Posted by: Alephwyr | December 29, 2018

A Defense of Capitalism in the Present Day

I will try to keep this organized, but since it is essentially entirely unplanned I have no idea how large it might become.  I mean to touch on the following points.  I have no idea in what manner yet I will touch on them:

  • Ethology, hierarchy, and information
  • Intelligence dynamics in command and market economies
  • Organizational patterns sans traditional descriptors
  • A pragmatic analysis of power and capital from an aspirational anarcho-capitalist perspective

Ethology, hierarchy, and information

Scattershot analysis based on concepts like the Hundredth Monkey Effect and other ethological inferences already exist as a kind of hedge magick.  When I speak of ethology I am generally not referring to that dubious art of making inferences into human behavior based on animal behavior, but of observational analysis of trends and behaviors in humans which I am unable to fit into any other category.  Certainly what has no part of the human soul, or the human mind, can only be part of the human animal, so I trust that the reader will grant me the atypicality of the use of the word and understand my meaning.  There is probably some overlap between what I refer to as Ethology and Behavioral Economics, but I mean to include concepts of Darwinism and memetics in my analysis that are not strictly native to Behavioral Economics so far as I am aware.

I’m told that Edmund Burke made the point, and made it quite well, that institutions which have survived for a long time tend to have something in their favor.  I have not read Burke, and have little time for reading in the present moment, but I make note of the position as a basic premise which is simple to grant.  But let’s jump straight into the matter of how information propagates, granting that hierarchy is everywhere and is therefore the most traditional sort of institution: one that has never yet been overthrown even in the most extreme circumstances of human revolt.

There is information that propagates from the top-down, and information that propagates from the bottom-up.  Oddly, information that propagates from the center of a hierarchy outward seems to be rare, except to the extent it manages to leverage one of the other two types.  When information propagates from the bottom-up, it tends to be considered folk knowledge or folk wisdom, and carry the imprimatur of being forged in a hard crucible.  When information propagates from the top-down, it is considered authoritative: it is often tested, but in a different sense, which is to say that the very fact it came from those at the top of the hierarchy is its proof, rather than any kind of generalized survivability of the notion independently of the individual.

This would seem to make bottom-up information more scientific, except that it is not strictly speaking a product of scientific method.  Instead it is a product of process of elimination in a noisy medium, albeit one with a limited canvas.  We expect intelligence to bubble up for the most part in most human ecosystems, to varying degrees of course, and so lower class memes can only be as complex as these circumstances permit.  Higher class memes sometimes seem like they can be arbitrarily complex, often for purely ornamental or signaling purposes.  When sound lower class memes find a champion in the middle of a hierarchy, that champion often usurps or is incorporated into the lower order of the upper classes, whereas when upper class memes drift down, their largely ornamental nature is often immediately apparent and so they are not adopted and often sneered at.  The non-ornamental ones either meet with equivalent lower class knowledge in the middle, or are too complex to be filtered down properly.  While upper class memes take place in a less noisy medium, they also occur in a much larger canvas, and so the ratio of sense to nonsense (which we will define as things that correspond to some reality vs things that do not) isn’t necessarily better.  Additionally, we encounter the problem of too many possible referents once we start trying to seriously evaluate every upper class meme network at once.  We also assume (and in fact know from experience) that the lower classes are horrifically bad at understanding the environmental truths of the upper classes and vice versa.  So, there are certain exceptions and limitations to this overall ethological crucible of knowledge.

All of which is to say, information both rises and falls, and human beings rise and fall with it.  Someone who has bubbled up or fallen down through more strata is possessed of a greater range of truths, and knows how to synthesize things in a way unknown to those who have never climbed or fallen.  This knowledge is often very dark and sorcerous, so we find among such fallers and climbers many a dictator.  It has been said that revolutions are not led by the lower classes, but by disenfranchised and alienated former members of the upper classes.  When a clean canvas meets a noisy one, either great secrets reveal themselves or the mechanism itself is revealed, and with it various metagames which are semantically indifferent: the content doesn’t matter, only the mechanism.

Not having read Burke, I am certain that what Burke has right is this: that a society built from the bottom up knows how to build from the bottom up, but not how to sustain an upper class, which is all the same inevitable, while a society built from the top down knows to a certain extent how to sustain every class.  The failure mode of the latter is revolution which happens under conditions of extreme privation or despotism.  The failure mode of the former is also revolution, but it happens whenever populism finds a new nexus point, which it does perpetually due to its noisy and ignorant nature.  It is like the Roman metaphor of the stomach, as documented in Livy: The stomach doesn’t appear to do much work in comparison to the rest of the body, but it digests and disseminates.

I am a classist, but I am not a vulgar classist like many of my fellow Americans.  When the upper classes fail to act in this way, it is because they do not actually serve the functions of digesting and disseminating.  Something is broken with deeply ethological mechanisms in this case, and such a society or nation is bound to failure.  Whether through depreciation of a formerly sound upper class or through the absence of a true upper class to begin with, then determines the subsequent nature of social unrest.

