May 18, 2017 § 29 Comments
Jeremy Bentham famously invented the idea of the panopticon, initially as a way to manage prisoners in a maximally efficient way. The architecture of the panopticon enabled a single guard to monitor a large number of prisoners simultaneously.
Being a modernist, Bentham started seeing the benefits of universal surveillance in all sorts of other areas of life. (He was also in favor of animal rights, a right to sodomy, etc — in the 1700’s, mind you). After all, as long as you aren’t doing something that offends the gods why should you care that you are constantly being watched? This is obviously an efficient way to design a civil society with minimal violence; a society which does not require a lot of messy exercise of easily-abused authority, authority which in any case just falls to certain people by accident of birth. Nothing about universal surveillance in itself interferes with a person’s freedom.
Bentham’s vision has taken a long time to materialize because (as it turns out) most people don’t really like living under the constant surveillance of prison guards; guards who just might view them as less than fully human, possibly tomorrow if not in the Current Year.
But Mark Zuckerberg found a way to convince a billion people to voluntarily enter the panopticon. He baited the trap with an irresistible siren: a perpetual High School reunion, pictures of grandkids, and cat videos.
May 17, 2017 § 18 Comments
There exist in our world what we might call ‘social beings’: institutions or communities which are composed of individual human beings but which are not reducible to nothing but the aggregation of individual human beings. Social beings transcend individuals in the sense that they are not reducible to individuals. I don’t have an overarching theory of these transcendent social beings, but I know that Italy is not reducible to the collection of all individual Italians, Catholicism is not reducible to the collection of all individual Catholics, etc.
We can refer to the good of these social beings as the common good.
Liberalism is (as a specifically political doctrine), at least in its more advanced forms, an attempt to reduce this transcendent social organ (authority) to nothing but the collected free and equal wills of the individuals who make up a polity. Opposing itself to natural authority as inherently tyrannical, liberalism insists that all authority must be mediated through the triumph of the human will. Authority as a real organ which transcends the consent of the governed is denied.
Liberalism is an attempt to build, if you will, a completely brainless and mechanical society in the name of emancipation from the privileges of natural authority: it is the self-inflicted lobotomy of a society gone mad.
May 13, 2017 § 119 Comments
In the case of usury this failure to perceive the difference between real things and mere ideas shows up in how contracts for profit are secured: as St. Francis Xavier put it, “in the whole matter of security for contracts”. A non-usurious contract for profit is secured by property which actually exists, and only that specifed property. A usurious contract for profit is secured by (sometimes in addition to some actual property) the mere idea of property: by a personal IOU.
A pledge to give an investor a cow next year is not — the pledge is not — an actual cow. It is not usurious to pledge to give an investor a cow next year as part of a contract for profit; but only so long as that pledge is secured by some property which actually does exist, which fully discharges the obligation. The pledge is not to hand over a cow next year simpliciter, but to hand over either the actually existent security or a cow, thereby fully discharging the borrower’s obligation. A well structured contract will incentivise but not guarantee the latter.
The term ‘right’ is (like many terms) multivocal, kind of like the term ‘cow’. A right which actually has teeth is a particular right: a specific exercise of discriminating authority which trumps all other claims in a particular instance, treating one specific claim as superior to all other claims. Bob is the owner and Fred is the trespasser, so Fred must depart Bob’s property or be dragged off to jail.
Other uses of the term ‘right’ include talking about abstract categories of rights as opposed to actual rights. Again, kind of like cows. The idea that everyone has an equal right to (e.g) property is like (indeed is a superset of) the idea that everyone has an equal right to cows.
If this right is actual as opposed to abstract then it pertains to a particular cow or cows; and no particular cow is equal to any other particular cow. If Fred slaughters and eats Bob’s beef, he goes to jail.
Furthermore, many people don’t have a cow (other than metaphorically, when all of this is pointed out). The mere idea of beef is not a meal equivalent to actual beef.
There is nothing more authoritative and discriminatory than an actual right; nothing more empty and unreal than an abstract right with no instantiation. Owning a hypothetical cow is categorically distinct from owning an actual cow. Reality is categorically distinct from fiction.
It is sometimes suggested that my understanding of liberalism is flawed because it relies on a concept of rights which is “absolute”. But what critics see as “absolute” in my criticism of liberalism is simply recognition that the difference between reality and fiction is a categorical distinction, not a matter of gradiation. The difference between the idea of a cow and an actual cow is not a matter of moving along some continuum of compromise with a possible happy medium. Being and non-being are absolutely distinct.
