Modest Proposal III. More Left Wing Media Bias, Please.



” Corporations and their trade associations now spend about $2.6 billion a year in reported [US] lobbying. … That … is about 34 times the total lobbying spending for all labor unions and groups representing public and consumer interests”

In view of which, I would modestly propose that left wing bias in academia and the media is  a necessity, since it is the only force capable of balancing the conservative bias of corporate lobbyists

The standard rhetoric against academic and media bias tacitly assumes either that all institutions should be unbiased, or that all opinion formers should be. But the idea that all institutions should be unbiased is absurd, since you are never going to have a military that is 50% pacifist, or a business sector that is 50% anti capitalist. The idea that the business sector isnt in the opinion formation business is itself only true in that corporate lobying is a more direct means to the ultimate end of influencing policy, leapfrogging public opinion.

But if you have a variety of institutions with a variety of natural biases, then you overall balance is achieved naturally.


Force and Consent.

Objectivists and Libertarians believe in something called the “non-initiation
of force principle”. You are not allowed to attack someone, but can respond
if attacked. That seems fair enough at first glance, but it has a very
incovenient consequence. If someone makes off with your property, you cannot
grab them, because that would be initiating force! Libertarians could
respond to this by modifying the NOIF principle to it is OK to
use force in repsonse to theft as well as force. (That would
be like the “reasonable force” prinicple of most legal systems).
But that would scupper another of their much-loved principles,
that Taxation Is Theft. The argument is that it is the government
that initiates force against non-payers of taxes by sending them to prison.
But if it is acceptable to initiate force if you have been defrauded,
it alright for governments to arrest tax evaders, because they
are attempting to use public services without providing payment,
which is just as illegitimate as walking out of a restaurant without

1. Assume theft is force. Then people who have used public services
without paying have committed theft, therefore they have initiated
force, therefore the government can legitimately respond under NOIF.

2. Assume theft is not force. Therefore fraudsters and other
non-violent criminals have not initiated force, therefore
no one can use force to catch them, under NOIF.

Thus there is no *one* interpretation that allows you
to catch non-violent criminals whilst leaving taxation illegitimate.

Some libertarians define force as absence of consent. But most
people consent to the system through choosing to remain in the country,
voting for parties which levey taxes in the normal ways, and using
public sevices provided for by taxes.

Note that a citizen of Libertopia can find themselves in a very similar situation.

Assuming they have decided that IoF is acceptable enough for effective law enforcement to exist, and assuming there are private enforcement agencies,….where a private law enforcement agency has a local monopoly, someone who doesn’t like them has a choice between leaving, or staying, refusing to subscribe, and facing the threat of force … from criminals, if not from the agency itself.

My argument was an argument against a typical claim that states are not legitimate, because their monopoly on force contravenes some absolute principle of NIoF . But no one really wants that kind of principle, because it is too inconvenient. A NIoF that is flexible enough to allow you catch wrongdoers is justifiable by its consequences, so the state monopoly on force is justifiable by its consequences…and often is.

it isnt considered wrong for people form vigilante groups and take the law into their own hands because of an unconditional  prohibition on force, it is considered wrong because it isnt their job…under conditions where there is a police force. The police have the right to initiate force because they have a set of responsibilities to go with it. Where a society has no such specialists, because it hasn’t evolved them, or because of breakdown, it makes sense for ordinary citizens to do their own crime prevention. That is a clue that the exercise of force by state agencies is exercised on behalf of citizens, that their right to use force is the citizens right which they have handed on to professionals.

The Libertarian can still make the objection that individuals have not consented to taxation;this is based on a narrow definition of consent as an explicit arrangement between individuals.

This doesn’t work too well for public goods, where there are externalities. or where the parties involved aren’t competent adults. Group consent and tacit consent are needed for those. Group consent can be abused outside the appropriate contexts, but you can have meta level principles that define where it’s applicable. And you could write them into your, what I call, constitution.

People who reject absolute NIoF aren’t seeking a free for all, they are seeking a set of carefully constrained and justified exceptions. Likewise group decision making.

Response to Paul Graham Mind the Gap.

1. Graham correctly notes that producing useful things can be a source of wealth, and also incorrectly takes it to be be the only source of wealth. Large sums of money can be acquired by inheritance, unproductive activities like playing stock markets, and luck. (It is ironic that he uses Bill Gates as an example. According to legend, Gates got his big break because Gary Kildare went hanggliding)

2. Everyone is familiar with the idea that there is a relationship between productivity and deserved income, because everyone has been told that if they want a rise, they must work harder. And that’s a large part of the reason people object to 100x income gaps: no amount of sweat could justify it. Markets don’t respond to productivity in the sense of effort: top actors don’t make 100x the films of struggling actors. I don’t think people are stupidly adopting the wrong theory, I think the effort theory is being constantly promoted by people who think it doesn’t apply to them.

3. There is some evidence that equality is beneficial. The point was argued in a book called the Spirit Level, which has generated considerable debate. I am not sure what the right answer is, but Graham is too sure it that inequality is harmless.

4. Some of the people who object to inequality and want to tax the rich want to close the gap, but many more want to see something socially useful done with the money.
Pre industrial societies were very unequal, but but not very innovative. The kind of inequality Graham likes, the meritocratic kind, is not possible without a supply of educated people. Taxing the wealthy and spending the money on education is a feedback loop that keeps the whole thing going.

