Thursday, October 1, 2009 49 Comments

Ends and odds

Having passed the meaningless milestone of "code complete" on my unsupervised thesis (I hope no one was under the impression that UR is my only plot to capture the world - ha! In fact, there is a completely separate technical track), and having discovered that the Sibyl can indeed read (at least, she can read the word "schoolhouse"), I feel entitled to take this Thursday off.

(UR recommends the Glenn Doman method for early reading. The Domans are definitely not quite right in the head, but their method definitely works. It was also applied to me as a small child in Winnipeg, and you see the result.)

I do wish to note, however, that I've found the key to world peace. The key is 119-1830-0128-0886. No, this is not Peter Thiel's account number at UBS. What is it? The answer, next week on UR. Or possibly the week after.

For those who absolutely need some kind of fix, however, I've had a couple of conversations with UR readers. One, which most probably missed, is a conversation about cryptographic sovereign security with Devin Finbarr, in an Arnold Kling thread.

Another, which everyone missed because it was in email, is a conversation with Porphyrogenitus, beginning with this post. Since he of the purple genitals has not enabled comments, I was compelled to respond via email, thusly:
Excellent point. The real answer is much more subtle than the slogan implies.

First, "separation of information and state" is most easily understood as an agenda to be enacted under this particular State. I trust you have no objection to this.

But as a general principle, which applies to all sovereigns good or bad, the relationship between public opinion and public power is one of mutual attraction. It is a mistake to see either as a fixed pole toward which the other gravitates. The relative stability of each must be considered.

If power is weak and unstable, power will gravitate toward public opinion. Public opinion will indeed itself become a vehicle of power, which will end up in the hands of those by professional necessity control public opinion. The result is the mind-control state we have now.

If the state is under a stable and physically secure center of authority, however, its subjects will seek, as part of their daily power-craving routine, to curry favor from that state, rather than wrenching its popularity away. The latter, after all, is no longer a potential route to power. In Anglo-American history, you have to go back to the Elizabethan era for a pure case of this, although it is also arguably represented in the job security of the present civil-service state.

Thus, the stronger the state's physical security, the more popular it becomes. For example, one of the governments that receives the highest popularity ratings from its citizens is the PRC. Of course, flagrant abuse or incompetence will nullify this effect, but we do not expect these either.

And thus, a state that has extremely high physical security (cryptographic command chain over the military, etc), has no need to manipulate public opinion. It will be popular without any such manipulation. Thus, the objective of separation is maintained.

I admit that this "island of stability" has no clear historical parallels, but the chain of reasoning behind it is short and seems solid. It has not existed in the past because the technology that enables it did not exist. Political theory must always bow to military technology.
He of the purple genitals replies:
I certainly don't have an objection to the principle of Separation of Information and State being applied to the current government. Considering how The System corrupts both ends of its structure - being corrosive not only of good government, but of academe at all levels, the "intermediary institutions" that transformed from beneficent societies into NGOs that exist to petition the government for "more", which then write grant proposals and build networks of influence to get the "more", and journalism ("current history" - I'll take one ink-stained wretch who didn't go to J-School over 10 J-School "Professional Journalists" any day), I'd have to be demented to object.

One thing you haven't focused on *as* much in all this is how The System (I love sounding like a hippie) corrodes business as well, which is surprising given your background (as a former Progressive and Misesian-influenced person). The dirty little secret, the aunt kept hidden in the attic, being that while Progressives will castigate "big business" and "corporate influence", in practice they are all too eager to form "public-private partnerships" with it, preferring large corporations because they're easier coordinate in manageable numbers, and the companies themselves are seduced happily into this, as they benefit from the Regulation Raj Government's snuffing out potential competitors (at least at home. They then get their lunch eaten abroad, and seek protected internal markets). Progressive mouthpieces castigate this way of doing things when the Outer Party is in office, but when the Inner party is in power those same mouthpieces (Krugman, Less Through, and their like) laud "public-private partnerships" and rhetorically promote the Corporatist State (which includes all the elements of the previous paragraph, plus unions and big business) with fine-sounding sophistic pablum.

Breaking The System through "Separation of Information and State" would certainly be desirable. However, as you yourself point out, it is possibly a near impossible task in the near term. Nothing lasts forever, though, and these apparatchiks seem to be in a race to hypertrophy and collapse, with only things like the "Tea Parties" reining them in. That can only slow them temporarily, be it for months or years. It might (or might not) be better to simply do what we should have done with the car companies: Let them fail. Let The System go bankrupt, and into receivership. In the near term, though, it's more likely to be a spontaneous uncontrolled collapse rather than your controlled, reactionary liquidation, a "Mad Max" outcome that only the Anarchists could desire (and only until they lived, or died, in "Beirut: 1985, the LARP"). A lot of work still needs to be done convincing people to put an end to it in a controlled way before it collapses. There is no "Bankruptcy Court" for countries, other than the IMF, and their remedies aren't the droids you're looking for. It is race against time, and your horse is well behind.

The problem with the concept of Separation of Information and State is this: If enough support builds to enact it, either by a Constitutional Amendment which they would actually feel compelled to obey, or simply from enough pressure that they were compelled to terminate this corrosive feedback loop, you may as well use that support to terminate the current system wholesale with an Amendment nullifying the Constitution and sending the United States into receivership without the intermediary step of Separation of Information and State. Because that's what it does: terminate the current government, and they will resist it just as ferociously as they would resist an Amendment abolishing the USG.

As for my part, I'm not entirely convinced of the worthlessness of democracy, but I do want authoritah to be married to responsibility and accountability. Our current rulers have managed to subvert this entirely. They have authoritah but displace responsibility, becoming effectively unaccountable, which is the worst possible combination. I also don't think it would be wise to terminate the United States. I do agree that it is desirable to devolve power to the local level by creating a structure productive of the principle of subsidiarity, rather than one promoting centralization.

