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Trotskyite singularitarians for Monarchism! A political speculation.

The 20th century spanned the collapse of the Monarchical System, the rise and fall of Actually Existing Socialism, a bunch of unpleasant failed experiments in pyramid building using human skulls, and the ascent to supremacy of Neoliberalism and the Washington Consensus. In 2007/08, the system malfunctioned spectacularly: it's clearly unstable and has huge problems, but what's going to replace it?

In the right corner of the ring, Neo-reactionaries like Mencius Moldbug (blog here) and Michael Anissimov are effectively libertarians who have thrown up their hands in disgust and concluded that the modern age—by which they mean everything since the Enlightenment—is corrupting, degrading, and on a highway to hell, and the appropriate political solution to the problem is to go back to aristocracy as an organizing principle, or even the divine right of kings. (Techcrunch describe them as Geeks for Monarchy. I think they're full of shit (possibly because I live in a monarchy), and so does Scott Alexander, who has written a magisterial Anti-Reactionary FAQ in which he pulls the legs off the fascist reactionary insect, the better to anatomize it.)

And in the left, we have Accelerationism. (That's a link to the Accelerationist Manifesto, by the way.) Note that the term "Accelerationism" is a dual-use tool—it's also used by some singularitarians. I'm discussing the other variety here. Advocates such as Joshua Johnson sum it up thuswise:

Accelerationism is the notion that rather than halting the onslaught of capital, it is best to exacerbate its processes to bring forth its inner contradictions and thereby hasten its destruction. As a radical act, the genesis of this idea stretches back to Marx and continues through Lyotard's Libidinal Economy, Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, and Nick Land's cybertechnics ...
It's fairly clear in context that entryism is a corollary of accelerationism. One may even speculate that the Spiked Online/Spiked Magazine nexus and the Institute of Ideas think tank are an entryist front.

The Spiked crew are drawn from the former Trotskyite Revolutionary Communist Party, led by Frank Furedi. In the wake of the collapse of the USSR the RCP entered a period of re-evaluating everything and then re-surfaced as free market Libertarians. Other offshoots included Living Marxism magazine in the early 90s (shut down in the wake of a libel lawsuit brought by ITN). Per wikipedia, "The green journalist George Monbiot has accused him of overseeing crypto-Trotskyist entryism designed to insert ex-RCPers into positions of cultural and media influence, where they pursue an extreme pro-technology right-wing libertarian agenda." That's not totally plausible in view of the bizarre direction the members of the RCP have taken since 1990.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Revolutionary Communist Party has probably adopted a Trotskyite flavour of Accelerationism as its guiding doctrine for the 21st century, and is pursuing their strategic goal by attempting to exacerbate the coming Crisis of Capitalism by acting as Libertarian/free-market agents provocateur. (Implicitly, in order to bring about the Left-Singularity.) (Sanity Conservation Warning: The only bloggers currently using the term "Left-Singularity" seem to be barking hatstand neo-reactionaries. Memetic prophylactic recommended. You have been warned.)

Anyway. Let's chain the daisies together. What do we get?

We get former Trotskyites who have decided that the best way to achieve Communism is to encourage the worst excesses of Neoliberalism, until the system implodes under its own weight and it becomes apparent that the only way out of the rat-trap is forward on full afterburner into the Accelerationist future. They therefore establish Libertarian fronts and enthusiastically encourage the worst excesses of capitalist globalization, including the application of the shock doctrine to the western economies that originally applied it to their former colonies ... all the time living it up. (Because, let's face it, right wing think tank gurus might plausibly get to wear expensive suits, snort cocaine, and drive expensive BMWs rather than sitting around in dismal squats with leaky roofs holding self-criticism sessions like silly old-school Maoists: which lifestyle would you rather have? Alas, I am informed by Ken Macleod that the folks at Spiked Online are not in fact Gordon Gekko-like creatures of the night. Damn, I'll just have to file that caricature away for a near-future novel ...)

We also have former libertarians who, in despair at the failure of the tin idol of the free market, conclude that the Enlightenment was all some sort of horrible mistake and the only solution is to roll back the clock. Today, we are all—except for the aforementioned Neo-reactionaries—children of the Jacobin society: even modern Conservativism has its roots in the philosophy of Edmund Burke, who formulated a radical refutation of and opposition to the French Revolution—thereby basing his political theories on the axioms of his foe. As Trotsky observed, "Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies." Despair is a common reaction to defeat, as is Stockholm syndrome: with the impending death of neoliberalism becoming clearer to the many libertarians who assumed it would bring about the small government/small world goals of the paleolibertarians—as it becomes clear that the fruits of neoliberalism are instability and corporate parasitism rather than liberty and justice for all—is it unreasonable of them to look to an earlier, superficially simpler settlement?

This we come full-circle. The Trotskyites of old have donned the Armani suits of libertarian and neoliberal think-tank mavens. And the libertarians have begun to search for a purer pre-modern framework with which to defend themselves against the searing vision of the radiant future. Welcome to the century of the Trotskyite monarchists, the revolutionary reactionaries, and the fringe politics of the paradoxical! I hope you brought popcorn: it's going to be nothing if not entertaining.



Does anyone else here feel like we've all accidentally fallen into a Ken Macleod novel or is it just me? :-)


Lets face it. No mere human mind can oversee the complexity of human social and economic systems perfectly.

So bring on the minds!

Surely there will be some cults who have given up hope that humans will ever sort out their issues and are now working on creating true conscious AI to justly rule the world.

Which of course brings about the question: How do we know that minds so created will be friendly ?

We will boot them up in Simulation mode and give them a virtual planet to run. They will not be told that they are running in a simulation. The minds that turn evil in the simulation will be deleted..... Hold on maybe that's what we are? All those tales about behaving well in this world or else...


Ken is pointing and LOLing on Twitter. (Mostly at the idea of the folks at Spiked Online being Gordon Gekko-like creatures of the night. He is, regrettably, probably correct in his assessment: I'll just have to save my version up for a future novel!)


NOTE: The reason I think the reactionaries are full of shit is because we have a modern-day poster child for the hereditary king of a nation that embodies all their declared virtues: Kim Jong-Un.

I am fairly certain that everyone who reads this blog can converge on a core consensus that North Korea Is Not An Actually-Existing Utopia. M'kay?

6: 2 - No. 4 - Why am I really not surprised?

David Brin had a more narrowly targeted rant against the neo-reactionaries a couple of days ago. Well worth reading.


I cannot imagine anything more plain than that we need better rulers and leaders. This reality feeds all manner of insane politics.

"Accelerationism is the notion that rather than halting the onslaught of capital, it is best to exacerbate its processes to bring forth its inner contradictions and thereby hasten its destruction."

"Markets can remain irrational a lot longer than you and I can remain solvent."—perhaps Keynes

So I don't think accelerationism makes a lot of sense.

...but what are sane politics?


...but what are sane politics?





Moldbug has claimed that the problem with the Kim III regime is that it's not acknowledged by the USA:

In a world in which Americans actually cared about North Koreans, rather than just using them as rhetorical pawns, or salivating about their chances of causing yet another revolution or civil war, Americans would see that the easiest way to let North Korea heal is to acknowledge the Kim dynasty as what it is: a monarchy. If rather than exporting revolution 24/7, US foreign policy was actually capable of respecting, supporting and securing its sovereign peers the way, you know, classical international law of the Enlightenment era suggests, the Kims would have no need for their concentration camps. Possibly they're so insane that they'd keep them anyway - but I suspect not. Historical examples of a genuinely insane monarch are rare - he has trouble hanging on to his throne. The regime in North Korea has a very simple problem, which is that if it relaxes its grip it explodes. The only actions that the outside world can take which will solve this problem: remove the regime by force, or accept and support it. I don't see anyone proposing either, which leaves me to think Americans don't actually care very much about the aquariums of Pyongyang.

This sample of his style should probably convince people of two things, viz (a) he actually can write and (b) he's a complete wingnut.


As a good environmentalist and good leftist, I have the contradiction that I fly far more than is acceptable for a good environmentalist. I justify it thus: the faster we can use the oil the better. Basically, let's force a collapse, and weaken capitalism to death.

Unfortunately, so far it's not working.

As for the "neoreactionaries", someone on /. noted that they are going to be white men by and large, and more narrowly, white well-off men. Who, for some reason, think that under a monarchy or whatever, they'll end up in an even better situation. Ignoring the fact that historically most people in the nasty sort of dictatorships they seem to be promoting were not and are not well off.


[[ Please repost, with the cited text reformatted so it's readable. mod ]]


In my neck of the woods, if anything disrupts the status quo it will be a religiously conservative populism. The populist part I can kind of get behind, but the religious part might get me burned at the stake.


The RCP may not be Gekko-alikes, but a friend of mine who was in their youth wing told me they were basically a cult. . .




And the neocons of today were in fact Stalinists of a few decades ago.

These sorts of radical swings aren't as radical as they appear, once you realize the real (as opposed to stated) philosophy. Conservatism is about the imposition and maintenance of power heirarchies. Statists, including the various communists, support power hierarchies imposed by the government. Libertarians support power hierarchies imposed by business (hint: does a business have the right to deny it's employees birth control?). The goal of conservatism is to seperate society into lords and serfs, the only variations is who are the lords- the heads of state, or the heads of industry?

Once you view things from this perspective, swapping between being a Stalinist and a Neocon, or between being a libertarian and being a neoreactionary, is nothing more than a switch of tactics, not a switch of core doctrine.


As for the "neoreactionaries", someone on /. noted that they are going to be white men by and large, and more narrowly, white well-off men.

Make that divorced white well-off men. I detect an unhealthy overlap between the neoreactionaries' anti-feminist agenda and the misogynistic excesses of MRA lunatics. Feminism, you see, is the Root Of All Evil (rather than a rational response to the transition from a high death/high birth rate society to a low death/low birthrate post-demographic-transition steady state). And a neoreactionary return to a state dominated by a Strong Father and consisting of families ruled over by a paterfamilias is a a set-up in which they won't have to pay alimony to those ball-breaking bitches who won't shut the fuck up and subordinate their own needs and aspirations to being their handmaids (in the Atwoodian sense).


There's a chart of the "dark enlightenment" going around that has all of these bits on it.

The source appears to be here:

This has racists (Steve Sailer, HBD), neoreactionaries (Moldbug), PUAs (Heartiste), religious nuts (Vox Day), etc.

The more usual MRAs (Voice for Men, /r/mensrights) do seem to be missing.


If civilization falls, I don't think we're going to see monarchs in the mold of Kim Jong Un precisely, at least ones that embrace a veneer of communism.

Unfortunately, we're more likely to see a fratricidal neo-feudal structure that we know all too well, but try to ignore: drug cartels.

If you're not familiar with what's going on in Central America (and parts of Africa and Asia), the cartels are getting out of marijuana production (that they've outsourced to the California mountains), they're getting more into meth (more addictive), kidnapping and slavery, gunrunning, various forms of organized violence from kidnapping to armed insurrection, and even iron mining and export.

When civilization falters, they're the most viable alternative powers around. Heck, it looks like they're perfectly willing to destabilize things beforehand, even.

I'd also point out that when we talk about libertarian-ish politicians and pundits with nose-candy habits, funded by great floods of money that are coming from--well, who knows, really?--one could easily spin a paranoid fantasy that the great libertarian push to drown the US government in a bathtub (per Grover Norquist) isn't just coming from the Koch Brothers and Walmart Heirs, but from the various cartels, brotherhoods, mafias, and triads that want to rule as well.

Actually, North Korea is reputed to be part of this trade too, so perhaps North Korea isn't as bad a model as all that. It does, certainly, show how bad things can be under that kind of totalitarian rule.

Is this what happens when drugs win the war on drugs?


'Cos, y'know, what the world really needed was an ideology that says white male geeks are the natural rulers of the world.

Moldbug's Urbit project is well worth looking at if you're a geek. It's literally an attempt to construct a computational and network model that reflects his philosophy. (And prima facie evidence there's such a thing as being too much of a Borges fan.)

For an example of fully rampant Typical Mind Fallacy in Urbit, see the security document. About two-thirds of the way down, you can actually see Yarvin transform into Moldbug and start pontificating on how humans communicating on a network should work, and never mind the observable evidence of how they actually have behaved whenever each of the conditions he describes have obtained.


Expanding on my comments: anti-feminism is a natural venue for conservatism. Again, it's about the imposition of power hierarchies, only this time in the home. But more importantly, it allows for a "devil's bargin" to be (implicitly) struck- yes, you have to be a serf some of the time, but you get to be a lord some of the time as well. OK, guys, you're a serf at work, but you get to be a lord over your wife. Women, you're a serf to your husband, but you get to be a lord over children. This why someone who is not, and will never be, a captain of industry or leader of the state might still (rationally!) support conservativism. The upside of liberalism is that you never have to be serf, but the downside is you never get to be a lord either.

Racism also fits nicely into this framework.


Reading your blog i like reading TV Tropes, it sucks my time up. Thank you though.

IMO the problems are driven by our biology and limitations of our psychological tendency to delude ourselves, but a always YMMV.


And on the more mundane left, feminism gets lumped in with other 'identity politics' as a Bad Thing that takes away from the important work of building the movement and preparing for the revolution (see the SWP rape case and all that flowed from it). And for the neoreactionaries, I suspect the MRA 'movement' and its various strands are the gateway drug for a lot of their members.


