Archives for category: Quora

…as answered on Quora….

I will try to be brief.

Facts for the case for “right-wing”? Fascism is nationalist and militaristic. This is usually considered “on the right.”

Facts for the case for “left-wing”: fascism grew out of socialism and socialist agitation, and fascists regarded their economic policy as neither socialist nor free-market. It is heavily dirigiste. Mussolini himself was a man of the left, and one of his main influences for his move away from Marxist socialism was the work of Georges Sorel. Was Sorel leftist? He was deeply anti-capitalist, and desired to bring together worker solidarity. Seems to be a man of the left, to me. But others may disagree.

And if you consider Nazis fascist (and that is, actually, a stretch) then the leftist element is quite strong.

Both fascists and Nazis were famously anti-communist. Nazis made a name for themselves for street fights with communist revolutionaries, and one reason for their rise to power was that Germans in the Weimar Republic judged them the lesser of two evils — compared to the openly revolutionary stance of the bloody-minded commies.

The communists definitely tarred Nazis with the “fascist” label, a move that continues to this day and which has muddied up much thought.*

Trouble here, is: what one starts out believing is not necessarily where one ends up. So an anti-revolutionary stance early in an ideological career does not mean that one isn’t a revolutionary as the State gets captured by one’s party. Similarly, socialists and folks of the left often talk peace, peace: but they get into power, their programs immediately prove slippery and unworkable, and quickly they come to mass executions and preservation of their power by violence. Where is the “left” or the “right” in that dialectic of power? One can start out “on the left” but quickly seem “on the right” without ever giving up any of one’s professed leftist beliefs.

Adolf Hitler never gave up on the Marxist interpretation of economics, for example. He just disagreed on the “internationalist” aspect of Marxian Communism, thinking it a fine thing to keep corporations around so long as they were heavily controlled. The Third Reich also established the most egalitarian welfare and labor policy ever achieved — that seems “left-wing,” eh?

But, the “right-wing” element may lie in the wealth that Nazis used to sustain the Third Reich — it did not come solely from “the rich” as such. It came from dispossessed Jews and conquered territory. Is that “right wing”? Maybe. (See Götz Aly, Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State [2005; 2006].)

Nazi Germany was totalitarian. And Hitler admired Stalin’s efficiency in handling his enemies. Is that left-wing or right-wing? Meanwhile, in actual fascist countries, totalitarianism was not really in operation. It was a more limited affair.

Yet it was Mussolini who said “All within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” I consider this extreme statism to be a leftist thing, not rightist. The traditional distinction is made between totalitarianism and authoritarianism, but, as conceived, fascism is theoretically quite totalitarian, anti-individualist. This all strikes me as left-wing.

You see, “left” and “right” are not easy to determine. Individualists like me have long harped on the difficulty of using the terms to map the ideological spectrum for one obvious reason: it is a directional binary that makes sense only in the context of where you are looking.

Mussolini, Giovanni Gentile, Alfredo Rocco and other paradigm-establishing fascists all strongly opposed laissez faire, any hint of laissez faire. Does that make them leftist? Is “laissez faire” rightist? Seems dubious to me. Laissez faire is a middle ground position among many competing statist programs, of both left and right variants. But your view may differ.

So, though facts can be brought to bear on this issue, it is not facts alone that can decide. The winds of doctrine blow many directions, including up and down as well as forward and back — not to mention left and right.

I advise being circumspect about using these terms. Individualists (like me) tend to regard the real issue as between unlimited state force and a rule of law limiting force. Left and right distract us on the way to confronting that issue.

And in all of this, we must remember that politicians (and this includes ideological activists in universities and on the streets and in voting booths) lie to themselves and lie to others, so mapping their “beliefs” is tricky. And all ideology has huge elements of fantasy, much of it unworkable. So, the outcome of their fantasied utopias is usually dystopian. And it would be wrong to call “utopia” leftist and “dystopia” rightist. In that gambit lies deep delusion.


* This propagandistic labeling may have prevented western liberal-ish societies from catching on to the horrors of Nazism early on, for ‘fascism’ was quite popular in America . . . until, suddenly, it wasn’t. Fascism’s affinity with Progressivism was quite clear, at the time, which Jonah Goldberg made hay of in his disastrously titled 2008 volume, Liberal Fascism.


N.B. The curious might wish to consult David Ramsay Steele’s forthcoming essay collection, The Mystery of Fascism. A simple Internet search will call forth free-to-read versions of the title essay, well worth the effort.

