More stuff I should be blogging

December 29, 2010

Normal blogging will resume next week when we get back home. I expect to spend some time trying to answer these thoughtful questions, though I’m not sure that I have very good answers. In the meantime, enjoy some links.

A while back I mentioned that reactionaries often have at least one very strange belief. One of the commenters to that post mentioned that he takes a cold shower or bath every day. Maybe that’s not such a strange belief!

I’m tired of hearing how great it is that Michael Vick is playing so well this year (read Mr Roach’s post). You know what would be a better story than someone playing very well after going to prison for forcing dogs to fight to the death? Someone playing well who didn’t go to prison for making dogs fight to the death.

Mangan on retirement saving: "The point is that if we’re going to be worrying about retirement assets and about unequal wealth distribution, with consequent changes in laws, including raising the retirement age and raising taxes, does it make any sense to import tens of millions of people who have only managed to amass a household net worth of $8,000? All of them will be getting in line too." No, it doesn’t make sense.

New stuff coming from Alt Right.

Is there a possible cure for hippiedom? Faster please.

Is it just me, or does Peter the Great look a lot like Ron Jeremy?

Professor Caplan misses the point when he says, "Indeed, with the benefit of hindsight, leftist political correctness hasn’t been all that effective. The full-blown triumph of political correctness, of hypersensitivity plus one-sided education, is patriotism." The "patriotism" that we’ve been taught is reverence for a very leftist version of the US. I think this observation is pretty obvious.


Things I should be blogging

December 23, 2010

Sorry for the lack of content, but I’m on vacation enjoying the holidays with family. If I weren’t I’d be writing about:

Good quote: "The options for supervillain real estate look shockingly similar to the options for a libertarian state."

Derb interviewing Jared Taylor:

I oppose Noble Lies as a matter of principle—at least for anyone older than age seven or eight. Santa Claus and the baby stork are for unformed minds; adult opinion and government policy require a flinty-eyed view of the facts.

Take race and IQ: We do the country no favors by insisting that blacks are just as smart and hard-working as whites but are held back only by wicked whites. That only encourages blacks to hate whites, and many don’t need encouragement.

Decline and Fall of the American Empire: Gang rape edition.

Laura Wood on what it means to actually be anti-feminist.

Sonic Charmer on small talk and extroversion.

Kalim Kassam links to an interview with Steve Sailer on HBD.

Ferdinand on the death of game – I agree wholeheartedly with this take. I agree less wholeheartedly with him on intelligence, but he’s still worth linking to and reading. He’s panhandling, so you should help out if you can.

Elusive Wapiti on the inevitability of the homosexualizing of the military. I don’t really care about DADT, but it’s pretty hard to deny that your civilization’s warrior spirit is shot when you openly gay people into your military, right?

Paul Cella on imposing morality:

Can we impose morality? Liberals and libertarians often hotly deny that we can. To them the imposition of morality constitutes one of the more egregious abuses of political power. Indeed, their hostile reaction is, not infrequently, the sum of their argument against a given proposal.

To me this has always seems a puzzling reaction. The logic is slipshod. How is it possible to govern at all, having forsworn all imposition of morality? The very interdiction against imposing morality is a moral statement. To say, “you can’t legislate morality” is to make certain (admittedly vague) claims about the kind of being that man is, and the nature of his political society.

In pulverizing fact, all legislation but the most superficial imposes morality.

Ilya Somin supports secession as long as everyone who is in the seceding political entity is seceding for a good reason. Which is to say that Professor Somin does not, in fact, support secession in any realistic circumstances. I guess this lets him maintain some semblance of libertarian bona fides without having to take a meaningful unpopular position.

Steve Sailer pwns the people bitching about US test results on the PISA scores.

TJIC linking to a piece on bureaucracy:

In the long run the rule of aristocracy has been succeeded not by the rule of democracy but by the rule of bureaucracy. Let us examine this pallid aphorism a little more closely. If one does not like aristocracy one is, most probably, a democrat by preference; or the other way around. But one’s exasperation with bureaucracy is a different matter: it is at the same time more superficial and more profound than our dislike for either form of government. The democratic exercise of periodic elections does not compensate people sufficiently against their deep-seated knowledge that they are being ruled by hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats, in every level of government, in every institution, on every level of life.

