Thursday, November 26, 2009 92 Comments

Climategate and other correspondence

Since UR readers are no strangers to Steve McIntyre, I assume they are also no strangers to the event of the week - or possibly the month: Climategate.

I would not have attached the "-gate," a journo-ism which at best aspires to banality. But here it at least achieves that banality. It still sounds stoopid - but it does not oversell the event.

No? Really? Oh, I don't think so at all. First, the original, from Dr. Thompson:
"Jesus, this Watergate thing is unbelievable. It's terrible, like finding out your wife is running around but you don't want to hear about it."

-- Remark of a fat man from Nashville sharing a taxi with Ralph Steadman
So there are a hundred or more people wandering around Washington today who have heard "the real stuff," as they put it - and despite their professional caution when the obvious question arises, there is one reaction they all feel free to agree on: that nobody who felt shocked, depressed or angry after reading the edited White House Transcripts should ever be allowed to hear the actual tapes, except under heavy sedation or locked in a car. Only a terminal cynic, they say, can listen for any length of time to the real stuff without feeling a compulsion to do something like drive down to the White House and throw a bag of live rats over the fence.

Yes... looking back at that line I just wrote, it occurs to me that almost half the people I know have been feeling that kind of compulsion almost steadily for the last eight or nine years. My friend Yail Bloor, for instance, claims to have thrown a whole garbage can full of live rats, roaches, and assorted small vermin over the White House fence about a week before Lyndon Johnson announced his retirement in 1968. "It was a wonderful feeling," he says, "but only because it was Johnson. I knew, for some reason, that he would really hate the sight of big rats on the White House lawn." He paused and reached for his snuffbox, taking a huge hit of Dr. Johnson's in each nostril.

"I'm not sure why," he went on, "but I wouldn't get any satisfaction out of doing a thing like that to Nixon. He might actually like rats."
As it so happens, back in the Clinton administration my own dear mother found herself working for none other than for Joe Romm at DOE. So I have heard "the real stuff." Would Joe Romm actually like rats? He probably would. But then again, they might shun him.

And a few people seem to be reacting much like the fat man in Nashville. For instance: George Monbiot. Jesus! Nobody believes in the Presidency these days. At least, nobody under 80. The rest of us know it's just a bad reality show. But Science! Jesus - Science! When Science is running around behind your back, you really don't want to know.

(In actual fact, the Presidency had been operating as a basically Nixonian institution since 1933. If anything, Nixon toned that shit down. It was not before the '70s that the Press gained both the courage and the motivation to challenge the White House. The coup was accomplished. The god abandoned Antony. And the White House can never be above the law again, not even if there is a Democrat in it.)

So Watergate marks the transition between the Middle New Deal and the Late New Deal. Or perhaps the Early and the Middle. As a student of history, I am reluctant to commit to any such chronology while the era remains ongoing. I expect it to remain ongoing for a while. Nonetheless, Chesterfieldian symptoms are not hard to observe.

Since the event is not oversold, it may well be that Climategate turns out to be a good endpoint for another era that needs an end: the 20th century. Just as "the sixties" are really the period from 1966 through 1974, or something like that, it is commonplace to date the historical 19th century from either 1815, 1789 or 1776 to 1914. If we follow this convention, we can say that the 20th century, as a political era, lasted from June 28, 1914 to November 19, 2009. And I'm going to go out on another big limb here and hope that, as a political era, it will not be missed.

Basically, in the 19th century, Hayek's professional intellectuals became the dominant influence over Anglo-American public policy. In the 20th century, sovereignty was captured entirely by their intellectual institutions - other forces retaining some powers of resistance, but no initiative. (And Anglo-American public policy became everyone's public policy.) These institutions now being thoroughly corrupted, their corruption now visible to all, we can only be doomed to spend the 21st extracting them from their offices. Or at least, wishing we could.

The basic problem here is one of sovereignty. Namely: Mike Mann, Phil Jones, and their friends exercise - or have been exercising - a little local slice of sovereignty over climate science for about the last ten years or so. If you were in the club and/or toed the line, you got to be a climate scientist. If not, you didn't.

We can tell that Mann and Jones were sovereign, because they were not responsible to anyone. There was no party in the world authorized to check their work. There still is no party in the world authorized to check their work. (Perhaps there is some way to get the issue to the Supreme Court. If so, it is not obvious.) Within the domain of climate science, their authority was roughly as absolute as Stalin's. Their methods, too, were comparably aggressive. Had this security breach not occurred, this situation might have persisted indefinitely - and, indeed, it may still persist indefinitely. The Soviet Union outlived Stalin. Climate science will outlive Mann and Jones, even if they do get the boot personally. I am not at all sure they will.

Worst of all, Mann and Jones were and are sovereign over billions of minds. Literally: what a billion people know of "global warming" is the beautiful smoothed curves of Mann and Jones. (And others, of course, in their little Party - climate science, as we've seen, being a one-party state.) Then again, hundreds of millions believed in Stalin. (Counting Americans - from '41 to '48.) What about this is surprising? It is, or was, the 20th century. In that century God abandoned his traditional affection for fools and drunks, devoting himself entirely to the United States. But even God's patience has its limits.

The sovereign university is entirely impervious to external purification. Nor can it be expected to purify itself. It probably cannot be separated from power without destroying it entirely. Perhaps it cannot be separated from power at all. And there exists no plausible replacement; nor, if there was one, any plausible way of installing it.

If Science is sovereign, it is corrupted by power. We can see this because we can see that Science is sovereign, and we can see that it has become corrupt. But if Science be not sovereign, it must be subordinate to some other sovereign power. Mike and Phil must deliver their reports to this power. It must look down on them and say: "Mike and Phil: your data is crap, your code is crap, you are crap. You had sat too long for any good you have been doing lately! Security will be here in a minute to escort you out of the building." Of course this power, if corrupt, will have all the power it needs to corrupt Science. And of course, in 2009 no such thing can be imagined.

This is an old problem and it has not changed, nor will it soon. But what did change on November 19th: it just became much, much easier to convince any reasonable person that there is something seriously wrong with government by university. Of course, most reasonable people are not even aware that this is the form of the New Deal state. These emails, however, cannot fail to attract unwanted attention to the uncomfortable reality of the matter.

Because a fallible sovereign is a very different thing from an infallible one. It is easy to mistake an infallible sovereign for a vacuum of sovereignty, the perpetuum mobile of political engineering. If the University is infallible, its advice is the mere truth and not in any sense an action. Once the master's hand is seen to wobble, however -

Let alone to delete emails. Ye gods! It's almost as if there was a person inside the machine. Indeed every sovereign in history has sought to stress this impersonal or superhuman character, though most have phrased it in more spiritual terms. If the peasants knew that mere men wore the sacred masks of the gods, they might have the impertinence to think we had mere necks...

Anyway. I could go on in this vein for decades. But it's Thanksgiving, and I don't have decades. Neither do you, I suppose. You get the point. You have probably already read about the CRU leak, and even seen some of the emails. If not, I direct you to Bishop Hill's summaries. I just want to emphasize a few less obvious issues.

First: the Mann group is not a mere mafia, clique or even "conspiracy" within mainstream climate science. The Mann group is mainstream climate science. (And prosopography, despite popular opinion, is an essential historical tool.) You can't talk seriously about removing these dogfsckers from the IPCC process, for instance. They are the IPCC process.

(You can see this easily by looking at their entirely successful attempts to purge any institutional opposition, eg, "unreliable" editors. Once you establish a bureaucratic reign of terror, you cannot possibly slacken in your attentions to Madame Guillotine. Otherwise, your enemies - who are probably just as nasty as you are - will sense weakness and stab you in the back. So there is no room for weak sisters. Everyone is either in, or out.)

The practical effect of a decade-plus of Stalinist science: there exists no alternative. This is only one of the reasons that anyone expecting concrete near-term results from Climategate is far too optimistic. For many reasons, it will prove impossible to remove climate science from the domain of Mann, Jones et al. But one of the most fundamental is that there is no such thing as "skeptical climate science." The opposition is, like any set negatively defined, unorganized - a bureaucratic null. It cannot seize power, because it does not exist.

Second: again, anyone expecting any serious proximate result from this event is expecting far too much. The University may not be infallible - but it has extraordinary powers of bureaucratic resistance. It is not unkillable, but this event comes about as close to killing it - in the near term - as a pimple on your ass comes to killing you.

Within its own square centimeter of skin, an ass pimple is a pretty big event. Zillions of cells die in an ass pimple. Nonetheless, on the historic scale, an ass pimple is no big deal. A man can be killed, true, by a septic ass pimple, but it is very unlikely. The expected result is a patch of fresh new skin on your ass.

The Mann-Jones group is climate science. But this group is more than just Mann and Jones - much more. The specific individuals named in these emails are certainly suffering some career damage. Who knows? If all the dice roll the right way, one or two might even go to jail. Some certainly appear to have committed criminal offenses. But climate science will endure. It will certainly not be purged and rebooted. If that cat could be belled, someone would have belled it!

So here is what will happen to climate science if Mann, Jones, et all go to jail: it will become stronger. Considerably stronger. At least, in the near and medium term.

What happens when you kill the top 20 members of al-Qaeda? Everyone in the top 200 joins the competition to replace them. Decapitation is not an effective attack against a disorganized institution. For every Mann or Jones, there are 10 or 20 ex-students trained by a Mann or Jones. Do not these disciples aspire to their mentors' positions? Damn tooting they do! Moreover, just because they lose their leader, does not mean that leader will be replaced by those who are the most disloyal to him.

In short, any such involuntary circulation of elites will have a notably beneficial effect on the entire movement. The reader of the CRU emails cannot help but fail to notice what was already obvious: as scientific minds, Mike and Phil are most definitely among the second-rate. Why? They are leaders in climate science simply because of their seniority; they got in when paleoclimatology and climate modeling were (as they deserve to be) scientific backwaters; through bureaucratic ruthlessness, they made their field big and powerful.

Therefore, not only do these pioneers have many disciples, but the disciples were attracted to a hot - no pun intended - and growing field. Thus, they are likely to be both more ambitious than their sacrificed former leaders, and more talented. If Mann, Jones et al get the axe and become poison in any position of formal authority, even if they lose their jobs, even if they go to jail, their former students will continue to worship them (and exclude any of their peers who don't).

Their fate, in other words, will be exactly that of the State Department's so-called China Hands - who did indeed "lose China." For Mike Mann, read Owen Lattimore. This generation of bureaucrats is revered for a reason - it essentially founded the modern academic field of international relations. It may be challenged, tentatively, by internal revisionists - but not by external opponents. It has no external opponents. It strangled them all.

The thing about paleoclimatology and climate modeling is that both are such marginal sciences, if they can even be considered scientific at all, that their results can be fudged without any of the embarrassing foibles revealed in the CRU emails. We do see a lot of what could almost be described as conscious bias in the CRU methodology - there are "good" data (warm) and "bad" data (not so warm). We also see that overall, the data set is a major dog's breakfast.

It is not necessary for climate science to be in the hands of these B- students. Their own students are not A+ men, because A+ men are too delicate to operate in this kind of sinister bureaucratic context - but they are A and A- men. Thus, we can expect that in the long run, climate science will repair itself and produce a new body of work, consisting as before largely of "good" data, but of "good" data composed with apparent professionalism and honesty. I do not expect that this will happen, because I do not expect that Mann and Jones will actually get the axe. However, if they do get the axe, this is what I expect to happen. In either case, it will surely be the trend in the long run.

Those activists attempting to resist the political aggressions of climate science have been strengthened, but only for a time. And the denialists have to win every time; the alarmists only need to win once. Possibly the goal of a global carbon tax has been set back two, three, even five years. Historically? No big deal.

Third: one of the easiest, yet most important, observations to be had from these emails is that the climate-science community is entirely sincere. They are not a conspiracy. They are something much more dangerous: true believers.

In their minds, AGW is an entirely real phenomenon. There is not a particle of doubt. And since there is not a particle of doubt, Mann, Jones et all see their task not as one of teasing Nature's secrets from her, but as one of public communication. They take their roles in the Modern Structure with complete seriousness - like all those with actual power.

This is why "good" data is good, and "bad" data is bad. "Good" data is useful data. It is data that helps them in their task of saving the planet. Bad data interferes with this task. And furthermore, since they know that that the problem is real, bad data is just that - it is data that is obviously contaminated, incorrect, or otherwise corrupt. No shortage of that in paleoclimatology! In any real science, data selection is never entirely without art. (It is just not meant to be a secret art.)

Take, for instance, Mike's Nature trick. (Don't miss Gavin's disingenuous excuse.) To the naive observer, the most reasonable explanation of the divergence problem - the fact that historical temperature proxies diverge with the instrumental record, just as the instruments are getting good - is evidence that there is some existential problem with the entire exercise of paleoclimatology. But since a paleoclimatologist will never consider this possibility, he instead skips to the second most reasonable explanation: that some source of noise, probably itself anthropogenic, has contaminated the recent end of the graph. A "non-temperature signal."

He therefore removes this noise by cutting off the proxy record at 1960 or 1980, and smoothing its end with the temperature record. While drawing the two as separate lines on a graph, intended for public communication. Now the proxy record, instead of peeling off in a weird decline, smoothly converges with the modern instrumental record. Beautiful! By two entirely independent means, scientists have teased the same truth from Nature's purse. The message is harmonious and clear, rather than muddy and confused.

Does Mike know he is fudging the numbers? Of course he knows he is fudging the numbers. He probably drove 65 on his way to the office, too. In his mind, Mike is removing a confusing red herring in order to present a deeper, more accurate truth. If - as with the deleted emails - he knows he is breaking the law, he exhibits mens rea, he thinks of it almost as an act of civil disobedience. He is mis-crossing a T or two, in order to save the planet. The only difference between him and Martin Luther King is that it was useful to the civil-rights movement for Dr. King to get arrested, whereas it is more useful to the Earth for Dr. Mann not to get arrested. Therefore, the former disobeyed publicly; the latter, surreptitiously. Todo por la causa.

Thus the resistance to this unbelievable, impertinent "auditing" campaign. There is a simple reason why the Manns and Joneses of the world believe that they are oppressed by an evil conspiracy, fomented by the sinister carbon barons. They are actually being charitable. The only alternative of which they can conceive is that McIntyre and these other awful people are not merely corrupt, but just plain evil.