Paul Gottfried’s treatise, Fascism: The Career of a Concept, is a more thorough exploration, but since I have not finished reading it yet, I should perhaps only cautiously advise it.

Women have struggled their whole lives just to have rights and to be treated equally. Now they can’t even have their own identity, as men are now walking up and claiming to “identify” as female. Is it wrong to feel this way?

…as answered on Quora….

The first part of this question seems a bit iffy to me on grounds of fact and reasoning, yet I sympathize: it must be weird to invest a lot of your conception of yourself as deriving from womanhood, and then see a few men fard up their faces and mince about in clothing not normally worn by men . . . and call themselves women and even demand others to accept their self-categorizations. 

Well, their demands are ignoble and immoral, but, alas, commonly accepted and defended and even amplified amongst the lunatics that currently sit at the commanding heights of our culture. I am annoyed by all that.

As for their self-categorization? Very rarely are they convincing. And even at their best they are fake women.

But fake women have rights too, and they can certainly be given enough cultural leeway to do what they want without forcing others to “accept” them and “respect” them. In a free society, the right of free association entails the right of disassociation. You need not hang around them. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that none of us should be forced to speak of them in ways they prefer. And it is a tragedy that these principles of liberty are now denied and flouted by the cultural left these days.

More importantly, I have trouble understanding how you are denied your “identity” by their shallow or deep fakes. You are you. They are whatever they are.

But then, you seem to be defining yourself (as your “identity”) not by your personhood and individuality, but by your commonality with members of your own sex. I find this bizarre. I define my identity not primarily by my commonality with other men, but by my differentiation. 

I see the whole focus of the question as buying into the presuppositions of those men who pretend to be women: as hollow, as a distraction from individuation by recourse to group membership and similarity with others.

It is a fine thing to extol one’s similarities with others, but that isn’t your identity. That is commonality. The whole postmodern movement focusing on “identity” strikes me as as fake as men pretending to be women by dress-up and mere assertion. 

For we are not talking about identity, we are talking about its opposite.

Indeed, the struggle of feminism, I would have thought — before I ditched using the term approvingly, anyway — is the struggle of individual women to be treated as individual persons despite their categorization by sex. The perversion of feminism, as I see it, has been the anti-individual promotion of the sex (modish folks’ll say “gender”) rather than the liberation of individuals from the confines of over-sexualized, constricting and collectivist expectations.

So, like the other response to this question that I noticed, I urge: “let it go.” Not because the fake women are not wholly unthreatening, but because they threaten something you should not take personally.

As for these fake women, my attitudes vary, person to person, expressing (as I have) pity, sympathy, laughter, indifference, pro forma respect and, yes, acceptance.* It all depends. On whether they allow me my freedom, or, instead, have some tyrannical agenda. And also whether they are doing themselves and their loved ones harm, even sans force.

We do live in strange, decadent** times.


* When I was young, I had a number of pre-op “tranny” friends — that is what they called themselves — and I liked them a lot, despite our lack of . . . commonality.

** Also when I was young, I extolled “decadence” even as I denied any precision to the term. Now I know what it means, and remain somewhat ambivalent — that is, I do not think decadence should be normed, even while I confess to being something of a decadent myself.


N.B. I am not at all certain that my response on Quora will be allowed to stand. And I could even be removed from the platform. Why? For merely referring to “fake women.” It will be interesting to see how it goes. Since posting I saw a number of other answers. They are uniformly bad.

Why is your right to own a gun more important than my right to life?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

It is not, of course. Your right to life is no less important than my right to bear arms. The question is misconceived.

Now, what is going on with this question? The querist is more than implying that his/her life is threatened by my gun. Which it would only be were the querist threatening me — that is, since I foreswear aggression, and the only threat my gun poses is against criminals, I cannot help but wonder if the querist might not be contemplating aggression.

And, in a sense, the querist is threatening me! How? By implying a nonsense claim about rights and (perhaps sub rosa) by setting up some bizarre excuse for citizen disarmament.

You see, anyone demanding a general gun confiscation and ban is advocating for force to be applied against all gun owners. Including me. Drolly, this confiscation would be carried out by people with guns, so the gun ban is likely to stop at citizen disarmament. (States rarely give up their guns.)

Now, here is the real deal of justice: your right to life and my right to life both entail our identical rights to defend ourselves. My self defense with a gun does not threaten any peaceful person’s life. Only a criminal aggression does. Since I am not aggressing by merely defending myself, a person parlaying his or her “right to life” as an excuse to take away my ability to defend myself performatively implies that his or her right to life is more important than mine. And thus undermines the very “deal” that equal rights entails. It is, in fact, a hint at — a bullying technique? — to take away my rights, and is thus at the very least a plan for aggression.

