On Social States

metropolis

(Disclaimer: this is more metaphorical or more literal based on your preference. I don’t think it changes much about the argument.)

I

There’s a joke about fish and water and ignorance. We know about oxygen, so that’s not our joke. But our joke is similar.

The setup differs, but the punchline is always the same: “I thought you were in charge here!”

It says something (bad) about us that we use the same for inspiration: “The power was within you all along.”

II

Imagine that aliens are studying human institutions.

These anthropologists are interested in human order. They start with a basic premise: the ordering mechanism is one. What use would it be to have two sets of laws? Who could keep track of that? [1] 1. Even in cases where there are different laws for different classes, e.g. feudalism, the ordering mechanism encompasses both: indeed, that division is occasionally the major tool for social organization.  Law and culture are viewed as the same thing, and xenolinguists confirm this; the concepts are linguistically indivisible in many languages. This theory is uncontroversial from (arbitrary start, certainly incorrect) the Holocene until about ~2500 years ago. A few stray papers unsettle the community, but it isn’t until after 500 or so years that the anthropologists split into factions. Holists adhere to the old theory: law and culture are one and the same. Karatomists argue that there’s a new paradigm. The power center has split.

The Karatomists want to know: if Law is one with Culture, then why do two separate interpretations apply? They point to change. Ancient cultures (obviously) shifted culture over time, but the law shifted with that. In modern times, the law responds or fails to respond to social changes that predate an otherwise legal shift, that concurrently influence it. This heavily implies that there are now two components (ordering mechanisms), one exoteric and one esoteric. Xenolinguists back the Karatomists up: culture and law have indeed begun to split among various human languages.

Göbekli Tepe to Athens is a lot longer than Imperium to America, so I feel comfortable jumping to 2017 (loose Moore’s Law and all that).  A married senator is caught playing King of the Hill, but the Hill is a dozen nubile twenty-somethings. This senator obviously loses the midterm. “See!” the Karatomists say. “There’s no law against that. Why would the humans care?” The Holists chock these cases up to human inconsistency; they point out that this is neither unknown nor particularly novel (burn). The Karatomists persist: they note that the freedoms we brag about are not the same as their enforcement: “Making adultery legal was a thing they considered to be freeing but they don’t even follow their own rules!” Karatomists: Social rules aren’t codified, but they act exactly like laws do. Plug in anything you want: [professional] says [racial slur] and is fired. Aliens: “But free speech!” etc. Here, our aliens are apparently Republicans, but w/e and also: yes, that will be addressed.

Karatomists aren’t arguing for chaos, it’s the Holists who are. Karatomists believe that there is consistency, but it’s hidden. Holists believe that there’s one law, but its influence is arbitrary. The Karatomists sneer at their interlocuters and drop their final point: it’s not just social pressure of unwritten laws. The written law itself is subject to dispute based on unwritten codes. They mean this in two ways. We both write new laws based on unwritten mores, and we interpret existing law based on mores. 2. I don’t mean to imply that the dynamic between written and social law is always one way or another. In practice, it’s confused, and the two either reinforce or change each other mutually.Nowadays, we call this selective enforcement. One group gets to write laws, and that is powerful indeed. But another gets to interpret them, and, indeed, pressure those interpreting them. [2]

The Holists sneer right back and produce a copy of [newspaper]. “If social laws have so much power,” they begin, “Then why do humans swear that they don’t?”

III

The earlier aliens (maybe the same ones – I don’t know how long aliens live) would have observed something we’ll call a nomos. The concept is Greek (νόμος), and we know it from Axial Age disputes, i.e. our great shift.

nomos is alternately defined as law and custom, precisely because it’s the confusion between the two.[3] 3. The distinction between Lycurgus and Solon in state craft is instructive here, see: Plutarch’s Lives. AlsoAristotle’s definition of politician as nomothetes (νομοθέτης, “law-layer”), but then that person was also meant as a role model for the citizenry in their ethical (daily) life, which implies a definite confusion in the term dating (at least) to axial age polities.nomos is the disposition of the citizen that connects them to the state. It’s closer to the particular ethical code that binds a citizen to their country. 4. A democrat (the ideology, not the party) prefers private clubs runs on democratic lines. When one breaks up, the next is likely to be founded along democratic lines, etc. Better: it’s what both allows them to be a citizen and makes them to desire to be a citizen of that state. The easiest way to understand it would be to say: if the government suddenly disappeared from a state of nomos everything would not only maintain identically, but reform in the same way. Thus a nomos carries down: as a mixture of law and custom, it defines that citizens in private interactions behave in the same way as they do in public ones. [4]

That concept is still buried somewhere deep in our subconscious, because otherwise calling  [Subversive Book] “unamerican” wouldn’t make sense. It’s pretty American (legal term) to be allowed (constitutionally) to publish such a thing. The “unamericanness” is the content (culture), in the assumption that one’s character (social) ought to befit the (legal) values of their nation.