To run with the paranoia, the one aspect of US government policy these think tanks rarely rail against is the War on Drugs. (Some do, but it's not as common in the Norquist-esque circles, IIRC) That, of course, is fine and dandy for their narco-funders who know it doesn't threaten them too much, drastically increases the start-up costs for any potential competition and provides a nice shared enemy for them to unite against.


>North Korea etc.

This is annoying. I don't hold up mob rule as embodying all the declared virtues of democrats, so kindly stop holding up a puppet/client state set up by Communists as exemplary of the reaction, particularly one with mandatory political membership in the local Democratic Front.

To whatever tiny extent NK is reactionary or slowly inching towards being reactionary, such as doing a quick Ctrl-R on the constitution, this is one reason I expect it to equally slowly get better. (Get better. Not "be good" for a long time. Recovering from Communism is hard.)


When I started to read this I thought it was a clever piece of satirical mockery along the lines of Private Eye's Spartist rants, but it gradually dawned on me that you appear to be serious albeit using words and contexts that I am unfamiliar with.

In which case it seems to me that this article about the myth vs reality of Silicon Valley might be relevant.


People and power are like gravitating bodies - them's that have the most tend to get more.


I've always found Anissimov hard to take seriously. He once seriously argued that DRM is the solution to grey goo:


Accelerationism is the notion that rather than halting the onslaught of capital, it is best to exacerbate its processes to bring forth its inner contradictions and thereby hasten its destruction

This always stroke me as a concept used by miserable losers trying to give some meaning to their constant failures.


It's interesting to see these ideas being picked up on this blog (particularly as big fans of Accelerando), but I think the characterisation of leftist accelerationism as furthering the contradictions of capitalism is an error. The idea of bringing about the fall of capitalism by making things worse is morally grotesque and quite obviously absurd, but we're not aware of anyone who's actually held that position before. (And it's certainly not in our manifesto that you link to.)

I think the contemporary version of accelerationism is instead a much more interesting discussion about the role of technology, value, rationality, freedom, and collective self-determination in any possible post-capitalist world. The works of the philosophers Ray Brassier, Reza Negarestani, and Benedict Singleton are all good examples of trying to grapple with these issues. But leftist accelerationism is most assuredly not about making things worse.

Cheers, Nick


I think Ken Macleod's ahead of the Poe's Law as far as the Spiked crew: they're not effective enough, mostly because of the frequency with which they drag things in from out of (in baseball vernacular) far left field. A far better candidate for conspiracy theory satire, I would think, would be something like the Heritage Foundation. Not only was Heritage created by former liberals who "came around," its influence comes less from publishing convincing arguments than from giving credibility to those arguments (and their authors) merely by association.

I don't believe in large-scale conspiracies, as a rule. This one seems closer to believable, though, because the scale is adjustable. One person, or a few, could be engaging in disingenuous purposes without their colleagues realizing. I can't write this as a story, because I'm having trouble with having conspirators keep their interest for this long; and even more so for conspirators being willing to keep the joke going.


The question we have been set (as I see it) is:

(1) how will we order our political economy?

(2) who gets to run our society?

Let's take question (2) first...

The answer I feel here is summed up by the great Roger Daltry: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss". The issue here is that very few of us actually want to become political leaders. Maybe I'm a bit jaundiced, as I got to see our current (UK) politicians up close and personal as a student. I swore to myself as a 19 year old that I'd never get involved in this world as it was so disgustingly nasty and dirty. Thirty years later I was forced to re-evaluate this attitude in the face of a "big science funding" opportunity, too good to ignore...

So, let's think about question 1.

What we've done since 10,000BC and the advent of agriculture is trade labour for a share of the economy. At first it was time in the fields, then time in factories, then trading on our intellects (at least in the West), but what now?

This depends on whether you believe that AI has any future. I'm main-stream CompSci, so -- whilst acknowledging it's contribution ("AI is CS that doesn't quite work, yet!") -- I'm not inclined to just take it on trust. Still, it does seem to me that we should be able to start making low-level cognitive machines, fairly soon. So then what? Slowly, we'll see low-level middle class jobs (simple pattern matching tasks) disappearing just as most working class jobs have already.

So what happens when almost everyone cannot get a job?


I could see that theory about North Korea being useful in trying to find a solution. As with Iran, you can't get anywhere without bringing the USA on-side, and monarchy might be a slow pathway towards a working democracy.

Europe has plenty of examples of Monarchies which slowly gave up power while retaining some sort of status. It's a better bet than trying to hang on regardless.

But is that guy seeing a monarchy as a way of splitting power from status?


So what happens when almost everyone cannot get a job?

That's the key labour-related crisis of the 21st century, yes (assuming "This Goes On" is the answer to "will automation continue?").

It's worth noting that we have a world with free movement of capital -- which can generate value by applying labour (human or machine) to raw materials -- but not free movement for labour (we have ever-tightening immigration laws). The owners of capital can also move freely; if you've got a million or two bucks in liquidity an investor's visa is available virtually everywhere. So labor is locked in a global race-to-the-bottom, while capital is free to seek the cheapest access to resources and labor. Moreover, the profits from capital investment aren't constrained to stay where the people whose labor produced those profits live. It's an exploitative relationship.

What we need -- on a global scale -- is the combination of a level playing field and a guaranteed basic income or negative income tax, with the money to pay for it coming from a tax on capital gains.

I don't see any way of getting there from here, at least under the current regime -- but when The Adam Smith Institute are calling for it, it's a sign of how weird the territory we're moving through has become.


But is that guy seeing a monarchy as a way of splitting power from status?

No, Moldbug is a monarchist. Period.

(Either that, or he's the world's smartest troll. I wouldn't put it past him, either.)


I don't know you guys, but I know a branch of leftist nutjobs over here in germany. Part of the nutkobbery are two beleifs: 1) enlightment is great, capitalism is a logical conlcusion iof enlightment and any rest od pre-capitalist societies is barabrism. Hence, hoorayfor imperialst wars as they are perceived to bring enlghtment to the uneducated masses in Afghanistan. 2) for communism to be achieved, first capitalism has to be universal in the form of evereyone beeing proletarian or capitalist and nothing else. Any structure of solidarity, be it a welfare system, a family or even a union is bad. Because something something enlightment and every one has to be on his/her own. Also, many of those are antifeminists (because feminism is identitarian). Mind that they are not about bringing the revoilution by having everyone suffer, but about bringing the revolution by having every one be a wares-producing monad.

I don't see how to ty them in with singularitans, though. Except the absurd teleogicalism, maybe.


Men get an entitlement to maternity leave, about a year per kid if todays UK newspaper headlines can be believed.

First guess, that's a 5% cut in the working life. Add a strictly-enforced equivalent to the Working Time Directive, maybe with the limit being the hours in a 4-week period rather than hours per day. The current average unemployment for Europe is about 11%. It would all make a big hole in that.

Same amount of work, so the same GDP (very approximately) and less spent on benefits.

But there are hidden costs for each employee, sat the Capitalists. Yeah, you want the schools to provide your staff training, and recruiting costs are so low that you're always replacing workers. The costs aren't hidden, they mostly don't exist or you couldn't afford the churn.

Oh, but if we spend money on training, they walk off and work for our competitors. You know why they're called competitors? It's because they compete with you, for resources and for sales. And your employees are a resource.

(The big hidden secret is that a company and its employees can pay less tax, in total, if the company employs more people at a higher wage.)

Oh, and you know how the rich make so much of their money out of property? Have you ever worked out what unemployment and low wages mean for the demand side of the property market? We have a huge surplus of retail property space.

Now, some of the Keynes theories are affected by the changes in trade. When the factories are in China, with their workers, and the consumers are in Washington (Tyne & Wear?), his point about the money circulating in the local economy gets strained to breaking point. So can any country stand alone? And local industry of some sort matters.

Am I saying the current government is being led up the garden path by the capitalists, who seem to be missing some bloody simple realities that never get mentioned in an MBA course?

But are my ideas any more full of holes than those of Giddy Osborne?


Well, the judgement of anyone who can read half a dozen histories written within aristocratic empires (histories written by the class which did well under those empires!) and think that we should try that again can't be sound. I can't say that I am inclined to read any of these thinkers, because the idea seems daft.

A commentator on Brin's blog points to Pournelle's co-dominium and empire setting as a parallel to the Neo-Reactionaries.


I keep hoping for a backlash to develop against the oligarchs that are being created by the current economic/political system, but seem doomed to disappointment. I place most of my hope in the political system because it is possible for a mass of voters to act to change the system. The economic side of things is highly resistant to change.

The major problem here in the states is the ruling that money is speech. This equates to the person with the most money is the person who has the loudest megaphone and thus is the one who will be heard.


Conspiracy-theoretical version: the Accelerationist manifesto was in fact first conceived among students of economics in the post-WW2 West. The West must change, but the Soviet Union's influence on the moderate Left must first be removed. So while their colleagues within Actually Existing Socialism encouraged it to compete on the terms of the West, the West moved to fiat currencies and began to grow the debt bubble to end all debt bubbles - in a literal sense.


Am I saying the current government is being led up the garden path by the capitalists, who seem to be missing some bloody simple realities that never get mentioned in an MBA course?

MBA courses are not about teaching good management. Rather, they're about teaching their students how to get ahead in management. These are not the same things.

In much the same way, the macroeconomic theorists who push neoliberalism aren't necessarily doing so because it's good economics but in some cases because it's how to get ahead in economics as a profession.


More supplementary reading. Money shot: "Those of us who were around the Trotskyist milieu in the 1970s, and look back with some embarrassment to the things we said and did at that time, can at least take consolation in the thought that things might have been worse. We could have been Maoists."


Oh, here's a piece I wrote for NaNoWriMo. Characters introduced, and now they get hit by the problem. Though the story went a bit wild, I should have done more planning.

Andromeda looked at her Uncle. “How bad is it?”

“Our beloved monarch is taking one of the classic internet con-games to be solid truth. One might almost think that we were seeing a case of dementia, and nobody has noticed.” He sighed, and pushed his spectacles back up his nose. There were three separate comb-bound documents. “Read for yourself…”

Powell and Andromeda took one each, and started reading. After a couple of pages, Powell looked up. “I see what you mean, Sir. And how much would twenty billion Euro weight, anyway?”

“Rather a lot,” said Andromeda. “Stacks of paper are heavy. And where did it come from?” She settled back in her chair. “I didn’t see anything that suggested dementia, or insanity, when I met her. Wasn’t this story on the BBC a few months back?”

“I do remember a report of that much money going missing from the construction project for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.” Powell turned the page. “It’s one of those nice round figures for a headline.” He looked up. “I am seeing this as something of a camouflage problem. It’s easy to camouflage a foxhole. It’s small and not very easy to see. This is like camouflaging Windsor Castle. If you steal twenty billion Euro, how do you arrange to use it?”

“As physical cash, I don’t think you can.” The Duke looked up. “Call me Gunny. Short for Gonville. And if you ever call me Gonville, I shall know something it wrong.”

“Hugh, then.”

“It is way too big for Stepney Estates, even if it was already in the electronic banking system, which is where I would expect any Sochi money to be.” The Duke turned another page as he spoke. “You would need to control the financial regulatory systems of a G8 country to…” His voice trailed off. “Oh, bloody hell!”

This cash stash at Sheremetyevo is obviously waiting to be claimed by the widow of a Nigerian politician.

Another 20 billion missing from the Sochi Olympics project so there really had to be a lot of money laundering going on.

And this prompted the final line.

The plot went a bit off course a couple of weeks ago. and then I saw this story about Freeports as tax-havens and art storage.

There might have been a touch of the Slippery Jims in what happened next, but Andromeda Todd and Hugh Powell take advantage of the internet to arrange a discreet freight movement of a cargo container from one Freeport to another, and high jinks ensued.

But, with apparently genuine news stories of that sort (and one spoof), there's plenty of weird stuff out there to hang conspiracies and other stories on.


I think I shall go and get drunk now.

You mean you were sober when you wrote that stuff?

Maybe not, but when you're dealing with fools it's nice to know that you will be sober in the morning.


My first contact with what Charlie is here calling Accelerationist thought came in 1968, when a close friend (who later joined the Black Panthers) with radical left leanings argued for the election of George Wallace as President of the US--because that would bring the revolution more quickly. I argued that it would just get us (the good guys) killed more quickly...not that electing Nixon exactly postponed things.


I win!!!!

(I just got emailed by Moldbug.)


Human societies are always negotiating between consolidating forces (offering unity and efficiency at the cost of local control) and disintegrating forces (offering local control at the cost of unity and efficiency). Considering how dysfunctional American politics is, a trend toward consolidation is about due (eliminating veto points, improving law enforcement and regulation, and generally restoring the capability of the government to actually get things done).

Of course, it can swing much too far the other way.

Still, Moldbug's political views are even less mainstream than, say, Louis Farrakhan's or Lyndon Larouche's. Nothing will come of them.


It's not clear that an AI designed to "run the world" would need to be conscious. Cf. Athena in Rule 37 (37?). True, Athena didn't run all the world, yet. Consciousness would only appear to be needed if the AI was designed to interact either with other AIs of approximately equivalent level, or with humans...and maybe not to interact with humans.

The main function of consciousness appears to be in choosing goals and negotiating for your goals with others. (I.e., making trade-offs.) Note that Athena didn't choose goals, but only methods of achieving a goal.

OTOH, this argument would seem to say that consciousness in humans is an optional extra, and that philosophical zombies are plausible. Which I've never believed.

My suspicion is that consciousness is not necessary, but that AIs without consciousness will be notably less efficient and effective.

