly as an independent sovereign. For Foggy Bottom, however, it has been a windfall. Every year it is paid more and more to supervise a giant squalling world of thirteen-year-olds who dress like ho's and bring guns to school, and the next four years promise to be especially rich.

Washington cannot actually administer its conquered territories, much less derive revenue from them. And their governments degrade, because they are neither sovereign nor supervised. Their job is to implement policies designed in Harvard and approved in Washington. Except in countries with strong traditions of historical probity in state service, the civil servants steal. They have nothing else to do, and there is no prospect of the state becoming a genuine, independent authority.

What does Washington get out of this? Two things. One, the privilege of feeling like a big stud. Of course this applies only to a few people who work inside the Beltway, or who are influential enough in policy studies that their policies actually get adopted. But contributing to actual policies that are actually adopted, even just in some ridiculous forgery of a country in Nowhere, Africa, is an unmistakable feeling. Not only does it provide employment, it makes one's gonads grow by at least a millimeter or two. Many will fight hard for this sensation.

The relationship of dependency and advice is particularly pernicious. Dependency allows American universities to populate the top layers of all foreign institutions with their graduates, largely because those graduates have American connections and thus links to the baskets of dollars which fall out of the sky.

But advice is not supervision, it does not want to be supervision, and it never will be supervision. If the American Embassy tells a foreign "government" what to do, it can usually expect quite a bit of balking and recalcitrance. Absolute orders will generally be complied with, but will greatly increase the general recalcitrance level. Foreigners are people too, like to have their own power, and don't like to be ordered around.

Moreover, the United States is not the British Empire. It is in the business of having clients, whom it pretends to be responsible for and provides large quantities of often unwanted advice to. Ideally, when the advice is good it is listened to and when it is bad it is ignored, but this can go the other way around as well. The State Department is not in the business of providing supervision, and must constantly work hard to prevent the dysfunctional model of advice and dependency from actually turning into responsible, authoritative supervision.

(This is especially problematic because the latter runs the risk of involving the Pentagon, that ancient enemy, which happens to be full of people who just love giving orders. The threat that the international community will turn into the Arlington Redneck Empire, perhaps with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace replaced by the Erik Prince Foundation for World Domination, may not actually be a real one - but if you are the sort of person who needs to be kept up at night, it can probably keep you up.)

Two, Americans care about foreign public opinion. I used to ask people why they were for Obama all the time, and what I heard - often from people who didn't care at all about politics, normally - was that he would improve America's image in the "eyes of the world." It is generally a waste of time to engage anyone on why the "eyes of the world" should matter, or how exactly they got to pointing in the direction that they generally point in.

Here we must be thankful to the Wikipedians, for the term meat puppet. To be quite frank: invading Elbonia, replacing its government with Elbonian dignitaries of a perspective congenial to oneself, and announcing that Elbonia has joined the family of free nations, is not a way to convert one's opinion, plus Elbonia's opinion, into two opinions.

At least, rationally. But the democratic voter is always responsible to consensus. And the absurd concept of "international public opinion," which since 1945 always of course just tracks the public opinion of the most fashionable people in the United States, persuades a fair number of voters. Thus, by shaping the opinions of people outside the US, one can influence votes inside it. The people who do this work do not, of course, think in such Machiavellian terms, but their results benefit from the Machiavellian logic just the same.

This is the purpose of America's pseudo-empire of patronage, in which the money always flows outward and the Mohammmed Attas flow only inward: to provide a large number of unnecessary jobs to America's ruling class, the smartest and most sophisticated people in the country, and those most able to obtain alternative employment. And also to gain the set of votes that are needed to keep the policy running, as well as to sustain other policies aligned with it. In short, like most of what Washington is today: a self-licking ice-cream cone.

But because of the multiple frauds essential to this forgery, Washington's "sway" is peculiarly insidious as compared to its Roman, Chinese or British predecessors, who when they ruled a conquered land ruled it honestly, making no attempt to disguise the nature of the relationship.

America's client states, especially outside the core European and Asian dominions (ie, in the "Third World," a term whose inventors did not predict its present connotations), deliver quality-of-government metrics that would have shocked any Roman procurator, Chinese mandarin or British district commissioner. Even when these possessions are at "peace," graft, banditry, and sheer incompetence are the rule rather than the exception. And "peace" is not always the rule.

(For example, were you surprised when, seeing the pictures on TV, you noticed that even in the old downtown of Bombay, a place chock-full of beautiful Raj-era buildings like the Taj Hotel, the streets were full of garbage? Or do you think that this is because the local authorities are so thrifty and impoverished, that they prefer to invest their few rupees on educating the poor?)

This is the current system of the world: a disaster. Absurd in every detail. It lives, it works in a sense, it even is mostly peaceful, but it is held together by chewing-gum and I don't trust it to last another decade. Look - I said this about our financial system. Was I wrong?

But anyway. As usual, I have spent most of the essay berating what we have now, because what we have now is so gigantic and fascinating. By comparison, my preferred approach - the reactionary theory of world peace, if you will - is simple to the point of stupidity.

The reactionary theory of world peace states that peace is best defined as security. That's all. We are just equating two words. And we can add a third: order. Peace, security, and order are all the same thing. That's the theory. It even sounds cool - if not as cool as Brazil's ordem e progresso.

What use is this creepy-sounding triangle - peace, security, and order? (Doesn't this just sound like the motto of a 21st-century secret-police force? And it may well yet be.)

Here is one: note that if you believe in peace, you believe that peace is an absolute good. It is not a Goldilocks good. No one believes that you can have not enough peace, just right peace, and too much peace. No one says, with St. Augustine: give me world peace, but not just yet. The more peace you have, the better. Concepts such as freedom are in the same class.

But if peace, security, and order are all the same thing, there must be equivalents of absolute peace: absolute security, and absolute order. Strangely enough, whatever word you exchange "absolute" for in these phrases either means nothing, or still sounds creepy - total security, for example, is not in any way an improvement. Suppose, for example, that John McCain had run for President on a platform of absolute order? "As President, I will impose absolute order." No, I just can't see it happening.

(This is due to your democratic programming, which first and foremost defends democracy - the strategy of symbiont and parasite alike. The democrat is not willing to equate peace with security and order. He does not like security and order, because either total security or absolute order in the end conflicts with democracy.)

The peaceful, reactionary world of Patchwork is a world populated entirely by rational absolute sovereigns: states which are managed competently and coherently for financial benefit alone. This world can be created on a subset of the entire planet, of course, though then it needs plans for defending itself against the rest of said planet.

Within Patchwork, peace, security and order are most definitely the same thing. As discussed in previous essays, of course, a realm is designed to maintain absolute or near-absolute levels of internal security and order. Society within a Patchwork realm has none of the running sores of the democratic era: there are no slums or dirty streets, no gangs, and no politics. Japan or Singapore would be the closest analogies today, though both of course are quite imperfect.

We can define a rational absolute sovereign, such as a Patchwork realm, as orderly. Such a sovereign is controlled centrally from a single point, by competent administration acting for a purely financial purpose. All its motivations come from its desire to produce return on equity. If predation is more profitable than cooperation, it will predate. If cooperation is more profitable, it will cooperate. (Obviously, the goal is to design a framework in which cooperation is always more profitable.)

