Thursday, November 12, 2009 91 Comments

The Dire Problem and the Virtual Option

To think about government in the democratic tense is to think (and talk - and write) in terms of policies. Most people do not know any other way. The democratic thinker, prudent or foolish, cretin or physicist, thinks: if I were king, what would I do about X or Y or Z? Health care or Afghanistan or banking? The precondition is always omitted, and always implied.

Since not only is the thinker not king, not only are there are no more kings in the world, but the thinker believes there never will and never should be any, any such thought is so impotent as to insult sobriety. One might as well ask: if I were God, what would I do about mosquitoes?

Normally, nothing but a tab of Owsley's plus a hefty Bolivian chaser could bring a conceit so vain and fantastic to the sustained attention of the neurologically uncompromised brain. Dear reader, if you doubt, I commend you to Steve Randy Waldman's brush with power. It is said that Tim Geithner stopped by. The wise man is the man who knows the brush for what it is - not taking it for actual contact. Yet the thinker, if not perhaps so wise as Steve Randy Waldman, is a normal man. He has not taken any heavy drugs. He has not sustained any head injuries. Or so he assumes...

Not only is our philosopher restricted to voting Democrat or Republican, even Democrats and Republicans are quite restricted in the range of legitimate policies they may in practice pursue. Thus the political mind is doubly vacant - tohu vabohu. No wonder today's American, whose great-great-grandfathers paraded by torch, formed secret societies, cast eagled generals in bronze, could give a crap. He is politically apathetic, because he is subconsciously wise. Reality impinges upon his motivation at a direct level.

This generalization, of course, applies only to the audience. Ie: punters, marks or turkeys. The Washington of 2009 is first and foremost a show - and no small production. The gaffer does not fall in love with the leading lady or weep at the fate of the tragic hero. The entire cast and crew believe they are making a great movie, a movie that matters, a movie that is real. They care. But they care differently. The experience of the audience is not the experience of the production.

When people who are actually influential in formulating the policies which the Beltway makes, ie have actual power as opposed to Walter Mitty power, think, what they do is to invent facts. Or at least collect them. The result, in any case, is in every case some form of science. That this result is custom-made to imply, or even better assume, policy X or Y or Z, and made so well a monkey too blind to find a banana in its hand could see it, is seldom remarked upon by the participants.

Here at UR, we define political perspective as historical narrative. Your political position is a function of your interpretation of the past, up to and including now. If you read history the Republican way, you are a Republican. If you read history the Democratic way, you are a Democrat. If you read history the Jacobite way, you are a Jacobite. The facts may vary, slightly, but facts are the least of history's art.

The Jacobite history of 2009, unlike the other two, is not found at your local library. One would need to be a full-beer Jacobite, finely preserved and not in any way tin-plated, to write it. Or at least, be able to fake it. A tough ho to row, but here at UR we persevere. While Jacobite may not quite be an exact description - I am actually quite weak on the 17th and 18th centuries - this blog is certainly very far to the right. Today, perhaps we'll see how far.

For another post I'm working on, I felt compelled to name historical figures who could serve as endpoints on a spectrum of absolute left and right. I came up with Prince Kropotkin and Cato the Younger. Some people talk about Attila the Hun. But frankly, Attila was a leftist. Nigga say he to the right of Marcus Porcius Cato, that nigga mean business.

For me, the left-right spectrum is defined by the two forms of political power: influence and command, persuasion and compulsion. If A is exercising power over B, A's decisions determine B's actions. This is either because A has persuaded B to do what A wants, or because A has compelled B to do it. Either way, A is the big boss in charge. His testicles swell.

An organization is perfectly Left if it operates entirely on the principle of persuasion - that is, cooperation by consensus, without any hierarchy, interest or position. Of course, no nontrivial organization can operate entirely on this basis, so nontrivial organization can be perfectly leftist - let alone a sovereign state, which must defend itself by definition. Officerless armies have also been tried once or twice, generally without great success.

An organization is perfectly Right if it operates entirely on the principle of compulsion, without ambiguity, informality or conflicts of interest. My ideal state - the joint-stock republic, controlled equitably by its beneficiary shareholders, and secured by end-to-end cryptographic command - is perfectly Right, because its decision structure is entirely compulsory.

Unlike any mere paper standard, the neocameralist JSR is self-enforcing and physically secure. No one need be persuaded to follow its rules, ever. The design is internally stable - it stands up of its own accord, as any sovereign decision structure should. Unlike classical republican forms, it has no tendency to decay into democracy, and it lacks any inherent internal conflicts of interest. It may not last forever, but it is designed to last forever.

(So, yes: I to the right of Cato. Yo bitches can fear me. I like the Ass Meat Research Group.)

Notice, for instance, that under a purely compulsory sovereign, there is no need for propaganda. The joint-stock republic has no reason to concern itself with the political opinions of its residents - because no coalition of its subjects has the practical power to threaten its security. Thus it may treat them as what they are: its customers. Hopefully a somewhat warmer bond, making the political question moot. How hard is it, really, to keep the shoppers from looting the Wal-Mart?

This sudden evaporation of all zombie memes and public lies, of entire doctrines heretofore appearing remarkably pink-cheeked but animated only by the arteries of power, is just one of the many delightful surprises that the return of absolute sovereignty, however long it takes, will spring upon the world. What's funny is that the ordinary educated American, a devoted reader of the New York Times, considers political and politicized some of his most foul terms of abuse. Once the democracy show is finally canceled, he will see just how right he was.

Such a blessed miracle can only come to pass, however, if its evangelists are as clear about its problems as its advantages. If not clearer.

Thus, I want to break the rule I started with, and talk policy. There is one problem facing humanity that must be solved by any design for a USG 5 - not just mine. A good way to demonstrate the superiority of my design is to show how it states and addresses this problem. If the problem engages you, translate it into your world and solve it there.

The Dire Problem is so dire that I cannot just tell you what it is. Dear reader, I fear your head still remains partially attached to the real world. In the real world, the Dire Problem cannot be solved; thus, it cannot be contemplated. Only in my fantasy world can it be solved. Therefore, not to solve it but to contemplate it, we must descend deeper into the fantasy. Details!

Whatever title he assumes, the CEO of a joint-stock republic holds one position, famous across history, found in every country: that is king. Our king should probably have prior experience as a mere corporate CEO, which is why I take the statistical liberty of assuming his testicles.

A king is a king because his job is the job of kingship. The selection process is immaterial. A king may inherit the job, he may be elected, he may be selected. Moreover, while any true king is absolute in authority, no king can be irresponsible - that would make him dictator, not king.

Every king is responsible to some persistent, ie eternal, institution. Ideally, that institution has the power to switch kings, and no other direct authority. A hereditary king is responsible to the royal family. An elected king is responsible to those who elected him. Etc.

The standard American corporate architecture, in which the CEO is responsible to a board of directors, elected by the shareholders, works reasonably well - at least in theory. However, if elections seem repugnant or dangerous due to their unfortunate democratic associations, there is an aristocratic solution which avoids elections and should produce a body of equal or greater responsibility.

Simply appoint the 50 or 60 largest shareholders as a senate. Senators vote by weight of shares. The size of any such assembly should be under the Dunbar number. Shareholders whose holding is under this bar may (or may not) select any senator as their proxy, adding their weight to his. Thus, all shareholders are represented equally in a body of manageable size. The senate can even be reduced to board size, for minimum overhead.

The senatorial design is superior to the representative design, because it places no professional intermediaries between the owners and the management. Rather, the latter are directly responsible to the former. While a layer of delegation can work quite well, all sorts of cruft can also creep into it.

However the responsibility structure is designed, it is absolutely essential that no significant conflicts of interest exist within it. Shareholders, for instance, share the interests of their property by definition. A royal family is a family business. Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator.

Large shareholders will often have conflicts of interest with the sovereigns they own, due to the sheer financial size and variety of business interests they may hold. There is no solution to this problem but a careful initial distribution of the shares, and a command structure that allows the Senate to block the votes of shares whose holders are conflicted. Ideally, the shares are widely enough spread that these conflicts disappear in the noise. Position limits are an excellent idea. Ideally, large positions become concentrated among ultra-wealthy families, whose members can serve as a durable senatorial aristocracy.

Other well-structured sovereign corporations are often good shareholders, especially among a family of states created through the same process. For example, an easy way to break up USG is to convert it to a keiretsu of cross-held sovereign states, whose shares of each state are initially held by the other 49. This ensures that responsible management, if initially selected, will remain quite responsible. These shares can then be distributed carefully and broadly across a global financial market, shifting responsibility to a broad cross-section of human prudence.

This corporate banality is sound. But it is not glorious. If the job of the sovereign CEO is the position of king, why not assume that position's ancient and honorable styles and ornaments? We could start with the name, and the majuscule: King. These alone may seem ridiculous at first, but the reality of power will infuse them - as it always has. Similarly, if our board of directors is a senate, let it be a Senate! The term, after all, is far older than Washington.

Armed with these dignities, we must pick a state. I pick my own: California. The question of policy is thus: as King of Royal California, absolute in authority but responsible to a Senate of major shareholders, what would I do about X or Y or Z? Note that by making the precondition of policy more fantastic, we have also made it more concrete.

What will the return of royal government mean for California? A recent network TV series, Kings, made a stab at imagining a modern monarchy. Mrs. Moldbug and I rented the pilot. It was not good. I constantly felt the desire to enter the screen, seize the camera, and redirect it from the royal family to the royal administration. Alas.

After so many years of grim, mindless democracy, the return of true kingship can mean only one thing for Anglo-American civilization, in California or anywhere else: a glorious rebirth. It is a permanent occasion for public glory. Its date will be celebrated for the next century. Life before the Restoration will seem inconceivably ugly, boring, weird and dangerous, like life under Communism. (And the fall of Communism will seem the first step in the fall of democracy.)

In the first few months of royal administration, both the King's subjects and his real estate learn what it feels like to be treated as what they are - assets. These assets, like German machine tools operated without lubricant in Magnitogorsk, are in an extremely deteriorated condition. This neglect of capital is of course visible in the massive financial delinquency of the democratic era.

After six months of the King's peace, it is safe for any Californian to walk anywhere in any Californian city, at any time of day or night. Every human in the state is legal and identified. The trade balance is neutralized, creating new industries sufficient to employ all Californians. All post-1950 architecture is classified for demolition and replacement. Young Californians in all grades are tackling their new classical curriculum. And so on. Life has become better, comrades! Life has become more joyful.

This is the frame of mind in which Royal California sets out to solve the Dire Problem. Next to this problem, all the king's other problems are straightforward and unworthy of notice. They were only phantoms of democracy. Government, in reality, is not hard at all. All manner of seemingly intractable woes will dissolve before the King's golden and tireless energy. But the Dire Problem is different.

The Dire Problem is that, while all the land in California is of positive value (since, for all its faults, the environmental stewardship of the late USG 4 was excellent), the same cannot be said for its population. No king would allow his population quality to sink to such a state; no king has reigned in California for almost two centuries.

Many Californians - most Californians - are assets. That is: productive citizens, or children who will grow up and become productive citizens. Their place is the left side of the balance sheet. Their presence in California increases California's productive power, and thus its value as a financial asset.

As the King begins the transition from democracy, however, he sees at once that many Californians - certainly millions - are financial liabilities. These are unproductive citizens. Their place on the balance sheet is on the right. To put it crudely, a ten-cent bullet in the nape of each neck would send California's market capitalization soaring - often by a cool million per neck.

And we are just getting started. The ex-subject can then be dissected for his organs. Do you know what organs are worth? This is profit!

If we claim to derive the responsibility of government from mere financial prudence, we must explain why the business strategy of culling unwanted subjects for their organs is not viable. Most would not find this profitable strategy consistent with responsibility. Yet, since a sovereign is sovereign, no higher sovereign can exist to outlaw or preclude it. The design must solve this problem on its own.

The simplest, broadest, and most essential prevention against this degenerate result is the observation that the royal government is a government of law, and a government of law does not commit mass murder. For instance, no such government could take office without promising to preserve and defend its new subjects, certainly precluding any such genocide.

A sovereign that breaks its promises, especially in such a ghoulish way, is a sovereign that its subjects cannot trust. This in turn is a much less valuable sovereign. Who wants to stay in the Hotel California? The whole idea of the King's peace is that you can take a shower without worrying about Norman Bates. Property values just went through the floor, and what is a country but its property?

More specifically, these human liabilities are indeed just that - liabilities. The royal government cannot possibly take office without assuming the financial liability to keep these unfortunates alive and in a condition of human dignity. This will appear on the right side of Royal California's balance sheet, just like its bond coupons. Moreover, the right to be kept alive, etc, at California's expense, appears on the left side of a human liability's balance sheet. Just like his IRA.

Thus, despite its inherently mercenary form as a reactionary corporate monarchy, an omnipotent uber-state whose soul is a little dried-up pea, Royal California will not actually be executing hapless peasants for their organs. This is nice to know.

But do we really know it? The explanation that Royal California will not harvest the poor for their organs, because it will have promised not to harvest the poor for their organs, and its most valuable asset is its reputation, while certainly accurate, is too narrow for me. Having established this legalistic defense, let us reinforce it with further realities.

More broadly, Royal California will in all cases treat her subjects as human beings. The maintenance of equity, as well as law, is crucial to her reputation. Thus, the Genickschuss is out, with or without the organ harvesting.

Carlylean to its core, the ideology of Royal California is that the King is God's proxy on earth; whatever God would have him do, that is justice; the King, having done his best to divine God's will, shall see it done. Or else he is no king, but a piece of cardboard, a "Canadian lumber-log." Clearly, God is not in favor of harvesting the poor for their organs. You're probably thinking of Huitzilopochtli. So this is another safeguard.

This still does not satisfy me, however. The Dire Problem is a Dire Problem. It is not to be dismissed so lightly. Let us turn, and face it more broadly. Again, it faces not only Royal California, but every California.

Stated most boldly, the Dire Problem is that there is a line of productive competence beneath which a human being is a liability, not an asset, to the society including him. This calculation is made in terms of the marginal human - does California gain or lose by adding one person just like this person? For millions, the answer is surely the latter.

Worse, with the steady advance of technology, this line rises. That is: the demand for low-skilled human labor shrinks. Abstract economics provides no guarantee whatsoever that the marginal able-bodied man with an IQ of 80 can feed himself by his own labors. If you doubt this line, simply lower it until you doubt it no more. At least logically, there is a biological continuum between humans and chimpanzees, and the latter are surely liabilities.

Why does this matter? It matters because either (a) a man can feed himself, or (b) he dies horribly of starvation, or (c) someone else feeds him. If (a), he is an asset. If (c), he is a liability - to someone. If (b), he makes a horrible mess and fuss while dying, and is thus in that sense a liability. Moreover, the presence of the poor becomes extremely unpleasant well before the starvation point.

It is useless to say that there are no human liabilities. Royal California was born to do God's work in California. If your God is into fibbing or averting his eyes, he is some other deity. Our fellow sees only the truth, and speaks it. Come on, man! Let the glory and horror of the world unfold itself before your eyes. There are human assets, and human liabilities. Calling the latter the former is a terrible error, a blasphemy. God can wish a thing and make it so, but not you.

Think of the glories of emptiness and solitude. You, yourself, have gone into the wild to find them. Everyone reads Thoreau in high school. Not everyone reads Robinson Jeffers, but they probably should. Any subscriber to Outside magazine can relate trivially to Jeffers' Inhumanism. Are not all humans, of themselves, born revolting, filthy apes - on the right side of the ledger? Must not they struggle to even break even, and contribute to civilization?

Let those of us born with golden brains, therefore - the tiny top sliver that Ralph Adams Cram called human, as opposed to anthropoid - inherit the earth, through the talent that was born in our hands and minds. As for the anthropoids? Their hearts will always beat in our chests. Their brains can be frozen, and perhaps scanned someday when we have the technology.

