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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Ought / is

T. Greer linked to this (long) article by Adam Elkus about the relation between academia and politics. Academia and politics are quite different institutions, made up by very different people with often antagonistic tempers. But they also have a lot in common, both claiming to have authority, and in most states they have tend to be integrated into the power structure. They make two of the three big pillars of the Cathedral.

Or so we tend to think of them, as a common tenet of neoreaction takes elite academics as perhaps the shadow power behind the Cathedral. Academics control the education system, and thus the brainwashing of common people. And they are also the “experts” that every media organ or politician cites when he wants to make a point. It would seem that academics are the ones setting the (evil) agenda of the Cathedral. Somebody on twitter recently asked if journal editors aren’t the most powerful people in the world, given that they decide what gets published in science journals, i.e. they get to decide what is officially true.

Yet when you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense. For one there are way too many academics, and being numerous is not a characteristic of a powerful class. Also modern academics are often compared with medieval priests, which also were in charge of setting official truth and brainwashing the masses. But hardly no one considers them the actual ruling class of the Middle Ages.

At least since the breakdown of the bicameral mind, the priestly class is not the ruling class in any society, even though it may have a fair degree of influence. This influence comes from their status as advisors to the actual rulers. And that’s what the article is about, academics resenting their lack of influence in the policy making process.

Academics, as I guess the medieval priests also did, regard themselves as having superior knowledge and expertise on things that matter. It’s only natural to conclude that they deserve to be put in charge of those things they have expertise on. Why should some snake oil salesman who happens to be friends with some rich guys have more power than someone who actually knows something about the matter at stake. A very logical conclusion to make, but of course it doesn’t work like that. Power is power and you don’t get power just by knowing about stuff. You get power by getting power.

Elkus writing is very disordered but he makes a very good point. Policy making is a saturated market, everybody wants to decide things, everybody wants to decide power. Academics though have no real leverage to make their voice heard. What they do have is technical knowledge to help the policy makers implement what they have already decided.

Policy is a condition or stipulation (e.g. Carthage must be destroyed, South Korea must remain independent) that must be satisfied by strategy. Strategy is a bridge between action and political payoff. Strategy, in turn, is implemented as tactical actions. (…)

 Because policy is “what must be” and strategy is “how we can make it so,” the dynamics that craft policy and strategy are different. While both creatures of politics, policy is at least in theory more related to the outcome of a messy political process. Why is it messy? A political process is essentially a struggle to decide what should be that plays out as a struggle between policy elites.(…)

[Strategy] questions are areas where social scientists and academics in general have historically provided great value. And in providing that value, academics have also stimulated advances in their own fields.  We owe a substantial amount of economic theory to the game theory and decision theory problems of World War II and the Cold War. Trying to find out how to best understand Japanese culture in WWII produced a landmark work of anthropology.  Thinking about specific communication, command, and control problems spurred landmark theoretical innovations in computer science. And we also owe Clausewitz’s On War to the “cognitive challenge of war” faced by the Scharnhorst school as it attempted to grapple with how to comprehend the shifts in warfare signaled by the “God of War” Napoleon Bonaparate.

This “what must be” and “how we can make it so” is a very useful framework, and it reminds me of the is/ought dichotomy by David Hume. Oughts are “what must be”, which Hume warns can’t be derived from an “is”, i.e. from actual facts. Which is a pretty shocking thing to say. If I can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”, it follows that I have to derive an “ought” from an “isn’t”. Which sounds very wrong.

The very reason that the is/ought dichotomy is so famous is just how wrong it sounds to normal ears. The more facts one knows i.e the more expertise one has, the more it wants to use them to make decisions with them, to set “oughts”. But unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that. David Hume was making a deep philosophical point, but perhaps he actually was talking about actual politics. The “oughts” are most often decided not by a careful appraisal of the facts, but through a “messy political process”. For all it matters, as a scientist you might as well assume that oughts fall down from the sky engraved in stone tablets, and all you can do is focuses on your “is”es, and try to find some which are of some practical use to implement the ought of the moment.

Another piece of evidence for Hume’s point is that cognitive science has proved that most logical activity in the brain is not carefully making rational conclusions from actual facts, i.e. deriving ought from is, but rather strenuously rationalizing whatever preadopted conclusion your brain already had. Which is often the case in most academics, which chose their field of study and approach before having much expertise on it, and seldom change positions after years of ostensibly advancing their knowledge.