Of course, we all know how these fights go. Yeah. About that.

IV

We don’t have a nomos. We have law and…. something else, often called custom or social dynamics or [other here].

That shift comes with the Axial Age, but it’s most noticeable with Augustus (below). I have my own theories (stolen, of course) as to why this took place, but I don’t want to theorize about the “why” now. I mean to describe the current situation, and comparing change better illustrates than static classification. Group dynamics are better explicated by individual deviation or adherence; large social change is best understood by reference to history.

The Holist/Karatomist dispute is so obvious that it wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but we forget it literally every day. Partisans of both the Left and the Right agree on one thing and one thing only: the enemy is running the country. Both are right, which is why both can produce graphs. The Left is winning the culture war, and the Right is winning the economic war. [5] 5. The history of political hegemony in two graphs:
Marginal tax rate for highest earners (Right)
Public opinion on same sex marriage (Left) 
Naturally, neither side wants to hear this, and I expect many comments telling me why their side is both: a) better but still, b) losing. Compose yourself before you compose it, please.

The karatomic position can be glossed as “dualism of power.” I’ll be using the same terms as this analysis: structural power and social power. Structural power is economic, or governmental, or bleh, and its form is the Right assuming most major offices of the United States. Social Power is the media, word-of-mouth, pop-culture, and [this one is a lot more diverse so it’s hard to name them all but you get the idea]. Its form is.. as varied as you’d expect. Sure, it’s 3 Doors Down being the big player at Trump’s inauguration. But it’s also Leftist terrorists (freedom fighters, w/e), getting big applause from celebs. That’s not bad or good, it just is. This is the form of power the Left has.

I don’t like breaking up my flow with charts, but people don’t follow links (NSFW) and you really need to understand just how lopsided this is. Yes, I understand what a Rupert Murdoch is. I didn’t even have to look up his first name.

With the exception of the above link, most people’s mouths are useless and their defensive eructations doubly so. If you want to know how people really feel, don’t listen to what they say. Look at how they spend their money.

Here’s a chart of campaign donations, don’t you F-F-Fox News me:

professions-by-donation
Through the miracles of science, I can tell you that Hollywood is 5 times more politically biased than the fucking tobacco industry.

Here’s journalism broken down:

newspaper_print_media
I can’t even snark here. It’s just… woah.

It’s ironic that theories of media manipulation and simulacra (Chomsky, Baudrillard) come from the left. Look, I know that those liberals are not the same as good leftists. But I am saying that if the media actually perfectly manufactured reality (which I dispute; it does so but in a much more limited sense) then everyone would be a good liberal. Simulacra is a word that coal miners won’t know, but academics will. Speaking of which:

academics
This is kind of a gimme, but w/e

No, I don’t particularly care about muh liberal bias, shut up whiner. I care a lot more that the regents at least know that they’re in charge. To deny that power is to be unable to harness it correctly, and to be unable to harness it is to fail over and over and damage people while you do.

If the enemy always has total power then you’ll do whatever it takes to knock them out. But if both sides think this, and each side controls one kind of power, then they tend to use it terribly. It becomes monstrous eternal combat that everyone loses, each side gulagging according to their form of control while claiming purity of purpose. This, obviously, leads the enemy to reciprocate.

It keeps both parties from understanding how they won while encouraging more ruthless tactics, which then encourage more ruthlessness on the opposing side. Every action has consequences and power makes the radius splashier. There’s no such thing as benevolent power, didn’t you watch Spiderman as a kid?

I’m not going to write about structural power right now. That form has a billion analyses better than mine would be, and when I do write about it, I will probably just be aping those. Social power is much more interesting at the moment, and it’s interesting precisely because the people who most deny it are the ones who most wield it. Rarely has a group assumed such power, and with such Machiavellian tactics, while so thoroughly misunderstanding itself. Compared to the Left’s insane divide between intention and effect, Mr. Magoo is practically John Stuart Mill. That the Left bases itself in the academy now is so divinely humorous that it might as well be a proof of God. Indeed, the missives of Leftist academics exacerbate the gulf, revising their victories to losses and converting losses into victories to 4/4 marching orders. A more cunning creature would have ulterior motives: the freedom to claim victories and disown losses through political calculation. The Left does not do this, nor does it attempt anything that resembles even vague shrewdness.

If someone insists on extracting advice from this essay, then they can focus on the “winning tactics” aspect. But this essay is descriptive, not prescriptive.

“If the left denies it, then how do you know-”

Eppur si muove!

V

The most common definition of a State is Max Weber’s. It’s the entity that has a “monopoly on legitimate violence.” The key term there is not violence, but legitimate.

“Monopoly of legitimate violence” sounds simple, until you realize that no one actually has a monopoly of violence, anywhere. No country lacks at least one or two low-level insurrections. Hence, legitimacy.