These bureaucrats are not the trainees of a rigid state apparatus, or of capitalist institutions, as their caricatures during the nineteenth century showed them. They are the interchangeable, suburban men and women of the forever present, willing employees of the monster Progress

The GMU guys have been talking about big government and big finance. They are missing the most important fact: you’re incorrect to talk about big government and big finance as separate entities. They are in fact identical entities. Neither could exist without the other. They are one combined entity.

Deogolwulf on libertarians:

It has been said that disgust arises in man from the consciousness of those things which remind him of his beasthood. That must explain my visceral reaction to libertarians.

OneSTDV on Victor Davis Hanson:

Mr. Hanson and other moderates need to understand Barry Goldwater’s timeless aphorism that "extremism in the pursuit of justice is no vice," because if not, if one refuses to stand hidebound in opposition to the left, it will continue its gradual march against every traditional edifice we have left.

TAS on Lincoln:

Next year, with the 150th anniversary of the start of the civil war, we are sure to hear incessant praise of America’s only tyrant, Abraham Lincoln. The fact that so many Americans idolize the proto-fascist is revolting, especially when Americans take a dim view towards foreign leaders who kill thousands of their own people in wars.

For example, Slobodan Milošević killed 130,000 people to preserve the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and he was arrested as a war criminal, dying in jail.

Yet, Abraham Lincoln killed 600,000 people to preserve the territorial integrity of the United States, but a Greek temple was built in his honor and his portrait was placed on America’s most common coin.

Caplan on immigration

December 20, 2010

He loves it, obviously. Roissy described the view best as “cheap chalupas uber alles.

Anyway, here are his reasons why it’s ok to dislike democracy but still importing a new, less-libertarian people.

1. Open borders are an extremely important component of the free market and human liberty. The labor market is roughly 70% of the economy. Labor is the main product that most people around the world have to sell. Immigration restrictions massively distort this market, and deprive literally billions of people of the freedom to sell their labor to willing employers. So even if open borders made all other policies much less pro-market and pro-liberty, the (open borders + side effects thereof) package would almost certainly constitute a net gain for free markets and liberty.

I have no idea if this is true. Frankly, neither does the good professor. I think it’s dishonest (at best) to suggest that he knows that the scales of liberty balance in this manner. I think he’s almost certainly wrong, but at least I’m intellectually honest to say this question is impossible to answer with certainty. No one can be sure whether free immigration will enhance or detract from liberty.

My guess is that in our current society, with real life constraints, “open borders” will radically detract from liberty. First, we live in a welfare state. Second, “open borders” actually means allowing lots of uneducated Mexicans to immigrate to the US. Third, US politics are increasingly turning into a racial spoils system. The ideal libertarian version of “open borders,” this is not.

I’m willing to stipulate that in an ideal libertarian world the professor would be absolutely correct. We do not live in such a world. In a totally free society, no one would be more pro-immigration than me. In our current screwed-up, statist society, I think “open-borders” is a recipe for disaster.

2. The political effect of immigrants on markets and liberty is at worst modestly negative. The median American isn’t a libertarian, and the median immigrant isn’t a Stalinist. We’re talking about marginal disagreements between social democrats, nothing more. Immigrants’ low voter turnout and status quo bias further dilute immigrants’ negative political effect.

The “libertarian” policies that are electorally-viable in modern American would have been statist policies in the early years of libertarianism. How much longer can this go leftward shift continue before we need to rename libertarianism to stay intellectually honest?

Is this argument – that immigration will only make the country a little more statist – really the best that the professor can do?

3. Immigrants have overlooked positive effects for markets and liberty. Voters resent supporting outgroups; that’s a standard explanation for why ethnically diverse America has a smaller welfare state than, say, Denmark. So even if all immigrants want a bigger welfare state, their very presence reduces native support for redistribution. Immigrants are also markedly more pro-liberty and pro-market than natives in one vital respect: They favor more open borders.

Really? So if we compromise and get a little more statist then the next effect is that we’re likely to get even a little more statist in the future? Great! Libertarian society is sure to follow.