The liberal war on authoritative particularity arises from its commitment to political liberty framed in terms of rights: arises from the fact that nothing discriminates (contra equality) and constrains (contra liberty) like actual, real, existent particular things. And conservative liberalism, as the more sane and commonsensical sphere of liberal societies, makes the mistake of believing that a happy medium is possible between reality and the void.
May 1, 2017 § 33 Comments
My post The Products of Inception deliberately evokes the modern morally sanitizing euphemism “products of conception,” which refers to the post mortem object of the abortionist’s ministrations: the dismembered remains of her human victim.
There can be all sorts of personal motivations, as with murder more generally speaking, when it comes to murdering (or contracting the murder of) one’s own child. Liberalism (in its feminist aspect) isn’t always and necessarily what motivates individual choices to abort. Sometimes it likely isn’t a significant factor at all.
Liberalism considered purely in itself, as an abstracted idea to which nobody is committed even as a kind of default, doesn’t cause mass murder. What causes mass murder is the crushing impact of the liberal commitments of governing regimes , ruling classes, and whole populations as these social forces come crashing into reality.
Folks who like to think in terms of academic ideas isolated from reality, clinically examined in the laboratory of the mind, sometimes object that – despite express commitment to freedom and equality of rights among the herrenvolk – nazis and other moderns don’t really fit the “liberal” label.
I’m OK with that. No, really. Debate over whether mass-murdering modernist regimes are all forms of “liberalism” strictly speaking, as opposed to the perfectly understandable (and inevitable) results of liberalism crashing into reality, itself represents a radical pullback from the real world and into an abstract mind laboratory.
So feel free to insist that nazism and communism are not forms of liberalism, strictly speaking. From my point of view this is just counting nazis dancing on the head of a pin.
April 28, 2017 § 34 Comments
In the comments below Patrick observes:
A free and equal nation needs mass murder and micromanagement to match the mood. Blood and control are the secret ingredients. Kim Jong Un is a philistine with a pathetically unrefined recipe.
This is a good point.
Lets define a liberal regime to be a regime which explicitly professes liberal principles as its governing political doctrine.
We can roughly divide liberal regimes into two kinds. One sort of liberal regime is – at least as seen by outsiders – overtly tyrannical and violent.
Another sort of liberal regime is – at least according to its own self-assessment – a bastion of freedom and equality of rights, as long as you aren’t the wrong sort of person.
Of course in carrying out the exercise it is probably only fair to observe that nations under overt existential threat are stuck drinking their blood-of-tyrants from plastic cups; whereas more fat, dumb, and happy nations can afford to drink their blood from fine crystal and scientific beakers.
 Wikipedia: “North Korea officially describes itself as a self-reliant socialist state and formally holds elections. Critics regard it as a totalitarian dictatorship.”
See also here.
April 27, 2017 § 16 Comments
Modern people tend to think that the exercise of authority is a matter of writing a priori rules for a subsequently constructed society. This leads them to believe that it is possible to constructively design a “free society” by running the right software, software which magically produces the results they want. (If it doesn’t achieve the results they want, that can only be because someone is cheating).
This is especially egregious among technologists, because that is how we design the things that we build: we conceive of the desired outcome in our mind, apply the constraints of nature as we understand them, assemble raw materials, and build the artifact that we want. In software especially this design-the-rules, achieve-the-outcome, impose the ghost into the machine model is the main pattern of thought. This pattern can be seen throughout the writing of post Enlightenment thinkers and is made explicit by John Rawls.
Authority and the civilizations which rest on that authority are not like that. Authority is never a matter of designing rules before a polity exists and instantiating that polity in conformance with those rules. Authority is never a matter of the de novo creation of a polity by some ‘social contract’ construction. So-called Enlightenment thought on authority and politics is disconnected from reality at its very foundation, because it assumes this kind of de novo construction of social reality, instantiation of the City from the raw materials of nature through the imposition of rules chosen a priori.
Back in the real world, authority always involves particular men discriminating and restricting freedom in response to particular controversies or potential controversies. Even wars and massive political discontinuities develop in and from an already given preexisting social context.
Human social reality is a fractal of the organic family, not a fractal of a constructed daycare. The more modern people attempt to treat human society like a mechanical device of their own design, the more it becomes a cyborg monstrosity which treats its human subjects as raw materials for consumption.
April 27, 2017 § 10 Comments
“Minarchy” is a problematic concept.
Minarchy basically says that it is best to minimize the exercise of authority. But taken as something more authoritative than sentiment, this assumes that exercise of authority is a controllable parameter as opposed to a response to controverted/controvertible cases.
De facto, then, “minarchy” means that we require a society of minimal controversy, along with unicorns that fart fairy dust.