Imagine the garden that a population of ten or twenty million - all the most human of humanity - could make of the earth. Would they miss the six billion? Not a chance. Would the planet seem empty and boring without the favelas of Rio, the projects of Baltimore, the huge human warrens of Lagos? Not a chance. Nor, if your taste runs to Gaia, would the Earth. And if the few can figure out how to preserve the organs of the many, this new nobility can live for millennia!

Anyway. I am not actually making this Swiftian proposal. On the contrary! As I've said, I oppose it. Nonetheless, it is important to present it, because the attraction is real. At least to some of us. Besides, what else are you going to do with the huge human warrens of Lagos? Lagos is not in California, at least not yet. But the latter is hardly without its pits.

We now face the Dire Problem squarely. The King has two constraints.

First, his solution must be consistent with human dignity. For his model of dignity in charity, he chooses the system of Maimonides. (Note that USG 4's system of taxpayer charity, the "welfare state," is all the way down at a Maimonides 8, since donors are unwilling. As for the effects, the sage is entirely validated.)

Second, once the first constraint is solved, the solution's effect on free citizens must be as close as possible to the effect of our organ-harvesting proposal. In other words, any solution to the Dire Problem can be defined as a humane alternative to genocide.

Such a humane alternative will not cost ten cents a head. It will not yield valuable organs. It will produce a society consisting entirely of productive citizens and their dependents, which takes Robert Putnam's research to its opposite endpoint. Those who have experienced no such society are mistaken to scoff at it; had they ever tasted any such community, they would never give it up. The King who brings it will silence catcalls and make believers.

Let's approach this problem of human dependency in more detail. What does the King do with his mindless, menacing, misbegotten masses?

First, the King's law is that either a human being is a free, taxpaying yeoman, or a ward. A ward is any dependent - anyone not responsible to provide for his or her support. The general principle of wardship is that every ward must have a patron, who is responsible for supporting the ward, authorized to direct and discipline the ward, and liable for the ward's offenses. This is not my idea - it is straight out of Roman law.

The trivial and common example of the patron-ward relationship is the relationship between parents and children, or children and their superannuated parents. Familial dependents are simply none of the King's business; his law upholds, rather than challenging, these structures.

We turn, therefore, to wards of the State. These come in three classes: (a) criminal, (b) indigent, and (c) mentally incompetent. (a) and (c) are always with us; the heart of the Dire Problem is (b), because there is no realistic constraint on the size of (b). Indeed, as we approach the Singularity, (b) tends to include everyone - golden brains or not. That is, as machine intelligence increases, economic demand for human intelligence at every level goes to zero. Oops!

As we'll see, the solution for (b) may help us with both (c) and (a). (c) is immemorial - I have little to say on the question. As for (a), crime does not much trouble the King - not with his aggressive use of modern forensic and security technologies.

Widespread crime is an epiphenomenon of democracy. In Royal California, you are much more likely to be attacked by a wild animal than a feral human, and there are none of either in the cities. Dangerous bipeds are simply not in circulation. So long as your children are old enough to understand traffic safety, they can wander up and down Market Street all night if you care to let them.

The standard of public safety is independent of the threat. Whether your rights are violated by an agent of the King or an independent criminal, you experience the same violation. The democratic failure to eradicate crime is thus best defined as a form of state terror, with the same unlovely motivations always found in a government which torments its subjects. (Crime in Britain, for instance, increased by two orders of magnitude in the last century, as that country terminated its ancient aristocracy and entered its present democratic tailspin.)

The Victorian ability to nearly eradicate serious crime, even with Victorian forensic technology, is a testament to that age's genius for the rule of men. Most of today's criminals are not psychopaths, biologically defective goods; they are, or at least conceive of themselves, as free warriors against civilized society. A government which can not only detain these warriors, but conquer and defeat them, breaking their martial spirit, can resocialize them.

This was once routinely done in American prisons, or any prison for that matter. For example, in the French Catholic novelist Paul Bourget's 1893 tour d'Amérique, Outre-mer, he visits The Tombs in New York:
We had not been ten minutes in it when we began to see convicts laboring in some earthworks But for their uniforms of white, with broad dark stripes, we might have taken them for workingmen at their ordinary task. Absorption in work is so essential a characteristic of American life that these convicts seemed not different from free workmen. Their countenances were not more sad than those of engineers on their locomotives or smelters in their foundry.
[...]
The workshops were, therefore, filled with workmen who do excellent work at a low cost. In pavilions surrounding the central building, there was a forge and a cabinet shop, a shoe factory and a locksmithy, and so on through the whole range of trades. We saw rows of tailors, painters, bookbinders, clockmakers, peacefully at work.
How were criminals reduced to these peaceful trades? They were broken - forced to work, or be beaten and starve. They were ruled. The King is not afraid to rule.

We move on to the genuinely hard problem - (b). Here we are dealing with human beings who have done nothing wrong, and have therefore nothing to be punished for. They simply happen to lack the ability to provide for themselves on the free market.

First, the King has no compunction whatsoever in creating economic distortions that produce employment for low-skilled humans. A good example of such a distortion in the modern world are laws prohibiting self-service gas stations, as in New Jersey or Oregon. These distortions have gotten a bad name among today's thinkers, because makework is typically the symptom of some corrupt political combination. As the King's will, it will have a different flavor.

As both a good Carlylean and a good Misesian, the King condemns economism - the theory that any economic indicator can measure human happiness. His goal is a fulfilled and dignified society, not maximum production of widgets. Is it better that teenagers get work experience during the summer, or that gas costs five cents a gallon less? The question is not a function of any mathematical formula. It is a question of judgment and taste. All that free-market economics will tell you is that, if you prohibit self service, there will be more jobs for gas-station attendants, and gas will cost more. It cannot tell you whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

There may be no jobs for men with an IQ of 80 in Royal California - at least, not in a Royal California whose roads are paved by asphalt rollers. But suppose its roads are paved in brick? A man with an IQ of 80 can lay brick, do it well, and obtain dignity from the task. Nothing whatsoever prevents the King from distorting markets to create demand for the supply he has.

The anthropoid remains a liability. The full-service gas tax is a tax. The man with the 130 IQ will not obtain his neighbor's liver, and will still have to support him. But, the dependency being sufficiently indirect, he supports a free and dignified man - a yeoman, in fact, if a dull one. Work is not so ennobling that it can convert a low-browed cretin into the Marquis de Lafayette, but it can convert him into a man decent enough to walk the King's streets.

Or not. The low-browed man of 70 (and remember - for every 130, there is a 70) may still require special supervision. Besides a job, he needs a patron. Productivity he has, but direction and discipline he still requires. His patron may be a charity, or a profitable corporation, or even - gasp - an individual.

In the last case, of course, we have reinvented slavery. Gasp! Since the bond of natural familial kindness is not present in the case of an unrelated ward, the King keeps a close watch on this relationship to protect human dignity. Nonetheless, his wards are farmed out - it is always better to be a private ward than the ward of the State. Bureaucratic slavery is slavery at its worst. Adult foster care, as perhaps we will call it, is a far more human and dignified relationship.

The combination of calculated market distortion and private patronage, therefore, is the King's primary approach to the Dire Problem. By carefully chosen technical restrictions and the like, he can sculpt a labor demand which roughly approximates the actual labor supply. By finding patrons for those not responsible enough to be responsible for themselves, he ensures that these individuals have direction as well as productive value.

Financially, this is quite inferior to sculpting a labor demand through organ harvesting. But if organ harvesting is out of the question, technology restriction is the first and best solution for the problem of mass indigence. It is certainly far superior to the Virtual Option, both financially and humanely.

The Virtual Option! For the first time, whispers of this scheme pass our lips. What is it?

To enter the frame of mind that allows us to conceive the Virtual Option, let us leave California, and return to the vast slums of Lagos, or any other Third World city. Anyone who saw District 9 will be familiar with the concept. That was not a set. Now, imagine yourself in a helicopter, day after day, touring these fermenting pits of rancid humanity, around the world - from Lagos to Rio, from Rio to Manila, from Manila to Soweto. Foul bile rises in your gorge. What king could employ these masses? What highways will they brick? What masters would have them, even as slaves? The horror, the horror...

No! God will not allow these foul armies to fester as ulcers on the earth. As is plain by smell, from birth he cursed these cities and their shambling bipeds. God's California was not made for such creatures. It is true that there are no favelas in California - now. There are also quite a few people in California who believe that no person is illegal. And more every day. Someday, in the lives of those now living, the borders will open. Lagos will come to California. And then we'll really need a King. Harvest the organs! But no, God will not let us do that either. Bummer.

The King must scrape these orcs from the earth. Knowing God's will, he knows that God wishes them vanished, dissipated, vaporized, gone. Their former middens, scoured and made state parks, clean and fresh with trees and grass. Their disappearance, celebrated by state holiday. On the other hand, he insists that they retain human dignity - preferably, indeed, augment it. How do you execute people while maintaining their dignity? I'm afraid you don't.

Thus the Virtual Option - our humane alternative to genocide. Under the Virtual Option, the King does not round up the slum dwellers and execute them with captive-bolt pistols. The King condemns the slum, clears it, and requires all its former residents to obtain civilized housing. If a human being cannot support himself in a civilized manner in the King's economy, which has been carefully tweaked to match labor demand to labor supply, the King does not provide a "safety net" in the 20th-century style, in which he may lounge, sag, bob and fester forever. No - then, it is time for the Virtual Option.

If you accept the Virtual Option - always a voluntary decision, even if you have no other viable options - California will house, feed and care for you indefinitely. It will also provide you with a rich, fulfilling life offering every opportunity to obtain dignity, respect and even social status. However, this life will be a virtual life. In your real life, your freedom will be extremely restricted: to the point of imprisonment. You may even be sealed in a pod.

The result is that the ward (a) disappears from society, and (b) retains or (hopefully) increases his level of dignity and fulfillment. He remains a financial liability, because it is still necessary to prepare his meals and maintain his pod. But other residents of California no longer feel menaced by his presence. For he is no longer present among them.

To make the Virtual Option work, of course, a virtual life must provide real human dignity. This technology is not at present available, or anywhere close. Let us inquire into the matter.

First, consider two existing virtual-world games: Second Life and World of Warcrack. Excuse me - Warcraft. I have barely touched a computer game in the last 10 years, and even when I was in college, which was a dreadfully long time ago, I preferred single-player games. However, even I am aware that Second Life is boring and full of losers and perverts, whereas WoW is furiously addictive even to many people with an actual first life.

Why? Because the designers of Second Life, being good San Francisco progressives, forgot something very important in their virtual world. They forgot that life needs purpose. In Second Life, your character just wanders around chatting, displaying sexual decorations and laughing stupidly at weird funny stuff. Not coincidentally, this is more or less the San Francisco 20-something bohemian idea of the good life.

In WoW, you are in a Dungeons & Dragons universe. You go on quests, get points, kill monsters and/or each other. Result: Linden makes layoffs, Blizzard makes bank. Blizzard's virtual world provides its characters with a built-in system of meaning, however crude. Linden's assumes that mere socialization is sufficient to satisfy the human drive for purpose.

All the virtual-world games in existence today are intended as just that: games. Or rather, toys. Many people with real lives invest a considerable amount of time in Warcrack, but most are embarrassed by it. A toy of this sort is simply not designed to absorb the entire life of a human being, granting it meaning and dignity even inside a sealed pod. Thus, it cannot even come close to making the Virtual Option a genuine option.

The technology, however, advances. Here at UR, we skate to where the puck will be - our dreams are dreamed for the future, not the present. Can we imagine a virtual world more compelling than reality? Easily. Every novelist does.

In the real world, meaning and purpose are hard to find. In the virtual world, they are trivial to invent. Go slay an dragon, or illuminate a manuscript, or accumulate a golden hoard. The dragon is a data structure, the manuscript could be illuminated in PDF, the golden hoard is a mere integer. All this meaning is makework - invention. Its real meaning: nil. So what? It feels real, and this is sufficient for dignity.

The pod, of course, will need an all-around sensory upgrade. Immersive audio and video are requirements. Haptic interfaces are essential for high-dexterity work with tools, instruments and weapons. Mechanical sexual stimulation is a no-brainer. And why not drugs? The virtualized ward is hardly about to go out and drive while intoxicated. The Dionysian experience, too, is a part of human dignity.

But life is not just about pleasure. It is about hard work and struggle and pain. A pair of pedals hooked up to a generator provides hard work - if your virtual job is pulling a rickshaw, you have to pull that rickshaw; if you are running from a dragon, you need to run. Harmless but intense artificial pain is easily produced. And most daring, is true death possible in virtual reality? For those with the need to risk their lives - bravery, too, is essentially human - a small needle will relieve them of the burden if they gamble and fail.

The mere existence of a population locked in to the virtual world, whether by direct compulsion or practical necessity, makes the game into reality. Reality is anything you can't leave. The feeling of intensity, in such a game, will be beyond anything World of Warcraft can imagine. Indeed, the free yeoman may well pay liberally to vacation in this world, a Middle-Earth with real orcs.

And the real world, outside it, is unencumbered by the semi-human detritus of the insane democratic experiment with massive dysgenic reproduction. Instead, the lush and varied Monegasque landscape of Royal California, populated entirely by civilized and productive human beings, will be punctuated by occasional strange towers: pod racks. Even these can be in the desert, where no one but the lizards will have to look at them.

This is the Virtual Option: the translation of the underclass to cyberspace. All around the world, anywhere there is a slum with an XBox in it, the Virtual Option is taking shape. King or no King, soon it will be real. Men will say: now, we can see the Dire Problem, and our hearts remain at rest. For we have seen the worst-case scenario, and we are prepared to apply it. Pod racks! The ultimate reactionary answer to the entire social question.

Could we all end up in a videogame? Remember, as the power of the machines increases, the demand for human labor at every intellectual level decreases. If the last two brains on earth are mine and Terence Tao's, I know who's getting virtualized first. Of course, at this point we would be ceding mastery to some evil machine intelligence that wanted to rule the planet and dispatch its last human overseers. Finally, we have descended too far into fantasy - not that the problem is uninteresting, just underspecified.

But my conscience feels clear in proposing this solution, because I feel it would be entirely possible to build a virtual reality in which a person such as myself would maintain human dignity. After all, there's a reason I stopped playing videogames: I find them absorbing. Just about everyone does, crude and primitive as the games of 2009 (or, heck, 1989) are. And the smaller the mind, the more easily absorbed.

So the techno-dictators of the 21st century will have no difficulty whatsoever in capturing and absorbing the mindless mass. As usual, we see only one obstacle between us and this bright future: democracy. This is the true Dire Problem - not bad demographics alone, but the combination of bad demographics and bad politics. Fix the latter, and everything is possible.

91 Comments:

Anonymous pwyll said...

"Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator."
This sounds true, and if so is a *very* persuasive point. Anyone know of data to back it up?

November 12, 2009 at 5:59 PM  
Anonymous Divine Order said...

You - Argon Protopi, pie maker, class 2, orbital 5 - have been found guilty of failing to pay money owed to the temple. You are therefore sentenced to have your individual life terminated. However, His merciful Shadow will allow many of your vital organs to live on as components used in the making of robotic drones. Your useful flesh will be contributed to the protein bank where it will be recycled for purposes that serve His Shadow. In the execution of this sentence you are hereby cleansed of your crime against the people of the 20,000 Planets. May His Merciful Shadow fall upon you.

November 12, 2009 at 7:01 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

I'm finding the links readable today. I'm shocked and confused; is this really UR? (The lack is generally mine, although I feel no need to spackle my education here.)

I have been concussed once or twice. Apparently my compromised neurology is a weapon to be wielded or sheathed, as the moment suggests.

"For me, the left-right spectrum is defined by the two forms of political power: influence and command, persuasion and compulsion."

By this definition, my ideal organization is utterly top-down rightist but also utterly bottom-up leftist. I think the dude at the top should have more or less absolute power - because I don't see how they can be at the top otherwise. However, clearly the dude in charge should also be rational. As such, should the lowliest grunt manage to communicate a good argument, then they will be able to shape policy.

