Archives for category: Social Theory

“The big lie about capitalism is that everyone can be rich but capitalism works only if the majority are kept poor enough to never quit working and accept distasteful jobs society cannot function without. If everyone were a millionaire, who would empty the trash or repair the sewers?”
Do you agree or disagree? Why?

…as answered on Quora….

Many distasteful jobs are well paid. Do you want to be a proctologist? I do not. And yet people who probe around in others’ anuses for medical purposes are not kept artificially poor.

Many, many high-paying jobs are jobs our society cannot function without. And not a few are distasteful to many, if not most. One reason many smart people do not go into politics, despite this profession’s long history of high spoils rates, is because it is disgusting work. Tedious. Morally ugly. Dehumanizing. And most people say politics is absolutely essential to modern society.

I would rather drive a garbage truck or sling cowshit in a dairy farm than serve in the Oval Office.

Or probe around in the above-mentioned orifices.

And let us say, arguendo, that more and more people found garbage collection and sewerage repair just too disgusting to hire themselves out for. If these jobs’ products remain demanded by people, the customers would indeed pay higher prices — and with a tight supply and higher demand, we can expect wages to rise in those fields.

It is worth noting that many dirty jobs actually pay pretty well. See Mike Rowe’s once-popular show, Dirty Jobs. Consider “the trades.”

To answer the original question in the affirmative is to take a conspiratorial view of wages. Those who believe such things should study economics, learn about “marginal productivity,” and put away silly hunches and prejudices.

But let us return to the first phrase: “The big lie of capitalism is that everyone can be rich. . . .” If by this one means “equally rich” (which probably is what is meant) I have to say: I’ve never heard anyone assert that this is what a market economy offers us. Equality of wealth is not possible — unless you flip that around: equality of dire poverty is possible.

And in societies geared to be extremely anti-capitalist — that is, in socialist societies — caste divisions and great disparities of wealth become quite large. Just think of Venezuela’s richest woman, the former president’s daughter, and contrast her with the masses of that beleaguered-yet-resource-rich country. Now starving, they no longer line up for food, they line up at the border, trying to exit the country.

Equality is not a function of nature. No society but the simplest and poorest sports material equality. Even in hunter-gatherer tribes there tends to be some startling inequalities. Markets reward performance on merit through that amazing filter, supply and demand. It is not equality that markets produce, but quality in general. And, as others have stated, we are a lot wealthier now than we used to be. There has been awesome material progress.

It is a pity that a progress in wisdom has not been nearly as marked. But, to some extent this is to be expected: education has been monopolized in public schooling as well as in limited-accreditation higher ed, to an amazing degree for well over a century — monopolized in the non-capitalist sector of society.

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Let’s all take a moment to mourn the passing of Climate Change Catastrophism. 

For years polls have shown that the bulk of mankind rates this issue very low as a priority.

Now, when other issues emerge to better signal uprightness — like “wear the mask!” and “black lives matter!” — the lip service people gave to climate alarmism, without (of course) really understanding the ramifications of the prophets of doom, the repeated failures of their prophecies, and the infancy of “climate science,” no longer beckons much cultish behavior.

That behavior is reserved for pandemics and racism panics.

While it is just as true that the “science” behind official pandemic responses and patterns of policing are just as shoddy and deceptive as that behind “manmade global warming,” the new ones are new, and more closely and immediately affecting everyday life, so they have extra oomph.

Will Climate Change Catastrophism come back?

Well, it might, but not, I think, bigger and better and stronger. It will be weaker, flaccid. All the people who have become skeptical about the lockdowns and mask orders, and about how real crime stats in America apply to protest demands and riots and statue iconoclasm, will take their newfound skepticism and apply it against the garbage heap that is Anthropogenic Global Warming.

But I predict a new, better form of Climate Catastrophism could emerge, and should: the one that recognizes that the real global threat to civilization, humanity, and life on this planet is extra-terrestrial hits by asteroids, comets, and mass coronal mass ejections (from the Sun).