“The UN determines it,” based on who already has it, based on an ouroboros. Here’s my claim: any given individual determines legitimacy POW BLAM, fucker. The Oklahoma City Bombing: legit or no? That 99.9% of you say “no” doesn’t revoke the passports of the Americans who say “yes”. 6. This was a joke, but you can legitimately understand the world through this lens, i.e. American currency as dominant. If Weber means only physical force in the most vulgar sense, we are in a monopoly. Someone might argue that more power “made” it at some arbitrary cutoff, but neither the ability to kill nor fear of it killing you make a state, see: a) suicide bombers, and b) I rest my case with (a). If something as easy as “more power” determined the state, then there would only be one state at any given moment. And it would be the most powerful one. [6]

“Monopoly on physical violence” makes you assume cops, the army, etc. But what about death squads? I don’t know a single leftist who would argue that the Caravan of Death operated independently of Pinochet. Here’s a nasty example from our own history: what about lynching?

If the state chose not to intervene, then the state was providing them legitimacy, and if the state was providing them legitimacy, then citizens lent it to them. That the government is now not cool with lynchings isn’t a change in structural power, it’s a change in social attitude. “Selective enforcement of the law”, again. There are two legitimacies: the “writing” of law, and the “use” of it. Lynching was technically “illegal” (structural) after Reconstruction. It only became actually illegal through social pressure.

Here’s an easier point, and it’s nicely connected: how does non-violent protest work? “It doesn’t, we’re real revolutionaries!” Guess no one told the British East India Company.

That is how social power works. Doesn’t have to be non-violent, of course. But if it wasn’t real, then non-violent protest simply wouldn’t work. Period.

VI

All of this is about to be stupidly simplified, so don’t come at me with details. I don’t mean to lay out a complex theory of politics and capital here.

It’s hard to define the exact frontier between social and structural power, because there are realistically two different “legitimacies” working. One of these is structural: i.e. the letter of the law. The other is social: interpretation and change. You get where this is going. There are two states, and they’re locked at war over America’s soul (or something). This means that both alien factions are correct: each state operates on one principle, we’ve just admitted two of them. You thought I was going to pronounce either the Holists or the Karatomists correct?

Jokes on you! Dialectics, combine that shit.

One thing is the same: they both require enforcement. States can’t enforce that monopoly of violence without taxing it, because tax is how we get power. Paying taxes is what we normally mean by “legitimacy”.

I’m using “enforcement” in a broad sense. There’s the obvious negative enforcement, i.e. “don’t do that” laws and their enforcers (military, police). But there’s also the positive enforcement. “We’ve passed a law to do this thing, and we need the money for its completion/agency (social health care, NASA, the EPA, etc.).” It can be termed legitimacy because the state’s “power” is granted by you. Over simplifying like crazy, but there’s no secret government fund, there’s only tax revenue that provides support for political enforcement. 7. Obvious, but this is why tax resistance was such a popular tactic until recently. “Not in my name” and all that. You may not be a worker at NASA, but your taxes are what make it exist. Taxes, then, can be thought of as a legitimating activity.[7]

We pay structural tax in CREAM. The state takes a determined amount so that it can implement its (our) positions. Marxists will say that capitalist labor is coercion, and Libertarians will say that taxes are. I’m going to ignore both of them and take an impossibly naive view of society. Your job is something that benefits you but also provides something that society values. The state takes some amount of that as a tax to maintain the security and economy that maintains your job. The more you “benefit”, the more you’re paid, and normally you pay more back into the state. Everyone wins! Hooray for no zero-sum games! (This is Pangloss glossing, and yet somehow it’s what most economic models are based on. Which must make economists: […])

But we also have social currency. Social currency is more than a metaphor, and I  know that because it’s fungible.[8]8. See: publicity campaigns (structural to social), and GoFundMe (social to structural). There’re often a visible but meaningless tarry on this, i.e. “intelligent people” “see right through” publicity stunts, “They just want my money, well fuck them.” This has been planned out beforehand, angrily sharing the article with commentary is spreading the message, i.e. was planned.  Same with social to structural: “I bet [internet celebrity] is just faking their problems for money, what an attention whore, etc.” Social currency ideally works the same way as income/personal taxes. You do something that benefits both you and society (hanging out with friends, making art; thus giving advice, participating in political discussions, etc.) and receive an amount back based on your benefit. Hip kids get laid, but it takes effort to get hip.

The social state then takes some amount of that for enforcement. There are politicians (activists, maybe celebrities, lol Sean Penn, etc.), there’s a bureaucracy of various agencies (protest and social pressure groups, community structures, etc.)[9] 9. A fair amount of this is going to depend on community, but that’s not different than structural power. Federal law covers both Nevada and Alabama, but local and state law are quite different, ask your local prostitute. Same thing with social dynamics: local structures may be more conservative (Churches, etc.), but it’s the metaphorically “federal” law that we’re interested in. Every community has things you can’t say in it, but these are often uncontroversial in larger structures and vice versa. News is dependent on which sites you visit and thus which get ad revenue; protests depend on mass support or at least acceptance; etc.) And, yes, there’s a military wing: the dreaded “PC Police” to borrow the Right’s term, but more generally: the media. These enforce societal norms.

