Archive for the ‘Democracy’ Category

Sentences (#96)

Cynical insight from Spandrell:

nobody cares about the public purse. It’s public.

April 18, 2017admin 23 Comments »
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Quote note (#328)

Formally, this isn’t a new ‘Boldmug’ argument, but it’s stated neatly here:

Whether you choose to think about it or not, I have a very simple explanation of Anglo-American success as it relates to democracy. […] If you see democracy as a pest, like Dutch elm disease, it makes perfect sense. Dutch elm disease originates in China. Therefore, Chinese elms are resistant to Dutch elm disease. But not immune! It’s still a crippling disease in China. But the trees live. […] The result of globalization: Chinese elms dominate the world. And hybrids. An elm does not live, anywhere in the world, unless its DNA is mostly Chinese. It would be a mistake to conclude from this that Dutch elm disease is good for elm trees, and the Chinese should export it to everyone. Unless they’re just plain evil. […] All we have to observe, to show that this is the case, is to show that politics in the Anglo-American tradition (don’t forget, Marx wrote in the British Library, and his column appeared in the New York Tribune), (a) frequently causes serious damage to Anglo-American countries, and (b) always or almost always has two results in other countries: it either causes massive, traumatic disasters, or brings the country under effective Anglo-American supervision, and/or both.

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February 6, 2017admin 151 Comments »
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Quote note (#313)

West:

One of the reasons many people are sceptical about democracy is because they’re right to be. There is a fair amount of research suggesting that people power is not necessarily the best system of government. For example, one paper suggests that ‘hereditary monarchs with lots of legal power choose better policy than other systems do, including democracies, non-hereditary dictators, and weak hereditary monarchs, and this is reflected in higher growth.’ On top of this there is evidence that democracy does not help economic growth. Most important is the finding ‘that institutions and the rule of law matter but democracy doesn’t,’ a conclusion found in numerous papers. […] People tend to credit democracy with lots of good things that preceded it, such as the rule of law, political stability and economic freedom. These are all prerequisites for universal suffrage, rather than products of it; indeed when these things are not present the introduction of a ballot box tends to be tragic.

(XS was on this in August, but you all know that.)

December 6, 2016admin 11 Comments »
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Thiel’s NPC Speech

For the historical record.

ADDED: The NYT comments.

ADDED: And (MUCH more intelligently), at The National Interest.

November 2, 2016admin 69 Comments »
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Democratic Deconsolidation

Crucial reading:

What does it mean, in concrete terms, for democracy to be the only game in town? In our view, the degree to which a democracy is consolidated depends on three key characteristics: the degree of popular support for democracy as a system of government; the degree to which antisystem parties and movements are weak or nonexistent; and the degree to which the democratic rules are accepted. […] This empirical understanding of democratic consolidation opens up conceptual space for the possibility of “democratic deconsolidation.” In theory, it is possible that, even in the seemingly consolidated democracies of North America and Western Europe, democracy may one day cease to be the “only game in town”: Citizens who once accepted democracy as the only legitimate form of government could become more open to authoritarian alternatives. […] … It is at least plausible to think that such a process of democratic deconsolidation may already be underway in a number of established democracies in North America and Western Europe. […] … In a world where most citizens fervently support democracy, where antisystem parties are marginal or nonexistent, and where major political forces respect the rules of the political game, democratic breakdown is extremely unlikely. It is no longer certain, however, that this is the world we live in. […] … As democracies deconsolidate, the prospect of democratic breakdown becomes increasingly likely — even in parts of the world that have long been spared such instability. If political scientists are to avoid being blindsided by the demise of established democracies in the coming decades, as they were by the fall of communism a few decades ago, they need to find out whether democratic deconsolidation is happening; to explain the possible causes of this development; to delineate its likely consequences (present and future); and to ponder the potential remedies.

Considerable statistical evidence (provided in the paper) supports this alarmed conclusion.

(Drezner is nervous.)

Previously by the paper’s authors, Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk, making the same thesis here, and here.

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August 7, 2016admin 28 Comments »
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Sentences (#66)

I think Peter Thiel supports Donald Trump because he believes it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to weaken America’s attachment to democratic government.

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July 23, 2016admin 129 Comments »
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Twitter cuts (#68)

The Outer Right provides the formal critique of democracy. It will be the Left, though, that graphically closes the curtain on it.

