Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving through Proxy Power…and a New Science Fiction Museum

Proxy-Activism-NewIt's the season when many of us sit down and discuss the year's allocations for helping the world… call it giving, tithing, donating, or just joining others in making a better world for our grandchildren, or, as Jonas Salk described our basic duty -- "to be good ancestors."
For those who look ahead, it is self-interest, in its purest form.
Once again, let me tout an approach that might let you be systematic about this, picking among the various topics that raise your passion and using this annual exercise to do a very efficient thing: empowering others (activists) to go save the world for you!
Pass the word about this approach: The Power of Proxy Activism.  It could be your most effective (and comfortably simple) way to make a difference. To be part of the solution, not the problem.
***
MSF-Museum-of-Science-FictionOne forward-looking project you might consider: help crowd-fund the new Museum of Science Fiction -- to be established in Washington D.C.  Interactive exhibits will present the bold vision of Science Fiction, invoking its 'sense of wonder' about the universe --  exploring the intersection of science and the imagination. Right now... they are raising money through Indiegogo for a Preview Location as a first step toward the museum. See this interview with Executive Director Greg Viggiano.
As an added incentive, you can receive a private tour of the museum, a lecture and signed hardcover from Greg Bear. You can also receive a signed hard copy of my latest novel, Existence, or a signed set of five of my hardcovers.
Or…Be immortalized and have a character in my next novel named after you! Die gruesomely on paper and/or onscreen (if you so choose)! Or it makes the perfect holiday gift.
==From the Philippines to the Classroom==
doctors-withoutThere is urgent and immediate need around the globe: Help rescue and recovery efforts in the Philippines…still reeling from the terrible impact of Super-typhoon Haiyan. Thousands  have died from the storm and its aftermath, and survivors are in desperate need of food and fresh water, as well as medical supplies and sanitation. Groups such as Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), the Red Cross and Oxfam International are sending teams of emergency responders to help with this tragic situation.
Every person’s list of memberships can be uniquely different. For example, I send money every year, selecting among organizations including:
tpslogo
The Planetary Society supports education, advocates for pro-science policy and directly funds innovative research on space exploration -- reminding us to keep looking toward the frontier in space. Now ably led by Bill Nye the Science Guy!

Project Heifer International educates and empowers impoverished farmers overseas to practice sustainable agriculture, setting up community cooperatives -- and working to end cycles of hunger and poverty. Your gift keeps on giving, for families pass on the training they receive -- and they give the first female offspring of their livestock gift to another neighboring family in need.

Habitat for Humanity International is involved in building and repairing simple decent and affordable homes for homeless or displaced people all over the world, using volunteer labor and donations. Families in need can purchase the houses through no-interest loans or other innovative financing solutions.
sierraclub-logoThe Sierra Club, which has a proven track record of rationally negotiating long-term sustainable environmental solutions -- to maintain clean air and water and open spaces for our descendants. Radical environmentalists call then "sell-outs" but they are the ones who have to do the hard dickering in a flawed but real world.
The Ocean Foundation works to protect the health of the world's oceans and coastlines, as well as to conserve our disappearing coral reefs and marine mammals.
Greenpeace, I do not always agree with them. Proxy power involves a weighing of factors. But I am glad they are out there acting as the "bad cops" and thus getting corporations etc. to eagerly negotiate with the Sierra Club!  Think about it.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation fights to resist censorship and advocates for open accountability -- to defend your rights in a an ever-changing digital world. Another case where we disagree on some things… but I am glad they are out there spending my dues  on good fights.
WitnessWitness: See It, Film It, Change It. Witness is involved in getting video equipment directly into the hands of pro-freedom elements overseas -- to record and document human rights abuses -- transforming individual stories into powerful calls for justice and change.
The Skeptic Society: Fighting for the Enlightenment, the Skeptics Society promotes science, examining and illuminating all manner of extraordinary claims….and working to debunk a growing tsunami of pseudoscience.
==And a few newer sites==

The Long Now Foundation fosters long-term thinking about humanity's future and our responsibilities to that future.. 

Crowd-it-Forward  enables you to donate to contribute to "Random acts of crowd funding."
DonorsChooseDonors Choose enables you to give directly to the classroom. Public school teachers may seek funding for special art, science or literacy projects to benefit their students, particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods. Help purchase microscopes, books, or painting supplies.
Finally, Books for Soldiers allows you to help fulfill specific requests from soldiers -- for books, DVDs or games. Of particular value to those stationed away from family during the holiday season.  I have some titles I'd suggest!
==Philanthropy on the larger scale==
philanthropyAnd if you know someone a bit better-heeled?  Someone with the resources to make a much bigger difference?  Here is my paper on innovative philanthropy that circulated for a while in foundation circles. It proposes a nifty way to engage billionaires in the New Aristocracy… or for a mere millionaire to create a way to influence billionaires! Oh, and also to craft one of the best possible reality TV shows, ever!
Consider a modest institution called the Eye of the Needle Foundation or "EON." Its symbol, a camel sailing easily through a needle's eye, makes biblical reference to helping rich folks "reach heaven" by means of well-targeted altruism. The aim is to offer dramatic, extravagant, altruistic... and possibly historic ways for billionaires to spend their money.
Something for the man or woman who has everything.  (Oh, and did I mention... it would make a spectacular TV series?)
Go thou and be good ancestors.

49 comments:

Nicholas MacDonald said...

Wow, what an unexpected Thanksgiving treat! Brin vs. Moldbug, at last! And I’d like to wish Dr. Brin and all other community members a happy Thanksgiving and Chanukkah (I’ve always wondered how turkey and matzo would go together; sadly my family is not Jewish, so I didn’t find out yesterday.) And I didn’t thank Brin for his acknowledgement in EXISTENCE – I read the novel on my honeymoon in Vietnam last year and just about jumped out of my chair when I saw that. A very entertaining novel filled with interesting threads, even if I’d seen most of them on your blog before, and even if most of them meandered off into nowhere. Either the powder was a bit wet in Chekhov’s arsenal, or you meant the novel to be about 300 pages longer than it was... but I’ve recommended the book to quite a few people anyway, as there’s just so much to talk about in it!

Brin vs. Moldbug… hmm… not a very fair matchup. He’s an engineer and a BA… hell, he hasn’t even published! Now Brin vs. Land- a Ph.D. in philosophy, former professor at the University of Warwick… that would be a contest. His comments on your post, from his own blog:

“Brin is attacking a straw-man (from my point of view, at least), but the tone of his post is quite calm. We’re still at the “let’s find some really good reasons for not looking at this crazy / horrible stuff” stage — but that’s OK. Best for us to chip people off the consensus discreetly, then discuss things with them in the shadowy depths of the reactosphere, rather than encouraging the illusion of open public debate (about the structurally-rigged system of public debate).”