So you can see where this would lead, in America. Many gun owners would simply not submit. The gun confiscation would entail outright repression. And even if the government would institute a mere buy-back and a general (if passive) ban, the ban itself would serve as a drawn-out confiscation, in cases where cached weapons are revealed.

Because what gun prohibition entails is a mass aggression against peaceful people, the querist may have set out the terms to justify a civil war, a rebellion more dangerous than the armed revolution that started these United States. By the very terms of the nation’s founding, gun ban advocates prescribe tyranny. And, in an amazing play of effrontery, they tell us they do it all for our safety.

A mad suggestion.

Any advocacy of unequal basic rights is a recipe for aggression. And, now that I think on it, the question does resemble some similar argumentative gambits we have become familiar with from the college crowd, namely, the idea that “offensive words” amount to “aggressions” that justify defensive, retaliatory, or even preëmptive force. And yes, this is precisely how the “microaggression” concept has been used by radical “social justice” advocates. What they fail to see is that a true microaggression justifies only a microdefense.

Proportionality is key.

In other words, bad manners are justly countered only with good manners.

Perhaps what the querist is really worrying about is this: that the mere existence of guns in peaceful citizens’ hands gives political and legal cover to criminals seeking to acquire guns for use in offense. Thus, an argument might run, there is an externality to self-defense in gun ownership that negatively impacts innocents who do not own guns, and thus “indirectly” “threatens” innocents’ lives.

This much is true: there are plenty of externalities in society. And to handle those externalities most Second Amendment folks would indeed deny a general, equal right to own, say, nuclear weapons. Interesting point. I think one could plausibly argue that mere ownership of a nuclear device entails collateral damage, and thus does constitute a threat to innocents who would not aggress against the owner.

But this latter argument against nuclear and other large bombs as legitimate self defense cannot be applied to guns generally, for guns are designed to be pointed. Their very makeup, their constitution, internalizes external damage by their limited and directed nature.

Further, the weaker argument that the widespread ownership of guns makes it easier for criminals to criminally obtain and use guns is in exact parallel with free speech, like this:

  1. a general right to freedom of speech does make it easier for criminals to use speech to engage in fraud and conspiratorial planning of crimes, and
  2. were speech constricted, strictly controlled (perhaps by limiting freedom of association as well) it would be easier for governments to suppress criminal speech. Nevertheless, the
  3. outrageous totalitarian horror of such a Nanny State would likely convince even those most cowardly and fearful of criminal aggression that the risk of freedom would be worth it.

Which is why freedom and the equal rights to it make more sense than the counsel of the fearful and overcauion of the servile. We deal with criminals on a case-by-case basis, deeming that as enough, while personally and communally encouraging peaceful living.

And besides: personal armaments in peaceful people’s hands discourage crime. Not only do armed citizens defend themselves, they directly defend others. And merely by carrying arms they disincentivize criminals from engaging in aggression. The secular trend in crime over the last two decades has been down, even while the number of guns in private hands has doubled. That is a positive externality of widespread gun ownership. The right of gun owners to bear arms protects the rights to life of those who choose to go about defenseless.

The original question thus implied an inversion of the truth, and would better have been re-conceived as

How is my right to life enhanced by your right to bear arms?

twv

Should there be straight pride?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Probably not. But there should be no “straight shame,” either.

And, more importantly, most people should practice a bit of modesty, as part of humility and decorum, rather than “pride.”

The point of “gay pride” was, as near as I could make out, a reasonable and necessary push back against the anti-homosexual shaming that was once the norm. That the “pride” movement went overboard, as can be seen in too many of the gay pride parades I have noticed, is sad. By putting aside the question of being unashamed of one’s orientation and instead publicly glorying in indecency and immodesty, “gay pride” paraders have promoted shamelessness when shame be more apt.

You see, the original idea of not feeling shame for one’s desires is good. But the shameless public promotion of private, even lewd activities strikes me as bad, immoral, inconsiderate — what amounts to grand effrontery.

Why would straight people wish to emulate all that?

But straight people do need to defend their desires against the onslaught of anti-straight social forces.

I believe heteronormativity also needs to be defended.

Why? Because the norming of the activities that lead to procreation, to the maintenance of the species, is pro-life, humanistic, civilized. To oppose heteronormativity is to promote decadence.

