Tag Archives: libertarianism

Individualism vs. the State

From Social Matter The End Of Atomistic Individualism: A Theory On Who You Are

The purpose of this thought experiment is an attempt to formulate a new, sustainable, non-atomistic understanding of the concept of individualism. Modern individualism, as a product of the Enlightenment, has the function of isolating and alienating individuals from God, society, and eventually even from themselves. From Putnam’s Bowling Alone to the transgender movement, modernity loudly proclaims the inability of people to belong, even to themselves. It instead offers a vision of individualism, in which the person creates themselves in their own image, as if Adam were to form himself in the Garden.

Just as it is vain to think that a lump of clay will form itself into a man, so it is equally vain to think that an alienated, atomized person can create in themselves a personality out of the muck of consumerism and mass media. Modernity tells us that we can form our own personality with tattoos, body modification, consumerist consumption, and status objects like automobiles.

But Putnam is also a strong proponent of democracy. One can argue that atomic individualism, with is related to libertarism, is antithetical to democracy and the democratic process. Sometimes, I think we want it both ways: to oppose both individualism and democracy, but this may not be logically consistent. The answer , like many things, seems to lie somewhere in the middle. This could mean a community united by commonalities (such as culture), but without democracy, and individualism is also preserved. This is similar to the nation state concept:

The most obvious impact of the nation state, as compared to its non-national predecessors, is the creation of a uniform national culture, through state policy. The model of the nation state implies that its population constitutes a nation, united by a common descent, a common language and many forms of shared culture. When the implied unity was absent, the nation state often tried to create it. It promoted a uniform national language, through language policy. The creation of national systems of compulsory primary education and a relatively uniform curriculum in secondary schools, was the most effective instrument in the spread of the national languages. The schools also taught the national history, often in a propagandistic and mythologised version, and (especially during conflicts) some nation states still teach this kind of history.[20]

But I have also heard arguments that individualism is inextricably linked with liberalism and that individualism is an ‘enlightenment’ ideal. But a distinction must be made between enlightenment ideals, which are the antecedent to neo and classical varieties of liberalism, versus welfare liberal ideals (which is a more recent development). The former supports individualism, but also the possibility of unequal outcomes that may arise from it. The latter seeks conformity in the form of egalitarianism and equal outcomes (higher taxes, more social spending, wealth spreading, etc.) despite giving the outward appearance of supporting individualism. Marxist and other far-left variants of liberalism also oppose individualism, preferring the state to mandate ‘equal outcomes’ as well as individual subservience to the state.

But both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ seem to have a love-hate relationship with individualism. For the ‘left’, they like individualism as a way to rebel against the status quo, but the also oppose individualism if it leads to too much wealth inequality or what they perceive as oppression (such as ‘homophobia’ of a baker for not making a baking a ‘gay cake’); for the ‘right’, they like individualism in context of free markets, personal autonomy, and personal property, but oppose it because it may lead to the breakdown of communities, decline of organized religion, the separation of church and state, and increased ‘moral decay’.

The libertarian or minarchist position, which is somewhere in the middle, may be the most logically consistent in bridging this schism, that strikes a balance between individualism and cohesion. Minarchism is like a shopping mall, where stores exist as individual entities under the patronage of the mall, a symbiosis of sorts where both the mall and businesses benefit. Business pay the mall in exchange for the benefits the mall provides (such as security, infrastructure, and customers). Because it’s elective, businesses don’t have to join, but America’s tax system isn’t and individuals, businesses have to pay to fund services they don’t want or need.

And from Family and Individualism:

In any society, there is probably an optimal balance between individualism and collectivism. A society that is 100% atomized, by definition, is not a society. But history also shows that total conformity is no better. Those quirky people on the right side of the Bell Curve, with their idiosyncrasies, are needed for society to advance technologically, while everyone else goes about tending to civilization. If you go through Charles Murray’s database of human accomplishments, you’ll find virtually all accomplishments were made by smart people. Liberals value social justice and equality over quantifiable results. The left wants America to be a nation of takers, not creators.

