Objective freedom, or, the allure of the formless void

March 23, 2017 § 19 Comments

As previously observed, every concrete choice made by a human being starts with a large number of potential reality-outcomes and collapses it into a particular concrete outcome. Choices are irrevocable option-reducers: they empower one particular possibility, breathe fire into it and make it a reality.  They take mere (but real) potential and convert it into actual reality: they merge the matter and form of possibility to make something concretely real. In the wake of doing so, every single choice leaves behind a multitude of roads not taken, options which now rest outside the realm of real possibility.

Freedom as an objective state can be understood as having real options: as having available choices not yet made. (Subjectively, freedom can be understood as a particular subject having available choices which correspond with what the subject wants to choose).

Acts of authority are human choices which, like all human choices, eliminate options. Because they are specifically acts of authority-as-authority they eliminate options available to subjects, to those subject to the particular authority in question.  For every single actual empowerment produced by the choice of a human authority, a multitude of mutually exclusive options, of roads not taken and now ruled out, are destroyed.

In short, every act of authority always and necessarily reduces objective freedom. When folks subjectively like the results it feels empowering to them: their wishes correspond to their real options.  When folks subjectively don’t like the results it feels constraining.  But it is a fundamental mistake to see empowerment of the good as “freedom.”  Empowerment of the good means that good actions are empowered and that the right sort of people are sent to prison.

Liberalism attempts to make increasing or sustaining freedom – availability of choices – into the (or a) primary justification of authoritative acts.  When liberals suggest that they are pro choice they really mean it: the most “consistent” liberalism is an anarchism which forces itself on everyone.  Ultimately, maximizing objectively available choices means not making or even “allowing” any actual choices: it means embrace of the eternal formless void out of a fear of better options.  In this sense a ‘conservative’ liberalism is indeed anti-choice.  In a perfect liberal paradise all choices are available but nobody falls into the imprisoning trap of actually making one.  In a perfect liberal paradise the clock can always be turned back to before any particular choice was made: reality must stand for reelection over and over again, in saecula saeculorum, amen.

In the real world, consistent loyalty to liberalism as a political doctrine is impossible. In practice, then, liberalism becomes weaponized incoherence.

It is of course common to equivocate here: to suggest that liberalism merely says (tautologically) that people ought to have the available choices that they ought to have, and sets one purpose of authority to be ensuring that subjects are really able to choose what they ought to be really able to choose.  These “things subjects really ought to be able to choose” – with the support of those in authority – we label “rights”.

But if that is the case we need to accept that more rights mean objectively less freedom, not objectively more freedom. Rights are rules which authoritatively discriminate and reduce the space of all really possible options to a more constrained space of really allowable options. Given that this is the case it seems that the only honest approach is to unequivocally shun the deontology – and even the language – of liberalism entirely.  When we say “everyone should be gay and should embrace gayness without resistance” we might just mean that everyone ought to be happy. But talking to modern people that way just makes us madmen, garrisoning the motte on liberalism’s behalf as we gaze at the padded walls.

The principle of explosion as a weapon of mass destruction

March 20, 2017 § 40 Comments

As an exercise in being honest with ourselves, every time we are tempted to use a phrase like “Bob has the freedom to do X” in a political context we should substitute “Bob has the authority to insist that everyone else must obediently cooperate with him doing X”.

“Freedoms” in a political context are in fact simply particular, concrete, actual exercises of authority which bind subjects – all those subject to that authority – to cooperation and obedience. “Freedoms” or “rights” in other words are always and without exception discriminatory demands that subjects cooperate and obey on a particular matter.

The honest question of politics is not “what freedoms should people have and in what contexts”. This liberal framing simply begs the question, slyly pretending that the exercises of authority which he labels “freedom” or “rights” are not actually exercises of discriminating authority which bind subjects to obedience and cooperation. It falsely assumes that there is such a thing as a concrete exercise of authority which “leaves other people alone”, a special sort of freedom-by-command which we label a “right” or a “freedom”. It sociopathically hides the inextricably authoritarian side of its own coin, of its own political assertiveness and assertions, underneath a fog of begged questions.

Rights or freedoms are special cases in the incoherent storm of the liberal’s political mind: they are a kind of ruthlessly anti-authoritarian authority, iron rules which abolish iron rule and force everyone, good and hard, to be free.

But there literally is no such thing as a political “right” or “freedom” which is not an exercise of discriminating authority, authority which binds those subject to that authority to cooperation and obedience. Liberalism is a contradiction in terms, all the way down and in all cases.

Its superficial plausibility combined with its deeper logical incoherence turns liberalism, in the context of any particular public social reality, into ad-hoc question-begging: makes it a weaponization of the principle of explosion.

Most folks love the empowerment they feel from (what they delude themselves into thinking is) personal possession of WMDs.  In free societies every man is king, and reality is whatever you want it to be.

That is, they love it up until the point that someone else deploys it to kill them.  When that happens it is doubtful that many even see it coming.

The butcher’s bill of rights

March 8, 2017 § 71 Comments

As we’ve discussed many times before, what modern people call “rights” are instances of discriminating authority.  A property owner has the authority to eject trespassers without everyone insisting that he has to give good reasons for why he is doing so.

