- On Debate
“Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa.”
We know: Aid is bad. It creates corruption. It harms the economy. It makes nice happy Christians, and nice happy DSH’s1 feel good about themselves. But it is terribly harmful for Africans and their civilization.
Because I agree with everything she says, I’d like to say something meaningful and supportive, but everything I read in the book is old news. In the Austrian school we’ve been talking about this problem forever. Other than the fact that the author is a successful woman of African origin, this book is a easy read that is very hard to criticize for having uncomfortable motives.
Good book. Good cause. Smart woman.
But nothing new.
What I can say is this: there isn’t any difference between the problem of giving aid to Africa, the Spanish and Portugese import of gold from the new world, and easy credit for american citizens and their expansionist government. It’s all bad.
- Democratic Secular Humanists [↩]
I try to keep track of the ‘Grand Theories’. And I came across this one last week. I can’t find the book anywhere except online. I read what I could. And found this page by the author that summarizes his theory. Which is, quite simply, “stability and wealth provide the foundation for technological progress.”
There doesn’t appear to be anything new here. His thesis is a well understood circumstance of geography, which applies both tho coasts and to rivers. Europe has both.
He seems to dismiss culture as a factor. But western culture developed at the fringe of the bronze age and then iron age civilizations. And as a fringe order, especially a fringe order of metalworkers and warriors, they wanted to preserve their freedom from eastern mysticism, decadence and tyranny. It is this culture that led to vast enfranchisement.
I don’t see how he explains chinese stagnation. China is primarily coastal. It matured early. It has vast rivers, wealth and bureaucracy. What is it about confucian society that left it stagnant?
I could go on, but I don’t feel he has made enough of a case to allow me to draw any conclusions. Hopefully I’ll seek him out on one of my trips to europe.
Here is his summary:
Le Secret de l’Occident (“The Secret of the West”) unveils an economic and political theory about scientific & technological progress.
The theory gives the reasons why the scientific and industrial revolutions originated in the West, and not in the Middle East, India or China. It succeeds in explaining the European “miracle” in the IInd millenium as well as the Greek “miracle” in Antiquity. It unravels the causes for the declines and rises of India, China and the Middle East across the centuries. That theory was brought together, like a jigsaw puzzle, from many pieces of the historical research previously unconnected. To my knowledge, it is the first united scheme able to explain the main booms and slowdowns observed in the scientific and technological evolutions of the main civilizations.
Chapter 1 – Debunking Traditional Explanations The usual “internalist” explanations for the European originality – religion, culture, genetics, climate, third-world abuse, Greek heritage, pure hazard – are dismissed. None of these elements can pretend to shed light on the long-term European success. They basically fail at the two following stumbling blocks: Eastern Europe backwardness and leadership fluctuations among civilizations. – Eastern Europe is religiously, culturally, ethnically, climatically very similar to Western Europe. Nonetheless, it has always been lagging backward, for centuries if not more, painfully catching up with Western advances, but never leading the way. – During some periods of time, China, India or the Middle East led the way in science and technology. This does not fit well with the idea of an inherent (religious, cultural, ethnical, etc.) superiority of the West. If, on the other side, one admits important changes in those inherent abilities, these remain to explain. Greek heritage must be rejected because the Romans, the Muslims, the Indians too could benefit from it. Randomness is not an acceptable answer, it merely amounts to giving up looking for an answer.
Continue reading »
Whenever something is scarce, some concept of property (the exclusive use of a resource) is necessary for the development of incentives, coordination, and production — even if the difference between ‘several property’ and ‘shareholder property’, is defined differently by different groups — therefore all societies include and sanction some form of coercion. No society can exist without coercion. This applies to tribal hunter gatherers, nomads, village agrarians, market city dwellers, and vast urban and rural empires in a complex division of knowledge and labor.
We can equally forgo the opportunity for violence theft, fraud, corruption. For the poorest, this means refraining from theft, fraud, deception and violence in exchange for access to the market society and it’s prices. For the middle class, it means refraining from fraud and deception in exchange for participating in the market society and profiting from it. For the wealthiest, it means refraining from manipulation of market prices or and participating in corruption of the rules of the market, and corruption, in exchange for status and choice. For the most powerful it means refraining from corruption, and refraining from laziness, incompetence, and maintaining disciplined efforts to serve the marketplace in exchange for freedom from participation in the marketplace.
Each of these forgone opportunities for profit is a cost to the individual. Cumulatively, for each individual, and for any society, these are very, very high costs, because opportunities for violence, theft, fraud, deception, market manipulation, and corruption are more frequent than opportunities for fair exchange of goods and services due to asymmetries of knowledge and resources — even if the type of cost is different along the spectrum: theft and violence are easiest for the bottom and corruption is most easy for the top.
There is no social order that is free of coercion as long as there is scarcity. Property itself is a form of coercion. It must be or we would not have to invent it and enforce it.