Nicholas MacDonald said...

(cont)

Namely, by going after the sympathies for monarchy (without realizing that, when you get into their arguments, neither Land or Yarvin/Moldbug IS really a monarchist at all!), rather than going after any of their real concerns - do we actually have freedom of speech and debate in our society, or are certain people/topics being repressed? Why is leftist radicalism acceptable, but right wing radicalism is not? What really destroys markets?

And these are all questions you are interested in too! In fact, you come to some similar conclusions. But, by going after the Anissimov line, which harks to the European New Right and monarchism, you’ve managed to ignore the more interesting elements of Neoreaction, which are awfully in line with your own sympathies. As Anti-Gnostic posted, you don’t even realize it, but by attacking this monarchical strawman, you’ve managed to avoid the simple fact that you tend to be in sympathy with them in most ways. For instance, anyone who would write something like this:

“But my first act would be to put on a collar with TNT and a radio computer. It would explode when citizens pressed buttons a specified number of times. And if I overstay a preset time limit. Acts of faith with democracy. Even so, I'd be wracked with guilt. The collar is for when the guilt (inevitably) starts to fade.”

That sounds… almost word-for-word like it came from a section of Moldbug’s “Letter to an Open-Minded Progressive”. The “Open Letter” is an epic mindfuck of the Robert Anton Wilson variety- which you were so right to bring up. His whole point, in both of his lengthiest screeds, is AIACC- “America is a Communist Country”- yet we can’t even realize it, because we are living within the beast.

Damn, that’s contrarian! Already, at the beginning of the Open Letter, it’s clear you’re not dealing with a typical wingnut- he spends plenty of time slagging the American right. But he’s taking you deep into much weirder territory…

…and the purpose isn’t a defense of your would-be lords. Oh, no, they all get their due in the letter. He’s an equal-opportunity offender, that Moldbug. His mission is guerilla ontology, in the RAW sense- to make you realize that you’ve been hypnotized by language, brainwashed by years of propaganda… and even if it’s 99% right, what of that other 1%? (After all, most of what was taught in a Soviet school was probably correct. Maybe 99%. But what of that other 1%? Oh….)

David Brin said...

Nicholas thanks for your kind words and for dropping by. And I know that there are many threads out there. Some not quite as loony as others.

You should see my colleague Charles Stross's amazingly erudite bestiary of nerdy ingrate movements (to which I replied in comments) at:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/11/trotskyite-singularitarians-fo.html

But you are wrong to suggest that I share anything with these fellows -- certainly not the deeply immoral man of low-character, Moldburg. But any of those in Stross's bestiary. And the reason is simple -- because the greatest philosophical statement of the 20th Century occurred on the last line of the Dirty Harry movie "Magnum Force," delivered by Clint Eastwood.

"A man's GOT to know his limitations."

A system was developed that has always had the odds stacked against it. But a system to use competitive synergies to overcome human delusion. That system needs defending, RIGHT NOW against attempted putsch by the Old Enemies of humanity, many of whom benefited hugely from that positive sum system.

If we keep it healthy, then we will catch our errors in time, and our grandchildren will have Star Trek.

If we descend into spirals of delusional and smug dogma, then we will be one more failed species in the Galaxy.

David Brin said...

My comment that I left under Charles' Stross's latest blog:

====
Congratulations, Charlie. Excellent run-down of a highly Improbably Bestiary. It shows not only the range, but the common thread of the modern sophomore who must have some memic idol -- a way to declare himself in-the-know and superior to the hated, sheeplike masses.

It is at the level of emotional motivation that - I believe - we can find the common undercurrent. The mythic system of the west has extolled traits that were suppressed in most societies -- e.g. individualism and Suspicion of Authority (SoA). The sub-system called Hollywood then added messages of adoration of eccentricity and devotion to diversity/tolerance.

Ironically, Hollywood also spreads the messages that "institutions never function," and "your neighbors are all sheep," and "expect dystopia."
(See http://www.davidbrin.com/idiotplot.html)

Notice that every one of these messages resonates with the most-abused drug high of the modern age -- a self-doped and quite genuine release of endorphins and enkephalins that is called Self-Righteous Indignation.
(See: http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html)

Above all... and Charlie and I make our livings from this trait... there is the fantastic ability of human beings to create or enjoy or wallow in delusions! Subjective will triumphing over mere objective reality. It is (mostly) harmless in fictional gedankenexperiments... and lethal in practical politics.

See the pattern? It doesn't matter which convenient and self-serving theory you proclaim, so long as (1) it puts you on top, (2) lets you proclaim yourself the defender of the People while dripping contempt for them, and (3) you get to claim that you invented it!

None of which is in keeping with the actual system that brought us all the goodies (including Hollywood): the contingency of science. The way that (Adam)Smithian competitive arenas like science, democracy and markets enable us to use criticism and accountability to penetrate each others' delusions.

This mature side of the Enlightenment - the incredibly productive positive sum games of competitive delusion-piercing - benefits from much of the mythic system... the individual ambition part, for example. The tolerance and eccentricity parts. But it suffers from the concomitant tsunamis of sanctimonious dogmatism.

Hence we have so many weak-ego'd alpha-minusses scurrying about for rigid dogmas to proclaim. I call it -- borrowing from Charlie(!) -- the "Rapture of the Ingrates.

Bright males who would -- if their dreams ever reified -- quickly be converted into nerd-flavored dog food.

=====

Oh, one more thing! "Accelerationism" was first coined by Roger Zelazny in LORD OF LIGHT as a faction wanting to end feudal-theocracy in favor of rediscovering egalitarian science.

Keep up the great work. David Brin

Nicholas MacDonald said...

"A man's GOT to know his limitations."

But Dr. Brin- if you'd actually read what these guys are about, beyond the superficial treatment you've given them, you'd know that THEY ARE ALL ABOUT LIMITATIONS!!!!

One of the big points that neoreactionaries make (and it’s one that they share with neoconservatives) is that the demotic era has seen an abandonment of traditional limits and this abandonment has lead to catastrophes. Sure, some of it might be chalked up to superior technology… but there are interesting anomalies.

(One that isn’t talked about enough- Cambodia. There was never a massacre on the level of that of the Khmer Rouge in recorded history, east or west. Yet this wasn’t done with modern technologies, the “clean” methods of Auschwitz or the GULAG- it was done with machetes, stones and tree trunks. Chew on that one. In the past, we killed for one lord or another- but this was understandable. You yourself said that you can understand it – simple Darwinian survival struggle. Old fashioned Machiavellianism. But the struggle of utopian ideologies- all-justifying ideologies that declare all moral limits void and render history at year zero… THAT was unprecedented.)

