Archives for category: Institutional Reality

“The police are simply going to stop policing.”

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, on his Daily Wire show, often argues that the left’s concerted attacks upon policing over the past several years have led to the recent rise in murder rates in particular and crime rates generally. Partial defundings of police departments and policing programs, and misguided checks on policing, have directly contributed to the rises in crime, Shapiro says.

“As soon as you start loosening the restrictions with regard to criminal behavior,” Shapiro asserted on Tuesday, “you get an uptick in violence.”

True enough?

Well, what if assertions of racial injustice and police bias encourage black criminals to resist arrest?

Black Lives Matter rhetoric sure looks like a case for interpreting all searches, traffic stops, and warranted arrests as oppression. And since oppression is bad, resistance is good. Sure smacks of a dangerous excuse to resist arrest.

It is in situations where suspects resist arrest that most shootings by police occur. Then the results of resistance get pushed through the corporate media’s propaganda mill as yet more evidence of racist cops, decreasing respect for lawful standards and law enforcement, which in turn leads to

  • protests, which have led to
  • riots and
  • general mayhem and looting and
  • more robbery and, yes, murder.

These social forces are not utterly mysterious. Mr. Shapiro’s repeated focus on the simplest analysis (more police=less crime) may be regrettable, for the wider-angle view that the left’s “institutional racism” mantra could have deeper effects with broad consequences.

What we may be witnessing is a cycle of violence and misinterpretation: more crime along with more dangerous police-suspect encounters that feed mistaken impressions to bolster the initial charge of racism: rinse, wring, repeat.


In the Summer of 2016, I answered a question on Quora that does not look very good in retrospect, “Will we ever see a Libertarian president in the USA?”

Until this crazy year, 2016, I said “no.”

Now, after all these years, it appears that the Johnson-Weld team might pull off something astounding. The intellectual death of the two major parties, instantiated in their terrible candidates for office, Hillary and the Donald, might send desperate voters left and right and center into the LP camp.

The Johnson-Weld team did not pull off something impressive. The vote totals, while better than for any other LP ticket in the party’s now long history, were not all that impressive, considering the terrible candidates of the major parties. Surely they could have done better.

One reason that the team did not do better was obvious from almost the first day. When asked about Hillary Clinton, Bill Weld — apparently leading the team — and Gary Johnson, the ostensible Presidential candidate, said she was a good kid, basically, a good and faithful public servant.

If a Libertarian candidate cannot come out swinging against a statist like Clinton, he (or she) is not even a little libertarian.

This milquetoast anti-provocationism could be seen in 2020, too, where Jorgensen-Cohen spent more energy courting the SJW anti-racist vote than the anti-lockdowner vote. It was almost as if the mask-wearing pair didn’t really believe their alleged ideology.

But the problem with the LP remains. Its membership is too radical to succeed in a big way. Their choice of two marginal-to-the-movement candidates suggest the membership’s recognition that the old PlumbLine stance will get them nowhere.

While in 2016 I wrote, above, that Libertarians are “too radical,” the most obvious problem with the candidates since Harry Browne has been that they are not radical enough.

But mainly, the candidates and their supporters in the party do not seem to understand their place in history. They do not understand what they are up against.

So, in that, they are very much like Donald Trump.

They do not see the American union as highly unstable, constitutionally — having lost most of its original federal character — and dangerously over-stable — being run as a nation-state-cum-empire, fed on sectoral greed and guided by Deep State psy-op.

Libertarians do not seem able to grok the most important fact of contemporary partisan electoral politics: the two parties are driving each other insane, ratcheting up their levels of ridiculousness, as can be seen easiest in the fact that Americans just swapped one allegedly corrupt billionaire of erratic temperament and dubious moral character for a super-corrupt, senescent puppet of DNC/Deep State hacks. Libertarians have no sense of story. They do not seem to understand the roles they are playing.

And before you can succeed, you must first understand what you are doing.

Libertarian Party members do not understand what they are doing. They do not understand why they are losers. In 2016, I at least had a clue:

The even bigger problem is that the party has the stink of death about it. Americans give political upstarts a fairly narrow window to show their mettle. (Because of how votes are counted, only two parties can remain viable for long, simultaneously. See the work of Condorcet; view This systemic two-party bias nudges voters to accept a challenger parties only when there is immediate hope of displacing one of the current major parties.) The LP lost in 1980, with the Clark campaign, and hasn’t had a significant chance until now. Americans see it as a party of losers. The brief time in the early 1980s, when there were several Libertarian state representatives in the Alaska legislature, has long passed. No significant wins have occurred since. Each presidential outing an irrational hope bubbles up, for one candidate or other. I remember economist Murray N. Rothbard’s insistence that Ron Paul could win over social conservatives for new life for the party, in 1987. The 1988 Paul campaign was an embarrassing bust. My colleagues claimed Harry Browne as the breakout hope several elections later. As good a speaker as he was, he received few votes. Candidates Michael Badnarik and former Rep. Bob Barr likewise fizzled.