The coercion that people object to, and classify as corruption, is profiteering by the political class. Or financial coercion, which means the taking of their time, opportunity, effort, property, or most importantly, status, and to some degree their very attention, and distributing it to people with whom they disagree, or using it for purposes with which they disagree. They see this as corruption: obtaining political office and favors by taking from one group and giving to another whom they disfavor.
All societies concentrate and redistribute wealth. All societies participate in coercion – or else they could not have property and production. But whenever a society consists of people with dissimilar interests, by definition there must be negative coercion.
Almost all members of any society will tolerate any commonly accepted set of property definitions, even if the scope of individual property is severely limited. They may form black markets if that scope is too severely limited. They may form tax avoidance schemes if taxes are too expansive. But if those definitions remain constant, and they do not have to feel that their plans, and efforts at gain were frustrated, then they will not see the state as coercive.
Freedom is defined as freedom from coercion. Meaning freedom from all but equal coercions. And the only freedom we can equally coerce each other with is respect for property. And even then, respecting property is a higher cost for some, and lower for others.
In William Easterly’s post “Why can’t leading conservative magazine understand freedom?” he refers to a National Review article “China Teaches US Lessons About Economic Freedom“. I replied in the comments:
I’ve read this post four times, and it’s still not very clear what you’re arguing for and against.
I think you’re reading far too much into a what are simple, broad analogies that express a sentiment not a formula. All he’s saying is that small increases in freedom produced a great impact on china. And he’s implying that small decreases in freedom here in the USA, will have as grand a set of effects.
I think you’re both confused and you both overrate government, overrate individuals, and underrate demographic migration and change.
Growth was easy for the USA during the 1800’s: buy half a continent from Napoleon and import millions of Europeans into it. Sell them all sorts of consumer goods so that they fill up the territory, and so that you can collect profit and create capitalist barons doing so. Use the cheap land and labor to produce commodity goods and sell them to europe. Cause a price catastrophe in europe. Let them have a horrendous civil war and inherit their intellectuals and england’s naval empire.
Now, take a country like china, forcibly held back in ignorance and poverty by Mao who decided it was better to have everyone poor and suffering than a wealthy south and a poor north and west — fragmenting the chinese empire. Now, import vast amounts of western technology, western banking and accounting technology in particular, and use your inexpensive labor to produce goods based on that technology cheaply and sell back to the westerners.
China’s growth is largely in the form of construction: moving people from hovels in the rural areas, to apartments in urban areas. The country is vastly poor. And it’s per-capita GDP is horrid. They used totalitarianism and capitalism to manage their expansion, we used republicanism and capitalism to do the same thing. There is nothing interesting about china. Nothing. There is nothing interesting about america, either, which is why you’re both confused.
What’s interesting is how Europe in general, and England in particular, created so much innovation, how Americans capitalized on it, and how we can use that tradition and culture of innovation to compete in a world where we are no longer the one making money from a huge demographic change.
Once cheap labor stops, and marginal differences in knowledge are exhausted, what remains is a nation’s ability to dynamically reorganize production in real time, and to competitively innovate in real time.
The question is, whether Americans will maintain their innovative risk taking speculative culture without the military and economic dominance they possessed in the last century, and the resulting control over the international banking and trade system.
William Easterly wrote:
Curt and Sam, thanks for your comment. I was making a simple point: the article had a double standard for the Negative Changes in Economic Freedom in China and the US.
And, 2nd, in giving so much general credit to Deng Xiao Ping vs. America’s leaders, it ignored Deng’s despicable actions against individual freedom in Tien An Men Square, and continued violence against and imprisonment of dissidents in China.
William, thank you for replying.
Let’s define Freedom. Because unless we define it, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.
Freedom: absence of external constraint.
- 1) Individual freedom: freedom of thought, action, property exchange. The freedom to cooperate for INDIVIDUAL ends.
2) Political freedom: speech, assembly, leadership, concentration of wealth. (The right to cooperate against others who have a similar right) The freedom to cooperate for GROUP ends.
3)Legislative Freedom: This includes the freedom to establish property definitions (real, several, built) as well as abstract (patents, options), as well as enforce normative opportunity cost payments, including manners, ethics and morals, and normative tax payments for a multitude of purposes.
4) National freedom: freedom to control and compete for resources by establishing legal monopoly on violence over geographic territory. (In other words, adding territory to legal freedom.)
5) Cultural Freedom: Freedom to employ, coerce, convert, and compete using different opportunity cost norms (opportunity cost payments required of members) as a means of competing against other groups who have different opportunity costs, and different capital structures.
6) Redistributive Freedom: Freedom to claim a share of proceeds of production, earned by virtue of adhering to norms (bearing costs of adhering to norms), despite lack of control over resources, participation in production, or influence over the productivity of those resources, except by voluntary restraint. (Restraint is a real opportunity cost to individuals.) This is the correct non-platonic definition of economic freedom that describes human actions in the productive process.