(Note that all these criteria remain absolute. The administration cannot be too competent, its purposes cannot be too neutral, its responsiveness to the proprietors too complete, etc, etc.)

Patchwork is at peace if every realm in it is secure: ie, it is orderly, and it maintains absolute control over its patch. Once again, no realm can ever be too secure, just as peace is always better than war and no society can be too peaceful.

Between realms, our goal is to achieve the same or nearly the same level of stability, without building anything like a centralized authority that would impose it. A centralized or federalized authority with the power of judgment or enforcement is itself the government - and if you try to split judgment and enforcement into competing agencies, you are just asking for trouble.

Patchwork has no central authority or community of realms. It has conventions, such as rules protecting shared resources (the atmosphere, the oceans and the fish in them, orbital space, etc) from any abuse that would be collectively uneconomic. Sometimes people need to get together and update these rules, as with any system of rules, but they are only occasional delegates and do not constitute any sort of permanent organization. Sometimes realms must vote on these changes, but this is a rare event indeed. Turning the entire system into One Big State is a failure mode, not a goal.

So, for example, let's say a coalition of demented realms are taken over by administrations which, for some reason, are affrighted with the perils of global warming. (Stipulating that global warming is a pile of nonsense - if not, substitute something else which is.) They round up a majority and manage to change the rules for the atmosphere, imposing carbon credits or some such absurdity.

Is that something that could happen in an Patchwork world? Sure. What should the realms in the minority do? Go along with it, I'm afraid. This is the level of imperfection I think is acceptable in a design that remains basically peaceful - it is aggression in a sense, but of an inherently unprofitable form.

What we don't want to see is a situation in which we get civil war, we get predation by some patches on other patches, we get standing internal alliances, we get patron-client relationships, etc, etc, and all the nasty structures that arose under the old international order. A bit of overzealous pollution control is a strain the system can handle.

Our goal is thus to get, at the level of Patchwork as a whole, as close to total security as we can. This is also complete stability. Ideally, politics is at a complete end, and war as a means of political endeavor. Except through free and peaceful transfers of shares, there should be no further changes in power. Each realm in each patch should last forever. Frankly, if this isn't world peace, I don't know what is. I hope it's not too much peace for anyone.

(Transfers of shares that constitute a merger into bigger and bigger patches, eventually ending in a one-patch world, should be blocked in some way. Since realms do not control their shares, this cannot be done by restricting share transfers. However, it can be done by including a promise of independent ownership in the realm's resident covenant. Like any other item in the covenant, it can be violated, but usually not profitably.)

The basic secret of inter-realm relations in Patchwork is that it is much, much easier to construct rules for a community of rational or orderly sovereigns than for a community of irrational ones. Therefore, even in a world which contains both rational and irrational sovereigns, it is rational for rational sovereigns to have different rules for other rational sovereigns. This set, whether or not it covers the planet or is even geographically contiguous, constitutes Patchwork. At least if it is working as designed, there should be only one.

Orderly sovereigns deal with each other in a very different way, because orderly sovereigns are sovereigns for whom deterrence always works. Therefore, it is extremely easy to discourage predation: it can be deterred either (a) through collective disapproval - which might become quite costly, especially if the disapproval of other realms leads to the disapproval of one's present residents, as it almost certainly would; or (b), all else failing, military retaliation.

Military retaliation is important because, in real life, it is rather hard to make war profitable, and rather easy to make it unprofitable. While there is no supply of rational sovereigns in history, history's profitable wars are often best explained in terms of irrationality. For example, while Hitler's conquests of Czechoslovakia, Poland and France may have been in themselves profitable, each of these three countries was more or less a client state of Great Britain, and counted irrationally on British assistance against Germany. As a result, not only did they not defend themselves, they were not prepared to even try to defend themselves.

Among rational sovereigns, that the theoretical military confrontations which would otherwise occur between Patchwork realms, and which there is no authority to prevent, will just not happen. Armaments will be gradually de-escalated, each side of each border prepared to inflict an adequate level of pain on the other in the event of any attempt at aggression. At the end of the process, cross-border security cooperation between any two sovereigns will be at the same level as that between any two "countries" in the democratic world today, and security forces will revert to police forces.

Of course, this process of complete de-escalation can only happen in an all-Patchwork world. Irrational sovereigns can be aggressive in arbitrary ways for arbitrary crazy reasons, and they are not necessarily deterrable. Against the rest of the world, Patchwork is at least expected to stick together, possibly even forming joint security institutions - which are temporary, of course, based on the specific threat.

The general attitude of Patchwork toward the world outside is neutrality. This of course was the staple of American foreign policy for a century, which might well be described as one of the only things Washington has ever done right. No more need be said about this well-known approach, due of course to George Washington. The rules of neutrality are well-understood under classical (19th-century) international law, a considerable improvement on its 20th-century successor.

Patchwork will defend itself from the rest of the world, but never attack. It will trade if allowed, not if otherwise. Basically, it will keep its head down and try its best to avoid surrendering sovereignty in any way. It will try to keep its trade balanced, avoid accepting loans in currencies it cannot print, maintain resource, food and energy independence to whatever extent possible, etc, etc, etc. Its advantage is in its vitality and economic efficiency, and it will maintain this.

Especially, each realm and Patchwork as a whole will do their best to avoid any compromise of sovereignty. A slice of sovereignty is what each shareholder in each realm holds, and it is not to be surrendered for any reason. And while there may be a theoretical incentive for individual realms to free-ride in defending the whole, surely the loss of reputation capital exceeds any potential profit to ride freely.

I'm sure that, to many democrats, Patchwork seems like a design for permanent global tyranny. This is just something we'll have to work through. However, it is indisputable that, at least if it works as planned, Patchwork will produce world peace. And it is certainly reactionary! Just think of it as a cross between the Holy Alliance, the Hanseatic League, and the National Basketball Association - with all the advantages of each, and the downsides of none.

67 Comments:

Blogger Aaron Davies said...

If you entrust them with the power of government, you create an easy exploitation target for an oligarchy that controls the State by directing the opinions of the people.

i really need to stop hanging around 4chan

December 4, 2008 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

completely off-topic: oh master of metals, what the fuck is going on with platinum? since when does it drop to gold? is this predicting $400 gold, $1600 pt., or something involving the detroit bailout and catalytic converters? pray enlighten

December 4, 2008 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

It's pretty idiotic of you to imaigne the world is becoming more violent and less peaceful because you see unpleasant pictures from the BBC. You should know that isn't a good way to get an accurate perspective. Steven Pinker and John Mueller will tell you that war and murder are actually much lower now than they were in the past (including any of the eras you celebrate).

Quit trying to shift the blame for democracy to some nefarious shifter of public opinion. We the People suck and are not competent to run the country no matter what.

You link to Andrew Bacevich's book and then try to associate it with liberal internationalism. He's actually a paleoconservative who doesn't think the U.S should be "leading" the world.

December 4, 2008 at 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Transfers of shares that constitute a merger into bigger and bigger patches, eventually ending in a one-patch world, should be blocked in some way. Since realms do not control their shares, this cannot be done by restricting share transfers. However, it can be done by including a promise of independent ownership in the realm's resident covenant. Like any other item in the covenant, it can be violated, but usually not profitably.

