The Futurism Is Not Bright

When I was a kid, I stumbled upon a book called Future Shock, by someone named Alvin Toffler. I remember the book for a few reasons. One is it was based on the idea that the pace of change was accelerating and that humans were ill-equipped to handle the onrush of the future. The other memorable part of the book was the claim that society was moving from an industrial age to a super-industrial age. The book was written in 1970 and I read it in the early 80’s, when it was obvious there would be no super-industrial age.

The book is close to 500 pages and it could have been boiled down to 50 pages. In fact, it could probably be condensed into a blog post. The main point of the book was that societal change was accelerating. That point was made just about every way possible and then filled out with predictions that turned out to be all wrong. That was something else I learned from the book. Futurists are extremely long winded. That said, he sold millions of copies and became something of a rock star, so he knew what he was doing.

In fairness to Toffler, by 1980 he had figured out that his super-industrial society idea was a flop, so he came out with an updated vision of the future called The Third Wave. This book predicted that the developed countries would move from industrial to technological societies. He coined the term Information Age. In fairness, he was not wrong about most everything like he was in the previous book. For example, he predicted the end of the nation state and the growth of the global entity that transcended the nation state.

That said, he was still wrong about most stuff. For example, he predicted that technology would result in greater democracy with populations exerting greater control of society and instituting more local control. Pretty much the exact opposite has been the result of the technological revolution. I think we can also say that the idea of a managerial class rising out of the technological revolution was something that many conservatives were onto long before Alvin Toffler predicted it. Burnham wrote The Managerial Revolution in 1941.

Anyway, that all came to mind when I saw this posted on Breitbart. George Gilder is a futurist, an economist and an advocate of intelligent design. He is co-founder of the Discovery Institute. It’s probably accurate to describe him as a techno-utopian, one of those guys who sits around thinking about the singularity. He has a book out predicting the end of Google and the rise of a block chain technology as the salvation of humanity from technocracy. The Breitbart piece is an effort to sell books to conservatives.

Gilder is also a rabid philo-Semite. He wrote a book called The Israel Test, in which he credits everything good in the world to Israel. That won him endless praise from neocons and Buckley Conservatives. He has argued that antisemitism is the hatred of capitalism and excellence. The only reason to mention this is that like all futurists, Gilder is a bit of grifter. The futurism game is not any different from reading tarot cards or doing astrological charts. The idea is to tell the mark what they want to hear. Flattery always sells.

That’s futurism’s main attraction. It allows the futurist, as well as his audience, to avoid dealing with present reality or learning much about past reality. They cherry pick from the past to create a narrative that results in the future of their making. When times are bad, the futurist peddles a future that is devoid of the bad things of today. When times are good, well, all the great stuff of today is going to be awesome in the future. There’s never been a futurist that predicts doom. Those guys are called prophets and we remember them.

In the 1970’s when American manufacturing was in trouble, Alvin Toffler wrote about a future of super-industry, where everyone had a super job. In the 80’s when things were looking up, the future was going to be even more super. The futurist is primarily concerned with future earnings and no one is buying a book or paying for a speech about how crappy things are going to be in the future. That’s why Gilder is out with a book claiming techno-feudalism is going to be replaced by a new utopian algorithm that makes everything super.

Now, what about his central claim about Google? That it’s model for skimming off the economy is doomed to failure? The fact that he seems to not have the slightest idea how Google makes money or how it is arranged as a business is not encouraging. Comparing Google’s business model to Marxism is just marketing. It is boob bait for the bubbas that read people like Michelle Malkin. The book is probably littered with the usual abracadabra words and phrases that titillate the audience of Conservative Inc.

The fact is, Google’s business model was a complete accident. Like most tech companies, it was supposed to be a pump and dump. Page and Brin wanted to sell their search engine once it gained popularity. When they could not find a buyer, they figured out how to turn it into a roadside bandit, charging tolls via ad dollars. They correctly saw that the search engine was a bottleneck and the bottleneck is always the best place to skim from the users. Google simply taxes people on their way from one service to another.

Can this model last forever? Nothing lasts forever, but as a state protected monopolist, they will exist until the state decides otherwise. Given that Google has more than enough money to buy every elected official in Washington, no one in politics is in a hurry to break up Google. Throw in the fact that like the state security agencies, Google can spy on all of the elected officials and their aides, Google and the rest of the oligarchs will remain in power until the revolution. But, that’s not a promising future, so futurists ignore it.

The New Bull Connor

For a long time, Bull Connor was the symbol of southern racism, because he famously used fire hoses and dogs on civil rights agitators in Birmingham Alabama. Like most white people in the 60’s, he opposed the idea of racial integration, but it was his way of doing it that got him labeled as the ultimate racist. It was one thing to believe that integration was a terrible idea. It was another to take pleasure in a hatred of blacks for no other reason than their race. Hatred, even of that which should be hated, always has an ugliness to it.