Maybe after people realize that hair-shirt-wearing religious posturing that serves to replace the doctrine of Original Sin with some secular analogue is an embarrassment to all mankind — or at least that small fraction of intelligent terrestrial life — we can deal with real threats in a rational way.

OK. Stop laughing.

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Photo: Ralf, Flickr, some rights reserved
Why do most Americans consider Marxism evil?
…as answered on Quora.

Is that true?

If it isn’t true, it should be. Hundreds of millions of people died because of attempts to create socialist utopias by men who were inspired by Karl Marx, and who identified themselves as Marxists. Karl Marx, in his day, cooked up an alternative to liberalism and the rule of law. He ridiculed the very idea of “bourgeois freedom.” Hating the idea of private property, he believed that “society” should own the means of production. Though he said the ideal, end product of the revolution he promoted was a “stateless society,” he believed that there would first have to be a “dictatorship of the proletariat.” He advocated slaughter as well as expropriation to carry through on his “revolution.”

Power corrupts, you know: once power becomes concentrated in a dictatorship, of all things, it is really hard to dissolve it. The socialist tyranny quickly proved a palpable reality, in the case of its first instantiation, the USSR, while the promised stateless utopia has been shown up to be a mere fantasy. It never happened.

It could not happen the way Marx conceived it.

I need to repeat: the dictatorship notion — the “state socialism,” as it came to be called — was a recipe that could only end in disaster, with outrageous moral horror. And it did.

Liberalism’s rule of law establishing decentralized power structures and a distributed system of social organization is the main foundation of nearly everything good in modern life. The institution of private property that the rule of law protects allows human being to avoid tyranny as well as to advance out of poverty.

The communist idea of erasing the boundaries between people (by abolishing private property and the rule of law) and centralizing power in a unified State inevitably leads to murder and totalitarianism.

Besides, Marx’s crackpot notions — I do not think he was right about much of anything, really — are so off-base that attempts to enact his program can only lead to perverse results.

Anyone who knows the history of the Soviet Union and Red China knows enough to regard Marxism as pure poison. And if Marx’s contemporary Mikhail Bakunin could recognize the entelechy of authoritarianism in Marxian communism, we who possess the history as well as the theory to explain why have no excuse.

America was more resistant to communist ideas than most other countries in the last century. Americans, who inherit a form of government founded squarely in the liberal tradition of John Locke and Montesquieu have been immunized against the pernicious doctrine.

The only people of any significance who do not follow this line are those who have been baptized in the intellectually shallow waters of the modern university, where Marxism still thrives under taxpayer subsidy (what suckers taxpayers are). The universities do not let Nazis teach. For the same reason all the Marxists should be fired.

Yes, Americans should stop subsidizing the most murderous ideology ever cooked up by the mind of man. But though most Americans have little truck with communist ideas, they are so badly educated that they cannot see what is at stake — they do not understand how wrong it is to even pretend that Marxism is intellectually respectable in the slightest.

I define as “evil” all intentional harm done with malice aforethought. Karl Marx hated the rich and sought their destruction and expropriation; Marxists today are no better, and in one sense worse: they ignore the history that Marx himself could not know — though he should have foreseen, for it was not just Bakunin who saw it.* You have to be a fool not to see the inanity of the Marxian system. Or the evil.

Alas, fools there are aplenty — and some follies, such as socialism, turn fools into knaves, into terrorists and tyrants. Some follies are quite dangerous. And none is more dangerous than Marxism.

Most Americans have enough common sense to see through the communist buncombe. But I understand: our quasi-socialistic public schools and cult-ridden, subsidized institutions of higher learning can and have programmed many thousands of youngsters to grow up notseeing the obvious, even praising evil as though it were Goodness and Truth.

It is one reason I feel more at home among normal Americans than with the “college trained.” There is so much nonsense among the so-called “educated.”

Still, at least until recently, even most leftists could see though Marxism. But because they valorize collective action and state coercion over individual responsibility and voluntary community and free association, they have lacked the intellectual equipment to resist Marxism strongly enough.

And so that old evil doctrinal farrago seems to be coming back.

What a horror show.


