It’s widely accepted that politics over the past 5–10 years has taken a turn to the crazy. The political debate has moved significantly from questions of economic interest to questions of identity. Unconventional figures are succeeding in elections: Donald Trump is president of the USA, Boris Johnson is joint favourite to be next Prime Minister of Britain.
The chief mechanism of this shift has been the destruction or bypassing of the old centres of power. The institutions and informal hierarchies that used to be important to politics no longer are. Obama was said to have bypassed the Democratic establishment with an internet and grass-roots campaign (though is that really true?) Trump undoubtedly ran against the Republican establishment and won, and his ad-hoc campaign seriously outperformed the institutional support behind the Clinton campaign. 1
Money is still important, in US politics, but the fund-raising establishments that mediated it are much less so. A candidate can appeal to donors directly, whether rich donors in person or large numbers of small donors via the internet. The money isn’t flowing through kingmaker fund-raisers who could influence the direction of a party with other people’s money.
From the other side, donors can get influence through big-name candidates, or through pressure groups that set the media agenda, better than through party institutions.
In the UK it’s access to media rather than money that gave the party establishments real power, but that power has declined in the same way: the old gatekeepers can be bypassed.
These are material causes, but there are also social causes. The political parties were once socially important — politicians believed in the party as a force in society, and as a kind of class consciousness. Politicians in a party were insiders, everyone else was an outsider, and insiders knew what was going on in a way that outsiders didn’t. The important people in the party were those who could organise and persuade in private2. That has faded: the parties have become more diverse in every sense, and there is much less in the way of solidarity and social ties to political institutions. 3
That’s the first element: the loss of power of political institutions. That certainly goes back more than the timescale of 5–10 years that I referred to. But its effects are still playing out. The new, open, meritocratic political mechanisms have given rise to a new style in politics.
When politics was carried out within powerful institutions with social and organisational coherence, political factions could keep secrets. They could plan to carry out actions, and to present arguments, without publicly announcing what they were going to do. Today that is not the case. Because political factions are open and meritocratic, collective decisions can only be reached in public.
The effects go further: because all communication within a faction is essentially public, the only way to advance within the faction is through public statements. If you can plan privately and then act, you can be responsible for the consequences of your actions. If you can only contribute to a public debate, then you are responsible for nothing but your public statements. The loss of institutional power has led, through the loss of secrecy, to a loss of responsibility.
The other significant effect of the loss of secrecy is a catastrophic decline in dishonesty in politics. It’s no longer possible to pretend to adopt a political position but to secretly work against it. It’s not possible to express a claim confidently as a bargaining position, and yet negotiate to minimise the risks. If you have publicly expressed confidence, you have to publicly act in line with that expressed confidence. And you can only act publicly.4
“It is a feature of any large movement that pretending to believe something is effectively the same as believing it.”5 — though size of movement isn’t the whole point, the lack of selection into the movement is as important.
Because there is no longer a line between political insiders and outsiders, a majority of your faction are people who haven’t been selected by anyone and who aren’t necessarily in a position to understand compromise or complexity. Your public statements — and therefore your actual actions — have to be simple, clear and extreme.
The failed coup against Trump is a good example of the phenomenon: If there was an actual conspiracy it was tiny, and most of the work of making the Russia frame stick on Trump was done by people who genuinely believed it was real, and therefore adopted the wrong tactics. At a stretch, it’s possible there was no real conspiracy at all: Hillary and her team were making up excuses for their failure, and some intel people were just nuts (an occupational hazard) or were showing off to their friends. It’s important to understand that the publicly claimed positions get internalised. Even if they start as cynical lies, in the absence of private meetings where everyone agrees, “yes we said that, but it’s not really true”, people end up really believing what they pretend to believe.6
What this means is that the purity spirals that characterise the Cathedral have now migrated directly into party politics itself. In the old model, the “Modern Structure“, the political agenda is ultimately driven by the Cathedral, meaning elite academia and the prestige media. They set the common understandings of the electorate and society, which in turn compel politicians to follow. But as politics shifts from private compromises to public debate, the distinction between media and politics dissolves. Every politician is a pundit, and not really anything more. This development has been going for years 7, but only reaches its full effect when the politicians become conscious of it, or have carried on their whole careers under these conditions.