Intelligence dynamics in command and market economies

It is hard to say which better incentivizes selection for intelligence.  The Soviet Union began by putting all of its scientists under military supervision, but it didn’t seem to have much trouble finding them even so.  Traditional bureaucracies like ancient China were reasonably good at selecting for intelligence, but all of the great geniuses of ancient China were mid level officials at best.  Perhaps this mid level is just where certain types of knowledge are best synthesized and nothing is truly said about intelligence at all by the number of great geniuses found here, throughout history and across economic types.  So then capitalism, in better allowing such people to rise, is better at sorting intelligence to the upper echelons of a society?  Not necessarily.

We expect command economies, with their intensely top down nature, to reward displays of nonsensical knowledge more heavily than capitalist economies, but we expect capitalist economies to reward noisy displays of knowledge more heavily than command economies: that is, the idiot who has 3/5ths of a productive meme right is right with his understanding 3/5ths of the time and gets lucky some of the rest of the time due to variance.  In a “better functioning” command economy, this person would be more consistently filtered out, and with them, the 2/5ths of the noise they bring to the upper echelons (which can be thought of as dead memetic weight at best).  In a worse functioning command economy, just as in a worse functioning capitalist economy, they may be onboarded precisely for their limited competence, both because they’re cheaper per unit of labor and because they’re easier to keep in line.  But capitalism, with its constant natural usurpations, will have a steady tide of imbeciles floating in and out of its upper ranks.  It may be the price of freedom, but it needs to be documented all the same.  Most of these people’s children will regress to the mean, but it’s not at all uncommon for idiots to become independently wealthy under capitalism.

But that is different from capitalism being bad at selecting for intelligence.  Certainly those at the top, those capable of sustaining intergenerational wealth, tend towards extreme intelligence.  But conversely, most of those with extreme intelligence will not become billionaires.  In general they will compete for status, to a degree that is actually somewhat ludicrous.  Even utter failures of intelligent people still seek status via high IQ societies, for instance, or by dominating a chosen hobby.  This is very interesting.  It does not appear to be a general quest for power, since status is often entirely divorced from any real power.  If anything it seems to be a function of “birds of a feather flocking together”.  IE, like seeks like, and the intelligent want to be around other intelligent people and establish themselves in relation to other intelligent people.

Intelligence rises in every hierarchy, even hierarchies defined by pure violence, but wealth generation seems to function as a very limited test of intelligence precisely for the reason that there are so many other, alternative tests of intelligence, and that these are more closely associated with intelligence in the mind of the average person: even apparently the average intelligent person.  The ability of an extremely wealthy person to affect policy is much greater in the modern day than the ability of the average college professor or think tank member; it is through endowments by the wealthy that think tanks even exist.  So if class is coequal to power, then market economies do not do a very good job of filtering the highest possible levels of intelligence into power.

Do command economies do better?  They appear to, if two conditions are fulfilled: first, insofar as those at the top of a command economy more likely got there through the conjunction of intelligence and force, which applies Darwinian pressure to intelligence instead of just weaker social pressure.  Second, if the upper classes are sufficiently established, IE established without an overly large degree of friction, or paranoia, or any of the other things which often limit them, they can permit the general ethological crucibles of information to function and even encourage them to do so.  At times this may even take the form of promoting market mechanisms.  And for these reasons do we always see the emergence and presence of a government even in cases where a society is otherwise very liberal.  It is an ecosystem.  The top regulates the bottom more than the bottom regulates the top, and the top is harder to replace than the bottom, not just because the bottom is effectively economically fungible, as I have written elsewhere, but for all the reasons given so far in this blog post.

A market economy is an illusion in a sense: it is just a very well established and entrenched upper echelon, so a kernel of command economy floating on a superior system of wealth generation for pragmatic reasons.  The natural state of man is not commerce, nor cooperation, it is the competitive application of information within a given purview.  People die readily for ridiculous theories; more readily than for anything else in fact.  The only reason will-to-truth is not supreme in the human animal is because sociopaths and opportunists become cognizant of its mechanics and put on imitations of it which exceed the honest in their appearances, and hence in power.

Organizational patterns sans traditional descriptors

The late Mark Fisher wrote a book called Capitalist Realism that pointed out quite astutely that modern corporations have seemingly adopted many of the dysfunctional practices of former Soviet organizations.  That is, the market seems to have done nothing to prevent what were thought to be failures entirely caused by the misalignment of incentives and so forth of command economies.  Now, corporations are not really free market institutions.  They are chartered entities which enjoy various special rights and protections.  But they are generally considered “closer to free market institutions” than the Soviet Union.  So how have they backed into failure modes thought unique to command economies?

