Thursday, November 20, 2008 77 Comments

Patchwork 2: profit strategies for our new corporate overlords

I fear last week's essay, after promising an absence of grim, dumped a can of it down your shirt. I apologize for this, dear readers, and also for the awful, incendiary closing cliffhanger. (But fear not. We will answer the question.) UR has never been an easy ride, but I really don't mean to abuse the customer in this way. If nothing else, it repels the good and attracts the bad.

But unfortunately for those who are bored with these warm, gaseous exhalations, I've come to the conclusion that it is simply not possible to get into the meat of a UR post without a fresh introduction to the anti-democratic, and frankly authoritarian, philosophy of government for which we are so notorious. (You do know that just reading this blog makes you a bad person, don't you?) Unless you are a hardened longtime reader, UR is just off your political map, and anyone can click on a blog for the first time. Besides, one can never be too deprogrammed.

Most people, when they take a whack at designing a government (an engineering task at which all God's chilluns just naturally excel), tend to ask themselves: what should the government do? Of course this is the wrong question. The right question is: what will the government do?

(A great example of asking the right question, but still getting the wrong answer, is Federalist 10. It is almost funny to read Madison's bogus remedies for the well-known ills of democracy, like national size as an infallible nostrum against political parties - not unlike perusing some medieval pharmacopoeia which prescribes dried wolf dick for breast cancer.)

For example, most democratic citizens are firm believers in the concept of limited government. In the all-curing magic black bag of democracy, limited government is the first-line ointment. Apparently a government can prevent itself and its successors indefinite from doing bad things, just by writing a note to itself that says "don't do bad things."

Swallowing the red pill, departing the Matrix and donning our alien-detecting Ray-Bans, we realize at once that no government can limit itself. Limited government is a perpetual-motion machine: a product axiomatically fraudulent by definition. In any human organization, final authority rests with some person or persons, not with any rule, process or procedure.

This is not to say that there is no distinction between Washington and Pyongyang. What we call the "rule of law" is a good thing. But if you have an efficient engine, there is no point in marketing it as an infinitely efficient engine. The noble ideal of "limited government" or "rule of law" is a piece of political camouflage, behind which lurks a useful and effective, but certainly imperfect and not even slightly divine, corporate design: that of judicial supremacy. In a sentence: juridical supremacy is judicial supremacy.

Judicial supremacy is a management design in which ultimate sovereign authority rests with committees of arbitrators who are experts in proper government procedure. The design certainly has its merits. If implemented well, for example, it can reduce personal graft among employees to negligible levels. Hardly a high standard, but I am happy to be governed by a regime which has achieved it. But ultimately, judicial supremacy can become arbitrarily evil - all it takes is arbitrarily evil judges.

Is judicial supremacy, for example, superior to military supremacy? This is like asking if a rowboat is better than a sailboat. For some purposes it is, for some it isn't. In peacetime you would probably rather have the former. If you want to win a war you probably want the latter.

Neither, however, can be said to be in any sense predictable by design. A judicial kritocracy or a military dictatorship may deliver good government, or bad government. Either can be nice or nasty. In the end, the words "judge" and "general" are just words. It is not at all difficult to imagine a process of political evolution by which they swap meanings.

(Herr Teufelsdröckh's philosophy of Clothes has never said more. Can a General command, in a Black Robe? or Justice be laid down, in Camo? - most assuredly; and the Devil too, in either! But more of him in short. Under the Clothes is a Man - who is he? How got he here? What does he at his Desk? None of these having much to do with your Design.)

Is it possible to design a structure of government which will be stable and predictable? Hopefully, of course, stably and predictably benign? History affords no evidence of it. But history affords no evidence of semiconductors, either. There is always room for something new.

The key is that word should. When you say your government "should do X," or "should not do Y," you are speaking in the hieratic language of democracy. You are postulating some ethereal and benign higher sovereign, which can enforce promises made by the mere government to whose whims you would otherwise be subject. In reality, while your government can certainly promise to do X or not to do Y, there is no power that can hold it to this promise. Or if there is, it is that power which is your real government. Your whining should be addressed to it.

The neocameralist structure of Patchwork realms, which are sovereign joint-stock companies, creates a different kind of should. This is the profitable should. We can say that a realm should do X rather than Y, because X is more profitable than Y. Since sovereign means sovereign, nothing can compel the realm to do X and not Y. But, with an anonymous capital structure, we can expect administrators to be generally responsible and not make obvious stupid mistakes.

Another way to say this is that a realm is financially responsible. The general observation here is that, to paraphrase Tolstoy, financially responsible organizations are all alike. By definition, they do not waste money. By definition, their irresponsible counterparts do, and by definition there are an infinite number of ways to waste money. Think of a rope: a financially responsible organization is a tight rope. It only has one shape. But if there is slack in the rope, it can flap around in all kinds of crazy ways.

It is immediately clear that the neocameralist should, the tight rope, is far inferior to the ethereal should, the magic leash of God. (Typically these days arriving in the form of vox populi, vox Dei. Or, as a cynic might put it: vox populi, vox praeceptori.)

Given the choice between financial responsibility and moral responsibility, I will take the latter every time. If it was possible to write a set of rules on paper and require one's children and one's children's children to comply with this bible, all sorts of eternal principles for good government and healthy living could be set out.

But we cannot construct a political structure that will enforce moral responsibility. We can construct a political structure that will enforce financial responsibility. Thus neocameralism. We might say that financial responsibility is the raw material of moral responsibility. The two are not by any means identical, but they are surprisingly similar, and the gap seems bridgeable.

When we use the profitable should, therefore, we are in the corporate strategy department. We ask: how should a Patchwork realm, or any financially responsible government, be designed to maximize the return on its capital?

For our overall realm design, let's simplify the Anglo-American corporate model slightly. We'll have direct shareholder sovereignty, with no board of directors. The board layer strikes me as a bit of an anachronism, and it is certainly one place stuff can go wrong. Deleted. And I also dislike the term 'CEO,' which seems a bit vainglorious for a sovereign organization. A softer word with a pleasant Quaker feel is delegate, although we will compromise on a capital. And we can call the logical holder of each share its proprietor.

Therefore: a Patchwork realm is governed by a Delegate, who is the proxy of the proprietors, and can be replaced by a majority of them at any time and for any reason. The Delegate exercises undivided sovereign authority, as in divine-right monarchy. Ie, in English: total power. (The Delegate is always Jewish.)

This fragile-looking design can succeed at the sovereign layer because, and only because, modern encryption technology makes it feasible. The proprietors use a secret-sharing scheme to control a root key that must regularly reauthorize the Delegate, and thus in turn the command hierarchy of the security forces, in a pyramid leading down to cryptographic locks on individual weapons. If the Delegate turns on the proprietors, they may have to wait a day to authorize the replacement, and another day or two before the new Delegate can organize the forces needed to have her predecessor captured and shot. Fiduciary responsibility has its price.

That modern cryptography was not available to the Most Serene Republic of Venice does not mean they wouldn't have used it if they'd had it. Since we have it, we can use it. Since the algorithms date to the 1970s, it's not surprising that history has no record of cryptographic organizational structures at the sovereign level. Since the neocameralist design for a sovereign corporation depends on them, it's not surprising that history shows us nothing of the kind. While as a reactionary I believe that the legal and political structures of old Europe, so often defamed as "feudal," are a treasure trove of sovereign organization and if restored in toto tomorrow would prove on balance a vast human boon, it is a slight overstatement to assume that everything old is beautiful and sweet, and anything new must suck.

For simplicity, our realm will do its books in gold. The spectacle of a sovereign corporation that maintains accounts in its own scrip is a fascinating one, at least from a financial perspective, and we cannot write it off quite so casually as yet another 20th-century monstrosity. It is not impossible that fiat currency can be made to turn a buck. It is unlikely that the proprietors will want their dividends in it, however.

And who are the proprietors? Anyone. They are anonymous shareholders. It may be desirable, though, for a realm to enjoin its residents from holding its shares. It is not normally necessary for a company to refrain from serving its shareholders as customers, but a sovereign realm is not a normal company. A resident shareholder has a conflict of interest, because he may have an opportunity to use the power of his share to promote policies that reward him directly but are not in the interests of his non-resident fellows. The effect is small, but better to rule it out.

We'll also assume - assumption to be justified below - that realms exist in a competitive market in which residents can easily take their business elsewhere if they don't like the service.

Given this setup, let's say you're the Delegate. Your patch is the city of San Francisco, and your realm is its new corporate overlord - Friscorp. Friscorp is yours. Not that you own it, of course, just that the owners have hired you to run it.

First, let's enumerate the basic principles of sovereign corporate management.

Principle one: the proprietors' sovereignty is absolute. Securing it against all enemies, foreign and domestic, is the primary fiduciary responsibility of the Delegate. Lose the patch and the realm is worthless, and so are the shares. Everything else, even profit, comes after security.

Principle two: a realm is a business, not a charity. Its goal is to maximize its discounted return on investment. If Delegate and proprietors alike somehow manage to forget this, in the long run their realm will deteriorate, develop red-giant syndrome, and become gigantic, corrupt and foul. It may even turn into a democracy.

Principle three: except in cases where it conflicts with the first or second principles, "do no evil" is always good business. Think of your realm as a hotel. As Mark Twain once put it: "all saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel." And while many hotelkeepers can do miracles, few indeed are saints. But all are nice to the customers - at least, the 99.999% of customers who feel no need to start torching the drapery.

While our test case, San Francisco, is hardly representative of the average stitch of Earth's skin, it will probably be harder to manage than most - being both urban, and urbane. So how, as Delegate of Friscorp, would you run your town? Let's start by assuming a steady-state system, ducking as usual the problem of getting from here to there.