P.S.: Your proposal for validating an AI is one that would require considerably more investment than merely creating the AI. It may be desireable for safety's sake, but people have, in the past, demonstrated an eagerness to skill that part of the activity. Consider the nuclear pile under the football stadium.


Uncharted waters.

1) I'd like to see a movement that supports (in toto, as parts would not fix our current problems):

  • A guaranteed basic income instead of the welfare state and minimum wage [some Euro/Nordic states getting there]

  • Universal health care, which takes care of the need for disability insurance from the state [as above, but largely there]

  • Large investments in science R&D, especially in youth preservation/immortality research (all the problems associated with old age/decrepitude, like more expensive health care and pensions simply disappear if no one grows old) [no state has even gone near this yet]

The big things I think we'll need to collectively accept are that most people will not be needed for work anymore, and that we'll need to stop demonizing them as ne'er do wells (Cowen's ZMPs.) We'll have societies with a kind of split personality - innovation work for those still working (and those workers will have their compensation likely rise significantly), and an "arts, sports, and leisure" society for the rest.

2) Regarding the Globalization of Capital vs. non-Globalization of Labor, still hard to say how this one shakes out when automation finally reaches the developing world (I read recently that because of the state of technology today, it's far more likely that developing countries will go right from "manual everything" to "automated" rather than hit the intermediate "Industrial Revolution" semi-automated-need-lots-of-workers-to-operate-machines phase.) If most people across the world aren't needed for work, do people just stay put? Travel for fun as part of the arts/sports/leisure stuff? Hard one.

3) I strongly agree with your final analysis on the emerging landscape of new political factions. I wonder if any of them can actually offer a path to what I've outlined above, or if we're still going to be focusing on identity/tribal political games for another century instead of trying to actually fix things. It's very easy to be cynical on this count, so I'm not sure where that's going.

4) As far as the Accelerationists go, I do wonder if things like 3D printing, lab grown meat, and massive roboticization which leaves large numbers without work are going to beat them to the punch by several centuries. The thing about Accelerationism is that it never seems to go all that quickly. Maybe it should be called Trickleationism.

5) Capitalism-as-Capitalism is likely to stay around as long as there's something with scarcity. A future I could see for it is areas outside of those we can reproduce very easily or at low/negative costs to ourselves (various people-provided services that are ultimately about power differentials, unique experiences that have a spatial dimension, rare materials we can't synthesize, etc.) A kind of "ringed" Capitalism around certain areas of trade. Capitalism as part of the aforementioned Universal Income society is going to be an interesting to watch. Once we stop measuring people by their work (let's say 50% of the population doesn't work for this example), things look very different. There are certain things we'll push forward on no matter what (we'd hope) like life extension/youth preservation; disease research; better prosthetics; "perfect", side effect-free birth control/STD prevention; cleaner fuel; - but what about "demand-driven" innovation from the 50% society that doesn't work? What does that look like? Will a society like that innovate further (since people can sit around dreaming stuff up all day) or do they simply demand better and better forms of entertainment (perfect VR games)? Probably both? More uncharted waters.


The libertarian variant you describe sounds a lot like an offshoot of Hans-Hermann Hoppe's ideas, which in turn were an offshoot of one of Murray Rothbard's ideological swerves. (Rothbard's career seems to have been almost entirely ideological swerves, from his support for Strom Thurmond in the 1940s to his New Left phase in the 1970s to his turn to Pat Buchanan near the end of his life.) Hoppe argued that because royalist states were the private property of the monarchs, whereas republican states were public property, royalist states would naturally be less bad, which was why the Austro-Hungarian Empire was so much freer than parliamentary England or outright republican America. That was a real "find out what that man is smoking!" moment for me.

But I think that that whole offshoot of libertarianism is a tiny minority even with the anarchist part of libertarianism, which itself is smaller than the constitutionalist part. Then, of course, there's Randy Barnett, who has managed to be both a constitutionalist and an anarchist, judging by two of his books, and who might be the single most influential libertarian figure in the United States currently, given his role in the struggle over the PPACA. I think that at least in the United States the constitutionalist tendency may be more influential, though less entertainingly strange.


I think tactically, this is a response to the mass decline in personal power of a big chunk IT professionals as the economy heads ever further south.

Even more than the popping up of explicit manisfestos of neo-reactionarianism, places like Slashdot has had progressively worse commenting to their stories, especially ladened down with more misogynistic comments.

It's basically 1992 in Southern California all over again. Does anyone need to watch Falling Down again?


Comment 52 by shah8


1) Keynesian full employment policies. I see no shortage of socially useful work for humans to do; I see a shortage of willingness to pay for it, largely because much of that work is either public goods or for the service of currently poor people, while money is increasingly in the hands of ultra rich people.

2) Everyone. Swiss democracy, with a popular right to challenge new laws and rulings, as well as to initiate them, and votes every few months rather than every few years, should be the lower bound of what's considered acceptable democracy. I think there's a lot to learn from Athens, too, and the use of random selection to prevent elite formation and calcification.

Linking the two: Swiss unemployment is 3%, having reached a scandalous high of 4% in the height of the crisis. Switzerland has one of the lowest Gini indices in the world before taxes and transfer; after them the Nordics are more equal but it's still really good.

Mikegamer wants a backlash against oligarchs; Switzerland recently required CEO pay to be approved by direct shareholder vote, along with other restrictions, and just voted on capping salary ratios to 1:12. That vote failed, but they got to vote on it. They'll also be voting on a basic income of about $40,000 in the next year or two. I'd guess it won't pass and probably shouldn't, but again, such things come to vote rather than being ignored.

As for Athens, if you're particularly geeky, look up Josiah Ober's Democracy and Knowledge, looking at Athenian democracy as a set of tools for social learning and knowledge aggregation, that he says explain Athens' 2 centuries as a nigh superpower among Greek city-states.


I think tactically, this is a response to the mass decline in personal power of a big chunk IT professionals as the economy heads ever further south.

Could you unpack that a bit? A lot of the sympathizers for this sort of thing (e.g., Peter "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible" Thiel and his collaborators on his sea-steading project) are in Silicon Valley, where tech jobs are easy to come by, and the competition for talent is intense. And likewise in several other tech centers (New York and Boston are also pretty hot).

If anything, I suspect some of the callousness you see among this crowd to, say, recipients of government assistance is that they live in a bubble in which everyone they know has no trouble finding a decent job.

It's worth noting that we have a world with free movement of capital -- which can generate value by applying labour (human or machine) to raw materials -- but not free movement for labour (we have ever-tightening immigration laws). The owners of capital can also move freely; if you've got a million or two bucks in liquidity an investor's visa is available virtually everywhere. So labor is locked in a global race-to-the-bottom, while capital is free to seek the cheapest access to resources and labor. Moreover, the profits from capital investment aren't constrained to stay where the people whose labor produced those profits live. It's an exploitative relationship.

I don't think this is entirely correct. I know, I know, USian health care sucks, but it does provide a positive example of a trade union with a lot of clout, namely the AMA. Notice that while IT people suffer under the H1B regime, doctors have had considerable say in limiting the supply of their particular skill set. No foreign competition for them!

And that's in 2013. So I don't think strong unions are necessarily a thing of the past, just an institution (and a set of institutional practices) that's got to be updated for the 21st century.


" places like Slashdot has had progressively worse commenting to their stories"

The quality of Slashdot comments has gone through the floor because basically nobody reads it any more. Only old people like us remember it as a power. A slashdotting used to be in the hundreds of thousands of hits; in 2013, my last two were 6000 and 2000.

Reddit, now Reddit will bugger your server.


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 )

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: )

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

1) Keynesian full employment policies. I see no shortage of socially useful work for humans to do; I see a shortage of willingness to pay for it,

BINGO! Iow, yeah the old struggles have been given a facelift, but really this is just more of the same 'ol same ol'.


Both those links include the trailing parenthesis, so they don't work without an edit.

[[ fixed - mod ]]

When you look at real disaster situations, there does seem to be a lot of spontaneous organisation. People work together, they don't run around screaming.

This was one incident in London, a couple of weeks ago. I get a bit uncomfortable when the media call those guys "heroes", but doing that sort of thing, working together to deal with problems, is one of those really big evolutionary tricks.


The movie I am waiting for is The Pure Halloween of St. Trinian's

Opening sequence, a minibus full of schoolgirls, driving through a storm. The engine falters. It stops within sight of a large old house. A sinister figure is watching from the shadows. The camera emulates his gaze, as the schoolgirls run to the house. and then he looks back at the bus, and sees the School's logo on the door.

Cue school song and credits.

The Original School Song


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!

I'd put the emphasis slightly differently. The most successful memes are not self-serving for you the proclaimer, but self-serving for the people you're proclaiming to.

Rather than individualism / Suspicion of Authority / adoration of eccentricity / institutions never function / your neighbors are all sheep / expect dystopia, the smart power-hungry type peddles things that stop people feeling guilty.

If you're unfortunate, it's not your fault (insert identifiable scapegoat here, based on race / colour / religion / membership of banking industry). If you're fortunate, it's because you deserve it, and the unfortunate are feckless (add stories about benefit cheats, tax fraudsters, child pregnancy, single parents). If you behave badly, it's because everyone else was behaving even worse.

Throw in a dash of how "we" are different from "them". Tweak it to imply that "we" are special, unique, possibly even "better".

Don't knock it - as a workable approach, it's been selling the Daily Mail for multiple decades now.

Notice that while IT people suffer under the H1B regime, doctors have had considerable say in limiting the supply of their particular skill set. No foreign competition for them!

Sure, there are exceptions, but for the most part it's true.

It's not even so much about the H1B arrangement — the real problem is outsourcing. A great bulk of manufacturing work can be done anywhere in the world, because shipping by sea is so cheap. It takes weeks, sure, but that's just a question of planning. Digital goods and services don't even have the delay.

Why hire expensive local IT people to program robots when you can hire cheap overseas people to do it by hand?

In some fields, like electronics assembly, the robots actually exist and you can compare the prices of the two methods. "Pick and place" robots versus manual labour.


the simple fact is that Keynesian worked well for years. Until the Fatcats got the chance to march us The American Fatcat GOP are trying to marh us all back to a Golden age that never was. Unless you were very rich. The first American Neocons were Trotskyites you who finally gave up trying to take over unions. They said they had seen the truth and moved to pure far right, it worked. You can look it up. The American Libertarian party is funded by the same fatcats who fund the new GOP. Its a hold harmless pen to give them something to wast their votes on and not vote Democrat. Complexity theory shows that nothing big can work the way you want it too. But you can fix it as you go. My dream is the Pink Libertarian, where nobody messes with anybody. The Purple Llibertarian party we have, says the rich have the right to mess with any body they can. More people should find a copy of DEAR AMERICA, bY Karl Hess. IF YOU CAN FIND IT.


Further proof that America (and American influenced economic colonies) are still living in a Robert Anton Wilson novel where the John Birch Society is an Erisian art project. Which seems particularly apt near Thanksgiving and an important anniversary of the deaths of Kennedy, CS Lewis and Aldous Huxley. John Dillinger died for your sins, right?

Further proof that I no longer understand economic and social arguments coming out of the USA. They seem completely divorced from 21st century reality and emerge from some kind of bubble universe that spun off in the mid 50s and is now outside the light cone of the rest of the world. It's not helped that it seems to involve redefining economic, social and political terms in the English language. Words like capitalist, conservative, liberal, socialist are now a secret code imbued with emotional content that simply doesn't exist elsewhere.

I wonder if the peoples of Outer Tazbekistania want a technocratic monarchy? I bet they'd like a guaranteed income.


Back to I think comment 16 and the main page.

I'd argue the Victorian compromise was one that worked: with one proviso -- which I'm stealing from Moldbug -- that the education system of the time, by and large, led to a fairly sober and moral bunch of burghers who could vote. These are the kind of people who set up the Scottish Enlightenment (I'm thinking of Hume and his coterie) and moved fairly rapidly into setting up the model towns in northern England (Cadbury etc.)

By then England, Charlie, was not a monarchy. It was a constitutional republic with a (German & Protestant) King who smiled and waved while his prime minister and cabinet did the heavy lifting. But the key bit of genius was that you had to qualify to vote.

(At this point most leftists and moderns are running away, screaming "unclean")... but universal voting /loud/ did not exist /endloud/ until fairly late in the Victorian period. This led to some unusual constitutional quirks in the colonies -- the reason there are Maori electorates in NZ (where I live) is because Maori land was tribal and thus no Maori man could have enough land to vote... so they had their own electorates in the 1857 constitution. The constitution has gone, but the seats remain.

I'd argue that to vote you have to pay taxes. If you don't pay taxes, (and this includes people paid by the state) you don't vote. I've now nicely disenfranchised myself -- but the model here is local government. The ratepayers want good property values, but they know that whatever is done they will have to fund (and they do not, cannot in many cases, afford too great an increase in property tax). Those who do not pay rates... or taxes... have no interest in such matters -- to them it is merely free money from some tap.

The augustinian republic worked while we kept it, but it is now long gone.

On the accelerationists -- and acknowledging that Ken is probably reliable and they are not lizardmen in Armani -- their position has been moved to ridiculousness, and the contradictions exposed, but the quasi fascist (the state may not own the banks, but if you are not friends with the state, you will have your toys taken away) crony capitalism of Obama and Bernacke. There is now no true market in the USA, and the tipping point is coming if not already here: perhaps a two decade decline, akin to Japan, is the most favourable outcome they can expect for the sheer stupidity of the economic policies the US coastal elite have adopted (regardless of who is in power) over the last three decades.

