Sunday, December 13, 2009 95 Comments

Climategate: history's message

I am not a historian or a statistician. Nonetheless I had been skimming Climate Audit for a couple of years and knew enough to write, in January 2009, "Michael Mann should be in prison." I continue to enthusiastically endorse this view. I also do know a bit about the past.

And the past has sent me its report on Climategate. It is a short message - quite pithy - full of punch. I transcribed it this week from my favorite Ouija board. At the planchette: me and my 2-year-old daughter, Sibyl.

After data corrections, the text reads:
Your entire system of government is incurably insane.
I realize that to many UR readers, this case is already clear. However, the folder is fat. What's neat about the CRU emails is that they provide a much shorter path to the same conclusion. Today's post is light climbing for lazy hikers.

To achieve reactionary enlightenment in a single, burning leap, we'll demonstrate that this spirit message from the ancestors, despite its incredibly dubious provenance, is correct in every word. First, we're going to explain insane; then, we're going to explain incurably; then, we're going to explain your entire system of government. Also, do you have a beer in the fridge? You might need it.

First, let's focus on the word insane. The American Heritage Dictionary gives us, as 3rd meaning:
very foolish; absurd.

took insane risks behind the wheel.
The Urban Dictionary gives us, as 2nd definition:
another term for cool and crazy. someone that does something really cool and crazy is insane but in a good way. also something that u are unlikely to do urself.

I cant believe u jumped off the roof of that two story building, it was insane.
We'll assume the ancestors are speaking both to my level-headed driving, and Sibyl's fearless youth. When they say "insane," they intend an Empsonian ambiguity of the second type: both definitions at once. Their condemnation, sober and penetrating, is not unmixed with awe.

So we know what it means for a person to be insane. But what does it mean for a government to be insane? Like a person, a government is insane when it makes spectacularly bad decisions - the governmental equivalent of jumping off two-story buildings. To be more precise, an insane government or person is seen to exercise spectacularly bad judgment.

Judgment is a universal faculty: the process of decision. Every time it decides to do X or not do Y, every person real or fictive exercises judgment. Thus we can ask whether fictive persons, such as your government, exercise good or bad judgment, by asking whether they make good or bad decisions. Even if this decision process is opaque, its result can be defined in terms of actions. By definition, whatever it does must be what it decided to do.

Are these decisions generally good, or generally bad? Are the actions generally effective, or generally ineffective? Is your person or institution marching from success to success, or careening from disaster to disaster? If the latter, it is either insane or unlucky; if the former, either sane or lucky. As Bismarck put it: "fools, drunks, and the United States."

As we see, the difference can be difficult to determine. In general, judgment is conserved: to know judgment, takes judgment. If decisions could be assessed automatically, they could be taken automatically. More on this later.

Many people sense intuitively that Washington's judgment is quite poor these days. But, in general, they do not and cannot know (a) why it does the things it does, (b) what else it could have done, or (c) what would have been the result of (b). The opaque problem is really quite hard. And Washington is really quite opaque.

Except for these little security breaches! In this one small department, we know how the sausage is made. A field day for the student of present history, as saints everywhere stand up for openness and transparency. (It's funny how often we are reminded that CRU was, in fact, legally obliged to release this information - yes, even the emails - under UK FOIA. The first rule of Freedom of Information Act is: you do not talk about Freedom of Information Act.)

The emails are certainly not the entire process of judgment that produced the anti-carbon movement. But there is no reason to think they are not a representative sample of that decision process. We don't see the entire IPCC community; just a slice of it. We only see the sausage being made; not prepared, served and eaten. But we know that birds of a feather flock together, and we know that what goes into the skin is what ends up on our plates.

It is certainly a long way from Science magazine to Federal Register. But not as far as many think. Think of this leg of the decision process - from hockey stick to cap-n-trade - as a slow, arduous, but essentially automatic mechanism, like colonic peristalsis. The various political glands in the pipeline, including Public Opinion Itself, can exert resistance, but not insert independent input. They are brakes, but not motors. They can stall the process, but not stop it, and certainly not turn the wheel and do something else instead. More on this later.

But first: the insanity. Let's get a tight handle on this question of insanity. Remember: a diagnosis of insanity only requires one insane act, so long as the act is sufficiently insane. Clearly, it's the ancestors' judgment that anti-carbonism is in this category. As we will see later, the problem is general. But first, let us pretend it is specific.

You can go to work every day of your life. You can be a good husband and a loving father. If you strip naked except for a chicken mask and climb the Golden Gate Bridge, you need counseling. Whether or not you jump. USG has not quite jumped yet, but it still seems likely.

For a diagnosis of insanity, we need two things. We need insane reasoning on an insane scale. Foibles are not manias. Otherwise, the diagnosis is inflated. True insanity, as in your naked chicken-mask adventure, can only be conferred by the stakes of the decision - which, if not spectacular, would disappoint at least the Urban Dictionary.

So let's look at the stakes of the carbon decision. As the Times helpfully informs us:
So what is all this going to cost? The short answer is trillions of dollars over the next few decades. It is a significant sum but a relatively small fraction of the world’s total economic output.
A relatively small fraction! A relatively small fraction. Of course, consider the alternative:
“People often ask about the costs,” said Kevin Parker, the global head of Deutsche Bank Asset Management, who tracks climate policy for the bank. “But the figures people tend to cite don’t take into account conservation and efficiency measures that are easily available. And they don’t look at the cost of inaction, which is the extinction of the human race. Period.”
"Period." Period.

(And let's not forget "easily available." Kevin, honey, my own dear mother was a budget and policy analyst at EERE in the Hazel O'Leary years. She worked for Joe Romm. And she could tell you a thing or two about "conservation and efficiency." Perhaps, with your 37-million-dollar bonus this year, you could take off some time and come to my condo, install O-rings on all the doors and windows, and fill the walls with hemp fiber, so that I can legally sell it after 2016. Or better yet, I could just securitize it right now and get you to take it off my hands. Yes - when in doubt on any subject, I always turn to that pillar of farsighted judgment, Wall Street.)

But I digress. Surely we could be content with this analysis, because surely any decision which pits "trillions of dollars" against "the extinction of the human race" is a big one. Let us measure the stakes, however, only in terms of the cost of action. As compared to the cost of inaction, it is relatively undisputed. Of course, acting incurs its cost whether the problem is real or not.

In reality, there's no way a cost like the cost of carbon action can be measured in mere money. Consider one mainstream proposal of today, endorsed by President Obama and many other world leaders: reducing carbon emissions to 80% of 1990 levels, by 2050.

Presumably a proposal like this corresponds to said "trillions of dollars" - a completely empty soundbite, of course, but something an innocent person might read as "a few trillion dollars." Say, perhaps, "7.5 trillion dollars." I'm just guessing here, of course.

Knowing as we now do what goes into the sausage, we feel perfectly entitled to sneer at whatever study, process or press-release could possibly have produced whatever ridiculous non-number lies behind the ridiculous non-number "trillions of dollars." First, this entire information pipeline is clearly sweating it to produce the smallest possible number in the reader's mind. Second, it implies a capacity for predictive macroeconomic modeling which does not exist. Third, what on earth will a dollar buy you in 2050, anyway?

In reality, to consider an action of this impact through the lens of antiseptic monetary exponents, churned out by some irreproducible spreadsheet, is to avoid considering it at all. Since the planned carbon action is a significant event on a significant historical scale, it must be considered as history. It must be analyzed with the tools of the narrative historian.

Now, I have an easy way to picture 2050: my daughter, Sibyl, will be 42 in 2050. As a student of history, I also have an easy way to picture an 80% reduction in fossil-fuel use: Germany and Japan in, say, 1944. The little Nips, for instance, had a very active alternative-energy program. I believe turpentine from pine trees was a key component. The primary sources display little fondness for this weird fuel.

An 80% energy cutoff goes beyond any mere economic calculation. It is a punitive measure of military proportions - to which one might subject a defeated enemy nation - for the purpose of collective penal subjugation.

Unfortunately, this concept itself is quite alien to the modern American mind. Which is a little strange, if you don't mind me saying so. Because it was applied in the lives of those now living - by Americans. Let's try and refresh our memories here.

Germany in 1945 was a defeated enemy nation. In August 1944, FDR himself commented on a State Department draft plan for the occupation of Germany - a draft much milder than the eventual Morgenthau Plan. (Believe it or not, State under FDR was actually a relative center of conservatism within USG.) Too mild for the happy man with the cigarette holder:
This so-called Handbook is pretty bad. I should like to know how it came to be written and who approved it down the line. If it has not been sent out as approved, all copies should be withdrawn.

It gives me the impression that Germany is to be restored just as much as the Netherlands or Belgium and the people of Germany brought back as quickly as possible to their prewar estate... The fact that they are a defeated nation, collectively and individually, must be so impressed upon them that they will hesitate to start any new war - the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization.
No problem, Boss! Under JCS 1067, food imports to a food-deficit nation were terminated, and the entire population of Germany put on a 1000-calorie-a-day diet for most of 1946 and 1947. Fortunately, official records reveal only a negligible increase in the death rate, from 11.9 deaths per 1000 per annum prewar, to 12.1 per 1000 under JCS 1067. Obviously, the Germans were simply fat. They needed the Morgenthau diet. Indeed, their present slimness and good health may be a result.

I am not aware of any similar figures for German postwar energy consumption. But 80% sounds about right. (The destruction of coal mines was a major aspect of the "pastoral" treatment.) Then again, one can argue that the Germans both needed and deserved the Morgenthau protocol. After all, it worked, didn't it? Not just a dietetic therapy - also a psychiatric treatment.

And FDR's diagnosis is at the very least defensible. At the risk of wandering too far from carbon, however, let's take a quick look at the decision-making environment from which policies like Morgenthau/1067 emerged. This is perhaps best summarized by an entry in arch-New Dealer Felix Frankfurter's diary, from January 18, 1943:
We talked a good deal about poor Missy LeHand - Sam Rosenman understanding, as very, very few people do the extraordinary beneficent role that Missy played in the Roosevelt Administration until her illness in 1941 because of the very remarkable judgment, disinterestedness, and pertinacity which she combined. Sam agreed with me that Missy's enforced withdrawal is a calamity of world dimensions in view of F.D.R.'s responsibility for world affairs.

Sam said he always regarded her as one of the five most important people in the U.S. during the Roosevelt Administration, to which I replied that she seemed to me always to be the best most influential factor in the Administration, the President apart.

One reason for this was, on which Sam and I agreed, that not the least important aspect of Missy's devotion to the President expressed itself in courageous truth-speaking to him. She was one of the very, very few people who was not a yes-man, who crossed the President in the sense that she told him not what she knew to be his view of what he wanted to hear, but what were, in fact, her true views and convictions.
LeHand, of course, was FDR's mistress. (And, to be fair, private secretary - a real job). One senses that Frankfurter and Rosenman, in this conversation, are relieving each other of any subconscious qualms that their own relationships with FDR did not display this quality of frank plain speaking.

The point is: the FDR administration was, in reality, a monarchical court. Caesar did not call himself king, either - but he was. FDR had (more or less) the powers of an absolute monarch, the manners of an absolute monarch, and the private life of an absolute monarch. In the lives of those now living, the United States of America was a functioning monarchy which could, and did, punish a defeated enemy nation with intentional collective malnutrition. Fact. This is why I like to study 20th-century history: no one knows the first thing about it.

This is the secret of the New Deal: monarchy, by any other name. Personal government. It would be going too far to describe FDR as one of my favorite personal rulers of all time. But, like his great adversary, he had some very talented and effective people working for him. And in their domains, too, these prefects (most notably, Harry Hopkins) ruled with absolute personal authority. In short: the Führerprinzip. There is nothing like it in Washington today - though personal authority remains the norm, of course, in the private sector.

Frankly, for all their many faults, I would take FDR and his whole weird crew back in an instant. To not improve on a bureaucracy, especially a well-aged bureaucracy, a monarchy has to be a pretty shitty monarchy. FDR was a lousy manager and a shit in general, but he wasn't that shitty. Alas, the court of FDR can no more be restored than the court of Frederick the Great. (And I'd certainly prefer the court of Frederick the Great.) But we are digressing - though not without point. More later.

Back to carbon. In any case, the mainstream proposals for anti-carbon regulation bear a broad general resemblance to the treatment of a defeated enemy nation. A rather guilty nation, too. FDR, for all his faults, was a good country squire. He would certainly never have inflicted any such cure on his own dear serfs.

But then again, FDR was just a big softy. Are not the Americans a guilty nation, as well? What have we not heard of their crimes, which are both epic and ongoing? Are not they, too, engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization? A Baltic German might say: what comes around, goes around. Surely it is only natural that New Deal Washington, once willing to make total war on the Germans, would eventually grow hard and cynical enough to make total war on the Americans. Evil need not ripen rapidly.

One can also argue, of course, that between 2010 and 2050, exciting new energy technologies will be developed that will entirely cancel, even reverse, this arduous punishment that we must otherwise endure. After all, look at all the exciting new energy technologies invented between 1970 and 2010! My mother could also tell you a thing or two about "alternative energy." And we note that Hitler, too, had his Wunderwaffen. If he wanted to have a war with the likes of FDR, he probably should have made sure he had them first.

So: this is what I see when I hear "80 by 50." I see America as Germany Year Zero, minus the B-24 craters. (In fact, last time I looked at Detroit, I could swear I saw one or two of those. Can you even imagine Detroit, 2050? Even without "80 in 50," it'll make Mad Max look like Enchanted April.) I see my daughter, Sibyl, as a middle-aged woman, trying to make ends meet in the freezing, flickering fluorescent ruins of a formerly industrial civilization. Indeed, she won't even have carbon dioxide to keep her warm. She certainly won't be able to afford any carbon - all of which will be in the hands of Kevin Parker, or his heirs and assigns.

But I digress, again. Frankly, I'm ranting. And I exaggerate - slightly. All of this may be an exaggeration - but how exaggerated does it need to be? I don't want to be judgmental here. We are only considering the stakes. We have not yet examined the reasoning. Let's go there.

If a relatively small fraction of global output, or even a relatively large fraction, can save the human race, of course, humanity needs to divert that output and save itself. Anything else would be... insane. There is such a thing as a high-stakes decision. This is clearly one. I don't want Sibyl stumbling around in the ruins of some American Kaliningrad. I would rather she had a planet to stumble around on at all, though.

Similarly, if the alien sensor is on the second tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, only the aliens can save us from the explosion of Jupiter, alien sensors demand alien input, and an alien looks like a naked man in a chicken mask, it would be insane of you not to scale the bridge and save the planet. Or at least try. Otherwise, when Jupiter explodes, Earth will be destroyed - period.

So we cannot dismiss the decision as insane, merely by examining the insane scale of the solution - no matter how farfetched. If the problem is real and the solution is the only way to solve it, bring on the turpentine. For this mean 2050, Sibyl will just have to grow up mean. I'll take that space heater out of her room right away.

So let's get back to the main event: the reasoning.

The reasoning behind the anti-carbon movement rests on three pillars of science. Or rather: Pillars of Science. By historical standards, each Pillar is inconceivably massive - consuming more scientist-hours, say, than all of physics before 1900. Or something like that. In impact alone, they've surely earned their majuscules.

The first Pillar of Science (A) is the evidence that global warming is harmful to children and other living things. Note that I say GW, not AGW - any global warming, whether natural or human-caused. Harm cannot be a function of cause. If anthropogenic warming is harmful in any material sense, non-anthropogenic warming must be equally harmful. We'll return to this delicate philosophical point.

Of course, every media consumer is repeatedly reminded of major results within this impact category. A is by far the thickest Pillar, as there is an almost infinite variety of such impacts. (Consider the complete list of things caused by global warming.)

The second and third Pillars of Science (B and C) together constitute the evidence that anthropogenic carbon dioxide increases (the Keeling curve, of which I have not seen much good skepticism - but ya really never know with these clowns) are causing GW. Pillar B is paleoclimatology: the hockey stick and its cousins. Pillar C is climate modeling - the GCMs. Together, Pillars B and C are the pillars of causality.

We combine A, B and C to support the logic for climate action. The logic: fossil fuel emissions cause increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. (Sound so far as I know.) Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide cause increases in global temperature. (Pillars B and C - causality.) Increases in global temperature are harmful to children and other living things. (Pillar A - impact.)

Now, the direct impact of the CRU email leak is on Pillar B - paleoclimatology. Pillar B, in fact, has been pretty much wiped out by this event. As we'll see, it never had any scientific credibility, but now it has lost something even more precious - its reputation. "Reputation, reputation, reputation! O! I have lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial." Indeed. The reputation will be restored in time, for the field if not the individuals. I think. (More on this later.) But for now, it is quite interesting to see AGW standing on A and C alone.

To take a look at the smoking ruins of Pillar B, let's start with the words of Professor Edward R. Cook, "Dr. Dendro," Doherty Senior Scholar and Director, Tree-Ring Laboratory, Columbia University:
Without trying to prejudice this work, but also because of what I
almost think I know to be the case, the results of this study will
show that we can probably say a fair bit about <100 year
extra-tropical NH temperature variability (at least as far as we
believe the proxy estimates), but honestly know fuck-all about what
the >100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know
with certainty that we know fuck-all).
"We know with certainty that we know fuck-all."

How responsible of you, Professor Cook, to inform the public of this. Not. (Does the name Henry Blodget ring any bells for you?) Actually, the full email is even more interesting. More later.

But even if we knew more than "fuck-all," even if genuine paleoclimatology (useful perhaps for other purposes, if not this purpose) delivered all Mann's goods, Pillar B would remain bogus. Whether the science is good or fraudulent, reliable or irreproducible; whatever the shape of the graph; paleoclimatology cannot come anywhere proving the case for anti-carbon action. What it can do is what it does, which is make nice graphs that look good in a Powerpoint or press release.

Suppose the "hockey stick" were entirely authentic. Across the last millennium, the shaft of the stick, temperature gradually declines, until it begins to ramp upward in its "unprecedented" climb - the blade of the stick, matching the climb in CO2. Beautiful!

But what does it really prove? Jack. It proves that two century-long trends of (very) roughly the same shape occurred simultaneously. Also, there is a plausible physical mechanism to connect them. Does this prove a causal relation between the two graphs? Not in the slightest.

It certainly suggests a causal relation between the two graphs. It is physically plausible that the CO2 caused the blade of the hockey stick. It is also physically plausible that the climate is insensitive to the CO2 forcing, and something else caused the blade. Imagine if you claimed to be able to predict, say, the stock market, on the basis of a vast, rough coincidence like this. A single piece of entirely circumstantial evidence.

If Pillar B was sufficient, Pillar C would not be needed. In fact, just by the fact that B is weak, we can see that C must be no stronger. If C were not weak, its proponents would take all possible pains to differentiate it from the weak B. As it so happens, we have the email for B (the Mann circle, paleoclimatology), but not C (the Hansen circle, climate modeling). The public behavior of the Model Masters is quite similar to that of the Hockey Team, and the two are broadly allied. Therefore, we can safely assume that their Outlook folders smell quite similar.

To anyone with any understanding of engineering, the proposition that Earth's climate can be modeled with any real predictive power, using the computing technology of 2009, is preposterous. Nor is it that computers need to get ten times as fast. They need to get 10^10 times as fast - at least. Possibly 10^20 or 10^30. With actual, real Earth computers, chemists still have great difficulty in constructing predictive models of individual molecules.

As a friend who teaches statistics and works at a bioinformatics company described it, prescribing any public policy based on the results of GCMs is like prescribing a drug on the basis of the chemical's behavior in a computational model of a cell. We have models of cells, just as we have models of Earth's atmosphere. Again, it would be going too far to describe these models as worthless. But no one but a damn fool could regard them as accurate.

Chemists, in fact, seem to be some of the last real old-school scientists out there. If you want a more detailed discussion of GCMs and their limitations, with a very conservative analysis, see chemist Pat Frank's article in Skeptic Magazine. But basically, the claim that there exists a predictive model of the entire planetary atmosphere is like the claim that there exists a 10,000-mpg carburetor. In science, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Such evidence as exists for GCM forecasting skill barely approaches the ordinary.

Here is what a GCM is: a simulation program that resembles an accurate model of Earth's atmosphere. That is, when you run it, the resulting planet looks plausible. The simulated Earth does not turn into Pluto or Venus. Although sometimes preventing it from doing so requires arbitrary flux adjustments, ie, fudge factors.

Newer GCMs have concealed these adjustments, but they still parameterize tens or hundreds of physical processes that they cannot possibly compute. These parameters are, themselves, fudge factors. They cannot be otherwise. As John von Neumann put it: "with four parameters I can fit an elephant, with five I can make him wriggle his trunk."

Alas, the difference between resembles and predicts is the difference between observing Mars and flying to Mars. Real engineers know how hard it is to verify models of systems that are ten or twenty orders of magnitude simpler than the general circulation. In attempting to build long-term predictive models of Earth's atmosphere, the climate modelers are simply pretending to try to solve a problem which is, in fact, entirely intractable. In short: sunbeams from cucumbers. Their results are random at best - and at worst, far worse.

Because we know the intellectual climate under which the Hockey Team (their own phrase, btw) operated. It was a climate in which data was openly described as "good" or "bad," depending on whether or not it fed the ravenous propaganda machine. To be more precise: data with the right shape was considered more likely to be accurate, data with the wrong shape was considered to be incorrect or erroneous. Textbook confirmation bias.

We can see this mentality even in Professor Schmidt's original response to "Mike's Nature trick." This entire post is a masterpiece of post-scientific spin. But observe the following:
Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while ‘hiding’ is probably a poor choice of words (since it is ‘hidden’ in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.
In other words: this data series, which conflicts with our hypothesis, should not be presented to "policymakers." Not because we are an evil conspiracy bent on Communist world domination - just because the conflicting data is clearly incorrect.

Obviously, the proxies do not match the temperature post 1960. Obviously, this is because of some added noise signal, perhaps itself anthropogenic in nature, which is affecting the trees, the measurements, or both, and hiding the real temperature signal. Therefore, this data is invalid; it is nonmeaningful; the most accurate picture of reality is presented by discarding it. Therefore, what our data says is that trees tell us nothing about temperature after 1960. Since this is exactly what we believe, we are being completely honest in truncating the graph.

Considering the quality of raw data in paleoclimatology, this is always a reasonable interpretation. Unfortunately, there is an alternative reasonable interpretation: that the data is meaningful, but the hypothesis is incorrect. The post 1960 data is not contaminated by some unusual force. The proxy signal is not only inaccurate post 1960, when it is easily checked against accurate temperature records, but also inaccurate pre 1960, when it is not. The presence of post-1960 divergence suggests the possibility of pre-1960 divergence.

This interpretation is not considered. To the contrary, it is concealed. It needs to be, for the eye - seeing the full curve - lights at once upon it. The eye is pretty good at Occam's Razor.