Quite literally.

Of course, the reader will gather that I think heteronormativity need not be oppressive to the small population of sexual outliers. A society can norm heterosexuality without pride and overbearing condescension and exclusion. Heteronormativity can be humble, not proud.

It is a worse than a shame when it is, instead, shameless and tyrannical.

I believe it is imperative that straight people resist cultural decadence and re-learn modesty, responsibility and the blessing of human reproduction. Also, it might be helpful to relearn that sexual activity can be pleasurable within a context centered around the production of offspring and the raising of same.

But “straight pride” won’t do that. “Straight virtue” might.

twv, September 19, 2019

Do Libertarians encourage poor people to not tax rich people and wait for heaven in the afterlife?

as answered by TWV on Quora:

Poor people don’t tax anybody. States do, and these are usually run by fairly well-off people, and are enthusiastically supported by the bulk of middle-income and high-income folks. High levels of taxation, coupled with transfer programs, were created and are maintained by well-off people — indeed by many people who are themselves beneficiaries of taxed wealth.

The idea, implied in the question, that state aid programs are heaven on earth, is laughable.

Libertarians I know are deeply skeptical of aid programs, first for relying upon forced expropriation and second for turning the poor into dependents who will, after enrollment into “welfare,” subsequently never better themselves.

This outlook of seeing only misery in the lives of poor people were it not for transfer programs is deeply perverse, in no small part because it serves as the political version of post-sale selling technique: “like your pittances, peons, you are pathetic and hopeless and cannot do better — so appreciate the crumbs we fling your way . . . and always demand more and vote for us.”

twv, May 4, 2019

Do some gun owners really believe in the conspiracy that the government is planning to take away all the guns?

…as answered by twv on Quora….

Yes. Sure. But most believe it is not a conspiracy, exactly, but instead an open movement that wishes to accomplish civilian disarmament by incremental regulations and prohibitions.

And since that is precisely what many gun control advocates and former advocates have publicly stated as their goal and their method, these gun owners are not witless, are they? Of course they are reasonably skeptical of any further regulation.

I know that when I flirted with gun control ideas, a mass confiscation immediately popped into my head, and I discussed it with other gun control advocates.

Also, political promises of “we only wish to do this so much (and no more)” and objections on the order of “how dare you think we will go all the way!” of any new proposal are to be believed only by chumps. The income tax was promoted as something only a few of the very rich would pay, and even then not all that much. Within five years the rates on the top bracket went from 7 percent to 77 percent and people at the bottom went from paying nothing to paying 1 percent. Government “wants” to grow. So any small increase in regulation is rightly seen as merely a “first step.”

It is also a known thing that many people in government — as legislators and as functionaries — want a general civilian disarmament. It sure would make their jobs easier! They think.

But gun owners look upon all this with a growing sense of incredulity. Government functionaries cannot successfully do their jobs now, as was shown in the recent Parkland, Florida, shooting incident. And the War on Drugs failed to eradicate psychoactive drugs even from prisons, the most heavily guarded buildings in the country.

So that means that a gun confiscation — or any increased legal encumbrance upon citizen ownership — would surely do only one thing: decrease the ability of peaceful and lawfully disposed citizens to own guns, but not the violent and the criminal. It would basically leave people less safe.

Besides, Spencer’s Law applies, as increasing numbers of gun owners understand. Gun crimes have been going down in America as gun ownership has risen. And this applies to school shootings, too. If someone, conservative or progressive, is much exercised about “a rise in violence” in America, they are, for the most part, being driven by coverage and hysteria, not facts, figures, and sound risk assessment. The rise in demand for “doing something” is occurring as the need for “doing something” is diminishing.

Given this, gun owners wonder what could gun control advocates be thinking? Are they that credulous?The kids are, surely — yes. But some gun control advocates, they know, are indeed malign proponents of authoritarian government. Many gun control politicians and activists love tyrannical government as such. Just look at their methods and policies. Freedom has nothing to do with their agendas. They like robust government, vast redistributions of wealth, and massive regulation of every conceivable element of life, down to the drinking of sodas. They are illiberal. Every society has such people. Not a few of my friends and acquaintances would welcome a “benevolent” tyranny if it would get them the policies they desire.

To the extent that they advance their political program in public, gun control organizing is not conspiratorial. It is, instead, an open political assault on a free society. But some of these people are in government, and no doubt do have contingency plans in place to confiscate vast hoards of guns. So I guess even I believe in such a conspiracy.