I’ve been saying for 28 years: the party should fold, and reorganize as several vital activist groups, none of them running presidential candidates — though running deliberate mockery runs, a là Pat Paulsen, might be worth a shot.

But I underestimated the Libertarians’ predicament, here. Libertarians are not serious. They are merely earnest. No Libertarian candidate challenges Libertarians to actually make a difference. No Libertarian candidate dares take the bull by the horns and acknowledge, as a bedrock truth, the party’s always also-ran status, and therefore cannot overcome the Wasted Vote argument — an easy argument to destroy, logically, but Libertarians haven’t the wit to see that their only hope is to face it head on and rub Americans’ noses in the inherently scammy nature of electoral politics, of pretending that democracy can rule an empire.

In other words, Libertarians are intellectual cowards. They have been staring down the Wasted Vote argument since the beginning. Somehow, it never occurs to them to give a good answer. I say that a good answer is to be found, but running with it would be honest and therefore dangerous.

Libertarians would get further by pushing initiative and referendum measures, lobbying Congress and state houses, protesting bureaucracies, etc.

Some day, forming a less radical, explicitly Libertarian Lite party might make sense, a Liberist Party, or, more entertaining and useful, a Receivership Party to fold a bankrupt federal government and form new unions in its place, might make sense.

The idea of a Receivership Party still makes sense, but a Libertarian Lite party is a bad idea. That is what the Libertarian Party is right now. What Libertarians need is not lite, but enlightenment.

But for now, let us see if Johnson-Weld can at least send the 2016 presidential election into the House of Representatives! (Or win?) Right now the campaign’s strategy is to offend as few people as possible, capitalize on their experience, and create whimsical, light-hearted tugs at our heartstrings, hoping to grab NeverHillary and NeverTrump voters, along with disaffected independents, to really send the system into an epochal change.

Best of luck. It is a long shot. But no one else is worth voting for. So why not vote for them?

Yeah, that was dumb. There was no hope. Not with two former Republican governors.

And while the Libertarians’ pathetic hope for respectability, seen in choosing such candidates, may merely parallel the ratcheting-up of ridiculousness by the major parties — all part of the Law of Nemesis that we should (were we paying attention) understood as well now as our ancestors did in ancient times, when memes were myth — take a breath: something more nefarious may be afoot.

Libertarians should ask themselves: are they being played?

Specifically, by the Deep State.

The CIA and NSA and other behind-the-scenes manipulators of public opinion have had a huge hand in politics from the JFK assassination on. The FBI’s James Comey tried to blackmail Trump, after all, and the hidden hand was in plain sight in trying to remove the outsider prez from office for his first three years. In the last year, we must wonder, did the Deep State go back to being professional, bringing out the Big Guns to take down Trump?

For remember, prior to the pandemic, Trump was set for reëlection, the Democratic presidential candidates being so horrifically unimpressive and all, and the economy doing surprisingly well. But in comes the Wuhan bug, and Trump crumbles. While he resisted going as authoritarian as Democrats demand (and that was funny, I admit) the way he handled Fauci and pushed “vaccination” meant that he was doomed. The Democrats worked mightily both behind the scenes and in plain sight (as Time so niftily explained) to ensure that the pixillated puppet, Joe Biden, got more votes than Trump. It was an astounding thing to watch.

Libertarians should wonder whether they have also been manipulated. By infiltrators into their ranks (like, say, former Libertarian National Committee chairs and former state governors as candidates) and by strategically placed temptations.

We should speculate and inquire: what has the Deep State been thinking about us?

Wonder, especially, what to make of Brennan’s new direction, of placing libertarians under direct investigation — “even libertarians”!

I suspect that libertarians are the group in America that the Deep State most fears — intellectually. Because libertarianism has such a strong connection with the tradition of American independence — the United States began as a secessionist revolution spouting ideas of liberty! — libertarian ideas are potentially the most destabilizing for the Deep State’s mission of managed politics. So, Libertarians have been managed. For a very long time.

But with Brennan’s floated idea of treating libertarians as open enemies of the State, libertarians might want to now rethink their insignificance.

Could we be insignificant by design?

And if we made ourselves significant, by confronting reality as it is, not reality merely theorized and dreamed about, would we survive?

