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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pork and hamsters

Steve Sailer has been posting on the NYC universal pre-K, which is the stereotypical stupid progressive policy, which everybody knows it doesn’t make any real sense. But progressives arguments are those of faith, faith who nobody (besides us) dares contradict, lest the demons of HBD appear and Hitler returns to Earth to execute the Gay Holocaust. Or something.

I could go on repeating all the arguments against spending public resources on trying to make stupid toddlers stop being stupid, but Sailer has done that very well already. Of course the question remains, are NYC public officials really that stupid? Or so devote to their progressive faith? Well perhaps they are but that can’t be the whole story. Religion is a powerful force in human society, but a skeptical attitude towards the real power of religion in peoples motives has always done me good. A commenter in Sailer’s post expresses my attitude very nicely:

Universal Pre-K is nothing but a pork project. They use it to create jobs and contracts to reward their friends. The politicians who argue that universal Pre-K will bring about racial equality do not care in the least if that claim is true.

The stuff about racial equality is equivalent to the low-pitched grunting noises that gorillas make when they don’t want other gorillas messing with their food.

“Don’t mess with my pork or I’ll call you a racist and bounce you out of your job,” is a good translation from politician-speak into English.

Pork is a very well known phenomenon in political analysis, but I feel neoreaction hasn’t been paying much attention to it. Which is a bad thing, as pork is of paramount importance in the critique of democracy. Besides the all too easy argument that democracy gives voice, or “nanoslices of power” to retarded people (which it doesn’t really do), perhaps the best argument against universal suffrage is that it increases the level of pork to an astronomical degree. Pork, i.e. the appropriation of public money to distribute to one’s political power base is a universal in any political arrangement. But in parliamentary politics you get an order of magnitude more people engaged in politics than in a monarchy. Electoral politics means each of those power holders has no title to its power so he needs a broad power base to put him there, a power base which of course requires pork for their services. And with universal suffrage the sheer size and level of organization of the power base increases exponentially, requiring ever bigger amounts of pork to satisfy them.

In fact one could make the argument that modern progressive politics are all basically a massive operation of pork distribution, and everything else is just rationalization marketing needed to justify the pork. See for example the War on Drugs. Peter Hitchens has recently wrote a book on the war on drugs which he says is a sham. Surely no real war on drugs is going on when acquiring and consuming drugs is easier than ever, and probably every single westerner has had some illegal drug at least once in his life. Where’s this war? He is of course correct, and I can’t but admire his oratorial skills and sheer patience he has in explaining his views in public. See this speech he did in Australia, and the retarded audience he has to deal with.

I have to give credit to a man who has the nerve and patience to answer with force to stupid arguments such as that. I’m sure many of you share my experience of just giving up arguing with these kind of people after feeling sheer despair towards humanity. Not to say that I agree with all of his argument. Surely there must be some biological cause for addiction as they vary greatly between nations, and East Asians have developed a gene to prevent them from digesting alcohol and getting drunk.

But of course Peter Hitchens, as his powerful oratory shows, isn’t arguing facts. He’s arguing faith, he is fighting the progressive faith in its own territory. A territory in which he lived for many years. Now leaving aside the fact of whether addiction is or isn’t surmountable through personal willpower, he’s of course right that Western states have made no real effort to stamp out drug use, so the “war on drugs” and the horrible evil it allegedly does by promoting criminal gangs (and putting millions of blacks in jail) is a baseless sham. East Asian countries have done much better at discouraging drug use without spending billions in DEAs and foreign military interventions. So no War on Drugs.

Yeah well, but why is that? Why does this half-assed “war on drugs” go on, and billions spent fighting it? Well because they are spending billions in it, billions which go to people which quite enjoy receiving those billions. And the present law enforcement arrangements towards drugs put the police in close contact with the most lucrative business on earth. And, surprise surprise, they get a cut on that business. I don’t know about the US but in my country when the police gets their hands into some drug stash in an anti-gang operation, it is widely known that they grab the stuff, sell it and keep the money for themselves. And juicy budgets for drug-fighting go to police forces all the time. There’s a very nice pork business built around the War on Drugs, the same way there’s a very nice pork business going on in Closing the education Gap, or in foreign aid, or in public healthcare. A guy’s gotta eat! Gotta keep the boys happy!

Authoritarian systems have many problems but pork isn’t one of them. The guys who gotta eat aren’t that many, and you don’t need an elaborate faith argument to set up a system for pork distribution. Say China. China makes their high speed rail system, spends untold trillions on it, trillions paid by public debt which will probably never pay themselves. 90% of the stations built 30km out of the main cities, many in the middle of rice paddies where proper roads haven’t even been built yet. How many billions were skimmed of it? I don’t know but the Railway Minister is in jail and the Ministry itself was abolished, which means even the Chinese government is embarrassed by it. But hey China now has a pretty cool high speed rail network which they sorely needed, works like a charm, and out of the hugest budget in human history they only had to pay off some local officials and the railway minister. I’ve seen estimates of 5%. The waste on pre-K education is 100%.

Japan’s history pre-WW2 is often told as one of creeping militarism, but nobody talks about why that happened. The Meiji revolution in 1868 set an aristocratic system led by the (duh) leaders of the revolution. Eventually in 1889 they acquiesced to a formal constitution and a British inspired parliamentary system, but they held the government. Until they died, and the suffrage was expanded, and political parties arose. With political parties came the inevitable emergence of pork, massive pork to pay off the MPs constituencies, in often wasteful infrastructure project which the still very poor Japan really couldn’t afford. It was watching this shameless distribution of pork that the young officer class in the Japanese military grew more radical in their authoritarianism, and started coup after coup to kill the parliamentary leaders and grab power to abolish electoral politics. That way the military would get all the public money. But that’s not pork. Oh well.

As I’ve tried to communicate through my posts on Chinese history, having a god-king doesn’t really matter inasmuch as he exerts his rule through associates who may be good or bad, few or many, respectful of their authority or secretly exerting power themselves. And the problem of comparing old and new political forms is that there are more differences caused by them being old and new. Arguably the size of the modern progressive states isn’t just only a contingent effect of the Roosevelt family, but is the result of historical processes that made it possible and necessary for the state to control more of the life of its subjects. No matter your political system, to fight WW1 you needed a huge army and a bureaucratic apparatus to raise and feed it.

Still to a big extent it is fair to say that political arrangements do depend on fairly contingent Schelling points. Say you needed a huge army and bureaucracy to fight WW1. If you have a democracy there’s no way in hell to dismantle that bureaucracy. It’ll stay there for there is no one with enough authority to dismantle it and send it home, and the bureaucrats will organize effectively to lobby for their survival. A King though can change the government as he wishes for he is the damn king. His word is law and he has no constituency to distribute pork too, except perhaps the Army if he’s a new king. Although Kings did have problems with ministers sending pork home, and the lack of competition in pork procurement means they had no limits on their pork shippings, which could get quite outrageous.

Recent scientific discoveries tell that most of human rationality is not used to make decisions, but rather to come up with arguments to rationalize decisions which the subconscious brain has already taken. It seems to me that political arguments aren’t also really used to make decisions, but rather to rationalize decisions which the subconscious body politic has already taken. Perhaps we should address those subconscious, systemic patterns of decision making, instead of all those hamsters rolling on the front, even though they have their bloodshot eyes locked at us demanding our attention. They can’t really hear us anyway.

Chinese Monarchy, 2

So we’ve seen that in the eternal conflict between the Chinese Emperor and his Bureaucracy, slowly the Emperor took power from the bureaucrats and into his own hands. As a result the Emperors ended up being extremely busy, having to handle all imperial business by themselves.

But the Chinese Emperors had quite extensive harems, and many of them sired dozens of children. All of which was necessary for the continuity of the dynasty of course. So what happened with all those Imperial Princes? Did the Monarch use his family to control the bureaucrats? Did he enlist their help to run the business of government? Let’s see Yuan Tengfei’s take on the issue:

[I translate 王 as prince, following common practice. For more details see Wikipedia.]

Princes are Miserable

In Ancient China, the Emperor is boss. So the princes must be second in command. In today’s soap operas, it’s sorta the same way. If an actor can’t get to play an emperor, well he can get to play a prince and enjoy it. All those Imperial Princes, very cool.

But being a Prince was actually quite miserable. First I must correct an idea that most people have. Who get to be prince? In my classes I always asked my students: who gets to receive the title of Prince? And they always say: “the Emperor’s relatives”. Wrong. His uncle-in law can? His sister’s son? No. They have to be from the inner family. That is, the same surname. Brother, uncle, son, brother’s son, paternal cousin, can be princes.

So after you get the title of Prince, you get an awesome life, right? There’s an old saying in China: those unfortunate born at the imperial family. That’s not being contrarian, that’s not faking it, not the words of a rich fuck who’s bored of eating seafood ad envies the simple food of the peasant. No, the author really meant it. Why?

