Next Stage of the Slide

As a prophet of the unfolding calamity, Angelo Codevilla has always been handicapped by his touching faith in ‘the people’. The ‘country class’ was already demonstrably unworthy of Goldwater in 1964. Things are far worse today.

As a guide to the next step in the crack-up, however, there are few better guides, and his latest ruminations on the disintegration of the American party system are highly convincing. The death of the Republican Party is a much-deserved necessary way-stage to pretty much anything, whatever one’s sense of the way. As always, the insightful commentary of Richard Fernandez on the topic is not to be missed.

Between even the sharpest conservative analysis, and anything that would pass muster amongst reactionaries, a daunting gulf yawns. As Codevilla muses in the new Forbes piece:

Representation is the distinguishing feature of democratic government. To be represented, to trust that one’s own identity and interests are secure and advocated in high places, is to be part of the polity. In practice, any democratic government’s claim to the obedience of citizens depends on the extent to which voters feel they are party to the polity. No one doubts that the absence, loss, or perversion of that function divides the polity sharply between rulers and ruled.

The confusion between legitimate republican government and political representation (‘democracy’) has been the disaster of modern history. Until this error is thoroughly purged from statecraft, reason will belong with kings.

ADDED: Sickness unto death

February 24, 2013admin 35 Comments »
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35 Responses to this entry

  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    Good to see the comments / discussion is taking root at Outside in. Seems to prove that a little bit of functionality can go a long way – pity the UK Government can’t get on board with this:

    http://metro.co.uk/2013/02/22/5bn-scheme-finds-jobs-for-just-20-people-3509323/

    This didn’t even make that headlines in London’s esteemed Metro, it was secreted away on page 4, just after the pictures of cats and monkeys doing funny things usually displayed on page 3. Despite branding the scheme ‘exteamly poor’ – hardly the harshest of admonishments (‘off with their heads anyone’?) there appears to be absolutely no follow up i.e. things can just continue going along as they were before. Until they can’t, of course. By which point we will all probably be eating the unemployed, along with our children, instead of putting them on purely symbolic job finding schemes.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 24th, 2013 at 2:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    also… Are you familiar with the work / arguments of Joseph Tainter? If not, you can find a very good overview in this talk:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0R09YzyuCI

    I would be very interested to hear what you think about the correlation he makes regarding increased complexity (in order to solve problems, which incurs an energy cost) and diminishing returns, and how it is an inescapable cycle: The Left Singularity = the evacuation of complexity from the system, which is markedly different (as I understand it) from a Right Singularity, which might conceivably cohere into an AI – an entity exponentially more complex than anything that has ever existed. Or at least that we are aware of.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Thanks — I’ll check that out.
    As for the job scheme business — *sigh*

    [Reply]

    Rasputin's Severed Penis Reply:

    Great – here is a link to a (very) short artical if you don’t want to commit the time to the talk:
    http://campfire.theoildrum.com/node/6942

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 24th, 2013 at 2:17 pm Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    It seems to me that the conservatives are trying to make an essentially Marxist social critique. Except one that focuses on “the elite”, “the Mandarins”, (in reality, the higher echelons of “The Cathedral”) etc. instead of “rich capitalists” as having gradually but successfully commandeered and hijacked the government (“GOVjacking”?) for their own benefit, and to pursue the conveniently pro-elite policies of their utopian creed.

    You can find a close analogy to every element of the whole Marxist elites-analysis ecosystem. “The influence-institutions spread a mythological narrative that brainwashes the masses of proletariat, er, ordinary people, er, country-folks, into a false consciousness which persuades them to support the very system that exploits and rules over them, undermines their interests, disloyally sells them out, is indifferent to their preferences, contemptuous of their culture, ignores their concerns, yadda yadda.” It’s amusing to draw the parallels.

    Marx was fascinated by the transition from one elite (the feudal aristocracy) to the new one (the wealthy capitalists). We’re seeing another such transition, but I would argue that ours is more problematic. It is gradually skimming the cream of the population and passively cementing a caste through hereditary and geographic cognitive concentration. We are 180 degrees out from widely distributing our capable leaders, setting them against each other in socially beneficial competition, and genuinely aligning their loyalty and interests to the welfare of the citizens they “serve.” Everyone wants to be close to money and power and energy and status and invention of the glamorous new.

    But I can imagine that if you were to empower someone to become “Captain of Detroit” with almost unlimited command discretion over the territory and its population, and to promise that individual the spoils of his success, you might be able to attract more than a few capable leaders to the hinterlands – sort of a positive “The Man Who Would Be King,” story.

    [Reply]

    spandrell Reply:

    Class struggle is *lots* of fun. And on retrospective it was quite true.