So it seems you’ve missed the ontological point of their arguments and beaten down a monarchical straw man… congratulations. You completely missed the point. You missed the part where Moldbug talks about how a democratic system of voting shareholders could be used as a check on the power of a sovereign. You missed the point where Land talks about the project of neoreaction being to check the power of radical leftism to DESTROY ALL LIMITATIONS! You missed the part where we concern ourselves where people are losing their jobs for speaking their minds… or how power is being invested in unaccountable people via flaws in the democratic system…

Dr. Brin, we’re your people!

…or are you becoming the thing you hate?

Gazed long into the abyss, have we? The person I see here, spouting incantations, making platonified dogmatic statements, and not questioning orthodoxy…

… is you!

Nicholas MacDonald said...

“Hence we have so many weak-ego'd alpha-minusses scurrying about for rigid dogmas to proclaim. I call it -- borrowing from Charlie(!) -- the "Rapture of the Ingrates.

Bright males who would -- if their dreams ever reified -- quickly be converted into nerd-flavored dog food.”

Exhibit A of your incantations: the “nerd flavored dog food” line.

But where in history has this been the case? Who has held the real power in almost every civilization in history? You keep saying it- yet I can hardly think of anywhere it was true.

We’ve already mentioned China and Korea… but weren’t the geeks in charge everywhere else, too?

Oh, in Europe, the kings and lords were generally big guys with swords… but the king derived his right to rule from… a priest. A nerdy, literate fellow. Sure, they were all supposed to be celibate, but who really honored that one? And they didn’t even have to take responsibility for their dalliances. They didn’t pay taxes- the lords tithed to THEM. They got to hang around their churches and monasteries with their books all day, have the protection of the lords who lived in fear of their power…

Or what of India? Who were the highest caste? The macho Kshatriyas?

Nope, the nerdy Brahmins. Again, the literate guys into literature and ceremony. Score another point.

What about Islam? The power was largely in the hands of the literate Imams. Chalk up another one.

Yes, you’ve talked about this; everywhere, the shaman sucks up to the warrior with stories of his greatness… yada yada yada… we’ve heard it. But the opposite was the truth. The warrior lived in fear of the shaman; the kings lived in utter dependency upon the literate priests and bureaucrats without which they could not administer their holdings and were denied access to heaven. The clever man always gets one up on those less clever.

None of this is to say that those times were better than today. I don’t think anyone is arguing that (and if you’d read a little more closely and not given in to the indignation that you’re always warning about- you’d have realized this! Physician, heal thyself!)

But check your premises. History says here: you’re wrong.

David Brin said...

Nicholas you just don't get it. I do not trust any one man or small, collusive clade, with power. They will all delude themselves and the proof is in every single human society that did not have Smithian accountability loops.

As for Moldburg's fantastic re-writing of democracy so that those with the most money can outvote lesser "stockholders" that is just more batshit evil rationalization for how to ensure that the vile old system of oligarchy, that mis-ruled 99% of past societies can come roaring back with a fresh coat of paint, and so that 5000 CEO golf buddies can connive in secrecy and allocate based on limited knowledge, violating everything we know about accountability arenas.

"Radical leftism"? Feh! Strawman! Show me any threats from the left that compare - at present - to the skyrocketing disparities in wealth that have reached French Revolution levels and allow a few dozen men to buy elections at the US federal level. The left CAN be dangerous and everyone here knows I frequently speak of the need to keep an eye on them. And they do not hold a candle to the FOx-Koch-Riyadh axis.

The rest of your sneer is just silly, Nicholas. I'll pretend I never saw it.
==
Next… so the big owner oligarchs hired nerd priests? Fine! They'll want me. I'd make a great Machiavelli. They will not want any of the dopes over at Moldburg's site, who aren't even alpha minuses. They would not deliver useful product. If their wasted muscles are no good at plows, then dog food it will be.

Your incantation about kings and priests is simply hilarious. I pray you'll never see it tested. Let's just say that here I am smiling and shaking my head at the power of human wish-delusion.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Nicolas said
"Cambodia. There was never a massacre on the level of that of the Khmer Rouge in recorded history, east or west."

This is a typical statement by somebody who has never studied history,
A quick read of the old testament will reveal many much more thorough massacres - most perpetrated by the chosen people

For a more thorough rebutting I would recommend
Pinker's - Better Angels of Our Nature
And Diamond's - The World Until Yesterday

Do some homework!!

As far as the priests being in charge and anointing kings - they anointed the kings they were told to - or died mysteriously

There were some powerful priests,
The Prince Bishops of Durham come to mind
They didn't have swords, such weapons were sinful - a mace was considered OK

LarryHart said...

Nicholas McDonald:

do we actually have freedom of speech and debate in our society, or are certain people/topics being repressed?


I think it's darned obvious that certain topics are being repressed. Any ongoing argument over that fact is betewen people who think that particular repression is a good thing and people who don't.

That's a failing of Enlightenment society. However, to me, it's a failing of not trusting enough in Enlightenment values, rather than a failing of Enlightenment values over more traditional ones. It's an example of what I said in the previous thread where (mangling Reagan) "Reactionarianism isn't the solution to the problem; reactionarianism is the problem." In case you're a fan of The Simpsons, prescribing reactionarianism as a solution to the problem of not enough free speech is like voting for Sideshow Bob instead of Mayor Quimby because Mayor Quimby was soft enough on crime to let Sideshow Bob out of prison.

In fact, speech and personal behavior are less free inside the corporate structure, which is what the neo-reactionaries seem to wish to model government after. You're not free to blog about how sucky your boss is (by name and naming the company) without perfectly legal reprisal on his part. What makes anyone think that they'd be more free to speak or act under a corporately-modeled government?

Why is leftist radicalism acceptable, but right wing radicalism is not?


Is that what the world looks like to you? To me, it's almost the diametric opposite. Right-wing congressmen freely "criticize the president during wartime", but woe was it to anyone visiting similar criticism on W. After 9/11, liberals and conservatives both found reasons to say it was our own fault, but only the liberals were told that doing so was a no-no. Liberals thought the terrorists hated us for our foreign policy, while conservatives thougth God had abandoned us for our tolerence of gays and feminists. The criticism of America from the left, like all criticism of America from the left, was called "treason" and "hating America". The criticism of America from the right, like all criticism of America from the right, isn't even really considered "criticism of America". It's taken for granted to be more like "Saving America from dirty hippies."

Nicholas MacDonald said...