The question then becomes, are libertarians brave enough to take the next steps? So far, bravery has been associated with dunderheaded stupidity, as in the whole Tea Party movement and Trump moment. But for actual libertarians, the bravery will become necessary after the stupidity is foresworn. Do libertarians have the necessary courage?

I doubt it.

As far as I can tell, witlessly pushing the LP rock up Sisyphus’ hill is what libertarians want to do, over and over, forever.

Scant savvy and no courage required for that.


What prevents countries from attempting libertarian policies?

…as answered on Quora….

Not enough libertarians.

That is the main reason. All other reasons are speculative.

But there is, I think, a baseline reason for why there are so few libertarians, and I am not referring to genetic predisposition or the early stage of libertarianism’s development. What is that reason?

Statism is a trap.

The dirigiste state — the robust modern state, as well as the various states of limited-access societies in the past — presents people with a set of incentive traps that embroil them in self-defeating behavior.

Think of it as a hole and all we have are shovels, and the loosest loam is under our feet, not on the sides. It takes longer digging steps for an upward ascent. So people, mostly distracted, living their lives, convince themselves that digging further downward is the obvious response.

They forget that the first rule to apply when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging downward.

The social sciences provide some familiar and not-familiar-enough terms that help define and explain aspects of our predicament: rational ignorance, preference falsification, the Thomas Theorem, the prisoner’s dilemma, public goods, rent-seeking, market failure, and the like. But people get confused by the situations identified by these terms, and are tempted to see in further state-control and -interference solutions to the problems state-control itself causes.

Example? Take that term “market failure.” It is a term of art that economists use, but it often confuses even economists. It is not, like it sounds, about the failures of markets. It refers to the failure to establish the groundwork for markets. The most common market failures are in government.

It sounds paradoxical.

But it isn’t.

It is just a bit complicated.

Smart people are supposed to be able to unravel such convolutions, untangle these puzzles. But the dirigiste state presents smart people with a huge temptation: to live at others’ expense — gain unfair advantage — all the while feeling self-righteous in advancing “the public good.”

But what if the public good can only be achieved through the establishment of the limits that liberty provides? What if it is only by limiting coercion so that people have to get ahead by serving others through trade and other forms of voluntary coöperation that redounds to the general benefit?

Well, smart people would have to work a bit harder, in such a system, and might have to live with dumber people getting ahead of them. So smart people just naturally find the statist modes of the ancient world’s limited-access societies and revive them through licensing, regulations, taxation, even subsidies. And, in the process, “just so happen” to set up their class as dominant. Technocracies don’t run themselves!

It “just so happens” that the biggest winners in a modern dirigiste state are members of what we call the cognitive elite.

It is almost as if intellectuals — good students, remember, great test-takers and essay writers and bright young scholars — saw the world of market capitalism at the end of the 19th century, where anyone, regardless of IQ or credentials, could advance by leaps and bounds so long as they provided services to others on a contractual, voluntary basis, and said “fuck that shit.” It is almost as if they set up a system of massive coercion all built around the guidance of “trained professionals” wherein said professionals would achieve the security that markets do not readily provide, at least for so little real work.

It is almost that!

That, my friends, is Progressivism.

And, with the smart people — er, the good students and dutiful drones of the collegiate crowd — almost all on board with statism, and in control of the commanding heights of the culture — public schools, higher ed, major media and the entertainment industry, not to mention the many bureaucracies and government contractors — it is very hard to make much headway against the trap that they have fully set.

Amusingly, these geniuses routinely set up systems that self-destruct. At least, after entangling increasing numbers of the population into servility or exploitation or both. So, we run headlong into crisis, and move from crisis to crisis. There may be some hope in a growing realization that these long-term cycles of the dirigiste state are not All to the Good.

And, lastly, at the basis of the trap, at least in terms of democratic action, is this: government programs are routinely judged not on the merits of their ostensible and original purposes, but on whether they establish beneficiaries. That is, constituencies. But allprograms accomplish that. So all government programs tend to grow, and kludge must become the rule.

While retreats from social kludge can be made, and have been made, they are politically costly, difficult to negotiate.

Statism is the “it” of our situation:

twv, December 16, 2018

It sure looks like democracy is over. See the news.

I am preparing to present some ideas on the meaning of “democracy,” and the current situation in the federal union’s capital sparks some ideas. My thoughts started out merely to criticize one rather lame definition of democracy — “majority rule” — but even that appears to have gone by the boards, for it is not the majority who rules now.



Recent events have been orchestrated by the Deep State to see how much/little blowback there would be from revelations of an astounding nature.

The revelations of past, recent and ongoing schemes have ratcheted up the level of enormity perpetrated by current officeholders.