There are two basic tasks of a realm: managing the residents, and surviving in the big bad world. Let's take these one at a time.

Any hominid, hominoid, or other bipedal ape present on Friscorp's patch is a resident. The basic idea of a realm is that the proprietors profit by providing the residents with a pleasant place to live, be happy, and of course be productive. Basically, if you're not nice to the hominids, they'll leave, the proprietors won't have a business, and you won't have a job.

It is difficult for those of us who grew up under democracy to juxtapose this fact, which is an incentive rather than a constraint, with the fact that as Delegate of Friscorp, you exercise undivided sovereignty over San Francisco. You have no constraint. Your residents are as ants in your kitchen. No combination of them can possibly oppose you. Not even if they all come together in one big angry mob, screaming, jumping up and down, waving their little signs and throwing rocks and gravel. All will be massacred by your invincible robot armies. Pour la canaille, la mitraille!

And even without any such cause for complaint, if it would be profitable to just spray the whole city down, exterminating the current crop of worthless bipeds and replacing them with a more upscale crowd, you will. And if you don't, your proprietors will fire you and hire a new Delegate with a clue. Terrifying! At least from the San Franciscans' perspective.

But we can nip this grimness right here: it won't be profitable. Why exterminate, when you can enslave? (It won't be profitable to enslave, either. But see further.) Once again, Patchwork residents do not rely on imaginary constraints to feel secure in the icy, lethal jaws of a sovereign state which could slaughter them all. They rely on real incentives. While the incentives may not be 100% reliable, they at least exist.

A realm signs a formal contract, or covenant, with all responsible residents. The deal is this: the resident agrees not to misbehave, the realm agrees not to mistreat him. Definitions of each are set down in great detail. In case of conflict, the realm appoints an arbitrator to hear the case. All cases can be appealed up to the Delegate, who has the power not only to interpret the covenant but also - being sovereign - to suspend it.

This process is called "law." It is not a novelty. A realm may adopt and/or modify any of the old Continental, British or American systems of law. If a common-law system is adopted, precedent should be rolled back to 1900 at the latest, and probably more like 1800. The democratic era has corrupted everything, law being no exception.

The covenant has two sides, but the sides are not equal. The realm, having sovereign power, can compel the resident to comply with all promises. Since San Francisco is not an Islamic state, it does not ask its residents to agree that their hand will be cut off if they steal. But it could. And San Francisco, likewise, can promise not to cut off its residents' hands until it is blue in the face - but, since it is a sovereign state, no one can enforce this promise against it.

For exactly this reason, however, San Francisco must guard its reputation. It does this by living up to its promises, as much as possible. If it is forced by unexpected, understandable circumstances to invoke force majeure, people will probably understand. If it breaks its own promises all the time and for no good reason, amputating hands willy-nilly after swearing up and down that life and limb are sacred, it will not be viewed as a safe place to live, and no one will want to live there. Congratulations on your new burned-out ruin. The views, at least, remain spectacular. Your replacement can probably find a way to salvage some tiny fraction of his employers' capital by turning the place into some kind of eco-park.

To live in or even just visit San Francisco, a hominid must either sign the covenant, or be a dependent of some guardian who has signed the covenant. Ie, your hominid must either be responsible, or have someone who is responsible for it. San Francisco is a city, not a zoo. The signer of the covenant, the responsible party, is the subject.

In the covenant, the realm promises to protect the subject's person, property and dependents. It indemnifies the subject against crime, and pays unrecoverable tort claims. There is no such thing as perfect security, and bad things can happen to anyone anywhere, but Friscorp considers all disturbances of the peace to be its problem and its fault.

And most important, Friscorp guarantees your right to depart from the city with person, property and dependents, unless of course you are fleeing legal proceedings. (And maybe even if you are - of course, you would have to find another patch willing to take you.)

In return, the subject promises not to disturb the peace of San Francisco, or permit his or her dependents to do so. (I favor the ancient Roman design, in which the guardian is responsible for the actions of his dependents, and holds the authority of patria potestas over them. Authority and responsibility, as usual, being unified. Not quite a fractal or hierarchical sovereignty, but close. Friscorp has no business case for interfering in its subjects' family lives.)

Residents of a Patchwork realm have no security or privacy against the realm. There is no possible conflict in the matter: not being malignant, the government is not a threat to its residents, and since it is sovereign they are not a threat to it. This absence of conflict allows the government to enforce a much higher level of peaceful interaction between residents.

All residents, even temporary visitors, carry an ID card with RFID response. All are genotyped and iris-scanned. Public places and transportation systems track everyone. Security cameras are ubiquitous. Every car knows where it is and who is sitting in it, and tells the authorities both. Residents cannot use this data to snoop into each others' lives, but Friscorp can use it to monitor society at an almost arbitrarily detailed level.

In return, residents experience a complete absence of crime - at least at the level of present-day Japan, and ideally much lower. (San Francisco has no need of Yakuza.) Residents also experience a complete lack of security theater - to board a plane, they walk right on. Friscorp has no reason to tolerate the presence of dangerous or unidentified hominids at large in its city, any more than it would tolerate leopards on the loose.

Strong identification and tracking of residents also mitigates one of the most obvious problems with the Patchwork approach, the inconvenience of constantly crossing borders in a world of small sovereignties. What does a resident do if she lives in San Francisco and wants to drive to Berkeley, which is a different country? Is there a checkpoint on the Bay Bridge?

Not at all. She just drives to Berkeley. Her car knows who is in it, and the authorities of both SF and Berkeley know where it is. If she is for some reason not authorized to enter Berkeley, all sorts of alarms will flash. If she persists, she will be of course detained. Having a scalpel, Patchwork feels no need to whack anyone with a club.

One way to see internal security in a Patchwork realm is as a compromise between two sorts of Orwellianism. In the sense that the realm is (effectively) omniscient and omnipotent, it would fit most peoples' definition of "Orwellian."

In return for its Orwellian powers of observation and action, however, Friscorp has no interest at all in the other half of Orwellianism: the psychological manipulation of public opinion as a device for regime stabilization. The realm cares what its residents do. It does not care what they think. It is difficult to express the importance of this freedom to those who have found a way to live without it.

There is one problem, though, which is the problem I mentioned last week: the problem of adults who are not productive members of society. In our little Newspeak we call them wards of the realm. A ward is any resident who is not capable of earning a living, is not accepted as a dependent by any guardian, and is not wanted by any other patch.

The initial conversion of our present, democratic, and of course completely dysfunctional San Francisco into the realm of Friscorp will produce quite a few wards. At least relative to the number we would expect to emerge in a healthy society. But there will always be black sheep, and there will always be wards.

As Delegate of San Francisco, what should you do with these people? I think the answer is clear: alternative energy. Since wards are liabilities, there is no business case for retaining them in their present, ambulatory form. Therefore, the most profitable disposition for this dubious form of capital is to convert them into biodiesel, which can help power the Muni buses.

Okay, just kidding. This is the sort of naive Randian thinking which appeals instantly to a geek like me, but of course has nothing to do with real life. The trouble with the biodiesel solution is that no one would want to live in a city whose public transportation was fueled, even just partly, by the distilled remains of its late underclass.

However, it helps us describe the problem we are trying to solve. Our goal, in short, is a humane alternative to genocide. That is: the ideal solution achieves the same result as mass murder (the removal of undesirable elements from society), but without any of the moral stigma. Perfection cannot be achieved on both these counts, but we can get closer than most might think.

The best humane alternative to genocide I can think of is not to liquidate the wards - either metaphorically or literally - but to virtualize them. A virtualized human is in permanent solitary confinement, waxed like a bee larva into a cell which is sealed except for emergencies. This would drive him insane, except that the cell contains an immersive virtual-reality interface which allows him to experience a rich, fulfilling life in a completely imaginary world.

The virtual worlds of today are already exciting enough to distract many away from their real lives. They will only get better. Nor is productive employment precluded in this scenario - for example, wards can perform manual labor through telepresence. As members of society, however, they might as well not exist. And because cells are sealed and need no guards, virtualization should be much cheaper than present-day imprisonment.

I like virtualization because it can be made to scale. I don't think there is any scenario under which San Francisco is burdened with more than a few thousand wards. Many other regions of the earth, however, contain large numbers of human beings whose existence may well prove an unequivocal liability to the owners of any ground on which they would reside. If so, they can be virtualized, creating giant human Wachowski honeycombs of former bezonians, whose shantytowns can be cleared and redeveloped as villas for retired oil-company executives.

Of course, virtualization is a drastic alternative and itself unlikely to happen. Charity is just too popular these days. Before anyone becomes a ward of the realm, any person or organization is free to adopt him as a dependent as a matter of mutual agreement. His new guardian is (a) responsible for his actions, and (b) free to tell him what to do: the ideal relationship for any attempt at rehabilitation. (It's basically what the Salvation Army does now, I believe.) If all else fails, there's always the honeycomb.

I think this problem gives a flavor of the kind of thinking we would expect in an entrepreneurial sovereign. The result is quite foreign to the democratic philosophy of government, obviously, and it takes some imagination to picture. But I seriously doubt that many who had a chance to live in this future would have much interest in restoring the past.

Libertarians in particular may have a great deal of trouble understanding how an authoritarian, omnipotent and omniscient sovereign can be expected to create a free society. The fundamental diagnosis of libertarianism - that today's democratic governments are much larger and much more intrusive than they should be - is obviously correct. The remedy proposed, however, does not have anything like a track record of success.