Everybody knows, when the First Emperor of Qin unified China, he wondered: why did the realm of the Zhou kings fall into disorder? Because he gave fiefs to all those nobles. I won’t do that, I’ll set provinces and commanderies, and I’ll be the boss. I say the orders, and they’ll go top-down I control the Chancellor, the Chancellor controls the governor, the governor controls the province chief the province chief controls village heads, everything top-down, my imperial policies will be implemented directly. Awesome idea.

As a result, the First Emperor was too too good, but his son was no good, so the empire collapsed in 15 years. Then Liu Bang grabbed power. Liu Bang had no culture at all, born a country thug. Well he grabbed power and needed a conclusion: why did the Qing fall in 15 years? Liu Bang during the Qin Dynasty was a neighborhood patrol officer, running around with a small team walking around the streets. When the Emperor came out of the palace, he’ll be ordered to keep peace, making people shout welcome and all that. That’s what he was doing. So when he has to come up with the reason the Qin Empire fell, well he couldn’t make a very fine analysis. So he got the wrong conclusion. He thought that it was precisely because the Qin Emperor had not given fiefs to his male relatives, so when the time came and people wanted to overthrew him, his brothers didn’t have armies, so they couldn’t go rescue him.

That’s why Liu Bang gave big fiefs to all his family. He made princes of all his sons and nephews, to protect him. “You’re of my own blood, you can’t go against me!” Well no, they won’t go against you. But once you’re dead, well then it’s a different story. What when your son gets the throne? Just when the Emperor Wen got the throne, all these princes started to get upity. When the Emperor Jing got the throne, Liu Piu, prince of Wu rebelled. Liu Pi saw the Emperor and just didn’t like him. Why the fuck do you get to be Emperor, huh? I’m your elder uncle. And yes, Liu Pi surely was Liu Qi (Emperor Jing)’s uncle. I didn’t get to be Emperor, why the hell would you? If you can be Emperor, so can I. So he rebelled, joined by a bunch of brothers and uncles, the Seven State Rebellion, causing great havoc to the dynasty.

After the rebellion was over, the Emperor thought: everybody wants to sit on this chair I have my ass on. But who is the biggest threat? The Emperor thought. My uncles. My brothers. My nephews. Even my sons! Why  are they the biggest threat? Well as I said, because they are all Liu. My surname’s Yuan, if I took the throne, that would be usurpation. Yuan Shu wanted to grab the throne, then Cao Cao rose against him and he was fucked. But hey, if I’m Liu, family of the Emperor, if he gets the throne I can have it too. If we talk about the bloodline I’ve an even closer relative to the previous Emperor!

So from the Han Dynasty onwards, the biggest object of concern of the Emperors were all these uncles. The Emperor had to control all these paternal relatives. What to do? From the Han Dynasty onwards, they established a principle: titles without fiefs. The old Zhou Dynasty had this feudalism system, with princes and their fiefs. Starting with the Han Dynasty, the nobles had titles but no fiefs. I name you the Prince of Qi, but don’t get uppity now. You have no power over the land of Qi, at most you’re a big landlord over there, with some land and money. But you’ll have no say over the administration or the military in Qi.

Fast forward to the Ming and Qing dynasties, they got this new idea. Giving country names to Princes makes it easy for them to get vain. If I name a Prince of Qi then he gest this idea the land of Qi is his. What if he rebels? So starting in the late Ming era, all through the Qing, prince titles stopped using country or dynasty names. They started using fancy names. The Prince of Happiness, Prince of Reverence, Prince of Courtesy, etc. So princes now stopped using country names, lest they got the wrong idea.

So yeah you’re a Prince, but you have no real power. If you have a title of Prince, but no real job in the court, well you’re just some big landlord. And your life isn’t as nice and leisurely as that of a normal landlord. Why? Because this Emperor relative of yours is constantly watching you. In Beijing there’s several tombs of the Han era. They found them recently, and TV went on to broadcast the whole thing, but they had to stop at the middle. No way to show that on TV. Why? There was nothing inside it, not even the gravestone, all stolen. People suspect that in one of these tombs there’s the body of Liu Dan, Prince of Yan.

How did he die? The Annals of History say that during the celebrations of Spring, he showed the appearance of an Emperor. That’s all. The guy was in Beijing, far away from the Emperor in Xi’An. So he thought hey the mountains are high, the emperor is far away, I’ll just show off a bit, he’ll never know. Just that. Ok. The princedom Chancellor, who was there sent by the Emperor to watch on the Prince, sent a text to the Emperor,  “this Liu Dan kid is getting uppity, see this pic as proof”, and sent an MMS to the Emperor. Immediately a courier rode from Chang An with a small bottle of poison, commanding Liu Dan to kill himself. And he just had this moment of vanity, he hadn’t rebelled. So Liu Dan had to kill himself, but his son got to inherit his title. But had he rebelled? Oh that’s fucked. His whole family would be wiped out from the face of the earth.

During the Ming Dynasty, all Princes were forbidden from staying in Beijing. Once they got named Princes, they had to beat it, quick, can’t stay in Beijing. And once you reached your destination, it wasn’t that different from being in prison. Can’t move 20km from your palace. Wanna go hunting? OK, can’t move further than 20 km from the city. Bureaucrats will protect you. Well they say they will protect you, you know what they’re actually doing. Every day they come visit to drink tea with ya. Any new kids in the family? How are your household goods? Anything missing? Something new? A new blade perhaps? Got a spear hiding somewhere? Some gunpowder?

You’re an Imperial Prince, but your mother didn’t come with you. Your mother is an imperial concubine. So the Imperial concubine dies in Beijing, your mother died. You wanna go to Beijing and attend the funeral. No fucking way, don’t even think about it. Asking your Emperor brother or uncle is like asking to be killed. Unless, there’s one chance, the Emperor is your full brother. Same mother. Or if your relation with the Emperor is really good. Then he might allow you to go to the capital and pay your respects. But during the Ming Dynasty, the rule was that to pay your respects in Beijing you could only get up to Lugou Bridge (the outter limit of the city). It’s not like you can enter Beijing, get into the Forbidden City and attend the funeral. No way. Wanna get around the body? Nope. All you can do is go to Lugou bridge, cry looking at the capital, and get the fuck out. Yeah yeah your voice is big enough, your mother heard you, now out.

The Qing Dynasty was the exact opposite of the Ming. The Ming forced the princes out of the capital, the Qing Dynasty forced them to stay in Beijing. If you see today in Beijing there’s lots of prince palaces, and that’s because they couldn’t leave the city. The Qing Dynasty had much fewer princes than the Ming, so they kept them in the capital. Unless you had a job in the administration, a simple Prince in the Qing dynasty could not go out of the second ring road. Can’t get out, if you leave your cousin the Emperor will miss you so much. So stay in your small city please. So these people cried, those unfortunate born at the imperial family.

So no Aristocracy in China. The Imperial Princes of China are quite lucky compared to those of the Turkish House of Osman, who were subject to a ritual game of Battle Royale and killed each other until only one was left. Monarchy is a high-stakes game, and high-stakes games get nasty very fast. Especially when the institution of the Harem more or less guarantees Elite Overproduction of the worst sort.

European royalty didn’t suffer of same problem because enforced monogamy barely produced enough heirs to maintain the dynasty. Which produced a different, perhaps even worse result: international wars of succession, a distinctly European phenomenon.

In Chinese history, the aim of strengthening the power of the Emperor was focused mostly on dismantling the nobility, which was achieved by developing a permanent bureaucracy in its place.

Rationality

Claim: “Every Cause wants to become a Cult.” (Eliezer Yudkowksy)

Truth: “Upper class cults are but a cover for a swingers club” (Spandrell)

Proof:

DSC_5109-1934681119-O

Claim: The rationalist community is about Overcoming Bias.

Truth: “Everyone I know fears the truth in their private lives. We all want to live delusion that we are something more/better/greater/more powerful than we actually are and most people become extreamlly hostile when you’re blunt and honest with them” (Red)

Proof:

“Haha, how about those girls who say they prefer to be ‘one of the guys’ or that most of their friends are male, huh? Isn’t that always a huge warning sign?”

I see this so often, most recently on Reddit. “Never trust a girl who doesn’t have female friends” or “They don’t get along with other girls because they themselves are usually bitches”, just to choose two comments from the thread on this pressing issue.

Well, I’m the male version of this. Most of my friends are girls. This is none of your business. And if a girl does the same thing, that’s none of your business either.”

1. Girls can make friends with whoever the f@#k they want.
2. Go to hell.

For 2200 years, the proper attitude of a civilized man has been “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto“. The rationalists, as all other leftists, want you to close your eyes, cover your ears and ignore reality so you stop noticing they are running a swingers club.

 

Chinese Monarchy

The international Jewish conspiracy asks for more lectures from Yuan Tengfei, and more they shall have.