Overall, it seems formally defining what people refer to with the term 'leftist' or 'rightist' is even harder than defining philosophy.

"The size of any such assembly should be under the Dunbar number."

I recently discovered that despite chimps' larger brains, baboons hang out in larger troupes. (Hat tip.)

The Dunbar number is extrapolated from a graph of primate brain size (relative to overall size) to troupe size. With this large exception, it should be considered suspect in detail - although there clearly is such a number, we don't know exactly what it is.

"If you doubt this line, simply lower it until you doubt it no more."

If an adult can clothe themselves, find their way to the grocer, and stay out of trouble, I can profit by employing them.

(Note that getting into trouble is always more complex than doing nothing.)

If they cannot, then they are unavoidably and permanently dependant on others. They're essentially property - and their patron must be an asset, as they can afford the dependent.

If the kingdom isn't respecting property rights, we have deeper troubles, and if it is, there's no issue, at least none that other governments lack.

You're right about the technological tideline, though - once robots can replace all forms of unskilled human labour, then they go the way of the horse. Only, you can't just breed fewer stupids.

On the other hand, you find killing them repugnant. The king would find it repugnant. The senate would (mostly) find it repugnant. If we all just sit down and admit that this repugnance is more important than a few bucks here and there, there's no problem.

There's only a problem if the board elects a crazed CEO, which the design is supposed to minimize.

Moreover, that roboticized day is a long way off, and many unforeseeable changes will occur before then. It's hardly worth even considering it as of yet.

"That is, as machine intelligence increases, economic demand for human intelligence at every level goes to zero. Oops!"

I find the singularity preposterous in detail, though perhaps prescient in outline.

Nevertheless, if we don't screw up the AI, it won't want to kill anyone, and will instead give us stuff for free. The principle of economic scarcity will be almost totally abrogated.

This changes everything unforseeably (like above), rendering all analyses from this side moot.

"The question is not a function of any mathematical formula. It is a question of judgment and taste."

And the taste of murder is repugnant - problem solved.

"It cannot tell you whether this is a good thing or a bad thing."

It can, actually. Economic growth compounds. Deprive a few motorists of a few dollars today, and you destroy entire companies of 100 years hence.

November 12, 2009 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Blogger is clearly not built for deep thoughts. That 4k character limit is both toothless and annoying. (I'm getting nommed! Help!)

Not that I'm assuming I'm deep - but if someone was, their comments wouldn't fit either.

"not in a Royal California whose roads are paved by asphalt rollers. But suppose its roads are paved in brick?"

I said I can employ anyone who have the skills of clothing and feeding themselves.

As glut of unskilled labour drives labour prices down, the lack of gas station attendants and similar, plus tech progress, drive food costs down - the price of supporting oneself drops. If this works out properly, it may actually become cost effective to lay brick over laying asphalt - no distortion necessary.

This is just one possibility.

I wondered momentarily if the shrinking band of necessarily human labour compared to the growing population would almost certainly cause wages to drop faster than food prices.

Then I realized something. It turns out that in the dark ages, people could grow their own food. It doesn't require expensive technology. So mayhap in 60% of the year I'm employing these people to grow their own food, and only profit slightly - after they have laboured to support themselves directly.

Nevertheless, low profit is not no profit.

The problem is not really employing these people. Either it's profitable or else we all have robot butlers. The problem is not making this reality, or in finding a way to console the people in the huts.

__


There's actually an interesting paradox above. It may be due to my ignorance of economics.

I assume that labour prices, given all available labour, drop below that necessary to buy the food for the labourer. (Some will get jobs, as there will be some demand at the price of production...as it were. But, not all.)

However, now I'm having them grow their own food. Given my assumptions, this food must be more expensive than regular food - or I could just employ them as field hands in the first place. And yet, they must be self-sufficient. They're essentially buying their own food. That means their labour is worth more than their labour is.

Uhhh....what now?

November 12, 2009 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Colt said...

fyi. fyi South Africa sucks blog shutting down.

"The rise of the internet rates on par in our history with the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press. It broke the media choke-hold on our minds...

The closure of SA Sucks is not the end of the world - excellent websites and blogs already exist where you can continue to read uncensored, hard-hitting news, commentary and insights..."

http://www.zasucks.com/

November 12, 2009 at 8:13 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Trying again.

"...either (a) a man can feed himself, or (b) he dies horribly of starvation, or (c) someone else feeds him. If (a), he is an asset. If (c), he is a liability - to someone. If (b), he makes a horrible mess and fuss while dying, and is thus in that sense a liability. Moreover, the presence of the poor becomes extremely unpleasant well before the starvation point."

Welcome to the discovery of Vagrancy Costs, which are a variety of external costs with many often unanticipated ramifications (e.g., remember that many can and will feed themselves by preying on others if they have no better options, and that providing higher levels of policing also presents a spread cost just as providing the poor with benefits does). These are best addressed with Pigovian solutions (e.g. actual or virtual wage subsidy variants, Negative Income Tax or Basic Income systems) or Coasian solutions (e.g. slavery, which MM notes as a possibility but which just moves the problem within more but smaller groupings, or - preferable - some contemporary variant of Distributism). Some are faster acting, some are more self sustaining, and other issues may arise; it may well be practical to use more than one approach, providing a transition (I only intended my own virtual wage subsidy proposal for Australia, referred to above, as a beginning). Also, whether a society's trajectory would ever actually hit Malthusian constraints (of which we may consider "the singularity" a special case) or not, the closer you got to them the harder it would get to head off trouble - and trouble happens that way very early on, just as high tides with big waves can reach land that is on average above sea level more easily as the margin drops. "They simply happen to lack the ability to provide for themselves on the free market" is not an accurate description, as external costs make it not a free market; there is also a grey area, in that simply freeing up a market and ending distortions leaves in place resource distributions with continuing pricing-out effects on would be workers even in the long term - hence Distributism, aiming at enabling as many people as possible to fend for themselves.

MM's insights and proposals can be compared to these other insights and the criteria and issues they bring out.

"Everyone reads Thoreau in high school".

Rubbish. I didn't even go to one, but even the schools like that didn't do that in Britain.

Pwyll wrote '"Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator."
This sounds true, and if so is a *very* persuasive point. Anyone know of data to back it up?'

Arguably Harold Godwinson is a counter-example, as are the many kings who accelerated their kingdoms' decline by accepting bad bargains to get the throne (e.g. in Moorish Spain, the Byzantine Empire, those Celts who invited the Saxons into what became England, etc.). It's actually a common scenario, but the losers don't show up much in the pages of history for obvious reasons. But doing it for riches in other forms though... I can only think of cases further afield, like the Sultan who fell to the Mongols and was criticised by them for the unwisdom of keeping a full treasury instead of spending it on mercenaries to use against them. The criticism took the concrete form of melting some of his gold and pourng it down his throat.

Alrenous wrote "Economic growth compounds. Deprive a few motorists of a few dollars today, and you destroy entire companies of 100 years hence."

That happens not to be the case, over the sufficiently long term, because financial risk grows faster and eventually overwhelms it (unless the growth is negative, in which case there is no gain anyway).

November 12, 2009 at 8:40 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

De Tocqueville visited those model work-prisons, and found them remarkable also. But he was also careful to ask the wardens what happened to the inmates upon their release. They all returned to the old life.

Victorian England was not safe due to its model prisons, but because of John Wilberforce, and the horrible experiences that prepared Britian for his message.

This JSR Senate of yours will become as sclerotic as the House of Lords faster than Maddona affected an English accent. Not that is could be worse than where we are now.

November 12, 2009 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

I like Divine Order's post, because it is both entertaining and completely misses the point...

...this blog is theory-oriented. Our illustrious host hasn't even written a book yet (at least one under his pseudonym, of course).

About the UK crime stats, well, some could say that there are more and different crimes now and more ways to detect them. But, I think the price of beer over the same period, adjusted for inflation was more than enough to convince.

November 12, 2009 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

I like Alrenous' comment that human liabilities should be considered property. I propose that humane dictator setup a vagrancy standard. Ie. if you are found on the street for X nights in a row and you do not possess at least Y amount of proerty then you are a vagrant. Vagrants get auctioned to private holders (possibly moving into a negative auction). The terms of the auction can bind the buyers to preserve a minimal standard of "human decency" whatever that might be.

For me, the left-right spectrum is defined by the two forms of political power: influence and command, persuasion and compulsion.

May I suggest replacement of compulsion with authority? The difference is that authority implies no-conflict of interest (ie. no tragedy of the commons type scenarios) or at least a minimization. It still implies government by compulsion.

This sudden evaporation of all zombie memes and public lies, of entire doctrines heretofore appearing remarkably pink-cheeked but animated only by the arteries of power, is just one of the many delightful surprises that the return of absolute sovereignty, however long it takes, will spring upon the world.

Doubtful. Humans who believe nothing will believe anything. We might be able to get a significant reduction in the number of official lies and that would still be very nice.

Every king is responsible to some persistent, ie eternal, institution. Ideally, that institution has the power to switch kings, and no other direct authority. A hereditary king is responsible to the royal family. An elected king is responsible to those who elected him. Etc.

Your statements are contradictory (I think...). A king is sovereign. If he can be removed, he is not sovereign. If you mean CEO for king, then I don't buy your claim because the group we should really be considering for responsibility are the sovereign shareholders or the royal family. Note that it is quite common for royal families to enrich themselves considerably from tax revenue. Not that this is not worth having a royal family -- just that responsibility does not apply that far.

Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator.

Correction. No king can be found who enriched his country so much that it was ruined. Its is an exercise in triviality to find kings who enriched themselves off their country but were smart enough not to ruin the country in the process. Need I bring up the example of the Palace of Versaille or the Sistine Chapel? However, it is much better to have those than medicare.

Your classification of the king as subservient to a higher institution just moves the problem up one level. I think your model would be better off without it.

Also, to keep sovereign shares below the Dunbar limit, just make them indivisible. That should help.

November 12, 2009 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@xlbrl

I agree with you. No government is eternal and MM's design is sorely lacking in consideration of what Pareto would call type a factors. Namely, wee need to make sure that our sovereign senate does not just commit suicide. History has seen countless absolute bodies rise up and then die. In the vast majority of the cases, the cause of death has been suicide. Suicide that could have been easily prevented by the judicious use a few cheap bullets and a brave heart.

MM, your crypto locks will be completely useless when (note -- when not if) your sovereign council decides to take a queue from Louis XVI* and tell their security forces not to open fire on a mass of charging rioters.

Your governments will be designed for a limited time frame as long as they are governed by humans. Frankly, I fear the day robot overlords take over us and finally give us the perfect government. That day marks the start of the permanent decline of human civilization. I would highly recommend reading Mind and Society by Pareto**.

* I think that Louis XVI and not the current crop of African dictators is the worst king in history. He squandered one of the greatest powers in Europe. Mugabe is still in the process of squandering his country and his country had a lot less to start out with. Clearly Mugabe is not as bad as Louis XVI (though certainly not for lack of trying).

** That is unless you have already read it. But then shame on you for not incorporating its insights into your own writing.

November 12, 2009 at 9:42 PM  
Blogger werouious said...

yeah i gotta agree, this was a lot more readable than some of your other stuff. and the links you provided were similarly readable.

November 12, 2009 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

newt0311, Bug did not state that his government could last forever, but rather that no government could. I just thought his government would not last nearly so long as long as he hoped.

The observation that no European king raped his countries assets as African dictators do routinely is actually very good. Louis 16 got himself chopped for not being the bastard 14 was, and trying to be a man of the people.

November 12, 2009 at 10:52 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

For xbrl, newt,

Million Dollar Murray needed someone to tell him what to do. He preferred someone tell him what to do. He was not, in fact, compatible with liberty.

The prisoners either were or had become similar, I'd guess. More research is needed.


As I said in a comment before, the person who owns the right of succession is the sovereign. Mencius's design is trying to make sure the sovereign always appoints a Prime Minister or Governor instead of attempting to govern themselves, as a PM or Governor can be selected arbitrarily for governing skill, while stockholders are primarily selected for wealth.

I don't know if it's feasible, but it seems like a decent goal to design for. If the design succeeds, there is no reason not to call the PM 'your majesty.'

__


P. M. Lawrence,

In short, I don't understand, please explain. It seems like there might be an argument back there somewhere.

November 12, 2009 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@xlbrl

MM did not state that his government would last forever but that it was designed to. To me, that implies that it was possible for MM's government to last forever given normal human conditions (or even slightly better than normal human conditions). However, unless the very nature of humans changes or there is a major external event (like aliens or a generation of supermen/robots), MM's government will be lucky to last more than a few millennia, i would say 3 at the most (going off the example of Egyptian pharaohs which was an absolute government and also lasted for about 3 millenia). This is a very long time and certainly very good. Indeed, in general, MM's design of government is quite good. However, compared to the standard of "forever", it is crap. Thus my objection.

The observation that no European king raped his countries assets as African dictators do routinely is actually very good. Louis 16 got himself chopped for not being the bastard 14 was, and trying to be a man of the people.

Yes. Most European monarchs did not rape their countries but I would argue that this was more due to higher IQs and certainty of continued command than any other inherent features like responsibility. Louis XVI (as compared to Bismark and Louis XIV) is the perfect example of what happens when a monarch gets too caught up in responsibility and other such sentimental bullshit. Look what happens with Louis XIV. He is obviously a devious and cunning man with few if any scruples*. He does whatever it takes to maintain his power. He breaks vows and promises on a frequent basis. He makes France one of the greatest countries in Europe and goes down in history as the Sun king. It just so happens that in this process, he enriches himself immensely, builds himself the ultimate ultra-high-luxury residence in the form of Versailles and runs a gammut of women. It seems to me that the only reason Louis XIV did not ruin France was because he was too smart to. He understood that the best way to analyze his wealth was as a percentage of French GDP and proceeded to maximize his wealth by maximizing French GDP. Responsibility had as much to do with it as responsibility has to do with why I don't take my laptop and throw it against a wall right now. Note that this is pretty much the same analysis as that presented by MM for the sovereign councils through the thousand year Fnagrl. Why he is unwilling to apply it to individual kings I am not sure. Compare this to Louis XVI. Here was a man with scruples. A man who felt responsibility (if not necessarily to the right group). He was the downfall of the French monarchy. He may not have caused the destruction that followed but he could have certainly prevented it. Hell, even doing nothing would have been better. Instead, this sorry excuse for a man could not even protect his own family.

We are left with two choices. Either we can put a ruthless, driven, selfish man on top with the right incentives or we can try to endanger responsibility towards the right group. History clearly favors the former. Why MM has now changed his choice to the latter, I do not know.

* Louis XIV was not completely without scruples. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes was clearly a boneheaded move and not in his best interests. Indeed, he regretted this move for most of his remaining life. The even still stands as a testament to Louis XIV's scruples.

November 12, 2009 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Alrenous

Mencius's design is trying to make sure the sovereign always appoints a Prime Minister or Governor instead of attempting to govern themselves, as a PM or Governor can be selected arbitrarily for governing skill, while stockholders are primarily selected for wealth.

It seems to me that choosing and then sticking to a governor is pretty much proof of governing skill.

November 12, 2009 at 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator.

There are many examples of European monarchs who ruined their own countries through ineptitude or sheer evil. I don't really care so much if the monarch is corrupt so long as he is competent and not-evil.

In practice, every single monarchy on Earth enriches itself at the expense of the people. Every single one of them is "corrupt" - but this doesn't always ruin the country.

November 12, 2009 at 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

newt0311 -

[MM] Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator.

[newt0311]Correction. No king can be found who enriched his country so much that it was ruined. Its is an exercise in triviality to find kings who enriched themselves off their country but were smart enough not to ruin the country in the process. Need I bring up the example of the Palace of Versaille or the Sistine Chapel? However, it is much better to have those than medicare.