Unlike you, I don't have a program to replace The System that I am convinced would be both stable and desirable, and it would be improper for a reactionary to dismantle a structure, however flawed, without a program for renewal. Since you have one and I do not, and for the sake of fun lets follow closely along your model while departing somewhat and build a NeoFeudal structure. Personally, like Larison, I have more fondness for historical East Rome than for the Feudal West, but perhaps unlike him I think a more NeoFeudal structure is the best fit for the new structure you envision.

One of the problems I see with your system is that the built-in safeguard could be circumvented. If any one stockholder gained 50.1% of the shares through a Nanosecond Buyout or other sort of takeover, he controls the State outright. He alone elects the Board and therefore the CEO, which could be either a spineless toady, or himself. Then he can rule as Hitler (since you mention it), or as King Leopold, and the safeguard is neutralized. It would be more difficult but not impossible for one person to gain 50.1% of the shares of a State, but a claque could, and at the Federal level it would be very difficult, but a cartel or cabal might. Also if a badly-run micronation is subjected to a hostile takeover by an investment group organized by a T. Boone Pickens-type, which think they can manage it better, what's to prevent recalcitrant Board Members from withholding the passcodes, BG Ripper syle? Interdiction might, but only if it was enforced, which requires an enforcer. NeoFeudalism, rather than 3,000 completely separate countries, would allow this without over-centralization.

Aside: I'm not sure that the PRC is as stable as it appears; intel-type reports suggest a lot of "risings" and riot-type events in China, though mostly on the outer fringes rather than the Han Core - in which the vast preponderance of the population lives. Anyhow it's hard to tell, and the government is certainly much more popular than it was 20 years ago, and it's very possible to have the support of 70% of the people, but with a quarter being restive, due to still-existing corruption or simply dissatisfaction of the non-Han populations at being ruled by ferrin infidel debils. I don't foresee any of this toppling the PRC any time soon, but it may lead to successive reforms (good or ultimately, like most of ours ended up being, bad).

Our Counties need Counts, but they probably won't have that name. Most have Sheriffs, though, or a similar Peace Officer. On the day of Receivership, authority would be vested in the County Sheriff - who probably doesn't want it all, but that is a good thing, because then most of them will content themselves with enforcing the law and maintaining order, doing as little other administrative work as they can. Shares in each County will then be sold, and the County's owners will elect a Board to select a Sheriff (possibly the current occupant) as its CEO.

States need "Dukes", but they can maintain the title of Governor. Shares in the State will also be sold, and to keep things from degenerating, no Sheriff can own Shares in the State their County is a part of (they can own shares in other States). The Governor's job will be to insure cross-county cooperation on trade (via negotiations rather than top-down mandate, see below) and that the "right of pursuit" of fugitives across County lines is enforced (no "Bo and Luke Duke" escapades). The county the State Capital is in will be the Governor's "Demise". The Governor will also be responsible for State-wide defense (perhaps not every County has da bomb; plenty of rural Counties probably couldn't afford such, but rural Bugtussle, Hooterville, and Pettycoat Junction Counties might pool money to afford it collectively in order to maintain their distinct way of life) and for interaction with the Federal Government. The Governor cannot own shares in any County within her State.

At the Federal level, shares will also be sold, and no Governor or Sheriff will be allowed to own these shares (to prevent it from devolving into a "Holy Roman Empire" with "Electors", or into a Kingdom of Poland). A Princeps will be selected by a Board picked by the Stockholders, but probably for historical reasons maintaining the title President would be wise. After all, much of his job will be Presiding. The Federal Capital will be moved to Manhattan, serving as his demise, with the 5 boroughs plus the rest of Long Island and possibly Yonkers forming his "State" (or, if you prefer, San Francisco, perhaps renamed Menciopolis, as the capital, and the Bay Area Counties forming the Federal "State"). The President will then have an incentive of restoring it as the world financial capital and ultimately an industrial and shipping hub. Washington DC will be maintained as a historical attraction, and also fall under the President's rule. America's overseas territories will be Counties in the Federal State (I think quasi-nations like Micronesia will also opt for this status, rather than being left to the tender mercies of, say, China, but who knows). The President cannot own shares in any of the Counties of the Federal State, or in any of the member-States of the Federation.

I would hope that free trade be the norm within this Federation; technical details (like how goods are to be transported, standards and the like) would be negotiated at the Federal level, as treaties rather than from some sort of central legislature. The States, being sovereign, would negotiate these as treaties are under international law. They would also negotiate with their Counties likewise. Such treaties could not bind any State (or County) that does not approve it. The Federal Government would be responsible for continental defense and maintain a navy and air force of appropriate size. Apparently unlike you, I don't think foreign policy goes away and things take care of themselves, at least not unless the whole world becomes Menciopia at once. Without the USN, for example, things like piracy will rise. It is already, as order lapses, just as it did under Late Republican Rome. You can't count on other nations stamping it out and protecting your trade, just as the fledgling United States couldn't. There are times when monsters need destroying, or at least deterring and punishing when they aren't deterred. Most ground forces would be of the "Army of the United States" type rather than "United States Army". They would be units seconded to Federal control in time of war by the States, which would call up troops from the Counties, according to the prerogative of all Feudal lords. As under traditional Feudalism there would be limits to this, and the local lords would be able to withdraw their forces from service after a time, only continuing to keep them in the field if they saw fit. I don't think it would be desirable to "Set everyone up the bomb" for every trifling offense for which a punitive expedition might be called for; there has to be an intermediary mechanism (of course, in the final resort, there is always the power of the atom; all States would have it, as well as the Counties and the Federales.
and adds, in a later communication:
Thus, the stronger the state's physical security, the more popular it becomes. For example, one of the governments that receives the highest popularity ratings from its citizens is the PRC. Of course,flagrant abuse or incompetence will nullify this effect, but we do not expect these either.

A lot of things happen that people don't expect, though. A misgoverned state under your system would presumably become unpopular with its customers and potential customers, causing the Board to replace the Management, and if that didn't happen, the Stockholders to replace the Board as the share price drops. Misgovernment is always a possibility; many corporations today do it, and have in the past, and not *just* because the normal rules of corporate governance have been corrupted (which they have been). There will always be faddish management theories and bungling, if not outright villainy.

