Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Core Motivation behind Statism

Childhood narcissism - a stage that everyone goes through - is where the child is the centre of the universe and nothing and no one is seen by the child as having an independent existence. Virtually everyone works their way down from the obvious absurdity of that core assumption, but the climb down is staged. The next stage is tribalism. The tribe is a greater 'me'. Individual narcissism is transmuted into tribal narcissism with individuals being emotionally and physically bonded to the tribe. Most societies in human history were tribal. In the non-tribal west, a lot of young people go through a stage of belonging to a gang - vestigial tribalism. But there is another tribe in the modern western society, one that is growing and is not limited to young people. That tribe is The State. The core motivation of Statism is resentment of those who remind the Statist that there are others with an independent existence, of a different mindset, of a different tribe.

The Wild Frontier

Anthony de Jasay makes the point in his Liberty Fund interview that, more than anything else, the existence of the frontier for a great deal of time was the major source of the American character of independence and local self-help that de Tocqueville noted, and that the Constitution was not a particularly important factor, but more effect than cause. De Jasay goes on to conclude that in a hundred years - when the frontier is but a distant memory - America may well become indistinguishable from the typical European state. I would say that recent events suggest this timetable may be brought forward significantly. On the other hand... This is a physical frontier we are talking about. Physical land is a limited resource, leaving aside space and the deep oceans for the moment. There are of course other types of frontier that have yet to be discovered. In fact every (successful) entrepreneur discovers, or rather creates, a new frontier. The very successful entrepreneurs create whole new landscapes that others race to populate, in a sort of virtual Oklahoma land rush. But any act of entrepreneurship has the same effect in principle: the creation of a new frontier, small or large. Like a physical frontier, these entrepreneurial frontiers leave behind the settled and the timid and invite the independent and the adventurous; the risk takers. That is, people of the original American character. So perhaps the decline into statist indolence is not completely inevitable? Can the injection of new frontiers keep the American character alive?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why Liberty?

I prefer the philosophical angle when thinking about liberty, starting with the clarification that comes from distinguishing a Liberty from a Right: A Right is paired with an obligation; a Liberty is not. On the other hand, perhaps there is something to be said for looking into the utility of liberty. It may be that, ultimately, the utility of Liberty and the philosophical basis of Liberty are two sides of the same coin - as Einstein expressed wonder at the utility of mathematics in explaining the behaviour of the physical universe. Who'd a thunk it? A relatively recent theory of the development of the human race came out of the discovery that the Rift Valley in Africa, where humans are thought to have first appeared, underwent a rapid (in geological/evolutionary time) series of drastic climate changes during that initial era of human development. Most evolutionary developments are thought to arise from the need to adapt to particular environments, but what development is needed to adapt to a rapidly changing environment? The answer is 'intelligence'. It is expensive to support a big brain, and quite unnecessary when the environment is relatively steady - slow physical adaptations will do the job. The only circumstance where a big brain pays off is when coping with rapid change is required.

The Higher Power

Currently reading David Horowitz's excellent "A Point in Time", the section given to Dostoevsky, where the beliefs and characters of the Russian radicals are explored. Though they don't believe in God, or a Divine purpose, they believe in the divinity of history and in the glorious future communism will bring forth: the heaven on earth. That's when it struck me - having been thinking about The State as an emergent order - that the attempt to produce heaven on earth is the key to the State's elevation to an almost divine status - to a position where the emotional compass of the population, instead of being fixed outside on an external divinity, is fixed on the State. And I suspect that the key to the creation of an emergent order from a group of people is emotional attachment rather than anything particularly intellectual.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Privatised Water ...

During the Thatcher years in Britain there was a Spectator cartoon of a ragged, wreck of a man crawling in a desert gasping "privatised water ... privatised water ...". I must have thought it was pretty funny; for some reason anyhow it has stayed with me. The long game, the long term trend - evolution perhaps - is toward privatisation. The usual reasons for socialisation of wealth are falling victim to the pincer movement that dooms anything: (1) it doesn't work well, and (2) a better alternative comes along. We will hang onto something that doesn't work well with hardly a thought, but when something better comes along its days are numbered. That suggests a continued area for growth (entrepreneurial activity): replacing government 'services' with something that works. It's not a matter of going 'full anarchist' - for surely not everything can be privatised at this time - but it's a matter of recognising the rationality of the trend.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Small and Large Freedoms

People in third world countries have small freedoms but they don't have large freedoms. People in the modern first world have large freedoms but they don't have small ones (any more). Bill Whittle - reflecting on his brief trip to Thailand - calls for hitting the sweet spot. http://www.therightscoop.com/bill-whittle-the-freedom-sweet-spot/

A person in the third world is typically free of micro-regulation - there just isn't enough money to support an army of bureaucrats. Of course if that person were to be successful and accumulate significant capital he would instantly stand out and become a target for the ruling elites (the house of the Chinese rich man is hidden behind an ordinary facade). People know that and so don't try.

Now, in the west, we have (had?) the money, so an army of micro-regulating bureaucrats is quite feasible. And so our small freedoms are curtailed. But we also are seeing more and more of the targeting of the One Percent that will only result in our large freedoms being curtailed as well. People won't bother to try and become successful.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Elite

Civilisations and societies throughout history have been governed by the ruling class system. The English parliamentary system and the American revolution were isolated attempts at displacing the system of ruling elites.

I'd guess the impetus for this reform of the ancient central elite system was the expansion of the free market. The decentralised, unplanned free market system had been delivering improvements to the ordinary people for some time, without the participation of the central power elite, who if anything fought against the free market to protect their system of patronage. When people see their wealth coming from each other, and not a central authority, that central authority is on thin ice, especially when it comes to extorting taxes.

So, the ruling class were tamed by a system of contrary powers. Power divided is power diminished.

But the left is against limitations on the power of the elite, because they consider themselves rightful members of a ruling elite and resent limitations on their own powers. The left is a counter-revolutionary movement trying to undo the limitations on central authority brought in by, for example, the American revolution.

The left are a part of the push-back from the old system. At least that would be part of it. The other attraction of the central authority system is that it's fairly simple to understand: Central authority says do 'A'. People do 'A' (or else). It's simple enough for the adolescent mind of the leftist to grasp.

It's even worse when the left are the elite, because at least in the old system the ruling elite were either the strongest and smartest of their society, or at least employed the strongest and smartest. The modern left, by contrast, are a bunch of dodo heads.