In fact, I believe the libertarian opposition to sovereignty, dating back to Locke, is a major cause of modern big government. Our present establishments, not to mention our tax rates, dwarf any divine-right monarchy in history. The attempt to limit the state, if it has any result, tends to result in an additional layer of complexity which weakens it and makes it more inefficient. This inefficiency gives it both the need and the excuse to expand.

So we may ask: why does the post office suck? Not because it is sovereign, but because it is not financially responsible. Its freedom to be wasteful and inefficient is what gives it that familiar Aeroflot feel. (The bankrupt airlines, such as United, feel more like Aeroflot every year.) When we postulate a sovereign authority which is financially responsible, like a Patchwork realm, we have no reason to expect it to display these pathologies of government. In particular, we cannot expect it to waste resources in order to pointlessly annoy its residents, a form of inefficiency in which democratic regimes seem to positively revel.

The sight of a financially responsible sovereign, even the thought-experiment of one, is a good lesson for libertarians, because it reminds us what a healthy government actually is. Today's democratic megastates are to healthy sovereigns as liver cancer is to liver. If you find liver cells invading every other organ and crushing them all into goo, it is only natural to think that the cure might be a drug that was lethal to liver cells. But you actually need a liver. You need to kill the cancer, not the liver.

Next week, we'll finish off the design with a look at external security: Patchwork as a whole. How does this glorious tapestry stay afloat? Why doesn't it just collapse into a single patch? And how can it defend itself from its unreconstructed, 20th-century-style neighbors?


Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Let's start by assuming a steady-state system, ducking as usual the problem of getting from here to there.

Yes, well.

Before we begin debating the possibility of using cryptographic locks on firearms (again), or pointing out that Friscorp would need to defend itself from, oh everyone, let's address the above.

A great many of us talk about the collapse of WashCorp(r) sometime in the next 80 years or so.

In the spirit of preparedness, I'm interested in figuring out the following questions about "the fall."

Will we be able to know it's over?
When and how will we know?

November 20, 2008 at 5:44 AM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 20, 2008 at 5:51 AM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

Ah, holodecking the un-productive.

I think Gene Roddenberry beat you to this idea. Most of the rest of the problems actually don't even exist with this caveat because now you have a society of intelligent productive people. The primary problem of government is after all how to deal with vast numbers of violent stupid people.

November 20, 2008 at 5:53 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

So from now on, the honeycomb will be called holodecking :)

Can we implement holodecking now? How much would it cost? Just some virtual action version of GTAIII crossed with SL?

November 20, 2008 at 6:06 AM  
Anonymous randy said...

Great post. Several things to ponder but just one comment - I don't think virtualizing the unproductive would be profitable. Human nature being what it is, too many would jump at the opportunity.

November 20, 2008 at 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Sun Tsu said...

Love this blog. But how do you:

1. Ensure residents do not hold shares in their local sovcorp to avoid conflicts of interest. Re:

2. Ensure that adjacent sovcorps or their agents do not use holding shares to influence policy in a way that undermines service to weaken their competition. Re:

3. Ensure that some megalomaniac with enough resources doesn't get control of enough shares to appoint himself Delegate and proceed to then run the sovcorp as his utopia, which might not include right of exit. Re:

4. Ensure that the Delegate can actually control the bureaucracy that he needs to provide the governance services for the sovcorp when he comes in. Re:

5. Resolve principal-agent problems, often made worse by any ego issues that the Delegate has. Re:

6. Defend from non-sovcorp actors where traditional deterrence fails. Re:,

7. Design a mechanism for enforcing dispute resolution between sovcorps without sacrificing sovereignty. Re:

Just some random thoughts.:)

November 20, 2008 at 6:29 AM  
Anonymous Adam01 said...

Good stuff MM, but I think there is a flaw with one big assumption you are making:

"In return for its Orwellian powers of observation and action, however, Friscorp has no interest at all in the other half of Orwellianism: the psychological manipulation of public opinion as a device for regime stabilization. The realm cares what its residents do. It does not care what they think."

This strikes me as simply bizarre. Friscorp has a huge vested interest in what its residents/proprietors think, otherwise it wouldn't (and couldn't) be omniscient in the way you're describing, and in the way that would be necessary for regime survival and profit. The psychological manipulation of public opinion is going to be part and parcel of this omniscient state. The more interesting question would be to explore why/if residents and proprietors would have every incentive for Friscorp to care what they think, and in fact mold its own proprietors to think certain things and in a certain way.

November 20, 2008 at 7:27 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

the ideal solution achieves the same result as mass murder (the removal of undesirable elements from society), but without any of the moral stigma.

Why should they care about moral stigma? Pour la canaille, la mitraille! We're not talking here about murdering innocent people.

So here's my plan:
(1) you chip every person, place, and thing, as you say, converting the society into a giant orwellian eyeball
(2) you make crime illegal, including crimes against capital (i.e. doing donuts on the 409), crimes against the peace, etc. At a metacrime level, there's only one crime: performing any action which lowers corporate profits.
(3) you implement the death penalty for any crime more serious than littering
(4) you create a fair judicial system, fair in the sense of being viewed by the public as using your panoptical data to correctly determine guilt. The judicial system does not impose penalties, it only determines whether someone has acted criminally.
(5) you give the executive system leeway, to commute death sentences to whippings and fines, but only for profitable serfs.

How would a bezonian exploit such a system?

After the above rules hold for a few years, pretty much every bezonian will squeezed out, one way or another. Either he will have gainful employ and learned to live within the law, or he'll have been lethally injected. Then you can relax the law towards a slightly more graduated system of penalties.

November 20, 2008 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

I agree w/ Adam: the sovcorp has a strong interest in what people think about it. In fact you said it yourself:
San Francisco must guard its reputation.
What is "reputation" other than what people think? So, why not program people to believe that the sovcorp form is secure and effective?

Beyond that, the realm certainly wants its employees to be effective in their job. It does not want perfunctary performance; it wants employees that believe in it. Sure, pay is one incentive, but it's not the only reason people do things. People love serving higher ends, such as "doing justice", "helping others", "serving the people", "defending Us against Them", etc. So, why not tell the people that serving the sovcorp is a noble career, perhaps lower paying than other work, but high-paying in self-respect? And why not program the people to worship the executive apparat, just as we now program Americans to worship police and soldiers? Indeed, why shouldn't we program people to identify with and love the sovcorp? The more they do, the less likely they are to emigrate. Children could give the Nazi salute as they intone the pledge: "I pledge allegiance, to the stockholders, of the our beloved sovereign Friscorp. And to the profits, for which they seek, one corporation, ever profitable, with oversight and justice for all."

Programming people is profitable. As such, only an irresponsible corporation would neglect doing so. Imagine how much the US armed forces would have to pay in salary if soldiering was seen as just as important, good, respectable, etc. as plumbing. There's a reason for all those "the few, the proud" ads, and it's not degenerate democratic makework for Madison Avenue.

November 20, 2008 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger jsn said...

If brainwashing the residents can improve the sovcorp bottom line, why wouldn't the soviet^Wsovereign corporate overlords just do it? Existing corporations do it routinely to their employees [corporate culture pr, team building trainings, etc] and to their customers [pr/marketing/advertisements etc]. How is sovcorp pr and ads campaign different from e.g. democratic candidate pr and ads campaign? Ok, electorate votes and customers just flee (expensive option) or stay (cheap option). Does it make that much of a difference? What are the incentives for sovcorps to avoid such means to improving their bottom lines?

November 20, 2008 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

LOL, this post is so full of bizarre assumptions and conclusions that I'm starting to wonder if you're just trying to see how much ridiculous stuff your audience will lap up. Either that, or you're working to create Skynet.

Your naive faith in incentives and technology is laughable. No corporation on Earth limits its activities to those which align with their financial incentives. Your encrypted weapons scheme makes Heinlen's vision of two guys and a robot on the moon defeating the entire population of Earth in a revolution look plausible.

I wish all conservatives/libertarians/monarchists/whatevers would learn one thing and learn it well. Human beings are not homo economus. Incentives are not sufficient.

Divided government like the one we have in America is the best solution so far to the problem of sovereignty. You are unhappy about it for reasons I still cannot quite understand -- it's either that you have to pay taxes or that people are insufficiently racist for your liking, I cannot tell which. But we have freedom and wealth unparalleled throughout history.

As for judicial supremacy, uh no. It's true the judges are quite powerful, but they are appointed by the executive with consent of Congress. If Obama and the Congressional Dems wanted to install 10 super-liberal judges next year to have total control of the Court, they could do so.

November 20, 2008 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

The other weak point in neocameralism, which you've never explained, is exactly how encryption is supposed to secure the stockholders' control of the corp.

Let us start with the rudiments: Each stockholder has one nym, and possibly more. Thus he can anonymously communicate with anyone: the CEO (er -- "Delegate"), lesser executives, and other stockholders.

How do we hold a meeting of stockowners? Let us assume that all parties know the ownership of all shares. That is, each nym has a "weight", and everyone knows all the weights.

Then we can see how we could hold a vote on policy. Any nym can put up on a virtual blackboard a policy to vote on, yes or no or abstain. Each question must have a unique ID. Each nym may then send in a vote, which includes in the message the ID and how he votes. Presumably, then, everyone could verify any given vote, simply by decrypting the votes (which verifies identities), and adding things up.

How about implementation? Well, if the Delegate can read the blackboard, and he is faithful, then he can attempt to implement a policy.

