Sunday, June 27, 2010 101 Comments

Three homeworks for Professor Hanson

It can't be denied that Robin Hanson gives good blurb. He said, or is alleged to have,
"Not only does Moldbug know such iron fists would rule best, allow emigration, not cheat their investors, and never ever accept manipulator payola, he apparently knows this deductively, as a noble philosopher, not like data-addicted corrupt pansy social scientists. And he has no interest in improvements in the status quo below his philosopher-deduced-best pinnacle.

What more can one say to such a person?"
If this does not end up on the back of a book someday, something will have gone terribly wrong.

It is small wonder that Professor Hanson has never learned any philosophy. Meeting him, I was strongly impressed by the presence of a very fast CPU with very little RAM. Despite genuine sincerity and interest, he seemed unable to consider any argument that could not be addressed in 45 seconds or less. Some sort of internal buffer appeared to be overflowing.

This, of course, does not make him either a bad or a stupid person. On the contrary: as I have said before, I consider Professor Hanson one of the leading thinkers in his profession. It's just that his genius is more in quickness and fertility, than concentration. Leaving him neither suited to philosophy, nor susceptible to my Sith mind tricks.

But a student of the Way never gives up. So let me be brief in exploding those arguments that his appear to be - and leave him with a little homework. Surely, such a distinguished fellow as Professor Hanson is not too old for homework.

And he does give good sound bite. So let's deal with said bites. First, this bit:
he apparently knows this deductively, as a noble philosopher, not like data-addicted corrupt pansy social scientists.
Allow me to explain the relationship between reason and science in one quick punch, so that it fits in Professor Hanson's 32-bit registers.

Science, if it means anything, means scientific reasoning. "Scientific" being an adjective, "scientific reasoning" is a subset of "reasoning." Why are certain inductive methods, in certain cases, reliable? Because we deduce that they are so. It's not that reason works because reason is scientific. It's that science works because science is reasonable.

Since science works because science is reasonable, we can distinguish between science that works, and science that doesn't work, by the exercise of reason. Ie, by philosophy. For instance, philosophy tells us: does this science make falsifiable predictions? If so, it probably works. If not, probably not. As the Bible says, the tree is known by its fruit.

Science that doesn't work is generally known as pseudoscience. Pseudoscience, or cargo cult science, is any practice that appears to follow the methods of science, but is not reasonable.

Science and scientists are the eternal enemy of pseudoscience and pseudoscientists. The former in every case feel that the latter must be drummed out of government at the least, and polite society at the best. By any means necessary - in the famous words of Malcolm X. From scientist to pseudoscientist, there is no mercy whatsoever. To paraphrase a famous hadith, the very rocks and trees will cry out: "there is a pseudoscientist behind me."

The trouble, of course, is that this makes the pseudoscientist the equal and opposite enemy of the scientist. The two are not safe in one aquarium - or rather, one department. And it is often quite difficult to see which is which, for the pseudoscientist always asserts the inverse. Furthermore, since the presence of lies is not a matter of life and death to the truth-teller, as the presence of truth is a matter of life and death to the liar, the bad fish often eats the good.

Because of this animosity, one in general does not see scientists and pseudoscientists sharing one department. As a broad generalization, however, in fields in which science can be done - ie, the scientific method works - it will be done, and at least have a fighting chance against Lysenkoism. Unless, of course, your government is even more broken than ours is now.

Pseudoscience will generally be found solving problems, such as climate prediction, in which the scientific method does not work at all. Rather, other forms of reason are the only reasonable ways to reason about the problem - or there may be no effective means of prediction at all. Thus, there are no scientists to fight. You can't beat something with nothing.

Moreover, it is not just science which is the enemy of pseudoscience. It is also philosophy. And just as there is pseudoscience, which is unreasonable science, there is pseudo-philosophy, which is unreasonable philosophy. It follows all the methods of rational thought, but rather than explaining it deludes.

Therefore, pseudoscientists in general should be found, allied with pseudo-philosophers, in the persecution (wherever possible) of scientists and philosophers. Thus, Professor Hanson's philosophobia is by no means surprising. Rather, it confirms the general, if unfortunate, impression of a paid and practicing pseudoscientist. O rocks, O trees! Any counter-revolution that touches not Professor Hanson's salary, is not much revolution at all.

Note, in particular, the Jedi mind trick accomplished by philosophobia. It's not just that it allows Professor Hanson to keep my Sith mind tricks out of his limited registers; it's also that it allows him to excommunicate essentially all political thought before the 20th century. And even much of 20th-century thought. For instance, the Professor's social-science model is quite incapable of processing a book like Burnham's The Machiavellians, which to me is more or less the pons asinorum of 20th-century history.

Orwell said that he who controls the past controls the future. By excommunicating philosophy, the mere practice of reason by verbal argument, the Professor has excommunicated all of historical Western thought previous to the New Deal. This result is almost hilariously Orwellian - the Professor has not so much controlled the past, as demolished it. He is not the only one to achieve this result, nor his the only method that achieves it. But still, it works.

Second, let's roll back to
Not only does Moldbug know such iron fists would rule best, allow emigration, not cheat their investors, and never ever accept manipulator payola,
Not cheat their investors, in the sovereign joint-stock corporation, is accomplished by a cryptographic command chain. This is a novel technical gizmo which, though perfectly reasonable in theory, is basically untested in practice. This lacuna actually serves a useful role in my theory: it explains why the structure I propose has never existed in the past. However, untested is untested. I admit to some sensitivity on this point.

But more interesting is such iron fists would rule best. Here I suspect a philosophical confusion on the nature of sovereignty. Because I have no original ideas on this point, I refer the reader to the correct philosophy of sovereignty, which is that of John Austin - well summarized here.

In the conventional critique of those who misunderstand sovereignty, Professor Hanson confuses, or at least appears to confuse, absolutism with tyranny. At least, he uses the term iron fist, which implies that there exists some non-iron fist (or hand) - ie, a government that, because of some structural feature, cannot be tyrannical.

This problem is certainly worth addressing. For instance, my answer is: a sovereign corporation will not tyrannize, for the same reason a sovereign restaurant would not poison its customers, butcher them, and put their chops on tomorrow's lunch menu. It would be bad for business.

But the argument is not entirely watertight - what about organ farming, for instance? Surely some people are worth more as their organs. Moreover, I am quite willing to defend the ancien regime in Europe, which though quite imperfect was surely superior to the debacle that followed. The ancien regime operated under no such financial constraint. And yet, no Hitlers or Stalins were seen. No - these characters were reserved for the century of democracy.

Thus I paraphrase Professor Hanson's criticism: "your machine does not spin forever." This is absolutely true. The system of government I prescribe is by no means perfect, because it is not a perpetual-motion machine. Rather, it is only the peddlers of perpetual-motion machines who are obliged to defend the perfection of their products - a subject they almost never mention. Those who are not quacks know that man is always governed by man, and always dependent on the justice and good will of his governors.

If you understand Austin's theory of sovereignty, you know that there is no such thing as limited government. The fallacy is visible in the passive voice. If a sovereign is limited, it is either limited by something, in which case that something enjoys some or all of its sovereignty; or it is limited by nothing, in which case it is not limited at all.

For instance, a lot of people (possibly even Professor Hanson) believe that the United States Government (USG) is "limited" by a historical document called "the Constitution." Nothing could possibly be farther from the truth.

Does this "Constitution" exist? It most certainly exists, and has been faithfully maintained, with many elegant and interesting amendments. None of which are in any sense sovereign. A document cannot govern. Rather, all sovereign decisions must be taken by human beings.

When we look at how USG actually works, we see that it is governed by a set of rules known as "constitutional law." The relationship between "the Constitution" and "constitutional law" is entirely arbitrary and historical. The proposition that the latter can be mechanically derived from the former is too absurd to even consider defending.

Rather, we observe two conventional interpretations of this relationship. The first and most defensible, "originalism," asserts that while "constitutional law" does not match "the Constitution," it should. Fine. It should. It doesn't, though. I might as well say that the Stuarts should rule England. Perhaps they should. They don't, though.

Once the actual constitution of a country - the actual rules of decision by which its government operates - has diverged from its official constitution, what is the meaning of the latter? The answer is: it has no meaning at all. A constitution is a contract. Once broken, it is meaningless. "The Constitution" is an interesting historical document, no more valid than the Salic Law. Rather, it is "constitutional law," ie, the precedents of the Supreme Court, which are the supreme law of the land.

Here we arrive at the more conventional interpretation, the "living constitution" theory, which has largely prevailed for the last 75 years. Certainly, after 75 years of "living," there cannot be much left of any written "Constitution!" The theory of the "living constitution" is simply the theory of the rule of force. Who rules, makes the rules. We arrive again at Austin.

This theory, while having the great merits of being correct, has no reason to expect any mercy from its foes. It certainly cannot expect them to take it seriously when it uses "the Constitution," from which it has beaten such an effective sword, as a shield when the contest turns against it. Power flows from the barrel of a gun? So it does indeed.

Thus, in the terms of John Austin, who holds sovereignty in the United States? The Council of Nine, also known as the Supreme Court. For they are the unmoved mover, those whose decisions are final and cannot be overridden.

If the Supreme Court orders President Obama to give his next video address standing on his head, or converts as a group to Islam and establishes the Caliphate of America, or declares that "the Jews are our misfortune" and gives them one year to leave the country, these things will be done. Or at least, if they are resisted, they can only be resisted unlawfully.

Of course, the Justices are unlikely to do these things. Why? Because these things are neither (a) in their personal interests, nor (b) in accordance with their values and beliefs. The Supreme Court, a sovereign committee, is unlikely to tyrannize in these appalling ways - but only because of the personal responsibility of the sovereign individuals. Exactly the same is true of any monarchy, however the ruler is selected.

Thus, sovereignty is by definition absolute - a zero-sum game. It is often thought that dispersing or fragmenting sovereignty - eg, resting sovereignty in nine lawyers, rather than one true King - is a good way to design a sovereign structure which is more effective and responsible.

And indeed, fragmentation of sovereignty has its advantages - as well as its disadvantages. I believe that corporate sovereignty, in which the fragmentation is nonrivalrous, captures most of the advantages and excludes most of the disadvantages. Still, if a majority of the stockholders goes insane - or, more realistically, a coalition acts with some rivalrous collective motive - there is nothing to be done. Because of this, the initial distribution of shares must be carefully designed to correspond with the actual social distribution of responsibility, and transfer restrictions are by no means unthinkable.

But - it is an indefensible proposition that is that there is some qualitative distinction between unified and dispersed sovereignty, or that any sovereign government is anything but absolute. At least, if this proposition is defensible, I would like to see someone defend it.

Why, then, is this fallacy so conventional? In the fallacy of "rule by law," and the fallacy of "rule by science," we see a common thread: the fallacy of "rule by formula," in which it is pretended that an government can be conducted by some mechanical process, in which the human character of the governors is irrelevant.

As we have seen, "rule by law" means "rule by judges," and "rule by social science" means "rule by pseudoscientists." Either, in other words, equates to "rule by men." If these men are effective and responsible, they will govern well. Otherwise, they will govern badly. This has been true for all of history and will never change. Only in our time has it been so persistently denied.

Finally, we arrive at the last fragment of the Professor's barb:
And he has no interest in improvements in the status quo below his philosopher-deduced-best pinnacle.
I certainly have no interest in incremental improvements. This is because, when I look at USG as it is today, I see anything but a state which is continually making incremental improvements. I appreciate that, for Professor Hanson and many like him to retain their intellectual relevance, they must delude themselves that such a state exists. In reality, however, the nonincremental transition I envision seems far more realistic. And that's not very realistic at all.

USG is not a state guided by Platonic social scientists - as Walter Lippmann, John Dewey, H.G. Wells, and the other founders of Professor Hanson's tradition anticipated. Rather, it is a state guided by dead social scientists - to repeat the famous wisecrack of Keynes. To be exact, it is a state governed by bureaucrats, whose ideology is the fabric of Lippmann, Dewey, Wells, etc.

To be brutally frank, these bureaucrats have no interest at all in Professor Hanson's results. For one thing, his ideology is completely incorrect. Behind the veil of pseudoscience lies an oligarchy, of which Professor Hanson is not a member. He and his lessers in the George Mason School are of no relevance at all, because they are wingnuts at a Virginia cow college. At the top, power is always a matter of social exclusion.

In reality, all professors but a small elite of genuinely influential public-policy gurus are entirely irrelevant to the decisions of the sovereign civil service. For every professor whose "work" does matter, there are a hundred declaiming pompously in the desert. In particular, a GMU professor, because his classes will never contain first-rate students, will never build a network of superstars that spreads across Washington, and will have no chance at all to serve as a priestly eminence grise. Even if this "Brains Trust" role was still possible, which I'm not sure it is. In practice, I think, the ideology is simply frozen. Even the smallest and most liberal changes are bureaucratically impossible, much less Professor Hanson's wacky libertarian nostrums.

So the purported advantage his work obtains from incrementalism - policy relevance - are in fact of no meaning at all. Washington (a) does not change, and (b) does not change in a right-wing direction. Exceptions to (a) are rare, exceptions to (b) absurdly rare. When they milk well-meaning rich people for money, conservative think-tanks seldom dwell on this delicate point.

And thus, incrementalism is of no meaning to me, and nor should it be. It is simply another form of presentist arrogance, blind worship of the status quo - which has no place in the deliberations of noble philosophers. Only among ignoble, mendacious hacks is this practice of any relevance whatsoever. It is never too late for the latter to aspire to the ranks of the former. It will not be done by disdaining philosophy.

Let me propose three homework problems which Professor Hanson, or of course anyone else, can solve to demonstrate the ability to reason competitively with a classical philosopher. All of them are quite difficult - so I would be impressed if the Professor tackles even one.