But mainly I am politically opposed to the entreaties and counsel of fools.

twv

I, of course, am harmless.
A question asked by a far-left Quora “space,” and which I answered —
and published on the libertarian “space” Liberty at Large.

The freedoms of a “typical capitalist society”:

You may choose your occupation, or trade. No one forces you into any particular form of work.

You are tempted by myriads of goods to enjoy, but are not forced to buy any one of them.

Instead of spending all your income, you can save wealth and invest in work that is not plotted out for you, but which you figure out yourself — that is, you can become an entrepreneur.

You can live simply, floating on the hard work of others (and the vast accumulations of wealth) and basking in the general tolerance of society, getting by with just a few contracts. Or you can immerse yourself in the world of commerce and public affairs, buying and selling expensive goods like real estate or antiques or what-have-you. You are not forced into any one manner of living.

Freedoms you do nothaveinclude the ability to command others’ work or attention by threat. You do not have the freedom from want, or from fear, or from anxiety about the future. You lack any freedom to force others to include you in their schemes for advancement. Generally, the rule in a free society as provided in capitalist ones is reciprocity.

This is a great liberator, sure, but many folks resent that freedom. They see that they can ruin their lives with bad choices, and wish to blame others for those choices. And “bad fortune” — misfortune — can happen to anyone. And capitalist societies — private property, “commercial society” — are in the promotion of quality and value, not in equalizing quality and value. Those prone to envy hate such free advance, demanding, instead, organized advance on theirterms, not people’s generally.

Of course, “typical capitalist society” is somewhat vague. “Typical” as in average or modal, or “typical” as in conforming to an ideal type?

Exploring the latter sort of notion, we begin to look upon the laissez faire element as typical in capitalism, as essentialand defining, while in history and usual experience so far, what is typical is mercantilism, protectionism, and mixed economy/transfer state (“bourgeois socialism”) elements. Not a few of the people who most love the freedom to be found in the extended order of a liberal capitalist society emphasize the non-government features, the emergent order, not the spoliation features and centrally planned attempts. Others, ambitious or impatient or resentful, seek to impose an order upon capitalism especially advantageous to them or constructed by their values. So we have the forms of capitalism now dominant: state capitalism, crony capitalism, welfare state capitalism, social democracy, and … what it all comes down to as it works out, The Churning State, where the transfers of wealth by regulation and plunder and “distribution” are so complex that special interests are only sure of their advantages gained in a few specific programs that they have special access to, the general tumult of interests having been so churned on issue-by-issue basis and by sector-by-sector privileges that the general interest becomes impossible even to conceive coherently.

But this latter is not freedom. It is chimerical. Perhaps the term for it should be chimerical capitalism.

I prefer the palpable freedoms of the liberty provided by limited government and the opportunities of voluntary interaction to the illusions of political promise and governmental machination.

…as answered on Quora:

Liberals are not upset by Dave Chappelle. Leftists are; Progressives are.

Conservatives and other non-leftists have got stop bashing “liberals.” A liberal is for freedom of speech at the very least. It is a defining feature. If you give up on free speech, you give up on liberalism. You do not get to use the label. And leftists generally have given up the free speech cause. Today’s left-progressives sound like the conservatives of my youth, who thought it important to suppress disruptive and unsettling and non-nice speech.

Conservatives in the past were especially upset by frank or unruly speech about sex; today’s progressives are especially upset about frank or unruly or even just skeptical speech about “gender.”

And boy, does Dave Chappelle zero in on that obsession.

As for me, I have been a Chappelle fan since his “how old is fifteen really?” bit years ago. He is still provocative, funny.

It is just that now progressives have gotten so annoyingly anti-freedom and anti-fun that they cannot take a joke. They can dish it out, but cannot take it. Actually, it is worse than that: they have gone so far that they cannot really dish it out any longer. Jon Stewart was funny on The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert was funny on The Colbert Report. But Colbert is not funny any longer. Nor are the others in the late-night anti-Trump brigade. Why? Because they became relentlessly partisan and (worse) came to think of themselves as always right.

They are merely always left.

And hopelessly unfunny.


After I published this response, directly above, the original question was changed to reflect my complaint. It now reads “Why are the left so upset with Dave Chappelle? Are they only finding humor in bashing Trump and conservatives?” Which, because of grammar issues, may be worse!


Addendum 9/4/2019:

The context just gets richer.
Herbert Spencer’s Synthetic Philosophy, my set.