If I owned a dog that had done this, I would kick the dog. And as for "plain sight," all I can say is: "Beware of the Leopard." Professor Schmidt knows perfectly well that his "policymakers" are in reality policy-rubber-stampers. They do not go looking for arcane technical papers in disused lavatories. They go looking for GIFs they can put in their slides. Or their people do, anyway. More on this later.

Since the paleos are best friends with the modelers in the entire IPCC effort, again, we can expect them to do the same sort of business in the same sort of way. Therefore, we can expect them to treat good data as correct data, and bad data as the product of error. Surely there is no shortage of bugs in the development of a GCM. Therefore, there is no shortage of opportunities for bad data to be quite unconsciously rectified - eg, through parameter tuning. And since there is no 10,000-mpg carburetor and none of the model results can possibly be valid anyway, it is all bad data. This is not science, but its cruel false parody.

As in paleoclimatology, the combination of coordination bias with random data is effectively no more than a power-transmission belt. It produces perfectly motivated science, reproducing the views of the scientist with great clarity and vigor. For the past 10 or 15 years, paleoclimatology has been more or less what Michael Mann wanted to to be. He is truly our Climate Stalin. Again, it is almost certain that the GCMs have done the same for Hansen. And depending on how well they have convinced themselves, they may not even know it.

So what do Pillars B and C give us? Pillar B is a weak piece of circumstantial evidence which appears to have been fraudulently fabricated. Pillar C is sunbeams from cucumbers. In short: styrofoam. Whatever is supporting the AGW-mitigation movement, it is not Pillars B and C.

However much time, money, and intelligence is invested in Pillars B and C, there is no chance that they will produce any information relevant to any rational decision process in this area. Or at least such is my judgment. Everyone's judgment, of course, is their own.

We turn to Pillar A - the fat one. Actually, no auditing whatsoever is required to show that Pillar A is, like B and C, meaningless for the purpose of deciding this question. From many small bricks of reason, Pillar A creates unreason. This can be demonstrated entirely by philosophy.

Pillar A asserts: global warming is materially harmful to humanity. Now, I realize that there are some who consider even this a small-minded view - even if global warming was beneficial to humanity, anthropogenic (non-natural) warming could be undesirable in some other metaphysical sense, harmful to some other X, etc, etc.

However, if the problem were entirely metaphysical, presumably it would be difficult to persuade every government on earth to concern itself. Similarly, if there was some tradeoff between X and humanity - policy Q being good for X, but bad for humanity - this too would be hard to defend. Especially in terms of democracy, in which everyone believes. If X does not get a vote, a government that favors its interests of those of humans, which do vote, can only be described as a betrayal of democracy. Hard to argue in these terms.

So it is not typically defended in these terms, whatever its actual believers may actually believe. Since the case for anti-carbon action is almost always stated in terms of material human impact, it can and should be challenged on the same terms.

Therefore, in considering only the material impact of global warming on humanity, we must restrict our logical processes to work exclusively by material rules. For instance, if we say that A is better than B, we must also say that B is worse than A. If we also know that B is better than C, we know that A is better than C. Ie: general utility is scalar and totally ordered.

From this axiom alone, we can deduce that there is some optimal planetary temperature, as defined by material impact on humanity. Any action (natural or anthropogenic) that moves the planetary temperature away from this optimal point is harmful; any action that moves the planetary temperature toward this optimal point is beneficial. It is very difficult to characterize this optimal point, of course - it requires many subjective value decisions. But whatever the results of those value decisions, some optimal point must exist.

If the present planetary temperature is above the optimal point, incremental warming is harmful. If the present planetary temperature is below the optimal point, incremental warming is beneficial. Again, no evidence is required for these conclusions - they are purely deductive.

Therefore, the material case for AGW mitigation depends existentially on the assertion that the present temperature is near, at, or above the optimal point. Otherwise, AGW is not harmful but benign - even if Pillars B and C were perfectly sound.

Pillar A is a vast collection of observations and projections of purported harm which global warmth appears to have caused, be causing, or risk causing. Again, don't miss the list. From the standpoint of reasoning about carbon-emissions mitigation, all this work is entirely useless, even though much of it is no doubt good science.

If there was any intent to incorporate Pillar A in a rational decision process, it would be necessary to fund a comparable investment in Pillar A` - a complete list of the material benefits of warming. For comparison, we would also like to see a Pillar A``, a complete list of the material harms of cooling, and a Pillar A```, a complete list of the material benefits of cooling. By examining all these lists, each collected by exactly the same process for maximum comparability, a person or persons with good judgment could compare them and decide whether Earth's temperature at present is too low, too high, or just right.

Of course, no one is producing Pillars A`, A``, and A```. The process that produces Pillar A pretends to be a process that produces factual materials as an objective background for judgment. Just as Caesar pretended to be just a private citizen, or FDR just a president. In reality, since it is not equally focused on collecting all sides of the question, it cannot possibly be interpreted as a rational attempt to assess the optimal point.

Unfortunately, the very existence of Pillar A makes the problem of assessing the optimal point much more expensive and difficult. Because of the anti-carbon movement, for the foreseeable future there will be more science, far more science, pointing to harmful impacts of warming, than benign impacts of warming, harmful impacts of cooling, or benign impacts of cooling.

But this disparity is not the result of any physical phenomenon - but a political phenomenon, anti-carbonism. Pillar A is therefore an artifact which must be ignored: a burden, not an aid, to judgment.

In case something in you resists this realization, here is a comment from a pseudonymous informed insider which describes how Pillar A was generated. The pseudonymous scientist quotes Nigel Calder:
If I wanted to do research on, shall we say, the squirrels of Sussex, what I would do – and this is any time from 1990 onwards – I would write my grant application saying: “I want to investigate the nut-gathering behaviour of squirrels with special reference to the effects of global warming – and that way I get my money. If I forget to mention global warming, I might not get the money.
Thus again, we see gross irrationality. Pillar A is nonpertinent to any rational decision process, because it is not actually a body of information designed to be used for assessing the optimal temperature point, the only rational process for which it could conceivably be useful. This would require detailed comparison to A`, a body of work which does not exist and is not being collected.

Note also that even Calder, taking a skeptical position in a skeptic's documentary, does not bother to speak of harmful effects of global warming on squirrels. Rather, to those involved in the great endeavor of collecting Pillar A, effect means harmful effect - as if it were axiomatically asserted that the optimal temperature is the present temperature. Indeed, from a certain metaphysical perspective, it makes no sense to speak of any change both anthropogenic and benign. Again: insanity. Here not far from the surface.

Nonetheless, it might actually be nice to answer the question. What is the optimal point? Hard question. Easier question: is the present temperature above, below, or at the optimal point?

Still not an easy question, of course. But there is a good practical way to inquire: discard Pillar A. There is an easy way to discard Pillar A: consider the scientific consensus as of not 2010, but, say, 1965. Or any point definitively prior to the fertilizing influence of the anti-carbon movement on the scientific community. For instance, we could ask the founder of the CRU himself, the pioneering climatologist Hubert Lamb.

What we would instantly find is that in the pre-IPCC era, climatologists (such as Professor Lamb) simply took it for granted that the present temperature is well below the optimal point. This can easily be seen in the names they assigned to past periods warmer than the present - such as the Medieval Climate Optimum and the Holocene Climate Optimum. Had they considered this a serious question for debate, it would have been easy to choose a neutral name.

We can easily see the reasoning behind "Optimum" by looking at a more recent historical precursor to the AGW movement: the embarrassing false step of the global-cooling movement. We have always been at war with Eastasia. However, Time magazine has performed the decidedly anti-Orwellian act of making its entire 20th-century archive free, and apparently unexpurgated, on line. So you can click here, and see what Time said when we were at war with Oceania. Pillar A`` makes a small appearance. One of the things you'll notice is that much, much less effort is required to conjure disasters due to global cooling, than disasters due to global warming. Crop failures and starvation don't involve a long chain of fanciful inference.

Therefore, it is not just a fallacy to rely on Pillar A to show that GW (anthropogenic or natural) is harmful. Rather, the best way to decide whether GW is harmful or benign is to disregard Pillar A, and consider the consensus judgment of climatologists from the era in which that judgment was of only academic interest. This algorithm tells us that GW is probably on balance benign - at least, to the material interests of humans. Pillar A is not only irrelevant, but probably wrong.

Thus, we see that all three pillars of the AGW syllogism are incapable of providing significant support to any rational argument. Pillar A is irrelevant and probably wrong; Pillar B is feeble at best, fraudulent at worst; Pillar C is irrelevant. Thus, any decision to mitigate AGW on the basis of A, B, and C can only be irrational, ie, insane.

Does this reasoning tell us that AGW (a) is not a real effect, or (b) is not worth mitigating? No. This reasoning tells us that almost everyone arguing for carbon control, since they are relying on some combination of A, B, and C, is jacked up on crack like Superbunny. Their argument is almost entirely unsupported - a real freeway on styrofoam pillars.

There are thousands of individual scientists working on Pillars A, B, and C. Are all these individuals individually insane? Are they getting naked in chicken masks? Of course not. It is the collective institution, your government, which is insane. And it is only insane in the sense that it is not acting, as it claims to be, rationally in the public interest. Its actions, explained in other terms, make perfect sense. We will shortly dive into the emails and see these terms.

Now, one of these actions does appear to be the active cultivation of delusional thinking - eg, the logic of the anti-carbon movement. Note that unless your government is somewhere in the serious boonies, it generally believes - collectively and individually - whatever delusions it propagates. Its propaganda is always sincere. Its advocates have already taken the basic precaution of first convincing themselves. Delusion is the normal human condition, not to be confused with insanity.

Abandoning these delusions, thinking again from scratch, we still have the question of carbon. While Pillars A, B, and C do not add up to anything like an argument for this massive program of collective economic punishment, the existence of a delusional argument is not relevant to any independent evaluation.

But the presence, even the ubiquity, of a bad argument is not relevant to independent evaluation. Let me take this test, therefore. What is my best judgment on the carbon question?

According to my judgment, carbon emissions are not worth mitigating. First: we know that sometime during Sibyl's lifetime, fossil-fuel emissions are likely to double atmospheric CO2. Second: we know that the effect of doubled CO2 is a thermal forcing roughly comparable to an increase in solar intensity of 0.3%. Third: we know that planetary temperature is probably below the optimal point, and probably dominated by negative feedbacks (the last, admittedly, a more speculative guess). Therefore, my guess is that the impact of CO2 forcing will be positive if any, and of little significance on a historical scale. The opportunity cost of freezing or reversing carbon emissions strikes me as quite significant on a historical scale.

Your judgment may differ. That's the thing about judgment: judgment is always human and personal. There is no procedure which can make decisions without human judgment - at least, no sane procedure. More on this later.

But this essay, frankly, is behind schedule. I have an entire sentence of reconstructed Ouija text to sell. I have only sold the last word - insane. I feel the sale on insane is made. Let's get cracking on incurably.

To see why the insanity is incurable, we need to dig a little deeper into these awful, awful emails. Who are these people? What exactly are we looking at, here? It's certainly not the court of FDR - but what is it?

To start, let's look at another little leak that just slipped out. From Michael Schlesinger, modeling bigwig, to Andy Revkin, Times reporter - and accidentally cced to Steven Hayward, corporate shill - December 5:
Shame on you for this gutter reportage. This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.

The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists. Of course, your blog is your blog. But, I sense that you are about to experience the 'Big Cutoff' from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.
"The 'Big Cutoff.'"

You see: I am not at all exaggerating when I compare these people to Stalin. If this section of the essay had a title, it might be Michael Mann: Court of the Green Tsar. Or possibly that Carlylean chestnut, Satan's Invisible World Displayed. What a Satan's world we have before us!

That's right: Satan. I think this really sets the correct tone for any serious historical examination of the climate emails. As Ranke put it, the first task of a historian is to see the thing as it really was. Jefferson should not be studied as if he were Tony Soprano, or vice versa. It is perfectly possible to produce a historical work, comprised entirely of absolutely factual facts, in which a Jefferson is portrayed as a gangster (for instance, Frederick Scott Oliver's Alexander Hamilton (1903) is not far). Or, of course, a gangster as a Jefferson.

Thus, we can see Mann as a Darwin, or as a Stalin. Whichever is the truth, the other is nothing but a lie. Regardless of its absolutely factual facts. Of course, to see Stalin in Mann is to see Satan in both Stalin and Mann; but what is shocking in this? Is it news that Satan walks up and down in the earth? He has to walk up and down somewhere. Why not Penn State?

The historian who refuses to believe in Satan labors at a crippling professional disadvantage, like the cabdriver who refuses to believe in buses. Satan's footprints are all over history. No region or period is exempt.

As always: if the reality wie es eigentlich gewesen would surprise you, you have been misinformed. Were you surprised by the tone and content of these communications, between these persons? Then you were previously misinformed. There's no great shame in it. Please consider checking your perceptions for other errors. If Satan is not sly, Satan is not Satan.

Present history has a special frisson: the reality still exists. We can know the thing not as it was, but as it is. We are going out live here at UR. Lubos Motl, far too optimistically, is trying to match the timeline with his own dear Velvet Revolution. Not going to happen. Nonetheless, the truth has a power.

Continuing with the Stalin analogy, let us take a quick look at the IPCC movement today.

First, we have a very definite inner-party schism between the climate Bolsheviks at realclimate, the true Hockey Team, and the climate Mensheviks such as von Storch and Zorita or Curry. Broadly, the Bolshevik position on AGW is that nothing is wrong; the Menshevik position is that personal wrongdoing is apparent. Both believe, or pretend to believe, that future climatology should proceed on an exclusively pure and virginal open-source basis, as I'm sure it will. (Which does not mean it can't be gamed. As I'm sure it will.)

Both are in an extremely delicate and high-pressure position - Bolsheviks because the weird, unprecedented mass mind of the Internet has turned against them, Mensheviks because they must dance quite adroitly to remain in contact with both reality and their own profession. Between them is the even more delicate position of reporters like Revkin, who are - as they say in the movies - far too close to the story.

My prediction: the Menshevik position will prevail. The Bolshevik leaders will be replaced. Perhaps even punished. And the Bolshevik party will prevail, the Mensheviks being entirely defeated. Within a few years, the field will be rejuvenated by a new generation of young Bolsheviks, the proteges of Jones and Mann, who produce ecocratic confirmation-bias noise using pure, virginal open-source methods with the utmost rigor and professionalism. Menshevik researchers will be gradually defunded and destroyed by bureaucratic infighting; junior Mensheviks will see their careers dead-end, senior ones will atrophy and become isolated. Whereas any Bolshevik who suffers a little now will later be hailed as a martyr.

So the Bolshevik party is really the path of future success, and it is the Bolsheviks we must study. Fortunately, we have their emails! Or at least enough of them. And we note that just as in the Court of the Red Tsar, the most devastating story is found in the internal politics.

What we see, in a regime like Stalin's, is that everyone around Stalin is terrified of Stalin. Rank does not make your life safer. Rank makes your life uglier.

For a normal instance of internal dissent, Cook and Briffa in 2002 (hat tip: Steven Hayward). Briffa writes to Cook:
I have just read this letter - and I think it is crap. I am sick to death of Mann stating his reconstruction represents the tropical area just because it contains a few (poorly temperature representative) tropical series. He is just as capable of regressing these data again any other "target" series, such as the increasing trend of self-opinionated verbiage he has produced over the last few years, and ... (better say no more)
"Better say no more." Cook replies:
Of course, I agree with you. We both know the probable flaws in Mike's recon, particularly as it relates to the tropical stuff. Your response is also why I chose not to read the published version of his letter. It would be too aggravating. The only way to deal with this whole issue is to show in a detailed study that his estimates are clearly deficient in multi-centennial power, something that you actually did in your Perspectives piece, even if it was not clearly stated because of editorial cuts. It is puzzling to me that a guy as bright as Mike would be so unwilling to evaluate his own work a bit more objectively.
"It would be too aggravating." And three years earlier, this memorable exchange. First, from Mann:
Date: Wed, 12 May 1999 13:00:09 -0400 (EDT)

Dear all,

Thanks for working so hard to insure a final product that was acceptable to all. I think that Keith and Tim are to be commended on a fine job w/ the final version of the Perspectives piece that appeared, and I thank Julia for her especially difficult editorial task.

I appreciate having had the opportunity to respond to the original draft. I think this opportunity is very important in such cases (ie, where a particular author/groups work is the focus of a commentary by someone else), and hope that this would be considered standard procedure in the future in such instances.

I think we have some honest disagreements amonst us about some of the underlying issues, but these were fairly treated in the piece and that's what is important (The choice of wording in the final version was much better too. Wording matters!).

Thanks all for the hard work and a job well done. I like to think that my feedback helped here--so I take some pride here as well.

best regards,
Which Bradley quotes in its entirety, and then adds - to Briffa alone -
From: "Raymond S. Bradley"
Subject: vomit
Date: Fri, 14 May 1999 07:25:34 -0400

Excuse me while I puke...
Do we even need to know what this is about? I'm afraid this is not at all a happy workplace. Watching this stuff, you develop real sympathy for the likes of Cook and Briffa - as for, say, Bukharin and Zinoviev.

People like this are just ordinary, weak people who happened to be standing around when and where the Adversary chose to appear. They follow him not because they love him, but because they are in his power. Occasionally they pipe up, and he slaps them down - with whatever force he has at his disposal. Stalin sent Molotov's own wife to Siberia, and kept him in the Politburo.

So, for instance, as the crap starts to hit the fan in 2003, we see Briffa pedal and spin:
I agree with this idea in principle. Whatever scientific differences and fascination with the nuances of techniques we may /may not share, this whole process [ie: McIntyre's initial hockey-stick audit] represents the most despicable example of slander and down right deliberate perversion of the scientific process, and bias (unverified) work being used to influence public perception and due political process.

It is, however, essential that you (we) do not get caught up in the frenzy that these people are trying to generate, and that will more than likely lead to error on our part or some premature remarks that we might regret. I do think the statement re Mike's results needs making, but only after it can be based on repeated work and in full collaboration of us all. I am happy to push Tim to take the lead and collaborate in this - and I feel we could get sanction very quickly from the DEFRA if needed.

BUT this must be done calmly, and in the meantime a restrained statement but out saying we have full confidence in Mike's objectivity and independence - which we can not say of the sceptics. In fact I am moved tomorrow to contact Nature and urge them to do an editorial on this. The political machinations in Washington should NOT dictate the agenda or scheduling of the work - but some cool statement can be made saying we believe the "prats have really fucked up someway" - and that the premature publication of their paper is reprehensible. Much of the detail in Mike's response though is not sensible (sorry Mike) and is rising to their bait.
"The prats have really fucked up someway." I wish I had an audio clip of this.

Again, you feel for Briffa. He knows that Mann is dragging him down to hell. He knows it. To be brutally frank, he knows he is engaged in something that looks a hell of a lot like a criminal enterprise. Yet, he follows. Exactly the position of millions of mid-level officials in the 20th-century totalitarian state. (And also very reminiscent of Carmela Soprano.)

It doesn't take a whole evil Politburo to be evil. It just takes a Stalin. The people who founded Bolshevism most certainly did not intend to produce the result that was Stalinism. This is why so many of them had to get the "Big Cutoff." God only knows what these people are thinking, as they read each others' emails. We have only one Hockey Team email post-leak - the one above. What wouldn't you give to see what they're sending each other these days? Alas, I suspect these days you'd have to start tapping the pay phones.

In any context, private or public, the consequence of this "Management Secrets of Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria" universe is a flood of little aborted non-coups, all of which amount to mere muttering in the hallways. Our final example will be the email we looked at earlier, Cook's "fuck-all" opus:
From: Edward Cook
To: Keith Briffa
Subject: An idea to pass by you
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2003 08:32:11 -0400

Hi Keith,

After the meeting in Norway, where I presented the Esper stuff as described in the extended abstract I sent you, and hearing Bradley's follow-up talk on how everybody but him has fucked up in reconstructing past NH temperatures over the past 1000 years (this is a bit of an overstatement on my part I must admit, but his air of papal infallibility is really quite nauseating at times), I have come up with an idea that I want you to be involved in. Consider the tentative title:

"Northern Hemisphere Temperatures Over The Past Millennium: Where Are
The Greatest Uncertainties?"
"Northern Hemisphere Temperatures Over The Past Millennium: We Know With Certainty That We Know Fuck-All." (And it's not that anyone knows fuck-all about the Southern.)
Authors: Cook, Briffa, Esper, Osborn, D'Arrigo, Bradley(?), Jones (??), Mann (infinite?) - I am afraid the Mike and Phil are too personally invested in things now (i.e. the 2003 GRL paper that is probably the worst paper Phil has ever been involved in - Bradley hates it as well), but I am willing to offer to include them if they can contribute without just defending their past work - this is the key to having anyone involved. Be honest. Lay it all out on the table and don't start by assuming that ANY reconstruction is better than any other.
Now, this is beautiful. Did you see what we just got there? Did you catch that? We got something very like an org chart of the Hockey Team. The rank corresponds to the number of question marks. Cook, Briffa, Esper, Osborn, D'Arrigo: soldiers. Bradley: capo. Jones: underboss. Mann: boss. No surprise, then, that Mann just threw Jones under the bus - or at least tried to. These people are genuinely unbelievable.

Formally, of course, most of these individual are organizationally independent. Yet they appear to be bound together by some informal - one might almost say, invisible - but remarkably cohesive - bond. At least, they appear to despise each other, yet continue working together. This property is normally only found in actual, formal organizations.

In this case, I suspect it has something to do with (a) funding, and/or (b) collective guilt. Certainly everyone in Lenin's Politburo, not to mention Stalin's, knew that they had blood on their collective hands. Complicity is always the soul of loyalty.

Speaking of Stalin, this problem of finding the real organization inside the official organization always reminds me of one of the 20th century's most important primary sources: Sidney and Beatrice Webb's essay Is Stalin a Dictator?, from their classic Soviet Communism: A New Civilization (1935). Bear in mind - the Webbs, in their Fabian capacity, are two of the most significant intellectual inspirations for the entire New Deal regime.

This piece is just classic. The first paragraph and a half gives it away:
Sometimes it is asserted that, whereas the form may be otherwise, the fact is that, whilst the Communist Party controls the whole administration, the Party itself, and thus indirectly the whole state, is governed by the will of a single person, Josef Stalin.

First let it be noted that, unlike Mussolini, Hitler and other modern dictators, Stalin is not invested by law with any authority over his fellow-citizens, and not even over the members of the Party to which he belongs. He has not even the extensive power which the Congress of the United States has temporarily conferred upon President Roosevelt, or that which the American Constitution entrusts for four years to every successive president. So far as grade or dignity is concerned, Stalin is in no sense the highest official in the USSR, or even in the Communist Party...
"The extensive power which the Congress of the United States has temporarily conferred upon President Roosevelt..." what? History, you see, is full of secrets. Not secrets of fact, generally, but secrets of story. Secrets nonetheless. More later on this.