I agree that it is undesirable for patches to merge up to a single state. But it might be desirable for some mergers. And your solution, if it can be called that, to the problem is nearly pure handwaving. Are you not the man continually flogging "for the mob, the machinegun"?

Let's say that I, King Leonard I, manage to buy up 51% in Balticorp. Then I also buy up 51% in DeeCeeCorp. Then I propose the merger, which naturally passes with 51% of the vote in each stockholder meeting. Then I unilaterally adjust the terms of the covenants. Even if the subjects of one or both patches feel aggrieved about this, I don't see how you think they will stop the merger.

Is it "world opinion" that you something think will stop this? Is is that you think the subjects can somehow revolt and stop it?

December 4, 2008 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

tggp:

I hardly think it's wise to take advice on the state of the world from someone who sounds like he just got home from the Kellogg-Briand talks.

Quote:

War has greatly diminished over the course of the 1990s and particularly so during the last few years, a
remarkable development that has attracted scarcely any notice. Within a very few years there may be
no war at all anywhere in the world, quite possibly for the first time in the history of the human race.


Written, mind you, in 2005. Je-frigging-e-bus.

December 4, 2008 at 7:55 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Aaron: I can certainly take a guess at what's happening with precious metals.

Basically, precious metals are acting like pure commodities. In recession, their prices drop because demand drops. In this particular recession, because the preceding boom has been large, the drop should be expected to be rather large.

The one exception is gold, because of two factors. First, the huge stockpile of the stuff, which can be expected to cushion any kind of extreme moves in price. Think of the traditional microeconomics example graph of supply and demand, with slope 1 and -1 respectively. If that is what most commodities look like, having a huge stockpile in effect makes the slope of the supply curve almost 0. Thus any effect of demand change is less.

The second reason for gold acting strange, which must be the main one, is that people are buying it as a store of value (aka money), whereas they are not buying other precious metals as money (or are, but less so). I assume you have read the John Law piece article Why the Global Financial System is About to Collapse, it having been linked here before, but if you have not, it should be enlightening.

December 4, 2008 at 7:59 AM  
Anonymous raistthemage said...

Other then making the patches able to defend themselves and the ownership non transferable or at least indivisble (make it a monarchy) you are not going able to prevent mergers. To think otherwise is to engage in the same delusional utopian thinking that progressives tend to be guilty of.

Patchwork suffers from the same lack of military viable pure ancapitalism (which would evolve into patchwork Mad Max style in about 2 days, and in a number of years evolve into states again) does.

City states for better or worse lost their military viability once military technology evolved to the point where walls could easily be breached.

What could work is an absolute monarch (or ruling council) granting limited free city status to areas in his domain. The Chinese already work this way in some areas (Hong Kong is the greatest example, with other Special Economic Zones).

Democracies won't go for the idea.

December 4, 2008 at 9:34 AM  
Blogger Savrola said...

TGGP,

I don't often comment on these threads, but a brief word regard Col. Bacevich.

The gentleman represents a class in the Paleo movement, who are domestically conservative and in the George Kennan-school of cautious realism in foreign policy.

The supreme article of faith in anti-Internationalism, is an expressed willingness to abandon the U.N. and one doubts that "a professor of international relations at Boston University, former director of its Center for International Relations (from 1998 to 2005" would be willing to take that vital step between the conflicting sides.

December 4, 2008 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

It is true that if you grant as a hypothesis complete rationality in your governments, international relations become a lot simpler. I don't think, however, that simply decreeing that it will be so is sufficient reason to believe it.

And even granted the hypothetical completely rational governments, it is dubious whether that automatically translates into an overall policy of neutrality. Especially if there is a Patchwork and also an Outer Darkness where the Patchwork states don't care what you do.

December 4, 2008 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

You still haven't gone over the disincentives for Patchwork realms to merge. Any realm run well will attract immigrants from other realms run more poorly, and once enough immigrants come the standard of living will go down since the area of the realm did not expand along with population. I guess realms could limit or stop immigration, but that would deprive them of future customers.

So the only alternative is to get more land, land which is already under the control of adjacent realms. Peaceful buyouts would probably be the most common way for two realms to merge, but I can see military takeovers happening if one realm has a monopoly of power in a region.

December 4, 2008 at 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Cleanthes said...

"The more peace you have, the better."

The purpose of government is to wage war. As the saying goes: man shall be framed for war and woman for the entertainment of the warrior; all else is folly..

December 4, 2008 at 12:48 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Michael, people can build land easily enough. Not just the kind in Tokyo harbor, although that is one option for seaside patches. The kind in Manhattan.

I don't think military conquest would be viable. With WMD-armed patches, conquest seems almost impossible except at ruinous price. Any attempt would be likely to trigger profit-devastating attack against the home-patch. And if that failed, a patch might also use WMD-based poison pills to makes its own land uninhabitable. Conquest would basically require treachery and subverting the locks on the WMD systems.

The peaceful buyout scenario is a real concern, although I would note that the ultimate outcome is just a one-world neocameral state -- not as good as a patchwork for the subjects, but IMO far superior to democracy.

December 4, 2008 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous raistthemage said...

I don't think military conquest would be viable. With WMD-armed patches, conquest seems almost impossible except at ruinous price.

I think a nuclear infrastructure would be far beyond the capabilities of most city states, and the cost of any city developing the infrastructure (if it could be done) would put the sovcorp in the red for years (unless they could conquer territory and pass on the cost quickly).

I like Mencius but hes dangerously close to ancapitalism with this idea, and it shares the same fundamental flaws.

December 4, 2008 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius- I have to say I love your analysis- it's really some of the best I've read- but your "cure", while excellent in its rejection of democracy, is kind of disturbing in its materialism. I would attribute it to your part Jewish blood... no offense :)

There are things that hold nations together better than money, you know... like blood, and ancient culture, and mythos, and love for one's people and homeland... do you really think a political system based completely on material gain is more viable than one based on transcendant issues? Or more healthy? Profit is by nature transitory... while the Earth we live on is not- do you think these profit-based states will give a damn about the beauty of our enviroment, etc?

Sorry to get all Nazihippy on you... I have to say, i would trust you as an engineer but not as a leader. We need leaders who are able to understand things in life beyond the material.

December 4, 2008 at 4:31 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

If we're going to just assume that the patchwork will be run by rational actors, wouldn't it be easier to just use the same magic wand that made that possible to make the voters rational actors?

December 4, 2008 at 4:50 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"For example, while Hitler's conquests of Czechoslovakia, Poland and France may have been in themselves profitable, each of these three countries was more or less a client state of Great Britain, and counted irrationally on British assistance against Germany. As a result, not only did they not defend themselves, they were not prepared to even try to defend themselves."

What a howler. Over and above the grammatical error of trying to make plural and singular agree, Poland and France did defend themselves, France never was a client at all, and Poland and Czechoslovakia's connection with Britain had only been of very brief duration and did not displace their connection of that sort with France.

December 4, 2008 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The verdict of history, I fear, is that there is no substitute for blood-and-soil nationalism.

