Thursday, February 12, 2009 42 Comments

A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations (part 5)

I feel we are ready for our portrait of USG in the large - what she is, and how she came to be.

Obviously, I can't conceal my opinion of the beast before us. Perhaps Goya put it best:


Goya left no captions for his Black Paintings, so we have no way of knowing whether or not he meant to call this one Democracy. Events of the last week, however, have shown that Goya got one thing wrong. The black-robed figure is no goat at all - but a great, horn-crowned hog.

But in speaking so ill of any great thing, we must speak with great precision and care. What, exactly, is our hog-devil? In what coarse sty was it spawned? And what foul work betrays it?

For example: if USG has any material existence, it must in some sense consist of the people who work for it. Both my parents and my stepfather were career employees of USG. If they ever donned robes and animal masks for any dark, nocturnal rite of evil, they've hid it well.

While it's true that the average USG employee is probably not best described as a sensible, decent and capable person, exceptions are everywhere. And USG has no shortage of tentacles in which the exception becomes the rule - notably, the military.

For example: if we despise USG, what shall we make of its flag? As we know, the storied banner of the Republic is no more than the corporate logo of a malstructured sovereign. Liquidate the corporation, and what becomes of its brand? Shall the Stars and Stripes wave nevermore o'er the windy air? Yet where are the E.F. Huttons of yesteryear?

The answer is simple. Sovereign corporations are not to be liquidated. Sovereign liquidation means anarchy, and there is no political form more dangerous. In small doses or in large, anarchy is destruction of capital. Those who worship it, pray to a goat.

Peter Oliver and Thomas Hutchinson, America's reactionary founding fathers, often called their party the "friends of government," and perhaps a systematic opposition to anarchy (with its inevitable concomitant, anarcho-tyranny) could describe itself as archism. For example, when you start spouting Moldbuggian nonsense and people accuse you of being a fascist, you can say, no, actually, I'm an archist. Will it keep your neck from the rope? Doubtful, but try it anyway.

USG is by no means an inherently unprofitable operation. It is anything but a candidate for liquidation. All it needs is new management. All assets and operations are preserved - at least, until the new management figures out what to do with them. This certainly includes the flag, and all other heraldic attributes of sovereignty. These are part of USG's capital, and no small part.

No - the program of the archist is not destruction, but restoration. A more palatable synonym, perhaps, for our grand design of thorough and uncompromising reaction, which will reforge the sword of the State and spread peace, order and security across the democracy-scarred earth. Indeed you will learn to welcome your new, reactionary overlords... but I digress.

Our quarrel with USG, obviously, is not with the American continent or its population, nor with USG's employees; and nor with its symbols. So what remains? Why the Goya?

Answer: the hog-devil in USG is its constitution. Note the small c. Sadly, it is impossible to salvage the word constitution, small c, from its Orwellian fate. But we will pretend to try for a moment - if just to parse the scene of the crime.

Like most American political doxology, the word constitution comes from British politics. (In general, if any American wants to understand any phenomenon in American history pre 1940 or so, a good exercise for clearing the mind is to see it again through the eyes of London.)

Britain, of course, is famous for its unwritten constitution - a phrase which strikes the worm-gnawed American brain as oxymoronic. In fact, unwritten constitution is a tautology. It is our written constitution - or large-C Constitution - which is a concept comical, impossible, and fundamentally fraudulent. Please allow me to explain.

England had a constitution well before America had a Constitution, and De Quincey (whose political journalism is remarkably underrated) defines the concept succinctly:
...the equilibrium of forces in a political system, as recognised and fixed by distinct political acts...
In other words, a government's constitution (small c) is its actual structure of power. The constitution is the process by which the government formulates its decisions. When we ask why government G made decision D1 to take action A1, or decision D2 not to take action A2, we inquire as to its constitution.

Thus the trouble with these written constitutions. If the Constitution is identical to the constitution, it is superfluous. If the Constitution is not identical to the constitution, it is deceptive. There are no other choices.

It's easy to show that the latter is the case for USG. For example, the two-party system is clearly part of USG's constitution. But not only does the Constitution not mention political parties, the design notes indicate an intention to preclude them. Obviously this was not successful.

For another example, American law schools teach something called constitutional law, a body of judicial precedent which purports to be a mere elucidation of the text of the Constitution. Yet no one seriously believes that an alien, reading the Constitution, would produce anything like the same results. Moreover, the meta-rules on which constitutional law rests, such as stare decisis, are entirely unwritten, and have been violated in patterns not best explained by theories of textual interpretation. Thus the small 'c' in constitutional law is indeed correct.

In retrospect, the written-constitution design is another case of the pattern of wishful thinking that appears over and over again in the democratic mind. From the perspective of a subject, political stability is a highly desirable quality in a sovereign. We should all be ruled by governments whose constitution does not change. The error is to assume that this outcome can be achieved by simply inscribing a desirable constitution. This is a quick dive off the pons asinorum of political engineering, the quis custodiet problem.

If the constitution is in fact stable, inscribing it (while a prudent clerical task) makes it no more stable. If the constitution is not in fact stable, the equilibrium of forces can shift away from the original intent of the designers, and the inscription becomes a fraud.

An obstacle, in fact, to any real understanding of the actual constitution. Which, as we'll see, is so heinous that it needs every bit of camouflage it can get. And thus the bug becomes a feature.

But this distinction is too important to hang on a single capital. So let us discard the old word, and pick a new one to mean what De Quincey meant, the equilibrium of forces: structure. USG, though damned, is great, and merits the majuscule. And because it changes - though not much, these days - we must specify the period.

Thus we have a new name for our robed boar-god: the Modern Structure (MS). Today, we're going to examine the nature and origins of the MS. Both will be found equally foul.

First, let's describe the fundamental engineering flaw in the MS. This bug is so easy to see that even the New York Times can see it. Of course, our columnist is addressing the governance of fish, not hominids, but note that nothing in his logic depends on scales, gills, or fins:
Since the mid-’50s, economists who study fisheries have basically understood the fate that has befallen these waters. They call it the tragedy of the commons.

If a fish population is controlled by a single, perfectly rational agent — an idealized entity economists refer to as “the sole owner” — he or she will manage it to maximize its total value over time. For almost every population, that means leaving a lot of fish in the water, where they can continue to make young fish. The sole owner, then, will cautiously withdraw the biological equivalent of interest, without reducing the capital — the healthy population that remains in the sea.

But if the fish population is available to many independent parties, competition becomes a driving concern. If I don’t extract as much as I can today, there’s no guarantee you won’t take everything tomorrow. Sure, in a perfect world, you and I would trust each other, exercise restraint, and in the long run, grow wealthier for it, but I’d better just play it safe and get those fish before you do. The race for fish ensues, and soon, the tragedy of the commons has struck.
Ie: if you are a fish, you want all fish to be owned by a King of Fishermen. So long as our fisher king is rational, this "single owner" will govern his fisheries with a strong and kindly hand, maximizing returns over an infinite time horizon, bringing peace, freedom and prosperity to cod, pollock, and sea-bass alike.

But if we fracture this coherent authority into two competing authorities, each can gain by stealing fish from the other. The more authority is fractured, the more predatory it becomes. Thus, the infallible recipe for a sadistic and predatory state: internal competition for power. (Hominids, unlike fish, respond well to fences, so geographical fragmentation is not inconsistent with coherent authority - the ocean partitioned, as it were, into artificial lakes.)

Congratulations. You've just rediscovered the logic of Sir Robert Filmer - just 321 years too late. (Lord Wharton's puppies, indeed!) And where, dear Times reader, does this place you on the political spectrum?

Well - let's say that Barack Obama is yellow light, and John McCain is green light. George W. Bush is blue light. Trent Lott is violet. Pat Buchanan is ultraviolet. Hitler is an X-ray. Filmer is a freakin' gamma ray shot out of some vast, galaxy-munching black hole on the other side of the friggin' universe. He's so right-wing, you need special equipment just to observe him.

And yet: the logic works the same for fish as for people. And we can see it work for fish. We have the pictures. In the New York Times. Pretty little sea cucumbers, flourishing, under the care of wise Indian chiefs.

And note, strangest of all, that your democratic mind, or parasite, or whatever it is, believes in exactly the opposite principle. Not coherent authority - but fragmented authority.

For example: Montesquieu's little device, "checks and balances." More generally, you are instinctively distrustful of any concentration of sovereign authority into one hand or a few, and instinctively trustful of political architectures that involve as many actors as possible in the choice and formulation of government policy.

Which is exactly the right way to ensure that you, as subjects of said government, are trawled into undersea deserts by mile-long bottom-scraping Taiwanese gill-nets. As indeed we see. What explains this remarkable, centuries-old divergence between logic and opinion?

There's an easy answer. Consider the incentives of the fishermen in an ocean under fractured authority. They are not friends. Each strives to strip the sea before his neighbor arrives. But there is one principle they can agree on: that fragmentation of authority is good.