We finish the forensic part of our discussion, with Cook's ultimate professional fantasy:
Here are my ideas for the paper in a nutshell (please bear with me):

1) Describe the past work (Mann, Briffa, Jones, Crowley, Esper, yada, yada, yada) and their data over-laps.

2) Use the Briffa&Osborn "Blowing Hot And Cold" annually-resolved recons (plus Crowley?)(boreholes not included) for comparison because they are all scaled identically to the same NH extra-tropics temperatures and the Mann version only includes that part of the NH (we could include Mann's full NH recon as well, but he would probably go ballistic, and also the new Mann&Jones mess?)


7) Publish, retire, and don't leave a forwarding address
"Publish, retire, and don't leave a forwarding address."
Without trying to prejudice this work, but also because of what I
almost think I know to be the case, the results of this study will
show that we can probably say a fair bit about <100 year
extra-tropical NH temperature variability (at least as far as we
believe the proxy estimates), but honestly know fuck-all about what
the >100 year variability was like with any certainty (i.e. we know
with certainty that we know fuck-all).
If you don't want to do it, just say so and I will drop the whole idea like a hot potato. I honestly don't want to do it without your participation. If you want to be the lead on it, I am fine with that too.

Needless to say, nothing like this rebellion seems to have happened. Need we read more? Frankly, I feel we know these people. I hope you agree.

Now, let's get to this incurable bit. The ancestors told us: your entire system of government is incurably insane. Incurably? What can they possibly have meant by that?

We can only return to diligent semantics. To cure this insanity is to heal it, eradicate it, restore this thick knot of black pus to clear pink healthy muscle. The term is always absolute. The ancestors do not speak of palliative or protective measures, which of course are legion. Surely, we can defend ourselves - individually or collectively - from this madness. But we cannot cure it, for it is incurable. Or so the ancestors assert.

Of course, it is not time, or humanity, or America, or any metaphysical concept, which is incurable. It is only your government. This is not a metaphysical organization. It is a physical institution. It is sovereign, which makes it special - but not in this regard. Clearly there is no institutional ill, public or private, which cannot be cured by entirely new management. When in doubt, simply discharge all the old personnel and hire an entirely new staff. At the sovereign level, this is generally described as regime change.

So what the ancestors really mean is: this insanity cannot be cured, by any means short of regime change. You knew this! Of course you knew it. Because you have no idea how anyone could possibly cure it.

I think this fact accounts for much of the disorienting, demoralizing impact of Climategate. The climate loyalist is cognitively uncomfortable because he knows he is wrong. The climate dissident is cognitively uncomfortable because he knows he is right, but he has no idea what could possibly be done about it. There's a fine reason for this: nothing can possibly be done about it.

Since he has no structural program for change, the climate dissident reverts to folk activism. He helps spread the good news, and leaves it at that. He doesn't ask: what can be done? This is because nothing can be done. The insanity is incurable. One can erase it from one's own mind, or help others erase it. One cannot resist it.

That grim, fluorescent future! Coming soon, to a defeated nation near you. Everything older, grayer, cheaper, dirtier. Otherwise, no change. This is history's message: absolutely ineluctable. Sibyl, time will feed you the bone. To see why, one need only examine the details. Let's do so.

We posit the contrary: this insanity can be cured. How, in that case, could it be cured? Let us examine some possible, or not-so-possible, cures.

First, Mann and Jones could get the axe. This is clearly a required result for any process claiming to be curative - the pons asinorum of climatology reform. Maximum impact will be achieved if these men actually go to prison, although I'd say there is less than a 5% chance of that. But even a little community service would really send a message.

I think most dissidents expect that Mann and Jones will lose their positions. This would not surprise me at all, though I would not bet on it either. On the other hand, in terms of strict scientific misconduct, the offences of Robert Gallo were much greater, and despite considerable damage he retains a position of respect in the scientific community.

Jones, of course, is more likely to really get it in the neck. It's always the underboss who takes the fall, willingly or not. And after all, the man admitted to breaking the law in his own email. Frankly, his continued existence no longer serves the needs of the organization.

Suppose Mann and Jones go to prison? Following our contrapositive path, let's consider this best-case scenario. No doubt most climate dissidents would be wildly enthused by this result. As would I, of course. I'm an old-fashioned sort of gentleman and love to see a scoundrel swing.

But does this constitute a cure? Again, the suggestion is risible. It's like saying that you've performed a successful breast-cancer operation, when you've taken a biopsy. That particular fleck of cancerous tissue will certainly trouble the patient no more.

For instance, it is not even clear that Mann is the top of this network. For instance, in one email, he refers to our friends in higher places. Who are these friends, exactly? Ah, for a really aggressive domestic-intelligence program. J. Edgar would know. So would Yezhov or Yagoda.

The idea that removing one or two or three individuals could damage this network, which is informal, widely distributed, and not even clearly hierarchical, is preposterous. It will only create martyrs. Certainly, anyone who does not show proper respect for the martyrs is not with the program - not a team player. There is a Big Cutoff in his future.

As Clive Crook points out, we are simply not looking at contamination within one area of climate science. We are looking at the entire field. There is simply no conceivable procedure for purging a whole department. Many suspicious, grayish-looking lumps are visible. Removing any, even all, of the lumps is not even conceivably therapeutic. It is just a way to injure the patient.

Sure; we can expect the standards of research integrity in climate science to increase. But this is not the patient healing. This is the tumor healing. As we've seen, the entire endeavor of climate science, as now constituted, is entirely sinister and without merit. We don't want the tumor to heal. We want the tumor to die. The entire tumor. Otherwise, we certainly cannot claim a cure!

The personal incompetence, dissembling and manipulation of Mann and Jones is not the cancer. It is a symptom of the cancer. No one could possibly claim that these individuals are exceptional, at least within climatology. The discovery of their crude, Stalinist methods has been helpful in bringing public attention to the condition. We can only hope that it continues as long as possible. It inflames the immune system, which can only benefit the patient.

But suppressing the bad science in Pillar B, and replacing it with good science, is not an effective way to render the collective argument of Pillars A, B, and C rational. It is just a way to make a delusional proposition more superficially attractive. Moreover, repressing a few of the bad scientists is not even an effective way to suppress the bad science. Thus, this is just not a curative path we're looking at.

Second, public opinion could be turned against the entire anti-carbon movement. As it certainly has been - to some extent. Well! In a democracy, there is always the temptation to define popularity as victory. There is also the temptation to define being proven right as victory.

Any student of history knows better. Dissidents with an interest in actual curative processes should avoid these temptations, which have led many in other times and places to dead ends of unjustified optimism.

Popularity is not victory. Even truth is not victory. Victory is victory. Victory means: the San Francisco Academy of Sciences takes down its two-million-dollar permanent global-warming exhibit. Victory means: all the ordinary people who were part of this movement, who worked for it or even just believed in it, are embarrassed to have been associated with it.

Yes: universal belief in the carbon crisis has not been achieved. It will probably not be achieved, at least not any time soon. So? The entire thrust of Pillars A, B, and C, as we saw, is not to provide factual information for reasonable judgment, but to provide supporting information for a public-awareness campaign. This campaign - visible in eerie, Eurocratic, Orwellian documents like the rules of the game, found in, by what appears to be the British version of Fenton Communications - has not won. But it has not lost, either. And the fight is yet young! A luta continua!

If these gentlemen can't educate you, they will educate your children. If they can't educate your children, they will still be around to give your grandchildren a go. They are patient, and they can afford to be patient. After all, they are in power and you are out of it. They can continue indefinitely with minority support, simply because there is no mechanism (short of regime change) by which any majority can displace them. Popularity is not victory. Truth is not victory. Victory is victory. This is the sad and wicked reality of the world.

Struggling nobly against broad popular ignorance is the normal position of a movement like the anti-carbon movement. Maoist (ie, New Left) to the core, it is guerrilla to the utmost. Defeated in the valleys, it retreats to the hills. Denied the masses, it seizes the elites. It loves nothing better than this attitude of resistance to popular opinion, in which it hardens and grows stronger. It can operate for indefinite periods of time from this Yenan, without winning or anywhere near. And history suggests that, regardless of the truth, it probably will win. The early abolitionists fought for decades as a tiny, ridiculed minority. Today any deviation from their views is a crime.

For instance, if anti-carbonism can be defeated now - a task of implausible difficulty - what ensures that it will stay defeated? Nothing at all. Once it prevails, however, it will create a structure of interests which is absolutely unassailable. Indeed perhaps as it already has, but nothing as compared to the world in which the US adopts anti-carbon measures like "80 by 50."

The belief that our entire system of government - including, but not limited to, this particular decision - is self-correcting, or even correctable by unusual effort - is widespread. It is also entirely unfounded. The study of history has left me with few stronger conclusions.

Third, we could abandon present political reality, acknowledge that this tumor is not curable by any conventional means, and apply the study of history to unconventional means. Alas, history does not supply any cures both real and practical. But, by showing us what a real cure looks like, it finishes the task of convincing us that any practical cure is unattainable.

We're going to look at two historical examples of a purge of the required dimensions, one of which (X) was unsuccessful, and the other of which (Y) was successful. This will give us the general impression that any curative therapy must be stronger than X, but need not be stronger than Y. I think this is a generally accurate impression. It also gives us the impression that any therapy nowhere near as strong as X is of dubious efficacy at best. As a student of history, I would also concur with this judgment.

Treatment X is McCarthyism, which failed. Treatment Y is denazification, which succeeded.

Unfortunately, most educated people are just as misinformed about the historical nature of the McCarthy period as they are about global warming. What? You thought this was the only distortion in your default reference frame? Oh, my Lord, the innocence.

Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Those who lie about the past are generally found lying about the present. Surely, if you can come to believe that you were completely misinformed on the subject of climate sensitivity, you can extend that same newborn skepticism to this important and little-known historical era, always forgotten or misrepresented. As always, 20th-century history is the hardest to learn and the most rewarding.

The reality behind "McCarthyism" - a good recent history is that of Stanton Evans - was one in which Americans discovered that their government had been employing, in positions of great responsibility, individuals known as "Communists," who were often extremely capable and brilliant, but who did not seem to have the best interests of Americans at heart, and seemed capable of misleading them with disturbing facility. There are no more Communists - not in the literal sense of the word. But surely the parallel is clear.

In particular, Americans discovered that their own foreign-policy organs, not to mention their own official press, had been consciously and deliberately misinforming them about the nature of events and regimes in Russia and China. Oceans being oceans, these events had relatively little direct impact on Americans. (Except, of course, in the Korean War, where American soldiers fought a major conflict against the Jeffersonian reformers to whom its diplomats had just delivered a quarter of humanity.) However, their effects on Russians and Chinese were dire. Especially the Chinese.

USG, or at least its foreign-policy organs, or certain networks therein, were seen correctly to bear culpability in this matter. (In modern-day historical works, for instance, you can see the correct history in either Jay Taylor's life of Chiang Kai-shek or Jung Chang's Mao. Chang doesn't give a crap about American politics; Taylor is himself a former Foreign Service officer. If you read either work, or any other reliable source, you will come away with the feeling that "George Marshall" is a perfectly sensible answer to the perfectly sensible question of "who lost China?".)

The basic problem faced by McCarthyism was that McCarthy's shop itself, run in practice by the freakish legal child-prodigy Roy Cohn, was a tiny dog that had caught a very large car. There was no substantive way to differentiate between a New Dealer and a Communist. After all, between the German invasion of Russia in 1941, and the Anglo-Soviet split of '45-'48, the two had been essentially the same movement. The two were also littered with homologous doctrinal doxology - starting, but not ending, with "progressive."

Therefore, McCarthyism had to operate under an essentially erroneous narrative of foreign subversion. Broadly, in general, his specific charges were accurate. The many sub-rosa connections to the Russian intelligence agencies that he uncovered were real. But the meaning of those connections were completely misinterpreted. As a result, a false picture was presented, both by McCarthy's allies at the time and by his present conservative defenders.

A man like Harry Dexter White did not see himself as a tool of the KGB. A man like Harry Dexter White saw the KGB as a tool of Harry Dexter White. The KGB could put him down in their files as a tool; I'm sure they did; and perhaps, in the end, they were right. But to White and many others like him, America should have been working with the Soviets as with the British, because the two systems were on a path to convergence. No one then or now would think anything of any contact between British intelligence and anyone in Washington.

This is actually not a reassuring conclusion at all. The problem is that it directs complicity in the other direction. Instead of the crime of workin' secretly fer furriners, ie, Stalin, the FDR administration strikes me as more likely to be prosecuted by history for employing Stalin. Who certainly made quite a steely iron fist. It is neither unusual nor unfair, however, for a leader to be prosecuted for the work of his henchmen. The Boss cannot be expected to have executed his victims personally - as if he were, say, Saddam Hussein.

But I digress. The point is not the accuracy of McCarthy's charges, but the actual effectiveness of his actual purge. There is no doubt that many Communists and other progressives, across a fairly wide cross-section of American institutions, not entirely sparing even the most elite, were purged as a result of McCarthyism. In that sense, the purge succeeded. The tumor regressed.

A little. And not for long. We can see easily that McCarthyism failed. If McCarthyism had succeeded, McCarthy would today be hailed as a hero, and his victims execrated as villains. Since his victims are hailed as martyrs, and he is execrated as a villain, we can see easily that he lost. Any successes were only temporary. The tumor came back - and prevailed. Taste the bone!

Needless to say, I have seen no seriously-proposed response to Climategate that sounds even a hundredth part as toxic as McCarthyism. At most, dissidents demand the heads of Mann and Jones. They don't demand a thorough, savage purge of the warmists throughout Washington and beyond.

It is the warmists, of course, who talk of McCarthyism. The denialists deny any such intention. Yet McCarthyism itself was quite insufficient to solve a remarkably similar problem. Whatever treatment climate science demands, it is something much stronger than anything Tailgunner Joe had in his medicine cabinet.

No! If we're going to actually clean up climate science, rather than just make an Alger Hiss of Michael Mann, we're going to have to take Rutger Hauer's advice in Split Second, and find ourselves some bigger guns. It was Raoul Duke, in his infamous Police Chief editorial, who pointed out the difference between tear gas and nerve gas. CS just slaps at the problem - a nerve agent solves it. Clearly, mere McCarthyism is in the tear-gas category.

So we're going to have to go all the way and look at a purge which actually worked. Fortunately, we have already discussed this period of history: denazification. Get your Persilscheine now! Here at UR we have a practically pathological obsession with the practice of history through primary sources. There is no better primary source on denazification than the original bureaucratic directive under which it was conducted - the notorious JCS 1067.

This should be read in its entirety, noting carefully everything that feels like a euphemism. It generally is. However, today we are only concerned with the means by which JCS 1067 accomplished its primary goal - the permanent eradication from the German mind and government of National Socialism and anything even remotely like it.

I reproduce section 6 of JCS 1067, "Denazification," in full:
a. A Proclamation dissolving the Nazi Party, its formations, affiliated associations and supervised organizations, and all Nazi public institutions which were set up as instruments of Party domination, and prohibiting their revival in any form, should be promulgated by the Control Council. You will assure the prompt effectuation of that policy in your zone and will make every effort to prevent the reconstitution of any such organization in underground, disguised or secret form. Responsibility for continuing desirable non-political social services of dissolved Party organizations may be transferred by the Control Council to appropriate central agencies and by you to appropriate local agencies.

b. The laws purporting to establish the political structure of National Socialism and the basis of the Hitler regime and all laws, decrees and regulations which establish discriminations on grounds of race, nationality, creed or political opinions should be abrogated by the Control Council. You will render them inoperative in your zone.

c. All members of the Nazi party who have been more than nominal participants in its activities all active supporters of Nazism or militarism and all other persons hostile to Allied purposes will be removed and excluded from public office and from positions of importance in quasi-public and private enterprises such as (1) civic, economic and labor organizations, (2) corporations and other organizations in which the German government or subdivisions have a major financial interest, (3) industry, commerce, agriculture, and finance, (4) education, and (5) the press, publishing houses and other agencies disseminating news and propaganda.

Persons are to be treated as more than nominal participants in Party activities and as active supporters of Nazism or militarism when they have (1) held office or otherwise been active at any level from local to national in the party and its subordinate organizations, or in organizations which further militaristic doctrines, (2) authorized or participated affirmatively in any Nazi crimes, racial persecutions or discriminations, (3) been avowed believers in Nazism or racial and militaristic creeds, or (4) voluntarily given substantial moral or material support or political assistance of any kind to the Nazi Party or Nazi officials and leaders.

No such persons shall be retained in any of the categories of employment listed above because of administrative necessity, convenience or expediency.

d. Property, real and personal, owned or controlled by the Nazi party, its formations, affiliated associations and supervised organizations, and by all persons subject to arrest under the provisions of paragraph 8, and found within your zone, will be taken under your control pending a decision by the Control Council or higher authority as to its eventual disposition.

e. All archives, monuments and museums of Nazi inception, or which are devoted to the perpetuation of German militarism, will be taken under your control and their properties held pending decision as to their disposition by the Control Council.

f. You will make special efforts to preserve from destruction and take under your control records, plans, books, documents, papers, files, and scientific, industrial and other information and data belonging to or controlled by the following:

(1) The Central German Government and its subdivisions, German military organizations, organizations engaged in military research, and such other governmental agencies as may be deemed advisable;

(2) The Nazi Party, its formations, affiliated associations and supervised organizations;

(3) All police organizations, including security and political police;

(4) Important economic organizations and industrial establishments including those controlled by the Nazi Party or its personnel;

(5) Institutes and special bureaus devoting themselves to racial, political, militaristic or similar research or propaganda.
Fuckin' awesome! (Note how we don't forget to deal with those damned museum exhibits.)

If you replace "militarist" with "environmentalist," etc, I think you get a rough but reasonable description of the sort of purge which would be needed to actually cure USG and its many tentacles of the insanity we've been looking at. Basically, denazification is so far beyond McCarthyism, it isn't even slightly fucking funny. It's the nerve gas - a real, proper cleansing. No, sir, you won't find any bedbugs when you move back in to this building! Sir, we've given it the complete treatment!

And of course it's also the sort of thing we associate with the Nazis themselves. Mainly because it's the sort of thing the Nazis did. There's nothing much wrong with your bog-standard history of the Nazis. No - all surviving distortions concern the other side of the conflict.

However, we again digress. It should be clear that in 2009, a thorough, JCS 1067-style purge of the ecocrats, old school, is nowhere near the realm of the political possible. It's even farther from reality than mere McCarthyism, which is both ineffective and unachievable. Thus, as students of history, we can be confident in our diagnosis: incurable.

At least, incurable except in the context of regime change. The way to look at the denazification analogy is not to say that nothing like JCS 1067 can ever happen again, ever, in history. History never works this way. The present, which always seems special in the present, always becomes the past. If such a purge was physically possible once, it is physically possible again.

More to the point, once you postulate any such effort, you can only really imagine it in the context of regime change. You simply can't imagine it under the present political reality. The present reality would have to end; another reality would have to come into existence. At present regime change seems quite unlikely, but history proves that it happens. Thus, again: insanity, incurable except by means of regime change. The ancestors are vindicated again.

Therefore, we continue on to the first, most difficult, and most devastating part of the message: your entire form of government. What can this mean? Whatever it means, it seems calculated to encourage us to take an extremely broad and existential view of the problem. We should certainly not be seeing Climategate as an isolated case.

But could it be? When confronted by questions of this nature, I always fall back on the great Punch cartoon of the curate's egg. Completely mis-explained by Wikipedia, but at least you can see the actual cartoon.

The point is that the curate, who is both hilariously timid and hilariously polite, takes a bite of a rotten egg. His mouth is immediately filled with sulfur, corruption, filth. But he has no evidence that the rest of the egg is rotten - only the bite he just took. He therefore declares the rest of it excellent. As in theory it may well be. In governments and in eggs.

Thus, our immediate reaction upon discovering this monstrous hoax is to follow the curate's example. We therefore declare that, to protect the excellent reputation of Science, climatology must be purged. The rotten part of the egg must be removed. Leaving the rest - which is, again, excellent.

I would certainly not regard this as a disaster. (In fact, I think the whole field of climatology should probably just be turned off for ten or fifteen years. Let it lie fallow.) However, local regime change in climatology alone can only be described as an effective solution (though politically unrealistic) if the problem with climatology is unique, exceptional, unprecedented. The rest of the egg being excellent.

Ie: since the reputation of climatology did not match its reality, it seems reasonable to wonder if the fungus has sent its tendrils anywhere else. Before we start reflexively defending what turns out to be, in fact, indefensible. It seems to me there has been enough of that. Indeed, the general absence of any such broad curiosity, in the early response to Climategate, is so striking that this absence itself can only be seen as an epiphenomenon of collective insanity.

Basically, we have entirely failed to even address a very important question. We have failed to ask why this happened. Until we understand the why of anti-carbonism - not the meteorological why, the historical why - we cannot possibly search for other nests of the infection. According to the ancestors, of course, there is no use; it is everywhere. And they may just be right.

Here is the original cause of the insanity: an failure of judgment. The original sin of Climategate is the belief that good government can be produced without human judgment, by some automatic formula or procedure. Including, though not limited to, the scientific method.

Typically in previous historical eras the process of automatic policy determination was more colorful, and involved some sort of prop. Such as an ox liver. But the urge is the same. If a decision is made by some formal process, however spurious its logic, it is therefore removed from the dangerous realm of personal government. For instance, no one need be personally responsible for it. Obviously this is very appealing to the bureaucratic mind.

Recall my one-paragraph dismissal of AGW as a major problem. This is my own judgment. It may be good judgment or bad judgment. But - in your entire system of government - there is nowhere to insert the judgment. On AGW, USG acts with bad judgment, because it pretends to act without judgment at all. Judgment, nonetheless, is found - and not good judgment.

If you search the CRU emails for the Orwellian term policymakers, for instance, you get 12 hits. This word is chosen from the same school of misleading language under which Stalin becomes a mere administrative assistant. It is absolutely clear that in reality, "policymakers" do not actually make policies. They enact policies. The policies are made in the same forge as the data.

In other words, the ideal "policymakers" in Michael Mann's world, who are of course also the progressive policymakers, are not in actual fact contributing actual judgment to the process of making policy. They are saying: the scientists tell us we need to do it. They are deferring to Michael Mann's judgment. They are, in a word, passing the buck. Actually thinking, as in my judgment process, is quite beyond their pay grade. No one is paid to do this.

By using words like "policymaker," scientists such as Mann disguise the fact that it is actually themselves who are exercising the judgment. Of course, someone has to make the decision. If Michael Mann decides that he doesn't want to play Climate Stalin anymore, and no one else wants the job, there will be no Climate Stalin. Historically, someone else tends to want the job, although personal authority will generally fragment over time. Bureaucracy, however, remains bureaucracy. Brezhnev is not always an improvement on Stalin.

