Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

The Role of Government

So the Role of Government used to be to Establish Order. That’s something the Romans and the Chinese could agree on.

The the English parliament stumbled itself into winning the English Civil War. So they decided the role of government was the Protection of Property. Not a bad idea, all things considered.

Now though we know a bit more about how society works. Let’s say we become worthy and assume power. What’s the role of government now?

Let me propose: to break malignant signaling spirals.


42 responses to “The Role of Government

  1. Pingback: The Role of Government | @the_arv

  2. Vladimir May 4, 2017 at 23:45

    How would the government prevent the inquisitorial zeal in extirpating malignant signalling spirals from becoming a malignant spiral in itself?

    Especially since this sort of accusation is easy to make in a plausible way, justifiably or not.

    • BC45 (@bearcaught45) May 5, 2017 at 04:34


      Isolate those who wish to participate in malignant signaling spirals away from the general population and make them take a vow of silence.

    • quaslacrimas May 5, 2017 at 07:22

      Extremely simple. Force the inquisitors to remain completely anonymous. No persistent identity = no signal.

    • spandrell May 5, 2017 at 10:57

      I’m sure the idea that the role of government was the protection of property was thought to be preposterous, for good reason. And yet it worked reasonably well.

      Of course nothing is perfect: but it’s a good schelling point for elites to discuss while gathering at the Palais Royal.

      • ricksean May 5, 2017 at 20:54

        It lacks a clear definition of what a malignant signalling spiral is though. Hard to have a schelling point on a fuzzy concept

        • Thales May 8, 2017 at 16:42

          A signaling spiral is how one culminates soft power. It may be hard to define, but like pr0nography, you know it when you see it.

          The “how” was already spelled out by Moldbug: Formalization. Take all soft power off the table, which is perhaps a task more Augean than is implied in his canon — there’s a lot of soft power out there, and but a fraction of it is governmental. That is the rub. I’m guessing/hoping the host has some novel thoughts on this issue.

        • spandrell May 8, 2017 at 21:02

          Worked for human rights!

  3. ricksean May 5, 2017 at 01:21

    The role of the government is getting more power for itself because that’s what it has the incentive to do. One cannot really say ‘The government should do that’ and have it do that.

    And it’s not ‘If we become worthy and assume power’, You must get power and then will be worthy because you got the power. And if you get power then you will be continuing to do what got you into power, otherwise you will lose it.

    • Michael Rothblatt May 5, 2017 at 18:40

      >You must get power and then will be worthy because you got the power.

      This. Mandate of Heaven in a nutshell.

      • spandrell May 5, 2017 at 18:47

        The holders of the Mandate of Heaven always retconned the history books so that they were worthy already by their grandfather’s time.

      • ricksean May 5, 2017 at 22:03

        Aftertought not exactly; I have a problem with “become worthy”. We either are or we are not, but it is access to power that proves it. Aiming for it is the strategy.

        I don’t like the mandate of heaven because it dissociates morality and law, and gives moral authority for the current power. I prefer good and evil. The current power is evil and we are good.

  4. Steve Johnson May 5, 2017 at 02:45

    Shepard the genetic legacy of the citizenry by using incentives – defectors don’t reproduce, cooperators do. The highly capable have more descendants, the incapable, less.

    Here’s the major problem with the second part though – regression to the mean means that the children of a meritocratic elite will be less capable than their parents. Parents would rather ensure that their children stay in the elite rather than sacrifice for the good of the nation and mentor the children of the non-elite. If they can’t do that, then they adopt the mafia “bust out” mentality to the institutions they run – extract everything they can before it totally collapses.

    I’m not entirely sure how to solve the second problem while still keeping the first in mind.

    • bomag May 8, 2017 at 17:46

      Parents would rather ensure that their children stay in the elite rather than sacrifice for the good of the nation and mentor the children of the non-elite.

      Seems to me this was solved by having the nation consist of a homogeneous in-group. I don’t mind paying too much for products and government if the recipients and their kids look like me and mine; and I expect them to nurture me and mine when I take the helm of an over-priced enterprise.

      • Steve Johnson May 12, 2017 at 10:41

        Seems to me this was solved by having the nation consist of a homogeneous in-group.

        We had a homogeneous elite. We are here today. Whatever the old solution was wasn’t stable.

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  6. Hitler's Jewish Grandson May 5, 2017 at 05:18

    “Let me propose: to break malignant signaling spirals.”

    Not exactly.

    The purpose of government should be the containment of holiness-spiralling, and the prevention of holiness-spirallers from attaining power. Make it low-status to be holier-than-thou, and high-status to be successful in actually productive fields, and let holier-than-thou people perish by their own poison.

    • quaslacrimas May 5, 2017 at 07:26

      Signalling spirals are different from holier-than-thou in the same way that hyperinflation is different from banknotes. Society needs its Brahmin to function in the same way it needs a stable currency. When we talk shit about the priestly caste we shouldn’t kid ourselves into thinking we’re going to eliminate that drive.

  7. lalit May 5, 2017 at 07:41

    The purpose of government is all of the above. Law and order, rule of law, protection of property, break malignant spirals and more

  8. James James May 5, 2017 at 08:24

    to break malignant signaling spirals ⊂ to solve coordination problems

  9. grey enlightenment May 5, 2017 at 13:09

    Let me propose: to break malignant signaling spirals.

    not if they have become the government, in which it is too late. Reset and start over seems to be the only way

  10. rucoi May 5, 2017 at 13:55

    Kick your feet up, sit back and relax. A gov without an agenda, particularly a political agenda, will help set a tone that social tomfoolery, signaling or otherwise, isn’t worthy of a murmur of response. This approach will kick out a crucial crutch that so many of these losers rely upon when developing their inane ‘views’. I suspect a fair portion would give up their deceits, without realizing it of course, due to lack of feedback. Those who insisted on continuing would be singling themselves out as the obvious and easy targets for the first wave of bloodletting. You’d also have a better idea who your own supporters are helping to cut the wheat from the chaff.

