Quotable (#97)

Stephan Kinsella pitches libertarianism:

Modern Hoppean-Rothbardians are not only pro-market and anti-state: they are pro-technology, anti-democracy and anti-intellectual property as well. They promote the use of the Internet, smart phones and video cameras, blogging, podcasting, Youtube, social media and phyles, encryption, anonymity, VPNs, open source software and culture, torrents, wikileaking, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, MOOCs, 3D printing and Bitcoin to network, communicate, learn, profit and spread ideas — and to counter, monitor, fight, and circumvent the state.

Quotable (#96)

In a classic article on the problems governments can be expected to face with Bitcoin adoption, Daniel Krawisz writes:

All organizations tend to evolve so as to resist change, but governments, being subject to the problems of socialism, suffer much worse from this because government operations lack a clear concept of efficiency [for] their overall success, the relative importance of any of its parts, or the relative merits of alternative organizational structuring. Consequently, governments can more easily evolve into labyrinthian structures that nobody understands without anyone realizing what is happening.

An eye-opening article called Sinkhole of Bureaucracy describes a surreal example of this phenomenon in an outstandingly incisive way. In an abandoned Pennsylvania mine, which is now an office containing 600 federal employees and endless filing cabinets, process all the federal retirement pensions on paper by hand. The system is widely understood to be insane and dysfunctional, but despite repeated and ceaseless attempts to automate the process beginning in the early 80’s, the system has not changed. It is not a problem of will, but of knowledge: there is no one available with the skills to carry through the transition successfully, no one who knows precisely what those skills would be, and no one who can evaluate anyone else for them. As a result, the attempts to develop an automated process failed because the software engineers did not understand the laws and the bureaucracy well enough to design something correctly, and the bureaucrats did not know how to tell if the software engineers knew what they were doing.

Will the federal government be able to adapt to Bitcoin? This would require building an a system not just for the one department, but for the entire organization, and it would have to be built properly — it must distribute decisions enough so that bitcoins cannot be stolen easily by employees. After reading that article, I think it is reasonable to think that the government may not be up to such a task at all.

Naphta Politics

The idea of communism is practically incoherent in the absence of a global authoritarian state. It appears that Pope Francis agrees:

Pope Francis will this week call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, according to a leaked draft of a papal encyclical. In a document released by an Italian magazine on Monday, the pontiff will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us”.

Francis also called for a new global political authority tasked with “tackling … the reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions”. His appeal echoed that of his predecessor, pope Benedict XVI, who in a 2009 encyclical proposed a kind of super-UN to deal with the world’s economic problems and injustices.

According to the lengthy draft, which was obtained and published by L’Espresso magazine, the Argentinean pope will align himself with the environmental movement and its objectives. While accepting that there may be some natural causes of global warming, the pope will also state that climate change is mostly a man-made problem.

(for more on Leo Naphta — among the most prophetic characters in world literary history — the best recommendation is to read the book.)

Holy War

Chas Freeman discusses the “peculiarly American presumption that war naturally culminates in the unconditional surrender and moral reconstruction of the enemy” and its consequences for foreign policy competence.

At its deepest level, diplomacy is a subtle strategic activity. It is about rearranging circumstances, perceptions, and the parameters of international problems so as to realign the self-interest of other nations with one’s own in ways that cause them to see that it is in their interest to do what one wants them to do, and that it’s possible for them to do it without appearing to capitulate to any foreign power or interest. Diplomacy is about getting others to play our game. […] Judging by results in the complex post-Cold War environment, diplomacy is something the United States does not now understand or know how to do.

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Billionaire Doomsday Bunkers


There’s an enticing slide-show at Forbes.

Once each member’s private accommodations are completed, furnished and fully outfitted, their respective quarters will be locked and secured, limiting access to their families and staff prior to lockdown; while Vivos will operate and maintain all common areas (under and above-ground) pending a catastrophic event. […] Members will arrive at their own discretion, prior to lockdown, landing their private planes at nearby airports. Vivos helicopters will then be deployed to rendezvous with each member group, and safely fly them back to the shelter compound, behind the sealed gates from the general public.