One: write a reasonable response (a document that would be intelligible and convincing, given translation, to the author and his contemporary audience) to Maistre's Letters on the Spanish Inquisition. If Professor Hanson can contend with Joseph de Maistre, he can certainly contend with me. But does he agree with Maistre? If not, where does he disagree, and why?

My suspicion is that, even in English, the Professor will barely be able to parse Maistre - indicating at the very least a need for more philosophical and historical study. He should probably not try Maistre until he has read Burke. In fact, Professor Hanson could surprise me a great deal by merely declaring that he has read and understood Reflections on the Revolution in France - a task I fear is just beyond him. If it's not, Maistre may well be. But I am always happy to see unexpected positive results.

Two: watch the 20-minute film Detroit: City on the Move. Imagine explaining to the social scientists of 1960, seen on your screen with their blackboards (Detroit, as the film claims, was one of the most progressively-governed cities in America), what would happen to their city over the next 50 years. And why. The what would be easy to explain - but the why?

The devastation of Detroit, clearly a disaster, can like any disaster can be placed in one of four categories. It can be described as (a) inevitable - something, like a hurricane, that could not have been averted by any plan; (b) accidental - something that was not meant to happen, but happened anyway in some way that could have been averted; (c) criminal - something that happened as a result of mens rea; or (d) worthwhile - something bad, but yet an unavoidable cost of some other action whose result was even more good.

For anyone, any disaster is either inevitable, accidental, criminal or worthwhile. Either dispute that the fate of Detroit has been a disaster, or attribute it to one of these categories. Whichever your choose, please describe the relationship, if any, between "social science" and this outcome. Assume, again, the audience of 1960 - for which there is no cultural or language barrier.

Three: that cynosure of the Platosphere, the Economist, recently published an unsigned editorial which includes the following remarkable suggestion:
Genomics may reveal that humans really are brothers and sisters under the skin. The species is young, so there has been little time for differences to evolve. Politically, that would be good news. It may turn out, however, that some differences both between and within groups are quite marked. If those differences are in sensitive traits like personality or intelligence, real trouble could ensue.

Obviously a sensitive matter! Professor Hanson, the whole world is waiting to hear your thoughts on this matter. Here is one way you can express them.

What is the Economist's sensitive proposition, distilled? The proposition (also expressed by one James Watson, who does know a thing or two about these matters) is that of Disraeli: that human biodiversity has a significant impact on human history, past and present.

A reasonable person may take one of three positions on this issue. Because all the existing names for these positions are emotionally loaded, I have leveled the playing field with a convenient set of pleasant and plausible neologisms.

First, one can be an egalist. An egalist is a person who is confident that human neurological biodiversity has no significant impact on human history, past or present.

Second, one can be a ragnostic. A ragnostic is a person who is not sure whether or not human neurological biodiversity has any significant impact on human history, past or present. Ie: one who considers the egalist hypothesis as neither reasonably shown, nor reasonably refuted.

Third, one can be a ratheist. A ratheist is a person who agrees with Disraeli, ie, considers the egalist hypothesis as reasonably refuted. Rather, the ratheist considers human neurological biodiversity as a fact of tangible reality, and sees many historical phenomena, past and present, for which it is the most parsimonious explanation.

Anyone else can use these clear and sensible definitions to label his or her position on this obviously sensitive matter. For instance, I am a ratheist. This poses many practical problems for me - not least, that it is illegal for me to admit this opinion in any American workplace. Nonetheless, it's what I believe, and there is no helping the matter.

Clearly, Professor Hanson is not a ratheist, because - being an honest man - he (a) would have admitted it, and (b) might well have lost his job for it. Therefore, he must be either an egalist or a ragnostic. Since even the latter is dangerous, it is socially obligatory to assume that everyone is an egalist unless discovered to be the converse.

Therefore, I can safely assume that Professor Hanson is an egalist. Therefore, unless he denies this, I (and perhaps others) would be interested in hearing the reasoning process that led him to egalism. Does he have some evidence that human populations are neurologically identical? Or that any such neurological biodiversity, if significant, has no historical (eg, political or economic) impact? If not, why is he an egalist? Or is he not an egalist at all? Inquiring minds, etc.

101 Comments:

Blogger TGGP said...

Hanson is not merely "alleged" to have said it, you can find his blog post on the debate which the commenter quotes here.

Any Burkean conservative should know that incremental change is valuable not merely for policy relevance (and I don't know that Hanson has indicated he thinks there is any chance the government rather than corporations would implement futarchy) but because it will probably work out better than radical change.

Since Mencius referenced Steve Walt in another thread I thought I'd link to a homework assignment he gave his readers recently:
"Are there good historical examples where a great power withdrew because a foreign military intervention wasn't going well, and where hindsight shows that the decision to withdraw was a terrible blunder? If there are plenty of examples where states fought too long and got out too late, are there clear-cut cases where states got out too early?"

I'll have a longer response later.

June 27, 2010 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Mencius,

One can be a "ratheist" without being a racist. It is possible to believe in human neurological diversity without believing it is significantly or meaningfully covariant with skin pigment.

June 27, 2010 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Maybe I should have said "predictably" rather than "significantly".

June 27, 2010 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

I do not understand this obsession with a binary explanation of sovereignty. my understanding is that sovereignty rests on ability to enforce unpopular maxims upon the populace. this ability can be measured in the loyalty of the enforcers.

of course robotic enforcers promises to drastically change history, but we're looking backwards here.

June 27, 2010 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger sconzey said...

nazgulnarsil: I too am confused by the difference between de jure and de facto sovereignty. Yes, the Supreme Court in the US is sovereign de jure, but isn't this Hume's ought?

The de facto sovereignty lies of course in the hands of the one the military are loyal to. To whom are they loyal? I don't know. I'm neither American, nor in the military.

Although I think Mencius does concede that sovereignty is not binary, as he speaks about "fragmented" sovereignty. Surely the sovereignty of a component cannot equal or exceed the sovereignty of the whole?

June 27, 2010 at 4:16 PM  
Blogger MarcWPhoto said...

The SCOTUS is de jure sovereign in the United States of America. Regarding this it is not possible to debate otherwise with any rationality whatsoever. They are not final because they are infallible. They are infallible because they are final. To resist their diktat is to act outside the legal framework of our country.

Regarding de facto sovereignty, they are, at the moment, the possessors of that too. Mencius has the right of it. However, I will take the opportunity to restate something he says often (and rightly) regarding the "ultimate" sovereignty, and apply it to the SCOTUS.

Absent invincible robot armies, the ultimate holder of the de facto sovereignty is the mob. If enough people decide that force shall be applied to achieve a goal, that goal, assuming it does not violate the laws of physics, will be achieved through force. No country has, nor has any country ever had, a governmental monopoly on force strong enough to resist the whole of the populace if it were to rise up. So, whenever one alleges that some entity or person has de facto sovereignty, to paraphrase the relative rank of the captain of a ship, that sovereignty is always "after the mob."

Whoever holds the de facto sovereignty, does so at the ultimate sufferance of the mob. At this time, the mob, for all practical and logical purposes, has extended it to the SCOTUS. If they were to declare the American Caliphate, they would find that the mob has limits to its tolerance. Andrew Jackson's snide remarks - and his defiance was possible ONLY because the mob was with him, in a way in which the mob simply could not be marshalled by the SCOTUS's rivals today - notwithstanding, no other branch of government, including the military, would come out on top in the mob's selection if they were to oppose the SCOTUS. (Short of mandatory homosexuality classes, etc, etc.) In any situation in which the SCOTUS faces anyone other than the mob, it will win. Hence the assertion of its de facto sovereignty.

June 27, 2010 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger MarcWPhoto said...

Oh, and to extend my comments to Sconzey's particular questions: the military is loyal, theoretically, to the Constitution. "The Constitution" means, in practical terms, the SCOTUS. Any member of the military who claimed to be acting on a different interpretation of the Constitution from the SCOTUS and opposed its diktat would have to have enough of the military with him that the only possible ways he could succeed would be:

1) The SCOTUS had exceeded the mob's tolerance, and the military was simply recognizing that fact in its actions; or,

2) The member (or members) had accumulated enough of the mob behind them to be able to claim sovereignty despite acting unconstitutionally.

In other words, the military either acts in accord with what the mob thinks of as the Constitution better than the SCOTUS does in the mob's eyes, and therefore is essentally appointed to be the new SCOTUS, or convinces the mob to disregard the sovereignty of "the Constitution" (and its keepers, the SCOTUS) and vest it instead in the military directly. If it does not do either of these things, and it confronts the SCOTUS, it will lose. Guaranteed.

Not that any "victory" over a military coup which does not clear these hurdles, though inevitable, would not be absolutely horrific.

June 27, 2010 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Thrasymachus said...

It's not strictly speaking illegal to be a ratheist. You can't be in any position of selecting, evaluating or supervising any employee, but if you are a bottom level employee and not in HR you aren't breaking the law. It's probably legally defensible to fire you though.

June 27, 2010 at 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Are there good historical examples where a great power withdrew because a foreign military intervention wasn't going well, and where hindsight shows that the decision to withdraw was a terrible blunder?"

The Russian Civil War.

The Chinese Civil War.

The Bay of Pigs.

June 27, 2010 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger MarcWPhoto said...

The open expression of ratheist beliefs would almost certainly be considered sufficient to create a hostile work environment. Allowing the creation of a hostile work environment is unlawful. The ratheist may not themselves be breaking the law, depending on how they phrase their beliefs (hate speech laws may apply) but the employer could not allow them to do so, on pain of legal sanction.

June 27, 2010 at 6:41 PM  
Blogger The Cold Equations said...

He and his lessers in the George Mason School are of no relevance at all, because they are wingnuts at a Virginia cow college. At the top, power is always a matter of social exclusion...In reality, all professors but a small elite of genuinely influential public-policy gurus are entirely irrelevant to the decisions of the sovereign civil service. For every professor whose "work" does matter, there are a hundred declaiming pompously in the desert. In particular, a GMU professor, because his classes will never contain first-rate students, will never build a network of superstars that spreads across Washington, and will have no chance at all to serve as a priestly eminence grise.

Oh, snap!

That reminds me of something I wrote a long time ago. The short version is that professors are always graduates of a school that's at least as prestigious as the one they work at, so the opinions from elite schools should come to predominate because that's where the cow college professors advisors, grand-advisors, and great-grand advisors came from.

Where do Hanson's students end up?

June 27, 2010 at 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Following the suggestion that the Constitution, in practical terms, means the Supreme Court - whom may we expect to prevail if, as may well happen sometime before 2012, the Supreme Court finds itself at loggerheads with some cherished position of the Obama administration?

Here are a few possibilities: 1) the states prevail in their lawsuit against the Obamacare individual insurance purchase mandate; 2) the Court upholds Arizona in the administration's lawsuit against the state's illegal immigration statute; 3) Congress passes, and Obama signs, a bill making the estate tax, currently expired, retroactive for 2010. This in turn invites a Constitutional challenge, which the Court upholds. I'm sure any number of comparable situations could arise in addition to these.

It's unlikely that Obama would act in such complete scorn for the Court's authority as did Abraham Lincoln. On the other hand, faced with a series of judicial reverses, he might well revive a court-packing scheme à la FDR, should Democrats retain control of the Senate after the 2008 election. He is, after all, a man of some vanity, and enjoys likening himself to historic predecessors in his office. Note his current comparison of his firing of Gen. McChrystal to Truman's relieving MacArthur of command in Korea.

Another scenario (again only likely if Democrats retain control of Congress) is that the Supreme Court's "appellate jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact" might be curtailed under the provision of Article III, sec. 2, which indicates that its power is subject to "such exceptions, and under such regulations, as the Congress shall make."

The Court's position as the ultimate fount of American sovereign power has never been challenged directly by the armed forces, but it has been by Lincoln and Roosevelt, in addition to the episode under Andrew Jackson mentioned by MarcWPhoto. The most recent of these occasions, under FDR, ended in a compromise whereby the Court acquiesced in the second set of New Deal programs after having struck down many of the first set of them. We cannot suppose that a similar circumstance will not recur, especially if the Court should be defied by a president acting as commander-in-chief of an obedient military (as was the case under Lincoln).

June 27, 2010 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Michael:

I don't think the military will be as accommodating.

June 27, 2010 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Robin Hanson said...

I'd say it is overwhelmingly obvious that human biodiversity has been important in human history. It is less obvious, but likely, that between-group diversity has also been important.

June 28, 2010 at 12:34 AM  
Anonymous jkr said...

"I'd say it is overwhelmingly obvious that human biodiversity has been important in human history. It is less obvious, but likely, that between-group diversity has also been important."

HBD is inherently diversity between groups. Humans don't come in singles, like kraft fuckin cheese. This is something you libertarians forget to understand every day you wake up.

Two's company, three's a crowd, and anything more than one is a fucking group. Am I unaware of the other HBD, which deals only with differences between single individuals?

You really felt it necessary to qualify your statement about group differences with the word "likely"?

June 28, 2010 at 1:02 AM  
Anonymous John Sabotta said...

Between Moldbug, with his deliberate distortions of historyin the service of segregationism and Robin Hanson, quasi-fascist technocrat, there's not much to choose.

And criticisms of libertarianism from the crypto-Nazis around here are, ahem, less than wounding, jkr. But Hanson is no libertarian.

June 28, 2010 at 1:21 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

jkr: Yes, absolutely, HBD varies between groups, but I assert that there is no reason to assume intelligence is meaningfully and predictably co-variant with any other phenotype.

June 28, 2010 at 2:49 AM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

TGGP:

"Any Burkean conservative should know that incremental change is valuable not merely for policy relevance ... but because it will probably work out better than radical change."

Do you ever have a point?

