Moldbug has a new post, where he says:
when Maistre says that every nation gets the government it deserves, I believe him
‘Deserving’ must be the most useless and obfuscating word in the dictionary. It’s bad philosophy, bad morals and bad manners in general. It’s cheap fatalism, escapism from debate, intellectual sloth.
What does it mean anyway? Asian languages don’t have the concept, and sometimes doing translation it’s very hard to explain. In the end it must be derived from Christian catechesis. In videogame terms, the idea that humans through they daily behaviour earn moral points (let’s call them MP), according to which especial events (which happen often during the game) end up being advantageous or disadvantageous. When the self-perceived total MPs and the effect of a random event don’t match, we call this not deserving the outcome.
That’s a very common view, but it’s patently wrong. For one there’s no such thing as moral points, and the outcome of especial events has little relation with one’s moral character. It’s funny, because most people think of most life events as kinda random, but at the same time they think there’s a direct casual link between one’s MP level and the goodies one gets from life.
But it doesn’t work like that, although there’s a certain plausibility over individuals having MPs. But even if it were true at the individual level, and people did deserve or not deserve things, it’s certainly nonsense to apply the same logic to big groups of people.
It also happens very often though, but as I said, it’s intellectual sloth. It’s refusing to research the causes of events, and attributing them instead to a societal MP level. It’s an old conservative tradition, watch how Moldbug is channelling De Maistre. There’s another version of the same argument, made by Burke or A.J. Nock, that virtuous people precede virtuous country. Meaning of course that the causal arrow leads all to the MP of “the people”, who themselves are uncaused, uncreated, and just plain nasty.
How stupid is that? If good government comes from virtuous people, where does that virtue come from? Spontaneous generation, huh? So the Romans deserved Attila, the French deserved Robespierre, the Americans deserve Obama. What does that even mean? It means that you are conservative, and as such, always the political loser. You are pissed, and want to know why you lost, why the culture you care about is dying. You have some ideas, but none is quite right, when you blame people they tend to get pissed, so you end up giving up and going abstract: it’s the people’s fault. Yeah, they got no virtue. Those fuckers.
As much as I hate the dismal science, there’s a profound truth behind it, one that comes from basic psychology: incentives matter. People’s behaviour isn’t free, it’s subject to many constraints, one of the biggest being societal pressure. Today that is done through media and government. Apply sufficient pressure and the people’s virtue can change a lot. Singapore was a nasty place full of opium smokers and communists. Today they are virtuous. They didn’t deserve Lee Kuan Yew, now they do. Americans used to shame homosexuals. Now they are cherished as the best of us.
Who deserves what? Any understanding of politics that doesn’t begin and end in who?whom? is idiocy. It’s enabling the forces of chaos.