Although it hurts the human spirit to admit it, everyone other than the sovereign is in the position of getting the most possible labor extracted from them, subject to their negotiating power.

The difference between the amount of taxes you pay in the United States and the Laffer maximum is a measure of exactly how much sovereign power any individual person possesses. Some people have high shares others small shares.

The difference is that under democracy the incentive for government is to make society worse off because problems cause the expansion of sovereign claims. Kings extract everything they can but need make no excuses for taking a share. They certainly don't do things like import people who are net drains on society specifically so those people will cause problems that will need to be solved by the king.

The issue I have with the MM paragraph quoted above is that it really only applies to Europeans. African dictators may be bad rulers but it may be that the best way to extract wealth from a low IQ population isn't by providing competent government but by short term plunder. If this is the case all of us should fervently hope that the Cathedral falls before it can change the nature of the population to the point where a rational sovereign will take a take a damn the future approach.

Hmm, seems that this is another reason why it is so important to note the high quality of colonial government in the third world in contrast to the present mess.

November 13, 2009 at 12:12 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Steve

African dictators may be bad rulers but it may be that the best way to extract wealth from a low IQ population isn't by providing competent government but by short term plunder.

In their circumstances, it probably is. Consider how they hold their power: black thugs toting AK-47s and necklaces made of spent ammo.

These are not the kind of people who will follow orders unless well bribed and brutally managed. This does two things:

1) It makes the sovereign's reign very unstable making futures discounting unimaginably high. Anything that will only happen after a year or so is completely irrelevant.

2) It means that efficient bribing systems (ie. inflated bureaucratic wages) will be impossible to provide because the actors aren't trustworthy (or competent) enough for these. Thus the sovereign has to rely on farmed out corruption to keep the troops in line.

Frankly, I am not even sure that the African dictators should be called sovereigns. Their rule amy be too unstable to qualify. However, those two factors I mentioned above probably go a long way to explaining why Africa gets screwed while Europe didn't.

November 13, 2009 at 12:20 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

The problem with all of this is that governments don't necessarily represent *all* of their subjects. Hitler promised to get rid of the Jews, and he kept his promise. No problem for ethnic Germans. Right now, in Dubai, they treat poor Indians and Pakistanis like slaves, but they treat western expats differently, and emiratis differently still. Neither of the latter two groups are concerned about the treatment of the former. The expats only started worrying when they saw their own kind thrown into debtors' prison. Different laws for different groups are nothing new.

The most obvious place that this could be applied today is Israel. Suppose Israel picked a neocameral government. Who picks it? The Jews. What do they care about the fate of the Palestinians? Are they going to panic if the government starts selling Palestinian parts? Why should they? Note that this is not intended to be Jew-bashing - the point is that they have no non-altruistic reason to care.

I would prefer to live in a neocameral society that takes care of its citizens to one that doesn't. I may be a net taxpayer now, but I could get a head injury or AIs could take my job, so it would be good to have insurance.

But a contract with me and a contract with J Random Junkie are completely independent. I'm not going to chose a patch based on its treatment of untermenschen. I'm going to choose the one that gives me the best deal. It's really no different than real life today. I'm going to have to pick a state to live in. I'm looking at weather, geography, cost of living, the job market, taxes, anything but how generous their welfare benefits are.

The stuff about God is embarrassingly silly. Appealing to a God you don't even believe is retarterd.

November 13, 2009 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@c23

I doubt a person so inept that they can't even afford to feed themselves could reliably pick a NC state. Even if they could, why would the NC state want them?

November 13, 2009 at 1:32 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Alrenous asks "In short, I don't understand, please explain. It seems like there might be an argument back there somewhere."

There is, but I was starting where MM left off without providing the background rather than overload people. In fact, I will have to split this reply.

Basically, as MM observed, it's quite possible for people not to be able to "command" wages that they can live off (well done! few people do observe it and are willing to face up to it). It depends on the level of population and distribution of resources, among other things. When it happens, as he also observed, it isn't just their problem. That makes it an external cost, Vagrancy Costs. His description brought that out, but not the fact that it can be a very serious cost because it forms a breeding ground for predatory behaviour, crimes of necessity as opposed to the kind we mostly have in developed countries now.

Historically, though, Vagrancy Costs came up a lot in other times and places. When they were finally recognised, that gave rise to such things as the Elizabethan Poor Laws (and their 19th century replacements) and Bismark's Social Security system, with unemployment benefits. These headed off the worst of the consequential damage, at the price of still making the remaining cost a spread cost. At the time, just about nobody knew about external costs or how supply and demand worked, so the focus was on supporting the poor if necessary but putting practically all the incentives and pressures to become self supporting on them, the suppliers rather than the demanders of labour. It was not widely recognised, or not faced up to, that previous social changes had deprived a large class of independent resources that they could apply their own labour to, so they could fend for themselves (though hints in Disraeli's Sybil led me via "potato grounds" to the British allotment movement intended to help the poor support themselves - nothing like the US allotment movement for Indians, though possibly inspiring it).

These changes were such things as the Enclosure of the Commons in England, the Highland Clearances in Scotland, and evictions in Ireland. With greater resources in the USA, such remedies were less necessary and the tradition of having them either regressed or never developed in the first place, and the USA has yet to learn the hard way as happened elsewhere; it still ties unemployment benefits to recent employment and wages, funds them from employees rather than those helped by not having the poor around, and resorts to policing rather than alleviation in the face of crimes of necessity.

Anyhow, it all works out as an external cost of the hire and fire decision, not just one that is between employer and employee. In Australia, this shows up as a drain on government revenue for each retrenchment, until someone else hires that person. In the USA it shows up as more diffuse costs of the sort Edmund Phelps considers in his work on wage subsidies. Regardless, in many economic conditions these external costs can show up - and that means sub-optimal employment levels. I listed some Pigovian and Coasian solutions, without covering their speed and funding. My proposal is the "best" in that regard, technically rather than ethically speaking (if there is a suitable tax base already in place - as there is here in Australia and Canada but not in the USA), and Distributism is the "best" long term as it is more self managing and ethical.

(Reply to Alrenous to be continued.)

November 13, 2009 at 2:28 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

(Reply to Alrenous continued.)

Naturally enough, past history can be a faulty guide on the "my cow died", "strange, she never did that before" principle. These things only show up in certain ranges of (lack of) general resource availability - which relates to ownership institutions and distribution, total resource levels, and unowned resources that are not over-exploited. My studies suggest three main phases, which have various lags going on:-

- Many private resources, low employment, low unemployment, high cash wages (to get anybody to work for cash at all), and much self-support.

- Some private resources, high employment, low unemployment, low cash wages (as nearly everybody needs some top up cash to live but only that, so they can afford to bid each other below a "living wage"), and some self-support.

- Few private resources, low(ish) employment, high(ish) unemployment, high(ish) cash wages (as people can't afford to work for less than a "living wage" and turn predatory instead), and little self-support.

The first is obsolete, but was common when colonialists faced new colonies; they dealt with native willingness with direct force to get goods and/or labour, indirectly with cash taxes so the natives had to take paid work to earn cash, and in various intermediate ways. The second is common in "developing" countries now - they do not "live on $1 per day" or whatever, that's just the top up for remaining private resources. The third is our recent experience in developed countries, and getting worse; there may be later phases we don't know yet.

For more detail, if the virtual wage subsidy link isn't enough an older article of mine should start you off, and the other stuff on that page should help too.

November 13, 2009 at 2:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You consider a perpetual video game with "teledildonics" more charitable, more humane, than a bullet in the head?

-Victor

November 13, 2009 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

To all those misreading the following:

"Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator."

They key word is ruined; the key phrase is ruined. . .to enrich himself, ergo Louie the 16 ruined his country -- but not to enrich himself -- and all the other kinds enriched themselves but not to the ruin of their countries.

c23:

It's imperative to refer to God when "God" is the most easily understood term for what MM is talking about.

Victor (thanks for signing your name):

MM has given us five steps of existence in Teh Neu Rejeem:

1) stockholder/ceo
2) yeoman
3) yeoman-ward
4) podling (state-ward)
5) $.10 bullet owner

1&2 are boolean -- you can either provide for yourself or you are an owner.

3, 4, & 5 involve choice: can you persuade a yeoman to take responsibility for you or would you rather live in Second Life of Warcrack? If the answer is no to both, we have a handy wall for you to stand next to.

November 13, 2009 at 5:28 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

*kings* not kinds, obviously.

November 13, 2009 at 5:29 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...

I have to say I found this a remarkably bad essay. First, you're mostly rehashing old stuff. Second, it's bad old stuff.

You're being as absurd as any type of central planner. Like every statist central planner, you believe in freedom in everything except the one thing you want to centrally plan. In Keynesian's case, it is the economy. In Friedman's case, it's money. In Stalin's case, it is almost everything.

But in your case, it is law and order. And just like a Keynesian thinks the economy can work well if a good social scientist sits at the helm and runs it, you think law and order can be run properly by a good king runs it. Bullshit.

Here, in a nutshell, is an alternative Anarcho-Capitalist answer to your law and order problem.

Remove the welfare state, and everyone learns to feed themselves. There are no ways around it. As dumb as you are, you can perform a service to someone that allows you to make some living. If you don’t, you die. Because you don’t want to die, you will perform a service and live.

As technology advances, there is less demand for labor per a given amount of production produced. As technology advances, the productivity of labor rises. That’s why being a dishwasher in NYC pays much much more than being a dishwasher in Nairobi. More machines mean we can work less and produce the same. It also means that we can work the same and produce more. Or that we could work more and produce much more. As productivity increases, we continue to produce more and more.

As for indigents… AC provides a more humane, effective, foolproof solution. As is always the case with statist ideas, what the statist views as the solution is the problem. Get rid of the state, and all of its law and order and welfare functions, and you have solved this problem.

There is no government, no welfare and no one to do anything to anyone. Anyone who owns property can admit anyone they like onto it. Anyone who doesn’t own property can pay to be on another’s property (rent). Or he can homestead on land that is not owned. Or he can live in the wilderness. And if he trespasses on another’s property, he gets shot. People will always resort to one of the first four options, or they will get shot. Because no one likes to get shot, everyone will resort to the first four options.

November 13, 2009 at 7:21 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Pals,

Your devotion AC has infected your brain:

Because you don’t want to die, you will perform a service and live. . . People will always resort to one of the first four options, or they will get shot. Because no one likes to get shot, everyone will resort to the first four options.

Or you will rob someone. You will rob someone because you calculate that the benefits outweigh the risk.

No matter that the eventual risk will outweigh the benefits. If you are stupid/whatever enough not to be able to provide naturally for yourself you are likely not a critical thinker anyway. Ergo, violence.

November 13, 2009 at 7:35 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Pals

Substantially, I agree with GM Palmer. Your brain has rotted away. It has not done so with the progressive crack. Instead, you are on the AC crack, which is just as addicting to a person of sufficiently high IQ. Too bad a rotted brain is still a rotted brain.

As to your post: That’s why being a dishwasher in NYC pays much much more than being a dishwasher in Nairobi. More machines mean we can work less and produce the same.

Yes, but washing dishes by hand requires IQ (or say skills...) level X. Using a dishwasher requires IQ level Y. Now even you would agree that in all probability Y > X. Possibly significantly so. Therefore the sliver of people in the IQ range of <Y but > X are now newly unemployed and newly unemployable (at least in the dish washing field). Do this for every field and you have an IQ range of totally unemployable people. Given the bell curve and the fact that the population is 6 billion, you can be pretty sure that we have some of these people. Can I put you down in the $.10 camp? (I say this without any ethical judgment. I think you are in good company -- Carlyle for one.)

November 13, 2009 at 7:55 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

May I add my own Technology option to the virtual option? This also assumes great human advancement.

The idea is suggested by Arthur C. Clarke and the guys at Overcoming Bias (the bayesians).

As technology progresses forward, the ability to enhance humans progresses with it. Computers have more memory than humans? No problem, just hook up the people with net-implants and suddenly, the entire internet is part of their living external memory. Robots are faster and more agile? Robotic arms! The ultimate solution (in the case of the singularity, if it ever happens) is to combine humans and computers. Destroy the conflic by destroying the differences between the parties to prepare for the new race of trans-galactic cyborg overlords.

In this context, state assistance for the poor is just a minimum helping of the right prosthetics (IQ injections, etc...) to get them to a level where they can feed themselves. We could theoretically improve the human castoffs. We could even take a cut of their future proceeds. Presumably, as Alrenous already said, as labor market specialization increases, presumably productivity does as well. Thus as we get more of the undermenchen, it is cheaper per to fix them.

Another acceptable option alongside the Virtual one, would you not say?

November 13, 2009 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

I don't see the need for virtualization, nor do I see it as a likely line for a neocameral state to take.

A person can be maintained on, let us assume, $1 of very cheap food and shelter per day. At least in places with decent weather. (And where else would one send bezonians?) This is the minimum deficit you see on the negative side of the balance sheet per bezonian.

Fine, then. We've already got jobs for most bezonians: hired help. Let them be construction workers, street sweepers, or whores. The better socialized can be waiters, butlers, drivers, doormen, or nannies. (How much help would you hire at $1/day?)

Only bezonians who cannot submit and accept low status and hard work would remain as bezonians. Admittedly, modern democracy produces these in hordes.

During the transition to world neocameralism, one obvious solution to get rid of excess bezonians would be to send them to the democracies. Say you expect some bezonian to live another 30 years on average; then his expected cost is 30*365*$1, or ~$11000. A bus ticket to the border is just $100... and to the democracies, "no person is illegal".

Afterwards, though, I still see no need for virtualization. Crime is a cost, yes, but it can be largely exported to the serfs. Furthermore, they are already well-accustomed to it, and so will not even find it particularly offensive.

So the way to eliminate bezonians is to (a) establish extremely effective law-enforcement, and (b) establish much harsher penalties. Bezonians either adapt to the new society and become productive serfs, or else they get caught at their usual games: then you condemn them to death and harvest their organs.

Let us consider the organs in a young bezonian. These are a valuable asset of the state, and I see no reason to think it would waste them. For this reason alone, we can see that the genocide solution is not a long-term approach. (Short term, maybe; this reflects the fact that short term the value of preharvested organs may be nearly zero due to abundant supply.) In the long run, the state will want to carefully space its few executions, tailoring them to optimally meet demand. This may require warehousing the man, so perhaps very limited virtualization will be of use if it is developed.

November 13, 2009 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Leonard

Fine, then. We've already got jobs for most bezonians: hired help. Let them be construction workers, street sweepers, or whores. The better socialized can be waiters, butlers, drivers, doormen, or nannies. (How much help would you hire at $1/day?)

Why would you hire a bezonian, for any salary when instead you can have a robot. A robot which is guaranteed to have perfect hygiene, perfect manners, is guaranteed to be perfectly trustworthy, and already trained. Note I use perfectly as in much better than a human could possibly hope to achieve in a lifetime.

Note also that all the jobs you mentined require a minimum level of IQ -- to ensure trustworthiness and competence at the very least. What will you do with the retards?

The shipping to democracies is a good idea but like you yourself said, it is temporary.

Crime is a cost, yes, but it can be largely exported to the serfs.

State slums? Sure you could have them but virtualization seems like a better option than that. I would much rather live in a state that had virtualized undermenchen than in one where they were restricted slums. Reduced change of contagious disease f nothing else.

So the way to eliminate bezonians is to (a) establish extremely effective law-enforcement, and (b) establish much harsher penalties. Bezonians either adapt to the new society and become productive serfs, or else they get caught at their usual games: then you condemn them to death and harvest their organs.

This is a roundabout method characteristic of a person who refuses to face the problem head on. If we place the bezonians in a situation where their eventual execution is inevitable, going through the whole torturous process is stupid and a waste of time. The $.10 bullet is a better solution than this. Its much cheaper and much more direct. It also gets the organs in a better state -- before they have been degraded by malnutrition and toxic substances.