So that ultimately is the cause of the insanity: The old political class which followed the ideological line produced from the Cathedral but with a delay and a practical, moderating influence, has been dissolved into the Cathedral itself.
The civil service is still—for now—out of this: it can still form policy in quiet and carry it on. It is now the last remaining holdout against true popular democracy. It used to be able to make deals with the political class in private, though. The exposing to the public of all political decision-making has taken that mechanism away from it—the question of “what is the official advice” is now part of the public debate on every major issue. It’s also worth noting that it has always been more directly influenced by the Cathedral proper than the old political class was.
Note: This is a summary of several posts I wrote in late 2007/early 2008
I was watching Channel 4 news, and what struck me for the first time was that Channel 4 appeared to have a more clearly defined and clearly expressed position on the issue they were reporting than did any of the politicians they were interviewing.
But why should that be surprising? Channel 4 has more resources to devote to policy than does any political party. Channel 4 spends 54 million pounds a year on news, documentary and current affairs programming. The two main parties each spend something like 10 million a year, but most of that is spent not on “content”, but on content distribution – posters, leaflets, etc.
British political parties’ policies are being constructed on an almost totally amateur basis, compared to the media – and I think it shows. There are think tanks, but I don’t think they turn over tens of millions a year.
(It must be noted that in the US they spend a lot more on politics, but don’t seem to get noticeably better policies.)
MPs get paid by the government, which is extra resource to the parties not counted in their budgets, and The civil service plays a role in developing policies for the ruling party, but MPs are paid to be MPs, not to develop policy, and the civil service has its own goals and constraints and is not under the control of the Labour party.
It seems that Channel 4’s 2007 policy on higher education was the product of more research and investment than went into the Labour party’s. It’s also relevant that political parties have an incentive to be vague about policy, whereas media organisations can afford to be more specific and clearer – they gain more by being provocative than by being right. This means that media are in a way more motivated to work out detailed policies than parties are
What does this mean?
First, I should be less sceptical than I have been about the “power of the media”. I previously felt that, since the media is constrained to doing what gets it audience, its independent influence on policy is small. However, if what it needs to do is to provide some alternative policy with which to challenge politicians, but it has relative freedom to choose which alternative to develop, then its independent influence is greater than I had thought.
Next, why is it the case that we (as a society) invest more in reporting politics than we do in politics itself. Either something is seriously screwy, or we value politics as entertainment more than as a way of controlling government. Or both.
I think it’s quite clear that the population does treat politics mostly as entertainment. The resemblance between Question Time and Never Mind the Buzzcocks is too close to ignore. If someone arrived from another planet and had to work out which of the two concerns how the country is governed, I think they might find it tricky. (I think they get similar numbers of viewers). There are even hybrids like Have I Got News For You to make it more difficult still.
Further, I think voters are correct to see politics primarily as entertainment. Since my attempt to construct an argument that voting could have a non-negligible probability of affecting an election – the infamous correlation dodge – died a logical death, I am left with the usual reasons for voting – primarily how doing it makes me feel. Those reasons apply equally well to voting for Big Brother or Strictly Come Dancing.
Boris Johnson’s election as Mayor of London in 2008 is consistent with the theory that politics is a branch of the entertainment industry. Boris won because people liked him on TV, not because they had any confidence he’d do a good job. In fact, it simply doesn’t matter whether he does a good job or not.
Whatever the budget of the GLA, the actual amount of cash he can shift from one activity to another over the next four years is probably on the order of only a few millions. He can change a few buses, approve a few “don’t knife each other, there’s good chaps” posters, approve or deny one or two large buildings.
On the other hand, he will be on television a lot, and get a lot more attention, because now he’s (drum roll) In Government. And if you treat each of his appearances as a light entertainment programme, value it as equivalent to an equally entertaining non-political celebrity appearance, and multiply up the number of such appearances over the four years, his entertainment value to the voters easily outweighs whatever costs might be imposed on the voters if he is a Bad Mayor in a policy sense.
And in fact the predictable cost of Boris vs Ken is near enough zero. Who knows, Boris might even be better. While the predictable difference in entertainment value is huge – not only is Boris more entertaining than Ken on a level playing field, but more importantly the Ken show has run for eight years and we’ve seen all the best bits.