Related: Individualism vs. Thede

Non-aggression principle, and where it fails

From Wikipedia, the non-aggression principle (NAP) is a ethical stance held among right-libertarians that forbids acts of ‘aggression’ against one’s property rights. Somewhat confusingly, the NAP seems to have many definitions and variants:

1961 Ayn Rand In an essay called “Man’s Rights” in the book The Virtue of Selfishness she formulated “The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships. … In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.”[8][9][10]

1963 Murray Rothbard “No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” Cited from “War, Peace, and the State” (1963) which appeared in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays[11]

Natural Rights: Some derive the non-aggression principle deontologically by appealing to rights that are independent of civil or social convention. Such approaches often reference self-ownership, ethical intuitionism, or the right to life. Thinkers in the natural law tradition include Lysander Spooner, Murray Rothbard, and Robert Nozick.

This suggests the NAP is sometimes interchangeable with the ‘golden rule’. As stated by Rothbard, defensive or retaliatory force should be commensurate with the force initiated by the aggressor. Thus it’s entirely within one’s discretion to engage in lethal fire against an intruder and or if one’s life is threatened, but not against targets that did not initiate sufficient aggression to justify a potentially lethal response. ‘Aggression’ can also be defined to mean coercion or force against property owners by entities such the government, an example being the IRS. The latter definition is descriptive wheres the former is prescriptive.

NAP as applied to deontological libertarianism seems to have a blind spot, which is how to deal with individuals that impose a collective or systemic burden on society but are not acting ‘aggressively’. Yes, if someone is threatening your life, lethal retaliatory force is justified, but what about small-time criminals, the mentally ill and unstable, loafers, and other ne’er-do-wells? The NAP, in the prescriptive sense, forbids simply rounding up all the unproductive and executing or exiling them all, as that is disproportionate ‘aggression’ against one’s right to life (natural rights) even if said individuals, individually, impose small externalities on society but collectively exact a significant burden.

For example, consider shoplifting, which is a very common and often non-aggressive crime that costs retailers, collectively, billions of dollars a year, and imposes a greater cost on society in terms of retailers passing on the costs of ‘shrink’ on to consumers. Obviously this is a big problem, and although most thefts are only around $50-100, when done many times by thousands of people, it adds up.

So how would a hypothetical libertarian or an-cap society that adheres to prescriptive NAP handle this problem. I imagine under NAP, the shopkeeper would exhort the thief to return the goods, possibly with the threat of physical violence for non-compliance, and the thief would probably comply knowing that there would be no long-term consequences for his actions and that getting caught is just a ‘cost of doing business’. Upon leaving the store, the thief continues to hit up more stores, occasionally getting caught, but it’s only a small setback, as there are no major repercussions for the thief besides the temporary inconvenience of having to relinquish the goods when occasionally caught. Stores don’t have the infrastructure nor want to bear the cost of warehousing thieves, and NAP stipulates violence is not an option for small violations of personal property. Also, some employees would probably have trepidation about exacting potentially lethal force to deter theft.

At some point having had enough, shopkeepers will band together, perhaps pooling money to create a facility to deal with these scoundrels in a manner that is sufficiency humane in compliance with NAP – in other words, a jail. But the problem is these reprobates, by in large, are unproductive and unwilling to work, and prison labor is not an option for most, and even if it were it’s not enough to cover the costs of housing them, but it’s worth the cost anyway if it means fewer thefts and sequestration of the most most undesirable of elements from greater society. This effectively acts as a ‘tax’ that individuals and businesses voluntarily enter into, from a utilitarian perspective, for the ‘greater good’ but also for the sake of their own profit margins and safety, with the prison becoming a ‘public good’, not a private one. Even if these prisons were privately run, business and individuals would still pay into them, effectively acting as a tax, the only difference being that it would be voluntary.

But then this is not ‘true’ libertarianism or an-cap. However, there are ways around this, such as by keeping ‘public goods’ as small and efficient as possible, and only when necessary, and possibly elective (meaning that one can ‘opt out’ of a public good). But the thing is, most self-professed libertarian and an-caps are only ‘partial libertarians‘ (similar to minarchism, as expounded by Nozick, Rand, Rothbard, and Hans Hoppe), and I don’t means this pejoratively, as the dilemma above suggests, may be the optimal approach of balancing individual rights with the ‘common good’. Interestingly, while there are ‘true’ neocons, neoliberals, and paleocons, it’s hard to find ‘true libertarians’.

Moldbug on Libertarianism, Neocameralism

From Moldbug: Why I am not a libertarian

This an important article that delineates Moldbug’s reservations about libertarianism, and outlines his proposal of ‘neocamerialism’ as an alternative to democracy and libertarianism.