You cannot be a revolutionary when the more mendacious revolutionaries are running the country.


Joing this one late, & shaking head at the lunacy .... I've come across the Spike -supposedly ex-communists Wierd & dangerous - their camouflage is quite good. Quite frankly they are all mad - but what do you expect, we are entering a (hopefully) farcical replay of the 1930's, wehre democracy was seen as feak & weeble & only a "strong" system (communism or fascism or a theocracy) could "save the day". I recently encountered a USSAian Libetarinutter who actually proclaimed the eventual withering away of the state, in almost pure marxist terms. The stupid, it hurts & burns.

As others have commented, we seem to be heading towards an Oligarchy, rather than a full-blown autocracy, though if the current proposed Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is passed, it's too late, we are then in an unfree autarky. Seriously, folks, this proposal is very, very dangerous.

David Brin @ 60 "highly Improbable bestiary"? I do really hope you are coorect, but I ain't holding my breath!

zhochaka @ 62 Co-Operation - yes. Look at the ghastly helicopter-crash in Gleskie last night ... Everyone just piled in.... People are like that, it's when devious controlling bastards warp their perceptions (or devious controlling memes, for that matter) that it all falls to bits.


You are aware that VAT is a tax? Because that rather destroys your taxpayers = voters issue.

Also it simply isn't just down to the education system for there being sober and not so sober (My great great uncle drank the family cabinetmaking business away after his brother my great grandfather died from the flu in 1918) burghers and the like. It's the entirety of the surrounding society. And how exactly is society 150 years ago different than today? For starters, there was more poverty then, more disease, probably more violence for a segment of the population.

And it depends on what you mean by 'worked'. If killing lots of foreigners, being rather behind on the matter of welfare etc, lots of poverty and unpleasantness, and so on, 'works', then sure, it worked. But at a cost to whom and what?


Rather than wanting a society in which everyone "works", even if the only jobs available are bullshit ones, I think we should be aiming for a society in which everyone has the opportunity for as much self-actualization as they can cope with. If that means seeking self-actualization through work -- like I do -- then, fine. But it's also fine if they seek it through playing football, vicariously watching reality TV shows, or studying philosophy. All that matters is that their pursuit of self-actualization should not come at the cost of damaging others, either directly (e.g. through robbery) or indirectly (e.g. through damaging common goods or degrading the shared environment).

This sounds superficially similar to libertarianism, but it's very different once you begin to consider the implications: the key difference is that money is not the sole yardstick of human success or value. For example, it requires some sort of organizational framework to arbitrate between the competing desires of the participants, and a money-based market is not a sufficient mechanism to settle such disputes if we expand the scope to include non-monetizable items such as subjective happiness, artistic merit, or friendship. In a market context those items are externalities, and can only ever be externalities (quick: sell me your friendship!) but they're actually pretty important in a humanist context.

As for why I think we need this, it should be obvious that if we're moving to a high-automation society, one corollary is that we're also moving towards a very low employability society. Unless we're going to write off 95% of the population as being of no use to anyone other than as burger flippers and a passive audience, we need to urgently reframe our definition of personal value so that it isn't dependent on purely financial matters.

The neo-reactionaries want us to turn the clock back to the pre-1780 era of the divine right of kings. That's ridiculously unambitious. I think we should turn the clock back to the pre-9000BC era, before the transition from hunter-gathering to mass employment in agricultural labour! Abolish labour, I say. Forward to the neolithic!

Then reason


That is pretty much an actualization of something close to communism that I would be interested in.
It does sound similar to libertarianism, only if you completely ignore the economic factors.
I can easily see that, short of Minds, people who do stuff which is rather important, like say sewage engineering or whatever, that can't so easily be automated, would choose such careers (I say careers, because I don't think magic learn it all in 5 minutes technology is possible) in part because they will enjoy being useful, solving things that nobody else can, and they will get some social kudos for it, even if that just means someone gives them some nice cake.

And as you pointed out earlier in the week, there's plenty of unemployed graduates and PhD's, who could all be better off doing research because they want to, rather than being chucked on the scrap heap. I would expect an increase in people sitting about doing not a lot, but that is a social issue, in the same way that the violence reduction unit in Strathclyde seems to be working rather well, not by beating knife carriers up in the street (the good old days) but by applying more modern methods.
A conservative would look at your proposal and immediately think that 95% of people would turn into slobbish couch potatoes, or have 15 children, or turn their front garden into a shooting gallery. They seem to have no idea of the social pressures that would still exist and that would curtail such behaviour; and carefully done education and such would help people broaden their horizons.


excellent article on bullshit jobs

A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.)

It was my grandparents [one was a NATSOPA shop steward] viewpoint that you could tell how economically important [or conversely how economically superfluous] a worker was by how often they went on strike

Factory workers, dock workers, teachers, civil servants, bus and train drivers and nurses frequently withdrew their labour.

Solicitors, estate agents, stockbrokers, accountants, bank managers, advertising executives et al almost never did.

How much you are paid, and your jobs social status, is inversely proportional to how important it is.

The last twenty years of British and American economic history are gold-plated, weapons-grade, million-terabyte, ocean-going proof of this.


On the bullshit jobs front, some of those mentioned are intrinsically important in a hierarchical market capitalist setup, e.g .actuary for working out pensions and so on, CEO for telling people what to do, lobbyists perform important functions in fixing the laws to benefit the right, and so on.

Or in other words, if you dump the market capitalist setup, you get rid of a bunch of jobs that aren't very productive. You migth still want actuaries though.


Thanksgiving .... John Dillinger died for your sins, right?

Thanks for the remonder, nearly forgot the annual viewing: William S. Burroughs' A Thanksgiving Prayer (sorry 'bout the ad, wanted to get the whole thing)


The economics discussion above reminds me of the ending to Shockwave Rider by John Brunner:

THE CONTENT OF THE PROPOSITIONS #1: That this is a rich planet. Therefore poverty and hunger are unworthy of it, and since we can abolish them, we must. #2: That we are a civilized species. Therefore none shall henceforth gain illicit advantage by reason of the fact that we together know more than one of us can know. THE OUTCOME OF THE PLEBISCITE Well—how did you vote?

I'm with Charlie's #72 comment, except that I can't see how to stop such a society being parasitized by the current MBA-holding crowd.


Neither Capitalism nor Socialism, nor some imaginary technological singularity can destroy the human race, but greed, stupidity and vested interests, as presently constituted, just might.

Or at best, make life on earth physically or psychologically unbearable for all but a tiny minority.


Modern Monetary Theory will replace current economic explanations


Movable Type can't remember a login for more than a couple hours?

I see no need yet to talk about bullshit jobs. Until automation produces human level AI, humans will continue to be the smartest things around. Let me quote my usual list of useful work:

"Just going by the US: lots of infrastructure is aging if not crumbling, lots of Western homes lack adequate insulation, tons of old homes are still covered in lead paint, urban soils are contaminated with lead, there's various other polluted sites around the country, crime in lots of areas is way high and could use interventions like jobs, nutrition, and people in official vests keeping an eye on the streets. The country is vulnerable to one bad year of global crop failure, lacking any granaries; the grid is probably vulnerable to a solar megaflare. Lots of people are supposedly not that literate, let alone numerate, we don't have that many doctors per capita and we treat doctors in training like shit, people go without healthcare and Obamacare will probably mean multi-year shortages and longer times due to increased demand. Boston public transit ranges among creaky, inefficient, or an outright joke.

And that's us, never mind supposedly rich countries that also lack insulation, and much of the world that lacks even basic infrastructure and safety, though we can't really force that on them.

Even if things were up to date and maximally efficient and all, there's always room for a bit more effort in safety and maintenance, though you might run into diminishing returns. But we aren't even close to that level, in the US or globally. See any litter? Smell any pollution? Hear about any ocean dead zones? There's useful work to be done.

If you look at the magnitude of peak fossil fuels and global warming there might not be enough labor to manage a smooth transition even if we fully mobilized everyone."

For the UK, I think lead isn't a problem and murder isn't much of one, but other crime rates are said to be decently high, and cameras work less well than people on the ground for preventing it. Lots of your housing stock is ancient. In Brit's own words your trains aren't that great (compared to continental Europe; awesome to Americans). The NHS could be better. You're even more vulnerable to food supply interruptions and likely just as vulnerable to solar flares.

Oh, and I didn't even mention basic research. When you think about how many species there are, fully understanding the ecosystem, down to the genome, would probably strain the united capabilities of the entire human race.

If you want democracy, Athenian/Swiss/Culture style, that's more 'work' for people to be doing, paying attention to issues and being educated, bulding common knowledge, voting and serving. It's not quite a usual job (though Athenians got paid good wages for jury duty and Assembly attendance) but it's more useful and socially oriented than playing football like an idiot.

And politically... I can see a partial basic income funded by land/resource tax, but a full one? People just don't like working hard while others sit around playing football. Maybe that can be changed but it's really hard, and it'd be easier to go for full employment first -- if you're going to pay people a living wage, might as well have them do something for it, right? Even if it's just standing around in uniform preventing street crime, or counting beetles for ecologists.


That 'Bullshit Jobs' meme as been making the rounds lately. Noah Smith (as in Noah Opinion by way of Thoma's blog Economist's View) has this piece about jobs creating real value. Not quite what Graeber has to say, though he's explicitly riffing off the 'Bullshit Jobs' piece from last summer:

But this kind of thinking ignores a bigger question: What if your employer itself isn't adding value? When companies or governments simply suck value out of the rest of the economy instead of creating it, economists call it "rent," which basically means redistribution. I suspect that many Americans these days wonder how much of their paycheck comes from value-added work, and how much comes from "rent."

His three candidates are finance, health care, and education. Be warned, this is written at the primer level, economically speaking, so I wouldn't be surprised if most people already know what he's talking about.


What a koinky-dink! Krugman just put up a piece about the importance of economic history - I like the crack about new economic thinking means reading old books.


It gets me every time I hear the 'end of work' thing go around. I'm pretty sure that this refrain has been circulating since the first person decided to try planting a seed using a stick rather than their hands.

It is also deeply insulting to fellow humans. If running a cash register or flipping burgers (or sweat shop assembly of clothing items) is no longer available as useful work, I expect that other things will take their place. Not sure what those things will be, but I'd suspect that some of them may be entertainment related or creative activities (art of various sorts, hand crafts that people value somewhat above machine created items).

If we can get to a basic stipend based environment, any creative impulse someone has that others would consider paying for will be worth pursuing. Currently if you could make 1/2 minimum wage making custom greeting cards for people or full minimum wage running a check-out at the store, most folks have to opt for the store job. Once basic needs are met and these jobs have been automated, I'd expect many folks to find things they can do that supplement the basic income but are less stultifying than the current set of low-skill jobs...for that matter, some might even educate themselves in ways that makes them vastly more valuable to society...once they can pursue their potential rather than eking out a subsistence existence any way they can.


i guess you're describing good old anti-germans, though i guess they are not that strong anymore. or i have been out of university for too long:

and there are other, smaller groups with a somewhat different agenda:

notably, i first heard the epithet "most intelligent idiot i know" when it was used in relation to a member of on of these groups.

as for the strategy in question, afaik you can find similar ideas already with marx. sounds somewhat similar to dialectics.


yes, the first ones. the MG/Gegenstandpunkt don't have any strategy at all, and are not relevant to the discussion here.


See Kornbluth's novel The Syndic. It's an ambiguous utopia, set mostly in New York City. Unfortunately, organized crime is degenerating into government.


Back to the Neolithic? I had the impression that the invention of crop raising was the point where toil came into human life for the first time, and that if you want a leisure society, you want to go back to the Paleolithic. I'm pretty sure the !Kung are foragers and not horticulturalists. Or should I be putting the birth of toil later, at the secondary products revolution?

In any case, I'm not convinced that technological advance leads inevitably to mass unemployment. If you had told one of the Physiocrats in France that in the society of the future 2-5% of the population would be able to grow food and fiber for the entire population, I expect they would have been aghast at the prospect of nearly the entire population being put out of work—but in fact the industrial economy found plenty of work for them to do. (Possibly more work than before; Robert Fogel's last book claims that as many as 20% of the population of pre-industrial England were so debilitated from poor nutrition that they were incapable of productive work and had to be supported by begging and petty crime. That's kind of an astonishing claim, I know.) Our intuition about the consequences of current technological change, or about the causes of current unemployment, may not be reliable.


As labor loses value, the other inputs of production (raw materials and capital) generally do not. Quite the opposite, really, as finite supplies of natural resources must be split more and more ways. Therefore most attempts to put labor to use will be value-destroying; using the same inputs of raw materials and energy, a robot (or third-world sweatshop) could have gotten more production out of it. This is one reason sewing your own clothes is more expensive than buying them at Walmart.

In other words, just because nobody wants us to go to work won't make us all rich. Activities that are at all resource intensive will still have to justify their costs. And it bears mentioning that eating is resource intensive; whether the powers that (will) be consider our lives to justify the cost remains to be seen.


Seems to me most people here are implicitly asking and answering the question "what it the meaning of life?"

The ardent capitalist/MBA/Osbourne crowd think the answer is money, and by extension the ability it gives those that have it to control those that don't. You win at life by being at the top of the heap (a heap of money) when you die.

Charlie seems to think it's self-actualisation, to be as much of a Charlie as you can be during your life and to go out being able to look back with satisfaction of saying "I did that".