Call it bumiputra or call it Völkisch-Gesellschaft, and you are still only putting a label on something you do not seem to understand.

Replacing nations united by common origin in their land with independent city-states is the sort of thing that could only appeal to rootless cosmopolitans. If this is to be any more than theory you will at some point have to reach some accomodation with the rest of us working-caste rabble, who tend not to see the attraction of the idea.

December 4, 2008 at 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Libra said...

Yet I notice no particular absence of conflict, armed or otherwise, nor anything like a decrease. Rather the contrary, actually.

Whaaa?

I can only think of five major, interstate wars in the past twenty years: U.S.-Iraq (twice), U.S.-Afghanistan, Russia-Checknya, and Serbia vs the world.


Africa has been in a rolling civil war since the end of the colonial era, but I'm not sure if now is any worse than the 60's and 70's.

Outside of Africa, the only major civil war has been Columbia, plus a minor civil war in Israel-Palestine.

Compare this to the time period from 1960 to 1980. Two major wars between Israel and the arabs countries, two wars between India and Pakistan, a Pakistani civil war, a bunch of violent revolutions in South America, a Vietnamese-American war, a Chinese-Vietnamese war, a genocide in Cambodia, a massive war in Algeria. Plus of course, continual civil war and genocide in Africa.

December 4, 2008 at 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Nazihippy, get a nym. How about "Nazihippy"?

MM surely does think that profit can hold a state together better than anything else. It may not be the best thing in the short term, but it is in the long term. Profit, unlike "blood, and ancient culture, and mythos, and love for one's people and homeland", is well-defined, and arbitrarily diverse people can agree on it. And they can keep agreeing on it. Thus, a sovcorp can have responsible government; no government which attempts a mission that is not crisply defined can be responsible. Even if you can, for example, put together a nation tightly focused on promoting the welfare of white Christian men, how can you insure it stays focused? And once you've democratized fully, how can be sure that every citizen in the Crips or La Raza has the same idea of what the government should do as a white Christian man?

But there's also no reason why a sovcorp cannot promote your blood-and-soil type concerns as a means to condition its subjects. I don't see the need for this kind of thing once sovcorps can buy a turnkey WMD system. Even democracies seem to respect nuclear weapons. But if sovcorps do have to compete against modern states with only modern military means (sans NBCs), it probably will be to their advantage to culture nationalism to brainwash up some good, hard-fighting men. This will reduce profits (which is why I don't expect it except to deal with irrational democracies). But it is surely possible.

As for profit being by nature transitory: it is for many secondary corporations. There has never been a state that has dissolved for want of taxes. No, ruling people is plenty profitable. Modern states, who are the best ever at it, can channel 50% of their GNP even in normal times, and practically all of it in a war.

Should sovcorps give a damn about the beauty of our enviroment, etc? Well, by comparison to what? They should do about as much as most modern states. I doubt they would talk about it anywhere near as much, though. A sovcorp containing Yellowstone would probably not want to turn it into a strip mine, because they can charge more for a tourist industry. Profit. OTOH, the idea that a sovcorp which is achieving 4% growth annually would scale it back to 1% or whatever in order to implement draconian CO2 restrictions, seems quite unlikely to me. Not because they would not think long term -- they would, and far more long term than any modern democracy, where "long term" means "after the next election". No, they would not cripple their economy for the simple reason that 3% growth compounded for 50-100 years is a huge amount of loss. The rational time to save the planet, if it needs saving, is in the future.

December 4, 2008 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I love the idea that people like those on the Charter for Compassion website are the secret rulers of the world. You'd expect the secret chiefs to inhabit some Bond-villain-like high-tech island lair instead of the mildewy church basements that are such folks natural habitat. Just shows how devious they actually are.

December 4, 2008 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

G. M. Palmer, Mueller is not talking about idealistic pacts, but a trend. You can find videos of Pinker showing the numbers. You give no support to the implicit proposition that 2005 was a relatively violent year compared to the past, seeming to rely on a sort of conventional wisdom absorbed from the concerned voices of NPR, even as you quote Mueller on the conventional wisdom not matching reality.

Yes, Savrola, a number of paleos are fans of Kennan. To dismiss Bacevich because of his title is silly. I don't care what "one doubts" about his opinion of the U.N when you could try looking up what he's actually written about the U.N. I don't know what he's written about the U.N, which is why I don't tell off people based on unexamined assumptions about it. He used to be published in the 90s in mainstream right journals like First Things and National Review and I don't know if they normally host fans of the Bricker Amendment, though he could have been significantly radicalized since then. I don't know if he's professed the Shahadah for your "article of faith", but all I've encountered from his is criticism of liberal internationalism of the sort MM is trying to associate him with here.

I forgot to mention before that France doesn't tell us how to reform our financial system, nor does our embassy in France. Having foolish economic policies is a French article of faith!


Anonymous: GET A FUCKING HANDLE
MM is indeed a rootless cosmopolitant and as an anti-demotist he doesn't think the masses matter. They'll do what their rulers say or get a whiff of grapeshot.

December 4, 2008 at 8:10 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Patchwork has no central authority or community of realms. It has conventions, such as rules protecting shared resources (the atmosphere, the oceans and the fish in them, orbital space, etc) from any abuse that would be collectively uneconomic.

Why? Suppose for the sake of argument that global warming caused by man-made CO2 emissions is for real. Each patch is too small to materially make a difference to the global level of CO2 emissions, but the costs of reducing them is noticeable, so each patch has an incentive to cheat. I don't see any mechanism which prevent that. In the real world we use coercion (think hunting permits), "advisement" (think Al Gore nagging the world), or we just let shit happen (think the imminent extinction of the bluefin tuna - or global warming if that's your bag).

In a patchwork, I don't see any incentive to do anything other than let shit happen. That's what usually happens when there's no power above to make people play nice.

This assertion needs an explanation, at the very least.

On another note, those of you who are talking about the tendency of patches to merge and become mega-states may be interested in a recent Paul Graham article about the virtues of small organizations.

December 4, 2008 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

c23, a sovcorp will act in its self interest, both unilaterally and collectively. There's no reason why sovcorps cannot form a United Sovereigns, or whatever, and work through it for various collective goals. A sovcorp, being much more rational than a democracy, would have to believe that an action really is in its self-interest, and that might be hard to prove to it. This does not strike me as a flaw. The idea that Obama and the progressives might cripple the US economy unintentionally scares me just a bit. I don't think they will do anything too drastic and stupid. But I'd rather not find out.

December 4, 2008 at 9:44 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Leonard, yes, I'm assuming a sovcorp acts in its own self-interest. So do bluefin fisherman when they try to be the one to get the last bluefin tuna. Somebody's going to get it, and each individual fisherman thinks it might as well be him. I can't argue with that.

If sovcorps are going to act collectively, they'll need to be able to punish defectors, which runs counter to the whole non-interventionism thing.

December 4, 2008 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

I don't get how this defeats the collectivists. collectivists are the people who desire power more than money and want unify the world (under their wise counsel, only counsel of course)

two of the patchwork realms wind up being led by these crazy people. they pool resources and slowly but surely take over another realm non-violently (aggressive buyouts, bribing shareholders to vote for things that weaken it to outside attack). Now they have 3 pathwork realms and start saving money for another takeover.

