Deals with the Devil

I’m assuming this wasn’t intended as a Satanic argument for Monarchy, but it works as one:

Q: Why does the devil keep his deals?
A: As an immortal, he has an infinite time horizon of other deals he jeopardizes if he betrays any given deal. Therefore the opportunity cost of any betrayal is too high.
Q: What does that make politicians, then?
A: Lower in ethical reliability than the devil.

Even a demonic permanent government makes a better contractual partner than the most angelic temporary regime.

(Recalled by David Chapman).

August 6, 2014admin 10 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Democracy


10 Responses to this entry

  • Hypothetical Says:

    Only if that government’s permanence is conditional on its adherence to contractual obligations.

    The devil’s immortality is not conditional on his adherence to contractual obligations – he’s immortal no matter what, and has eternity to wait out his betrayals. So it really doesn’t make much difference whether the devil keeps his deals or not. He isn’t beholden to the laws of survival.

    Kingship and monarchy are impotent without genuine cultural belief in divine right or other such claims to eternal sovereignty. Modern monarchs can only ever be: a) figureheads, or b) politicians.


    Posted on August 6th, 2014 at 2:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kwisatz Haderach Says:


    His lifespan is not conditional, but his trustworthiness as a contractor is conditional on his past contractual performance. He won’t die, but people will stop making deals with him, and his life will get boring.


    Posted on August 6th, 2014 at 3:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hypothetical Says:

    Mortal people will only stop making deals with the devil insofar as they can continue to pass on tales of his chicanery to their colleagues and progeny. Thus we find ourselves familiar with tales of the trickster, the swindler, that demon in disguise; and yet, despite even the most uneducated person’s knowledge of the fiend’s persistent betrayals, I guarantee you that people will continue to make deals with him.

    The metaphor fails because a) boredom is not an impetus for loyalty, and b) a government whose permanence is conditional on its commitment to its contracts is not permanent at all. At least, not in a sense that is comparable to the devil’s immortality.


    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:

    I think that in many wiser ages than this one, those didactic tales – that seem so quaint to modern sensibilities – really had their intended impact, non-ironically educating the hearer against the folly of trusting the satyr.

    In our time, on some parts of the globe, there are still places where these tales are told, and heeded. If you don’t believe me, try to charm a maiden of Mumbai, and see how far you get on wit alone.


    Hypothetical Reply:

    Wiser for not making deals with the devil, or wiser for believing in fairy tales?


    Posted on August 6th, 2014 at 3:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • Deals with the Devil | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on August 6th, 2014 at 5:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tryptophan Says:

    So the best nrx strategy is cryptographic weapons and therefore highly stable states. Incidentally, I am working on a cryptographic weapons start-up. Think of it as bitcoin for the state.


    Posted on August 6th, 2014 at 7:29 pm Reply | Quote
  • William Newman Says:

    Stable government is the motte, and monarchy is the bailey, is that what you’re trying to say?:-)

    Lending to actual human monarchies hasn’t been all that easy; flaky and imperfect as merchant republic-ish or limited-monarchy governments have admittedly been about repaying their debts, AFAIK purer monarchies have been even flakier. You could probably point to regions and eras where all the republics have been particularly flaky (and also deserve scare quotes as “republics”); indeed, I nominate South America. But unless you can point to reliable monarchs in the same region and era, that’s not entirely convincing. My nonexpert impression is that the perceived tension with public choice theory is no big deal, because actual monarchs naturally don’t act all that much like stationary bandits because actual monarchs aren’t in fact all that stable: the historical rate of serious revolts plus internal threats like assassination is not negligible compared to comparable turmoil in Northern European basically-democracies, and seems large compared to the rate of destruction of English-speaking democracies.

    To me the uncritical attitude of Moldbug and his followers to monarchy, and the largely unexplained enthusiasm for the Stewarts, is oddly out of place in an otherwise reasonably clever spiel. To implicitly dismiss the relative success of the post-Glorious-Revolution English and the post-Revolution USA is pretty extraordinary, and I have never seen anyone make the extraordinary arguments I would want to back it. I can see making a romantic dismissal of them, as uninspiring or shabby or tacky or something. But the Moldbug idea seems to be that their practical success isn’t noteworthy, and that seems foolish. On the list of historic organizations capable of putting a boot in your ass, or decoding your DNA, or potentially making general AI, or producing a mind-blowing amount of luxury goods (fancy housing, fancy clothing, beef, sugar, travel, various entertainment…), or a number of other worldly things, the US still ranks extraordinarily high today despite severe issues (solvency, asabiya…) that raise interesting questions about tomorrow, and a 200+-year run isn’t too bad. And even a 100+-year run isn’t bad, and through much of the 19th century both the US and the British arguably outran the rest of the world even more decisively, while the Stewarts on their best day were nothing very special.


    admin Reply:

    I’m in broad agreement with this. Like Jim, I’m thoroughly immunized against the Jacobite romance. Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle captures the UK at its best, taking up the Dutch torch.


    Posted on August 6th, 2014 at 8:25 pm Reply | Quote
  • Jozsef Says:


    Posted on August 8th, 2014 at 8:59 am Reply | Quote

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