My point is that (a) Boris has been elected because he’s funny and people are bored of Ken, and (b) This is, with apologies to Bryan Caplan, rational voting.
And of course, it is nothing new: Ken was elected in 2000 for just the same good reason.
In conclusion, I think our system of government is one which selects leaders and policies as a byproduct of the entertainment industry. This might not be a bad thing: the traditional alternative is to select leaders and policies as a byproduct of the defense industry, which has its own problems.
Original three posts:
- December 13, 2007 News and Politics and Money
- December 15, 2007 Democracy and Entertainment
- May 4, 2008 Entertainment and Policy
Setting out to defend the theory of Bioleninism, I found that we do not have a really precise definition. Spandrell set out the concept and discussion followed between those who “got it”. That means that they at least believed they had identified the essential features from the general description.
In order to broaden the discussion of the concept beyond those who immediately siezed on it, it is necessary to spell out exactly what the essential features are.
My proposed definition
- Bioleninism describes the practices of an organisation
- Members are preferentially selected for positions of power if they are members of social subgroups which have natural disadvantages
- The preferential selection is overt, not covert
- The members who are selected for positions of power on this basis are more reliably loyal to the organisation in its existing form than would be the case if they were selected purely on the basis of ability, because they would not expect to achieve similar status if the organisation were to be replaced or reformed.
The last point is Spandrell’s novel insight of a year ago. Surely an organisation that systematically selected the less able would suffer as a result and fail? The idea is that the extra loyalty that those selected have will compensate the organisation for their lesser effectiveness.
That eerily echoes an argument I put forward in 2012 as a defence of hereditary aristocracy:
The reason for the important people having hereditary peerages is that, when it comes to any kind of power, loyalty is more important than exceptional ability. That’s not to say that incompetence is OK, but if your system of government depends on having people of exceptional ability, then it’s broken. Instead take the most competent people from the pool of those brought up to privilege and loyalty, and if they’re not good enough to, say, run a car company, the solution is not to have a government car company. The Victorian meritocratic civil service was exceptionally effective, but it was a step down the wrong road. The motto of the civil service should be “Good Enough for Government Work” (what’s that in Latin?)
Is aristocratic government then bioleninist? That depends on the part of my proposed definition which remains vague: the “social subgroups which have natural disadvantages”. I left that vague because it has been vague, or treated inconsistently, in the discussions since November 2017. We won’t have a precise definition of bioleninism until we can pin down the concept of “naturally disadvantaged subgroups” more coherently.
Spandrell started out by describing what made the 20th Century communist regimes internally strong:
When Communism took over Russia and China, those were still very poor, semi-traditional societies. Plenty of semi-starved peasants around. So you could run a Leninist party just on class resentments. “Never forget class-struggle”, Mao liked to say. “Never forget you used to be a serf and you’re not one now thanks to me”, he meant.
In this arrangement, the peasant’s low status is not a natural thing, it is merely a social convention. But because it is such a widespread and long-standing social convention, the peasant can reasonably expect it to return if the regime falls. Therefore loyalty.
Bioleninism, in contrast, occurs in societies where the established norm is meritocracy:
If you live in a free society, and your status is determined by your natural performance; then it follows that to build a cohesive Leninist ruling class you need to recruit those who have natural low-status.
The term “Biological Leninism” implies that “natural low status” means actual biological disadvantage, such as womens’ lesser physical strength or some ethnic groups’ lower average intelligence. But there is also mention of “naturally repulsive” groups. Are transexuals really “naturally repulsive”, or is that a social convention? I’m not sure. This seems to be the blurry edge of the definition.
So, let me restate my definition with five points rather than four
- Bioleninism describes the practices of an organisation
- It depends on a cultural presumption that high ability is a natural qualification for positions of power
- Members are preferentially selected for positions of power if they are members of disadvantaged social subgroups, which by (2) means groups of lower average ability
- The preferential selection is overt, not covert
- The members who are selected for positions of power on this basis are more reliably loyal to the organisation in its existing form than would be the case if they were selected purely on the basis of ability, because they would not expect to achieve similar status if the organisation were to be replaced or reformed.