I don't see how we can ever beat the collectivists except temporarily. I have no reason to believe that any city-state scheme implemented wouldn't just end up the way city states ended up in real history: slowly coalescing into larger states.

December 5, 2008 at 1:00 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Nazgul,

Obviously we defeat them with the one ring.

Naw. It's an impossible question, really -- how do you engineer against the devil?

At least patchwork states would make it marginally more difficult -- also you could work in the rules that if countries are getting all mergy that it's within the other patchworks interests to nuke them.

December 5, 2008 at 4:30 AM  
Anonymous Fortunatus said...

I am quite confident that the French Embassy, for example, expends very little effort on telling the US how to reform its financial system.

The Chinese, on the other hand...

China lectures US on economy
By Geoff Dyer in Beijing
Thursday Dec 4 2008 14:15

The US was lectured about its economic fragilities on Thursday as senior Chinese officials urged the administration to stabilise its economy, boost its savings rate and protect Chinese investments.

The message went to Hank Paulson, the US Treasury secretary, in Beijing for the strategic economic dialogue he helped launch to discuss long-term issues between the two countries.


The threat that the international community will turn into the Arlington Redneck Empire, perhaps with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace replaced by the Erik Prince Foundation for World Domination, may not actually be a real one

But if it did happen, American Empire might actually produce security and revenue for the American people! Can't have that, of course...

Americans care about foreign public opinion.

Not me. I'm in the "let them hate me, so long as they fear me" camp myself.

note that if you believe in peace, you believe that peace is an absolute good.

I guess I don't believe in peace, then. Not all "peaces" are good, contrary to what the idiotic Pat Buchanan "unnecessary war" school might think.

I think a nuclear infrastructure would be far beyond the capabilities of most city states,

Absolutely right but you'll never convince certain dolts who frequent the comments section of this blog.

Poland and France did defend themselves, France never was a client at all, and Poland and Czechoslovakia's connection with Britain had only been of very brief duration and did not displace their connection of that sort with France.

Nah. France was a client of Britain - it was clearly the junior partner in the Anglo-French alliance system. France could not hope to defend against Germany by itself, relied on British military / political / financial support, and deferred to Britain in their joint policy towards Germany. Ergo, a client. Poland and Czechoslovakia were clients of clients, if you prefer. I disagree with MM in that I think France, Poland and Czechoslovakia were prepared to try to defend themselves, but could not do so effectively without British support, which was not forthcoming because Britain pursued its misguided policy of appeasement.

December 5, 2008 at 5:34 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

France, Poland and Czechoslovakia were prepared to try to defend themselves, but could not do so effectively without British support

Then they weren't prepared to defend themselves.

December 5, 2008 at 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Fortunatus said...

Then they weren't prepared to defend themselves

Sure they were, to the limit of their capabilities. They did the most that they could do, for the size of countries that they were. Keep in mind that MM says they didn't even try to defend themselves, which is manifestly not the case. France had a larger army than Germany, with more and better tanks than Germany - they couldn't have tried much harder than that!

December 5, 2008 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

If sovcorps are going to act collectively, they'll need to be able to punish defectors

Yes.

which runs counter to the whole non-interventionism thing.

Yes. But they are not non-interventionist because Mencius Moldbug decreed it, or the goodness of their hearts, or any such silly thing. They are non-interventionist as a consequence of profit-seeking: because minding your own business is, other things equal, profitable.

Obviously, minding the business of other sovcorps which are nuclear-armed is a touchy thing. Then again, the USA has certainly imposed sanctions of various kinds against several nuclear powers. And they, even crazed commie dictatorships, have not been so irrational as to go to nuclear war in retaliation. So there's certainly precedent for the ability of nuclear states to use economic sanctions as a tool to punish each other. Of course, sanctions are a remarkably useless tool for coercion against modern states.

Economic sanctions would work against a recalcitrant sovcorp in a way that they cannot work against a democracy or kleptocracy. In a democracy, nobody except maybe a tiny minority of business owners care if they lose billions of dollars in profit. The state loses tax revenue, but so what? There is no reason they should care about that; they do not stand to profit. In a sovcorp, though, the CEO would weigh carefully the loss in revenue coming from a world boycott vs the money to be made in, i.e., killing the last 100 bluefin tuna, and he would act accordingly. Well, perhaps "would" is too strong -- he might be irrational or whatever. But "should" -- he should do what it takes to maximize profit.

December 5, 2008 at 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Terry North said...

Jewish Atheist:

If we're going to just assume that the patchwork will be run by rational actors, wouldn't it be easier to just use the same magic wand that made that possible to make the voters rational actors?

Mencius is trying to create a workable system of primary property. The problem with democracy et. al. is the commons problem which is quite fundamental to that form of government.

December 5, 2008 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger togo said...

Recent history of crime rates in the UK (admittedly an extreme case of Prog Anarcho-Tyranny):

http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/crimeBB.php
(...)
The number of recorded crimes per 100,000 population in 1950 was 1,053 and in 1960 still only 1,610. By 1992 the figure reached 10,943. The latest figure for 2004/05 is 10,537, well over ten times the rate in the 1950s.1
(...)

Also, here and here.

December 5, 2008 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

But that doesn't jive with my progressive figures, Mr. Togo. Here, come into this washroom where we will clean your head. There is no need to bring your cell phone -- it won't work through the thick, soundproof walls.

December 5, 2008 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

December 5, 2008 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

Leonard, what makes you think that the shareholders won't ignore externalities and clamor for immediate satisfaction of their wants at the expense of future gains exactly as they do now?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbolic_discounting

there is a natural limit on how long an investor cares about future profitability, defined as some subset of the investor's life expectancy.

December 5, 2008 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

exactly as they do now?

You have any evidence for that? Hyperbolic discounting is not applicable, or at least there is no hint that it is on that wiki page. Not a surprise: Warren Buffett is not a drug addict.

And no, there is no natural limit on everyone's time horizon. To think so is to reflect the presentist thinking of modernity, where one's children are nonexistent or of no account. There are still plenty of people who want to pass on wealth to children, and to their children, etc.; in short, they want to secure the Blessings of Wealth to themselves and their Posterity. To people unconcerned with tomorrow, the idea of paying a great deal of wealth now to buy shares of a corporation that pays a steady 10% or whatever, will seem like a very bad trade. Thus the shareholders are self-chosen, to a degree, to be people with relatively low time preference.

December 5, 2008 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

that bias is applicable because in order for a future payoff to be given the same weight as a closer one it has to be disproportionately larger.

this has serious ramifications for profit seeking as a self regulating mechanism. the whole point of cognitive bias is that it examines when humans consistently fail to be rational.

December 5, 2008 at 12:43 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Fortunatus believes "Nah. France was a client of Britain - it was clearly the junior partner in the Anglo-French alliance system. France could not hope to defend against Germany by itself, relied on British military / political / financial support, and deferred to Britain in their joint policy towards Germany. Ergo, a client."