For the sake of argument, let's take Burke as a god-like authority. He claimed that social and ruling traditions exist for some very good reason (even if the specific reason is unknown); completely breaking with tradition (as was done in the French revolution) for an untested alternative is bad idea simply because any form of tradition is the result of a very long process of trial and error that, if it didn't produce optimal results, at least produced acceptable results.

Does any of this apply here? Any of it?

Is our government the result of a long tradition of trial and error? No, not really. It's about 80 years old and is much closer to those dangerously experimental forms of government that Burke was condemning* than the monarchy which he endorsed. It's as if you asked Burke, after the French Revolution, "should we eliminate the post revolutionary government and replace it with the monarchy that came before?" and expecting him to answer "no, no, you should make the government 2% more royalist, after all gradual change is the way to go".

In fact, the specific context of Burke's argument wasn't pro-status quo it was pro-monarchy and anti-democratic. You managed to so badly misunderstand your own authority that you've got him on the other side!

Even more disturbing is that Mencius specifically addressed why any positive incremental change is impossible in the original post and you simply ignored it (or more likely, did not read it in favor of getting the FIRST! comment on the post (a first post that ends with a plea for a thread jack)).

Frankly, this is typical of you and your style of "argument". Type out not very well thought out nonsense with only a surface relation to the topic at hand. Appeal to some authority that you generally fail to understand. Ignore the actual meat of an argument.

You are dull.

I fully expect this post of mine to be buried by your promised "longer response" which will be equally specious and vacuous.

*Well, sort of - he was a Whig and any reader of this blog understands how Whigs wound up as the sort of slow motion French Revolution party.

June 28, 2010 at 3:45 AM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

sconzey said...

"Yes, absolutely, HBD varies between groups, but I assert that there is no reason to assume intelligence is meaningfully and predictably co-variant with any other phenotype."

But this is an area where social science is relevant; guess what? You may not assume it but there are hundreds of studies that show exactly that you can easily: (a) classify humans into ancestral groups that correspond to the classic definitions of races and (b) that there are significant and persistent differences in intelligence and other mental traits between those groups.

Well, you've got studies on one side (and none on the other); do you have any reason to assume that there wouldn't be differences between groups on mental traits? Not really, as it would be quite remarkable for isolated breeding groups in different environments to be under different selective pressures for all measurable physical traits but under the exact same selection for mental traits.

You're only real hope here is trying to pull a switch; you said earlier that there is no reason to assume that it's related to "skin pigment". Well, yeah. Some Africans and some South Asians have similar skin pigments. Europeans have differing skin pigments. All that tells you is that skin pigment isn't the right way to look at the question. Isolated breeding groups corresponding to classically understood races are.

June 28, 2010 at 3:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I assert that there is no reason to assume intelligence is meaningfully and predictably co-variant with any other phenotype."

LOL, there's only many decades of study and analysis. But nothing, apparently, can stop an egalist from denying reality.

June 28, 2010 at 5:12 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Steve: I said there's no reason to assume it. Clearly I'm willing to accept any empirical evidence in support or conflict with the proposition...

But yeah: my general point I think still stands; that whilst there are areas of overlap between "racism" and "ratheism," it's possible to be the one without being the other:

Even supposing that intelligence was strongly covariant with skin pigment, skin pigment could still be a poor selector if the variance within groups is high enough.

June 28, 2010 at 5:16 AM  
Anonymous Genius said...

Thanks for writing. You almost lost me with the "cryptographic command chain" wackery, but at least you managed to make up some new words that can be added to the utterly confusing Moldbug lexicon.

Let's get back on a weekly schedule, ok?

June 28, 2010 at 5:40 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Genius: The cryptographic command chain is one of Mencius's most ridiculously brilliant ideas.

When applied to missiles, you encrypt key parameters of the guidance system, making it difficult or impossible to launch without the encryption key. Mencius argues there is no reason this cannot be applied to all weapons, and indeed the command-chain itself, keycode-locking radios, computer systems, aircraft, bunkers, etc.

I would argue there's no reason this cannot be applied to a whole business -- and indeed, to an extent it is, as most modern businesses have some form of computerised system which requires passworded logons.

June 28, 2010 at 5:53 AM  
Anonymous Steve Johnson said...

sconzey said...

"I said there's no reason to assume it"

There is a very good reason to assume it (given clear undisputed knowledge in other areas): every other trait that is easily physically measured differs when you compare the averages of different racial groups. There is no reason to think that mental traits should be exactly the same across groups. The assumption should be that they differ.

"Even supposing that intelligence was strongly covariant with skin pigment, skin pigment could still be a poor selector if the variance within groups is high enough."

1) Skin pigment? Again, bad way to classify. Racial differences are far more than skin deep and in fact there is considerable overlap in skin pigment across non-related groups. Group classification by ancestry not by similar skin tone. Vijay Singh and Wesley Snipes are not members of the same racial group; they do have the same skin tone.

2) "a poor selector" ... of what? If you're trying to predict the overall level of functionality of a society, actually the measurable differences between different human groups are great. If you're trying to pick an individual to perform a specific task that requires a high degree of mental functioning, not so great (compared to other tools) - on the other hand if you were to pick a person for medical school at random you'd get better results if you used knowledge of group averages to narrow down your search and picked someone at random from a smaller group with a known higher average level of intelligence rather than picking randomly from a heterogeneous group.

June 28, 2010 at 6:03 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

I asked Hanson once. I believe his response was that it is unlikely that all populations are neurologically identical. It was both honest, and obviously something he didn't want to say much about.

Also, Hanson will complain at your characterization that he is anti-philosophy. Though I think your broader point on the matter is spot on, Hanson doesn't seem to like arguments where he must grasp the broader point rather than simple geometric arguments. This was evident in his debates with (the generally full of it, but sometimes interesting) Tyler Cowen.

"transfer restrictions are by no means unthinkable."

How is this not a restriction on sovereignty and thus a contradiction in terms.

June 28, 2010 at 6:09 AM  
Anonymous Alrenous said...

While amusing, I think the low-RAM comment is unwarranted - as the soundbite does basically sum up the Moldy position. Indeed, replace "What more can you say...." with "And isn't that neat?" and you've got ringing praise.


Setting aside the facts of the matter, I don't quite see the point of arguing with someone you think is corrupt.

Hanson doesn't seem to care whether any of the quoted positions can be justified.

Unless this is like philosopher's showmatch, the debate seems to be quite defeated. 'Course, if instead this is all staged for my amusement, well, bravo and good job.

(I'd also like to note that Hanson dismisses philosophy whilst implying points most epistemological.)

And then Hanson both reads and responds, and I have to wonder whether either of you bothered to shut off the autopilot; though the fact I can't see a purpose is far from the fact of there being no purpose. However, if I'm puzzled, there's a good chance a few other people are as well.


Finally, not all of us can be expert historians. At some point we have to divide the labour.

June 28, 2010 at 6:49 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

I said there's no reason to assume it.

Actually, there is. If you believe in evolution, then, in the absence of any other knowledge, you should also assume "ratheism" (racism) as your default. All reproductively isolated subpopulations evolve. Phenotypic variation proves sufficient reproductive isolation. But evolution affects the whole genome. Nor does evolution care about unimportant stuff; to the contrary.

Put another way: say I tell you that there is a world-spanning species, perhaps of bees. In the absence of all other knowledge, you should predict that: (a) there will be subspecies (races) of these bees; and (b) that the races will vary phenotypically in ways that are adaptive for their particular environment.

Now, this is not to say that you should never become convinced of human racial equality. But you should need a lot of evidence as proof, to move you away from the a priori logical position (racism). And of course, such evidence does exist, if one looks extremely selectively. On the other hand, if you ever trust your lyin' eyes...

June 28, 2010 at 6:55 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Steve: Sorry, I should have been clearer. I think we do mostly agree. I formally concede that the evidence strongly favours HBD :P

The classical Brahmin definition of racism -- at least as is broadly understood -- is pre-judging someone based upon the colour of their skin.

I'm arguing that one can support the idea that intelligence (measured through whatever metric) is co-variant with ethnicity, without supporting ethnicity-based pre-judgement.

Lets be Moldbuggian about it and coin some new terms: Let's say that weak HBD is the hypothesis that intelligence is covariant with ethnicity. Strong HBD is the hypothesis that intelligence is so strongly covariant with ethnicity, that ethnicity is a fair proxy for intelligence, at least for tasks like your med-school applicant example.

I am already convinced that the evidence indicates weak HBD. I don't think that weak HBD can be called racism either. I am less convinced (yet open minded) about the evidence for strong HBD, which could be called racism.

June 28, 2010 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Sconzey: the "strong hbd" you reference had not, I think been studied.

It's clear that variation exists within phenotypic groups; sports are a fact of human nature. But taken as a group, discrepancies glare.

It would be both interesting and valuable to explore the nature of hbd with very specific phenotypic groups. Anyone have knowledge of a study that does this?

Also, bravo to prof. Hanson for his reply.

June 28, 2010 at 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

who holds sovereignty in the United States? The Council of Nine, also known as the Supreme Court. For they are the unmoved mover, those whose decisions are final and cannot be overridden.

Of course they can be overridden. As Michael S. points out, the most likely method would be Congress simply removing their jurisdiction. And there is always the example of Andy Jackson. How many divisions does the SC have?

One other way to attack the SC would be via impeachment. Yes, you need a "crime" of some sort, but surely in all the tens of thousands of modern laws a violation could be found if one was needed. Thus, it would even be "Constitutional".

If the Supreme Court orders President Obama to give his next video address standing on his head, or converts as a group to Islam and establishes the Caliphate of America, or declares that "the Jews are our misfortune" and gives them one year to leave the country, these things will be done. Or at least, if they are resisted, they can only be resisted unlawfully.

They will be resisted, "unlawfully" perhaps, but the point is, resisted. After such resistance succeeds, then what is the law?

Obama could, and I think would, simply defy them. What are they going to do, order over a Federal marshall during his speech? What Federal marshall would, seriously, attempt to force the President of the United States to stand on his head?

In the other two cases, Obama would stop executing the writ of the SC, while the Congress removed their jurisdiction and explicitly abolished any objectionable "laws" the errant SC may have dictated. Or they might impeach them, pack the court, etc. Probably they would attack in all these lines at once.

June 28, 2010 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard--

You're glossing over the military.

Though Obama is commander in chief, the military's first commitment is to the Constitution (i.e. SCOTUS)--in a contest between the two--when the SCOTUS approves gun rights and the Executive branch is Obama's, I don't see Obama coming out on top.

June 28, 2010 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Heh, it's for debates like these that we really need the Antiversity. :P

June 28, 2010 at 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

So what's the point in arguing whether or not the SC is sovereign?

Certainly I think most of us would agree with Moldbug that somewhere up there, sovereignty does exist and is a useful concept. Quoting his source discussing Austin:

The “sovereign” is defined as a person (or determinate body of persons) who receives habitual obedience from the bulk of the population, but who does not habitually obey any other (earthly) person or institution. Austin thought that all independent political societies, by their nature, have a sovereign.

Just so. And with such a definition, the SC does look sovereign; but we can see using Moldbug's ill-chosen examples that the reason the SC is sovereign is exactly that they don't go "too far". They are obeyed habitually because of their structural position. But it is also because they never take any position not already supported by at least a large minority.

So are they sovereign, or not? I would say no: sovereignty exists, but diffused within the various ruling organs of the US. All of them have certain actions that they, alone, control, and will be obeyed in. I.e., the President controls the military. The Congress controls most lawmaking. But they are all constrained by each other, and the military, and ultimately the mob. So where is sovereignty?

I agree with MM in that the USA has slumped into terminal progressive decline. And I think I agree with him on the ultimate cause: democracy. But I think that divided sovereignty has been one of the factors slowing the decline. If balance of power seems to work to constrain the democratic state, what else can it do? Can balance of power work in a non-democratic state?

I think it can. And I expect to see something of the sort built into MM's sovcorps. As he says: government safety is like airline safety. You want to be double, triple sure about such things.

June 28, 2010 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Zdeno said...

Off-topic, but this popped up on the onion front page this morning for me.

Anyways, I don't think the RAM comments are in good taste. Academics like Hanson (also, Romer) may be beholden to the Cathedral, but what strategic purpose is served by being disrespectful? Picking on them is only productive if they hit back, and the odds of that happening are much greater if we stick to ideas.

Regarding sovereignty, the point is that it doesn't exist, in pure form, anywhere in the US. Follow the power and it either dissolves into popular opinion or retraces its steps in circular responsibility, a point we're currently proving by debating it.

Cheers,

Zdeno

June 28, 2010 at 9:08 AM  
Anonymous Zdeno said...

Also, I don't think Robin is unique in confirming his ratheist-leaning ragnosticism - Steven Pinker, Bryan Caplan, Richard Dawkins, Geoffrey Miller, and quite a few others have done so as well, albeit sotto voce and in occasionally ambiguous language. Perhaps Mr. Hanson can be criticized for admitting it only quietly, deep in the comments of UR, rather than on the front page of his blog, but... well, if I were their position, I doubt I'd throw myself in front of that bus. If your career and material comfort were at stake, would you?

June 28, 2010 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Leonard: I'd agree with you with regards to the nature of sovereignty, I too liked the definition in the Austin article.

Fractured sovereignty is difficult. By far the greatest problem in demotist states is that sovereignty is fractured in a manner which permits some to wield power with little-to-no direct feedback. Whether this problem is inherent in any division of sovereignty or solely an implementation issue remains to be seen.

Also, with regard to HBD, as Zdeno says: "I doubt I'd throw myself in front of that bus. If your career and material comfort were at stake, would you?"

June 28, 2010 at 9:26 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

RE: throwing yourself in front of a bus. Is not 'carreer considerations' MMs own states reason to writing anonymously?

June 28, 2010 at 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Paul Milenkovic said...

I am thinking this is on-topic.