But in the final analysis, perhaps it’s best to respond to the political externalities question with another question: “If you favor markets and liberty, how can you oppose the deportation of the entire statist generation?” Native voters under 30 are more hostile to markets and liberty than immigrants ever were. Why not just kick them out?

WTF? Why are we talking about deporting citizens? This is why I have trouble arguing with pro-immigration types. This argument is ridiculous. Why does opposing immigration from poor, uneducated Mexicans mean that I should want to deport people under 30? I have no idea. This massive change of subject is evidence of how bad the professor’s case really is. Frankly, there might be conditions under which I’d favor exile, but let’s stop importing statists first.

Road trip

December 20, 2010

We just finished a 1,100 mile drive to MN for Christmas. We did it in two days with the dog and the newborn. It went surprisingly well.

Blogging may be a bit light for a bit, though it will hopefully continue sporadically.

Review of “Authoritarian Socialism in America” by Arthur Lipow

December 16, 2010

Moldbug included this book in his suggested reading list for progressives:

For hardcore progressives, a great place to start is Authoritarian Socialism in America, by Arthur Lipow. This was adapted from a Berkeley sociology dissertation, and Lipow was a student of Michael Harrington. Does it get more socialist than this? It does not. . . . If these works have not convinced you that Communism is as American as apple pie . . .

He also mentioned the book briefly here, here, and here.

Anyway, on to the review . . .

Lipow argues that there are two strands of socialism:

democratic revolutionary socialism based on a mass working-class movement, fighting from below for the extension of democracy and human freedom, versus the many varieties of "socialism from above" which have led in the twentieth century to movements and state forms in which a despotic "new class" rules over a statified economy in the name of socialism.

Moldbug, I think, is using the book to illustrate two points: 1) socialism has a long tradition in the US (that is independent of European socialism or that influenced European socialism); and 2) progressives have had some pretty scary authoritarian streaks in their lines of thought for a long time.

The book certainly makes these points.

Lipow’s two varieties of socialism allow him to call the first variety true socialism while he can dub the second variety a conservative or reactionary form of socialism which is designed to keep the people down. Everything bad that has happened under "socialism" then can be blamed on conservatives and reactionaries since they prevented the emergence of the true socialism. For Lipow, the essence of real socialism is absolute democracy. Any decision not made by the people is suspect. Lipow does not explain how a government, state or economy could actually function in such a world, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

The real point of the book, from Lipow’s point, is to discuss the second, malignant form of socialism. Particularly, Lipow wants to discuss one variant of this form that originated in America and was introduced by Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward. I’ll let Wikipedia do the summarizing:

The book tells the story of Julian West, a young American who, towards the end of the 19th century, falls into a deep, hypnosis-induced sleep and wakes up one hundred and thirteen years later. He finds himself in the same location (Boston, Massachusetts), but in a totally changed world: It is the year 2000 and, while he was sleeping, the U.S. has been transformed into a socialist utopia. The remainder of the book outlines Bellamy’s thoughts about improving the future. The major themes are the dangers of the stock market, the use of credit cards, the benefits of a socialist legal system, music, and the use of an "industrial army" to make tasks run smoother.

The young man readily finds a guide, Doctor Leete, who shows him around and explains all the advances of this new age; including drastically reduced working hours for people performing menial jobs and almost instantaneous, internet-like delivery of goods. Everyone retires with full benefits at age 45, and may eat in any of the public kitchens. The productive capacity of America is nationally owned, and the goods of society are equally distributed to its citizens. A considerable portion of the book is dialogue between Leete and West wherein West expresses his confusion about how the future society works and Leete explains the answers using various methods, such as metaphors or direct comparisons with 19th-century society.

Although Bellamy’s novel did not discuss technology or the economy in detail, commentators frequently compare Looking Backward with actual economic and technological developments. For example, Julian West is taken to a store which (with its descriptions of cutting out the middleman to cut down on waste in a similar way to the consumers’ cooperatives of his own day based on the Rochdale Principles of 1844) somewhat resembles a modern warehouse club like BJ’s, Costco, or Sam’s Club. He additionally introduces the concept of credit cards in chapters 9, 10, 11, 13, 25, and 26. All citizens receive an equal amount of "credit." Those with more difficult, specialized, dangerous or unpleasant work work less hours. Bellamy also predicts both sermons and music being available in the home through cable "telephone".