It’s about ossification.  The crucible, the ethological pump system, the whatever you call it; it fails in corporations.  Whether this is because they are sufficiently “non-market” in some sense, is trivial to argue and equally trivial to know.  What is important is not that the invisible hand is thwarted.  What’s important is finding all the hidden variables that account for the invisible hand.  And these variables concern the effects of Darwinian pressures on not just individual humans, but on the collective species of humanity and the processes by which it acts and establishes itself as a species.

All of management, all of behavioral economics, is a cargo cult imitating deeper mechanisms thought to reside in the black box of the invisible hand, an attempt to get a system in fundamental disequilibrium to continue marrying and disseminating memes “correctly”, and capital in rough relation to this, which is to say to keep the general bubbling up of truth happening while buying out competition cheap.

So what is really happening in command vs capitalist economies?  The same things.  The same things happen everywhere, just in different proportions.  This is not to say there are no essential or important differences between command and capitalist economies, capitalism is vastly preferable, but in ethological terms they are both just hierarchies and our concern is whether these ethological hierarchies are functional or not.  The United States is on the cusp of a sudden massive swerve into statism of one kind or another.  Do you really think it will be different people in command of the fascist or communist united states than those who are in command of it now?  Not at all.  The powerful, or at least those of them who get the message, will simply take off their freedom hats and put on their order hats.  The cost of buying out dissenters will temporarily go up, and a little bit of noise in this process will eternally confuse the issue in the history books.  Simple as that.

A pragmatic analysis of power and capital from an aspirational anarcho-capitalist perspective

You can’t just buy units of force because force can simply steal money.  You also can’t steal the means of production at gunpoint because it isn’t ever some static property of some entrenched thing.  You can put a gun to someone’s head and tell them work or I’ll shoot you, but you’re probably not getting their best labor.  You can build things that have been built before, make things that have been made before, but the slave makes a poor innovator, except when bribed with status; oh yes, some people feel no contradiction, or some people love the pursuit of truth so much that they make no quarrel with slavery, but there are still some real disincentives and they slow things down a bit.

You can’t embed power in capital: that’s anarcho-capitalism.  And you can’t embed capital in power: that’s a command economy.  Of all the human systems that have ever existed, all of them have come far closer to embedding capital in power.  The type of power just changes.  Once capital constitutes its own power to a sufficient degree, the powerful camouflage themselves in capital and make like they are merchants.  Watch how fast they convert their capital to guns when they think the winds are changing, though.  Therefore, the powerful are those who have the means and the will to think of their power and to treat their power as power.  That is, power is an ever-shifting asset class comprised of everything that serves power.  Only those who both think in these terms and act in these terms are powerful.  That means that for all of history, all the would be revolutionaries of the world have been fighting shapeshifters.  There is no bourgeoisie except when it is expedient for there to be a bourgeoisie, just as there is no supreme soviet except when it is expedient for there to be a supreme soviet.

To embed power in capital seems more reasonable than a lot of things.  I would rather embed it in pure status, but I’ll ultimately settle for a kind of long term end-run:  first power within capital, then capital within status.  Then I will consider history complete.

To embed power in capital would only be possible by making capital a permanently reliable expression of power in and of itself.  More reliable than force.  And for this to be the case, everyone would have to answer to capital and no one to force.  This is impossible for humans as they exist biologically.  It may be possible for humanity as it may exist in some future state.  Good.  But until then, compromise is needed: people need to answer to capital more readily than they answer to force.  And for that to be the case, capital needs an answer to force.  And the only answer to force that doesn’t defer to it if answered back is, itself, force.  So, government.  But also rights.

Why rights?  Pragmatically.  When people forget that hierarchy is a crucible that produces the fuel that keeps the human race running, they reify the upper classes in the wrong way: in a complete way, ignorant of essential differences among them, especially under a capitalist system.  Imagine a bad stomach that, to sustain itself, takes more and more resources until the rest of the body starts to whither, to the point that the rest of the body has to take greater and greater pains to feed that stomach, and etc.  Rights reduce friction at the bottom a society, and the proportional protection of property reduces friction at the top of a society.  Simply protecting the wealthy and powerful is not enough.  The stomach dies without the body as readily as the body dies without the stomach.  You can’t chop off limbs indefinitely.  That is our present situation.  Now, the business of either curing the ailment or synthesizing a replacement is doubtlessly hard, but the only alternative is to be replaced by other organisms entirely, and absorbed into them, so it demands attention.

I propose the first place we look is the intersection of truth and human nature as they concern the dynamics of information across class barriers, and I propose we do so with an understanding of the dynamics of power in the broadest sense.


Responses

  1. Not one soul has ever read or will ever read this autistic word salad. Delete this nonsense at once!

    • YOU CAN’T CUT BACK ON FUNDING! YOU’LL REGRET THIS!

  2. I want to read this, but the font is very small on my PC and my head hurts.


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