I started this series with the lecture on Chancellors, and followed with bureaucrats, because I thought it interesting to show how different the dynamics in China were from the West. China is *the* monarchy, they’ve had deified supreme emperors ruling over tens and hundreds of millions for millennia. Compared to that the monarchies of Europe are pretty much a sham. The Roman Emperors kept their pretenses of being Republican officers for centuries, until the Empire wasn’t even in Rome and didn’t even speak Latin. Later Medieval and Modern monarchs all had to constantly fight and appease their nobles, only to get their head axed, and those fortunate enough to win that battle would soon lose power to the bourgeoisie.

And that’s another funny one, municipal corporations with autonomy rights against the court.  The first Chinese to study European history must have scratched their head hard about that. Nothing of the sort ever existed in China. Nobles weren’t much of a problem even back in the First Empire, and when the Han Dynasty founder, Liu Bang did give noble rights to his brothers, it didn’t take much for his successors to kill them all and stop the experiment. And so the landholding nobility was never an important political force. The absolute power of the monarch was never in question.

Which doesn’t mean there weren’t any politics, despise Moldbug. The political tensions in Chinese history are mostly those inside the Court, that is, the soap opera-ish fights between the Imperial Family, the eunuchs, bureaucrats, generals, empresses, concubines, male relatives of the concubines, etc. There was enough debate, intrigue, backstabbing to make present parliamentary politics really boring in comparison.

But what were the emperors doing all this time? Let’s see Yuan’s lecture. This episode isn’t that good but I might as well do it first to get to the latter ones:

Today we’re gonna talk about: Being Emperor ain’t easy.

These days, many compatriots take their history knowledge from TV series. But these TV series aren’t always accurate. Now a lot of people enjoy these, especially those majestic scenes with the emperor reviewing his ministers. You can tell very easily if an actor has played an emperor or not. Those who have get this awesome feeling, everybody kowtowing at them. But was being an emperor so nice really?

Being an emperor ain’t easy. Since the First Emperor of Qin established that the emperor was the empire, well being the empire means that you 1 guy has to do everything. You think that’s an easy job? It’s extremely tiring. Without to mention those farther back, let’s just see the Qing emperors.

The Qing emperors had a very strict ritual for all they did. First, they woke up at 4 AM. So what if you don’t wake up? Hell I wanna sleep more, I’m feeling lazy today. What if I don’t wake up? You get an eunuch at your door yelling “The sun will soon rise, there is much to manage”. And you can’t just get out and punch the fucker. Yelling is his right given by your ancestors. He’ll go on yelling until you wake up.

So the Emperor wakes up, bathes, gets dressed, what then? Breakfast? Nope, who’s hungry at that time? So it’s reading time. The Emperor wakes up and studies. Kids today complain, Dad goes to work at 8, so he leaves me at school at 6 to study. Well the Emperors did that. The Emperors read first thing in the morning, and spent 2 hours. Reading what? What did the Qing emperors read about? The notes and stories of their ancestors.

Say, the Kangxi emperor. He has to read the stories of his ancestors, but he didn’t have that many. His father Shunzhi, died after 18 years of rule. He may have not spoken that much. But imagine the Yongzheng emperor. Then you’re screwed. His father ruled for 61 years. All he said every day, all the issues he dealt with. What about Qianlong? His father Yongzheng was a professional emperor. Yongzheng was the most hard working emperor in the history of China. The craziest emperor of them all. How crazy? Every year, he would only rest the day of his birthday. In 13 years of rule, he left 18,000,000 characters [divide per 3 and you get a rough equivalent in english words] of handwritten records. Do the math, more than a million characters per year.  More than me and I write best-selling books. And I’m a speaker, I speak and other write down and edit what I spoke. But the Yongzheng emperor was writing. 3-4k characters every day. A normal guy typing 4k characters on a PC gets tired. The Emperor wrote 3-4k with a brush!

You think the Emperor had time every day to think about this or that concubine? He didn’t have time for that. So when you look at the Qing palace and look at all those Travel Records of the Yongzheng emperor, pictures of him fishing, hunting, travelling, why did he had all those pictures made? He really envied that sort of life. He couldn’t do all that. So he got tired, got himself some Daoist potion of eternal life, and died of mercury oxide poisoning.

See? Being an Emperor ain’t easy. 4 AM wake up, then 7 AM there’s morning court session. Meet all military ministers, or any official he wants to talk to. At 9 AM he eats breakfast, 2 PM he has lunch, and that’s it, 2 meals a day. He might get some small bites at night. Every day of an emperor is full of stress, with little time for himself. The Emperor is seldom in his quarters, let alone going out and picking up the ladies. No way. The arrangements were very strict. Everything he did in a day was documented, every word he said was recorded by special bureaucrats.

And say the Emperor says something not very suitable and wants the recorded to omit it. Well he didn’t have that power. Every single word had to be recorded truthfully, to transmit to his descendents, so when his descendents take the throne, they can see how he handled things, step by step. So an Emperor’s day was always very busy.

In TV shows you can always see the characters talking about “going to court”. Now, going to court wasn’t a constant thing. In the Qing era there was court every 10 days. The Emperor didn’t go to court every day. And where was this court thing? Not inside the palace. Everybody’s been to the Forbidden City, the Hall of Supreme Harmony isn’t that big, is it? All the ministers didn’t fit up there.

So what’d they do? In the Qing era, the Emperor presided over the court on the Gates of Heavenly Purity, outside. The Emperor sat down on the gate, the ministers at the square. So imagine a 35º sauna day. Why did they have court at 7 AM in the morning? Well they’d all die if they did it at noon. They’d boil in their own sweat. So Morning Court was cool in summer, but what about winter? 7 AM in the morning, -30º cold, those days there was no urban heat island thing, no global warming, so it was freezing.

So what’d they do? Just do it. The Emperor had lots of layers of clothes, nice leather coats with fur and stuff, and the ministers had to stay there and listen too. Bureaucrats in old China didn’t have expense accounts. They had to buy their own housing, all expenses had to be paid from their own pockets, including court attire. Nobody gave them to you. If you got money, you wore fur, if you didn’t have money, you wore cotton, if you couldn’t afford cotton we’ll you’re screwed. Anyway the Emperor had all those nice fox tails on him, and you had to be there too in court.

Usually it was 1 court every 10 days, but in the time of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, especially with Kangxi and Qianlong, they had court almost every day. I guess that their ministers didn’t have it easy either. Court every day, busy as hell. Being Emperor was really hard work, nothing awesome or romantic like those TV shows, with the Emperor constantly flirting with the concubines. Where there Emperors who did that? Well yeah. But those lewd Emperors in Chinese histories all had really bad endings. Chinese history has both tyrants and lousy emperors. The tyrants weren’t incompetent, they were quite capable, but used their ability to do bad things. But they did take care of government. Lousy emperors didn’t. Liu Bei’s son is the most typical one.

Chinese Bureaucracy, 2

So in talking about how all states end up surrendering real power to the permanent bureaucracy, I thought it interesting to look at the example of China, which has the oldest and most well structured permanent bureaucracy of all. The previous post was on how the Chinese Empire started as a mostly hands-off affair where the Emperors let most daily decisions of government to their ministers, but little by little they assumed more power, until by the Ming Dynasty they assumed personal rule.

Next clip is about the lower levels of government. Who got to be a bureaucrat?

In Ancient China, if you wanted to enter the state bureaucracy, well at the beginning it was all hereditary succession. Which in common parlance means, dragon breeds dragon, phoenix breeds phoenix, and the children of rats dig holes. So that’s how it was, the position was inherited every generation. The ruler was like that, and all officials were also like that. Get to the Spring and Autumn period, especially in the Qin state, they had this incentive system to motivate the commoners. If you tilled your land well, you could become an official. At war, those who killed more people could become officials. Those who cut the head of an enemy in the battlefield, would rise one level in the bureaucracy by every head they cut. One head, one level up. Another head, another level up. So why was Qin so strong at war? Well if you’re fighting the Qin, your head to them isn’t a head. Cut one head, rise one level. And a level means, better salary, housing, land, livestock, wife and children. All yours. So they’ll go after you to get that head.

The Qin awarded performance in the battlefield, and unified the country. Yet their empire lasted 15 years, 2 generations. So the Han Dynasty had to rethink how to rule. To beat a country isn’t the same as to rule a country, you can’t just rely on violence. During war you can rely on blood-minded warriors, but to rule a country  you need scholars. But how do I know which scholar is good and which is no good? You need a system to guarantee the quality of the officials. How to do so? Well, local elections. Officials in the provinces would look for good people and promote them to the bureaucracy.