Is it possible to reduce the world population by 50%? Isn’t world over-population the cause of all the problems in the world?

…as answered on Quora:

Two questions, eh?

  1. Is it possible to reduce the world population by 50 percent?
  2. Isn’t world overpopulation the cause of all the problems in the world?

The answers are simple:

  1. Yes.
  2. No.

But there are complications:

  1. Many of the ways to decrease populations quickly, especially by half, are of the Thanos-or-worse variety. We do not want to decrease populations quickly. Gradually could be another story.
  2. As economist Theodore W. Schultz explained — and as Julian Simon demonstrated in a more daring and popular form — population is not the huge problem that neo-Malthusian alarmists say it is. Human beings, if they do not rely upon predation and parasitism, and have plenty of opportunities for market coöperation (trade), are what Simon calls “the ultimate resource.”

When we rely upon trade, we must be of service to one another. We engage in trade only when we expect to gain, that is, when both parties to an exchange expect to gain from it. I help you out if you help me. And the more trades occur, the more that competition for each others’ business hones our productivity. The more productive, the more advances in technique and technology we bring to the stock of civilization. This is progress.

Thomas Robert Malthus’s worry in his Principles of Population (1798) was that (a) the rate of agricultural advance would be outstripped by (b) the natural rate of human population growth. He was stumbling towards a modern conception of external economies, of the “market failure” focused on in neoclassical economics. That is where options seen by the individuals as in their best interest yields widespread effects not in the interest of people generally. (Malthus was arguing against the anarchist rationalist William Godwin and his belief that moral progress would lead to an ethical utopia of excellence everywhere.) Basically, the Malthusian fear is that people would be incentivized to reproduce at a socially dangerous rate. Reason would fail — in effect be upended by circumstance.

But Malthus had an interesting analytic mind, and he handled the problem with something more than a glib pessimism. He noted that these two diverging trendlines (agriculture expanding at an “arithmetic rate” versus population expanding at a “geometric rate”) were offset by other forces, at least on the reproduction trend line.

There were, he wrote, natural checks on reproduction rates, including famine and pestilence and infant death by malnutrition; and there were artificial checks, including sexual abstinence in several forms, most of which he regarded as moral, and some gruesome means, such as infanticide and abortion and eugenics. His worry was that populations would grow to bring misery, and also a rise in immorality out of perceived prudence. He rightly saw that crude measures of packing people in close together, as happened in cities, often breed plague and sexually transmitted diseases. And it is in his spirit — and often inspired by reading his treatise — that many modern prophets of doom have developed the popular anti-population mania. And theirs is indeed a harrowing philosophy, turning otherwise nice and smart folks into anti-humanist immoralists, praising horrific measures of (aack) mass death or (ugh) government repression. This sort of thing inspired the modern environmental movement, where you will find some folks advocating reducing humanity to “a size twice the population of bears.”

But all this misses the “miracle” of modernity: progress.

Malthus failed to see what Herbert Spencer saw in the early 1850s: coöperative humanity can indeed fight against the Malthusian trap, flipping the trend lines so that agriculture can grow exponentially more productive than the rate of population reproduction . . . and in turn spurring increased populations to be increasingly productive. The only thing we would have to give up? The militant, regimented means of social organization, instead embracing “industry.” Which in this case was the predecessor to the industrial recolution, the agricultural revolution. Spencer saw trends on Malthus’s agriculture forecast that would raise the line several orders of magnitude.

Interestingly, Spencer almost came up with the theory of natural selection in this work. But he only applied his notion of a ratcheting up of living standards by means of competitively coördinated coöperation to the social world, not to the long-term cycles of plant and animal descent. “Missed it by that much,” as Agent Smart said in Get Smart. It is for this reason that sociologist Jonathan Turner inverted the infamous “Social Darwinist” charge against Spencer: Darwin, really, was a “biological Spencerian.” Spencer spiffed up his approach a decade later, for the final section of his Principles of Biology. And in the process he gave us the turn of phrase “survival of the fittest.” Though it has been trendy (for a full century, actually) to look upon Spencer’s viewpoint as a ghastly exercise in cruel theoretics, Spencer was actually emphasizing peaceful coöperation and presenting humanity with a remarkably positive vision. J.D.Y. Peel, in his study of Spencer, said that the British philosopher-sociologist “out-Godwinned Godwin”! But Spencer did this not by hoping for a triumph of Reason, but by merely noticing the flourishing that is possible with distributed patterns of collaboration sans an over-arching plan.

The amazing thing? He was basically right.