    The problem is not the elite per se, is the millions of middle class people who are sacrificing their body and soul in the rat race to an upward mobility that just isn’t there anymore.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The Marxist resonances are certainly there, but doesn’t this draw from the deeper well-springs of Libertarian class analysis (Franz Oppenheimer, Albert Jay Nock, and Frank Chodorov, through to Rothbard and Konkin)? Konkin (SEK3) describes this analysis as ‘leftist’ precisely because it sets itself in antagonism with the ruling class, in a lineage he traces back to pre-Marxist roots. Hoppe has a good article on the subject here.

    “Captain of Detroit” — yum! My expectations for the way that would turn out tilt more to Liberia than Hong Kong.

    [Reply]

    spandrell Reply:

    I remember feeling the Marxist guerrilla high when a libertarians shock trooper in my teens. Fighting Marxists was fun, until you notice that the debate techniques aren’t that different. If Neocons are evolved (in a Lamarckian sense) Marxists, Austrians are Darwinianly mutated Marxists.

    Anyone with half an eye today can see that rich capitalists and government are the same thing. Hell, they hold yearly parties in Switzerland for all to see.

    [Reply]

    SDL Reply:

    Thanks for that Hoppe link. Hoppe’s project in that article confirmed an odd experience I often have. When I listen to or read academic theory (especially Marxist), I find myself agreeing with much of the surface semantics of what is said but also wanting to point out major gaps, blind spots, oversights, and wishful thinking that, if pointed out, would completely change the tenor or perhaps consequences of the ideas being spun. This sentence from the essay is spot-on:

    What is wrong with Marx’s theory of exploitation, then, is that he does not
    understand the phenomenon of time preference as a universal category of human
    action.

    If I tried, in any context, to introduce the idea of time-preference to my colleagues (Cathedral catachumens, all) as a way of understanding human behavior or systems, they would have no idea what to do with it. I’d get blank stares. The idea would not compute. And yet that idea–as just one example of many–seems to me absolutely central.

    In other words, the movement from Marxism to libertarianism and ultimately to arch-reaction is–or has been for me–a series of slight shifts or additions. Nothing major except the difference in mental outlook. “One small step, one giant leap” so to speak.

    [Reply]

    Anonymous Reply:

    Funny you should mention a hong kong in detroit:

    http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130112/BIZ/301120319

    “Detroit — As the broken city thinks big and radically about its future, a developer is stepping forward with a revolutionary idea: Sell the city’s Belle Isle park for $1 billion to private investors who will transform it into a free-market utopia.

    The 982-acre island would then be developed into a U.S. commonwealth or city-state of 35,000 people with its own laws, customs and currency.

    City officials are likely to reject the plan.”

    The first thing this guy should learn is to buy the island FIRST and secede afterwards.

    Administrative note: I think the black color scheme is awesome (easy on the eyes compared to the bright white/black text of most internet sites) but the boxes into which i type this comment, my name and email, are all kind of difficult to see since they are the same shade black (on my screen at least).

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “City officials are likely to reject the plan” — surprise!

    On the color scheme, it’s my settled intention to keep you guys gazing with frozen horror into the unillumined abyss.

    Posted on February 24th, 2013 at 4:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    Marxism is truly fascinating. On a strictly intellectual level, it is wrong in so many respects that it is difficult to enumerate its flaws. It is not just trivially ‘off’ in countless ways but profoundly false in quite a number. The best overall apprehension of Marx’s system, I believe, is that it is an elaborate reductio ad absurdam of the labor theory of value, and in this way at least — if correctly understood — it performs a valuable service. (I’ve tried to compile a basic list of critical Marxist errors and omissions in the past, and lack the energy to repeat this task right now, but it’s probably worth doing — most of the interesting diagnosticians get hung up on one or two of Marx’s major mistakes, and thus fail to convey the situation accurately: a multiplicitously misconceived intellectual abortion.) Of course, there are also many insightful elements to the Marxist corpus, and (especially) conceptually ingenious structures of argument, along with the occasional excellently-crafted phrase.

    The only fundamental explanation for the Marxist phenomenon — a popularity and persistence out of all proportion to intellectual merit, even or especially among those (i.e. academics) who should ‘know better’ — is that it functions as the most important modern religion. This is not, of course, a new suggestion, but it remains a massively under-emphasized one. It should, for instance, be of no less interest to students of religion than to ideological opponents of the Marxist creed.

    When imagining what religious innovation might be today, this case should be at the front of our minds (but that’s another thread).

