On a ‘general theory’ of social behavior and government

A large portion of NRx writings, but also the rational-left and the rational-right, concerns social theory:

How humans behave, what motivates their behavior and actions, the interaction between individuals and institutions, etc.

By answering such questions, one can get a better understanding of human behavior, and hence build a better society upon such understanding (because societies are composed of humans).

As I explain in my post about elites, humans are motivated by the acquisition of status, especially relative status, even more so than wealth. That’s why Bill Gates is so active in philanthropy despite already being successful and wealthy, because it’s not enough to just be wealthy and successful. [1] Second, as explained by ‘prospect theory’, humans experience an asymmetrically large ‘pain’ for loss, relative to the pleasure of gains. Online, a single down-vote may hurt about 2x as much as the happiness from a up-vote. Conformity has value, and defiance has consequences, namely ostracization. On online communities, it’s the loss of posting privileges. In medieval times, being exiled or killed. Although people like to preach the virtues of openness, tolerance, and free speech, such value systems are inescapable and hold society (or any community) together. Forth, there is (or should be) a degree of randomness to the system; for without it, it’s too easy for the clever and acquisitory to gain power. Regarding randomness, that’s why Jeb Bush lost despite in 2015 being seen as ‘inevitable’, and how Trump, despite such long odds, won.

But the problem is, although we can answer these questions, building the society is harder. [2]

[1] However, this can lead to infighting, holiness spiraling, and division. Examples include the English Civil wars between Catholic Church, Protestants, Parliament, and The Crown, but also in the Roman Senate during the Roman Republic.

Michael Perilloux writing for Social Matter discusses ‘The Strategy Of A Thousand Statesmen’:

The Thousand Statesmen. We need enough statesmen to staff the new government. Men who know how to govern an empire, how to cooperate, how to gain power, and how to stay in power. A thousand is a rough estimate of the number of coordinated and reliable statesmen needed in key positions in the U.S. government to form the core of a viable transition government that wouldn’t get bogged down in the political trenches.

There are two immediate problems here: First, it’s wishful thinking. Why stop at 1,000. Obviously, if every single American, all 330 million of them, were united in Trump’s ‘vision’, everything would be expedited. Second, as mentioned above, there would probably be infighting, especially if you have a large group of people who all think they are equally qualified to rule and vying for status. Insubordination could be a problem. Part of the reason the English absolute monarchy failed is that it became too big (too many dukes, earls, viscounts, lords, barons, etc.) and a schism between the parliament and monarchists arose, leading to King John’s 1215 signing of Magna Carta, which weakened The Crown’s power. A rebel group of Barons sought to limit the power of The Crown in exchange for their fealty. Perhaps one of the reasons the Arab absolute monarchies have prevailed is because their circle of power is smaller, so infighting is less of a problem, whereas in England The Crown had to worry about being overthrown or losing legitimacy in the eyes of the very large aristocracy right below it.

[2] The are two approaches to this: If America were like a computer game ‘Sim Government’ and everything could be reset and rebuilt to our desire, what would the optimal arrangement/configuration of power be, given America’s population size and demographics and other factors? Given the impossibility of the first approach, how can our vision be further realized despite the obvious limitations in implementing it? Is the solution incrementalism? Overthrow? Patchwork? Restoration? Empires vs City States? Collapse and rebuild? I agree with Michael Perilloux that imbuing the elites with ‘better policy’ is a more viable approach than just simply trying to overthrow them. Restoration means to restore, not overthrow. Far-left liberalism succeeded in the 20th century, not by overthrowing the government, but by subverting America’s institutions.