* Consult Eugen Richter’s eerily prescient Pictures of the Socialistic Future (1893) for a fine example.

Our civilization lost an imaginary benevolent omnipotent god and imagined an omnipotent benevolent state. Thus we unshackled it from the chains of liberal limits. 

But this experiment in moral and political innovation did teach us a lesson. We found that benevolence is not a defining feature of the state, regardless of intent, and cannot likely be made so.

But we also learned that squaring our fantasies with reality can provide endless intellectual gymnastics that make angel-dancing on pinheads look like the hokey-pokey, against which our ideological cavorting appears as nothing other than a vampiric tarantella, or, worse yet, a totentanz

Religions serve a function, by exaptation.

But experiments more than suggest any metaphysical fixation can provide that same function. What is needed is a somewhat ritualistic or attention-centering contemplation of an ego-transcendent object — it could be a rite or myth or metaphysical schema or puzzle, even, that allows us to transcend the narrow confines of our normal egoistic imagination. Such exercises can provide the signaling necessary to encourage cooperation. Both in ego and in alter, self and in other.

Trick is, this device, which could be a philosophy, or an ideology, or even an art form, needs to forswear the impossible imagining of an omnipotent benevolent state, for — as Nietzsche said — the state is the coldest of all cold monsters.

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Laissez Faire edition, still available on Apple’s ebook platform.

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 (agricultureexpanding 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 revolution, 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.

Why is not more made of the fact that the supposed Trump economy is really just a chimera based on a loan against the future that serves the rich very well, while mortgaging the middle class’s future and especially that of their children?

…as answered on Quora….

Is that a fact or a theory?

I am not saying it is not true. But the likelihood of a default on the debt is very high, so who ultimately pays may be a bit of an open question. The incidence of the burden shall shift.

Why is not more made of this, though? Great question.

The answer is easy: it is not just about the “Trump economy.”

Economic policy madness is a truly bipartisan effort. The recent and quite unhinged “stimulus” bills that Trump signed ran through the House of Representatives under control of the Democrats, as well as through the GOP majority Senate.

Fiscal irresponsibility is the basic position of both major parties.

Any attempt to characterize this as a mere partisan or personal failure is a nonstarter. The truth of our predicament is that our rush into the future is chaotic and crazy and by consensus. Confronting the truth of government today? Americans simply cannot handle the truth.

Which is perhaps the real reason our politics is so . . . mad. The double bind we have collectively embraced must have some effect. The effect is a kind of schizophrenia. All Americans are implicated. All. And thus politics is basically the drivel of madmen.

SARS-CoV-2

Last week I published another episode of the LocoFoco Netcast, but forgot to link to it here. So, a little late. . . .

LocoFoco Netcast #11.

The podcast version is on SoundCloud, findable with the domain name LocoFoco.net:

I am halfway through the four-part Netflix documentary series on Jeffrey Epstein. It is very good. I think all girls should watch it, perhaps everybody should.

Epstein was an Enchanter. He behaved like an Archon: manipulative, resting much of his power on being charismatic and very smart. He not only got about a hundred teenage girls to service him sexually, he gained their compliance as recruiters, and as “hostesses” to service others — Mata Hari harlots — and he used both fear and benefits to ape legitimate contracts, which means, also, the threats and enticements functioned as post-transactional loyalty inducements.

I call him an Archon not just because he reminds me of the Principalities and Powers of ancient lore — the angels, devils, Fallen Ones, Anunnaki — but also the charismatic leaders of States, indeed of the State itself. States behave almost exactly like Epstein did, combining abuse with benefits, in a context of fake contractual arrangements.

But Archon in a third sense, too: Epstein was almost certainly in the employ of some state spy group, or two, or more. He operated a sophisticated sexual Honey Trap to catch illustrious men and blackmail them for … information? influence? So, Epstein was a Deep State player, and thus the worst kind of Archon.

Alas, I do not think the series will go on long enough to cover all of this. One episode has to be devoted to his last few months alive, right? Which means that there is only one episode to delve into most of what I discuss here. Episodes one and two make the case against him that was developed in Florida and by the DBI up to the mid-2000s.