Others might consider it to be 'family' or 'celebrity' or 'making a difference' or 'advancement of humanity' or 'being good' or 'art' or any number of different ideas. Probably the reason there are so many answers is because nobody has a really good destination, we are all just living and making it up as we go along.

Where that reads across is we believe society should be structured around OUR invented aims - if we think self-actualisation is key then those weirdos who obsess over money need to be managed; least they interfere with the main aim. And visa versa. That then becomes politics and someone invents an ideology around it - and then it really goes to shit.

I'd suggest a better question is what is the aim of humanity, in the round, as a system? Which, I'd suggest, goes something like:

Survive - not die out Thrive - doing better than break even Expand - conquer new territories Develop - seek new knowledge/understanding Improve - use the knowledge/understanding to improve ourselves Ascend - bodies, the physical world, who needs that

although you may have your own view.

You'll notice that at no point does the individual have to be happy, fulfilled, etc. - and in practical terms nature doesn't tend to go in for the touchy feely stuff. Instead it's basically 'human' should go forward, not backward.

Viewed from that perspective, given what we know of the environment, sustainability, etc., the number one priority ought to be getting off this singular rock AND trying not to louse it up in the meantime. Biggest threat; therefore main aim.

How well do most of the political ideologies measure up to that 'humanity' perspective? I'd suggest not very well. Left, right, up, down, even green don't tend to have that 'humanity going forward and up' target - they are mainly small scale, local, short term and 'introverted' relative to that sequence or aim.

So I'd suggest if you are setting the world to rights, you need to get it straight which game you are playing first.


(Charlie, this conversation loops hugely... how do you handle really long threads).

Guthrie in reply to me:

Was the British Empire bad or Good? Well, that is a very long argument.

A bunch of Angels? Get real. There were some right bastards -- such as the Hongs who basically used Hong Kong to push opium to the Chinese. Or the Sugar Plantations of the Carribean. But, the British were no worse than other powers, including non european powers (consider the Arab slave trade for a minute, or the Turkish janissaries if you have the stomach for it)

But did it work, and the answer to that is... it did. I don't know if James Belich (NZ Historian, and probably of the left) has made it to the UK but he points out that the New Zealand and Canadian and Australian dominions (and south african and rhodesian) did two things -- they acted as large farms that fed the UK allowing for a massive concentration of people well beyond the carrying capacity of the land given the agricultural technology of the day, and the drained excess population.

Did the Brits oppress and enslave? No, not really. They were mildly to moderately oppressive (and still are: for which we should be grateful). The Soviet experiment killed millions, the Maoist experiment probably billions. In most colonies, the British Governers saw a duty to protect the natives: this is one of the reasons for the wars of 1776 and 1812 in North America, and it is one of the reasons that the Canadian Indian peoples (liek the Maori can have a renaissance.

If you really want to see genocide within the former empire, I suggest you look at the race wars (or tribal wars) that have occured since nationalism restarted: from Ulster to Sri Lanka to Rhodesia.

I think the fashion for being guilty for the Empire is a tad to twee.

Charlie (comment 72) has a better set of ideas: but back to it -- if people have nothing to do they generally suffer. It's one of the big issues with people I see @ work: they cannot get jobs -- and they often want one. Bullshit jobs (what a horrible term) included. Because it gets them out of the house, gives them a structure, and gets them meeting people: it may be acceptable to do business and the long font in Edinburgh, but it is not in Dunedin.

I do not know if anyone has a model of an economy of oversupply that does not include inflation and distress (the best historical example I know of is Spain during the time of the conquistores when gold was cheap, and land hideously expensive). The solution for Philip I was to invade England.

Well, we know how that worked.


The question lurking under all these happy unemployment numbers is simple: "at what cost?"

Certainly, we have a small minority producing the vast majority of our food, but the energy input:output ratio for industrial agriculture is somewhere around 10:1 ( That's not sustainable, and it has only been true for a century or less.

Humans are energy inefficient, but they can be very resource efficient, and peasant agriculture, for all its very obvious sins, is solar powered. It may be inefficient from a productivity per person perspective, but it's very energy efficient, and also has the advantage of having more humans optimizing individual fields. As researchers have noted, small farms in the US tend to be more productive per acre and more resource efficient, but the laws favor Big Ag.

In any case, the problem with mass automation displacing people is that it's unsustainable for more than a few decades. Such a system depends on fossil fuels, to be blunt, and we're unlikely to produce the fission or fusion plants to create alternative sources of energy, and we know how much energy the sun pumps into our planet. What happens when we can't power this system any more?

Yes, yes, machines can do more than single humans. (note the sarcasm!). That's why, of course, the poorest countries so routinely use automation in place of their poor workers--because it's so much cheaper to use machines, while the developed countries use nothing but human labor because it's more intelligent. Right? Or is it the reverse?

I know Charlie believes that mass automation and mass unemployment are inevitable. They may be, but it also may be a passing fad, just as cloud servers that use the energy of small cities to store billions of cat videos and selfies may be a passing fad.

What's the cost of each of these innovations, and how long can we afford them?

As a side note: The neolithic wasn't exactly a peaceful time. Stonehenge and the surrounding archeological remains certainly demonstrates a level of systemic inequality. Besides, even if we have an apocalypse, you can still work iron with charcoal, and we've got a lot of refined iron lying around. More likely that we'll see a Celtic Renaissance, complete with slavery and headhunting.


Charlie, the sign-in via LiveJournal seems to have broken; I'm getting a OpenID error message when I try. — NelC


Our host has evaluated the prospects for manned space travel. He thinks its infeasible, and I don't see any problems with his math.


"Did the Brits oppress and enslave? No, not really. They were mildly to moderately oppressive (and still are: for which we should be grateful). The Soviet experiment killed millions, the Maoist experiment probably billions."

The Bengal famine of 1943 also killed millions and was a direct result of British policy, and there is a growing body of work by academic economists arguing how much damage the British did to India in trying to turn it into a source of raw materials and keep out industrialization. British settlers almost wiped out the indigenous population of Australia and succeeded in Newfoundland. The evidence that the 'good wars' against national independence in Kenya and Malasia involved all the usual maimings and starvings and arbitrary killings has been drifting out for some time now. So that sort of Niall Fergusonian argument sounds cute but disingenious. "X was not as bad as Stalin or Mao" is no praise. (Back on topic, Niall Ferguson's ideas seem like a mild version of the same response which leads to Neo-Reaction).


If the history of the last century proves one thing pretty damn clearly, it’s that pure combat power isn’t as important as control of information. And the world champions in that are the British. They have an oath of silence going that makes every organized-crime family seem chatty as Oprah. And that’s why they’ve gotten away with more horrible shit than any other modern empire because: their torturers kept their mouths shut, their home-front audience always shouted down anybody who tried to kill their Imperial buzz, and their history professors were either working full time for the intelligence agencies or just in 24/7 volunteer mode, shooting down anybody who brought up the wet work of empire.

Charlie seems to think it's self-actualisation, to be as much of a Charlie as you can be during your life and to go out being able to look back with satisfaction of saying "I did that".

Others might consider it to be 'family' or 'celebrity' or 'making a difference' or 'advancement of humanity' or 'being good' or 'art' or any number of different ideas.

Hello? What part of "self-actualization" doesn't cover all of the above?

You want to be the best father you can be? Break a leg. You want to advance humanity, or be a star? Or follow every last one of your religion's rules? Do your best. These are all self-directed goals.

The problem I'm pointing to is that we have no positive criteria for identifying goals as meritorious (we can only designate some goals -- "be the most prolific serial killer" -- as negative). And in the absence of such criteria the folks with the "get all the money" goal have overridden the rest of us and enshrined their goal as the only valid measure of human worth. Moreover, in some parts of the world (the current UK government is an example of this; the USA has a good dose of it too) they've taken to shouting down and even punishing anyone who doesn't agree with their particular goal.


If you really want to see genocide within the former empire, I suggest you look at the race wars (or tribal wars) that have occured since nationalism restarted: from Ulster to Sri Lanka to Rhodesia.

Who set the preconditions for those race wars?

Hint: it was the standard British (and French) method of colonial administration.

You go in, kick the ass of the local rulers, then set up an administrative zone (call it Rhodesia). This does not correspond to the previously-existing tribal/national borders, but is designed to group together 2-4 different conquered populations.

One of these groups consists of 50-80% of the population and they are your target subjects: worked and taxed.

Another group or groups have 20-40% of the population (the latter only if there's more than one such group -- they have to be minorities). They're also worked and taxed, but they're used to police the majority population and are given some privileges: you recruit the brute squad for your colonial police/army of occupation from these peoples and you give them clubs and maybe muskets. Their relative insecurity will do the rest -- nothing's as zealous as a junior manager who feels threatened by those below them on the ladder.

Finally you have 1-5% colonial administrators and soldiers at the top (possibly with 5-10% from another imported ethnic group to act as an artificial middle class and handle import/export and merchandising). And these guys have the machine guns to keep the 20%ers in line.

What happens when the colonial administrators pull out is not pretty: "race war" pretty well sums it up. And the underlying cause is the removal of the governors, suddenly leaving the 20%ers facing a hostile majority.

Upshot: the British (and French) empires were indeed bad for the people they conquered: they just did a really good job of hiding it.


And of course the British government insisted on


No Independence Before MAjority Rule, which effectively turned the pre-existing 75/20/5 means of ruling on its head - and left those co-opted by the imperial rulers into doing their dirty work, at best fearing the loss of their power and influence, and at worst, their lives.


If you live in Edinburgh, you don't have to go as far as Rhodesia to see the effects of British colonial rule. Driving twenty miles uphill will do it. The Scottish highlands are still the emptiest bit of land in Europe, iirc...


"What happens when the colonial administrators pull out is not pretty: "race war" pretty well sums it up. And the underlying cause is the removal of the governors, suddenly leaving the 20%ers facing a hostile majority."

Sorry, Chazza, but "race war" doesn't really sum this up at all. In the case of Sierra Leone, for example, civil war didn't come until thirty years after indepdence, and catastrophic and horrific as it was, it didn't involve different ethnic groups knocking lumps out of each other.

And then you have cases like Ghana, which used to have a severe problem with military coups, but which has never had a civil war.

And I don't think your percentages model captures the reality of indirect rule at all. . .


And that's me told. Now as I was saying before I was so rudely deleted:

This link will take you to a paper which argues for a looming world war in 2025, which tallies neatly with the Fall Revolution timeline of Ken Macleod.

Here's the (reformatted) abstract:

By re-analyzing latest conflict data (great power battle fatalities from all wars, Goldstein 1988 and COW/PRIO 2005) from 1495 to 2002 and as yet unpublished UNIDO data about the growth of world industrial production 1740–2004 it is shown that the long Kuznets and Kondratiev swings and cycles of capitalist world development that play such an important role in the analysis of global war since 1495 have indeed not ended after the end of Communism, and that instability, an d not stability, characterizes the world economy, and that there is an indented ‘W’ shaped pattern of global conflict since 1495 that did not end with the end of the Cold War. To this effect, we present in this work new conflict data for the involvement of the Great Powers (from 1945 onwards UN Permanent Security Council members + Germany, before 1945 definition Goldstein 1988, based on the works of Levy, see page 235 in Goldstein 1988) in wars (annual battle fatalities) for the entire period 1945–2002, based on standard peace research data (PRIO Oslo, Correlates of War data). World hegemonies that characterize the workings of world capitalism arise and they also end. Work by Attinà and Modelski suggests that we most probably will not escape the fatal cycle of global leaderships and global contenders. Since the mid 1960s, the defense pact aggregation index that measures the percentage share of defense pact members in the total number of states in the inter-national system i.e. the control that existing, established mechanisms of world political leadership exercise over global politics, has declined, suggesting that the era of global power by the United States, which was established in 1945, definitely comes to an end and that our era is pretty similar to the era 1850–1878, which was characterized by the de-legitimation of the then British leadership, followed by the de-concentration of the international system and the era of coalition-building between 1878–1914, which ended, as we all too well know, in the catastrophe of 1914. Our hypothesis is – also in view of developments beyond the 1990s – that the belle époque of globalization from 1960–1990 did not bring about a more stable, egalitarian and peaceful world.


I'm not surprised that the paper's prediction tallies with the Fall Revo timeline, because I worked out the timeline with (back-of-an-envelope) Kondratiev cycles myself. In his article 'Building a Future' (or similar) John Barnes shows how do it properly, with a spreadsheet.


And no one is going to Alpha Centauri, are they?

"The socialists had their chance in the twentieth century, and they botched it so badly that no-one ever made the attempt again."


Seriously, though, how credible do you find the concept of Kondratiev cycles? The pattern definitely seems to be there, but is it an inevitable outcome of the "laws of motion of capital"?


There's, well, too much focus on money.

Money's just a tool at the level of societies, no matter how vital it is when you need some to buy breakfast.

What I think we're seeing is a general failure to apportion risk. Folks with lots of power are doing everything to make that condition permanent; this inevitably and necessarily pushes risk on to people whose activity didn't generate it. You get instability and collapse. (One keeps seeing articles about how the very rich are getting 20% annual returns. Try figuring out how that can be possible.)

If we managed to internalize the nasty knowledge of systems theory, which can be summarized as "success or control, pick one", and went with "well, that means we need to arrange things so no one has control (but pretty much everybody has a say about constraints), we could get something pleasant and stable.