  1. The AATIP revelations, where the government admitted that UFOs were real, but pretended not to know what they were, despite having investigated them for decades. Americans’ response? Ho-hum. The biggest revelation in world history and Americans yawn. Or snicker.
  2. China builds a bioweapon and releases it — with some U.S. Government funding. Result? Americans eagerly accept and support outrageous and totalitarian commands from politicians who have lied and changed stories and switched rationales multiple times, and Americans do not even think about the meaning of a likely major attack on the world and their own country by one foreign government … or the even more ominous possibility that elements of their own government (like the inexplicably popular Herr Doktor Fauci) conspired with said malefactor. What the Deep State then learned is that they could get away with the next step,
  3. a stolen election, ongoing, and then
  4. the next big event, which Bill Gates has already named. Yes, he did. Do you remember what he said the next hit was going to be? A massive failure of the Internet, or was it the whole infrastructure of the electric grid?

With step 4 I think the revolution will be complete. Millions of Americans will have died, and with the Manchurian candidate in the White House, the security of China and the Deep State will be complete. And a totalitarian superstate firmly in place over a reduced (in every sense of the word) population.

The thing is, I am not saying we do not deserve this. If your reaction to revelation #1 was “meh” or disbelief, or to just let the U.S. Government get away with its past psy-ops and lies and crimes (including murder) to keep a huge secret, then your reaction to #4 should, probably, be meekly to die, accepting your fate as unworthy to live.


Have we not long known the bedrock truth, expressed by the now despised Thomas Jefferson, a man smarter and wiser than you or me? “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest.”

One of the great mysteries of the progressive-programmed electorate is how it can forget so quickly one rationale for a policy (“flatten the curve” so as not to over-burden hospital infrastructure) and then embrace nebulous, unrealistic rationales (“beat the virus”). Mosts people are just too distracted and foolish to follow this crucial giving away of the moral high ground and intellectual respectability. Instead, they take it on faith.

And it really is faith.

But unlike faith in God, which puts you in an almost-impossible-to-test realm of epistemic extremity, faith in Salvation by Government is easy to show up as idiotic and disproven by facts and the unfolding of events.

Still, the faith is strong. Especially among moderately bright people. And why, you may ask? Well, I have mused upon this quite a lot. And evolutionary anthropologist Edward Dutton has investigated this sort of thing scientifically. But part of what we are dealing with is explained by class incentives: the moderate brights take up positions in the culture that have been heavily co-opted by technocrats using, chiefly, credentialist mechanisms — higher education — and the thing about moderate brights is that they excel at test taking and passing through low-end scholastic hoops. It’s very easy to navigate a world arranged by academics.

But it is not at all efficient, and it subverts the market order, for instead of using profit and loss as a test, other tests of efficacy come to dominate. And the domination of society by this class of people, these moderate brights, in a regulatory context, can be quite domineering.

Of course those domineering moderate brights don’t see it, because they have faith. It is the faith of statism. It is the major feature of intellectual life today.


“Pics or it didn’t happen.”

That’s a popular online taunt: #POIDH. Say something that stretches credulity, and get back that challenge: show us your photographic evidence. 

That’s the idea.

President Donald J. Trump is challenging the outcome of the presidential election, on the basis that it was stolen. Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani gave a 90-minute press conference on the Trump team’s case for massive election fraud, in which Biden pulled out from behind and came up with enough votes to send him to the White House.

Trump has long been warning that the pandemic- (“Dem Panic”-) induced use of hastily contrived mail-in ballots around the country was a recipe for massive vote fraud. And after an election which saw weak Democratic down-ballot performance (losing ground in the House, for example) and in which Trump himself increased his votes by several millions, his case is not altogether implausible — with so weak a general showing, how did Biden come from behind?

Giuliani claims to have thousands of affidavits of vote-count wrongdoing in major Democratic cities in swing states, and . . . yet we see little interest in the press to cover this astounding claim without the framing of the story as “unproven.” Fox Business’s Neil Cavuto actually cut off a White House feed because the claims being made had not been verified — and were apparently too dangerous to allow on the news. Bizarre. For my part, I have not ever believed in the security of electronic voting systems, or the necessary probity of those operating them.

More impressive than Giuliani’s affidavits and astounding stories, as well as more disturbing, is the claim by super-shark Sydney Powell (see photo above) that the software used by Dominion, the company that supplied electronic balloting in 24 states, was designed to rig elections in Venezuela for Hugo Chavez (and others), and was used to flip millions of votes for Biden this election.

Tucker Carlson, of Fox News, not unreasonably asked her to show his audience the evidence. He says she refused.

I don’t know why, yet maybe we all soon will have an answer. But when extraordinary claims are made, we really do require evidence of a non-ordinary nature.

