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Moldbuggian Interlude

Mencius Moldbug is a highly creative political thinker. He represents the club of writers that make the blogosphere worthwhile along with original thinkers like Patri Friedman, Eliezer Yudkowsky, and Dennis Dale.

It had been a while since I visited Unqualified Reservations, and so I was delighted to find this long-form advertisement for elected dictatorship at the top of the blog's front page yesterday.

Moldbug's eccentricity has become so severe that he is no longer merely advocating political arrangements never contemplated by anybody else, but he is now advocating political schemes long rejected by everybody.

To be as mad as Moldbug is an artform. In fact I nominate the phrase "mad as a Moldbug" for entry into the vernacular.

Also on the front page there is this post that argues, among other things, that America's Israel policy is pro-Arab because Israel would have undisputed domain over the Middle East absent other Western powers holding it back.

If this is your first exposure to Moldbug, don't miss the world's only worthwhile "why I am not a libertarian" essay.


Injustice Everywhere

I've recently discovered a new site that I've found to be required reading: Injustice Everywhere. It's a frequent roundup of police misconduct cases. I could also say that it's a frequent roundup of dismissals of police brutality cases. It makes my blood boil, to be sure, but it's important to know about this stuff. There are about twenty isolated incidents a day, and these are just the ones that we know about.

A point radical libertarians often make is that this is institutional; it's not just a bunch of bad apples individually taken. If you needed convincing, I'm sure you'll find enough data points here to form a pattern.


Worldview

Human existence is essentially tragic. We inhabit a world not designed for us. Our life span is sadly limited while our ambitions and desires are unlimited. 

Our species awakened in middle of a cruel Darwinian game. The higher cognitive capabilities of sentient animals granted us a survival advantage. But these same cognitive capabilities grant us the ability to suffer. And suffer we must. We imagine beautiful things that we will never have the chance to create. We dream what will never be. In Darwin's world individuals are disposable puppets, bit players to be used up and tossed aside in the latest iteration of the survival game. Only the genes that we carry are allowed immortality.

Our duties to our genes satisfied, we are left to whither away through planned obsolescence. As our bodies and minds break down, our capacity to act upon the world slowly diminishes, then sharply. Our hope for the future narrows as our potential to pursue our goals comes to its end. Our life's work is left to erosion. At the last we fall into darkness, fully conscious the entire way down. 

But even well before we come to the end of the line, our desires clash with the nature of the world.

We are driven by a primal desire to reproduce. Love and family is the source of our deepest joys. And yet for most of our species' existence we were bound by strict Malthusian limits on the number of us that can be supported by available resources in our environment. In modern times technology has only relaxed those limits, not eliminated them. If any humans are born beyond those limits then others must die. Even if we were to defeat nature's obsolescence of our bodies, we would have to give up the ancient desire for reproduction to have a sustainable society. 

As creatures that crave beauty we seek elegant explanations for features of the universe, but its complexity does not admit to elegant explanations. The quest for absolute truth is frustrated by the famous theorem of our own Mr. Gödel. In ethics, in social organization, even in mathematics we are left with ugly contradictions. This is so unpalatable that most humans must pretend that the contradictions do not exist. 

And should we conquer all our limitations, then at last the inexorable entropy of the universe will come for our proud and mighty civilization. 

The tragic character of human existence is the motivating force behind our most famous institutions, as diverse as science and religion. The world we live in is not designed for our happiness, so we try to mold it to our will with technology and discovery. The world is cruel while we last and soon forgets us when we are gone, so we dream of an afterlife without cruelty or impermanence. 

My recognition of our tragic nature is why I find aesthetic appeal in Christianity. If you erase the afterlife from Christianity, it is a very pessimistic religion. It preaches a gospel of flawed people living in a flawed world. It does not pretend that humankind can be perfected. I feel comfortable talking with Christians. Their doctrine of original sin fits nicely with my vision of the dissonance between human aims and the structure of the universe. We share a language; we can communicate. 

This feeling of kinship is odd for me in particular. I am an intellectual atheist and I share much more culture with other young atheists than any Christian population. If a Christian pastor could follow my life or see into my mind, he would blanche. I'm no Starchild, but I will never be elected to office in a Christian nation. And my own childhood was made unbearable by a collision with some of the darker parts of that religion. I ought to hold a grudge. 

But I enjoy the company of other pessimists from time to time. I need a break from the companionship of young revolutionaries, those that assume there must be a neat answer to every puzzle because they want one. 

Besides, Christians have all the best music. 


Whoa whoa whoa! Who let the crazy old dude in here?!?!

One of my favorite social phenomena is when an individual says something that goes completely against the beliefs of everyone surrounding him, and says it with gusto, not caring what anyone else thinks. After Randy, Ellen, and Kara have praised the performance of an American Idol contestant, Simon Cowell will say, "That was utterly ghastly" in a British accent, as boos from the crowd rain in. But he doesn't care.

Watch this clip in which Marc Faber drops a bomb about halfway through. The reaction from everyone else is as if he stood up, turned around, and dropped his pants.