The defense of democracy in political theory is that it offers an alternative to violence as a mechanism for regime change. How’s that working out?

The democratic principle: Violence is only illegitimate when it is employed to resist leftward progression. By November, the only people still buying into that will be the mobilized forces of the Cathedral regime.

June 3, 2016admin 26 Comments »
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Quote note (#243)

Andrew Sullivan (in the early stages of a piece that is certain to draw a lot of attention):

Socrates seemed pretty clear on one sobering point: that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.” […] This rainbow-flag polity, Plato argues, is, for many people, the fairest of regimes. The freedom in that democracy has to be experienced to be believed — with shame and privilege in particular emerging over time as anathema. But it is inherently unstable. As the authority of elites fades, as Establishment values cede to popular ones, views and identities can become so magnificently diverse as to be mutually uncomprehending. And when all the barriers to equality, formal and informal, have been removed; when everyone is equal; when elites are despised and full license is established to do “whatever one wants,” you arrive at what might be called late-stage democracy. …

There was a time, not so long ago, when people used to chatter about ‘late capitalism’ — but now it’s 2016.

May 2, 2016admin 21 Comments »
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X-Risk Democratization

Yudkowsky redux: “Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.”

Quibble with the (Moore’s Law satire) schedule, and the point still stands. Massive deterrent capability tends to spread.

This is ‘democratic’ in the way the term is commonly used by those seeking to latch decentralization tendencies to the ideological credibility of Jacobin legitimation principles. Consumer capitalism, the Internet, and peer-to-peer crypto-systems are notionally ‘democratic’ in this way. They subvert centralized governance, and they spread through horizontal contagion. The fact they have nothing at all to do with popular political representation is of concern only to certain rhetorical agendas, and not at all to others. It’s sophistical pop-capitalist bullshit to use the word democracy in this way, but it’s usually not worth the trouble for the Left to try to contest it, and the part of the Right that isn’t excited to be riding this propaganda strategy is usually too indiscriminate to bother disentangling it. There’s a rare piece of ‘right-wing’ functional PR here, but never enough to matter very much (and it’s too essentially dishonest for the Outer Right to defend).

Unlike Democracy® (Cathedral ideology), however, this ‘democratization’ has deep cybernetic consistency. It falls out of techno-capitalism with such automatic inevitability it’s probably impossible to shut down, without closing down the whole thing. Capital escalation produces technological deflation as a basic metabolic by-product, so the ‘democratization’ of productive capability is ineluctable. Computers have migrated from exotic capital goods to trivial components of consumer products within half a century. Study that trend and you see the whole story.

Deterrence deflation is the deep trend. Connect up the Yudkowsky quote with assassination markets to get where this is going. (Try to shelve moral squeamishness until after you’re seeing the picture.)

Imagine, hypothetically, that some maniac private agent wants only to nuke Mecca. What’s the obstruction? We can confidently say — straight off — that it’s less of a problem with every passing year. The basic historical trend ensures that. Comparatively incompetent Islamic fanatics are the only people seriously testing this trend right now, but that isn’t going to last forever. Eventually smarter and more strategically-flexible agents are going to take an interest in decentralized mass-destruction capability, and they’ll provide a far better indication of where the frontier lies.

Nukes would do it. They’re certainly going to be democratized, in the end. There are probably far more remarkable accelerating WMD capabilities, though. In almost every respect (decentralized production capability, development curve, economy, impact …) bioweaponry leaves nukes in the dust. Anyone with a billion dollars, a serious grudge, and a high-end sociopathy profile could enter into a global biowarfare-threat game within a year. Everything could be put together in secret garages. Negotiations could be conducted in secure anonymity. Carving sovereignty out of the game would require only resources, ruthlessness, brilliance, and nerves. Once you can credibly threaten to kill 100,000,000 people all kinds of strategic opportunities are open. The fact no one has tried this yet is mostly down to billionaires being fat and happy. It only takes one Doctor Gno to break the pattern.

This is the shadow cast over the 21st century. Radically hardcore, massively decentralized deterrence games are simply inevitable. Anyone who thinks the status quo state holds some kind of long-term winning hand under these circumstances isn’t seeing anything.

Global totalitarian government could stop this! But that isn’t going to happen — and because it isn’t, this will.

April 22, 2016admin 33 Comments »
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Twitter cuts (#57)

(This kind of abysmal insight is what NRx is for.)

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March 28, 2016admin 9 Comments »
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