Today, the ugly face of racial hatred is directed at whites and worn by social justice warriors, claiming to be fighting white supremacy. In reality they are just anti-white bigots who compete with one another over how much they hate white people. One difference between the anti-white bigots of today and guys like Bull Connor is he was happy to live his life in obscurity. He never set out to be a famous racist. Today’s social justice warriors see racial hatred as a path to fame and glory. It’s the easy way into the high culture.

An example of this is Brandeis associate professor Dorothy Kim. She is someone passing herself off as a medievalist. In reality, she is a white-hating bigot and a social justice warrior, who lives to harass white people. Her current crusade is an attack on Rachel Fulton Brown, a tenured professor at the University of Chicago. Kim’s reason for attacking Dr. Brown is that she is a conservative white women, who does real scholarship, rather than agitate for nutty causes. Kim thinks she can get ahead by hating the white woman.

Rachel Fulton Brown is a serious scholar who has written award winning books on arcane medieval topics. She has written this book and this book. Even if you are a fan of medieval European history, these are esoteric subjects, but that’s how the stock of knowledge is developed and expanded. Dorothy Kim is a ridiculous person who writes nonsense like this. The only people talking about white supremacy are liars and lunatics. It does not matter which applies here, either should be disqualifying for an academic in civil society.

Dorothy Kim is not just focusing her attention on Rachel Brown. Kim is an all purpose white-hater who whores herself out to the daffy girls of Progressive media, hired to popularize academic racism. Not content with attacking white people in real-time, the social justice warriors are now determined to rewrite history to make Henry VIII into soul brother number one. In that Daily Beast post, Mx. Kim goes out of her way to fall for the Cheddar Man hoax, suggesting she is dumber than her sparse work product suggests.

That’s just the thing about the people like Mx. Kim. They are not just content to publicly attack white people for being white. There’s a suicidal nihilism to the modern racist. Their project is as much about decreasing the stock of human knowledge as it is chasing white people from the white societies that welcomed them. What’s offensive about Mx. Kim is not that she does not know things, it’s that she knows wrong things and demands that the rest of us, as a matter of social justice, accept falsehoods as fact, fiction as truth.

That’s another thing you see with the social justice warriors. They seek to replace accomplishment with moral fanaticism. Rachel Brown has reached her status by a long career of being good at her specialty. Mx. Kim is just not bright enough or willing to do the work, so she is attacking white people, in order to establish her bona fides as a culture warrior. Everything about Mx. Kim’s career to this point is a claim that she is a victim, by virtue of her DNA, and therefore must get free stuff from white people or else racism.

That’s why these people are so vicious. Being a virtue signalling loon is a highly competitive racket. There’s always someone out there preparing a nuttier claim than the most nutty claim of the moment. Because the ideology of the social justice warrior is completely empty, a pure negative ideology, the result is a version of the mob screaming “Goldstein” in 1984. It’s not enough to hate white people. What matters is that you are seen hating whitey and doing so with an enthusiasm that is without rival.

That is the ugliness that Mx. Kim shares with classic racists like Bull Connor from half a century ago. It was not that he opposed integration that made him ugly. It was that he was willing to abandon decency and order in his opposition to it. The willingness to sacrifice everything for a principle is fanaticism and it is just as much an enemy of civil society as the barbarian. That’s what you see with people like Mx. Kim. She is a fanatic, ready to burn it all down in the name of social justice. There’s nothing uglier than a fanatic.

Addendum: A commenter asked how people like Mx. Kim get into the academy. The reason the social justice warrior has success is that Progressives are always fighting themselves. By that, I mean they are are always at war with that which they fear about themselves or that which they are currently doing. The Left’s rage against Russian meddling corresponds with their own collaboration with Russian oligarchs in an effort to rig recent elections. Google the phrase “Opposite Rule Of Liberalism.”

In the case of the academy, the people hooting about racism and white supremacy are relying on the innate racism of the modern academy. “Oh look! We have an Asian applicant in medieval European studies!” The white liberals in the field are so desperate for multicultural status points, they fall all over themselves to find and embrace non-whites, purely on racial grounds. They embrace anti-racism, because they hate their own racism and the result is more of the self-loathing that drives the Progressive.

Multiculturalism has created a vast market for dull-witted grifters like Mx. Kim. She gets the attention that women naturally crave, but she gets to make a career out of it, thus making herself both a hero of feminism and multiculturalism. Her choice was working in a cubicle somewhere as a clerk or going into the promising world of social justice. it’s not hard to see why she chose to be a SJW. It’s also easy to see why she is so bitter and nasty. At some level, she knows she is a fraud and she hates herself even more.