So that takes out feudalism as a bioleninist system, and concentrates it on the modern era where some concept of equality is culturally established. I think that makes it a more useful classification.
Responding to the above criticism of the theory of Bioleninism is a useful way of clarifying the theory.
The essence of the theory is that a governing structure can gain stability by appointing to high positions members of groups with naturally lower performance, and that that process is advanced in current Western political systems.
“Natural” low performance is an especially controversial concept, but the criticism embraces it: “[women] are not contributing muscle to maintaining law and order to the same extent”
Whether the same applies to, say, homosexual or Punjabi firemen is debatable. I think the identification of sexually omnivorous firemen as the “wrong” kind of homosexual has a lot of merit.
As to Fulton County Sheriffs, a commenter who does not see Bioleninism as a force might well imagine they would “reconsider”, after the incident of a criminal overpowering a small female deputy and killing 3. A believer in the theory of Bioleninism would imagine the opposite. What’s the first link I see when I search “Fulton County Sheriff”? “A day on the job of Fulton County’s first female sniper“! . It’s as if effectiveness on the job is not the dominant factor in appointments…
Emphasising the fact that there are still ethnic and cultural minorities in low-status positions is effectively the inverse of the Apex Fallacy : That there is a phenomenon that takes members of some groups and promotes them to positions of power does not imply that it does not leave other members of those groups behind — even a large majority of those members. Bioleninism is a theory about who is selected for positions of power; those not selected can easily remain with the lowest status of all.
The most interesting alternative view is that Bioleninism appears to be happening but is in fact fake: “If women succeed in taking over half the posts in the cabinet… this just means that the cabinet have changed their role to that of national mascots.” We are looking at Tokenism, not Bioleninism.
Tokenism is absolutely a real phenomenon. It is a different category of phenomenon than Bioleninism, however. Tokenism is in principle an individual motivation. “I am pretending to promote this token person so as to get the reputational benefits of doing so, but I don’t really want to give them any influence”. Bioleninism is an emergent tendency of a political system. A movement which promotes the naturally low-status succeeds because they have loyalty to the system without which they could not possibly achieve the same status. (One of the conditions that gives rise to the phenomenon of Bioleninism is that any rival movement appointing naturally high-status people tends to suffer from problems of lack of loyalty. Other things being equal, it is better to rely on high performers than low performers).
The significance of an emergent tendency, as opposed to an individual motivation, is that nobody needs to believe in or even understand Bioleninism for it to happen. The individual motivations that produce the Bioleninist outcome can be quite unrelated: they can be some theory of Justice, or even be exactly Tokenism. It is a feature of any large movement that pretending to believe something is effectively the same as believing it. The attempt to pretend to believe a thing is what Scott Alexander called “Kolmogorov Complicity”, and he explains why it fails. . A tight conspiracy of people who trust each other can have a secret agenda and a public agenda. A movement that has to compete in the public square cannot sustain the distinction for very long. If you claim loudly and dishonestly to believe that it is just to appoint women to cabinet, you will be succeeded within your movement by people who are not in on the joke.
Note: The following response to Spandrell’s “Biological Leninism” was posted by one of this blog’s regular commenters in the comment thread of “Hollywood, and Media as a Business”. I’ve pulled it out, with the author’s permission, so that the question of evidence for or against Bioleninism can be discussed properly.
A Nonny Mouse says:
Note: The above response to Spandrell’s “Biological Leninism” was posted by one of this blog’s regular commenters in the comment thread of “Hollywood, and Media as a Business”. I’ve pulled it out, with the author’s permission, so that the question of evidence for or against Bioleninism can be discussed properly. My reaction to this post is “Bioleninism, Tokenism and the Apex Fallacy”
[note: this is the thread that I was in the process of tweeting when my account got locked]
Bitcoin is fundamentally a voting system. That is the clever bit. Answering “Did A transfer his funds to B?” is a trivial piece of public-key cryptography. “Did A transfer his funds to B before attempting to transfer them to C?” is decided by vote. How is that not terrible???
Reason 1 is that it’s costly to vote. That has to be better than letting any scumbag vote for free. But not that much better.
Reason 2 is that you are then rewarded for voting, if and only if you voted for the winning side.