What it “takes” (i.e. what the taxes are) is nebulous and incredibly hard to describe, but it’s easiest to imagine in terms of time. If your structural tax rate is 10%, then the government is effectively taking 10% of your time for its enforcement. Thus, instead of doing [hobby], you share news or go to protests or condemn such and such. At the very least, you’ll passively support people who depend on social power for a living (retweet DeRay, share that Vice article, decide to hate Iggy, w/e).

Legitimacy is the key term, and it’s often funneled through the social structure.

The Left bitches about paying taxes for the military and the cops, and they point to the Drug War and incarceration rates and etc. But it’s the same cops/military they call on when [bodily harmful incident] occurs, or that intervened and crushed Southern segregation. The Right bitches about “the PC Police” and will point to specific egregious instances of it, but it’s those very PC Police they call on when the KKK are marching through their streets. Despite what you may think, the average conservative also hates the Klan. Besides, why do you think they’re so obsessed with extracting confessions from Al Sharpton when he fucks up? Same reason the Left protests police shootings: We hold our cops to higher standards. Put another way: You’ll notice that the Left never asks David Duke to “apologize.” There’s a reason, and that reason is power.

(Most) people are going to say “I don’t do [blank] consciously”, but that doesn’t matter. Most taxes are passive support, i.e. you unquestioningly pay NASA scientists despite neither being one nor knowing what they do. I’m not married to this, but one way to think about speech, which is obviously social, is in terms of sales tax. You can’t just take whatever you want (give your opinion) without paying the state its due (not using flagrantly offensive language).

The line between these two gets very confused, but social pressure is almost always behind major initiatives. In a democracy there are votes for new policies, duh, but even existing institutions often rely on it. This would be the “selective enforcement” thing. HUAC was dangerous not because it was institutional but because there was widespread social force behind it, see: disemployment, the Lavender Scare, etc. It would likely not have the same power in the same form today, because the media has a different ideology.

VII

It goes without saying that this doesn’t have to be moral. It still sometimes isn’t. If a politician ran for office and it was revealed that they were super into Thomas the Tank Engine, posters everywhere, etc. most people wouldn’t vote for them. They would be a laughing stock. Hell, their entire career would be “Oh, yeah, the Thomas the Tank Engine person.” That’s not morally bad or good, it just kind of is. We’ve decided that serious adults shouldn’t be that into kids shows, and pressure accordingly.

In general, though, most moral sentiments are forms of social power. Everything in economic, and these have economic axes. If you take anything from this article, take this:

Structural power is rich and poor. Social power is good and evil.

VIII

Why do we pay both? Well, because nomos is uncoupled, but I don’t really know. And the easiest way to put it is: there are realistically two states.

I know that we do, and the proof is in American sentiment growing both Right and Left at once, i.e. the public has accepted both as legitimate. Which means, you know, taxes. Taxes and states go together, but we understand neither.

This is the part where a state is going to stop appearing as simple legitimacy. No one just “comes up” with a state – we’re born into a certain government and we choose whether or not to accept it. We do legitimize it, but that’s not the same as creating or [whatever verb]. Being born into a pre-existent social structure means that the state takes on mythical and ineffable proportions, and for all intents and purposes functions as though it is completely beyond you.

Legitimacy doesn’t mean control. Control implies decision making, deciding between myriad options. Legitimacy is binary: do you assent or not (we basically all assent).

The state (not the people) determines what taxes are to consist of, i.e. I can’t buy a beer for $2.99 but pay sales with nail clippings. You also can’t just determine which activities merit taxes. The state determines that, and it taxes you accordingly. These can be important to you or not, but it doesn’t matter what you think. You pay, or [a sorrowful fate].

Structural power runs off of and taxes money, the US Dollar, because the US Dollar is power and having it means you have much more structural power.But social power taxes in x, and defining what x is is insanely difficult (see above). I understand that my inability to define something is literally intolerable in all this insight porn, but have you ever tried to quantify social regard?  I’m going to call these both “currencies”, but remember that structural currency is green-backs and social currency is a big fat social x.

The state determines what’s important to it, but your taxes determine if the state is important to you. As structural power, this is obvious: a person more invested in a monetary system is going to care more about why and how they get taxed in that currency (wealth correlated with Republican and Libertarian views at least in taxes). In general, most people want lower taxes, but there is one critically important exception: war.