It's very, very difficult, though, because a lot of people find the absence of control so terrifying that they'll do anything to restore it, even when this obviously makes a huge mess of everything else.

Oh, and the current run of FIRE industry rent extraction? Try looking at it, not as rent, that money thing, but as a recognition that you can get nearly all of the benefits of control if you can reliably parasitize success.

Similarly, the problem with employment in an AI economy isn't going to be a lack of work for people; it's going to be a lack of people suited to do the new kinds of work. (How many people are qualified to be a Senior Local Biome Maintainer? Not anywhere near as many as we need. Multiply by lots.) We already see this with extant automation; it doesn't remove work, it removes people from their jobs because it changes the kind of work that's there to do.


Automation tends to either (1) allow more production to be done with less human labor (e.g. the automated aisles at supermarkets), (2) allow the same production to be done with less skilled human labor (e.g. inventory management software), or (3) allow better control by management over existing workers (e.g. the security camera). If it didn't ultimately result in lower wages per unit of production, it wouldn't be cost effective.


actually, I have some (quite few) sympathies for the Anti-Germans, but this is more of an "enemy of my enemies" situation[1].

As for the strategy of supporting capitalism, this is hardly specific to them; Marx supported the North against the South in the American slaveholder reb^w^w, err, civil war,

later on, we have the fracas with Bernstein who tried to ameliorate capitalism

and still later, there were the Mensheviks in Russia

who were the Orthodox Marxists and thought Russia first of needed a capitalist revolution. Little ragtag Lenin differed.

For most Marxists the welfare state IS the enemy, the term usually used is Fordism:

With most concerned thinking we are living in Post-Fordism.

Err, no, you're not the only one who gets reminded of the fun with Amillennialism, Premillennialism and Postmillennialism in Christianity...

As for the Anti-Germans, AFAIR they began with German Reunification and Operation Desert Storm as an opposition to the Anti-Imperialism,

and the realisation that not everybody opposing capitalism was a hero. From then on it all went downhill quite fast...

[1] I guess I've been listening to "Holiday in Cambodia" a little too often lately.

No, Moldbug is a monarchist. Period.

Actually, knowing at least one German monarchist from school, he seems to be an "absolute monarchist". Which even for most monarchist would be a no-go, since they are constitutional monarchists.

Which is somewhat funny. Somewhat making the facts fit the theory...

I'm always stressing that the "divine right of kings" was actually a somewhat late development, at least in practice. during the early medieval period, kings had an information and communication problem, so the power resided with the local aristocracy. The heyday of the idea of "absolute monarchy" coincidenced with the rise of a rich merchant class, what Marxists call the "bourgeouis", which backed the king against the aristocracy. Who also had to appease the aristocracy.

So for a neo-aristocratic libertarian to call for an absolute monarchy is, err, somewhat strange.


Actually, Moldbug et al. are not the first ones taking an aim at Enlightenment; there are those that argue Foucault specifically and Postmodernism in general did just that:–Habermas_debate

Come to think about it, right former libertarians turned revolutionaries and Post-Modernist hipsters, a tragedy for those involved and a comedy for those watching...


No, Moldbug is a monarchist. Period.

So give him some orders and beat him if he disobeys.

He didn't think the monarch would be him, did he?


I'm not sure about Kondratiev cycles. I suspect they're an empirically observable (with a bit of squinting, because as I recall, the data can be ambiguous or debatable) outcome of deeper underlying processes, which may not have much to do with what we think of as economics. Understanding the 'laws of motion of capital' is a bit above my pay grade.


Brit Empire Yes, not good & quite bad in places ... However - getting rid of Suttee & Thuggee & slave-trading & slave-owning are also to be accounted for. Bengal Famine - err ... there was something else going on at the time, which took up a lot of people's attention - fighting off the IJA. In previous famines, the "imperial" administration did what it could (often not enough) to allieviate matters. IHMO the biggest mistake was not promiosing "India" Dominion Status, about 1935, with a total end-date of 1955 - but "could be sooner" - see also the late MM Kaye on this one. Similarly, we should have promised all the other colonies independance sooner, but made the process more gradual - hopefully thus avoiding the two generations of corruption, waste & slaughter that followed, in many places. As for the really nasty bits, well the old phrase about studying dragons too closely comes to mind ... "we" did things in WWII in order to fight off the Nazis, which were, quite frankly, war crimes - that's the sort of shit that just happens in situations like that. The cases of torture against innocets in Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau are a classic in unpleasantess of this sort - meanwhile, what were the actual Mau Mau doing? Right. I'm not excusing it, but this sort of thing happens. The tricky bit is to minimise it as far as possible, & if lucky, prevent it altogether. Not easy.

Charlie, you quote the 90/9/1% "rule" - but Im not sure that always applied, at all. It's just too neat for something as messy as politics & control & .....


Utter codswallop The "clearances" were done by Scots' to Scots, with no English involvement. There was never much love lost between those living in the Central belt & the highlanders - as any cursory reading of pre-1550 (ish) history of Scotland will tell you.


actually, i guess he's aware of this.

moldbug is doing the admirable job of channeling thomas hobbes.

problem is he is seberal hundred years late. as one writer moldbug is unlikely to quote put it, everything in history happens twice, first as tragedy, then as...


Ken Macloed & DJPO'K .... Kondratiev - leading to WWIII? [ Or IV if you include the French wars 1792-1815 as WWI ] Nasty. I do hope they're wrong. Just had a quick scan of the paper ... I note they don't seem to be actually predicting who will be fighting whom - what will the alliances be & what the supposed "justification" for this. Or will there be an outbreak of naked aggression, as in 1914, 1939, 1941? And, if so, by whom?

Predictions please?


That works for me, too, Ken.

Actually, I can speculate on one point: the duration of a K-wave looks eerily similar to the mean life expectancy in a pre-demographic-transition society for someone who made it past the first five years without dying. (The common pattern was roughly 30-50% mortality in the first 5 years; then a mortality curve not dissimilar to our own (apart from a higher likelihood of war, famine, or plague pandemics) for the next 45-50 years, then higher mortality due to (untreatable) diseases of old age.)

Posit that humans are lousy at managing projects that exceed the human life expectancy, and Kondratiev waves may be an emergent property of administrative styles in nations/empires changing as the reason for adopting a given way of doing things is forgotten and new thinking emerges. In other words, it's the resonant frequency of human history :)


err, greg, many ethnic cleansings are done by local proxies. examples omitted for possible godwins.

not that many old grievances buddies should seriously look which side their ancestors were on...


Greg: In Bengal the British carried out a scorched earth policy then refused to allow food supplies to be shipped in once it was clear that the Japanese were not about to arrive. They had the shipping to do it, and various people were willing to pay, but that might have made the population of England slightly hungrier. I repeat: The British government were told that they had a choice between starving a few million Bengalis and a less pleasant diet at home, and they chose the former. See the book by M. Mukerjee for sources.

According to this paper from Yale, the official British casualty figure from Kenya are 32 dead settlers and 11,500 dead 'militiants ' ( ). Gwynne Dyer cites 70,000 Kenyans herded into camps where most were beaten, raped, or maimed. I would suggest that the British killed or maimed a thousand Kenyan civilians for every Briton the Mau Mau killed. That, sir, is not an accident of war.


That, sir, is not an accident of war.

On a similar (and more recent, hence more inflammatory) note: number of Americans killed in 9/11: under 3000. Number of Iraqis killed during invasion and occulation: low estimate is 106,000, high estimate (per Lancet and PLOS Medicine studies) are 500-600,000, with an outlying study estimating as high as 1 million. (Sources.)

Imperial retaliation typically reaps a death toll 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than the original insult used to justify it. See also Oradour-sur-Glane, etcetera (note: deliberately picking one that didn't have an obvious ethnic cleansing element).


Actually, the clearances were done by the local part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, which was in charge, i.e. lowland scots. You really need to read some history some day, or maybe what he actually wrote, rather than what you think he wrote.


Or to clarify, that's the numbers estimated killed by coalition troops, deliberately and accidentally. The number killed by other Iraqis in the abortive civil war that came about as a result of the invastion and criminally botched attempts at running Iraq, is probably the same number again. Not to forget the 2 or 3 million who have left the country.

As for Afghanistan, people are making the case for staying there for an indeterminate amount of time:

as if the last 12 years can be improved upon.

No, Moldbug is a monarchist. Period. So give him some orders and beat him if he disobeys. He didn't think the monarch would be *him*, did he?

That's what I was thinking while reading the Anti-Reactionary FAQ: It almost appears as if the nutty reactionaries fall for the same fallacy as the nutty believers in memories from previous lives, namely that they invariably imagine themselves in the position of the king and queen, or at least of the nobility or people at the court and close to the king. Nobody imagines themselves as a nameless peasant serf who either dies before the age of five, or has to marry the person the lord orders them to marry, and give same lord the ius primae noctis.

The same seems to be true for the Neo-Reactionaries: they all seem very convinced that they will be among the king's advisors and live glorious lives once the monarchy comes. I don't see them embracing a life in serfdom and relative poverty, which is what life has historically been for practically everybody who has ever lived in a pre-enlightenment monarchy. And as long as they don't want to be nameless and irrelevant serfs in the system they long for, why should anybody else?


Just a quick comment - the right of the first night after a wedding is something of a myth, with bugger all evidence for it, especially in most of the countries it has been alleged to have existed in.

Being sarcastic for a minute, as with libertarians, they think they are special and wonderful and will do well once the represssive weight of government regulations are off their back. Oddly enough when you start getting into Medieval history and reading primary source material, the issue is as much either no law at all, or your fellow citizens ganging up on you, or warping the law to suit themselves.


Plus the military technology of the time, quite tied in with the social system, meant the jocks had it all and nerds had to etch a living in a convent. I guess that's hardly what they aspire to.


"Never - I am sworn to chastity".


Like your father and his father before?



I'll have you know that my mother conceived immaculately.


So being delivered from original sin, you could run around naked?


Having first painted myself blue, in accordance with Celtic tradition.


Ahh, but have you heard of what monks get up to in monasteries? Being a knight is hard work, all this sitting on horses and riding around all day gives you haemmeroids, whereas monks just have to sit there, working with toxic stuff like cinnabar and lead oxide for illuminating their manuscripts.


I imagine they think the forelock-tugging peasant will, relieved of the necessity of political thought or thought of any kind, be free to concentrate on the folk singing, knocking back vast qualities of ale in huge tankards, slapping the buttocks of rosy cheeked wenches and dancing round the maypole.

Constant hunger doesn't figure in.


But as long as they are in charge, there won't be hunger because they'll run things properly!


By the way: at the first, lazy reading I read the title of this post as "Trogdolyte singularitarians for Monarchism!"

It's still fitting, though.


Go Captain But ... we Morris-dancers are doing all of that already!


guthrie That's what I said - to Scots, by Scots ...

PS to Sean M @ 119 Disagree with Mukerjee's figures (He has his own axe to grind as well) but not saying that it was right - as others point out, the retaliation is often worse than the original crime - see my comment about studying dragons?


But that's not what he wrote!: " the effects of British colonial rule"

British, as in, part of Britain! As Scotland, and especially the lowland Scots, very much were so. As for the highlanders, their chiefs had buggered off to London to be British, and it took a lot of money to live there, hence the sheep.


What? Including the rosy-cheeked maidens? Ahem. I may have to rethink this. How does it go now?

True Thomas, he pulled off his cap And bowed low down to his knee All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven For thy peer on earth I never did see

Oh no, oh no, Thomas, she said That name does not belong to me I am but the Queen of fair Elfland That am hither come to visit thee.


Congratulations: you've just created cyber-Mormonism.


Having spent some time in the Highlands, I came to the conclusion that survival is about as good as you'll manage - there are wafer-thin margins for it; one bad winter, a bad harvest, or a disease hitting the flock or herd, and things get nasty. Yes, there are some workable parts of land, but the Clearances didn't make much of a difference around Rannoch Moor, or the hills above Aviemore - no-one really lived there in the first place.

It's not exactly great farming country, and the weather can be "somewhat challenging" (understatement) for anything other than short stays in nice weather.


Why do I keep hearing Maddy Prior?


Ahh, but there's a reason the Highlands grew a lot of cattle - because it's not great farming country.
Things were nasty there, it is true, but they were nasty everywhere else in Europe, until well after the medieval period. Then by the 17th century the lowlands were pulling away from the Highlands culturally and economically; the clearances were the end of the process, not the begining, it started by mid-century or so, with the middle classes leaving for the USA.
People sustained themselves from the sea as well of course; life was good enough to sustain, by the late medieval period, not just the clan chiefs and their retainers, but also a learned section of society who copied medical treatises of the time out in gaelic. Plus there used to be a lot more trees around anyway, the red deer is actually a forest animal that has adapted to the moorland. It should be taller and bigger.


the simple fact is that Keynesian worked well for years. Until the Fatcats got the chance to march us The American Fatcat GOP are trying to marh us all back to a Golden age that never was.

Given that the great drop in income inequality in the US happened during WW2 and the break to higher inequality happened in the mid 70ies in hindsight, I wonder whether this was just an artifact of demography. Labor just had it better for a generation because the world supply of potential labor had been martially shrunk and much competition just leveled.


At the risk of opening a hornet's nest, George Monbiot has a lot to say about the problems with conserving moors instead of forests in the UK, and the problems it causes.

The tl;dr version is that the highlands landscape of 800 years ago (let alone 8000 years ago) probably looked pretty different than what's up there now, and making assumptions about how much life the highlands can support based on present conditions may be very problematic.