Corporations as mini Communisms.

Communist central planning has been ritually lambasted here as a strange and horrible thing occurring in a far off land,, and it remains the case that most people spend their working lives in centrally planned organisations, with many of the same problems.

According to the Worst Libertarian Argument (Apart From All the Others), government bureaucracies are useless because their activities are determined by artificial rules and budgets, not direct response to market conditions. However, daily experience in a large corporation is hardly distinguishable from that in a government department. Budgets, goals and procedures are set by remote figures many organisational layers away.

Hierarchy and Efficiency.

The right kind of hierarchy is beneficial, the wrong kinds aren’t. The right kind is meritocratic, a fluid system arousing out of talent, experience and effort, like the hierarchy in a well run corporation. Any departure from this  system is ipso facto less efficient. For instance, the most efficient way of apportioning educational resources is towards those most capable of benefiting from them. People who call for hierarchy are usually calling for return to a more rigid, less meritocratic pattern….the kind that is based on class,  race, gender or other group characteristics. The kind that squanders the talents of the low-status in favour of “upper class twits”. We don’t know how many potential Einsteins spent their lives as goatherds because that’s what they were born into. (It’s no surprise that the West took off so quickly in the last 300 years or so: it was a virtuous circle , with wider education supported economic growth, and economic growth being ploughed back into increased education. It’s also no surprise that the few traditionalistic societies that can compete are bouyed up by resource wealth).

In fact, non meritocratic hierarchies have a double problem. They are not only inefficient because they don’t put the best people into jobs, they are inefficient because the hierarchy has to be maintained with an expenditure of effort in terms of force (“Guards, guards!”) and propaganda (“God bless the King”). Meritocratic hierarchies are the only ones that seem fair, and therefore, the only ones people will support voluntarily: no one complains that the only people with the right to operate in brains are qualified brain surgeons.

Neo and Paleo Reaction.

Neoreactionaries have stated how they differ from other reactionaries, and if someone doesn’t have those distinguishing features they are not neoreactionary. And the distinguishing features of neoreaction are a combination of modern science and transitional wisdom.

The reason that so many NRs are indistinguishable from traditional reactionaries is down to a failure to make the theory work. NRs can’t solve the problem of adapting social mores to rapid technological change by means of planning, because that would be some kind of progressivism. They cant appeal to their favoured mechanism of organic adaptation without slowing down technological change, which adds up to technopphobic conservatism. So they are left just abandoning the adaptation question, and bolting traditional mores onto modern societies and hoping for the best. But favouring unmodified traditional mores is paleo reaction.

Complaining and Inequality.

One of the things complaining is not, is a passive noting that certain things are bad. It’s way of doing something. Rational complainers complain about thing they can affect, which tend to be relatively small scale and close to home.

Another thing complaints about inequality are not is a substitute for threatening or grabbing. Those who have the power to grab, grab, those who can issue plausible threats do so. Complaints about inequality are part of a process of rationally discussing resource allocation, and can lead to reallocations that are preferable ethically or in terms of efficiency.

A successful argument for reallocation involves multiple factors, including the extent of an inequality, it’s tractability, and the benefits of changing it. Natural inequalities, like looks, tend not to be tractable. Opaque acquisition processes make it harder to counterargue that resources were fairly acquired. Emergency situations can tip the balance of argume.nt by creating urgent needs.

Nations, states and nation states.

Maybe there were always two things under the rubric “nation” — the ethnic nation, and the bureaucratic nation — and the “rise of the nation state” was the rise of the idea that the two had to coincide.

Looking at it that way , there perhaps was never a reason for the two  to conflict since they  do different things. Ethnic nationalism
can be satisfied by ceremony and symbolism, bureaucratic nationalism by taxation and treaties.

Which gets us back to Scotland. Something that emerged from the campaign , to the point of being a cliche, is that the Yes campaign was based in the heart, and the No in the head, or, as we might like to put it, in System 1 versus system 2.

Liquid Democracy

Liquid democracy is the idea that individuals should be allowed to transfer their vvote to some other private individual, whom they judge to be better informed. It is not representative democracy, because there is no fixed pool of representatives…anyone can be a proxy.

Liquid Democracy sounds OK if everyone is equal and all transactions are voluntary,, but those are naive assumptions. I can envisage situations, where, eg, some Victorian style paterfamilias browbeats his family into handing over their votes. Perhaps listening to well informed commentators and then casting your own vote is the
low hanging fruit here.

University Sackings: a Modest Proposal.

Whilst I disagree with the Moldbuggians about almost everything,the have bit of a point about academic institutions sacking professors for being too illiberal. However restoring the monarchy (or whatever) seems an over engineered solution to me.

My modest proposal consists mainly of changing some names. Our implicit standard model is that there is a core of mainstream universities, which teach the Truth in an objective and unbiased way, and a periphery of institutions that have an agenda…the catholic and Baptist universities,and so on. I propose that we start calling the mainstream institutions Liberal Secular University of So and So. Since no-one has much problem with a Catholic university sacking a professor who converts to Mormonism , why would they have a problems with the Liberal Secular University of Springfield sacking a professor who converts to scientific racism?

Maybe we should all stop pretending we don’t have agendas.