The only form of ‘freedom’ you can have, that is non-contradictory (you can equally grant it to others and they to you) is personal, individual freedom. And even then, the only form of political freedom you can have is to DENY others the right to their political freedom.
And at that point you are stuck with the problem of either getting to the point where you can convert the barbarians into paying the opportunity cost of becoming property holders in the first place, (establishing the system of property definitions) and without that need for coercion, you’re stuck in poverty even if you want to change the established order. But the only freedom you can have is individual freedom – the freedom of constraint. We can grant it to others equally.
The rest of the freedoms are not ‘freedom’. They’re rights to take from others. All political freedoms are rights to take from others. They are rights of coercion, oppression. But then one cannot have a division of labor, a complex society, economic calculation, and the incentive to participate in productive activities unless you apply the ‘coercion’ of private property – at least to some degree.
Confucianism is a high-opporunity-cost social order. It is very conservative. It requires respect for hierarchy and authority (opportunity costs). It requires consensus (opportunity costs but with risk reduction). It is an almost entirely shareholder-property society with low rates of creativity, low risk, slow moving social and economic model. But if it is BIG enough that people cannot sense external competition from OTHER social orders then internal status symbols can be preserved by way of nationalism or culturalism and the social order can work. (it doesn’t: the south is a competitor with the north of china, which is their whole cultural problem – that’s what Mao did. He destroyed the country economically to keep the south from outpacing the north.) This is not necessarily ‘bad’ in Confucian society.
It may bear understanding that Confucius failed to solve the political problem (it is somewhat evident that he understands this) and directed everyone to hierarchy and family. So the Confucian model is not republican at it’s base. It is not tribal. It is hierarchical, and familial. The entire nation operates as a family. This is not a bad strategy unless you are competing with a group of high-risk, highly-innovative, fast moving westerners, for whom individual heroism, innovation and achievement are viewed as ‘keeping the group strong’. Competition and individualism are a ‘group good’ in the west. They are not in the asian societies. we are free to copy the innovators, and in doing so, everyone has the opportunity to be ‘better’. The west is an innovation and adaptation society.
Freedom as we understand it, is not possible, and probably not necessary under Confucianism.
Economically speaking, a nation that does NOT participate in heavy research and development will eventually fall behind, and governments can concentrate more wealth than the private sector on Research and Development. (What would the impact be of 200 new nuclear power plants in the USA? We have people feeling good about not wasting energy but manufacturing is the greatest energy consumer, and we need more manufacturing. Economizing is a spiritual act, not a material one.) China is making productive investments. We are making redistributive expenses, and spending trillions defending oil and trade routes, and our primary export – the dollar.
And we will not get anywhere thinking that some very small minority of a Confucian population, or our odd obsession with the religion of Universal Democratic Secular Humanism will have any long term effect on the Sinic culture. The rest of the world is clearly condemning it. There isn’t even any evidence yet that our UDSH values will persist in the west without the Militial and Commercial balance to it, that is the foundation of western civilization.
The calculative institutions of capitalism, which provide incentives in the form of pricing, sensory information in the form of objects defined as property, expressed and manipulated quantitatively, and the technologies of intertemporal collaboration and coordination in the form of money, interest, banking, fiat money and the technologies of dispute resolution in the form of contract and law, have little or nothing to do with the technologies of redistribution, and the methods of capital concentration, as well as the ‘forgone opportunity costs’ which citizens pay for participation in society and market’. Political freedom is not economic freedom. Political freedom exists either to defend ones self against a predatory state, or to use the violence of the state to put extra-market pressure on competing groups with competing interests.
The reason for the western matrix of freedoms is to promote innovation, competition and wealth, so that the nobility, the upper middle class, and therefore prosperity will be maintained, and management elites, will rotate keeping the society competitive. At least, that’s the implied theory: meritocratic rotation of the elites – a thematic value system inherited from western heroic competitive militarism. ie: it’s a knowledge production engine.
China values stability and security, not change and innovation. It is a culture where conflict is a sin. Where the individual is subordinate to the state. Where virtue is not heroic excellence, but duty. (At least, until the middle class is large enough.)
Conservatives are in large part, whether knowingly or not, subscribers to ‘natural law’ theory, which states that human behavior is what it is, always has been and always will be. They do not subscribe to the philosophy that all men would work happily for the common good, nor, if given the opportunity, that they would do some common good in political power, or even know what such a good would be, simply because of the number of trade offs and secondary causes. Nor, that we are capable of implementing any designed change in our social orders without horrific consequences.
And under that view, they would say that you are making a moral equivalency where there is none.
Moral statements are economic actions, and either economic payments or theft. Ethical statements are economic actions, and either economic payments or theft. Manners are economic demonstrations, contributions, and payments. But these payments are made against a vast, habitual, rather than written set of legal, cultural and class body of accounts – and vastly different concepts of property definition, and they exist largely to ‘pay for the social order’ by reducing opportunity for friction and conflict.