Why? Because any consolidation of authority must involve stripping at least one player of the power to fish. Any consensus that this is undesirable is a basis for cooperation among all, and is likely to achieve social popularity, regardless of truth. Hominids have been living in tribal societies for the better part of ten million years. They are very good at cooperation games.

For example: if political power is split between Commons, Lords, and Crown, it is easy to construct a settlement in which each of Commons, Lords, and Crown acknowledges the division of authority and promises not to infringe it. While each party will of course struggle to evade this settlement and gain absolute power - note that we don't hear much from the Lords or the Crown these days - the doctrine of benign fragmentation is one all can endorse, even though it is the converse of truth.

Acton was exactly wrong: it is not absolute, but partial power that corrupts. More precisely, it is partial authority not formally matched with partial responsibility. Formal shareholders experience no such conflict of interest - that is, their interests do not conflict with each others', nor with the interests of the firm as a whole. And corruption depends on conflict of interest.

For example: if the "sole owner," our Fisher King, decides to sell out to a giant Japanese conglomerate, said conglomerate will run the fishery in just the same way. Its shareholders are not likely to descend on the reef with their own spearguns - and if some try, the rest will stop them. Few corporations afford any special treatment to shareholders who are also customers.

Of course, we are assuming that actors in this structure respond rationally to incentives. But these relationships exist in the real world today, albeit without the sovereign twist, and they appear to be conducted for the most part sensibly. We are certainly not making the mistake of appealing to anyone's philanthropic motives, although one can expect that in an environment of peace, order and security, genuine philanthropy will flourish.

Thus we see a feedback loop between the idea of fragmented power, and the structure itself. Those who hold some fragment of power are natural believers in the fragmentation of power, because in any return to coherent authority all but one fragment-holder must be dispossessed. Believing in their cause, they will work to further it, and destroy any concentrations of authority.

Fragmentation of authority already exhibits a ratchet effect. Power fractures easily. Those with it are human; they grow old, retire, die. Power must be passed on, and it is as easy to pass to many as one. It is a sweet thing, however, and not often relinquished. And for the fragments to come back together, one with power must transfer that power to another with it. This happens easily as a consequence of violence, and not easily otherwise.

Thus we see two unidirectional effects - ratchets, arrows, etc - that should lead, as time advances, to fragmentation of sovereign authority. Boltzmann's law, anyone?

Indeed it is quite reasonable to describe coherent (or, in democratic parlance, "absolute") authority as orderly, and divergent (or, in democratic parlance, "plural," "open," "inclusive," etc) authority as disorderly. The trend from coherent to divergent is thus a case of entropy.

Cancer, corrosion, infection, and putrefaction are all entropic processes. If the gradual decline, across the last two centuries, of coherent authority (in democratic parlance, "progress") belongs on this list, I feel the Goya analogy is at least half sold.

Note, for example, the predicted endpoint of fragmentation: universal suffrage. At the start of the entropic process, the State has one owner, guardian, and trustee: the Crown. At the end of the process, an equally microscopic sliver of authority is entrusted to every resident who, without too much comedy, can be portrayed as capable of using it responsibly.

In a universal-suffrage democracy, the voter is quite literally a part-time government employee. Unpaid, untrained and unmanaged, he nonetheless has his place on the org chart. (From the archist perspective, this is the fundamental error of confusing the guests with the staff.)

Thanks to our fish logic, we would expect universal-suffrage democracy to manage its capital very badly. We would expect to see a high level of autopredation in this system, with coalitions of voters cooperating to strip-mine the sea in which they themselves swim, Peter robbing Paul and Paul robbing Peter, etc, etc.

And, despite this result, we would still expect to see the doctrine of fragmentation widely espoused and propounded. And in both cases, experience matches deduction.

So the ritual self-congratulation of democracy, the entire theory of progress, is a fraudulent edifice constructed to rationalize what is in fact a decline. Thus we should see a decrease in the quality of government, and especially in the cohesion of authority, across what the official story describes as periods of great progress.

And we indeed see this effect. For example, across the 20th century, we see crime rates in Great Britain rise by roughly a factor of 50 (offenses per capita known to the police). If this isn't a breakdown in both quality of government and cohesion of authority, I don't know what is. Similarly, the period has experienced unprecedented progress. South Africa has also experienced great progress in the recent past, and we see how that worked out.

But is all this sufficient to explain USG? Obviously, USG is a universal-suffrage democracy - despite hanging chads, archaic Constitutional doohickeys, minor campaign-finance irregularities, etc. And obviously, it is quite disorderly and becoming more so. So is this a sufficient description of the Modern Structure? Have we solved the problem?

Sadly, we're not even close. We have hardly lifted the hem of Goya's beast. Even if you are an experienced reader of UR, the facts of the matter are far more horrible than you imagine. I mean: what else was the 20th century? A horror story. Why should we expect any regime which owes its existence to, say, um - the 1930s - to be any good at all?

But I am skipping ahead. First the theory - then the experience.

To describe a sovereign structure as a universal-suffrage democracy (USD) is to describe it incompletely. The set is somewhat bounded, but not so much as the democrat imagines. If X times 0 is 0, what is X?

The problem is that what we might call a pure democracy, a system in which actual power is distributed in exactly the same proportions that the democracy distributes nominal power, is so unstable and unlikely a proposition as to be ridiculous. If you doubt this, I recommend a tussle with Limits of Pure Democracy, by W.H. Mallock (hat tip: Deogolwulf). Mallock will beat you - kick your ass, break a chair over your head, and throw you out of the ring. Just so you know.

Therefore, when we describe a structure as a USD, we know it is not actually a USD. Rather, there exists some actual structure (of power, ie influence over government policy) into which the USD, which being pure can only exist for a femtosecond, has degenerated. The nominal structure of the USD remains, as camouflage.

Remember, what we seek is not our quarry's official org chart, but its real one. We do not want to know that everyone has one vote - we knew that. What we want to know is why USG does, or does not, do the things it does or does not do. (We are as interested in inaction as in action.)

Lenin, like Hitler an evil man but a nonnegligible philosopher of government, put it neatly:
Who? Whom?
This loses a bit of its bite in 21st-century English. In a language with actual pronoun declensions, Lenin was asking: who rules whom? Ie: who is stroking himself hard; who is bending over and greasing up? Sadly, this is indeed the great question of our time.

But before we answer it, we should leave democracy with a parting compliment or two.

The first thing we should note is that, in a world in which they have destroyed all competitors, democracies appear to succeed because the form is inherently stable. Unfortunately, this is not because the people are inherently wise, but simply because it is inherently very difficult to retrieve them from their present Svengalis.

This gives the government a heavy base, as it were, rendering it quite hard to dislodge. Of course, as the thing rots, we will come to regret this feature more and more.

But democracy has genuine virtues. Perhaps Froude wrote the best epitaph for the system:
Democracies are the blossoming of the aloe, the sudden squandering of the vital force which has accumulated in the long years when it was contented to be healthy and did not aspire after a vain display. The aloe is glorious for a single season. It progresses as it never progressed before. It admires its own excellence, looks back with pity on its earlier and humbler condition, which it attributes only to the unjust restraints in which it was held. It conceives that it has discovered the true secret of being 'beautiful for ever,' and in the midst of the discovery it dies.
In the arts of decadence - sex, drugs and rock 'n roll - democracies excel. If only for these, the second half of the twentieth century will never be forgotten. We need not imagine the level of punitive austerity and reeducation that would need to be inflicted on Western society to make it forget the Rolling Stones and everything after. Possible, surely, but hard to recommend.

Another way to state Froude's thesis is to describe democracies as obtaining their energy by breaking the strong molecular bonds of their authoritarian predecessors. Similarly, fire obtains its energy by breaking the strong molecular bonds of wood. You'll note that the democracies do not seem to have much energy left, and indeed there is not much left of the wood.

Had the Anglo-American democratic movement somehow been defeated, had the fire been put out, in time these bonds might have loosened on their own, as sovereigns became more secure and ceased to fear the mob. Or they might not have. It is difficult to know. In any case, this does not constitute an argument for a continuation of democracy, because by the '90s all possible avenues of decadence had been quite thoroughly explored. Our society has nothing to learn and nothing to prove in the arts of vice. Therefore, we can move on.

Also, while there are many advantages to taking the authoritarian, autocratic and aristocratic European governments of the 18th and 19th centuries as a general template for the 21st, the reactionary must remember that all of these regimes were, in a word, Continental. Generally, the farther east you went the worse they got - and wogs, as we all know, begin at Calais. Read, but don't necessarily imitate. Reflections of a Russian Statesman is great winter beach reading, for example, but it is difficult to forget that one of Pobedonostsev's patent medicines for democracy was the Black Hundreds.

To find anything like an pure autocrat of good English stock you have to go back to the Tudors and Stuarts. While there is nothing wrong with that (I'd take either Henry, Elizabeth, James, or either Charles back in a millisecond - heck, I'd take Oliver Cromwell. Or Thomas Cromwell. Or Richard Cromwell...), the time gap becomes considerable. It is difficult to extrapolate from a country with hogs in the streets to one with iPhones.