A property owner’s discriminating authority is labeled “property rights” as a way of short circuiting any further thought on the matter. By labeling this a “right” we don’t have to acknowledge that the law discriminates between the property owner and everyone else, empowering the property owner to, himself, discriminate and bind people to do or not do certain actions within the domain of his authority.

The magic word “rights” acts as a kind of wrongthought circuit breaker, allowing us to notice the empowerment involved in “rights” while studiously ignoring the multitude of constraints which are concomitant to every right.  “Rights” give us mental cover for thinking of ourselves as empowered while at the same time avoiding the terrible crime of discrimination.  Because rights are empowering, more of them means more freedom to our short-circuited modern minds.  The more expansive our “rights” are interpreted to be by the ruling class, the more of this “freedom” we have.

At least for certain values of “we”.

Shut up and row, or, good leaders are rock star divas

March 4, 2017 § 67 Comments

Good leaders make unreasonable demands; and good followers meet those demands obediently, without making a lot of static.

In the comments below, Mike T writes:

 …in ordinary circumstances there is likely no defensible reason why something which is good or neutral should be prohibited by an authority.

I couldn’t disagree more.

There is a now-famous story about the rock band Van Halen.  The band members were such entitled divas, the story goes, that they would bury a rider in their contracts for a bowl of M&M candies in their dressing room with all of the brown candies removed.  If the bowl of M&M’s wasn’t there, or if it contained even a single brown M&M, the band would (or was contractually entitled to) cancel the show and engage in general acts of destructive mayhem.

David Lee Roth explains the real reason for the M&M contract rider:

The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes …” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl … well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.

A good leader always makes a few unreasonable demands here and there, and rightfully expects his followers to pay close attention, shut their pie-holes, and do what they’ve been told to do.  Loyalty which is never tested isn’t true loyalty.  Obedience isn’t obedience when you are only ever told to do what you want to do or agree you ought to do.

Decent civilizations require good followers.  Some leaders are genius enough to herd cats, to be sure. But they are few and far between, and genius has no succession plan.

So if you want to live in a decent civilization, you’ll learn how to shut the **** up and row.

Maybe our fried ice can help reduce the fever

February 27, 2017 § 130 Comments

I’ve argued before that there are no free societies: that when people use the term “free” or “freedom” in a political context what they really mean is that the “more free” society puts the right sort of people in prison.  “Less free” societies put the wrong sort of people in prison; so “freedom” in the political motte has become a way of expressing the speaker’s approval of that society’s rules and customs, while tyranny has become a way of expressing disapproval[1].

It is sometimes objected that the USA really is more free than countries which live under different variants of liberalism, such as North Korea or Nazi Germany.  This is just obvious, it is thought, and refusing to concede it invalidates my understanding of liberalism without any further thought or argument required.  (It has even been suggested, amusingly, that my refusal to see political freedom as something ontologically distinct from the constraints implied by every “right” makes me a positivist).

What is good in any given society is as much attributable to what that society forbids and sanctions, in the particulars, as it is to what that society “permits” (which is itself another way to say what a society supports, enforces and destroys opposition to through informal and formal structures of law and custom). To the extent the USA is better than North Korea that is as much or more a function of what isn’t accepted and permitted as it is of what is accepted and permitted. Restrictions on arbitrary confiscation of private property by Communists are, well, restrictions. Every right which empowers carries inextricable corresponding restrictions; in fact each and every single empowerment gives rise to a plenitude of constraints. So the very notion of an abstracted political “freedom” – divorced from the myriad restrictions implied by adopting one set of rules and customs versus another – is nonsense.

One might as well complain that I refuse to concede that the USA is more round-squarian than North Korea, and has more and better fried ice. When one makes an intrinsically nonsensical assertion the only truthful response is that the assertion is – and I mean this quite literally – nonsense. It may seem like it isn’t nonsense on the surface; but that only works as long as we refuse to think about it any further.  That one thinks the USA puts the right sort of people in prison and North Korea puts the wrong sort of people in prison may be true enough, but labeling that difference in the details freedom, as if these “freedoms” were one-sided coins which imply no corresponding restrictions, is just self deception.

Whatever one thinks of USA under its current variation of liberalism and North Korea under its current variation — keeping in mind that liberalism isn’t everything — these intramural conflicts between which kinds of liberalism are “better” or “worse” are in my view a pointless exercise, or worse. More immediately benign forms of liberalism (to the extent we even buy that there is such a thing) cultivate, protect, spread, and give rise to more virulent forms. This is the basic problem with “conservatism”, about which much has already been written: what it conserves these days is, for the most part, merely earlier and more larval stages of liberalism.

Is it better to have symptomatic carriers of virulent disease in a quarantine, or asymptomatic carriers wandering around spreading the illness? Even if we grant the premise for the sake of argument, showing that not-yet-symptomatic disease carriers are “healthier” than symptomatic disease carriers – in a truncated and temporary sense – doesn’t have the positive implications that the term “healthier” implies.


[1] Regular readers might be concerned that I am drifting into the vicinity of claiming that freedom and tyranny are anti-concepts.