Indictments or it didn’t happen: #IOIDH.


Why is politics so crazy right now? Why Trump, and why have the Democrats gone loopy rather than develop their USP as the Party of Sanity?

Well, I have a theory, and I discuss it with Paul Jacob, of

LocoFoco Netcast #23, featuring Paul Jacob.

And of course the podcast is available from Apple and Google and Spotify and Pocket Cast, as well as on SoundCloud:

LocoFoco Netcast #23,

Modern politics and the major ideologies, including organized racism, are attempts to make up for the difficulty of managing the commons in a diverse society. 

Nationalism makes up for ethno-diversity by creating an over-arching statist culture to “identify” with, above the level of the kin, kith and ethnic group; woke multiculturalism, like politically correct socialistic agendas before it, counters with a rigid ideological monoculture the better to manage people as ever-more commons are created through socialization.

Neither old-time nationalists nor woke multiculturalists can stand alt-right ethno-nationalists because alt-righters believe — not without some realism — that even vague kinship similarities work better at beating back defection strategies by participants in a commons (which includes funds secured by taxation) than can ideology. Woke multiculturalists especially hate them because, in addition to alt-racists seeking to create a kinship-based monoculture rather than an ideological monoculture, the woke also engage in a characteristic treason strategy of bringing in outsiders to upset existing nationalistic hierarchies, and are more tolerant of anarcho-tyranny than other groups. Alt-racists prefer regular tyranny to anarcho-tyranny.

In both standard, familiar nationalism and woke multiculturalism, a doctrinal ideology is preferred to more natural methods of group solidarity. Obviously ethno-nationalism is anathema to both. It is too “natural” and not “civilized” enough — meaning not artificial . . . and thus “anti-intellectual.”

But classical liberal and libertarian strategies outdo both nationalism and multiculturalism in the doctrinal department by pushing the lateral-thinking move of reducing commons problems — and the inevitable defections (“tragedies” in Garret Hardin’s terminology) — by reducing the number and scope of resources accessed and held in common. Instead of planned against, and fought in a public programs, the Tragedy of the Commons is largely obviated under classical liberal and libertarian programs.

Nationalists understand the move, since nationalism grew out of liberalism, and nationalists are more than willing to use commons-limitation strategies to reduce the over-access problem. Nationalism is a mixed-strategy approach. 

Woke multiculturalists cannot even wrap their heads around the liberal-libertarian approach, since their mindset identifies increasing the scope of common resources as the best way to bring outsiders into the in-group, and thereby upset and re-integrate the hierarchy. (Woke folk often pretend to be against hierarchies, but that’s only a piety to encourage stupid people to join the revolution.)

On this reading, ethno-nationalism seems the most natural course for statism, the most stable course. Doctrinal nationalism, on the other hand, by engaging in ideological nation-building, prompts further ideological development — simply by mimesis, the meme of using ideology to manage the commons encourages the growth of socialism and its variants, which merely take the idea of using ideology to manage commons-access to a daring extreme.

But doctrinal nationalism has obvious advantages in international relations because of its mixed strategy. That is, it can marshal more resources to the state than can the narrower, extremist doctrines of socialism’s fake-anti-nationalism, since it destroys fewer resources. And probably encourages more production of easily-alienable wealth.

Indeed, the genius of the State in ancient times was how it encouraged the growth of easily alienable wealth. Socialists imagine wealth as communally shared and thus inalienable as such, which itself limits the utility of the State as anything other than a driver of human beings — their freedom being the easiest thing to alienate in the commonwealth.

The problem with liberalism/libertarianism is that it gives so little scope for political action that ambitious people find little reason to accept its strictures. Thus ambition alone, but mixed also with greed, would take a minimal state to the nation-state and beyond to dirigisme; add in envy to the ambition-greed mix and at least one sector of the population will almost inevitably demand full socialism.

Minarchism does not appear to be a stable solution.


Herbert Spencer’s ten-volume Synthetic Philosophy.

What are the sociological arguments against socialism? (Not economic) I guess one of the stereotypical ones is ‘makes people lazy and unwilling to work.’ ‘Infantilises people.’ What others can you think of?

The question was asked of libertarians in a private group on Facebook. Many interesting answers were given. But I see a lot of talk but no mention of actual sociologists.

Two should immediately come to mind, for at classical liberal theory’s last gasp stands two pioneering sociologists who could very much be called libertarians: Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Both argued against the rising intellectual and political movement in their day, and both brought a lot of intelligence to the debate. I can imagine Sumner being a favorite, in part because of his more vigorous prose, but I just want to sketch Spencer’s arguments as they appear in the latter chapters of The Principles of Sociology: Part VIII, Industrial Institutions.

