civil-liberty   202

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Jordan Peterson is Wrong About the Case for the Left
I suggest that the tension of which he speaks is fully formed and self-contained completely within conservatism. Balancing those two forces is, in fact, what conservatism is all about. Thomas Sowell, in A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles describes the conservative outlook as (paraphrasing): “There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.”

The real tension is between balance on the right and imbalance on the left.

In Towards a Cognitive Theory of Polics in the online magazine Quillette I make the case that left and right are best understood as psychological profiles consisting of 1) cognitive style, and 2) moral matrix.

There are two predominant cognitive styles and two predominant moral matrices.

The two cognitive styles are described by Arthur Herman in his book The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, in which Plato and Aristotle serve as metaphors for them. These two quotes from the book summarize the two styles:

Despite their differences, Plato and Aristotle agreed on many things. They both stressed the importance of reason as our guide for understanding and shaping the world. Both believed that our physical world is shaped by certain eternal forms that are more real than matter. The difference was that Plato’s forms existed outside matter, whereas Aristotle’s forms were unrealizable without it. (p. 61)

The twentieth century’s greatest ideological conflicts do mark the violent unfolding of a Platonist versus Aristotelian view of what it means to be free and how reason and knowledge ultimately fit into our lives (p.539-540)

The Platonic cognitive style amounts to pure abstract reason, “unconstrained” by reality. It has no limiting principle. It is imbalanced. Aristotelian thinking also relies on reason, but it is “constrained” by empirical reality. It has a limiting principle. It is balanced.

The two moral matrices are described by Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Moral matrices are collections of moral foundations, which are psychological adaptations of social cognition created in us by hundreds of millions of years of natural selection as we evolved into the social animal. There are six moral foundations. They are:

The first three moral foundations are called the “individualizing” foundations because they’re focused on the autonomy and well being of the individual person. The second three foundations are called the “binding” foundations because they’re focused on helping individuals form into cooperative groups.

One of the two predominant moral matrices relies almost entirely on the individualizing foundations, and of those mostly just care. It is all individualizing all the time. No balance. The other moral matrix relies on all of the moral foundations relatively equally; individualizing and binding in tension. Balanced.

The leftist psychological profile is made from the imbalanced Platonic cognitive style in combination with the first, imbalanced, moral matrix.

The conservative psychological profile is made from the balanced Aristotelian cognitive style in combination with the balanced moral matrix.

It is not true that the tension between left and right is a balance between the defense of the dispossessed and the defense of hierarchies.

It is true that the tension between left and right is between an imbalanced worldview unconstrained by empirical reality and a balanced worldview constrained by it.

A Venn Diagram of the two psychological profiles looks like this:
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july 2018 by nhaliday
Three Types of Societies, Three Types of Governments – The Neo-Ciceronian Times
Having said all of this, I would then note that among the many other things which are influenced by both genes and surroundings are the broad types of governmental forms (specifically, the three “classical” types of monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic) which tend to be “inhering” traits of the peoples who exhibit them. Several months ago, I touched on this in a post which could be thought of as a “case study,” in this case the specific question of why medieval and renaissance republicanism seems to have been limited to high-IQ Germanic populations. Why do cultures – and I’m going to bring the focus specifically to European, European-derived, and near-kin Indo-European populations – exhibit preferences for one type over the others? Are there cultural reasons which may predispose a nation in a certain governmental direction?

Let me first note the three general types of societies which a culture may exhibit, in broad terms, within the larger unit of a civilisation (such as, e.g., Western civilisation or Indian civilisation, etc.).

First, you have what I call core groups. These are groups which, as the name suggests, inhabit central areas within their larger civilisational setting, often hailing from the urheimat of their clade, or from areas which were settled early on in cases of migration. They tend to be more centralised in their cultural and social organisation, and may tend toward the baroque, or even decadence.