Why do Mann and his colleagues act and talk like Stalin and his Politburo? Because they are Stalin and his Politburo - at least, within their own narrow field. Mann cannot order anyone actually shot, so he doesn't. If he could, why assume he wouldn't? Once again, it's not like there is a big fence which keeps Satan out of the United States. Within the domain of climate science and climate policy, the IPCC circle is as sovereign as it gets. They may be resisted by rogue (ie, Republican) "policymakers" - but these dinosaurs are weaker in every generation.

Thus, while it appears formally that human judgment has been eliminated from government, this is not actually the case. The judgment has just been delegated to the climate scientists, who are nominally just providing background information to the "policymakers." In reality, Stalin was in charge of Russia. In reality, Mann, Jones, Hansen et al are in charge of climate policy.

This is why it's so difficult to get these guys out of power. They are in power. Nature abhors a vacuum. There is only one way in which a sovereign leaves office: by losing his job to the new sovereign, who takes it up and does it instead. This applies to institutions as well as persons. Since it is sovereign in its department, the IPCC community cannot be displaced by anything short of a coup - and since the Mann group is quite strongly rooted in the general fabric of government, it is at least as plausible to imagine this as a general coup. Ie, regime change.

Here is what the ancestors meant by your entire system of government. They meant that the policy process that produced AGW mitigation is the normal (for the 20th century) process of public policy, which is more or less how your entire system of government makes all its decisions. Because of its newness, the AGW policy process is in fact an unusually regular and ideal case of this structure. It is not an archaic exception, but the latest, greatest thing.

Therefore, the AGW insanity cannot be regarded as an exception or special case. Rather, it is best interpreted as an unusually transparent example of a general or systematic corruption. Most other instances of this corruption are opaque to us, because we do not have their emails. Thus, they are invisible, and we are free to behave as if they did not exist. But they do exist - and if you wonder why everything seems so badly-governed these days, this is more or less it.

Let's try to summarize this problem and how it arose. We'll see this at two levels: the philosophical level, and the historical level.

The problem: bad judgment in government. The cause: a philosophy of government which promoted the belief that policy could be formulated mechanically, by delegating it to neutral and objective experts. To conceal this dramatic shift in sovereignty, the old political institutions were retained and in fact continued to function, much like the Roman Senate under the Roman Empire. Under the Caesars, the Senate was no longer a body of governing statesmen. In appearance, however, they remained "policymakers."

The modern politician, rare exceptions excepted (eg, Daniel Patrick Moynihan), is not a statesman. He is an actor playing a statesman. This is a full-time job, a specialty, and not an easy one. There is simply no room for this individual to have his own, individual whims, theories and opinions. His handlers may be so good at their jobs that they convince him that he has his own judgment, but in reality he delegates his trust to them completely. He has no other option.

So delegating public policy to the scientists had an obvious effect. It made the scientists the policymakers - human judgment is conserved. The judgment became theirs. Hence Michael Mann, Climate Stalin. Granted effective sovereign power in his own field, he started to behave like a sovereign. And if he hadn't, someone else would have. No shortage of potential Stalins in this world. Satan's job is never tough to fill.

The great Victorian historian Lord Acton made a famous observation: power corrupts. Ironically, he is (quite unfairly) remembered for little else. The mechanism behind the corruption of power is fascinating and worthy of its own long discussion, and I'm not even sure Acton understood it correctly. But this would be a digression, and we've already digressed too much. Let's just take it as an axiom. People already believe it anyway.

We see immediately that when sovereign authority is initially granted to an individual, group, or institution, especially if it is granted suddenly, without warning, and with no preceding period of protracted drooling, the result may well be quite good. Why? Because the judgment of those who have power thrust upon them thus is uncontaminated by the Acton effect. In good individuals, in fact, power tends to confer responsibility - they rise to its challenge.

Over time, however, these institutions are corrupted. They become arrogant and... insane. Good individuals outcompete the bad ones. Hubert Lamb retires; he is replaced by Phil Jones. Under Boromir, Gondor is just another province of Mordor. Both, after all, are ruled by the Ring!

And this degradation, once again, is entirely irreparable. Or rather: it can only be repaired by replacing the corrupted institutions with new institutions. It certainly cannot be repaired by replacing the corrupt institutions with old institutions - ie, the preceding generation. Not only were these institutions perhaps quite corrupt themselves, they are no longer a practical option. Because they no longer exist.

This is the point that conservatives just can't get. An unseated sovereign rapidly ceases to be capable of ruling - if it continues to exist at all. The Bourbon court cannot be restored, because it does not exist. The Roman Republic could not be restored, despite all the tumults of the Empire years, despite the fact that the Senate still existed - why? Because the Senate was no longer a plausible governing body. It was no more than a collection of the Emperor's placemen.

Needless to say, the American Old Deal is in exactly the same position. So when I see otherwise sensible conservatives, such as Paul at Powerline, write things like this:
Many years ago, I learned that under the American model of governance, Congress (the representative of the people) enacted legislation; the executive branch implemented the legislation; and the Supreme Court became involved, in rare instances, at the back end of the process. However, this model has, in a sense, been reversed when it comes to regulating carbon dioxide -- a matter of enormous potential consequences for both the environment and the U.S. economy.

In 2007, the Supreme Court decided that carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. It therefore held that the EPA had not only the power but the duty to regulate this gas. Thus, nine unelected individuals issued, in effect, a directive to the executive branch.

Yesterday, the bureaucrats at the EPA announced that carbon dioxide and several other gases pose a danger to the environment and the health of Americans and that, accordingly, EPA would begin writing regulations to reduce emissions. EPA's administrator added, however, that she would prefer that Congress pass legislation to accomplish the same task.

As Sen. John Kerry aptly characterized the situation, "the message to Congress is crystal clear: get moving."

Thus, the executive branch, in response to a directive from judges, is now attempting to pressure Congress into taking action that, from all appearances, Congress does not want to take.

If this is democracy, it seems like a new kind of democracy.
- I despair. Paul! Darling! Love! Apple of my heart! If you wanted to fight that battle, you should have been born in the 1850s, not the 1950s. Because it was over a century ago. At least. Doesn't the phrase "Progressive Era" ring any bells for you? Bueller? Bueller?

The "American model of governance," as described by Paul, if it ever existed as anything like this pretty abstraction, ceased to exist in 1933. Its replacement is indeed a "new kind of democracy," and always has been. It is our kind. To wish for any other is entirely futile, for this is the kind we have. It was not always; but the past exists only in our imaginations. It can be recreated, of course, but so can many better things.

Congress is simply not a plausible governing body, because Congress is simply not a collection of statesmen. It is a collection of party hacks, basically actors in the world's dullest reality show, perhaps with a few amateurish proto-statesmen in the mix. Since these people do not habitually exercise the function of statesmen, namely sovereign judgment, there is no realistic program under which power can be restored to their hands. Their hands are too limp to hold it. Exactly the same was true of the Senate of the Roman Empire.

Similarly, others (again, typically Republicans) dream of a restoration of populist democracy, in which red-blooded Americans take back their government directly - without any of those corrupt politicians. Again: dream on. The American voting population, as a collective body, is nowhere near fit to hold the reins of government. It is not some collection of misunderstood statesmen. Indeed, it knows almost nothing of the reality of how Washington actually works. It is as unfit to govern as I am to fly a 747.

Those who dream of turning this clock back, of restoring defunct political arrangements or institutions, must answer this question: why would anyone who got their hands on power, then convey it to some other incompetent party? The answer is simple: they wouldn't, and shouldn't. If their goal is personal aggrandizement, they keep the power themselves. If their goal is competence, they keep the power themselves, or transfer it to some competent authority. Thus, the Republic is not restored; should not be restored; cannot be restored.

Of course, if a time machine had actually transported the entire Roman aristocracy of 200 BC, the Scipios and Catos and what not, into the collapsing Empire of 400 AD, I am sure the Scipios and Catos would have lost little time in setting things right. The Rome of 400 AD had an aristocracy as well, and quite a cultured one; but it consisted of Sidonius and Claudian, not Scipio and Cato. Note that this governing class, too, exercised strikingly poor judgment.

The human element is essential. A Senate of Sidoniuses and Claudians is not a Senate of Scipios and Catos, whatever its parliamentary procedures. In fact, there is a very simple reason why the Washington of 2009 makes such poor decisions. It is the same reason that the Rome of 409 made bad decisions.

Washington makes poor decisions because in Washington, the true art of general statesmanship, the broad art of judgment in government, is neither studied, nor taught, nor practiced, nor even sought. The cockpit is locked; whatever is in it, is not a pilot; we are all on the plane.

The ancestors, understandably, are a little upset by this. I have explained the problem philosophically; now, to finish, I want to explain how it happened, historically, to us. And since the ancestors have been so enlightening with their pithy little sentence, I want to let them explain it in their own words. Delivered without benefit of Ouija board.

These words make sense to me. I hope they make sense to you. If not, I have failed in communicating something. Try reading the whole works, not just these samples.

First, let's look at one of the most talented and effective non-monarchical governments in history, the aristocratic Parliamentary system of Victorian Britain. This regime cannot have been too effective, because it no longer exists. Obviously, it in some way neglected its own security: a fatal lapse in any sovereign. In its heyday, though, it pretty much kicked everyone's ass.

How did HMG in this golden age solve the problem of judgment? Let's hear it from the great legal philosopher John Austin, founder of Victorian jurisprudence.

From his Plea for the Constitution (1859):
It must be remarked, moreover, that the individual members of the Parliament speaking generally belong to aristocratical or elevated classes. The position of the Head of the State, and the stations held by the Peers, are too obvious to need comment. For the most part the members of the House of Commons are men of hereditary or acquired wealth, and can afford to devote themselves to practical politics without pecuniary reward; for a well founded dislike of political adventurers (or aspirants to seats in Parliament with a view to pecuniary gain) has hitherto disposed the electoral body to reject candidates without independent means. For the most part, therefore, the members of the House of Commons are drawn from the vast body who may be styled an aristocracy of independent gentlemen.
The reproach of aristocratical tendencies, so often brought against the British Government, is founded on the influence exercised in Parliament, and in the country at large, by the aristocracy (composed of the Lords and the higher Commonalty), which we have ventured to style a political aristocracy, on account of its special vocation to practical politics. We therefore will try to describe, as briefly and clearly as possible, the advantages accruing to the country from the existence of this aristocracy, and from the functions which it performs.

The art of statesmanship, like other high and difficult arts, can only be acquired by those who make it their principal business. The aristocracy in question, being men of independent means, can afford to devote themselves to public life; whilst men whose time and thoughts are absorbed by their private affairs cannot give themselves thoroughly to the concerns of the nation. From the possession of an aristocratical body specially affected to practical politics, the nation derives the well known advantages which arise from the division of labour. A larger proportion of competent statesmen will naturally be furnished by a body comparatively skilled, than by the bodies (far more numerous) whose attention to public interests is necessarily intermittent, and whose knowledge of those interests is therefore necessarily superficial. To this it must be added that in consequence of the high and undisputed positions occupied socially by the aristocracy in question, they naturally acquire a cool self-possession, a quick insight into men, and a skill in dealing with men which are specially necessary to statesmen in a free and Parliamentary country.
In other words: pretty much the same way the Roman Republic solved the problem.

Note in particular that when these gentry were landed gentry, as once almost exclusively, they came to Parliament with extensive experience in personal government. Well into the 19th century, the English country squire retained an essentially feudal role in local administration; he was the king of his shire, so to speak. In short, this caste was to governing as Hasids are to diamonds, Syrians to bodegas, or Patels to motels.

Again, note that there is simply no way to restore this system of government. The institutions, as they were, were dependent on the aristocrats Austin describes. This population no longer exists. Thus, the institutions cannot be restored. No Patels, no motels.

Britain still has an aristocracy, of course. Generally, it is the same aristocracy as the American - a truly global elite. You can see its doings, or at least its pretenses, if you read Vanity Fair. This set, no longer a caste, is rich, intelligent, influential, cultivated, beautiful; in every superficial way, everything an aristocracy should be. Completely beyond distinctions of birth, of course; admitted only by wealth or achievement.

And terribly concerned with its carbon footprint. A Sidonius-and-Claudian bureaucratic aristocracy, not a Cato-and-Scipio ruling aristocracy. Very fit for decoration; not at all fit for government. Again, perfectly intelligent - just awfully misinformed, with little or no education or experience in the "high and difficult art."

Britain is a good country on which to track the 19th and 20th centuries. Its form of government, while democratic (by Austin's definition - and if you lack your own theory of sovereignty which you prefer for some reason, I'd just stick with Austin's) throughout the period, goes from strongly aristocratic at the beginning, to strongly bureaucratic at the end. In the end it converges with that of the United States, as does everyone's. But the US itself is a cultural backwater for most of the 19th. Next to the Victorians, it is barely worth noticing.

When we look at the Gilded Age, Old Deal or Third Republic regime in the United States, what we see is a good deal uglier than its British counterpart, but still relatively functional. This is the golden age of the boss and the interest - more plutocratic than aristocratic. Still, the difference between plutocracy and aristocracy is a subtle one at best. The Victorian aristocracy was perfectly open to honest wealth, more or less honestly acquired.

And the American captains of industry were just that - captains. Thus, a Senate controlled corruptly by corrupt interests was also a Senate of talents and powers, more or less fit by experience to govern. (Nor was the Victorian election exactly a festival of human purity.) Moreover, the US at this time had a strong militaristic tradition, inherited from the Civil War through institutions like the GAR - still visible in many period statues. This, too, imparted fiber.

In retrospect, like the Victorian era, the Gilded Age strikes me as a golden age of good government. Its architecture certainly tells a better story than ours, and architecture seldom lies. Viewed close up by those living in it, however, the period could be quite unattractive. Under a strong enough microscope, anything looks ugly.

Moreover, though fundamentally aristocratic in the management of the State, these regimes remained democratic in their foundation of sovereignty. Democratic forces - to be precise, populist forces, not controlled or instructed by the legitimate authorities - were etching away at the aristocratic bastions. For all the reasons you don't want Sarah Palin on the throne of FDR, these democratic forces tended to exhibit extremely poor judgment.

ItalicEnter the new formula of sovereignty, the Progressive or Fabian version. Succinctly summarized by that arch-pundit of the 20th century, Walter Lippmann, in his Drift and Mastery:
The bureaucratic dreams of reformers often bear a striking resemblance to the honest fantasies of the utopians. What we are coming to call State Socialism is in fact an attempt to impose a benevolent governing class on humanity. Oh, for wise and powerful officials to bring order out of chaos, end the "muddle," and make men clean, sober, and civic-minded.

There is no real understanding of democracy in the State Socialist, for he doesn't attempt to build with the assent and voluntary cooperation of men and women. But he avoids the laborious and disheartening method of popular education, and takes satisfaction in devising a ruling class, inspired by him, as a short-cut to perfection.
Drift and Mastery was published in... 1914. So much for the KGB theory of the 20th century. (That said, Lippmann, genuinely one of the 20th century's most influential intellectuals, himself was always close to the Soviets - and his longtime secretary was in fact an agent.)

Lippmann is an exceedingly tricky and dangerous writer, always worth reading but never to be trusted. He is often found projecting his own machinations onto others. He himself, of course, is one of these "reformers," and he would inspire many generations of "wise and powerful officials." This is the tradition of government that leads directly to Michael Mann.

What's especially interesting is his distinction between good democratic reform and that nasty "State Socialism." This form of government, the Platonic guardianship of scientific bureaucrats, is harmful and dangerous if it acts without obtaining the consent of the governed. If it does obtain the consent of the governed, the inherent wisdom of the People will restrain it from any insanity in which it might otherwise be tempted to indulge.

Of course, those of us who have read the CRU emails know exactly how this system goes about obtaining the consent of the governed. In all 20th-century regimes, those that maintained active political systems and those that did not, the scientocrats simply took on an additional function. Besides rulers, they became propaganda masters. They obtained the consent of the governed, all right. They did it by producing everything the governed watched, read, studied or taught. This was called public education. Since it was entirely based on the truth, there was nothing wrong with it at all.

(This, to me, is one of the most interesting effects of Climategate. This system is just not working as well as it's supposed to. There are too many alternate information paths. A substantial percentage of the voting population simply refuses to be properly educated. It prefers to persist in its scandalous ignorance. Indeed it is often quite genuinely ignorant - frequently getting the right answer for the wrong reason.

But this stubborn resistance is just that - resistance. It can and will be worn down and surpassed. It does not even attempt to fight back, because it cannot. For instance, EPA does not need Congressional action to regulate carbon. It wants Congressional action, because it wants the same cloak of democratic consent that Lippmann describes. Since it does not actually need this consent, however, its courtship of public opinion can only be described as camouflage.)

The history of the US in the 20th century is the history of a long, slow progress from the Old Deal's corrupt, quasi-aristocratic plutocracy, to Lippmann's egalitarian, bureaucratic scientocracy. The former certainly had many flaws. But the latter's growing tendency to collectively punish its own citizens, for some random invented reason that makes no sense at all, is really quite remarkable.

The reason we can describe the present American regime as the New Deal state is that most of the actual change in this transition happened under the revolutionary monarchy of FDR. (For the actual linkage of state and university, see under: Brains Trust.) The Washington of 1945 bears little more than nominal resemblance to the Washington of 1933, for FDR and his henchmen exercised more or less absolute management authority over USG. The Washington of 2009 looks a lot like the Washington of 1945, and that of 1933 like that of 1909.

What is especially interesting is the attitude of the liberal, progressive or New Dealer toward democracy - not democracy as an abstract ideal, but democracy as a form of government. As an abstract ideal, your progressive adores democracy. As a form of government, he despises it. He calls it "politics." Politics is very important to the progressive, but only in a ceremonial capacity. It must not be confused with the actual task of policy formulation, which must always be left to the "wise and powerful officials." Per Lippmann's advice, these must always obtain the consent of the governed - so that their authority is never threatened by popular tumult.

The scientocratic system of government which gave us Professor Mann, therefore, can be seen as a sort of adaptive consequence of that fundamentally turbulent and revolutionary form of government, democracy. Since active democracy, in which unguided popular movements actually clash and compete for power, is extremely unstable, it tends to collapse into more stable forms. While retaining the nominal institutions of democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty, these actually function in traditional autocratic, oligarchic or theocratic modes.

And therein hangs our third ancestor. Now, some have described the dramatic formula of UR as having a rather Tolkienesque feel; others may connect it more with C.S. Lewis; I certainly grew up reading both. But above all, I grew up reading Isaac Asimov.

If my journey into the awesome, humbling lost library that is Google Books was a film and needed a name, it might be called "Searching for Hari Seldon." With more or less the entire Victorian corpus, modulo a bit of copyfraud, the Hari Seldon game is to enquire of this Library: which writers of the 19th would feel most justified, in their understanding of the eternal nature of history, humanity and government, by the events of the 20th? Whose crystal ball worked? Whose archived holograms delivered the news?

Broadly speaking, I think the answer is clear. Hari Seldon is Carlyle - the late Carlyle, of the Pamphlets. I consider myself a Carlylean pretty much the way a Marxist is a Marxist. There is simply no significant phenomenon of the 20th century not fully anticipated. Almost alone Carlyle predicts that the 20th will be a century of political chaos and mass murder, and he says not what but also why. And what a writer! Religions could easily be founded on the man - and perhaps should be.

But there's no reason the Library need contain only one Seldon. Our mission today suggests a different candidate: another titan of Victorian letters, Sir Henry Maine. Here is history's actual message on Climategate, delivered without benefit of Ouija: Maine's Popular Government (1885). The Ouija board adds, Glenn Reynolds style: read the whole thing. It's quite readable, especially if you can tolerate UR.

I will leave you with some samples. What is unique about Maine, even among his fellow Seldons, is that he is not just the greatest Victorian scholar of comparative government; he does not just correctly predict his future and our past; he also predicts our future. At least, in Maine you find many predictions which come true; few which come false; and a few which have not yet come.

First, watch him refine Austin's understanding of aristocracy and democracy:
The most interesting, and on the whole the most successful, experiments in popular government, are those which have frankly recognised the difficulty under which it labours.

At the head of these we must place the virtually English discovery of government by Representation, which caused Parliamentary institutions to be preserved in these islands from the destruction which overtook them everywhere else, and to devolve as an inheritance upon the United States. Under this system, when it was in its prime, an electoral body, never in this country extraordinarily large, chose a number of persons to represent it in Parliament, leaving them unfettered by express instructions, but having with them at most a general understanding, that they would strive to give a particular direction to public policy.

The effect was to diminish the difficulties of popular government, in exact proportion to the diminution in the number of persons who had to decide public questions. But this famous system is evidently in decay, through the ascendency over it which is being gradually obtained by the vulgar assumption that great masses of men can directly decide all necessary questions for themselves.

The agency, by which the representative is sought to be turned into the mere mouthpiece of opinions collected in the locality which sent him to the House of Commons, is we need hardly say that which is generally supposed to have been introduced from the United States under the name of the Caucus, but which had very possibly a domestic exemplar in the ecclesiastical organisation of the Wesleyan Methodists.

The old Italian toxicologists are said to have always arranged their discoveries in a series of three terms - first the poison, next the antidote, thirdly the drug which neutralised the antidote. The antidote to the fundamental infirmities of democracy was Representation, but the drug which defeats it has now been found in the Caucus.
By "Caucus" Maine means, of course, the modern political party. Note his perfect description of the same paradox we see in Lippmann's work - the spontaneous appearance of an antidote to democracy, often promoted under the very name of democracy itself. You knew, of course, that representative government was an antidote to democracy; you also knew that progressive scientocracy was an antidote to democracy; you never connected these two points. Or associated them with "the old Italian toxicologists."

Note also that in 21st-century scientific bureaucracy, we have seen only two of these three steps. We have seen democracy and its antidote. The latter quite toxic itself, and growing only more so. We have not, however, seen the neutralizing drug - yet.

Here Maine explains his theory of aristocratic judgment:
Under all systems of government, under Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy alike, it is a mere chance whether the individual called to the direction of public affairs will be qualified for the undertaking; but the chance of his competence, so far from being less under Aristocracy than under the other two systems, is distinctly greater. If the qualities proper for the conduct of government can be secured in a limited class or body of men, there is a strong probability that they will be transmitted to the corresponding class in the next generation, although no assertion be possible as to individuals.

Whether - and this is the last objection - the age of aristocracies be over, I cannot take upon myself to say. I have sometimes thought it one of the chief drawbacks on modern democracy that, while it gives birth to despotism with the greatest facility, it does not seem to be capable of producing aristocracy, though from that form of political and social ascendency all improvement has hitherto sprung.
But wait:
But some of the keenest observers of democratic society in our day do not share this opinion Noticing that the modern movement towards democracy is coupled with a movement towards scientific perfection, they appear to be persuaded that the world will some day fall under intellectual aristocracies.