Democracy also has a special talent for making its enemies stupid and evil. If we observe the success of democracy in the last two centuries, we need not understand its causes to understand that anyone who was not with the program had to be a serious hard-ass to even try to survive.

For example, democratic movements tended, for reasons we will see shortly, to be very good at capturing the elites of any society. It is never easy to fight the best with the worst, and necessity alone has corrupted many if not most anti-democratic movements in the past. Moreover, opposition to evil does not constitute an automatic hall pass to Heaven. Hitler opposed democracy and democracy is evil, but Hitler is not in Heaven.

Therefore, for obvious reasons, just as democracy is an insufficient description of a political structure, so is opposition to democracy. Be careful in unconditionally endorsing opposites. In general, my feeling is that no opposition to democracy can succeed until it casts out all the motes in its own eye, regardless of the beams in USG's - and by 'motes' I mean offences against the truth, not offences against the State. However, this may be influenced by my bias in favor of a movement that recaptures the State by democratic, rather than military, means. No set of misconceptions is a practical obstacle to military action.

Lastly, we need to remember that democracy is not dead, but only dormant. The minds of the hundred million part-time officials who constitute USG's voter base are not, at present, particularly relevant to USG's actions. However, just as the military continually delegates its sovereignty by failing to pull a coup, democracy can awaken and return to power at any time.

For example, if Americans elect a President who promises, in his platform and campaign, to assume full executive authority and rule by command, suspending or even terminating constitution and Constitution alike, this exact program will almost certainly occur. If courts demur, the security forces are very likely to obey the President rather than the courts. He would owe them one for this, of course, but this is normal. They would probably be allies already. Unless it is not a military but a comedy troupe, any military works on the principle of command, and will endorse what it recognizes.

Of course, this requires the intellectual capture of a large number of hominids, whose opinions on the subject are extremely fixed and whose intelligence and education are not, on average, impressive. While this is obviously not easy, new tools are changing the battlefield. Consider, for example, the power of Facebook groups as a technique for democratic organization. The game is young.

So, while no good can be expected of normal political participation in the Modern Structure (with the important exception of petitioning the authorities, and organizing such petitions), it is worthwhile to understand the otherwise vestigial system of democracy, which may be in some way reactivated as a temporary stage in whatever process is required to terminate it.

But let us get back to peeking under the great goat-hog's robes. Fortunately, the answer, though terrifying, is not complicated at all.

A democracy is a government in which public policy is controlled by public opinion. Fine. Wonderful. We knew that. Who controls public opinion?

Duh. Popular opinion is in general a reflection of public education. It is certainly true that there are certain statements that the public cannot be educated to believe. It may be impossible to convince a healthy human population, for example, that red and blue are the same color. But almost everything short of this has been tried, and it tends to work. And while there are always deviants, outliers in an election are irrelevant by definition.

So: who educates the public?

Our answer is simple: the Jews. (Sorry, Jew-haters. Just kidding.) But seriously, we should note who else took exactly the same line of thinking:
Just as a man's denominational orientation is the result of his upbringing, and only the religious needs as such slumbers in his soul, the political opinion of the masses represents nothing but the final result of an incredibly tenacious and thorough manipulation of their mind and soul.

By far the greatest share in their political 'education,' which in this case is mostly designated by the word 'propaganda,' falls to the account of the press. It is foremost in performing this 'work of enlightenment' and thus represents a sort of school for grownups.
That would be - yes - Adolf Hitler. So, as you can see, we are on dangerous ground here. We must be careful where we put our feet; there is no other answer. For what it's worth, my feeling is that Herr Hitler is personally responsible for all the world's problems today. Perhaps we'll explore this delicate issue, Nazism, next week.

One does not have to be a Nazi, however, to believe that popular opinion tends to match public education. In other words, people believe what they are told to believe - sometimes minus a little stubborn deviation, electorally negligible.

So, to combine Lenin's question with Hitler's answer, we ask: if the People control the State, who controls the People? The teachers. And who controls the teachers? Hm. What an interesting question. We'll have to think about that one.

But I do hope I haven't activated anyone's crimestop with these terrible, terrible thoughts. Note: we are no longer asking a philosophical question. We are asking an administrative question. The answer is not a matter of logic, but of fact.

You see, there is another way to classify governments. We can define them in terms of the means that those in power use to prevent those not in power from taking said power away. Since pure democracy is impossible, there are always those on the inside and those on the outside. For example, USG has a permanent civil service which no power in Washington can purge, restructure, or otherwise attack. If that isn't the inside, what is the inside?

The chief distinction in this category is between sovereigns that hold their positions by the tactics of physical warfare - that is, conventional military and law-enforcement methods, which allow the State to manage the physical actions of its subjects - and those which hold their positions by the tactic of psychological warfare - that is, information management, which allows the State to manage the thoughts of its subjects.

Of course, all sovereigns require physical security. Therefore, the only question is whether they use psychological security as well. As we'll see, permanent psychological warfare is an essential aspect of the Modern Structure, which is a big part of why I have so much trouble with it.

If we exclude the possibility of pure democracy, we see instantly that every democracy must be a psychological-warfare state. Most people get their opinions from others. If public opinion commands the power of the State, the power to inform is the power to command the State. Just as you will seldom find a stack of twenties on the sidewalk, this power will not just be waving around in the breeze. Someone will capture it, and hold it until it is torn from their hands.

Even if you have not been reading UR long and remain a good democrat, it disturbs you to see the resemblance between political communication and commercial advertising. This is because you know the latter consists largely of psychological-warfare tropes (as per Bernays, Lippmann, and the like). Their goal is not to inform you, but to control your behavior. You know this. And yet...

What is psychological warfare, exactly? What do we know about psychological warfare in modern American history?

As it so happens, I have an expert on the line. His name is James P. Warburg, and he is (or, thankfully, was) crazy as a loon on 2CB, more evil than a Komodo dragon, and almost as rich as the Pope. But yea, he knew whereof he spoke, because before he wrote Unwritten Treaty (1946) Warburg had been a big wheel at OCI and OWI. Bearing in mind that he is a pathological liar, let's hear his definition of "psychological warfare:"
In addition to the destruction of enemy morale, the functions of a psychological warfare agency in time of declared or actual war include: the maintenance of home morale; the maintenance of the confidence of the peoples of friendly or allied nations; and winning the sympathy of the peoples of neutral countries.

All these assignments are carried out by the implantation of carefully selected ideas and concepts. These ideas and concepts are neither necessarily true nor necessarily false. In fact, whether they are true or false makes no difference whatsoever, so long as they successfully serve to create the desired state of mind. It follows that there is no validity whatsoever to the widely held belief that propaganda consists by definition of the spreading of lies. There is equally little justification for the belief that the propaganda of "decent," democratic nations should be "the truth and nothing but the truth."

There is a dangerous popular confusion, particularly in this country, between propaganda and information. This confusion arises from the fact that we are novices at psychological warfare even though we are experts in the techniques of propaganda. No other nation is as skilled in sales propaganda, or advertising, as we. No other nation indulges in orgies of political propaganda to the extent that we do once in every four years, when we elect a President. And yet, in spite of our familiarity with some of the techniques of psychological warfare, we are unfamiliar - even after this war - with the use of these techniques as an adjunct of modern warfare. Perhaps just because we are so familiar with the use of propaganda for peaceful domestic purposes, we seem unable to avoid applying to its use in wartime the moral standards of peace.

It cannot be stated with sufficient emphasis that information is one thing - propaganda quite another.

The purpose of spreading information is to promote the functioning of man's reason.

The purpose of propaganda is to mobilize certain of man's emotions in such a way that they will dominate his reason - not necessarily with evil design.

The function of an information agency is to disseminate truth - to make available fact and opinion, each carefully labeled and separated from the other. The aim of an information agency is to enable as many people as possible to form their own individual judgments on the basis of relevant fact and authoritative opinion.

The function of a propaganda agency is almost the exact opposite: it is not to inform, but to persuade. In order to persuade it must disseminate only such fact, such opinion, and such fiction masquerading as fact as will serve to make people act, or fail to act, in the desired way.
Etc. I think you get the idea. Bear in mind, however: this man is not to be trusted. (I have several works of James P. Warburg. Almost every sentence he writes is mendacious and creepy, usually in some awful, strange and surprising way.)

Do click that Wik link for the Office of the Coordinator of Information. Isn't that just about the creepiest name for a government agency you've ever heard? Isn't it even creepier that the page tells you nothing at all about who was coordinating what information, or why? The CIA link is even better:
The office of the Coordinator of Information constituted the nation’s first peacetime, nondepartmental intelligence organization. President Roosevelt authorized it to

collect and analyze all information and data, which may bear upon national security: to correlate such information and data, and to make such information and data available to the President and to such departments and officials of the Government as the President may determine; and to carry out, when requested by the President, such supplementary activities as may facilitate the securing of information important for national security not now available to the Government.
Is that creepy, or what? It's like the intro to some kind of bad period thriller, with Kevin Bacon and Matt Damon. "Supplementary activities." In other words, what we are looking at here is basically FDR's private secret service. If you assume its attentions were primarily directed at America's soon-to-be enemies overseas, I'm afraid you assume too much.