What did they look for exactly? First they looked for talent. And second they looked for morals, if you were filial and frugal. Now given that this relied on people suggesting people, well there’s potential for fraud. Talent can be more or less objectively measured. But morals? How do you know if I’m filial and frugal?  If I’m not a bureaucrat I’m pretty much forced to be frugal, what am I gonna be corrupt with? And filial virtue is even harder to measure. How do you know if I’m filial? You’re gonna come to my house to inspect? See how I kneel on the ground and wash my father’s feet? Oh, good kid, very filial. You can’t see the bruise dad got after I kicked him yesterday though.

So all this was very hard to measure, and as a result, all this suggestion method, in the end, all those promoted up ended being the children of the higher officials. Not rich people, but high levels of the bureaucracy. Yuan Shao had 3 ministers in 4 generations. Was it hereditary? No, that system was abolished. So how could they have 3 counts in 4 ministers? Well they kept promoting people of their family. Grandpa Yuan An was Chancellor, controlled all the levels of power, had disciples all around the empire. So when promoting someone, who dares not to promote Great Yuan’s son?

Later during the Wei-Jin period, it got even worse. In that time all those promoted were from the great families. The biggest were the 4 Big Families: Wang, Xie, Yuan, Xiao, grabbed the levels of power in all Southern Dynasties. In the North they were the Cui, Lu, Li, Zheng, grabbing all power. Not even the Emperor could rival them.

So the Sui Dynasty’s Yang Jian, he was a Yang, not a member of the Great Families. So he changed the whole system. This choosing officials by birthright is thing no good. So he set the fairest system of all: an exam. Everybody’s equal before the score numbers. This was the start of the Chinese system which lasted 1300 years, the Imperial Examination.

Everybody’s equal before the score numbers. Did people cheat? Yes. But without the exam, everybody is cheating. There’s no fairness at all. People did cheat at the exams, but the methods of cheating were much less sophisticated than what people use today to cheat in exams. Say, some people would fit a small scroll inside their clothes. So the Court had a good idea, before the exam you all get naked and change into this Exam clothes. But the scholars thought it humiliating. “It’s not like each of us is going to cheat, you can’t just assume we’re all criminals.” So what did they do? The Court thought a good one. They set that before the exam, everyone had to go pray to Confucius. And surely before going to pray to the Great Sage, you obviously should bathe, and show your earnestness. So before going to the exam hall, they’d go to the public bath. Then officials would search through your clothes, look for any hidden paper. Once they stopped searching, they’d order the water to stop. Then they’d all come back and wear their clothes again. No humiliation now, huh? Bathing is good, right? If you’re poor, you get a free bath, you should be happy.

So there were many ways of preventing cheating. During the Song Dynasty, they hid the names in each exam. Like they do today when they send this closed envelopes. And they not only hid the names, they copied the exams! The examiners never saw the actual handwriting on any exam. A whole group of officials were in charged of copying by hand every exam, 10 exams per official. So the exams that the examiners see all have the same handwriting. The purpose of course is to avoid examiners promoting their own students. They know their students’ handwriting, they taught them.

There were lots of these sort of tricks. So under those circumstances, of course some incidents of cheating happened, but it was very hard. There’s one example, Qin Hui calls the chief examiner to his house. The examiner dares not refuse the call of the Chancellor, so goes.  Once he gets there, the old man is busy so the examiner waits in the library. He waits and waits, and gets very bored. Thing is there are no books on the room, what kind of library is that? So he looks all around trying to find some amusement. All he can see is a piece of paper on top of the table. Being a scholar he’s used to reading things, and being bored he’s compulsively drawn to the paper. So he grabs the paper, and sees there’s a piece of text on it. So he reads it once. The old man still doesn’t come. So he reads it again. The old man still doesn’t come, so he reads it a third time. And so on until he almost quite memorized the whole thing, he’s read it so many time he can recite it backwards. After several hours of wait, a relative of Qin Hui comes, and apologizes: “The Chancellor has been summoned by the Emperor, he won’t be able to see you today, please go home.” The examiner didn’t think twice about it, yeah well Chancellors are busy people, so he goes home.

Days later the Imperial Examination is going on, so they pick up the exams, all those standardized copied exams, and they read him. Then he gets one exam, and huh? “This text is exactly the same as that piece of paper I read on the Chancellors house!” Now see how smart the Chief Examiner is. It’s not easy to get to be Chief Examiner. So he understood, “so that’s why the Chancellor had me waiting all that day in his library and forced me to read this text. OK then, we got a winner then.” Then he opened the envelope with the name, and there it is, Qin Hui’s grandson.

So see, the great evil minister Qin Hui, who could kill Yue Fei, betray his country, when it came to the Imperial Examination, he had to go through all this trouble to influence the Chief Examiner. He was afraid the Chief Examiner might not buy the whole thing, and if he hadn’t bought it, there’s nothing Qin Hui could have done about it. Sure he could have dealt with the Examiner himself, but he had no way of declaring the exam void and making his grandson win. That’s we say this system was, relatively speaking, quite fair.

The examination system itself was alright, it was very fair in those times. The problem lied in what questions are asked. In the Song Dynasty the exams were about policy. See how Wen Tianxiang exams have remained to this day, mountains of words criticizing imperial policy. Then came Zhu Yuanzhang, whose culture was rather limited. If the applicants wrote too well he might not understand it, he couldn’t read that many letters anyway. So what he did was limit severely what entered the exam. Only the classic books, and only the interpretation of Zhu Xi. That way it’s easy to posit the questions, the exam gets easier; it fossilized people’s thought.

So over time, people stopped taking the exam seriously. Some examiners just decided the winners by looking at the handwriting. You write nicely, you win. Your handwriting sucks, you’re out. The famous Kang Youwei, when he was Liang Qichao’s teacher, he was a Xiucai [Level1] , while Liang Qichao was a Juren[Level2]. At his age he wasn’t even a Juren. Why? Because he had bad handwriting.

So how did he become a Juren later? This is probably legend, but they say the Chief Examiner got his exam, and his first reaction was “what the hell is this crap” and he threw it away. Then he went to the toilet. There was nobody else in the room. Then a servant came in to pour some tea, and he found a scroll in the floor. The servant can’t even read, so what did he know. He got the scroll, opened it, put a paperweight on it, and left. After the servant’s gone, the examiner comes back from the toilet, not seeing the servant. So he comes into the room and “Huh? I threw away this scroll… How come it’s on my desk, and even with a paperweight on it? This must be some heavenly sign, let’s take a look then. So he reads the paper, and wow, great piece, exam passed. So Kang Youwei’s title of Juren came through the piss of the examiner. They say that after Kang Youwei became famous all he did was give away scrolls of his writing to anyone, just to screw them with his bad handwriting.

So later when people started to reconsider the Imperial Examination, the issue wasn’t much the system itself, but what’s the content of the exam. Originally you needed deep wisdom of things ancient and new. Then it changed into cherry picking pieces from a handful of books. During the more than 1000 yours that the Examinations went on, the cultural level of the officialdom was extremely high. Including the Emperor, all had to be cultivated. If you aren’t well read, and it slips at Court, the ministers will laugh at you. Obviously this doesn’t mean all Emperors were of very high culture. There were plenty of thuggish, awful emperors. Especially in the Ming.

The Chinese Bureaucracy, 1

Don’t believe the hype: learning Chinese is hard. Very hard. It’s not for every one. Pronunciation is hard, grammar isn’t as easy as often said, characters are insane,  and every city has its own dialect or outright different language which makes it very hard to understand anything unless people actually want you to understand.

And what makes it harder of all is that there’s just so little interesting content in Mandarin. I know people who learned German to read Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer himself is said to have learned Spanish in his old age to be able to read Calderón de la Barca’s plays. Manga and videogames have motivated many to learn Japanese.

But what do you learn Mandarin with? Mandarin prose itself is quite recent, with 18th century Dream of the Red Chamber becoming an unofficial standard, which saw an explosion of creativity in the Republican era. But the Communists killed that movement right after assuming power in 1949, so the only decent literature in Mandarin is all compressed in about 30 years. Taiwan and Hong Kong have not picked up the slack, so decent content in Mandarin pretty much died. And it can barely be said to have recovered by now, even after 30 years of opening.

I eventually found my killer app (TV soap operas and Wang Shuo), and through them developed a deep appreciation towards the Beijing dialect. It has a bad rep with Chinese intellectuals for having a Manchu superstrate and being a language of idle vagrants and swindlers who can’t stop talk. But that’s the beauty of it, Beijing people talk a lot, talk fast, and they constantly spout classical idioms one after the other to compete on awesomeness.

Still, not living there and having more or less consumed all the decent content that I could found (content from the last 10 years has declined precipitously in quality), my Chinese had started to falter again. So I was extremely happy to find a new killer app with which to practice, one that also suited my more adult intellectual leanings. I found Yuan Tengfei. My Mandarin has improved 1  year worth of practice just by watching his clips for a week.