Society is to become the Church of a sort of political Calvinism, in which the Elect are to be the men with exceptional brains, This seems to be the view suggested by French democratic society to M. Ernest Renan. Whether such an aristocracy, if it wielded all the power which the command of all scientific results placed in its hands, would be exactly beneficent may possibly be doubted.
Our exact problem in a nutshell - 125 years ago.
The faults to which the older privileged orders are liable are plain enough and at times very serious. They are in some characters idleness, luxuriousness, insolence, and frivolity; in others, and more particularly in our day, they are timidity, distrust of the permanence of anything ancient and great, and (what is worse) a belief that no reputation can be made by a member of an ancient and great institution except by helping to pull it down.

But assuming the utmost indulgence in these faults, I may be permitted to doubt whether mankind would derive unmixed advantage from putting in their place an ascetic aristocracy of men of science, with intellects perfected by unremitting exercise, absolutely confident in themselves and absolutely sure of their conclusions.

Maine misses one small point here: this "ascetic aristocracy" will degenerate in talents, as well as morals. One fact that rings loud and clear from the CRU emails is the basically second-rate nature of these bureaucratic pseudoscientists - not just evil, but also not that bright. Though still aristocrats of unremitting intellectual exercise, to be sure, next to the broad population. We can't all be Feynman.

And finally - the future:
The question, however, will not long or deeply trouble those who, like me, have the strongest suspicion that, if there really arise a conflict between Democracy and Science, Democracy, which is already taking precautions against the enemy, will certainly win.
This is how bad Sir Henry Maine is. Not only does he tell us about the great battle at the end of time which will pit Democracy against Science, a conflict unthinkable to you and I until this freakish spirit chat with the ancestors, but now perfectly clear and clearly inevitable - but he has no dog in that fight. Bow to the ancestors! For lo, their greatness is palpable.

Frankly, I remain skeptical. In real life, Hari Seldon never gets it exactly right. Science has already proven far more durable than Maine imagined. Its destined foe, Democracy, has never been weaker or more contemptible. Still, if history shows us anything about the latter, it shows us that Democracy can lie dormant and apathetic and seemingly dead for decades, even centuries, then burst out again in volcanic explosions of frenzied mob energy, irrational, irresponsible and irresistible, driving God knows where in a river of heads on pikes.

Should we prefer this? Or the long grim gray decaying reign of Michael Mann, Climate Stalin? Democracy, infinitely stranger and more dangerous; Science, the frozen tyrant we now know. Dear reader, the ancestors have left this one to you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

MM, you've said something I've been saying for years. I was involved in the sustainability movement a young college student, and it amazed me that no one seemed willing or able to provide actual scientific data supporting their points. We were offered jobs and then subjected to dogmatic classes as part of the job, with required attendance and frequently-repeated mottos (Heil the Hockey-Stick!). This was part of the job, mind you, but had nothing to do with what we were learning.

The worst thing is that they haven't slowed down at all from ClimateGate. The idea that climate change could be wrong is simply not on their radar, at least in my area.

December 13, 2009 at 6:10 PM  
Blogger Honorius Monkeymember said...

"Still, the difference between plutocracy and aristocracy is a subtle one at best. The Victorian aristocracy was perfectly open to honest wealth, more or less honestly acquired."

I don't think this is accurate. And I don't think the 19th century is the best for analysis of what aristocracy is.

I just hasten to ad that this could be construed as a typically American
viewpoint. I.e. not being able to distinguish between ploutos and aristos.

But now I'm just teasing you.

December 13, 2009 at 6:51 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...

As a student of history, I also have an easy way to picture an 80% reduction in fossil-fuel use: Germany and Japan in, say, 1944.

The proposal calls for cutting emissions by about 25-30%, in order to end up at 80% of 1990's level. It DOES NOT propose cutting emissions by 80%. This is a pretty big mistake by Moldbug that substantially undermines that part of his argument.

Therefore, the material case for AGW mitigation depends existentially on the assertion that the present temperature is near, at, or above the optimal point.

Moldbug misreads the argument. The point is that given the current location of cities, structure of crop production, etc. the current temperature is optimal. Maybe a higher temperature is in theory more optimal. But considering we've already adapted to the current temperature, the transition to the higher temperature might be enormously expensive.

December 13, 2009 at 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if Mann is really Stalin, but he sure is a Lysenko.

December 13, 2009 at 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Devin doesn't know what he's talking about. Kerry's Senate bill calls for a 17% cut by 2020 and 83% by 2050. The 83% remains in place as the long term goal no matter what happens beforehand.

From BHO's Organizing for America website:

Reduce our Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80 Percent by 2050
Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The Obama-Biden cap-and-trade policy will require all pollution credits to be auctioned, and proceeds will go to investments in a clean energy future, habitat protections, and rebates and other transition relief for families.

December 13, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Devin Finbarr said...


The proposal that Moldbug linked to in his article says, "A U.S. climate bill should set a target of reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 20 to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. ... Like many U.S. policymakers, President-elect Barack Obama has endorsed two targets: 1. Cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 2. Cutting emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050"

December 13, 2009 at 8:13 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...



That's kind of like going to a Slayer fansite and quoting Lady Gaga.

But, I'm sure Devin is in a Rad Bromance with BHO.

December 13, 2009 at 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two words- Los Pepes.

There are certainly good arguements against the Latin American method. A generation after Pinochet iced Allende, Chile has a Socialist government. The FMLA is big in El Salvador. The Medellin Cartel was replaced by the Cali Cartel.

Yet, it's still an improvement. The "socialist" governments in the purged countries are pretty weak tea. The Cali Cartel sends shiploads of cocaine north but does it without terrorizing the populace or threatening the state- Medellin is actually a very pleasant place to visit these days.

December 13, 2009 at 11:58 PM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

Anonymous is right and Devin is wrong. This is easily verifiable - google 80% 2050 climate. Basically, if you want CO2 levels to stop increasing, eventually the world has to stop emitting almost entirely. (Or rather, the rate of CO2 removal must balance the rate of CO2 emission.) And if you're a 350-ist, you have to move for a while into carbon-negative territory and actually have a net outflow of carbon from the atmosphere.

December 14, 2009 at 12:53 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

I haven't read it yet, but this post is 58 pages long! Is this a world record for a single blog post?

December 14, 2009 at 5:12 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


My guess is that this is MM's longest post. I don't have them all handy in word, so I can't do a count, but it's quite long. Purposely so, though.


Meh. I'd think you're displaying a tendency to distinguish too much between plutos and aristos.

For the real meat,

Pillar A is unassailable among believers. More importantly, they are unwilling to discuss HOW to deal with such "problems."

I've tried and tried again to have the following discussion IRL and by text:

Assuming AGW is real and that the oceans will rise, etc. what is to be done?

Believers consistently duck the question. Generally they harp on about how the folks on Tuvalu will all drown and old people will die during heat waves.

When I point out these problems are quite solvable (move the Tuvali and quit designing inhuman quasi-ovens as domiciles) I get accused of "not caring" and "reducing people to ciphers."

In the absence of faith in God, people (who, according to Science, are hard-wired to believe in something) have put the pronouncements of scientists in the hole left by bishops. It is no wonder they behave as true believers.

Oh, and before anyone says something negative, I delight in all the Satan talk. Satan, after all, is excellent allegorical stuff for that tendency in man to destroy.

December 14, 2009 at 8:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was no substantive way to differentiate between a New Dealer and a Communist. After all, between the German invasion of Russia in 1941, and the Anglo-Soviet split of '45-'48, the two had been essentially the same movement.

What? They were the same movement starting in 1933, not 1941.

There are certainly good arguements against the Latin American method. A generation after Pinochet iced Allende, Chile has a Socialist government. The FMLA is big in El Salvador. The Medellin Cartel was replaced by the Cali Cartel.

The "Latin American method" has little to do with Latin America and everything to do with Washington. Latin America has been turning Red because Washington wants it that way.

December 14, 2009 at 8:36 AM  
Anonymous tenkev said...

Excellent post. This is what I come to UR for.

December 14, 2009 at 8:43 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Holy crap, that was long! But good. Moldbug, you’re much better taking down scientocracy and democracy than trying in vain to construct something worse.

I share the majority of your analysis, and having seen at first-hand the retarded groupthink of the Climatoligists, I can also understand the mechanisms which bring about such farces. But I differ on your judgment of the situation. After establishing that the whole thing is bullshit, you seem to have simply settled on a different version of the bullshit whose sole redeeming feature is that its conclusions are the opposite of those of Mann and Jones.

“First: we know that sometime during Sibyl's lifetime, fossil-fuel emissions are likely to double atmospheric CO2.”

We can’t know that. Technology is an unpredictable fickle bitch, so such guesses sound like the sort of garbage macroeconomic projections about the trade deficit in 2050.

“Second: we know that the effect of doubled CO2 is a thermal forcing roughly comparable to an increase in solar intensity of 0.3%.”

I don’t buy that because Pillars B and C are full of self-referential worthless bullshit. What you seem to somehow miss is that the fact that Pillars B and C are worthless bullshit makes all their projections pie in the sky. There is no way of knowing what the impact of any increase in CO2 levels will be on temperatures.

“Third: we know that planetary temperature is probably below the optimal point, and probably dominated by negative feedbacks”

Nonsense. For the very same reason today’s paleoclimatologists are full of shit; 1960’s paleoclimatologists are full of shit. Taking the word of either is as retarded as taking the word of a macroeconomist.

“The opportunity cost of freezing or reversing carbon emissions strikes me as quite significant on a historical scale.”

Undoubtedly true.

My point would be about the uncertainty, and not any of your claims that make the same, but diametrically opposed, mistake as the Climate Mafia.

The point is that there really is no such a thing as an optimum global temperature. Earth does not come with a user’s manual that says “Keep at temperature of 23.7 C”. The idea of a “global mean temperature” as a physical phenomenon that exists and matters is simply a fallacy on the same order as “Aggregate Demand”. The world is a very complex place, tons of stuff happens all the time, and temperature at different times and places continues to vary. Aggregating a year’s physical phenomena into one average reading of temperatures is meaningless. Think of Hayek’s critique of macroeconomics.

Secondly, anyone who pretends they can predict the effect of any change in “global mean temperature” on anything in particular is also full of shit. To their credit, some of the senior and saner climatologists (Broecker) have said this: we have no clue whatsoever what the effects of temperature shifts might be. The complexities involved with countless different forcing mechanisms interacting with and counter-acting one another makes any prediction decidedly impossible. So, not only do we not know what the impact of carbon will be on global temperatures, we have no clue about what the impact of temperatures will be on the world.

Worse, we have no idea what any action we carry out (reduction, mitigation, conservation, etc…) will have as an impact on temperature, or anything else. The whole thing is unpredictable, unmanageable, unyielding to reduction and impossible to predict.

In this maze of maddening unknowability, anyone who thinks they can engineer the climate and weather and global economy to reach some optimum should be locked up.

December 14, 2009 at 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...

This goes to the point made by Devin.

Sweetheart, you have no fucking clue how GW will affect cities, crops or anything else. The science you think of about this is nothing but special-interest serving conjecture backed by bullshit numbers.

Do you live in a coastal city that would like some government or international organization cash? Great, just hire some scientists to write about how global warming is about to leave your babies drowning in the sea. Unless, of course, urgent international action is carried out!

You have even less clues about how handing money over to Al Gore’s buddies will fix all of this. And if you think we can somehow manage to pick the optimum climate for the sake of saving the current forms of production, then you’re so deluded with your own knowledge that you make Pol Pot look like a laissez-faire hippie.

December 14, 2009 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Pals: Ha! Perhaps I should have used that tone with the Believers.

At any rate, I think you might be misreading MM's tone. His "we know" might be with a grain of salt.

Then again, it might not be.

To the question of government building -- how do you solve the problem of 1) succession 2) defense 3) personal liberty 4) mobocracy?

Any decent system of government has to solve these 4 specific problems.

December 14, 2009 at 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So we're going to have to go all the way and look at a purge which actually worked. Fortunately, we have already discussed this period of history: denazification.

It is not an accident that the purge that didn't work (McCarthyism) was directed against the Left, while the purge that did was directed against the Right.

December 14, 2009 at 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...


"To the question of government building -- how do you solve the problem of 1) succession 2) defense 3) personal liberty 4) mobocracy?"

With our Anarcho-Capitalism, none of these problems exist.

Think of Anarcho-Capitalism as a Schelling point in which everyone agrees that no one has any right to coercion, government, taxation, theft, slavery, rape or murder. Anytime any person does one of those things, under whatever pretext, everyone else rises against them. Mob rule at its best and purest. You can never bribe or corrupt the mob.

There's no succession problem, since no one gets to rule. The problem of defense is solved by there not being anyone who has legitimate coercive power. People will only live in social or residential arrangements that offer defense competitively, competently and cheaply.

Personal liberty is pretty obviously secure: everyone can do everything they want--so long as they don't coerce anyone else. In that case, they face the wrath of the mob.

Mobocracy, my friend, is the solution, not the problem!

December 14, 2009 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


December 14, 2009 at 10:46 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Mobocracy, my friend, is the solution, not the problem!

You have an odd version of AC. In mine, there is no power in mobs. Mobocracy is prevented by corporate governments which will repress it if it threatens anything meaningful (persons or property). Tyranny is prevented by subjecting the governments to the rigors of the market, particularly competition.

Be that as it may, neither Pals' version nor mine is happening any time soon, because of the condition Pals notes. Namely, that AC is sure to happen once "everyone agrees that no one has any right to coercion, government, taxation, theft, slavery, rape or murder". Yes, of course. Lion lies down w/ lamb.

December 14, 2009 at 10:55 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

having seen at first-hand the retarded groupthink of the Climatoligists, I can also understand the mechanisms which bring about such farces.

Say more! What dirt can you dish?

For the very same reason today’s paleoclimatologists are full of shit; 1960’s paleoclimatologists are full of shit.

Surely there was not multi-billion dollar research funding in the 50s-60s? But in any case, it would seem that the corruption process (as described by MM, at least), requires time. Initially there is just science, but then the competition for funding drives it towards alarmism, and thus, Science. This leaves open the possibility that the initial science in any field is science, not Science. So who was it who coined the terms "Medieval Climate Optimum" and "Holocene Climate Optimum"? Those guys doing ice-cores in the 60s, or earlier? (Wikipedia is not informative on this point.)

December 14, 2009 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


You are describing Utopia.

I'm talking about the real world.

Work for utopia, plan for reality.

December 14, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Anonymous jqhart said...

Moldbug doesn't understand division of labor. Adam Smith recommended.

December 14, 2009 at 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jqhart -

I've read Smith. Both Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Pray tell us what you think "division of labor" means and how this differs from observations Mencius has offered in this post or in any other.

I will respond in the spirit of with which you grace us with whatever knowledge you may be able.

- Dirtyrottenvarmint

December 14, 2009 at 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I realize my previous comment exhibits poor grammar.


December 14, 2009 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Anytime any person does one of those [theft, murder, coercion, etc...] things, under whatever pretext, everyone else rises against them.

Has there ever been even a single group larger than 100 people who did this consistently? Most such groups cannot even agree on appropriate definitions!

Conclusion: basic induction tells us that this will never happen with humans.

AC assumes angels. However, all government (including no government) works when it uses angels as its building blocks. We just don't have any around.

PS. We have already had this conversation before. Please explain why we won't get an oligopoly in SAs.

December 14, 2009 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I've got other distrations, so readers will be spared the even more thorough nitpicking I might otherwise give for now.

First off, it's mighty ironic to complain about disavowal of judgment in a post framed around a statement attributed to "the past" or "our ancestors". Then you go beyond parody by consulting dictionaries to divine the meaning behind words you yourself chose! I myself am relatively sympathetic to aristocracy and have many complaints about our system of government, but you spend relatively little time discussing government and a lot of time discussing the CRU emails. You try to make a connection by saying that the scientists are "making policy" while legislators merely enact it, but the idea is easily refuted by pointing out that Hansen actually opposes the policy you attribute to these academics, cap-and-trade! Furthermore, the government in question for East Anglia is the UK, outside Washington's jurisdiction (of course you're so America-centric that you attribute everything in the world to America in the absence of any evidence of a connection). This is of relevance since there are different FOIA in place in the two countries. I actually happen to agree that it would be preferrable if the earth were warmer (Bryan Caplan and possibly David Friedman take the same position), but I disagree on the parallel of global cooling and the use of the term "optimum". Time magazine does not represent any sort of scientific consensus. Two different periods can't both be the "best", it seems more sensible to interpret them as value-free local maxima. The temperature range during humanity's existence might though be deemed close to "optimal" in a normative matter because it permits our survival, which is not true of a wide range of possible temperatures of the earth.

Your admiration for FDR, coming from someone who's read plenty of material at &, genuinely dissapoints me. In fact he did punish U.S consumers through rationing, including that of gasoline. We are lucky that he is gone and the New Deal is a memory (social insurance endures but was introduced by Bismarck, the WPA & central planning are archaic). You now refer to FDR as something like a monarch who wielded dictatorial power over the U.S, but how is this compatible with your claim that the "Brain Trust" represents academics taking over D.C from politicians? The simpler explanation is that politicians made use of academics as court intellectuals.

December 14, 2009 at 7:38 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Paleoclimatology consists of more than just tree-rings, yet that is what your examination has been restricted to. It's plausible that ice-cores, oysters and so on are worthless, but plausible doesn't mean proven. You state that paleoclimatology has been "demolished", but since you don't think there will be any effect it appears that statement is meaningless. Since you don't believe in Satan either, there appear to be a lot of meaningless statements in your post. The claim that Mann is Stalin is especially amusing, because your remark on how he would purge if he had Stalinesque powers. But of course he doesn't because he isn't Stalin, and the idea that he would act like Stalin if he had Stalin's power gives little more information than that he is a human being. Lindzen & Michaels do not have to watch for ice-picks.

It doesn't a matter a whit that we can't predict the behavior of individual molecules of air. In high school physics we all calculated the effect on the temperature of some air by changing its volume, PV=nRT. Simple stuff, and the basic physics on why carbon is a greenhouse gas is also well understood. Modeling climate is not modeling weather. So how powerful must computers actually be to model climate in a way reliable enough for us to make major changes? I don't know, and I don't think you know either.

You seem to be switching between two different interpretations of the "trick". One is that they declare the decline to be "bad" because they don't like it rather than because it actually is inaccurate. Another is that recent temperature records really are accurate and show that tree-rings may not be a very good temperature proxy. The latter may be what you really believe, but you could be more explicit about it.

Public opinion regarding history is a terrible guide to who won. Trotsky is a lot more popular than Stalin, but he definitively lost (which may well have been a good thing). Even the neoconservatism of today can hardly be blamed on him. Similarly, the Spanish Anarchists are greatly preferred to the communists now but they lost and communism dominated the left. Or to pick a more historical example, nobody aproves of what happened to the Old Prussians but there are no Old Prussians around to claim victory. McCarthy should be considered victorious based on whether Soviet agents were rooted out of positions of national security (remember there were Army-McCarthy hearings not the "official press"-McCarthy hearings), assuming of course he didn't arrive until after the horse had left the barn. Furthermore, a sample of two cherry-picked historical incidents is pretty small for someone complaining about how few trees from Yamal were used by Briffa.

There's nothing much wrong with your bog-standard history of the Nazis
You yourself seem to support a continentalist interpretation of WW2, whereas the popular conception of Nazism is through a globalist lens. If I were to pick out the nation whose history has been most distorted, number one would of course be the one we live in, but number two is hands down Nazi Germany. Hitler has achieved a mind-share on the level of Jesus or Muhammad, which doesn't bode well for accurate understanding.

rare exceptions excepted (eg, Daniel Patrick Moynihan)
Well, he was a political scientist!

December 14, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

In good individuals, in fact, power tends to confer responsibility - they rise to its challenge.
Was King Leopold good or bad? He was a good king of Belgium, and an atrocious ruler of the Congo. The difference is that he had a lot more power over the Congo than Belgium.

otherwise sensible conservatives, such as Paul at Powerline
I recall you saying Powerline was very professional and on-message, but I had never heard they were sensible.

The Progressive Era was not about replacing legislative power with judicial power. The referenda of California and the anger at the Lochner Court date back to the progressive era. FDR was also at odds with the Court, he had a majority in Congress but not on SCOTUS until the "stitch in time" when he threatened to pack it. Also, to be pedantic, Steven's ruling in MA vs EPA is that the EPA could possibly have discretion but not under its current rationale, which Scalia thought was an unjustified deviation from Chevron deference.

the Gilded Age strikes me as a golden age of good government.
I am as puzzled by that as your admiration of FDR. I thought you would agree that the Second Republic was superior to the Third, for understandable reasons.

Regarding Lippmann, as I argued to Michael S at my blog, we are the inheritors of his opponent, Dewey. From the modern perspective Lippmann was, to borrow a Sailerism, "too damn realistic" about the masses.

which writers of the 19th would feel most justified, in their understanding of the eternal nature of history, humanity and government, by the events of the 20th?
Thomas Macaulay. The poorest can indeed eat meat every day (for every meal and some snacks), we do in fact live longer, we possess widely-available luxuries unknown to our ancestors that we should shudder at giving up, and we also have nostalgists like you! He failed to mention that we would be taller as the result of our improved condition, despite the temptations of junk food. In the post I link to Mencius objects that by the standards of their time the modern era would be regarded as terrible, but of course those people are dead and can't tell us and so it is just Mencius asserting as much. Macaulay's predictions were falsifiable and all borne out by reality, which is a much better track-record than vague babble about Satan. If you really want to argue against the Whig optimists, you have to go so far as the Robert Lindsay position which completely disregards revealed preference in favor of what you really know is best for people. Since Mencius' view of runaway slaves is not far from Lindsay's view of refugee Cubans, that might not be such a leap.

December 14, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Intended to link to this earlier, but forgot. I'm not a fan of Eric Posner (or his father, for that matter) but he can be interesting at times, such as his hypothetical examples of OzoneGate & AsteroidGate.

December 14, 2009 at 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve McIntyre is a pretty unreliable source of information. You claim to be after undistorted information; but you are just trading in one set of distortions for another.

Also this.

December 14, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...


I also believe that efficient corporate structures will emerge to provide everything. The difference between me and you (and MM) is that you predict (and he wants to see) these structures have the ultimate sovereign call over people’s lives. In my case, I view them as simply corporations working to serve free consumers who may decline their services at any time—as long as people are disabused of the illusion of “legitimate coercion”.