  11. deplevna May 5, 2017 at 15:38

    The way I see it, 21st century competent statecraft (the Right) will essentially consist of occupying the position of sovereign power so that incompetence and demagogy (the Left) don’t get access to it. “To break malignant signaling spirals” sounds pretty close to it.

  12. Jefferson May 5, 2017 at 19:56

    I’m pretty sure that this is what the old testament was designed to do. Obviously it didn’t work, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, those prone to signaling spirals seem incapable of awareness of them in their own lives. I can demonstrate to a secular how there are signalling spirals in orthodox Judaism, and to the orthodox, I can demonstrate secular spirals, but neither sees his own. Secondly, the lure seems irresistible. The priests were the government, with clear, written guidance on how to stop spirals. Material success empowered non priests, who reinterpreted the words to mean magic, and spirals commenced until Bar Kochba.

    I have some more thoughts on this, but don’t like sharing them in public.

    • power power rewop rewop May 7, 2017 at 10:02

      Are the private thoughts you prefer to keep to yourself something along the lines of: there is no solution to human problems as long as humans are there?

      Come to think of it… their “irresistible” hunger for power could be bio-engineered out of their brain some time in the future.
      But how to remove that hunger from who would direct the bio-engineering (they would all be very power-hungry fellows, of course)?

      No, there is no solution.
      And as for the “lack of awareness” you speak about, well, that aids humans heavily in the struggle against each other that is natural. It’s not an accidental thing, but an essential, essentially needed one.
      Being aware of the others is of advantage; of oneself, it is an impairment.

      • Jefferson May 7, 2017 at 20:11

        Not exactly, but I think you’re in the same area. What triggers a status spiral? What accelerates them? What does an Amish status spiral look like? Who has had success at limiting spirals in history, and how did they do it? We need a new religion, and we’ll likely get one soon, but the pain in getting there is going to be significant.

        • Garr May 8, 2017 at 00:24

          On triggering of signalling-spirals: I’ll bet there’s a lot more of it when women are in the room. We want to pass their is-he-part-of-the-dominant-social-group test. They’re always checking up on us. If they weren’t in control of the mating process now, maybe there wouldn’t be so much signalling. (Women were always in the room when the Puritans had their religious meetings and discussions, if I remember my Revolution of the Saints correctly … maybe I don’t.)

          • Jefferson May 14, 2017 at 03:10

            Strong point, although I’ve seen loads of signaling in gender segregated orthodox Judaism. Keeping women out is necessary, but not sufficient?

  13. Tsaekasith May 6, 2017 at 08:36

    The role of government is to promote intelligence.

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  15. power power rewop rewop May 7, 2017 at 09:49

    Just saw an electoral poster for Macron: Ensemble, la France!.

    They know how to treat the masses, and make them happy.

    Contrary to the seeming, we are in a phase of perfect democracy. It is the elite who are obeying the masses. As well as multinationals, with their ad campaigns, and the mass-media, with their headlines and style of framing issues, are obeying the public’s wishes and wants.

    Let’s say we become worthy and assume power.

    Nice reference to Mencius. That “worthy” may be the most important word he chose to use.
    He also said, though, that the ones who “assume power” will have to lose it once the restoration takes place.
    And of course (just see what hunger for power is in your very phrase and many blog posts) there’s got to be a system in place that removes from power them once their work is done.
    Very very tricky phase.

    It’s almost lucky that this is all daydreaming, so nobody will have to actually face such jigsaw.

    • power power rewop rewop May 7, 2017 at 09:53


      The “restorers”, Mencius says, will be selected in a democratic environment, thus they will be democratically selected as are (contrary to appearances) the to-be-removed. Thus, unlike hereditary monarchs, they are selected for insanity.
      That specific brand of insanity that is power-madness. Therefore, the need to remove them from power quickly.

      • power power rewop rewop May 7, 2017 at 09:55

        * [still forgot a detail]

        A monarch can be mad with power too, of course. The difference is: a monarch can be not power mad; while anybody tiding over democratic selection will have to be (or the choosers would never choose him/her).

  16. Rhetocrates May 9, 2017 at 01:36

    How would this work? Haven’t you just effectively said that the role of government is to be low status? Which, I suppose it could be…but we’d have to do some serious social engineering to separate status and power.

    Not in the minds of people, but in coincident fact.

  17. iIQ May 9, 2017 at 09:56

    What’s more lovable than reading articles on the prosperousness of Hong Kong and/or Singapore compared to neighbouring countries with no mention at all of IQ.

    No, it’s just “good political organization.”
    I have just read it. It’s the fact that there is no universal suffrage that makes the difference. Not 20-25 IQ points.

  18. Dividualist May 10, 2017 at 10:02


    I think a strong government does that automatically by existing: if they are not ashamed about their power, pretty quickly the dominant signalling spiral becomes the show of loyalty: mangoes to Mao, indeed, you got that very right. People get which way the wind is blowing and signalling loyalty quickly outcompetes other signals.

    So it only needs to break one spiral actively: the one that is targeted on itself. Mostly we just need to train princes in their childhood to have absolute contempt for spineless brown-nosers. A well trained prince uses them and discards them without much reward.

  19. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2017/05/07) - Social Matter

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