In the west, we have a very different payment system. We are all trying to be noblemen or priests. In the east, they are all trying to be Confucian – to hold their place. More like the German model prior to ww1. Our anglo model, is very rare. And it may simply be the artifact of a thousand years of wealth generated by expansion under the reformation.
So before I get too far into this (I already have gotten way too far into it) I think you are being literal with conservative (allegorical) language. Conservative language is allegorical because conservatives have failed (especially during the 1870′s and 1930′s) to articulate a causally sufficient social science. (Myself and two or three rather off the wall libertarians, excluded perhaps.) Where the social democratic method can rely on the coincidence and correlation between easily collected monetary transaction information the Dynamic Stochastic Equilibrium model, and christian egalitarian sentiments, and Jewish anti-western-militial sentiments. But that does not mean that conservatives sentiments, expressed in allegorical language are false. It means they are insufficiently articulated. (and worse -foolishly wrong as in the case of many libertarians.) It simply means that they don’t yet know how to do otherwise.
I think furthermore, that
a) China is simply importing knowledge at very low cost. It is not producing it. Wealth may make knowledge production possible. But we have seen the Asian model is great for incremental improvement and the western model is better for radical innovation.
b) cultures do not change. There is a high cost of changing norms. And Sinic civilization is very resistant to change. It is highly racist and highly culturist. (And it has a huge chip on it’s shoulder.)
c) Their entire obligation structure (morals, ethics, property rights, manners) is a set of established costs. Our values are antithetical to them.
d) their identity ( the means by which they judge the world) and their status signals (the human natural intuitive economy of events and consequences) will continue to force them in their native direction.
And lastly, (why am I just getting to this now?) all the conservative writer was saying is that ‘a little momentum made a big difference’, and that ‘even if we make a little momentum in the wrong direction it will make as big a difference’.
He is not comparing statements, he is comparing trajectories in time.
And that’s what it means to be conservative: taking the long view.
In response to The Tea Party is a Marxist movement on Half Sigma, I created this diagram.
The BiPolarity Of Social Class, And The Status Competition Between Them.
I”ve posted a diagram that is in progress. It’s at: http://www.capitalismv3.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/BiPolarityOfClass-2010-08-29.png
What I want to illustrate is the difference between people who exist in the market economy and people who exist in the bureaucratic economy, and their gender, class and cultural origins. Tea partiers are, in general, status seekers who participate in the non-clerical, market economy. They are white people who are remnants of the anglo saxon social order. Very “Burkeian.”
Tea partiers are a status and power movement – a cultural movement that crosses classes. Most tea partiers appear to be middle class, or upper prole. Uppers and upper middle (like me) are not as status-challenged as middle’s are by cultural dissolution. In other words, in any cultural or racial group, the penalty for loss of political dominance by your elites is paid for by its middle and proletariat classes, who benefit from cultural network opportunities created by the dominant preferences. So it’s materially important: The prole risk status loss if they do not rescue their elites.
Even as such, I’m not sure anglo saxons don’t have a bifurcated proletariat class: militial service in the west conveys social status, and anglo saxons are a militial society. This drives enfranchisement lower into the class system.
In our case, it so happens, that the tea partier social preference is for freedom, individualism, and capitalism, which also happens to be a material benefit to society. Even if they wrap it in religious doctrine. But they wrap it in religious doctrine because as a group they tend to create solid families, and solid families tend to be more religious. While religiosity increases as IQ decreases, the statement is open to erroneous interpretation. WIthin a people of similar values, the religious moral codes are equally justified among all the member classes. It’s just that the upper classes are more rational, the middle are more allegorical, and the lower are more sentimental. It’s just a matter of articulation – methodology – not one of differences in execution.
The tea party movement relies upon sentimental arguments rather than rational arguments because conservatism lacks a rational social science to compete with marxism. While conservatives and libertarians have tried for over a hundred years, they have so far failed to articulate a social science that can compete with the combination of marxist sentiments, democratic secular humanism, and mathematical positivism. This is partly due to inter-temporal complexity, and our over-reliance on the analysis of money and redistribution rather than the status economy – an economy that humans are far m ore sensitive to than the monetary economy. (Intertemporal complexity is too complicated for here. But in general, conservatism is a longer time preference, that puts greatest emphasis on group persistence – it is a capitalization strategy for the future.)
I think, Half-Sigma’s goal was to try to pull marxian class analysis into the tea party movement. And there is some truth to it. But it’s not a class movement. It’s a culture or race movement. Traditional whites are now a minority and they are losing their status symbols both domestically and internationally and this goes against their core reason for existence – self sacrifice, family, forgone opportunity, in exchange for group persistence, and they see that persistence under attack.
From Arnold Kling, By way of the WSJ, By Peter Boettke:
Mr. Hayek rightly warned of the dangers of central planning, Mr. Boettke says, but “he didn’t give a prescription for how to move from ‘serfdom’ back.”
(Taken and expanded from my comments on EconLib.)