Because the price of crossing the T's and dotting the I's is the price of not saving the planet. It is the price of helping the people who want to destroy the planet. The idea that all these people, obviously bright people, would spontaneously come together all over the Internet, just for the purpose of advancing evil, is a vision simply too dark to contemplate. Therefore, it is best to assume that all these people are simply shills and lobbyists. As many of them obviously are!

I'm not saying I believe this. I'm just explaining what the world looks like from behind the eyes of a true believer - and how, to be specific, these people can feel innocent and yet act guilty. In their minds, they are guilty of aggressive paperwork. They are indeed being persecuted unfairly. In the face of this incredible conspiracy, what can they do but conspire a little themselves? They're trying to save the planet, and some wild mafia of sick Internet geeks, plus of course the usual right-wing corporate shills, are trying to get them fired and prosecuted for clicking this instead of that in their email window. Jesus Christ! In a situation like this, a little shrillness and collusion is to be expected! And so on.

On a similar note, it is especially interesting to notice the response of the Internet's "libertarian lite" bloggers - Megan McArdle, Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan, Robin Hanson. These people all have two things in common. One, none of them is particularly concerned by the way the Mann-Jones group operates. Two, all of them are professionally associated with the Cathedral - ie, Press or University. Stara struktura!

Is this because McArdle, Cowen, Caplan and Hanson are evil? Have their souls been eaten? Sort of, but not exactly. It's because they've seen this kind of stuff. They are, after all, on the inside. Why would it surprise them? Kling is more conservative:
In my days as a macroeconometric model jockey, I often used "add factors" to make the equations fit the data better. But I never used them to distort the data. I disagree with those who think that "climategate" is a typical scientific brouhaha. This is at least one standard deviation away from normal academic behavior.
One standard deviation! I think Arnold is exactly right. It's about one standard deviation away from normal academic behavior. Possibly even one and a half. Two? No, I wouldn't say two. Two would be going a little far...

Among this craven crew, Professor Hanson is particularly frank. The boldface is his:
Yup, this behavior has long been typical when academics form competing groups, whether the public hears about such groups or not. If you knew how academia worked, this news would not surprise you nor change your opinions on global warming. I’ve never done this stuff, and I’d like to think I wouldn’t, but that is cheap talk since I haven’t had the opportunity. This works as a “scandal” only because of academia’s overly idealistic public image.

It is a shame that academia works this way, and an academia where this stuff didn’t happen would probably be more accurate. But even our flawed academic consensus is usually more accurate than its contrarians, and it is hard to find reliable cheap indicators saying when contrarians are more likely to be right.

If you don’t like this state of affairs join me in trying to develop a more reliable consensus mechanism on such topics: prediction markets.
You'll note that Professor Hanson is saying the same thing as me - with only three differences.

One: this doesn't change his opinion of global warming. Nor does it change mine. But he started out believing in it! Somehow, the actual facts of the matter are too unimportant to engage his attention. Does this inspire you to engage Professor Hanson to help overcome your biases?

Two: he expresses no shame whatsoever at being a member of this basically criminal endeavor. Indeed, if he has ever before bothered to inform his readers of the nature of his Mafia oath, I missed the post. How kind of him, to help his readers overcome their bias! You know, the one toward unconditionally trusting the products of Science - just on account of the name, it seems.

And three: his "solution" is... well... retarded. Like any design for the production of government by formula without human intervention, it is a perpetual-motion machine. There is no way to produce good government (or good management) without good people in a good organizational structure. Professor Hanson is certainly not the first to dabble in the transformation, by ritual mathematics, of base metals into precious. He would be the first, however, to make it work!

But other than that, he's exactly right. What you'll find, historically, is that his is the perspective of every decent cog in a bad wheel: not even slightly unaware or demented. There are never good cogs in a bad wheel, but there are always decent ones. You will find this exact same Oriental mentality in: Reinhard Spitzy's How We Squandered The Reich (National Socialism); Alexander Barmine's One Who Survived (early Communism); or Victor Klemperer's The Lesser Evil (late Communism).

The perspective is that - sure - the system is bad. It is bad. Criminal? Sure. Thus, anyone who has seen the machine from the inside cannot possibly be surprised by Climategate. That's just how professors behave! At least, now that professors run the world. Acton gets it right again.

But what's the alternative? There isn't any alternative. I mean, if the professors stop running the world, who will take over? Who else can run a world? Anyone in here got some world-running experience? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller...

Therefore, the System must be reformed from the inside by men and women of good will, who will make up for its various crimes by creating a new socialism with a human face. Yadda yadda. Exit: the New Deal State. Enter: the New Deal State, with prediction markets. Or "charter cities." Or whatever. Not that any of these professorial innovations have any chance of actually happening, of course. Frankly, it'd be stupid if it wasn't so funny.

When I read apologiae of this species, I am of course reminded of Carlyle:
No: at all costs it is to be prayed by all men that Shams may cease. Good Heavens, to what depths have we got, when this to many a man seems strange!

Yet strange to many a man it does seem; and to many a solid Englishman, wholesomely digesting his pudding among what are called the cultivated classes, it seems strange exceedingly; a mad ignorant notion, quite heterodox, and big with mere ruin. He has been used to decent forms long since fallen empty of meaning, to plausible modes, solemnities grown ceremonial, - what you in your iconoclast humor call shams - all his life long; never heard that there was any harm in them, that there was any getting on without them.

Did not cotton spin itself, beef grow, and groceries and spiceries come in from the East and the West, quite comfortably by the side of shams? Kings reigned, what they were pleased to call reigning; lawyers pleaded, bishops preached, and honorable members perorated; and to crown the whole, as if it were all real and no sham there, did not scrip continue salable, and the banker pay in bullion, or paper with a metallic basis?
Alas, Carlyle went quite unheard in his time. Shams did not cease; nor have they. And where is England now? Spiceries still come, if mainly from the East. Lawyers plead, and the rest. Scrip, though, does not move so well as formerly. And as for the banker...

So here at UR, we take a slightly different perspective from Professor Hanson et al. We do not believe the problem can be solved by any conceivable improvement. Rather, we observe that it has been generally getting worse, and expect that it will continue to get worse. We see a set of institutions in need of no renovation, but replacement. New formulas are not needed; it is the present ones, rather, which will have to go.

Carlyle again:
And to such length have we at last brought it, by our wilful, conscious and now long-continued method of using varnish, instead of actual repair by honest carpentry, of what we all knew and saw to have gone undeniably wrong in our procedures and affairs! Method deliberately, steadily, and even solemnly continued, with much admiration of it from ourselves and others, as the best and only good one, for above two hundred years.

Ever since that annus mirabilis of 1660, when Oliver Cromwell's dead clay was hung on the gibbet, and a much easier "reign of Christ" under the divine gentleman called Charles II was thought the fit thing, this has been our steady method: varnish, varnish; if a thing have grown so rotten that it yawns palpable, and is so inexpressibly ugly that the eyes of the very populace discern it and detest it, - bring out a new pot of varnish, with the requisite supply of putty; and lay it on handsomely. Don't spare varnish; how well it will all look in a few days, if laid on well! Varnish alone is cheap and is safe; avoid carpentering, chiselling, sawing and hammering on the old quiet House; - dry-rot is in it, who knows how deep; don't disturb the old beams and junctures: varnish, varnish, if you will be blessed by gods and men!

This is called the constitutional System, Conservative System, and other fine names; and this at last has its fruits, such as we see. Mendacity hanging in the very air we breathe; all men become, unconsciously or half or wholly consciously, liars to their own souls and to other men's; grimacing, finessing, periphrasing, in continual hypocrisy of word, by way of varnish to continual past, present, future, misperformance of thing: - clearly sincere about nothing whatever, except in silence, about the appetites of their own huge belly, and the readiest method of assuaging these.
If you don't like this state of affairs, join me in trying to root these rats from their holes with fire, gas and electricity - and replace them with a real, working King, from whose royal eye every slimy rodent-thing must shrink. Selah.

(Also: if this is just not enough for you this week, there are additional conversations here and here and here and here.)

92 Comments:

Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

But what's the alternative? There isn't any alternative.

What about defunding the humanities departments and/or allowing undergraduates to skip the lib arts propaganda heavy GenEd?

Yes, Mann and his crew are technically operating within the hard sciences. But on the whole the great bulk of nonsense coming out of the modern university originates from the liberal arts wing of the cathedral rather than the math oriented departments.

November 26, 2009 at 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can tell that Mann and Jones were sovereign, because they were not responsible to anyone. There was no party in the world authorized to check their work. There still is no party in the world authorized to check their work.

They are responsible to the folks who authorize their grants. If they were not producing the result the grant-authorizers desired, the money would be turned off. This is how it works for every Beltway Bandit: you are responsive to the government customer, and you help the government customer in the executive branch build his empire by lobbying the legislative branch to appropriate more money for you and by influencing the public and the media in your favor (who in turn influence Congress to appropriate more money for your program).

The sovereign university is entirely impervious to external purification.

Cut it off from government funds and you'll go a long way towards purifying it.

if Science be not sovereign, it must be subordinate to some other sovereign power. Mike and Phil must deliver their reports to this power. It must look down on them and say: "Mike and Phil: your data is crap, your code is crap, you are crap. You had sat too long for any good you have been doing lately! Security will be here in a minute to escort you out of the building." Of course this power, if corrupt, will have all the power it needs to corrupt Science. And of course, in 2009 no such thing can be imagined.

Science is subordinate to the government. If Mike and Phil delivered reports displeasing to the government, they'd get no more money, and they'd be replaced by other "scientists" ready to do so. Why is this hard to imagine?

If the government decided tomorrow that global warming was bullshit, Mike and Phil would be out in the street (and possibly even in jail). Yet the government is not going to do this, because global warming is an excellent way to increase government power over the economy and society.

What happens when you kill the top 20 members of al-Qaeda? Everyone in the top 200 joins the competition to replace them. Decapitation is not an effective attack against a disorganized institution.

Bullshit. Decapitation is tremendously effective. Kill the top 20 guys, and their replacements are less experienced and less effective. They are, in turn, more easily killed. Eventually you get to the point where they spend all their time trying to avoid being killed and have no time to spend killing YOU.

Get rid of the top 20 climate scientists, and their replacements will be at least a little more careful in their dishonesty. it certainly can't hurt! A pimple left unchecked turns septic.

There is simply nothing to be gained from allowing liars and knaves to remain in place. "Climate science" should be destroyed root and branch. Not merely the top 20, but ALL of them, should be fired. Not gonna happen, of course.

November 26, 2009 at 6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://abstractfactory.blogspot.com/2009/11/on-tricks-and-science.html

November 26, 2009 at 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you. You will go unheard. We (humanity) will be impoverished for some long indeterminate period of time. At least I now know I am not insane.

November 26, 2009 at 8:52 AM  
Anonymous Judge Holden said...

Poor Revere. By the end of that I think he just wanted a lie down.

November 26, 2009 at 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anon 101 said...

Here is a remarkable blogpost about the medical establishment in the UK. There seems to be uncanny parallel between the rise of EBM and AGW...

Zombie science of Evidence-Based Medicine

An extract:
"If EBM was a body, then the intellectual content of EBM is merely a thin skin of superficial plausibility which covers innards that consist of nothing more than liquid cash, sloshing-around.

Indeed, the thin skin of the EBM Zombie was a secret to its success. The EBM zombie has such a thin skin of plausibility that it is transparent, and observers can actually see the money circulating beneath it. The plausibility was miraculously thin! This meant that EBM-type plausibility was democratically available to everyone: to the ignorant and to the unintelligent as well as the informed and the expert. How marvelously empowering! What a radical poke in the eye for the arrogant ‘establishment’! (And the EBM founders are all outspoken advocates of the tenured radicalism of the ‘60s student generation [4].)"


After all, 'everyone knows' winters aren't what they used to be, right?

November 26, 2009 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Inspector Lee said...

Yes, Mann and his crew are technically operating within the hard sciences. But on the whole the great bulk of nonsense coming out of the modern university originates from the liberal arts wing of the cathedral rather than the math oriented departments.

Do it to Julia not me.

You'll pry my equations out of my cold, dead hand.

Can one expect ought else of a generation of swine and their piglets?

As for the salvation proffered in the form of monarchy, I hail from the land of Carlyle and already enjoy the boons of rule by royalty, the very sceptered isle wherein dwelt this nest of vipers, already layered in many coats of varnish til one barely perceives the grain of the wood.

November 26, 2009 at 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great demonstration of Moldbuggism's predictive power and accuracy:

Moldbug: "You're not married to a white evangelical Christian. You're married to a white mainline Christian. (My bet: Unitarian, Congregationalist or Quaker.)"

Pseudonymous Jew #2: "No, you'd lose your bet, I'm married to a Catholic"

November 26, 2009 at 12:45 PM  
Anonymous said said said said said said...

"Poor Revere. By the end of that I think he just wanted a lie down."

Huh? "Revere"?

November 26, 2009 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Howitzer said...

Within its own square centimeter of skin, an ass pimple is a pretty big event.

Ha. I just popped a giant ass pimple that squirted its contents all over my chair before reading this. And yes, I do sit at my desk naked at times. Usually after taking a dump and a shower. This time after a dump, but not a shower. It's Thanksgiving, so I was feeling a bit lazy.

November 26, 2009 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

it may well be that Climategate turns out to be a good endpoint for another era that needs an end: the 20th century.
Since you don't actually expect things to change, why should it be the end of an era?

If you were in the club and/or toed the line, you got to be a climate scientist. If not, you didn't.
I've been having a similar argument with John Emerson with GNXP. He thinks none of the "skeptics" (who I'll define as those hated by the Team) are actual climate scientists, but that's just wrong. Lindzen was pretty respected (albeit disliked) even by alarmists, and Patrick Michaels (the one they threatened to beat up) worked in the same department as Mann. I was just looking up a bit on William Gray and found that Wikipedia helpfully has a list of scientists who disagree with the consensus on global warming.

There was no party in the world authorized to check their work.
McIntyre actually served as an IPCC reviewer and when they submit papers to peer review somebody is supposed to be checking.

their entirely successful attempts to purge any institutional opposition, eg, "unreliable" editors
The editor in question is Hans von Storch, he gives his take on the controversy here.

the second most reasonable explanation: that some source of noise, probably itself anthropogenic, has contaminated the recent end of the graph. A "non-temperature signal."
I believe that explanation plays a big role in McIntyre's interpretation of some of the proxies. Of course, which parts you consider reliable vs unreliable gives room for filtering evidence toward a desired conclusion.