Larry:

“Is that what the world looks like to you? To me, it's almost the diametric opposite. Right-wing congressmen freely "criticize the president during wartime", but woe was it to anyone visiting similar criticism on W. After 9/11, liberals and conservatives both found reasons to say it was our own fault, but only the liberals were told that doing so was a no-no. Liberals thought the terrorists hated us for our foreign policy, while conservatives thougth God had abandoned us for our tolerence of gays and feminists. The criticism of America from the left, like all criticism of America from the left, was called "treason" and "hating America". The criticism of America from the right, like all criticism of America from the right, isn't even really considered "criticism of America". It's taken for granted to be more like "Saving America from dirty hippies."”


Oh, that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s “mainstream right” vs. “mainstream left”. I’m talking about “supporting communism” vs. “supporting Nazis or the KKK”. Supporting communism is seen as a youthful peccadillo. Do you see public apologies for wearing Che shirts? Writing articles supporting Mao, the Khmer Rouge or North Vietnam? Putting a hammer and sickle on your dorm room wall?

Nope. Young leftists never seem to get held accountable. Oh, the right tries- but they’re not denied jobs over it, or even made to publically apologize.

On the other hand, what if you supported the Klan or the Nazis? Wrote articles favoring segregation? Wore a shirt with Hitler on it or flew a swastika?

You’re not welcome in polite society, even among the mainstream right. Maybe after some extensive shaming and repentance.

Isn’t that interesting?

Even though the Communists were ten times more murderous than the extreme right. Even though they make the Klan look like a circle of church ladies.

Even comparatively mild reaction loses people their jobs. Witness John Derbyshire, or Pax Dickinson. Witness the outcry on Orson Scott Card or Mel Gibson.

Yes, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from criticism. But lefties in the US seem to want to intimidate people into not even speaking- at the threat of losing their livelihood. (Note: I do not do the same to people on the left. I think that what China Mieville stands for is murderous insanity- yet I buy his books, and don’t even feel dirty about it. I want him to freely say what he has to say! Why can’t the left return the favor?)

Nicholas MacDonald said...

Duncan Cairncross said...
Nicolas said
"Cambodia. There was never a massacre on the level of that of the Khmer Rouge in recorded history, east or west."

This is a typical statement by somebody who has never studied history,


Duncan,

I own hundreds of volumes on history. And this was first brought to my attention by my undergraduate advisor, a man with a Ph.D. who studied under one of the most important political philosophers of the 20th century. Is he historically illiterate? I don't think so.


"A quick read of the old testament will reveal many much more thorough massacres - most perpetrated by the chosen people"

Whether any of them actually happened is pretty questionable, though, as oral histories usually are.

"For a more thorough rebutting I would recommend
Pinker's - Better Angels of Our Nature
And Diamond's - The World Until Yesterday

Do some homework!!"

Could you recommend something a little older? I prefer my history closer to the source.

David Brin said...

Nicholas, please don't cry for the poor KKK who are denounced worse than kids wearing Che Tshirts. I was abused more by the latter -- on college campuses in the 1980s -- than ever by the former. Only I know this. The KKK guys have hearts utterly drenched with hate and will to harm… and very little other than that.

The che-wearers were either domineering asshole bullies… or else naive kids passing through what was obviously going to be a mere phase, something you CANNOT say about most neo-nazis. And vastly more of them were naive kids, who saw injustice in the world and let themselves be talked into (briefly) thinking that quasi Marxism was a route to reducing injustice. That is NOT the scenario for skinheads waving swastikas…

… and you know it.

I have no truck with dogmatists of any kind and I poke hard at leftists. And someday that direction may again be dangerous! But right now, to even compare a few hundred thousand lefty flakes with 100 million Fox-hypnotized zombies, marching to the oligarchic drum? Baloney

Duncan Cairncross said...

"I own hundreds of volumes on history"

You actually need to open them and look at the words - just owning is not enough

"Could you recommend something a little older? I prefer my history closer to the source."

By referencing the bible I kind of bracketed any possible date range

By any sensible (not super righty) view the historical massacres of the bible and Genghis Khan totally swamp the atrocities in Cambodia

Not to mention documented tribal squabbles that ended up with the extermination of the losing tribe

As a New Zealand Citizen I would point to the extermination of the Moriori on the Chatham Islands as a recent fully documented atrocity that left zero mail survivors

Duncan Cairncross said...

Damn
Mail!
I meant Male

LarryHart said...

Nicholas McDonald:

Oh, that’s not what I’m talking about. That’s “mainstream right” vs. “mainstream left”. I’m talking about “supporting communism” vs. “supporting Nazis or the KKK”.


Ok, fair enough. But then...


Nope. Young leftists never seem to get held accountable. Oh, the right tries- but they’re not denied jobs over it, or even made to publically apologize.


I'm not old enough to remember the McCarthy era first hand, but I'm old enough to know that there was a time that some people stil do recall first-hand when people did lose jobs, livelihoods, and places in society because they had dared to look leftward during the Great Depression. At the same time that actual ex-Nazis were being given cover to operate here in the states as long as they were helpful against the Godless commies.

If there's a certain reluctance now to engage in red-baiting, I suspect that is a reaction to a time not so long ago when it was overdone.


On the other hand, what if you supported the Klan or the Nazis? Wrote articles favoring segregation? Wore a shirt with Hitler on it or flew a swastika?
...

Even comparatively mild reaction loses people their jobs. Witness John Derbyshire, or Pax Dickinson. Witness the outcry on Orson Scott Card or Mel Gibson.


Oh, Jew-hatred? No, you can't do that in polite society these days because the left doesn't like racial discrimination in any form, and the right has decided that Jews are allies now, espcially with the right-wing Likud party in power in Israel. Again, it was not so long ago (certainly more recently than the McCarthy era) when Jews and Catholics would have been excluded from the suburbs and country clubs occupied by those very same right-wingers who now equate any departure from Likud policy with "wanting the terrorists to win."

So yes, you are correct that outward displays of anti-Semitism are out of favor on the American right these days. And I'm glad this is the case, although no Jewish person would be foolish enough to be complacent in it staying the case. And rightly or wrongly, a display of a swastika or a poster of Hitler is not going to be taken as a sign of solidarity for Germans exploited by Britain and France, or a call for socialized medicine. It's going to be taken as an insult directed at Jews.

But that's a special case. Insults directed at Jews are not verbotten because they are right-wing. They are verbotten precisely because the right-wing doesn't currently want to be reminded that they themselves used to be fer' them before they were again' them.

David Brin said...

LayyHart you are right that the pro-Israel stance of today's US right wing is viewed warily by Israelis. They welcome the support! But they also know that the end game in the mind of Palin and Santorum is for trumpets to blow and for the "Jews" to either see their error and convert… or have geysers of blood gush from their eyes as that scorpions of the Book of Revelation flay their flesh. It is precisely what their "friends" pray daily to have happen.