So yes, in conclusion, it is possible to go without the virtual solution. However, we already knew that -- what else if the $.10 bullet solution? All you have there are worse solutions to the same problem. We are looking for something better.

November 13, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Divine Order wrote "You - Argon Protopi, pie maker, class 2, orbital 5 - have been found guilty of failing to pay money owed to the temple. You are therefore sentenced to have your individual life terminated. However, His merciful Shadow will allow many of your vital organs to live on as components used in the making of robotic drones. Your useful flesh will be contributed to the protein bank where it will be recycled for purposes that serve His Shadow. In the execution of this sentence you are hereby cleansed of your crime against the people of the 20,000 Planets. May His Merciful Shadow fall upon you."

This is from an old scifi tv series from 1997. quite entertaining, if campy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexx

If I recall correctly, one of the main characters had committed some crime or other and the punishment was to become a prostitute for the state harem by receiving a combination of full-body cosmetic surgery and mental reprogramming. (and got the former but escaped the latter) Better fate than organ harvesting... or perhaps not.

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

November 13, 2009 at 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

As to "not one king...", Saxe-Cobourg-Saalfeld was forced into a form of receivership in 1773 while under the rule of duke Ernst-Friedrich. Thee duchy was saved from collapse by a 30-year workout under the terms of the Debitkommission imposed by the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II.

German princelings seemed especially prone to financial problems of this kind. Midelfort's "The Mad Princes of Renaissance Germany" is a minor classic. Their small domains had to be run like large country estates - with all the vagaries of agricultural rents, etc. - and their rulers' extravagances often ran ahead of their revenues. There were plenty who were no more than Osbaldestons or Myttons writ large. Ludwig II of Bavaria and his fairy-tale palace of Neuschwanstein is a late example of the type.

This is probably why chrysopoietic alchemy found continued patronage amongst them well into the 18th century, long after it had been abandoned elsewhere. They needed the money, and couldn't think of any other way to get it. The sophistication of central banking had yet to be developed, along with the role of the economic advisor as successor to the court alchemist.

Although not a monarch, the countess Elisabeth Bathory, the "Bloody Lady of Cachtice," held estates of regality in Hungary, and before the intervention of higher authority killed at least 80 (perhaps up to 600) young women between 1585 and 1610, reportedly bathing in their blood. She was a sort of female Gilles de Retz. Another horrible female, Fredegonde (543-597), queen of Chilperic I, murdered Chilperic's first wife Galswintha and all Galswintha's children. She is probably the archetypal wicked queen and stepmother of the folk tales, e.g., of Cinderella. These murders began a civil war with her in-laws, Sigebert I (assassinated 575 on her orders) and Brunehaut, who was eventually, with all their children, killed by Fredegonde's son Clothar II. The memory of Sigebert and Brunehaut is very dimly preserved in the Niebelungenlied. The disorder within the Merovingian dynasty caused by these tumults was such as to leave subsequent kings enfeebled, and increasingly dependent upon their mayors of the palace - leading eventually to their dethronement by Pippin the Short.

Whether it could be said that these monarchs ruined their own countries to enrich themselves in the manner of African dictators, who knows. The fecklessness of the duke of Saxe-Cobourg-Saalfeld, and that of Ludwig II of Bavaria, were stopped by the intervention of saner hands. The bloodiness of Elisabeth Bathory was a meagre thing by comparison to that of the emperor Bokassa, or of Idi Amin. They of course had technologies adaptable to killing that were vastly more advanced at their disposal. It's hard to gauge how much ruin Neustria and Austrasia suffered from the feuds of the Merovingians, owing to the terrible ambition of Fredegonde to promote the future of her own progeny. It is certain she succeeded in that, because no successor to the Merovingians - from Charlemagne all the way to the Bourbons - has not been her descendant. There's a lot of ruin in a nation.

November 13, 2009 at 1:36 PM  
Anonymous tenkev said...

Comparative Advantage. I would hire a human because it cheaper than hiring a robot. Sure a robot could do a better job; but, I'm sure there are more productive uses for that robot; therefore, it would make economic sense to just hire the human for a lower wage.

If it ever comes to pass that its cheaper to buy a android-robot than to hire a dumbass to do some easy task than at that point the cost to keep said dumbass alive is so trivial as to render that problem moot.

November 13, 2009 at 1:37 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Newt: Why would you hire a bezonian, for any salary when instead you can have a robot.

Because the robot doesn't exist, or is too expensive. I.e., we are in our current reality, and not in some future reality where full AI is accomplished and robots are superior to humans in all ways, and also dirt cheap.

As for IQ: I don't think it takes much to push a broom. But my examples were only a sampling of the near-infinity of jobs that might be worth at least a dollar a day. I can certainly think of many possible jobs that almost any human, no matter how stupid, could do. Clearing brush by hand. Riskshaw puller. Litter pick up. Cleaning windows.

Yes: the bezonians could live in slums. For one thing, slums already exist. Their capital cost is already sunk. And of course we already have the tech to build them. Whereas, even if we come up the inventions needed for MM's VR pods, building them will not be cheap. They require high-tech computers, high bandwidth connections, God knows what kind of biological apparatus for feeding, etc.

Over the long run, almost all bezonians will be eliminated by attrition, since the rising generation will not be (anti)socialized for and by democracy. As this happens, the slums will be gradually abandoned and converted to other uses.

As for the point of my proposed system, it is not refusal to face the fact that many current bezonians are unreformable. I know that. It is to separate the reformable/usable ones (aka serfs) from the true hardcore bezonians. Get a man a bit hungry on his $1/day, and see if he steals. If he does, whip him, berate him, assign a strike, and let him go. If he does again, whip him more, berate him again, assign another strike, and let him go. If does it again, three strikes! he's out! It's organ time!

Given a known hardcore bezonian, including a handful of the inhabitants of the current penal gulags, I would prefer the ten-cent solution. For example known murderous psychopaths. And I tend to think a neocameral system inheriting such men would indeed transform all life-without-parole and death sentences to executions.

But I think many or most current felons can act properly; it is just that they have never had any strong reason to do so. Theodore Dalyrymple once wrote a piece where he mentions a prisoner he knew, who in prison was capable of following the rules. When released (where of course he was repeatedly, Britain being soft on crime), he'd "lose control" and beat up women, or whatever his crimes were -- I don't recall. But inside, he did not lose control because he was immediately and effectively punished for it. There was nothing to gain by it, and something to lose.

My guess is that most of the people in our prisons, if they were placed in a society that abhorred crime instead of celebrating it, and if crime was almost impossible to get away with and earned them prompt corporal punishment and not the current punishment of free room/board/medical/TV etc., they would shape up very quickly.

November 13, 2009 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Leonard

I can certainly think of many possible jobs that almost any human, no matter how stupid, could do.

I think you are underestimating human stupidity but here goes:

Clearing brush by hand.

Take one moderately non-retarded fool, give him modern machinery (a lawn blower, saw, etc...), and you can probably fire 5 or 6 others.

Riskshaw puller.

Taxi driving. It can be done by a person with an IQ of 60 but then 10 or 15 other people with 60 IQ are out of a job.

Litter pick up.

One guy with a large scale road cleaning truck. Also only needs IQ of 60. However, employing him allows the removal of at least 20 others just like him.

etc.....

You seems to have misconstrued my point by interpreting it far too literally (why you would make such a foolish mistake, I don't know). My point was not to use actual robots (though that may happen in time). My point was that as technology progresses, the gap between the least productive and the most productive workers becomes unbridgeable. At that point, the people on the low end of the spectrum as just so much human trash.

Do you really with to deny that when we are confronted with positive evidence, not just in this "modern" age of democracy but also in the early 1800s with the British poor houses, and the general times since then.

The reality of human liabilities is pretty undeniable to a person who looks at the facts instead of loosing themselves in an academic theory of economics.

Yes: the bezonians could live in slums. For one thing, slums already exist. Their capital cost is already sunk.

Fine. Bring back slavery. Plantations, given cheap labor, may still be profitable. Even if not, they would still be better than slums. Once again, you have taken my point too literally. The point is that comming up with something better than slums is not hard. Your suggestion adds nothing.

(cont.)

November 13, 2009 at 2:47 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

(contd.)

Over the long run, almost all bezonians will be eliminated by attrition, since the rising generation will not be (anti)socialized for and by democracy. As this happens, the slums will be gradually abandoned and converted to other uses.

Nope. Fallacious reasoning. There are at least two sources of new bezonians. The first is the natural reproductive process which generates flukes every once in a while. Multiply with the millions of births in a year and you have a steady supply of new bezonians. The second source is the relentless march of technology. As technology gets bigger, the minimum bar for useful skills rises placing entire social classes squarely in the bezonian category. Its already happening. Soon post offices will on longer need as many attendees because automated machines will take care of it. As of right now, those unemployed can probably find other jobs but for how long?

I know that. It is to separate the reformable/usable ones (aka serfs) from the true hardcore bezonians. Get a man a bit hungry on his $1/day, and see if he steals. If he does, whip him, berate him, assign a strike, and let him go. If he does again, whip him more, berate him again, assign another strike, and let him go. If does it again, three strikes! he's out! It's organ time!

They are bezonians! They are already calssified as such. It doesn't take three strikes to tell that a bezonian is a bezonian. Usually an IQ test can come pretty close to a good approximation. The vagrancy standard I proposed earlier is much better. Once we know a bezonian is a bezonian, your three strikes are stupid. If said bezonian can manage not to be a vagrant and still continues to act like a criminal, then sure, apply the criminal penal system. If however, you do have a vagrant on your hands, the three strikes just give it the choice between a slow starvation vs. a little beating and then a bullet. It seems much more efficient and humane (both at the same time!) to just give the bullet without this much fanfare.

Given a known hardcore bezonian, including a handful of the inhabitants of the current penal gulags, I would prefer the ten-cent solution.

we seem to ba talking about different things. There are the kind of social misfits who can not even leave others alone. These I classify as criminals and prefer they be shot quickly, least the disease fester. However, there are another kind. These do not care to harm another except they cannot feed themselves otherwise. As I mentioned, these are not that difficult to identify. One certainly does not need as elaborate a system as your three strikes. The question is, what do we do with these vagrants.

... felons ...

Who knows. However, these are not the people in questions. If you look in MM's essay, you will find that he too separates them out. There is no reason for leaving felons alive. However, once we get rid of these, we still have a large problem to confront. We must handle the ineducable.

We must handle those who simply are not competent enough to feed themselves. For these, your suggestions are no better than before.

November 13, 2009 at 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with all of this is that governments don't necessarily represent *all* of their subjects. Hitler promised to get rid of the Jews, and he kept his promise. No problem for ethnic Germans. Right now, in Dubai, they treat poor Indians and Pakistanis like slaves, but they treat western expats differently, and emiratis differently still.

My thoughts exactly. Here's a documentary about the treatment of Indian workers in Dubai, which people may or may not find interesting. Apparently Dubai doesn't really give a crap about the dignity of it's poor. Why would Roayl California be any different? Especially with respect to poor immigrants who have no connection to the rest of the population.

The stuff about God is embarrassingly silly. Appealing to a God you don't even believe is retarterd.

Eh, it was just a metaphor; I thought it was pretty good.

November 13, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Vladimir said...

Good Lord. It seems like MM is following the way of his comment section. The post is badly written, utterly illogical, polluted with (now sadly standard) retard language, and culminating in what is possibly the most bizarre and demented idea I've ever read from someone I respected as a writer and thinker. What the hell happened to the man who, as recently as 4-5 months ago, was still writing jaw-droppingly good articles that I looked forward to for the whole week?

I understand that all good things must come to an end, and the old UR posts are such a magnificent body of work that it's hard to maintain the same level of quality once the key ideas about the main topics have been covered in detail. Yet, I still find it sad and disturbing that this legacy is being despoiled by publishing all the recent garbage under the same title. I don't want to direct people to this blog any more even with the caveat that the recent work is not up to the old standards.

A sad fate for what was once the best blog about politics and history on the entire internet.

November 13, 2009 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

G.M. Palmer - kinds works too, actually. As in, 'other kinds of kings.'

newt, I have nothing to add.

Well, I could add that, "Hey guys! I'm basically anarcho-capitalist. Don't run too far down the road of dismissing it as crack.

"Either that or I'm resistant to crack."

P.M. Lawrence,

Thanks! Very informative. My basic position hasn't changed, though.

So, external costs and/or risks associated with vagrants overwhelm the compounding benefits.

While I knew the $2/day thing must be somehow borked, I now know why. Nifty.

Well, yeah, you have to solve the vagrancy thing somehow. I especially like how you've highlighted the category difference in crimes between crimes of necessity and other crimes.

I think that is probably what welfare proponents keep trying, but failing, to say.

The problem that I see is that crimes of necessity are easy to stem. Rather it's crimes of perceived necessity caused by poor people checking out the system - it's hard to live in a shack next to skyscrapers, and see how the system is benefiting you, at the same time.

Given no minimum wage, the requirements of only food, clothing, shelter, and liberty, I have trouble thinking anything but that an organization that exists to profitably employ the lowest wage bracket would be able to survive, and even thrive, creating jobs for these people.

The problem is that without TV, without cars, air conditioning, in tiny apartments, and with affording children touch-and-go, even though they can't commit a crime of necessity, these places will still be breeding grounds for crime. While philosophically they have everything necessary for dignity, they also require at least some modicum of human social status - pride - which may be impossible to provide.

I was hoping someone would notice this, in lieu tacking yet more characters onto my comments. (Hence the giant skyscraper picture.)

As Million Dollar Murray suggests, as the prison suggests, it may be that 'liberty' is in fact a downside at this level, far more expensive than food, clothing, and shelter combined.

Just because I value liberty doesn't mean everyone should. As long as you can buy your liberty, as long as you have some control over who your patron is, I really don't see the problem in not providing liberty to every individual. If nothing else, it turns Stockholm syndrome into an asset instead of a liability.

(This appears to be fact, and indeed makes sense a priori - the idea that liberty need be universal is an extreme idea requiring extreme proof, which I've seen. However, it hurts my AC soul to say it, so I'm still trying to find a way out.)

This may not actually work, of course. I think what I'm mainly trying to say is that there are lots of feasible options to rule out before we just give up and start distorting the market with brute force.

Actually, even then it's not truly a distortion. Model at the king (heh, 'statistical liberties) using his personal wealth to employ peasants to lay brick, because that's what he wants to buy - the king has economic demand for employed peasants. I think that's classed as what... entertainment? Some luxury purchase, anyway. MM likes noblesse oblige, right?

November 13, 2009 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Err, extreme proof which I've never seen. (I don't know why I don't catch these things in the preview window...but I don't.)

November 13, 2009 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Anthony Mills said...

Mencius, have you read "The Unincorporated Man" by Dani & Eytan Kollin? It's quite similar to what you put forward here, except that each person is a corporation, with shareholders they are beholden to. If you haven't, I think you would like it.

November 13, 2009 at 3:25 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S. wrote "The bloodiness of Elisabeth Bathory was a meagre thing by comparison to that of the emperor Bokassa, or of Idi Amin. They of course had technologies adaptable to killing that were vastly more advanced at their disposal."

True but irrelevant, because old and simple techniques worked better and were used by all of them. For instance, Idi Amin had his enemies queued up at the edge of a gorge where the strongest of them were forced by armed guards to knock the others on the head and push them over (on pain of not getting the temporary reprieve); eventually they wore down and were replaced, being processed that way themselves, leaving only the last to be dealt with by the guards.

Anonymous wrote "...Here's a documentary about the treatment of Indian workers in Dubai, which people may or may not find interesting. Apparently Dubai doesn't really give a crap about the dignity of it's [sic] poor."

It does! It's just that those aren't its poor. It looks after its own - the Emiratis - very well.