But the most interesting descendant of OCI is not OSS/CIA, but another pair of acronyms - OWI/MSM. Yes, that's right. Our lovely "mainstream media" is not, of course, a hierarchical organization reporting to the hidden Elders of Journalism. However, modern journalism is descended from such a hierarchical organization. That organization was the Office of War Information, OWI.

OWI, in the grand scheme of history, is not that important. National Socialism also managed its population with psychological-warfare techniques, and indeed for Nazi Germany Lenin's question is easily answered. "Who" is Hitler; "whom" is everyone else. Goebbels answered to Hitler, and every line in every German newspaper, radio broadcast and movie was in principle (and often in person) edited by Goebbels. Neither Elmer Davis nor even George Creel ever had anything like Goebbels' personal authority over content.

Indeed, the problem with Lenin's question in recent American history is that the answer seems to trail off into nowhere. Who informs the public? Journalists, schoolteachers, professors. Who tells schoolteachers what to say? Professors. Who tells journalists and professors what to say?

No one. Au contraire - they are specifically immune from even the hint of any such authority. The trail of power disappears. The river goes underground. And we see that we live in the "open society," exactly as advertised. Ah, bliss was it in those days to be alive. And bliss is it still, I guess.

The comfort of this realization disappears instantly, leaving only an icy, sinister chill (the same fascination, perhaps, felt by the well-dressed woman at the right of the painting) when we observe three facts.

Fact #1: no one tells journalists and professors what to say. Also: no one tells them what to do. Also: if they come into conflict with any other institution of government, they appear to win - always in the long run, if not always in the short.

Does this indicate that they are bystanders in the game of sovereignty? Or players? If, when journalists and politicians conflict, the politicians always go down in flames and the journalists always walk away without a scratch, who exactly is wearing the pants in this place?

The sovereign power is the power that is above all other powers. We have just located it. You probably knew this anyway, of course. But in case you didn't - hey, it's never too late.

The status of journalism as sovereign was confirmed when the Post and the Times defeated the Nixon administration, and established that the press could and the President could not break the law with impunity. That is, the right to leak (for legitimate journalists) became part of the Modern Structure, and the right to corrupt the political system with minor skulduggery (for Presidents) disappeared. As late as the Johnson Administration, it was the other way around.

Do note the elegance of this outcome. You would expect any supreme power, for example, to be strongly hardened against any kind of attack, and strongly camouflaged against even the recognition that here lies the Ring of sovereignty. Sauron has his Orcs as well, of course, but he spares no precaution in offense or defense.

Thus, in the American version of the Modern Structure, the press and the universities are actually outside the government proper. If they were actual government agencies - in a Department of Truth, perhaps - they could be no more potent, permanent and unaccountable.

And they would also be instantly recognizable as the most powerful agencies on the block. They would become targets, as the BBC is. The BBC has many defences against any counterattack from the feeble, dying, but still nonnegligible political system - but the New York Times has even more. (And if it needs mere money, Carlos Slim's pockets remain quite deep.)

Fact #2: journalists and professors have not one, but two, connections to power.

The information organs secure their authority by their control of public opinion. It is this power that makes the journalists and professors' own opinions important. It is why they matter. However, the cycle of power from professor to election is, though certain, not fast. One would expect a more direct connection, and indeed one finds it.

Journalists and professors are part of the larger matrix of permanent power in the Modern Structure, which we can call the extended civil service. It is extended because it includes not only the civil service proper - formal government employees - but also all those who consider themselves public servants, including journalists, professors, NGOistas, etc. Note that regardless of the formal details, the same superiority to politics is enjoyed by all.

And, importantly, it is one social network. Thus, for a faithful follower of the Party, there is never any doubt about what policies or ideas are legitimate or illegitimate. In the form of "public policy," power flows directly from Cathedral to Congress, often leaving public opinion a decade or two behind. There is no reason to worry. The people, as always, will catch up with their leaders.

Fact #3: journalists and professors never go to war with each other. This is by far the strangest and most important of our facts.

Surely, since a journalist is one thing and a professor is another, you would expect a natural factional conflict between them. At least. You would also expect various internal factions of journalists and professors to form. They don't.

While you will find occasional weirdness out at the contemptible fringe, the core of the legitimate press and the legitimate university system is remarkably homogeneous. For example, it is impossible to pick any one of the Ivy League universities and declare objectively that this school is either more progressive, or more conservative, than the others. Subject to individual, disorganized variation among professors, all are the same. And the same is true of news desks at the major centers of journalism.

Moreover, when compared to their historical predecessors, we do see change. Any Ivy League school of 1969, or at least its professoriate, would appear quite conservative if teleported to 2009. No doubt there are quite a few students in 2009 who would prefer to attend such an institution, but it does not, of course, exist.

In other words, what we don't see is any hierarchical coordinating authority. But what we do see is actual coordination. Even though the Modern Structure has no central authority to guide it - no Goebbels, no Beria, no sinister, imaginary cabal of Jews, Communists, or even bankers - it nonetheless seems to be able to maintain a remarkably tight party line. And thus, it can "change," in the familiar pattern of "progress."

In fact, ideological consistency within the information authorities (which, here at UR, we often call the Cathedral) in the Modern Structure seems if anything tighter than its equivalent in the Warsaw Pact. Factions often emerged within Communist parties in the Leninist tradition. If there are any in the Cathedral, they are not visible to the general public.

Of course, professors may form factions that disagree on areas within their fields - string theory, for instance, versus loop quantum gravity. But this tiny rift is of no structural significance to the Cathedral as a whole. It does not jeopardize its control over the political system.

So what is the source of this anomalous coordination? Actually, we have seen the effect already in the fragmentation of power. When power fragments informally, those who hold the fragments cooperate best with their peers by regarding the fragmentation as progress, not decay. The suggestion that the fragmentation should be reversed is dangerous to everyone.

In the Modern Structure, this spontaneous, decentralized coordination is seen across the information organs. These, being aware of the fundamentally informal and in a sense even illegitimate nature of their power, are very sensitive to the prospect of losing it. This prospect is in reality remote, but the fear is easy to generate. And that fear (of a "populist" or anti-Cathedral political revival, from Joe McCarthy to Sarah Palin) is one more organizing principle.

Thus, thoughts, perspectives and facts which favor, justify or defend this system of government which conducts psychological warfare against its own subjects, the Modern Structure, are adaptive, and those which oppose it are maladaptive. And thus, an information machine without any central administration self-coordinates and achieves effective censorship.

As a good democrat, of course, you have been taught to fear systems of this class only in the case that they have an evil genius, or at least a cabal, behind them. Thus "conspiracy theories." But in fact, you should find a decentralized, self-coordinating system, one in which ideas are filtered and organized by memetic evolution rather than intelligent design, far more creepy and dangerous.

For one thing, it is a heck of a lot harder to shut down. And, as we've seen, the result of the filtering process is not always a good one.

This is the truth at the bottom of the Modern Structure: it is out of control. It is best seen as a mindless and automatic beast. Its capacity for destruction is obvious. The only way to stop it is to kill it, and there is no obvious way to kill it. And its tendency is to get worse, not better.

But this is getting long. Next week, we'll do a little more history and see exactly how America, and then the world, ended up in the hands of Goya's black goat-hog.

42 Comments:

Anonymous notuswind said...

Mencius,

Wouldn't the medieval automatically recognize this unseen coordinating influence between the various tentacles of our Cathedral as Satanic force? That is, if it were described to him in such terms.

February 12, 2009 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

The immediate cause of our current circumstance is that we missed a regularly scheducled recession of significant proportions. That was considered progress at the time. It was not.

February 12, 2009 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Beran Panasper said...

While it's true that the average USG employee is probably not best described as a sensible, decent and capable person, exceptions are everywhere. And USG has no shortage of tentacles in which the exception becomes the rule - notably, the military.

What? My personal experience with the military is that most of them are indeed sensible, decent, and capable, much more so than the dregs in the rest of the Federal bureaucracy.

Our quarrel with USG, obviously, is not with the American continent or its population, nor with USG's employees; and nor with its symbols.

Well, wait a second, didn't you just say that we do have problems with a lot of USG employees (i.e. the ones who are not sensible, decent, and capable)?

As for the US population, we should have a problem with some of it, inasmuch as the Cathedral is deliberately changing the US population (importing new voters to constitute its vote banks).

For what it's worth, my feeling is that Herr Hitler is personally responsible for all the world's problems today.

Really? What does he have to do with the Cathedral? The Cathedral existed before him, and existed after him. The Cathedral is the source of the world's problems today. Hitler is an insignificant shade that the Cathedral periodically conjures up when it wants to scare people.

Thus, thoughts, perspectives and facts which favor, justify or defend this system of government which conducts psychological warfare against its own subjects, the Modern Structure, are adaptive, and those which oppose it are maladaptive. And thus, an information machine without any central administration self-coordinates and achieves effective censorship.