Megan McArdle, Tyler Cowen, Bryan Caplan, Robin Hanson
McArdle seems the odd one out since she's just a blogger rather than an academic. I think Judith Curry also belongs there. Before reading any of them I came to a similar conclusion. Three years as an undergrad was more than enough academia for me, and I have never been affiliated with any "press" other than wordpress. Finally, Robin Hanson has generally denied being a libertarian while Bryan Caplan is a full-blown anarcho-capitalist. In your link Caplan argues against Cowen & Hanson on how this should affect your views, with the bottom line being to discount mainstream science in accordance with the surprise of the scandal.

One: this doesn't change his opinion of global warming. Nor does it change mine.
Then it's not a "difference" at all! Nowhere in his post does Hanson actually say global warming theories are right or wrong, it is a complaint about getting truth from academia.

You know, the one toward unconditionally trusting the products of Science
His argument is that you wouldn't change your opinion if you knew how scientists/academics operated, and that the way they actually operate reduces their accuracy. It's pretty common for him to critique the scientific consensus on his blog, he just happens to acknowledge that contrarians (like himself, as many point out) are usually wrong.

November 26, 2009 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

his "solution" is... well... retarded
Your argument was rambling, confused and ignorant, which is why at the OB thread it was you who repeatedly had to concede your mistakes. And just as you started that argument by highlighting the distinction between prediction and decision markets (which you proceeded to ignore throughout the rest of your original post) you have here conflated an issue of aggregating knowledge with governance (decision markets are what produce some of the latter). It's especially ironic given your recent focus on Antiversity as a tool for replacing the government, where Antiversity is some ill-specified knockoff of Wikipedia which Changes Everything by telling the Truth. At the OB thread and elsewhere I complained about Hanson using the politician's syllogism to single out his favored method of prediction markets as the one true response to the problem. I encourage others here to read Chris Masse's argument againts Hanson and the utility of such markets. I think Michael Abramowicz is quite wrong about the relative desirability of "Predictocracy" vs "Futarchy", but like Masse he at least knows what he's talking about. You on the other hand don't bother to inform yourself, because despite your stated concern with truth and hatred of mendacity, are a performance artist.

without human intervention
Yeah, I guess the participants are all supposed to be rats.

Alas, Carlyle went quite unheard in his time
Considering how poorly his preferred example of Cromwell turned out and how much richer and more scientifically advanced we are compared to his time, it doesn't seem that unfortunate.

I was surprised by Mencius' comments in the first linked CNAS thread. He praises Abdul Rahman for not being a pussy, but the guy just ignored the Russians routing his troops and seizing some of the frontier. When he came to power the British withdrew their troops but offered support against external enemies (i.e the Russians), and he didn't take them up on it. This combines both the "sheep logic" of accepting that attacks happen and third world nationalism, both of which Mencius despises. The chosen approach of the British toward Rahman, letting him run things but bribing him with foreign aid to influence its foreign policy, is a lot like the failed method of our State department that Mencius denounces today. Finally, the failure of the Brits in Afghanistan is hardly helpful in showing us the way forward (other than perhaps in deciding to have nothing to do with Afghanistan).

Anonymous November 26, 2009 6:55 AM:
Don't post as anonymous. Get a handle.

You do have something of a point about decapitation, at least according to the Israelis.

November 26, 2009 at 5:48 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

As the resident occasional defender of climate-science orthodoxy, I feel I at least ought to visibly place myself in the arena on this occasion, if anyone wants to have a swing at me. Though with respect to Climategate specifically, I don't yet have a take on its overall significance, even after skimming several hundred of the emails.

On another blog there is a longrunning debate with a 9/11 Truther, who recently advised his opponents that Richard Gage (founder of Architects and Engineers for 9-11 Truth) would be in town presenting the evidence for controlled demolition of the towers. So I had the opportunity to go and hear the arguments - evidence for thermite residues in the rubble, alleged accounts of molten steel in the basement and sounds of explosions - yet I declined to do so. Why did I think it would be a waste of time? Because the scenario of suicide hijackings as an orchestrated cover for bombs in the buildings is absurd and contorted. Why bother engaging in a serious technical discussion about the physics of falling buildings (with all the investment of time that implies), when it is all in the service of a clearly absurd hypothesis?

That is a little how I've felt when looking into Climate Audit. The question has been, what exactly do they have on their opponents, and how much does that matter in context? The typical CA post (and there are thousands of them) seems mostly to be grousing - about badly documented code, about delays in response to FOIA requests, about the latest post at RealClimate. But if I try to distill from all of that what their focus is, it's the "hockey stick", dendrochronology, and the reconstruction of the past 1000 years' temperatures from tree rings and other proxies. A lot of other topics are fair game for discussion there, but that is the focus.

So let's suppose I adopt an attitude of agnosticism about Mann versus McIntyre. There is a body of work in dendrochronology, which has played some role in the rise of the climate change panic, and its validity is disputed. Without delving into the technicalities of the debate and learning enough to form an independent opinion, can I try to infer from context whether the outcome of that debate matters. Does it have any bearing on the larger question of whether the panic is justified?

The larger scientific context is one in which many scientific fields, many research groups, and many sources of data, are elements in a synthesis summarized in IPCC publications; and some of the other elements of that synthesis also have scientific critics. In other words, Climate Audit's criticism of Mann et al's dendrochronology is not the only mode of opposition to the consensus that exists. There are critics of climate modeling methodology; there are technical disputes about specific atmospheric processes and paleoclimatic epochs. These disputes are heterogeneous, but have ended up elements of a single larger battle because they all have a bearing on whether CO2-induced warming is catastrophically large or harmlessly small-to-nonexistent, and that proves to be an issue with big political and economic implications.

(cont'd)

November 26, 2009 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Now I'm sorry to say that having framed things in that way, at such length, I can't issue a correspondingly magisterial judgment on how it all stacks up. And of course, there's an even larger, non-scientific context (and one eccentric take on that is what this blog is all about). However, I think I have here at least the outline of how to evaluate the scientific dispute properly. You need to line up everything that feeds into the IPCC process on one side, and all the criticisms and minority viewpoints on the other side. The IPCC synthesis purports to be knowledge: a coherent, comprehensive, and correct set of assertions about climate and how it works. There are two ways in which those assertions might not be knowledge: they might simply be uncertain, or they might be demonstrably wrong.

What matters scientifically is whether something in the IPCC synthesis can be shown to be uncertain or wrong. And when we get to policy and politics, what we want to know is whether any such IPCC error, should it be found and demonstrated to be such, makes a difference to the inferred possibility of catastrophe.

Although I am not presently equipped to personally carry out this IPCC-vs-skeptics intellectual arbitration in all its necessary aspects, I can now at least say how I think it would turn out, and why. I went over this here a few weeks ago. If all we had to go on, in inferring the magnitude of the warming effect of CO2, was the 20th-century instrumental record, then we would have a rather uncertain basis for the inference. But we also have the ice-core record of the glacial cycle, and it appears to show very clearly coolings and warmings which are initiated by "orbital forcing" (shifts in the Earth's orbit and axial tilt), and which are greatly amplified by carbon dioxide and methane entering into natural sinks (in cooling periods) or coming out of those sinks (in warming periods). That record gives you a value for the warming effect of CO2 - 3 degrees per doubling - in the same ballpark as the estimates you get from the climate models, which are derived by a far more complicated (and, if you believe McIntyre and McKitrick, compromised) process.

This is why I for one shrug off the controversy about Mann et al. In the aftermath of Climategate, I suspect that I finally will try to arrive at an independent judgment regarding what has gone on in the dendrochronology dispute between Mann and McIntyre; but whatever the outcome, I simply do not expect it to have any material bearing on the bigger scientific picture.

November 26, 2009 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Mitchell, it's so very easy to see things that confirm our biases. I actually find the experience of reading RealClimate rather like listening to Truthers. (That being said, I will concede that many of the commenters at ClimateAudit are breathtakingly irritating, not to mention stupid).

My field, statistical natural language processing, is actually rather like climate science - albeit without the political "sex appeal" (perhaps we'll still get there!). We build large predictive models from incomplete data using (necessarily tractable) mathematical approximations of the natural systems that are generating our data, and then we see how well they work or if we can use them for anything useful.

And I have to say, as a working "scientist" (I hate calling myself that since it sounds like I want to be part of the cardinalate): if there was someone outside my field reimplementing all my models (even if it's in poorly documented code), rerunning my experiments, posting the results online, and generally thinking about my problems from a different perspective, I would be *thrilled*. I couldn't imagine a better gift to my career. So what's different about climate science?

November 26, 2009 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

TGGP:
"Considering how poorly his preferred example of Cromwell turned out and how much richer and more scientifically advanced we are compared to his time, it doesn't seem that unfortunate."

Scratch a libertarian, find a progressive. Using this same metric, if we could find a richer more advanced society their "truth" would be better than ours?

Interesting.

UJ:

"What about defunding the humanities departments and/or allowing undergraduates to skip the lib arts propaganda heavy GenEd?

Yes, Mann and his crew are technically operating within the hard sciences. But on the whole the great bulk of nonsense coming out of the modern university originates from the liberal arts wing of the cathedral rather than the math oriented departments."

Wow, the *real* propaganda comes from reading the Iliad rather than the doctrines of "science" no matter what evidence to the contrary? Maybe we should take funding away from climate scientists because they are so odious? All it takes to teach the humanities is a few books after all -- maybe teaching the humanities in a reactionary fashion is in order instead?

November 27, 2009 at 3:04 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

A little off topic but something I think will interest everybody here: LA is compromising!!

That is one hell of a change.

November 27, 2009 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Moderate Misanthrope said...

Unrelated;

State terror via Dalit proxies in Argentina?

http://ferfal.blogspot.com/2009/11/piqueteros.html

amirite?

November 27, 2009 at 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

revere got thoroughly pwned.

I've never seen a better example of a progressive being thoroughly trounced, and refusing to question their own ideological predispositions.

November 27, 2009 at 3:08 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"...did not scrip continue salable...".

I worry when I see an Americanism like "salable" in a British work, rather than the British "saleable", because it suggests editorial changes from the original. (The same applies to modernising spelling in an old work, etc.) Granted, the unusual form may have been present in the original, and granted, the editors may have been faithful in much even when they were not faithful in little - but the way is open for material changes, say omissions or bridging text.

November 27, 2009 at 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Dregs of the Ancients said...

I don't think Revere was thoroughly trounced, and I doubt MM feels he was either; that wasn’t the point. I would venture that the result of the exchange was frustration and disappointment by MM over his (failed) efforts to get Revere to engage. The benefit for the interlocutors as well as the readers would only have resulted from having intellectually opposing viewpoints take each other on using their best arguments, without rancor or sophistry and in a dispassionate way. That was the challenge, and opportunity, that MM was laying down, as much for his own edification as for Revere's. We all lost out by not being able to evaluate that intellectual exchange on its merits. Maybe Revere would have had some valuable perspectives on Marx that might indeed lie outside of the standard interpretation of the academy / Cathedral (Isn't part of the lesson of UR that we don't know the "real story" on an entire range of intellectual and historical battles? This applies on the left as well as the right. Just as many reactionary / conservative narratives of history no longer have any advocates and representatives, likewise many of the "losing sides" of leftist narratives have been drowned out by the winning progressive side.) If Revere has done his homework on Marx and could have presented some of that, it would provide valuable fodder for thought for Royalists as well as Marxists. I'm not saying he _would_ have done this (or that we would have bought it or agreed with it), but we will never know since the exchange between him and MM never took place on that level. That's too bad. If one looks at kibbutzim on the one hand and Lenin / Stalin's Soviet Union on the other, surely one can draw the conclusion that certain aspects of and potentialities of Marxism have been lost in the historical narrative. I say all of this as a committed man of the right who wants to constantly check and subject my views to challenge, not because I agree with Revere or even expect to be convinced by him (but who knows?).

Also, it is all too easy and common to engage with an ideological opponent with merely a _mistaken_ confidence that one already understands the other side. (E.g. previous commentators who think MM hasn’t read or understood Rothbard; they themselves don’t’ know enough to realize how far ahead of them MM is.) MM's challenge was well thought out in that he proposed that Revere marinate himself in some intellectually rigorous and intellectually honest right-wing blogs (e.g. Sailer and Auster) for a good period of time; enough time to be able to debate MM with a solid understanding of some of the better arguments on our side. Below the surface, there may have been a part of Revere that thought "I know what these people are about, no need to bother learning more about this perspective, therefore I won't engage", and that is the attitude of many people on each side of the poliitical spectrum (we use the term echo chamber for a reason). But for the most part, I take Revere at his word, which is that these are not particularly his battles and he doesn't want to take the time prepare for such an engagement on issues that aren't his thing. Fair enough. What we should all want is for MM to _find_ people on the progressive side who _do_ want to take that time and engage in that debate! I, for one, would much rather read that debate than read MM striving, unsuccessfully, to engage a party who, for whatever reason, is ultimately uninterested in butting intellectual horns.

(continued in next comment)

November 27, 2009 at 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Dregs of the Ancients said...

(continued from previous comment)

How about we brainstorm to think of people who might fit that bill? Certainly many of the commentators on the UR blog fit that bill, and the implicit responses of MM to his commentators in his postings have made the blog better. I think Kling was a very worthy opponent (although Kling is ostensibly on the libertarian right, as juanblanco astutely pointed out "scratch a libertarian, find a progressive.") I think Hitchens would be an interesting match: he certainly knows his leftist history, and in recent years has had enough introspection to revisit his own views (and I am refering to his economic views, not the war: he no longer calls himself a socialist although he considers himself a "man of the left"). MM’s thwarted engagement with Professor Romer and the Seasteaders represents another missed opportunity (although the resulting exchange with Patri gave us a partial glimpse of the potential fruits of such sallies and skirmishes).

In sum, the aborted MM-Revere match-up is nothing for us to gloat about. It offers an important glimpse, perhaps, of an evasive and overconfident mentality on the left. But did any of us really need reminding that such an attitude exists? Here’s to finding worthy opponents for MM in the future.

November 27, 2009 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Add another "libertarian-lite": Jim Manzi. Manzi is a software CEO-turned-investor rather than an academic. Since Hans Herman Hoppe and Murray Rothbard were employed by the same public university, it is hard to see a connection between that and the lightness of one's libertarianism.

