Devin on Formalism

July 27, 2010

I just shamelessly copying his definition:

Authority is conserved. For any possible action that affects multiple people, some one (or some group) must have the ultimate decision making authority. Good governance is thus a matter of putting the decision making authority in a chain of accountability that ends with people who have the personal incentive or disposition to make a just decision. From the study of history, formalists have observed the following general truths about how this is to be done:

  • Rulers chosen by a lawful process have far better records than rulers who take power through violence or fraud.
  • Fixed share systems (like joint stock corporations) are more efficient and less prone to conflict than non-fixed distributive systems (like when voting blocks can organize and vote to transfer slices of the national pie to themselves).
  • popular democracy is a destructive form of government because factions and parties form that expend all their energy engaged in destructive conflicts over dividing the pie, rather than figuring out how to grow the pie.
  • managed democracy is not a responsible form of government, because the media, academia, and civil service are not held accountable for their decisions. Plus it still has the problems of popular democracy, only in a less virulent form.
  • A government is a property owner, it owns an alloidial title to a very large territory. If you wish to deny its legitimacy or redirect its flow of rents (taxes), expect violent resistance from the beneficiaries/controllers of the government.
  • If you have a good government, you also want that government to be a strong government.
  • Coherent governance structures are generally more responsible than fractured structures, since in a fractured system each faction will enrich itself at the expense of the whole.
  • Property rights and simple, negative law are essential, because they bar people from getting wealthy by stealing the pie, and therefore force people to grow the pie in order to better themselves.
  • The best governments have been strong enough to enforce property rights and rule of law over a large territory, but possessed enough wu wei to not inflict large amounts of oppressive positive law.
  • A constitution cannot enforce itself, and therefore must be designed to be a stable Schelling point for the military.

Is left-libertarianism based on a flawed understanding of democracy?

July 27, 2010

Aretae on left-libertarianism:

Modern government favors the already rich and those who purchase titles (Ph.D., J.D.) by SO much that the Welfare state is necessary. To fix the problem, we’d have to remove those factors that the government uses to oppress the poor, weak, and small businesses in favor of the corporatists. Intellectual Property, Incarceration Culture, Anti-Marriage Welfare Incentives, Zoning, the FDA, and the Drug War are near the top of my complaints. Other folks I like target Compulsory Education,and Government Licensure. Kevin Carson goes even further, in directions I’m not yet prepared to go…but the line is right.

When the government is the primary vehicle for trampling the poor, it really sucks to not give them a dime after you’ve trampled them.

This argument assumes that there are two classes: 1) the rich and 2) "the poor, weak and small businesses."

I think this is wrong. In a democracy, the ruling class needs to win elections. So, in democracy, we always see the ruling class in alliance with the poor against the middle (more here).

On race: Formalism and natural rights

July 27, 2010

Lots of interesting commentary on race in the last couple days.

Here’s Moldbug:

The solution comes in two simple steps, each of which could be taken tomorrow.

Step A is formalization. It’s a reality of modern American life that race confers privilege. . . . There is no difference between a privilege and a right. Is your right to American (or other First World) citizenship a right? Or a privilege? No person is illegal!

But there is a significant legal problem with the modern American system of race rights: it is informal. . . . [T]he rule of law demands a formal registration process. Are you a proud black man? Are you not afraid to stand up and say, I am of pure white blood, and no damned coolie?

If you participated in the 2010 Census, you already have. The forms are on file. We need merely forward them to the new Department of Race, and make the declaration legally binding – with an amnesty period for repentant phonies. A drop of spit snares all remaining snakes. And the new race registry (a true New-World Almanach de Gotha) is public, open to Harvard and everyone else. Presto: no more race fraud. Whew! . . .

We move on to step B, which will warm the cockles of Hayek’s dead heart and bring happiness to liberaltarians everywhere. Advancing from status to contract, we take our newly-securitized race rights, and make them transferable. Let a sweet wind of capitalism blow! . . .

Why shouldn’t a poor African-American youth, with no particular use for race rights, give them up in exchange for a substantial trust fund which can free him to pursue his dreams? Being officially Chinese [assuming his sold his “black” privileges to a Chinese person] is no skin off his ghetto ass. And here are some real reparations – color, green. By definition, voluntary trade benefits both parties. Ie, it’s a Pareto optimization.

Here’s Professor Hanson:

In large modern societies, however, this urge to solve problems by national conversations and laws seems largely dysfunctional.

Much better, when possible, is to rely on local incentives. For example, if employer incentives to overcome racial biases seem currently too weak, let’s up the ante by enabling corporate raiders, proxy access, etc. Forms of futarchy can give participants strong incentives to overcome racial biases regarding policy recommendations. There is plenty we can do, if people really want to overcome racial biases.

Here’s Aretae:

Folks who have lived extensively in Boston, DC, Hawaii, and Chicago are really really messed up on race issues, and should not be trusted on issues pertaining to the rest of the country.

Unfortunately for Professor Hanson, most people who hold racial power don’t “really want to overcome racial biases.” In fact, according to the modern definition of racism (and I think this gets pretty close), the desire to overcome racial biases is racist. Not being biased would, after all, be evidence that you want to keep the black man down. A reliance on “local incentives” would require the dismantling of an enormous federal bureaucracy. Moldbug’s post may have been satirical, but his solution still seems more likely to be implemented.