Moldbug writes:

And this is the first reason I am not a libertarian. Libertarianism is, more or less, basically, the ideology of the American Revolution. And the American Revolution was, in my own personal opinion, more or less, basically, a criminal outrage of the mob – led by leaders who were either unscrupulous, deluded, or both.

The ‘American Revolution’ is not an ideology (although it was ideologically motivated). It was an action to enact, eventually, a constitutional republic, which, although does not concentrate power as tightly as an absolute monarchy, is not libertarianism. Although he later argues that libertarianism is, essentially, revolutionist in its Lockean avocation of ‘natural rights’ of man.

In my opinion, the practical problem with grounding libertarianism in the ideals of the American Revolution is that Americans no longer hold those ideals, and Europeans never did. Both, today, follow a moral code which is essentially socialist. It is true that this is the natural consequence of “education” at the hands of a government which is essentially socialist. It is also irrelevant. The consequence is the reality. You cannot explain to people that they ought to believe in, say, freedom of contract as a fundamental human right, when in fact they don’t. As Hume, again, pointed out, ethical axioms are not debatable.

The Constitution also granted the second amendment, which many on the left want to restrict or repeal. The high rate of gun ownership, as well a America’s culture of individualism, suggests that millions of Americans don’t wish to acquiesce to Europeans-style socialism. America’s constitutional republic endows its subjects with property rights, not only through gun ownership, but through the ‘rule of law’, whereas libertarian purists and anarchists typically don’t believe in the latter. Furthermore, there are few ‘absolute’ libertarians; many, such as Nozik, Rand, and Rothbard, and like myself, advocate some form a ‘watchman state’.

Some argue ‘America is socialist’ or ‘America is communist’, but neither of these labels is correct. America is a mishmash of many things – some elements of libertarianism (free market capitalism), some socialism (growing entitlement spending), some authoritarianism (‘militarization’ of the police, homeland security, etc.), some Communism/Marxism (SJWs, cultural Marxism in universities). If America were Communist, as some erroneously insist, you wouldn’t have all these multi-millionaires in web 2.0; you wouldn’t have the majority of the Forbes 400 list as Americans. China’s government is technically Communist, but they abandoned market-communism long ago, as more evidence of how there is subtly behind these labels.

My ‘theory’ is you start with some tacit assumptions about how a government should work, and in striking optimal balance between individual and state power you end up with something similar to what we have now, albeit with some gradations. Some countries are more authoritarian, some more lenient; some more socialist, some more laissez faire.

Rejecting the American Revolution is especially problematic for a libertarian, because the great libertarian writers of the twentieth century – Rothbard, Rand and Nozick – all defined libertarianism as an ethical ideal. Probably the best rigorous one-book definition of the mainstream libertarian (or “anarcho-capitalist,” a term which has always struck me as utterly dorky) perspective is Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty.

EOL works very hard to define the moral principles that make libertarianism philosophically ineluctable. Needless to say, these principles are none other than the Lockean natural rights of the American Revolution. The theological roots of these “rights” are obvious (Rothbard may not have been a Christian, but Locke certainly was), and any suggestion that they are in some sense philosophically universal violates Hume’s is-ought principle.

This is the crux of Moldbug’s argument – libertarians believe in ‘natural rights’ and ‘liberty’; monarchists don’t.

However, I offer a caveat regarding externalities and consequences. Libertarians, conservatives understand that actions that have negative consequences on others should be punished, thus limiting ‘personal freedom’. For example, I technically have the freedom to hit someone, but I may go to jail. Regarding externalities, consider obesity. Some may argue that an unhealthy lifestyle is a personal choice, but if your lifestyle imposes a cost on society in terms of higher expenses, maybe by being obese and or living an unhealthy lifestyle you ‘waive’ your right to public healthcare.

Thus, libertarian principles cannot be logically justified except an appeal to the historical traditions that have descended to all Americans as received wisdom via the Patriot branch of the evolutionary tree. A libertarian, therefore, is fundamentally a conservative.

And if you admit that the Loyalists may have been right and the Patriots may have been a bunch of asshats, conservatism takes a heavy slash to the neck from Occam’s razor. Because a so-called “conservative” who is a Patriot – or even a supporter of the “Glorious Revolution” – is someone who believes in progress up to a certain point, but no further.

While such a position may indeed prove correct, there is certainly no reason to give it the benefit of the doubt. In fact, considering the length of time for which it has held that benefit, it probably should be treated as if it were a boiling radioactive vial of Ebola.