I endorse the Undiscovered Jew's proposal of defunding the humanities (you can already skip them as a student through A.P credit). I would go further and defund the whole kit'n'kaboodle, but the humanities add the least value. That's my solution to any problem with universities. However, that doesn't seem to be enough for Mencius. He doesn't just want to defund them and leave them alone ("mutualization" would be Kevin Carson's proposal, which I'll acknowledge may be easier than the first-best option of returning public property to taxpayers), he wants to start up the bulldozers and écrasez l'infâme. That's his general position on non-profits that rely on endowments, but he also hates the press (designated as "official" despite the lack of actual government support).


Mitchell:
In my admittedly limited perusal, ClimateAudit tends to be more substantive and less hostile than RealClimate. Perhaps better than Joe Romm, but even he outperformed expectations and gave Judith Curry a soap-box. McIntyre tends to upright enough that his detractors have to resort to complaining about his commenters or fans elsewhere, at most grousing that he hasn't done enough to correct their misperceptions.



juantblanco:
Scratch a libertarian, find a progressive.
My point was Burkean, opposed to the radical change advocated by Mencius and Carlyle, as embodied by Cromwell. I would also add the French revolutionaries, nazis, communists, islamists, modern day Carlyle-acolytes and so on to that list.

Using this same metric, if we could find a richer more advanced society their "truth" would be better than ours?
I didn't say anything about truth, but whether it was unfortunate or fortunate that radical change was avoided. My natural sympathies are with the Roundheads (I suppose it makes it as much sense for someone baptized irish catholic to be that way as for Mencius to feel akin to Hitler), but their experiment was a failure and they hardly represented "truth".

Wow, the *real* propaganda comes from reading the Iliad rather than the doctrines of "science" no matter what evidence to the contrary?
The humanities are to the left of the sciences.

maybe teaching the humanities in a reactionary fashion is in order instead?
Heavens forbid that higher education be free from politican indoctrination.


newto311:
I remember being as alarmed during the Clinton administration as Auster is now about Obama. I at least had the excuse of being too young to realize how normal it all was.

November 27, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Anonymous November 27, 2009 3:08 PM:
Get a handle.

I'm sure revere believes in plenty of idiocies that should have been low-hanging fruit for mockery, but for the most part Mencius made a fool of himself. Nobody pointed how the big problem of hate crime stats depending on which agencies report to the FBI. Revere made the perfectly valid point that simply stating the absolute numbers for populations of very different size is insufficient if you want to know propensity. He also made the invalid naive-atheist argument that such issues would all go away if none of us believed in God. Mencius' argument that hate crimes against Christians are unlikely to be prosecuted as such is plausible, but would have to be supported with some indication of how many unreported hate crimes there are against Christians. He argues it's thus not "evidence for your team", but Revere didn't make it about evidence for any team. It was about numbers vs rates, "a (non-propaganda) point and a good one to boot" as Mencius admitted. Mencius accused Revere of "playing with words" due to his claim that he was married to a Christian, then asserted his wife must be a mainline Protestant. In fact Revere's wife belongs to the same church that most of the founders of National Review, de Jouvenel, de Maistre, Metternich and the Duke of Alba did. Mencius claim that when people say "Christian" they mean evangelical is just idiotic, most Christians are not evangelical. Revere likewise "makes an ass of u and me" by claiming MM was a Rand-fan, shooting that down was the one on-topic score Mencius achieved in that thread.

In the first link Revere commendably acknowledges that HBD is an empirical question and those awful Jensenists may be right. He uncommendably declines to ponder the implications of the matter for policy, but since he justified that reaction on a normative basis it was up to Mencius to challenge that basis. Rather than directly do that, Mencius proceeds to ramble a while and incorrectly state that Revere has transition from specialism to generalism when the reverse was the case. Mencius also objects for the use of the phrase "hit an run" when Revere was merely quoting Mencius' self-description! I would have to say that Revere's reference to Marx & Engel's was a cheap trick but Mencius only has himself to blame in falling for it. He declined to read the dusty old books (as had Revere himself) and was thus estopped from insisting Revere do likewise. Mencius claimed he wanted to hear stuff from Revere's forte of oncology, and Revere reciprocated while tying in Mencius interests in Mill and computer science by bringing up theories of causality. Mencius declined to stay on that topic but insisted on keeping it political. If Revere had made any argument about Detroit or the victory of progressive ideology that would be fair game, but as it was Mencius was avoiding the issue. His claim about the origins of socialism was silly and one would have hoped he'd know better from reading Rothbard on the pre-Marxist socialists (from France & Bohemia, the english "socialism" is derived from the French "socialisme"). Lipow's book is in large part about Edward Bellamy, who is predated by Marx. A more on-topic work would be Daniel Flynn's "Conservative History of the American Left". Nowhere did I see Revere actually claim to be a socialist or deny a connection between Marx and mass-murder (Mencius has even acknowledged connections between Carlyle and disparate sets of mass-murderers), so it is no surprise Revere didn't bother to engage him further.

November 27, 2009 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Replace "first link" in the above post with "second link".

November 27, 2009 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I'm kicking myself now for forgetting this. The original reason I wanted to comment today was the news that little Honduras has stared down the international community. I would say "I predicted this", but it took longer than I expected. I was surprised at the continued support for Zelaya in some quarters, so I don't think I can really claim great vindication.

November 27, 2009 at 9:13 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@TGGP

I remember being as alarmed during the Clinton administration as Auster is now about Obama. I at least had the excuse of being too young to realize how normal it all was.

Perhaps I wasn't being clear. I was not passing judgment on LA (I doubt anybody really can). I was simply pointing out a sea-change in his attitude. One of the primary hallmarks of LA is that he never compromises. The attitude of diplomacy is (or rather, was) completely foreign to his character. However, here we have an example of LA compromising on Palin.

I make no comment on whether this is a good or bad idea. Whether this is a betrayal of all the LA stands for or simply the best and most prudent course of action.

I only wish to point out that something big has changed.

If you disagree with that, show me your evidence.

November 27, 2009 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Now that I think about it, you're right. Some others on the right have defended folks (Palin, Beck, whomever) that they find flawed on the grounds that the situation is so dire we have to support the obvious focal point, but I can't say I remember Auster doing that. Did he support Mitt Romney? I wouldn't blame him too much if he did, of the "viable" candidate he was my preference precisely because he was such an empty spineless suit that he was willing to buckle to the conservatives (contrast John McCain, who gets stupid "maverick" ideas in his head and pursues them to the bitter end).

Bolstering my interpretation of Bryan Caplan, in his most recent post he writes in argument against Tyler Cowen "In the past, I've affirmed my willingness to defer to the expect consensus on global warming. Lately, I've been disturbed by hard evidence of the experts' ideological biases."

November 27, 2009 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@TGGP

Agreed on Caplan.

IMO: he's lost a notch or two in the intellect department. He has spent so much time drowned in academia, he's lost sight of common sense and basic induction.

However, he deserves praise for moral resilience. At least, now we know that whenever he posts something, he actually means it. That it is real thought instead of the typical pseudo-rational rationalizations.

November 28, 2009 at 12:37 AM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

TGGP:

My whole post *was* ridiculous questions... but, one can see how hilarious it is to claim that science is so pure when it is manifestly not. Biases are everywhere! The whole structure is polluted by progressivism and voting for tools like Romney won't change that either.

-----

But, the thing with Burke is that we are more wealthy and advanced than in his time and people have used "conservatism" as a means to kill people. ;)

-----

But trying to fudge some numbers to prove that somehow scientists are more Right-leaning on a post about scientists fudging numbers to prove something is a little too much... even captcha is saying "prove". :)

-----

In other news, Auster is a machine. While Moldbug is wild, philosophical, and crazy, Auster is focused, in the fight, and completely uncompromising... until just now. Palin needs guidance. He reminds me of Rorschach from the Watchmen, Hell, he should call it "View from Rorschach".

newt0311: 0311? Where you born in March or November or where you a grunt? I was a super-POGue. 084x.

November 28, 2009 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

blanco,

Wow, the *real* propaganda comes from reading the Iliad rather than the doctrines of "science" no matter what evidence to the contrary?

At least the charlatans in the hard sciences have to pretend their numbers add up, something the liberal arts professors don't have to worry about as much.

TGGP,

I would go further and defund the whole kit'n'kaboodle, but the humanities add the least value. That's my solution to any problem with universities.

Why do support defunding everything?

The US has by far the best research universities on earth and much of our scientific might is centered around research nerve centers such as CalTech and MIT.

If you defunded the universities the country would risk losing our technological edge. Case in point, California suffered a decline in the strength of her aerospace sector following post-Cold War defense budget cuts.

There is a good case to be made that government investment in high technology pays off over the longrun. So your proposal to fix something that seems to be working perfectly well doesn't add up.

November 28, 2009 at 10:28 AM  
Blogger Zimri said...

John T. White writes -
Wow, the *real* propaganda comes from reading the Iliad rather than the doctrines of "science" no matter what evidence to the contrary? ... All it takes to teach the humanities is a few books after all -- maybe teaching the humanities in a reactionary fashion is in order instead?

Actually... yes, on both counts.

The Iliad by design is an anti-war manifesto with an under-theme of homoeroticism. Remember that it was written at the END of the Greek Archaic Age, and acts as a rebuke to the heroic tales then going around (yes, yes, some of these thrilling heroics are encapsulated in the Iliad, and in the Odyssey; but really the Cypria is where to go for most of that).

This is why the academy loves the Iliad; and doesn't teach (e.g.) Tyrtaeus the Spartan unless you go the classics route.

November 28, 2009 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

newt0311: Actually, comparing Caplan to Hanson I think the former is less honest. In The Myth of the Rational Voter he admits that he wants economists to present a simplified version of things (rather than "on the one hand" with various nuances and caveats) in order to persuade people to support better policies. Hanson's take on contrarians is an admission against interest, because he himself has so many contrarian ideas.


juantblanco:
Compare Burke vs Carlyle. Carlyle opposes gradual reforms in favor of radical change. Cromwell, the Jacobins, Bolsheviks and so on all show that to lead to disaster. Burke opposes radical change in favor of conserving even things we have complaints about. The Anglosphere largely followed his recommendations and turned out much the better for it.

What the hell are you talking about in saying the numbers I referenced were "fudged"? If you've got a complaint about them, spit it out, but to make accusations without backing them up is pathetic. You made a statement about the humanities relative to the harder sciences, and I responded with evidence comparing the humanities to the harder sciences.


Undiscovered Jew:
I don't plan on doing anything about their endowments and they'll continue to receive private sector funding for research (the humanities are out of luck on that front). That's not even to say I would be worried if the funding for that dried up as well. I'm not interested in "the nation's edge", if we get to free-ride off the public goods created in other nations (as most Asian Miracles are said to have done), all the better for us. Furthermore, I think much of it may simply be crowding out. The industrial revolution did not take place on university campuses.

November 28, 2009 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

I think MM would say that de-funding the universities is impossible. They are simply too deeply entwined with the system to extract and still leave the system intact. Because you couldn't just stop directly supporting the universities with tax dollars. You'd have to end all research grants, all government sponsored research, eliminate any preferences for hiring university graduates for any government job, and a million other things. Defunding the Universities would be like dissolving the Communist party. Without them, DC can't survive anymore than the USSR could.

November 28, 2009 at 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

It is possible to teach the humanities in a reactionary way. Look, for example, at the original humanists (without the word 'secular' prefixed). They were the ones who rediscovered the 'literae humaniores' of classical antiquity, and set about trying to recover what they thought had been lost in more recent times. They rejected the common attitudes of the immediate past in order to hearken back to more remote wisdom. They were, in short, predominantly reactionary in their thinking.

Annius of Viterbo was the fifteenth-century equivalent of Michael Mann or Phil Jones, making a great reputation for himself as a scholar and antiquarian, by telling prelates and aristocrats - the slightly less learned, but powerfully dominant class of his time - what they wanted to hear, namely that the history of antiquity could be harmonised with the claims of the contemporary church and temporal rulers.

He won the esteem of popes Sixtus IV and Alexander VI, the latter of whom raised him to the mastership of the Sacred Palace. Yet such was the devotion of humanists of his day to ferreting out original sources that eventually Annius's fabrications began to unravel in the mid-sixteenth century, being finally dealt their death-blow by Scaliger. We've seen a great deal of Annius-like pseudo-scholarship in recent years.

Academic/scientific con men in recent times have mostly been people who wanted to line their own pockets, or else have been sycophants of totalitarian governments. What is new about pseudo-scientists like Mann and Jones, or the pseudo-historian Michael Bellesiles, is that they are ideologues who have committed their forgeries in order to influence public policy. Their wsork has been rapturously received by the Cathedral because it is what the Cathedral wants to hear. They have combined the motivation behind the propagandistic falsifications of Willi Munzenberg with the scholarly sophistication of Annius.

This can only be answered by combining the greater scholarship of a Scaliger with the reactionary force of (perhaps) a Carlyle or a Fitzhugh, and the scathing rhetorical ability of a Bierce or Mencken.

November 28, 2009 at 3:55 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

TGGP,

That's not even to say I would be worried if the funding for that dried up as well. I'm not interested in "the nation's edge",

You would make a horrible political candidate (though I tend to think you would make a fairly above average enlightened despot).

I can see the ads against you right now:

TGGP says, "I'm not interested in "the nation's edge."

TGGP would allow the heathen North Koreans, Chicoms and French to surpass God-fearing America in technological innovation.

TGGP hates American scientists and is also a filthy, Christ hating *Atheist*.

Elect God-fearing and pro-American science Mike Huckabee for President in 2012.


Michael S,

This can only be answered by combining the greater scholarship of a Scaliger with the reactionary force of (perhaps) a Carlyle or a Fitzhugh, and the scathing rhetorical ability of a Bierce or Mencken.

Who the hell needs scholars when we can rely on Russian hacker dudes?

The antiversity is here and it is called Climateaudit, baby!

November 28, 2009 at 4:58 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Kudos to TGGP and Michael S. among others for bringing back up the level of discussion around here.

I wholeheartedly agree with Michael S. that the humanities can be, and I'd add very much should be, reactionary. Or, as I like to put it, restorationist. I consider myself a restorationist legal scholar. There are a vast number of forgotten laws, procedures, and accompanying political structures that we might greatly profit from reviving.

That said, I'm much closer to Burke than to Carlyle or his crypto-disciple Marx insofar as I favor piecemeal restoration, not radical revolution. Then again I may depart slightly from Burke, and certainly depart from most of today's "conservatives", insofar as I presumptively see little value in protecting the status quo unless it represents a highly evolved and still thriving tradition. (Also Burke earlier in his life was a radical who led Parliament in expropriating political power from great institutions like the East India Company, and I depart from him in that as well).