That 10. This is (essentially) why Locke thought that only landowners should be citizens: only those with a vested interest in the state are going to defend it and pay for it. Hell, even defense should properly count as tax. A state can run without tax, see: America, 1776. But it needs an army if it’s threatened, and there’s basically no difference between corvee taxes and military service without pay. “We pay now!” Well, yeah, but if there’s no taxation there’s no treasury, which means no money for soldiers, which means that it would have to be landowners paying (corvee or wage) one way or another, i.e. being the only people invested. interest can be international, i.e. very few patriots are dealing in Renminbi, but it can also be intranational.[10] A major reason why your interest in taxation determines your relation to the state is that states would cease to exist without taxes. No money to enforce monopoly = no monopoly. Anarchy and other et ceteras. “People with more power are more invested in the system.” Fucking. Duh.

IX

Since the Axial age there’s been a divided social power, and (I suspect) an accompanying social state. But changing that is difficult.

The modern American Left began with unions, which means the exertion of economic power. But starting in the 1960’s, the Left began to lean heavily on social power. Why they did this is a great question, and not one I’ll be answering. How they did this is more interesting. The Left managed to confront a conservative social state (just-post-HUAC; at the very least passive acceptance of lynching; housewife-as-female-norm) and eviscerate it. That’s a lot done for a movement relying on new forms of power.

We’ve all had Thanksgiving conversations with [recalcitrant family member] – it’s like pulling teeth and then eating them or [better metaphor for difficult things]. Persuasion is fucking hard, and it’s not easy to see how a small group (anti-segregation activists in the ’60s, say) can persuade vast swathes of people (the rest of the US in the ’60s). But then you notice one thing, and it all falls into place. That thing is Augustus.

X

The mos maiorum was the traditional social code of Rome (mos is the rough Latin translation of nomos; plural mores is how we got social mores). When Augustus took power, he needed a way to change the Empire’s laws without being accused of changing the Empire’s laws. What he came up with was brilliant. He declared that he was simply protecting Rome by reinstating its traditional code (now discarded).

This is great for my argument, because it’s a clear example of break between law and social code. It’s also great because it defines the mechanism of social power.

The left’s arguments were along many lines, but there’s one so popular that it still gets repeated today in a variety of situations. It’s the same move as Augustus using the mores: the Left returned to our sacred code. It was the Declaration of Independence, and they simply quoted the second paragraph: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

Fine, this is the single actionable thing to take. Don’t use it to become August. Successful social movements work by exploiting dissonance left over by the division of nomos. They appeal to a tradition or sacred document. Want to know why every attempt at a “total global consciousness revolution” has failed? That’s why. Don’t try to create radically new structures.

One final word on this that I  suggest you take seriously: both sides exploit this, and it can go fucking horribly. The Civil Rights Act was good, but good uses are historically rarer than bad ones.

I’m not even trying to Godwin’s law here, it just comes naturally: there’s a reason that fascists are always trying to bring about radical returns to “ancient codes”. That the Left has control over it (i.e. can best exploit that dissonance) at the moment, does not mean that their control is permanent.

XI

The Left “won” socially, but that means that they needed to enforce their territory. Hence, the actions after desired institutional acts (CRA, VRA) are both more interesting and much more decisive for the social state. Anyone can use social power to win one battle – making a state of it requires permanence, which requires enforcement.

Taxes are instituted for a variety of reasons, of course, but since I’ve been simplifying this entire time I might as well continue the trend. You know the answer. Yes, it’s enforcement. But that they’re instituted for this reason says nothing about their subsequent effects. Every human was “born” – does that mean that my biography is identical to yours?

The Right (and especially the Far Right) likes to talk about persecution for “thought crimes” – this is silly, especially because the Left mostly purges the Left for thought crimes, see: next article. But it also creates an inaccurate image of how the social state works. It works like, well, a modern state. By which I mean: it’s not an occupying army, and most people aren’t cowering in fear of it. Most people like it “ok, I guess.” They certainly accept it, because that’s how legitimacy works. Yeah, I know, what fucking sheeple.

That doesn’t come from enforcement (at least not negative enforcement). It comes from the way that the Left chose to tax after assuming control. A simple change in the law is not enough to change one’s attitude towards it, especially when there’s a regime change. See: Roe v. Wade, the EPA. The fruitful case study here is not whether the Left can “enact” what it wants (sometimes yes, often no; identical to the Right in this respect), but in social attitudes for the minimum  standard set by the state, i.e. the taxes.

Upon achieving power, the Left instituted a tax in their own currency. This means that, essentially, they “made everyone citizens.” The tax is everything I described above, but its easiest definition is “political correctness” (extremely broadly defined). Sure, it raised the tax rate for some people, and for others it totally changed the currency, but it invested them in the continuation of the system. This was devastatingly effective.