The story around the right-ish Blogosphere is that some entity from the Netherlands (government? corporate syndicate? NGO?) offered the USG the services of Team Netherlands -- World Environmental Police -- within 3 days of news of the BP Gulf Oil spill. For whatever institutional, national, or cultural reasons, they have some kind of monster oil-skimming ship. Whether it would be enough to contain the oil from the Macando Blowout, I don't know, but they tell me its capabilities far exceed the "straw" (or "straw man") the President offered to use in a frustrated answer to a question.

I guess I don't "consume" much MSM these days and don't know if the "Dutch Monster Ship" is strictly a right-wing meme or has leaked over into the broadcast airwaves. Would people here be willing to posit the existence of the Dutch Monster Ship and that its services had been offered and turned away?

OK. Would not even a slightly competent USG have accepted the help of the Netherlands and paid whatever fee the Dutch wanted to fight the spill with the Dutch Monster Ship? It is alleged that the Dutch Monster Ship scoops up a mix of oil and water and discharges slightly oily water that does not meet EPA regs. If an executive order would not work, would not Congress be nimble enough to make a "temporary" change in the law to accept the services of the Dutch Monster Ship? Or is Environmentalism having such a grid-lock grip on everthing that the President let along Congress is powerless to do anything? Or is this an intended consequence -- they need to "destroy the enviroment in the Gulf in order to save it"?

And what of BP? If that Dutch Monster Ship could clean up the oil, why isn't Tony the Yachtsman raising Holy H**l when called before Congress that he be allowed to hire the Dutch Monster Ship. That would save him and his shareholders a lot of coin in damage payments?

So is the Dutch Monster Ship a figment of the Right Wing Imagination, or is both the USG and BP completely disfunctional?

June 28, 2010 at 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

G.M Palmer - of course the military's formal commitment is to the Constitution. And the arbiter of the Constitution, as we currently understand it, is the Supreme Court. If we cannot foresee a situation in which that might be challenged, it is only because our imaginations are trammelled by convention and expectation.

I doubt that Obama inspires enough personal loyalty amongst active-duty military personnel - particularly field officers and senior NCOs - to use the armed forces in a way that would upset the current political order. Moreover, present circumstances are not so dire as to permit such an action. But to reason therefrom that no president might inspire such loyalty, and no circumstance could conceivably occur, in which he might upset it, is to deny a real possibility.

The American military have sworn to uphold the Constitution - not the Supreme Court, Congress, or the President - just as the British military have sworn fealty to the monarch - not the PM, Parliament or the newly-created British supreme court. Now, although the monarch is a human being and the Constitution a piece of paper, the political importance of both is as symbols that stand above and beyond the sordid business of politics and the low character of politicians. Who is to say that the current dispensation in either country is fixed in place?

The only sure prediction is that, in a time of crisis, either symbol will be invoked successfully by whichever institution, faction, or person prevails. Any future dispensation in the United States is likely to be brought about in the hallowed name of the Constitution, just as any such changed dispensation in Britain will likely happen in the name of the monarchy. These symbols can be exploited by whomever has the ability and will. "For why? Because the good old rule/ Sufficeth them; the simple plan/That they should take who have the power./And they should keep who can."

June 28, 2010 at 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Is not 'career considerations' MM's own stated reason for writing anonymously?

No. It may be the reason, but he has never stated so (at least to my knowledge). Rather, Moldbug has said:

I'll probably just unmask myself at some point. I mean, it's not like I have an actual career, anyway. I'm just very resistant to posting under my real name because, if you knew my real name and you searched the archives of an obsolete network called Usenet for it, you'd get far too many hits.

June 28, 2010 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Michael,

You are, of course, correct.

I was speaking of the current administration. In a SCOTUS-POTUS conflict with Obama at the helm, SCOTUS wins.

With someone else--who knows? It depends on his (and SCOTUS's) handling of the military.

June 28, 2010 at 12:01 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

Leonard,

I could have sworn. Oh well, if he did say it, I probably couldn't find it anyway.

June 28, 2010 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard & Josh--MM said who he was a few months ago. And yeah, there's a whole metric crapload of tons of screed he's plastered on teh webs.

June 28, 2010 at 12:19 PM  
Anonymous helene edwards said...

@MarcPhoto: I observed a real-life example of your concern. It was 2000, and Oracle was being sued by a black employee who had quit, alleging hostile environment. His proof? he had overheard a conversation between two managers, discussing an upcoming conference in Atlanta, wherein one said, "The south should have won the civil war," and the other replied, "no kidding." As it happened, the plaintiff dropped his suit when it was discovered he'd falsified his resume. When I asked the litigator in charge if he could have defended the case otherwise, he said, "probably not."

June 28, 2010 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger sconzey said...

GM Palmer: I must have missed that. I have to say, seeing him at Foresight I was a little disappointed he lacked the commanding bassy baritone I'd been reading his posts in :P

June 28, 2010 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger gokart-mozart said...

sconzey "I assert that there is no reason to assume intelligence is meaningfully and predictably co-variant with any other phenotype."

Don't get out much, huh?

June 28, 2010 at 5:11 PM  
Anonymous notuswind said...

Why does Mencius, who is a great writer and thinker relative to the blogosphere, have such a bad commentariat?

June 28, 2010 at 5:13 PM  
Anonymous anonyfuck said...

notuswind...

because the only people who get through his epic length book posts are tedious fcvusk

June 28, 2010 at 7:25 PM  
Anonymous realness said...

mencius is a democrat-via-monarchy.

its a common syndrome among super-rare intellectual fucks trained in a democratic setting.

his idea is that the best service to theh peeple is provided by a king, or in mm's case, a cockbag ceo.

democracy under adult supervision.

did it ever occur to this closet democrat that the purpose of governance is not to serve the people but to serve the governors?

and that this is right and correct?

gov't is organized crime (for lack of a better word -- it's anything but 'crime'). the only form of organized crime which pretends to serve teh peeple is democracy, whether it hides behind a king or a parliament. get that thru your heads you joo motherfuckas.

June 28, 2010 at 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Of some interest to the discussion of the cryptographic command chain: OnStar can not only unlock your car for your remotely, it can now slow it down and prevent it from turning on. Cost is $20/month, and most of that is for functions other than those just mentioned.

June 28, 2010 at 7:50 PM  
Anonymous wtf said...

leonard... thanks for the public service announcement.

June 28, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

To the Anti-Semite trolls:

JooJooJoo!

To the AnCap trolls:

MM (and any non-AnCap's) rejection of AnCap is that there will always be "organized crime" in the form of the State. No one has (or could) successfully demonstrated how the "security companies" AnCap fetishizes won't simply get big enough to take over.

MM's solution (which started out as a pragmatic approach to governance) is to bring transparency and honesty to governance--and a Monarchy is the best way to do that. MM's support of neo-cameralism is akin to the idea of AnCap's security companies--only with having local monopolies. That is, free competition within locales but sovereignty within your own plot of land.

The problem AnCap runs into is that while this differentiation *may* be possible on a city- or even state-wide level, it's simply not possible on a person-by-person level because of, if nothing else, HBD.

So if you're coming here trying to convince us of the beauty of AnCap, please try something easier--like convincing us all men are angels.

And if you don't like the commentary, don't click on the "### comments" link.

June 28, 2010 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

"It is small wonder that Professor Hanson has never learned any philosophy. "
He actually has a masters in it, though I suppose everything taught now is "pseudo-philosophy" which would understandably make him prefer the engineering-mindset. At the same time, few of your recommendations stand out as classical philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Kant). All three writers are best known for their politics.

"Because we deduce that they are so."
Do we? I don't think it was deduced that quantum mechanics works, we just kept getting the results and had to admit it was the best explanation available.

"It's not that reason works because reason is scientific. It's that science works because science is reasonable."
You'll have to define your terms better, which is the typical but less fun practice in analytic philosophy.

"does this science make falsifiable predictions? If so, it probably works."
One can easily make falsifiable predictions that are in fact false. But that brings us to induction.

"From scientist to pseudoscientist, there is no mercy whatsoever."
In practice that is unfortuantely not the case.

"the pseudoscientist always asserts the inverse"
I'd say that "heterodox" thinkers often try to expand the bounds of what's viewed as acceptable, realizing that they can't outright accuse the mainstream of being charlatans (rather than merely mistaken in this particular case).

"the Professor has excommunicated all of historical Western thought previous to the New Deal"
Statistics of course precedes the New Deal. The relevance of the New Deal to your debate with Hanson is quite murky, but you enjoy bringing it up in pretty much any context.

"I admit to some sensitivity on this point."
You you acknowledge that we don't in fact know how it would work out and so you need something more than deduction to evaluate how it would compare to futarchy (which could conceivably implement your system if speculators thought it would accomplish the recommended goals).

"Professor Hanson confuses, or at least appears to confuse, absolutism with tyranny"
You often misinterpet people's views based not on what they have explicitly said but appearances. Rather than assume you know what he meant to say, it would be sensible just to ask and perhaps lay out what you see as the implications of hypothetical views.

"the term iron fist, which implies that there exists some non-iron fist (or hand) - ie, a government that, because of some structural feature, cannot be tyrannical."
No, a fist which is not iron does not imply a fist that cannot be iron under other circumstances. You yourself acknowledge that there can be such things as absolutism or tyranny and that either might conceivably better than all other forms of government which as possible but not them.

"This problem is certainly worth addressing. For instance, my answer is: a sovereign corporation will not tyrannize, for the same reason a sovereign restaurant would not poison its customers, butcher them, and put their chops on tomorrow's lunch menu."
Slaves & serfs were not customers, they were assets. And their have been businesses which inadvertently (though perhaps negligently) poisoned their customers and the ocassional proprietor who butchered them. We merely know a base-rate inductively.

"And yet, no Hitlers or Stalins were seen."
They generally weren't up to that level of organization. Deaths due to war & homicide decreased from then.

June 28, 2010 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

"Thus I paraphrase Professor Hanson's criticism: "your machine does not spin forever.""
Neither does futarchy, it's terrible paraphrase. Hanson has never claimed perfection. His standard is to do better than the status quo.

"The fallacy is visible in the passive voice"
My height is limited. The amount of text I put in this line is limited, though I could have added more. Limited functions fine as a description of governments, though it generally helps to be more specific unless you only want to distinguish between North Korea and not North Korea.

"possibly even Professor Hanson"
I'm glad you acknowledge it's only possible, because in this case it's highly doubtful.

"I might as well say that the Stuarts should rule England. Perhaps they should. They don't, though."
Officials actually pledge fealty to the constitution and laws actually are struck down based on the claim that they violate the constitution. The Windsors would be a better (though very flawed) analogy.

"it has no meaning at all"
There is a distinction between irrelevant and meaningless.

"the precedents of the Supreme Court"
Whose reversal is rationalized with reference to the constitution.

"The theory of the "living constitution" is simply the theory of the rule of force."
The Constitution itself can be argued to be the rule of force. In practice people could follow the rules without being bopped on the head all the time, the same can be said today.

"It certainly cannot expect them to take it seriously when it uses "the Constitution," from which it has beaten such an effective sword, as a shield when the contest turns against it"
Originalism actually has been taken seriously. In the Heller decision only Breyer attempted a "balancing" argument rather than an attempt at originalism (it helped that there was so little precedent in that case). The dissenters weren't quite as good at it, perhaps due to having less practice.

"who holds sovereignty in the United States? The Council of Nine, also known as the Supreme Court."
If we'd like to discuss the "original Constitution", it says very little about the powers of the Supreme Court. Congress is expressly given the power to restrict its jurisdiction, and the first amendment enacted after the Bill of Rights did so as well. Judges can even be impeached. In practice we don't see that much conflict, but the anti-majoritarianism of the Court in practice is also greatly exaggerated (this is arguably a defect if you are relying on them to protect the Constituiton against majoritarianism). You can't blame the Court for the New Deal, they were one of the few spots of (unfortunately feeble) resistance.

"Or at least, if they are resisted, they can only be resisted unlawfully."
None dare call it unlawful, if outlawry doth succeed. You seem to have dropped your legal realism and granted a reality to the law.

"but only because of the personal responsibility of the sovereign individuals"
Also because they're too lazy to hear many cases and seem to dislike contention. Some could accuse them of irresponsible dereliction of duty.

"or that any sovereign government is anything but absolute"
Many have critiqued the Westphalian/Hobbesian/Weberian definition of state sovereignty as a fiction that has never really existed anywhere.

June 28, 2010 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

"the fallacy of "rule by law,""
You yourself have argued that the supposed benefits due to democracy are actually due to the "rule of law" (Douglass North would probably question their practical seperability). That notion is traditionally contrasted with "rule of men" even though in practice men carry it out. You might have rejected your old view since then.

"I certainly have no interest in incremental improvements. This is because, when I look at USG as it is today, I see anything but a state which is continually making incremental improvements"
It is not making radical improvements either, so would you be uninterested in that as well? Do radical changes often work out well compared to incremental ones?

"they must delude themselves that such a state exists"
I don't think he claimed that was the case. He proposed futarchy primarily as a way to govern publicly traded corporations, but thinks it can generalize to other institutions.

"Hanson's wacky libertarian nostrums"
Hanson denies being a libertarian, and as Nick Szabo angrily pointed out "futarchy" completely ignores libertarian principles.

"Therefore, I can safely assume that Professor Hanson is an egalist"
You assume a lot, frequently making an ass of you and you. Hanson introduced Caplan to Judith Harris' behavioural genetics, the same Caplan chiding Cochran & Harpending for not citing Rushton's book! His colleague Garret Jones seems to write most of his papers about IQ differences among countries (citing Sailer's excel from "IQ and the Wealth of Nations"), even as that applies to immigration.

June 28, 2010 at 9:35 PM  
Anonymous realness said...