It was also true that thoughts, perspectives, and facts that favored the regime in Nazi Germany or the USSR were "adaptive" - and yet these systems most definitely had central administrations for the control of information. Why?

As a good democrat, of course, you have been taught to fear systems of this class only in the case that they have an evil genius, or at least a cabal, behind them. Thus "conspiracy theories."

"Conspiracy theories" are thoughts, perspectives, and facts that do not favor, justify, or defend our current system of government.

February 12, 2009 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

"My personal experience with the military is that most of them are indeed sensible, decent, and capable, much more so than the dregs in the rest of the Federal bureaucracy."

you are agreeing with Mencius. Reread the passage.

February 12, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

"Really? What does he have to do with the Cathedral? The Cathedral existed before him, and existed after him. The Cathedral is the source of the world's problems today. Hitler is an insignificant shade that the Cathedral periodically conjures up when it wants to scare people."

Hitler helped the Cathedral develop its most effective camouflage; his fascism was like anti-bacterial soap. Now the Cathedral has developed immunity. At least, I think that is where MM is going with that.

February 12, 2009 at 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Beran Panasper said...

you are agreeing with Mencius. Reread the passage.

Oh yeah, I missed the initial "not"! My bad.

Hitler helped the Cathedral develop its most effective camouflage; his fascism was like anti-bacterial soap.

Well then, the problem is not Hitler but the Cathedral's Hitler-abuse. Enough already - time to invoke Godwin's Law! From now on, anytime the Cathedral mentions Hitler, the debate is over and the Cathedral lost.

February 12, 2009 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Beran

Explicit invocation of Godwin's law renders the law invalid in that situation. (corollary 3, I think).

February 12, 2009 at 1:56 PM  
Anonymous malavel said...

Mencius,

Have you read anything by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita? He has done 4 interviews on econtalk:

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/_featuring/bruce_bueno_de_mesquita

I recommend 'The Political Economy of Power' and 'Democracies and Dictatorships.'

February 12, 2009 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

Having finally the time to finish Part 5, it seems this is the best and most optimistic understanding you have made. Optimistic because you present the seed of the way forward.

Tocqueville writes that the evil which we suffer patiently becomes unbearable as soon as we conceive of the idea of escape from it.

Americans will, prepared by a great leader or great events, elect as you say a President who will return America to a government that is supported by the people, and so is controlled by the people, and away from a government that supports the people, and so controls them.

Without an entire elimination of government departments and responsibilities not present in 1900 we will only return to our ways.
Even disaster will only cure us of our faults if we are prepared.

February 12, 2009 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

"The only way to stop it is to kill it, and there is no obvious way to kill it."

What's the non-obvious way to kill it? I don't think I'll live long enough to see it die of natural causes.

February 12, 2009 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger Neutrino Cannon said...

Short answer; it'll burn itself out just like the USSR.

and then, as they say, the real fun begins.

What's the average male life expectancy in the former worker's paradise, like, 57?

February 13, 2009 at 1:20 AM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

The collapse of the Soviet Union didn't exactly usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for the Rooskies. How do we prevent the Cathedral from rising from the ashes? An American Putin isn't exactly change I can believe in.

February 13, 2009 at 1:43 AM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

From an earlier post here:

"You can also see it in abolitionism, the Social Gospel, the Prohibitionists, and straight on down to global warming. The mindset never changes." - M. Moldbug

One of these things is not like the others. It's a clue to Mr. Moldbug's rather clever game that certain things like this get slipped by.

It's a real tribute to the gullibility of a certain kind of libertarian that I actually saw a referral to your site posted on a radical gun-rights blog. Now, anyone who has even casually skimmed your output, Mr. Moldbug can quickly see that you are no friend of the right to keep and bear arms - or, indeed, any individual rights at all - but the capacity for wishful thinking, and the capacity to see only what they want to see - is highly developed among certain types.

February 13, 2009 at 3:18 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

sabotta, MM is not a libertarian, not on gun laws or anything else. Yes he has some libertarian instincts, but that is all. He thinks there is no possibility of small weak government; to him the state must exist, and it may be small and strong, or large and weak. But there can be no such thing as a (stable) small, weak government. (I'm not sure what he thinks about the possibility of large, strong government.)

That said, his "patchwork" would arguably produce fairly libertarian government, at least in some places, outside of heavy taxation. And this is worth considering for pragmatic libertarians. The taxes aren't any heavier than now, and they would be much simpler in form. And in most other things the government will leave you alone. (BTW I do expect fairly strong handgun liberty within neocameralism, because it's much cheaper to police a people who mostly police themselves.) Would you rather be heavily taxed and forbidden from smoking weed, or heavily taxed and allowed to smoke weed?

With univeralism completely dominant as our state religion, I cannot see any possibility of any kind of popular libertarian government. Univeralism would have to be defeated first. But it is unassailable in democracy, and probably not going away even after democracy collapses. So we must look for governmental forms which do not rely on the people being sensible. That is to say, if we are to have good government, it will have to be imposed. (So much for my anarchist dreams.) It seems far likelier to me that the USA will collapse and be rebooted along neocameral lines, than it ever going libertarian in any way, weak or strong.

One other thing -- MM never replies in his own comments section any more. So if you want to argue with him, as versus his deluded fanboys, you'll have to write him.

February 13, 2009 at 7:40 AM  
Anonymous darrenbk said...

I have trouble seeing how a pro-fragmentation ideology would last. Human nature being what it is, wouldn't those who benefitted from previous fragmentations keep trying to de-fragment power, under themselves, or at least prevent further dilutions? What use would a "Fragmentation is Good" message be for them?

February 13, 2009 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"Few corporations afford any special treatment to shareholders who are also customers".

However, that was historically not the norm - in fact, until quite recently, e.g. the Isle of Wight ferry company gave discounted fares to shareholders.

"And for the fragments to come back together, one with power must transfer that power to another with it. This happens easily as a consequence of violence, and not easily otherwise."

Actually, the dynastic process did so very easily.

Beran Panasper wrote "As for the US population, we should have a problem with some of it, inasmuch as the Cathedral is deliberately changing the US population (importing new voters to constitute its vote banks)".

In an earlier phase, it similarly diluted the equity of current voters by enlarging the franchise (and not just in the USA, either - in Britain, the first rounds of electoral "reform" even disfranchised more right wing voters in the West Country, who had an inherited rather than current property based vote). This incremental electing a new people is best seen as the indirect/representative democracy analogue of agency cost issues in corporations, whereby what is best for the nominal owners is not identical with what is best for the custodians in charge.

"Hitler is an insignificant shade that the Cathedral periodically conjures up when it wants to scare people".

Actually, he was an instance of a long standing view deeply embedded in German culture; see Grimmelshausen's 17th century work Simplicius Simplicissimus (the hero described by the Jupiter figure, particularly in book 3, chapter 4).

February 13, 2009 at 9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what we don't see is any hierarchical coordinating authority. But what we do see is actual coordination. Even though the Modern Structure has no central authority to guide it - no Goebbels, no Beria, no sinister, imaginary cabal of Jews, Communists, or even bankers - it nonetheless seems to be able to maintain a remarkably tight party line.

The way to maintain ideological conformity without rigid centralization is through selection of cadres. You do not need a commissar in every newsroom and every history department; as soon as you have a liberal editor in charge of the paper, or a liberal head of the history department, that person hires only liberals, and sooner or later the newsroom (or history department) is predominantly liberal in outlook. From then on the process is essentially self-sustaining - they're simply not going to hire anyone who disagrees with them, and a lot of non-liberals will be deterred from trying to become journalists or professors in the first place.

February 14, 2009 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

The trouble with fish metaphors and such is that fish and fisherman are fundamentally different from each other in a way the people of various stations are not. A fisherman need not fear being demoted to fish status, and a fish cannot aspire to become a fisherman, or indeed anything other than a fish.

Part of me still think Mencius is fundamentally just kidding. His core idea seems to be that it is better to be a well cared for domestic animal than a hunted wild one. I don't really agree, but that's not the point. I can't imagine accepting that those are your only options.

February 14, 2009 at 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont see much here besides a long, flashily erudite essay that plays with the whole accumulation of historical/cultural/philosophical anecdotes and analytical framework - so I think Mencius is a jokester like Weinberg says.

"Who? whom?" is a great pithy way to summarize politics. I believe that the current Anglo saxon western democracies are in an analogous position to the German and Austro-Hungarian empires in the late 1800s following Jewish emancipation, and up to the early 1900s.

Basically the main characteristics are:
1) Domination split between nonloyal native elites and a jewish elite which maintains oppositional/contrarian tendencies and promotes them. The res publica (in latin sense of the word) is fucked because nobody cares about it - similar to the metaphor of the fisheries demonstrating the tragedy of the commons. However that is just a metaphor.