Democracy

When I did the podcast on libertarianism, I re-read Democracy: The God That Failed, as a refresher on the more responsible brand of libertarian thought. I wanted to be fair and I wanted to address their best arguments. It had been a while since I read the book and I was reminded of some things I really liked about Hoppe’s treatment of democracy. I reject his materialism, of course, but some of his language is useful in discussing democracy in the modern age. As is always the case, there are useful things in every book.

Democracy has become an almost esoteric concept since Hoppe wrote his book. That’s one of the things he missed in his treatment. It is something the paleocons picked up on in their analysis of the managerial state. Government needs legitimacy and that can only come though a foundation in or an attachment to the transcendent. Democracy in the modern age has matured into a religion of the state, but a religion with a mystical sense of the supernatural, one that goes unspoken, but is always hovering on the periphery.

Anyway, I have not written much about the topic, so it seemed like a good subject for a podcast. It also dovetails in with some other stuff I plan to write about in the coming months. It’s also a good way to introduce the walking dead on the other side of the great divide, who need help coming over the river to our side, to some of out critiques of the modern age. As with the show on libertarianism, this one could have easily been three hours, so I had to take many shortcuts and a fair amount of artistic license.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below. I’m now on Spotify, so the millennials can tune in when not sobbing over white privilege and toxic masculinity.

This Week’s Show

Contents

  • 00:00: Opening
  • 02:00: Why Democracy
  • 12:00: Expansionism
  • 22:00: The People’s Money
  • 32:00: The Fate of Religion
  • 42:00: Conservatism In Democracy
  • 52:00: The Managerial State
  • 57:00: Closing

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Feudalism.Net

There are certain words and phrases that have no fixed definition, so the use of them usually says more about the person using them, than the object they are being used to describe. Like “fascism” in modern times, the term “feudalism” was mostly a term of disparagement in the 18th and 19th century. According to scholars of the subject, the word “feudal” was first used in the 17th century, as in feudal order. It later came into more common usage in Marxist political propaganda in the 18th and 19th century.

Just because feudalism was largely used as a meaningless epithet, it does not mean it did not exist. Scholars generally agree that feudalism was “a set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals and fiefs.” The lord owned the land, the vassal was granted use of it by the lord. The land was the fief. In exchange for legal and physical protection, the lord expected service, usually military service, but also food rents and labor from the peasants.

Marxists later pointed out that the codes and customs that we associate with this period relied on the lord owning the one thing of value, the land. The person at the top of the feudal order had a monopoly on the one store of value and that gave him a monopoly on the law. The old saying about the golden rule is true. The man with the gold makes the rules. This is why as coinage made a comeback in the medieval period, kings took control of the mints. It was both a source a wealth, seigniorage, and a source of power.

A useful example of this is the decision by Henry VIII to dissolve the monasteries of the Catholic Church. By seizing church lands, which constituted about a quarter of the national wealth, and redistributing them to favored aristocrats, Henry fundamentally altered English society. He weakened the power of the old nobles, by filling their ranks with new members loyal to Henry. He also eliminated an alternative source of economic power in English society. Henry was supreme power because he controlled the land.

Feudalism only works when a small elite controls the source of wealth. Then they can control the exploitation of it. In Europe, as Christianity spread, the Church required lands, becoming one of the most powerful forces in society. The warrior elite was exclusively Catholic, thus they had a loyalty to the Pope, as God’s representative on earth. Therefore, the system of controlling wealth not only had a direct financial benefit to the people at the top, it had the blessing of God’s representative, who sat atop the whole system.

That’s something to keep in mind as we see technology evolve into a feudal system, where a small elite controls the resources and grants permission to users. The software oligopolies are now shifting all of their licencing to a subscription model. It’s not just the mobile platforms. Developers of enterprise software for business are adopting the same model. The users have no ownership rights. Instead they are renters, subject to terms and conditions imposed by the developer or platform holder. The users is literally a tenant.

The main reason developers are shifting to this model is that they cannot charge high fees for their software, due to the mass of software on the market. Competition has drive down prices. Further, customers are not inclined to pay high maintenance fees, when they can buy new systems at competitive rates. The solution is stop selling the stuff and start renting it. This fits the oligopoly scheme as it ultimately puts them in control of the developers. Apple and Google are now running protection rackets for developers.

It also means the end of any useful development. Take a look at the situation Stefan Molyneux faces. A band of religious fanatics has declared him a heretic and wants him burned. The Great Church of Technology is now in the process of having him expelled from the internet. As he wrote in a post, he invests 12 years building his business on-line, only to find out he owns none of it. He was always just a tenant farmer, who foolishly invested millions in YouTube. Like a peasant, he is now about to be evicted.

How long before someone like this monster discovers that Google and Apple will no longer allow him to use any apps on his phone? Or maybe he is denied access to his accounting system? How long before his insurer cuts off his business insurance, claiming the threat from homosexual terrorists poses too high of a risk? Federal law prevents the electric company from shutting off his power due to politics, but Federal law used to prevent secret courts and secret warrants. Things change as the people in charge change.

