03 April 2011

Aretae's A-G

Aretae lists 7 points of disagreement, but in the main for me, I don't disagree with them, they're mostly "yes, but..."

Autonomy. Among the top values people seek, indeed. But the state is very rarely the biggest limiter of autonomy. Where it is, something has gone very wrong. On the other hand, I have little patience with those who happen to exercise their autonomy in attempting to overthrow the state, and then get all indignant when the state runs them over with a tank.

Bad government, and the purpose of the state. States don't need purposes, they happen without one. The nearest thing to a purpose any state has for me is the purpose of preventing a worse state arising.

Chaos. This is one where we agree. Instability succumbs to stability, but too much stability fails in the long run. The question is which is more stable: a broad-based state to which every change is a threat, or a narrow-based state which is more independent of the society it rules, but less limited in what interventions it can make.

Design. Again, agreed. But the exercise of central power is not the same as the existence of central power. Central power is exercised to excess today because each element of the large ruling coalition can exercise only a tiny fraction or the central power, and gains power within the coalition by exercising that fraction. The holders of central power collectively do not benefit from its exercise, but that collective interest is not expressed by constituent individual interests.

Ethics. Ideas of what is ethical are very malleable over a timescale of generations. I suspect that the currently mainstream ethical positions of western societies are incompatible with good government, and I am trying to change them, more than trying to change government directly.

Font of power. The most difficult for me. What enables a narrow coalition to retain power? One answer is the Ethics. For most of history, loyalty to superiors and acceptance of one's desginated place were high virtues. Today, possession of any unearned privilege is unethical. If a move back towards the older ideas could be achieved, would that enable an under-strength coalition to rule peacefully? Or am I idealising a mythical old morality that never really existed?

Game theory. We go full circle. Yes, a narrow based coalition will be more acquisitive, but is that a bigger problem than that of Design above: that the goodies that a broad-based coalition distributes will be distributed on the basis of BDUF? I resent what the state spends for my alleged benefit far more than what its members steal for themselves.

2 comments:

newt0311 said...

Font of power: History shows that it is quite easy for the dedicated ruler to maintain power: he just has to be willing to crush those who would take it away. In a well run absolute monarchy, the Schelling point is obedience to the monarch. Thus rebels are few and far between and easily suppressed. As MM said, the more absolute a monarch is, the easier it is for said monarch to maintain power. See for example Louis XIV.

Aretae said...

1. The sun King spent HUGE energy requiring all his nobles to spend even more energy...thus eliminating most possible sources of dissent. It's doable, by a master manipulator...but only rarely is the monarch such a person. The crushing of dissent was a minor part of his success.

2. States need purposes insofar as an individual has the capability to decide whether or not to support or oppose a state. This was where I was expecting issues.