GM palmer... you're an obtuse dickhead.

#1. 'you joo motherfuckers' is just a line from casino with joe pescie. stop being the antisemite patrolman for a minute and you can take a pee break and maybe laugh at a joke.

#2. the guy who said gov't was organized crime (me), made it clear in parenthesis that he only used this term for lack of a better word. organized crime is excellent in its descriptive quality, but it bears the unfortunate moral connotation of condemning the behavior described. this should have been clear from the comment... gov't, being the same as organized coercion, taxation, monopoly of force, etc., is engaged in on behalf of the exploiters, not the exploited.

thusly, saying that monarchy is better governance for teh people is a pretty stupid argument.

June 28, 2010 at 9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Originalism actually has been taken seriously."

Ha. I was just listening to a bunch of law professors on NPR scoff at originalism. Who can even know what those old fossils in 1787 thought about anything, anyway? And how can their thoughts have any relevance to 2010? No, no, you really should leave everything up to today's Leftist experts. They know what's best for you!

June 28, 2010 at 11:08 PM  
Blogger nazgulnarsil said...

I must echo confusion at the idea of limiting shareholder trades. how are straw purchases to be prevented when shareholders may (and must, under certain configurations mencius has mentioned) live outside the jurisdiction of the GovCorp they hold shares in.

At best you can hope for the same sort of paper restrictions that the constitution imposes on the supreme court now: one subject to slow erosion. this, I suppose, is better than no restriction at all.

June 29, 2010 at 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Gay Mutton said...

Mencius,

as someone who frequently quotes Burnham's "Machiavellians", I don't really get how you can fail to grasp his notions on the importance of myths for the stability of society.

For example: "A dilemma confronts any section of the elite that tries to act scientifically. The political life of the masses and the cohesion of society demand the acceptance of myths. A scientific attitude toward society does not permit belief in the truth of the myths. But the leaders must profess, indeed foster, belief in the myths, or the fabric of society will crack and they be overthrown."

While it is technically true that the Constitution is just a piece of paper, it is certainly an integral myth your society is founded upon. Hence as long as your Sovereign is not "Fnargl the Invincible" but just "Barack O'Fnargl", your Supreme Court or whatever institution of mortals, the Sovereign cannot act entirely as he pleases or "he be overthrown".

So the existence of a Constitution could at least slow down the degenerative nature of democracy. Perfect? No. But also far from worthless.

June 29, 2010 at 3:20 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Anarcho-capitalists asserts that both competition and the profit motive are necessary for good governance. MM asserts that only the profit motive is necessary. As an anarcho-capitalist, I find this very interesting indeed. :P

His objection to overlapping, competing, governments/security companies was only that this was "militarily unstable."

June 29, 2010 at 4:02 AM  
Anonymous Gay Mutton said...

sconzey,

the combination of the words "militarily unstable" with the word "only" is pretty hilarious.

As an anarcho-capitalist who sees a state as basically a criminal institution, doesn't it sound strange to believe these monsters would happily share a territory?

June 29, 2010 at 5:06 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

"thusly, saying that monarchy is better governance for teh people is a pretty stupid argument."

MM likened democracy to a tragedy of the commons. Overtaxing (and other democratic badness) is akin to overfishing due to lack of security over capital (teh people and/or teh land). A monopolist would at least tax no greater than some optimal extraction rate. MM seems to imply competition between states could further limit exploitation, but his mechanism for ensuring this (it would be good business? Cartelization wouldn't occur?) is suspect IMO. Of course, I'm only using taxation as an example, there are supposed to be all sorts of related benefits to teh people from efficient and sane government.

MM has said many times that government should be run for and by the financial beneficiaries of government. Although he does seem to justify this with supposed benefits to teh people.

June 29, 2010 at 5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are certain inductive methods, in certain cases, reliable? Because we deduce that they are so.

No, no, no! "Science works" is not an analytic, but a synthetic statement. We observe that certain methods and ways of reasoning work, for a suitable definition of "work", and inductively derive that "science works". Or to put it even clearer, subject to a few additional constraints we call methods that work "science", effectively defining "science" as "what works" (by which definition economics is less of a science than popularly assumed).

June 29, 2010 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Realness:

Read what Josh said.

And I believe it's you who needs to take the joke.

Joojoojoo!

June 29, 2010 at 7:17 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

confusion at the idea of limiting shareholder trades. how are straw purchases to be prevented when shareholders may... live outside the jurisdiction of the GovCorp they hold shares in.

This is easy enough. Disallow anonymous share ownership. (Anonymous to insiders, that is -- there's no reason why shareholder info need be known outside the ownership group and perhaps a few high level employees.)

A registry of shares is kept by the sovcorp itself, and perhaps also one or more outside agencies, for safety. Each share is mapped to exactly one owner. Each owner is known to any arbitrary level of detail. Name, eyecolor, blood type, first pet's name, full body photos, DNA, dental records, favorite color -- you name it. To transfer a share, the new owner must physically appear somewhere and have his identity verified.

Having identified the would-be buyer and seller, and the price set for their transaction, a minority of other owners may block any share transfer. How large a minority? 10%, perhaps? There's no reason to take chances here.

You get the idea. There's no reason why almost arbitrary scrutiny cannot be applied, if it is seen as in the interests of the shareholders collectively. And in fact, I think it would be, because otherwise you have the problem of shareholder dispossession by anyone gaining a controlling interest.

Here's the game, then. Assume we have unbreakable cryptographic protocols for identity and voting, so that we can do things like the above suggestions without worrying about black-hat intrusion. Can you design an attack against such an ownership convention that effectively takes ownership of a share uncompensated?

I discussed one such attack back in the patchwork series. One shareholder buys up 51% of a sovcorp then votes to give new stock to himself, or revoke the stock of other owners. Note how the ideas above could cut off this attack: when any owner gets up towards 40%, we might expect most other owners to unite against him being allowed to buy any more.

One idea I mentioned at that time would be for the number of shares to be fixed. Perhaps you'd have 65536 of them. If subdivision is desired, it can be accomplished by secondary corporations.

June 29, 2010 at 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

As an anarcho-capitalist who sees a state as basically a criminal institution, doesn't it sound strange to believe these monsters would happily share a territory?

States do not share must, true. But moralistic ACs do not view the protection agencies in anarchy as criminal, because they are not necessarily rights-violating. (Whereas, states are necessarily rights-violating.) As a practical matter, PAs are quite different from states because their incentives are quite different. A state has a monopoly and can insulate itself almost arbitrarily from its "customers" demand. (I.e. North Korea.) A PA does not have a monopoly, and therefore cannot violate its customers with impunity. It must provide customer service at least in the same ballpark as its competitors.

June 29, 2010 at 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Gay Mutton: Mencius believes that myths are no longer necessary for the state to remain secure. The state controls the military by controlling its weapons. Any military unit that disobeys orders would have its weapons deactivated; it could then be easily captured or destroyed by any loyal unit. Traitors would hang. The units would know this, and thus, stay loyal.

In MM's opinion, which I rather share, in modern times the imbalance in power between profession soldiers and militia or armed mobs is large enough that soldiers will never lose in a conflict with militia.

The military controls the people by machinegunning mobs whenever they become a nuisance and refuse lawful orders to disperse. MM believes such massacres would be quite rare (I'd guess no more than once every two generations), because the people are not dumb and they quiet down for many years after each one. The key point here is that people won't fight without a hope of winning.

All that said, I disagree with MM in that I do think neocameral states would have a moderate bodyguard of myth. Certainly there would be corporate constitutions for the sovcorps, and there's no reason they could not be written down and fetishized as ours is. I also think that service to the sovcorp would be somewhat fetishized, akin to the way modern conservatives worship the armed services and police. But this would be extended to all state employees. (We can't do that now with politicians, even though they would probably like it, because their irresponsibility, venality, and ineptitude is all too obvious. But do contrast how people feel about the Supreme Court.)

The optimate attitudes would return. A sense of noblesse oblige, some of the mission civilatrice, etc. That is, the neocameral state would encourage all elites (owners or not) to see it as their own thing. The "them" would be the unwashed low-IQ masses. Elites would be encouraged to cohere into a single group, with loyalty being fashionable.

Finally, I see no reason to think that nationalism would stop. Many sovcorps would probably sit on national groups, and would be therefore able to claim the mantle as the champions of that group.

June 29, 2010 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Gay Mutton said...

States do not share must, true. But moralistic ACs do not view the protection agencies in anarchy as criminal, because they are not necessarily rights-violating. (Whereas, states are necessarily rights-violating.) As a practical matter, PAs are quite different from states because their incentives are quite different. A state has a monopoly and can insulate itself almost arbitrarily from its "customers" demand. (I.e. North Korea.) A PA does not have a monopoly, and therefore cannot violate its customers with impunity. It must provide customer service at least in the same ballpark as its competitors.

Yes, I know the literature and the theory. But inventing a flashy name does not make a viable business model.

The very definition of having power is to be able to compel someone to do something against his own will, so it's not really an area that lends itself to ongoing competition.
If you are the strongest protection agency in a given territory, the only reason you would restrain yourself from crushing your competition would be the same cultural reason that restrains every existing state now.

June 29, 2010 at 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Gay Mutton said...

Leonard,

I guess one could argue that myths are no longer necessary to secure a state, but the question is not so much if it is necessary but if it is profitable. Coca-Cola doesn't HAVE to spend huge sums of money on advertisement, but the ROI seems to be quite alright. Why would that be different for a SovCorp? Isn't it much more elegant to make people want to serve you?
And for that matter, isn't it much nicer for the people being served to believe that they are actually serving their serfs? Self delusion can be a pretty awesome thing I suppose.

My problem with MM is not that I think his analysis is wrong, it's just that I don't really see why basically anybody would be motivated to switch to his "let us all face the harsh truth world". "True" and "Good" are just not the same thing.

June 29, 2010 at 9:30 AM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Mutton, I agree w/ you that sovcorps have the incentive to condition subjects, both the ruling class (nobless oblige) and the serfs (nationalism). And yes, it is a matter of profit. I have made this same argument myself before in comments here.

As for the truth: well, some men will always be motivated to seek it, no matter how well educated they are. MM is one. I fancy myself another, as I guess many or most of the people who comment here. I could speculate on reasons why men want to know the truth, but I don't think it really matters why; it is sufficient merely to recognize that they do. Every elite will have at least a few crazy truth-seekers. If a society has no way accept truth-seeking and truth-telling, then that society has a problem. In the case of neocameralism, it can accept any level of truth-telling because its state security is ultimately based on military strength, not opinion. Contrast our democratic socialism.

June 29, 2010 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger sconzey said...

Gay Mutton: I'm a consequentialist/utilitarian ancap, of the Freidmanite rather than the Rothbardian school. :P It doesn't really bother me that "Ohnoes taxation iz theft yall." What bothers me is the wastage and graft. I think some form of profit-motivated government: monarchic, or formalist, or anarcho-capitalist is a more honest, effective, and stable system.

As MM rightly points out, if the State really was a revenue-maximising bandit, we'd have better government than we do as it is.

June 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM  
Anonymous JB said...

an alternative to Mencius' cryptographic sovereignty:
facial microexpression testing for men over 30 for sound principles and belief in liberty, coupled with character review
upon passing, grant them cryptographic weapons access rights and enroll them into the militia
disarm everyone else
voila.

June 29, 2010 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Mitchell said...

A while back, at Andrew Exum's blog, Mencius wrote:

"Order will come. Sooner or later. My guess is: later, in a turban. I don't expect to like it, if I live to see it, but I'll like it more than government by teenager. Allahu akbar! Frankly, I'd rather parrot that shit than the shit I learned at Brown. BS always sounds better in a foreign language. Don't tell me I'm too old to memorize the Koran."

In contemplating the ideological vigor of groups like al Qaeda, and taking the long view, I've had similar thoughts - that the world really will see a new caliphate - but the current "rise of Turkey" leads me to think otherwise. That's what a functioning modern Muslim state looks like. True rule by turban is for hillbillies, religious micro-states a la Vatican City, disaster areas ("failed states"), and the occasional large state which falls captive to revolutionary zealots (i.e. Iran).

Consider the new Turkey's Khomeini, for example: Fetullah Gulen. Hardly anyone outside of Turkey has even heard of him, and there is no movement to make him caliph. I can't think of a good historical analogy for what he is, but whatever sort of figure he is, it's not the sort who comes to power at the head of a revolution, or who ever occupies a presidential palace. He's more of a bookworm do-gooder with lots of admirers in the civil-society organizations who were kept down by the old Kemalist order in Turkey.

So the future of the Muslim world does not consist of perpetual crisis, and jihad against the occupying infidel, until the sons of Muhammad reign supreme and get to recreate the conditions of the first Islamic century, incidentally also satisfying the Mencist thesis that democracy is entropy and must eventually be replaced by a new non-democratic order. Under contemporary conditions, the places where the true fanatics come to power are precisely those parts of the world *most* removed from civilization. Those guys are playing an important part in the Muslim revival, they get all the headlines and the Youtube hits, but that's because it's a time of war. Monarchy and even the sovcorp (think Dubai) probably do have a place in the Muslim future, but I find it hard to believe that any big Islamic Union of States would run on *those* principles. Given that it would have to arise in this same 21st century we're already living in, it would probably run on lines that simply sound science-fictional to us, like neuro-computationally mediated social harmony, based on hadith reinterpreted in the light of evolutionary psychology. Without a worldwide civilization-destroying disaster, political luddism is a dead end which only losers will embrace, and if anything really new arises in the governance of human affairs, it will be harnessing the genuine novelties of the period.

June 30, 2010 at 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comments are amusing as usual. Those reflexively shouting anti-Semitism may wish to try reading Moldbug's recommended Letters on the Spanish Inquisition - p. 22, say. Why Moldbug thinks a collection of hypocrisy-ridden religious apologetics is likely to be helpful to Hanson's intellectual development is a question I leave to those with more time to waste; if it is meant as some sort of insinuation, it appears misplaced.