The power of the church in medieval Europe was not just spiritual. They owned vast amounts of land and could marshal tremendous resources in support of or in defiance of the secular rulers. In fact, the reason the Church acquired lands was for exactly that reason. What drives the tech overlords of today is exactly the same thing. Their desire to impose their moral order on the rest of us is driving them to monopolize the source of power in the information age. They are imposing a new form of feudalism on us.

The difference today is that this new religion is ill-defined and lacking in the outward symbols to distinguish it from the rest of society. The rules of the new religion are always changing, making it impossible to predict. No one in the 12th century was unclear about who set the moral order. The local bishop may have been nuts, but he was predictably nuts. The new religion is formless, with moral codes springing from the mob, as the mood of the mob changes. It’s an anarcho-tyranny, because it is an anarcho-religion.

The solution to this will not be the same as last time. There is no secular authority willing to challenge the power of the new theogarchs. Mark Zuckerberg went to Congress and lied his face off, knowing they were afraid to lay a hand on him. By the 2020 election, social media will have banned Trump and all Trump supporters. The solution, in time, is the people in these oligopolies will have to fear the peasantry in real space. The same civil authorities that are too weak to oppose the theogarchs will be too weak to protect them.

Public-Private Tyranny

In the 1980’s, the term public-private partnership started to gain currency, as reformers tried to remedy the twin problems of spiraling public debt and dwindling public investment in infrastructure. Governments were too strapped to do things like build roads and schools, so they would alter the tax and regulatory system to encourage private enterprise to provide the necessary financing and expertise. A simple example is a city condemning a slum and then giving it over to a private developer, who would build new housing.

There is a formal definition of the concept. “A public-private partnership involves a private entity financing, constructing, or managing a project in return for a stream of payments directly from government or indirectly from users over the life of the project or some other specified period of time.” The laying down of cable and then fiber to provide broadband access is a great example of such an arrangement. The cable company or TelCo was granted a monopoly and they built out the infrastructure and charged subscriptions.

In theory, it sounds like a winning formula. Government has no incentive to be efficient, as government has no competition. Inevitably, this means government projects become slush funds for the connected and dumping grounds for the otherwise unemployable. The contractors bidding on government work or providing a service on behalf of government have an incentive to keep costs low. Given that future contracts will depend on performance of current contracts, they have an incentive to hit the performance goals.

It’s not without its obvious problems. Efforts to reform public education through public-private partnerships are the obvious example. The primary reason schools fail is they have poor students. The second most common reason is they have poor teachers. No amount of private provision can address the former and public sector unions will never permit reforming the latter. It’s why people move to good neighborhoods and send their kids to private schools. It’s a private solution to a private problem.

Of course, public-private partnerships are an effort to address a symptom of a problem, but not the source of the problem. Democratic government has no incentive to increase the capital of society, because office holders are just hired hands. For office holders, government is like a rental car. The renter does not wash the rental car and get the oil changed before returning it. Similarly, the office holder would have no reason to improve his office or the part of government he controls, before handing it over to the next guy.

The key to personal success in public life is quickly turning public goods into money and benefits that can be used to buy votes. It’s why state and municipal politicians are fond of increasing public sector benefits. They get the votes and support for their campaigns, while some unknown person downstream get the cost. In a democracy, government becomes a liquor warehouse during an urban riot. Everyone, even the naturally honest, has an incentive to rush in and carry off as much as they can as quickly as they can.

This is fairly obvious, but there are other problems. For example, getting and keeping office is difficult. Humans in all endeavors seek to prevent competition either through cooperation or domination. Constitutions and courts are intended to keep the competition for public offices open and reasonably fair. To the office holder, this is naturally viewed as a defect that needs to be remedied. That’s where the public-private partnership comes into the mix. Private firms can do things office holders are prevented from doing.

This is what we see with the efforts by the Democrats to rig the last presidential election and then set Trump up for removal. Team Obama could not simply have the FBI arrest him and Team Clinton could not provide electronic surveillance. They formed a public-private partnership, along with Glenn Simpson to get around both problems. The private entities would manufacture evidence that the public entity would use to get warrants, which would result in information they would give to Clinton and later the FISA court.

One of the worst kept secrets in Washington right now is that elements inside the Obama administration conspired with the Clinton campaign to rig the last election. It’s becoming increasingly clear they also conspired with foreign agents.The Mueller probe is just an elaborate ruse to shield this truth from the public, in an effort to preserve the reputation of the institutions and keep people out of prison. It is the thing everyone knows, because it is manifestly obvious. What no one knows is what to do about it.

Then we have the ongoing efforts to shut down political dissent. The law prohibits politicians from having critics arrested or from shuttering their publications. The law does not prevent private platforms from controlling content, thus we get the match made in heaven, from the perspective of the internet giants and the ruling class. The private firms get their monopolies protected by the state, while the office holders get their critics silenced by the internet giants. Outsourcing the public space gets around the law.