This is the kind of contrarian strength that, IMO, is vital for successful investing. Watch also how at the end of the clip the CNBC interviewer tries to insult Faber's "doom and gloom". Had he done the slightest bit of research, he'd have known how successful Faber has been. I can only see one really bad trade among many more amazing calls in his 2008 and 2009 picks.   Another interview with Faber on the same topic:

Why have I lately been obsessing about a USG default? Because smart people--contrarians with a track record--like Marc Faber believe it's going to happen. I see the numbers detailing the liabilities and I can't see a way out. People usually conclude, "Taxes will have to rise," but I think they underrate how mobile capital and labor are in this modern era, and how diminished the returns on increased tax rates will be. Additionally, tax hikes are politically unpopular, and spending cuts are disincentivized in a political market.

Just raise the age for Social Security benefits! Even if that was politically possible, that would only make a small dent in the unfunded liabilities.

The dynamic I see is a "point of no return" beyond which it is simply impossible to stop the trainwreck. If we had a benign dictator with absolute power, he might be able to cure our ills, but we live in a democracy, and there are too many factions to make a coherent plan. Obamacare was, IMO, the point of no return, though most likely, it will only accelerate what was already fated.

I don't think raising taxes will be effective (though I'm open to opposing thoughts). Hyperinflation could monetize the debt but I don't think that will change the fundamental dynamic of Western democracies; it will merely enable more entitlements and delay the crash into the future.


Administrative note

We upgraded to a newer version of our blogging software on Friday, including some badly needed security updates. There might be a few kinks to work out with the new setup. Please comment on this post if you notice anything acting strangely. I'll leave this up for a few days to make sure we catch everything. 


Useful Idiots

Libertarians like [Dick Armey] might hold any number of outlandish, anti-conservative views — not just open borders but legalizing prostitution, for instance, or privatizing the Air Force — but so long as they keep those views to themselves, they can be useful allies for actual conservatives.

So no talking about immigration or the multiple wars in the Middle East. Got it.

Good luck with that Tea Party, fellas. Let me know how it works out for you.


2015 - Two headlines from alternate universes

 
 
 


Freedom Industry Eyes China
Having successfully stared down the US Empire, America 2.0 businesses look for growth in Asian market

 
 
 
Alternatively:
 
 
 

American Brides for Chinese Men
Why be lonely? Millions of exciting girls looking to emigrate--many already speak Mandarin!

 
 
 


Dennis K., lost his way

Chris Floyd points out the Dennis Kucinich example of why political cooperation hinders honest goals and corrupts devoted people:

In other words, Kucinich is happily participating in a PR scam [being the "new face" of the Democratic campaign committee as of a few days ago - RM] to perpetuate the corporatist party elite that has just -- for the umpteenth time -- betrayed the deepest hopes of its masochistic supporters. And for your real rootin', tootin', "fightin' progressives" like Koppelman, this is a good thing. Because it's smart. It's savvy. It's playing the game.

And the game, apparently, is to keep your sweet progressive self somewhere near the hindquarters of power, just in case you might get a pat on the head every now and then from the honchos -- brutal operators and war criminals who will never, not even once, not even by accident, put any of your vaunted principles into practice.


Quote of the Day

This echoes my own evolution. I started out highly skeptical about it, but I have come around to where I think of the tea party movement as the last best hope for America. If they fail to elect a Congress and a President who truly are committed to shrinking deficits and shrinking the government, then those of us with a libertarian bent will be reduced to dreaming about seasteads or somesuch.

--Arnold Kling

As a member of TSI, I don't know how exactly to take that, haha.


Breitbart offers $10,000 for proof of N-word

Andrew Breitbart:

Saturday’s “never mind” moment will live in infamy as the Congressional Black Caucus claimed the N-word was hurled 15 times. YouTube video shows that at least two of the men in the procession were carrying video cameras and holding them above the crowd. They have not come forth with evidence to show that even one person hurled the vile racist epithet. The video also shows no head movement one way or another. Wouldn’t the N-word provoke a head turn or two? Is it really possible that in 2010, in a crowd of 30 or 40 thousand people — at the center of a once-in-a-lifetime media circus — not one person’s flipphone, Blackberry, video recorder or a network feed caught a single incident? And if not, then at least someone could have found an honest tea partier to act as an eyewitness — or the Congressional Black Caucus would have confronted the culprit(s). If that had happened, there would be an investigation to see if the perpetrator was a left-wing plant.

...

That’s how much the Democrats need a racist Tea Party moment. To stop it in its tracks. That’s why on Saturday they used the Congressional Black Caucus to try to manufacture the false appearance of one. And when they didn’t get it, they did what they always do: they lied.

...

If we let them get away with Saturday’s stunt — using the imagery of the Civil Rights era and hurtful lies to cast aspersions upon the tea party whole — then they really will have won the day.

It’s time for the allegedly pristine character of Rep. John Lewis to put up or shut up. Therefore, I am offering $10,000 of my own money to provide hard evidence that the N- word was hurled at him not 15 times, as his colleague reported, but just once. Surely one of those two cameras wielded by members of his entourage will prove his point.

And surely if those cameras did not capture such abhorrence, then someone from the mainstream media — those who printed and broadcast his assertions without any reasonable questioning or investigation — must themselves surely have it on camera. Of course we already know they don’t. If they did, you’d have seen it by now.

THOUSANDS OF TIMES.

How badly does the mainstream media need America to be racist? And if they have to pull stunts like this to create racism, what does that say about actual racism?