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 25th, 2013 at 10:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    You’ve forced me to register:

    “The only fundamental explanation for the Marxist phenomenon — a popularity and persistence out of all proportion to intellectual merit, even or especially among those (i.e. academics) who should ‘know better’ — is that it functions as the most important modern religion.”

    I don’t really care (to acknowledge) how true this claim is (you could dispute how modern (a religion) Marxism is), but what I find frustrating is it’s the same (lazy non-)argument that leads to (for instance) the dismissal of certain speculative philosophy as of interest to ‘philosophy students not interested in philosophy’. Eclipse the whole movement by terming it a (wacky) faith (I know you’ve addressed Marxism in much greater depth elsewhere, but still)… but while we’re here: what other type of ‘phenonmenon’ could create such popularity? Certainly not any intellectual theory alone. So maybe the transistion to intellectual failure is the only way to germinate popular support… and so on… is that your trajectory?!

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Describing Marxism as a religion is the culmination of an argument, not the beginning. ‘Wacky’ is you — I don’t consider it any ‘wackier’ than any other major branch of the Abrahamic family. In fact, I think those concerned about — for instance — contemporary Chinese ‘Marxism’ should take comfort from the fact that it is now a mature and sedate faith. Christianity also began as an energetic communist religion.

    Böhm-Bawerk demonstrates in exacting detail that the full elaboration of the Marxian system (into the — not by coincidence) unfinished third volume of Capital, has the structure of a reductio of the LTV. (‘Marxist’ ripostes, such as that of Hilferding here, are hopelessly inadequate.) This understanding is in some respects even more informative than Mises’ devastating Calculation Problem, since it is more consistently internal to Marx’s argument, which is carefully developed to its self-destructive conclusion.

    Marxism has been largely indifferent to this intellectual onslaught, because its appeal is not — ultimately — an intellectual one. It is, instead, a popular movement, mobilizing unsophisticated people behind leaders who are either cynical, systematically self-deceptive, or technically incompetent at abstruse conceptual evaluation. It is an inescapable fact that intellectuals who embrace Marxism either fail to understand it, or simply don’t care.

    As a religion, on the other hand, Marxism has exhibited tremendous vitality as a modernization of redemptive eschatology. It promises completion of the historical process in a society that closes the great circle, from primitive to modern communism, realizing final judgment in a universal moral community. Marx’s writings were overwhelmingly dominated by a minute (and radically defective) analysis of the capitalist social process, but what seizes the souls of his followers is the great historical narrative of salvation, as it passes through its inevitable stages towards communistic consummation. Do you honestly doubt any of this?

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    I think I was broadly making two points. ‘Wacky’ was not my description of Marxism – I was more picking up on the general style of the move I perhaps mistakenly perceived you to be making (and expressing my frustration at coming across one too many ‘religions’ for the day). It may be no more or less wacky than any (other) Abrahamic faith, but essentially all religion is wacky (being the culmination of your argument – I accept wacky may have been misleading/ill-chosen here) and therefore it is not worth engaging with intellectually. You don’t convince wackos/believers with sound intellectual debate (you’re missing the appeal); and your Marxist academics are either poor intellectuals (‘fail to understand’) or acting in ‘bad faith’ (‘simply don’t care’), so they’re not worth engaging with either. This or a parallel move is often played by the establishment (the reason I gave the philosophy example in my original post) – ‘interesting (read as: wacky or ‘out-there’), but it doesn’t belong here’ – to maintain the desired inside-outside hegemony. My second point (‘but while we’re here’) was some preliminary musing on the notion of appeal, and whether any intellectual theory can be appealing in itself or whether this always lies outside – be it in redemptive eschatology, political utility, capturing of geist or simply through dressing in black and donning a beret. And therefore to what extent all successful intellectual movements would end up being classed as modern ‘religions’ (and must in some sense fail in order to be popularised)?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    When Marxist academics engage the canon of rigorous Austrian criticism that now dates back over a century, I’ll reconsider their merits. Of course they won’t, because the quality of said criticism so completely exceeds their own capabilities that they would be entirely swept away by it. Böhm-Bawerk, to take the greatest example (in this respect) comprehended Marx’s intellectual project far more penetratingly than any ‘Marxist’ alive today.

    As to your second point, I’m not sure how we’d decide … My usage of ‘religion’ is nowhere near as contemptuous as you seem to think, though. I’m certainly not using as a synonym for intellectual failure.

    fotrkd Reply:

    Okay… and (on usage of religion) I know, neither was I.