But we might also imagine using a computer to implement some policies. Program a computer to do the vote-counting thing, and also program it take certain actions upon scanning certain key texts in affirmed policies. I.e. if it sees the text "detonate poison pill [X]", it matches X with its table of nuclear poison pills, and sends the "detonate" command on an output port. More prosaically, we could imagine a "remove Delegate" contingency, where the text "remove Delegate [X]" in a policy would send an email out to all corporate executives saying "[X] has been removed from power. All commands from former Delegate X shall be ignored until further notice". Presumably then whoever was next in a defined chain of command would become the acting Delegate, and (if faithful) would take over the Delegatedom without incident.

This would work, but notice that there is still a subvertible implementor here. The computer, if compromised, holds the keys to the kingdom.

Stock sales would be easy to do as well. A stock sale would require the seller to send a public message saying he has sold X shares to a buying nym. When that happens, everyone updates their holdings-tables with the new information.

Here's what I don't get, though. As I have said before, there are obvious problems with a sovereign corp around corporate governance.

Let's say a nym proposes the following policy: "All shares of nym [X] are to be repossessed without compensation by the corp". It seems well formed. The corp knows how many shares X has. Everyone can easily adjust their tables so that X has 0. What if this measure passes? It can be iterated.

Thus anyone achieving 51% can easily dispossess everyone else and become dictator. A group of N owners with 51% collectively, if each had a solid belief that the others (a) were distinct, and (b) individually had no more than 51%/N, could do the same thing.

November 20, 2008 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

Where one makes mock of the miscalculations of a Jimmy Madison, one would logically also first be warned against visionary philosophizing.
So turnabout is fair play, not that I wish to be fair. Madison has this to say about Patchwork:
If every Atenian citizen were a Socrates, every Athenian Assembly would still have been a mob. Where the people are sovereign, it will not matter who they choose as Delegate.

Franklin and Tocqueville wish to butt in:
The way to be safe is never to be secure. Knowledge only arises from the very heart of agitation and doubt.
The only way opinions and ideas can be renewed and human minds developed is for men to have a constant reciprocal influence upon each other. Constant.

Even Mencius Moldbug would become a sick twisted freak in his short and mortal stay in absolute power.

November 20, 2008 at 8:53 AM  
Anonymous Adam01 said...

Indeed, people don't need to just respect sovcorp, if you're looking to get the maximum amount out the "employees" or proprietors, they must ultimately love sovcorp if your overarching goal (to make each piece of the patchwork as profitable as possible, everything else flows from that assumption). "Incentives" are a necessary but not sufficient condition to making this happen. Look at any really successful business and the corporate culture that has been very deliberately created: happy, motivated employees thinking and working creatively. They do it for the pay/benefits certainly but there is much more going on than imputs in/imputs out. Sovcorp as you have described it will have a very keen interest in the education of the proprietors, if nothing else than to increase the likelyhood of selecting a certain kind of Delegate.

And yeah, the encrypted weapons thing is just, ah, weird. What you'll create is a thriving market in codebreakers.

November 20, 2008 at 8:58 AM  
Anonymous Curve of Freedom said...

Think of your realm as a hotel. As Mark Twain once put it: "all saints can do miracles, but few of them can keep hotel." - Moldbug

Hey! Did you get this analogy from me? If so I demand recompense of %1.39. Except that you don't believe in intellectual property and you don't read comments. No coffee for me.

I don't think virtualizing the unproductive would be profitable. Human nature being what it is, too many would jump at the opportunity. - randy

A logical objection. If I were the Delegate I would provide cheap/free high-quality holodecking of a couple of hours a day to law-abiding citizens.

My honeycombed cons would get a few hours of mediocre holodecking. They'd be required to beta-test the mediocre worlds, where the winged fairy princess would have a terrible glitch right before she was supposed to bat her eyelids and say "What to you so long?" Stuff like that. Also, they would have to work to earn their keep. No virtual labor, no holodeck.

Sun has a lot of points, so I won't quote directly. The "Yes Minister" scenario is a consequence of the tenured career civil service. Not being able to fire civil servants is one way in which contemporary executives aren't absolute. This kind of thing would likely go away if the government were like it was in Jefferson and Adams I's day - small and "serving at the pleasure". Smart Delegates would cut costs by firing bureaucrats, and they could start with the foot-draggers. Cronyism would be defeated as it is supposed to be in modern corporate governance - the CEO gets too cozy with management, profits suffer and the board sacks him. (I don't know if that really works very often but it is supposed to; probably works okay in industries that don't expect bailouts.)

As to how ot resolve disputes between Sovcorps, well, that is a big and thorny objection. I hope Moldy will turn his brain on that one next week. Until then, I guess we'll have to be satisfied with a non-sovereign regional court, which would have all the power that courts did in, say, Medieval Iceland. It would simply discover the law and make rulings, and no police force would be required to execute them, but Sovcorps would find it in their interest to collectively punish offenders.

I'm sensing that we're not convinced by this whole business. The Libra solution of making a big federal sovereign to keep states in line, but give it no legislature to play out its inevitable slide into progressivisim, seems better on the whole. I wish Moldy would comment on that.

November 20, 2008 at 9:18 AM  
Anonymous raistthemage said...

How did the Holy Roman Empire work in the early days when it was functional? I like the idea of a monarch only (and yes I think it should be a monarchy)decentralized federal government as well... but we should look at the historical case study to avoid any pitfalls.

Obviously investiture and the catholic church won't be a factor. But there were probably other areas of disputes between cities, duchies and the crown which must be avoided.

November 20, 2008 at 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mencius –

As you know, you are my man, so I hate to disagree with you. But I think you are laboring under a misunderstanding of the American theory of limited government.

Our government is not limited because its organizational documents simply state limits. Rather, our government is limited because the governing power has been divided and disbursed, which has the practical effect of limiting the exercise of government power.

The key to the success of the Constitution is understanding the high degree of competition for power built into it.

For example, while it is true, as you say, that judicial review really transforms the highest judicial body into the most powerful governing body in the land and, if there was just one justice, we could go ahead and call him “king,” it is also true that Congress can strip it of most of its jurisdiction at any time it damn well pleases.

Not only is this possible, but it has been done, again and again. So the S Ct operates knowing that an over-exercise of its power will result in a check by Congress, while Congress operates knowing that the S Ct could find its legislation an over-exercise of power. Neither is directly limited, but checked from going too far.

The result is limited government by competition.

Add in the office of the President and you have three branches jealously guarding their powers, each with a stick to use against the other two and a few shields.

The limitation of government power expressly found in the Constitution is distinct from this phenomena and, in fact, is the stick the others use as means to keep each other in check.

It’s not perfect, but in practice it has limited government authority to an amazing degree. One cannot say the S Ct rules when it is commonplace to find many instances where the Congress has told the S Ct “you’re outta here”.

November 20, 2008 at 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corporations act in the interest of stockholders because the individuals controlling them will be put in jail by the state if they don't and are caught. There is no mystical quality of a joint stock corporation that compels its directors to act in any particular way. The directors of your patchwork regions are no more likely to behave as you describe than they are to behave in any other way you could think of.

November 20, 2008 at 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Curve of Freedom said...

In answer to raistthemage, both the Holy Roman and Austro-Hungarian Empires were destroyed by foreign powers. Powerful ones. Napoleon and his allies definitely count as powerful in my book. The AH Empire bordered no fewer than five countries it would fight against at some point during 1914-1918.

Some say the HRE is historically irrelevant after some point. I kind of think they are overrelying on Voltaire's famous quip, but it is important to note that members states of the HRE didn't always do even the minimum that member states are supposed to do - defend each other. I'm sure someone has an accounting of how many turned against Vienna in the various wars, but in my hazy memory it seems that Vienna was as likely, in a given conflict, to have its best allies from outside the HRE (like Poland in the late 17th Century conflict with the Ottoman Empire) as from within it.

November 20, 2008 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Divided government... is the best solution so far to the problem of sovereignty.

MM thinks that sovereignty is not a problem as such. Bad government is.

You are unhappy about it for reasons I still cannot quite understand

Apparently you did not read the open letter to progressives #6. I think it's pretty clear. (Not to mention any number of other MM screeds.)

To MM, a government should ideally be secure, effective, and responsible. Democracy is neither effective nor responsible. It is fairly secure, but MM believes (with some justification, although I do press some details) that neocameralism would be more secure.

And of course, it is easy to imagine a government far more effective and responsible than democracy.

November 20, 2008 at 12:51 PM  
Anonymous the ashen man said...

Of course the sovcorp would have an interest in its citizens' thoughts! Thoughts predict actions, and it may often be more profitable to strike at the root of a behavior, and to stimulate desirable behaviors. It would in fact be in the corp's interest to create a cult of the Corp and/or the Delegate, and as others have noted, cultivate love and devotion in its residents. We could expect constant propaganda and no tolerance for subversion. Morning gymnastics to the techno-folk Corporate anthem, saluting the Logo, etc. And why not?

It seems you're clinging to some musty old Platonic Ideas yourself, Mencius. Like 'liberty,' freedom of expression and conscience etc. Why would they be profitable, or attractive enough to draw in residents? The fact is that no one really wants them - everyone would rather live in a world where only their kind of thoughts are expressed. So you'd have Christian corporate fascism, eco-egalitarian-free-love corporate fascism, etc. How many people would really choose a corp based on musty old eighteenth-century ideas? If one existed, it would just be corporate fascism with an eighteenth-century-republican aesthetic.

It seems to me that monocultures like these would operate far more smoothly and efficiently than any kind of libertarian corp. The intercorporate framework may be a free market, but the most efficient form of corp would predominate, and thus the only real choice would be between the corporate culture in which one had been indoctrinated from birth and learned to love, and one in which one would be an alien. There will always be a few people who prefer adventure, solitude and the exotic, but not enough to drain a society. The corp would only have to keep life tolerable, not libertarian. Devotion and cultural attachment will do the rest.