As Martin Heidegger and Hans-George Gadamer showed, classic texts lie under a layer of constructions -- translations, interpretations, spins, and so on. And, as Zimri suggests, burial can happen more obviously by shoving texts out of the canon, out of convenient memory. The 20th century saw an unprecedented amount of burials of all these kinds. The true meaning of restorationist reconstruction is to disentangle the many accumulated constructions and get back to the original.

Not that I'm a fundamentalist -- some of the intermediate stuff can be as valuable as the original. The Lutherans would have profited by keeping around some of the saints, for example.

Another problem with Burke is that he was long on preserving ceremony (Carlyle's "varnish") and short on preserving substance ("carpentry"). He never repented of his earlier war against political property rights, in which he indeed was one of the great inspirations of the French Revolution.

Luckily, the Internet makes at least the mechanics of finding forgotten texts easier, even if it doesn't make the task of figuring out which traditions are valuable easier. I see an Internet-based culture of restoration returning, just as printing once helped encourage the recovery of and then helped propagate works that had long been forgotten in the West. At the same time printing mechanically buried much of value from the Middle Ages, but the Internet needn't do the same with currently unpopular culture.

November 28, 2009 at 5:58 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Michael S. that the humanities can be, and I'd add very much should be, reactionary. Or, as I like to put it, restorationist. I consider myself a restorationist legal scholar.

But do Burkeans necessarily need *universities* to restore the humanities? Couldn't we find some other cultural vehicle to introduce the upper class and upper middle class to the great works of literature and philosophy?

How about:

1) Nationwide defunding of the humanities departments.

Followed by,

2) Burkeans then set up "Cultural Country Clubs" for upper middle class and upper class Republicans who subscribe to the Wall Street Journal where scholars, such as Michael S and MM, can come in and give seminars about Carlyle, Plato, Metternich, Castlereagh, and other great rightist political thinkers.

The Cultural Country Clubs would be targeted at elites and/or near elites, sort of like a rightwing Bohemian Grove for Wall Street Journal Republicans with essays, speeches, dinner in 3 star restaurants, fine wine, political debates, philosophical discourse from the Restorationist/Monarchist perspective, and, most importantly, tastefuly dressed topless waitresses.

November 28, 2009 at 6:27 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Undiscovered, I have a great deal of presumptive respect for universities as a 950-year-old Western institution, even though their basic political ideas were too informed by Roman imperial procedural law and not enough by the better law and politics evolving around them. Some of my respect has been worn away by PC and the declining quality of science, of which ClimateGate is just the most recent example, but a great deal remains.

Universities started out, however, as law schools, and perhaps to being just law schools they shall return. But while the Internet allows us to mechanically bypass the universities, as did the printing press in its day, I don't know how we replace the authority of a university degree. Peer-review journals may eventually be replaced by open-source data and online review -- it will be interesting to see these developments.

I think the Cultural Country Club is a great idea to consider. There is too much day-to-day "reactionary" politics (in the sense of reacting to the outrage du jour) and not nearly enough contemplative intellect on the right, in part due to academic PC and in part due to representative politics which demands continual attention. But blogs like this one and Unenumerated and TGGP's are great for contemplative discourse. Speaking of which, I'd love to see Michael S. start a blog or guest post at mine.

November 28, 2009 at 7:40 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

BTW, as restorationist I'm rather picky about what is valuable to restore. There is much of value to choose from. Not so valuable, and indeed dangerous, is monarchy in classic Greek sense of that term.

I am good with limited constitutional monarchy, with distributed political property rights protected by a hereditary commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the like (the latter resembling most "monarchy" during most of European history, despite being wildly different from Aristotle's use of the term for a single absolutist ruler, including dictators).

Speaking of monarchy, did I miss it or has Moldbug failed to expressed his delight that a mere democratic President has been bowing to kings and emperors? Thomas Jefferson must be doing cartwheels in his grave.

November 29, 2009 at 12:33 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Studd Beefpile:
DC survived before the modern university, it can do so again. It's not even necessary to dissolve the communist party, most countries transitioning from communism didn't. They may decide to change their name though, depending on how unpopular they've gotten.


Michael S:
Maybe looking to the past is reactionary, but the French revolutionaries also looked toward classical civilization. The Rennaissance humanists are generally thought of as progressive and it's not terribly surprising that's the case. Which isn't to say I'm endorsing the view, I'm skeptical of the utility of the left-right framework applied across different times and places (the parliamentary terms government & opposition are sufficient, while necessarily abstract).


The Undiscovered Jew:
You are correct that I wouldn't be a good political candidate. Good political candidates tend to be demagogues, which is part of the problem with democracy.

I don't think embarassing Mann & co is sufficient. Bakunin characterized destruction as creative, but that's not sufficient for reactionaries. The production of knowledge is desirable, even if that knowledge is the tracing of the limits of our understanding.

ClimateAudit is a fine site, but the Antiversity is intended to be more general (which is why someone proposed "the internet" more generally). GNXP is a largely disjoint but necessary piece of the puzzle.


nick:
Nice to see you back. Since I'm a fan I'm particularly pleased you find my input up to snuff. I also agree that Michael S should get a blog, and I've told him so several times. You, him and and everyone else are invited to join in the current discussion at my digs on (the late?) Phil Agre's analysis and criticism of conservatism.

The Lutherans did not abolish saints. There is actually a Lutheran Calendar of saints. According to this, the United Methodist Church also retained the pre-Reformation saints, which from the absence of evidence there indicates to me they're the only "pietist" Protestants to do so.

There is a term for the mere varnish in religion: "smells and bells".

bowing to kings and emperors
Today we kneel only to truth!

November 29, 2009 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Speaking of Gadamer, Don Lavoie tried to lead Austrians in that direction. It really irritated Rothbard and Lavoie's friend Boettke now considers it a failure. I hadn't thought of it as conservative since Lavoie endorsed a number of liberal positions, surprising for an Austrian. I lean toward the opposite positivist camp and have a distrust of the verbally gifted, so it would be tough choking down that spinach if it became a primary nourishment of the right.

November 29, 2009 at 1:25 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

A surprising addition to the anti-lite "libertarian" list of dissenters from the no-big-deal-crowd on ClimateGate: Karl Smith. Surprising since he's so often on a similar wavelength with the liberals like Ryan Avent.

November 29, 2009 at 1:44 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

TGGP, nice to be back. I know it's an acquired taste, but I do hope to convince you to eat your vegetables. I have backgrounds both in tech/science and verbal (law). I grew up reading and believing Heinlein's paeans to mathematics and scored better on my math tests than my verbal ones. And I am still very interested by scientific questions and am, I daresay, good at scientific reasoning. But I definitely come down on the side of verbal skills as being far more important to personal education as well as to civilization.

Society functioned for millennia without formal science, and with mathematics playing very little role, but it can't function without law, morals, and institutions, and only a very highly evolved set of these things, generally described by language, can produce something like the late medieval revival of Western Europe or the industrial revolution.

Very little of law, morals, and the like are amenable to standard scientific reasoning (e.g. Bayesianism) or engineering-like construction from scratch. Little is to be gained in these areas from modern positivistic reasoning. Instead they are subject to methods of interpretation and application such as hermeneutic reasoning -- an extremely different kind of thinking that is alien to most modern minds. For example, the legal method of reasoning by precedent and analogy is crucal. Every high schooler should know it, it is central to both moral and legal reasoning, but they don't even teach it to undergraduates in college.

Designing a government from scratch would be harder than trying to build a human being (or even a functioning amoeba) from scratch given no information about the genetic code. Indeed, genetic engineers who know the entire genetic sequence can usually only practically change one or two genes at a time and get a useful organism, and that will probably remain the case for a long time to come. Richard Dawkins had a great point that only an astronomically small fraction of DNA sequences produce anything but lifeless mush.

And genetic engineering is far easier than engineering society. The failures of the French and Marxist revolutions come down to the failure of positivism as a method of reasoning about or changing society: on that Burke and the Gadamerian hermeneuticists and the Hayekians agree, and it's entirely natural to combine those approaches.

November 29, 2009 at 2:51 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@nick

I don't understand your aversion to monarchies. In any given state, the person(s) with the real power are the ones who control the military anyway. At best (if this can be considered best), the military can go unused and inert. History shows that military force cannot really be distributed. Thus the system you suggest, if it ever comes around, will just be a varnish over whatever is really holding the power.

Furthermore, in a distributed systems, agency problems and conflicts of interest become very difficult to counter. In an absolute monarchy, they are trivially aligned.

November 29, 2009 at 3:35 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

newt0311: I don't understand your aversion to monarchies. In any given state, the person(s) with the real power are the ones who control the military anyway.

Only in very poor governments that are oppressive and frequently wracked by violent successions, such as the Roman Empire. To rephrase Lord Acton, if you put all the power in one position, all means will be used to acquire that position. Also, there is a Hayekian planning problem: one person can't possibly know what he's doing, and revocable delegation is often a poor method of allocating power compared to more sophisticated methods of distributing power. If you try "monarchy" in the Greek sense you get an oppressive mess like the late Roman empire and most communist countries.

Constitutional monarchy and limited monarchy with distributed political property rights, the two most common forms of government in Europe before the 20th century, are another matter. Distribution of power, in terms of political property rights, constitutional separations of power, enumerated powers, federalism, etc. has existed in most, and in the best, European polities for the last millenium.

Using the Aristotlean categories as ideals to be actualized doesn't work. That is a very academic and dangerous way to think about the problem. We have to look at the actual procedures, the actual protocols whereby power is distributed.

I highly recommend Scott Gordon's Controlling the State on this subject.

November 29, 2009 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@nick

Only in very poor governments that are oppressive and frequently wracked by violent successions, such as the Roman Empire.

It seems like you are ignoring the entire reign of the Augustus (who very much did control the military) and much of his successors. You are also ignoring the reign of the Vespasians and the good emperors. While the transition from one to the other may have been violent, their rule certainly wasn't. However, violence in political transitions is nothing new.

revocable delegation is often a poor method of allocating power compared to more sophisticated methods of distributing power.

Evidence?

If you try "monarchy" in the Greek sense you get an oppressive mess like the late Roman empire and most communist countries.

Once again, you have ignored much of the earlier Roman Empire. Yes the communist countries were a mess but keep in mind that they had no assurance of future survival. Furthermore, the method which placed them there was distributed political rights. Russia may have been a monarchy before it became the USSR but if a monarchy, it was an extremely constitutional one (in fact if not in word). Peter the Great and others like him would never have given Lenin such leeway as Nicholas II did.

Constitutional monarchy and limited monarchy with distributed political property rights, ... Using the Aristotlean categories as ideals to be actualized doesn't work...

Um... the Aristotelean categories are tautologies as in every form of government has a place in this categorization. The form of government you advocate isn't monarchy at all (in the Aristotelean sense). It is aristocracy. There is much to say for it except that it always degenerates into democracy.

Also, you have not answered my primary objection: how to prevent conflicts on interest with a distributed property system. The Europeans who you hold in such high regard (deservedly to be sure) did this through territorial separation. However, it seems to me that this is simply an inferior version of independent city-states each an absolute monarchy -- as Italy did with much success.

November 29, 2009 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

Addition: to be sure, Italy had quite a few types of city states but many of them were absolutely authoritarians. Also, some of the most successful countries today are in effect, though not in word, absolutely authoritarian.

November 29, 2009 at 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

That said, I'm much closer to Burke than to Carlyle or his crypto-disciple Marx insofar as I favor piecemeal restoration, not radical revolution.

Perhaps the fundamental problem of our current political system is entropy. We live in the tyranny of a thousand different factional interests, commissions, government agencies. Every bill Congress passes makes the entropy worse. It adds one more commission, one more regulation.

How can entropy be defeated by piecemeal reform? I too, would prefer incremental reform to a grand reboot. But the problem is that incremental reform cannot defeat entropy. Even as you are fixing one things, dozens of other things are decaying. Every reform bill that winds through congress gets sliced and diced, tugged and pulled, and in the end, only increases the entropy.

Furthermore, from the stand point of politics, it's much easier to organize a movement to support one giant change, than it is to support 10 major reforms over a period of decades.

Do you any thoughts on how an incremental restoration could be accomplished?

IMHO, the best plan would be to make the restoration a sharp, step change, but do it in a very limited geographical area (either a small metro region, or even an isolated, underpopulated region).

Only in very poor governments that are oppressive and frequently wracked by violent successions, such as the Roman Empire.

Do you have evidence that the Roman Emperors were actually oppressive? My most recent reading about the Roman empire (Peter Heather's book) argues that the empire was in no sense totalitarian or oppressive.


The Romans certainly had a problem with succession after 192AD. On the other hand, the Republic had much greater separation of powers, but also had a nasty succession problem. The Republic from 200BC to 30BC had a much greater problem with succession and civil war than the empire had from 30BC to 192AD.

November 29, 2009 at 2:13 PM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

TGGP: About the Lutherans, while they maintained the list of numerous saints, they removed prayers for the dead and intercessions to the saints from the 'belief system.' This effectively left the saints to be moral examples, or so much dusty tomes for museums. They kept the saints, but kept them dead. It is important to consider that dimension, especially when you compare the Reformers to Rome. Rome at that time had effectively layered on varnish (indulgences etc) on the practice of prayers for the dead, the Augustinian notion of Merit and so forth, but the Reformers notion was not Carlylean at all; they tore down all of the houses and put tourist traps in their place. The Reformation was if nothing else a new level of Varnish. They invented the plastic Jesus before there was plastic.

This is just to say that they, without great forethought, dismantled a living and evolved tradition with the intent to 'restore' the old thing. They had a dual problem; the first is that they were the arbiters of what the 'old' thing was, which meant that they would overlook evidence of, for instance, the veneration of the bodies of Martyrs in the first century.

Retaining the list is meaningless; it is the same as the Christian Scientists retaining the full Bible: They never read from it or utilize it outside of their interpreting text, Science and Health. Science and Health quotes only parts of the scripture that justify its point of view which radically departs from and has no historical or traditional basis in Christendom. Likewise for Luther; in the name of Reformation he created a new thing, not restored an old thing.

In this regard, reaction can go the wrong way - and instead be purely progressive under the guise of reformation or restoration. There are some reading who deeply desire this, since there has been no better vehicle for progressive policy in the 20th as reactionary politics.

The key is that nothing in a tradition is piecemeal; things connect and interconnect. As such, our biases naturally play out in reforming or restoring things into our own image.