The reason I can think this is the case is that the only way you will ever get any form of successful coercive enterprise is through some consent on the part of the coerced that the coercers have legitimate right to coercion. This is where things like religion, nationalism, Science, monarchy, revolution and democracy come in handy. It is only by making the people believe that it is in their interest that they give their consent to “legitimate coercion” that coercion happens. So, my point is that if you take that belief out of the brains of the people, then no corporation will be able to go sovereign on them. Any corporation that does so will loose its customers. If it goes rogue, then it will not be able to survive competition from better organized, more efficient legitimate security corporations that do actually have the support and consent of their clients, because they make no aspiration to legitimate coercion.

The point is that if you pit a warlord-like security corp which wants to tax you for its own good versus an efficient free-market security corp which only works according to your whims, the later will win for the very same reason that McDonald’s outcompetes Soviet state-run canteens. The first would be oppress its subjects and not have them working productively and efficiently, the second would allow them the freedom to do what they want. Think of the Soviets versus the Americans. The Americans didn’t win the Cold War because of God or because USG is a better organized government. They simply won because they had a freer people to milk. The freer the people, the more money can be skimmed from them for the sake of protection. Remove legitimate coercion from this and the result will be even more dramatic and the end result Schelling Point is one where the security corporation coerces its clients to do nothing whatsoever, and hardly ever engages in any violence.

December 14, 2009 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Newt and Palmer,

The thing about AC, for me, is that it is not a utopia as much as it is a good analytical lens with which to view the world. Will we ever get to the point where we completely abolish the nation state and people exist without sovereign or coercive structures? I hope so, but I’m not counting on it. But the key insight from AC is that bad things only happen because of coercion. And that helps you understand any problem in the world, and allows you to understand how it can be solved.

So, let’s take the current climate mess. What is the root of the problem? The Professocracy has found a way to get the government to coerce you and me out of our wealth to hand it over to them so they can conduct vitally important research on some bullshit or the other. Had it not been for this coercive theft of public money to be handed over to over-educated retards like Mann and Jones, none of this would be an issue. If there was no government funding, the Manns and Joneses would have neither the time nor the motivation to “hide the decline” or anything else. They’d be too busy trying to do something useful for the world in order to feed their kids. If there are legitimate beneficial uses to climatology, they’d be doing them. If not, my guess is they’d be teaching sixth grade algebra. Either way, there would be no GLOBAL CRISIS!!11!!

But, you might object, the foundations and NGO’s might themselves spawn such bullshit science and we could be where we are. Fine, but then again, the only way that TEH CLIMATE CRISIS!!1!1! could harm you or me is through the Climate mafia managing to coerce you and me to do something they think is good with which we disagree. So, if the climate crowd believe in reducing carbon, they should feel free to starve and stop using electricity—so long as they don’t coerce me into doing the same. Problem solved.

You could say the same about the entire economic crisis. The particular actions of the Fed and the Professocracy are not themselves the problem; it’s the fact that they have legitimacy to carry them out coercively. Remove the coercive power of the Fed, and the power of the Professocracy to run people’s lives, and you will have no more economic problems whatsoever. Anyone retarded enough to believe Bernanke, Krugman and the rest of those scoundrels should feel free to donate their life-savings to “injecting liquidity” into the shadow banking cartel and stimulus programs. In a couple of weeks, all such idiots will be sucked dry, and all the shadow banking system and the stimulus’ white elephants would go bankrupt. In a free market, only solid non-Maturity Transforming banks and productive enterprises would emerge. Problem solved.

December 14, 2009 at 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...

The difference between me and you kids is that I take this analysis further to include the question of law and order itself. Take out the pretense of legitimate coercion from this equation, and you will no longer get any problems of law and order. Peace is the most productive economic arrangement; it generates the most economic fruits. If there were no pretense or faith in legitimate coercion, the best peaceful productive enterprises would always hire the biggest guns to make sure everyone else leaves them alone. Because they have the biggest guns, no one would mess with them. Because they are far better off carrying out their productive enterprise than raping and pillaging others, they would not mess with others. People would then peacefully trade with each other and not mess with each other.

This could be perfectly stable. But it isn’t stable because it’s only a matter of time before some scoundrel invents a religion, identity, science or other justification for coercion, and then manages to divert the guns to ruin others’ lives for their own benefit. “Hide the decline”, “inject liquidity”, “defend national security”, “energy independence”. And that is why full-on anarcho-capitalism isn’t coming soon to a land near you. If people were to trust their own base instincts and look out only after themselves instead of believing the Professors and the Priests, this wouldn’t happen. But there will always be Professors and Priests and overeducated retards willing to believe them. In the meantime, you work with the human race you have, not the one you’d like to have. And so an Anarcho-capitalist fights one anti-coercive battle at a time. Defund the Professocracy; End the Fed; End the CIA; close down State; banish the FDA. All of these are great causes.

And who knows, perhaps if we get a couple of them done, the thing will snowball as people begin to realize that legitimate coercion is not just an oxymoron, but also the root of all the problems it purports to solve.

December 14, 2009 at 10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TGGP's comments are unusually petulant even for him.

December 15, 2009 at 7:03 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"By definition, whatever it does must be what it decided to do".

In this, you and St. Paul differ.

"Is your person or institution marching from success to success, or careening from disaster to disaster?"

I do not think "careening" means what you think it means.

"As the Times helpfully informs us:..."

It does no such thing. The New York Times does, not the Times. They are very different.

"The public behavior of the Model Masters is quite similar to that of the Hockey Team, and the two are broadly allied. Therefore, we can safely assume that their Outlook folders smell quite similar."

Safely? Hardly - for this is an association of just the same sort as that condemned in:-

'Suppose the "hockey stick" were entirely authentic. Across the last millennium, the shaft of the stick, temperature gradually declines, until it begins to ramp upward in its "unprecedented" climb - the blade of the stick, matching the climb in CO2. Beautiful!

'But what does it really prove? Jack. It proves that two century-long trends of (very) roughly the same shape occurred simultaneously. Also, there is a plausible physical mechanism to connect them. Does this prove a causal relation between the two graphs? Not in the slightest.'

No, to bring in that sort of association needs further knowledge of commonality between the Model Masters and the Hockey Team - a commonality which I strongly suspect to be the case, but which Moldbug has not brought out thus far.

"But basically, the claim that there exists a predictive model of the entire planetary atmosphere is like the claim that there exists a 10,000-mpg carburetor".

There exists just such a carburettor: when a car runs on semi-water gas produced on board and the water is reclaimed from the exhaust, you can get just such numbers of miles to the gallon - even the depreciated US gallon - since you only need enough water to make up losses. (You do need solid fuel too, of course.)

"As in paleoclimatology, the combination of coordination bias with random data is effectively no more than a power-transmission belt".

I do not think "coordination" means what you think it means - or, more probably, this is some huge typo for "confirmation".

"For the past 10 or 15 years, paleoclimatology has been more or less what Michael Mann wanted to to be. He is truly our Climate Stalin."

No, not truly; Stalin did rather worse things to meteorological researchers who did not deliver the desired climate. So much for '"The 'Big Cutoff.'" You see: I am not at all exaggerating when I compare these people to Stalin.'

December 15, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"Britain is a good country on which to track the 19th and 20th centuries. Its form of government, while democratic (by Austin's definition - and if you lack your own theory of sovereignty which you prefer for some reason, I'd just stick with Austin's) throughout the period, goes from strongly aristocratic at the beginning, to strongly bureaucratic at the end. In the end it converges with that of the United States, as does everyone's."

No, it did not converge with that of the United States (nor did anyone else's); rather, everyone's - including that of the United States - converged on something else again.

"But the US itself is a cultural backwater for most of the 19th [century?]".

That is wrong; it was that throughout the whole of the 19th century, as it is now and always has been.

"Still, the difference between plutocracy and aristocracy is a subtle one at best. The Victorian aristocracy was perfectly open to honest wealth, more or less honestly acquired."

There speaks one who does not know, indeed one so imbued with a plutocratic frame of reference as to be incapable of knowing - something I wrote before reading Honorius Monkeymember's comment, who was therefore was absolutely accurate in commenting "I just hasten to ad that this could be construed as a typically American viewpoint. I.e. not being able to distinguish between ploutos and aristos."; G. M. Palmer was wrong with "Honorious, Meh. I'd think you're displaying a tendency to distinguish too much between plutos and aristos." Recall how the aristocracy reacted to the idea of Edward VII sailing with Sir Thomas Lipton - "sailing with his grocer?". He was in trade, you see.

Pals wrote "With our Anarcho-Capitalism, none of these problems exist. Think of Anarcho-Capitalism as a Schelling point in which everyone agrees that no one has any right to coercion, government, taxation, theft, slavery, rape or murder. Anytime any person does one of those things, under whatever pretext, everyone else rises against them... Personal liberty is pretty obviously secure: everyone can do everything they want--so long as they don't coerce anyone else. In that case, they face the wrath of the mob."

Ahhh... he is obviously unfamiliar with how raiding works in a larger strategy. The aggressors simply don't stick around to be counter-attacked. Unless something pro-active is done, outside factors supervene, or there is some form of surrender or (nearly the same in ultimate effect) strong protectors are invited in and supported, sustained incursions eventually destroy their target by attrition. And Leonard's objection means that such raiders are likely to arise (though one of P.T.Barnum's staff once explained how they contrived an exhibit with a lion lying down with a lamb: "we just put another lamb in every so often").

December 15, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not news, but I just came across something on George Kennan-previously subjected to calumny by MM-wherein Kennan sounds exactly like MM:
But even if global democracy were a worthy policy goal, Kennan felt little confidence in the ability of U.S. leaders to achieve it. For one thing, all those clamoring for democracy seemed to be highly selective in the countries they identified as being in need of America’s ministrations. It always seemed to be right-wing authoritarianism that sparked their moral outrage; left-wing tyrannies failed to inspire the same crusading zeal. As he put it to George Urban, the splendid Hungarian-born interviewer:

Any régime that chooses to call itself Marxist can be sure that its brutalities and oppression will be forgiven, whereas any régime that does not is stamped as being of the Right, in which case the slightest invasion of the rights or liberties of the individual on its territory at once becomes the object of intense indignation.

December 15, 2009 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I've pointed out that Kennan was misrepresented here before. Auster did so as well, but at least admitted he ad been wrong.

December 15, 2009 at 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

P.M. Lawrence - the difference between plutocracy and aristocracy in Britain has historically been only about three or four generations. Those who sniffed at Lipton as a 'grocer' may themselves have descended from some sharp Middle Temple lawyer, West Indies sugar nabob, rich colliery owner or brewer of a century or two earlier. And how many impecunious peers resuscitated their fortunes by marrying American heiresses?

The British aristocracy has always been more porous than the Continental noblesse, among which the old noblesse d'epee even in the twentieth century still sneered at the noblesse de la robe, whose titles may have been as recent as the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. The heraldist von Volborth, for example, mentions the example of an ancient (Uradel) German family whose current heir posted a sign at his door reading "Briefsadel and deliveries use rear entrance".

The difference between Continental and British concepts of aristocracy is nicely illustrated by comparing the entrance standards of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta with those of the Most Venerable Order of St. John, its Anglican counterpart. For the rank of knight of justice, SMOM requires seize-quartiers, i.e., all sixteen great-great-grandparents of the candidate must have been armigerous. For the like rank in the OStJ all that's required is that the candidate must be an armiger.

December 15, 2009 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger juantblanco said...

This post is wild and hairy and going to take a while to digest.

Speaking of digestion, does anyone else think that MM needs to set up a forum of his own?

I think a "fact check" section would be helpful as there seems to be either scholars here or those experienced at looking like scholars or those that like to pretend to know everything who could discover important flaws in MM's self-education.

Also, other posts often have more interesting ideas that could be discussed further in fora that are more conducive. Rather than wading through the inevitable 100+ posts of friend, foe, and disinterested observers alike engaging in various kinds of intellectual pissing matches that one finds often irrelevant you could stick to whatever bit you care about.

December 15, 2009 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


This seems like a meta suggestion for blogger as a platform. It should adopt HNs system where every comment posting is equivalent to a blog post in that more comments can be added to it. I would support that. For one thing, we could finally have permanent links to comments.

December 15, 2009 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


there's got to be a hack for that.

December 15, 2009 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Well, yeah. There is -- the @ replies that we use. However, this is clearly not as good as an actual solution. Anything else that I can imagine would require the use of a custom platform.

December 15, 2009 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...


No, I meant some code you can thrust into the editor for blogger.

Like a forum, or like reddit.

But that's way beyond me. I stopped at DOS 6.0 :(

December 15, 2009 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...

Ah, my apologies. Looks like there are a few of these though I have no idea how well they work or integrate with Blogger's atom feeds.

December 15, 2009 at 9:45 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

"I think a "fact check" section would be helpful"

I would like to see some of mm's arguments translated into the form of geometric proofs, a la Spinoza. I always notice while reading that parts of the case always seem less than conclusive, but these essays are so long, I generally just forget about it and move on. I am not going to take notes on a blog post (apologies to the good people at Thiblo.)

December 16, 2009 at 3:39 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S. wrote "the difference between plutocracy and aristocracy in Britain has historically been only about three or four generations. Those who sniffed at Lipton as a 'grocer' may themselves have descended from some sharp Middle Temple lawyer, West Indies sugar nabob, rich colliery owner or brewer of a century or two earlier. And how many impecunious peers resuscitated their fortunes by marrying American heiresses?", and so on.

Certainly - but that degree of generational social mobility was much less than claimed by "The Victorian aristocracy was perfectly open to honest wealth, more or less honestly acquired", which was simply false. Note, however, that owning a coal mine wasn't being in trade but land related, and in fact most of those were owned by the aristocracy in the first place; few actually climbed the social ladder from the wider people that particular way. That is, it helped, but they were on the way up anyway. For instance, I recall once being a guest at Lord Northbourne's home as a child; his family had prospered through owning coal mines in Kent - but wikipedia tells me they were baronets before the peerage, in a period before those coal fields were developed.

December 16, 2009 at 5:44 AM  
Anonymous notuswind said...

I really liked this long blog entry.

It's the unedited product of MM engaging in free association.

December 16, 2009 at 7:50 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

P.M. Lawrence, it is interesting to see you mention that Lord Northbourne's family were baronets before they owned coal mines. Perhaps so, but a baronet is about the worst example you could offer of ancient nobility. The order of baronets - below lords of parliament in the order of precedence, and above knights - was invented from the whole cloth by James I/VI for the purpose of raising funds for his numerous extravagances. It was bought nobility from the start! The typical buyers were either untitled landowners (squires or lairds) or rich merchants.

I have long suspected that the antipathy to titles of nobility expressed by the American founders arose from the large-scale ennoblement of "placemen" under Walpole's and successive ministries. At least since Walpole's time, new peerages have routinely been created for political hacks whose time it was to be put out to pasture. Pitt the Younger is supposed to have said that anyone who possessed an income of ten thousand pounds a year (then a handsome amount indeed) ought to be entitled to a peerage. Lloyd George raised funds by selling honours. Look up Maundy Gregory. Sale of honours has been a staple of British politics right up to the present day.

The pretensions of the Continental noblesse can be seen to some extent as a result of there being no active fons honorum in their countries. Thus their class is closed to new entries, unlike Britain, where fresh titles are minted regularly. Only with Major's ministry did hereditary peerages cease to be granted, while life peerages, knighthoods, and other decorations that give rise to real social distinction, still are.

December 16, 2009 at 11:30 AM  
Anonymous Johnny Abacus said...

@GM Palmer

I'm pretty sure that with a bit of work, it's possible to implement Disqus/IntenseDebate comments in blogger. I haven't tried, yet, though, so I'm not sure how well it would work.

December 16, 2009 at 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Jack Burton said...

Moldbug as Lewis? Tolkien? Asimov?

I don't think so.

So, every corner of the world has been infiltrated by agents of a murderous cult?

And all the weapons and defenses available to you are (at best) useless?

PS The cultists' god is insane and wants to eat you.


December 16, 2009 at 1:12 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Pals and other AC fans, I am curious about the definition of "coercion" which is central to this philosophy. Please tell us which of the following acts are coercive, and what in an AC society would be done about them?

* A factory under the protection of one PA emits pollution, which probably causes extensive damage to the value of properties of hundreds of people, customers of several dozen different protection agencies, downwind.

* A PA security officer suspects that a person he sees driving away from the scene of a burglary probably committed that crime, but is not at all sure. The officer arrests the suspect and locks him in prison. A week later the real criminal is found and the suspect is released. But meanwhile the suspect is fired from his job because he failed to show up to work that week.

* Repo man working for a bank under PA2 repossesses a car owned by customer of PA1 who is late on his payments to the bank. Security officer from PA1 believes he sees a theft in action and arrests and imprisons the repo man.

* A murderer, belonging to PA1, which forbids the death penalty, is caught and convicted by PA2 that liberally applies the death penalty. PA2 executes the murderer over the strong objections of PA1.

* Continuing the above example, PA1 in retribution disavows its contracts with PA2.

* A customer takes the opportunity to leave his protection agency. In retribution, the protection agency kills him, and threatens any other customers who leave with a like fate, although one can still leave the PA voluntarily after paying a 50% wealth tax as a final payment for services rendered. To justify these acts, only recently implemented, the PA cites a long-ignored passage, obscurely worded and in fine print in the 500-page PA contract but absent from all other PA materials describing their services, by which the customer agreed to give the PA a number of powers of legal procedure "and all other sovereign powers" over the customer.

* PA2, armed with nuclear weapons, seizes an important oil field owned by the customer of nuclear-free PA1, claiming, PA1 officials and the owner believe falsely, that the owner reneged on an obscure pledge in the fine print of his mortgage regarding religious practices.

December 16, 2009 at 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Nick (or is it nick?), you misunderstand AC. Getting a clear definition of "coercion" (or equivalently, "aggression") as a term of art is necessary to understanding minarchism. This is because, like most other political philosophies, minarchism is engineered to reify a specific moral framework. So when we say, "all people have a right to life", or whatever right, then that must be broken down into particulars about righteous action. As in the case of your list of specific questions.

But AC is not like that. Rather, the system is primary: multiple competing protection agencies with overlapping areas of service. What comes out of that system is not the attempt to instantiate any particular moral system. It is whatever the system actually produces. ACs tend to think the results will be pretty good. Most normal people tend to think it is either anarchic but Somalia, or else will quickly collapse into tyrannical statism.

In any case, there is no assumption (at least not by most ACs, I think) that there is any common agreement on what "coercion" is. This strikes many minarchists as wrong, but I think it is a strength. Getting everyone to agree to anything at all as a precondition to effective government is a recipe for failure.

December 16, 2009 at 2:53 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

there is no assumption (at least not by most ACs, I think) that there is any common agreement on what "coercion" is.

I was responding to what Pals said above, "Think of Anarcho-Capitalism as a Schelling point in which everyone agrees that no one has any right to coercion, government, taxation, theft, slavery, rape or murder. Anytime any person does one of those things, under whatever pretext, everyone else rises against them." How can a mob, or anybody else, do this unless they agree about what coercion is? Does anybody seriously think you can get a mob to come to a consensus about most of the examples I raised?

Rothbard makes a similarly dubious jump from coercion ought not happen to ooercion won't be legal. Even ignoring the dubious leap from ought to will be, coercion can't possibly be consistently illegal if those enforcing the law don't agree on what coercion is. This definitional problem arises whether it's a mob, a PA, or a government that is enforcing the supposed rule against coercion.

In any case, the more important part of my question is the second part: how does AC handle these situations? Let's stop the hand-waving about "markets", "systems", and so on and get down to cases.

In several decades of abstract pontificating about AC, these basic questions about how AC deals with real world legal procecdure haven't been answered, unless you have a broad definition of AC that includes political property rights as a big exception to the non-coercion principle. (Yes, I've read ddfr and no, he doesn't answer them). If they continue to not be answered, evidence will continue to accumulate that we are dealing here with a preposterously unworkable utopianism rather than a serious political proposal.

So why not try to answer them?

December 16, 2009 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

"ddfr" is David D. Friedman, right? I haven't read his books, but his post Neither Anarchy nor Minarchy is Necessarily Libertarian might be of relevance.

How are the links below the comments with the date not "permanent"?

December 16, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Michael S. wrote " is interesting to see you mention that Lord Northbourne's family were baronets before they owned coal mines. Perhaps so, but a baronet is about the worst example you could offer of ancient nobility..."

But I wasn't suggesting that at all. I already pointed out that the issue is not whether the British aristocracy was closed (it wasn't) but whether it was freely and immediately open to the key of wealth (it wasn't, but incremental, slow entry was easy with that). Again I tell you, I am illustrating the fact that the very real upward mobility was slow, even generational, and was under way already for the likes of those - in particular, that owning coal mines was not much of a path into the establishment from outside because those who could have got in using coal were usually already inside the establishment, and were then helped further up generationally.

"It [baronetcy] was bought nobility from the start!"

Not if you simply mean bought with money (though that did sometimes happen, particularly early and late), yes if you mean bought with a wider currency of power and influence. The thing is, sentiments like "Pitt the Younger is supposed to have said that anyone who possessed an income of ten thousand pounds a year (then a handsome amount indeed) ought to be entitled to a peerage" didn't reflect any respect for money as such, but a recognition of the value of getting such people into the establishment.

December 16, 2009 at 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Nick, perhaps it is not clear I do consider myself AC, and yet took Pals to task for same quote you did. He implied that wide agreement on "coercion" was a necessary condition of AC. I disagree with this strongly. As I indicated. And I agree with you about Rothbard, at least as far as I have read his stuff. He was a smart guy, and so I was very disappointed to see his anarchism rooted in natural rights idealism.

I can answer your questions, although perhaps I should put the answers elsewhere insofar as it is rather offtopic. (This whole digression into AC is rather off topic. But then what-the-heck: blog.) I do think it is a bit much to charge ACs with no answers to obvious but diffuse questions such as those. (Back in the day there was much discussion of such things on usenet, when I got interested in anarchy.) Even here in the real world, there is no one answer to any of those questions. Substititute "nation-state" for "PA" and I hope you can see this.

One more thing: in case it is not clear, at least as far as I am concerned, AC does not include the non-coercion principle at all, beyond that the average man thinks that other people should not coerce him. Many people in AC will golden-rulify this into something like the non-coercion principle, but probably most will not.

December 16, 2009 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Your point with the nation states is an interesting point. However, most nation states (all worth considering) are territorially separated. This makes the problem much easier to solve. In most cases, the location of the person would provide an easy answer. However, if PAs are territorially separated, they will just turn into sovereign nations again and we are back to square one.

Also, if AC does not include the non-coercion principle, what does it include besides a vague idea of distributed security systems? In particular, could the present world be considered one of the non-optimal Schelling points in an AC world? What about 16th century Europe?

December 16, 2009 at 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

newt, sure you could call the present world anarchic. And it is, kinda sorta, especially for the very rich. Anarchy is what happens when exit costs are low -- but what is "low"? I generally use overlapping areas to get at what I want, because I want anarchy generally -- for everyone. And that requires that the PAs can and will contract with the customers where the customers are, because really poor people cannot move.