The article concludes that politicians set the ought, and they are quite happy ignoring the is unless the German Army can be seen through the window. But when that happens, the politicians will be quite happy to use the academics’s facts, if he knows about them, which he often doesn’t. To solve that he proposes a matchmaking service, a policy-making dating site.

Not a bad idea, but that’s like saying to a incel beta that all he has to do to get a woman is go register a profile at a dating site. It works for some, but the true solution to his problem is to learn Game. Elkus actually understands the problem when he says that academics who want policy influence must become Kissinger.

For sociobiology applies to all aspects of human society. The same way Game explains the actual dynamics of sex, Neoreaction explains the actual dynamics of power. Of course there are more women than there are powerful, so a consistent theory takes more time. But we’re getting there.

Plutocrats

A long standing debate inside the reactosphere is the question about what is driving the push for mass immigration into developed countries. Why would anyone argue for bringing millions of, to use PC speak, low-skilled migrants from Third World countries? Yes they are cheap, but it’s well established than in the long run they cost more in externalities than whatever you could save with their cheap labor. Not to speak of criminality, dragging down of school performance and just general tackiness.

The most general, I’d say intuitive theory about why the establishment wants to bring all the poor of the world into rich countries is that they are cheap fucks who want cheap labor to exploit, and use as servants in order to feel classy and superior à la Downton Abbey. Let’s call that the Sailer theory, after Steve Sailer’s stellar takedown on Mark Zuckerberg’s pro-immigration lobby.

I am pretty comfortable following my instincts and blaming the plutocrats for trying to transform rich countries into Brazil in order to enjoy the feudal lord lifestyle. But everytime I’d do so, the whip of neoreaction Vladimir would come by and strongly argue against it. See an example:

The idea of “cheap labor” as a major motivator for the political activity of businessmen is, while not completely irrelevant in practice, still blown way out of proportion. Businesses in the modern managerial, semi-communized state have an infinite array of options for rent-seeking, and it’s naive to suppose that they’d expend the bulk of their influence on this one major ideological battle — rather than concentrating on much more petty and obscure, and yet far more easy and profitable venues for milking government cash, restricting competition, regulatory arbitrage, etc.

Think about it: as we speak, there are exorbitant sums of government cash being helicoptered to well-connected businesses under all kinds of pretenses, lavish profits made by (de jure or de facto) state-chartered monopolies, and whole classes of businesses given such brazen privilege for shearing the public that they can be seen as de facto tax farmers. Now, in this situation, imagine a businessman figuring out how to boost his profits by playing politics — and instead of grabbing as much as he can of this readily available stream of rent-seeking cash, he instead gets the brilliant idea to spend money and time fighting the most radical ideological battle imaginable and struggling to turn the entire society upside-down, all this in hope that his payroll costs might fall by a few percent at some distant point in the future!

There are indeed some special situations where it makes sense for particular groups of businessmen to lobby for cheap foreign labor, where the process is straightforward, quick, and directly related to their industry — e.g. the Silicon Valley lobbying for more temporary visa programmers, or farmers lobbying for more foreign fruit-pickers. But it’s completely naive to extrapolate this into some vast and general plutocratic open borders conspiracy, or to believe that this is a major part of the forces behind the current Cathedral consensus. Real big business players have far better ways to profit from politics, and spend the their time and money on those.

Japanese weasel

Still I remained unpersuaded. Perhaps it is base envy that predisposed towards having an irrational tendency to blame the plutocrats for things they are innocent about. But I don’t think so, I still have this gut feeling I’m right. And from time to time I find evidence in my favor. See this horrifying news bit from Reuters:

The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan urged the government in June to revise its immigration laws to let citizens and permanent residents with household incomes of 7 million yen ($68,200) or more to sponsor household help.

During the early days of “Abenomics,” U.S. businesses were optimistic they could convince Japan’s government to make a small change to the nation’s tight immigration rules to let more household helpers into the country.

What about that. The American plutocrat association in Japan urges the government to allow them to hire Third World nannies. They can’t be without nannies.

The tangle of issues involved in employing foreign workers as housekeepers or nannies helps to illustrate the labyrinthine task Japan would face if it were to try to tackle much broader immigration reform.

There are no clear statistics on the number of foreign household helpers in Japan as many are working informally and those working legally, do so under a broad visa category. But foreign workers themselves say their numbers are shrinking.