In terms of race, an easy (though for that not complete correct) way to understand it is “color blindness”, or at least the required outward expression of that ideology. This might also be understood as being against “biological racism”. Even if this is simply “surface”, i.e. disapproval of outward racism, the shift is still gigantic.  America took 60 years to move from pro-Segregation to antiracist in ideology. This does not mean in action. We  aren’t “post-race” or whatever other dumbass statement you want to attach to me. Inequalities still exist, but we’re ideologically oriented against “racism” in its outward forms. While this gets worse in private polling, the trends still move up (famous examples are support for segregation and interracial marriage). That’s a tremendous Leftist victory, and one that they should take pride in.

This is still a social tax. One way you can tell that is that there is a difference between anonymous vs. public polling. The trends still point towards up (i.e. anti-racist) but not as strongly when anonymous. This means that people are paying attention to social ramifications of their beliefs, i.e. the social state’s involvement. Another way you can tell is that all politicians have to do [diversity event] during a campaign, and this is called “lip service”. It is – don’t get me wrong. But calling it that implies that it’s “the least one can do” or at least not proactive. It’s a tax, in other words, and you don’t get any special credit from the government for simply paying a tax.

But people are still personally moving in an ideological direction. It’s not simple enforcement, or fear of purge. This is because taxes are not always negative psychologically. In fact, they can behave pretty much in the opposite way.

XII

It’s easy to see the effects of taxation on state coffers. Harder, but no less important, is the effect of taxation on the citizenry. “They get poorer, jackass.” Possibly sometimes, made-up conservative ideologue, but nothing has one single impact. What is not a three-body problem is a four-body problem, and what involves people is a [very big number]-body problem.

I will now ignore that and point to four psychological effects which are important for the purposes of this article. Italicized after them are the implications of this for taxation in social currency. I’m mostly going to stick with race, but you can easily apply any given [culture war] topic in here that you want.

1) Taxation creates and defines a market. As for “creation”, there are more extreme claims (Graeber) and less extreme ones (Smith); no one will argue that tax set limits of market behavior (for or against this influence, w/e).

One thing is pretty indisputable: taxation in a state’s currency greatly increases the use of that currency, i.e. creates a market in that currency. Seigniorage, of course, but I mean a much something much more general: traditional markets are often credit-based or use smaller community currency. Citizens have no reason to adopt national currencies until those currencies have power and influence in their daily life. Taxation directly in the given currency makes it a part of the citizen’s life, and influences them to use it more. This invests them in state currency as an object of value, and involves them in the broader national exchange. It brings citizens into the national market, and makes them care about it financially.

The Left opened up a “market” for what we’d now call social justice ideas by taxing people with it.[11]11. Through social ostracism for failure to pay, whatever you want, etc. See below. The Left involved the Right in the system. I have a strong suspicion that for many Americans this is the incentive behind both “I’m 1/16th Cherokee” and “Well, I’m Irish, and you surely remember ‘No Irish’ signs.” It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not – this is social currency being used, normally by conservatives. That it’s “valued” i.e. a coherent thing to say, is much larger than we think. Note that before, oh, ~60 years ago declaring that your family was discriminated against was not a point of pride for most white people. (class consciousness being, perhaps, the one differentiating factor, more on that in every other article I ever write)

Related: “Color blindness” came to be so valued to the Right that it’s now itself known as the “conservative view” on race. “I have black friends.” Yes, and: “I’m not a racist, but…” The importance of the signifier there is the recognition that “being racist” would lose one social standing, as opposed to negative effects of racism.[12]12. The Left does this too, actually. Easy way to confuse someone on the Left and get called Hitler at the same time, ask them: “Why is racism bad?” Slow down, I have my own answers, but this isn’t an open-book test. The point being that the word itself is taken to mean “good” as against “evil” (neither of which ever have definitions.) Q: What does every American say with a smile? A: “I don’t care if you’re white, black, purple, or blue! People are just people.”

2) Barring market failure or government collapse, this results in a power structure favoring further implementation of the currency (and general tax). Groups that successfully navigate new currency and tax structures will outcompete others. This incentivizes them to maintain the current taxation system (or, indeed, broaden it in ways expedient to them) while giving them the power to do just that. Even if all parties pre-tax agreed on its undesireability, outcompetition results in use of it as a weapon to maintain power almost immediately. This maintains and expands the use of the currency among the elite (and thus filters to the poor).

Whoever adopts a currency and a tax first has incentive to use it on their opponents. Do you not think that conservatives do just that? Many Republican probably are racist by my definition, but we’re not talking about what I think – we’re talking about what they think about themselves and how they use that against each other. [identity term]-ist is used by Republicans all the time on campaign trails. No, I have no idea how strongly they mean it. Doesn’t matter – it incentivizes the social tax. No one in a position of power will voluntarily lose a hook they have over opponents. Similarly: little talked about among the Left is the fact that Trump actively used a pro-[preferred acronym for non-hetero sexualities, LGBTQI or longer depending on ideology] to antagonize his opponents. This has opened up a new stance for the Right to use. He’s also trying to do the same by casting immigration measures as protecting gay rights (see: the Reaction to the Orlando massacre). Whether he succeeds at that is less important than the clear cooption of social currency for political power against the Left.