It’s not just the first amendment. Gun grabbers have failed for years to rally public support for gun grabbing. In fact, their efforts to push through gun bans and confiscation have resulted in booming gun sales and support for gun liberalization. To address this defect in government, public officials are now reaching out their their partners in the private sector to bankrupt the gun industry and the NRA. It will not be long before owning a firearm could result in you losing your insurance or being denied a bank account.

The defect of public ownership of government, what we call democracy, is that there are no incentives for office holders to invest in society. They are short term office holders, looking to get what they can while they can. This is the advantage of the monarchical system, where the aristocratic class has an incentive to build up the value of the society over which it rules. The down side is the risk of tyranny or gross ineptitude. This king may be just and wise, but his son could be an idiot or a fanatical lunatic.

The funny thing that is happening to our constitutional order is that the political class seems to understand the defects inherent in the system, but is choosing to make it worse by enlisting private interests to magnify the defects. They are accelerationists. America is just one giant bust out, where global companies, with the help of our government, are systematically looting the country, while undermining the legitimacy of our system of governance. The public-private partnership has quickly become a public-private tyranny.

Old Men Who Fear Change

One of the first things I learned about conservatism, way back in the before times, was that William F. Buckley made conservatism respectable. In the 1980’s, Buckley became a rock star, riding the wave of enthusiasm for Ronald Reagan. Like a lot of young men in that age, I was caught up in it. Being a conservative was suddenly cool and everyone credited Buckley for making it possible. It was hard to argue with the claim. Bill Buckley was a charming, intelligent and sophisticated guy. Who would not want to be like Bill?

The part that no one seemed to notice back then, at least not the people involved in the conservative movement, was that the whole point of the thing was to make the people in it respectable, as judged by their alleged opponents. Pretty much the only thing they really cared about was being seen as respectable. It’s why guys like George Will were not fans of Ronald Reagan initially. They worried that his earthy sense of humor and popularity with normal people would not go over well with their friends on the Left.

A big part of being respectable, at least in modern politics, is drawing the line between yourself and those who are not respectable. In the 80’s, when conservatism was booming, no one thought much about all the people that had been read out of the conservative movement in order for guys like Bill Buckley to be respectable. That was the thing though, by the 80’s, conservatism was nothing but drawing lines between the respectable and the unacceptable, in order to be in good standing with the Left.

That all came to mind when I read this post by the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty. It is the typical flip-flopping equivocation that is a Jonah Goldberg column. If there are two sides to an issue, he will find a way take four sides, all in the same post. Reading one of his columns is like watching a fish flop around on the deck. The basic point of the column is that he fears conservatives have not been vigilant enough in policing that line between themselves and the people the Left finds offensive. Thus the Alex Jones fiasco.

His follow up column is a call to war for his fellow conservatives. Well, it’s more like a long love letter to Bill Kristol and the other paranoids of the neoconservative cult. He provides a long bit of mythology about Buckley and his fights with the anti-Semites. The reader is obviously supposed to make the connection between those long dead bogeymen from the 1950’s and the bogeymen currently haunting conservatism. In Goldberg’s telling, his generation of conservatives are facing the same challenge as Buckley did 70 years ago.

The amusing part is how Goldberg keeps trying to connect himself to guys like James Burnham and Whittaker Chambers. Maybe being the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty is going to his head. In reality, it is just another example of the intellectual hollowness of Buckley Conservatism. Chambers was a man of great courage and integrity. Burnham was a brilliant thinker whose ideas are still relevant today. Jonah Goldberg is a feckless airhead. He would have been laughed out of the room by conservatives of their day.

That aside, there’s a weird cargo cult vibe to all this. The so-called conservatives don’t even bother to think about the arguments coming from the right. They don’t even pretend to know about them. There was not a single mention of the alt-right in National Review until Hillary Clinton mentioned them. Instead, they carry on as if it is 1955 and they are fighting a heroic battle against the John Birch Society. Goldberg’s post has the feel of a man hoping he can make it all go away just by performing all the old rituals.

It really is weird reading this stuff, given where we are now. These guys could be excused for living in the past when the GOP was right there with them. Five years ago, they had no reason to listen to their critics. Times were good and the living was easy. Now, after their audience has abandoned them and Trump is in the White House, their stubborn adherence to a defunct set of arguments is weird. The National Review crowd should be writing their columns while wearing leisure suits and listening to disco.

The thing is, there are two types of conservatives. There are those who seek only to maintain the status quo, regardless the current laws, morals and behavior norms. Then there are the those who believe there is transcendent moral order that corresponds to the natural order. The Buckleyites were always of the first type. The reason they opposed the Left was they feared losing their place at the table. It’s the same reason they oppose the emerging national populists. They’re old men who fear change.