November 29, 2009 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

newt: my primary objection: how to prevent conflicts on interest with a distributed property system. The Europeans who you hold in such high regard (deservedly to be sure) did this through territorial separation.

Territorial separation is only one kind. Jurisdiction can be and almost always was also subdivided by subject matter and by status of the disputants. The key to medieval England, for example, was that the king's courts had a very narrow jurisdiction, basically substantive jurisdiction only over immediate tenants of the king but more general procedural jurisdiction over disputes over political property rights of subjects. The king had no right to issue arbitrary orders in peacetime to the lords who would be his military subordinates -- generally he could only do this during the course of foreign wars or repelling invasions. Instead the king could only issue writs, extremely specifically worded documents, and if they went outside the narrow bounds they could be ignored.

newt and Devin mention the earlier reign of Augustus and the Antonines as being a far better role model. Relatively speaking they were better, but (a) many republican institutions survived during this era that were destroyed after, and (b) the legal system and political ideas (all the way up to Hobbes, Carlyle, and Marx) that made their way into Western Europe come from the later empire (legal scholars under Caracella, Diocletian, Theodosius, and Justinian being dominant), not the earlier better empire.

As for oppression, the slavery, torture, and so on of Rome were unimaginably brutal. The taxes also kept getting higher until the later empire when they were unbearably oppressive and many (perhaps unwisely, as roving bandits made it even worse) welcomed the barbarians. I've read this in Gibbon and in Charles Adams' excellent For Good and Evil


The Roman Republic is not a great role model, either. For stability and commercial success, the medieval republics of Genoa and Venice area great role models.

As are distributed political property rights. I haven't counted, but I estimate there were far, far fewer assassinations and wars of succession in English history than in Roman, and the taxes were much lower.

As for communism, it can't with any integrity be defended, certainly not with old American left-wing canards about how each and every one of dozens of communist regimes all felt uniquely threatened, explaining why they were all so utterly disgusting. The communists set all-time records for oppression, and I heavily recommend heavy doses of reading about the concrete details, starting with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and the Black Book of Communism.

Sheesh, if communism and the Roman Empire were the big role models as alternatives to democracy, you'd have turned me into a die-hard fan of what we have today. Fortunately, there are much better alternatives.

November 29, 2009 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@nick

The key to medieval England, for example, was that the king's courts had a very narrow jurisdiction, basically substantive jurisdiction only over immediate tenants of the king ... documents, and if they went outside the narrow bounds they could be ignored.

So... primarily territorial separation with a veneer of a monarchy on top, right? How does this contradict my characterization of the feudal system and my assertion of city-states as a better model?

Relatively speaking they were better, but (a) many republican institutions survived during this era

Doesn't that simply support my point? You claimed that delegation under an absolute sovereign is ineffective. Yet, independent institutions are able to survive. Yes these republican institutions were destroyed but I don't see a thriving aristocracy with distributed political power surviving today. Demise of institutions is the normal course of history.

(b) the legal system and political ideas (all the way up to Hobbes, Carlyle, and Marx) that made their way into Western Europe come from the later empire (legal scholars under Caracella, Diocletian, Theodosius, and Justinian being dominant), not the earlier better empire.

The ideas (of absolute monarchy etc...) are consistent with the rule of Augustus et al. What difference does their origin make?

As for oppression, the slavery, torture, and so on of Rome were unimaginably brutal. The taxes also kept getting higher until the later empire when they were unbearably oppressive and many (perhaps unwisely, as roving bandits made it even worse) welcomed the barbarians. I've read this in Gibbon and in Charles Adams' excellent For Good and Evil

Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of reading Adams. I have, however, read Gibbons. He does indeed claim that taxes in the Roman Empire became unimaginable. That the praetorian guard ran amok -- all after the reign of Marcus Aurelius. He considers the rule of the good emperors to be one of the happiest times for humanity. I accept this assessment (seeing as how Gibbons probably knew this period far better than I do). Does Adams have anything to the contrary?

The Roman Republic is not a great role model, either. For stability and commercial success, the medieval republics of Genoa and Venice area great role models.

I never tried to take the Roman Republic as a role model. From what I can infer of Devin's post, he consider the Roman Republic as an anti-example. It seems that we are in complete agreement with you on this point.

Besides, isn't the Republic an example of a distributed political-rights government?

As are distributed political property rights. I haven't counted, but I estimate there were far, far fewer assassinations and wars of succession in English history than in Roman, and the taxes were much lower.

Evidence?

As for communism, it can't with any integrity be defended,

No it cannot. Nor was I defending communism. I was pointing out why despite having an authoritarian form of government, where theoretically the interests of the premier and those of the Russia should have been aligned, the premiers ruled in a manner so detrimental to Russia (and its people). I have little doubt that if competent, rational, and responsible individuals (actually, rational and self-interested are enough) were to take the throne, the USSR would be the last government they would use as a role model.

PS. I have read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Black Book of Communism. Excellent books.

November 29, 2009 at 10:14 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

River Cocytus, that's a great analysis.

Devin, the best thing is to play a role in possible future transitions brought about by events, whether these be the gutting of nation-states in the European Union (in which it's important what powers rise to the EU and which devolve to smaller territories), bankruptcies of governments, and so on. We sorely missed having a wide variety of political options to choose from when the USSR fell apart. I can't predict who is going to need new amendments or whole new constitutions when, but we should get old institutional designs ready to be plugged in when the need arises.

There's also the whole issue of the "sovereign" university Moldbug raised, and for that I think a healthy dose of the Internet, as in ClimateGate, is just what the doctor ordered.

November 29, 2009 at 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the American public mind, scientists have the highest prestige of any profession. According to a 2005 survey by Harris Interactive, "scientist" was the occupation deemed to be most prestigious. Scientist was immediately followed by doctor, firefighter, and teacher. Member of Congress came in 9th. Respondents were obviously conflating prestige with respectibility.

If the public becomes aware of the details of the so-called "science" of AGW, I imagine that its perception of scientists' prestige will drop by more than a few notches ... especially after "electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket" and "we can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees" as Our Dear Leader has promised.

The Harris survey didn't list high-class prostitutes, but that would be the appropriate ranking for scientist that use the word "climate" to modify their occupational designation. At least those who get AGW research funding.

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2005-05-23-prestige-usat_x.htm

November 30, 2009 at 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The survey cited above also lists "engineer" as #10 with a 29% prestige response versus 52% response for scientist.

Climategate reminds me of an old saw popular among engineers, updated as follows:

Bad engineers become mathematicians.
Bad mathematicians become physicists.
Bad physicists become climate scientists.
Bad climate scientists become AGW hoaxsters.

The old saw used to end with "Bad scientists become weathermen."

November 30, 2009 at 12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another old saw:

Engineers use equations to approximate the real world.

Scientists think the real world approximates equations.

Climate scientists fudge the real world data to advance a political agenda.

November 30, 2009 at 12:35 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Undiscovered Jew, what you suggest has excellent precedent. Your 'cultural country clubs' for the upper- and upper-middle classes, as institutions to teach what the universities did not, were thought of by the original humanists. They were called learned societies or academies. The humanistic learning the universities did not teach in the fifteenth century found its home in philosophical and literary learned societies, until it became accepted in the universities over the next two centuries. Similarly, the scientific learning of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries developed a venue in the Accademia dei Lincei, the Royal Society, the Academia Naturae Curiosorum, and other similar groups, long before it was welcome in the universities.

We may not need scholars and scientists to hack embarrassing e-mails and, as it were, to impeach the testimony of fabricators like Mann and Jones - but we still need them to show independently where and how they were wrong.

Politicized scholarship is routine on the left. Consider the case of Michael Bellesiles, whom I briefly mentioned in my earlier comment. He is former Emory University professor who wrote a book entitled "Arming America," purporting to show that firearms were scarce in early America and that claims of a well-armed citizenry in colonial America were false. This had a barely concealed purpose of swaying both popular and judicial understanding of the original public meaning of the Second Amendment.

Independent researchers first identified some obvious errors in his work, but diligent scholarly research eventually revealed that wills he claimed to have examined to count firearms itemized in them were non-existent, the persons involved having actually died intestate, that records he claimed to have seen were not in the places he said they were, etc. Bellesiles was eventually found "guilty of unprofessional and misleading work" by an investigative committee at Emory, resigned his professorship, and the Bancroft Prize his book had been awarded by Columbia University was revoked. The liberal op-ed columnist Garry Wills, who earlier gave his book a rapturous review, later described it as "a fraud" and called Bellesiles a "very good con man."

Don't imagine that Mann and Jones will suffer the same fate as Bellesiles without something more than a bunch of hacked e-mails. They are damning testimony, but their opponents will need to nail them down with corroborating evidence. That will call for a latter-day Scaliger, or perhaps several of them.

TGGP - in the list of Protestant churches that retained the calendar of saints, you have omitted the most influential in English-speaking countries, namely the Church of England. It even canonised new saints - e.g., St. Charles the Martyr (King Charles I). And Archbishop Laud's devotion to the "beauty of holiness" may possibly be 'varnish,' but many of his initiatives in re-catholicising the C. of E. were rather more than that.

The French revolutionaries who looked back to classical antiquity were a rather late manifestation, well after the universities and their gerund-grinders had taken over the classics. The supposed "progressivism" of the Renaissance is mostly the result of viewing it through the filter of Whig history. If you want a more authentic view of the Renaissance, look into Dame Frances Yates's "Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition," or D.P. Walker's "Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella." One of the highlights of the latter book is its description of Pope Urban VIII engaging in strange conjurations behind closed doors with Tommaso Campanella, a wild astrological visionary - this at the same time Galileo was subject to house arrest! We surely cannot call these aspects of the Renaissance as "progressive." It is only because they have largely been edited from our consciousness that we apply this word to the period.

November 30, 2009 at 2:25 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

primarily territorial separation with a veneer of a monarchy on top, right?

Wrong. Reread what I had to say about subject matter jurisdiction.

And the "veneer" is a small but crucial layer of the protocol stack, extraordinary jurisdiction, a narrow procedural jurisdiction, especially adjudicating disputes over political property rights, bundled with military command in wartime.

A few medieval city-"states" were sovereign in secular matters, but more often they were subject to a king or emperor with extraordinary jurisdiction, or a quasi-constitutional treaty of confederation (e.g. the Hanseatic League), or both. The Church also had a very large jurisdiction across Western Europe, over citizens of republics and subjects of kings alike, on subjects such as family law, and contracts could opt in to several different possible jurisdictions. In the post-Roman and pre-Reception world there was no such thing as "sovereignty."

"Sovereignty" is a silly concept derived from the Roman imperial idea that there must be some ultimate commander-in-chief of everything. The vast majority of later, more highly evolved governmental entities were nothing close to this poli-sci model, and it's crucial to understand why. The keys are understanding the distinction between substantive and procedural law, what subject matter jurisdiction was and is, and what political property rights were.

November 30, 2009 at 2:29 PM  
Anonymous The Unnamed said...

MM's misfire in identifying Revere's Catholic wife as a mainline Protestant ignores that segment of Catholicism which still looks to the Protestant Mainline (and Harvard) for inspiration.

For those of you all interested in "The Cathedral," the Land O' Lakes Statement marks the definitive transformation of the U.S. Catholic university system into an appendage of the Ivy League. (See also James Burtchaell's _The Dying of the Light_)

November 30, 2009 at 3:52 PM  
Anonymous The Undiscovered Jew said...

Undiscovered Jew, what you suggest has excellent precedent. Your 'cultural country clubs' for the upper- and upper-middle classes, as institutions to teach what the universities did not, were thought of by the original humanists. They were called learned societies or academies.

There used to be elite/secret socities for every class of elite such as military socities (the Teutonic Knights) and for artists (many Medieval cathedrals were built by the order of the Freemasons).

Bringing back elite "clubs" where the leaders of society are taught how to be virtuous is something that needs to be explored.

Btw, you must blog!

November 30, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@nick

And the "veneer" is a small but crucial layer of the protocol stack, extraordinary jurisdiction, a narrow ... In the post-Roman and pre-Reception world there was no such thing as "sovereignty."

Could a king unilaterally remove a lord from power? If yes, then the king was for all intents and purposes sovereign. If not, I still do not see anything that could not be established by largely independent city states. As for the temporary military command, are you seriously claiming that city-states can not work together on joint military ventures?

As for the Church's control of family law etc, Henry VII might have something to say about that. If the Church's control could only survive as long as a noble didn't challenge it, it could be implemented thorugh treaty or through revocable property rights.

"Sovereignty" is a silly concept derived ... political property rights were.

Sovereignty is a tautology like private property rights. In a state such as medieval England, the aristocracy can be thought of as a collective sovereign. Both sovereignty and private property rights regimes are classification methods and considering how many states fit the model of sovereignty, it seems to be quite a useful model.

Whether sovereignty originated from a Roman idea or not, I am not certain. Either way, this piece of information is irrelevant. Why are you so hung up on origins instead of merits?

As for sovereignty being "silly" and later forms of government being "more evolved", that is your opinion. I very much disagree with it and I would be in good company to do so. Considering the nose dive that homicide rates took up till the 1960s -- as sovereignty was concentrated into small parcels, I find much to justify my opinion. What do you have that justifies yours?


The larger problem with your post is that you failed to address my larger point -- even if we accept, for the sake of argument, that medieval England is a model to strive for, how do we ensure that a country ends up like that instead of like the Roman Republic. Both stability and aligned incentives are very difficult to achieve in a distributed political property regime while they are trivially aligned in an absolute monarchy.

November 30, 2009 at 4:29 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Could a king unilaterally remove a lord from power?

No.

If not, I still do not see anything that could not be established by largely independent city states.

Republics and polities based on political property rights were in fact radically different, and obviously so. There may be only one essential kind of absolute monarchy but there is an extremely diverse array of possible alternatives to it.

As for the Church's control of family law etc, Henry VII might have something to say about that.

What he did would have been unthinkable before both of the following happened first: (a) the reception of Roman imperial law as Continental dogma, and (b) Luther. These combine led to the breaking away of Protestant princes and their taking family law jurisdiction from the Church. This Continental trend Henry opposed until he found out how convenient being a judge in your own case can be for a tyrant. There's no doubt that the Reformation along with the Reception of Roman law played a big role in destroying political property rights that had lasted, in the case of the Church, for a millenium. That doesn't make political property rights more fragile than any other institution that lasted for a millenia.

In a state such as medieval England, the aristocracy can be thought of as a collective sovereign.