3) Taxation (paradoxically, if you’re a “taxation is theft” person) can give people more, not less, control over the government. This is obviously up to a point, but that’s for a different article. At low levels, it means that government plans are based around a specific revenue that is controlled by citizen remittance. If they choose not to on a large scale, i.e. tax protest, then this can damage a government more than if the state had simply ignored a revenue base. This is obvious individually: advance knowledge of unemployment allows one to adjust accordingly. Sudden disemployment after signing mortgages and for car payments and [etc.] is financially much more perilous (and occasionally ruinous). Having power over something make people psychologically invested in it.

Involvement in the system gives you power over it, which means that you’re further invested in maintaining the system. I don’t even have to reach for this one: what’s the main conservative argument against affirmative action? That it’s racist. See also: literally anything about reverse racism written by anyone. If the original tax was something like “color blindness”, then the Right has become very invested in that as a new American norm.

4) The 13. The BFE is a symptom of the single most important principle in psychology: amour-propre. This is not simple “egotism” as its commonly understood. Amour-propre is a psychological principle (better: tendency) for people to incorporate information in such a way that it conforms to their self-image. This is occasionally confused with “cognitive dissonance” which is merely a case of it. Amour-propre is the general principle, and it is used to resolve conflicts, i.e. cognitive dissonance, but it is not solely for contradictions. Benjamin Franklin Effect (BFE). This is both the most important and the least specific. It seriously deserves its own post, but allow me to mangle it for this current purpose. The BFE states that people are more likely to develop positive views of people who ask them for favors (rather than, say, give them a gift). These positive views are also stronger than doing someone a favor yourself.[13]

In the context of tax-policy, this means that small “favors” requested (i.e. minor taxation, form filling) can predispose citizens more favorably towards the government than “bread and circuses” will. This is (obviously) contingent on what the size of those taxes are. The BFE works if you ask someone for a ride – it’s not exactly the same if you ask them to bump off your boss.

This one is too general to give specifics for, but it’s the only one that can easily explain why much of the Right adopts cultural liberalism as one of its causes. “The Left are the real racists” is perhaps the most common. See also: GWB declaring that his lowest moment as president was when Kanye called him a racist – rejection by the state that you like stings a lot more than anything else.

XIII

These effects obviously stack with enforcement ability, i.e. the state is able to better extract payment for its enforcement while predisposing its citizens towards it. That combination means that taxation in a national currency is possibly the single most powerful tools that a state can use to consolidate power.

In this sense, I am 100% behind “Political Correctness”, and I agree whole-heartedly with (at least parts of) the articles that want us to continue it. Its loss wouldn’t be catastrophic because it’s the one thing keeping Conservatives from screaming [slur] all the time, but because it’s the only thing making them want to stop others from scream [slur]. It put(s) them on the anti-racist side, rather than simply restraining them. I cannot possibly emphasize this enough (this is the part that’s going to sound authoriatian – don’t blame me, I didn’t make the rules): people policing themselves and their neighbors is vastly preferable to trying to occupy them militarily. I think the word is “biopower”.

You have to pay a tax to feel invested in the system. Doesn’t matter what it is, if you lose it then you lose involvement. Everyone knows that Freedom Isn’t Free ™, but that’s because if it was, no one would defend it. “Political Correctness” doesn’t prevent conservatives from racist outbursts. It makes them (or can make them) anti-racists (sexists, homophobes, etc.). To misunderstand this point is to misunderstand everything that comes from it.

XIV

A vulgar understanding of cultural shifts is that one group takes power, and then everyone just… what, gets used to it? Tell that to the Balkans.

Here’s a prime example: when asked about gay marriage, “favor” overtook “oppose” in 2011. In 2011, gay marriage was legal in all of five states. By contrast, 32 states had laws against it. If power simply flows down from institutions, then that favorablity ought to be – let me check my calculations here – yes, absolutely impossible. Indeed, even if the country is moving left because people are “getting used” to liberal laws then – carry the seven, and… – yeah, still impossible.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about generic ideas of a “state” here, but I really want to emphasize something before I move on: by far the greatest power that states have isn’t “enforcement” vulgarly understood. It’s in taxes. And the Left was really, really good at this for quite some time…

…and then “something happened.”

I know. A lot of keyboard warriors are squirming to reply right now. They’re going to point out Trump, and various [right wing things occurring], as examples of the flaws of this theory.

I know that things are going shitty for you. And the reason is that you’re bad at economics.


top image from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

(Addendum on social currency here)
Continued here

Author: Lou Keep

samzdat.com

3 thoughts on “On Social States”

  1. Interesting article, and reading it certainly helped clarify my own thoughts (to what extent my thoughts can be described as “clear” is debatable of course). But it all just reinforces my view that the relentless march of Academic America needs to be stopped before it kills us all. Of course, as a good pessimist I don’t think that has any chance of happening short of the pitchforks coming out.