If the place is well governed it will of course be popular, but that's almost a tautology. There are a number of ways in which your system might devolve, a couple of which I mentioned in my previous mail. Technology handles physical security, yes, making it stable in that way, but that's not the only, or even most dire, vector of decadence.
In general I do not particularly disagree with any of this. In particular, I am not at all unsympathetic to revivals of "feudal" or other classical, medieval or antique political structures. After all, my designs are no more than a reinterpretation of classical political thought to match the 21st-century environment.

I would say the main difference is that I believe it is possible to achieve a much higher level of sovereign stability now than in previous eras. The feudal European order was extremely effective and resilient, and if it was re-established in any way it would start out young and supple. But had it been perfectly stable, it would still exist. So why not shoot for perfectly stable?

I do want to object to one objection, which is the argument against rogue shareholders. Yes - in a sovereign state physically secured by end-to-end cryptographic security, 50.1% of the shareholders can use their power to brutally abuse the other 49.9%. There is nothing at all that can prevent a hostile takeover. Any such mechanism would itself constitute a dangerous exception to absolute proprietor sovereignty. If an individual buys 50.1% of the shares, he controls the sovereign.

The more general question is whether large shareholders are likely to use their unlimited majority powers to either screw small shareholders, or screw everyone (through irresponsible management).

The latter question can be answered easily: no. We know that the answer is no because we know that a crazy person can buy a publicly listed company, today, and intentionally run it into the ground in some deranged manner. And how often does this happen? Never. Apparently even rich crazy people tend to get separated from their riches before they make it to this stage.

I am reminded of an episode in one of the few good books I read in an undergraduate class, the autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa. Fukuzawa is serving as an interpreter for one of the first major Japanese embassies to Europe. He is perfectly conversant with European culture, albeit through diligent study in late Tokugawa Japan, but the bigwigs in his party are not.

Unfortunately I do not have my copy of Fukuzawa handy, but one of his bigwigs, visiting the Netherlands, is amazed that foreigners are allowed to buy land in Amsterdam. He asks his Dutch interlocutor: what if a foreigner bought a large area of land in the middle of the city, and erected a fortress? Would the government permit this?

The poor Dutchman, of course, is reduced to asking: why would they do that? Indeed it is almost impossible to convey to the ignorant samurai why they wouldn't. He has basically failed to understand the entire concept of Europe. In fact, in order to explain why they wouldn't, you more or less have to explain the entire concept of Europe.

Unfortunately, while Europe existed, the joint-stock sovereign does not. Therefore, the reality can only be observed through thought-experiments, such as comparisons to nonsovereign corporations today.

As for preventing shareholders from screwing each other, this is a more difficult problem in theory but I think an easier one in practice. There is no physical way to prevent 50.1% of the shareholders from ganging up on the other 49.9%, and effectively stealing their shares. Therefore, this problem must be solved politically - ie, through the usual old-fashioned means. Fortunately, I don't think it is a very difficult political problem.

One of the interesting facts about the US corporate governance system is how badly it works. Shareholder input is hardly ever relevant, in practice, to corporate governance. Partly this is because the system is ancient and creaky, but mainly it is because any significant degree of irresponsibility is very rare in any corporation of significant size. (And note that any sovereign is significant by definition.)

But the existence of the system is still very relevant, because it establishes that Schelling point and ensures that corporate governance is, if not always stellar, always sane and responsible.

So one can imagine all kinds of crazy insider attacks against the neocameralist state. However, responsibility does not have to be perfectly enforced by physical mechanisms - it is sufficient that responsible people prevail and dominate in all conflicts. The result is an organization consisting largely of responsible people, which cannot be made to do irresponsible things.

If one individual holds 50.1% of the shares in any sovereign, that individual will be very wealthy, and as a result very favorable to responsibility and order. Causing trouble by screwing minority shareholders is a tactic that can only be profitable if taken to the endpoint of dispossessing them, which may in fact be unprofitable because said individual now owns 100% of a lawless state with a very bad FICO score. Selectively defaulting on external obligations, though a strategy available to all sovereigns, is not one pursued by well-managed sovereigns.

But if these shares are distributed, the problem of coordinating all the good people who hold them to act in some kind of evil way (perhaps the A-P shareholders could dispossess the Q-Z shareholders), is quite impossible. The very suggestion, of course, is improper. Difficult to recruit 50.1% of supporters for an improper suggestion.

On balance, it is better for sovereign shares to be widely distributed. The system is stable because shareholders cooperate nonrivalrously, and their Schelling point for agreement is responsibility. But any system containing an election can be no better than its electors. It is certainly possible for sovereigns to enforce by-laws about who may hold shares, and block the votes of shares held in violation of these laws. However, as long as the distribution of shares is reasonably broad, and most shareholders are prudent people whose interests do not conflict with those of effective government, their shared interest should point toward responsibility.

49 Comments:

Anonymous josh said...

I have a four month old. Can anybody else vouch for this "Your baby can read" stuff?

October 1, 2009 at 5:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thus, the stronger the state's physical security, the more popular it becomes. For example, one of the governments that receives the highest popularity ratings from its citizens is the PRC. Of course, flagrant abuse or incompetence will nullify this effect, but we do not expect these either.

Can "popularity" be accurately and meaningfully measured in states like the PRC and USSR?

No country is more physically secure (from interstate attack, anyway) than the USA, so our government should be hugely popular, right? And when the US government made some tepid efforts to secure us from non-state actors from 2001-2008, the government became ever more popular, right?

The more general question is whether large shareholders are likely to use their unlimited majority powers to either screw small shareholders, or screw everyone (through irresponsible management).

The latter question can be answered easily: no. We know that the answer is no because we know that a crazy person can buy a publicly listed company, today, and intentionally run it into the ground in some deranged manner. And how often does this happen? Never. Apparently even rich crazy people tend to get separated from their riches before they make it to this stage.


Many, many companies have been run into the ground through irresponsible management! It hardly matters that this wasn't intentional.

any significant degree of irresponsibility is very rare in any corporation of significant size.