This is alas a great example of the modern Romanist obsession with trying to find some locus of sovereignty. Sovereignty doesn't have to be part of a government any more than polar bears have to be part of a local biome. The obsessive search for the polar bears that rule the Amazon, is, I'm afraid, a very effective way to profoundly misunderstand the Amazon. In fact, most governments most of the time have worked very differently from the Roman Empire. They had no commander-in-chief of everybody, nor any particular group with that role. They are far more sophisticated than command-and-control, principle-agent hierarchies. They had no locus of sovereignty, nor anything usefully resembling it.

This is my last post on this thread, because I feel like I'm beating my head against a brick wall. No matter what I say about the crucial nature of subject matter jurisdiction, distributed political property rights, and so on, all I get back is "sovereignty", "sovereignty", ... repeated ad infinitum, endlessly stressed, and constantly returned to. There is plenty I've already written that anybody who has any doubt about what I've said here can go read.

November 30, 2009 at 5:19 PM  
Anonymous Don said...

Devin Finbarr,

Do you know what happened to NewMogul.com?

November 30, 2009 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Goddamn you, Will Wilkinson! By pronouncing Climategate "a big deal" you have totally fouled the litelibertard-nobiggie connection! His argument that political correctness can kill may also surprise detractors such as myself.


nick:
Society functioned for millennia without formal science, and with mathematics playing very little role
Humanity was also nasty, brutish and short for millennia before the industrial revolution.

Very little of law, morals, and the like are amenable to standard scientific reasoning (e.g. Bayesianism)
I would say that all things are ultimately reduceable to quarks, and that can all be understood with Judea Pearl's half-Bayesianism, if not mere purist Bayesianism. It may be impractical to think at the quark-level, but that is the actual level reality operates on and nothing enters in at a different level.

or engineering-like construction from scratch
I agree that there is much embedded knowledge we overlook. Engineering from scratch is helpful in experimentation though, which is why I'm enthusiastic about seasteading.

kind of thinking that is alien to most modern minds
Really? People seem to use analogy all the time. Too often, perhaps. Legal thinking is if anything relatively intuitionist. For neuroscience and the law, is it the former or latter that is closer to our intuitions?

the failure of positivism
I don't positivism got big until after the French revolution, and Marx's hegelian dialectic doesn't strike me as terribly positivist. From what I've heard, Marx only referenced positivism in a derogatory manner. Many associate Marxism with anti-positivism.


Devin Finbarr:
The human body is also subject to entropy. That does not mean a radical change to that body is a good idea.


River Cocytus:
I agree with much of your take on the Reformation, but I think your complaints are part of why it was actually Carlylean!


Michael S:
The CoE is mentioned in the link I gave, but I mentioned the Methodists because they are "low-church" pietists. It is to be expected that Anglicans will retain much of Catholicism.

There are pitfalls with talking about "the Rennaissance" since, like the Industrial Revolution, it is a label we have applied retroactively in which certain features are deemed more salient. But I think it fair to say that it was associated with secular humanism. Irving Babbitt excepted, that's associated with the left. It is no stretch to view Dante as a "progressive" Renaissance man, advancing a new temporal authority over the old spiritual one. Doubtlessly they viewed themselves as good Christians. Volatire criticized atheism and supported the monarchy, but we have no problem associating him with the forces that would become Jacobinism. The chain from the Renaissance humanists and Voltaire is merely longer.

One of the highlights of the latter book is its description of Pope Urban VIII engaging in strange conjurations behind closed doors with Tommaso Campanella, a wild astrological visionary
Larison on that sort of thing here.


Undiscovered Jew:
Again, the Freemasons are hardly a good precedent.

November 30, 2009 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous m said...

Note to all: Google just shut down Mangan's blog without notice for essentially being reactionary and "racist." You can read the Half Sigma post about it (top of the page).

I would really appreciate it if someone would go through Mencius's archives and create a backup in case they decide to do that here.

November 30, 2009 at 11:26 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

TGGP, actually there are quarks, leptons, dark matter (incl. neutrinos), etc. And you can't possibly keep track of more than a miniscule fraction of it, because of the pigeonhole principle: there are vastly more particles in the world than in your brain or in any possible computer. And even if we had infinite brains we couldn't predict the random quantum events.

When you add the complex gamesmanship of human relations, in which one guy's strategy is based on his guess about the other guys', and vice versa, recursively, it only gets worse. Human reasoning without our "memetic code" of law and religious morals is about as useful as designing a genetic code from scratch -- you end up not with life but with mush.

Engineering from scratch is helpful in experimentation though, which is why I'm enthusiastic about seasteading.

I love these kinds of experiments, but please don't try them on me.

[legal reasoning]

It's a disciplined and competitive (dialectic, in the true original sense of that term) use of analogies, precedents, and emergent rules, far more sophisticated than normal use of analogy and metaphor. I learned it my first year of law school and it's a radically different kind of thinking I had never encountered before in school. The Bayesian bloggers seem to be completely oblivious to it, and to the tremendous value of tradition generally. That makes them, from my POV, culturally illiterate and incompetent to opine on law or politics. Yes, legal training also made me stuck up. :-)

If you can't afford law school, you can learn most of what you need to know from Legal Method and Writing by Charles R. Calleros and a first year law school common law casebook (Torts, Property, or Contracts).

The extremely short description of legal or scholastic reasoning is to think of a proposition or dispute as Schrodinger's Cat, both true and false at the same time, or each party at fault or not at the same time, or the appropriate dichotomy. Then gather all the moral or legal disputes that are similar to this one. Argue by analogy for each side both from the facts of those prior disputes _and_ from the informal rules ("holdings") implied by the decisions resolving those disputes. This kind of reasoning allows a lawyer to anticipate an opponent's as well as their own argument in a case, and allows a judge to appreciate both sides of an argument, the latter also crucial, but often absent, in reasoning in about politics, morals, and the more complex areas of science, which in absence of this kind of discipline is dominated by confirmation bias and lack of understanding of other points of view.

Law also has a sophisticated set of qualitative probabilities I've blogged on, which imply not just degrees of truth but various aspects of gathering evidence, burdens of proof, and so on. The scientific method derived in large part from the Continental law of evidence, with which Galileo, Leibniz, etc. were intimately familiar having studied law. But legal reasoning, or scholastic reasoning as it used to be known, is still capable of covering a far wider swath of the human experience than scientific reasoning which is really just a special case and applies well only to hard evidence or the hard sciences.

December 1, 2009 at 12:10 AM  
Blogger Deogolwulf said...

“I would say that all things are ultimately reduceable to quarks”

Say it if you like, but if you are to be rationally coherent, you must believe that your proposition also reduces to quarks, and therefore, given that you believe that quarks are intrinsically meaningless, and given that “nothing enters in at a different level”, you must hold your own proposition to be fundamentally meaningless, and therefore not actually a proposition at all, and therefore that your non-propositional emittance is fundamentally without truth. But why then assert it? Do you ever consider that you are just trying irrationally to put yourself at the furthest remove from your former beliefs? Perhaps that is the source of your aversion to metaphysical philosophy which no rational-thinking animal can ever avoid even should he perversely wish it — any rational consideration of your own beliefs might reveal their nonsensical nature to you.

“It may be impractical to think at the quark-level, but that is the actual level reality operates on and nothing enters in at a different level.”

Could you think of any way to test or affirm this strange belief of yours even empirically-scientifically, let alone quarkly? Of course not, nor could there be any such way. Besides, it seems that, according to your own hazy brand of positivism-cum-physicalism, “levels of reality” are not ontologically objective, let alone empirically-scientifically knowable as such, and thus, by your own lights, it is meaningless to speak of them. But perhaps, after all, you do believe that the levels of reality of which you speak are ontologically objective, or that quarks have intrinsic meaning, in which case, slipping from your positivism, perhaps you would have some philosophical defence of these ideas, along with some defence of the bold equation of reality with physicality. But, once again, you would have to enter the metaphysical-philosophical realm which you yourself claim to be rubbish, and why enter it if you believe it to be so — or is all this just pseudo-scientific and scientistic posing?

December 1, 2009 at 2:07 AM  
Anonymous generic commenter said...

m, I agree. Everybody should back up their blogs, and that's especially true with Blogspot. The easiest: it takes about 5 minutes to start a Wordpress blog and export a Blogger blog to it. You can hide the Wordpress blog if you just want to use it as a backup, but I suggest that people switch to Wordpress, which better respects the privacy of readers as well as freedom of speech.

December 1, 2009 at 2:19 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP, on the Renaissance, another excellent book is Joscelyn Godwin's "The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance." We should bear in mind that Julian the Apostate was the greatest religious conservative of his age; and the pagan dreamers of eleven hundred years later - even though some of them were princes of the Church (e.g., Bessarion) - were, to more or less extent, his followers. They were, in other words, restorative, rather than preservative, conservatives.

Godwin is a musicologist, and while his book does not devote itself to any great extent to music, I suspect he was drawn to the study of renaissance as reaction through the music of the period. The humanists were fascinated with the almost magical capacity imputed by the ancients to music to influence emotions and behavior (e.g., Aristotle in his Poetics, Plato in his republic, and Pythagoras as portrayed in his Life by Iamblichus). Opera was supposed to be a revival of ancient Greek choral drama, with all its reputedly powerful effects. That Monteverdi and his contemporaries knew very little about how Greek choral drama actually sounded, and created something that was quite different from it, and quite novel, does not mean they were "progressives." Their intent was reactionary.

Undiscovered Jew and TGGP - The trouble with the history of Freemasonry is that it's very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The best insights on the origins of modern "speculative" Freemasonry suggest it had very little to do with the mediaeval "operative" stonemasons who built castles and cathedrals. Scottish operative lodges began to accept non-operative gentleman-members in the early seventeenth century, for the sake of their patronage. The Reformation was not good for the church-building business of the operatives. There is some suggestion that their lodges at this period served as refuges for those who, though not actively involved in the operative craft, rejected the extreme Calvinism of Knox, under which the fabric of Scotland's churches was at least neglected and in many cases maliciously damaged. The Scottish craft was strongly royalist, seeing the king as a check against the iconoclasm of "knocking Jack of the North."

The evidence for such a transition in England is much less well documented, and we find obviously "speculative" lodges appearing ex nihilo there, such as the one at Warrington which made Elias Ashmole a freemason in 1646. What the English lodges had in common with the Scottish ones was a pronounced royalist tone. The English mason Ashmole was a royalist soldier, comptroller of the ordnance to Charles I; the Scottish mason Sir Robert Moray, Charles's quartermaster-general. Both Ashmole and Moray, incidentally, were founding fellows of the Royal Society. There were many subterranean royalist currents in Britain during the Cromwellian interregnum, and it is quite probable that speculative lodges like Ashmole's had their part in them.

While TGGP may well be thinking of the overtly political (and left-wing) freemasonry of the French Grand Orient, and its many imitators in Latin America, when observing that the craft is "hardly a good precedent," all that can really be said is that during the eighteenth century, freemasonry became a tool adaptable to numerous disparate causes that had to be pursued covertly.

As an example, in British freemasonry, no less than the rest of British society, there was a division between Jacobites, like the duke of Wharton, and Hanoverians, like Anderson and Desaguliers. Jacobite freemasonry was quite popular in France amongst the Scottish and Irish exiles, many of whom were Roman Catholics. They can scarcely be stigmatized as "progressives." German hautes-grades masonry had its left wing in the Illuminati and its right wing in the Gold- und Rosenkreuz, which was much more successfully influential, but which got and gets much less publicity.

December 1, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Nick - I don't think it is quite correct to say that the Reformation took family law away from the church in England, except in the limited question of Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon (which was really as much a diplomatic problem for the pope in his capacity as a temporal ruler, as it was a canonical one for him in his capacity as a spiritual one).

The Court of Arches, whose judges were appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and confirmed by the cathedral chapter, exercised jurisdiction over matrimonial law in England until 1857, when it was transferred by the Matrimonial Causes act to the Crown. This court also had jurisdiction in some testamentary matters. Its authority was incrementally reduced during the latter half of the nineteeth century until it became no more than an internal C. of E. tribunal in questions of church discipline. However, for more than three centuries after the Henrician reformation, substantial aspects of English family law continued to be matters heard before canonical rather than civil courts.

December 1, 2009 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

TGGP> The DC that lived before the university that got it's claws into it was a very different place. It would be very possible for a particular DC to survive without it, but it would not be the DC we have now. Likewise, there could have been a USSR built that did not rely on the Communist Party (e.g. Stalin's USSR) to hold it together, but the USSR that existed in 1989 DID need the party. Dissolving the party killed the careers of all the people whose success depended on it, and the same would happen in DC if they extracted the university. They will never consent to that sort of mass suicide. Even if by some miracle some sort of of Gorbechav was elected (e.g. Ron Paul) the US system is a lot more decentralized which makes it a lot less susceptible to that sort of top down change, good or bad.

Perhaps a better metaphor would have been a parasite that worked it's way into your spinal column. The parasite causes constant pain, but the operation to take it out might leave you in a wheelchair, so instead of removing it you spend your time justifying leaving it in their to your friends and family.

December 1, 2009 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Nick> I just got through "The Inheritance of Rome" and one of the things that is very much stressed is how in Merovingian/Carolingian Europe kings could and did do exactly this. The triumph of hereditary rule happened relatively late (i.e. around 900-1000ad) and for a variety of reasons that are not entirely clear. For example, the rise of hereditary rule accompanied a decline in the power of kings, but did that decline cause that or vice-versa?


Devin Finbarr> Your point about entropy is well made and often overlooked. The second law of thermodynamics is absolute and unavoidable. Even if we were to establish a perfect system of government for today, there is nothing we can do to prevent it's decline. A system that produces and empowers men like Washington will, eventually, start settling on Bushes and Obamas. There is no magic bullet that can solve this problem, it is a disease that can only be managed, not cured.

December 1, 2009 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@SB

The second law of thermodynamics is absolute and unavoidable. Even if we were to establish a perfect system of government for today, there is nothing we can do to prevent it's decline.

Entropy can be staved off through use of energy. Presumably, the perfect system of government will have access to some power plants (or last until the heat-death of the universe?). Entropy seems like a specious analogy at best. This is not to say that you conclusion is incorrect. Historically, all systems of governance decline. So much so that decline may be considered a fact of nature.

December 1, 2009 at 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Truth(er) said...

The real solution is not to "defund" the universities.

The solution is to establish price controls over all university costs: tuition, books, housing, lab fees, etc.