June 30, 2010 at 6:45 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

sconzey:
If the variation were not significant, it wouldn't be much help in predicting.


nazulnarsil:
Does that enforcement include self-enforcement/self-control? Most functioning societies rely to a significant extent on that.


sconzey:
It's not clear that SCOTUS is sovereign de jure. The ability of Congress to restrict it has been mentioned, but in addition you might consider Michael Stokes Paulsen's argument in "The Irrepressible Myth of Marbury" that their "power" to decline enforcing unconstitutional acts is shared by all government officials. As Philip Hamburger has written, the common view back then was that judges had "judicial review" rather than some special power of judicial review.


MarcWPhoto:
"and his defiance was possible ONLY because the mob was with him"
I haven't read much about the history of that event, but I suspect it was more the case of the mob not being against him. The masses tend to accept whatever is the status quo, even if they weren't "for" it ex ante. If I'm wrong and there was some important show of mass support for his defiance, I'd be interested in hearing about it.


Thrasymachus:
"It's probably legally defensible to fire you though."
Unless you have tenure! And since Mencius has revealed his identity, does this mean he's halted his career?


Anonymous June 27, 2010 6:29 PM:
Russian Civil War was the example I had given at FP, other commenters there had other suggestions. I don't think China counts because we didn't really have ground troops participating in the first place. Bay of Pigs actually should have been aborted (perhaps attempting again later) since Castro knew of it in advance, but it's not really an example of pulling out.\


Michael S:
#3 seems unlikely to arise. I saw no reference to MacArthur in Obama's statement on McChrystal. I've heard other people make the comparison, but I didn't know he did so as well.


jkr:
"HBD is inherently diversity between groups"
No, it isn't. Steve Sailer's "Human Biodiversity Hall of Fame" shows exceptional individuals, and precisely because he was such an extreme outlier Wilt Chamberlain identified less with a race than Bill Russell. Even if all ethnic/racial variation was eliminated, the large majority of variance would remain. The most famous HBD book is The Bell Curve, which was originally going to be about the general subject of individual variation before they decided IQ was enough. The primary effect of group differences is to warp our discourse enough to prevent us from handling individual variation properly. Recall that Sailer advocates explicit quotas replacing "disparate impact" so as to avoid across-the-board reductions in standards. James Q. Wilson & Richard Herrnstein wrote in Crime and Human Nature, "if, by some sociological magic, we could eliminate all the ethnic and socioeconomic correlates of test scores, the total variance would still be about 75 percent of what it is now. Variance among siblings within families accounts for more of the total variance than that between families". They had to spend a lot of time arguing for the importance of individual variation because almost all of sociology followed Durkheim in saying social facts must have social explanations. While Charles Murray was an odd communitarian-libertarian (though describing himself as "on the right" rather than adhering to a specific ideology) Herrnstein was a "Tory" to his "Whig", as was James Q. Wilson (whose "Bureaucracy" is a good critique of typical libertarian public-choice theories).

June 30, 2010 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

sconzey:
"no reason to assume intelligence is meaningfully and predictably co-variant with any other phenotype."
Less intelligent people tend to be ugly and short. Not necessary to assume, it's an observed correlation.


Steve Johnson:
"Is our government the result of a long tradition of trial and error?"
Yes. Our parties or "factions" were not at all what the Framers expected, but they wound up mitigating the problem they were expected to cause (see "Violence and Social Orders"). And you really can't understand how Congress operates without reference to tradition. At the time Burke was writing all adults had previously lived under the monarchy and so a return was feasible. Nobody from the 18th century is around today. An attempt to revive a sufficiently discontinuous tradition is indistinguishable from radicalism. This is obviously the case for revived "pagan" religions, and Mencius has analogized most nationalist movements to them. Peter Viereck argued in the 50s that it was unconservative to repeal the New Deal (most of which actually is gone now, though its spritual successor in the Great Society is still with us) which is not my perspective, though I do think the modern state is entrenched enough that secession/seasteading are better hopes.

Burke initially said the revolution was "impossible not to admire" despite its serious flaws. In his "Reflections" he had a dimmer view, but from my recollection (it's been a little while since I read it) he recommended that the French assembly hark back to their traditions rather than trying to undo the revolution. It was when the King & Queen were executed that he decided the regime was a threat that had to be put down.

"In fact, the specific context of Burke's argument wasn't pro-status quo it was pro-monarchy and anti-democratic."
He sought to make an argument that would appeal both to "lovers of republics" as well as those of monarchy. It would not have served to convince a Roman senator or contemporary Swiss that they should have a king. Burke never repented his support for the Americans despite their lack of a king.

Positive incremental change is not in fact impossible. D.C vs Heller is a recent example (I've got issues with the more recent Chicago decision), and the proposed changes to the radiowave spectrum. And even the benighted United States was not immune to the wave of neoliberalism starting in the 70s. The question then is whether positive incremental change is likely, and my answer is no. I merely think that radical change (which is thankfully less likely) is far less likely to be positive. And yes, I did read the whole post before my first comment.

Your response to sconzey is good.


josh:
"geometric arguments"
Could you elaborate on that?

I haven't seen any actual debates between him & Cowen (though I have seen him debate Caplan). Are you referring to simple back-and-forth on blogs?


Leonard:
"If you believe in evolution, then, in the absence of any other knowledge, you should also assume "ratheism" (racism) as your default. All reproductively isolated subpopulations evolve."
I disagree (sort of), there are still many traits that don't vary much between populations. In order to guess whether any particular trait varies we'd have to know something about the selective forces operating in the evolutionary environments. Ragnosticism is the default, evidence shifts us to ratheism.

June 30, 2010 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

sconzey:
Congratulations, you've now progressed to the level of Noam Chomsky. If only the rest of the egalists could follow. I earlier got a liberal to retreat to an individualist argument for irrelevance. But as I pointed out, a lot of people are interested in group differences and misunderstanding their significane & cause has led to unfortunate results.


Zdeno:
"may be beholden to the Cathedral"
He's part of it, but doesn't seem to think very highly of it (check the "Academia" tag for other examples). Mencius would find the combination sufficient to indict his integrity. Romer is less beholden to academia, he figured he had dominated it and got bored enough to go into business, and then satisfied with his success in that figured creating new polities would be just as easy. Because of his relative success I imagine he has a higher opinion of academia though.


sconzey:
I think the feedback point is quite important and serves as a sort of Hayekian argument in favor of democracy. But at large enough scales (like the current U.S) it doesn't function nearly as well as, say, Switzerland.


Paul Milenkovic:
I hadn't heard about the Netherlands specifically, but it sounds like you are referring to the Jones Act.


G. M. Palmer:
"In a SCOTUS-POTUS conflict with Obama at the helm, SCOTUS wins."
I think the nature of the conflict would be quite important, but given the composition of SCOTUS we should perhaps expect it to be less radical.


notuswind:
Marginal political movements tend to attract weirdos, and the internet is a haven for them. Some internet communities have norms that encourage better comments, and I think we had more of those when Mencius participated.


G. M. Palmer:
"won't simply get big enough to take over."
Sounds like worst-case scenario of anarchy is that it will turn into neocameralism! The Thousand Nations blog recently had a roundup on polycentric law, which in some ways was typical in the middle ages and was at its greatest extreme in Iceland. Peter Leeson argues contra Ed Stringham why polycentrism is superior to vertically integrated proprietary communities here. My view is that anarchy seems rare enough that I doubt its a stable equilibrium. The same could be said of monarchy in the present era though.


Anonymous June 28, 2010 11:08 PM:
There are actually some progressives who endorse originalism. And in the confirmation hearings Kagan said "We're all originalists". Though that isn't to say she meant it.


Gay Mutton:
Indeed the Constitution may have influence as a Schelling point.


Mitchell:
You may have missed my Straussian interpretation of Mencius as islam-proponent a while back.

June 30, 2010 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

"True" and "Good" are just not the same thing.

For Mencius (and myself) they are. Or at least we think they should be. Unfortunately, as a general rule, most everyone else prefers the pleasant lie to the harsh truth. We semi-autistics might be miserable, but at least we're sane...

July 1, 2010 at 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't think China counts because we didn't really have ground troops participating in the first place."

Yes, we did.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Civil_War#Fighting_in_mainland_China_.281946.E2.80.931950.29

The United States assisted the KMT with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of new surplus military supplies and generous loans of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment. They airlifted many KMT troops from central China to the Northeast (Manchuria). President Truman was very clear about what he described as "using the Japanese to hold off the Communists". In his memoirs he writes "It was perfectly clear to us that if we told the Japanese to lay down their arms immediately and march to the seaboard, the entire country would be taken over by the Communists. We therefore had to take the unusual step of using the enemy as a garrison until we could airlift Chinese National troops to South China and send Marines to guard the seaports". Over 50,000 Marines were sent to guard strategic sites.

"Bay of Pigs actually should have been aborted (perhaps attempting again later) since Castro knew of it in advance, but it's not really an example of pulling out."

Of course it is. The exiles were 100% our creatures. We armed them, trained them, and transported them to Cuba. Four American CIA men were killed in the invasion, and two more captured and executed in Cuba. Everyone (the Cubans, the Russians, neutral observers) at the time understood we were involved, and thought JFK was a pussy for not getting the job done completely.

July 1, 2010 at 4:03 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

TGGP,

I meant to say geometric *proofs* rather than arguments. As usual I was being a bit glib.

I believe they did a blogging heads in addition to some interblog squabbling. The impression I walked away with was that Cowen wanted to take a holistic view of something or other and Robin essentially doesn't even believe in the concept of a holistic view. I don't even remember what the topic was, this is just my impression of Robin having read him a bit over the past few years.

July 1, 2010 at 5:10 AM  
Anonymous Gay Mutton said...

Leonard:

While I feel the same way you do about the intrinsic value of truth for me personally, I'm not as sure as I once was that truth is always a net benefit to society as a whole. See my answer to Studd Beefpile.


Studd:

"True" and "Good" are just not the same thing.

For Mencius (and myself) they are. Or at least we think they should be. Unfortunately, as a general rule, most everyone else prefers the pleasant lie to the harsh truth. We semi-autistics might be miserable, but at least we're sane..



Doesn't your second statement just shout "Hume" at you? Which is fine, don't get me wrong, you have every right to believe "true" and "good" always go together. But you gotta admit that this neat little trick is the recipe of every ideology. Just define the subjective moral category "good" as "true" and by definition everyone who disagrees with you is bad and everyone you happen to dislike must also be wrong.

Also, if I recall correctly, Mencius wrote that he believes violence to be the first and foremost problem of the human species. He also approved of Sir Robert Filmer's "Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings". His reason was, that Filmer's answer to the question "Why do Kings rule", was basically "Because they do".
I suppose we agree that the Divine Right of Kings is bullshit, i.e. not "true". But it does reduce violence by a great deal as long as people are silly enough to believe in that kind of stuff. Which, you could say, is "good".


Sconzey:

I think some form of profit-motivated government: monarchic, or formalist, or anarcho-capitalist is a more honest, effective, and stable system.

It would also be more honest if I'd tell roughly 80% of the people I know that I think they are retarded. If that would be effective and stable on the other hand...

Honestly, I don't even disagree with you about the wastage, graft and whatnot. It's just that deception is a winning strategy humans are uniquely capable of, so to think we could change that is nothing but a fantasy.

July 1, 2010 at 6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in general agreement with Mencius here, as always, but must write to object to a central flaw in his reasoning: the S Ct is NOT (repeat NOT) all powerful under modern Constitutional Law and binding precedent.

Under Art III, the S Ct has "original jurisdiction" over the following:In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be a Party, the Supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all other Cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.


Any jurisdiction beyond that is purely the creation of statute. That is to say, that Congress may decide what the S Ct can and cannot hear and reach judgment on, except for those few (and irrelevant) matters subject to Original Jurisdiction.

Congress can--and HAS--remove the S Ct's jurisdiction to hear matters, even all matters but Original Jurisdiction.

Since the S Ct cannot rule without jurisdiction, and since Congress holds the power to revoke such jurisdiction, Congress is actually the predominant power in any power-struggle that could conceivably ensue.

Mencius has not addressed this issue. They may think themselves nine robed kings, but their crown could be taken from them tomorrow by a simple vote.

Some kings.

KevinV.

July 1, 2010 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger MarcWPhoto said...

Arguments to the power of Congress to determine the SCOTUS's jurisdiction are basically an is/ought problem again. The Constitution ought to limit the SCOTUS to those matters over which it is granted original jurisdiction over and whatever Congress gives it.

However, since Marshall's naked power grab in Marbury, the SCOTUS has spent two centuries establishing that the Constitution means what it says the Constitution means. Hence the "is:" the SCOTUS is the determiner of what the Constitution says, hence no one can gainsay it if it says it says something different than what anybody else says it does or, in fact, what it plainly does state. Just as it can torture the power to regulate interstate commerce into allowing Congress to tell me that I can't grow wheat in my back yard so that my family may have bread, it can easily torture whatever issue Congress tries to oppose it on into an original jurisdiction and/or fundamental Constitutional question.

It doesn't even have to determine that it has some power Congress is trying to deny it, it merely has to find that Congress doesn't have the power to do whatever it is opposing.

July 1, 2010 at 8:54 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

If they were kings, MM would presumably have no issue. Here's an MMish attempt to square the circle.

They are democratic kings existentially dependent upon the implicit support of the public. The implicit support of the public is guaranteed by the opinion making powers of the Cathedral in their perpetual war against congressional autonomy. Just as the king is dependent on the army, but still remains a king, the justices are dependent on public opinion, but remain sovereign. The court is more limited than the king in how it may express it sovereignty.