What? The current financial crisis is a case study in significant irresponsibility on the part of large corporations. They thought they could be irresponsible and get away with it, in part, because they were "too big to fail". Oops.

October 1, 2009 at 5:47 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 1, 2009 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger Ron said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 1, 2009 at 7:24 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Posted my comment, extended and revised, here: http://porphyrogenitus.blogspot.com/2009/10/exchange-with-mencius.html

And with comments enabled.

October 1, 2009 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

Anon wrote:
Can "popularity" be accurately and meaningfully measured in states like the PRC and USSR?

Statistical polls have to be taken with a grain of salt, yes, but one gets general impressions, and my general impression is that the Han population of China is generally satisfied, and will remain so as long as their is robust growth. They are dissatisfied with corruption, and the Chinese government may end up losing popularity as soon as their economy slows down.

Therefore I wouldn't source the satisfaction the people have in their government as being a result of the system, but rather the dynamic growth it is producing now. I'm sure Moldbug would point out, however, that the government has something to do with that growth, just as Maoist China had something to do with the lack theirof.

No country is more physically secure (from interstate attack, anyway) than the USA, so our government should be hugely popular, right?

The USA is physically secure from external conquest, as secure as any nation in history has. Not as secure from attack, however, as it becomes easier and easier for small actors to conduct large attacks. Still, these are not a direct threat to the government's control, really.

But Moldbug would be the first to point out that it isn't secure from "internal" attack, and he would classify democratic elections as such, thus resulting in the perceived need for the propagandistic methods that he and I both abhore, which are meant to keep those who rule secure from "internal attack" in the form of being forced to adopt policies that 70% of the public approves of but which they do not, for example.

I'm not sure I classify democratic change-of-power as an attack, but what is important is that, in reality (if not in voice), Progressives certainly do, at least when it's directed at institutions they control.

Thus the creation of an Impersonal Bureaucracy insulated from the government and systematic domination of institutions, public and "private", that transmit ideas.

October 1, 2009 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Por...

Thus the creation of an Impersonal Bureaucracy insulated from the government and systematic domination of institutions, public and "private", that transmit ideas.

One can carry out an interesting analysis on this in Europe where the bureaucracy is much larger and much more powerful. Have the information distortion organs weakened recently as bucreaucratic power has become more secure or are they still there?

Of course, it is not definitive but it could be illuminating.

October 1, 2009 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

I had a couple malaprops in my comment and that contains one: I meant "insulated from the governed", not government, but what I said happens to apply too, I suppose.

"as secure as any nation in history has." misses the "been".

"Have the information distortion organs weakened recently as bucreaucratic power has become more secure or are they still there?"

Europe's a decade ahead of us on that glidepath too. Up until recently I'd have said 20 years, but we have Change now, and it accelerates things.

Other than things like the Sun and the Daily Mail, which are considered very disreputable, and the occasional blog, there really aren't any information systems in Europe that aren't Progressive.

When polls turn out badly, they "educate" the public and then have them re-vote, or otherwise slip the same policies they want into effect, despite popular disaffection from them.

Like Moldbug, I used to read The Economist, but it's an example of this trend: It gradually became increasingly in tune with The Narrative, though still calling itself "Centre-Right".

I used to blog a lot on the Financial Times' editorials, till one day after a particularly egregious example, they put them behind a subscriber-only wall.

Transnational pieties are very much the norm in Europe, but there is a reaction to them (no, the recent German election isn't much of an example of that, though the trebbling of the free-market party's share of the vote is noteworthy).

October 1, 2009 at 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do wish to note, however, that I've found the key to world peace. The key is 119-1830-0128-0886.

It would appear that Mencius has acquired the nuclear football. I'm not sure whether I should be terrified about the security breakdown that allowed this to happen, or elated that it fell into such good hands. Alternatively, he's actually Barack Obama.

October 1, 2009 at 10:03 AM  
Anonymous Zdeno said...

While it's true that we haven't seen any private corporations run into the sand by insane, irresponsible mega-rich majority shareholders, the situation is different for sovcorps.

How many sovcorp owners would prefer to own a city of slaves who spend every waking hour hand-building pyramids to his magnificence, over pushing their personal net worth from nine figures to eleven? Not many, but not zero.

Once you get into hundreds of millions of dollars, (earmuffs, Austrians) the marginal utility of wealth is effectively zero. If a sovcorp owner can derive more pleasure from doing perverse things to his subjects (say, hunting them for sport) what prevents him from doing so?

The super-rich of today do all kinds of stupid, irresponsible things with their money. Taking over a corporation doesn't provide the anywhere near the level of personal power and control over the lives of others that taking over a sovcorp would. Also, unless they bought a corporation outright, they would be bound by law to govern the corporation in the other shareholders' best interests.

I am generally on board with La Reactione, but I think we need a better solution to the possibility of sadistic and irresponsible sovcorp owners.

Cheers,

Zdeno

October 1, 2009 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@zdeno

With sufficiently large distribution of shares, the problem goes away. However, then another problem pops in -- voter apathy.

I think that the problem of perfect sovereigns is in general unsolvable. However, compared to the current system, sovcorps would be much much better.

October 1, 2009 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Porphyrogenitus said...

"With sufficiently large distribution of shares, the problem goes away."

With a sufficiently large distribution of shares though, you may get...democracy by another name.

Then information systems are aimed at massaging the shareholder's minds - as companies attempt to do today, albeit on a relatively smaller scale than the State. But with a sufficiently large distribution of shares, and the stakes being as high as they are with a sovereign polity, the incentive to mind frag people gets higher, and there is no enforcement mechanism to prevent it (caviat emptor) by definition.

October 1, 2009 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Porph

Yeah I know: However, then another problem pops in -- voter apathy.

At least initially, reality distortion fields require their voter to be completely apathetic. Hell, ours requires voters to be apathetic all the time or its fraudulent nature becomes obvious.

October 1, 2009 at 4:16 PM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

newt0311 said...

Have the information distortion organs weakened recently as bucreaucratic power has become more secure or are they still there?