Peisistratos

In the late 7th and early 6th century BC, ancient Athens fell into crisis. As is often the case with the classical period, historians disagree about the particular causes. One issue upon which everyone agrees is that economics played a part. The wealthy families had become an oligarchy, owning the majority of the land. Debt-bondage was common in the classical period. The collateral for loans in that age was the person. This meant that if the Athenian tenant farmers did not pay their rents, they and their children could be seized as slaves.

The way it worked is the farmer would borrow to finance the operations of the farm. If the farm did not produce enough to pay the debt , he would fall into debt bondage. In theory, he literally worked off his debt, so it was a temporary status. There was a special status in the law for someone in bondage for a debt, versus the normal type of slave. The reality at this time was that debt bondage was becoming a permanent state for a large fraction of the population. The result was increasing social strife between the classes.

Rivalry between the leading families was also a problem. As is always the case when there is social unrest, some factions tried to take advantage of it and gain power for themselves at the expense of their rivals. An Athenian nobleman named Cylon, made an unsuccessful attempt to seize power in Athens in 632 BC. Many Greek city-states had seen opportunistic noblemen take power on behalf of sectional interests. Factions sought to gain control of the state, in order to gain an edge over rivals.

There were also regional rivalries that exacerbated the personal and economic turmoils of the age. The rural population had different interests than the urban population. Traders had different interests than farmers. Since most Athenians lived in rural settlements, and debt bondage was an increasing problem, Attika was increasingly resembling Sparta, where a small elite ruled over a large population of helots. This exacerbated the personal and economic rivalries convulsing Athens at the time.

Regardless of the causes, Athens was at a crisis point and fear of a tyrant rising up to impose order, led the Athenians to turn to the wisest man in Athens. That man was Solon, a statesman, lawmaker and poet. He was of noble birth, but he was sometimes described as a self-made man, suggesting his family was of modest means. In 595 BC Solon had led the Athenian forces against the Megarians, resulting in a heroic victory. Allegedly, it was the power of his poetry that inspired the Athenians to carry the day.

By the time the Athenians turned to Solon, he was rich, a famous poet and a famous military leader. Solon was awarded temporary autocratic powers by Athenian citizens on the grounds that he had the “wisdom” to sort out their differences for them in a peaceful and equitable manner. His task was to find a way to resolve the factional rivalries. The result was a series of economic, legal and moral reforms that are remembered to this day as the Reforms of Solon. Once instituted, Solon gave up his position and left Athens.

The Athenians agreed to abide by these reforms for a period of ten years, but within a few years the old problems and rivalries were back. In addition to the old problems, the defects in the reforms created new problems. Some officials refused to perform their duties as described, while other posts were left vacant. The reforms worked as long as Solon was around to to lend his name to them. Once Solon was gone, the result was worse than before the reforms. As a result, the people blamed Solon for the break down of order.

Eventually one of Solon’s relatives, Peisistratos, ended the factionalism by force, becoming tyrant and confirming what everyone feared would happen prior to Solon’s reforms. Solon was still alive and he mocked the Athenians for allowing Peisistratos to seize power, by standing outside his home, wearing his uniform. Despite being driven into exile twice, Peisistratos was eventually able to impose order on Athens and he ruled as tyrant until his death. His sons succeeded him and ruled until 510 BC.

Solon gets positive treatment from history for having tried to preserve Athenian democracy and for having some success at curbing the power of the aristocrats. On the other hand, Aristotle credited Peisistratos with laying the foundation for the eventual rise of Athens. He changed the economy to be based on trade and he reformed agriculture, away from grains to olives. He did this by offering loans to farmers so they could make the transition. He also built a water system capable of sustaining a large population.

The lesson here is that reform is rarely successful, unless it is imposed by force. The reason is the status quo will always be preferable to those in power. Any reform through mutual consent must involved trade-offs that do nothing to alter the fundamental power arrangements. That was the defect of Solon’s reforms. While they temporarily alleviated the results of the power arrangements in Athenian society, they never attempted to alter them. The result of Solon’s reforms was nothing more than a pause in the factionalism.

This is something to keep in mind in the current age. The problems we see are not caused by errors in voting or mistakes in public policy. There is an underlying systemic problem that cannot be voted away. At the end of the Industrial Revolution, similar problems existed, but the political class was strong enough to impose reforms on the industrial barons and alter the power relationships in American society. That was possible because politics was a power center, one with the monopoly on violence.

Today, the political class is composed entirely of hired men, speaking on behalf of the interests that back their political careers. In fact, most are just actors, hired because they fit the right profile and look good on television. They have no power. This is the problem Trump is confronting as he tries to push through reforms. It’s not that Congress opposes these reforms. It’s that their paymasters oppose the reforms. He’s dealing with flunkies and errand boys. We don’t need a Solon right now. We need a Peisistratos.