November 13, 2009 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Newt, I don't think you are really grokking how cheap $1/day is. The reason we do things with machines is high labor costs. In the USA the minimum wage is $7.25/hr. So over an 8-hour day everyone working, even the lowest bezonian, earns $58. This is at least 58x the labor cost we are hypothesizing, and probably more considering that the 8 hour day could also be abolished...

But in any case, I take your point about technology. Yes, there are some jobs you can automate away, more or less. But not all: many jobs involve not just objectively measurable outputs, but subjective ones. That is why I mentioned waiting tables, prostitution, drivers, and nannies. These are things you don't want to trust a maybe-bezonian for, but they can certainly employ scads of otherwise useless people. And they all have the property that part of what you are buying is the joy of having another human being serve you.

Putting it more generally, I think that the gap between the most skilled and least is never "unbridgeable", at least before strong cheap AI. This is because human beings are programmed to want many intangible goods that only other human beings can supply: status, admiration, understanding, touch, friendship, love, sex, and reproduction. All of these can be commodified and marketed, with the supply being generated by serfs.

At $1/day, you could live in a huge estate and never cook a meal, or do any yardwork. Every night a great dinner would be prepared for you. You'd get a nice hour-long massage every day after work. You could have a different whore every night. You could hire a posse of 5 guys to just follow you around and say "yeah" and do high-fives whenever you said anything.

November 13, 2009 at 6:12 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Alrenous wrote "Given no minimum wage, the requirements of only food, clothing, shelter, and liberty, I have trouble thinking anything but that an organization that exists to profitably employ the lowest wage bracket would be able to survive, and even thrive, creating jobs for these people. The problem is that without TV, without cars, air conditioning, in tiny apartments, and with affording children touch-and-go, even though they can't commit a crime of necessity, these places will still be breeding grounds for crime. While philosophically they have everything necessary for dignity, they also require at least some modicum of human social status - pride - which may be impossible to provide."

No, that's not the problem, it's a (later and lesser) problem. The first problem that comes up is that, in our stage of development and distribution, without undoing the unemployment externality or providing unsustainable stimulus you can't get 100% employment at wage levels sufficient for all to survive; you still get the marginalised. That is, the test isn't whether such an organisation "would be able to survive, and even thrive, creating jobs for these people", it's whether it and others like it would between them take up all those people when operating at the most profitable levels. Pushing the economy harder is unsustainable even if you somehow manage to do it without waste, because then you get yet more capital accumulation - which incrementally shifts the balance even further away from needing labour, so ever more people need to get mopped up as the equilibrium employment percentage level falls further. The other stuff is real, and it is in part why a Distributist end point where people have their own private resources is a better one to aim at.

"This appears to be fact, and indeed makes sense a priori - the idea that liberty need be universal is an extreme idea requiring extreme proof, which I've [never] seen".

This may be an artefact of taking it as a goal in itself. There are many weaker forms that are easier to demonstrate, e.g.:-

- Whatever people's various individual goals, liberty is instrumentally valuable for them (unless those goals are inherently inconsistent with it, e.g. world domination, making people good even if it takes force, etc. - power and liberty are not different in kind, differing only in the way that malignant and benign tumours do by whether they always seek an ultimately unattainable and incidentally harmful ever greater more, and in whether they are more in terms of negative and cheap omitting things or positive and costly committing things).

- Proceeding from within, most people feel uncomfortable when restrained or constrained (this may be an instinct lining up with that instrumental value and put there by evolution or whatever).

- The burden of proof lies on restricting liberty, not on having it; so, restoring, creating or acquiring it is a response to an artificial case (short of natural constraints like my being unable to fly by waving my arms).

"I think what I'm mainly trying to say is that there are lots of feasible options to rule out before we just give up and start distorting the market with brute force".

The whole point of my argument was that the market is distorted, and the object of the exercise is to undo that - to undistort it, not distort it.

November 13, 2009 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

As for bezonians: let's get our definition here clear.

To me, a bezonian is a person who cannot be usefully employed because he is dangerous. Note that as I explained previously, I think that almost anyone can be usefully employed at a dollar a day, except insofar as he may be morally weak and become criminal. (Yes there may be a few exceptions, the severely disabled and people in comas. These are not very many people.)

So, bezonian-hood is very much relative to society. A society in which crime pays will contain many bezonians. A society that indoctrinates some subgroups to hate other subgroups and regard victimizing them as justified retribution for past wrongs will contain many bezonians. And a society that glories in transgression, and idolizes bezonians, will get bezonians at all levels.

By contrast, a society that has essentially no crime, and no social tolerance for crime, will have very few bezonians. Yes: the bell curve takes its toll. Every generation will have new born-bad bezonians, at least a few. This is not news. The question is how many, how to detect them, and what to do about them.

And you can see how my definition relates to my proposed strategy for bezonian detection. You cannot just give an IQ test. It is character that divides the bezonian from the serf. It is not IQ at all. Starving people then watching to see if they steal is a test of character, not IQ.

November 13, 2009 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Leonard

As to your definition: if you want to use that definition of bezonian, then we have been talking about entirely different things. Dangerous people would be handled by the state through the normal penal system.

As to your assertion that we will have few vagrants, history disagrees. If you have conflicting data, provide it. If not, then we have a basic disagreement which we will not be able to resolve through discussion. In a disagreement between facts and theory, I always side with facts. You evidently do not*.

* Note that this is not as disagreeable or unreasonable a position as many would think. Just not one that I ever take.

November 13, 2009 at 7:26 PM  
Anonymous Bearded Spock said...

THAT's IT??? Make-work programs and Matrix pods? UR is going downhill fast.

People are not yeomen or "customers" if they have no option to leave. They are slaves. You can argue that the great and powerful Oz will allow anyone to leave who wants to, but recognizing them as assets, he will not let them go. It will be easy to keep them imprisoned in Hellifornia because he can simply use the same security apparatus to keep them IN that he uses to keep the undesirables OUT.

And the King WOULD have to use propaganda, only it would be directed at the senate rather than the masses. This is already common in boardrooms across the country. How else do they obtain those king-sized salaries?

November 13, 2009 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Menny, you've long been either insane, irrational or just foolin' - all of which is fine because you have other talents that make you worth more to me than half of the Bible, but what's beginning to annoy me is the sense that you've grown more timid with time. Rather than embracing and (within the strict allowance of the law) advocating the genocide of people who are less capitalistically efficient than the sum of their parts, you've chosen not only to vociferously object to that option but even to retreat from the entire business of restructuring society into science fiction fantasies (where, for the record, you're just a dilettante - by any standard).

Now, again, I'm no chassid of yours, at least not of your prescriptions. The only thing binding me to the current "democratic" system in fact is dread of the gray, inhumane, hell that you keep singing about dreamily.

BUT

When it comes to sheer breath of knowledge and links to original sources and profound thought experiments, and freedom of inquest into taboo subjects pertaining to society's existential concerns, why, you stand bestride the blogosphere like a colossus (albeit with jock itch and crabs), which is why I'm so disappointed that your original sin of declaring yourself too sensitive to use the word "nigger" (and recall, this was when quoting a society-accepted best-selling book!) continued to degenerate into being too precious to be able to link to South Africa Sucks and now has come to your shameful retreat from your natural views on genocide into both (A) Views actually opposite of yours and (B) a thought experiment on video games and other diversions - a subject where you have yet to be able to compete with hundreds of teenagers writing before the birth of your parents.

So come on, give us what we want - a place where we can discuss Hitlerian alternatives to the current moral structure. Mind you (AGAIN!), I would be terrified to discover if you should ever move a millimeter closer to any true power that might in any way tangentially affect my life. Your fascistic preferences (that's not a cuss word newbies, "fascism" is an actual system of government and one that MM has said he approves of) disgust me and leave me out in the starving and imprisoned cold, but still - for the joy of learning and communally considering, I wish you'd whole-bodily jump into the waters your every nerve tingles for.

November 13, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Patung said...

Possibly the worst post ever on this blog and certainly the creepiest and least endearing.

You talk about IQ too much, you're a clever fellow, yawn, dime a dozen, you inherited it, pull your head in, nothing to be proud of what matters is what you do with it, and if this is an example....

Third world slumland - the racist fascist neo-colonialist Zionist imperialist idea was, um, better and although having an almost equally non-existent chance of breaking out of this corner of teh intanets was at least smarter.

Kings ruined their realms financially often, to wage adventurous ruinous wars..

The bit about persuasion versus compulsion was good but some of the rest was cringe worthy and

"the ideology of Royal California is that the King is God's proxy on earth; whatever God would have him do, that is justice;.........."

Which particular planet are you on?

No offense. :)

November 13, 2009 at 10:56 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Newt,

You and Mencius seem to be infected by a retarded unreconstrcted Marxism that sees technological advancement as destroying jobs. Have you cats been reading The Manifesto? Are you livid at all these new textile technologies that will be the ruin of the British textile workers?

Doesn’t it register that over the past 200 years of industrial revolution technology has advanced enormously and unemployment has dropped a lot? Don’t you see that the only reason technologically advanced economies have unemployment is because of the retarded welfare state and income taxes that create a 100% implicit marginal tax rates for the bottom 40%, as detailed brilliantly in this recent article: http://mises.org/daily/3822

As technology advances, it doesn’t create jobs that need higher cognitive abilities, it makes more menial, less mentally and physically demanding work much more productive and rewarding. So you could have an IQ of 75 and be trained to press some button whenever some red light flashes. Or your job could simply be to provide customers with the illusion that their food is made by humans rather than machines, as is the case in McDonald’s. You could run an entire automated McDonald’s, but they still hire those zombies whose sole purpose in life is to listen to the words you say and press the button on their dumbass-friendly screen. You are perfectly capable of pressing that button yourself and paying into a machine, but they still hire the McZombies for you to give you the human experience. And yet that McZombie makes enough money to live a decent life.

And that’s why humans are very productive, and as economic growth advances, human labor becomes more and more precious, and can generate more income by doing simpler easier jobs. And that contains the rebuttal to all of Mencius’ arguments. If you remove the welfare state and taxation, all of the retarded zombies of the world will suddenly realize that they can actually earn a lot of income by doing a very simple menial job. Soon enough, they’ll get trained a bit and can be more productive, and earn more. A job turns them into decent respectable men. The scourge of crime and chaos is eliminated.

And because labor is so productive, you cannot have slavery anymore. Humans just produce too much when free, it is far better for everyone that they be free and work, rather than work in bondage.

Which brings me to your suggesting I am in the $.10 camp, and to the related point Palmer makes about crime. I am not for the $.10 solution. That is a centralized statist solution. What I am saying is to not have a centralized solution and have everyone free to do what they want, bearing all costs and benefits. Anyone who wants to rob or commit a crime can try to do so, but they will be shot. Order and productive enterprise will easily win over crime, chaos and theft, because it is much more productive and can buy bigger guns than the thieves.

And since it is apparent that order and productive enterprise will win, very few people will be dumb enough to fight against it. And those who are will be soon weeded out of the gene pool.

November 14, 2009 at 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Pals, what do you mean by "vagrant"? More or less what PM Lawrence is talking about, that is, people who impose net costs on others?

If so, I think history is on my side. But there is always the matter of interpretation. Of course if you pay people to be vagrants, they will be. Paying people to be indolent is a function of the modern state, and should not be counted if you want to understand what a society that does not pay people for vagrancy would be like. So we need to look at societies before the welfare state, preferable as modern as possible. So we want the USA before the New Deal, or the UK before the socialism of 1911 onward.

We also need to be able to distinguish the long run from the short. I.e., I believe it is unfair to use the USA in either 1932, or in say 1917, because in both years there were abnormal employment prospects due to unusual economic factors. Same for the UK in WWI.

So what is best? How about Britain in the 1900s, or the USA in the middle of the 20s?

Some data:
UK
USA

November 14, 2009 at 9:21 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Leonard

Presumably the numbers you gave do not include frictional unemployment etc...

In that case, they only support my point. Note that even in the early 1900s and before, that Britain still had poor houses.

I have never claimed that vagrants are a large part of the population. On the contrary, I would be surprised if their proportion were so high as 1%. However, that implies that existence of 3 million vagrants in the US alone. Where in your charts does unemployment reach as low as 1% for even a sustained period of time?

These 3 million vagrants have to be dealt with. Most of these are not habitual criminals. They are simply liabilities which must be handled. If circumstances drive them to theft, etc... they will commit theft etc...* If we place them in a situation where this is the predictable outcome (as you propose), we are simply delaying the inevitable and wasting time and resources. Better the $.10 bullet.

If however, you find that solution to be unacceptable, you must decide what to do. That is what MM is trying to do.

* This applies to most people. If you were starving for two weeks and the only option for getting food was theft, would you commit theft? I certainly would.

November 14, 2009 at 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Urbis said...

I agree with some of the other commenters above that say this was a terrible post, quite possibly MM's worst.

Though to be fair it did have the whiff of a throwaway post, and MM does deserve them from time to time.

November 14, 2009 at 10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not trying to claim prior use; you certainly elucidate the problem and solution better than I ever have or could. But I've had much the same thought years ago, however it was not focused on the lumpen-proletariat but those (of any IQ or class) who strive to hold power over others. Think Mrs. Clinton. Imagine a rogue group of Virtual Reality terrorists (freedom fighters) who kidnap these power-seekers and place them in a world where all their mad wishes can come true - without causing harm (breaking eggs, in Stalin's phrase) to actual humans. Hard to have a fascist state when all the fascists end up in pods. Of course, our ends differ - I value individual liberty, you value the subjugation of the masses so you can enjoy opera and organic veggie burgers. But still, great minds think alike, right?

November 14, 2009 at 11:35 AM  
Anonymous J said...

First, his solution must be consistent with human dignity. For his model of dignity in charity, he chooses the system of Maimonides. (Note that USG 4's system of taxpayer charity, the "welfare state," is all the way down at a Maimonides 8, since donors are unwilling. As for the effects, the sage is entirely validated.)

A bit off-topic, but Maimonides's distinctions between various forms of charity seem rather silly and obsessive like much of Jewish religious scholarship. It reminded me of this speculation that anti-Semitic stereotypes are due to a high prevalence of Asperger's tendencies in Jews. See also this comment.

November 14, 2009 at 11:43 AM  
Anonymous notuswind said...

MM,

As always, thank you for another essay that manages to be both thought-provoking and entertaining.

By the way, I just got finished watching some documentaries about the ecocide that's going on in China right now. And I must admit, the demographic problems of the West might actually be less severe than the environmental problems that will be plaguing the effected future generations of those living in East Asia.

I can't help but feel that we're only a short distance away from globalism's total collapse.

November 14, 2009 at 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Vengris said...

I can't help but feel that we're only a short distance away from globalism's total collapse.

You can't help but feel this way because it's probably hard wired into the brain somehow.

People of all times and places throughout history have often "felt" that they are living right on the precipice of apocalyptic collapse and the world-historical breakdown of civilization.

The early Christians thought that Jesus was coming back in their own lifetimes. Various forms of millenialism and dispensationalism have always been with us. Ray Kurzweil thinks that we will achieve immortality in 20 years.

Just as the cognitive bias of extrapolating present trends and recent events/history into the future is probably wired into the human brain, some form of eschatology is probably hard wired as well.

It's likely to have evolved as a coping mechanism - things suck big time right now, but just hang in there, a big change is coming, a new wonderful world is going to be created, etc. And I'll be fine during the transition, and be out on top in this new world.

November 14, 2009 at 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kings ruined their realms financially often, to wage adventurous ruinous wars.

Not responsive to his argument, which is they didn't ruin their kingdoms to enrich themselves personally as African dictators do.

November 14, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Leonard wrote 'Pals, what do you mean by "vagrant"? More or less what PM Lawrence is talking about, that is, people who impose net costs on others?'

There's a slight misunderstanding here. Vagrancy Costs were so named because they were first observed arising from vagrants in times and places where large numbers of them began to appear - but then it was observed that they still occurred, on a smaller scale, even when poor people weren't quite so far gone as that.