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 1:15 am Reply | Quote
  • fotrkd Says:

    @fotrkdJust to confirm: I can spell ‘phenomenon’ 🙂

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 1:17 am Reply | Quote
  • vimothy Says:

    @admin

    Although he often writes for the irredeemably pro-cathedral Crooked Timber, Cosma Shazili’s brief article on the Soviet calculation problem from the point of view of algorithmic complexity and asymptotic analysis is rather neat: http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/918.html

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    It’s a little glitchy, but still excellent, thanks.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 12:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    It occurs to me that a great deal of what is written on the new right side of things mimics the form and patterns of, essentially, the class analysis social critique with a few new elements and areas of emphasis. Steve Sailer’s quest to “understand how the world really works, regardless of the lies and confusions of The Narrative Makers” combined with Mickey Kaus’ “undernews” concept (not quite “red pill”, but similar enough). Various domains with that same “taboo truth instead of orthodox lies, claiming to be on the side of “the ordinary guy” vs. ‘the elite'” feel. The Cathedral probably looks at it in the same “appallingly wrong in so many important ways” manner as we look at Marxism. We have focal points like:

    1. Game – Not merely the micro theory of practice of seduction given modern conditions, but Macro Sexual Selection Social Analysis (S3A). I suppose you could throw in gender relations, fertility, and demographics here too.
    2. The whole host of taboo important-yet-unspeakable drivers of social dynamics and living patterns associated with our cultural intellectual pathologies concerning race. (Sailer, “What New Yorkers do vs. what they say”)
    3. Democratic Politics infestation of every field and institution
    4. Wealth-and-Status elite, Mandarins, and Underclass vs. the hopeless middle.
    5. Dynamics of trust and cohesion in the multicultural, post-national, “geographic administrative areas” we call “countries”.

    I’m sure I could on. The problem with modern “class” analysis, I think, is that one really can’t imagine the Orwellian 1984 explained-version of the high-middle overthrowing the elite by rallying of the proles and pretending to represent their interest. The assumption has always been, essentially, group-egalitarian. That all the classes are roughly equal in their distributions of ability, and many find their station in life through accidents of birth, and any group can find and promote adequate numbers of capable leaders from its own ranks to represent their interests in “the struggle”. What we see today, I guess, is a kind of divergence into bimodalism, with the tiny smaller hump on the right very adept at skimming any cream which emerges on the giant left hump. Personally, I’m not really interested in any Cambodian gene-pool-draining solutions to this issue.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Kaus and Sailer are still looking for democratically-functional strategies, and those all tend to look quite alike — with some type of anti-elite rallying probably being indispensable. It would be fun to see a Venn diagram of these hate targets, because there must be an interesting pattern of dispersal and overlap. I’m guessing that Democrats aren’t easily roused to fury against NYT columnists, or Republicans against generals, but there are quite a few figures (I’m guessing) that just about everyone hates: Peter Thiel, the Koch brothers … even Libertarians want to string them up! Assume the usual red/blue code is used, so that dark purple marks hate convergence (i.e. massively unpopular elite segments), then purple-to-black are my guys: Dr Evil figures employing plutocratic financial power to build rogue AIs and private nanotech military systems. Their time will come.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 12:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    Dr Evil has an opponent: New dept at Oxford: http://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/

    You’ll love their Mission Statement:

    The Future of Humanity Institute is the leading research centre looking at big-picture questions for human civilization. The last few centuries have seen tremendous change, and this century might transform the human condition in even more fundamental ways. Using the tools of mathematics, philosophy, and science, we explore the risks and opportunities that will arise from technological change, weigh ethical dilemmas, and evaluate global priorities. Our goal is to clarify the choices that will shape humanity’s long-term future.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Oh c’mon, Dr Evil owns those people (assuming that an ‘End of Humanity Institute’ might raise eyebrows in the wrong places)

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 1:48 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    The pursuit of an AI that runs on tofu is a noble one, and Nick Bostrom is a leader of men with the capacity to stymie the course of all technological evil with his leaden prose.

    Did you get a chance to check out the Tainter paper? Any initial thoughts on his theory of how increasing complexity inevitably leads to diminishing returns and collapse? The implications of the fate of the late Roman Empire in light of the metastasis of bureaucracy, Moldberg’s argument, the Left Singularity, et al, seem inextricably significant to me. And I worry that we might f*@k it up before breaching the transhuman – AI singularity.

    Also, (apologies for enquiring about stuff that is not strictly related to the focus of the thread) I am curious as to whether you ever wrote a response (riposte?) to the discussion of your work at the Accelerationalism event at Goldsmiths a while back with Ray Brassier, Mark Fisher, etc? I was there and – ideas aside – one of the more curious things about the presentation was that it rather gave the impression you were dead.