Back From Serfdom?
Hayek didn’t solve the problem of the social sciences. He gave us the right warning, but no meaningful prescription for government other than to rely upon what we already knew.
Liberty is the desire of the minority. The minority participates in the market. The majority on the other hand lives off it, but does not participate in it. The majority is often frightened of the market. And if not frightened, they simply want to avoid the dirty reality of market participation: spending one’s life trying to understand and satisfy the wants of others, and risking one’s capital to test his or her judgement. We’d all rather be selfish.
CALCULATION AND THE SOCIAL SCIENCES
Mises, Hayek, Popper and Parsons all failed to solve the problem of the social sciences. The conservative sentiment remains a sentiment, and not an unarticulated rational philosophy. What structure it does have, remains allegorical and historical. This is why it cannot easily win a rational battle against the various forms of positivism aligned with marxist and collectivist sentiments.
Austrian ‘Calculation’, Austrian incentives, the abstractions of Property and Opportunities, along with the properties of human memory and cognitive bias, are, when taken together, a necessary and sufficient system for economic and political order, and a rational means of articulating the conservative and libertarian sentiments.
This structure. This answer to our problem of the social sciences, is in Austrian Theory. It’s just incomplete. Our political system relies upon debate and rhetoric as means of resolution of PRIORITIES and METHODS among people with SIMILAR interests. Debate relies upon relevant knowledge of the content policicians are debating. But without data that is sufficiently complex, and formulae that are sufficiently PREDICTIVE, their debates must rely upon social class and cult preferences. And since the society is comprised of multiple classes and people with multiple interests, debate in the absence of rational data, and a rational social science, must descend into sentiments and rhetorical contrivance of people wth dissimilar material interests, rather than rely upon scientific
Without additional complexity in our information systems, and without additional complexity in our political process the differences in our interests are too divergent to be solved by irrational discourse. It is a battle of who can win the greatest sentiments, rather than the determination of priorities among people with similar interests.
We need data, and a system of applying that data that will allow us to move beyond the convenient contrivance of the DSEM model, and that will permit human beings to rationally make political decisions based upon something other than the tyranny of the majority won through the artifice of irrational sentimental political debate, unbounded by the practicality of hard money, and the difficulty of borrowing hard money.
KLING’S RECALCULATION IS THE CORRECT MODEL
Calculation and Incentives are the reason the Recalculation Story is the correct analogy. But without rational, causal, articulation, it remains an allegory, and is an insufficient argument relying on explanatory power, rather than causal definitions.
There must be a way to combine knowledge of a nation’s market practitioners the way that the market does, and put it in the hands of politicians. We need politicians because if we are to pool our resources (if only to defend ourselves and our property from the barbarians and the proletariat) then there is a scarcity of resources to apply to infinite political choices.
Past civilizations failed because law, rhetoric, bureaucracy and religion were insufficient means of coordinating a large division of knowledge and labor. They failed to create property definitions and calculating institutions sufficient for cooperatively managing their resources and for forecasting their use by combining the knowledge of the body of practitioners who were participating in the market.
This is the reason all civilizations fail internally. It is a structural problem of complexity. Complexity does not have diminishing returns as some authors have suggested – just the opposite. But as complexity increases so must our cooperative technologies. And the tendency of governments to become corrupt, ritualistic, and calcified, combined with the lack of information systems and lack of conceptual models, and lack of institutions to use those models and data, leads to cooperative failure.
HARD MONEY AND KNOWLEDGE VERSUS SOFT MONEY AND PROBABILISM
Hard money and lending allow this cooperation between power and knowledge. Hard money requires borrowers to make a case to their debtors, and debtors can apply their knowledge of potential profit and loss. But hard money has given way to fiat money, in order to keep the supply of money needed for it’s uses available, while limiting inflation. Had government the inability so spend money itself, this process of inflation targeting would work.
Fiat money is also a form of insurance. It makes government the insurer of last resort. It increases productivity by socializing risk. It will not prevent booms and busts. Instead, such easy credit encourages them. But human society has made the decision to tolerate this risk of credit distortion in exchange for the ability to provide each other with national insurance – the ability to borrow from everyone by printing money, and providing restitution of losses to those who have catastrophes.
And as the Anglo-Rothschild-French alliance has proven, and the USA has taken to extremes, the most heady insurance a nation state can make use of, is the ability to print money as debt in order to wage war.
And, as all developed nations have demonstrated, fiat money also permits governments to create social programs by borrowing against a future that is uncertain.
In the absence of hard money – hard money that must be willingly lent – we can no longer rely upon the wisdom and knowledge of property holders we call lenders. Instead, we rely on mathematical prediction — which specifically does not contain the wisdom of property holders and their predictions of the future.
Nor is our government debt actually comprehensible. It is simply too complex and vast, and speculative to understand.