Mr. Yuan is a high school history professor in Beijing. He got famous when recordings of his classes went viral online. First because he’s hilarious and awesome at the same time. He explains Chinese and World history with superb detail while translating it to colloquial and humorous Beijing vernacular. And he is also opinionated and outspoken. His popularity went out of the roof when his lectures on the Mao Zedong era went public, where he openly calls Mao a murderous butcher, who has killed more Chinese than all foreign devils combined.

You’d think they’d grabbed the guy and sent him to a Gulag for good. For a while he went silent, and we all thought the worse. But not long later the guy came back, and on national TV! Saner minds prevailed and now the guy has his own show on national TV. And you can see he’s not having a hard time; since he got his new gig he’s gained at least 30 pounds.

He has more than a thousand videos in his Youtube channel, so there’s enough material there to keep you busy for years. I’ll like to show one of his most recent pieces, in which he briefly explains how life was the people in the power structure in Imperial China.

So let me translate the first clip: Chancellors.

Today we’re going to talk about how stressful is the life of a Chancellor.

The job of a Chancellor ain’t easy. Why? Well because in Ancient Despotism, the state is a family state. Who owns the state? The Emperor’s family. And that’s why the Emperor’s job is how to make sure he doesn’t lose his family’s estate.

The Emperor has to detect all potential threats to his rule, and cut them before they get big. Why are Chancellors a threat to Emperors? The position of Chancellor was started by the First Emperor of Qin after unifying China. The Han Dynasty also kept the Qin system in place. According to the history books, the job of the Chancellor was to assist the Emperor and help him in all matters. He’s in charge of everything!

And in the Qin and Han dynasties, there’s only one Chancellor, so he had a lot of power. He had the right to dismiss Imperial edicts! If the Chancellor didn’t agree with an Imperial edict, say he grabs the scroll and says: “Nope, I don’t agree with this”. He rolls back again and returns it. And he could also write his own opinions on the back of the scroll. Say, he gets a scroll and writes: “We need to have public healthcare, and the state should pay for old-age pensions. It’s not good that only civil servants have health insurance, the people might revolt.” So they got the scroll, write their own opinions and returned it to the Emperor.

Generally whatever the Chancellor decided had to be done, was done. And when the Chancellor went to court, like when the Emperor publishes his edicts in front of everyone, well then it’s just awesome. If you’ve seen the movie “Red Cliff”, when Cao Cao meets the Emperor, that’s quite accurate. The Chancellor had 3 privileges. He could carry a sword in court and wear shoes. Before the Tang Dynasty, people in China sit on the floor like the Koreans and Japanese today. The floor was covered by mats, so you had to take your shoes off. But the Chancellor didn’t; he wore his shoes and carry his sword.

Second privilege is the Chancellor doesn’t bow. The Emperor sits on his throne, everyone else is bowing down like this, but the Chancellor doesn’t need to bow. He can walk with swag. And the third privilege: he doesn’t call his own name. The ancient Chinese called their own name as a way of showing humility. You used your name with your teachers, your parents, with your boss. But if you call me by my name I’d beat you up. Won’t talk to you ever again. You can’t call me by my name, you have to use my courtesy name.

So most people when talking to the Emperor would use their own names, but the Chancellor doesn’t. He refers to himself as “minister”, and that’s it. That’s his special treatment. So the Chancellor had all this power, and this elevated treatment, so of course there were many “power Chancellors”, Chancellors who just want to grab power. Everybody knows the famous ones, Wang Mang, Cao Cao. Later during the Southern and Northern dynasties, it was insane. Every Chancellor out there was usurping the throne. If you were a Chancellor and didn’t grab the throne for yourself, the commoners would get worried. “What, no change of Dynasty yet? Come on, just do it, with a new Dynasty our salaries might rise, taxes can fall, at least an amnesty, right?”

So that’s why at the end of the Southern and Northern dynasties, the last usurper of all, Yang Jian, who was the maternal grandfather of the Northern Zhou Emperor, took the throne for himself and established the Sui Dynasty. Afterwards Yang Jian thought to himself: “Why did I get to be Emperor? Because I was the Chancellor. I had a lot of power. So we must make sure that this doesn’t happen again to my descendants. How? Well the problem is there’s only one Chancellor. So I’ll make a whole bunch of them. This way they can check and balance each other.”

And so he divided the government in three departments: the Chancellery. the Secretariat, and State Affairs. The chiefs and vice-chiefs of every department all had the treatment of Chancellor. Each department had a chief and 2 vice-chiefs, so 3 by 3, 9 Chancellors. Now the power of the Chancellors was scattered, so no chance of a rebellion. One Chancellor had become a bunch of them.

Later during the Song Dynasty, the Emperor started to think again. Yes we changed one Chancellor into a bunch, but they still have a lot of power. Why? Because they handle everything. Hop on a horse, lead the army, hop down form a horse, they lead the people. Generals outside, ministers inside. They also directed the wars! The cabinet is leading the army. That’s no good. So I’ll grab the most important powers, the military and the treasury, and take them away from the Chancellors. So we set a Ministry of Defence, and a Treasury Department, so the Chancellors can’t lead an army, and don’t have access to the Treasury either.

First the Chancellor was made into a bunch, then they took away the military and the money; so they had little left. That’s how little by little, the threat that the Chancellors represented decreased until they could never threaten anyone again. This system was already very good, but…

The Ming Dynasty founder, the Hongwu Emperor came up. Zhu Yuanzhang [his name], where’d he come from? Even worse than Liu Bang, at least Liu Bang had been a street patrol officer. But Zhu Yuanzhang during the previous Dynasty was a beggar! His name was Zhu Double Eight, his father was Zhu Five Four! His grandpa was Zhu New Year. Hear those names and you know what kind of cultural level the family had. So this man had come from the very lowest rung of society, up into heaven. This kind of man values extremely highly the power he has grabbed in his hands. It didn’t come easily.

So aren’t the Chancellors the biggest threat to the Emperor? OK, abolished, get out. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, there were no Chancellors. The Emperor assumed the office themselves. “I’m the Chancellor. All power in one person, I lord over my ministers.” Thing is this little fucker got exhausted. 300 issues to deal with every day. Do the math. So when some scroll came to court which was too long, he’d just beat the author. Thing he’s just too busy, can’t listen to everything. One time this official sent a scroll 17,000 letters long. “Who the hell do you think I am, is this a fucking novel or what. Beat him! So they started beating the poor guy while the Emperor listened to the text, which made a lot of sense actually. So after a while the Emperor called for the guy to be brought up, but they’d already wasted him.

Zhu Yuanzhang was so damn twisted, he didn’t trust anyone. He was exhausted. He’d just want everyone to stay put, nicely obedient, so everything would be easy. So he set up a spy operation, to spy on his ministers. They watched everything. One example: there was this official at the Ministry of Personnel, called Qian. One day the Emperor called him to court, and asked him: “What did you do yesterday night?”.

Qian answered that with he was playing cards with some colleagues.

“Cards huh. Who were you playing with?”

“Some colleagues, Mr. Yang, Mr. Sun, Mr. Yu, playing the 4 of us.”

“So who won then?”

“Thing is we were playing but then we realized that we were missing one card, so we couldn’t go on playing.”

Zhu Yuanzhang nodded, and said “Good, you’re an honest man.” Then he reached into his sleeve and took a playing card. “Is this the card you were missing?”

This was the middle of winter, but little Qian’s sweat was pouring out of his clothes. Now you don’t know which of the three playing pals is a spy! If during yesterday’s game someone said something critical of the Emperor, you’re a dead man.

So one of the tragedies of Chinese history is that the power of the Emperor constantly grew, while the power of the ministers constantly fell. Before the Song dynasty, the ministers discussed all matters together, and ruled as a group. But during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, autocracy become stronger, and the relation between the Ruler and his ministers became that of an Owner and his slaves.

When you watch historical soap operas, you can see He Shen (a famous Manchu minister in the Qing Dynasty), shouting when meeting the emperor: “Your Slave Heshen is here”. Such an important official, but he was still a slave.

So why did China fall into this tragedy? Perhaps it has to do with the ever tighter Autocratic system.

It’s interesting that European history is often taught as a linear narrative where autocracy little by little gives way to further division of power, culminating in the holy democracy where power goes to the people!

But Chinese history went the other way around, showing that there’s no historical imperative showing that power must be dissolved more and more as society progresses. The Qing dynasty was larger, stronger, richer and better governed than any previous one. Yet the Emperor had personal rule of all courtly decisions, and even his brothers had to refer to themselves as “slave” in his presence.

Next chapter is on civil servants, stay tuned.

Bureaucracy

Isegoria linked to an interview of Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series. I don’t need to explain how great the books are, and how amazing a writer Frank Herbert is. You could feel that the man is Darkly Enlightened just by reading his fiction, in the same way you can feel that Isaac Asimov is an establishment technocrat when reading Foundation. This interview confirms my feeling.