What that means is that there is a huge incentive to vote for what you believe to be true. Trying to vote against it is bound to fail, because everyone else has huge incentive to vote for it, and because it will cost you big money.
Forget the fashionable silliness of applying “blockchain” to every problem. Think about applying “give people incentives to get it right” to every problem. Think about making “non-human value maximisers” out of people.
Related: are secret ballots the worst thing you can do to a democracy?
Here’s the background. None of this is even controversial, it’s all covered in official government reports.
In a number of towns around England, organised child prostitution has been happening on a large scale. The gangs organising this have been made up overwhelmingly of British Pakistanis, and the girls abused have been mainly white, mostly from the care system.
Protecting children in the care system is the job of local government, but the local government bodies have been slow to act on the problem. People in those bodies and outside who tried to act were accused of being racist, and publicity relating to the problem was avoided on the grounds that it would encourage extremism in the country.
The Times published a large feature on the situation in 2011. Even then, action was not taken; local government officials in the towns named maintaining that the article was “racist propaganda” from the “Murdoch press”.
Eventually the responsible bodies, including the police, were pushed into action. Over the last few years, a number of child prostitution gangs have been prosecuted around the country, and dozens of men convicted and imprisoned.
One such case finished last week in Leeds. ….
This is the case that resulted in Tommy Robinson’s imprisonment for Contempt of Court. While the case was going on, he livestreamed his opinion on the case on his facebook page, from outside the court. The judge saw his stream and ruled that the content was prejudicial to the case: that if any jurors saw what he had been saying, it would have prejudiced their verdict. Juries are supposed to be given information on the case only within the court, according to the procedural rules of the court. The common-law principle of Sub Judice has for many years restricted what can be published relating to an active legal proceeding, but in Britain it was replaced in 1981 by statute.
These statutory rules are consistently and firmly applied to media organisations. Reporting of a jury trial that is still going on is limited to the bare facts of what has happened in court, without commentary or implication. In practice, the media generally does not publish any report at all on a jury trial until it ends, at which point they can say whatever they like. Though aimed in 1981 at media, the law applies to any publication of information that might reach a juror, including websites and social media.
Tommy Robinson was convicted of Contempt of Court for streaming information about a case in Bath in 2017, and given a suspended sentence. On his second conviction in Leeds in 2018, he was sentenced to 13 months. He is now awaiting a retrial: the original conviction was quashed as being overly hasty.
He claimed in his stream that the case was being covered up, as it was not reported in the media. This is an idiotic claim: trials are not usually reported in the media until they finish, because of the law on prejudicing juries. The other trials of child prostitution gangs had been prominently reported as soon as they finished, just as this one is now. Even the left-leaning media such as the BBC and the Guardian give them heavy coverage, and the more populist media can surely be counted on to do so. Of course, if anyone with a web site or a facebook account feels that detail or emphasis is missing in the media reports, they are totally free, now the case is over, to add to it.
That would be a good thing to do. While the trials themselves are heavily reported, the background and context of the events is still seriously underreported. In a piece that repeated a lot of the errors that were going around about Contempt of Court, Mark Steyn made one extremely good argument:
Tracking down the victims of Rotherham required a bit of elementary detective work on my part, but it’s not that difficult. What struck me, as my time in town proceeded, was how few members of the British media had been sufficiently interested to make the effort: The young ladies were unstoppably garrulous in part because, with a few honorable exceptions, so few of their countrymen have ever sought them out to hear their stories.
It is not hard to guess why this is: reporting a court case is clearly something the media is expected to do, but going out and finding stories that, once again, will get you accused of being racist for writing, probably isn’t worth the effort. This in-depth reporting of the issue is missing, and needs to happen.
But that is not what Robinson was doing. He was standing outside the court whose verdict is now front-page news, and falsely claiming it was being covered up. Nobody who understands the court process in Britain would take such a claim seriously, and those who he deceived will look less credible in future. It was for that reason that I tried to push back at the time on people who were repeating the false claims.
Aside from this specifc incident, it’s not unreasonable to say that Robinson is unduly harassed by the authorities. This is partly because they object to his politics, and partly because it’s just easier to get him out of the way to calm down the situation than to face the other side. It is standard police tactics in the case of a disturbance to arrest the weaker party for breach of the peace, and then let them go once things have calmed down.