You aren't up on the relevant history. In Britain during the Second World War it was noticed that, back in the First World War, the British Empire had contributed most of the wealth and France most of the manpower, and everybody had thought it only natural that France would take the lead in directing the war effort. However, in the Second World War, as between the USA and Britain (leaving out the USSR), the USA contributed most of the wealth and the British Empire most of the manpower (clear up until D-Day, in the European theatre, and probably in total man-years over the whole war), and everybody thought it only natural that the USA would take the lead in directing the war effort. They were noting the irony.

Anyhow, you are applying the standard as applied later by the USA, as though there were a consistency. In fact, the Second World War started out with the same Britain-France relationship as before, and France wasn't a British client. As a matter of historical fact France did not defer to Britain in their joint policy towards Germany, it took the lead directing that policy in military areas and acted independently in diplomatic areas. After the Fall of France, of course, Vichy was a German client - but the Free French took great care never to become a British client, and stopped dead US attempts to make them a client during the Liberation. Indeed they even insisted on and got the Liberation of Paris for themselves, by using the threat that the communists might get a post-war advantage otherwise.

December 5, 2008 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

To add to P. M. Lawrence's point, much of the decolonialism fuckup was due to the enduring enmity between the crumbling British and French empires (with the U.S generally more sympathetic to the Brits). They supported opposite sides in the Biafran civil war, for instance. Hitler sought to ally with Britain against France and the Soviets, which wouldn't make any sense if France was a British client-state. France had been England's main foe for a long time, but after the unification of Germany and Franco-Prussian war France was not seen as a main threat anymore. The Soviets of course were geographically less in a position to butt heads with Britain.

December 5, 2008 at 7:14 PM  
Anonymous private person said...

TGGP: Why do you have to use terms like "idiotic" while describing Mencius' posts. It seems unnecessarily disrespectful and it irritates me, distracting from your otherwise interesting comments.

Regarding total security: there already exists such a system. It is the cooperation between right-wing (government) security institutions that share information, and act when they can if one of their governments supports it. Perhaps what we need is a clear outlining of principles and methods that will help improve this cooperation and provide a way to organize itself better. The Americans pledge allegiance to the constitution, not to a President disregarding the constitution. The British pledge allegiance to the Monarchy, not the government. Etcetera.

For now they dislike Erik Prince (makes them lose PR points and attracts their talent), but who knows what will happen in the future.

December 5, 2008 at 8:51 PM  
Anonymous LOL said...

@TGGP

"It's pretty idiotic of you to imaigne the world is becoming more violent and less peaceful because you see unpleasant pictures from the BBC. You should know that isn't a good way to get an accurate perspective. Steven Pinker and John Mueller will tell you that war and murder are actually much lower now than they were in the past (including any of the eras you celebrate)."

Yeah man, let's compare the violence of small sample sets from the distant past with today.

Circa 500BC global population estimate was around 100 million. In 20thC alone that many people died in war.

I also notice on this wiki page no pre-BC wars dominating the lists (apart from one aberration involving human sacrifice).

If you think that many deaths is "peaceful progress" I've got a bridge to sell you.

And incase you haven't notice you have a war on your border that is slowly becoming worse (weekly death counts now outweigh Iraq deathcounts). You also have an hostile internal tribe with the numbers, training, and access to resources, that prehistoric chieftains would have killed for.

Maybe you can go tell these two lots of groups that you think that they are irrelevant, because the past was worse AMIRITE? Somehow I don't think you'll leave the safety of your basement to confront them on this.

In future posts I'm gonna refer to idiots like TGGP, who bring up Pinker's arguments, as Pinkerian Utopians from now on. The world is burning around people like TGGP, but him and his ilk blubber, "BUT ... BUT ... PREHISTORIC PEOPLE WERE VIOLENT TOO!!"

December 6, 2008 at 3:17 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

private person:
Why do you have to use terms like "idiotic" while describing Mencius' posts. It seems unnecessarily disrespectful and it irritates me, distracting from your otherwise interesting comments.
Mencius believes in being blunt and holding pundits to a higher standard than echoing a thoughtless Zeitgeist absorbed from the Cathedral. He likes when I hold him to such a standard. Actually comparing the 20th or 21st centuries to ones that preceded them shows a much lower proportion of adult males dying violent deaths. Greg Clark's book is partially about the Industrial Revolution occurring due to evolution deselecting for the violence and impulsiveness that characterized the past. Most incredulous responses are of the thoughtless "Everybody knows" sort.


LOL:
Circa 500BC global population estimate was around 100 million. In 20thC alone that many people died in war.
Thank you for making my point for me. Some people might find this odd, but as technology has improved and war has gotten more organized, it has actually become less deadly. Due to the large population, a small fraction of them dying can make for a large bodycount, but the fraction itself has been getting smaller.

And incase you haven't notice you have a war on your border
Mexico had actual civil wars in the past (as did the U.S). This is a gang-fight. The only folks that seem to actually want to bring down the Mexican government are the rather laughable Zapateros.

You also have an hostile internal tribe with the numbers, training, and access to resources, that prehistoric chieftains would have killed for.
What percentage of the population is Salvadoran? Take your pick between Surenos or Nortenos, I think either of them is far more important than MS-13 even if they don't get as much press.

The world is burning around people like TGGP, but him and his ilk blubber, "BUT ... BUT ... PREHISTORIC PEOPLE WERE VIOLENT TOO!!"
If it's burning now, the fires have been dimming greatly (not just in comparison to prehistory). Unless you're a minority male (especially one involved in crime) the chance of being the victim of violent crime is very low.

December 6, 2008 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

It seems like some people just want to believe the world is going to hell. The fact that things are pretty good and getting better every century is too dull, I guess.

December 6, 2008 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

The Inductivist notes here that righties are prone to thinking liberalism has festered and grown more than it actually has. Agnostic at Gene Expression had a series called Previous Generations Were More Depraved on that subject. Mencius actually admitted that things are generally getting better before, but then retreated to the claim that it is only natural for things to get better (improving technology/knowledge and so on) but that things should be even better and would be if we were ruled by the ancien regime today. I don't have much reason to disagree with him on that point.

December 6, 2008 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger togo said...

Notice that TGGP failed to address
what I posted about crime rates in the UK. I guess only what happens in the good old USA counts.

December 6, 2008 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger The 27th Comrade said...

@MM: First time I'm commenting on your blog after a long time of reading. Maybe the last.
Do you realise that Patchwork here is basically the state that the World has forced the DPRK into? Of course, minus the martial economic sabotage.

@TGGP: Mencius saying he likes that doesn't mean you should do it. He also likes his posterior kissed, for example: are you going to kiss it?
In short, he gave you permission to exercise either of good language or bad language with a free mind. The choice one makes is very telling.

December 7, 2008 at 5:08 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

With someone of MM's obviously prodigious intellect I would much rather see a series on stopping violence bottom up rather than the police state top down model he's building here.
What creates the incentive towards violence? Are there policies that ensure that alternate options are always more profitable?

December 7, 2008 at 7:52 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

togo:
You're right that I focused more on the U.S in my responses to others. I'm an American and know far less about Ye Olde Nanny State. Greg Clark's book focuses on it though. If you click the Gene Expression link I mentioned and go to the comments for the post on violence you'll find an argument involving me, Mencius and others that discusses crime trends in England.