The Vivos slogan is deep: Next Generation Underground Survival Shelter. Whichever way you break it up, it spits out strange and ominous signs.

Quotable (#95)

Dark Ecologies has been digging ever deeper into time anomaly. An impressive knot of twistedness is gathered together in this post:

… the collapse of the future upon the present event retroactively posits the event as a consequence of this future decision; therefore future information collapses upon the past in such a way that the causal system appears teleological (from our standpoint) when in fact it is retroactive (from the future decisional process). What we’re saying is that Time a weirder than we would like to believe … it’s as if from our perspective things, events, etc. have a purpose, a teleology; but, the truth is that it is much weirder: time is not bound to the arrow of some forward, linear movement, but can effect our present moment from the future …

Is there really a difference being noted here?

Quotable (#94)

Razib Khan, reviewing Azar Gat’s War in Human Civilization, sets up the topic:

The authors focus on two species as a contrast with humans, common chimpanzees and social insects, Argentine ants, which have been known to engage in war. War here can be thought of as coalitional intergroup conflict. Chimpanzees are informative toward any discussion of human evolution because they are phylogenetically close to our own lineage, while social insects are not, but like humans are highly complex in their organization (they even farm!). But, there are important contrasts between the wars of chimpanzees and social insects, and those of humans. Chimpanzee wars are of small scale, on the level of the band, and always opportunistic. That is, they occur in a manner which could be modeled as competing firms acting in their own rational interests. When two bands interact, and one of them is much larger, then the larger band proceeds to attack the smaller. Chimpanzees do not engage in conflict by and large when there is parity between two bands. The attackers take on little risk, to the point where there hasn’t been a documented instance of casualty on the part of attacking bands in field observation. Social insects are very different. The scale of their warfare is on the same order of that of humans, millions of ants for example may be party to conflict. But, unlike humans the coefficient of relatedness of the opposing coalitions are such that it can be explained via traditional inclusive fitness theory.

Dikes of Taboo …

… are steadily splintering in the United States, “in tandem with a rising wave of social liberalism“:


Polygamy, it seems, is going to be the next culture wars threshold to be crossed.

Gallup concludes:

Americans today appear to have greater comfort with a host of issues or behaviors that were at one time subject to social stigma. And even among the most taboo behaviors, there is evidence of changing moral judgments, at least in relation to suicide, cloning humans and polygamy. […] Why these items are seeing a modest improvement on their perceived morality is hard to determine, though the disproportionately high share of 18- to 29-year-olds labeling them as acceptable may be both telling and predictive. Young adults find just one behavior — affairs between married men and women — highly unacceptable. Provided younger Americans do not shift toward a more culturally conservative stance as they age — and there is reason to believe they won’t, given the increasingly liberal views of older Americans — fewer behaviors may eventually be seen as taboo.

Quotable (#93)

Xavier Marquez takes a detailed look at perceptions of democracy around the world:

… I find public opinion about democracy quite puzzling.

It’s not that people don’t like democracy. On the contrary, public opinion surveys like the World Values Survey or the various regional “Barometer” polls (Latinobarometer, Arab Barometer, Asian Barometer, Afrobarometer) tend to consistently find that people really like the idea of democracy; asking about democracy is like asking about motherhood. …

In most of [the sixty countries surveyed by the WVS at various times between 2011 and 2014] (including many countries most people would classify as “authoritarian”), more than 75% of the population says that having a democratic system is a “very good” or a “fairly good” idea, while only small minorities claim democracy is a “very bad” or a “fairly bad” idea. In the modal country, in other words, large majorities are “pro-democracy” in some abstract sense. Nevertheless, these same majorities are not always very discriminating about what they consider “good” political systems. In some countries, large numbers of people agree both with the idea that democracy is a good form of government, and that having the army rule, or having a strong leader “that does not bother with parliament and elections” is also a good thing.

Vast rafts of data follow …