Further, a familiar class structure is likely to arise in the corp. The proprietors would form an aristocracy (optimates), with a King/CEO/Delegate. They would require a special class to manage society, create and maintain the corporate cult - a class of intellectuals, artists, social scientists etc., otherwise know as 'brahmins.'

There would be a class of people who owned property and subcorps (vaisyas), and a large class of serfs (helots) who worked for them. Lastly, the dalits - virtualization is far too attractive, and I think there would always be someone willing to take on a slave of even the lowest quality.

What would profitability even mean for an entity like this? Its raison d'etre would be keeping the optimates rich and powerful, which would, admittedly, require a productive society, but primarily a stable one, in which the brahmins and vaisyas are satisfied with their privileges, and the helots content in their cubicles - easily achieved through cheap, pleasurable propagandatainment and the absence of subversive ideas.

November 20, 2008 at 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Fortunatus said...

A great many of us talk about the collapse of WashCorp(r) sometime in the next 80 years or so.

Or, um, much, much sooner than that.

The realm cares what its residents do. It does not care what they think.

I work for a Fortune 500 company, and I can assure you that they do indeed care what I think. I get endless stupid, time-wasting emails that amount to "we want you to think this way". I just thank God they don't bother wasting a lot of effort monitoring what we think (they pretty much only care when they've decided to can you anyway).

November 20, 2008 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Blode032222 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 20, 2008 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Captain Willard said...

It might work for the first decade and maybe even the second, until things sorted themselves out under the great "reboot" (We'll just assume the technology and all the gee-whiz doo-dads work perfectly and exactly as advertised). Then someday, and with the best of intentions, someone in Friscorp paradise will say "let's have a company picnic."

The first year the picnic will be informal, of course - organized privately among a few of the proprietors, and for the most mundane of reasons. Someone will remember what it was like to grill hamburgers with Dad back in Boston, and someone else will recall the wonderful July 4th barbecue spread they used to lay out in Austin. All during the period of the defunct Ancien Regime, of course, but, hey, it wasn't ALL bad, was it?

It will be a smashing success, and it will grow and morph into an annual event, and then someone will do the dreaded thing they've always done since Cain lit out for Nod: they'll form a Company Picnic Committee. It'll still be informal, of course, but it's goal will not be to organize the company picnic, but rather to lead a petition drive to persuade THE DELEGATE to sanction an OFFICIAL COMPANY PICNIC complete with financial sponsorship, on the grounds that it's not only good for the company, but the kids love it!!!

THE DELEGATE will quite properly refuse to countenance such an official corporate entanglement, of course, not because he/she doesn't like picnics (or smiling kids), but because that is not what Friscorp exists to do - and being herself the last sovereign word in such matters, that will be the end of it.

Except it won't be.

The informal company picnic will continue as before, and will, indeed, flourish. More people than ever will be brought up to speed on the time THE DELEGATE shot down making it the OFFICIAL FRISCORP COMPANY PICNIC, and one fine year an leadership crises totally unrelated (probably) to that will bring those secret-sharing schemes with their root key out in a flash.

And just like that, Friscorp will have a new DELEGATE. NEW DELEGATE will do all the things OLD DELEGATE did, for better or worse or perhaps a little of both. But NEW DELEGATE will do one thing very much different from OLD DELEGATE: NEW DELEGATE will authorize official sponsorship of the company picnic.

He can read the "election returns," just like they did in 1936, when the men in the black robes decided big chunks of the New Deal weren't so unconstitutional, after all...

OLD DELEGATE may have been sacked without there ever having been such a thing as a company picnic crises, of course, and probably was - all the proprietors of San Francisco being such totally logical folks when it comes to the way "government" things in their "patch" have to work in order to avoid lapsing back into the bad old days of Sarah Palin a potential heartbeat away from the presidency and Joe Biden an actual one.

Still (NEW DELEGATE will tell himself)...why take chances? I mean, the OFFICIAL ANNUAL FRISCORP COMPANY PICNIC is such a small, teeny-weeny little thing, after all, isn't it? Just a bunch of folks getting together peacefully and enjoying a ritual that is by now - by God! - almost a sacred tradition in Friscorp.

Two months later, another petition will land on NEW DELEGATE's desk. It will be from a new ad hoc committee, and it will be couched in the language of the perfectly reasonable and totally enlightened.

It will read, (in part):

"We, the undersigned, though cognizant that the OLD SYSTEM of the continental American democracy was a total failure, nevertheless suggest that the so-called 'wards' can and further SHOULD BE educated and brought out of their dysfunctional shells to be productive proprietors if just given the right kind of chance. And while we're on the subject, more should be done about reaching out to other patches in order to facilitate..."

Within five years of that you'd be back to bridges to nowhere, diversity training, and people intensely scanning Federalist #10 for Divine Clues to Good Democracy on a daily basis - among many other things thought left far, far behind.

November 20, 2008 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous raistthemage said...

Curve of freedom said
Some say the HRE is historically irrelevant after some point. I kind of think they are overrelying on Voltaire's famous quip, but it is important to note that members states of the HRE didn't always do even the minimum that member states are supposed to do - defend each other. I'm sure someone has an accounting of how many turned against Vienna in the various wars, but in my hazy memory it seems that Vienna was as likely, in a given conflict, to have its best allies from outside the HRE (like Poland in the late 17th Century conflict with the Ottoman Empire) as from within it.

I was talking more about the early HRE (not Charlemagne's but that established by Otto the Great) prior to the investiture controversy and how the whole decentralized centralization worked.

My understanding is that if the catholic church didn't decide that the emperor was too powerful the system worked pretty well. In modern times the Pope is unlikely to be able to undermine the loyalty of the Imperial Army, so something similar could provide a working blueprint.

I have another question about wards, can they ever (lets say especially if they want to and always wanted to work) be hired by anyone and emancipated? Do you instantly become one if you lose your job and aren't indepently wealthy (disclosure I had a bitch of a time finding a job after college, having aspbergers I suck at interviews).

If so you are not going to win many supporters, any system that wants to win friends has to preserve the distinction between the lazy leeches and the deserving poor.

November 20, 2008 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger AMcGuinn said...

The central issue here is the mechanism of cryptographic government - the Ring of Fnargl. All the stuff about joint-stock proprietorship is just implementation detail. It makes some sense - the traditional "family business" of absolute government is, like most other traditional features of government, a partial solution to the problems of trust.

So the question is, can the cryptographic system work? Stock is supposed to be transferable, but you have not described how transfers would take place.
My understanding is that ecash systems depend on a trusted third party, but I may be wrong.
Bear in mind, we're not just asking the government to use the cryptographic control of force, we're asking it to rely on it. Because if it isn't relying on it, then it's relying on one ore more of the other forms of power - the mob, the media, the officer corps - and that's what we're trying to get away from. Cryptography has a good record these past couple of decades, but can we really expect the proprietors to trust their entire society, and the Delegate his life, to the protection of a single large number?
Again, they don't just need to be able to trust it, they need to actively trust it.

November 20, 2008 at 8:50 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

I notice that a number of comments in this thread have used the word "proprietor" when they clearly mean "subject." Yeah, I know the words are just MM's jargon, but it's a meaningful distinction. Even we borderline insane far-right extremists can't escape liberal democratic ways of thinking.

November 20, 2008 at 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Martin Regnen said...

The third paragraph from the end struck a familiar note - I just wrote a few days ago about democratic (limited) government having much stronger incentives to expand than any type of absolute government.

My attempt to verify this using available data gave me a hockey-stick shaped graph, though. Does that mean I should fear the wrath of Steve McIntyre?

November 21, 2008 at 1:56 AM  
Blogger editor said...

If someone invents robots that are more economically effective than humans, all sovcorps have a fiduciary duty to get rid of humans. No, better keep democracy and adapt to it by giving everyone a pressure group.

November 21, 2008 at 2:20 AM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

Martin, all governments have an incentive to expand. Expansion = resources. Not expanding means you will eventually be wiped out by governments that do expand.
Selection for xenophobia and aggressive expansionism are the reason we have bad government in the first place.

November 21, 2008 at 2:52 AM  
Anonymous Martin Regnen said...

By "expand" here I mean not expand their territory or population or economy - all governments have incentive to do that, of course. What I was writing about is the expansion in the number of officials, laws etc. - the additional layers of complexity and attendant inefficiences mentioned by our host.

November 21, 2008 at 5:19 AM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

ah in that you are correct. as MM always says the easiest way to gain support in a democratic system is to promise people lucrative positions once you are elected. I believe the only 2 presidents to fire a significant number of people since FDR are Carter and Reagan.

November 21, 2008 at 5:57 AM  
Anonymous Curve of Freedom said...

Looks like there are a couple of Mencian assertions here:

I. For-profit governance will keep states from expanding endlessly like they do under progressive-flavored democracy.

II. Small size and low exit costs will keep for-profit governments from being brutal, arbitrary, and totalitarian.

Some counter-assertions from commenters (sometimes me):

III. There is nothing in (yet) in the Mencian patchwork to keep the size of these for-profit city-states small, thus nullifying (II). States could fight against each other and there is no way to ensure the would lose (cyphers can be hacked, etc.)

IV. The expanding governments we're suppsosed to prevent with (I) could also presumably be prevented with (II), if the potential emigrant shares Moldbug's philosophy. (If not, that's okay too; it is good thing to be able to live where you want, not necessarily where Moldbug wants.)

Right now I am inclined to toss out the most novel aspects of Mencian governance. I am much more comfortable paying the certain cost of eternal vigilance than embarking on the huge risk of a reboot to for-profitism. Libra (formerly Saturday's Anonymous, from a few posts back) has suggested the best thing I've heard on this subject.