December 7, 2008 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger editor said...

Did slavery qualify as patchwork? If no, why?

December 8, 2008 at 1:06 AM  
Anonymous Mencius Moldbug via email said...

(posted by Leonard; I emailed MM my posting above from December 4, 2008 7:35 AM, and he answered me in email as follows:)

Yes, of course, you could do this. If you had the resources. But it is tremendously unlikely that any one person or organization would both (a) have the resources to orchestrate this, and (b) have any desire to use them in this way.

Let's be clear: we are talking about a corporate maneuver that is blatantly, tremendously unprofitable. Strictly in terms of the market capitalization of Balticorp plus DCCorp as separate units, versus the illegally-merged BDC, you are losing a gazillion dollars. Do you have some business plan by which you intend to recoup this loss? Or is it just your crazed personal whim? Perhaps you are some kind of Batman-villain evil ultracapitalist. Neither strikes me as probable, but I'd say the second is more so.

A blatant and undeniable management breach of covenant is comparable, in our terms, to a blatant and undenied revocation of the Constitution. Imagine if the Times simply informed us tomorrow that the Constitution had been revoked. And all the usual media whores (axiom: anyone whose name or words appear on any recurring basis in the media is a media whore) suddenly agreed that, yes, this was a good thing, long overdue, the Constitution was racist, etc, etc. And a multicultural focus group would design a new one.

Could they get away with this? If the people running the project (of course this would require a actual clandestine conspiracy, not an open one a la HG Wells as we have now) had cryptographic command of the military, they most certainly could. But what would that do for the market capitalization of the United States? You are basically announcing to all its residents that their real estate has been plunged into deep craziness, and they should leave while they still could.

So: yes, I suppose a Batman-villain ultracapitalist could appear, and do crazy stuff like this. Other parts of Patchwork would probably remove his possessions from the "orderly" category, and treat his domain as an external or legacy state. The system, in other words, is designed to degrade gracefully if it encounters this unusual failure mode.

Note that all sorts of crazy things like this could happen in a non-sovereign context, and don't. For example, environmentalists could buy ExxonMobil and shut it down. Etc, etc. Yet "shareholder activism" is generally a joke - even though hardly anyone these days is either richer or crazier than the environmentalists. It may have nontrivial impact at some times, but it does not intentionally destroy companies or even perform M&A. Since I expect sovereigns to be quite pricey, the danger to them is even lower.

Is that enough hand-waving for you? I will certainly concede that this is not one of the strongest points of the design, but I think it is strong enough to stand up in practice.

At the highest level, yes, "world opinion" matters - as the opinions of customers always matter to any business, and for the same reason: mere financial incentive. But customer opinion is not sufficient to compel the operation in any way, to hold any kind of imperium over it. This design seems to work pretty well at delivering good customer service in the private sector...

December 8, 2008 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Mencuis,

You write under the assumption that a sovcorp merger in contradiction to covenant would be widely known, and viewed as deeply and fundamentally illegimate. Although I can imagine a world where that would be the case, it seems to me that given that a sovcorp interested in growing would move in that direction slowly, gradually. To the degree that they expect effective (meaning: profit-damaging) resistance, they would first prepare the ground.

Certainly it seems likely to me that there would be some mechanism, perhaps even a democratic one, for amending sovcorp subject convenants. They do have some need to evolve with the times, I think. Whatever the mechanism was, it would be used to legally allow mergers after appropriate indoctrination.

Or perhaps I could do it and stonewall. I'd set up a Supreme Court, empowered to judge disputes between subject and sovereign, which would command very wide respect, and which would initially resist allowing me to the buy that last 1%... but then (after I threatened to pack the Court), would reverse itself and allow that it was lawful and just, after all! No covenants need to be rewritten; that's so 19th c. Instead, the merger goes on, all covenants stay in place, and it just becomes widely known that all the best people realize that those covenants never actually forbade merging! Living covenants! Can't expect that the founding capitalists meant us not to do mergers, when they owned slaves, can you? And in any case why should their opinions matter given that they owned slaves?!!

Put more generally, I expect that a sovcorp's control over education could be used to tell its subjects whatever it wants them to believe. If it wants to grow horizontally, it would tell them that that is not only allowed according to convenant, but actually desirable. Who you gonna believe, Mother Sovcorp or your own lyin' eyes?

Or perhaps I never actually announce any merger. I just do it. I have ownership of 51% -- so, I start unifying the laws in the two corps. Nobody can stop that. If I want to set up a single police agency that covers Washington-Baltimore, I can do that. Perhaps people would think it was funny for Balticorp and DCCorp to be trusting each other so much, but what do they care, so long as service is good? Eventually I merge the defense forces, and set things up so that the police and army only take orders from the Baltcorp CEO. The merger is de facto, not de jure. Who's even to know? (I order the DCCorp CEO to keep his mouth shut.)

But I have a more fundamental point of disagreement with you. Violating covenants is nasty, but I see no reason why, when it was done, anything really bad would happen. ("Bad" meaning "unprofitable".) Yes, it's quite possible that in the short term, stock prices would plunge. (This is a good opportunity for King Leonard I to buy even more stock!) Perhaps some residents would emigrate, and that is indeed profit loss. But so long as it is clear that I still allow them to move -- and that would be made quite clear -- I see no reason why there would be panic and flight. You're assuming that the covenant adjustment means everyone will think I am deranged, but I can fight that quite easily, just by making it clear that I am not. Go on talk shows, explain myself. That I insist on merging the two corps, for efficiency; to raise profits. People can judge for themselves; I don't seem like a madman. And I promise, swearing up and down as needed, that the subjects of both sovcorps have nothing to fear; emigration will not be restricted in any way, their rates won't change, they won't even notice the change!

And then after a few years of perfect stability (during which time I have moved on to buying up Annapcorp), the stock price would recover. So my only net loss is people that fled. As I admitted, that is indeed a loss. But I think it would be small; only a few of the most paranoid types would flee. And the loss may well be offset by the possibility to buy stock cheaply, or to get actual economy of scale in policing.

The second time I do a merger, precedent has been set, both in the eyes of my subjects, and in the eyes of the world. My older subjects already have a covenant allowing merger so they cannot complain. The new subjects do require covenant adjustment, but now that they know that my mergers are just that, nothing to worry about, I see no reason why they would resist.

I don't see subjects as offering any effective resistance to merger, at least so long as it did not substantially change the law they lived under.

I do think other sovcorps could effectively resist it, if they had the organization and will to do so. In fact I made an argument to that effect in Patchwork IV's comments, albeit for other public goods. But I am not convinced that limiting ownership and forbidding mergers is a public good for stockholders. It is certainly a public good for subjects, but who cares about their opinions?

Here's one more thing here for you think about. Let's say that there is semi-effective resistance from other sovcorps. They can make it unprofitable to merge, but they cannot actually stop it. Now consider what happens if a supervillian capitalist did do a merger. It is possible to imagine that the rest of the world would be able to maintain tight sanctions against him for long enough for him to die of old age, or to force him to actually give up and split the companies. But I am doubtful. More likely, he would get away with it, perhaps taking heavy losses, but the patches would end up still merged. After all, drinking deep of formalist ideology, after 5 years or 10, the world would have to recognize the patches are merged.