Modest Proposals

The great paleo-conservative thinker, Sam Francis, introduced the term “anarcho-tyranny” into the dissident vocabulary. He defined it as “we refuse to control real criminals (that’s the anarchy) so we control the innocent (that’s the tyranny).” For example, the streets are littered with speed cameras, red-light cameras and other surveillance equipment to tax motorists. On the other hand, if your car is stolen, the cops cannot be bothered to look for it and you have to hope the insurance company is generous.

Francis focused on crime, but we see this all over our society. Because it has crept up slowly on us, the chaos of our age just feels normal, but so does the shrinking freedom of the surveillance state. A way to see this is to think about the small, relatively easy to impose rules our government could do now, that would make life better. Yet, these modest proposals are never mentioned, much less debated. In fact, the very idea of the state imposing quality of life measures is so far outside of normal, they now seem bizarre.

For example, the scourge of mobile phones is obvious to everyone. We have people walking into traffic while texting. Every summer, we are treated to stories of people coming to harm as they try to take a selfie. Even if those are rare exceptions, driving has become a stressful adventure, because of drivers talking and texting. Spend time around the Imperial Capital and you come to hate the cell phone. This is an easily remedied problem that the government could address tomorrow, but they have no interests.

For example, the Feds could tell mobile phone makers that their devices must shut off when they detect movement. Cars with media centers have this feature, so drivers are not fiddling with the thing while driving. If mobile phones were so equipped, the number of drivers smashing into one another over texting would drop to zero on a few years. Idiots and teenagers would hate this, but so what? There’s never a need for a human to talk and text while driving. If you need to talk, pull over and have your conversation.

Now, the massive assault on privacy by tech companies could be also addressed quite simply. Your picture, your name, your financial information, all the stuff that defines you is yours. It should be treated like any other property. Google is not allowed to build a surveillance point on your front lawn. Why are they allowed to spy on you and sell your information to the highest bidder? A law that requires written permission to possess and distribute private information would put an end to the abuse of privacy.

In case you think this is impossible, keep in mind it used to exist. Credit bureaus used to need permission to release your credit history. One of the things you signed in the loan process was a form giving the lender the right to pull your credit report and call on your references. The same is true of employers. The application process included you giving them permission to call former employers. Simply restoring a basic of civil society – property rights – would put an end to most of the privacy abuse we see with technology.

To get a sense of just how far we have gone down the road to serfdom, ask a normie friend about such a proposal. Ask them if the government should require FaceBook to get your written permission to use your data. The right leaning normie will recoil in horror at the state doing anything. The left leaning normie will most likely give you a blank look, as they are unable to process the concept of privacy. The very idea of you owning you, owning your name, you image and your habits, is now alien to most Americans.

On the other hand, the idea of transparency among the ruling class has become an artifact of a bygone age. Around the Imperial Capital are thousands of not-for-profit operations that are financed by rich people. You can look up some basic information about them, but you can rarely find out who pays the bills. Take, for example, The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. This group harasses white people and is run by a white-hating woman named Kristen Clarke. Who pays for this? It is a mystery, but it does not have to be.

Politics is now a clash between these types of groups financed by shadowy characters that none of us see. Instead we see trained actors as spokesman for these front groups that essentially operate as money laundering operations. Because the billionaire class is unable to hire politicians directly, they funnel their bribes through non-profits. Cliff Asness gets to pay Jonah Goldberg to be his mouthpiece and he gets a tax break. He’s not just a member of the over-class, he’s a philanthropist!

Cliff Asness may be a civic minded patriot, but the only reason we can know his name is he chooses to let us know it. He could just as easily have made the gift anonymously or under some other name. Unless you are into dissident politics, you would never know that every utterance of Jonah Goldberg is paid for by some billionaire with interests that may or may not be your interests. Every nickle that comes into a not-for-profit should be public information, so we can actually know who is paying the paid actors.

The point is, there are probably a hundred small things that could be done today to significantly improve life in America, for the citizens of America. The increasing shrillness of public debate is closely linked to the lawlessness of modern life. There’s a reason the state is incapable of even small reform. It goes back to what Sam Francis observed with crime. The class-consciousness of the managerial class is the same phenomenon that we see with public bureaucracy. The result is a cycle of anarchy and tyranny.

August Grab Bag

I’ve been very busy with the day job this week, so putting together a thematic show was not in the cards. Those take a little more time and  thought. The last part is the important part, as I actually have to think about what I’m going to say, rather than just wing it. There’s also the the miscellaneous stuff I want to gas on about, that does not fit a general theme. I think once a month I’ll do a show that is just a grab bag of miscellaneous items that strike my fancy. That provides a little head room, as far as my schedule.