Second, you have marcher groups. These cultures exist on the edges of their clade’s contiguous settled areas, facing outward toward alien groups. As a result, they are often more heavily militarised, exhibiting forms of organisation which tends towards enhancing military preparedness and effectiveness.

Third, you have pioneer groups. These cultures usually develop when a clade is undergoing an expansion phase into new lands, and involves a great degree of decentralisation and political experimentation. These groups tend towards greater levels of “rugged individualism” as they find themselves thrown upon their own resources for survival and expansion.

I believe that we can see some tendencies (keeping in mind that they’re just tendencies) that each type of society has toward the governmental forms they prefer. Core groups will tend towards monarchy, marcher groups toward aristocracy, and pioneer groups toward democracy. We should also note that groups can change their configuration over time as their environment changes. Likewise, within a political unit, we can also discern that subgroups of the dominant culture may begin to diverge because of varied roles.


The important thing to note is that even though we live in a world which is much smaller due to globalisation, the existence of marcher (and even pioneer) nations has not ended. Despite the high degree of world development, not every state and not every nation within the various states are necessarily core societies whose culture/genetic complex would tolerate absolutist authority systems. There are still fracture areas between civilisations and clades which will militate toward aristocratic systems entailing personal loyalty and distributed military power. It is always possible in the future that (depending on how bad any Great Reset event might end up being) situations involving rapid expansion and the formation of (relatively) more democratic pioneer-type societies may still occur. One of the goals for neoreaction is to seek to bring order to the chaos. This order will demand greater authority for rulers. Even in democratic-tending populations, the foolish errors of universal suffrage, egalitarianism, and mass society must avoid repetition. Yet, those who would desire absolute monarchy may have to suffer the existence of aristocratic republics and feudal organisations. Nevertheless, the goal should always be to keep the momentum moving away from the democratisation and egalitarianism we currently see and towards more orderly, stable, and hierarchical governing systems.
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may 2018 by nhaliday
Surveil things, not people – The sideways view
Technology may reach a point where free use of one person’s share of humanity’s resources is enough to easily destroy the world. I think society needs to make significant changes to cope with that scenario.

Mass surveillance is a natural response, and sometimes people think of it as the only response. I find mass surveillance pretty unappealing, but I think we can capture almost all of the value by surveilling things rather than surveilling people. This approach avoids some of the worst problems of mass surveillance; while it still has unattractive features it’s my favorite option so far.


The idea
We’ll choose a set of artifacts to surveil and restrict. I’ll call these heavy technology and everything else light technology. Our goal is to restrict as few things as possible, but we want to make sure that someone can’t cause unacceptable destruction with only light technology. By default something is light technology if it can be easily acquired by an individual or small group in 2017, and heavy technology otherwise (though we may need to make some exceptions, e.g. certain biological materials or equipment).

Heavy technology is subject to two rules:

1. You can’t use heavy technology in a way that is unacceptably destructive.
2. You can’t use heavy technology to undermine the machinery that enforces these two rules.

To enforce these rules, all heavy technology is under surveillance, and is situated such that it cannot be unilaterally used by any individual or small group. That is, individuals can own heavy technology, but they cannot have unmonitored physical access to that technology.


This proposal does give states a de facto monopoly on heavy technology, and would eventually make armed resistance totally impossible. But it’s already the case that states have a massive advantage in armed conflict, and it seems almost inevitable that progress in AI will make this advantage larger (and enable states to do much more with it). Realistically I’m not convinced this proposal makes things much worse than the default.

This proposal definitely expands regulators’ nominal authority and seems prone to abuses. But amongst candidates for handling a future with cheap and destructive dual-use technology, I feel this is the best of many bad options with respect to the potential for abuse.
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Finders, keepers - Wikipedia
Finders, keepers is an English adage with the premise that when something is unowned or abandoned, whoever finds it first can claim it. This idiom relates to an ancient Roman law of similar meaning and has been expressed in various ways over the centuries.[1] Of particular difficulty is how best to define when exactly something is unowned or abandoned, which can lead to legal or ethical disputes.