Interestingly, despite [I must intervene to object to this "despite," I would prefer "because of" and a specification that Bellamy was protestant, but I digress] his Christian Socialism (though he was loath to use the term "socialism"), Bellamy’s ideas somewhat reflect classical Marxism. In Chapter 19, for example, he has the new legal system explained. Most civil suits have ended in socialism, while crime has become a medical issue. The idea of atavism, then current, is extolled to explain crimes not related to inequality (which Bellamy thinks will vanish with socialism). Remaining criminals are medically treated. Although dissent and discontent is naturally absent in his utopian work, this may be similar to psychiatric treatment as punishment for dissidents in the Soviet Union, where they were diagnosed with sluggishly progressing schizophrenia. If the accused does not plead guilty a trial is held after which if convicted the sentence doubles, exactly like the legal system of many real-life socialist states. Obviously, this system has a tendency to convict the innocent, but Bellamy’s predictions were still startlingly accurate. One professional judge presides, appointing two colleagues to state the prosecution and defense cases. If all do not agree on the verdict, then it must be tried over. Chapter 15 and 16 have an explanation of how free, independent public art and news outlets could be provided in a more libertarian socialist system. In one case Bellamy even writes "the nation is the sole employer and capitalist".

The summary leaves out two issues that are important for our purposes: 1) the whole point of this society is that it is organized like an army – everything is highly militaristic; and 2) Bellamy endorses a ruling class based on merit that basically runs society. Such a class dovetails nicely with our modern use of the word "elites." The ruling class in Bellamy’s ideal world are "a precursor of the bureaucratic statist or ‘corporate’ liberalism which, more and more in the twentieth century, converges intellectually and politically with the antidemocratic current represented in authoritarian socialism." Bellamy’s elites are smarter than others and they make most of the decisions for the society.

Interestingly, Lipow seemed to fear the rise of an educated middle class that was neither entrepreneurial or industrial – he viewed this group as the one that would be drawn to the authoritarian brand of socialism. What could be better for this group than if society needed a massive bureaucracy to run everything. They could be in charge and in power and they wouldn’t have to actually . . . work.

The rise of the modern progressive state, can thus be seen as the total victory of authoritarian socialism of a peculiarly American variety.

The Flynn Effect and executions

December 16, 2010


Capital offenders cannot be executed if they are mentally retarded. Therefore, the IQ scores of offenders are important, and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has held that the Flynn effect is relevant to interpreting their IQ scores. The Flynn effect (IQ gains over time) means that different IQ tests will give different scores purely as a result of when the tests were normed. Because execution must not be a random result of what test defendants take, a formula is provided to convert IQ scores to a common metric: the norms current at the time the test was taken. The formula also includes a correction based on evidence that the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Third Edition inflates IQs because of sampling error. Given the inevitability that opposing experts will offer conflicting diagnoses, IQ scores merit special attention in capital cases.

So society will recognize the relevance of IQ tests to prevent certain people from being executed, but in no other situations?

Would the Flynn Effect suggest that retarded people are getting smarter over time? If this is the conclusion, I would suspect that the Flynn Effect is wrong.

America as a war state

December 15, 2010


“Because the United States does not look like a militarized country, it’s hard for Americans to grasp that Washington is a war capital, that the United States is a war state, that it garrisons much of the planet, and that the norm for us is to be at war somewhere (usually, in fact, many places) at any moment.” . . .

What a world might be like in which we began not just to withdraw our troops from one war to fight another, but to seriously scale down the American global mission, close those hundreds of bases—as of 2010, there were almost 400 of them, macro to micro, in Afghanistan alone—and bring our military home is beyond imagining. To discuss such obviously absurd possibilities makes you an apostate to America’s true religion and addiction, which is force. However much it might seem that most of us are peaceably watching our TV sets or computer screens or iPhones, we Americans are also—always—marching to war. We may not all bother to attend the church of our new religion, but we all tithe. We all partake. In a sense we live peaceably in a state of war.