Spencer was actually presaging what today’s more realistic economists and demographers understand perfectly well. And, what is more — less: today’s best researchers notice that as human societies get wealthier, the rate of reproduction goes down.

In Schultz’s terminology, parents swap “quantity of children” for “quality of children.” In mere agricultural societies, children can be productive in farm life and in resource extraction; in industrial societies, for people to be productive they have to decelop their skillsets more markedly, so parents opt to expend resources to “invest” in their children’s “human capital.” So, that old black magic of having scads of children ceases to increase the chances of family success, but, instead, tends to reduce it.

That is one big reason why people, today, tend naturally to produce fewer children than in the past.

One might think that this would be completely scuttled by the lowering of childhood death rates, but for a number of reasons, this does not appear to be the case.

And, yes, populations are indeed declining in the First World — and as the rest of the world catches up (and in my lifetime the poverty rate has declined markedly with the expansion of the extent of the market), the general reproduction rate will level off. In Europe, the white population is veering to the opposite-of-“Malthusian” trend: demographic collapse. In the United States, were it not for immigration and recent immigrants’ higher reproductive rates, America, too, would see population decline.*

Demographic collapse is actually probably going to be a bigger problem in the future than the “population explosion.” It is the implosion that would more likely destroy civilization.

But here we have another offsetting trend: technological progress.

The great heterodox genius Samuel Butler, not long after publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) argued that the next form of evolution will be machine evolution. This was played for science-fictional interest in his dystopian romance (or is that utopian comedy?) Erewhon (1872), but now we are really seeing this kick into high gear, as we approach something like a social Singularity (see Ray Kurzweil).

About the time of Malthus, there arose the legendary “Ned Ludd,” who saw only devastation in the destructive creation of technological advance. And since then there have been worriers who see mainly the death of labor in “labor-saving devices.” And like Malthusianism, Luddism, if true, would have meant the death of free labor and our whole civilization a century ago. The opposite is the case: technological advance increases worker productivity, leading to a general increase in wealth and welfare. The “trouble” is, people have to adapt to the machines.

Perhaps the challenge of population decline will not be so bad, as machine evolution makes our lives better and better. Maybe, in Richard Brautigan’s poetic lines, we shall be “watched over by machines of loving grace.

The real challenge will be political.


* The downward trend line is exacerbated by welfare state interventions, and the high rate of abortions, too. But for this analysis I need not get into to it.



Additional thoughts:

I wonder if there is not a third major danger playing here besides Malthusian and Luddite, but the belief in scientific management of the human livestock, which inevitably buys into Malthusian and Luddite predictions, then uses untold cruelty to violently whip the human population towards a better condition. Our OP demonstrates it.

Timo, do you agree that there is this third strain and from whom do you think it originates?

Dennis Pratt, replying to my answer, May 30, 2018.

Yes. These are the intellectuals I call Social Galtonians, after Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton. There is a great irony embedded in this social engineering movement. Inspired by Darwin’s tough-minded biological theories, these scientists and activists invented eugenics. But it wasn’t natural selection they advocated, or even sexual selection (the two key concepts Darwin marshaled to help understand speciation), but, instead, the everyday concept that Darwin used to explain natural selection, by analogy: “artificial selection,” or breeding.

Basically, these people see the apex of advance in an elite that would engineer society for further advance. It is profoundly anti-Darwinian, really. They wanted to “take charge of evolution.” But Darwin was trying to explain spontaneous order, advance without Plan. The Social Galtonians wanted to Plan, in all-caps: PLAN.

And here we can see the contrast with the thinker usually called the major “Social Darwinist,” Herbert Spencer. His view was that in the course of super-organic evolution various interpenetraing and almost-indistinguishable institutions (like religion and The State) would diversify and integrate simutaneously. The state would get smaller to accommodate countervailing, offsetting institutions like religions and industrial organizations and markets and the like. That is not what happened, but he thought that was what needed to happen for the kind of progress that would work best for the greatest diversity of people.

And what was important and “Darwinian” about this was not the scope for “natural selection” (a factor in explaining man and society at every level) but the primacy of individual selection selection. Voluntary breeding.

The social engineers and eugenicists wanted to clamp down on this decentralized, distributed reproduction technique and replace it with top-down breeding. Artificial selection as a super-elitist activity justified by a mis-reading of evolutionary science.

So, Spencer was more Darwinian and less crude in his preference for sexual selection over anything like social engineering. The State should be peeled back to a limited role, not expanded to mimic the reductionist and naive view of organisms as top-down, total-conscious mechanisms.