Preparing to be disappointed.

Still, this is must-see TV.

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Each new day I hear yet another call for “opening up the economy,” and my annoyance level rises.

Not because I do not want the lockdown orders removed, however. I am annoyed because “the economy” seems unexceptionable but is not. It is an extremely deceptive term. It induces people to think of a Thing that can be shut off and on like a light switch. It suggests that it’s about money and organization and is generally ancillary to our lives. But it isn’t an existent “it” in the singular, much less in a mechanistic manner, it is an emergent order of people producing and trading. “The economy” is people doing the things that allow us to live. It is, in a sense, living.

It is “making a living.” Shut it down and you make death.
When you prohibit people from commerce, from producing and exchanging, you are cutting off the life blood of the civizilization. When we worry that “the economy will suffer” we mean “people will suffer.” And some will die.

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If communism is so bad, then how come the USSR was able to increase industry to match or beat that of the Western powers?

…excerpted from an answer on Quora….

We might want to distinguish ‘communism’ from ‘Communism.’ That latter is sort of trade-marked (‘“anti-trade” marked’?) by the political implementers of the Marxian paradigm.

Karl Marx, you may remember, prophesied a classless, stateless future of communism, share and share alike, and all that. He was quite vague on how it would work out. But he did think the capitalists first had to be expropriated by the workers, and the economy run by ‘a dictatorship of the proletariat.’ This gave the Bolsheviks and their later imitators an excuse to set up state socialism, where the Communist Party runs the unitary state which in turn runs everything else. It is ‘communist’ only by an association of ideas and by tradition. But no utopian-minded communist in her right mind wanted that.

Besides, as others have noted, a moneyless industrial society didn’t work. So the Bolsheviks quickly backpedaled, adding markets back in under the New Economic Policy. As Michael Polanyi and others have shown, the Soviet Union engaged in a lot of fakery to make their central planning seem to work.

Ludwig von Mises explained why it couldn’t work. Capitalism is mass production for the masses. Market societies use dispersed knowledge gleaned especially from private markets in production goods and the firms that make up the productive sector to distribute resources to their most valued uses. Without private property and real market signals, socialists find themselves in a sea of arbitrary decisions, without guide. The Soviets never succeeded much in mass production for the masses, but by hook and crook and a rigid class system, the USSR succeeded in making hydrogen bombs and rockets for a pretty good space program (it helped that they were willing to risk cosmonauts’ lives to an extent NASA never found acceptable). But that isn’t mass production for mass consumption, it is mass production for Big Projects, which we know the ancients mastered in the megalithic period. Pyramids and all.

Slavery and the organization of a religiously oriented (ideologically controlled) servile population can indeed do amazing things. But not beat capitalism at its own game.

So, what of communism? The communal production of a limited set of goods for common needs can work in small groups. That this manner of economic organization produces a great abundance of consumer goods or can be carried on in an egalitarian fashion are fantasies of romantics who cannot think very well. Human being run up against calculation problems, as Mises explained, as well as the Dunbar number, and similar problems.

Few tribes actually engaged in communism for all goods produced. Individual and family property was a commonplace throughout the primitive world. But some things were done communally. But in societies more complex than mere tribes, some method of organization had to develop, and these included honor standards, allowing the adulation of Big Men — chiefs — whose vigor, intelligence, and social skills allowed for elaborate hierarchies to expand economies out of rudimentary forms. Some of the most successful of these chiefdoms became conquerors, and found ways to grift off of sedentary populations, after conquest, and civilization with their states were born.

In all the upward progress and sideways motions of societies and their histories, communism haunted the imaginations of poets and sages and shamans and priests, probably for reasons that psychologists have theorized: as lingering dreams expanding on the yearning of strapped adults for their lost childhoods, when benevolent parents and other adults provided all and made everything work like magic.

Communism of that sort is a dream and a yearning, and deserves, in most cases, little more than eye rolls.

Communism of the Soviet variety deserves a finger on the trigger, for Communists lie about what they are doing, and the contradictions of their own ideas mean they are always one small step away from mass murder.

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