    Transcript of Brassier’s discussion here for the curious:
    http://moskvax.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/accelerationism-ray-brassier/

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    On Tainter: I read the Oil Drum piece with great interest, but couldn’t really see the argument (it seemed to be more of an assertion, resting upon one significant but less-than-overwhelming historical example). His vision of complexity was so unlike anything I tend to associate with the term, that it made for a refreshing holiday from settled reflexes, but if bureaucratic expansion (rather than market tuning) is the model for complexification, it’s hardly surprising to see it facing diminishing returns.

    On Acceleration: A riposte didn’t really seem appropriate, it was interesting to see the topic discussed, and it’s very relaxing to be dead. I’ve tried to follow the ‘speculative realism’ stuff, but I’m not there yet.

    [Reply]

    sviga lae Reply:

    I think Venkat has the best feel for the future of complexity-driven society (plenty of jobs to go around for flexible morlocks to tend the wounds of the thrashing leviathan), as well as the most cogent historicist narrative of technology.

    http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2012/04/18/hacking-the-non-disposable-planet/

    http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2012/06/05/towards-an-appreciative-view-of-technology/ (all required reading)

    I’d be interested to know how familiar you are with Venkat’s work, I am always pleased to see the web of so-called ‘insight porn’ collapsing in on itself (Venkat, Taleb, Moldbug, LessWrong etc.), and in fact I am pinning some hope on such an event, as I believe the disparate parts contain the critical mass for a powerful alternative body of thought.

    (see also: http://lesswrong.com/lw/fh4/why_is_mencius_moldbug_so_popular_on_less_wrong/?sort=new)

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    More reading!
    Thanks, it looks extremely interesting.

    northanger Reply:

    @sviga lae

    Great links, thanks.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/report-ties-100-plus-cyber-attacks-on-us-computers-to-chinese-military/2013/02/19/2700228e-7a6a-11e2-9a75-dab0201670da_story.html

    “You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there. And if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.” –Working Girl

    northanger Reply:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reappropriation
    Reappropriation is the cultural process by which a group reclaims—re-appropriates—terms or artifacts that were previously used in a way disparaging of that group.

    fotrkd Reply:

    I didn’t take it so much as ‘dead’, more as ‘gone away and never coming back’ (think Anna Karenina’s social ‘death’ at the theatre; or if you want more contemporary Max Cohen drilling his head in Pi or Deleuze after he wrote his own ‘What is Philosophy?’; or more contemporary still: Pope emeritus). And it’s got to make you wonder whether you can come back even if you don’t go back, right? Or whether all of this is somehow still somewhere else. You can point to truth, but every one of God’s angels of death is following that path; hell, even Tony Blair is confidently awaiting the judgment of history. But then what else can you do? Relaxing gets pretty tiring after so long, so you may as well do something. A harsh, but true summary of academic interpretations of the current output (such as they exist and are communicated) would probably be akin to this (damning with faint praise) comment on Saul Bellow’s final book:

    “One of the peculiarities of Ravelstein is that it is both an old man’s novel, much preoccupied with the imminence of death, and a book which plays games with the whole idea of an old man’s novel,” said Russell. “Ostensibly, the narrative drifts about in a hazy, at times even slightly gaga, sort of way. But while there are definite signs of frailty, one feels he’s also having a good deal of fun with readers’ assumptions about his state of health… Ravelstein may not be great Bellow – the structure is a little too wobbly for that – but in terms of richness of metaphor, fecundity of ideas and sheer undiminished curiosity, there’s still no one to beat him.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    The more biographical discontinuity the better, as far as I’m concerned. Essential psychological unity through time is a mostly mythical. Perhaps a pseudonym would have made more sense, but this episode in the grisly saga began in a work environment where that wasn’t even an option, and it has its own momentum now. (And it really doesn’t matter what ‘academics’, take in the aggregate, think about anything — that’s just politics and fashion, performed as a cultural sub-routine on behalf of Leviathan. The main message — Love the State — has already been decided.)

    [Reply]

    fotrkd Reply:

    It really doesn’t matter so long as you’re right, but yes, I largely agree. One story from the UK today that I did find amusing (no doubt the wrong word again) was: ‘Put disabled down’ councillor Collin Brewer resigns’ (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-21612089) – In particular Mr Paget’s retraining suggestion: “I’m publicly calling on the council to provide disability equality training for all councillors. I’m appalled it has taken this long to reach a conclusion.”

    admin Reply:

    The UK is so over.

    fotrkd Reply:

    Yeah, but you know it will be slow, awfully boring and performed with dignity to the end. More seriously, I would be interested to hear how you would map your current US political/economic observations onto the UK situation.

    Posted on February 26th, 2013 at 5:09 pm Reply | Quote

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