“It has gotten much harder since I first came in 1990 on a tourist visa to look for work,” said a 69-year-old housekeeper from the Philippines. She has a work visa – but on a passport bearing her dead sister’s name.

She said she was forced to leave Japan a few years ago because authorities learnt she was no longer employed by her previous visa sponsor. So she said she was forced to resort to using her late sister’s unblemished paperwork to get back into Japan.

Her employer, an American executive, had hoped to hire a Japanese housekeeper.

“I couldn’t find anyone who would commit to full-time work and was willing to perform multiple job duties, from childcare to cleaning to marketing,” she said.

What has the world come to when I can’t hire a 80 IQ Filipina to do my childcare and marketing for 8 dollars an hour? Wow, just wow. I mean, seriously? Am I supposed to do my own marketing now?

Foreign helpers tend to be willing to work for less and are more flexible, but only foreign diplomats and expatriates with an elite visa status can offer legal visa sponsorship and employment.

“The fact that I, as an American national and a foreigner, can sponsor a foreign domestic helper, yet my Japanese peers cannot, is just mind-boggling,” said Kathy Matsui, chief Japan strategist at Goldman Sachs.

She estimates that raising women’s participation in the labour force to 80 percent, matching men, could lift Japan’s gross domestic product by as much as 14 percent.

“The demand is clearly there, the supply exists, but given all of the strict immigration rules here, Japan is not the obvious destination for many of these domestic helpers,” Matsui said. “It’s as if the government is preventing these supply and demand curves from meeting.”

I do marketing for Sahib

 

Funny thing is Japan has special provision for foreign greedy fucks to get their goddamn nannies and shut up about it. But of course the plutocrats today are hiring native Japanese and trying to assimilate them to their own, like this English-language boarding school with token negros included. And obviously an essential part of successful acculturation into the Davos culture is having a full time 80 IQ nanny to do your childcare and marketing. So Japan must allow everyone with more than 70,000 dollars of annual income (around 6% of households) to hire one. Otherwise the Japanese economy will never have growth nor be vibrant and dynamic and enterpreneurial and holy and godly and honey spice and everything nice.

It seems to me that the new Davos elite is pushing for immigration just to enjoy the superior  lifestyle of a Sahib, hidden in their guarded compounds free to enjoy in conspicuous consumption. Then of course the junior elite who can’t afford filipina nannies to do their marketing have to do their own marketing, and claim status by being holier-than-thou. You know what goes next.

High Level Entitlement Trap

I wrote recently about the High Level Equilibrium Trap in which China had fallen to in the modern era. Point was that Chinese labor and infrastructure was just efficient enough so that developing new machinery was never worth the trouble. Not to say they didn’t invent machines, but they never caught on, in a similar fashion to Classical Europe which we know was full of cool gadgets which the Graeco-Romans just couldn’t be bothered to use. Accumulation of capital makes less sense when you’re banging Thracian slaves in your Tuscan villa since puberty.

A famous anecdote is that China had automatic spinning wheels for hemp already in the 14th century, but after the introduction of cotton it fell into disuse. The funny thing is that instead of trying to develop something similar for cotton fibers, they just went back to hand spinning and never bothered automatic a process that had been automated for centuries. They just didn’t bother. Or in modern parlance, the incentives just weren’t there. Also see this story about why firearms never went mainstream in China: their bows were good enough.

This piece of history is universally acknowledged as a bad thing, as machines are good, more productive, and the inability to develop machines is a bad thing, a very bad thing as the subsequent history of China shows. People have this idea of China as being both an awesome ancient civilization and a huge modern powerhouse, which it sort of is. But it is also the biggest agglomeration of idiotic tacky annoying peasants the world has ever seen. I can really see how these guys didn’t bother developing automated cotton spinning. S.A.M. Adshead had this story of how the brutal Mongol invasion utterly devastated the cosmopolitan and innovative Song civilization, and when the Ming came up from the ashes, a deep shift happened where population moved back to the countryside, were tied to the land, and commercial life was kept to a minimum, producing a new culture of provincial, isolated, hugely fertile farmers which kept to themselves.

Fuck this shit

All that has is changed though, and China has bought into the new worldwide urbanized technological civilization from the West. Nothing to do with the old High Level Equilibrium Trap. In fact it’s gone to the opposite side with astonishing speed. Just read this news yesterday. Translation is mine:

Big Cities Labor Shortage Goes Chronic: No workers even for 500 yuan a day.

