Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fixing Democracy

I wrote a series of posts on Twitter and thought I would reproduce the discussion here with elaboration. This is about the degenerative ratchet of democracy, whose technical cause is either ignored or unknown to most of NRx. Before I entered neoreaction I had already studied the cause of America's decline. Moldbug was actually the third theorist I came across in this pursuit, and other people have said it better, have said it with more technical accuracy, and with economic explanation.

There are several causes of this ratchet. This is the major one. The reason given here explains why conservatives fight a loosing battle in all democracies (so far).

Constantly overlooked is that the entire theory for explaining why the Cathedral exists is wrong. It is not just memetics, though that plays a part.

Mancur Olson already explained all of it with a better theory than Moldbug in The Rise and Decline of Nations. The gyst of what he says is that it is easier for small groups to co-ordinate than large ones. The result is that it is more profitable for insiders to make law at the expense of the public that for the public to defend themselves against predatory law making. Here is Patri Friedman, (grandson of Milton) explaining the problem. Take a moment to watch this 2 minute video. It is central to our discussion. He is basically summarizing Olson and public choice theory, even if he doesn't reference it as such.

This stuff isn't new. The Rise and Decline on Nations came out in the 80's. It was, in turn based on even earlier work. So (some) people have understood the "collective action problem" for quite some time now. This theory explains the reason why democracy is getting worse and yet nobody appears to know about it, and it is not taught in liberal universities. This just goes to show that people won't learn or teach a subject if knowing it undermines their ability to justify their own parasitism.

Anyway, all you have to do to figure out modernity, is pair Olson's theory with an understanding that power is upstream from culture. That is, you simply marry Olson's theory to that of Bertrand de Jouvel's and you get a nice concise way of explaining everything that is wrong with America, (and indeed, democracy in general), and why it is all going to shit.
Olson's theory (in a vastly simplified form);
small groups have a greater incentive and profit for lobbying government that large ones. Thus, there is an incentive to constantly make law for the benefit of elites at the expense of the public. Therefor, legislative accumulation occurs.
de Jouvel's theory;
culture is downstream from power. Whenever a change happens in culture or ideology it is due to some higher level force of power acting on society.  
Thus, as power expands so does the political demand for justifying ideology.

Eventually the whole society becomes saturated with it. Mancur Olson predicted back in the 80's the political divisiveness of the current era. He also predicted gridlock and government dysfunction. His stated reason was that as the amount of rent-seeking law on the books increased, the payoff from those corrupt laws would also increase, and thus, the pitch of the rhetoric would be elevated as a result. More payoff from corrupt law = more incentive to manipulate people with propaganda to control the payoff.

If power expands, so must ideology, since ideology is necessary to justify it. This is because humans are social creatures that rationalize their circumstances.

If a man is given a handout he will rationalize it. Give him free healthcare and after awhile he will believes he has a "right to healthcare." Give him nothing and he will work hard and resent anyone who receives a handout. He will then glorify hard work and self-sufficiency, just like frontiersmen did. Moreover, his attitude of hard work will be transmitted to his children so long as they do not receive handouts.

So ideology will change as rationalizations change. Thus, the greatest predictor of ideology are  incentives. This is the reverse of what people intuitively believe. They think that ideology controls incentives. But most of the time it is the reverse. Consider this depression era quote about the New Deal;
"There was, nevertheless, a remarkable unwillingness to go "on the dole." Government welfare and shame still were a horse and carriage in the popular mind. Researchers into popular attitudes found an accountant turned ditch-digger saying, 'I'd rather stay out in that ditch the rest of my life than take one cent of direct relief.' "
In fact, when one researches the history of the New Deal one finds out that welfare essentially had to be forced on the American people. Then, and only then, did attitudes of entitlement grow. Here is another quote;
"Popularly coined phrases such as, 'There is no elevator to the top, you need to take the stairs,' were a common outlook on working life amongst Americans, and nobody expected anybody else to provide for them. This attitude began to change in the 1980s, with a growing sense of urgency to provide the next generation with an 'easier life' then had been given to its parents. Unfortunately, this genuinely good-intentioned decision made for a generation of children who misunderstand the meaning of work."
This is not the central point of our thesis, only a necessary diversion. The point here is that the entitlement came first, then afterwards social attitudes changed. With a 50 year delay no less. Attitudes were the product of incentives, and not the other way around. Think of that the next time you hear someone complain about "entitled millennials." Then recognize the connection this has to legislative accumulation.

Getting to the Point

We live in a form of anarcho capitalism already. But this form is based on raiding a commons of public income. It is not propertarian in nature. Congressman are brokers who sell one persons money to another in exchange for campaign contributions. The thing is an extortion market. Congress is a marketplace for the purchasing of laws. This is not some joke statement. Consider an excerpt from this article directly from the mouth of the Cathedral itself;
"House Speaker John A. Boehner appears to be a master of the tollbooth. In 2011, he collected a total of over $200,000 in donations from executives and companies in the days before holding votes on just three bills. He delayed scheduling a vote for months on the widely supported Wireless Tax Fairness Act, and after he finally announced a vote, 37 checks from wireless-industry executives totaling nearly $40,000 rolled in. He also delayed votes on the Access to Capital for Job Creators Act and the Small Company Capital Formation Act, scoring $91,000 from investment banks and private equity firms, $32,450 from bank holding companies and $46,500 from self-described investors — all in the 48 hours between scheduling the vote and the vote’s actually being held on the House floor.
Another tactic that politicians use is something beltway insiders call “milker bills.” These are bills designed to “milk” donations from threatened individuals or businesses. The real trick is to pit two industries against each other and pump both for donations, thereby creating a “double milker” bill.
President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. seemed to score big in 2011 using the milker tactic in connection with two bills: the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act. By pitting their supporters in Silicon Valley who opposed the bills against their allies in Hollywood who supported the measures, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden were able to create a sort of fund-raising arms race."
It is literally an extortion racket. They propose bills to Congress. The bill threatens someone's interests while either rewarding someone, or threatening someone else's interests. The two groups are then pitted against each other in a bidding war to see whose rights are to be trampled upon. Or to trample on one parties rights at the expense of the other. THAT'S THE TRUTH RUTH. That's how is really works.