On California

December 15, 2010

And it’s not pretty:

Here are some general observations about what I saw (other than that the rural roads of California are fast turning into rubble, poorly maintained and reverting to what I remember seeing long ago in the rural South). First, remember that these areas are the ground zero, so to speak, of 20 years of illegal immigration. . . .

It is almost as if the more California regulates, the more it does not regulate. Its public employees prefer to go after misdemeanors in the upscale areas to justify our expensive oversight industry, while ignoring the felonies in the downtrodden areas, which are becoming feral and beyond the ability of any inspector to do anything but feel irrelevant. . . .

In two supermarkets 50 miles apart, I was the only one in line who did not pay with a social-service plastic card (gone are the days when “food stamps” were embarrassing bulky coupons). But I did not see any relationship between the use of the card and poverty as we once knew it: The electrical appurtenances owned by the user and the car into which the groceries were loaded were indistinguishable from those of the upper middle class. . . .

California does not care whether one broke the law to arrive here or continues to break it by staying. It asks nothing of the illegal immigrant — no proficiency in English, no acquaintance with American history and values, no proof of income, no record of education or skills. It does provide all the public assistance that it can afford (and more that it borrows for), and apparently waives enforcement of most of California’s burdensome regulations and civic statutes that increasingly have plagued productive citizens to the point of driving them out. How odd that we overregulate those who are citizens and have capital to the point of banishing them from the state, but do not regulate those who are aliens and without capital to the point of encouraging millions more to follow in their footsteps. How odd — to paraphrase what Critias once said of ancient Sparta — that California is at once both the nation’s most unfree and most free state, the most repressed and the wildest.

Thor wept

December 15, 2010

Try not to yourself.

Review of “The Transformation of War” by Martin van Creveld

December 15, 2010

This book’s thesis is that the Clausewitzian view of war is out-dated and inoperable.
I actually disagree with the thesis – I think van Creveld’s view of Clausewitz was too narrow. However, when he wasn’t criticizing Clausewitz, van Creveld’s analysis was fantastic. The book is highly recommended. I’m basically going to ignore his critique of Clausewitz, since I thought it was wrong and – even if it is correct – it’s less interesting than van Creveld’s analysis of modern warfare. I should give one example of why his analysis of Clausewitz is incorrect. van Creveld criticizes Clausewitz for saying that war does not have laws. van Creveld then goes on to explain how wars have always been governed by rules . . . but in each case he cites certain combatants who didn’t follow the rules. The "laws" in the end turn out to be something more akin to codes of honor that are totally unenforceable. I think Clausewitz has the better of this position, but in the end, it’s probably nothing other than semantical disagreement.

For van Creveld, modern warfare is characterized by low-intensity conflicts between states and non-states. States don’t seem to be able to win these conflicts – "In numerous incidents during the last two decades, the inability of developed countries to protect their interests and even their citizens’ lives in the face of low-level threats has been demonstrated time and time again." The consequences of this scenario are not nice to contemplate.

According to van Creveld, modern conflicts will be between ethnic and religious groups.

van Creveld has some interesting tidbits on the rise of democracies and total war. He doesn’t connect the dots between the two, but they’re obvious to anyone who’s looking. For example, we see Revolutionary France as the first nation to consider all citizens part of the war effort. We see all facets of democratic governments being co-opted for war efforts – van Creveld specifically mentions permanent inflation and war.

I don’t want to give away too much. van Creveld is a solid historian. Read his book. I’ll leave with a teaser.

"If, as seems to be the case, that state cannot defend itself effectively against internal or external low-intensity conflict, then clearly it does not have a future in front of it." The consequences of modern warfare, therefore suggest that states are in the process of dying. I don’t expect the consequences to be pretty. Neither does van Creveld:

Just as no Roman citizen was left unaffected by the barbarian invasions, so in vast parts of the world no man, woman, and child alive today will be spared the consequences of the newly-emerging forms of war. Even in the most stable societies, the least they can expect is to have their identity checked and their persons searched at every turn. The nature of the entities by which war is made, the conventions by which it is surrounded, and the ends for which it is fought may change. However, now as ever war itself is alive and well; with the result that, now as ever, such communities as refuse to look facts in the face and fight for their existence will, in all probability, cease to exist.