I’ve also been in a foul mood this week. The endless gaslighting by the media has its effects, even when you know it is happening. It’s harder for me to think when I’m full of rage, so a week to blow off a little steam is useful. Given that traffic is way up here of late, I suspect I’m not alone in feeling the rage. Something is happening. A post here got 300 comments the other day. That never happens. Audacious Epigone tells me his traffic is way up too. Maybe it’s those Russian trolls I keep hearing so much about.

This week I have the usual variety of items in the now standard format. Spreaker has the full show. I am up on Google Play now, so the Android commies can take me along when out disrespecting the country. I am on iTunes, which means the Apple Nazis can listen to me on their Hitler phones. The anarchists can catch me on iHeart Radio. YouTube also has the full podcast. Of course, there is a download link below. I’m now on Spotify, so the millennials can tune in when not sobbing over white privilege and toxic masculinity.

This Week’s Show

Contents

Direct Download

The iTunes Page

Spotify

Google Play Link

iHeart Radio

Full Show On Spreaker

Full Show On YouTube

The Russian Stain

During the Cold War, popular culture portrayed the Soviets in two ways, often at the same time. There was the ruthless ideologue, efficiently going about his business as an implacable enemy of freedom. The other type of Soviet character was the morally conflicted guy, whose honor compelled him to serve his country, but he also understood that communism was immoral. As far as villains go, both types of Soviet were given a lot of respect, mostly because liberals in Hollywood were sympathetic to Bolshevism.

Today, Hollywood never uses Russians as bad guys, but our political class sees them as the epicenter of evil in the modern world. Steve Sailer noted the other day that the pundit class has rewritten recent history to fit this narrative. The neocons are celebrating the tenth anniversary of something that never really happened, at least not in the way they currently tell it. In addition to the former neocon puppet Mikheil Saakashvili, we have Robert Kagan and here is Condoleezza Rice repeating the same whopper.

The funny thing about this myth-making is that it is unnecessary. The number of people in the political class who could locate South Ossetia is a very small number. Most normal Americans would be puzzled to learn that there is a country named after the peach state. As a public relations item, this ten year old non-event is useless. There’s also the fact that the actual events are easily accessible on-line. It looms large for the neocons, though, so they can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, they seem to be haunted by it.

The neocons have been mucking about in that part of the world for a long time. Some would say their interests go back to the pale of settlement days. That’s an amusing theory, but probably not very accurate. Still, there’s pretty good evidence that the American foreign policy establishment has been meddling in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The Boston Marathon bomber was probably recruited by US intelligence at some point. His uncle seems to know a lot of people in the CIA.

The thing that no one has yet to explain is why has the American ruling elite become fixated on Russia. Even if the reason for the neocon obsession is ancient hatreds, why is the America Left nuts about the Russians? It could simply be convenience, but there are better villains in the world for them to hate, at least in practical terms. China, for example, makes for a much better villain, given their economic and military status. Iran or Saudi Arabia work much better with the Left’s current deep dive into matriarchy.

Even if you want to believe that the Left has been infected by the ancient hatred that allegedly animates the neocons, the tenor of the Left’s hatred of the Russians is completely different. The neocons see Russia as a problem to be controlled so it does not revert back to its imperial habits. The Left now sees Russia as the manifestation of all that opposed the great Progressive project. Russia is not a problem to be managed. The very existence of Russia is seen as an affront to the neo-liberal world order.

This visceral hatred has some similarities to the Progressive loathing of the imperial governments of Europe prior to the Great War. Wilson and his people despised the old order, which is why they were so aggressively vengeful toward the Austrians and Germans after the war. American Progressives seem to have developed the same view of Russia and to a lesser degree the Visegrad counties. Their resistance to the neo-liberal order is viewed as an ideological challenge and that can never be tolerated.

The difference is that a century ago, Wilsonian democracy was ascendant, while the monarchical order was in decline. America and American leaders were the new kids on the world stage, pushing aside the old guard. Today, the neo-liberal order is in a defensive crouch, under assault from biological reality and populist revolts. Meanwhile, Russia and Eastern Europe are pretty much just normal countries. Perhaps part of the hatred for Russia is the need to find something to blame for the current troubles in the West.

Of course, it is a reminder of the absolute intolerance of secular religions. When people assign the natural order to divine forces, they can be indifferent to alternative forms of worship, as a part of the great mystery of life. When the natural order is a man made creation and  the moral code is created and maintained by man, any deviation must be viewed as a challenge to the creator’s legitimacy. The stubborn existence of European countries practicing the old ways is an insult to the neo-liberal creators.

There also may be the issue of reach. Russia is poor and relatively weak compared to the West, but it remains out of reach culturally and politically. It’s ability to thrive outside the new world order suggests the new world order cannot include the whole world. Central to the liberal impulse, going back to Wilson, has been the notion that it must conquer the globe. Russia is like a stain that they cannot get out of the fabric of global society. Putin is a new Tsar, the return of that same stubborn problem they cannot resolve.