A SOLUTION THAT ALLOWS COOPERATION AND CALCULATION
Thankfully, we already have the model of banking and credit. We’ve just allowed banking and credit to embrace precisely what we have warned politicians from embracing: the error of aggregation, called ‘pooling’ in fixed categories inherent in our current accounting technology, which is further enabled by an erroneous application of probabilism that violates the primary principle of property: it’s dependence upon knowledge of it’s dynamic utility.
Hayek identified the problem but not the solution. We have a solution. We have the technology to implement it. It’s implementing it that’s now the problem. The fundamental problem for any civilization is increasing the granularity of economic calculation and keeping the temporal pace of their categories of measurement with the dynamism of their utility. In addition, if we are to have the self-insuring system of fiat money, then we must also have a means of capturing knowledge of lenders, and practitioners that was inherent in hard money. Then, possessed of that means, alter our form of government to take advantage of that knowledge.
So Hayek was right. Kling is right. But they answer to WHY they are right has not yet been articulated.
And the truth is, that since freedom is a minority sentiment, it is very difficult for such changes to be implemented in a polity. Even if it would satisfy the opposing side’s materialist desires. Because it would not satisfy their desires for status parity. Collectivism is largely an effort to attain status parity.
Predictions I Wish Had Been Wrong
Looking for some other stuff, I found this post from October 2008 in which I predicted a level of right-wing craziness about Obama similar to that facing Bill Clinton, but worse.
I really, really wish I had been wrong about that.
But this is followed by interesting comments. All from liberals. Like these:
Palin makes and breaks candidates in the GOP now — she’s far and away the most powerful person in the party. Fox News is #1, and they’re basically a beacon of disinformation. When a paper like the WSJ joins in, it makes a lot of people think that what’s being said is legitimate.
I try to challenge this stuff each and every time I encounter it, but the truth is that I’m never able to persuade anyone who believes it that they’re wrong.
It’s as if the whole country has gone insane, and no one is ashamed to lie or hate people any more.
You certainly weren’t Professor Krugman. If they gain enough credibility to have a substantial influence on the electorate, then the whole country is in peril.
The Right has to act crazy, for one thing they are; for another, the Right knows that if the Left takes control of the government, hunting will be outlawed. The Spanish must have their barbaric, anachronistic bullfight/torture ceremony and the gun-lovers must be allowed to shoot Bambi throught the heart. This is a culture war plain and simple. It is not a civil war, but a highly dangerous and uncivil one. I hope the Right loses, but they have the guns, so I’m doubtful. (Un)civil wars are usually costly in terms of lives lost and sheer destructiveness. I can refer you to the Spanish Civil war to give you an idea. Remember, the Fascists won that one, after something like a million people died.
There was something about Obama’s can’t-we-all-get-along rhetoric, and then confirmed by a first year of making nice with a bunch of thugs who’d as soon lynch him as have lunch with him (with no result, I must add), that showed this is a man who cannot wield power.
Interesting comments. I think they miss the point though.
The country is demographically center-right. Liberals, comprising no more that 1/5 of the population are a minority compared to independents and conservatives. People seek status more than they seek money. Cultural dominance in each class determines status signals. People will surrender money unto Caesar, but they will never surrender their social position willingly.
As Paul has stated before, the left and right are committed. The independents are the only people who determine elections. They are don’t play the great game except at election time, are disinterested, pragmatic, and swayed by whatever emerges as deciding key issues and the personalities of the candidates. The purpose of both parties is to establish simple sentimental memes that can help frame the candidates currently up for election.
Amidst a long term downturn, and faced with a government that passes a law that affects their health care, over the will of the majority, and the country’s only remaining competitive technology, deprived of their cultural status, it’s only rational that they rebel.
White guilt was easy to sway when they were an entrenched majority, and especially when suffrage, then feminism, both the result of mechanization of the household tasks, could be brought against the christian sentiments of the dominant male fraternity. But as a minority that is embattled and demonized, as a cult of family and freedom, they see their status under direct threat, their values and way of life under threat, and they are beginning to act like a minority whose status and way of life is threatened. They no longer see room for compromise. They no longer feel guilt. They are angry.
It certainly looks like in the long term, the cyclic historians are right, and that the political system no longer works as designed – which is the assumed binding mythology of our country. Despite having certain cooperative and organizational technologies unavailable to the ancients, our government no longer works because it is a system of empire over people with dissimilar cultural-status-political and economic-financial-organizational ambitions. And both the domestic and foreign nations are beginning to revolt – because they can sense that both domestically and internationally, the government is no longer legitimate. A government over people with dissimilar interests must of necessity oppress all.
The current political status holders will not easily surrender their positions. The bureaucracy is enormous, in government, unions, academia, education, the vast white collar clerical system, the media and the arts – all the people who do not participate in the market process, but are intentionally insulated from it as intentionally protected classes.
The decline of the centralized media has been instrumental in assisting in the change, and major media will continue to decline, as each subsector of society increasingly seeks confirmation bias for its fantasies, and each race, culture and class will seek confirmation of its underlying assumptions leading to increasing fictionalization.