Yup. But living there now is a different experience altogether what with roads and cars and central heating and proper insulation and stuff.
ALthough the housing types, especially in the western isles, showed the usual cunning in making good use of local resources to build something that worked pretty well. e.g. thatched roofs help muffle the wind noise a lot better than any other option.


Hm, hope it arouses the furor whatever to a similar as this one:

(Note: moderately NSFW, Nostra Azzuri dress painted on girl)

Doing one of those notoriously inaccurate guesses about human genetic variation, from her phenotype, I'd wager she is from somewhere south of Gallia cisalpina, though then, some of my Silesian relatives would be from somewhere south of Sicily...

Actually, AFAIK there are only sources for blue body paint with the insular Celts, no idea about the continental ones.

Problem is, I'm sitting about 50 km from Dortmund here, and believe me, you don't want to be mistaken for a Schalke fan in certain corners:

Not that I know of a special Celtic connection with Schalke, if anything, we could guess about Sarmatians:


Don't forget the occassional lost fragment of Aristotle about comedy laced with arsenical compounds. ;)

That being said, and knowing what really went on in some convents, especially before Cluny, personally I wouldn't mind being confined to one that much. Actually, we have a word for a life like that, it's called tenure.

And truth be told, William of Occam doing some acid^w ergot trips with a MILFy Hildegard von Bingen and, both being bicurious and polyamorous, inviting Thomas of Aquinas or maybe even Rābi'a bint Ka'b to a small threesome or foursome, err, yes, I know it's anachronistic, but I guess I'll never get those pictures out of my head.

The two problems are: a) I guess after a few years, Hildegard is going to catch the eye of one of the jocks in chainmall, and William is trying to impress someblonde peasant girls, mistaking youth for aethetics. b) As already said, I just think that our neo-reactionaries are not the ones who think "Anathem" that much of a lifestyle to emulate.


Trottelreiner @ 146 You shouldn't have done that!

....Romans came across the Channel All wrapped up in tin and flannel: Half a pint of woad per man'll Dress us more than these. Saxon, you can waste your stitches Building beds for bugs in breeches: We have woad to clothe us, which is Not a nest for fleas. Romans keep your armours; Saxons your pyjamas: Hairy coats were meant for goats, Gorillas, yaks, retriever dogs and llamas.!


& @ 148 Well, haven't you also forgotten some of the erm, very interesting goings-on in supposedly "closed" institutions, as described in the Decameron ??


Or as Adrian Mitchell put it:

Back in the caveman days business was fair. Used to turn up at Wookey Hole, Plenty of action down the Hole Nights when it wasn't raided. They'd see my bear-gut harp And the mess at the back of my eyes And 'Right', they'd say, 'make poetry'. So I'd slam away at the three basic chords And go into the act --- A story about sabre-toothed tigers with a comic hero; A sexy one with an anti-wife-clubbing twist --- Good progressive stuff mainly, Get ready for the Bronze Age, all that, And soon it would be 'Bring out the woad!' Yeah, woad. We used to get high on woad.


Well, speaking as an insular Celt myself, my phenotype is still unusual among the Irish population. . . to the point where I've been challenged by police doing the immigration beat whenever the train I was on would cross the border into unoccupied Ireland. . .


Actually, the British DID NOT have the shipping for move enough to solve the Bengal Famine, the Americans were more concerned with the build up for some little event they were planning for the Summer of 1944 in Europe, per the Official History of Wartime Shipping.

So no Liberty Ships.


And the traditional "black house" with the hearth in the middle of the room, and a byre at one end, is actually a very good natural antiseptic environment.


Do you have a source for that? A quick internet search finds one site claiming it is from the ammonia from the animals in the byre, and another claiming it is the peat smoke. That difference, and the problems of dosage, make me wonder how much reality there is to it.


It does sound like a myth. Mostly because either peat smoke or gaseous ammonia, concentrated enough to act as an antiseptic, would also kill human inhabitants pretty quickly.


Also #155 - Sadly, I don't have a specific reference, but I've been told the same thing by several specialist historians. A large part of the reasoning is that there was virtually no history of airborne infections in the Highlands and Islands until the introduction of "white houses" with fireplaces and flues in the gable ends, and separate byres.


Not necessarily. The counter example is chlorinated water: it may not work directly as an antiseptic, but there's enough in the water to prevent or retard the growth of harmful pathogens. It's plausible a similar thing could happen in a smoke/fume-filled room.

(I'd concede that it's probably not good for the long term health of the inhabitants.)


Well, exactly. This is why smoking is good for the chest. :)


Sam Harris says wood burning is awful (Mainly as a way to illustrate how unwelcome truths are hard to take, but the fact remains)


re 66:

No need for (implied) paranoia about ''suppressed literature''. I found Karl Hess's book here on Amazon:


I would like to have some opinions regarding a short theory on this subject. Automatization replaces work but mostly productive work (i think of the Veblen's distinction between productive work and predatory work and recently most of fiest and second sectors works have disappeared and third sectorshave appeared). But we live in the ideology of work (Jacques Ellul, André Gorz, Robert Kurz,...) with the morality of work on so on that often places the value of work above the value of man ( Therefore it is impossible because of ideology to put a basic guaranteed income and two kind of works replace the productive work: services to the person and services to businesses. Services to businesses are similar to predatory work, mafia or even a tax on productive work (obvious exemples are financial and corporate legal services with all the lobbying,...) whereas services to the persones are neo-slavery (i am rich so i have a slave to cook for me, serve me the dishes, do my laundry,...). As there is more and more predatory work with the disappearing of productive work adn the self-renforcing lobbying political system, the society becomes more and more a predatory one. And a predatory society leads to nihilism in all the areas of the society. Note that the issue is the same in a communism country although the ideology of work does not lead to the apology of gordon geikho and the self-made man but to the apology of stakhanov and the good proletarian people. I recommand the books of the philosopher Jacques Ellul that wrote mostly on the questions of the impact of the technics of society but also worked on the ideology of work.


[[ rescued from the spam bin, where it probably ended up due to number of links. Also, obvious URL errors fixed for you - mod ]]

I'm having trouble posting this reply to Charlie's comment (no. 36) of November 29, 2013 18:55, so I'm trying this way (I've emailed it to him separately, via the contact form).

What we need -- on a global scale -- is the combination of a level playing field and a guaranteed basic income or negative income tax, with the money to pay for it coming from a tax on capital gains.

I don't see any way of getting there from here, at least under the current regime -- but when The Adam Smith Institute are calling for it, it's a sign of how weird the territory we're moving through has become.

You're almost right. Here's some of what's missing, based on my earlier research and research for a nearly finished economics monograph of mine:-

  • "[M]oney to pay for it" is something of an accounting issue. Yes, done that way, there would have to be funds in to provide funds out, but it doesn't have to be done that way - and shouldn't be, in either the ethical or the engineering sense of "shouldn't".

  • However, there is a cost constraint in a different sense: sustainability needs people's income of that sort to be too low to live off, so that they still have to seek work for the sake of its top up income, but high enough that effectively all of them can settle for a top up income low enough to let them price themselves into work. This presents transitional problems with a guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax, as if those are initially at those levels, some people will fall through the cracks at first, and if not, the transition may take too long for available funding resources to support.

  • A guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax isn't a final destination either, though either could be a late stage of a transition. A final destination, in the sense of self-running rather than directed (apart from any rebalancing needed to stay there) would be somewhat Distributist; it would involve the "euthanasia of the rentiers" by dilution making everybody into rentiers, ideally getting their returns through privately owned assets rather than via government interest payments.

  • The beginning of the transition would work better with the approach of Professor Kim Swales of the University of Strathclyde and his colleagues (in the UK - see ), and of Nobel winner Professor Edmund S. Phelps, McVickar Professor of Political Economy at Columbia University (in the USA - see , or his book Rewarding Work). I myself have done a game theoretic analysis of aspects of these proposals, which I dumbed down a bit and had published in the (near Distributist) National Civic Council's magazine News Weekly (in Australia - see , and also and following, or my Henry Tax Review submission at ), and I have some other related and more recent stuff too, e.g. at . This is a negative payroll tax, long run equivalent to a guaranteed basic income or a negative income tax but faster acting and without funding issues; if set at the right levels, it is indefinitely sustainable up to hitting Malthusian constraints, constraints which would be brought forward by capital departure (which includes winding back local capital while foreign capital builds up, as well as simply moving it abroad where it might be seized or might erode without replenishment).

  • Capital departure also means that a tax on capital gains would be insufficiently reliable to fund any transitional trajectory that might need distinct funds flows. Whether funded that way or not, or not explicitly funded at all, it shows up as Malthusian constraints; and, contrariwise, if those can be headed off, any kind of funding would do (for rebalancing when financial risk erodes asset bases, "printing money" is adequate, particularly if done with a sinking fund approach; but this Social Credit sort of thing isn't sustainable enough for current revenue, just for asset replenishment).

  • In fact, capital departure problems would be entirely headed off if all capital ownership - or ownership equivalent - stayed behind (and if overseas capital didn't erode like the Suez Canal Company or Anglo-Iranian Oil, or British and Dutch investments in the 19th century U.S.A.). For instance, company taxes are equivalent to governmental ownership of a portfolio of shares, in the corresponding proportion; with that, capital departure would not cut government revenues. Similarly, if people's pre-top up income were drawn from personal assets rather than churned through the government, it wouldn't matter if those moved away - unless and until they eroded through sovereign risk etc.

  • But, once a transition is near enough to personal control of underlying assets, there isn't any need to worry: people would have just precisely the right incentives to keep their assets where they could be controlled, which was precisely the context in which Adam Smith introduced his concept of an "invisible hand".

Well, all that's the (hopefully constructive) criticism. I'll leave my own alternative suggestions for that monograph I mentioned, and for any sequel material (for details of later stages of possible transitions, including possible destinations).


actually, the problem with dealing with a low employability society is not that it hasn't happened before, and nobody managed to handle it...

this might also explain part of the migration to rome from the countryside, you had to be in the city to get free grain.

this being one of the favorite latin terms of any wannabe social conservative or right libertarian, one has to be quite cautious not to fall into the usual intellectual laziness and stereotypes.

still, it makes for some interesting ideas; substitute automatation for slavery, with the added benefit of loosing one reason for roman imperialism. substitute argentinia and like for egypt and north africa. substitute going for the leading countries or the big cities for moving to rome. substitute paternalistic social democrats lying through their teeth for populares.

substitute neoliberal high functioning sociopaths for optimates

leaving aside comparing rome to the present is in itself a sign of intellectual laziness and a favorite pastime of the wannabe conservative variant of the neoliberal hfs above, i somewhat muse how we're going to keep said system from becoming an aristocracy by any other name. and having some, err, friends who fit the wcvotnhfs trope above, i somewhat wonder what monsters we're going to see rising against it.

of course, in the long run the econo-political elite is going to be superseded by ai trading systems, which would get us into banks' culture, but till then...


Belated side note: If you'd like to see neo-reactionary software, it's here. This is one of Moldbug's projects --- under a different name (Curtis Yarvin, which is his wallet name for all I know, but it does seem to be the same guy).

If you're a techie, and can figure out what he's going on about here, be sure to let the rest of us know. There was a recent post on a law blog (of all things!) suggesting that he might be trying to use functional programming to facilitate parallel algorithms --- but that didn't seem particularly well grounded in any of the project's own docs. It also doesn't explain, say, Yarvin/Moldbug's obsession with eccentric type systems. (I haven't yet found a clear explanation of why the odd properties of his type systems are supposed to be useful, but they certainly are, well ... odd.)


Another belated side note. I checked today the link to "Actually Existing Socialism" in your OP. I suspect you were being sarcastic, but if you were not, you may want to get your definitions of Socialism some place other than Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism. Many people claim that USSR was not "real socialism", and I agree -- it was very far from what Marx envisioned. However, people who claim that USSR under Stalin was real socialism, and it went bad (the term they use is "state capitalism") after Stalin's death, really belong in a loony bin.


I have often thought that the most striking feature of Actually Existing Socialism is that it most closely resembles feudalism.

So in a sense Marx was partly right: history is a history of class struggles up to the bourgeois class. But then it somehow went wrong, and the next step actually became a step backwards.


I have often thought that the most striking feature of Actually Existing Socialism is that it most closely resembles feudalism.

If you think that, then I think you have no idea what feudalism was.

(If you want to walk it back to "the structures of the USSR strongly resembled those of the previous Russian Empire", then that's anothe matter. But the US Marine Corps is more of a feudal system than any socialist state ever. Because feudalism was basically about the militarisation of an entire society, except for the religious sector.)


I'm afraid I have to stop you there and say that's a pretty huge overgeneralisation right there. Feudalism wasn't about the militarisation of society, it was about a hierachy from top to bottom, with those at top having more power, those at bottom having none. Those at the top fought for themselves, and to defend those lower down, who were at risk of being conscripted into wars. (Although in many countries there were limits on how many days they could be called out for, 40 days max in England, which meant that unlike current US policy, you couldn't run a war for years on end)

The peasantry weren't part of the military machine, their job was to produce stuff most of the time. Any job as cannon fodder was not really describable as militarisation of the entirety of society. That's what was so special about the leaders - they had and could afford body armour and tanks and stuff, so ultimately if the lower folk (i.e. 85-90% of the population) got uppity, the leading class could walk straight over the top of them.