July 1, 2010 at 8:57 AM  
Anonymous jkr said...

TGGP,

"Even if all ethnic/racial variation was eliminated, the large majority of variance would remain."

If all dogs were just wolves, there would be no dog breeds... is this your argument? Dog biodiversity is inherently diversity between groups of dogs, not just individual dogs... HBD is inherently diversity between groups of hominids, not just individual hominids. I'm not talking about race or ethnicity per se. There are no such things, per se... just greater and lesser degrees of similarity/variation across the spectrum. If HBD were merely a guiness book of world records for strange outlying traits, it would matter less than it does.

July 1, 2010 at 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - when you write, in response to my comment, "#3 seems unlikely to arise," I'm not quite sure what you mean. I suggested (as #3 of an incomplete list of issues over which conflict might arise between the Supreme Court and President Obama) that Congress might pass, and Obama sign, a bill retroactively imposing the estate tax, and the Supreme Court might strike it down as unconstititional.

Which part of this do you think "unlikely to arise"? Congress passing the bill? Obama signing it? The Supreme Court striking it down? I have a personal interest in this issue, because I'm currently the executor of an estate that would have been taxable under 2009 rules, and I'm curious as to your views.

To be sure, this is a relatively minor, and as yet theoretical issue, compared to the states' already pending suit against the Obamacare insurance purchase mandate, and the administration's announced plan to sue to overturn the Arizona immigration law. Nonetheless I'm assured by counsel that an attempt to reimpose the estate tax retroactively is likely, and that it surely will result in bitter and longwinded litigation ending ultimately before the Supreme Court.

Recall that it was not just one reversal of Roosevelt's New Deal policies, but a series of such reversals, which prompted his court-packing scheme. Two cases were decided in the Court's last term - the campaign-finance case (Citizens United v. FEC) and the gun law case (McDonald v. Chicago) - in ways deeply unsatisafactory to the administration and the Congressional Democrats. Add a few more, and the Court will be on a collision course with the other two branches of the Federal government.

As for Obama's self-comparison to Truman, he framed his dismissal of McChrystal in terms of "civilian control of the military." This is an implicit invitation to compare it to Harry Truman's removal of Douglas MacArthur, which is the classic illustration of civilian control of the military.

MacArthur differed with Truman's limited-war strategy in Korea - a policy difference over which Truman legitimately exercised his superior authority as commander in chief. McChrystal's fault was nothing so lofty. He, and some of his aides, made disrespectful remarks about Obama and Biden. Is there any evidence that actual difference existed over policy, or any threat was present that McChrystal might possibly have defied administration policies? There is no comparison.

Obama is a vainglorious and thin-skinned man. It is an illustration of his vanity that he first dismissed the general; and second described it in terms of civilian control, rather than of his own wounded pride. If McChrystal deserved to be cashiered for anything it was for lacking sufficient judgment to discern how anyone from such a publication as "Rolling Stone" was likely to portray him or any other military man.

You are mischaracterizing Filmer if you construe his answer to the question "why do kings rule?" as "because they do." The thesis of "Patriarcha" is that as a father rules over his family, so the king rules over his kingdom, because the people of a kingdom are an extended family in which royalty are the senior line, and the king the senior heir.

If we consider that European kingdoms of the period were much more ethnically homogeneous than modern nation-states, and look at the genealogies of their populations, we see that Filmer was correct in his observations about kinship and the way in which it tied the people of a kingdom together. This was nowhere truer than in Scotland, whence the Stuart monarchs of Filmer's time hailed - each clan had its chief, and the chief of all chiefs was the king, each being kindred to him at some remove.

The real question one has after reading "Patriarcha" is, "why are the laws of inheritance as they are?" and the answer Filmer unquestioningly accepts is "because they are."

July 1, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - when you write, in response to my comment, "#3 seems unlikely to arise," I'm not quite sure what you mean. I suggested (as #3 of an incomplete list of issues over which conflict might arise between the Supreme Court and President Obama) that Congress might pass, and Obama sign, a bill retroactively imposing the estate tax, and the Supreme Court might strike it down as unconstititional.

Which part of this do you think "unlikely to arise"? Congress passing the bill? Obama signing it? The Supreme Court striking it down? I have a personal interest in this issue, because I'm currently the executor of an estate that would have been taxable under 2009 rules, and I'm curious as to your views.

To be sure, this is a relatively minor, and as yet theoretical issue, compared to the states' already pending suit against the Obamacare insurance purchase mandate, and the administration's announced plan to sue to overturn the Arizona immigration law. Nonetheless I'm assured by counsel that an attempt to reimpose the estate tax retroactively is likely, and that it surely will result in bitter and longwinded litigation ending ultimately before the Supreme Court.

Recall that it was not just one reversal of Roosevelt's New Deal policies, but a series of such reversals, which prompted his court-packing scheme. Two cases were decided in the Court's last term - the campaign-finance case (Citizens United v. FEC) and the gun law case (McDonald v. Chicago) - in ways deeply unsatisafactory to the administration and the Congressional Democrats. Add a few more, and the Court will be on a collision course with the other two branches of the Federal government.

As for Obama's self-comparison to Truman, he framed his dismissal of McChrystal in terms of "civilian control of the military." This is an implicit invitation to compare it to Harry Truman's removal of Douglas MacArthur, which is the classic illustration of civilian control of the military.

MacArthur differed with Truman's limited-war strategy in Korea - a policy difference over which Truman legitimately exercised his superior authority as commander in chief. McChrystal's fault was nothing so lofty. He, and some of his aides, made disrespectful remarks about Obama and Biden. Is there any evidence that actual difference existed over policy, or any threat was present that McChrystal might possibly have defied administration policies? There is no comparison.

Obama is a vainglorious and thin-skinned man. It is an illustration of his vanity that he first dismissed the general; and second described it in terms of civilian control, rather than of his own wounded pride. If McChrystal deserved to be cashiered for anything it was for lacking sufficient judgment to discern how anyone from such a publication as "Rolling Stone" was likely to portray him or any other military man.

You are mischaracterizing Filmer if you construe his answer to the question "why do kings rule?" as "because they do." The thesis of "Patriarcha" is that as a father rules over his family, so the king rules over his kingdom, because the people of a kingdom are an extended family in which royalty are the senior line, and the king the senior heir.

If we consider that European kingdoms of the period were much more ethnically homogeneous than modern nation-states, and look at the genealogies of their populations, we see that Filmer was correct in his observations about kinship and the way in which it tied the people of a kingdom together. This was nowhere truer than in Scotland, whence the Stuart monarchs of Filmer's time hailed - each clan had its chief, and the chief of all chiefs was the king, each being kindred to him at some remove.

The real question one has after reading "Patriarcha" is, "why are the laws of inheritance as they are?" and the answer Filmer unquestioningly accepts is "because they are."

July 1, 2010 at 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - when you write, in response to my comment, "#3 seems unlikely to arise," I'm not quite sure what you mean. I suggested (as #3 of an incomplete list of issues over which conflict might arise between the Supreme Court and President Obama) that Congress might pass, and Obama sign, a bill retroactively imposing the estate tax, and the Supreme Court might strike it down as unconstititional.

Which part of this do you think "unlikely to arise"? Congress passing the bill? Obama signing it? The Supreme Court striking it down? I have a personal interest in this issue, because I'm currently the executor of an estate that would have been taxable under 2009 rules, and I'm curious as to your views.

To be sure, this is a relatively minor, and as yet theoretical issue, compared to the states' already pending suit against the Obamacare insurance purchase mandate, and the administration's announced plan to sue to overturn the Arizona immigration law. Nonetheless I'm assured by counsel that an attempt to reimpose the estate tax retroactively is likely, and that it surely will result in bitter and longwinded litigation ending ultimately before the Supreme Court.

Recall that it was not just one reversal of Roosevelt's New Deal policies, but a series of such reversals, which prompted his court-packing scheme. Two cases were decided in the Court's last term - the campaign-finance case (Citizens United v. FEC) and the gun law case (McDonald v. Chicago) - in ways deeply unsatisafactory to the administration and the Congressional Democrats. Add a few more, and the Court will be on a collision course with the other two branches of the Federal government.

As for Obama's self-comparison to Truman, he framed his dismissal of McChrystal in terms of "civilian control of the military." This is an implicit invitation to compare it to Harry Truman's removal of Douglas MacArthur, which is the classic illustration of civilian control of the military.

MacArthur differed with Truman's limited-war strategy in Korea - a policy difference over which Truman legitimately exercised his superior authority as commander in chief. McChrystal's fault was nothing so lofty. He, and some of his aides, made disrespectful remarks about Obama and Biden. Is there any evidence that actual difference existed over policy, or any threat was present that McChrystal might possibly have defied administration policies? There is no comparison.

Obama is a vainglorious and thin-skinned man. It is an illustration of his vanity that he first dismissed the general; and second described it in terms of civilian control, rather than of his own wounded pride. If McChrystal deserved to be cashiered for anything it was for lacking sufficient judgment to discern how anyone from such a publication as "Rolling Stone" was likely to portray him or any other military man.

You are mischaracterizing Filmer if you construe his answer to the question "why do kings rule?" as "because they do." The thesis of "Patriarcha" is that as a father rules over his family, so the king rules over his kingdom, because the people of a kingdom are an extended family in which royalty are the senior line, and the king the senior heir.

If we consider that European kingdoms of the period were much more ethnically homogeneous than modern nation-states, and look at the genealogies of their populations, we see that Filmer was correct in his observations about kinship and the way in which it tied the people of a kingdom together. This was nowhere truer than in Scotland, whence the Stuart monarchs of Filmer's time hailed - each clan had its chief, and the chief of all chiefs was the king, each being kindred to him at some remove.

The real question one has after reading "Patriarcha" is, "why are the laws of inheritance as they are?" and the answer Filmer unquestioningly accepts is "because they are."

July 1, 2010 at 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - when you write, in response to my comment, "#3 seems unlikely to arise," I'm not quite sure what you mean. I suggested (as #3 of an incomplete list of issues over which conflict might arise between the Supreme Court and President Obama) that Congress might pass, and Obama sign, a bill retroactively imposing the estate tax, and the Supreme Court might strike it down as unconstititional.

Which part of this do you think "unlikely to arise"? Congress passing the bill? Obama signing it? The Supreme Court striking it down? I have a personal interest in this issue, because I'm currently the executor of an estate that would have been taxable under 2009 rules, and I'm curious as to your views.

To be sure, this is a relatively minor, and as yet theoretical issue, compared to the states' already pending suit against the Obamacare insurance purchase mandate, and the administration's announced plan to sue to overturn the Arizona immigration law. Nonetheless I'm assured by counsel that an attempt to reimpose the estate tax retroactively is likely, and that it surely will result in bitter and longwinded litigation ending ultimately before the Supreme Court.

Recall that it was not just one reversal of Roosevelt's New Deal policies, but a series of such reversals, which prompted his court-packing scheme. Two cases were decided in the Court's last term - the campaign-finance case (Citizens United v. FEC) and the gun law case (McDonald v. Chicago) - in ways deeply unsatisafactory to the administration and the Congressional Democrats. Add a few more, and the Court will be on a collision course with the other two branches of the Federal government.

As for Obama's self-comparison to Truman, he framed his dismissal of McChrystal in terms of "civilian control of the military." This is an implicit invitation to compare it to Harry Truman's removal of Douglas MacArthur, which is the classic illustration of civilian control of the military.

MacArthur differed with Truman's limited-war strategy in Korea - a policy difference over which Truman legitimately exercised his superior authority as commander in chief. McChrystal's fault was nothing so lofty. He, and some of his aides, made disrespectful remarks about Obama and Biden. Is there any evidence that actual difference existed over policy, or any threat was present that McChrystal might possibly have defied administration policies? There is no comparison.

Obama is a vainglorious and thin-skinned man. It is an illustration of his vanity that he first dismissed the general; and second described it in terms of civilian control, rather than of his own wounded pride. If McChrystal deserved to be cashiered for anything it was for lacking sufficient judgment to discern how anyone from such a publication as "Rolling Stone" was likely to portray him or any other military man.

You are mischaracterizing Filmer if you construe his answer to the question "why do kings rule?" as "because they do." The thesis of "Patriarcha" is that as a father rules over his family, so the king rules over his kingdom, because the people of a kingdom are an extended family in which royalty are the senior line, and the king the senior heir.

If we consider that European kingdoms of the period were much more ethnically homogeneous than modern nation-states, and look at the genealogies of their populations, we see that Filmer was correct in his observations about kinship and the way in which it tied the people of a kingdom together. This was nowhere truer than in Scotland, whence the Stuart monarchs of Filmer's time hailed - each clan had its chief, and the chief of all chiefs was the king, each being kindred to him at some remove.

The real question one has after reading "Patriarcha" is, "why are the laws of inheritance as they are?" and the answer Filmer unquestioningly accepts is "because they are."

July 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - when you write, in response to my comment, "#3 seems unlikely to arise," I'm not quite sure what you mean. I suggested (as #3 of an incomplete list of issues over which conflict might arise between the Supreme Court and President Obama) that Congress might pass, and Obama sign, a bill retroactively imposing the estate tax, and the Supreme Court might strike it down as unconstititional.

Which part of this do you think "unlikely to arise"? Congress passing the bill? Obama signing it? The Supreme Court striking it down? I have a personal interest in this issue, because I'm currently the executor of an estate that would have been taxable under 2009 rules, and I'm curious as to your views.

To be sure, this is a relatively minor, and as yet theoretical issue, compared to the states' already pending suit against the Obamacare insurance purchase mandate, and the administration's announced plan to sue to overturn the Arizona immigration law. Nonetheless I'm assured by counsel that an attempt to reimpose the estate tax retroactively is likely, and that it surely will result in bitter and longwinded litigation ending ultimately before the Supreme Court.