Wariness, indeed.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

"Nicholas, please don't cry for the poor KKK who are denounced worse than kids wearing Che Tshirts. I was abused more by the latter -- on college campuses in the 1980s -- than ever by the former. Only I know this. The KKK guys have hearts utterly drenched with hate and will to harm… and very little other than that."


Oh, I’m not crying for them- I’m crying for the aforementioned people. Yeah, that Che shirt is so cool- tell my father-in-law who was sent to one of Mao’s work camps about that. He had the temerity to say that things were better for his professional-class Shanghainese family under Chiang Kai-Shek! (Great-grandpa Wu didn’t think the communists would be so bad, or were serious about collectivization - so he collected property deeds at fire-sale prices as his other banker friends fled to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Big mistake.)

Suffice it to say that I react with more disgust at the hammer and sickle than I do at the swastika by far- ten times as far. And yet, I’ll defend the leftists right to say what they will. I won’t boycott their art (I was listening to two different leftist-anarchist bands on my drive home just a few minutes ago, and enjoying every beat of it! They’d love to skin my bourgeois white male ass as much as your typical Neo-Nazi would want to get their hands on you – but damn I love their music!)

I just want a world where we can all say what we want without fearing consequences in our academic, professional, or personal lives.

Back when I was a leftist, in my early college days… over a decade ago now… my right wing friends would sneer a bit- but there was never any detectable personal animosity. The minute I started expressing neoreactionary views, though, I’ve had left-wing friends personally threaten to terminate our relationship.

It doesn’t go both ways- and I’ve always found people on the right, over the years, to be much MORE tolerant than people on the left. I’ve never been threatened by anyone on the right. Ever. But I was tossed out of a Ph.D. program in Political Science for not hewing to the politically correct line. I’ve lost friendships (Klint Finley, who wrote the Techcrunch article that started the recent kerfuffle, used to be a friend of mine. He won’t talk to me these days. I'm not the only friend he cut off for ideological reasons.) There’s tremendous social pressure to hew towards a politically correct stance... one I never experienced from friends on the right. And I'm from Sioux Falls, South Dakota! I live in a red state, for crying out loud! Shouldn't I be surrounded by intolerant hicks who can't stand left wingers? Yet I never felt threatened by them in my left-wing days.

Yet I’m willing to tolerate anything short of threatening violence against me by name. I'll tolerate your hammer and sickle and your swastika.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

"Even comparatively mild reaction loses people their jobs. Witness John Derbyshire, or Pax Dickinson. Witness the outcry on Orson Scott Card or Mel Gibson."


"Oh, Jew-hatred?"

Of those four, the only one that made anti-semitic remarks was Gibson. The other three said something about other protected groups - blacks (Derbyshire), feminists (Dickinson), homosexuals (Card).

Yet saying things about capitalists - far more vile things - is fine. My family would like a word with you. One side of it has experienced persecution for being capitalists first-hand.

David Brin said...

Sorry, Nicholas. The maximum sophistry I'll accept is to hate the hammer and sickle equally with the swastika… or maybe less given that some leftists were sincere dupes. To hate the swastika LESS of the two is morally indefensible, at any level and in any way.

Stalin was a nasty sumbitch who would kill every kulak in your village, then take every child under 14 and re-educate them. Hitler would kill your village and hunt down every single baby hidden under every wood pile. Both monster! But learn to parse your haters.

I despise the works of Card for reasons other than his doomed/silly gay rants. He relentlessly propagandizes spite toward humanity, preaching that only demigods have any rights or right to rule. He preaches it relentlessly and it does not surprise me that the Neo-Reactionaries adore him.

They -- and he -- had better be wrong. We had better make the Enlightenment work. You guys truly have no idea what hell will be unleashed if you have your way.

LarryHart said...

Nicholas MacDonald:

I just want a world where we can all say what we want without fearing consequences in our academic, professional, or personal lives.


I'd like that too. I don't see how that squares with the neoreactionary agenda. Remember, the Enlightenment is not the same thing as "the left". Benjamin Franklin or George Washington or even FDR would not be waving a hammer-and-sickle flag in your face.


Yet I’m willing to tolerate anything short of threatening violence against me by name. I'll tolerate your hammer and sickle and your swastika.


Maybe that's the difference you're overlooking--that the symbols of the right-wing groups you mentioned, the Nazis and the KKK, do come across as personal threats of violence to Jews and blacks respecitvely.

Now, with the family background you describe, I can see why you would feel the hammer-and-sicke to be the same sort of personal threat. I just don't think it is generally seen as such here in the United States. I'm not saying you're wrong to think differently, just explaining what I see as the difference.

In any case, it's not my hammer-and-sickle any more than it's my swasitika. I'm defending the Enlightenment, not communism.

David Brin said...

BTW… I blame campus lefty flakes for some of today's stunning insanity on the right. By trashing the offices of professors Wolfowitz, Nitze, Adelman etc and driving them off campus, they only wound up fleeing into the arms of faux "academies" like Heritage, where they became intellectual "neoconservative" whores for the Bushites, concocting rationalizations for any and every crime.

And yes, look at what happened to those hired priests, after the Iraq War became unpopular and we started running out of cash for Haliburton to suck from our arteries? Wolfowitz et al were dumped with stunning alacrity by a right-oligarchy that moved on to new darlings…

… the Tea Party.

Sure, the neocons were inferior intellects and completely crazy followers of a crazed lunatic named Leo Strauss. But I blame the lefty flake Che-types who drove them off campus. AT the University they might have had their radicalism eased by interaction with colleagues and peers, instead of becoming whores, concocting excuses for the utterly inexcusable.

And that is our condition today. gibbering loonies to the left and to the right. Only on the right they number a hundred million and are financed by unlimited oligarchic funding and run a political party and drove America off too many cliffs to count.

Excuse me… don't tell be the current dangers are equivalent. The only way the left will be dangerous in the near horizon is if the oligarchic putsch continues and the middle class is forced to radicalize. Then God help us.

locumranch said...

Just as the concept of merit belies the myth of equality, this little exchange between Nicholas and David about conversational 'fairness' should just about disprove that self-same myth.

For what is this 'fairness' of which they speak? A light complexion, a colour preference, a creamy purity, a lack of blemish, a legal standard, a level playing field or an all-inclusive conformity? How incredibly WHITE of all of you to argue that everyone else must comply with your particular form of moral mediocrity!!