In the 22nd chapter, titled “Socialism,” Spencer began, ‘Some socialists, though probably not many, know that their ideal modes of associated living are akin to modes which have prevailed widely during early stages of civilization, and prevail still among many of the uncivilized, as well as among some of the civilized who have lagged behind.’ After giving a number of examples of primitive societies in then-recent history — citing the ‘aborigines of North America’ and their system’s brake on thrift and industry; the affable and easygoing ‘Croatian house-communities’ whose high rates of child mortality and lack of education (with the ‘children unkempt and neglected’) and industry still-born because of the share-out ‘sub-divisions’ of communal work but whose group orientation was spurred by the rigors of defense and warfare — Spencer concluded like this: ‘Hence the socialist theory and practice are normal in the militant type of society, and cease to be normal as fast as the society becomes predominantly industrial in its type.’

He of course admitted that a ‘state of universal brotherhood is so tempting an imagination, and the existing state of competitive strife is so full of miseries, that endeavours to escape from the last and enter into the first are quite natural — inevitable even. Prompted by consciousness of the grievous inequalities of condition around, those who suffer and those who sympathize with them, seek to found what they think an equitable social system.’ But then Spencer turned his attention to the many attempts to set up better systems, the utopian community movement — the ‘experiments in living,’ as J.S. Mill characterized them, the movement with which I started my own political inquiries over four decades ago. There he found failure after failure. Problems identified by the sources he cited include

  • too much ‘diversity’ of opinion to make coördination of labor anything like efficient
  • grumbling and frowardness
  • recognition that lack of rewards for extra work must entail general low performance
  • fights on the job, sans punishment; violent discord

Utopian communities rarely sported any kind of success. Spencer regarded it a plain fact that ‘human beings as now constituted cannot work together efficiently and harmoniously’ in the ways proposed by socialist reformers. And he noted that socialists rarely admit this obvious truth — or, ‘if by some admitted, then it is held that the mischiefs arising from defective natures may be prevented by a sufficiently powerful authority—that is, if for these separate groups one great organization centrally controlled is substituted.’

But such resort to force, Spencer argued, would not be sustainable.

He rested quite a lot on what he calls ‘the general law of species-life’ which has it ‘that during immature life benefit received must be great in proportion as worth is small, while during mature life benefit and worth must vary together.’ But ‘collectivists, socialists, and communists,’ ignore this ‘distinction between the ethics of family-life and the ethics of life outside the family. Entirely under some forms, and in chief measure under others, it proposes to extend the régime of the family to the whole community.’ Spencer here pushed a theme we encounter later in F.A. Hayek, who, incidentally, pointedly never read Spencer’s work.

‘The socialist does not ask what must happen if, generation after generation, the material well-being of the inferior is raised at the cost of lowering that of the superior. Even when it is pointed out, he refuses to see that if the superior, persistently burdened by the inferior, are hindered in rearing their own better offspring, that the offspring of the inferior may be as efficiently cared for, a gradual deterioration of the race must follow. The hope of curing present evils so fills his consciousness that it cannot take in the thought of the still greater future evils his proposed system would produce.’

Spencer went on to argue that ‘people who, in their corporate capacity, abolish the natural relation between merits and benefits, will presently be abolished themselves. Either they will have to go through the miseries of a slow decay, consequent on the increase of those unfit for the business of life, or they will be overrun by some people who have not pursued the foolish policy of fostering the worst at the expense of the best.’

We see that today, even in our own semi-socialist Euro-American context. I just finished reading Edward Dutton’s book Why Islam Makes You Stupid … But Also Means You’ll Conquer the World, and his careful speculations add to Spencer’s sociological argument. Dutton follows Spencer, by the way, in advancing a kind of theory that is a no-no among academic neo-Darwinists: group selection theory.

Calling the ‘doctrine of the socialists … psychologically absurd,’ Spencer argued that it ‘implies an impossible mental structure.’

The socialist society ‘must be composed of men having sympathies so strong that those who, by their greater powers, achieve greater benefits, willingly surrender the excess to others.’ Spencer queried the nature of this altruism: ‘The intensity of fellow feeling is to be such as to cause life-long self-sacrifice.’ But what of the beneficiaries? What must be the attitudes of those be? They gain at their betters’ expense. How can they share the same moral attitudes, then, under such circumstances?

Spencer calls this ‘contradictory,’ and the ‘implied mental constitution … an impossible one.’

Then the rubber really sticks to the pavement ‘when we recognize a further factor in the problem — love of offspring. Within the family parental affection joins sympathy in prompting self-sacrifice, and makes it easy, and indeed pleasurable, to surrender to others a large part of the products of labour. But such surrender made to those within the family-group is at variance with a like surrender made to those outside the family-group.’