This election cycle, and this economy, is simply part of this broader change in the distribution of world economic and political power, and the decline of the international attractiveness of, and personal ambitions of, the western secular humanists — a class whose only strategic option now is to ally with the numeric superiority of Islam as a replacement for Marxism, in order to maintain their control and isolation from market participation.
That is my prediction to equal Paul’s. Without cultural cohesion permitted by the wealth generated by selling off the north american continent to immigrants, the unnatural dominance of the dollar, and military control of world trade routes, trade and money, the coalition of DC (violence), NY (Money) and LA (Propaganda) cannot hold. And as Paul senses, and as most synthetic historians have stated for a century or more, a long term economic stagnation or decline will accentuate inter-group differences, as people rely on intra-group status symbols and traditional alliances for support. Egalitarianism is a convenience of a debtor economy.
About three years ago, a scientific study was undertaken to examine some of the differences between the conservative and the liberal mind. One of the conclusions emerging from the study was that liberal people tend to be able to handle ambiguity and nuance better than conservative people, processing new information that might challenge some of their beliefs, incorporating that information and even altering their thinking on a subject as a result. Conservative minds, on the other hand, tend to adhere to beliefs and convictions despite evidence that call them into question.
From what I can gather from the postings, I’m not sure this test demonstrates what the authors of both the study and the articles assume.
Conservatives have a longer (lower) time preference. (This is why they are happier than liberals, and tend to be wealthier.)
Because they have a longer time preference:
- They are less likely to attempt to ‘serve or satisfy’ the immediate requests of others: lower empathy, longer (lower) time preference, greater pattern reliance (tendency to see the world through natural law.)
- They are more likely to try to identify patterns and begin acting in anticipation, rather than simply reacting.
- Unless we know the male-female ratio and ages, we don’t know if this test is simply an empathy or dominance test.
The same test would need to be run with time preference survey questions, and the male-female statistics would have to be included.
The more interesting question is, why liberals — people with shorter (higher) time preference, and greater empathy — tend to be less happy and less successful in life?
RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
The reason conservatives are change resistant, is because:
a) they are inter-temporally pattern sensitive they are very reliant on forecasting, and significant pattern changes mean high cost of reorganizing patterns.
b) In natural law, and in Greek philosophy, and in the western mythic narrative, human HUBRIS is the primary warning. ie: they are skeptical.
c) Government is the repository of a great deal of power, and the most dangerous human hubris, and is most susceptible to the fashionable short term sentiments of human beings.
d) Conservatism, because it is the repository of the militial and commercial sentiments in western civilization is meritocratic in the sense that they accept established rules, and will operate within them, and see others who do not make the sacrifice of operating by the same rules, and in particular, those who use the artifice of government to circumvent ‘the rules of the game’, as either immoral or thieves or both.
This is a different strategy from charity. Redistribution and charity are conservative sentiments, but they allow conservatives to ‘fund’ instances of charity that have ‘good’ behaviors, most of which are extending time preference. They see people who use government to forcibly redistribute without requiring extending time preference, as either profiting from corruption, theft of the fruits of their effort for personal political gain, or simply a moral corruptoin of society that shortens time preferences. Understanding the conservatives sentiment requires understanding that conservatives KNOW that they passed on many opportunities for self satisfaction.
To a large degree, conservatives do not disfavor redistribution. They disfavor the means and uses of redistribution favored by people with shorter, higher time preferences, because they see it as theft of their sacrifices.
And not all people who vote conservatively have longer time preferences. There are plenty of people in the financial sector who are not conservative, just voting with conservatives to exploit the monetary opportunity of doing so. The fact that they take advantage of conservative policies does not mean that they are either conservative or have a longer time preferences. It simply means the are voting for longer time preference in order to exploit the opportunity for a shorter time preference. In effect, this is fraudulent behavior and one of the problems with democracy itself.
THE NATIONAL CONTEXT
The country is center-right (conservative leaning) and will always be so. This is for demographic reasons that have largely to do with the dominant class and culture of the people who occupy that particular geography.
Structurally, conservatives have opposed both good and bad change. The impact of women, catholic, and Jewish votes, as well as the rapid third world immigration did accomplish exactly what they stated it would do. Whether that is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a matter of economics and preference. The conservative sentiment is to resist change until they see risk abandoned, then to adopt the new state of affairs as the ‘conservative’ position.
To a conservative who sees the rules established by the constitution (a classical liberal) or a conservative who adheres to the western tradition (a conservative) or a religious conservative, or a small business owner or craftsman (an economic conservative), or an investor (a financial conservative)the threat to the established political order, to which they feel they have made sacrifices and taken risks, these political ‘innovations’ are not ‘goods’. They are ‘bads’.