JMS: In the Dune books, you seem to question a number of other cultural assumptions.  One of them is the belief that the establishment of a democracy necessarily addresses all of humankind’s problems and needs.
HERBERT:  One of the things I noticed as a reporter — I was a journalist longer than I’ve been on this side of the table — is that in all the marching in the streets in the ’60s, the people who were shouting “Power to -the People” didn’t mean power to the people.  They meant “power to me and I’ll tell the people what to do.”  When you questioned them it was confirmed at every turn.
This channels Foseti very nicely:
I don’t think there’s a fucking bit of difference between a bureaucracy that is instituted by a democratic regime, a state; socialist regime, a communist regime or a capitalist regime.  Take a look at us right now.  We have created a bureaucracy in this country which is completely out of the hands of the people.  Your votes do not touch it.  One day when I was working in Washington, D.C. as a speech-writer for a U.S. senator from Oregon, I was at a meeting of the Department of Commerce and a very, very high department official, a lifetime bureaucrat, was talking about another senator, who was giving them some trouble.  And this high bureaucrat called this senator a “transient.” And sure enough, that senator was defeated in the next election.  So he was a transient.  But the bureaucrat was, still there, and he retired on a separate retirement system for the federal bureaucracy.

There was a time when reporters were smart people like Frank Herbert, who went alone to Washington and very soon noticed how the levels of power actually work. Or maybe everybody knows, and it’s just that he’s the only one who disagrees.

The permanent bureaucracy is a very important issue in neoreaction, ever since Moldbug channeled Foseti and made it a topic of discussion. But I’ve always wondered. Does it really matter? Japan is famous for having a permanent bureaucracy, to the extent that it is common knowledge. Even sub-100 IQ lay people in the street know that it’s the bureaucrats who hold real power. It is often made an issue of, especially in reformist discussion panels, often leftist, which claim that the bureaucrats are the source of all problems in the country, and that decision making should go to the people’s representatives, “like in other developed countries”.

But nothing ever changes, perhaps because becoming like other developed countries means that the bureaucracy rules just the same. That’s the way it works, and I have the impression that’s the way it has always worked. Doesn’t Dostoievsky always describe bureaucrats as having socialist sympathies? Didn’t the Chinese imperial bureaucracy woo the emperors and fooled them as they willed? As European states developed and modernized, the bureaucracy steadily grew in size and power, to the extent that they ended up creating by themselves a whole bureaucratic structure on top of all European nations without even nominal elections.

The realization of the reality of the permanent bureaucracy is usually met with disapproval. It’s a farce, the subversion of the legal constitutions and every narrative on how power is supposed to work. To which Foseti always cautions: it’s better like this. Having Congressmen actually take decisions would be catastrophic.

I don’t think there’s even a question. Modern political parties aren’t structured to take political decisions: they’re a fundraising organization, designed for the task of extracting money and funnel it to their associates, so they can run campaigns, get elected and repeat the process. That’s what they are for, and they do it quite well.

But someone has to actually set rules and enforce them, to run the government. And so behind all these campaigns and dinner parties with lobbyists, lie the bureaucrats. Of course the problem of bureaucracy is that it is necessary, in the same way the putrefaction of organic matter is necessary. Nobody likes how it works, but it has to happen. Bureaucracy seems to spontaneously appear every time an institution is established with the purpose to last. Isegoria also recently quoted the great Cyril Northcote Parkinson:

Factor I. — An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals; and

Factor II. — Officials make work for each other.

We must now examine these motive forces in turn.

The Law of Multiplication of Subordinates

To comprehend Factor I, we must picture a civil servant called A who finds himself overworked. Whether this overwork is real or imaginary is immaterial; but we should observe, in passing, that A’s sensation (or illusion) might easily result from his own decreasing energy — a normal symptom of middle-age. For this real or imagined overwork there are, broadly speaking, three possible remedies

(1) He may resign.

(2) He may ask to halve the work with a colleague called B.

(3) He may demand the assistance of two subordinates, to be called C and D.

There is probably no instance in civil service history of A choosing any but the third alternative. By resignation he would lose his pension rights. By having B appointed, on his own level in the hierarchy, he would merely bring in a rival for promotion to W’s vacancy when W (at long last) retires. So A would rather have C and D, junior men, below him. They will add to his consequence; and, by dividing the work into two categories, as between C and D, he will have the merit of being the only man who comprehends them both.

It is essential to realise, at this point, that C and D are, as it were, inseparable. To appoint C alone would have been impossible. Why? Because C, if by himself, would divide the work with A and so assume almost the equal status which has been refused in the first instance to B; a status the more emphasised if C is A’s only possible successor. Subordinates must thus number two or more, each being kept in order by fear of the other’s promotion. When C complains in turn of being overworked (as he certainly will) A will, with the concurrence of C, advise the appointment of two assistants to help C. But he can then avert internal friction only by advising the appointment of two more assistants to help D, whose position is much the same. With this recruitment of E, F, G and H, the promotion of A is now practically certain.

The Law of Multiplication of Work

Seven officials are now doing what one did before. This is where Factor II comes into operation. For these seven make so much work for each other that all are fully occupied and A is actually working harder than ever. An incoming document may well come before each of them in turn. Official E decides that it falls within the province of F, who places a draft reply before C, who amends it drastically before consulting D, who asks G to deal with it. But G goes on leave at this point, handing the file over to H, who drafts a minute, which is signed by D and returned to C, who revises his draft accordingly and lays the new version before A.

What does A do? He would have every excuse for signing the thing unread, for he has many other matters on his mind. Knowing now that he is to succeed W next year, he has to decide whether C or D should succeed to his own office. He had to agree to G going on leave, although not yet strictly entitled to it. He is worried whether H should not have gone instead, for reasons of health. He has looked pale recently — partly but not solely because of his domestic troubles. Then there is the business of F’s special increment of salary for the period of the conference, and E’s application for transfer to the Ministry of Pensions. A has heard that D is in love with a married typist and that G and F are no longer on speaking terms — no one seems to know why. So A might be tempted to sign C’s draft and have done with it.

But A is a conscientious man. Beset as he is with problems created by his colleagues for themselves and for him — created by the mere fact of these officials’ existence — he is not the man to shirk his duty. He reads through the draft with care, deletes the fussy paragraphs added by C and H and restores the thing back to the form preferred in the first instance by the able (if quarrelsome) F. He corrects the English — none of these young men can write grammatically — and finally produces the same reply he would have written if officials C to H had never been born. Far more people have taken far longer to produce the same result. No one has been idle. All have done their best. And it is late in the evening before A finally quits his office and begins the return journey to Ealing. The last of the office lights are being turned off in the gathering dusk which marks the end of another day’s administrative toil. Among the last to leave, A reflects, with bowed shoulders and a wry smile, that late hours, like grey hairs, are among the penalties of success.

This seem humorous, or perhaps the result of the dysfunctional mores of government, which being the highest power of society has nobody to rule over them. But it’s not only government where dysfunctional bureaucracy operates. Look at this fascinating article on the Decline of Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is not government, nor even a for profit company. It’s run mostly by volunteer editors who through their sheer volume of work created a reputation, which led them to be regarded as authorities, and ended up being given power to set the rules of the website. Rules which of course do nothing but grow and grow, making the operation so annoying that newcomers are discouraged from joining.

There’s a small caveat, in that the lack of new editors can’t be only caused by the increasing bureaucracy, but simply because of the law of diminishing returns. Wikipedia is big as it is, most low-hanging fruit in the form of articles that white American nerd with free time are motivated to write about are already there. And “editor diversity” just won’t happen for obvious reasons unrelated to the red tape those evil white males are imposing on the rest.

Still it is a fact that the red tape is increasing, in a way not dissimilar from what Parkinson describes. Of course the obvious reason is self-preservation, which the Japanese, as experts in bureaucracy analysis, call 保身. Any member of an organization wants to preserve its status, and the best way of doing that is making it hard for newcomers to replace him. The amount of red-tape cancer growth depends only on strength of the self-preservation impulse (i.e. the importance the bureaucrat gives to his status in that organization), and the authority on top to prevent it. A powerful and involved ruler can fire any self-preservating red-tape creator. A headless and moneyless cooperative such as Wikipedia will produces go on producing more and more rules until the editor status becomes a hereditary title.

Any competent student of history can tell you that all civilizations fall into this same trap, to a depressing extent. There’s no evolving out of it. I’m sure that students of corporate structure feel the same way. But the very nature of corporations (less Voice, more Exit) means that more experimentation can go on. Valve is a famous example, and they gave an extensive interview to WP this week.

Valve famously has no managers, no HR, no reports, everything works by setting groups ad-hoc whenever there’s a project. There are fascinating insights in how they manage their people.

