Randoms

What price multiculturalism?

– Uh oh, apparently the blueprint for dealing with South Africa may be used for dealing with the gun industry. As long as you ignore the genocide and general slide into third-worldism, that whole South Africa thing was “pretty successful.”

Merry Christmas

Fatherhood and sperm donation.

– Nydwracu on Adam Lanza.

DC homicide stats for 2012 – some interesting tidbits in that list.

– Scientists are slowly catching up to the Ancient Greeks.

Democracies and autocracies.

– Steve Sailer is writing about the ’60s (latest here). I’ve written about this topic a bit before. I find it incredibly perplexing. All the explanations just seem to raise more questions. As always, I’m grateful for book recommendations from commenters.

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6 Responses to Randoms

  1. PA says:

    A few days ago I looked on Google Streetview of Soweto, near Johannesburg. I don’t know much about SA, but the neighborhood seemed very third world “ghetto” by every appearance. There was certainly no lack of raggedy-clothed groups of black people hanging out.

    What got my attention is two houses, as ramshackle as all the others, that had a white person in front in them. This raises many questions, and also what is probably justifiable pity on my part.

  2. Clark Kent says:

    The gun divestment is a dumb idea. The gun industry doesn’t need outside capital. They’re making big profits. All this means is wealthy liberal investors lose a profitable investment.

  3. Federico says:

    Thanks for the “Democracies and autocracies” link. That is apropos.

    The article itself is interesting, although I find diagrams like this a little pointless. One link on, Dr. Marquez makes a very important point:

    However, as many people have noted, ancient ideas about the mixed constitution are in many ways quite different from modern ideas about the need for a functional division of authority to prevent abuses of state power. Even the guiding metaphors are different: “mixture” and “separation” denote contrary ideas. But perhaps more importantly, it strikes me that ideas about the mixed constitution played a role in ancient Greco-Roman political discourse that is very different from the role that ideas about “checks and balances” came to play in modern political discourse, and that is in fact surprisingly similar to the role ideas about the “mixed economy” – an economy that incorporates both market mechanisms and government intervention – play in contemporary political thought. I don’t mean this as a claim about intellectual history: ideas about the “mixed economy” today clearly owe nothing to ancient ideas about the mixed constitution. I mean it as a claim about the conceptual place of ideas within particular discourses or debates. Let me try to explain. […]

    On the one hand, there is a concern with domination by powerful people and groups. Here the idea of the mixed constitution serves as a model of the “constraints” that should be imposed on the powerful to prevent tyranny, and in this sense it plays a very similar role to ideas of “checks and balances.” However, whereas modern discussions about the separation of powers tend to emphasize the need for a functional division of the tasks of government (into legislative, executive, and judicial activities, for example) to prevent abuses of state power, ancient discussions of the mixed constitution tend instead to emphasize a social division of power among significant social groups to prevent its monopolization (a group “becoming” the state, so to speak). The “simple” or “unmixed” regimes are precisely those regimes where one social group – the rich, the poor, military leaders – monopolizes power (for good or ill; the unmixed regimes are not always considered bad, but they are always considered fragile for a variety of reasons); by contrast, the “mixed” regimes are precisely those where power is “shared,” or, metaphorically, these are the regimes which “mix” the monopolistic regimes so that no social group has uncontested dominance over the others.

    James Burnham shares this view.

    This is a major point of departure from the Moldbuggian line of thought:

    So it’s worth asking: does limited government actually work? Does it aim at a desirable purpose? If so, should we expect it to achieve this purpose? As usual, I’ll work praxeologically and consider any so-called “evidence” only after I’ve reached my conclusion.

    Fortunately, these questions are easy to answer. The answers are “no,” “yes,” and “no.”

    By limited government I mean juridically self-limited government. A juridically self-limited government defines its own powers, which may in practice approach those of Fnargl, with a legal constitution interpreted by a judicial branch.

    from which he derives the very foolish idea that we would be better off under totalitarian dictatorship. (Especially foolish when you imagine how this general idea, minus the science fiction elements, could be co-opted by people like Bryan Caplan). He has perhaps fairly dismissed the notion of self-limiting government, yet ignored the effective limitations that can be placed on “government” by dissolving the very notion—i.e. by making sure that no group within society has anything approaching a monopoly on power.

    I find Nick Szabo’s first comment to that Moldbug post fascinating, and this is a crucial area of thought for the dark enlightenment.

    • Foseti says:

      Style aside, I take Moldbug’s point to be that it’s clear that a good dictator is better than a good constrained President (the modern President in the US, for example, would be unable to make much lasting meaningful change regardless of whether he’s good or bad).

      The question is really whether or not it’s possible to consistently choose a good dictator. If the answer is no, then you follow the mixed/separated route. If the yes, things get much more interesting.

      I enjoy debating Moldbug’s position with libertarians, since his argument is essentially that we should use the modern form of corporate governance (CEO, Board, shareholders, etc.) that firms choose to lead a country. A very free market idea.

    • Federico says:

      The human track record of choosing governments isn’t impressive, so why not assume the worst about the States’ choice of totalitarian dictator?

      I find Moldbug persuasive on the idea that committees are irresponsible, and that rule-by-committee characterises our efficient constitution, but I don’t think that constitutionalism is synonymous with committee rule, nor that dictatorship is synonymous with totalitarianism.

      There can be dictatorship within a limited domain, but kept in check by social Schelling points or fences (which is what I understand effective constitutionalism, or social division of power to mean). For example, the dictator may abolish wasteful government functions—which is difficult under rule by committee—but he cannot abolish his citizens’ right to freedom of assembly, because (given firm ideas in circulation within the population) this would meet with general insurrection.

      It helps if ideas like “freedom of assembly” are written down, but constitutional freedom depends essentially on the contents of people’s minds. I agree with Moldbug that the piece of paper alone is insufficient, and that constitutionalism can’t be enforced by the government itself. It seems to me that the inherently un-formalised nature of social Schelling points makes a perfectionist like Moldbug uncomfortable.

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