Recall that it was not just one reversal of Roosevelt's New Deal policies, but a series of such reversals, which prompted his court-packing scheme. Two cases were decided in the Court's last term - the campaign-finance case (Citizens United v. FEC) and the gun law case (McDonald v. Chicago) - in ways deeply unsatisafactory to the administration and the Congressional Democrats. Add a few more, and the Court will be on a collision course with the other two branches of the Federal government.

As for Obama's self-comparison to Truman, he framed his dismissal of McChrystal in terms of "civilian control of the military." This is an implicit invitation to compare it to Harry Truman's removal of Douglas MacArthur, which is the classic illustration of civilian control of the military.

MacArthur differed with Truman's limited-war strategy in Korea - a policy difference over which Truman legitimately exercised his superior authority as commander in chief. McChrystal's fault was nothing so lofty. He, and some of his aides, made disrespectful remarks about Obama and Biden. Is there any evidence that actual difference existed over policy, or any threat was present that McChrystal might possibly have defied administration policies? There is no comparison.

Obama is a vainglorious and thin-skinned man. It is an illustration of his vanity that he first dismissed the general; and second described it in terms of civilian control, rather than of his own wounded pride. If McChrystal deserved to be cashiered for anything it was for lacking sufficient judgment to discern how anyone from such a publication as "Rolling Stone" was likely to portray him or any other military man.

You are mischaracterizing Filmer if you construe his answer to the question "why do kings rule?" as "because they do." The thesis of "Patriarcha" is that as a father rules over his family, so the king rules over his kingdom, because the people of a kingdom are an extended family in which royalty are the senior line, and the king the senior heir.

If we consider that European kingdoms of the period were much more ethnically homogeneous than modern nation-states, and look at the genealogies of their populations, we see that Filmer was correct in his observations about kinship and the way in which it tied the people of a kingdom together. This was nowhere truer than in Scotland, whence the Stuart monarchs of Filmer's time hailed - each clan had its chief, and the chief of all chiefs was the king, each being kindred to him at some remove.

The real question one has after reading "Patriarcha" is, "why are the laws of inheritance as they are?" and the answer Filmer unquestioningly accepts is "because they are."

July 1, 2010 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Alrenous said...

On gradualism vs. idealism.

To achieve an ideal outcome on a political scale almost certainly requires total dedication, every waking hour either working toward it or else resting or preparing.

Futarchy may be more evolution than revolution, but it would still require a futarchist movement, which means missionary work, which means total dedication.

The personal cost is almost the same.

I can also compare chance of success. Given the advocacy groups, both theories challenge the existing power structure - the counter lobby will be almost maximally powerful.

Futarchy offers advantages for converting supporters, as the idea is more palatable. The problem is it's hard to tell how much - are we talking a conversion rate a relative 3% higher or 100% higher? Moreover, how big is the actual pool of convertees?

Which theory you favour will be decided almost entirely by this estimate alone.


I suspect Mencius is aware of some of these things, which is why he's described this blog as entertainment. Similarly, the focus on elites.

July 1, 2010 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joseph de Maistre ? Well, well. One of these days, our esteemed host will figure out it would have been a much better deal, if less exciting, to have his "order will come" from the Catholic Church than from men in turbans.

But I suppose the fable of the scorpion and the frog applies. Carry on.

July 1, 2010 at 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Leonard said...

Mutton, I don't have a strong opinion on whether widespread knowledge of the truth always benefits society as a whole. (Usually, yes! but always? Not sure.) But I don't feel I need to have an opinion on that. Neither neocameralism nor anarchocapitalism rely on the masses understanding very must. The masses in both systems get to free ride on governance provided by the elites. (Contrast democracy.)

It is sufficient, I think, for a political system that it can handle truth-knowledge within its elites, and that it is not sensitive to false beliefs held by proles. Also, if the system has no way to incorporate proles into the elite, then it must also be able to handle truth-seeking there.

July 1, 2010 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Gay Mutton>

Oh, it absolutely screams hume. I believe that truth=good deep in my soul, so to speak. Think of, say Aquinas. A mind far to brilliant to rationally accept Christianity at face value, but also clearly unable to completely surrender his belief.

July 2, 2010 at 2:20 PM  
Anonymous Monty Hole said...

The proposition (also expressed by one James Watson, who does know a thing or two about these matters)

Wait, aren't you forgetting someone? Like, say, a certain Larry Summers? In this corner of the blogosphere, those two go together like Simon & Garfunkel. Or is the ommission due to him not really knowing a thing about those matters?

The good iconoclastic professor is no dummy. He knows which side his bread is buttered on. He presciently predicted that it'd be far more polite to get one's contrarian jollies on by picking on women rather than on POCs - oops, that's NAMs to the rest of you. Perhaps you would have had fewer problems and more successes if you had swapped in "satheism" for "ratheism"? Here, he spares us any superfluous verbiage, and just comes out and says it. Or, better yet, here. (And there's plenty more where those came from.) A homework assignment for the rest of you: spot the flaws in that post. Or you can just take the easy way out and wait for someone else to write a rebuttal.

July 2, 2010 at 3:00 PM  
Anonymous Contemplationist said...

I strain to see how these "homeworks" are at all related, either to each other, or to Professor Hanson's alleged myopia on this topic. This just seems like flailing about. What does HBD have to do with Prof Hanson's clear expositions on futarchy?
It seems like the issue is resolved cleanly:
Prof Hanson summarized your position in his clear words, and you did not disagree with him. So its just a question of judgment. So let it be...

July 6, 2010 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Anonymous July 1, 2010 4:03 AM:
The U.S was a belligerent in WW2 against Japan and managed Japan's withdrawal. But fighting the communists was up to the KMT from the beginning. Rather than "pulling out", this is the U.S not engaging in the first place. I agree with you on our involvement with the Cuban exiles, but they were sent in rather than pulled out. And of course they were killed or captured.


josh:
I still don't understand the geometry reference. I agree that Hanson is a thorough-going reductionist, that's why I prefer him to Cowen.


Guy Mutton:
"Because they do" sounds like a Hobbesian argument (which might today justify popularchy), and Filmer attacked Leviathan. His argument was based on the Old Testament.


Kevin V:
Thanks for signing your comment.

"Congress can--and HAS--remove"
When was that? The 11th amendment? I can't remember Congress exercising its Article III power, but perhaps I'm just unaware.


jkr:
People are not dogs. The height distributions of adult chihauhaus & Great Danes do not overlap. So a much greater amount of dog variation is between groups. That's not to say there is no variation within dog breeds (or within wolves!), which falsifies your statement that dog biodiversity is inherently between groups of dogs. Perhaps you can "group" humans by how many inches tall they are and then say "aha, the variation is between groups!", but that would just be a tautology. HBD is not just guiness records, but those outliers serve as examples of the range of variation within humanity.

July 10, 2010 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Michael:
I think it unlikely that Congress will pass a post-facto bill, there's a widespread consensus those are not allowed. But maybe that just shows my ignorance of estate-tax law.

I agree that there was a pattern of SCOTUS opposition that led to the court-packing plan. That scheme was quite unpopular and Congress balked, to it is understandable that FDR didn't leap to it immediately. I don't think Citizen's United & McDonald rise to that level. Many states (including California) already allowed unlimited financing in their own elections, without much difference and the actual result of C.U seems to have been empowering unions. And my impression is that the Dems have been trying to avoid being associated with gun control for a while now, so having the court remove the threat of gun bans from public discourse may be politically beneficial. Their decisions expressly allowed for many kinds of gun regulation, so blue cities should be able to find ways to get around it (as Congress did in response to Lopez and will now in amending Sarbanes-Oxley).

Obama is a civilian exerting control of the military to maintain standards of conduct, and McChrystal was in the hot-seat for disparaging civilians he was working with (though I think some of them were ex-military). Nothing would seem odd about Obama's framing if the MacArthur incident had never occurred. Call me a pedant, but I object to claiming Obama did something he plainly didn't do and then falling back on "implicit" references. "Emanations from a penumbra" I suppose. Just how should Obama have carried out a dismissal of McChrystal if he wished to avoid referencing MacArthur?

I agree that there is no real difference between the preferred strategies of Obama & McChrystal, as Obama made clear in his statement. The plan is not for Petraeus to have a different strategy, but simply to play more nicely with others (perhaps with the expecation that he has enough gravitas for others to give him what he wants).

One common narrative about monarchies of that time was that the royalty was more closely related to their peers in other kingdoms than they were to their people.


Alrenous:
Hanson expects that futarchy merely requires a million dollars. Then set up a prediction market and CEOs will be aware of how the speculators rank them, and their boardmembers & stockholders will be aware too.


Monty Hole:
Summers lost his job (and his statement was much more nuanced than Watson's, including may liberal bromides). Arguably the faculty was already pissed at him for other reasons, but I don't think he serves as a good example for your argument.


Greenwald has a handy list of people who lost their jobs in media for expressing lefty/"anti-american" viewpoints. The incentives people face in the public sphere to adhere to politically correct opinion is a major theme around here, so I'd invite others to compile lists of people fired for expressing the opposite variety of opinion so we can better determine the boundaries of the sphere of deviance.

July 10, 2010 at 7:22 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP - it is true that in the period when monarchy was usual in Europe, the monarchs were more closely related to each other than they were to their respective peoples. But why? Because they followed a strategy of marrying among their peers, which had the effect of preserving the royal family in each country as senior descendants of Charlemagne.

After the break-up of the Carolingian empire, each country that had once been a part of it fell under the rule of one of his descendants. Through diplomatically arranged marriages, the descendants of Charlemagne found their way even onto the thrones of places that had never been ruled by him. The junior lines of the resultant royal families in turn married into the local nobility and gentry of their respective kingdoms, thus forming the extended families of which the reigning monarch was the senior representative in each. Genealogy bears out Filmer's contentions. This being said, there is a world of difference between anthropology and political philosophy. A correct observation in the former does not ipso facto become a principle in the latter. Filmer's assumption was that it did, because it always had done in the history he knew.

July 11, 2010 at 4:10 PM  
Anonymous TGGPstupidasever said...

The U.S was a belligerent in WW2 against Japan and managed Japan's withdrawal. But fighting the communists was up to the KMT from the beginning. Rather than "pulling out", this is the U.S not engaging in the first place.

Bullshit. The US was involved in the Chinese Civil War after Pearl Harbor. This was an unavoidable product of US involvement in the war and US postwar goals vis-a-vis the USSR. The US could not possibly "just" fight Japan and not take a position on the Chinese Civil War, not least because the Chinese weren't just fighting the Japanese, they were also fighting each other. The US told Chiang during the war that we would arm and train his forces (thus making him invincible against the CCP after the war, as everyone well understood) and that we would protect him against the USSR after the war. We later reneged on both these promises. In exchange for this, we asked Chiang to negotiate with the CCP to form a coalition government during the war. In 1945, we encouraged (and armed) the CCP to withdraw from negotiations and frustrate the effort to form a coalition government. In 1946, we cut off essential aid to the KMT. In short, we hung the KMT out to dry, and that's why they lost. It is simply fatuous to claim that we were "not engaged" in this war when we were arming both sides, then pulled the plug on arming one side, and were making political deals with both sides, and later reneging on them. And, as I said before, we had troops on the ground in China that assisted the KMT before we pulled the plug. United States actions, and inactions, are the reason the KMT lost. We supported them and then pulled out, and this decision was misguided to say the least.

I agree with you on our involvement with the Cuban exiles, but they were sent in rather than pulled out. And of course they were killed or captured.

Again this is fatuous, indeed, even more fatuous than claiming we "weren't engaged" in the Chinese Civil War. We controlled every aspect of the exile operation, from conception, to recruitment, to training, to intelligence support, to logistics, to transport, and to the timing and location of the invasion. Americans were on the ground in Cuba and in the air over Cuba before and during the invasion, and were part of the seaborne force that brought the brigade to Cuba and later withdrew it. Claiming that we "weren't engaged" is wrong and stupid.

July 11, 2010 at 10:47 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I think we are talking past each other. I wasn't making a point about U.S culpability for those defeats but whether they fir the criteria of the original question.

You note that the U.S had Chiang form a coalition government during the war. So we aren't belligerents at that point. As the war with Japan reaches a close, we manage the transfer of Japanese control to the KMT. Removing U.S troops is not "pulling out", because they were only inserted for a limited purpose which they accomplished (and it was not after setbacks, as in Walt's examples of the Boer War, Korea, the World Wars and some might say Iraq). As you mention, our taking sides with the KMT (some shifts in power and it could have easily been the warlords of Beijing) was part of an alliance against Japan. The second Sino-Japanese war ended in victory for our side, not a cutting of losses. Like the pig & the chicken, Chiang was committed to the Civil War while we were only involved (and as a means of influencing a different war). It's true that we also intervened in Russia because of WW1. But in that case the Bolsheviks had made clear they were settling with the Central Powers and the Whites had lost their seat of power, and so rather than encouraging a coalition (more feasible in a case where the two factions were the result of a split within a previously unified party) we sent troops to actually engage in fighting the civil war. We pulled those troops out before they had accomplished their mission, so I say it fulfills Walt's criteria.

I didn't say anything about whether we were engaged in the Bay of Pigs, I said we sent the invasion force in and didn't pull it out. If they had managed to pull them out after encountering setbacks, that would have been a better outcome! We did rescue a some survivors, but of about 1474 invaders about 1297 were killed our captured. I suppose one might believe that the remaining 177 could have regrouped and pulled it off, but I will go out on a limb and characterize it as a rout rather than pull-out. And certainly if we had sent in a marine expeditionary force things would have been different, and if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle. That hypothetical force was not pulled out because it wasn't actually in.

July 12, 2010 at 6:48 PM  

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