This is a slippery slope argument, that some ‘progress’ must eventually lead to full-blown liberalism. Maybe it’s true; maybe not. Ironically, a boiling vial full of Ebola would be safer than a room-temperature one, because the heat would have easily killed the virus.

I mean, why in God’s name would anyone come to the conclusion that the US political system is in some sense reformable? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience. And all the energy, and money, and time, that the Beltway libertarians put into trying to apply a single smudge of lipstick to some flap of flesh in the remote vicinity of this hog’s maw is energy, and money, and time uninvested in putting the beast to sleep. Moreover, since the official story of Washington is that it represents everyone, it fits all sizes, it contains multitudes, a few decorative pseudolibertarians may be just the right camouflage for it to weather another century’s storms.

Moldbug believes the system itself, beyond the left/right dichotomy, is irredeemable and that ‘conservatism’ or ‘libertarianism’ is just putting lipstick on a pig. Everything needs to be ‘reset’, ideally to before the Glorious Revolution.

Moldbug ends by offers his alternative to libertarianism, which is similar to minarchism, but with a subtle distinction:

My preference, as a resident of Plainland, is for simple, libertarian or minarchist government. I notice that Washcorp does not provide this service. My question is: why not?

Note how distant this engineering approach is from Rothbardian ethical libertarianism. We treat liberty as a goal, rather than an ideal. We ask: how can we design a system that will achieve this goal, and maintain it sustainably?

[...]

And this is how formalism leads us to neocameralism. Neocameralism is the idea that a sovereign state or primary corporation is not organizationally distinct from a secondary or private corporation. Thus we can achieve good management, and thus libertarian government, by converting sovcorps to the same management design that works well in today’s private sector – the joint-stock corporation.

He calls it formaism, which leads to neocameralism.

Note that this hypothesis is entirely testable. It is perfectly practical to create private cities. The step from special economic zones, which are often new cities (see, for example, Saudi Arabia’s forthcoming entry in the game) to sovcorps is quite short. Again, once property rights are stabilized, the difference between primary and secondary property are organizationally irrelevant. Government is management, good government is good management, and bad government is bad management.

If it strikes you as farfetched to imagine the US Government as a corporation with a stock symbol, you might find it easier to start by thinking in terms of private city-states. While none of them comes anywhere near the neocameralist ideal, the city-states of Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong certainly provide a very high quality of customer service. Note that none of them has any concept of constitutional, limited, or democratic government.

A ‘peev’ is that I have mentioned Dubai a couple times on this blog as an example of a modern ‘reactionary’ government, but the idea hasn’t gained any traction, nor does anyone talk about it. I mean…it’s right there – an example of a functioning absolute monarchy – but no discussion about it.

But another problem is ‘neocameralism’ seems kinda vague. How would the shares be allocated? Who gets what? I’m sure a billionaire would get more shares than a pauper. What would happen if someone were to start liquidating these shares; it may cause inflation and other problems. The whole idea is so far-fetched (even by the standards of this blog) that it’s hard to make any sense of it. The solution almost seems more daunting than the problem. Another complaint is that neocameralism and other speculative forms of government are seldom discussed by the NRx community anymore.

My proposal of offering government employees ‘options’ in the S&P 500, similar to employee stock options, seems similar.

But one problem is that all this debate is the equivalent of splitting hairs, or may not have the intended result of starting anew. True, under neocameralism there is no longer a democracy or a constitutional republic, but the result may still not be too much different than what we have now. If the problem is moral decay (smut on TV, porn, etc.), how does the joint-stock state fix that? How does it fix SJWs or rampant feminism? Traditional conservatives, to their credit, take a hard-line stand against that stuff, whereas others tend to dance around the issue or defer to abstractions.

But given that everything is kinda the same in the end, my solution is more incrementalist: gradually retiring America’s obsoleted democratic institutions. Techno-commercialism, for example, is a good start – putting guys like Thiel in charge.

My version of libertarianism, which I call ‘partial libertarianism‘, is more abstract, with elements of neoconservatism, Social Darwinism, futurism, HBD, and neoreaction. Not the usual ‘bleeding heart’ brand of libertarianism that is all too common.

Free Speech, Democracy, and Crime

From iSteve: Kinsley on the Advantage of a Written First Amendment

European countries, obviously, do not have a statute protecting ‘free speech’. The result is people are occasionally apprehended (severty of punishments vary, from being detained for a few hours or days or, in exceptional cases, imprisoned for years) for communication deemed ‘incendiary’ or a ‘threat to order’ (hate speech laws).