You may rest easy though: tyranny is a perfectly meaningful concept, and freedom is a perfectly meaningful concept.  In fact if freedom were not a meaningful concept at all then it would not be possible for freedom-as-a-political-priority — liberalism — to be self-contradictory.  “Round square” and “fried ice” wouldn’t be self-contradictory if the constituent terms had no meaning.

As always it is important to be aware of qualification-into-vacuity.  A retreat into “freedom” as vacuously meaning exercise of authority when it is good to do so and not when it is bad to do so is the tautological motte into which the more assertive forms of liberalism creep away to hide from the burning truth of daylight.

Cloud products, usury, and the death of property

February 20, 2017 § 41 Comments

Human beings used to be reasonably capable of distinguishing reality from imagination, at least in the boots-on-the-ground world of day to day life.  Property at one time referred to something real, something which exists in its own right. Thus property could be possessed, repossessed, bought, sold, stolen, consumed, or destroyed independent of the property’s owner or of any other particular persons.

Human beings and possessions were understood to be different things, with the notable – but at least clearly delineated – exception of economic chattel slavery, not to be confused with prison.

Then along came widespread acceptance of usury. Liberal modernity counts, as one of its crowning achievements, the destruction of chattel slavery.  As with all of liberalism’s putative emancipatory achievements, this is illusory.  Rather than freeing humanity from the objectification inherent in chattel slavery, liberalism has merely driven this objectification into the subcutaneous socioeconomic metalayer, implanted it under the skin, making it that much more difficult to see and resist.  As always liberalism does not actually “free” us from authority as it pretends to do: it simply makes authority sociopathic.

The old tyrannies could at least be seen out in the open. A man knew where he stood. Now the tyranny comes cloaked as the seductress “freedom”. Liberal tyranny boils up from under layers of flesh, lurks inside clinging to the bones as it gnaws away at internal organs and releases its offal into the body. If paganism, Mohammedism, and Rabbinic Judaism are packs of hyenas harrowing Christendom, liberalism is a cancer that eats away at it from within, an alien embryo feeding on its host as it releases a thousand horrors.

But I digress.

Property is objective[1], that is, it consists of objects independent of any particular human subject or subjects.  Owners are human subjects, human beings independent of any particular property. Take away a man’s property and you still have a man.

You can tell who truly owns what by asking what happens when the music stops: by asking what, at the end of the day, secures each person’s claims. In a recourse mortgage the borrower “owns” the house and the lender owns the borrower, because the lender is contractually entitled to collect deficiencies from the borrower if selling the house does not fully discharge the borrower’s contractual obligations.  The situation is even worse than that though, because in the case of taxable real estate the sovereign really owns the property and leases it back to the tenant (whom we deceptively label the “owner”).  Real estate “owners”, then, don’t really own the actual property. The sovereign owns the property and what the “owners” really own is exclusive leasing rights: a kind of financial security.  That isn’t nothing, but there is much less there than meets the eye. Real estate “ownership” where there are property taxes is a form of lie: what is owned is not land and buildings, but a perpetual[2] and exclusive lease on land and buildings.

Products dependent upon cloud software represent a new, technologically enabled phase in non-ownership “ownership”.  Cloud software or “Internet of things” products require a “mother ship” somewhere on the Internet in order to work. Without the mother ship they become literally useless; “bricked” in the vernacular. For example you can spend years of your life producing work with a cloud based – or even just cloud licensed – CAD program, under the illusion that you own at least your own actual work product. You don’t own the software, it is merely ‘licensed’ to you, sure.  But in fact you don’t even really own your own work product which you produced with the software using your own hands and mind, because you cannot even continue to access your own work without regularly checking in with the mother ship to ensure that license terms are met . If the terms and conditions change, or the company goes out of business or the mother ship crashes for some other reason, you can’t even access the features of your own “property”; not even your own accumulated work.

Cloud products represent a kind of legalized ransomware.  As with usury there is a superficial resemblance to legitimate transactions; in this case a resemblance to having sold or leased you some tools with which you can produce your own  work; work which you then own. The work you produce with cloud-based ransomware looks like it belongs to you.

But when the music stops your hammer no longer works, there are no other hammers which will work, and all that you have built with the hammer is hostage to the true owner’s terms and conditions.  You were never the owner of your own work product in the first place: you rent your own work at the pleasure of the private party who really owns it.

When philosophical anti-realism invades the domain of property, the distinction between persons and property disappears.  This erodes the distinction between persons and objects in spheres beyond property and ownership.

If you would like to see the great dehumanization reversed, I can’t really offer much hope. But I’d be happy to hand you a shovel.


[1] Nota bene: not physical or merely physical, since physicalism is false.

[2] At least for as long as the tenant continues to make payments, which can be increased at any time without his agreement.

A conundrum of roles in gay divorce

December 10, 2016 § 23 Comments

The main problem with gay divorce is that you can’t tell which one is the “wife” — who is awarded cash, prizes, and custody — and which one is the “husband,” who gets ejected from the home and sold into slavery to keep the cash and prizes coming.

Though I suppose a reasonable approximation is to assume that the one who files for no fault divorce is the “wife”.

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