Sunday, November 19, 2017

The individual of methodological individualism...

is a modern invention:
Prince Modupe of the So-so tribe says that at the turn of the century in Africa, “Any destiny apart from the tribe was, of course, beyond the limits of either imagination or intuition. It was as un­thinkable as that one of the bright orange legs of a milli­pede should detach itself from the long black body of the creature and go walking off by itself.”[9]

Chief Luther Standing Bear reports that a Lakota “could not consider himself as separate from the band or nation…to cut himself off from the whole meant to lose identity or to die.”[10]

Alexis de Tocqueville emphasizes that in premodern Europe an “aristocracy link[ed] everybody, from the peasant to the king, in one long chain.”[11] Jacob Burckhardt, the great scholar of the Italian Renaissance, explains that during the Middle Ages a “man was conscious of himself only as a member of a race, people, party, family, or corporation.”[12] If I were born in Medieval Europe, I would have understood myself as a part of a whole. When asked “Who are you?”, I may have replied, “A Vignola from Padua, a stone carver, and a member of St. Anne’s Parish.”
Query: do you think the So-so tribe is a kind of mediocre bunch?

Re-marketing anarcho-capitalism

Mr. Karaoke sent me the following:


Of course, I think Peterson's point is good -- we can't do without government -- and it illustrates how "ancap defense agencies" should be re-marketed by their advocates: here is a better form of government: it is a sort of extreme federalism, with multiple, overlapping jurisdictions associating in loose federations.

That might indeed be a better form of government than we have now: we'd have to try it and see!

But it is a form of government.

Which we need, since, as Peterson notes, we have to reach some agreement on the rules for social interaction. E.g., can one, per Walter Block, pry a falling person's fingers off of one's balcony or shoot a kid who wanders onto one's property to retrieve a ball, or per Roderick Long, are those responses dis-proportional to the intrusiveness of the initial property rights violation? To debate such questions is to engage in politics. And that can't be done away with without the "bad anarchy" (i.e., chaos) taking hold.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The primacy of the concrete

"God has no need for general ideas; that is to say, he never experiences the necessity of grouping a great number of similar objects under one heading so as to think more comfortably... General ideas do not bear witness to the strength of human intelligence but rather to its inadequacy..." -- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, November 17, 2017

The NP Turkey


We have a real problem this Thanksgiving:

"With a big turkey, you start running into some big problems. It takes longer to thaw if it's frozen and then exponentially longer to cook."

This means that if your 8-pound turkey cooks in 4 hours, your 16-pounder will take perhaps 1000 hours, and your 28-pounder is going to be in the oven for maybe 30,000 years.

We need to solve P = NP? fast, so that we can see if there is a polynomial-time way of cooking our birds!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On the way to the banquet...

There was an entrepreneur, Elon, a great creative genius, who, having made his fortune, retired to a manor high on a hill overlooking a small town. He went there to have peace and quiet in his retirement, but nevertheless he had a number of interactions with the townspeople, and grew quite fond of them. He knew that most of them were not wealthy, and so he decided to throw a great banquet for them, and demonstrate to them his affection. He sent out the invitations, and everyone from the town said they would come.

In the days leading up to the banquet, Elon planned an evening that would shower the townspeople with the best of everything: He hired top chefs from around the world to prepare dishes for them beyond compare. He scoured the world for the very finest wines, and laid up bottle after bottle of the those vintages for them. He hired a troupe of dancers and musicians of the highest caliber to create a magical performance that would leave them enchanted.

On the day of the banquet, the townspeople got dressed, and one-by-one and in small groups they headed toward the hill. However, uncertain of what they would find at the banquet, many of them stopped along the way. And they stopped at the places their habits led them to linger: some of them went to the all-you-can-eat for $9.99 buffet in town, and stuffed themselves on inexpensive, ill-prepared food. Others, more accustomed to the local pub, stopped there and drank many cans of cheap beer. Yet others stopped by the local strip club for a little sensuous entertainment.

Once the pilgrims arrived at the manor, those who had gorged at the buffet could not even taste the exquisite food set before them, they were so replete with junk food. Those who had gone to the pub were drunk on cheap beer, and could not even finish a glass of the vintage wine. Those who had stopped at the strip club watched the world-class dancers, and could only wonder why they were not taking off their clothes.

But one of the townspeople, a very poor dishwasher named Manuel, had simply dressed up at home, and headed straight up the hill. He tasted the food, and knew that there was no sweeter food in the world. He drank the wine, and realized that no liquor was more gently intoxicating than these vintages. He watched the dance performance, and knew he would never see one finer.

When the banquet had ended, Elon, with great sadness, sent all of the guests back down the hill, all except for Manuel. Manuel, who had truly understood the gift he had been offered, he invited to stay with him in the manor, and there Manuel lived out his days in great happiness.



Friday, November 03, 2017

No, Deneen is not a reactionary fantasist...

and no, he does not deny liberalism's accomplishments:

"First, the achievements of liberalism must be acknowledged, and the desire to 'return' to a preliberal age must be eschewed. We must build upon those achievements while abandoning the foundational reasons for its failures. There can be no going back, only forward." -- Why Liberalism Failed, p. 182

This passage highlights a danger I noted in Oakeshott on Rome and America: while for several centuries Romans simply respected and followed the mos maiorum, the way of the ancestors, when their traditions began to break down, there arose a brand-new traditionalist ideology. Whereas previously Rome's traditions had been followed in an organic way, one which allowed them to also be organically modified, once they began to break down, a faction arose demanding that those traditions be turned into rules, and that those rules must be followed without deviation (and thus without allowing any organic response to changing circumstances).

And this is an error that too many modern conservatives have committed: they wish to return to the 1950s, or the 1920s, or the 1890s, or 1783, or whatever other period they admire. Such a return, as Deneen clearly recognizes, is impossible. We can try to preserve the best aspects of earlier times, but we cannot ever just recreate them. And after all, even if we could, given that those earlier times brought about our present situation, wouldn't we just repeat the exact same progression that has led to the present situation that these nostalgic conservatives deplore?

The individual of methodological individualism...

is a modern invention : Prince Modupe of the So-so tribe says that at the turn of the century in Africa, “Any destiny apart from the trib...