The trade-off is, although Europe has no first amendment, it’s otherwise soft on crime, with comfy EU-approved dorm room jail conditions vs. America, which is very hard on crime (with mandatory sentences), with the worst prisons and longest sentences second to Iran or North Korea. In Great Britain, for example, a woman with an extensive history of shoplifting, when finally caught, the punishment was 12 hours of detention upon which she was released with no charges. Or Glen Stacy, Britain’s most prolific shoplifter, who has been arrested 400 times. In America, given the mandatory minimums, he would have to live forever to shoplift that many times.

Britain, as well as much of Europe’s, justice system is dysfunctional, imprisoning ‘thought dissents’ yet giving actual criminals slaps on the wrists, while America’s system may be too functional to the point of putting too many people away for too long.

The thing, is people get mad (especially those on the right it seems) when political dissidents are thrown in jail, but under a reactionary form of government that’s what would happen. And people get mad (both on right and left) when you question the sanctity of free speech. Democracy? No so much. It seems like everyone is on board the anti-democracy train. * But free speech is sacred. But you can’t have it both ways – reactionary government and free speech. And free speech and democracy are, in many ways, intertwined. Although speech laws may seem egregious, one also dig up plenty of egregious examples in America, too, like people serving many years for possession of firearms or drugs. Pick your poison, I guess

On a related note, this raises the question of what is the best way of handling crime: the libertarian/anarchist approach (retributive) or America’s punitive approach. Let’s consider the case of shoplifting, which is a very common crime, yet not so severe of nature that the appropriate punishment is not without a large degree of ambiguity. Libertarians may argue that businesses, not tax payers, should deal with criminals. Under such a system, the business or individual would administer punishment such as a fine and or banishment from the store. But that is not very effective since the thief can go somewhere else, in perpetuity. Or, maybe the store could exact a more severe punishment as a deterrent – beating the thief into a pulp, for example. But that may violate the ‘non aggression’ principle of meeting force with equal force. And some employees may, understandably so, have qualms about carrying out such a heavy-handed punishment. Civil demands are another retributive option, but since it’s civil, not criminal, the thief is under no obligation to pay. A thief with no assets can’t pay, either. That’s why the punitive approach is the most effective, by putting criminals away so they cannot continue to inflict harm on society, possibly with rehabilitation, but also lifting the burden off the private sector in having to choose a suitable punishment for miscreants; the ‘justice system’ deals with that. But as we can see with Europe and their petty crime epidemic, even that isn’t good enough in many instances, since these thieves, once released, continue to steal. On the other hand, putting too many people away for too long can strain resources that can be better spent elsewhere.

*In recent years, online, it’s actually hard to find people, both on the left or the right, who don’t have reservations about democracy. Some of the major criticisms of democracy are that it does a bad job (inefficient) at allocating ‘public goods’ and gives to much power to the ‘ignorant masses’, which are both valid criticisms.

The Daily View: 1/17/2016 (lots of stuff)

From Fred Reed: The Inevitability of Eugenics

I predict within 50 years America will start giving Eugenics a serious consideration as a way to tackle the growing entitlement spending problem, which by then will be much bigger than it is now if trends persist. Liberals and conservative alike need to get over this squeamishness of genetic engineering, which like masonry or computers, is a tool that can be used to improve society. A hammer can break but it can also build.

—————–

Jim and XS have some thoughts on bitcoin.

As some may already know, I have been a Bitcoin optimist for awhile, here and here for example, as well as an investor in the cryptocurrency.

I’ll believe there’s a crisis when the price crashes and doesn’t recover; until then, ‘coin on’. One thing I’ve learned from following bitcoin over the past three years is that everyone has their ‘theory’ for why it will fail, and all have been shown wrong. Bitcoin just keeps coming back, rising like a Phoenix from every adversity thrown at it. The FBI seizure of Silk Road didn’t stop it, neither did price crashes in 2011, 2013 and 2014, or the failure of Mt. Gox in 2014. Now Bitcoin is booming because because of China. Wealthy Chinese are using Bitcoin to circumvent capital controls. As China’s economy slows and in anticipation of a falling Yuan, the wealthy are looking for anywhere to park their money.