In the field of social simulation, Rosaria Conte and Cristiano Castelfranchi have used "finders, keepers" as a case study for simulating the evolution of norms in simple societies.[2]
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april 2018 by nhaliday
Antinomia Imediata – experiments in a reaction from the left
So, what is the Left Reaction? First of all, it’s reaction: opposition to the modern rationalist establishment, the Cathedral. It opposes the universalist Jacobin program of global government, favoring a fractured geopolitics organized through long-evolved complex systems. It’s profoundly anti-socialist and anti-communist, favoring market economy and individualism. It abhors tribalism and seeks a realistic plan for dismantling it (primarily informed by HBD and HBE). It looks at modernity as a degenerative ratchet, whose only way out is intensification (hence clinging to crypto-marxist market-driven acceleration).

How come can any of this still be in the *Left*? It defends equality of power, i.e. freedom. This radical understanding of liberty is deeply rooted in leftist tradition and has been consistently abhored by the Right. LRx is not democrat, is not socialist, is not progressist and is not even liberal (in its current, American use). But it defends equality of power. It’s utopia is individual sovereignty. It’s method is paleo-agorism. The anti-hierarchy of hunter-gatherer nomads is its understanding of the only realistic objective of equality.


In more cosmic terms, it seeks only to fulfill the Revolution’s side in the left-right intelligence pump: mutation or creation of paths. Proudhon’s antinomy is essentially about this: the collective force of the socius, evinced in moral standards and social organization vs the creative force of the individuals, that constantly revolutionize and disrupt the social body. The interplay of these forces create reality (it’s a metaphysics indeed): the Absolute (socius) builds so that the (individualistic) Revolution can destroy so that the Absolute may adapt, and then repeat. The good old formula of ‘solve et coagula’.

Ultimately, if the Neoreaction promises eternal hell, the LRx sneers “but Satan is with us”.
Liberty is to be understood as the ability and right of all sentient beings to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor, and nothing else, as they see fit. This stems from their self-awareness and their ability to control and choose the content of their actions.


Equality is to be understood as the state of no imbalance of power, that is, of no subjection to another sentient being. This stems from their universal ability for empathy, and from their equal ability for reason.


It is important to notice that, contrary to usual statements of these two principles, my standpoint is that Liberty and Equality here are not merely compatible, meaning they could coexist in some possible universe, but rather they are two sides of the same coin, complementary and interdependent. There can be NO Liberty where there is no Equality, for the imbalance of power, the state of subjection, will render sentient beings unable to dispose of their persons and the fruits of their labor[1], and it will limit their ability to choose over their rightful jurisdiction. Likewise, there can be NO Equality without Liberty, for restraining sentient beings’ ability to choose and dispose of their persons and fruits of labor will render some more powerful than the rest, and establish a state of subjection.
equality is the founding principle (and ultimately indistinguishable from) freedom. of course, it’s only in one specific sense of “equality” that this sentence is true.

to try and eliminate the bullshit, let’s turn to networks again:

any nodes’ degrees of freedom is the number of nodes they are connected to in a network. freedom is maximum when the network is symmetrically connected, i. e., when all nodes are connected to each other and thus there is no topographical hierarchy (middlemen) – in other words, flatness.

in this understanding, the maximization of freedom is the maximization of entropy production, that is, of intelligence. As Land puts it:
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march 2018 by nhaliday
Unaligned optimization processes as a general problem for society
TL;DR: There are lots of systems in society which seem to fit the pattern of “the incentives for this system are a pretty good approximation of what we actually want, so the system produces good results until it gets powerful, at which point it gets terrible results.”