2) Governance is accomplished by "protecting" groups from other groups within the same country while promoting a non-blood-based propositional notion of Patriotism - standard practice in the Austro-hungarian empire at 1900. This is most aggressively done against the founding majority population, who are seen as "loyal" while the other groups are expected to rebel at any time. (See double standards between Austrians and ethnic Hungarians in 1900 or between whites and Latinos in 1990s LA).

3) A flowering of culture which hinders group cohesion and contributes nothing to survival value - i.e. culture becomes a "bauble": a collection of status-symbols helping whites differentiate themselves from one another and pursue to excess a narcissistic individualism.

This is encouraged by various anti-majoritarian forces and fringe elements (who after all also don't give a F about the res publica).
In the contemporary US some of these cultural schemes have used television and movies to erect a new morality, which lyingly is asserted as the basis of our new, wider understanding of the principles behind our cohesion as a - cough cough - "group" (a group consisting of outgroups reified as an ingroup by abstract reasoning). In Europe this cultural flowering consisted of novels, literature, poetry, the opera and painting, including artistic "movements".
With us it consists of television, movies, music, MySpace, video games and fashion.

4) After going so long in a setting where group strategy is off-limits for discussion (split by internal divisions)
and so many fringe elements have been allowed to militate against majoritarian interests in the name of ethnic grievances, the economics of the system begins to tank. After all, the ability to take rational decisions, make sacrifices, evaluate outcomes has been ruined by the lack of trust and subsequent rise of careerist/opportunist/cynics who are only in power to be in power.

Whatever you think about politicians and their nature, the absence of an underlying, unifying and believable "res publica" notion (such as BLOOD RELATEDNESS of the ethny or common religion) - the absence of such a thing is massively corrupting for them because it signals to them that there is no power higher than their own self interest. There is no accountability because there is no common purpose or common ideal, really there is simply no shared bond. So politicians can't be held accountable for betraying the group strategy because there is none - no single group nor a single strategy, but a multiplicity of both. In this way ethnic identity politics is actually wholesome compared to the morass of confused and fragmentary idealistic recipes which it simply sweeps aside when demographics pass a certain point.

Most of these pre-identity politics ideologies (about markets, and right and wrong, and Ayn Rand) were represented cynically, especially by politicans in the final phase before the transition to identity politics.

Where demographics shift substantially identity politics takes over immediately as the most significant question. This has to do with group identities and the resulting conflicting historical narratives, differing visions of the future, selective empathy, and the fact that shifting demographics itself represents a phenomenon analogous to conquest which has to be settled before lesser questions can be answered. Is conquest a good thing or a bad thing is the fundamental question of emerging identity politics in western states. Since different groups have different strategic interests, obviously they have different answers to the question: "Is conquest (colonization, immigration, whatever) by X group a good thing or a bad thing?"

I agree with Mencius that "treading water" has become the strategy of the political class. Lack of a legimitate strategic historical perspective (*whose* interests are you pursuing long term?) forbids them from thinking strategically or representing any idea more powerfully than "hey, this might work". Its a position not to be envied.

February 14, 2009 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Sovereign liquidation means anarchy, and there is no political form more dangerous.
It improved things for Somalia. Pennsylvania was also anarchic for a while, despite the best efforts of William Penn, and it was apparently a decent place anyway. I shouldn't even have to mention Iceland. All of them seem better than Leopold's Congo Free State (which was of course also worse than the constitutional monarchy he was saddled with in Belgium). None of this is to insist anyone become an anarchist (I'm not convinced of its merits myself), just that you have to grapple with it.

a phrase which strikes the worm-gnawed American brain as oxymoronic
It bears a hefty responsibility for Britain's longer slide toward anarcho-tyranny, in which an autonomous statistics-providing bureaucracy seems relatively populist.

Thus the trouble with these written constitutions. If the Constitution is identical to the constitution, it is superfluous. If the Constitution is not identical to the constitution, it is deceptive. There are no other choices.
That's supposed to have been the reason for burning the library of Alexandrai. Don't be silly. The Constitution provides Schelling points, and without it it's highly doubtful DC vs Heller would have turned out like it did. The big-C was an attempt to mold the little-c, and since it was eroded rather slowly I'll give it credit.

For example, the two-party system is clearly part of USG's constitution.
We've had Congresscritters that weren't members in recent memory (Bernie Sanders, Jeffords, Lieberman after losing to Lemont). The party system has been wrecked a few times with a third-party emerging. This is really an outcome of first-past the post voting. The Constitution does not actually prohibit it, and specifying such a system in the Constitution would have prevented a number of realignments.

the design notes indicate an intention to preclude them.
Original intent is dismissed these days (sensibly, in my opinion). Original public meaning is the reigning originalist king. Lysander Spooner explained this all long ago. For an argument on why the text of the Constitution says it says it should be interpreted based on the original public meaning of the text, see here.

Yet no one seriously believes that an alien, reading the Constitution, would produce anything like the same results.
It's questionable why the alien would care about the Constitution at all. I'd also object to "anything like", quite a number of things (such as age requirements for various public offices, that there be two senators for a state) clearly still mean what they did when the Constitution was written.

If the constitution is in fact stable, inscribing it (while a prudent clerical task) makes it no more stable
Do we not inscribe contracts? Even if such a contract is only enforced by its signatories, writing it out makes it more stable. This is not a new innovation either, the Romans insisted on written law for the public.

Thus, the infallible recipe for a sadistic and predatory state: internal competition for power
Who else in North Korea is competing with Kim Jong Il? Who was competing with Papa Doc (he even disbanded the military and police, what a wonderfully unitariy power-structure!)? Somalia, as mentioned, actually became such a good place to do business that neighbors from other states with "functioning" governments would head over there for the ordered stability of anarchy.

Montesquieu's little device, "checks and balances."
Seems to have worked out much better for the U.S than oriental despotism has anywhere else. Your old favorite example of Dubai isn't looking so good these days either.

But there is one principle they can agree on: that fragmentation of authority is good.
No, don't be stupid. Each additional fisherman makes them all poorer. Mere mainteance of the status quo will eliminate the fish. Ideally they want a cartel that can punish defectors, generally asking the State to intervene. That is in fact what has happened repeatedly throughout history. Ask either DiLorenzo or Kolko, depending on your preference.

Because any consolidation of authority must involve stripping at least one player of the power to fish
If it involves all of them abiding by a quota, that means more fish for all of them in the long run. If they can gang up on one of them to stop them from fishing, or to prevent new entries, then all members of the cartel benefit.

But these relationships exist in the real world today, albeit without the sovereign twist, and they appear to be conducted for the most part sensibly
Taleb and Kahneman disagree.

Thus we see a feedback loop between the idea of fragmented power, and the structure itself.
Which is why feudalism never developed into absolute monarchy and centralized states. Even in the United States we have seen more power flowing from the states to the federal government.

in Great Britain
Good thing they never wrote down a Constitution to specify checks and balances!

I mean: what else was the 20th century? A horror story.
A horror story less horrible than all previous centuries of human existence. We should thank Hobbes.

democracies appear to succeed because the form is inherently stable. Unfortunately, this is not because the people are inherently wise, but simply because it is inherently very difficult to retrieve them from their present Svengalis.
Sounds just peachy from a formalist perspective.

You'll note that the democracies do not seem to have much energy left, and indeed there is not much left of the wood
Why not come up with a falsifiable number?

because by the '90s all possible avenues of decadence had been quite thoroughly explored
Reminds me of the urban legend about closing the patent office in the 1830s because everything had been invented. I bet in two decades you'll be shocked by the even lower depths of depravity.

Generally, the farther east you went the worse they got - and wogs, as we all know, begin at Calais
Sounds like an argument FOR democracy on the Anglo model to me. Absolute monarchy was much more succesful there than England.

and by 'motes' I mean offences against the truth, not offences against the State
Why? That sounds like something a political idealist might say, rather than a "friend of government".

However, this may be influenced by my bias in favor of a movement that recaptures the State by democratic, rather than military, means
That would seem to require some faith in democracy.

But almost everything short of this has been tried, and it tends to work.
I think you might be giving our students too much credit, they frequently can't remember what they were taught a month after cramming. Creationism is believed by a huge chunk of the U.S population (about as many as believe in evolution, with about 20% unsure) despite the repeated failure to put it in schools. That might constitute the clearest violation of public opinion leading to school doctrine.

Our answer is simple: the Jews. (Sorry, Jew-haters. Just kidding.)
I would like to see you seriously tackle that most unsavory of political ideologies (perhaps dealing with some of n/a's specific objections while you're at it). "Why I Am Not an Anti-Semite" just wasn't quite filling enough.

It is foremost in performing this 'work of enlightenment' and thus represents a sort of school for grownups
I don't know about in Hitler's place and time, but now a lot fewer adults read papers than kids go to school.

For what it's worth, my feeling is that Herr Hitler is personally responsible for all the world's problems today
Michael Shermer claims that many righties hold to an "Aristocratic Romance" somewhat similar to your own beliefs about how the world's problem stem his failure.

In other words, people believe what they are told to believe - sometimes minus a little stubborn deviation, electorally negligible.
I think a lot of people have status quo bias, and will go along even without public education.