    I also disagree with your remark that the right-wing complaint about “thoughtcrimes” is silly; yes, most thoughtcrime-purges are left-on-left (e.g. Larry Summers and that Evergreen State College thing) but this is just because genuine rightists don’t even get into left-dominated institutions, e.g. Harvard. I don’t recall Jared Taylor having a professorship anywhere, but that #BlackLivesMatter x 100 kid is all over the place.

    [I have no idea why so many universities accepted Ziad Ahmed. It’s virtually guaranteed that he’s going to go all censorious-thug and we all know that leftist students are perfectly capable of terrorizing their professors, administrators, etc. But I guess the admissions officers aren’t going to be the ones bearing the brunt of this guy’s antics. And, of course: ye who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind! How does it feel now, Stanford?]

    So if you don’t mind, the rightists have every reason to complain about political correctness and thoughtcrimes.

    As for the social-vs.-structural power divide: remind me which way the country is going? As Moldbug says, Cthulhu swims left. The Republicans own the government, and yet is there even a hint of rolling back gay marriage?

    Perhaps the New Left has struck a Faustian bargain here by selling out the labor unions; but that’s just the way it goes, because the New Left doesn’t need the labor unions, doesn’t represent them. The whole thing is a byproduct of the victory of Academic America against Traditional America – and that victory is absolute, it’s the real story, it isn’t subject to this stuff about winning socially but losing structurally. The leftist parts of Traditional America, i.e. the blue-collar unions, lost just as hard as the churches did. The universities have positioned themselves as the guardians of Truth, Justice, and the American Way and sold their own credibility so hard that 44 million Americans owe some 1.4 Tn dollars in student debt. That’s almost double the total credit card debt (eat your hearts out, capitalists) and when you have credit card debt at least you know what you bought with it! Only 27% of college graduates find work related to their major; too many, I suspect, attend college simply because it’s what is socially expected of them.

    And this sort of glut produces the insane proliferation of hard-left identity politics we see on campuses. So many go dreamy-eyed into the social sciences; they know that the pay is likely bad, but they want to “change the world”, i.e. they want power (Moldbug again). But there is only so much power to go around. With such competition, how can you push your way to the trough? In Stalinist Russia, how would it be done? Per Scott Alexander: “There isn’t enough Stalinism! We need two Stalins – no, fifty Stalins!”. To translate into 2017 American academese: “#BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatter…”

    This not only furthers the power of academia, but it creates the conditions for social reform to fail so academia can declare that it needs more power, etc. until the system collapses. Maybe we’ll reach the Singularity before that happens, but then again maybe we won’t. “We need more minorities in the sciences!” Really? Why? Do we need more white guys in the Cleveland Cavaliers? I thought the point was that places like these (http://twentytwowords.com/the-fbi-says-these-are-the-10-most-dangerous-neighborhoods-in-america/) suck, the people who live there need some help, and what on earth is Harvard going to do about that? Oh, right, they’ll pretend that you got a few hundred extra points on the SAT, how could I forget. We’ve had affirmative action for nigh on 50 years now, how’s it been working out?

    And of course this is yet another self-reinforcement mechanism, not least because it reinforces the idea that to succeed you need to go to college, preferably a super-prestigious one. Who are you without Harvard? Nobody, that’s who.

    So these disadvantaged guys get their big break: they wind up at Harvard and find that, surprise, they can’t compete against the ten bajillion 1337 Azns who scored perfect on the SATs and play two instruments and spent every weekend studying calculus and chemistry or whatever. So they go where none of that shit matters, aka “social sciences” or “humanities” etc. etc. “Welp, what can I do now?” Better go all-out, “Hey, ho, these racist professors have got to go!”, threaten some nice people who just want to learn some fucking biology. I don’t blame them for that because it’s not their fault but I’m not going to pretend that it helps and I’m not going to pretend that they shouldn’t get backhanded for it. Spare the rod, spoil the child. [I do blame #BlackLivesMatter kid because he’s a goddamned tiger child from Princeton NJ, he should know better but he’s too power-hungry to care.]

    And yeah, thanks to “political correctness” and the movement that spawned it, the right has now latched onto an “anti-racist” position. Was it worth it? Are things improving or worsening for minorities? Who’s to blame for the 70% out-of-wedlock birth rate among black Americans (and 30% among white Americans, jeez can’t we do anything right)? We’ve come down a bit from the dystopic crime rates of the 1970s and 1980s, go us, but it’s still much worse than the 1950s and 1960s i.e. before any of this stuff happened.

    Ok, I think I’ve ranted long enough, but that’s how these issues look from where I’m sitting.

    Like

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