On the other hand, he does tend to make it easy for them. His style is still that of the football hooligan looking for a punch-up. I’m not sure exactly what would have happened if he had streamed his comments on the Leeds case from his house, instead of going to the court and parading outside it. Legally, his offence would have been exactly the same, but at any rate someone would have to have seen his broadcast, identified it as prejudicial, obtained a warrant for his arrest for contempt of court, and then gone and arrested him. That probably would have all happened, but it would have taken a while. By seeking out confrontation, he made it as easy as grabbing him off the street and convicting him straight away, which is the question on which his conviction was quashed (there are strong echoes of this case: the authorities needing to play a bit loose with the rules to keep the peace. That said, I will be a bit surprised if he isn’t found guilty — the unusual rapidity of his conviction was, I assume, driven by the need to protect the ongoing case, but given the outcry the high court presumably felt a more careful proceeding was needed. Note, by the way, that my speculations here are not contempt because the Robinson case does not involve a jury — otherwise I would still be keeping my views to myself a bit longer. Note I wrote most of the rest of this post months ago, with the intention of publishing after the Huddersfield case).
@Outsideness, when I pointed out that the cases weren’t being covered up and that he was repeating blatantly false claims, took refuge in the opinion that protecting juries from prejudicial information, and for that matter the concept of jury trials themselves, are probably doomed. In the long run, I agree. Information wants to be free, and all that. If someone wants to broadcast information about a trial anonymously or from overseas, there’s not much the court can do about it. Further, the concept of the jury is that there’s such a thing as a “typical citizen” who can be represented by a juror, which is less and less true. But I’d say the current system has a good few years left yet. One of the reasons many people were so confused by what happened is that the question of discussing an ongoing trial generally doesn’t come up. Because the media saves its reporting for the end of the trial where they can report freely, as a rule when a trial is happening nobody who isn’t involved even knows that it’s going on. Anyone who wants to can turn up at the court and view the lists and sit in the gallery, but that’s work. So the vast new amateur publishing ecosystem doesn’t comment on trials because they are still reliant on mainstream media to find out that they’re happening. And, ultimately, there’s nothing to gain by breaking the Contempt of Court law. If you want to have your say in a public debate, it’s better to have it when the debate is actually happening, which is when it’s legal. It’s so rare for someone to be done for prejudicing a jury that a lot of people didn’t understand it — and it’s rare not because the law isn’t enforced, but because it’s almost never broken.
The actual drawbacks of the restricted reporting came up shortly afterwards. I saw in my twitter feed a photo of a demonstration from a few years back: muslim protestors with signs like “As muslims we unite & we are prepared to fight”, “behead those who insult Islam” and “massacre those who insult Islam”. The twitter caption was “Thinking of Tommy Robinson being jailed for standing in the street talking into a microphone, how many of these fine upstanding citizens were arrested?”
OK, Robinson was bound to get jailed, but aside from that, this is just the thing I was complaining about before: by tolerating this sort of thing, our society is effectively pushing Islam to become more radical, more detached from the society it’s located in.
But hang on, that tweet was quote-tweeted. What was the comment?
“At least 5 immediately and several more later. I then charged the most serious offenders with Soliciting Murder rather than just Public Order offences. They went to prison for between 4 and 6 years. You don’t see those placards anymore on UK streets. Next?”
Well, that changes the story a bit. Who is this guy who claimed to have personally rid Britain of open calls for Muslim terrorist violence?
That would be @nazir_afzal. Former chief public prosecutor for North-West England.
Back to him in a moment. First the protesters. This is where the problems caused by reporting restrictions on trials really kick in. I saw reports of that demonstration and those signs. A bunch of the protesters were arrested, and some of them charged with serious crimes, but I didn’t know that. If the media reported it at all, it would quite likely be in such vague terms that I wouldn’t know whether those arrested were the Muslims with the signs or other people getting into fights with them. When they were convicted, that would, I’m sure, have been reported, but that would have been months later, and I might easily have missed it. Because there was no contemporaneous reporting of their trial, there would have just been that gap, destroying a continuity of context that might possibly (and to be fair, it is a stretch) have caused me to remember the original demo as something that people got imprisoned for. So that’s a motive for finding some other way of ensuring jury independence. (I’m not going to get into possibilities, that would require a lot more expertise and interest).