Our hearts go out to the victims of Typhoon H, Fukashima, Auschwitz, Hurricanes S & K, global warming and practically every natural or man-made disaster but our hearts are thoughtless because we help these victims rebuild & recover rather than rethink; we minimize consequence so the victims learn nothing of consequence, much like the enabled alcoholic learns too little, too late.

So, as the Season of Giving descends upon us and you ponder the importance of becoming a good 'ancestor', check yourself before you wreck yourself AND your future progeny on the shoals of codependency. Remember that children fall down so they may learn to stand up, while those supported by others cannot stand.

We build our cities on sand, our armies with mercenaries, our nuclear reactors in flood plains and our supply lines of tissue paper. And we will continue to do so as long we can, avoiding most consequence, until it is too late.

Then God help us, excepting he won't, because he favours those who fall down, stand up & help themselves.

Best.

John said...

You guys truly have no idea what hell will be unleashed if you have your way.

I'm actually somewhat sympathetic to the "neoreactionaries", or at least with their disaffection with certain negative contemporary developments. But David is definitely right that they really have no idea what they're dealing with. They're extremely naive. They have a caricature of a reactionary world in their minds. It's a total fantasy. I think they think it would be like a renaissance fair or something. They don't realize that the kind of world they wish for is not one that's kind to mild-mannered nerds like themselves. It's a world for ruthless men, the likes of which they've never seen. These "neoreactionaries" would be eaten alive in such a world. "Nerd flavored dog food" indeed.

David Brin said...

Locum is getting more eloquent… and yet, after reading I find myself going… huh?

John, the hell would come sooner. With a myriad destructive technologies rapidly democratizing, the only way to keep society from burning is either (1) utter Orwellian surveillance or (2) persuading at least 60% of all people, 80% of the middle class and 90% of the tech classes that they are "vested." At least enough so grumbles stay just grumbles.

When the inequities become blatant enough, and I mean to more than grouchy sophomores, there will be no measures (gated communes of the wealthy, sea stead havens, alpine hideaways, bunkers) that provide adequate safety.

This is one reason the smarter billionaires are at least choosing to be seen to be on our side.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

BTW… I blame campus lefty flakes for some of today's stunning insanity on the right. By trashing the offices of professors Wolfowitz, Nitze, Adelman etc and driving them off campus, they only wound up fleeing into the arms of faux "academies" like Heritage, where they became intellectual "neoconservative" whores for the Bushites, concocting rationalizations for any and every crime.


Agreed.

I was on campus in the late 70s and early 80s, a bit late for the height of "campus radicalism", but there was still an obvious lefty bias among undergraduates back then. And this is what I keep telling Tacitus: back then I sounded like the token conservative of my group, not because I was espousing right-wing policy, but because I was the one going "You know, they do have an occasional point, and we don't want to be the bad guys here."

See, I actaully believe in the concepts of the marketplace of ideas, or that the best antidote to ridiculous ideas is to let them air so everyone can see how ridiculous they are. I've never thought shouting down the opposition was a winning tactic.

Now where the lines blur, I suppose, is when "speech" overlaps with "threatening shows of force". When neo-Nazis march in Skokie, for example, is that an example of protected free speech which should be allowed its fair place in the marketplace of ideas, or an impllicit threat to the residence which needs to be met with a show of counter-force? I suppose it somewhat depends on your pre-conceived notions. We're not all going to agree.

Damn those gray areas!

And this is the problem that Nicholas MacDonald is running into. Currently, it's considered bad form in polite society to be outwardly mean to the bullied. It's more allowable to...not exactly "be mean to", but to poke back at...the bullies. Thus Jews, blacks, gays and such are not fair game whereas white males and Christians can be. Let me say right here that I'm not describing my own philosophy here, just trying to explain what I see. I am fine with siding with the bullied against the bullies. I am not in agreement with relegating classes of people (white males, or Christians, or the wealthy, for example) to the ranks of "the bullies" by classification alone.

Now where it gets dicey is when you mention classifications that describe what certain people do to others rather than just what certain people are. Mr MacDonald complains that it's not acceptable to air pro-KKK views in public. Is that an example of bullying directed at the KKK, or is it a reaction to the fact that the KKK are bullies? I know where I stand on that question, but again, your personal answer depends on where you're coming from.

The most extreme example goes back to the French Revolution. The aristocrats were the bullies until the revolution itself. After 1789, one could make a case that one was persecuted "for being an aristocrat". Is that the same thing as the peasants having been persecuted before? Again, it depends where you're coming from.

I'd ask Mr MacDonald to examine whether the persecution for being a capitalist he has experienced first hand looks (to the persecuters, I mean) more like "persecution for being black" or "persecution for being an aristocrat". Not that he should excuse it, but just because he asked the question why the one is different (to polite society) from the other.

I'm not claiming to have a final answer to this one. Just trying to ask the right questions.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

What locumranch advocates seems to boil down to:

"If you extrapolate far enough into the future, it all ends in heat death of the universe. Therefore, anything we do is futile. Have a nice day."

This is actually on topic of the neo-reactionary complaint that democracies are not "time-preferenced" (I looked it up) enough toward the future. There's a danger in being too future-oriented at the expense of the present. Krugman mentions this regularly about the field of economics--it's not sufficient to say "It will all work itself out in twenty years or so." The journey is as important as the destination.

David Brin said...

To suggest that aristocracies were more future-vested or interested in forward generations is yet another example of stunning,, counter-factual just-so storytelling.

SOme investments were impressive, like establishing universities (e.g. Oxford) but only in the context of benighted eras of wretched sameness and misery and social immobility.

To extoll an occasional queen's bequest to Oxford is very nice and quaint, compared to the investment that common people of California made into a 10 campus University for a quarter of a million undergraduates and as many faculty, staff and graduate students…

…followed by STATE University of California, in which close to half a MILLION students enroll on 22 campuses… followed by more than a hundred community colleges where any earnest and hard-working person, of any age and means, can get started on an upward path, no matter what his or her background or past mistakes.

Yes, great men were involved in making that vision real. The real aristocracy of self-made, savvy, competitive/cooperative women and men, who earned their status through competitive/cooperative interplay and the perpetual testing of their merit, till the people trusted them to enact this vision… and then invest in it again… and again…

The monarchists can point to nothing like that. Nothing even remotely like that. Or like the Jet Propulsion Lab, which took the people's robotic envoys to explore the planets and moons and beyond.Or ten million other examples in which the Tytler Calumny has been proved -- over and over again -- to be an outright fable, concocted by deeply jealous and inferior minds.

locumranch said...

Being an offshoot of Smithian (Adam) economic theory, 'time preference', 'time discounting', 'discounted utility' and 'habit formation models' have little or nothing to do with monarchies or political preference:

http://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/sds/docs/loewenstein/TimeDiscounting.pdf

Suffice it to say that we're not doing what we think we're doing by helping others. We're making a moral intertemporal choice, alleviating immediate suffering at the expense of deferred or anticipatory utility.