It’s sort of a good news/bad news situation that our industry is changing so quickly. If you look at the requirements for just one piece, like art, from one generation of games to the next, it will change radically. You need people who are adaptable because the thing that makes you the best in the world in one generation of games is going to be totally useless in the next. So specialization in gaming is sort of the enemy of the future. We had to think about if we’re going to be in a business that’s changing that quickly, how do we avoid institutionalizing one set of production methods in such a way that we can’t adapt to what’s going to be coming next.(…)

It seems like a lot of this involves a lot individual experience for employees and you’ve figured out a way to make that really work with the current size of your organization. Are you at all worried about scaling that if you continue to grow? 

No. One of the nice things about having pretty distributed decision-making in the company is that it tends to scale really well. You can trust that lots of good decisions are being made all the time. That’s one of the things that we try to explain when we’re bring somebody in — you guys know there are no monthly reports here? There’s no “all of the information has to flow to Gabe.” It’s like, if I need to know something I’ll figure out who is involved with it and find it because I’m just like somebody else. Nobody’s going to put together a report for me so I can have a giant file of reports laying around that I never get around to reading. What that means is that a lot of bandwidth internally in the company frees up because you’re not just constantly tracking a whole bunch of stuff so decision making is really distributed.

Of course part of how well a systems “scales”, is how homogeneous the culture is kept. Valve is quite selective about which employees they let in. They also have a very wise priest-king, Gabe Newell who understands the psychology of his target workers, i.e. polymath nerds who want to take their parents to the yearly company trip. They’re not making the best out of people, they’re picking self-driven geniuses and setting an environment where they can cooperate peacefully. And with all that, as the first comment on the article says, Valve games actually aren’t that special.

As I suspected, Gabe Newell just doesn’t believe in hierarchy period:

He has a lot of other opinions about the business world, like a belief that mass manufacturing will lose out to highly customized creations. But he said the most “outlandish” idea he has is that the Internet will replace many of the things corporations do. “It’ll be better at those old Coasian concepts of organizing labor and allocating capital,” he mused, adding that the “egalitarian and democratic view of how we produce stuff as an economy is the one that I see increasingly winning out.”

Again, it’s easy to be egalitarian when you get a pick of you gets in the group. It seems pretty obvious that the optimal organizational structure depends in the ability of the members, with well-mannered intelligent people functioning better with a more egalitarian structure, and, as Jim likes to say, blacks more productive being enslaved.

It follows that the most important factor in a government bureaucracy is who gets to become a civil servant, and how much power they’re given. The Chinese have a long tradition of caring about this, which I’ll show on the next post. For those interested, I will translate from this source:

Sluts

My wife tells me about this acquaintance of her. Flight attendant. Pretty, flirty, and very good at getting what she wanted from men. Used to juggle 3 or 4 guys at the same time, and used them according to a smart division of labor. One rich guy to get presents from, a hot guy to have wild sex with, a social guy to meet people and get attention. You get the picture.

This woman suddenly stopped her slutty ways after her 30th birthday. She suddenly started proclaiming her faith in Jesus, left her job and her boyfriends. Not long afterwards he announced her engagement to what could easily be the ugliest man I’ve ever seen. Short, skinny with a really disgusting face. Immensely rich, obviously. They had one of this movie-style weddings in the open, on a cliff looking at the sea, hundreds of people attending.

All this happened years ago. I always thought of this woman as a very smart bitch. Kinda the personalization of girl game. The thing is, Game gets you what you want. But we all know that the one only thing which is worse than not getting what you want, is getting it.

My wife acquired new gossip about this girl. Seems she’s working as a makeup assistant now. She studied hard and has now become quite a good professional. “Hah!”, I said. “She’s getting old huh. So she’s studying how to keep pretty. The bitch really is smart, and realistic. Kudos to her.” My wife laughed. “She’s actually making good money, it seems.”

That kinda struck me as weird. “Why does she have to work at all? That imp she married is loaded, right? Would you work if I had 50 million dollars? Hell I wouldn’t work myself if I were rich.”

“You’re not rich now and I’m not working.”, she said, with a cute smile.

“Heh. Well you have the baby to take care of. Which reminds me… she’s been married for years already. Why doesn’t she have any kids?”

“Oh she doesn’t want to have any children at all. Been saying it to everyone apparently. Says she couldn’t possibly be a good mother.”

“She could if she weren’t busy putting make up on old ugly bitches.”

Then I realized that of course it makes no sense that she couldn’t take care of a baby. This woman is obviously smart and hard working, and raising a children isn’t that hard. Double digit IQ people worldwide do it all the time, and as long as food and healthcare is readily available it’s really hard to screw up.

It follows that she doesn’t want children. And specifically doesn’t want her husband’s children. Women are programmed to want to have babies with men they love. Hell even rock band groupies have a fervent wish to bear children of her favorite star.

Now, I can’t really blame her for not wanting his children. I wouldn’t want to mix my genes with that imp either. But then why did she marry him? For the money of course. For an instant my manosphere neurons flared up, and I felt pity for the guy. Being used for his money and not even given children. But on second thought, he should have known. Hell he could still push her for children, and divorce her if she refused. The local laws wouldn’t have any problem with that, and he wouldn’t have to pay anything. The guy probably listens to her nagging all the time, and deeply understands her position, and supports her being a strong independent woman. He doesn’t deserve pity. Only scorn.

This smart and calculating woman is selecting herself out of the gene pool. I’m sure her father, who used to be so proud of her beautiful and clever daughter, is now depressed about not having grandchildren (she has siblings, but those aren’t very fertile either for other reasons). Compare that to the dumb neighborhood dumb slut who fucked all her high school class, and at 19 was knocked up by some neighborhood kid, then had the baby. Everybody hates the slut, even the guys who are fucking her. But Darwin really loves her.

I used to be mystified by the usual news of girls in India being murdered in honor-killings by their parents for fucking a guy of the wrong tribe. I mean for hundreds and hundreds of years they know they’re not supposed to fuck around, less of all with the outgroup. They are educated very strictly by the whole community to avoid that. But there’s always some Hindu girl fucking the Muslim boy. And she usually gets killed. Just how goddamn horny are they? Do they want to fuck that badly? Under risk of death? Hell how stupid is that.

But if you compare the long term fitness of conscientious, smart and calculating women and dumb sluts, it’s not hard to see that the genes for dumb sluttiness are *very* useful. Those never fail to churn babies even under the most strict anti-slut regimes. Having those slut genes around might have saved more than one tribe from extinction.

So let’s relax a bit on the slut shaming. Yes too many sluts are harmful to society, and God knows I don’t want one in my family. But Darwin likes those genes, so they aren’t going anywhere.

New Year is local

A female relative called from Europe to wish me a Happy New Year.

F: “What do you do out there for New Year’s Eve?”

S: “Buckwheat noodles.”

F: “Oh. And then? Any party after count down?”

S: “Not really. Actually no count down at all.”

F: “How can you not do count down!”

S: “Count downs come from the European custom of having churches in every town with huge bells to mark the time. No churches here, so no bells. They didn’t even have clocks until recently.”

F: “That’s sad.”

S: “Actually tomorrow is the big day here. Fancy food, visit to the temple to pray for good fortune, visiting relatives, etc. What will you do tomorrow.”

F: “Oh we’ll all be horribly hangover unable to move.”

S: “That’s sad.”

One of the hardest intellectual challenges of living abroad is learning to do cultural relativism right. Probably cultural relativism started with actually knowledgeable explorers paying attention and being reasonable about what they learned: that different peoples do things in different ways, and sometimes there’s no particularly superior way. Which should be obvious. But bizarrely the idea was appropriated by the sanctimonious left as a way to stick it to their domestic rivals. Of course they deprived it of all nuance. But it shows how their brains are wired that talking about different cultures, when the context is not signaling ones enlightened tolerance in contrast to the nasty nativists, leftist just default to their real zealot selves, where everybody who is not doing the same thing they are is sad, oppressed or just nasty.

Slightly more knowledgeable people ask better questions: “do you celebrate New Years there? Isn’t it like in China?”.

Well actually it should be. Japan used to follow the Chinese calendar, which is lunar and usually starts around our early February. They also followed most of the Chinese festivals, which are set to coincide with usual agricultural events, which suited a nation of almost exclusive rice peasants. I knew that the Meiji government had abolished the Chinese calendar and adopted the Western quite early on, and the history is normally told as just one more of the Westernizing measures of the Meiji, and never gave it further thought. But on being asked again, I started thinking about it. And changing a calendar used for millennia must have been quite something. People organized their year around that calendar and its seasonal events, which were more or less fixed every year. All that changed with the new calendar. And amusingly enough, the government didn’t change the dates of the festivals to their seasonal equivalent. The Gregorian calendar runs approximately one month earlier than the Chinese equivalent, so all the festivals were suddenly done one month earlier. Now even China, and even Taiwan today use the Gregorian calendar, as they have to do business with Western countries. But they keep count of the old calendar and every year the government sets holidays to match the old calendar festivals, to avoid breaking the tradition.