As for separation of PAs into territorial ones (aka states): yes, of course. This is far simpler, and clearly stable. But it does not eliminate scenarios such as Nick is asking about. Nor does it change the set of solutions there:
(1) negotiate (either ad-hoc, or in some pre-agreed form)
(2) give in
(3) go to war
The state system does limit the incidence of such scenarios. And that is vital if there are no established means of interstate adjudication.

December 16, 2009 at 7:13 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

TGGP, ddfr's argument that AC law would be market-based and thus efficient is based on the Coase theorem, and I debunked it here. It's fallacious to use a theory that assumes voluntary transactions to analyze the totality of a legal system, because a legal system is what makes voluntary transactions consistently possible in the first place. It's tail-chasing.

Coercion is a crucial issue both because it's central to legal procedure (arrests, searches & seizures, punishments, damages, subpoenas, and so on) and because economic theories generally assume it away. Leonard's AC, if it really didn't assume away coercion, would look radically different from ddfr's or Rothbards, and I know of no good reason to expect it to produce efficient law. And it's simply wrong for Leonard to say that most ACs don't assume away coercion: Rothbard and ddfr are the two main branches of AC theory and they both argue away coercion in two different fallacious ways. I'd love to see a formal analysis of what AC that doesn't make a non-coercion assumption would be like, complete with analysis of extortion, threats, wars, and so on, but I haven't seen it. Indeed, "anarcho-capitalism" is probably a one-word oxymoron: you can't have capitalist institutions without sophisticated already-existing legal institutions, which by their coercive nature violate the basic assumption of market economics, namely voluntary transactions.

I've read much of the AC literature and followed much of the discussion, and I'm confident that none of my above questions have been answered by any of that discussion by anything more than hand-waving based on a fallacious argument of market efficiency. That is consistent with the fact that nobody here is trying to answer them either, despite Moldbug having quite a number of AC and ex-AC readers.

December 16, 2009 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


It does not eliminate these scenarios but it reduces their complexity immensely. Without territorial separation, nick's scenarios become exponentially more common and tricky to sort out. Nor is this difficult to see. When a person visits another country, it is generally accepted that they are accepting that country's jurisdiction and control. No such assumption exists with non-territorial PAs. This makes solution #1 very simple in 99%+ of the cases: the PA with the territory wins out. #3 is rarely employed but it is on the table.

However, note that all these options (except for #2) are vastly complicated by the lack of territorial separation. Given the lack of territorial separation, "go see nations" is clearly not a satisfactory answer.

December 16, 2009 at 8:51 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Nick I posted answers for you at Unruled. I doubt you will find them satisfying if you do not find David Friedman satisfying, because I do not think that my anarchism is much different than his. I don't think he really relies on Coasean bargaining as much as you think. (I think your analysis in the linked piece is correct as far that goes.)

I suppose what I assume, and probably DDFr assumes, is that the system of PAs has had time to settle down to something semi-reasonable, such that there is wide intertrading already established, most PAs have treaties in place, and that the most extreme possibilities of rights-allocation are precluded. This is in part possible due to my assumption (discussed a bit more over there) that people would never voluntarily join a PA that does not at least claim to honor their rights. And in part it is the simple lack of any realistic scenario for bootstrapping anarchy.

But it is also based on the following notions which I am not sure you really discussed: first, that the average man can distinguish between most unintentional and intentional harms. I mean, if a railroad is burning farmers' fields with a flamethrower, they'll know what's up. There are always border cases, but I doubt these would be enough to be worth fighting over.

Second, that people seemingly have some sort of innate strategy for cooperating in spite of ability and incentives for coercion.

Third, that all men save the very worst off do have the capacity to destroy, and will do so, even "irrationally", if pushed too far. Thus, PAs that want to aggress must accept certain costs from disgruntled victims.

December 16, 2009 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


While these answers were not addressed to me, here goes:

Problem 1: polluting factory.

So, the aggrieved parties get together and take the factory-owner to court.

What court? AC doesn't have established courts for all PAs. If all the PAs have bilateral treaties, I see another problem which I will get back to at the end (as it affects all your examples).

Problem 2: Unauthorized arrest.

States do allow people to sue police officers. Generally, the only people immune from suits in the criminal defense system are the judges (guess why). Also, there is a good incentive for the profit minded dictator to allow suits against the police officers. It makes the police officers act in an efficient manner.

Problem 3: Repo man.

Your solution assumes bilateral contracts. See section on them below.

Problem 4: Death penalty.

You again assume bilateral contracts.

Problem 4.1: retaliation.

You say that bilateral trade makes retribution unlikely. But then, why should any rights be enforced? Any significant PAs become lawless mafias.

Another thing: you claim that a PA will not go to war if one of its members is unjustly put to death. Lets call this claim R for future reference.

Problem 5: Customer tries to leave and is killed.

Your solution is for the other PAs to "sue." How will the suit be enforced? like all other -- with force as the original PA does not seem to be in a generally cooperative mood. You go even further and claim that the ither PAs are so sure to do this that it is a foregone conclusion. This is claim R*.

Lets review claims R and R*.

Claim R: If a PA kills somebody under another PAs protection, there is minimal action against them.

Claim R*: If a PA kills somebody under their own protection, the other PAs are virtually guaranteed to be willing to go to war.

It should be trivially obvious (and will be to any rational observer) that your two claims are completely contradictory in nature.

Problem 6: Nukes... not important.

Last section: complete bilateral contracts.

Lets say that most PAs have bilateral contracts. Then given N PAs (where N is large by the expectations of AC), every new entrant will have to negotiate on the order of N bilateral contracts. This applies as long as we don't have territorial separation and as long as simple defaults are not available. The firmer condition has been assumed (as its negation just leads back to nations). I think the latter condition holds. If you disagree, give me a counter example. Anyway, given the number of contracts required, it seems that the entry barriers for new PAs are extraordinarily high. Given this, how do you plan to prevent the formation of oligopolies? I have asked this question countless times and have yet to get a satisfactory answer. Not from you and certainly not from pals.

December 16, 2009 at 10:32 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

I'm happy to see Leonard's response. I don't have time to read and respond to it all tonight, just some brief comments:

* Newt's question "whose court"? is a very important question to ask both of #1 and of most of the other examples. In this it is highly desirable to follow the common law rule prohibiting a person from being a judge in his or its own case.

* Given that we can't assume voluntary transactions, I pretty much ignore arguments that merely invoke the benefits of markets or competition. You have to show how it actually works in a market-like way despite threats of coercion, if it does.

* Given that Leonard is not assuming away coercion, and has not AFAIK invoked an inter-PA agency to enforce inter-PA "contracts", it is more accurate to call them treaties than contracts, and the problems involved enforcing them will be much more similar to those with treaties than of contracts.

* #2 is probably not an unauthorized arrest, unless you want to weaken current criminal procedure, under which if there is evidence to make the officer's belief reasonable, then he had probable cause to arrest the suspect. Also it might be authorized or not depending on whether people have equal rights to make arrests, or if PA1 officers only have the right to arrest PA1 customers (probably far too weak a rule), etc.

* In #2 an interesting question arises if PA1 and PA2 have different standards for legal arrests, and the officer's acts violate one but not the other.

* In #2 do PAs get sovereign immunity like governmental organizations do today? If so, how can I register my organization to be a PA?

* "Probably" is a very important word, the point being that these are disputes with good arguments on both sides. Part of Pal's "mob" could plausibly vehemently believe one side and another part vehemently believe the other. PA1 could strongly believe it is in the right and at the same time PA2 strongly believe that it is in the right.

* What is the "implicit" or default treaty, and why should we expect PAs to even know what it is, much less admit that they know what it is rather than arguing for the rule that goes in their favor?

* Doesn't a boycott against a "rogue" PA (like the org with nukes in the last example) assume some strong shared ethical belief, unswayable even by legal uncertainties? The "rogue" PA may have been legally in the right to foreclose on the oil fields. The other PAs to effectively boycott them need not only a shared belief about the implicit inter-PA law, they need a shared interpretation that the "rogue" PA violated the law in the face of lawyers and media flacks making plausible arguments on both sides of the issue.

December 17, 2009 at 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

nick, regarding the question of "whose court" I believe I am merely dittoing DDFr. But this is what I think:

(a) courts will be independent of PAs. This is the for the reason you say: no PA should be willing to accept the judgments of any court that has not demonstrated its independence. I can imagine that a PA may want to insource courts, at least for its own intraPA disputes. And even that two 3rd-party PAs might use such courts. But I do not believe that any PA would use the insourced court of another in a dispute with it, except if it has been conquered or otherwise incorporated.

(b) yes, most PAs will have bilateral treaties, or their equivalent. One way of getting equivalence without lots of negotiation would be for the adjudication agencies to have treaties or contracts itself with its PA clients. Then instead of N^2 bilateral treaties, you just have N*M treaties between N PAs and M adjudication agencies (AAs).

I expect both sources of law. Most law should be discovered common-law style, by AAs. Particular embellishments should come top-down, from two sources: legislation from within a PA, affecting only its own clients, and inter-PA treaties, both bilateral and multilateral.

(c) compliance with rulings coming out of any AA is voluntary. No higher power will step in to enforce a ruling, except in the particular case of an insourced AA within a PA, judging clients of that PA. For most AA rulings, a PA plaintant has the power to refuse to enforce. Or it might abrogate its treaty ("legally" or not) with the AA to avoid enforcing. Alternately, the AA might end the treaty "legally" based on the failure of the PA to enforce the AA's rulings. (It seems dubious to me that any AA would unilaterally abrogate its treaties, because it is an AA and its profitability depends on its actions being generally perceived as above reproach.)

December 17, 2009 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Once again, not addressed to me but here goes:

(a) So..., the courts are independent and all the PAs listen to the courts. Then presumably, you want this system to be decentralized. If not, we just have a nation again. If these courts are independent, lets call them PCs and we have the exact same problems as with PAs all over again. Upgrading the problem from agencies to courts does nothing to solve it.

(b) Let us consider the case of AAs. Either they are on the order of N or they are significantly fewer. In the former case, they are useless. In the latter place, what prevents them from forming oligopolies? If a new PA entrant cannot make good with them, they must form the O(N) PA bilateral treaties which is prohibitively costly.

(c) Weak compliance with AAs. This makes them useless. If AA compliance is weak, the losing party will always ignore them. If PAs have so many ongoing treaties with AAs that this is not financially acceptable, then it seems to me that we must have the number of AAs significantly fewer than PAs and we are back to oligarchy.

In summary, AAs are a bait and switch. They are just the new PA' of the AC world and do not change the discussion substantially. The problem is preventing the oligarchy of the controllers of force. Whether said controllers are (indirectly) AAs or (directly) PAs is irrelevant.

December 17, 2009 at 8:42 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

newt, on the matter of R and R*, they are not opposites.

In R the death was of a convicted murderer, and there is no dispute (at least not in the scenario presented by Nick) that he was a murderer. Just that the PA did not like the death penalty.

But assume for a second he was not a murderer, just an average client who was killed in unclear circumstance, let's say perhaps in a riot.

Even in this sort of scenario, a PA will not, in general, go to war over a single client. War causes many deaths, not one, and is highly unprofitable (not to mention risky!). The PA would be better off to pay weregild itself, to the estate of the client, than to go to war. Of course, it still has every incentive to get that money back from the other PA. But not via war. It certainly might try something like siezing assets of the other PA, if it can get to any. (Of course, a PA that intends on killing people unjustly would be well advised not to have any substantial assets not under its own direct control.)

But now assume that the circumstances are clear, and nefarious. The victim was just an average client who was pulled off the street and killed, perhaps to harvest his organs. Mwahahaha, precious kidneys! Profit!

This is the case where war would happen (absent other resolution), because for anyone to engage in this sort of behavior is a clear threat to all. It is simply not tolerable. For the PA which indemnifies its clients itself, the profit motive is direct: it must pay for every snatched client. For other PAs the motive is almost as clear: they will abandon it in droves to PAs that will protect (or at least indemnify) them.

Now let's look at R*. Here, the scenario was presented as an apparently obvious enslavement ploy by a PA. Anyway, that was my take on Nick's intent. So I was giving the sort of standard AC way in which slaving does not pay in anarchy, as versus how it works in the world of nation-states. Here, you can't leave, so you become enslaved. (Even here, though, I note that actually killing your subject without due process is frowned up.)

But as for the suit, I thought it was clear I was seeing not as an effective procedure in its own right, but rather as an organizing principle for all the remaining clients of the rogue PA. The point here is the other agencies do not want a war. They very much want to poach the clients, though, as they always do. Clients are profit. It is just that the rogue PA has offered them the perfect opportunity to do so.

I am making another assumption here, of course: that people in AC find the idea of being semi-slaves of a PA (i.e. the 50% wealth-grab to leave) as intolerable. And that they would find the surprise imposition of this status inherently unjust, no matter what legal niceties may surround it. Perhaps I am wrong about that, in which case, presumably the PAs would know and the scenario would not play out with much conflict. Rather, it would be a nullity. Everyone in the slave-PA would just sort of shrug and say, "darn, shoulda read the fine print". Even then, I would be extremely surprised if the slave-PAs killing the errant customer apparently without trial would be accepted by anyone. Many customers might leave over it, of course paying half their wealth.

And of course there are two intermediate scenario, although improbably I feel, where in the fact the people will accept slavery but the PAs think they won't, or the PAs think they won't but they will. Left as an exercise to the reader.

December 17, 2009 at 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Newt, you seem to have some problem with oligarchy. (Or at least oligarchy*: do recall our previous argument.) I do not. I expect it in PA just as in other lines of business. How many car insurance agencies can you choose?

I picture some competition, yes, but not endless competition. I don't there is much diversity of opinion in terms of how police operate, for example. There is a lot of diversity in terms of the content of the law.

And yes, I expect that once the system stabilizes, it would be very hard indeed to start up a new PA. But this is not based on the difficulty of inking agreements with other PAs or AAs. That does not strike me as particularly hard or expensive. It is based on the normal economic problems of entering a competitive market. Why should any client contract with you, a startup, in what is perhaps the single most important service they buy? People would have to be very dissatisfied indeed with their current options to do that.

Over the long run, i.e., hundreds of years, yes, some new PAs might start up, probably by starting among distinct minorities of some kind. And other PAs might wither and die. But I don't expect a lot of churn in the market, because of the nature of the service. It is hard to think of good analogs, but perhaps armored car services are one. They have some similar characteristics, i.e., that you are entrusting the corp with really valuable stuff. How many new armored car companies enter the market each year?

December 17, 2009 at 9:41 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

OK, some more specific rejoinders to Leonard's answers. First though, a general comment: the answers are less specific than I'd hoped, partly for my own fault: I forgot to emphasize that my main interest is in the *procedure* whereby AC reaches a dispute resolution, not which way it comes down. In other words, who makes the arrests, whose court tries the case, whose court if any does one appeal to if one believes the court made an error, who enforces the verdict, specifics like that are what I'm looking for in the answers. I tried to design the questions so that there would be good legal arguments on both sides, and probable strong feelings on both sides of the issue. Such disputes are very common in law. If the arguments for both sides are not obvious in a particular example, just assume it.

1. Pollution -- "Why should a PA enforce laws against its own paying customers? Profit."

Since coercion can be involved, the profit motive to me suggests foremost that they engage in extortion, or collect taxes, at a Laffer maximum. More on this later. But this shows that the profit motive can have pathological, anti-efficiency effects when coercion is involved. So I certainly don't see "profit motive" as a probable argument in favor as I would in a voluntary market. Instead, you have to show why, despite coercion, we have an incentive-compatible structure.

"...for the PA to unilaterally pull out of its treaty with any other PA is to throw its honorable reputation in doubt."

This incentive operates among nations now. But they break treaties all the time, and (at least before nuclear superpowers) engaged in wars with high frequencies. So I can't agree with the conclusion that a PA would "rarely be tempted" to break a treaty.

In the pollution example there's an added problem: if one PA defects and fails to enforce what they msy see as an unjust verdict, that encourages others to defect. The more PAs involved, the less likely to be enforced. For example, if the pollution is CFCs or CO2 or SO2 (just assume at least one of these are in fact pollution for the sake of argument), the tortfeasors are numerous and dispersed, and the legal costs of going after them all via the courts are too high. This kind of tort seems to require a centralized solution, like cap & trade or pollution taxes, which AC cannot provide.

2. covered above.

3. "he's dead" [too bad]. The questions are, how could the dispute between PAs have been prevented, and how can it be resolved without motivating treaty abrogation or worse?

4. "unlikely for any profit-maximizing body." Again, this argument doesn't work in a coercive context.

A general question re: boycotts. Don't these abrogate freedom-of-contract clauses in PA's contracts with their customers, or are there no such clauses? Also, might not PAs have clauses in their treaties forbidding each to boycott the other, in order to reduce the economic risks to each?

(continued in next message)

December 17, 2009 at 10:48 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

5. PA threatens customers who defect -- I don't understand your answer. Why would other PAs sue to protect a non-customer? And if you know a prospective customer is under a death threat from another PA, so that the cost of protecting him is going to be very high, why sign him up in the first place? And there will probably be many other PAs that also want to implement this "bait and switch" strategy in order to extort more money from their "customers" (now subjects), as well as normal states, that would ally with this bait & switch PA.

This is probably the most important question, because if PAs (or city-states in Moldbug's version) can coerce their customers into staying, exit costs can be very high rather than very low, and nothing like market competition can develop. Think "bait and switch" with the switch done with guns.

For the same reason, don't join a seastead unless you have your own boat and guns.

6. PA2 forecloses on oil field owned by customer of PA1 -- "In this case, I think Nick is hinting at the idea that if a crime is profitable enough, perhaps it would be worthwhile to sacrifice relations with every other PA, and lose most of your customers over it."

These cases may exist, but not here. PA2 by foreclosing the oil field for its customer bank, is *protecting* its customer, and backing this protection with nuclear weapons. So we'll see customers defecting from weak PA1, which can't protect its customers when they believe they are in the right, to strong PA2 who can. It's winner-take-all for the stronger PA. Nor, again, is there any particular reason this would "sacrifice relations with other PAs." Would you boycott an aggressive nuclear power over a debatable foreclosure that doesn't concern your own customers? Much less could a universal boycott be negotiated in this scenario.

December 17, 2009 at 11:00 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

Here's another scenario:

* A number of PAs each operate in all parts of a particular region. Several of them institute a "tort advance fee" -- a fee demanded from customers of other PAs in order to cover the future costs of disputes with their own customers. These are collected at the point of a gun. The tax proves at first to be incredibly profitable, as each PA collects vast amounts of money at little cost to itself and no cost to its own customers. Profit being the motive all around, soon every PA is collecting taxes and raising their rates, impoverishing the customers of other PAs.

In other words, AC, by combining coercion with territorial overlap, seems to devolve into a roving bandit scenario, where the Laffer maximum tax is close to 100%, far higher than for nation-states. How can you prevent it?

December 17, 2009 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


On your response to claims R and R*: You have "solved" the problem by sidestepping it. You have just assumed that the circumstances will be sufficiently "clear" and "everybody" will know them. Please define what counts as "clear" and what would happen in the unclear cases.

Also, your excuse with other PAs not wanting a full out war but just more customers is ludicrous on its face. The whole point of the question is that the customers of the offensive PA are not free to switch providers. Assuming that they can switch providers without outside force rather defeats the point. The rogue PA has given the worst possible opportunity to get more customers: a situation where there are no viable customers (as they all get shot). The best (ie. profit maximizing for the PAs themselves) short term solution is for the other PAs to ignore the problem. The best long term solution is to start building their own fiefdoms for the time when the original PA becomes very large.

In relation to the paragraph above: people have no problem being semi-slaves with 50%+ income tax. Most people don't do much even they are actual slaves who are starved and taxed at 100% of income. See USSR for proof. In assuming the nature of people, you are assuming angels. Very bad form.

On Oligarchy: I don't have much problem with oligarchy as a system of government. If nothing else, it is the most common system around (often supplemented by a powerful monarch who employs something approaching a lot of authority).

The reason I bring up oligarchy so often is that an oligarchic collection of ACs will likely charge (hint: tax) their customers (hint: subjects/semi-slaves) at the laffer maximum. At that point, what is the value in AC? You get to crow and call yourself a customer? I prefer citizen myself.

The argument with car insurance companies does not work. For one thing, a present insurance company (or companies) can not effectively block a new (or existing) competitor without better products. They cannot for instance, just refuse to form a bilateral contract. Therefore by my definitions, car insurance companies are not actually an oligarchy.

Interestingly enough, there are (or at recent time, were) oligarchies in the US. A notable one, by my accounts, is office software. The kingpin here is Microsoft with its control of formats. Namely, if a competitor starts up in new office software (right! only a large company with its own comercial base can mange), they have only one hope of survival -- they gain compatibility with MS software. Thus, here is a real barrier to entry. Note also that MS software is very expensive compared to some of the alternatives ... say OOo or LaTeX.

December 17, 2009 at 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Lenin Of Liberty said...

If everyone agrees on what constitutes coercion and that coercion is bad, then AC would work. So would democracy. So would aristocracy. So would monarchy.

The ACs advocate a lot of good values (though their theories of real property rights have some problems). But the Rothbardians are in complete denial of practicalities. Friedman answers some of the practicalities, but glosses over some of the biggies.

Here is a biggie for you ACs: if 51% of the population agrees on the libertarian principles you advocate, then democracy would be libertarian. There would be no need for AC.


Now, back to the subject of global warming. What of ocean acidification? What of coral bleaching? Coral bleaching is happening NOW and it is happening far from localized pollution sources. This is a much more immediate concern than a few degrees of temperature change or a few inches of sea level rise.

And as for "optimal temperature", the answer is: close to what it is now. Change is the problem. Ya'd think a bunch of Rightists would understand that. Radical change, even radical change to a new and better system, has a cost, sometimes a large one.

And since nature has already been devastated by overhunting, overfishing, habitat destruction, etc. nature is fragile. Many of the larger species have already lost most of their genetic diversity. Their adaptibility is diminished, and diminishing.

December 17, 2009 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

nick, as I discussed w/ newt, the analogy between nation-states' pairwise interactions and that of PAs is a loose one. I expect the same general kinds of disputes in both cases, along with the same general lines of solution (or, often enough, non solution). What varies tremendously is the incidence of disputes. Two overlapping PAs could be expected to be in dispute almost continually. By contrast, it is relatively easy for nation-states to minimize conflicts, and they generally do. Not only can they easily adopt the rule of "my turf, my rules", but by nature of territorial extension the vast majority of their customers have no daily contact with those of competitors.