—————–

The internet has made defensive writers of us all

Perhaps ‘defense writing’ has become so commonplace nowadays because there is less tolerance at both the individual and societal level for mistakes than in the past. In an era where an abundance of information can be found instantly online for free, ignorance has become inexcusable. With the government spending tens of billion of dollars a year on public education, no one should be ignorant, and ignorance is seen as both a personal failure as well as an institutional or societal one. This dates back to the ‘enlightenment’ ideals of centuries ago, when we expected science and reason to explain everything, and that still carries on today. Failure or ignorance is seen as un-enlightenment. But the problem is the majority of people are simply not smart enough to benefit much from mass education, forgetting much of what is learned beyond the basics of reading and writing, rudimentary history and geography, and some math.

Also, thanks to the internet and other factors, we’re in an era of fact checking, which means writers have to be especially assiduous to buttress against all possible holes that can be poked into their thesis. Hedging means being open the possibility of being wrong, so instead having to create a thesis that is impervious to factual criticism, just use verbal disclaimers in the form of hedging language so that you’re covered.

—————-

More American exceptionalism: Cancer survival rates higher in USA than UK

Long wait times, scarcity of drugs for NHS patients, and poor screening regimens may be to blame.

Related:

Some Thoughts on Healthcare
Universal Healthcare Not So Great
Affordable Housing, Healthcare, & Tuition: Putting Things in Perspective

—————–

From Social Matter: Unless You’re An Atom, Principled Libertarianism Is Not For You

This invokes the slippy slope argument: what if instead of a plumber it’s a butter churn business and now technology has made churns nearly obsolete. Should the government ban automated churners to save his business too? Cheaper plumbing (and cheaper butter production) means more people can afford plumbing and butter, which boosts standards of living. 100 years ago, automobiles were a luxury item; now they are everywhere, thanks to globalization, free market capitalism, and other factors. That’s the free market argument, but it does not take into account the individual who may lose his job when technology becomes obsoleted, or his job is replaced by someone who can do it cheaper. New technologies and markets create new jobs, replacing the lost ones, although there is no guarantee the Luddite Fallacy or Lump of Labor Fallacy must remain fallacies.

—————–

Hmm…but private investment has risen substacially over the past six years:

Dividends are worse than buybacks, due to tax issues and other inefficiencies, but no one attacks dividends. Somehow buybacks have become the scourge of the left.

—————-

The Trouble With Fascism

Kinda, but fascism is predicated on race whereas communism is predicted on class, the later which is obviously leftist. Fascism means maybe some government control over certain industries,but it’s not leftist like Marxism, which has more control over businesses, to the point of almost total confiscation of private property.

On a somewhat related note, the problem with populism is that it tends to promote bad policy (particularly economic policy) for the sake of getting votes by exploiting the fears and ignorance of the masses (especially about economics), which is one of the fundamental flaws of democracy. In that regard, both left-populism and right-populism may be the different sides of the same coin. For example, many on the right support low taxes, but it’s less realistic promise both a smaller deficit and lower taxes, but republicans have to promise both to get elected.

—————–

Everyday Economics: The Rise and Fall of the Chinese Economy

Am I the only one who is still on the fence about China? It’s too early to say there is actually a mess. There is evidence maybe growth is glowing, but it’s far too early to call it a catastrophe, even though the doom and gloom media has been calling it one for the past year. The debate is over 7% GDP growth vs. 5.5%.

The Rise and Fall of the Chinese Economy.

If by ‘fall’ he means 5.5% GDP growth instead of 7%. Alos, low oil prices should help China as well as other Asian economies.

Maybe a lot of this doom and gloom comes down to a a simple math misunderstanding, which is that ‘slowing growth’ is not the same as shrinkage. Slowing growth implies the second derivative is negative, but the first one is still positive, meaning the size of the economy is still expanding. An example is the function ln(1+x)

Rather, his video does a good job of explaining what could go wrong, but I’m not sold on the idea that there’s a crisis now. I would not be surprised if this blows over in a a couple months like it did in the past during past concerns over China.

—————–

The Handicap of a High IQ (Guest Writer Matt Baldoni)

He’s probably right on all accounts, but take issue with this:


Okay, more good science, kids! There is a negative correlation between involvement in organized religion and IQ numbers. Dumb people go to church, basically. Smart people don’t.

