Civil Society


Success Breeds HateWhen people are presented with the alternatives of hating themselves for their failure or hating others for their success, they seldom choose to hate themselves.

–Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals, p. 77 (2005).

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tower-of-babelIn a recent post, Adam Garfinkle talks about why our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan will necessarily fail.

Well, strictly speaking, he is talking about statism and anarchism, and advertising campaigns, and the Tower of Babel.  But he still gives a pretty good explanation of why we are tilting at windmills in the Middle East.

What also follows from this is a second verity of political life, namely that the political institutions of any society emerge from that society far more than the other way around. The United States is a democracy because its founding society was egalitarian-minded, not the other way around. All of the American Founders and all of their tutors, from Locke to Montesquieu to even the great bad-boy of the time, Rousseau, understood this. The idea that a governmental form could remold or create a society after its desired image earned the derisive label “talismanic” at the hands of William Taylor Coleridge.

I have noted this concern before, in my much less erudite way.

This is absolutely fantastic, and I completely understand the point.  Kudos to the Italians for making it work. 

This study is directly relevant to life as an associate at a big law firm.  As an associate at a big firm, one competes with other associates for a very limited number of partnership positions.  Associates work crazy hours, respond to emails at all hours of the night, and generally have no life. 

All associates would actually be better off if all associates would agree to be mediocre.  If all associates billed 500 fewer hours per year across the board, the same people would still be made partner — the result would be unchanged — but we would all have an extra 500 hours to enjoy. 

This doesn’t work though, because someone will always cheat.  (We are lawyers.)  Even if everyone agrees to bill only 1800 hours, there will always be that guy who thinks he can get ahead by billing just a few more hours.  It becomes a race to the bottom where the desire to provide a future for one’s wife and children competes with the crushing mental and physical anguish of billing yet another hour. 

The Italians seem to have solved that problem with a combination of social pressure and lowered expectations. 

L-worlds: The curious preference for low quality and its norms

Abstract. We investigate a phenomenon which we have experienced as common when dealing with an assortment of Italian public and private institutions: people promise to exchange high quality goods and services (H), but then something goes wrong and the quality delivered is lower than promised (L). While this is perceived as ‘cheating’ by outsiders, insiders seem not only to adapt but to rely on this outcome. They do not resent low quality exchanges, in fact they seem to resent high quality ones, and are inclined to ostracise and avoid dealing with agents who deliver high quality. This equilibrium violates the standard preference ranking associated to the prisoner’s dilemma and similar games, whereby self-interested rational agents prefer to dish out low quality in exchange for high quality. While equally ‘lazy’, agents in our L-worlds are nonetheless oddly ‘pro-social’: to the advantage of maximizing their raw self-interest, they prefer to receive low quality provided that they too can in exchange deliver low quality without embarrassment. They develop a set of oblique social norms to sustain their preferred equilibrium when threatened by intrusions of high quality. We argue that cooperation is not always for the better: high quality collective outcomes are not only endangered by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities.

(HT Kids Prefer Cheese)

(HT Dennis Gartman via Carpe Diem)

This time, in Marja, the largest Taliban stronghold, American and Afghan commanders say they will do something they have never done before: bring in an Afghan government and police force behind them. American and British troops will stay on to support them. “We’ve got a government in a box, ready to roll in,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander here.

Well, I’m convinced.  What could possibly go wrong?

hubris : noun : Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

— The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

(via Reason)

People increasingly need to prove themselves victims in order to achieve any kind of equity.  This demeaning demonstration creates nothing less than a nation of powerless petitioners and petty litigants appealing to an unresponsive paternalism.  It creates the very class which voted for brute fascism, permitted the Holocaust and a World War, because it believed that social stability was something easily achieved by a few simple, mindless actions, by violence, by “strong leaders”, by “discipline”.

— Michael Moorcock, Introduction to Von Bek

retarded : adjective : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development

— Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary

So, Rahm Emanuel call a group of White House aides and liberal operatives “retarded” when they were planning to air ads attacking conservative Democrats who were balking at Mr. Obama’s health-care overhaul.  Sounds pretty accurate to me.  Only someone who was “slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development” would think that it was a good idea to attack members of one’s own party on the morning after a colossal slap down.

Now, Sara Palin goes all Jesse Jackson on his ass and insists that Emanuel resign.  What happened to all Palin’s threats of “less politically correct twitters“?

Just one more reminder that Democrats and Republicans are different sides of the same coin.  Both want to spend our money and control our lives.  They just have different plans of attack.

I bet most persons with intellectual disabilities couldn’t care less how Emanual describes the idiots* he has working for him.  Maybe that’s a lesson for the rest of us.

(* Oops, I probably shouldn’t use that word either — idiot : noun : a mentally retarded person having a mental age not exceeding three years and requiring complete custodial care.)

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