You see what is coming, though, don’t you? A ready and old communist solution: ‘Parental relations are to be superseded, and children are to be taken care of by the State. The method of Nature is to be replaced by a better method.’ Spencer was obviously not impressed with this, and related it to the aforementioned ‘general law of species-life’: just as ‘socialists would suspend the natural relation between effort and benefit, so would they suspend the natural relation between the instinctive actions of parents and the welfare of progeny. The two great laws in the absence of either of which organic evolution would have been impossible, are both to be repealed!’

So you see that Spencer is — in addition to be a structuralist, functionalist, and a general systems theorist (see Jonathan Turner’s terrific little book on Spencer’s sociology) — an evolutionist. He has thus been attacked as a dread ‘Social Darwinist,’ but see that he is not talking about letting people starve. He was a forerunner to sociobiology, and the likes of that “Jolly Heretic,” Edward Dutton, whose works are certainly thought-provoking.

Now, Spencer readily conceded that something like socialist arrangements might work in some simple societies. ‘It would not be altogether irrational to expect that some of the peaceful Indian hill-tribes, who display the virtue of forgiveness without professing it, or those Papuan Islanders among whom the man chosen as chief uses his property to help poorer men out of their difficulties, might live harmoniously under socialistic arrangements; but can we reasonably expect this of men who, pretending to believe that they should love their neighbours as themselves, here rob their fellows and there shoot them, while hoping to slay wholesale men of other blood?’ Spencer thought that character is an important aspect of social evolution, and that character changes according to circumstance. Most importantly, above the tribal level, and that of chiefdoms, the militant mindset predominates before we ever really get to the industrial mindset, and that the attitudes of militancy that might spur some to dream the socialist dream themselves militate against such a dream.

Now, what is really ‘at issue between socialists and anti-socialists … concerns the mode of regulating labour.’ Earlier in his big book he ‘illustrated in detail the truth, emphasized at the outset, that political, ecclesiastical, and industrial regulations simultaneously decrease in coerciveness as we ascend from lower to higher types of societies: the modern industrial system being one under which coerciveness approaches a minimum. Though now the worker is often mercilessly coerced by circumstances, and has nothing before him but hard terms, yet he is not coerced by a master into acceptance of these terms.’ That is, the general condition of hardship remains from difficult, pre-capitalist times, specific terms of hardship are not, in a mostly free society, themselves coerced.

This is, of course, a distinction modern leftists refuse to acknowledge.

Spencer saw a parallax view problem, here: ‘while the evils which resulted from the old modes of regulating labour, not experienced by present or recent generations, have been forgotten, the evils accompanying the new mode are keenly felt, and have aroused the desire for a mode which is in reality a modified form of the old mode. There is to be a re-institution of status not under individual masters but under the community as master.’

Spencer also insisted that a ‘complete parallelism exists between such a social structure and the structure of an army. It is simply a civil regimentation parallel to the military regimentation; and it establishes an industrial subordination parallel to the military subordination. In either case the rule is — Do your task and take your rations. In the working organization as in the fighting organization, obedience is requisite for maintenance of order, as well as for efficiency, and must be enforced with whatever rigour is found needful.’

So, the socialists’ perennial recourse to force upon the failure of their schemes entails quite a lots of regimentation. And with regimentation ‘must arise a new aristocracy for the support of which the masses would toil; and which, being consolidated, would wield a power far beyond that of any past aristocracy.’

But that specter of what was later called totalitarianism, along with its necessary inequalities, does not faze socialists. ‘Just as the zealous adherent of a religious creed, met by some fatal objection, feels certain that though he does not see the answer yet a good answer is to be found,’ Spencer explained, ‘or just as the lover to whom defects of his mistress are pointed out, cannot be made calmly to consider what will result from them in married life; so the socialist, in love with his scheme, will not entertain adverse criticisms, or gives no weight to them if he does.’

The dream must go on for the besotted. ‘He will continue to hope that selfish men may be so manipulated that they will behave unselfishly — that the effects of goodness may be had without the goodness. He has unwavering faith in a social alchemy which out of ignoble natures will get noble actions.’

In the next chapter, Spencer turned to the problem of individual ownership … self-ownership … the individual’s ownership of himself (or herself). But Spencer is a sociologist here, not a radical libertarian, and his point is to explore such issues to understand the ebb and flow of social change.

‘There is small objection to coercion if all are equally coerced; and hence the tendency to regimentation reappears in one or other form continually.’ Equality thus can breed not only liberty, but illiberal suppression, as well. This is a key observation, and helps us understand not only tyrannical systems but liberated ones. ‘Along with increases in that direct State-ownership of the individual which is implied by use of him as a soldier,’ Spencer explained, carrying the thought over to ‘observe the increase in that indirect State-ownership which is implied by multiplication of dictations and restraints, and by growth of general and local taxation.’ 

