If anything can in ready practice approximate the epic scale of Greek tragedy, it is then this attempt to format the unwilling. Bear in mind, should your curiosity push you to try it, that it is a blinding sort of thing, which only the most averted, calm and prepared eyes can even observe, yet it is a lifetime sort of doom, which you’re entirely unlikely to be able to either compress into less time or at all escape. In short, you’re risking your life for a chance at a glimpse at something you might or might not see, and in any case may not even understand. There’s better things to do with one’s time.
Upon which MP expands:
In any case, there doesn’t seem to be much decency involved in this. I don’t know what your own definition for that word would be, but as best as I can see decency means “exercising restraint so as to allow something to evolve along its own lines”, which readily marks it for an universal good : there’s enough bad novels in the world made rotten by the author’s inability to follow credibly the evolution of characters that one’d not want actual reality sullied by more of the same nonsense. Let things take their own course, that’s I believe not only the core of decency, human or general, but actually the very fundament of being conservative.
Exercising restraint… decency… being conservative… not unnecessarily intervening in complex organic systems…
These aren’t notions particularly familiar to the western reader, accustomed as she is to the security-minded interventions offered by the state.ii But oh how much easier life is when there’s someone to look after you, someone who always has the right answer, someone who is always ready to act in your defense. A little loss of freedom, a few more laws, and a pinch more tax is more than a fair price to pay for never-ending stability and the support of the warm, fuzzy, huggable fatherland. Should ever anything go wrong, anything at all, you always know where to turn. Banish uncertainty from your topsy turvy life. It’s so easy, so obvious… and wouldn’t be nearly so unspeakably terrible in practise were it not for the required centralisation.
As should be readily apparent by this point, this system, so predominant in the western world today, is called democratic socialism. Historically, it works exactly nowhere, never, nor under any circumstances whatsoever. Sure, democracy starts off in a well meaning direction, but its dependence on top-down authority and the build-up of bureaucratic sludge therein dooms it to oppress, kill, lie, cheat, and steal with ferocity unmatched by any other form of political organisation, thus fully and unequivocally demonstrating just how evil “good intentions” are when otherwise unconstrained.
Don’t believe me? Believe Solzhenitsyn. Believe Orlev.iii They’re certainly no strangers to the inevitable consequences of leaving matters of import, namely the economy, to the state.
Yes, while matters of economy never start out being matters of democratic interest, ’tis only a matter of time before the electorate are hoodwinked by a bright-eyed young candidate promising “more jobs” or some such snake oil. It starts with that. Nothing more. So innocent, so innocuous, it must at first seem, and yet it is this and this alone that constitutes the tipping point towards abject ruin at the alter of top-down centralisation.
This concentration of “decision-making” certainly isn’t an overnight process,iv but top-down socialist democracies inevitably reach a form of unparalleled fragility, dependent as they are on the shamans of economic prognostication. So no matter how much stability and peace they promise, they will break and they will break catastrophically, despite and in fact entirely because they only ever had “the best of intentions.”v
This is iatrogenics, that is, harm caused by the healer, at the statal scale, as Nassim Taleb so aptly describes in the following quotes from Chapter 7 of Antifragile:vi
We all love peace and we all love economic and emotional stability – but we do not want to be suckers in the long term.
Leaving aside whether “all” is merely “nearly all,” this is the essence of the Faustian bargain proposed by central planners: they’ll give us short-term stability now in return for delaying long-term ruin for as long as they can.
This is the essence of the incentives built in to democracy, which so elegantly descends into socialism before unmasking the totalitarian dragon lurking beneath.
Just a little bit of fire here and there gets rid of the flammable materials in the forest, a little bit of harm here and there in an economy weeds out the vulnerable firms early enough to allow them to “fail early” (so they can start again) and minimize the long-term damage to the system.