In the case of Typhoon Haiyan relief, we're reconstructing a defunct urban social model, analogous to a tumor that has outgrown its blood supply, in an attempt to minimize human suffering.

In the case of the federal food stamp program (SNAP), we're supporting economic inequality in an inadvertent fashion by minimizing the consequence of that self-same economic inequality, creating the environmental requirements necessary for inequality juggernauts like Walmart.

And, like an incautious gambler who doubles down or the child who gives a moose a muffin, we underestimate deferred risk & commit reckless acts of kindness that will to only lead to a deferred reckoning of ever greater proportions, committing the same goodhearted 'ring around the rosie' mistakes over & over, never learning from either our history or discounted temporal utility.


Best.

Randy Winn said...

"...never learning ...."

Speak for yourself, sir.

In the real world, people who develop SNAP and hurricane relief and so forth ... this may come as a shock to one as wise as you ... think about this stuff.

Yes, it's true. Concern about the harm we do to people by helping them has been a part of program design since ... hmmmm ... forever, basically. So in the real world, food stamps are supplemented by educational opportunities; disaster relief is supplemented by development programs.

Perhaps if one were to actually study these subjects, instead of knowing all about them already, one would be able to talk about them in an interesting way.

But perhaps not.

LarryHart said...

@locumranch,

By that logic, medical care is a bad thing because it minimizes the consequences of sickness, allowing the succeptible to survive and breed instead of encouraging the evolution of the Superman.

Heck, speaking of Superman, he's doing harm to the good citizens of Metropolis every time he minimizes the consequences of crime or disasters. Ultimately, the same can be said for police and fire departments. And don't forget "Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" who perpetrated upon Egypt the harm of minimizing the consequences of famine.

Sorry, I do get what you're saying, and might even agree as an abstract and philosophical exercise. But as a real-life imperative for human society? I have to go with "alleviate sufferning first and ask questions later."

Randy Winn said...

Nicholas MacDonald
I don't know you and it's unlikely we'll ever meet. If you want to hate on Mao, well, he certainly earned that. Etc.

But are you seriously suggesting that today's rightwingers are nicer than today's leftwingers - less violent, less threatening, less insulting?

If that's your personal experience, well, that's your personal experience: one cannot tell someone he has not had the experience that he has had. But in a world where the most popular media figures on the Right and the Left are (probably) Rush Limbaugh and Jon Stewart; when the Right agitates daily for bombing yet another batch of Asian peasants while the Left blows hot and cold on the subject; when you cannot win the leadership of the GOP if you state plainly and fearlessly that evolution is a fact, AGW is a danger, and Obama was born in the USA ... are the factions really equivalent in their nastiness?

David Brin said...

+`````````` I GOT NOTHING. Locum has jumped from cranky 16 year old to cranky grandpa. I am awed by such consistency while leaping across a lifespan.

locumranch said...

Randy seems to be missing the point. I'm not arguing that social programs are unnecessary, I'm arguing that they are INADEQUATE.

SNAP & associated relief programs are not solutions to poverty. They are a pittance, an appeasement, an accommodation to poverty and a social mollification that covers over some of the consequence of economic inequality without treating its underlying cause. They are 'relief programs' that 'relieve' nothing in actuality.

To extend LarryH's medical analogy, SNAP is the equivalent of hiding diabetes medication in Twinkies, cupcakes & sweet meats in an effort to ameliorate the effects of over-eating & obesity.

So grow up. already. Your help harms; your assistance infantilizes; and your kindnesses devalue the bitter pill that is experience. It is one thing to become Superman & it is quite another to accept his assistance.





Best.

Jonathan S. said...

Ah, I see. So, since we cannot cure all of the ills of this world in one swell foop, we should sit and do nothing at all.

This is what we call "making the perfect the enemy of the good" - if our actions cannot be perfect, so the "reasoning" goes, then we would be better off not even trying.

I don't even know what to say at this point. I have read of a phenomenon called "rupture", in which one is deep into a conversation when one abruptly realizes that absolutely no communication has taken place at any level during it. The basic world-assumptions of both parties are so extremely different that neither party is capable of saying anything that the other will understand. That phenomenon seems to have reared its head here.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch has a point to argue, but I think it is easily defeated. The help we offer through charity usually does NOT address the underlying causes of misery beyond the bottom levels of Maslow's pyramid, but I think it is an error to think that is the real objective of charity. We ARE addressing the bottom levels of the pyramid and waiting for our markets to address the rest it. Higher levels require different solutions, but we don't know what those are yet... and can't possibly know except through experimentation and discovery. Enlightenment institutions make their inexorable progress on these issues, but they need time. Charity buys that time.

Alfred Differ said...

For an interesting story regarding atrocities at the genocide level, track the Assyrians through history up to modern times. See where they've gone through ups and downs and what is left of them.

It is stunning just how inclined humanity is to wipe cultures out down to the last man, woman, and child. The most stunning thing about it, though, is that WE find it stunning. Our ancestors obviously didn't. That's how much we have changed recently.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"It is stunning just how inclined humanity is to wipe cultures out down to the last man, woman, and child. The most stunning thing about it, though, is that WE find it stunning. Our ancestors obviously didn't. That's how much we have changed recently."

Another example
Until relatively recently burning cats in baskets was a popular spectator event

The biological human has not changed in that time BUT our cultures have changed so that the old norm is now amazingly unacceptable

Alfred Differ said...

There are days when I wonder if the biological human has also changed, but I'm probably wearing my rosy glasses then or high on something. 8)

There is an argument for a small biological change. The people most inclined to this violence are a little more inclined to participate in it. We might be out populating them. I don't know of a way to detect that, though. Since the same argument can be made for survival of our social institutions that enable non-violent processes, there is probably too much overlap to every know. In this case, our cultural evolution might be slowly encoded at the genetic level and we won't know because we aren't running any controls in this experiment.

My all time favorite, though, is our inclination to wipe out diseases or at least try. Small Pox is gone and we are trying to eradicate Polio. Not only are we unwilling to accept our own inclination to violence, we aren't even willing to accept it when the Universe treats us 'unfairly.'

David Brin said...

See this amazing example of where neoreaction can go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Evola

Alfred Differ said...

What are you trying to accomplish by responding to their foolishness?

1. Are people with power to make decisions acting upon what they say?
2. Is their meme spreading?
3. Are those who counter this meme ineffective?

