Motte and Bailey
I’ll assume everyone has read and digested Scott Alexander’s description of Motte and Bailey arguments. It’s extremely useful. (So much so, it’s probably fated to undergo compression to ‘M&B positions’ at some stage.)
The NRx versions of these are extremely trying. Most grating, from the perspective of this blog, are the Feudalism (Monarchism) examples. These have a strong motte, roughly of the form “by ‘feudalism’ we mean structures of decentralized hierarchical tradition, antedating state bureaucratization (and by ‘monarchism’ we mean a CEO with undivided powers)”. In predictable M&B style, these then dilate into a ramshackle set of formless nostalgias, bizarre dreams for a universal return to rural life, with ‘the Olde Kinges will return’ fantasies substituted for a realistic engagement with modernity, plus much arm-wrestling and ale. My strong temptation is to burn out the motte and forget the whole thing. There’s certainly far more to be lost from the latter associations, than to be gained from the former.
Listen to this interview with Marc Andreessen if you get a chance. There’s a lot of fascinating material there. Perhaps most crucial to this ‘point’ — he understands that the combination of peripheral economic development, advanced mobile telephony, and precipitously falling prices, is basically putting the equivalent of a 1970s supercomputer into everyone‘s hands in the very near future. You can already buy a smartphone for $35, and denizens of developing countries express a preference for these gizmos over indoor plumbing. It’s not so much a prediction then, more an acknowledgement of final-phase installed fact. This is the world that realistic socio-political analysis has to address.
However NRx gets sub-divided, can I please not be in the part that foregrounds the return of jousting as a pressing cultural issue. The challenges and opportunities of planetary-saturation Cyberspace is the topic that matters.