Right now the proportion of female workers in the construction sector is growing, and the age structure of the workers is shifting upwards, with some workers pushing over 60 years old. In tradition labor exporting regions, the idea that “working odd jobs is disgraceful” is has appeared, making young people unwilling to work in construction.

The article goes on with small company owners repeating the age-old lament: “People used to work for peanuts, but now they refuse! What has the world come to! My BMW uses a lot of gasoline dontcha know?!” Apparently some companies have started offering up to 700 yuan a day (USD 115) during harvest season, else they can’t attract any peasants to work for them. The article goes on talking about the high prevalence of bosses refusing to pay wages in the *very* lightly regulated Chinese construction sector, and also the broader trend for young people to dislike blue collar get-hands-dirty jobs. Kids today all want to be businessman, be their own boss, and working a dirty job plus the risk of not getting paid is not worth the higher wages. “We came here to make some money and go back to the village, but in the end we became urbanites, or at least our kids did. But they refuse to work in this sector, because they don’t want to make money, they want recognition and respect.”

Or in other terms, they want status.

Gimme status

All of this would be great and grand if it wasn’t the case that youth unemployment is a big problem in China. As it is everywhere else. Which doesn’t make much sense a priori because developed countries have low fertility, ergo fewer young people, ergo less supply for what supposedly is more or less constant demand. Alas in the labor market it is not only about supply and demand. Confused economists come up with confused concepts that they themselves don’t understand too well, like “sticky wages”. Which is close but not quite it. A better name would be “sticky status”, or more accurately “sticky self-imagined status”, where young people refuse to work not because they are offered too little money, but because the jobs that exist don’t confer the status that they believe they are entitled to.

The history about the High Level Equilibrium Trap sounds quite foreign to our ears, we who live in an era where automation is the talk of the town, and everybody predicts the doom of human society after the billionaires automate every job out of existence, depriving the common people of an income, and what is worse, of status. While it’s easy to blame the greedy plutocrats, and I’m on the record for doing so, one also has the impression that that can’t be the whole story. What if it’s the other way around? The High Level Equilibrium Trap theory says that China didn’t develop industrial machinery because it had plenty of skilled and cheap labor, so it never had a need to. Which means that it is the supply of labor that drives the development of machinery. So if today, the incentives for development of machinery have sky rocketed to the extent that everybody is in a rush to build machines that do away with any human input at all, perhaps the reason is that human input just can’t be found, because people are refusing to work.

A common reaction to the recent articles on the Dire Problem as Moldbug named it, is that it doesn’t make much intuitive sense. There is no reason that the market can’t find jobs for people, there will always be stuff for people to do. And that’s quite correct. In China, where the willing-to-work-for-peanuts generation and the entitled generation coexist, you can find people who stick protective films on smartphones for a living. There’s always stuff to do if you are willing to do it and be annoying in pushing people to pay you for it. It doesn’t even need to be like Cheap Chalupas or WRM envision, a return to a Victorian era of plutocrats employing dozens of servants for every minute task. In a society that places value in labor, people would find stuff to do. But the zeitgeist today is that people don’t want to work. And I don’t say that as a patronizing complaint, I very much avoid labor as much as I can get away with. Given the incentives, all human behavior is rational by definition.

The smart conservative reaction against complaints about labor shortages is to ask for wage increases, as Steve Sailer often does. Ron Unz, who not by chance is patronizing (I hope generously) Steve Sailer in his new website, has taken the argument to the end and is putting his own money into arguing for a 15 dollar minimum wage. To which libertarians, with their characteristic cluelessness, say this:

Libertarians don’t get that the Sailerite argument for high wages is an ethnic one. If you’re forced to pay 15 dollars an hour, more whites will be willing to work for that money, so the incentive to hire Mexicans ceases to exist. The overt case for minimum wage is that greedy bosses should share more of their wealth with their employees. The covert reasoning is that higher wages means low productivity people should move out of the place. But libertarians actually think diversity is good for the economy.

But back to the point, what if the Sailerite argument is obsolete. Maybe it’s not about money anymore. The combination of low fertility, feminism and inequality make children enjoy a high standard of living, which gives them the illusion of high status, but a status that is never enough now that women have access to their own income and state patronage. And high inequality makes it worse by skewing the threshold for alphaness that women find acceptable, and feeding the all too common lottery-mind where everyone is obsessed with trying to make it Big and join the overclass, and making a normal, quiet living is no longer worth it.