Here are some more places where this idea could come into play:

- Marketing—humans try to buy things that will make our lives better, but our process for determining this is imperfect. A more powerful optimization process produces extremely good advertising to sell us things that aren’t actually going to make our lives better.
- Politics—we get extremely effective demagogues who pit us against our essential good values.
- Lobbying—as industries get bigger, the optimization process to choose great lobbyists for industries gets larger, but the process to make regulators robust doesn’t get correspondingly stronger. So regulatory capture gets worse and worse. Rent-seeking gets more and more significant.
- Online content—in a weaker internet, sites can’t be addictive except via being good content. In the modern internet, people can feel addicted to things that they wish they weren’t addicted to. We didn’t use to have the social expertise to make clickbait nearly as well as we do it today.
- News—Hyperpartisan news sources are much more worth it if distribution is cheaper and the market is bigger. News sources get an advantage from being truthful, but as society gets bigger, this advantage gets proportionally smaller.


For these reasons, I think it’s quite plausible that humans are fundamentally unable to have a “good” society with a population greater than some threshold, particularly if all these people have access to modern technology. Humans don’t have the rigidity to maintain social institutions in the face of that kind of optimization process. I think it is unlikely but possible (10%?) that this threshold population is smaller than the current population of the US, and that the US will crumble due to the decay of these institutions in the next fifty years if nothing totally crazy happens.
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Sex, Drugs, and Bitcoin: How Much Illegal Activity Is Financed Through Cryptocurrencies? by Sean Foley, Jonathan R. Karlsen, Tālis J. Putniņš :: SSRN
Cryptocurrencies are among the largest unregulated markets in the world. We find that approximately one-quarter of bitcoin users and one-half of bitcoin transactions are associated with illegal activity. Around $72 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin, which is close to the scale of the US and European markets for illegal drugs. The illegal share of bitcoin activity declines with mainstream interest in bitcoin and with the emergence of more opaque cryptocurrencies. The techniques developed in this paper have applications in cryptocurrency surveillance. Our findings suggest that cryptocurrencies are transforming the way black markets operate by enabling “black e-commerce.”
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Reid Hofmann and Peter Thiel and technology and politics - Marginal REVOLUTION
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february 2018 by nhaliday
The Space Trilogy - Wikipedia
Out of the Silent Planet:

Weston makes a long speech justifying his proposed invasion of Malacandra on "progressive" and evolutionary grounds, which Ransom attempts to translate into Malacandrian, thus laying bare the brutality and crudity of Weston's ambitions.

Oyarsa listens carefully to Weston's speech and acknowledges that the scientist is acting out of a sense of duty to his species, and not mere greed. This renders him more mercifully disposed towards the scientist, who accepts that he may die while giving Man the means to continue. However, on closer examination Oyarsa points out that Weston's loyalty is not to Man's mind – or he would equally value the intelligent alien minds already inhabiting Malacandra, instead of seeking to displace them in favour of humanity; nor to Man's body – since, as Weston is well aware of and at ease with, Man's physical form will alter over time, and indeed would have to in order to adapt to Weston's programme of space exploration and colonisation. It seems then that Weston is loyal only to "the seed" – Man's genome – which he seeks to propagate. When Oyarsa questions why this is an intelligible motivation for action, Weston's eloquence fails him and he can only articulate that if Oyarsa does not understand Man's basic loyalty to Man then he, Weston, cannot possibly instruct him.



The rafts or floating islands are indeed Paradise, not only in the sense that they provide a pleasant and care-free life (until the arrival of Weston) but also in the sense that Ransom is for weeks and months naked in the presence of a beautiful naked woman without once lusting after her or being tempted to seduce her. This is because of the perfection in that world.

The plot thickens when Professor Weston arrives in a spaceship and lands in a part of the ocean quite close to the Fixed Land. He at first announces to Ransom that he is a reformed man, but appears to still be in search of power. Instead of the strictly materialist attitude he displayed when first meeting Ransom, he asserts he had become aware of the existence of spiritual beings and pledges allegiance to what he calls the "Life-Force." Ransom, however, disagrees with Weston's position that the spiritual is inherently good, and indeed Weston soon shows signs of demonic possession.