An ethical problem arises when someone is put in charge [of the economy]. Greenspan’s actions were harmful, but even if he knew that, it would have taken a bit of heroic courage to justify inaction in a democracy where the incentive is to always promise a better outcome than the other guy, regardless of the delayed cost.
Of course, ruin of one sort or another is inevitable, and it’s far far better to break sooner, smaller, and at the local level. Large, centralised economies break later, larger, and have the potential to make devastating impacts. As we saw with the popping of the US housing bubble in 2007, and in China in 1959:
The famine in China that killed 30 million people between 1959 and 1961 can enlighten us about the effect of the state “trying hard.”
Though the solution to the malicious monster of centralisation, once unleashed on “the people,” by the very same, is nowhere to be found, certainly not in the left-right political construction…
Alas, it has been hard for me to fit these ideas about fragility and antifragility within the current U.S. political discourse – that beastly two-fossil system. Most of the time, the Democratic side of the U.S. spectrum favours hyper-intervention, unconditional regulation, and large government, while the Republican side loves large corporations, unconditional deregulation, and militarism – both are the same to be here.
Both “left” and “right” favour bigness over smallness, and are therefore both pro-fragility. Even the libertarian ideal of laissez-faire everything is too naive and, like socialism, can never work practically.
Leaving only: capitalistic decency.
Perhaps the idea behind capitalism is an inverse-iatrogenic effect, the unintended-but-not-so-unintended consequences: the system facilitates the conversion of selfish aims (or, to be correct, not necessarily benevolent ones) at the individuals level into beneficial results for the collective.
Even though the inverse-iatrogranic effects of capitalism have been repressed for over a century, you can’t keep a good thing down forever. The splendiferous decency that lays ahead of humanity is already starting to burst through the dark skies.
And it’s all because of Bitcoin: the most powerful underpinning for an economy yet devised by nature. Nothing else is so immune to intervention, nothing else so neatly cleaves the state from any meaningful participation in the economy.vii
This purest, sweetest form of capitalism is the most decent thing in the world. And we don’t even have to wait until it’s mainstream.
We can start being decent right now.
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- If you’ve ever wondered why more than a hundred links to Mircea’s work on my blog, it’s because gems like this are more frequent there than, as near as I can see, anywhere else on the web. [↩]
- Well, at least the presumed security offered by the state. In reality, this is at best security theatre (eg. taking your shoes off at the airport) and at worst creating TBTF institutions. [↩]
- That’s Uri, author of Poèmes écrits à Bergen-Belsen en 1944 en sa treizième année, not to be confused with Dmitry Orlov, author of The Five Stages of Collapse. [↩]
- Anyone familiar with the later stages of such centralised bureaucracies will know why the quotations around “decision-making” are so deserved. Everyone can say “no” but no one can say “yes,” lest they’re later found guilty of “wrecking” or otherwise hastening the decline of the empire, as if the inability to take action wasn’t the exact mechanism by which everything dies. [↩]
- Good intentions are fine, but are entirely subjective and therefore in no way a sufficient excuse for evil deeds. Evil deeds being those that arise when only good intentions are present. Without learning, without skills, and without perspective no good can be achieved. [↩]
- The forebear to this 2012 publication, The Black Swan (2007) was arguably the book that has influenced and informed my worldview more than any other as a young man. And I found it serendipitously on a bookshelf at the local bookstore.
This is the essence of why curated recommendations like those offered by Netflix, Google and Amazon will never replace physical stores and word of mouth. Randomness is too important to our growth. Randomness is also, incidentally, what large states promise to protect us from. Go figure! [↩]
- No state can print more of it to buoy failing firms, no state can coercively tax its citizens to balance its own books, and everyone in the world can transparently see what new capital* is entering the market. It’s right there in the math – frozen as if in an entablature.
*That is, capital as measured in bitcoin and only in bitcoin. Dollars are infinite, and property, even that overlooking Central Park in New York, idem, and therefore neither nor anything else can be a measure of capital anymore than can be the width of horizon on the wide-open plains of Nevada. [↩]