"Of course if you pay people to be vagrants, they will be. Paying people to be indolent is a function of the modern state, and should not be counted if you want to understand what a society that does not pay people for vagrancy would be like."

Well... the Speenhamland System was observed to have that sort of adverse effect as far back as the early 19th century. But the point I was trying to bring out was that once you have a certain level of resources and a certain pattern of their distribution (as in the western world now and in recent centuries) you get externalised costs one way or another, whether directly in the form of Vagrancy Costs or in the spread costs of funding to head costs of that sort off - unless you undo the externality directly or indirectly as I described earlier. That is, you don't really get rid of Vagrancy Costs by paying for indolence, you just change their form and reduce their size.

So there is a confusion in "[p]aying people to be indolent... should not be counted if you want to understand what a society that does not pay people for vagrancy would be like". Paying people to be indolent is paying them not to be vagrants, buying off the greater harm. It's not simply their own choice, once they don't have their own access to resources; it's what they can choose among the options offered by others, the suppliers of benefits and the demanders of labour (remember, that's effective demand, i.e. from people who can offer something for it - those with resources). If you don't pay people to be indolent and don't fix the underlying problems, Vagrancy Costs come rushing back. Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret.

The nearest thing to paying people to be vagrants was, farmers and small communities giving them a little when they turned up to buy off trouble, on condition that they moved on (which not only encouraged them overall, it also encouraged them to form larger groups - which could then easily turn to banditry on a larger scale than ordinary crime). For instance, Trollope notes this in his work on Australia, when squatters (sheep raisers) described how they gave passing swagmen a little food and shelter because when they didn't they got mysterious fires etc. But that's all part of Vagrancy Costs proper.

November 14, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

As always, comments right inside the article can be added over at Thiblo.com.

November 15, 2009 at 7:54 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

PML: I gave my definition, which was, I think, pertinent to this discussion. Namely: vagrant := person who is a net externality. Thus, my definition is a superset of what yours appears to be.

I am not a technician. I am not hung up on the term "vagrant"; if you want to define it as meaning "a person who moves around who is a net externality", or something like that, please say so. But I don't find the mobility (or settledness) of a vagrant of particular interest. We still need a term for the larger problem: net-externality people regardless of their movement status.

I understand your point about paying off and thus settling mobile vagrants. By your definition, this makes them not vagrants. I agree that it may well lower their net costs, but it does not make them non-vagrants by my definition. It just mitigates their cost. And thus they still cause the "dire problem", and need to be discussed.

November 15, 2009 at 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Newt: my understanding (admittedly quite weak) of official unemployment is that it does count frictional unemployment as unemployment. That is modern unemployment; I do not know how they counted the unemployed 100 years ago in those things I linked. So, I am looking at those very low levels (3-4%) and seeing essentially zero involuntary unemployment.

Further, even at those times, there were structural factors that would have exacerbated unemployment at least somewhat.

That said, I am willing to use your guess of 1% of the population being long-term unemployed. But I do not see this as any particular problem: even though they are net negative in the present, and even perhaps for a few years, this does not make them net negative over the long term.

I guess I should clarify that last point. From the POV of the neocameral state, it is not a person's present costs that are a problem. What the sovcorps cares about is a person's net cost over their entire lifetime. Thus present costs are a problem only if the state has good evidence that in the long run, the person will never get back in the black. For example, if you are unemployed right now, even for 5 years, but after that you will get a normal job and pay taxes, you should expect that a sovcorp will pay to keep you alive for that 5 years.

Thus, to clarify my own definitions:

A vagrant is any person who is a net externality to society over his whole lifetime.

A serf is any person who is not a net externality to society over his whole lifetime. (Incidentally a free man might be defined as a man who owns his own labor, but there are few or none of them in neocameralism. A man owning enough sovcorp stock so that his income from the dividends exceeds his taxation might is arguable free.)

A bezonian is a vagrant who places himself in the negative column by acts of crime against others. Note that a bezonian who has done crimes secretly may appear to be a productive serf or even a free man.

Note that for the purposes of distinguishing serf from vagrant, and also bezonian from any other category, there is the problem that we cannot know what a person will do in the future. Unlike the other categories, the determination of bezonian-hood also requires detection in the present.

Bezonians ought to be culled from the population, and we can use the $.10c solution. The sovcorp's stock will not plunge if it executes a thief; if anything the reverse. Where I am apparently differing from MM is that he proposes to VR bezonians, perhaps even preemptively. Whereas I propose to test them for bezonian-hood, and instruct them against it, and shoot them if it is proved adequately. My version has higher up-front costs: the man is loose among society until proven bezonian, and the proof is crimes, which may well be costly. MM's has high long term costs, or at least it does if you assume, as I do, that pods will not be cheap.

I believe (and argued above) that the "dire problem" is dire only as a transitional phenomenon. The sovcorp will inherit vast numbers of vagrants created by the preceding democracy, and it must deal with them. But it will create few on its own. Even outside of long/short run cost arguments, the transitional nature of the dire problem is another argument for the criminalogical approach to removal. MM would suggest building millions of pods. This is large cost, at the exact same time as there are many other costs associated with securing the state. (I.e.: Purging the Cathedral. Replacing all heavy weapons with cryplocked ones. Securing the borders with walls. Sampling and chipping every serf.) I suggest shooting tens of thousands of hardcore criminals. The difference is, MM's system requires vast construction; vast capital expenditure. Mine requires tweaking the law and enforcing it.

November 15, 2009 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

non-psychopath, non-necessity (hunger) crime comes from status seeking for mating opportunities. someone above me in the comments proposed a fantasy in which $1 a day labor meant that he could have a different whore every night. consider that for every woman employed this way there is one less low status male out there breeding who will eventually turn to crime to establish enough status for a mating opportunity.

November 16, 2009 at 4:30 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Rethinking this post, I’ve come to an important realization. A lot of the thinking of Mencius and the posters here seems to be overly influenced by Sci-Fi stories which invariably happen to have an element of machine rising against man, making man useless and the like.

I, on the other hand, had a life growing up. I used to play soccer, get out, make friends, read and take part in a national uprising. All of which has contributed to a healthy relative ignorance of Sci-Fi, which has made me escape the moronic economics at the heart of the machine replacing man story.

At its heart, this is nothing but an extension of Karl Marx’s retarded view that machines and capital will replace the workers and render them redundant. 200 years of technological advancement, industrial growth, rising wages, falling unemployment and rising living standards seem to have done nothing to disabuse Marxist retards of this view. As good over-educated intelligent Americans in the later part of the 20th century, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sci-Fi writers were lefties who were infected by this luddite Marxism. This seems to be so pervasive that even Austrians like Mencius believe it.

In reality, technological innovation only happens when it reduces the cost of production. This means that it increases the productivity of labor. This does not take away jobs for labor; it means that jobs are now more productive and higher paying. The idea that you need to “create” jobs, or that there is a limited number of jobs is a Marxist luddite idea so retarded it was even adopted by the Keynesians. There are always an unlimited number of jobs available to anyone. As technology advances, these jobs become more productive.

Which brings me to the more important point of the bezonians/vagrants/etc… The rise of this class is not a function of technological advance; it is a result of the welfare state, and of the crime-friendly state. Only when the state taxes work, rewards indolence, and punishes the victims of crime and rewards its perpetrators will you get such an enormous abundance of vagrants. To suggest that the solution is to kill, enslave, or virtualize these people is wrong because it is built on the wrong diagnosis. It assumes that those people are like that because they are inherently like that, because they like it and because they cannot be anything else. Nonsense.

The right answer is to simply remove the incentives for vagrancy, and that, on its own, will eliminate vagrancy virtually overnight. Survival is the most basic human and animal instinct. No one will fail to secure their survival out of laziness. Make the choice for any human between death and work, and they will all work. Remove the legal justice system that coddles criminals, and you leave those people to fend for themselves. If they want to rob from a productive member of society, they can be sure that the person, by virtue of being productive, will have bigger guns, more powerful guards and stronger protection. And they would have no government to answer to, so will not hesitate to bring out the big guns in retaliation to the most minor infringement: So expect immediate death penalty for pick-pocketing. Productive enterprise will always be more successful than theft because it can hire bigger guns. Left to its own, without a government, productive enterprise would win and annihilate theft in a day. But it wouldn’t even need to come to that, because those who would be tempted to join into theft would be deterred by the knowledge that they will inevitably fail.

It’s funny here to see that Mencius’ ideas exacerbate the problem by rewarding vagrants and taking care of them. Heck, can you imagine how many very intelligent nerds would gladly quit their lives, jobs and families to live 24/7 in an advanced World of Warcraft? And the make-work schemes are just Keynesian.

November 16, 2009 at 5:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not just low-IQ people are on welfare but also high-IQ Aspergers.

November 16, 2009 at 7:07 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

My only thought to add is that virtue is required in citizens for almost any of this to work. We can't really quantitatively define virtue, and so on some level we have a problem which cannot be programmatically solved.

One person mentioned one of the diverse reasons for criminal acts; status. The reality is that whoring would have to stop completely. The notion of one man for one wife would need to be enforced, or you would have to find a way to overbreed females. The latter solution seems weird to me, and I frankly don't know what the side effects would be.

You could not execute thieves, as this would be forgetting the Code. We should not forget that a system which does not obey 'an eye for an eye' must use propaganda to get its subjects to. This is why Mencius is against the ten-cent-bullet solution. Those in charge must not simply be effective but they must be on some level exemplars, as at least half of parenting is what you do and how you do it, regardless of how effective it is. It's an easy experiment with a little kid; if a place is messy, start cleaning it up in a playful way. They will do the same most likely.

The idea is not simply to be effective but to be exemplary as much as possible, one of the benefits of the salaried official is that it dignifies his work.

Any system in which someone, whether that person belongs to an official government apparatus or not, can take from you what you have not taken from them, is one that inadvertently glorifies vagrancy and crime.

The one-dollar solution is not impossible, but it would be hard to manage as there is a dangerous 'red pill' always available to those involved. In times when labor was cheap (i.e. slavery was common and manageable) machines were invented but left unused. Too expensive.

Robots doing human jobs is I think marginal; there will only be this in reality in places where the initial cost of the machine - which includes not just materials but programming and all other associated costs - profit, marketing, etc - does not outweigh its possible benefit. In a place with significant crime of any sort, a free-roving machine would be a favored target for acts of vagrancy. So if you have to replace the machine once a year, it might just be cheaper to have a guy in a cleaning truck or for smaller areas guys with brooms and spears.

AI's replacing people's jobs represents not so much a rising demand for IQ but a falling demand for quality over quantity. Machines are only labor savers in certain circumstances; as a programmer I know this to be true. Only if it is required to be automated (such as a website) is there a clear benefit; or if a mass of repetitive actions are required. But some of this is based on expectation as well. Right now Google is willing to pay for everyone to have free blogs. Will that continue...? Or...?

Many acts which we think will be automated may not be after all, or may be only automated in the wealthiest places. Or will they be? IQ is only one factor; character is another.

November 16, 2009 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger River Cocytus said...

As a last note, I like this a lot, as I like a lot of MM's stuff, and in particular I can see why the Virtual solution might be viable, especially if you lower its cost per unit in some way.

But one question has remained unresolved: What about the effects of religion? Will the subjects / yeomen have a state religion, or what? The pagan Romans understood, as do the rightist Christians, that the cult is the center of the culture, and thus the fiber of the state.

One of the side problems that America has, as was pointed out, is who its gods are. Often we're talking celebrities for the average non-devout person, maybe politicians, etc. The cult is messed up, partly because America was originally designed with the notion that the cult would be somewhat fixed.

The cult determines telos, ethos, pathos; it informs and shapes the meanings and values of people in the culture whether they live up to them or not (some of this is a function of the quality of the cult.)

The cult of self is ultimately unstable and antisocial, as it feeds the combination of radical individualism (autarky) combined with radical egalitarianism (the notion that no one is better than anyone else) that represents much of what feeds our political and economic problems.

We have to balance a respect for the individual with a notion of dignity assumed by being human; some of the solutions here presented in the combox are indeed solutions, but they are not human solutions. No humans could live in them, and those who lived in them long might cease to be human.

Anyway, beginning of Advent fast. See you around.

November 16, 2009 at 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pals,

"In reality, technological innovation only happens when it reduces the cost of production. This means that it increases the productivity of labor."

There comes a point where the technological innovation crowds out a significant number of those on the left side of the bell curve. When most menial, low-IQ work can be done more cheaply (and much more competently) by machines, there is no place for their labor to go to be productive. This is not a SciFi fantasy, just an understanding that not all humans have the same ability, and thus their labor does not have the same value.

Yes, virtual reality pods are fantasy - but they may not always be so. And unless you advocate culling the herd, there will be a significant portion of the populace unable to sell their labor at a living wage. If they are to become wards of the state (either voluntarily or by committing crime and getting locked up), why not make them happy while keeping them away from the productive?

The problem I see with it is that low-IQ folk didn't play D&D; they lack imagination, future-time orientation, etc.. Any VR world would merely consist of orgies, not dragon-slaying and grand adventure. Monkeys throw poo at each other, they don't quote Shakespeare. That's not a problem I guess, may even make implementation easier.

November 16, 2009 at 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The notion of one man for one wife would need to be enforced, or you would have to find a way to overbreed females."

Make abortion of male fetuses more easy than abortion of female fetuses. Sex testing mandatory of course.

November 16, 2009 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Anonymous: "There comes a point where the technological innovation crowds out a significant number of those on the left side of the bell curve. When most menial, low-IQ work can be done more cheaply (and much more competently) by machines, there is no place for their labor to go to be productive."

Simply not true. This is, again, the stuff of Sci-fi fantasy, and only exists because it is necessary for these stories to sell to envision this dystopic future.

In fact, this simply can't be true, and this will help you understand why:

Anytime a new technology displaces a human, it is necessarily CHEAPER than having the human run that technology. The status quo is that the human does the job. In order to go to the state where the machine does the job, the boss needs to be sure that the machine will be cheaper than the human.

If the machine is cheaper than the human, then the value of the human's labor is higher compared to the labor of the machine. So, no matter how dumb, the human can still have talents that a machine can't perform, and for that, he will be paid. And because more technological innovation makes the economy more productive, this makes the human earn more and more.

Machines have advanced a lot over 200 years, and NO ONE would be employed today but for the welfare state. Tech advancement just makes human labor more precious.

If your logic had any truth in it, then the invention of the wheel would be the worst thing to have ever happened to low-skilled workers. Just imagine how much better off the poor would be if they could carry everything instead of wheels, eh?

November 16, 2009 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Pals: it is true that replacing labor with capital increases the value of any remaining labor. But it also displaces labor. It is also true that for the most part, displaced labor has found other things to do. But it is not true that there must always be something else to do. People can be superfluous.

Thus, for example, look at agriculture in the West. 200 years ago, 95% of the population were farmers. Now 2% are, and they vastly outproduce the farmer of 200 years ago. And unemployment is not 93%: all those displaced farmers (or their descendants) are doing other things. On the other hand, there are far fewer people farming today. Labor has been displaced by capital.

As a counterexample to your intuitions, consider some really unskilled labor: horses. In the West, horses have been almost completely displaced by capital, so much that there is little demand for their labor. Whereas 100 years ago, they were a large component of the labor force. As a result, there are millions fewer horses alive now than there were 100 years ago.

To the neocameral state, serfs are no more intrinsically valuable than horses, although serfs are a bit more touchy about being taken back 'round the sheds and put down. Really, really dumb serfs are in some danger of being obsoleted, although as I argued above, because humans are programmed with social desires that only other humans (or possibly, very advanced AI) can fulfill, there should always be at least minimal demand for the services of almost any normal human who has the moral fiber to not be a criminal.

November 16, 2009 at 10:17 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

We can't really quantitatively define virtue

But we can! To the Company, a man is virtuous if and only if he is profitable on net.


The reality is that whoring would have to stop completely.

Really? Why?