In this state, the possessed Weston finds the Queen and tries to tempt her into defying Maleldil's orders by spending a night on the Fixed Land. Ransom, perceiving this, believes that he must act as a counter-tempter. Well versed in the Bible and Christian theology, Ransom realises that if the pristine Queen, who has never heard of Evil, succumbs to the tempter's arguments, the Fall of Man will be re-enacted on Perelandra. He struggles through day after day of lengthy arguments illustrating various approaches to temptation, but the demonic Weston shows super-human brilliance in debate (though when "off-duty" he displays moronic, asinine behaviour and small-minded viciousness) and moreover appears never to need sleep.

With the demonic Weston on the verge of winning, the desperate Ransom hears in the night what he gradually realises is a Divine voice, commanding him to physically attack the Tempter. Ransom is reluctant, and debates with the divine (inner) voice for the entire duration of the night. A curious twist is introduced here; whereas the name "Ransom" is said to be derived from the title "Ranolf's Son", it can also refer to a reward given in exchange for a treasured life. Recalling this, and recalling that his God would (and has) sacrificed Himself in a similar situation, Ransom decides to confront the Tempter outright.

Ransom attacks his opponent bare-handed, using only physical force. Weston's body is unable to withstand this despite the Tempter's superior abilities of rhetoric, and so the Tempter flees. Ultimately Ransom chases him over the ocean, Weston fleeing and Ransom chasing on the backs of giant and friendly fish. During a fleeting truce, the "real" Weston appears to momentarily re-inhabit his body, and recount his experience of Hell, wherein the damned soul is not consigned to pain or fire, as supposed by popular eschatology, but is absorbed into the Devil, losing all independent existence.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Self-Serving Bias | Slate Star Codex
Since reading Tabarrok’s post, I’ve been trying to think of more examples of this sort of thing, especially in medicine. There are way too many discrepancies in approved medications between countries to discuss every one of them, but did you know melatonin is banned in most of Europe? (Europeans: did you know melatonin is sold like candy in the United States?) Did you know most European countries have no such thing as “medical school”, but just have college students major in medicine, and then become doctors once they graduate from college? (Europeans: did you know Americans have to major in some random subject in college, and then go to a separate place called “medical school” for four years to even start learning medicine?) Did you know that in Puerto Rico, you can just walk into a pharmacy and get any non-scheduled drug you want without a doctor’s prescription? (source: my father; I have never heard anyone else talk about this, and nobody else even seems to think it is interesting enough to be worth noting).


And then there’s the discussion from the recent discussion of Madness and Civilization about how 18th century doctors thought hot drinks will destroy masculinity and ruin society. Nothing that’s happened since has really disproved this – indeed, a graph of hot drink consumption, decline of masculinity, and ruinedness of society would probably show a pretty high correlation – it’s just somehow gotten tossed in the bin marked “ridiculous” instead of the bin marked “things we have to worry about”.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
Gladiator Quotes - YouTube
LUCILLA: They care about the greatness of Rome.
COMMODUS: Greatness of Rome? But what is that?
LUCILLA: It's an idea, greatness. Greatness is a vision.
COMMODUS: Exactly. A vision. I will give the people a vision and they will love me for it. They will soon forget the tedious sermonizing of a few dry old men. I will give them the greatest vision of their lives.

GRACCHUS: I think he knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. He will conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. He will take away their freedom, and still they will roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble floor of the Senate, it is the sand of the Colosseum. He will give them death, and they will love him for it.
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january 2018 by nhaliday
What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? - Marginal REVOLUTION
Creativity is often highly concentrated in time and space, and across different domains. What explains the formation and decay of clusters of creativity? In this paper we match data on thousands of notable individuals born in Europe between the XIth and the XIXth century with historical data on city institutions and population. After documenting several stylized facts, we show that the formation of creative clusters is not preceded by increases in city size. Instead, the emergence of city institutions protecting economic and political freedoms facilitates the attraction and production of creative talent.

IOW, the opposite of what Dick Florida said.
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january 2018 by nhaliday

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