I’m afraid I also have to disagree with Aretae. I have lived in DC and Chicago (though only briefly). They may be screwed up racially. However, it is more likely, in my opinion, that they represent the logical conclusions of the policy of pursuing “diversity” in an egalitarian society. The only thing worse than listening to someone from these cities lecture you about racial issues is listening to someone from Portland, OR lecture you about racial issues.

Finally, I should say something about Moldbug’s proposal. One reason why I like Formalism is that it recognizes that there are no natural rights. We have only those rights which the state grants us. We can choose to recognize this fact (i.e. to be Formalists) or we can choose to lie about it and pretend that we have lots of rights from God, Gaia or whatever pseudo-deity you prefer. Moldbug’s proposal is therefore a perfect example of how powerful it is to simply acknowledge reality. Note also, that Moldbug’s proposal would, quite possibly, do more to help blacks that the actual implementation of affirmative action. Sunshine, as they say, is a powerful disinfectant.

The Froude Society on the road

July 27, 2010

The gathering was small, but when one has unusual beliefs, it’s nice to meet other like-minded individuals.

I never expected blogging to lead to actual face-to-face meetings. I’ve been surprised to find myself making blog friends, so I guess actual meetings were the next logical step.

Devin and I have worked out all the necessary reactionary secret handshakes, codewords, etc. The reset can now commence.

The decline and fall of the American Empire

July 26, 2010

Lots of historians blame the fall of Rome on the fact that during the years of decline, the Romans outsourced fighting to non-citizens. The quality of the legions declined accordingly.

I have no idea if this explanation for Rome’s fall is true – my guess is that the outsourcing of fighting is a symptom, not a cause.

Anyway, it’s interesting to see the form that decline takes in the evening years of the American empire.

Jim Webb

July 26, 2010

Jim Webb wrote a very interesting op-ed in the WSJ. For my money, this is the best section:

The Civil War devastated the South, in human and economic terms. And from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the beginning of World War II, the region was a ravaged place, affecting black and white alike.

In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt created a national commission to study what he termed "the long and ironic history of the despoiling of this truly American section." At that time, most industries in the South were owned by companies outside the region. Of the South’s 1.8 million sharecroppers, 1.2 million were white (a mirror of the population, which was 71% white). The illiteracy rate was five times that of the North-Central states and more than twice that of New England and the Middle Atlantic (despite the waves of European immigrants then flowing to those regions). The total endowments of all the colleges and universities in the South were less than the endowments of Harvard and Yale alone. The average schoolchild in the South had $25 a year spent on his or her education, compared to $141 for children in New York.

A lot has been written about the article, much of it critical.

Ilya Somin notes the good points and offers a criticism:

Unfortunately, Webb seems to treat poorer whites as passive victims “dominated by white elites who manipulated racial tensions in order to retain power.” In reality, poorer southern whites tended to be strong supporters of slavery and segregation.

I think this criticism is absurd.

Professor Somin, seems to be suggesting that affirmative action’s purpose is to punish the ancestors of poor, Southern whites. This is hardly a mainstream view, though it appears to match exactly the actual outcomes achieved by affirmative action.

My point is that I think Senator Webb would correctly claim victory if everyone thought like Professor Somin.

Italian workers

July 26, 2010

These truly are the last men.

I can’t say “I told you so” yet

July 26, 2010

But this is pretty close to what I said here

More on women in the “workforce”

July 26, 2010

From Vox:

Those who see the transformation of the workforce and academia into female-majority populations are assuming that the present post-industrial system is sustainable. But it isn’t. It’s true that women will continue to collect more and more worthless degrees than men and fill more and more needless paper-shifting jobs than men right up until the point at which a debt-laden society can no longer afford to pay for people to learn nothing and do nothing.

A private sector job which exists solely to comply with government-dictated paperwork is every bit as government-manufactured and unproductive as a public sector job. And that is precisely the type of job which is going to disappear entirely once the debt edifice collapses and the extent of the dollar-denominated imaginary economy is revealed. Just as stripping out the debt-funded component of GDP reveals that there has been no actual economic growth for decades, stripping out the paperwork jobs will demonstrate that the real labor force is still roughly 2/3rd male, just as it was in 1950.

“I know America, and that is precisely why I am disgusted by it”

July 26, 2010

This is a great rant:

Fuck you, America. You bunch of sniveling snots. You pleasure-addicted weaklings. You evangelists of bad taste and decadence. You greedy fucks spend eight hours a day five days a week working jobs that suck your soul straight out so you can buy bigger houses and fill them with useless crap you never use. You hook yourselves on food, drink and video games not out of a genuine love for those things but because you’re so stupidly short-sighted you can’t realize the adverse effects of your own behavior. You hypocritically turn your oh-so-moral noses up at prostitution and drug use while training your daughters to be craven classless whores and doping your sons with Ritalin to destroy their minds and their masculinity. You seek out the easy-peasy Band-Aid solution to every problem imaginable only to run crying and screaming to daddy or the government when your own retarded choices blow up in your face. You spent your nights jacking off to videos of platinum blonde hair extender-wearing fake-titted living Barbie dolls and you shake your pom-poms for the Democrats and Republicans like it makes a fucking difference in the end. You piss on the graves of your ancestors while exalting the culture and practices of people you have nothing in common with. You have the unimaginable chutzpah to declare yourself a bastion of freedom while summoning the lynch mob to hang anyone who dares to point out the truth that lies in front of your eyes. You are the most pig-ignorant, unjustifiably arrogant collection of misfits who ever had the misfortune to rule an empire, and I will gleefully pop a bottle of champagne when you eventually perish from the earth.