Month: May 2014

The gods of America


Chaser: Shocking video shows how members of the public intervene when they see man attacking his girlfriend… but stand by and LAUGH when the roles are reversed

As an artist, I take it as read that traditional forms of art presuppose reactionary ideas and most easily transmit them. Poetry with traditional structures (rhyme, meter, fixed forms) is included here. It is not impossible for revolutionary forms to be bootstrapped in, but it is always with difficulty and feels forced. Lyricists who move beyond the Ke$ha level of rhythmic innuendo spiced with imperfect rhyme will run into the essential problem that revolutionary ideas sound silly, trite, or ironic if presented in ballad form. A proper tragedy however almost begs for verse, even a highly structured and stylized verse. The amusing part about a musician such as Mozart or Beethoven is that inasmuch as they were trying to push revolutionary ideas, their art form worked against them; despite their feeling for revolutionary ideas (consider The Marriage of Figaro or The Magic Flute) their works have become inextricably conservative, existing in a tension between the reactionary harshness inherent in the formal style and the liberalism of their intellectual ideals.



A review of Peter Leeson’s ‘Anarchy Unbound’

Anarchy Unbound by Peter Leeson is the newest addition to the academic anarcho-capitalist literature, books and articles that attempt to engage mainstream academia on the topic of anarchism. He begins by setting an admittedly low bar, why anarchism works better than you think. Then he takes you on historical examples to show how self-governance can produce better outcomes than governments.

I strongly recommend this book. It is the clearest exposition of the George Mason approach to anarchism. That being said, reading it, I can more clearly identify a growing gap between popular anarchism, exemplified by attendees of Porcfest, and academic anarchism.

Popular anarchism is a social program, an argument that a stateless society today can lead to better outcomes than most countries. Snapping ones fingers and replacing the state with Friedmanesque, non-territorial, dispute resolution agencies would improve social outcomes. Transitioning is, or course, tricky, but can be ignored for the current discussion.

The primary critique of anarchism is that it is unstable. If a state is inevitable, than anarchism as a social program is, at best, an unachievable ideal. Unfortunately, Leeson never investigates the inevitability of states. As such, I do not think his book has much value for those interested in the possibility of actually enacting of a modern stateless society.

The most recent research suggests the state emerges whenever there is a surplus of wealth that can be expropriated. Raul Sanchez de la Sierra studies villages in Congo, a country whose central government can barely project power outside the capital. He finds pseudo-states emerge in these villages when the price of cobalt rises. On the other hand, nothing of the sort happens when the price of gold rises, as gold is easy to conceal.

This suggests a different research path for those interested in the possibility of a modern anarchist society than Leeson has followed. Rather than investigating stateless societies, anarchists should examine the emergence and growth of states. Under what condition are states inevitable? Do those conditions still exist? Responsible advocacy of anarchism requires answers to these questions. Unfortunately, few are currently considering them.

Kill enough people and become a governor

I found a new favorite blog. It is dedicated to popularizing North, Wallis, and Weingast’s (hereafter NWW) framework of violence and social orders. The argument is that the natural type of government is vicious and predatory. It is what we see in the third world today. Modern liberal governments only really emerged in the 18th century and are still largely restricted to Europe.

A main contribution of NWW is changing the frame of reference for government action. Good governance is not the norm, but the exception. In much of the world, local tyrants are rewarded with power, rather than punished. This post details David Yau Yau, who, having lost an election, decided the best way to keep his rents was to start low-scale warfare:

On again off again since 2010, he’s led one of the most vicious, mindlessly murderous little tribal guerrilla wars you’ve never heard of for control of his home region in Jonglei State’s Pibor County, just near Ethiopia.

For his troubles, he was appointed governor of the area he terrorized. While this offends basic notions of justice, it is probably better than the alternative. Theft by governments is far less socially damaging than raiding villages and murdering their inhabitants.

Leaks and the rule of law

Conor Friedersdorf has a new piece critiquing the liberal moderate critics of Greenwald and Snowden, most recently George Packer in the Prospect. Below is an excerpt, but I recommend you read the whole thing, it is excellent:

Stepping back, notice that in the same passage, Packer contrasts the wrongs of Greenwald with the Obama Administration – the people who’ve persecuted whistleblowers, presided over domestic spying on Muslims and launched drone strikes that kill Americans without due process – yet it is Greenwald who, according to Packer, doesn’t understand that “the rule of law has to protect people regardless of politics.”

I think Friedersdorf doesn’t go far enough in his critique of how writers equivocate regarding Greenwald versus the NSA’s respect for the the rule of law. A simple interpretation of the rule of law is that the laws that apply to people also apply to government officials. The important part of the equation is government officials. No one doubts laws apply to the average citizen, it is how they constrain government officials that matters. Arguing that the actions of private individuals violates the rule of law fundamentally misconstrues the rule of law itself, as a constraint on government action.

Isolationism stops ‘creeping,’ gets up, takes a stroll, has a smoke

It sure is nice to see a major politician smoke again, isn’t it? I mean, in view of the cameras.

Despite an assertively rootless parochialism that may be our chief character trait, your average American Memorial Day celebrant may nonetheless find the distribution of Ukip voters in this week’s election interesting.

John Smith’s hometown in Lincolnshire went for the anti-EU insurgents this week, as did Yorkshire and South Somerset, all points of origin of the colonial Cheseapeake’s oldest, less permanent architectural traditions, like the Virginia frame.

As the sort of person who saves his fortune cookie slips, I find something poetically satisfying about this. Tom Rogan frets that the U.S.’s interest is in the U.K. playing a moderating role as a fully-integrated member of the EU, which is the sort of realpolitik that usually gets you called heartless.

Whatever’s going on in the gash suddenly torn open in progressivism’s teleology, the new nationalism of the 2010s is more isolationist than that of the mid-20th century, as James Traub notes: “As India has grown stronger, it has become more defensive about sovereignty and less prepared to defend the international order.” In an echo of the last broad-based American antiwar movement, Modi has tried to downplay his Hindutva associations with the pan-ethnic national concept of “India First.”


The Millerite left

We’ve had sauce for the gander, so let’s take on the sound geese, shall we?

Wherein Chauncey DeVega reflects that progressivism hasn’t quite been severed from its protestant roots:

Several years ago, I watched students become unhinged and hysterical in response to Right-wing professional bomb thrower David Horowitz. They cried. They shambled about in a confused state. Some of them were taken to special areas for healing and hugs.

There are religious types who handle snakes, speak in tongues, or have fits of religious ecstasy. As I witnessed it, in the cult of left-leaning political correctness, personal outrage and tear filled histrionics were a sign of being one of “the elect” or “saved” when facing the likes of David Horowitz.

It’s almost as if the sensitive, 21st-century metrosexual and the Pentecostal football captain who only cries in church may have more in common than either would admit. We’ve touched on this subject recently, but in light of Richard Dawkins’ narrative collapse it’s worth revisiting.

Recent events threaten our reigning strain of self-hating protestantism embodied by Dawkins — the one Joseph Bottum’s been tilting at — with a fate something like the Millerites. Modi, the EU elections; we aren’t going where we’re supposed to be going.