Over several hundred years, where crazy rich ultravillians can do mergers, but there is no way to do splits, what happens? It's a ratchet, albeit slow. Gradually, here and there, patches merge. Over a thousand years, or a million, you do end up with a single state.

December 8, 2008 at 8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like a system where in citizens are rootless, brain dead greedoids with the attention span of a gnat. who wants to live in a country where everyone gets up and moves if the "profit yield" or whatever starts going down. what the hell kind of nation would that be?

besides that, note to mencius: 99% of people are completely irrational. these "sovcorps" would rise and fall on whether or not their people got scared that their real estate was being devalued- then they would just get up and move somewhere else. there would be no nations, no cultures, and no peoples, no great monuments, no noble wars, no idealism. really, for someone so against "univeralism"... this is pretty much the epitome of that ideology.

i hope to god a world like this never comes to exist.

i love your analysis, though.

December 8, 2008 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger AMcGuinn said...

In medieval Europe, the best and brightest minds concentrated their genius on improving theology. That is because a universal religion was at the base of the power structure.

Today, the best and brightest minds concentrate, to an alarming degree, on swaying popular opinion. That is because popular opinion is at the base of the power structure.

If a power structure came about that depended on neither religion nor democracy, then what? It would be brave to assume that the best and brightest would have to do something socially useful, but it's not out of the question.

I do worry that Patchwork would produce a higher amount of research into cryptanalysis than is socially optimal...

December 8, 2008 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

99% of people are completely irrational.

And 99% of all statistics are lies. . .

Jeez. Humans are, in the main, sedentary beings. That's why people still live in shitholes like Detroit and South Africa -- not because they don't know things are bad but because they are too timid/stupid to move. You know, like deer in headlights and all that.

The Evil Overlord can always count on those warm bodies to stay as long as he's willing to foot the bill for bread and circus -- to what end, eh?

p.s. I still say we buy Cuba and try it out. I got about $3.fitty. . .

December 8, 2008 at 3:56 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

@27th Comrade, who compared Patchwork to DPRK:

The difference between a Patch and the DPRK is the shareholders and their controll over cryptographically locked weapons. Dear Leader is accountable to nobody, so he can do whatever he wants. What he has done is about as unprofitable as he could have managed if he had been trying. He can do this because nobody can stop him, but Patchwork-style shareholders would have long ago turned off his weapons and deposed him.

But, come to think of it, this points to a way around this problem for Kim-il Jong wannabe CEOs - get a neighboring state to invade the patch if the weapons are turned off. This reduces shareholder value to 0, which is worse than whatever a share of DPRK would be worth, so the shareholders would be better off to let him drink his Hennessey Cognac and kidnap South Korean starlets in peace.

But I doubt this would be a problem in practice, because you wouldn't hire a guy like the Jongolater to be your CEO in the first place.

December 8, 2008 at 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But I doubt this would be a problem in practice, because you wouldn't hire a guy like the Jongolater to be your CEO in the first place."

who is "you"? how do these imaginary CEOs come to power anyway?

December 8, 2008 at 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

who is "you"? how do these imaginary CEOs come to power anyway?

"You" are a shareholder, and the CEOs come to power by shareholder vote, obviously.

December 9, 2008 at 4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...So it's a democratic system. Haven't we learned that democracy doesn't work?

December 9, 2008 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

democracy doesn't work when the voters are given votes for free, and u=yield no direct benefit from voting for good outcomes. shareholder voting works quite well for corporations. the larger your share, the more of an interest you have in overall profit.
people who don't care can sell their shares.

December 9, 2008 at 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Fortunatus said...

@PM Lawrence:

You aren't up on the relevant history.

Your confused ramblings don't exactly reflect a profound grasp of history.

Anyhow, you are applying the standard as applied later by the USA, as though there were a consistency. In fact, the Second World War started out with the same Britain-France relationship as before, and France wasn't a British client. As a matter of historical fact France did not defer to Britain in their joint policy towards Germany, it took the lead directing that policy in military areas and acted independently in diplomatic areas.

French “independence” depended entirely on German weakness. When Germany was weak, France could act independently, as in the early 1920s when she occupied the Rhineland. As Germany grew stronger, French independence diminished, and after 1935 it is correct to speak of France as a British client state. How could it be otherwise? History clearly demonstrates that France could not fight Germany without Britain, but Britain could (and did) fight Germany without France. Britain had diplomatic and military options to deal with Germany without France – ergo, Britain was independent. France had NO options relative to Germany after 1935 without Britain – ergo, France was dependent on Britain, i.e. a client state.

Even the most casual examination of the late 1930s demonstrates that France deferred to Britain on every important issue: remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, Munich, and the guarantees to eastern Europe. France let Britain determine when and under what conditions France would go to war – that is the very essence of being a client state! An independent France would have acted independently, and would have crushed Germany by itself when the need became evident.

After the Fall of France, of course, Vichy was a German client - but the Free French took great care never to become a British client, and stopped dead US attempts to make them a client during the Liberation. Indeed they even insisted on and got the Liberation of Paris for themselves, by using the threat that the communists might get a post-war advantage otherwise.

Oh good Lord this is absurd! OF COURSE the Free French were British clients! How could they NOT be? The Free French were utterly dependent on the British for EVERYTHING – the British supplied them with money, equipment, logistics, and bases, and the British directed strategy and operations. The Free French could not do anything but go along for the ride. They fought when, where, and how the British dictated. The fact that the Free French liberated Paris is hardly proof that they were operating independently, not as clients. They would not have been in a position to liberate Paris AT ALL unless the British and Americans let them.

@TGGP:

Hitler sought to ally with Britain against France and the Soviets, which wouldn't make any sense if France was a British client-state.

So the contention is that everything Hitler did made sense? Heh, very droll.

The fact that Hitler hoped to detach Britain from its French client state so that he could destroy that client state does not establish that France was not a British client state.

Maybe it “made sense” to Hitler for Britain to throw her clients under the bus, but that doesn't mean Hitler's ideas made sense to the Brits or anyone else.

December 16, 2008 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Steve_Roberts said...

Leonard said...

If sovcorps are going to act collectively, they'll need to be able to punish defectors which runs counter to the whole non-interventionism thing.

> Refusing to trade with a defecting patch is not intervention. No patch has any obligation to have any sort of relations with any other patch - that is part of sovereignty.


nazgulnarsil said...

Leonard, what makes you think that the shareholders won't ignore externalities and clamor for immediate satisfaction of their wants at the expense of future gains exactly as they do now?

> Shareholders who want immediate satisfaaction of all their wants - ie who have high time preference - will simply sell their shares (future dividends) to someone who has a lower time preference ie places a higher value on future income. Over time the market lodges assets in the hands of the people who value them most highly. MM's genius insight is bringing government under the power of an optimiser (the market) rather than a randomiser (politics)

December 22, 2008 at 1:31 AM  
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January 8, 2009 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger 信次 said...

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January 31, 2009 at 9:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:35 PM  
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March 6, 2009 at 5:21 AM  
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March 18, 2009 at 4:07 AM  

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