To summarize the Libra Plan:
Abolish the Congress.
Elect the executive and a single national court indirectly by way of a multi-step election-and-lottery system.
Set tax rates constitutionally, with a possibility for raised taxes in times of war/emergency.
Spend tax money on national defense only, with a small amount for judges' salaries and the like.
Leave everything else (all primary judicial functions, all statutory powers, etc.) to the states.
Guarantee states the right to secede, and citizens the right to move through and out of states, in the Federal constitution.

To me, this is basically a reestablishment of the Articles of Confederation with a few big changes:
(1) The Federal government would lack a legislature, so there would be no real place for the do-gooders in the national government. They'd have to go to the state governments, where their policies would inevitably drive out the people they'd want to hand the bill to.
(2) The Federal government would have a court, so disputes between states could be resolved on a sort of common law or equity basis; with no legislature, disputes could not be revolved by statute.
(3) The Feds would have a single executive whose decisions would be vastly more predictable (at least between elections) than the Committee of the State in the early Confederation.

November 21, 2008 at 7:11 AM  
Anonymous Curve of Freedom said...

The Libra Plan's implications for political rights and civil rights is very different from my overall perspective on them. Basically, I'm ambivalent about political rights and gung-ho pro-civil rights. The Libra Plan actually guarantees a few of both at the Federal level.

First, the Libra Plan does have voting rights, which I imagine would have to be guaranteed at some level.

Second, IIRC the only guaranteed civil right is emigration from a state (and probably to travel through states). In theory, that is enough. People would leave badly-run states, and if the state government tried to stop them, they could sue it in Federal court.

I'd probably be more comfortable with greater Federal civil rights / civil liberties protection, but I understand Libra's theory. There is nothing magical about a case or law being considered at the Federal level that makes "rights blossom there", where they whither at the state level. Many state constitutions protect CR and CL, so why don't we trust them at least as much as the Feds?

Please, comment on the Libra Plan! It's on that link under "Saturday's".

November 21, 2008 at 7:24 AM  
Anonymous Victor said...

When you speak about making the underclass the wards of the state, with authority and responsibility over them vested in their guardians, what you're really proposing is a form of modern-day slavery. I'm actually slightly amazed (okay, not really) that you would defer to Carlyle on the question of what to do with the underclass. However, this solution is better than the "Holodeck" solution. If you're serious about that, then you've been reading to much science fiction.

November 21, 2008 at 7:47 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Mencius Moldbug in July 2008:

We had not described: (a) how the process is initiated, (b) how the Receiver is selected, or (c) what policies, beyond terminating "foreign policy," quelling the bezonians, and installing a sensible tax system, we can expect the Receiver to follow.

Frankly, (c) is not worth a lot of speculation. The democratic habit, in which ordinary people - or even UR readers, who are very unlikely to be ordinary people - conceive ourselves capable of understanding how a country is best administered, is one to be broken at all costs. I drive a car on a regular basis, but I have no idea what I would do if someone put me in charge of Ford. I am typing this message on a Mac, but my first act as CEO of Apple would be to resign. (Well, I might do something about the $**#!% batteries first.) I love film, but don't try to make me direct one. And so on.

Now that he makes a specific policy proposal, he proves that he was right in July.

First of all, bezonians are only a small portion of our unproductive citizens, and the easiest to deal with. All they need to live is a little bit of food, and they are assholes so nobody cares about them anyway. Lots of people wouldn't mind seeing them used as biofuels to power buses.

The real problem is the millions of old people, people with medical problems, retards, etc, with no money and no family willing or able to support them. This is a large part of where Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security go. You also have to consider people who work but still leech off the system, like those who use the ER as their primary care provider.

I don't necessarily support grinding them up and powering buses out of them, but I don't expect to be one, so I wouldn't consider the fate of such losers a high priority when chosing a patch to live in. I would consider taxes. If I could move to a patch today that doesn't have a section on my pay stub devoted to FISA or Medicare, I would do it. But that implies no SS and no Medicare, which implies that the people who depend on it would be SOL. I'm a right-wing asshole, but I suspect that even decent people would think the same way when it came down to making an actual decision about where to live.

As for Mencius's specific Matrix-like proposal, it doesn't make a lot of sense. If nobody would ever see or hear from them, how do we know whether they are dead or alive? If we don't know, and the only purpose to doing this is to look good to the public, why not deal with them in the cheapest way possible?

MM also brings up charity, the chimera that every libertarian type invokes to replace the social programs that they want to get rid of.

If charity takes care of everything, then why was there popular support for government programs in the first place? Why are there starving people even now? Also, current tax codes favors charitable contributions now. But why would a for-profit sovcorp (or whatever we're calling them this week) let you get out of paying taxes by donating to charity? You don't get a discount at Walmart for giving the Salvation Army guy $5.

Finally, MM never got around to explaining why it wouldn't be profitable to enslave people. I think it would be awesome. I would breed dwarves with green fluorescent protein in their skin and make them fight. It would be like Pokemon.

November 21, 2008 at 8:38 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

the ashen man said
It seems you're clinging to some musty old Platonic Ideas yourself, Mencius. Like 'liberty,' freedom of expression and conscience etc. Why would they be profitable, or attractive enough to draw in residents? The fact is that no one really wants them - everyone would rather live in a world where only their kind of thoughts are expressed.

There would be room for all kinds of city-states. A few with liberty would thrive because some valuable people would be attracted to them (probably mainly the kind of nerds who can build things). Others would prefer to live in Sarah Palin's clave in Alaska, where Jesus is Lord. The important thing is that you would have a choice.

November 21, 2008 at 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Curve of Freedom said...

If nobody would ever see or hear from them, how do we know whether they are dead or alive? If we don't know, and the only purpose to doing this is to look good to the public, why not deal with them in the cheapest way possible? - c23

Fatigue is setting in and I'm starting to wish that Moldbug would field questions on his own, but I won't give up quite yet.

I'm thinking there could be some a limited time every day or week when convicts could be communicated with in an unmediated unfakeable way. Nothing wrong with a glass screen, right? I'm a big fan of isolating convicts from one another (preventing gang violence), but I'm not too attached to the electronic-access-only model.

November 21, 2008 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


So, you have a huge underclass of very desperate people with their minds chemically blown beyond anybody’s comprehension.

So thanks for that. I wasn't sleeping much anyway.

When I said 80 years, I just meant that I don't think any of us here see the current iteration of the nation lasting out the century. I don't think it'll last out the next decade, but I'm just a'guessin.

So should we try a point-by-point matchup of LibraLand v the Patchwork?

Or do we think things are going to be so bad that a "reboot" would be sort of laughable?

Or, as JA probably thinks, are we all just a bunch of crazy Birchers? ;)


November 21, 2008 at 9:47 AM  
Anonymous the ashen man said...

c23: The important thing is that you would have a choice.

We all, currently, have a choice. Most people are free to leave the country they live in and move to whatever more appealing one will take them. There are more libertarian countries and more socialist ones. The patchwork already exists. That was sort of the point of my comment. I mean, does "corporate fascism with an eighteenth-century-republican aesthetic" sound like anywhere you know? (Hint: it's morphing into eco-egalitarian-free-love corporate fascism). Can't find a country you really like? Tough shit, all the territory is taken, as it would be regardless of the world political system.

Mencius has created a sci-fi fantasy world where he has a choice between lots of personally appealing, well-run countries. Back in the real world, you only get to choose between countries that actually exist, and which each exist in a certain form for complex historical reasons. In a Mencist sovcorp, the primary dynamic would be the tension between profitability and keeping the residents happy so they don't vote with their feet. Why do all advanced countries have mixed economies? Because capitalism is necessary, but most of their residents want some degree of socialism.

Why would a sovcorp be any different? Because it's small? As many people have pointed out, there seems to be little disincentive for corporate mergers. Anyway, we have these things called airplanes these days, so what difference does distance make? And all this 'small is beautiful' stuff just reeks of brahmin delicacy. The proles don't really want local and organic, they want big, loud, bright and vulgar. They want mass propagandatainment giving them electronic thrills. And they'd get it there just like they get it here.

So, a corporatist system run for the benefit of corporate shareholders but also catering as necessary to the demands of the masses? Damn, that sounds familiar.

November 21, 2008 at 10:19 AM  
Anonymous the ashen man said...

G.M. Palmer, I don't think we can look forward to a total collapse at all. Crises like the current one will be stimulated, and will always be 'solved' through a further merger of state and corporate power, and the consolidation of continental and global institutions.

November 21, 2008 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

well yeah, but you can only pay the Germans to be your soldier for so long before they realize that the emperor is pretty darned naked.

November 21, 2008 at 11:25 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

An historical example of proprietary government, some vestiges of which still survive, is the Council of Proprietors of West Jersey. This represents the successors of John, Lord Berkeley, who received the western half of the colony of New Jersey under a grant from the duke of York in 1664.

A number of British colonies in North America had Lords Proprietors. The proprietors enjoyed not only rights of property but also nearly independent rights as lawgivers and judges, somewhat akin to that of counts palatine or what Scots law would call lords of regality.

In the Carolinas, proprietary rule began ambitiously - there were even plans to create orders of nobility for the immediate feudatories of the proprietors, as 'caciques' (equivalent to barons) and 'landgraves' (holders of multiple baronies, equivalent to earls), and an herald was appointed to grant them arms. Eventually, though, proprietary government suffered because of the neglect of the proprietors, and it was replaced by that of a royally-chartered colony in 1719 in South Carolina, and in 1729 in North Carolina. The proprietorship of Pennsylvania remained vested in the Penn family, which lost it at the time of the American Revolution. The East and West Jersey proprietorships survived because - unlike the Penn family's - their proprietary ownerships had been fragmented by inheritance and sale, and too many persons with shares in them remained - and were (unlike the Penns) resident in the province - for it to be politic to expropriate their interests and abolish their authority.