The notion of one man for one wife would need to be enforced, or you would have to find a way to overbreed females.

"Overbreed"?

Of course there would be marriage, and I expect divorce would be made fault-based. And social mores would eventually return to a more Victorian level. The neocameral state does not care about the happiness of serfs as such, whereas it does want its young serfs brought up as well as possible.

That said, of the small percentage (1%?) of people unable to pull their own weight, far more men than women will turn bezonian and be culled, either hung as thieves or virtualized. Crime is far more natural for men than women. Thus, there will probably be a slight surplus of women. Just as there is in our current bezonian communities, although significantly less so.

And as Mr. Anonymous suggested above, using existing technology the state can engineer a population with almost any sex imbalance, if it wants to. I just don't see strong reason it would want to. On the other hand, unlike the current democracies, the neocameral state does have the incentive to engineer its people and population far into the future. I do expect it to engage in very extensive and far-reaching eugenics, as well as subsidizing reproduction.

You could not execute thieves, as this would be forgetting the Code.

Code? What code is that? Thieves have been executed for 95% of history. (1790 BC: "if the thief has nothing with which to pay he shall be put to death".) I do believe it is a punishment that people will support. And I expect it is especially true in a society that is extremely safe already. In our society, being a thief doesn't necessarily mean anything about your character. In a hypothetical neocameral regime where most thieves are caught, serious drug addiction is almost unknown, nobody starves to death, there is almost no crime, and everyone works, being a thief indicates you are dumb, willfully ignorant, lacking control and dangerous.

November 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Anonymous pwyll said...

Regarding the comments by several that this is a sub-par post: I suspect that one reason why this might be true is that MM has basically finished outlining the important details of his philosophy and vision for the world. So, going forward, posts are going to be more and more likely to be dealing with small issues, and posts are also going to be less relevant, and more questionable, vs. MM's overall scheme.

...So, lower post quality ironically means that MM has succeeded in laying out his vision!

November 16, 2009 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

@Pals

Once again, Leonard has responded very well to your comments. However, I would like to specifically address your chain of reasoning and explain why it is flawed.

If the machine is cheaper than the human, then the value of the human's labor is higher compared to the labor of the machine.

Wrong. It means that the value of the human is now reduced. The machine can do the same job (as per your premise). This implies that the choice between human and machine is no longer significant for the prospective buyer implying that the human cannot possibly be worth more than the machine. If the human was more expensive to produce/maintain, that is now a sunk cost.

So, no matter how dumb, the human can still have talents that a machine can't perform, and for that, he will be paid.

Total nonsequator. Throughout history, there have always been people who could not adjust to new technology. Examples are too numerous to state here.

And because more technological innovation makes the economy more productive, this makes the human earn more and more.

No. It makes human earn more on net. To simplify the problem, imagine a world with two people, A and B. A is smart, B is an idiot. In the beginning, both are needed as A handles finances, accounting, building complex devices, etc... (generally high skilled jobs). B does all the menial stuff like collecting wood and fishing.

Then A makes a helper robot which can do all the B does but at half the price. Net result: A is much richer. A and B on net are much richer. However, B is screwed because A no longer needs B and thus B can not derive the benefit of all the high-skilled labor that A performed for him. As the robot is strictly better than B, A will always go to the robot. To make it more realistic, assume that the robot could only perform certain menial tasks. Then B would specialize in tasks that the robot could not do. He is still worse off as he has competition (the robot). Note that this does not run afoul of economic theory because on net, A and B together are much better off. If A wanted, he could subsidize B right back to his old lifestyle and still have funds left over but why would he? Note that this is exactly what we see now. The sections of the economy that computers excel at are now dominated by them. Fewer farmers because tractors are better. Fewer people in manufacture because machines do a better job. To a certain extent, most people are better off because they still have talents that the robots of our society cannot duplicate. However, that field is shrinking day by day.

November 16, 2009 at 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Having just taken a young tomcat my family adopted to the vet to be 'fixed,' I'm surprised that no one has yet suggested one obvious solution to the problem of dealing with criminal and low-intelligence bezonians.

Violent crime is largely the province of young and not very smart males. How much of their anti-social behavior is like that of unaltered tomcats - aggressiveness, territorial marking, fighting with consequent injury, etc.? And how much is due to the same cause?

Perhaps when a male juvenile delinquent is arrested for the first time, he ought to be examined to determine the likelihood of his rehabilitation. A look at family background, an IQ test, and something like the Minnesota Multiphasic might be useful. If IQ is above 100 and other signs are favorable, then try for rehab. Otherwise, proceed at once with a quick stump-and-hatchet operation.

Any possible eugenic benefits, and the probable reduction in lumpenprole fecundity, are here purely a bonus. Rapid alteration of objectionable behavior is the primary benefit. Mind you, we are not talking about sterilization, à la Holmes's "three generations of imbeciles are enough" opinion. That eliminates the possibility of reproduction, but otherwise leaves the source of raging hormones intact. Rather, what is intended is gelding, just as animal breeders and farmers have used for millennia to convert violent, dangerous, or obnoxious dogs, tomcats, stallions, bulls, boars, etc. into useful, tractable, even pleasant neutered hunting, guard, or pet dogs, house cats, geldings, steers, barrows, etc.

November 16, 2009 at 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

"Degrandpre stepped into the small medical station and stripped unselfconsciously. Like his uniform, his body was an expression of rank and class. He was nearly hairless, his excess body fat chelated away, his musculature defined but not boastful. He wore a Works Trust tattoo on his left shoulder. His slender penis dangled over the faint scar of his orchidectomy, another badge of rank."

Robert Charles Wilson, Bios

That's not a bad idea Michael S, but I think we'll see virtual reality pods long before we can muster that level of ruthlessness. Plus, don't eunuchs have a reputation for stirring up political trouble for legitimate sovcorp owners?

November 16, 2009 at 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Lawful Neutral, the political trouble stirred up by eunuchs was not the consequence of their castration but of their employment as civil servants. This in turn arose from the need on the part of rulers to have a dependable corps of subordinates amongst whom family loyalties, the desire to provide for heirs, and the consequent tendency toward nepotism would not be an issue.

Celibacy amongst the clergy of the Latin rite of Roman Catholicism arose from a similar cause, namely the secular nobility's jealous defense of its rights of presentation to ecclesiastical benefices. When this fell, as it occasionally did, into the hands of clerical families like the Borgias, it was largely vitiated - and just the same thing happened with the eunuch civil servants of the Grand Turk and the Chinese emperor. Power, wealth, and dignity might not flow from father to son, but it certainly could from uncle to nephew.

In any event this problem could not arise under my proposal, because those gelded would not be qualified for civil service. Maybe we have civil servants of IQ 90 now (I sometimes think so after visits to the license bureau, etc.), but that would certainly not be the case under a benificent sovcorp such as MM advocates. At best our geldings might serve as street sweepers or ditch diggers - but they'd be docile street sweepers or ditch diggers!

November 16, 2009 at 3:59 PM  
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November 16, 2009 at 4:57 PM  
Anonymous MQ said...

"Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator."

This is completely untrue -- there are numerous European rulers who trashed their countries. It's just that contemporary Europe is OK and contemporary Africa is not, and that casts a rosy glow back over European history. Start back with the worst Roman Emperors, go up through the 100 years war, the 30 years war, lousy 20th century rulers like Mussolini and Hitler, etc. etc.

ALso, this blog is getting freakier and freakier.

November 16, 2009 at 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Plus, don't eunuchs have a reputation for stirring up political trouble for legitimate sovcorp owners?"

Eunuchs have plenty of time to grab power. For an example outside the harem environment, think of the Skopzy sect in Russia.

November 17, 2009 at 12:45 AM  
Blogger bgc said...

MM says he can provide the basis for a _secular_ reactionary politics, but I think he has failed.

With a virtual society deciding between the survival of Terence Tao and Mencius Moldbug - surely this line of argument has, for all its insightfulness and general valuableness - now reached its reductio ad absurdum?

It is now time to return and re-examine the basic assumptions.

November 17, 2009 at 4:42 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

bcg, neocameralism is what MM says: a blueprint for secular governance. You give no reason to think otherwise.

You get strange results predictably from a "singularity scenario", that is, when you assume a world in which AIs are smarter than every human alive but two, and also cheap. But MM is just flat wrong in the idea that there might be only two unVRed people left, unless there is also the assumption that the AIs are allowed to be owners. But I can think of very little reason why humans would allow non-human ownership. And plenty of reason why not: this scenario. Would you?

What might be possible in the singularity scenario is the obsolescence (and thus VRification) of all serfs. (Personally, I think not, but perhaps lording it over robots will be just as satisfying to our need to dominate as lording it over actual real-life people.) But free men are never obsolete in the sense that they cannot pay for themselves: they are the owners, getting rich dividend checks every quarter. And recall that we have assumed a society that is so productive, it has plentiful AIs that no human can outproduce: not the greatest genius, the most talented musician, the most beautiful woman.

I don't think that is absurd, but it is certainly far-fetched. There really is not much point in pushing hard on this sort of scenario. The singularity is called that for a reason: not that it is absurd, but that predicting past it is not possible for us.

November 17, 2009 at 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Dog of Justice said...

This is completely untrue -- there are numerous European rulers who trashed their countries.

Indeed. "Après moi, le déluge" is French, not Swahili.

November 18, 2009 at 2:02 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Leonard wrote 'I gave my definition, which was, I think, pertinent to this discussion. Namely: vagrant := person who is a net externality. Thus, my definition is a superset of what yours appears to be... I understand your point about paying off and thus settling mobile vagrants. By your definition, this makes them not vagrants. I agree that it may well lower their net costs, but it does not make them non-vagrants by my definition. It just mitigates their cost. And thus they still cause the "dire problem", and need to be discussed.'

Sigh. Of course these things need to be discussed - and I did just that, carefully not muddying the waters by altering the terminology in such a way that two things were covered by one term, things that are in fact different and work differently, and a term that actually does ordinarily mean what I used it for ("wanderers" - or would "gyrovagues" suit you better, despite being a less well known term?). You do not get to do a bait and switch on established background material, and you certainly do not get to make out that I was not covering other ways people give rise to external costs. The importance of the distinction between vagrants and people being paid off is that the costs are channelled differently; addressing one sort with means geared to the other can't work.

River Cocytus wrote "In times when labor was cheap (i.e. slavery was common and manageable) machines were invented but left unused. Too expensive."

Actually, that's not how things worked out. Slavery prevailed when labour was expensive, or to put it another way land was comparatively cheap and free people didn't have to take paid work that was worse and/or harder than setting up for themselves. In those circumstances it was worth keeping some workers unfree, despite the costs of guarding them etc. (Slavery also prevailed in certain value adding skilled sectors even when there was a large, free, oppressed but unskilled populace, e.g. the Islamic world had eunuchs, concubines, artisans, and soldiers like Mamelukes and Janissaries - whose security and conditions were better than those of ordinary people.) The machines were left unused when all labour was cheap, or when free labour wasn't but slave labour was.

November 27, 2009 at 9:30 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Pals wrote "If the machine is cheaper than the human, then the value of the human's labor is higher compared to the labor of the machine. So, no matter how dumb, the human can still have talents that a machine can't perform, and for that, he will be paid. And because more technological innovation makes the economy more productive, this makes the human earn more and more."

There are non sequiturs in there. The value of the human's labour is not higher than the machine's - they are the same, and depend on the buyer - the cost of the human's labour is higher than the machine's. The human may well have talents that are not in demand, or not so much that he or she can earn enough to live on - even when the economy is more productive and can supply things cheaper than before. Cases in point: people driven out by sheep, as in the Highland Clearances and the early (Tudor) phase of the Enclosure of the Commons.

"If your logic had any truth in it, then the invention of the wheel would be the worst thing to have ever happened to low-skilled workers. Just imagine how much better off the poor would be if they could carry everything instead of wheels, eh?"

There's a non sequitur there too. It's not the mere fact of improvement that makes people worse off (it usually doesn't), it's when that drives some process that leaves some people marginalised, just as both ignition and fuel are needed for combustion.

November 27, 2009 at 9:33 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Leonard wrote "Thus, for example, look at agriculture in the West. 200 years ago, 95% of the population were farmers. Now 2% are, and they vastly outproduce the farmer of 200 years ago. And unemployment is not 93%: all those displaced farmers (or their descendants) are doing other things."

Make that "the survivors of all those displaced farmers (or their descendants if any)", and it would be accurate. A lot didn't make it through.

"...as I argued above, because humans are programmed with social desires that only other humans (or possibly, very advanced AI) can fulfill, there should always be at least minimal demand for the services of almost any normal human who has the moral fiber to not be a criminal".

However, what counts is effective demand, sufficient to live on. "Minimal" has often been less than this for some people (trivially, that is necessarily the case if Malthusian constraints ever hit).

Michael S. wrote "Having just taken a young tomcat my family adopted to the vet to be 'fixed,' I'm surprised that no one has yet suggested one obvious solution... Violent crime is largely the province of young and not very smart males. How much of their anti-social behavior is like that of unaltered tomcats - aggressiveness, territorial marking, fighting with consequent injury, etc.? And how much is due to the same cause?... If IQ is above 100 and other signs are favorable, then try for rehab. Otherwise, proceed at once with a quick stump-and-hatchet operation... what is intended is gelding, just as animal breeders and farmers have used for millennia to convert violent, dangerous, or obnoxious dogs, tomcats, stallions, bulls, boars, etc. into useful, tractable, even pleasant neutered hunting, guard, or pet dogs, house cats, geldings, steers, barrows, etc."

See Richard Burton's somewhat related observation: 'The old Scandinavians, from Norway to Iceland, systematically gelded "sturdy vagrants" in order that they might not beget bastards' (towards the end of FN#155). I am surprised that prefrontal lobotomies have not yet been canvassed here (I have certainly seen that in an SF short story, precisely to handle surplus people - and it was in a Simpsons' Halloween Special).

Michael S. wrote "Power, wealth, and dignity might not flow from father to son, but it certainly could from uncle to nephew".

At least two dynasties were founded that way, the Attalids of 3rd century BC Pergamum and the Qajars in 18th century Iran.

November 27, 2009 at 9:37 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Leonard wrote "But I can think of very little reason why humans would allow non-human ownership. And plenty of reason why not: this scenario. Would you?"

This has been in place for centuries, and dominant for at least a century: legal persons that are not natural persons. And no, those do not simply work out as though their human agents were their actual owners, for much the same institutional reasons that democracies don't work out as monarchies.

"But free men are never obsolete in the sense that they cannot pay for themselves: they are the owners, getting rich dividend checks every quarter".

That no more follows than that it follows from past history that all capital is owned that way and that the current arrangement is actually Distributism.

November 27, 2009 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger a said...

From Roman emperors, to Scottish "kings", to Spanish Habsburgs, there have been plenty of European monarchs who ruined their own countries for personal enrichment or personal glory.

December 7, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger gwern said...

Mencius's challenge to name a European ruler who ruined his country for wealth strikes me as a bit dishonest.

All the African examples I can think of date from the 1700s or 1800s on, and principally are from the 1900s.

Why's that? Because before, they *couldn't ruin their country and escape with wealth*. What were they going to do, run away in a convoy laden down with gold as the banks seethe with angry Zulu?

No, the modern examples escape with wealth stored overseas in Western institutions like Swiss banks. They have opulence awaiting them overseas. Remove the Swiss banks, and exile holds no allure.

If we compare apples with apples - pre-Swiss bank Africa with pre-Swiss bank Europe - things start looking much better. What pre-1700s African ruler ruined his country for personal wealth? I don't think there are many, no more than with Europe.

April 20, 2010 at 8:21 PM  
OpenID lupoleboucher said...

"Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator."

Nope; not true. Just off the top of my head:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_II_of_Spain

Kings are great if you have a great king. Otherwise, they suck. Sort of like democracies work OK if you restrict suffrage to productive citizens, the way it was until 1920 or so.

May 11, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

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