Japan is often regarded as a staunchly conservative country which protects its traditions very well. One thinks the basis of time-keeping of their people would be worthy of protection too. But hey it was also important to catch up with the Western industrial powers. Maybe the Japanese elite found it necessary to go all the way, and little by little convinced their people of the need to reform, for the glory of the nation. Right?

Wrong. The Calendar was changed in January 1st 1873. But the law was only announced in December 9th 1872. And that’s in a preindustrial society without radio or modern means of communication. The people had less than a month to adapt to a wholly new calendar system. Traditionally the calendar guild used to distribute the calendars for the next year in October 1st, which means that when the new law passed, the old-style calendars for 1873 had already been made and distributed, and their production schedule had no way of producing new-style calendars on time. All their stocks were all of a sudden worth nothing. Bankruptcies and misery ensued.

OK so a whole guild was destroyed by the government, but it was for good reason, right? For the common good? Not a chance. Thankfully one of the oligarchs of the time, Okuma Shigenobu was kind enough to explain the process in his later memoirs. Usually civil servants in Japan had their salary paid annually. But in 1872 the Meiji government changed it to monthly payment. However the Chinese calendar is lunar, with 12 months. So it only has 354 days, less than a full circle around the sun. What they do is add a whole intercalary month so the calendar doesn’t drift too much from the seasons. As it happens 1873 in the old calendar had an intercalary month, so 13 months in total. That means 13 salaries for the Japanese civil service. And that’s something that the recently established Meiji government couldn’t afford. By adopting whitey’s calendar, the next year would only have 12 months. And the new calendar was to start in January 1st 1873, which coincided with December 2 of the old calendar. By changing the calendar, the month of December would disappear, so that’s another month worth of salaries they could save! 2 months in one strike, imagine that. The government loved the idea, published the law in a hurry, probably promoted the guy who came up with it. And fucked everyone else.

One piece of evidence showing that Japan didn’t really care about Westernization is that they never adopted the way Christian era to count years. Japan traditionally uses the Chinese way of counting years, the 年号, or regnal era. Say what you say about Christianity, but counting the years after his birth make an awesome Schelling point which facilitates tracking events in time. When were you born? 1980? So that’s 34 years ago. Well the ancients didn’t believe that some guy in Judaea was the son of the only one God. So how did they count their years? Well in the absence of Jesus Christ, you have to use the next awesome guy. In China, the Kings. So it was “in the 5th year of King something of Zhou…”, which isn’t as easy but it’s still manageable. Then came the unified Empire, and the martial emperor of the Han Dynasty had this great idea of naming the years himself. So every 5 years or so he would decree that from day on we are in the era of Great Start, or Awesome Light, or whatever cheesy title worthy of a teenage diary he could come up with. And all official documents were to be dated using the regnal era. It’s hard enough to remember all the rulers in the thousands of years of Chinese history. Imagine every ruler changing the era name every time he had a mood change. It’s hard to be a Chinese historian. No wonder their histories are so good.

With the Ming Dynasty the custom of randomly changing era name was abolished, and each emperor set only one era during his whole reign, and emperors are named after their era. One of the few smart policies the Ming ever made. After Imperial rule was ostensibly restored in Meiji Japan, they adopted the same rule. So Mutsuhito set the Meiji 明治 era 1868–1912, for which he is named, his son ruled over the Taisho 大正 era 1912–1926, and his grandson Hirohito ruled over the Showa 昭和 era 1926–1989. 2014 is year 26 of the Heisei 平成 era, and all official documents in Japan must be dated thus. Official forms in Japan’s date format isn’t __/__/20__. It’s H__/__/__. H for Heisei.

What’s interesting is that not only documents are dated according to government decrees. People actually have a concept of “era” and attribute things to them. Like, to refer to something old-fashioned in Japan you say “That’s so Showa”. And when complaining about the kids of today, people say “Kids born in Heisei just don’t have any respect”. I’ve heard people born in the last year of Showa (1988) talk about kids born in Heisei (1989-) like there was an impenetrable wall of difference between them. Now I can understand that in China, in the old days of the Empire, the regnal era made some sense. Say you get a really bad emperor who orders the mobilization of all food reserves and one son of every household to start a war. The war is lost and the economy devastated. Now in that situation talking about “Year 10 of the Emperor X” is quite meaningful because all years of that emperor had the common theme of general misery. A new emperor was likely to change the whole thing and usher in a new era of relatively less misery.

But as I wrote before, Japanese Emperors don’t rule, and using era names is just traditionalist signalling, and reluctance to abandon a good old Schelling point. But an era name encompassing all years from 1926-1989 can’t possibly be a useful concept. For starters Showa includes WW2, which was terrible for Japan. And even ignoring the war, as the Japanese are apt to do, Japan in 1945 has little in common with 1989. But they are all referred to as the good old Showa days. Says a lot about just how obedient the Japanese are to political power.

There’s a lot of fun in looking at the intersection of HBD, Tip O’Neill and calendars. The Islamic calendar is similar to the Chinese, with 12 lunar months, totaling 354 days. But they don’t have intercalary months, so the calendar just goes on drifting away from the seasons, 10 days every year. Which means that in every generation New Year falls in every season of the year. And yet the Egyptians had figured out a working solar calendar thousands of years ago. The Persian calendar is also quite accurate. Shows you the marvels of Islamic innovation.

Also I found amusing that India doesn’t have a common New Year. It’s not that they have different festivals, they can’t even agree on the date. Each region has its own calendar with its own starting date. And nobody gives a shit about it.

I always found it strange that the Western New Year fell in January 1st. Which is 10 days after the Winter solstice, i.e. cold as fuck. The body wants to hibernate, not to party. The Persian New Year starts in March 21, the beginning of Spring, which makes much sense. Even Chinese New Year is understandable, as it usually falls around the peak of Winter. It can’t get any colder, i.e. it’s only getting warmer afterwards. That’s a cause of celebration. But January 1st?

That comes from the old Roman calendar, which has also a quite amusing history. It seems that in the old days the calendar had only 10 months, staring in the spring equinox, and running for 304 days. Means that the 60 days before spring weren’t even counted. It’s just cold misery, so why even keep count? Stay home and drink wine, there’s nothing to do anyway.

Still not late after the founding of the city, the months of January and February were added after December. The calendar still started in March, as can be seen by the fact that September comes from Septem (7), and so on until December, from Decem (10). Now Romans seem to have counted their years by the consuls of the year. So to refer to years past you said “in the year of consul X and Y”, in a similar fashion to Chinese regnal years, except Consul’s only lasted one year. Must have been really hard to be a Roman historian. Which again explains why they were so good. That is until they came up with Ab Urbe Condita timing. Then it all went to hell.

Anyway it seems it was customary for consuls to assume their consulate with the New Year in March. Then in 153 BC they changed it to January. Now why would they do that? March makes a lot of sense, January doesn’t. Hell they didn’t even count January back in the old days. Why would they make their consuls assume office in the winter cold? To remind them of their mortality? Nothing of the sort. As always the reasoning behind the change was quite spurious. In 154 BC the Celtiberians in Spain started a revolt against Roman rule. Thing is Romans had the habit of waiting to start a war until the new consul had assumed office. Quintus Fulvius Nobilior had already been elected and was preparing the war, but he could only start it in March 153. The rebellion was looking bad, and by March it might have already been unstoppable. So what did the Romans do? Did they discard their old Schelling Point about having waiting for the new consul to start a war, forget partisanship and just send a competent general? Of course not. They changed the ancient start of the year to January 1st, so Mr. Nobilior could lead an army earlier and squash the uppity Celtiberians. All the calendars in Rome were redone to show January on top, December, i.e. Month 10 became Month 12, and that was it. New Year stayed in January until the end of Rome.

Medieval Europe went its own way, and every kingdom set its own date for New Year.  Byzantium had September from a tradition that the world was created in September 1 5509 BC. Some Western countries had March 25 (the beginning of Spring, and conveniently, the Annunciation). Other chose Christmas, which makes sense when you’re actually counting the years after Christ’s birth. But most people still used the old reliable Roman calendars, and they said January 1st was New Year’s, so a party was still had. The Church kept trying to push Christian holidays as New Year until Pope Gregory XIII in his holy wisdom set up the new Gregorian calendar, starting in January 1st.

And so we are here, celebrating a new circle around the sun in this dark, cold date, because a Roman consul couldn’t wait 2 months to send an army to kill Celtiberians. O tempora, O Schelling points.

Nevertheless, Happy New Year everyone. 2013 was a very important year for me personally, and it’s also been a great year for this blog, if not as prolific as 2012 was. Still 2013 saw an explosion of interest in neoreaction, and I’m happy to have made my contribution to it. As every year passes, we get closer to 2037 (or 2025), our work becomes more important. We gotta come up with something quickly guys. So keep up the good work.