Because of the two party system, there are conservatives in both parties. People tend to be conservative or liberal on different issues. They self identify as liberal or conservative, for a set of reasons. And left-right political nonsense is almost always meaningless, because all elections are decided by a fractional portion the independents in the middle. The change in US voting patterns is almost entirely to the rise in young single mothers, immigrants and breeding rates of different social classes. Independents and conservatives are in roughly equal proportion, making up over eighty percent of the population. With liberals making up less than twenty. Despite our desire to the contrary, political sentiment is NOT rational: it is inherited from one’s parents, and is largely a function of class, history and occupation.
Given the interpretation of this questionably meaningful study, it’s easy to see that this is another example of why conservatives believe that hubris is alive and well. :)
UNDERSTANDING TIME PREFERENCE
- Time preference is the tendency to seek shorter or longer outcomes. In the literature short time preference is called ‘High’ and long time preference is called ‘Low’, because at the time when economists were inventing Marginalism, they thought about satisfying preferences marginally, by stacking people’s preferences. in the ‘stack of preferences held by the individual’, something could be described as higher in the list or lower in the list.
- Because time passage increases complexity logarithmically, long time preference must rely on what cannot be observed directly – general rules and principles using historical allegory.
- In general terms, Long time preference is a FORECASTING method of human interaction, not a SATISFACTION method of human interaction.
- Time preferences are incommensurable. Or more simply, long waves and short waves don’t allow us to think both short and long term very well. Planning by combining long and short time frames is either difficult or impossible.
- Different social classes have different time preferences. Since longer time preferences require greater complexity, and complex goods are of greater scarcity, then classes are divided by those with higher mean IQ’s, longer time preferences, and who engage in production involving and affecting a larger number of people, over longer periods of time.
- Since it must rely upon what cannot be observed correctly it often appears less EMPATHIC and EGALITARIAN. When in fact, it is the difference between having a priority for short term or long term satisfaction. We would not successfully raise children if women were not empathic and sensitive to cues from children. Children cannot survive a mother who does not feel the need to satisfy them. Conversely, tribes would not survive if the males were not working on the problem of whether the local territory could continue to support them.
- In large part, the division of labor increases production. The division of knowledge increases production. And since different outcomes take different amount of time, and some outcomes take a very long time, and since planning becomes very difficult for human minds when we mix a large number of time frames, humans participate in a vast division of TIME, with some producing short term goods and some long term goods, and together we tend to specialize.
- The shorter time preference strategy is to accumulate small successes at low cost and to navigate to a satisfactory end. The longer time preference strategy is to forgo short term satisfaction in order to accomplish a long term end. This is why conservative societies survive longer: they are capable of surviving duress without loss of social cohesion.
- Urbanites and Ruralas have different time preferences, largely because there are more opportunities for inexpensive gain when people are in more dense population. This is why cities are inseparable from markets. A city is market, otherwise it would not be a city. Each would not survive in the others environment.
Seattle, WA, United States
I am an independent theorist of Political Economy in the Conservative Libertarian tradition. And as a methodological Propertarian I attempt to complete the work of Rothbard and Hoppe by suggesting post-democratic political solutions for heterogeneous polities.
"De Philosophia Aristocratia"
Anglo Conservatism is the remnant of the European Aristocratic Manorial system and the Classical Liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment, combined with our ancient tribal instincts for group persistence and land-holding. It currently consists as a set of sentiments rather than as an articulated rational philosophy. And without that rational articulation, conservatives lack the ability to create and promote a plan that is a positive and rhetorically defensible alternative to the hazards of accidental bureaucracy and purposeful socialism.
This lack of an articulated philosophy leaves conservatives vulnerable in the public debate with Schumpeterian public intellectuals whose advantage in both volume of production, and simplicity of argument poses a nearly insurmountable challenge.
Libertarianism by contrast, is a rational philosophy of an articulate but permanent minority. It is based upon a solid, rational and critical methodology, even if it is flawed in its initial assumption: the principle of non-violence.
Unfortunately the Rothbardian Anarchist movement has appropriated the term "Libertarian", and left Classical Liberals and Conservatives alienated from the only system of thought with which they need to articulate their political sentiments in rational and empirical rather than moralistic and sentimental form.
By repairing the flaws in Libertarian philosophy we can use its methodology to provide a rhetorical solution for conservatives - a language which in turn may become an articulated philosophical body of argument and advocacy for the frustrated conservative majority.
Kinsella’s Criticism of Locke, and My Explanation of Locke’s Reasonable Mistake, and What To Do About It.
68 days ago
Liberty Isn't Inherent. It's unnatural. We create it with Organized Violence.
72 days ago
Propertarian Definition: REVOLUTION
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Giving Rorty Another Try
72 days ago
An Skeleton Argument In Defense Of Rorty From Hoppe
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A Propertarian Definition of Ruthless
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The Self Deception Of The Enlightenment View Of Man
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On Rent Seeking
72 days ago
- Kinsella’s Criticism of Locke, and My Explanation of Locke’s Reasonable Mistake, and What To Do About It.