Instead of wasting time complaining about university bias, Republicans should drive a wedge between administrators/professors and parents/students. Republicans should complain loudly about university greed and offer to establish programs that cap college tuition to no more than $5,000.00 per year. Any university that does not comply will have its federal funding cut.

As to "technological edge" the reality is that the tech centers have produced little of any practical value and are mostly just scams to extort grant money from the American taxpayer. The MIT's and Cal Techs are running on the reputation established a generation ago. That rep is worth little today.

Most science is playing with toys or solving glorified puzzles.

December 1, 2009 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

nick:
And even if we had infinite brains we couldn't predict the random quantum events.
That's an argument for probabilistic rather than legal reasoning.

scientific reasoning which is really just a special case
Instead, humans are just a special case to be reasoned about with science.


Deogolwulf:
The screen displaying the proposition is made of quarks, your neurons entangled with the screen are made of quarks, as are my neurons which became entangled with the screen earlier. Maybe the quarks are made of something else, like strings, but some people here dislike that and I'm not opening that can of worms. There are some really massive quarks we think can only be found at very high energies, if something larger than the standard set of quarks was found at normal energies that was not itself made of quarks, that would suggest returning to the drawing board.

why then assert it
I'm predestined to.

the furthest remove from your former beliefs
I don't think I've given much specification of what I used to believe at what time, but I'm pretty sure I could imagine further removes.

Perhaps that is the source of your aversion
No need to go Freudian, I just don't think it pays rent.

quarks have intrinsic meaning
Incorporating quarks has paid rent in predictions, whether to attribute intrinsic meaning strikes me as subjective.


Michael S:
Yes, the Continental freemasons are more notorious for their progressivism, but in America it is associated with the revolution as well (perhaps more than is warranted). Among the more radical Founders, Paine & Jefferson do not appear to have been Masons themselves but seem to have found much in common between their radical beliefs and those of Masonry.


Studd Beefpile:
The D.C of two days ago is different from the D.C of one day ago, which in turn is different from today. D.C survived the earlier change, it can survive it again.

The Communist party did not dissolve in 1989. It was temporarily banned by Yeltsin in 1991 after the August Coup, but it now called the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (since that's what the bulk of the old Soviet Union is now called) and is the second major political party in the country (from the 1995 til 2003 elections it was the largest), after United Russia. Yeltsin himself was a CPSU member who claims his belief in communism was genuine. Putin was also a member before 91.

I view Gorbachev as a reformer who was in over his head in a tough situation. He was trying to save communism, not bring down the USSR. Ron Paul is a radical who rejects a huge portion of our history as a wrong turn.


newt0311:
The second law still holds when there is an input of energy, because some of that energy is transformed into waste heat. I don't know how helpful the analogy is here though.


Truth(er):
In Europe tuition is much lower. That's because the government pays for it. I think your proposal would just shift us toward that.

December 1, 2009 at 9:08 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

newt and nick-

At the risk of over extending the sovereignty discussion, I think the reason you two are talking past each other is that you are working from two different definitions of sovereignty. Let me present a little framework that might lead to a more productive discussion:

Within a given geographic region, we may have one or more security forces. If one of those security forces is militarily supreme(ie it would easily crush the other forces in battle) then that force is the absolute authority or absolute sovereign of that territory. An example of this is the U.S. military. It is completely dominant, state militias and local police have no hope of resisting against. Local police exist because the U.S. military allows them to exist. If multiple security forces exist in a terrority without either being dominant, they have partial authority or partial sovereignty. An example of this is pre-Civil War U.S., where the state militias actually posed a check on what the federal government could do.

Whether one security force has absolute power or not is a military question. It is was it is. From the point of view of designing a governance system, there's not much that can be done about it (short of inventing new types of weapons to alter the balance of power).

Every security force supports a particular governance algorithm as a Schelling point. Examples of governance algorithms are:

a) a hereditary, absolute monarchy, where the king's word is law

b) a military dictactorship, where the commander in chief's word is law

c) a corporate state, like Moldbug suggests

d) the U.S. Constitutional process, with multiple branches, federalism, etc.

e) rule by the Pope and the Cardinals according to church law

etc. etc

In general, a governance algorithm can be either hierarchical/coherent or embrace separation of powers.

An example of a coherent governance algorithm is the joint stock corporation. An employee reports to a boss, who reports to a vice president, who reports to the CEO, who reports to a board who reports to the owner. There is a direct line of command, and only one line of command. A division head may have great delegated powers, and tremendous personal authority, but he must report to the person above him, and the delegation of authority is revocable.

The feudal systems that Nick cites are examples of a separation of powers. The church has irrevocable authority over such areas as family law, and does not answer to anyone but itself. The King's courts have authority over other matters.

I believe that Nick and Newt were talking past each other because they were defining "absolute sovereign" differently. Newt was defining it as the absolute military authority, while Nick was defining it as the body at the top of a coherent governance algorithm. It's actually quite possible to have an absolute military authority, but a very divided governance algorithm (the modern U.S. is an example). But it's worth noting, that any scheme of divided powers is only as strong as the military Schelling point.

The central dispute between Nick and the Moldbug, is that Moldbug believes that a coherent governance algorithm would work better, while Nick believes that separations of powers works best. Moldbug believes that a coherent structure leads to efficient, strong, responsible, and strong government, while a divided algorithm leads to decay, expansion of government (as each branch expands its own powers), and eventually anarcho-tyranny. Nick believes that a coherent structure leads to military despotism, oppression, and battles over succession, while divided structures protect liberty and enable greater freedom.

To me, it's quite a fascinating debate. The reason I spent so much time writing this framing of the issue, is because I would love to see the substance of the dispute debated in full at some point (and hopefully we won't fall into too many rabbit holes based on ill-defined words).

December 1, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

Don-

I have no idea where newmogul went. I think nickb just stopped keeping up the server.

December 1, 2009 at 9:26 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

I like the cultural country club idea, I've been thinking along the same lines recently.

If anyone in this thread is in the Boston area, it would be fun to have an in person meetup, drink some scotch and talk some political philosophy.

I've also been toying with the idea of setting up something like Hacker News for thoughtful discourse on non-hacker topics (political philosophy, economics, law, etc). If people here are interested let me know, and maybe that'll be enough motivation for me to set it up.

December 1, 2009 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Devin

I have some minor quibbles here and there but the broad definitions seem okay. Thanks a lot for that.

I think we need to start accounting for the dimension of time here or the entire discussion turns to mush. Without time, every government decays into something worse and that leaves us nowhere.

Also, while we are adding definitions, I would like to introduce Michel's Iron Law of Oligarchy. Who here is familiar with it?

December 1, 2009 at 10:07 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Without restarting this defunct thread, because Devin took the effort to write up a summary I'll reply to it on two points:

(1) it's fine for a short summary, but you are encompassing a wide variety of radically different systems under the "separation of powers" rubric, especially political property rights, federalism, and separation of powers proper. Also, the role of division by subject matter and by stage of the legal process (executive vs. judicial vs. legislative functions), not just by territory, is crucial. The role of protocols whereby these entities interact is also crucial.

(2) Corporations aren't pure boss-employee hierarchies. They have organizational controls such as separation of duties and entities such as boards of directors, stockholders, and outside auditors. Here is described how corporate separation of duties and governmental separation of powers are similar principles.

December 2, 2009 at 2:06 AM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

TGGP> Yes I know the party survived until '91 and that many members of the old regime managed to stick around. But the people that were able to stick around (e.g. Yeltsin, Putin) often were able to do so because their power structures weren't based on party, but some other source (the Russian State and the KGB, now FSB respectively).

But you're missing the forest for the trees here. The university cannot be extracted from modern government because A) it isn't in the interest of the people in modern government (who all got to where they are through the university)and B) the people in modern government all believe in the universities. B is, of course, a self serving belief but that doesn't make the belief any less real. Believe me, I'd love to think its just as easy as cutting off the universities, but for us to get there so much else would have to change first that it isn't worth discussing. MM is right, the university is the modern church, most of the government will have to become heretics before the funding dies.

December 2, 2009 at 5:57 AM  
Blogger Deogolwulf said...

TGGP,

So, not a rebuttal, but an irrelevance. Why not properly address an argument for once? Why not give one of your own for your metaphysical assertions? You still have given no indication as to how your belief could be empirical-scientific, rather than “unspeakably” metaphysical, and you want to claim it to be empirical-scientific, don’t you?

“The screen displaying the proposition is made of quarks, your neurons entangled with the screen are made of quarks, as are my neurons which became entangled with the screen earlier.”

The screen displays material configurations designed to be signs by means of which propositions and other mental content can be communicated between minds. Objectively-intrinsically the screen displays no propositions. If we wished, we could agree to use two grapes, a spanner, and a blade of grass as signs or token-instances of the proposition that everything is reducible to quarks; but surely you don’t believe that, together or apart or in any configuration, such things could intrinsically mean or signify any such state of affairs, or could have propositional content, do you? Happily it seems not:

“to attribute intrinsic meaning strikes me as subjective.”

So, everything being reducible to quarks, which constitute the sole operative level of reality, with nothing entering at another level, it must be that quarks in a so-called subjective mode of existence could misattribute intrinisic meaning to quarks in a so-called objective mode of existence, despite having no intrinsic meaning by which to misattribute it, and despite there being in fact only one mode of existence, namely, mere mechanical-relational-meaningless quarkness. You’d better write it up and publish it. Some people might misattribute genius to it.

“I’m predestined to.”

Bad luck, old chap. Still, I suppose it must have its comforts: you can blame everything on quarks, including your beliefs thereon, thus evading personal responsibility for any errors. Anyway, since all this is off-topic, and is likely to be boring and pointless to you, me, and everyone else, I’ll shut up.

December 2, 2009 at 6:11 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

I hate to interrupt the dismantling of TGGP's logical positivism, but there is something interesting in this, even if only in the base, populist, sensationalist way...

December 2, 2009 at 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, while we are adding definitions, I would like to introduce Michel's Iron Law of Oligarchy. Who here is familiar with it?

Your mom is plenty familiar with it.

Because she loves getting her ass reamed by iron hard cock. Oligarchically - that is, gang-raped in her rectum by a bunch of rich, powerful dudes.

December 2, 2009 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Sweet! 4chan has finally discovered UR!

December 2, 2009 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

A missed perspective.

There's nothing in principle to stop the sovereign of your wallet being different than the sovereign of your computer. The military must support both - but that seems no difficult trick.

However, with respect to your wallet, sovereignty is indeed boolean. There is one person somewhere for whom the disposition of your wallet cannot, in practise, be disputed.

Unless there's a war on, of course. But the thing with wars is that they end, and have victors, sooner or later.


I could also put it this way: in any peaceful territory, there is always and only one sovereign, which is the military, which always delegates its authority, for the simple reason that a body of men with guns cannot lead themselves.

There appear to be no practical limits on the delegation arrangement, except the iron rule that you choose actions, not consequences.


The simple dichotomy power separation/coherent hierarchy may lump a great deal into the former category, but that is what's at issue in this particular forum: the qualitative difference between those two categories.

I'm amused that, basically, if I come down in the former category, I'm essentially going to be anarcho-capitalist. My separation of powers: separate security and banking. Have fun paying your soldiers if you try to screw your subscribers.

If I come down in the latter, then it's dictator party time, seeing as the differences between stable alternatives boil down to window dressing.

December 2, 2009 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Alrenous

Have fun paying your soldiers if you try to screw your subscribers.

Presumably, part of screwing the subscribers is pointing a gun at their head and (metaphorically) grabbing all their cash. I do not anticipate wages to be a large problem. As Machiavelli said in The Prince, force with no money is an opportunity. Money with no force is a big fat target (I am paraphrasing of course). A far greater danger with "screwing over the subscriber" is likely to be that said subscribers are left with no more money to extract. However, we have a century of economic science to help us prevent that. Whenever the tactic of withdrawing funding actually works, one finds that it is usually because the supposed chief commander of the military really wasn't. Ex: suppose the US prez. (future prez., Obama doesn't have the balls for this) decided to take over as king and congress cut his funding as retaliation. Then would the critical question be whether the army currently has enough funds to secure the country or whether the army is sufficiently loyal to the president to follow his command? Clearly the latter. The funding issue is easily cleared by a nice march through DC and perhaps a few well placed bullets. These actions are easily carried out given a loyal army.

I am a bit confused by your phrasing: what does "if I come down in the ... category" mean? I have interpreted it to mean "what do I favor most?"

In this case, your dichotomy is indeed appropriate and the further structure it offers much appreciated.

December 2, 2009 at 11:11 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

if the military is sovereign why aren't the separated powers competing for favors with promises of raises/less campaigning a la the roman emperors?

December 3, 2009 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

candidates for emperor-ship I should have said.

December 3, 2009 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

nazgulnarsil,

The army was told not to take such offers, and they agreed. This was probably not explicit.

The soldiers and commanders would feel wrong deciding who the next prez is gonna be, so they don't consider it, though I'm sure they know they could install a junta in a week if they felt like it.

This may change if Washington keeps insisting on pissing away their loyalty in places like Iraq. This would result in a tinderbox situation, where the spark would be a suitable leader.


newt,

Not my dichotomy, Finbarr's.

As to my phrasing, I basically imagine myself as up in the air - like 'the issue is up in the air.' Eventually, I'll come down, landing in one camp or another.

Also similar to 'the judgment came down in favour of...'

"whether the army is sufficiently loyal to the president to follow his command?"

Violates my assumption that sovereignty can be bifurcated. If indeed such a situation is the only possible situation, I'd come down in the other category.

I should detail this more. Separating security and banking requires at least two security forces, preferably three. With three, seizing the bank you secure will piss off two parties - the owner of the stolen assets, and the force that has assets secured by the wronged party, who suddenly can't be too sure about the provision of security. In addition, your own assets get frozen. This will basically never be a profitable move.

This is only possible by bifurcating sovereignty between the guns and the pens. If sovereignty is not splittable, attempting this will more or less immediately lead to war, and you'd find out whether, in the modern age, muscle or money is the true power.

(Since mercenaries generally suck so much, it's probably muscle...but not necessarily.)

December 3, 2009 at 11:39 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Here is PeeCee Myers take on climategate:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/febrile_nitwits_and_the_hacked.php#comments

It appears that the Leftists there are denying that there is a difference between the permanent bureaucracy and the elected officials and officials appointed by the elected officials. They are either being disengenuous, and/or they're just naive college brats.

December 6, 2009 at 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Online Retirement Gift Ideas said...

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December 11, 2009 at 11:30 PM  

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