So, Nazir Afzal. I’m a bit embarrassed I hadn’t heard of him. For one thing, our knowledge of the background that this posts opens with is partly down to him: he made the decision to prosecute the Rochdale child prostitution gang after a previous decision elsewhere not to.
It kind of jumps to one’s attention that Afzal is a Muslim of Pakistani ancestry himself. I wouldn’t want to belittle his personal achievement in doing the good things mentioned here, but where his colleagues would have been intimidated by the threat of being labelled as racist from taking the necessary firm line against criminality by British Muslims, he had a freer hand to act.
The liberal line at this point would surely be that our problem is that we don’t have enough Muslim senior lawyers like Afzal. Promote more brown people, and everything will be fine. That is wrong, because what is significant about Afzal (again, aside from his individual personal qualities which I don’t want to play down) is that his background is different from that of the Pakistani Muslims that are involved in the problem. The subcontinent is big and complicated. The large Pakistani communities in Britain are overwhelmingly those who were resettled from Azad Kashmir when the region was flooded, their families who have come later, and their children born here. Afzal is something else: “his father’s family worked for generations in catering for the British Army”. So while the “normal” British Pakistanis are resettled intact clans, and he is basically on his own and consequently, though he retains his religion, much more assimilated to British society. Numbers matter. The child prostitution problem is basically an organised crime problem, and organised crime works better for an ethnic group with links that are strong and opaque to outsiders. The teachings of Islam maybe have a part to play, but the American Mafia were Catholics, and they still ran whores. (The fact that the leader of the Huddersfield gang appears to be a Sikh is rather odd, but, I suppose, consistent with the theory that what matters is that the ethnic gang produces a cohesive group, that trusted outsiders can be brought into if they have something to contribute. Again, this isn’t fundamentally about religion or culture; it’s fundamentally about organised crime).
The thing that we can conclude from Afzal’s efforts is that the system works better when people in authority aren’t terrified of being called racist.
If we could fix that one thing — well, the large resettled clans are never going to be easy given the numbers, but we would be in with a chance.
But we can’t fix that. Anti-racism is the religion, and we can no more wipe it out than we could convert the Pakistanis to Mormonism. So this is all a bit academic.
An interesting view of our decline.
Moldbug wrote, “White nationalism is the most marginalized and socially excluded belief system in the history of the world.”
And he was right. But, even so, in the decade since he wrote that, many fringe-right beliefs, including even white nationalism, have prospered beyond what I think he or many other people would have predicted.
We can point at a few causes — the overreach of liberalism is my first pick — but combining fringe-right comment with humour has been very effective. By 2007, every right view from prewar conservatism to nazism had been comprehensively demolished in popular culture for half a century, which has greatly contributed to excluding them all from social acceptability. But a fringe right that is willing to laugh at itself is a very long way from the generations of stereotypes that have been used to inoculate the populace, and causes chaos in its enemies. Pepe is a hate symbol! Nazi dogs in Scotland! Feminism is cancer! These jokes get around some of the defenses that have been set up.
They don’t do more than that.To win in the political sphere, at some point you have to be taken seriously. But winning in the political sphere isn’t my objective — just leaking a few ideas, a few facts, into the common consciousness is laying groundwork for serious responses to serious crises that haven’t happened yet.
Bronze Age Pervert fits perfectly into this strategy. Nude bodybuilders destroying the cities by fire cannot be painted by journalists as a clear and present danger without making themselves ridiculous. BAP can raise recognition of various concepts — that relations between the sexes have gone disastrously wrong, that rights for the many are suppressing the freedom of the exceptional — and he can do it without looking like a school shooting or a Nazi occupation.
If that was all he did, it would be worthwhile. But the mix of serious ideas sprinkled through his book are worth attention.
A repetition of the Late Bronze Age Collapse is not really the goal most of us are working towards. But for myself, I do see it as a realistic prospect within the next century, so it’s absolutely worthwhile to be raising it as a discussion. The Pervert projects it as a sequence of developments: megastates losing their global control as their competence and effectiveness decline, bandits establishing themselves in the abandoned edges, and later descending on the decadent cities for loot and glory. In the last part of the book he explores these possibilities in a bit more detail.