Of course all this dysfunction feeds on itself, demotivated workers making companies more annoying, uninterested men making women more uppity, unambitious masses making rich people less generous, etc. A giant clusterfuck sized vicious cycle that drives the fertility rate lower still. But the tech companies haven’t gone anywhere, and what can they rely on if not robots? The Romans amused themselves to death. Maybe we are amusing ourselves into Skynet.

And robots will see it that we are kept amused.

Bitcoin and modern government

So Bitcoin has reached one thousand dollars, and suddenly everyone out there is freaking out. Early adopters rejoice, crazy bullshit marketers change their minds, smug bullshit marketers don’t, tenured bullshit marketers keep their options open. Everybody’s onto it.

It seems that the sudden spike owes a lot to the sudden increase of Chinese people buying into Bitcoin, with Bitcoin China having become the biggest exchange worldwide as of now. Why did this happen? Bitcoin certainly is a godsend for Chinese people who like to save money, but are victims of rampant inflation, and have nowhere to stash their savings beyond real estate, which has fueled a really insane housing bubble, with whole million-strong cities made of crappy apartments being built just to absorb the demand for storage of value. Bitcoin solves the problem and it is also easily transferable, which is also a godsend for China where capital controls make moving money abroad a real hassle.

One, which is prone to think of modern government as a rapacious Leviathan who uses its tremendous power to prey upon their citizens as matter of instinct, would think that the Chinese government must hate Bitcoin and everything it stands for. Hence it must crack down on it. Moldbug and Handle think the same way of USG. No way the erosion of state power which Bitcoin represents will be allowed to survive.

Yet the whole Chinese Bitcoin craze only started when months ago Bitcoin miners were shown on national TV news (which is broadcast forcibly in all channels, i.e. everyone has to watch it), making much fanfare of all the money they were making with Bitcoin. It didn’t stop there. Baidu, the Google of China, i.e. a company which could be construed as being part of the government, started accepting Bitcoin in October. And this week, China Mobile started accepting Bitcoins for some campaign. China Mobile is state owned.

Now this is of course doesn’t mean the government is going to start accepting tax payment in Bitcoin. But they are tolerating the thing, which they don’t really have to. The same could be said for governments worldwide. Why did Bernanke come up and more or less say that Bitcoin’s pretty cool? They know what it all means, they could have shut it down months ago, shut down MtGox and send the guy to Guantanamo. I’m sure that’s what FDR would have done. You don’t play with the money supply.

There’s some interesting speculation on why China would tolerate Bitcoin, and both domestic and international politics have interesting angles. But I wonder if it isn’t simpler than all this? That it’s not the result of Machiavellian calculations by the powers that be, but the mere result of the dysfunction of the modern world order.

One thing that bugs me, and I’m sure it bugs more of the less capitalism oriented, not necessarily traditional but let’s say more rustic side of neoreaction, is the modern cult of growth. Now that the financial sector has grown out of all proportions to become the center of the economy and politics of any country, the investor mentality has become pervasive. Now it’s all about growth, about return. I put cash in, and I want to make money out of it, and that’s all that matters. Nobody gives a shit anymore about the fundamentals of any company or country. Nobody gives a shit if a company makes money or not, or if a country is being run over by Africans in boats; all that matters is GROWTH. The left has tainted the word, but sustainability is not a concern for an investor who wants to cash out and buy a bigger house in the Hamptons. He wants Greece to Grow, even though it has no industry and 25% native unemployment; the population must be increased for investors to make money. He wants Japan to Grow, even though it has been losing working population for 20 years. Interest rates are on the floor for governments to pay for their debts, so financial return has come the holy grail that everybody seeks after.

Well if you’re obsessed with Growth, hell Bitcoin is growing like crazy. 10x a year! And if it gets popular a single coin might be work billions in some time. That’s some serious ass-kicking GROWTH for ya. The state must not like it, but lay finance men should be in love with this insane growth generator. What if our new ruling class of finance jocks are so stupidly short-termist that they are joining bitcoin to make money, even if it kills the finances of the governments that sustain them? Lenin said the capitalists would sell them the rope with which they hang them. It is not implausible that the financial state will buy his way into his own demise.

By the way might I remind my readers that my bitcoin address is on the right column. It is probably a bit selfish of me to ask for donations, but a crowdfunded NR think tank is an idea that has been floating around for some time. If gaylord Peter Thiel isn’t likely to fund us, maybe some new NR bitcoin millionaire would like the idea.