The remaining proprietary interest, which survived the Revolution, was in 'unlocated' land to which no one else held recorded title. Since the proprietorship was originally held under a grant from the duke of York it was feudal in character - the proprietors being, in effect, tenants in chief. Since all other title to land in New Jersey traces back to the proprietors, and since the Revolution dissolved any extant feudal superiority over them, while preserving the proprietors' own interest, the proprietors effectively held allodial title thereafter.

Given the vagaries of early surveying there has been a surprising amount of 'unlocated' land found over the past two centuries, which has been disponed with profit to the proprietors. East Jersey had a Board of Proprietors. It was involved in litigation over a $5 million parcel of land on the Manasquan inlest as recently as 1995. It was dissolved in 1998. The Council of Proprietors of West Jersey survive as a corporation, and still maintain an office in Burlington.

Putting to one side MM's speculative schemes with their science-fictional aspects that may or may not be realizable, the historic record of actual proprietary government can only be called chequered. The strongest proprietary government in the North American colonies was probably that of Pennsylvania, but only because - unlike any of the other proprietorships - its laws were enforced by the British parliament. Elsewhere proprietorships failed outright, as in the Carolinas, or became limited in their scope, as in New Jersey. Regalities worked all too well in the Scottish highlands. There they made the lords of regalities so independent that they came close to driving the English out of Scotland - which is why the Westminster parliament passed the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act [20 Geo. II c. 43] in 1746, shortly after the defeat of Charles Stuart at Culloden.

On a somewhat unrelated note, while it is true that the letters "SA" following the name of a business in French or Spanish denote "societé anonyme" or "sociedad anonimo," there is no legal requirement that the corporation's shareholders be anonymous. The postnominal abbreviation simply makes clear that the entity in question is not vested in a named proprietor or group of partners, such as, for example, "Smith and Son" without a suffix, which might reasonably imply that the business was owned by someone named Smith and his male child.

In fact, in France and Spain, the stockholders of an 'anonymous society' are known persons or entities, since the names of stockholders must be registered on the corporate books, just as they would be on those of an American corporation. I suppose that a person who holds stock in 'street name' - i.e., in a brokerage account, or in a trust - is 'anonymous' in a sense, because the beneficial owner's name is not on a stock certificate. However, some fiduciary's name is on the certificate representing his ownership, and the beneficiary's name is on the fiduciary's records. There is neither real anonymity nor any possibility of it with modern securities.

November 21, 2008 at 12:54 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

ashen man: We all, currently, have a choice. Most people are free to leave the country they live in and move to whatever more appealing one will take them.

Yes, we do. There are a few dozen non-third-world countries to choose from. That's about the number of channels there were on cable TV in the 80s - you can watch Cheers on one channel, Night Court on another (both in syndication), baseball on another.

But more choices means, well, more choices. Compare the variety available on 80s TV to what you can get on modern TV - or the internet, where there's something for everybody. Quantity matters.

We also have courts and international meddlers trying to shape other people's communities. The most serious city-state builders in the US today are various religious weirdos, but they run into legal trouble. Look up Ave Maria village, created by the super-Catholic CEO of Domino's Pizza, or the FLDS church. Also, think South Africa and Rhodesia, both of which would still exist in their previous forms if not for international pressure, which included sanctions.

Of course, most decent people would consider the examples in the previous paragraph evidence of why the current system is good and the patchwork would be evil, and Mencius Moldbug should be boiled in oil, but it demonstrates how we have fewer choices than we could.

As for the tendency of corporations to merge, in practice we still have countless thousands of corporations compared to a few hundred countries.

November 21, 2008 at 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

editor: perhaps you've not studied microeconomics. Trade betters both parties, even if one party is better at everything than the other party. See the wiki on comparative advantage.

In the case of robots, unless you want to hypothesize robots smarter than us, harder working, cheaper to make, sexier, better in bed, wittier, and overall better friends, acquaintances, and companions... then we have some absolute advantage over them. So we don't even need to bring up Ricardo and comparative advantage. It may be that humans cease to farm, build things, etc. So what? We'll concentrate on brainwork and service: managing robotic workers, designing products, programming, creating art, acting, waiting tables, etc. If this sounds a bit familiar, there's a reason: substitute "mexicans" for "robots", and "whiterpeople" for "humans", and that's basically California.

If you do want to hypothesize uber-robots superior to us in all things, you've moved us past the singularity, and we're beyond the realm of prediction. Hopefully we can upload ourselves into them.

IIRC, MM has stated in the past that this blog is specifically not interested in discussing post-singularity speculation. Of course you're free to talk about it if you want... but it's a fairly silly topic at this remove. Neocameralism is practically real-world stuff, by comparison to whatever will happen after robots supplant us.

November 21, 2008 at 4:25 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S. wrote "In fact, in France and Spain, the stockholders of an 'anonymous society' are known persons or entities, since the names of stockholders must be registered on the corporate books, just as they would be on those of an American corporation... However, some fiduciary's name is on the certificate representing his ownership, and the beneficiary's name is on the fiduciary's records. There is neither real anonymity nor any possibility of it with modern securities."

In their origins, these had true anonymity as they were set up with bearer shares. Dividends could be received on sending in coupons, with a new coupon sheet being sent out with the last dividend of each old sheet. Unless an owner chose to present himself for a vote he could preserve his anonymity. Nothing prevents this from still working today, apart from not using the system.

On a different matter, Mencius Moldbug is mistaken in thinking that "patches" couldn't raise their taxes (fees, charges, etc.) too far as that would drive people out. All that would be needed would be for "patches" to ratchet up typical levels gradually. There would be little to choose between them, yet overall levels would be high. Much the same applies to other features of "patches"; they would be vulnerable to a sort of applied groupthink in many areas.

November 21, 2008 at 9:20 PM  
Anonymous terry north said...

g. m. palmer:

When and how will we know?

Reasonable people disagree as to whether we are in a decline right now. I suspect that the same will be true later on, particularly since technological innovation can effectively mask (to a certain extent) cultural decay.

sun tsu:

1. Require a permanent address. No system is foolproof, but one can make subverting it prohibitively expensive.

2. Shareholders only have the power to appoint a new delegate. If foreign nationals already have that power, they control the government... and the profits. Tell me again, why they would want to decrease the profitability of their new colony?

3. No system of government is going to prevent anything from happening. It is a nice feature of this system that there are at least incentives in place to make that less likely. The same cannot be said of democracy.

4. Assuming all of the SF tech works, the delegate has full support of the military - the civil service has none. Combined with the ability to fire anyone for any reason (and possibly levy arbitrary criminal punishments), the civil service shouldn't be much of a problem.

5. Impossible to prevent - no system of government can prevent this. There is a good recourse, though - if there is a better alternative, fire the current delegate and install the new one.

The nice thing about a profit driven system, though, is that performance is much easier to analyze than in most other systems of government - it should be that much easier to avoid hiring an incompetent delegate.

6. You don't make sense. Both the Assassins and the Somali pirates are state level actors (they self secure their property). They should be dealt with as such.

7. To be decided. I can take a stab at it, though. The ultimate in dispute resolution is war. Successful city states should make such an alternative extremely unpalatable via a variety of poison pills. Other alternatives are: symbolic war (combat by champions), binding arbitration and suspension of relations. The latter is typically what normal people do in such a situation, and I would guess that it would be quite popular.

November 21, 2008 at 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

P.M. Lawrence, I well remember bearer bonds. They were once common, but no new ones were issued after the passage of TEFRA in 1986. I think I clipped my last coupons one morning a couple of years ago. It was an occasion for nostalgic reminiscence of the Optimacy's better days; I had lunch at my club, and visited my tailor that afternoon.

The excuse for doing away with bearer bonds was basically that the IRS didn't like them. Since a bearer bond can be transferred simply by delivery to its new owner, large transactions in near-equivalents to cash could take place without being easily scrutinized by government. The nominal objection to this was that participants in organized crime might use such a means to conceal their illegal dealings - the same excuse offered many years ago for removing bills of denominations larger than $100 from circulation. The real reason, of course, was that the lack of a paper trail facilitated tax evasion.

However, if there were ever bearer equities, they disappeared long before bearer bonds, and I must suppose for other reasons. It must, for example, have been nearly impossible to determine the legitimacy of proxies, or indeed to know whether there was a quorum, at a stockholders' meeting.

Of course, in MM's futuristic world, how could we expect a sovcorp that could control its men-at-arms by means of cryptographically locking their weapons not to use similarly sophisticated technology to identify its shareholders? This strains credulity. You may recall Murphy's law - what can go wrong, will. I offer these corollaries to it: what government can do, it will; what power it is able to abuse, it will abuse. History provides many examples.

November 22, 2008 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

One of the primary problems of government and economy is latency. Sure decreasing standards of living and seizure of rights and property are not profitable in the long term, but in the short term they can be. And if you can convince the populace that this or that "temporary measure" is for their own safety they will flock to it.
I fail to see how patchwork eliminates the problem of short term bias. Why not maximize profitability next quarter when the future is uncertain?
Specifically, why not maximize profitability now and go retire in another patch while this one turns to crap from your policies?

November 22, 2008 at 3:46 PM  
Anonymous the ashen man said...

C23, the situation with cable TV and internet, and the current number of corporations, involves an almost infinite potential for expansion, and hence the plethora of options, whereas patches of dirt are extremely scarce. Options would be very limited, as they are now. Some hope does, perhaps, lie in the direction of sea- and space-cities. With new frontiers, an interesting, varied patchwork might well emerge.