What caused upsets later was when some Dutch people and the Swiss found that the tanks, I mean heavy cavalry, were vulnerable to massed spears, and there was much harrumphing in the upper class at peasants killing their social superiors.


The peasantry weren't part of the military machine, their job was to produce stuff most of the time

Indeed so - and in a militarised society, that's exactly what you need. Pretty well all the production fed upwards till you got to the military (the landed nobles with their support). At the top, you're building military bases (castles) and equipping armoured forces (knights). That everyone didn't fight doesn't mean it wasn't a militarised society - but it was effectively a society in which all resources could be devoted to fighting. And as long as fighting (offence or defence) was more cost effective than not fighting, it could continue.

Was there enough to allow continuous wars, all year round? No. But they'd fight wars year after year for generations.


But actual historians have been moving away from the "Feudalism = war" thing for generations now. There was peace too you know, and a complex web of obligations that became more and more legally based. The military side was important , but concentrating on it rather misses a bunch of other stuff about who was in charge of what and why. And the religious types often owned land and therefore had to supply men and horses; feudalism was basically land in exchange for obligations, usually but not always military. Kind of like how modern countries expect their citizens to be willing to be conscripted if necessary.

Because feudalism was basically about the militarisation of an entire society, except for the religious sector.

I respectfully disagree, and refer to the people who responded above. The prototypical (German) state that had its entire society militarised was Prussia, and that was after the heyday of feudalism.

I'm more thinking in terms of (a) the sharp contrast between the feudal lords and the peasants, both in wealth and in power, and (b) the relation between overlord and vassal as the foundation of the political system. Both are mirrored in (a) the sharp contrast between the lives and privileges of the nomenklatura and the circumstances in which the masses live, and (b) the patronage system where you rise through the ranks of party and state not because of your abilities, competence and merits, but because of your close affiliation with and allegiance to a leading member of the nomenklatura, and go down with him if he falls out of the supreme overlord's favour.

To me these two aspects seem more essential to feudalism than the military aspect.


Also, come to think of it, what about this aspect of militarisation of the entire society in Actually Existing Socialism?

  • The leadership being absolutely in love with military parades as the manifestation of society and system? Check!
  • Every other manifestation also taking on the form of a parade, or a similarly disciplined display of synchronised movements? Check!
  • Putting everybody from young age into a paramilitary youth organisation, complete with hierarchy, uniforms, and even a public oath of allegiance? Check!
  • Organizing the civil(!) work force in a paramilitary way, namely in brigades etc., including rewarding them with medals for achievements? Check!

What else do you need for an effective militarisation of the entire society? How much further than organising any group or gathering of people in a military fashion can you go?


But the US Marine Corps is more of a feudal system than any socialist state ever

You could also argue the opposite - that a good military is more of a socialist system than any socialist government ever.

There's the whole "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs" thing. You find that officers are expected to support and develop their soldiers as individuals, not to mention trying to keep them out of trouble (be it financial or judicial). You find people living in a truly communal environment, and sharing everything freely (granted, that's because personal space and possession is at a premium in a trench or a rucksack)

In America, it's the one example of a truly socialised medical system :) and in the vast majority of cases, it's ability rather than allegiance that get you promoted. They've also got an atypical attitude to management - the USMC just sacked two Generals because of the Taliban attack on Camp Bastion; not the people who cocked up the guard routine, but the men in charge - because as the USMC say, you can delegate authority, but never responsibility...

For us (and I believe the USMC), there was very definitely a culture of service - $DEITY help you as a leader if you got caught slacking off to look after yourself before you'd finished taking care of your soldiers. Being selfish (i.e. looking out for number one, always) is one of the truly great insults.

Even given that this is a rather rosy perspective, what's not to like? Apart from the USMC obsessions with ludicrously short haircuts, spray starch, and utter uniformity, obviously :)

Even given that this is a rather rosy perspective, what's not to like? Apart from the USMC obsessions with ludicrously short haircuts, spray starch, and utter uniformity, obviously :)

The killing?


Hmmm, militarization of the youth? You mean like the Boy Scouts of Baden Powell? Or school cadets? Btw (back in the day) my wife absolutely rocked her Komsomolets uniform.

And uniforms? Well have a look at the overtly fascist style uniforms prevalent in the west at the same time (1930s). Now go outside and count the number of people wandering around in a corporate uniform (that actually disturbs me more).

Real Actual Socialism actually borrowed (and took to the logical conclusion) many of the trappings that the west now decries. What you don't see from the outside is how conservative such 'revolutionary' societies are, hence the persistence of such themes long past their fading in the west.

As ex senior service I'd agree with gravelbelly22 that the military, professional type at least, as being inherently socialistic in nature even with the trappings of the feudalist class structure. Which btw are just that, officers don't rule by divine right and if you think that as an officer you'll be in for an unpleasant surprise.


Corporate uniform? You mean business suits, business casual clothes, and so on? Why is that disturbing?

I wear those kinds of clothes for meeting. It's a way to fit in without thinking too much about what I wear, same as wearing jeans and T-shirts at a science fiction convention.


'Hmmm, militarization of the youth? You mean like the Boy Scouts of Baden Powell?'

Boy and girl scout movements were independent of the state which is why both fascist and communist regimes suppressed them. And also murdered boy and girl scout leaders.


Corporate uniform? You mean business suits, business casual clothes, and so on? Why is that disturbing?

Go into a fast food joint: all the staff are in company uniform. Get on a bus or train: the driver and other staff are in uniform. Go shopping: the floor staff are frequently in uniform -- it might be "business suit with ID badge", or a company shirt and trousers/skirt, but you can instantly tell the staff from the customers.

One report a few years ago mentioned that over 50% of the British work force wear a uniform or have to obey a company dress code of equivalent strictness. (In Japan it's even more pronounced -- around 70% -- but the semiotics of uniforms in Japanese culture are radically different. In Japan, it's a tribal identifier that signals belonging to a socially useful group, and is usually worn with pride. In the UK or the US, in non-public life, uniforms are used to deny individual autonomy and assert corporate identity over the private sphere.)


In Japan it's even more pronounced -- around 70% -- but the semiotics of uniforms in Japanese culture are radically different. In Japan, it's a tribal identifier that signals belonging to a socially useful group, and is usually worn with pride.

That is definitely true. A few years ago I missed a connecting flight and was stuck in Minneapolis/St. Paul due to weather. While freezing my ass off waiting for a bus to take me to the hotel, I was standing near two Japanese business types. One was about thirty years old, the other about fifty. They were dressed identically, but what I particularly noticed was their shoes. They had ridiculously pointed toes, the kind you don't usually see on men's shoes, that went about three inches past their toes. The fact they were both wearing these screamed This Year's Salaryman Uniform to me. I can imagine their CEO wearing them and everybody following along.

In the late 80s/early 90s, I had the impression that the western US business uniform included a Mullet hairstyle ("Business in the front, party in the back"), at least it seemed that way for low-level office types.

Fortunately fashions pass quickly.


In Tokyo in the past few years, my wife and I had occasion to get a taxi a couple of times. Taxis are owner-operated as far as I can tell. Thing is, they're almost all the same model of black 60's-styled Toyota saloon (looks like a scaled-up 1980s Lada -- your classic three box design, black paint and chrome trim everywhere). And although the drivers were self-employed, they all converged on a personal uniform: black suit, white shirt, black tie, black peak-brimmed cap, and white gloves. Oh, and the interiors were spotless, with lace antimacassars.

If their job doesn't come with a uniform, they'll invent one. (I've seen this among editors at a publishing house: green or brown tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, check shirt and knit tie. Because they "know" SF editors are supposed to look somewhat unconventional, but it's traditional to dress like an editor from a New York or London house in the 1950s or 1960s. In contrast, the only time I've seen an American or British editor in a suit was at an awards ceremony or trade show.)


green or brown tweed jacket with leather elbow patches, check shirt and knit tie.

Sounds like the stereotype American college literature professor outfit, at least in Hollywood. Though my art teacher father dressed similarly in the late 80s, after his Preppy phase, which was after the Hippie phase, and so on.

Now I'm thinking of the website William Gibson once mentioned, on twitter I think, for Japanese construction workers (don't remember the name or would link to it). Had quite a bit of variety, and the models --I assume actual workers-- were pretty badass. So some individuality there?


Leaving the Googling till after breakfast. this is the site: Still a uniform, but one for getting dirty.


First thought: That's a lot of blue. But then I saw what the search was for.


Well, nomen est omen. ;)

Actually, a "Blauman", loosely tranlatable as "blue man", is a blue overall[1] commonly worn with construction workers, mechanics and like in Germany; the term as grown somewhat in usage, applied also to other blue working clothes and even some working clothes in other colors.

On the sliding scale of "deindividualisation" vs. "proud display of group membership", which BTW are not exclusive of each other, well, there is no shortage of jokes about the demographic wearing those, but, first of, going with my prejudiced petite bourgeoisie gut feelings, orange warn wear usually employed with street cleaning and like would be considered worse, and, second of, it's mostly the more well-off skilled workers who wear those.

Of course, uniforms were often a staple for fashion trends, but Japan is not the only country with a fad for, err, sailor suits...

[1] German wiki sends me to "catsuit" from "overall", which gets us to the interesting topic of working clothes sexual fetishism. Err, I digress...


Me: Corporate uniform? You mean business suits, business casual clothes, and so on? Why is that disturbing?

Charlie: Go into a fast food joint: all the staff are in company uniform. Get on a bus or train: the driver and other staff are in uniform. Go shopping: the floor staff are frequently in uniform -- it might be "business suit with ID badge", or a company shirt and trousers/skirt, but you can instantly tell the staff from the customers.

You know, it's never occurred to me to give that any thought. I can see where that might not be a bad thing. I can also see the possible harm.

My career as a business-technology journalist and marketer has required me to move through different business segments. I've become sensitive to how the people I work with dress. My goal is to dress just like everybody else.

In New York and at professional conferences, I wear a business suit, polished shoes, white or blue dress shirt, but no necktie. I recently visited our San Francisco office for the first time in about 10 months and figured I could get away with jeans, loafers, and an Oxford shirt. I undershot that one -- I wasn't conspicuously underdressed, but I should have gone with my New York uniform.


Yes. I have a mullet in our wedding photos. We were married in 1993. An unfortunate period for men's hair fashions.


A friend who is a longtime pro science fiction writer and congoer told a story about an experience advising a neopro attending his first con. The neopro wanted to know how to dress, and would not settle for my friend's answer, which was, "Dress however you're comfortable."

Finally, my friend said, "Jeans, T-shirt with a funny slogan or picture on it, and sport jacket." And the neopro was satisfied.


My memory is faulty. I finally had a chance to look at the book I mentioned. The only part I got right was that it was printed in Fraktur and Hebrew. Turns out it is a short tractate called Derech Eretz Zuta and was printed in 1839 (only off by a century!) in Bayreuth. Particularly surprised I didn't remember that last bit, considering.

I'm only mentioning this because I have a bit of a compulsion to correct myself when I find I've passed on bad info.


Err, no need for apologizing. 1839 is quite old indeed.

Funny thing is, it seems Bayreuth had a vibrant Jewish congregation in the 19th century, though nowadays it's mostly remembered as the later home of one Richard Wagner...

On another note, in my mental atlas Bayreuth was always in deepest Bavaria ("Bayern" in German), but actually it's in Franken.

Whatever, thanks for the info.


Your anecdote about the neopro SF writer at the convention flags them up as male.

I'm on a mailing list for working SF writers, and while male authors can get away with "tee shirt, jeans/trousers, sports jacket in bag in case you need to smarten it up" except for major awards ceremonies, the amount of angst the female authors have to deal with is, frankly, terrifying. (Women in anything remotely like a professional setting are always expected to turn it up a notch more than men, right from the start, and in an uncertain social milieu like an SF con they run the risk of getting into arms race territory out of sheer insecurity -- freelance author is a very insecure job.) The sole exceptions are those who started out as fans (and so already have a social identity in that context), and editors (who usually stick with office casual, which in publishing can be very office-casual).


My friend the oldpro did not say his neopro acquaintance was a man. But like you I believe that's the case.

It's not just women, and it's not just pros-at-cons. The transition to business-casual for some industries in the US in the 90s has been angsty for everyone. It leaves a person uncertain how to dress in different business situations. Used to be if you were a man you just wore a suit and tie and that was that. I'm old enough to have started work in that environment.

Now, particularly in the technology industry, you might find yourself in situations where anything from a full suit-and-tie to jeans and T-shirts are expected of you. And you don't know which is appropriate until you get there.

"Casual Fridays" are the worst. It required people to buy a whole new wardrobe just for one day of the week.


Further, and more confusing, on this.

One of the reasons for writers to attend cons is promotional. I'm more likely to strike up a conversation with a woman wearing a "Halo Kitty" (NB, spelling is correct) tee-shirt and jeans than with one who's wearing office clothes. A similar argument usually applies to men (although the tee should be different).


Which reminds me of my latest greatest cosplay idea:

  • Midrange suit and tie.

  • Grow my hair long enough for a combover.

I'm Agent Coulson! Win!


I'd just love to see your design for a Lola costume!!


Gonna be tough to dress up our beige (the dealer called the color "champagne") Subaru Forester as a classic cherry-red 1950s Corvette convertible. My next con is March; I'd better get started.

197: shows a pic of Lola, and confirmed my memory that she's a C1B with the twin headlights (1958 thro '62).

Even further off-topic. In the UK, "Champagne" would be a a colour best described as "metallic white wine".


True dat.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 29, 2013 12:21 PM.

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