In the late 19th century, when Spencer was writing these final chapters to the final segment of his magnum opus, France and Germany were militarizing heavily. This led, a decade after Spencer’s demise, to a continental war, the First World War. And ‘with extensive ownership of the individual by the State in military and civil organizations, there has widely coexisted advocacy of that ownership by the State to which socialism gives another shape,’ Spencer recognized. But in his somewhat more liberal England, ‘with approximation to the continental type in the one respect, there has gone a growing acceptance of the continental conception in the other respect.’

What began as a middle-class Fabian movement grew enormously. 

It is worth mentioning, though, that during this same period the ranks of self-identified ‘individualists’ also grew, according to Wordsworth Donisthorpe in Law in a Free State, published within the year of the edition of Principles of Sociology that sits by my side. Apparently the fin de siècle was a time, like now, of ideological polarization. And the result was war, from which the individualists did not recover, but the statists did, in several forms: fascism, social democracy, progressivism, and socialism.

But that was a few decades later. Towards the end of Spencer’s life, socialists were urging the ‘ultimate absorption of all kinds of fixed property’  and advocating general strikes ‘against rents as an immediate method of procedure’ as well as showing ‘an absolute disregard of all existing contracts, and, by implication, a proposed abolition of contract for the future’ — all of which Spencer saw as a ‘return to the old system of status under a new form.’

Like Hayek after him, Spencer regarded socialism as atavistic.

‘For in the absence of that voluntary cooperation which contract implies,’ Spencer explained, ‘there is no possible alternative but compulsory cooperation. Self-ownership entirely disappears and ownership by others universally replaces it.’

And the political incentives towards this end sound eerily similar to today’s partisan/bipartisan lurch towards ever-bigger government. ‘Naturally the member of parliament who submits to coercion by his party, contemplates legal coercions of others without repugnance. . . [B]eing the creature of his party and the creature of his constituents, he does not hesitate in making each citizen the creature of the community.’

And socialists, in this kind of environment, have a field day, gaining converts. I mean, the promises! But, as Spencer observed, the new convert ‘is not told that if he is to be fed he must also be driven.’

Spencer did not predict revolution, though, despite how often it was advocated: ‘A sudden substitution of the régime proposed for the régime which exists, as intended by bearers of the red flag, seems less likely than a progressive metamorphosis.’

But the end-game seemed obvious: ‘a state in which no man can do what he likes but every man must do what he is told.’

Spencer lets bitterness creep into his treatise: ‘An entire loss of freedom will thus be the fate of those who do not deserve the freedom they possess.’

But how long would the new, collectivist social state last? Spencer did not predict. But he did guess, in his last chapter, how the new socialist order might end. Such orders end, sometimes, with a ‘sudden bursting of bonds which have become intolerable may in some cases happen: bringing on a military despotism. In other cases practical extinction may follow a gradual decay, arising from abolition of the normal relation between merit and benefit, by which alone the vigour of a race can be maintained. And in yet further cases may come conquest by peoples who have not been emasculated by fostering their feebles — peoples before whom the socialistic organization will go down like a house of cards, as did that of the ancient Peruvians before a handful of Spaniards.’

Now, Spencer is often castigated as an advocate of necessary unilinear progress, yet he was, at the end of his sociological work, explaining ‘retrogression.’ 

He tried to paint in landscape, not minute portraiture: ‘if the process of evolution which, unceasing throughout past time, has brought life to its present height, continues throughout the future, as we cannot but anticipate, then, amid all the rhythmical changes in each society, amid all the lives and deaths of nations, amid all the supplantings of race by race, there will go on that adaptation of human nature to the social state which began when savages first gathered together into hordes for mutual defence—an adaptation finally complete.’ He understood that his basic perspective is, to most people, ‘a wild imagination.’ But evolution was not the whole of his Synthetic Philosophy, not the whole of his famous schema, for he insisted that the ‘cosmic process brings about retrogression as well as progression, where the conditions favour it.’ Contra his critics, he asserted an obvious point: ‘Evolution does not imply a latent tendency to improve, everywhere in operation. There is no uniform ascent from lower to higher, but only an occasional production of a form which, in virtue of greater fitness for more complex conditions, becomes capable of a longer life of a more varied kind.’

But he did insist that there are indeed higher forms that can be distinguished from lower forms, the higher ones corresponding to ‘greater fitness for more complex conditions.’

And socialism is not that highest form.

Liberty is.