There still needs to be a means for broadcasting correct thought to progressives. The press is the equivalent of memos from the CEO on proper policy.

October 1, 2009 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@SJ

Good point. A distributed power mechanism needs a coordination protocol.

October 1, 2009 at 5:30 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Josh,

in brief -- yes. My oldest (now 5) could recognize a dozen words or so when she was 8 mos -- 1 year old. Somehow she became more interested in "being cute," however, and began saying she didn't know the words. She still generally says she can't read, though she can sound-out words and I would guess her sight-reading vocabulary is over 100 words (she'll read if she thinks you aren't watching). It's very strange. Our 2-nearly-3 year old knows at least as many words. I fear she will be the "evil genius" in the family. ;)

Everyone: my assumption is that MM has either finished his seekrut work on crypto-guns or some sort of hard-currency exchange system.

Zdeno: a sadistic sovcorp owner (were one to actually exist) would probably be taken over forceably by a neighboring nation -- perhaps one with trade or (former?) shareholder interest. In a world of sovcorps, weakness is a bad idea i.e. there are at least 2 ways to have a hostile takeover.

Anon re: corporate collapse: um duh, everyone knows that the corporations behaved the way they did because they either were (enron) skirting regulation or (banks) thought the governemnt woudl bail them out or (car comps) were strangled by regulation (or a combination of all three) -- at any rate, all due to government intervention.

On a similar note, when male doctors started taking over from female midwives, the death-from-birthin' rate went up significantly. Doctors (natch) blamed them devil midwives. In reality, the increase in post-partum death was due to the doctors sticking their unwarshed hands up the birth canal -- you know, to see what was going on -- scientific method and what-not -- and filling teh vagoo with germs. The doctors' answer to this was more and more intervention. Now most women have no idea how to give birth and are terrified of the idea. Ergo medical costs that are stratospheric and surgery birth rates well over 25% -- some places/demographics over 50%.

The mechanism of state-controlled information (like those docs) is, as I think MM knows, the hardest and most important nut to crack. Otherwise, we end up getting a filthy fist from Doctor State.

October 1, 2009 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

As usual, you are welcome to write between the lines of this article over at Thiblo.com.

October 1, 2009 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

I've never understood the "X will not be allowed to own shares in Y" stipulations. They just lead to simple straw purchases.

October 2, 2009 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

In case you haven't already heard...

Moldbug readers, and I presume the big "M" himself, will be highly entertained by this news-tidbit:

Media reactions to Yamal

Mann-made Warming Confirmed

October 2, 2009 at 6:49 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Undiscovered Jew

Certainly entertaining. Unfortunately not significant.

October 2, 2009 at 9:57 PM  
Anonymous Cinco Jotas said...

If one individual holds 50.1% of the shares in any sovereign, that individual will be very wealthy, and as a result very favorable to responsibility and order.

Even if that very wealthy individual is named George Soros?

October 2, 2009 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Cinco

This has already been discussed ad nauseum. Pathological sovereigns will happen. However, its not like they don't happen now. On average, patchwork provides significantly better governance.

October 3, 2009 at 1:06 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

So not only does this article in the NY Times properly use patch, the Somali in question seems to be funding and perhaps defending his "patch" through the use of pirates.

Also, the NYT uses "peace" when they obviously mean "order."

Fascinating.

October 3, 2009 at 6:05 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@GM Palmer

Fascinating indeed. Thanks for that. Strange that NYT reporters do not seem aghast at the "human rights" violations there.

October 3, 2009 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Just Some Guy In Motown said...

newt0311 writes, of the reports on the Yamal controversy:

Certainly entertaining. Unfortunately not significant.

Might you elaborate? I do not have my fingers on the pulse of this debate, and thus unequipped to judge what is and isn't significant, and why.

October 3, 2009 at 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jacobite comix

October 3, 2009 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Guy

Significant as in will have an effect on future laws passed etc...

AGW is kept alive by the money it can funnel into different organizations. Its shortcomings as a scientific theory are and have been obvious to anybody who has any familiarity with modeling in general.

To use MMs words: [T]hey [GCM's] model the atmosphere with grid cells 100 miles on a side, and attempt to use this to predict the state of the atmosphere - a chaotic system - for the next century. This does not pass the laugh test.

(source: http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified_22.html).

For a more detailed exposition along the same lines, Crichton's Aliens Cause Global Warming speech is excellent (available here: http://www.michaelcrichton.net/speech-alienscauseglobalwarming.html).

If AGW was about science, the debate would have ended a long time ago. McIntyre's work at Climate Audit, while excellent from a scientific/statistical viewpoint, is an utter waste of time. It does not accomplish any concrete purpose other than make Steve et al. feel better about themselves and maybe, maybe, convince some random people on the fringe. However, the number of people they convince is insignificant because to be convinced, a person must think and if a person seriously thought about global warming, it would take them thirty seconds to realize that it is complete junk. The very idea of modeling a chaotic system a century into the future with coarse coverage is crazy. It is preposterous. It is an obvious fraud.

As in so many other subjects, people do not look at scientific evidence for and against AGW and then arrive at a decision. If they did, they would realize that it is ludicrous. Instead, for some reason or another*, they accept AGW and then tailor the scientific evidence so that it supports this belief. This new evidence from McIntyre will be ignored just like all the prior evidence demonstrating the falsity of the AGW hypothesis.

* Some common reasons for accepting AGW are because someone in authority (scientists say so...) is expounding said theory or because everybody else also believes in AGW (its the consensus, duh...). Note that neither reason has any scientific validity whatsoever.

October 3, 2009 at 2:29 PM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

Some common reasons for accepting AGW are because someone in authority (scientists say so...) is expounding said theory or because everybody else also believes in AGW (its the consensus, duh...). Note that neither reason has any scientific validity whatsoever.

To be fair, if you had to come up with a simple guide as to what to believe "scientists say so" is one of the best I can think of. Which, of course, is why science has been hijacked for this (and other) purposes.