I’ve heard this argument, but I’m not buying it, and its not like the correlation between IQ and religiosity is incontrovertible. No one really knows. This is similar to the leftist ‘knuckle dragging’ stereotype of Conservatives, which by my own empirical observations is also false. Liberals, particularly welfare liberals, are prone to reductionism and oversimplification more so than Conservatives. This is due to tribe mentality, as well well as general ignorance of complicated issues.

Maybe offline this is the case, but online some of the smartest, well-written people I’ve encountered are religious and or identify as Christian – blogs and writers like Free Northerner, Vox Day, Bruce Charlton, Nick B. Steves, Mark Citadel, Zippy, WM Briggs, and more. It’s many avowed atheists, people who watch Colbert or Daily Show, who seem dull and conformist.

—————–

Interest Rates, Unicorns And What The Fed Means To Silicon Valley

Low interest rates helps America’s best and brightest innovate and create wealth, and is an example of pragmatic/utilitarian/consequentialist polity that helps the ‘greater good’ even if such policy is unpopular with a lot of people. TARP, QE, and ZIRP were ‘lifelines’ for America’s most productive, as a way of containing or mitigating the the damage from the weak, inept sectors (banking, housing) so that the healthier portions could thrive. It was a success, with TARP three years later returning a profit to the treasury, and the economy & stock market now in its sixth year of expansion. Although the private sector and the consumer deserve most of the credit, TARP helped too.

A common argument is that low interest rates create bubbles, but the end result is still better than if bubbles are never formed. Risk taking is necessary for an economy to grow technologically and not become stagnant.

Second, compounding this run up in asset prices is the appreciation of the dollar on the global currency markets. Because the world was anticipating an increase in U.S. interest rates, the value of the dollar has been increasing for the past two years, since the Fed started signaling that it would eventually raise rates.

This is due to the ‘flight to safety’ and the insatiable demand for safe, low yielding US debt. The dollar is so strong not only because of the flight to safety, but because foreign countries that don’t have reserve currency status are running up deficits to try to grow their economies. Other reason are given here.

Classical Liberalism, Democracy, Libtertarianism, Nihilism, and NRx

From Peter A. Taylor The Resurrection of Classical Liberalism

Here’s what I think happened. The US began as an expression of classical liberalism. The founders were steeped in John Locke’s ideas about natural rights, as modified and popularized by writers like James Otis, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson. What actually made it into the American political canon was a mixture of beliefs about natural rights and democracy. For example, the Declaration of Independence talks of unalienable rights and states “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….” I see two problems here. First, the clause about securing rights sounds good to libertarians and Objectivists, but what does “consent” mean? And second, the basis for the government’s legitimacy is overspecified. Do “just powers” stem from the necessity to secure rights or from consent?

To some extent (with the exception of SJW radicalism and other elements of post-ww2 liberalism) America still is that way.

Thus Progressives and Libertarians both engage in “cocktail party sophistry”, but their styles are different. Progressives feel good about cogency and political cohesion where Libertarians feel good about elegance and internal consistency. Progressives are having fun running in a potato sack race. Libertarians are having fun daydreaming about the perfect destination for a potato sack race. “Perfect” here more or less means “most elegant”. “Elegance” here more or less means “providing false moral clarity”. Elegance is the curse of the libertarian movement. The tendency to value elegance, combined with a tendency to grade your own work, are what give the libertarian movement the feel of being a “head game”. I believe this emphasis on elegance is closely related to the false diagnosis that a slippery slope problem (i.e. lack of moral clarity) was what did in the classical liberal tradition. Which came first, the craving for moral clarity, or the diagnosis that lack of moral clarity killed classical liberalism? I suspect the craving came first, but I’m not sure.

America is a partial libertarian country – free market capitalism, private property, but also a state, which is similar to a mixed economy. Through trial and error, feast and famine, this seems to be the most successful or stable configuration, with notable examples being China and Russia, as well as other modernized countries that have evolved to this state. That’s why it’s kinda pointless when you have libertarians and conservatives arguing about which is better – America has both (conservatives get military, police, and free markets; libertarians get free markets, and personal autonomy due to the 1st amendment, but with some regulation. Less business regulation and lower taxes would be better.)

There was little ‘democratic’ about early American government, and I’m not sure why so many people, even those as smart as Peter A. Taylor, get this wrong. Nor is classical liberalism the same as a ‘liberal democracy’. A ‘natural right’ does not necessarily include the ‘right to vote’.