The social engineers, of course, are hubristic. They make a huge error in their basic world view. But it “feels” scientific, to themjust as the maroons who wax enthusiastic over “the scientific consensus” get all the good feels from their mania.

It is scientism.

But it is not our current problem. Not really. For sentiment transformed eugenic-minded progressivism after the Hitler debacle into an incoherent welfare state-cum-churning state. And what dominates now, in combination with the feminist cult and cultural Marxism, is dysgenic. Policies leading to the cultivation of vast hordes of near-criminals and parasites.

That is hardly a Social Galtonian view, or Social Darwinist. It is its own satire.

The Hegelian dialectic as it spins society through the rinse-repeat cycle is something of an ironist.



The primary political reaction to the Darwinian challenge, then, comes down to this: how we conceive of responsibility in the management of human reproduction. Should folks be regarded as their own people, responsible for their own couplings and reproduction strategies (per sexual selection) or should they be treated as breeding stock (per artificial selection)?

The Progressive Era, with the rise of socialism and fascism, chose artificial selection, which led to the sterilization of “the unfit” and unwanted — and those perceived as dangerous. I have called this Societal Galtonianism. The old liberal idea was simply the Smithian “natural liberty” and Spencerian “Law of Equal Freedom” approach, where people were let alone to choose for themselves. Call this alternative Independent Adaptation.

So, which will be “the ultimate recourse”? Freedom and the division of responsibility, or force and social engineering?

But note that Independent Adaptation, which I obviously prefer, is now developing to a new level of sophistication, where the sexual selection of partners can be boutique and even commoditized. Instead of letting the ablest swimming sperm capture the egg immediately after an act of coition, now we enter a world where

  • fertilized eggs can be chosen for viability according to various criteria
  • eggs can be pre-selected
  • sperm can be pre-selected
  • DNA can be altered in pre-nates

which certainly will all have huge social consequences, making the “problem of children” all the more interesting.

The modern fear of the breeding stock approach led to a few famous dystopias, such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and many not-so-famous ones, such as the late J. Neil Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza. And in the world of open-source science fiction — that is, in ufology — the fear of humanity being reduced to breeding-stock status becomes a major cultural meme.

None of this expresses the core truth of our time, though.

In reaction against eugenic breeding programs of the Progressive Era, modern “liberals” and (post-modern) progressives have embraced the dysgenics of the unstable pairing of free sexual selection with tax-funded subsidy. This is our current paradigm, in which freedom and responsibility are kept separate. This is part of the dominance of left versus right politics, where the two flavors de-link freedom and responsibility issue by issue, and the compete in the political marketplace to set policy in an ad hoc way. It is quite messy, and we live under the chaos of freedom-without-responsibility and responsibility-without-freedom as the two option against which society constantly lurches in drunken sailor fashion.

Trouble is, the pure social engineering, totalitarian approach, which might be more culturally stable than our current kludgy dysgenic approach, strikes most people, including me, as horror-show repugnant. While the libertarian/responsibilitarian approach strikes most people, excluding me, as freaky unsettling.

So we will probably be stuck in the intelligentsia-approved compromise system until our civilization crumbles.

twv

On Quora, the question was asked: “How can a gun enthusiast still claim their [sic] right to bear arms is more important than public safety?” Paul Harding, a deputy sheriff, begins an interesting answer this way: “All of your Constitutional Rights come at the cost of safety.”

But he doesn’t stop with this admission. He essays a sophisticated perspective:

Give up your rights under the 4th, 5th, and 6th amendments, and I’ll make the world safer for you. No question about it.

The only problem is that if you give up all those rights, which are really just restrictions on the things I’m allowed to do to you, what’s going to keep you safe from me?

He ends with this: “Freedom is scary, but lack of freedom is scarier.

The argument, here, is that “public safety” is not just a two-factor variable where (1) gun ownership ranges from “no effect on public safety” (guns in good citizens’ hands) to “negative public safety” (guns in criminals’ hands) and (2) policing ranges from “no public safety” with zero policing and court intervention to “complete public safety” with maximum possible scope for regulation, gun prohibition, and police power.

Both of these factors have wider ranges of effects, subject to side effects and diminishing returns.

Does this graph I just threw together help conceive of the difference between imaginary effects of gun confiscation, or maximum controls, and actual effects?

Of course, the “expected” line is only as expected from statists. People who believe that government is magic. It is possible that my expectation trajectory might dip lower faster.

twv