Did anyone here read the realclimate rebuttal? The amazing part is the section where the author cites all sorts of other examples that gave the same result as the cherry picked data. Surely the same group of people who engaged in one fraud wouldn't engage in other frauds! What an absurd idea!

October 3, 2009 at 5:12 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Steve

To be fair, if you had to come up with a simple guide as to what to believe "scientists say so" is one of the best I can think of. Which, of course, is why science has been hijacked for this (and other) purposes.

It used to be... Of course, when scientists start to use this reasoning, it becomes a little weird.

I have found that the only fields that I can really trust anymore are mathematics and its step-child CS. The results in these fields can (for the most part) be checked by anybody with the time and patience.

October 3, 2009 at 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

California to become a failed state: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/oct/04/california-failing-state-debt

October 4, 2009 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

During an innocent visit to the venerable Postmodernism Server, a Google ad informed me of "Anti-Democratic Thought". "Edited by Erich Kofmel, This Book Starts a Daring Academic Debate!" It looks to oppose democracy on antinomian rather than pronomian grounds, but I'm sure a bit of Žižuku can fix that.

October 4, 2009 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

newt0311: "If AGW was about science, the debate would have ended a long time ago... if a person seriously thought about global warming, it would take them thirty seconds to realize that it is complete junk. The very idea of modeling a chaotic system a century into the future with coarse coverage is crazy. It is preposterous. It is an obvious fraud."

To use your words, the following discussion won't "accomplish any concrete purpose", apart from affording an opportunity for the pleasure of disputation, but: you really don't know what you're talking about. Do you think there is no such thing at all as a greenhouse effect? That the presence of chaotic dynamics in the atmosphere renders it impossible for a thermodynamic variable like temperature to show a predictable trend? Are you aware that these models are run many times over and climatic predictions extracted by averaging over these runs? Or that the theory here gets its impetus from paleoclimate data, not just from modeling?

The sociological context of all this stuff is precisely the inverse of what you say. The findings of a formerly run-of-the-mill branch of science, climatology, have been cast into doubt because one side of politics can't deal with them. The epistemological echo chamber which allows left and right to develop contrary and politically convenient views on every trivial matter that comes along is here being employed, overwhelmingly by the right, to reinforce the happy view that AGW is all a fabrication. After 9/11, the left was clearly far more comfortable with the idea that the enemy was within, which is why the truther movement found its biggest base there. The response to AGW is exposing an analogous weakness on the right.

October 5, 2009 at 12:10 AM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Mencius Moldbug can be summed up in one sentence: "Bring back Monarchy so I can live out my dream of becoming a court Jew."

October 5, 2009 at 2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not nice to plagiarize, Frank

October 5, 2009 at 3:52 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Mitchell

To use your words, the following discussion won't "accomplish any concrete purpose", apart from affording an opportunity for the pleasure of disputation, but: you really don't know what you're talking about.

No, no concrete purpose will be accomplished but it will be fun. Good enough for me. As to whether I know what I am talking about, that has yet to be seen.

Do you think there is no such thing at all as a greenhouse effect?

Sure there is. Its great and very useful -- in greenhouses. The earth is too complex a system for "greenhouse effect" to be an adequate system for describing the myriad processes in it.

That the presence of chaotic dynamics in the atmosphere renders it impossible for a thermodynamic variable like temperature to show a predictable trend?

Thermodynamic systems become exponentially more complicated as more distinct systems are added. To get an accurate depiction of earth, every atmosphere layer, every pressure front, every water body, every land body, etc... would have to be accurately and precisely modeled ad yes, as of now, this is pretty much the definition of an intractable problem. Note also that thermodynamics deals with systems in a steady state. When is climate ever in a steady state?

This may come as a surprise to you but the only thing black-body models for the earth are useful for is predicting climate models (note: models, not reality).

Are you aware that these models are run many times over and climatic predictions extracted by averaging over these runs?

I would hope that you are smarter than this. If a model is wrong, will running it multiple times really help? Averaging only helps when accuracy has already been demonstrated.

Or that the theory here gets its impetus from paleoclimate data, not just from modeling?

Would this be the paleoclimate data analysis that took McIntyre a few days to blow up once he managed to get his hands on the data as well?

The sociological context of all this stuff is precisely the inverse of what you say. The findings of a formerly run-of-the-mill branch of science, climatology, have been cast into doubt because one side of politics can't deal with them.

Politics can't deal with them? Politics would like nothing more than to deal with them -- more cash to throw into an ever larger bureaucracy. At least if politics is used to mean the progressives. Note also that doubt is the standard modus operandi of all science.

The epistemological ... analogous weakness on the right.

Unless AGW is junk and this here is just a case of projection.

October 5, 2009 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Victims of Erich Kofmel said...

To Mitchel / others: Re Mr. Kofmel's Anti-Democratic Thought... You may be interested to read that he wrote this trash (and funded it) whilst on the run from the police in multiple jurisdictions - where he remains to this very day. If you wish to learn more see: http://erichkofmelinfo.googlepages.com/?ref=BLGMIT

October 5, 2009 at 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Bliksem said...

Frank is right, of course.

As Mencius Moldbug has said before, his major concern is interpersonal violence.

He fears the random violence of Negroes, and harbors a Philip Roth-like fear of organized violence in the form of a potential white nationalist uprising that persecutes, slaughters, liquidates Jews.

He believes "democracy" to be the cause or potential cause (not incorrectly in my estimation) of these kinds of violence. So he has been developing a case for a "strong," "responsible," authoritarian government motivated by profit maximization that will dispense with pathological Negro street violence, and that will protect Jews because it will "need" them for their skills in its pursuit of said profit maximization.

October 5, 2009 at 9:53 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

@newt0311:

By paleo data I meant above all the ice cores, which show temperature swings far greater than Earth's axial and orbital shifts are capable of producing directly. Since CO2 is also going up and down, and since it is a greenhouse gas, one then supposes that CO2 is cause as well as effect. The warming directly due to CO2 should be about 1 degree per doubling; the paleo record indicates 3 degrees per doubling; but there are all those feedbacks like water vapor to amplify or reduce that 1 degree.