We don't care about that though. If America were to collapse we might, like the Romans, endure 300 years of increasingly authoritarian dictatorship until the rise of some benevolent monarch. Keeping this thing going a few hundred years more and reducing the magnitude and insanity of leftism in America would definitely be preferable. We will leave Civil War 2.0 to the distant future. For now, can we at least make this thing function?

The essential flaw in democracy's entire design is legislative accumulation. We live in an anarcho capitalistic coercion market. The Founders designed a flaw right into the system at a Constitutional level. It is obvious to any engineer with half a brain that you never design a system that accumulates anything, (waste, energy, heat, genetic mutations, whatever) over time. Legislative accumulation is democracies basic flaw. The fact that the Founders overlooked this is remarkable, or at least remarkably incompetent.

Every law is a bargain struck that sells coercive force for the profit of at least one party at the expense of another. The problem is that the bargains accumulate over time.

All coercion requires ideological justification, and all bargains cause market distortions. So both accumulate as the law does.

The whole thing can be "balanced" by having a House of Repeal and a mandate that the House of
Enactment cannot make a law or a single word of law until the House of Repeal has unmade the same number of laws and words of law. A BALANCED coercion market would stabilize the current system at status quo. A reduction quota would give it a right-wing / libertarian bias.

So collapse actually could be prevented. As well as continuous left-wing movement. This is because legislative accumulation is the wind in the left's sails. It is what lets them consolidate their gains. Consider two democracies, one with, and one without, legislative accumulation.

With legislative accumulation

Corruption accumulates over time.
Market distortion accumulates over time.
It become harder over time to generate employment.
Ideology grows from being barely noticeable to totalitarian.
Numerous claims of "positive rights" are increasingly made.
Public debts grow continuously.
As the financial stakes become higher for loosing elections, the propaganda gets stronger.
Each generation of leftists consolidates the gains of the previous.
Collapse is guaranteed eventually.

Without legislative accumulation

Corruption does not accumulates over time.
Markets continue to function as well as they did when the nation was founded.
Employment is easy to come by.
Ideology is minimal and stays that way.
Rights remain relatively the same.
Public debts remain small or grow at a lower rate.
Propaganda does not grow.
Each generation of leftists has to start from scratch.
Collapse is not necessarily guaranteed.

Last Note

I am not convinced that any particular system of government is automatically better than any other, nor that abolishing this system and replacing it with monarchy is preferable. In the Muqaddimah, the North African Arab historiographer and historian Ibn Khaldun says;
'It should be known that at the beginning of the dynasty, taxation yields a large revenue from small assessments. At the end of the dynasty, taxation yields a small revenue from large assessments'"
This is the beginning of the Laffer curve, or the theory of optimum taxation. What is interesting here is not that this forms the basis of Laffer's famous curve, oh no. What concerns us here is that Khaldun is a historian telling us something historical, that is, even in his day regimens were destroying themselves with the accumulation of corruption. After all, this is the only thing that can account for why a political system would raise its taxes past the point of optimum maximization. This also tells us that monarchy is not the answer, that Moldbug's Fnargl is a mirage, that all regimes are supported and corrupted by rent-seekers, and that the accumulation of parasites destroys all nations. And it tells us that this was happening even several hundred years ago, and that is was happening to monarchy too.

Now this is important; in a democracy with rule of law, corruption is written right into the law. In most other countries corruption is extra-judicial in nature. It is customs officials and police taking bribes. It is under the table and technically illegal, and the regime is either too week to do anything about it, or is receiving kick backs, or both. In China you pay a bribe to the traffic cop.

So the problem in all societies is the accumulation of corruption. Obviously, if the power of law expands to control more aspects of peoples lives, and ideology also expands to justify it, then ideology will eventually began to practice censorship. As the demand to control what people think grows so will the need to inhibit competing viewpoints. Thus, censorship is the inevitable end run of legislative accumulation. This of course inhibits feedback into the power structure itself, creating a dangerous ignorance of the real threats it faces.

Summary Conclusion

Because of the collective action problem, as defined by Olson, it is easier for small elite groups to organize than large groups. This results in a relentless push for new law, or legislative accumulation.

Since ideology is downstream from power, and since ideology is powers' rationalization, ideology becomes whatever it needs to be. As power expands so does the reach of ideology. More payoff from corrupt law = more incentive to manipulate people with propaganda to control the payoff, which means more pervasive ideology.

All proposed legislation is extortion of some kind, or the handing out of privileges. In America, privileges are paid for with campaign contributions. Laws are made because of contributions and activism, both which agitate for handouts and privileges.

The degenerative ratchet is caused primarily by legislative accumulation, which allows the left to consolidate gains, and puts the right at a strategic disadvantage. Reversing this with a House of Repeal and a quota for shrinkage would put the left at a permanent disadvantage.

All regime types experience the accumulation of corruption. In most political systems corruption is extra-judicial. In a system of rule of law this takes the form of legislative accumulation. Accumulated rent-seeking is what brings about the failure of all states in history. As the amount of power expands so does the need to control people with ideology, thus ideology expands. The process eventually results in censorship, even in states with constitutional protections of free speech. Ideology grows from a background noise to a totalitarian level.

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