PAs, at least if they have been reasonably peaceable in the past, have no reason not to have customers promiscuously intermixed. Thus, the total amount of wealth created by inter-agency customer trade will be a high fraction of the total wealth created by customers. It is not a minor amount of wealth, and it can be gotten at in various ways, both destructive and not. This is one reason why I expect negotiations and sanctions of various sorts to have considerable teeth.

Here's another reason: competition. Assume that PAs A and B are at odds, and therefore disputes between A customers and B customers are not being resolved. Further assume that PA C has amicable relations with both A and B. From the customer viewpoint, if you are with A or B and disputes with customers of the other are at all likely, you will have a fairly strong incentive to drop your current provider and go with C. (Or D, E, F, etc. if there is wide selection.) Thus, any dispute between two PAs that is sufficient to cut off adjudicatory relations between them means loss of profits as customers decamp.

And yes, I know states fight all the time (or used to, at least). I explain this by their elites' ability to impose most of the costs on their subjects, as well as the lack of profit motive. (Or mismatched profit motives, i.e. war profiteering.) I predict corporate PAs, like MM's sovcorps but not territorial. And I expect they will be very reluctant to engage in warfare, because warfare in the conditions of intermixed population that I expect of AC would be very messy and extremely costly. And also, there's the matter of nukes, which makes all warfare look potentially devastating.

December 17, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Global warming: Where is the evidence for the causality link between ocean acidification and coral bleaching? Also, what exactly is so bad about them (ocean acidification -- sure, coral bleaching -- who cares?)

As for temperature change, it always changes. Assuming for the sake of discussion that we can affect this in broad strokes, does it not make sense to bias towards a more favorable temperature. Furthermore, a few degrees is not a "radical change." Lastly, change from a bad situation is not always bad. Witness the current situation with our "democratic governments." MM clearly wants NC. NC will clearly require radical change and still, this pays off in the long run (in his calculation). Change is not always bad (I thought a liberal would understand this!)

As to the devastation of nature, you have blindly assume that a) there is causality (acceptable -- much easier to prove with down-to-earth problems) and that b) mc > mb. Assumption two is invalid. The destruction of nature in the form of rain-forests, squirrels, and other assorted wildlife has many beneficial consequences: more space for comfy cities, fewer annoying rodents, etc... Of course, the research literature is so ludicrously biased against this that coming to a well-informed decision is well-nigh impossible.


Your arguments w.r.t. war just seem to strengthen my arguments that AC will collapse into oligarchy before it ever gets started. You have shown (well in my opinion) that war between PAs will be prohibitively expensive, even even by current standards. You have also shown that PAs who do not coerce their "customers" into obedience will loose them if said PA engaged in war. This seems to imply that the requirement of bilateral treaties will be a foregone conclusion. This leads to my predictions about oligarchy.

December 17, 2009 at 1:02 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

BTW Leonard, I like your proposal to inherit into AC traditional methods for controlling coercive power that you listed in Watching the Watchers.

December 17, 2009 at 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

As for protecting a non-customer: there is no reason to assume that PAs would only be willing to protect customers with ongoing relations. An ongoing relationship between customer and provider is sensible for many services, and protection is one, I think. But I do not think that an ongoing relationship is the only way by which a person can hook into a justice system.

For example, assume that to PA1, battery is considered a tort, and additionally PA1 will accept any customer who has sufficiently strong proof of battery, upon certain conditions. (I.e., PA1 gets half of any tort awarded; that the tortfeasor can be identified.) And say that, for whatever reason, you are a customer of PA2, and suffer battery, but PA2 does not help you. You may, then, take your case to PA1, who may be eager to take it up for you. I see no reason to think that PA2 would be exclusive about this. At worst they should simply demand you sign up with PA1. But I don't see that legal prosecution of a tort at all makes you a worse customer from their POV. (The real question is why isn't PA2 helping? They stand to profit!)

So, the reason why a PA would do anything for a (current) noncustomer is to get a new customer, if only briefly. The normal PA is a business and seeks to make money.

Indeed, I think it is possible to imagine an anarchic situation where there are no ongoing relationships between most people and PAs. Just a gaggle of PAs, which people hire when they've got a tort award from an AA.

In any case, to return to the extortionate PA... what they have done is, I think, a flagrant violation of their customers. Not just the one they killed: all of them, who stand to be dispossessed if they opt to leave. As such, these people have every incentive to get themselves a new PA. Of course, they don't want to pay 50% of their property.

Here's the thing in AC: you don't have to move. Just sign up elsewhere. Boom, you are out. Of course, this is to a degree problematic. The old extortionate PA knows where you live, figuratively and literally, and can come around to rob you, imprison you, even kill you if they choose (why were you with them again?). This is why it is a good idea from a procedural POV for the other PAs to file suit (to attempt to get AAs to recognize that the extortion is extortion), and for them to get an injunction quickly against the offending PA that it may not kill, rob, imprison its fleeing customers without due process of law.

Now, Nick is saying that he wants these to be hard cases. So, perhaps there really is a case for the extortionate (or apparently extortionate) PA. Well then, it may survive long enough to have its day in court, and if the AA so decides it may even be awarded half the wealth of those that fled. If this is very likely, then as I said before, maybe the scenario won't go down as I expect.

All this gets back to the sort of expectations one goes into this with. When I think about having any choice at all about government, I want substantial protection against extortionate PAs (or states). It is not low down on my list. So I would never voluntarily agree to allow my PA the legal possibility of extorting me. And if they tried, I would do whatever was necessary to get out of their power. So when I look at Nick's scenario here, I have a hard time seeing that the customers would accept it. No, they would resist if they could, and anarchy not only makes resistance possible, it makes it cheap, and it gives you strong allies (other PAs) who would love to have your business.

December 17, 2009 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


Your are probably correct about coverage by PAs -- they will usually not have anything against a new customer. However, that is not really a problem -- current systems of government easily achieve 100% coverage. The challenge is insuring competent coverage and sub-laffer-maximal protection fees. You don't address these concerns in this part of your post.

As to the rest, I would address these points except I already have in my prior posts. I wish instead to bring your attention to the following sentence of yours:

So I would never voluntarily agree to allow my PA the legal possibility of extorting me.

This sentence demonstrates the schizophrenia that occupies the center of the entire AC paradigm. What do the words "legal" and "extortion" mean in an AC paradigm? What does voluntary agreement have to do with them? The answer to both these question is: nothing. Legality and extortion are defined by the legal bodies of the country (nick may disagree with this) and AC specifically destroys all of these.

Most AC comes down assuming the sancity of contracts (or some such other paradigm) and then assuming that these can be upheld without violating them. AC assumes that force can be completely controlled by something other than force itself -- an assumption flatly contradicted by reality. To resolve this contradiction, AC proponents (like yourself and pals) use sophistries such as distributed markets and what not but ultimately, all of these are just a thinly disguised way of saying "magic."

December 17, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Newt, those words are my own opinion on how the PA's action looks. But yes, take "legal". Obviously for power with no superiors, as is the case for a PA, "legal" is anything it says it is, at least at the first take. If the PA says "Jews are illegal and must be killed on sight", well, that's the "law". Pogrom time!

Clearly, though, there are other takes available on this, i.e. the take one gets using the now-ubiquitous concept of human rights. That is what I was doing. There is no schizophrenia here. On the one hand, I am espousing a system that is amoral, profit-maximizing. On the other hand, I have my own personal morals, and I am telling you how I would choose a protection agency, and hypothesizing that enough other people would do similarly (i.e., demand "human rights" and various other nice-government tricks), that there would be a PA or many PAs catering to our demand.

December 17, 2009 at 7:14 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Leonard: for whatever reason, you are a customer of PA2, and suffer battery, but PA2 does not help you. You may, then, take your case to PA1, who may be eager to take it up for you.

Alas, this is ex-post forum shopping, and it leads to nasty results, as plaintiffs shop around for the PA and court (I presume a different PA often leads to a different court having jurisdiction, based on the different agreement of the PA?) who will screw the defendant the most on the least evidence.

Basically, ex-post (after the tort or other liable event) forum shopping usually leads to pathological "roving bandit" results, whereas ex ante (before the event) forum shopping usually leads to market-like incentives beneficial to both future plaintiffs and future defendants, if it's hard to tell whether in the future one is more likely to be a plaintiff or defendant.

If the PAs faithfully follow court orders, and changing PA doesn't change the court that has jurisdiction, then ex post shopping for a PA may not be so bad.

I was going to raise this as yet another scenario but you did it for me. :-)

December 17, 2009 at 7:47 PM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


This entire discussion so far has been about demonstrating that PAs will not adhere to what you (or most people) consider to be moral codes. Certainly not after the (short) initial startup solution. That they may form whatever contract but will be quick to forget it. To continue to claim "ethics" without further evidence is unsatisfactory to say the least. Also, the schizophrenia is alive and well. You have a moral code and you expect your PA to adhere to it. Period. Why should it when by your own assumptions, the PA is amoral and profit-maximizing and screwing you over has lots of money involved? You want your PA to be amoral because that is theoretically pleasing and you want your PA to always follows your moral code because that is also nice. You can't have it both ways.

Also, nick has brought up a very good point about the defendants is PAs are allowed to change courts ex-post.

His solution of fixing the courts however, is nonsensical. The point of AC is no central authority. A centralized court is a trivial violation of this. His comment boils down to saying that private security contractors are OK. However, we already have those right now. It is not an interesting case.

Still, it is a problem that must be addressed: how are the rights of the defendant guaranteed. Please don't say bilateral treaties or AAs without adding something new to the discussion.

December 17, 2009 at 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Newt, it is not that I particularly want PAs to be amoral. I merely recognize that ultimately they will be. At least if they are profit-maximizing ones as I imagine would dominate. (Charitable PAs that attempt to "do good" or other missions are certainly not beyond my imagination, either. But I do not see them as stable in the long term. And they can drift, because it is inherently impossible to impose missions on organizations without consensus among those that control the organization.)

I have mentioned at my blog several mechanisms by which we import something like morality into actions of the state, which is just as amoral as, and yet stronger and harder to control, than the PA. These are things such as constitutions, democracy, RKBA, separated powers, etc. These are not sufficient to keep the state moral, as the long decline of the USA shows. But they do have some effect.

The ultimate mechanism for importing apparent morality into the actions of amoral organization is the market. It is surprising and disappointing to have to explain basic economics to you. It is not from the benevolence of the policeman, the judge or the hangman, that we expect our justice, but from their regard to their own self interest. Next you'll be telling me that it would be a good idea for Amazon to start "screwing people over" by finding creative ways to nickle and dime them on shipping and fees.

And yes, amoral corporations with significant organized armed force are always dangerous. Yes, there is the problem of coercion, of a PA going rogue and extortionate, which anyone with more than a drop of sense can recognize. So what? I have explained to you the mechanism by which a PA which deviates into coercion can be rapidly ruined in anarchy.

December 18, 2009 at 7:38 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


I have already addressed those concerns. The mechanisms you mentioned are failed mechanism. Constitutions get ignored (as the US constitution has been). Democracies get subverted until the entire electorate is bought out by force or by propaganda or by money. Handguns and assault rifles are useless against an organized military force with cool toys like gunships. Separated power is oligarchy. If you are lucky, (ie. if the separation is comflict free) you do get decent government but if not (and its often not), oligarchy just results in a mad dash for power (as again, the history of the US demonstrates amply well).

As for market discipline, how many times do I have to point out that the oligarchic nature of the PAs combined with their use of coercion will at best result in a Laffer maximum tax. At worst, you have a band of roving bandits who will devastate the country. The market (much like the Coase theorem) is not magic fairy dust that you can sprinkle and get efficiency. It is the by product of well designed law and carefully managed enforcement.

This discussion is not about my fear of amoral institutions with armies. I am advocating a monarch remember? This is about incentives and how they don't line up for PAs in AC.

December 18, 2009 at 8:10 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Nick, on the matter of forum-shopping, you would not have infinite choice. Rather, you'd have to go to an AA that the tortfeasor's PA (assuming he has one) will recognize as fair. Otherwise, his PA should be expected to stop you from enforcing. So you would not have infinite choice.

Also, it is worth pointing out that there is, in a sense, forum-shopping on both sides of potential conflicts. Potential tortfeasors have the incentive to get a PA that is as favorable to them as possible (including which AAs it uses and/or accepts judgments from). Thus, there is a certain balance in allowing victims to shop among whatever alternatives they have. This is an example of I cut, you choose.

And since we have not really discussed yet, it is my opinion that the number of AAs in anarchy would tend to be few. This is because adjudication as a service strikes me as very limited in variety. Which corpus of law an AA uses is something that people have widely different opinions on, and feel strongly about. But an AA could use many different sets of laws, just as current courts enforce highly variable contracts. The actual process of hearing evidence, presenting witnesses, etc., and making good judgments based on that, is not something that I think most people feel strongly about. It is the outcomes they care about, not the process, and if the outcomes seem to be good and fair, that is good service.

It would not surprise me to find as few as two large AAs in anarchy, with a wide penumbra of "specialty" AAs that are devoted either to religious laws, or to particular niches.

Anyway, what's to stop me in anarchy from setting up my own "roving bandit" specialty AA and offering to judge for any plaintiff, no matter what the evidence, and to bring down judgements taking all money from and enslaving the defendant? Well, nothing, nothing obvious anyway. Except that, because no PA can be expected to recognize my rulings, I'd get no business, and quickly fail. (Also, I think it is possible that there might be laws against reckless judging. So there might be a quicker way to cut off this sort of thing. Nozick thought the fear of reckless judging was such a big deal he thought it would lead to minarchy.)

I do not think it impossible that a PA to accept the judgments of only one AA, or a small set of the largest and most reputable ones. What limits this is need to be able to do business with other PAs. If they have a clientele that, for whatever reason, wants a unknown AA to preside, then there is a potential dispute that must be resolved. Either the unknown AA must become known and trusted, or the other PA must give up on that demand.

In this sort of situation, I can see a system of appeals developing. That is, a PA may agree with second PA to accept the use of an AA that the PA dislikes, but only under the condition that an AA that the second PA does like may review any ruling of the other AA.

December 18, 2009 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Newt, we agree that those mechanisms have ultimately failed. But that is not what I am arguing. I am arguing that they work in the sense of slowing (not preventing), the onrush of statism. And I further assert that those mechanisms combined with the ultimate mechanism, that of consumer choice, would be enough to keep anarchy stable. If it is not clear, I regard consumer choice to be far, far more powerful than any other mechanism. If the notion of human rights, wielded against the state, is a ton of TNT, consumer choice is a nuclear weapon.

You wave around "oligarchy" as your own form of magic dust. To you, a system gets "oligarchical", then boom -- taxes! Sin! Death! Suffice to say that I do not understand this argument. Perhaps you could argue, clearly for once:
(a) exactly how you define "oligarchy",
(b) exactly why AC is "oligarchical",
(c) why "oligarchy" must inevitably fail

December 18, 2009 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger newt0311 said...


(a) Oligarchy is where a PA can effectively put up entry barriers for other new PAs. Ie. a system where entry into the ruling elite requires at least indifference from the ruling class if not active support. This will quickly result in a mostly static set of PAs all of which have tight coordination with each other.

(b) AC is oligarchical because the PAs will quickly form an oligarchy. As for why -- I have stated why countless times before. Your bilateral contracts are one of the many reasons. Oligarchy is an emergent pattern prevalent throughout history. Thus, in general, the burden of proving that a system is not oligarchic falls on you. Your current setup with PAs (or equivalently AAs) fails as I have demonstrated in previous posts.

(c) Why "oligarchy" must fail: Before I can give an accurate answer to this question, I must explain what I consider a failure mode for AC: Laffer maximum taxation or worse. Note that for a normal state, simply Laffer max taxation with rule of law would be a success. However, normal states are simpler, easier to predict, and easier to establish than AC. They also have the significant benefit that they have been observed in history. Moreover, the proponents of these government systems (the sober ones anyway) rarely claimed that their systems could achieve anything better. On contrast, AC proponents have stated repeatedly and often explicitly that AC will result in sub-Laffer maximal taxation. In light of these facts, my double standard for AC seems appropriate. Note that in an oligarchy, Laffer max taxes are pretty much a given. The oligarchs can cooperate and maximize taxes and shut down any new entrants. Note also that this is the good case. The bad case is where the oligarchs conflict and compromise rule of law in the process. The former is generally seen when the oligarchs are clearly separated and predation among them is very difficult. A textbook case is the territorial separation of the nobility in England and MMs proposed system of sovereign shares. The latter (bad oligarchs) are generally seen when predation is possible and one member of the oligarchy can appropriate the power of another member of the oligarchy. In this case, the oligarchs spend all their time stealing from each other and either neglect their citizens or actively plunder them. Note that for normal systems of government, the former would be considered a success while the latter a failure. However, in the context of AC, both outcomes are a failure.

December 18, 2009 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger UK Houston said...

One is tempted, always, to buy into the Google is Evil conspiracy theories, but I do find it very interesting that (at least my) Google Reader does not display this entry for the UR blog. In fact it shows no entries from the 3rd to the 16th of December. Had it not been for a very positive mention in American Digest, I would have missed it.

December 18, 2009 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Gerard said...

I'm always ready to point people to Moldbug.

December 18, 2009 at 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Pals said...

Apologies for dropping off this conversation—stupid day job keeps getting in the way of the important stuff. (In case any of you is willing to pay handsomely for an Anarcho-Capitalist online philosopher, let me know and I’ll quit the day job.)

Anyways, I’m going to answer Nick’s original questions now and come back later for more thorough discussion of the ensuing discussion.

First, my definition of coercion, which I take from Rothbard: Coercion is the use of force or the threat of force against a person, either as an end, or as a means to do things to them or their property of which they would not otherwise approve. It’s very straight-forward.

Second, my definition of AC: under Anarcho-Capitalism, there is no claim to property, sovereignty or control other than ownership. If you own something you do whatever you want with it. If someone else owns it, they do what they want. There can be no overlapping ownership. There is no such a thing as “sovereignty” whereby someone has the right to affect other people’s properties in ways they don’t like. Several owners could band together and work out a security arrangement, but that is purely consensual, not coercive. You can hire people to protect your property, but those are your employees, not your sovereign overlords. If, however, they use their guns to overpower you and take your property, then it’s their land and you’re screwed. But, the point I’d like to get across is that this will not usually happen, because land and resources will be owned by their most productive employers. In fact, the key point is that the only reason conflict, theft, murder and bad stuff happen is because of the invention of criteria for legitimate coercive action. So, some fucker comes up with some story about why their religion/race/democracy/bloodline allows them to tell you what to do. They convince you this is for your own good—or, more accurately, for “our common good”. It is almost invariably a formula for their betterment at your expense.

All political ideologies are about finding ways of solving the question of who gets the right to legitimate coercion, and how and when they can use it. AC rejects the right to legitimate coercion. All political ideologies are retarded because they see that correctly assigning the right to legitimate coercion is the way to solve all of humanity’s problems, whereas AC sees that granting anyone the right to legitimate coercion is the root of all problems. Almost all humanity’s troubles come from the belief that coercion is necessary. If people who support coercion for the sake of improving their lot could get this idea through their brain-washed heads, that would solve most our problems. They won’t get it totally, but meanwhile, it’s worth it to fight the battles one at a time.


December 19, 2009 at 8:47 AM  
Anonymous Pals said...

So, to go back to nick’s questions:

1 - Factory pollution: If the factory has the property right over the air, then they can pollute all they like. If the people smelling the pollution own that right, then they will stop the polluter. Or the two could agree on a formula. Are you familiar with the Coase Theorem? It’s simple. In AC, property rights are clearly delineated. If they aren’t, then whoever claims and can defend a right will own it. Think of AC as the Coase Theorem ad infinitum. There is no court, law or police to enforce this. My point is that having the law and the police enforce it is the problem, because they are always rigged. Instead, you let people have at it. You will not get war or fights. You will get cooperation. The thing is that the person who has the more productive use of a resource will be willing to hire a bigger gun to fight for it. This, on its own, makes the fighting not happen. So, if the polluter is producing so much economic activity to be able to compensate those who are damaged, then all is happy. If not, he won’t. The earth is pretty big. There’s room for everyone; either he’ll move his factory or the people will move their land. Problem solved. Compare this neat solution with the disastrous efforts of having governments regulate land use!

2- If you’ve willfully signed up to be under the purview of a protective agency and their personnel fuck up in your treatment, then that’s coercive on the part of the fuck-up. But not that big of a deal, really.

3- There can be no overlapping jurisdictions in this way. Because there is no government, law or justice system, any transactions that happen between consenting adults will be very robust transactions where both parties can be sure of what all the different contingencies are. No one will sell a car to anyone who lives under another jurisdiction except with very strong assurances about how things will be sorted out in case of trouble. In a sense, you’re a bit like mainstream economists who think the Fed is vital and can’t be ended because it is the only one that can “fix” a liquidity crisis. But the point is that there won’t be liquidity crises without the Fed. Similarly, remove laws and regulations, and you get transactions that are robust to any contingencies.

4- This wouldn’t happen. PA’s are employed by you, leaving them is like leaving your cable provider. They don’t kill you. Law and order will not be provided by murderous rapacious monstrous Blackwaters. Law and order will be the default setting of a society of peaceful individuals living on their own property minding their own business, making money and transacting with each other peacefully. In such a society, violence is the exception, not the rule. The thing is that everyone believes that aggression in all its forms is wrong, no matter what the justification. So it is ostracized, and its perpetrators are held in disregard by everyone. The default setting of the mob is to reject it, and to act against it. So people can’t just go out and kill because they have guns.

5- There’s no room for such pedantry-based aggression. Institutions are designed very solidly and robustly by their protagonists. PA1 is not in the business of murdering and taking people over. The only people who do this are people who have ideologies and believe in government and “the common good” and such bullshit.

December 19, 2009 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

That was without a doubt the finest post I've read in the last year. Probably in the last decade. And I write Überposts myself.

My hat is off to you. I bow in your general direction.

I just wish I could say I thought you were wrong about any of it.

Back in 2003 fellow blogger Donald Sensing wrote, "I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free." And he was not a Kerry supporter.

Also, I am constantly reminded these days of Kipling's Gods of the Copybook Headings

Your essay is but another brick in that particular wall.

December 19, 2009 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

Yes, the Mandarins are in charge. No, Mann is not the top of the ladder.
Yes, Soviet History shows the truest form of politics, what the completely amoral will do when they have no constraint other than their power.
No, the Mandarins are not unchallengeable, they have some notable weaknesses, particularly their shunning of religion and the military.
Yes, the Bolsheviks win and the Mensheviks loose, it is definitional.

Your essay was 38 pages in conventional type.

December 20, 2009 at 11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

More links to consider:

January 1, 2010 at 4:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was a decent if excessively wordy post for the most part until you got to the end and hoisted democracy on a pillar as if it were good when it is in fact the worst. this was known since the time of socrates and before. also you discredit real science along with pseudoscience like AGW

January 3, 2010 at 11:12 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home