That is how I, personally and informally, frame my thinking about climate change. Feel free to challenge it, but you'll need to have specific arguments. Note that no reference has been made to computer models so far.

I did get you wrong on chaos. I thought you were just missing that even chaotic systems can show trends when averaged. However I see that the issue is whether the coarse-graining actually falsifies the dynamics (assuming that one's differential equations, or whatever, are themselves true to life, a different issue). Well, that's a contingent technical matter. I can see that the problem is known in the climatology literature, and there was even a post on the subject at RealClimate in 2005. I cannot vouch as to whether it has been addressed properly, but it's not as if the modelers are oblivious to the issue.

The side of politics which has a problem with climate change is of course the conservative side. But I expect this to change. Future debates may be more about geoengineering versus cap-and-trade, rather than whether the phenomenon is real and worth worrying about.

October 5, 2009 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Mitchell

First of, I wish to congratulate you on maintaining your composure. All too many people resort to ad hominem attacks or try to argue against positive arguments with normative considerations on both sides. With that said,

By paleo data I meant above all the ice cores, ... there are all those feedbacks like water vapor to amplify or reduce that 1 degree.

You are assuming a lot of knowledge that simply isn't there. You wish to rely on ice core data. However, why should that data be considered reliable when the same establishment is on record as falsifying or at least grossly misinterpreting tree ring data. Is there something special about ice that makes it unfalsifiable? Is there any significant difference in the way that these studies were carried out?

The bigger problem, however, is the use of phrases like "greater than Earth's axial and orbital shifts..." Once again, you are assuming information that we simply don't have. We don't know if the temperature shifts are greater than what can be accounted for by axial and orbital shifts. To know that, we would have to have accurate climate models and I just got done discussing how we don't have the necessary resources to do that (namely because nobody has done it before). By your own admission, warming by CO2 "should" (once again, unknown data!) be about 1 degree but apparently the paleo record indicates 3 degrees. Perhaps the feedbacks that supposedly caused this 2 degree discrepancy are the reason for the increased temperature fluctuations from axial and orbital shifts.

The side of politics which has a problem with climate change is of course the conservative side. But I expect this to change. Future debates may be more about geoengineering versus cap-and-trade, rather than whether the phenomenon is real and worth worrying about.

If you are implying that having a problem with climate change is "bad" and therefore, the conservative side is "bad," you need to think of this in positive terms instead of normative terms. On the future of political debate, you may as well be right. The US political system is absolutely great as favoring the entrenched bureaucracy and geoenegineering v. cap-and-trade is a total win-win for bureaucracy regardless of how crazy these proposals might be. However, neither if these is good evidence of the validity of AGW. They are only good evidence of how the US government works.

October 6, 2009 at 12:17 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

@newt0311:

Concerning this question of axially/orbitally induced warming, the expected 1 degree sensitivity to a doubling of CO2, and the observed 3 degree sensitivity - none of that involves computer models of climate. The axial/orbital stuff is celestial mechanics and refers to the change in solar energy reaching Earth as a result of such shifts in the planet's position and orientation. The theoretical 1 degree of warming (as the long-term result of a doubling of CO2) comes from the radiative properties of CO2. The empirical 3 degrees comes from the actual co-variation of CO2 and temperature as recorded in the ice cores. So when you say

"Perhaps the feedbacks that supposedly caused this 2 degree discrepancy are the reason for the increased temperature fluctuations from axial and orbital shifts"

you are in fact reinventing orthodox climatology. Congratulations! :-) The standard model is that (e.g. in the passage out of an ice age) there is a small initial warming caused directly by changes to planetary motion, which induces release of CO2 from reservoirs like the ocean, which induces further warming, and we have positive feedback until geographical limits are reached (no more ice sheets to melt outside of polar regions). 1 degree vs 3 degrees refers to the magnitude of that "further warming", and there's a short list of known feedback effects which are indeed believed to make up the 2 degrees difference.

That's climatology on a scale of 10,000 to a million years. It appears to be a case of ordinary science doing its job. Now if I turn to Climate Audit, what do I see? The focus is very much on the past 1000-2000 years of climate - on technical criticisms of a few prominent reconstructions of global temperature in that period. There's also a lot of grousing about how slow climatologists have been to provide their data and code to their citizen inquisitors, about their out-of-date compression formats and badly commented code, and so on. And finally, there's a general seething conviction that the alarmists are bad guys, obvious frauds, and corruptors of science.

It is a well-known phenomenon that the Internet permits like-minded people to get together and share the evidence and reasoning that underpins their beliefs, even if those are beliefs about chemtrails or alien abduction. It is also the case that technically educated people can develop an idee fixe (e.g. "nano-thermite" in the WTC residue) and marshall endless arguments in its favor. So, confronted with the CA phenomenon, the slenderness of the claimed results and the breadth of the ambient suspicion, a few possibilities present themselves. One is that there is nothing there at all - I note that "the Team", Mann et al, have not accepted the CA analysis - and that this is a case of collective paranoia among technically educated people. Another possibility is that there is something there - error or fraud on the part of some mainstream climatologists - but that it does not substantially effect the big picture coming out of climatology. A third possibility is that McIntyre et al have indeed found just the tip of an iceberg of institutional corruption and incompetence, and that orthodox climatology is radically wrong. On the evidence I have, I'd say it's a tossup between the first and second possibilities, but you write as if it's the third possibility that is true.

October 6, 2009 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Mitchell

You just completely missed my point. Celestial mechanics can tell us how the energy reaching earth through radiation changes but accurate climate models are still needed to indicate how the earth will react -- models which do not exist.

When I speculate about feedbacks and what-not, I am just speculating. I don't really have any idea why the temperature moved as it did. My point is that unless you have a magic machine that can start, stop, and rewind time along with computing the movement of 10^10 particles, neither do you.

You are saying A causes B which causes C etc...

I am saying that that is total bullshit*. That you are pulling stuff out of your ass, over-fitting it, and then taking lack of refutation as positive proof.

Now if I turn to Climate Audit, what do I see? The focus ... that the alarmists are bad guys, obvious frauds, and corruptors of science.