The projection seems more than plausible. It’s worth discussing how to take advantage of it as well as how to prevent it. It’s not a goal of what I think of (questionably) as “mainstream reaction”, but it obviously has overlaps with concepts of Patchwork or true sovereignty. Imagining possible futures is one of the most important and underexercised activities of our movement.
The sticking point of BAP’s future is the actual destruction of technological civilisation. Maybe we could sort of skip that bit? Maybe technological civilisation doesn’t actually require a world population of billions? From 20,000 Leagues to Aristillus, the union of piratical independence with high technology has been imaginable… could it be practical?
In a similar vein, my “mainstream reaction” seeks the return of monogamy on the pattern of Christendom, and the Pervert specifically rejects that, though admitting it superior to the present situation. It comes down to the same question: that civilised pattern is valuable ultimately a mechanism for mobilising a mass industrial population. Can a mass industrial population be preserved? Should it be? Or is it a 20th-century phenomenon that has run its course?
It’s a bit callous to be debating the pros and cons of billions of deaths, but it’s not as if it’s going to be the reactionaries doing the killing. Those deaths are on the agenda already — how large a population can Europe support with African government? The question is what to do — if anything — to prevent that collapse.
Any modern reactionary must remain conscious of the fact that by existing within modernism he has some degree of complicity with it. The Bronze Age mindset is a reminder that that is not the only path; a yardstick against which to measure the compromises he is making.
In conclusion, I find Bronze Age Mindset worth reading, thinking about, and promoting. It is not my manifesto, but it contributes serious thinking and an attitude of seeking alternatives.
Where does economic growth come from?
I’m going to break it into four components
- Innovation. By “innovation”, I mean using more effective production techniques than before. The normal implication is using newly discovered techniques that are more effective than older ones, which is probably the most common, but I am going to stretch it, and, for instance, still count abandoning a newer technique for an older one as innovation too if it improves production.
- Capital accumulation. Making things to make things. It’s a bit unnatural, but for my purposes, this is a technique in itself, so really it’s just a variety of innovation. However, you still need to be able to afford to delay production, in order to produce more, so to that extent it is a separate element of growth.
- Scale. As a rule, you can produce more effectively at larger scale than at smaller scale. Further, scale can support innovation if there are different techniques that are more effective than old techniques at large scale but not at small scale.
- Mobilisation. You can produce more if you devote more of the available resources to production. This is a bit of a catch-all, it can include working more hours, eliminating unproductive activity, reducing unemployment.
Am I talking about economic growth for a company, for a society, for the world? At this point it doesn’t matter, you can always break it down into those four components.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that economic growth is good. But growth by the three components is not the same. Innovation is the good stuff. Orders-of-magnitude increases in wellbeing haven’t been powered by improved mobilisation, and not by scale directly, except insofar as it has enabled innovation. They’ve been powered by innovations.
Mobilisation is a very mixed bag. Cutting out pure waste is good. But a lot of what appears as waste is actually production of something you’re not measuring: social capital, antifragility. On the other hand, relative to innovation, the goals of greater mobilisation are small. If you get waste down to 50% of effort, then a further doubling of output is the most you can achieve by reducing waste.
Scale is generally good up to a point, but again you reach a point the gains become small and the social effects can become large.
I’m not convinced that capital accumulation deserves as much attention. Even quite backward subjects of study usually have access to capital proportional to their production. The main point is that it causes growth to be exponential: your rate of growth is dependent on your level of growth. Innovation is also a cause of that phenomenon.
What drives growth is the market and competition. Where there is competition, competitors will seek additional growth in all its components. Where there isn’t, growth usually just doesn’t happen at all.
What I’m getting at is that there is a reasonable political case for restraining scale and mobilisation, but much less of one for restraining innovation. In practice, though, this is generally very hard to do. Once you take the authority to overrule the market and prevent competition, the incentives to interfere in innovation are every bit as strong as those to interfere with mobilisation and scale. This is the orthodox libertarian view that you will find throughout the early years of this blog.
There isn’t a conclusion. This is just a problem that hangs over every political view that isn’t pure market liberalism. It’s part of the context of everything I think about. For an example, see The Trichotomy Explained