I ask because I've learned that talking about a bad idea often draws attention to it better that the proponents of the bad idea. When I've tried it, it is all to often the case that I've created more support for the bad meme than the one I think is better. I've learned instead to demonstrate my meme through action and let the story tell itself. Perhaps with a bit more practice I could do better, but I'm wary of learning on important issues.

I've signed far too many ballot initiative petitions to think it is a good idea anymore to put some ideas out there for people to contemplate when the majority can overrule. I'm not an anti-democrat, but there are times when I think an opponent is already their own worst enemy and they don't need any help from me to go down in flames.

Tony Fisk said...

Like unto squirrel poo, and nothing 'neo' about it!
(I wonder if Evola's attitude to mountain climbing was what inspired Alastair Crowley?)

locumranch said...

Whereas most men gestate for 40 weeks only to be born in a moment, there are those who argue that change is best achieved in an incremental, stepwise or conservative fashion, so much so that they emerge stepwise from their mother's wombs, coming forth breech as fully cognizant adults who have their heads lodged firmly in someone else's perineum:

Change is always sudden, never incremental; only preparation takes time; and don't let any conservative ever tell you any different.


Best.

Robert said...

Try telling the expectant mother that change comes all at once. You're talking around nine months of gradual change as an infant grows and several hours to days worth of pain while the results of that change are birthed. It's not "all at once." Though it does speak metaphorically of events leading up to riots and revolution. Months or years of suffering and gradual decline in the quality of life... and then several days of intense suffering as people finally say "enough is enough."

Sadly, in this metaphor what often happens is the newborn child is killed along with the mother. Or even worse, both are so weakened that their continued survival is in doubt.

Man, I'm starting to sound like Locum. *rolls eyes*

And this is of course the problem with metaphoric speech. It leads you to "forecasts" which may in fact not be related. For instance, the Syrian civil war does not match any childbirth metaphor. What it does match, however, is history: several decades back another Assad dealt with a civil war by slaughtering his people. It is much more that history repeats itself because certain parties did not learn from their past mistakes rather than any half-fast metaphors using conception and childbirth.

This is also something that the neoreactionaries have failed to do: look at history. They claim to have. But they ignore the massive amount of death and mayhem that happened under the authoritarianism autocracies of feudal and post-feudal periods. In fact, all the military actions that the U.S. have been involved in in the 21st century could have been avoided if Congress was the body that acted on if we were to use military force.

Wait, what's that? Am I actually saying an authoritarian aspect of the U.S. government (the Executive Branch) is responsible for the armed conflicts we're in, and that by having a democratic discourse we could have prevented our use of military force?

Yes. I am.

Does this then perhaps suggest that democracies are less likely to declare war due to the need to answer to their constituents?

Yes. I am.

While it is fallacious logic to claim that authoritarian governments in turn are more likely to declare war or use armed conflicts instead of diplomacy... historically authoritarian governments are shown to be more likely to go to war. Hitler was not a democratically-elected leader but instead was given his power through emergency powers. Stalin gained power through strength of arms, not any democratic governance. The North Korean government invaded South Korea... because of an authoritarian government choosing to invade. Many bush wars in Africa were the result of dictators deciding to seize resources and the like.

Democracies are not perfect. But they are by their very nature (in that they have to answer to the populace) less likely to wage war. A return to authoritarian governments of aristocrats and kings and the like will in turn result in an increase in war because the people who truly suffer in these wars, the people, do not have a say in this.

Claims that the people can just "evict" a leader who abuses his or her power are fallacious because history currently has an example proving this claim to be false: the current Syrian civil war. For that matter, the only reason the Libyan civil war was won by the rebels is outside interference. And the Egyptian revolution has ultimately failed when the democratically-elected leader failed to consider that democratic governments need to consider minorities as well as majorities... and was only allowed to rule because the military was being lenient.

A return to aristocracy and authoritarian governments is a step backward. Ultimately it is a dead end for humanity. We need to move forward, not back.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:


Claims that the people can just "evict" a leader who abuses his or her power are fallacious because history currently has an example proving this claim to be false:


The process of "evicting" a monarch is by its nature extra-legal. There is no systemic way to dethrone a monarchy. What has to happen is that the systtem becomes so intolerable that the populace rises up to overthrow it. And unless the monarch is extremely lenient and humane, the process of getting from point A to point B requires bloodshed, torture, and death on both sides.

Not only that, but the necessity of overthrow is so great at that point that no thought is given to "what comes next".

The idea that this is an acceptable and in fact preferable alternative to the peaceful transition of power in post-WWII industrialized democracies is incredible.


A return to aristocracy and authoritarian governments is a step backward. Ultimately it is a dead end for humanity. We need to move forward, not back.


I can see the reasons people might consider democracy to be "not working", but the rationale for going back to the forms of government which "didn't work" such that they had to be overthworn by democracy...well, sorry, but it's the "vote for Sideshow Bob" thing again.

Isaac Asimov points out that theories about the shape of the earth have always been "wrong" to some extent. It was thought to be flat, then spherical, then sperical with a bulge in the middle, then spherical with an asymmetric bulge on one side, etc etc. The unenlightened way of looking at this is "All of the previous theories have been wrong, so the likelihood is that the current theory is wrong as well." A more accurate view is "Each theory got some of the elements correct, and each one is getting closer to the truth than the previous theories."

Something similar seems to be going on in human history (or psychohistory, if one prefers). We're certainly not perfect yet, but we're gradually ruling out bad choices in favor of better ones. Going back to feudalism is equivalent to going back to flat-earth theory because modern models have some flaws in them.

Then again, the fact that many Republican congressmen believe in flat-earth theory might have been a clue.

d said...

"I can see the reasons people might consider democracy to be "not working","

Churchill's famous dictum: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

The timing of this famous remark is significant. Churchill won the war, but in the election of July 1945, he was defeated. At the time I thought the public showed gross ingratitude, but I am willing to accept the interpretation that Churchill was not the man to organize the peace.

When the news came out, Churchill was taking a bath (was there ever a statesman who spent more time in the bath?) He remarked "They have a perfect right to kick me out. That is democracy". When he was offered the Order of the Garter, he asked "Why should I accept the Order of the Garter, when the British people have just given me the Order of the Boot?".

He returned to power in 1951. The remark about democracy was made when he had lost power and had every reason to be bitter. Fortunately he kept his sense of humor even in the most trying circumstances.
FROM
http://wais.stanford.edu/Democracy/democracy_DemocracyAndChurchill%28090503%29.html

Jumper said...

This is a great discussion worth reading.
It got me thinking about the hiding strategies of psychopaths. Some hide in capitalism, others hide in church, others in socialism.

Tony Fisk said...

Institution beyond reproach = preferred refuge for scoundrels.

David Brin said...

onward

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