Thats strange. Strange because I too have read the stuff on CA and they post quite a bit of good analysis. Howe about their analysis of the Hockey-stick graph for example?

Secondly, since when did refusal to share base data and general unrepeatability of experiments become minor matters? It is one of the ways (indeed the primary way) that science remains accurate. Experiments that cannot be repeated are at best unreliable and at worst actively misleading and harmful. That climatologists can not even go to the trouble of doing something as simple as sharing data is a matter of grave concern.

One is that there is nothing there at all - I note that "the Team", Mann et al, have not ... but you write as if it's the third possibility that is true.

Yes, I am acting as if the third possibility is true. The reason is that this seems the most probable. First of, there is evidence for this claim: CA has recorded bad analysis of data that seems quite difficult to misconstrue. Also recorded are dozens of attempts to hide data. Attached to this is obvious motive: if AGW is bunk, funding dries up and Mann et al. need new jobs. AGW survives and Mann at al. get to go on international tours espousing their theory. Thats a pretty nasty conflict of interest there. The evidence that would exonerate them is comfortably a hundred years into the future. Meanwhile, they are nearly impossible to oppose (note that CA has little funding and practically no public exposure. The same holds for other organizations researching the other side of AGW). Care to list your evidence*?

* I apologize for the gratuitous profanity but it seems to be the only way to get through to you.

** Please don't list implied reputation. The current academic research system is much closer to the research system of the USSR than it is to the research system of the early 1900s and it was the latter that earned all the reputation.

October 6, 2009 at 11:20 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

@newt0311:

You're not getting through to me, not because of insufficient stridency on your part, but because I've actually studied enough of the literature to see how the prevailing model hangs together, and you simply haven't given me any specific reason to question it. I don't especially mean this as a criticism; you're a lay critic, not a professional. I have this evening discovered a French climatologist, Marcel Leroux, who was an AGW skeptic. He wrote a book and I expect to learn something from it, even if in the end I still side with orthodoxy, because he really did work in the field and his arguments will definitely have more bite.

Returning to CA and the hockey stick controversy, it mostly seems to be about including and excluding data. Everyone agrees on the numerics of any given analysis, it's the criteria for inclusion which are considered problematic, yes? And the substantive issue is whether or not there was a medieval warm period comparable to the present. People seem to think that if there was a MWP before there was a fossil fuel economy, then maybe the current warming could also be due to natural variation rather than AGW. In other words, no amount of fiddling with proxies gets rid of the blade of the hockey stick - the recent warming - but it might introduce a big bump on the shaft.

Now from my (somewhat naive) perspective, the existence or otherwise of a MWP has no bearing on the truth of AGW, because the long-term paleo record already gives me reason to believe in a strong coupling between CO2 levels and temperature changes. If some other factor did produce warming in the Dark Ages, that doesn't give me reason to disbelieve that CO2-induced warming is occurring, at a time when temperature and CO2 are both up markedly.

You cite CA's experience as evidence of a corrupt scientific culture in climatology, e.g. "Also recorded are dozens of attempts to hide data." I suspect we will find, upon examination, that these "attempts to hide data" actually consist of reluctance to exhume and assemble data in response to requests for it by hostile non-climatologists. But if you can link to a list of the alleged serial cover-ups, that would be useful.

October 7, 2009 at 4:31 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Mitchell

Forget it. You refuse to think.

October 7, 2009 at 6:41 AM  
Anonymous Scott W. said...

Off topic, but I thought I'd pass to MM and company a review of Capitalism: A Love Story. Now a search of this blog indicates that MM has never deigned to mention Michael Moore, but he has plenty to say about FDR, and when I read this part of the review, I'd thought it worth mentioning:

Argument, in other words, is not Mr Moore’s strong suit, as those who have sat through his previous films — Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko and so forth — may be aware. Like those pictures, Capitalism: A Love Story is a melodrama, and like all good melodramas it has not only an impossibly wicked villain but an impossibly good hero. And if the villain is the spectral capitalist, the hero has an embodied existence in the shape of Franklin D. Roosevelt who, we are told, had planned to pass into law a "Second Bill of Rights" which would by legislative fiat have made everyone healthy, wealthy and educated, if he had but lived long enough to do it. Alas, he died only just over a year after announcing this revolutionary idea and presumably had other things to do during that year. In Mr Moore’s words, "none of this came to pass. Instead, we became this," — and so we cut from the old newsreel of FDR to color news footage of the Katrina disaster. It’s that darned capitalism again!

Wherever you find human misery, there it will be, apparently. Capitalism makes the winds to blow and the waters to rise, and only an act of government can stop it! "We all deserve FDR’s dream, and it’s a crime that we don’t have it," says Mr Moore’s peroration. Does anybody really believe anything so preposterous? You wouldn’t think so, but our political debate is now so debased that lots of people apparently do. At least a lot of the people who go to movies. A bunch of them applauded at the end on the night I saw it. They presumably believed him when he said that "Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil. You have to eliminate it." Well, if people are suckers enough to believe that all the world’s problems are caused by a few "evil" capitalists, then they will also be sucker enough to believe that the problems can be put to rights by passing laws against capitalism. The question is, does Michael Moore believe it, or is he just playing with us?

October 7, 2009 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

gives me reason to believe in

the religion of environmentalism.

I mean really, if your own language belies the religious nature of AGW, I think you owe it to yourself to do some re-thinking.

October 8, 2009 at 4:05 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

G.M. Palmer, you have my sectarian affiliation wrong. I'm a transhumanist - "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry A.I.", and all that.

October 8, 2009 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Oh, then you're even a larger idiot.

Presentism and what-not.

October 9, 2009 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Hmm. Stanislaw Lem once wrote of futurology that "Not every model and analogy that we might still draw from the historical past will be instantly worthless. But they will lose their value by degrees."

Better historical awareness could do a lot to temper the excesses of transhumanists. But you can't understand the present without recognizing what's radically novel about it, either.

October 9, 2009 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Mitchell -- point taken.

October 12, 2009 at 7:01 AM  

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