Here is John Adams on democracy:

“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”

Thomas Jefferson:

This is relevant to the tyranny of the proletariat, in which the underclass using ‘democracy’ tries to overthrow the smaller productive class.

From Wikipedia:

Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. It developed in 18th-century Europe and drew on the economic writings of Adam Smith and the growing notion of social progress.

18th century America and Europe would be considered tyrannical -hardly democratic – by today’s left.

Democracy may be a means of constraining a government to tend to its legitimate business, but it cannot be the source of the government’s moral legitimacy. The distinction between a republic and a democracy sounds promising, but this distinction is only meaningful so long as the voters choose to honor it. Scratch the surface of a republic, and underneath you find a democracy.

The solution is to roll back voting rights to how they were hundreds of years ago, in accordance with the founding fathers, who saw voting as a privilege rather than a right.

The system we have, although certain aspects of it suck, is the best of the alternatives, and it’s what we’re stuck with.

But we can reform it, which is what this blog is about. We don’t need a monarchy. Just turning the dial back 100 years would be immense progress.

One of the questions libertarians sometimes argue about is whether there are moral-practical dichotomies. That is, are there ever situations where doing “the right thing” from a moral standpoint conflicts with doing “the right thing” from a practical standpoint? To someone like me, in the “moral sympathy” school of thought, it’s a silly question. The relationships under consideration are “loose, vague, and indeterminate”. It’s complicated. We probably don’t even have the same people’s interests in mind when we ask the question. Who exactly are my tribe? Is “morality” something I personally choose to benefit myself, or is it a set of social norms my peers impose on me as the (possibly exorbitant and possibly evadable) price of associating with them? Jonathan Haidt’s definition (from The Righteous Mind) mostly supports the latter view:

America is also consequentialist, as are many nations. Examples of consequentialist policy being the 2008 bank bailouts, fed policy, war on terrorism, and others – policies that may not be popular with large segments of the population, but are deemed necessary to stave off a worse problem.

Of course, there are gradations: some countries and government are more socially liberal (European Union); others less so (China, Russia). America seems to have struck a balance that for for the past 240 or so years has worked, although the wave of post-ww2 liberalism may threaten this harmony.

America is an amalgamation or patchwork of many ideologies, and maybe this dynamism is why it has succeed for so long when other nations have failed.

From Bruce Charlton, The salvation of Mencius Moldbug:

But (and you were waiting for that ‘but’, weren’t you?) his system is based upon arbitrary axioms and is pragmatic and ‘utilitarian’ – in the sense that MM argues that his plans for government and society would in practice lead to the greatest happiness and/or the minimum misery for the greatest number of people.

But, to some degree, utilitarianism and policy are inseparable. In order to optimize the ROI of ‘Public Goods’, optimization in the mathematical and socioeconomic sense is desirable. Right now, due to liberalism and other scourges, we have a problem of poor optimization – for example, excessive welfare for those who contribute little, if any, to society.


In other words, Mencius Moldbug is an advocate of pure nihilism: a total denial of reality (since bottom line ‘reality’ – i.e. human emotions and what triggers them – is by this analysis wholly reversible, hence wholly relativistic).

So according to Charlton, Moldbug is not a moral realist.

Charlton’s definition of ‘nihilism’ is frustratingly reductive and doesn’t apply to Moldbug. Anyone who believes in the rule of law, which is what Formalism is about, cannot be a nihilist, by definition.

The essay Why Nihilism is Not Anarchy is relevant to NRx thought, and why Christianity may be incompatible with NRx, bold added for emphasis:

Nietzsche saw the above as parallel to Christianity, an assertion of inherent order based on shared humanity. Science and Nietzsche agree that humans vary so widely that to construct a universal “human nature” or “human morality” is a pointless endeavor toward false inherency. No such thing exists; some humans rise above others.

Anarchy, liberalism and other false social notions of equality and the inherent importance of man are entirely anti-nihilistic. In fact, they’re descendants of Christianity: they are falsely inherent orders based on human desires for the universe to be centered around humans. It is not. We are thinking monkeys, and it’s great we have come so far, but it’s not really that far. We’re not that great. And most of us are morons, perverts, lazybones, selfish people, criminals, or people who smoke in bed.

Maybe also fatalistic, in understanding that economic and biological reality means we’re subject to autonomous forces outside of our control, with the result being humans who are more endowed for success will tend to rise above others. The rule of law is still applicable, even if such views may seem fatalistic, amoral, and nihilistic.