And who controls the teachers?
People with even lower standardized test scores.

which is a big part of why I have so much trouble with it.
Why is that worse? Wouldn't the prudent State use whatever methods are available to it?

Even if you have not been reading UR long and remain a good democrat, it disturbs you to see the resemblance between political communication and commercial advertising
I guess if you've never heard of Noam Chomsky.

This is because you know the latter consists largely of psychological-warfare tropes (as per Bernays, Lippmann
Lippmann seemed much more concerned with politics than advertisements.

is basically FDR's private secret service
He already had a Secret Service dedicated to his person, but I guess you can't go wrong with more.

If you assume its attentions were primarily directed at America's soon-to-be enemies overseas, I'm afraid you assume too much.
Didn't we already have agencies dedicated to that other stuff?

That organization was the Office of War Information, OWI.
According to your link it was defunded by Congress. Take that, civil service!

Who tells journalists and professors what to say?
Journalists have editors, editors have bosses that work for the owners of the publication, those owners seek advertising dollars. That much should be obvious. They have also been willing to work as propaganda outlets for the hated Bush regime and defense contractors.

Fact #1: no one tells journalists and professors what to say
Phil Weiss lost his job with the Observer, and Michael Scheuer lost a position for basically the same reason.

That is, the right to leak (for legitimate journalists) became part of the Modern Structure
What constitutes a "legitimate journalist"? And since when was it illegal for journalists to claim an official told them something anonymously? I understand there are exceptions for national security reasons (and they NYTimes actually sat on information for a long time for that reason) but I don't think Watergate qualifies.

You would expect any supreme power, for example, to be strongly hardened against any kind of attack, and strongly camouflaged against even the recognition that here lies the Ring of sovereignty.
I thought one of your points was that if you really have the Ring you can be open about it, and so this demonstrates weakness somehow.

And if it needs mere money, Carlos Slim's pockets remain quite deep.
If Slim pays the piper, does he not now call the tune?

Surely, since a journalist is one thing and a professor is another, you would expect a natural factional conflict between them
Should we expect that between railway-workers and supermarket stockers? They are after all different things.

You would also expect various internal factions of journalists and professors to form
Murdoch's publications and "fresh vs salt water" don't count?

For example, it is impossible to pick any one of the Ivy League universities and declare objectively that this school is either more progressive, or more conservative, than the others
My own opinion is that it's impossible to do that "objectively" for anyone. Neocons and paleos accuse each other of being leftists when convenient, and some lefties (or maybe I'm generalizing from Eric Alterman) have recently been accusing the right of not being as un-conservative as the left was in the 60s/70s. There does seem to be a general opinion that Princeton and Dartmouth are the most conservative of the Ivy Leagues.

No doubt there are quite a few students in 2009 who would prefer to attend such an institution
Perhaps the ones who would like to participate in a campus uprising.

But what we do see is actual coordination.
The idea of spontaneous order is counter-intuitive to most, which is why economists and evolutionary biologists have to go to great lengths to explain it. I don't think you've done that yet for the Cathedral. Your claim that "the drift is the organizing principle" just begs the question. You need some equilibrium theorizing to explain why we do not have tomorrow's Cathedral today.

Of course, professors may form factions that disagree on areas within their fields - string theory, for instance, versus loop quantum gravity
I'm sure physicists disagree on things outside their field, like who is the greatest baseball player since Babe Ruth, but we don't care as much about disagreements outside their fields.

When power fragments informally, those who hold the fragments cooperate best with their peers by regarding the fragmentation as progress, not decay
Let's start with n=1. Does that power-bloc want fragmentation? No, monopolies tend to hold tight to their status. How about a duopoly like the two-party system? Again we see that they cooperate enough to pass laws making it harder for third parties. So what is the magic number at which they desire greater fragmentation? Assuming equal shares of power among all fragments, my guess is NEVER.

The suggestion that the fragmentation should be reversed is dangerous to everyone.
The suggestion that the status quo be maintained is best for everyone, that it be concentrated is beneficial for the winner who takes all.

Joe McCarthy
Again, I have to link to this gem from Tom Wolfe via Steve Sailer.

Thus, thoughts, perspectives and facts which favor, justify or defend this system of government which conducts psychological warfare against its own subjects, the Modern Structure, are adaptive, and those which oppose it are maladaptive.
That sounds a bit like group selection, which I don't really believe in (take that, Steven Jay Gould and Kevin MacDonald!). Also, the most adaptive way to prevent any disunity in message would be to reverse fragmentation and concentrate power. Then the only risk is schizophrenia!


malavel:
I've been promoting Bruce Bueno de Mesquita here and elsewhere for a LONG time. You have good taste!


Bearded Spock:
An American Putin isn't exactly change I can believe in.
MM seems to like him. I think Hopefully Anonymous does as well.


I don't think MM has yet given an opinion on gun control. As a San Franciscan, he's less likely to be into guns himself. He hasn't said anything in support of it because a lot of his fans are probably gun nuts. His idea about crypto-lock guns under absolute authority of the sovereign might imply that the rest of us won't have any, in which case he'll have to pry mine out of my cold dead hands!

February 15, 2009 at 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been promoting Bruce Bueno de Mesquita here and elsewhere for a LONG time.

Exactly why I have no intention of reading anything this guy writes.

February 16, 2009 at 6:57 AM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

From Bruce Bruno's Wikipedia entry -

He has founded a company, Mesquita & Roundell, that specializes in making political and foreign-policy forecasts using a computer model based on game theory and rational choice theory.

In other words, "he is a complete nutball and/or fraud"

Man, TGGP, you sure can pick them. It's like you are psychic, or something.

February 16, 2009 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger drank said...

TGGP ably dissected much of this entry, but I'd like to raise a couple of other points.

First, the tragedy of the commons is a completely inapt metaphor for political governance. If I am goverened by the US Supreme Court, that does not leave me any less available for the President, the Congress, or the Cathedral to similarly govern me. There is no way for the commons to be exhausted, save for a policy of democide. In fact, as a "fish" I have far more to fear when those entities collude than when they compete, and thus cannot spend their time catching me!

Second, MM's theory in this essay is that a single-owner sovereign will provide more "strong and kindly" governance than fragmented sovereigns. Can we find any empirical evidence of this?

Ranking, by country, of economic freedoms
Ranking, by country, of freedom of the press
Scoring, by country, of political liberties and civil rights

That's funny, the worst nations in all of these lists are ones with single-owner sovcorps. I guess that theory is falsified. Have you another?

In fairness to MM, unitary sovereigns occupy both the top (Hong Kong) and the bottom (North Korea) of the economic freedom ranking. But western-style constitutional/parlimentary democracies are at or near the top according to all four metrics, suggesting that my best odds as a fish are in one of them.

In fact, unwritten constitution is a tautology. It is our written constitution - or large-C Constitution - which is a concept comical, impossible, and fundamentally fraudulent.
How would you contrast Britain's version of freedom of speech or the right to bear arms with those found in the US? To what do you ascribe the differences?

The chief distinction in this category is between sovereigns that hold their positions by the tactics of physical warfare - that is, conventional military and law-enforcement methods, which allow the State to manage the physical actions of its subjects - and those which hold their positions by the tactic of psychological warfare - that is, information management, which allows the State to manage the thoughts of its subjects
Please identify any sovcorp from the last 200 years that has not used tactics of psychological warfare to hold power.

If, when journalists and politicians conflict, the politicians always go down in flames and the journalists always walk away without a scratch
I haven't seen that Dan Rather guy on the nightly news much lately. What ever happened to him?


I am increasingly being won over to George Weinburg's opinion: Mencius is really a humorist and we've all been taken in by the joke.

February 16, 2009 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

TGGP writes
The idea of spontaneous order is counter-intuitive to most, which is why economists and evolutionary biologists have to go to great lengths to explain it. I don't think you've done that yet for the Cathedral.

What may be happening is something like primitive law. Although it is nowhere explicitly codified it is pretty well understood. Provided that those who take the lead in punishing outlaws gain status and, conversely, those who fail to sufficiently assist in punishing outlaws run the risk of being labelled outlaws themselves, the system is self-reinforcing despite the lack of any sort of central authority.

February 16, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Anonymous February 16, 2009 6:57 AM:
First, pick a nym.


Exactly why I have no intention of reading anything this guy writes.

You know who else I promote a lot around the internet? Mencius Moldbug! Better stop reading him lest your brain be corroded by the mere association with me. I'm also a big fan of the words "and", "the" and "a", so you should stop using them as well. More seriously, what BBDM seems to be angling for in his Logic of Political Survival stuff is quite similar to Mencius' focus. Of course, being steeped in the rat-choice tradition of William Riker which resembles that of many economists, I think he'd laugh at Mencius' claims about the motivations of self-interested players with regard to fragmentation. To sum up: the worst possibility is everyone defecting, a good one is everybody cooperating, the best is you personally defecting while everyone else cooperates.


jsabotta:
I don't believe in psychic powers silly, and neither would you if you sufficiently appreciated materialist reductionism! BBDM may very well be selling snake-oil, but he has succesfully made predictions on record on things he's not actually a domain expert on, such as who would succeed the Ayatollah Khomeini.


drank:
Good points. The distinction between the interests of fish and fishermen (who do indeed benefit from collusion) is important and I wish I had made it.