November 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S., this gives a pretty good description of bearers shares, this shows that they are indeed still around, and this gives some relevant historical and current background for USAians (somewhat similar stuff applies elsewhere). In fact, the "don'ts" in that last one rather highlight just why the sorts of things governments are doing right now mean that it really is worth our while to look for alternative ways to live and move and have our being.

November 22, 2008 at 7:50 PM  
Anonymous terry north said...

I'd just like to reiterate a concern that I hear coming up quite often: what about minority shareholders?

Modern regulation provides substantial protection to minority shareholders, but there is no regulatory agency to turn to in the case where the corporation self-secures.

I thin Mencius made some noise about cross chartering shares - having them be essentially normal property in the host country (or countries?). This presents its own panoply of problems, though - the risk of nationalization in particular, which would be the most efficient means of conquest ever.

November 23, 2008 at 1:31 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Terry North writes "...the risk of nationalization in particular, which would be the most efficient means of conquest ever".

No, it wouldn't be. See "peaceful penetration", as aspired to by the French among others.

November 23, 2008 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

Mencius is a brilliant diagnostician and an interesting writer. But his efforts to create an alternative, better reality fall victim to the Utopia Fallacy -- the presumption that every social and political ill must be dealth with all at once.

The "patchwork" or whatever makes for great nerd fodder (heheh, no, I bet you my WoW hit points that the cryptological weapon locks will not work). And it gives Jewish Atheist and Mtraven an opportunity to sound like conservatives in the comments sections.

Less techno-utopias, more "corner man," please!

November 23, 2008 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

PA --

The Utopia game does give us some important talking points vis-a-vis "in stead of democracy, what?"

Also, it helps Mencius feel like Peter Wiggin.



November 23, 2008 at 7:20 PM  
Anonymous goldilocks said...

Well, and arguing for divine-right monarchy gives reactionaries something concrete to argue FOR-- lefties argue routinely for a socialist-feminist-anti-racist state that is much more implausible than what MM is proposing, and look where it has finally gotten them!

I'm tired of seeing "conservatives" take a constantly defensive posture.

November 23, 2008 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Bitcrafter Extrordinaire said...

As I myself have pondered "if not the current system, than what?" issue, the problem of the unproductive is the one which has caused me the most trouble.

Alternatives to genocide are few, and "virtualization" isn't realistic. Anyone facing that prospect would probably be better served by picking up arms and fighting, and should be encouraged to.

I don't see a path out of our current predicament that doesn't involve a lot of tragedy.

November 24, 2008 at 2:35 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

"if not the current system, than what?"

Our problem in a nutshell, from how I'm reading this blog, is that in Western societies the classes are out of balance.

If nothing else, Mencius has been driving home the point that a great Brahmin Usurpation occurred sometime in the 20th century.

Or an Optimate abdication + Vaysia surrender, alternately. That's our problem in a nutshell. The system is fine. Its components are out of balance.

How did they get that way? I don't know. Prosperity? Hubris?

November 24, 2008 at 5:12 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

I doubt it.

The problem is much more that Progressivism has supplanted common sense.

Now, this has been led by the Brahmins, and that might be an interesting point of inquiry (does Brahminism lead to Progressivism?) but the root problem is the more insidious and simple evil of the Big P.

November 24, 2008 at 5:19 AM  
Anonymous raistthemage said...

Our problem in a nutshell, from how I'm reading this blog, is that in Western societies the classes are out of balance.

If nothing else, Mencius has been driving home the point that a great Brahmin Usurpation occurred sometime in the 20th century.

Or an Optimate abdication + Vaysia surrender, alternately. That's our problem in a nutshell. The system is fine. Its components are out of balance.

The Vaisyas can't devout much time to political agitation because they have day jobs and lives outside of politics. The optimates lack unity of purpose or numbers on their side. The Brahmins otoh have unity of purpose and (outside the hard sciences) lack real jobs, so they just agitate for an ever expanding state to give them phony baloney patronage jobs.

November 24, 2008 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

agitate for an ever expanding state to give them phony baloney patronage jobs

Is this agitation explicity tied to progressivism?

November 24, 2008 at 5:39 AM  
Anonymous cranky matron said...

I don't think agitating for more government jobs is exclusively a brahmin thing, no.

Plenty of vaisyas find gubmint employment an attractive alternative to working for a living, as my vaisya-government-employee husband likes to joke.

The problem is that progs have successfully made government employment so much more attractive than lots of private-sector options.

Who is going to turn down a cushy job with weekends off and medical benefits in favor of a private venture, which is just as hamstrung by regulation, but also riskier and harder work? What is the incentive to jump through all the hoops?

November 24, 2008 at 6:11 AM  
Anonymous cranky matron said...

And vaisyas don't do political agitation because they've learned to be embarrassed by their own belief system in the public schools.

You aren't going to catch me at an anti-illegal-immigration rally, though I agree that illegal immigration is ruining and will continue to ruin the country.

I've spent too long learning that Racism is Evil to publicly espouse anything that smells like it, even when my private observations tell me something entirely different than the official party line.

My opinion is that public education is going to have to either be abolished or abandoned on a large scale before anything resembling a reboot will succeed.

Hell, people can live right next door to the vast decayed ruins of Detroit and still vote for Obama-- what's that tell you?

November 24, 2008 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Ben Wheat said...

"Okay, just kidding. This is the sort of naive Randian thinking which appeals instantly to a geek like me, but of course has nothing to do with real life. The trouble with the biodiesel solution is that no one would want to live in a city whose public transportation was fueled, even just partly, by the distilled remains of its late underclass."

In regards to the biodiesel quip, I'm interested to know what instrument enforcing transparency would allow residents to know if their buses are in fact fueled with the reprocessed remains of their unfortunates? That raises the question of "freedom of the press," or what have you. How do the citizens find out if their sovcorps are acting responsibly? Does it matter in your system? While you try to distance yourself from Orwellian concepts, you ignore one of the most critical: the control of information. And the sovcorps should care what their citizens think, if only for marketing purposes alone. Whose to say they won't conduct Orwellian means of spying on their subjects, if only to learn if they like the new Friscorp toothpaste that promises minty freshness.

Like to see this fleshed out a bit more...

November 24, 2008 at 6:22 AM  
Anonymous cranky matron said...

I don't see why sovcorps would care at all what its residents think, so long as it can control what they do.

Democracy hasn't got a lot of control over what people do (even the basic criminal justice system is bloated and slow and not too effective) and so it is forced to use a more indirect method-- mass lifelong indoctrination.

As liberals fondly observe, schools are cheaper than jails.

And they say this without any traceable hint of derision.

Isn't that hilarious?

November 24, 2008 at 6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do the citizens find out if their sovcorps are acting responsibly?

The metric for "responsible action" is profitability - that is, sovcorps are ONLY responsible for acting profitably, and if they are profitable then all is well. Citizens would find this out in the same way that they find out whether or not any other type of corporation is profitable.

November 24, 2008 at 7:18 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

That's our problem in a nutshell. The system is fine. Its components are out of balance.

No, the system (sovereign democracy) is not fine. It is inherently broken, and must inevitably degrade and self destruct. The Moldbuggian view on this in terms of responsibility: a system is responsible iff some individual can be connected reliably with any success or failure.

Democracy is irresponsible in the obvious way: that responsibility for every success or failure is diffuse, ultimately going back to voters, who are collectively responsible for everything and nothing at all. But that's not the worst failure of democracy in terms of responsibility; rather, smuggled in with the concept is one of unity of purpose, that is, a single concept of responsibility. In fact the very definition of "success" and "failure" are contentious: was the decision to attaq Iraq a success or a failure?

In MM's view, neocameralism solves the problem of responsibility by (a) defining clearly what the stockowners want (money), and (b) making success or failure by the CEO clear, in part by defining what it is (profit), and in part by giving him full power over every aspect of the operation of the state. I'm a bit less sanguine than MM that dividends are the only things a sovcorp would pursue; however I do agree with him that there would be a much higher focus on the dividend, and much less on everything else. Which is all to the good, responsibility-wise.

November 24, 2008 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Bitcrafter Extrordinaire said...

On the subject of the unproductive.....

It's from R. Heinlein's "Revolt In 2100" collection of short stories - also, an appropriate read.

November 25, 2008 at 2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Word to the wise: Check out the academic job market.

Rumors on the grapevine that many, many individuals in the humanities are losing jobs and there will hardly any new positions.

Remember how MM said that the university keeps smart people busy ... away from causing trouble.

Well that is about to change.

There is going to be hundreds of poststructuralist, postcolonialist, and postmodernist post-grad students out of work in a collapsed economy (and really can't work anywhere else). While that isn't scary unto itself, as MM said, academia kept them busy.

Plotting, socialist minds with heaps of free time, and ill-will towards America in a collapsed economy is not a good recipe.

November 27, 2008 at 6:02 AM  
Anonymous raistthemage said...

There is going to be hundreds of poststructuralist, postcolonialist, and postmodernist post-grad students out of work in a collapsed economy (and really can't work anywhere else). While that isn't scary unto itself, as MM said, academia kept them busy.

Plotting, socialist minds with heaps of free time, and ill-will towards America in a collapsed economy is not a good recipe.

Life among the proles and outside what Mencius calls the cathedral (where you are punished for going against PC thought) might actually deprogram alot of them.

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February 12, 2009 at 1:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 6, 2009 at 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


March 6, 2009 at 5:31 AM  
Anonymous 花蓮 said...


March 18, 2009 at 4:08 AM  

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