I haven't seen that Dan Rather guy on the nightly news much lately. What ever happened to him?
Add to him Ashleigh Banfield and Phil Donahue (yes, the source is biased but they are still relevant examples).


George Weinberg:
Interesting point about unspoken primitive law. Robert Ellickson one-upped the libertarian "Production of Law" types with his book Order Without Law. Following him, we might call it not law but order. In what he regards as either his most brilliant or obvious essay, David Friedman discusses property rights as Schelling point here. We need to ask what are the forces that produce such Schelling points as (even if temporary) equilibria.

February 16, 2009 at 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Journalists have editors, editors have bosses that work for the owners of the publication, those owners seek advertising dollars. That much should be obvious. They have also been willing to work as propaganda outlets for the hated Bush regime and defense contractors."

Er, what?

Journalism is THE field for red-diaper babies who really, really want to Change The World.

You find different types of people on different college tracks.

People who are really bright and really passionate about objective truth go into the hard sciences.

People who are really intelligent and want to understand how things really work go into engineering.

The ones a shade less bright who want to go where the money is end up in law or on the MBA track.

The ones dimmer yet, who know damn well they don't have what it takes to work in a chem lab for an hour without dying messily, nor could they ever compete well enough on a level playing field in business or law to have a snowball's chance in Hell of ever paying off the college loans, get shunted into Early Childhood Education, because--especially with Affirmative Action bennies that they get for having a uterus and a pulse--they can attach themselves to the saggy dugs of the Mommy State forever and get three months paid vacation every year and an automatic cost of living raise every year basically for being babysitters.

Your typical red-diaper baby doesn't give two shits about any of that. He wants to Save The World and Show The People The Truth about those evil Rethuglican troglodytes who think they're so smart because they dual-majored in biochemistry and EE and do stuff with math. And they find a kindred spirit in good old Professor Jewberg, CPUSA member in good standing, runner-up for a 1974 Pulitzer for his wholly factual documentry on Satanism, pedophilia, and sadomasochism among drug-addicted cannibal Vietnam vets.

Journalism was a field utterly dominated by foaming-at-the-mouth true-believers from the furthest fringes of the far Left generations before anyone reading this blog was born.

And yes, journalists do answer to the guy who signs their paychecks, like "Punch" Sulzburger, the old-money red-diaper-baby Jew who owns the New York Times, Samuel Newhouse (liberal Jew who owns 22 major US newspaper), or Murray "Call me Sumner Redstone" Rothstein, who owns Viacom and CBS, and... but you see the pattern, or you don't, or perhaps you've been trained not to see this particular fnord and you're already chanting the protective magic words RACIST! ANTISEMITE! FASCIST! NEOCON! THOUGHTCRIMINAL! HERETIC! BURN THE WITCH! BURN THE WITCH! BURN THE WITCH!

Intelligence is the capacity to perceive and process patterns in data.

I give Mr. Moldbug ten out of ten for the DESCRIPTIVE portion of his diagnosis, minus several million for the PRESCRIPTIVE portion. He sees what's wrong, but when it comes to the question of what to do about it, there are nettles he is, perhaps understandably, unwilling to grasp.

February 16, 2009 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

It's pretty hilarious, Mr. Anonymous Nazi, for you to complain about the "saggy dugs" etc of the Mommy State when your only real complaint is that access to the suck isn't exclusively restricted to deserving gentiles like yourself. This is indeed "race realism."

It's also funny when (as with the late unlamented Revilo Oliver) the mask of pseudo-reason slips from your type for a few moments and the raw, gnawing paranoid envy and frustration peers out at the world. Doesn't K. McDonald teach at some third-rate community cow college or something? Well, there you are.

Anyway, the first obvious step of any legitimate resistance to the State power would be to shoot all their would-be crypto-Nazi and racialist hangers-on and opportunists. I'm just saying.

February 16, 2009 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger jsabotta said...

Note to TGGP and DJ Chip Smith, not to mention that there Rollins - see how heavily Mr. Anonymous Nazi leans on the "Do-you-dare-accept-my-dangerous-unpopular-idea" trick?

Actually, though, so does Moldbug, albiet less crudely.

February 16, 2009 at 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know who else I promote a lot around the internet? Mencius Moldbug! Better stop reading him lest your brain be corroded by the mere association with me.

Yeah, but I didn't come here on your recommendation. I'm not going to look at BBM until someone I respect endorses him.

February 17, 2009 at 5:02 AM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

RACIST! ANTISEMITE! FASCIST! NEOCON! THOUGHTCRIMINAL! HERETIC! BURN THE WITCH! BURN THE WITCH! BURN THE WITCH!

Does it really make a difference that Jews are overrepresented in the US media?

European news outlets are even more leftwing than America's but there is not much Jewish representation in the Euromedia outside of Britain due to the Holocaust destroying the bulk of Europe's Jewish population.

PS

Group selection, ie "group evolutionary strategy", does not work.

So, please let little KMacDonald know that he has to go back to remedial genetics 101 and and sit in the back corner wearing the Dunce's cap.

;)

http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/11/group-selection.html

February 17, 2009 at 5:38 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

notuswind:

Yes.

I'm not sure, really, that our current situation (or its possibility) is not what the more astute among them were talking about.

February 17, 2009 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Feel free to annotate this article over at Thiblo.com

February 17, 2009 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Anonymous February 16, 2009 9:45 PM:
First, get a nym.

I am very sympathetic to your derision towards verbals. In fact, it's part of the sticking point between me and MM and his fondness for a literary approach (here I think Paul Krugman makes a useful point). But the point I was trying to make was that they face constraints and have superiors, which MM flatly denied.

As my earlier link indicated, educators tend not to have very high standardized test scores. Lawyers do (the job pays a lot, so it attracts smart people), though of course they use it for the evil Verbal/Dark Side.

And yes, journalists do answer to the guy who signs their paychecks, like "Punch" Sulzburger
Nowadays it's Carlos Slim. Start directing more of your ire towards Mexico!


Intelligence is the capacity to perceive and process patterns in data.

Type I error is the tendency to see patterns that aren't there.

I give Mr. Moldbug ten out of ten for the DESCRIPTIVE portion of his diagnosis
Did you not read his denial of the anti-semitic description of the world?


jsabotta:
I try to judge ideas on their merits, although their promulgators may inadvertently crowd out more persuasive points through hyperventilation.

Doesn't K. McDonald teach at some third-rate community cow college or something? Well, there you are.
And Alan Dershowitz teaches at Harvard. Does that make his views on the acceptability of torture correct?


Anonymous February 17, 2009 5:02 AM:
Again, pick a name, any name that isn't being used.

It may be a reasonable default not to bother reading any thinker until you encounter solid evidence that they are worthwhile. In such a case my own opinion might be simply irrelevant, but it wouldn't be "exactly why" you don't bother. That would imply my opinion counts as negative evidence, in which case it should also make you rethink how worthwhile UR is.

February 17, 2009 at 6:43 PM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

i recall reading with amusement some MSM anchor's attempt during an interview with jon stewart to explain the difference between facts and truth, and which the news is supposed to report. i think what's going on in the heads of people who accuse the MSM of spreading bush propaganda is the same problem--they want to hear "the bush regime released another obvious lie about iraq today, but of course, we know that what's really going on is this" from the anchors. (the amusement part is that of course that's what they do get, just done too subtly for most of them to see.)

February 18, 2009 at 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Dershowitz teaches at Harvard. Does that make his views on the acceptability of torture correct?

They are correct regardless of where he teaches.

It may be a reasonable default not to bother reading any thinker until you encounter solid evidence that they are worthwhile. In such a case my own opinion might be simply irrelevant, but it wouldn't be "exactly why" you don't bother. That would imply my opinion counts as negative evidence, in which case it should also make you rethink how worthwhile UR is.

Why you endorse UR is a mystery, since you don't seem to understand it. Is it just the joy of fisking every post line by line that brings you back?

February 19, 2009 at 9:46 AM  
Blogger amy said...

that's right



- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

February 24, 2009 at 8:49 PM  
Blogger perlhaqr said...

If the MSM is really the group that wears the pants here in America, they must be having even bigger fits about their immanent demise at the hands of the 'net than I previously suspected.

TGGP: I'm really curious, what commonly named political ideology would you say you most closely align with? (I specify my question in that manner in the hopes of getting an answer I'll understand, rather than needing yet another explanation for.)

March 5, 2009 at 11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

~「朵語‧,最一件事,就。好,你西中瀟灑獨行。

March 6, 2009 at 5:17 AM  
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March 7, 2009 at 5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 9, 2009 at 11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 9, 2009 at 11:28 PM  
Blogger Honorius Monkeymember said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 18, 2009 at 12:32 PM  

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