20131228 Three Languages of Politics
The Main Idea: American Political division between 3 main groups Conservatives, Liberals, and Libertarians comes from 3 different word views and dominant heuristics, which causes people to use 3 different languages talking about the same event. No wonder people have difficult time understanding each other.
Here they are:
1. Liberal (Progressives) – world is viewed in terms of straggle of oppressors against oppressed: Capital vs. Labor, Rich West against Poor East, and such.
2. Conservatives – world is viewed in terms of civilization against barbarism: Innovative and productive Entrepreneurs vs. Lazy unionized workers, Civilizing West with god given human and property rights against Barbaric East with no human rights and shaky property rights superseded by corruption
3. Libertarians – world is viewed in terms of Freedom vs. Coercion.
To graphically enhance this understanding Three-axis is proposed where every individual can find his point in 3-dimentional space along these lines, while consciously recognizing and placing people only on one dimensional line. For example Liberal could see conservatives and libertarians as being on the side of oppressors, while Conservative could disregard oppression factor and concentrate on civilization and liberty. For example when looking at history of colonization Liberal vehemently hates colonizing power and supports peoples of colonies disregarding technological, moral, and cultural progress brought in by colonization, while conservative would glorify railroads, contemporary medicine, and improved administration, while ignoring oppression and humiliation of indigenous people.
The book reviews state of closure when people incapable to look at the problem outside of their dominant heuristic and, consequently, approach people with alternative heuristics as enemies. This create problems in finding solution for any serious society-wide problem and guaranties incessant and somewhat futile political struggle when nobody can push through their solution while preventing implementation of alternative solutions.
Author’s conclusion is that we need to use multiple heuristics to learn understand each other and it will help us to find solution for the problem.
I do not think it is possible and the only solution I can see is to get away from statewide problems by dividing any problem into smaller pieces, ideally bringing it to the individual level and allowing individuals to solve these problems for themselves in cooperation with likewise thinking individuals. For example currently hot problem of healthcare in my opinion could be solved by creating several different healthcare systems with voluntary participation as decided by individuals. In this case progressives could sign up for government managed healthcare system, while libertarians could sigh up with insurance companies on individual basis. I would even accept some resource equalization between systems as whole based on average health status so if one system spends more then average per the same health status, individuals in this system would pay more. Correspondingly individuals in more effective and efficient system would pay less then average.
20131221 Secular Cycles
This is a theory applicable to agrarian societies and it seems to be pretty well fit into real historical data. The core idea is somewhat Malthusian, connecting growth population to development cycles of society. In short most of conditions depend on ratio of available natural resources to population. The cycle goes through several stages:
1. Expansion – population is small and there is enough arable land to feed it well. It results in population and society growth until it hit some natural o human barrier – borders of powerful neighbor, or geographical limits like oceans.
2. Stagnation starts when the limit achieved and there is no place to expand. Long period of stability with slowly declined quality of life follows for a while.
3. This stagnation period ends by decline usually not expected and quite dramatic often connected to epidemics of contagious disease, or invasion, or some other cataclysm that dramatically decrease population and changes structure of society to some new form in which the cycle starts from the beginning.
The book reviews in details 8 such cycles:
2 for England – Plantagenet cycle (1150-1485) and Tudor-Stuart (1485- 1730)
2 for France – Capetian Cycle (1150-1450) and Valois (1450-1660)
2 for Rome – Republican Cycle (350-30 BCE) and Principate (30 BCE – 285 CE)
2 for Russian – Muscovy Cycle (1460-1620) and Romanovs (1620-1922)
All cycles last between 200 and 350 years and include stages of Expansion, Stagflation, Crisis and Disintegration.
Very interesting is discussion for each cycle of elite’s structure and behavior. It looks like one of necessary condition of disintegration in addition to unsustainable level of population is break down of elite into warring parties of approximately equal strength so nobody can achieve decisive victory until society disintegration is completed and it is ready for the new cycle.
I guess it looks like we are now at similar point, though our society is not agrarian and our elite seems to be not that keen on killing each other, it is rather fight on paper and in the voting booth. However I think outcome of the fight will be a new cycle of reformed society, only this time without population decrease.
20131203 Alan Dershowitz’s Life and Law
This is a nice description of life long travel of Jewish orthodox boy from his Brooklyn background with Yeshiva education to the top of the world as famous lawyer, professor, and writer, powered by combination of intelligence, cultural training for legalistic discussions, and, to significant extent, by opportunities created by previous generation of Jewish lawyers well established at the top of profession by the mid of XX century in America.
The book is divided into 4 parts with first part mainly biographical story, the second part dedicated to AD’s fight for the freedom of speech and reviewed based on 7 legal cases; the third part dedicated to criminal justice and reviewed based on another 7 criminal cases; and the fourth part dedicated to AD’s understanding of equality and justice and his fight for these values based on 3 global issues: Race, Religion and State, and Human Rights vs. Human Wrongs.
I could not say that I was surprised, but I was definitely glad to see that AD despite his left wing background is intelligent enough to stray away from left wing orthodoxy. The fact that he is deeply Jewish while left wing zealots are increasingly becoming Anti-Semitic, obviously has some impact on his progress, but I inclined to think that it is driven more by power of his intellect. After all with XX century’s temporary triumphs of International, then National Socialisms and, eventually, Welfare state followed up by defeat of National Socialism of developed world (Germany and Japan) in WWII, slow disintegration of National Socialism of third world, spectacular falling apart of International Socialism of Soviet Union and Welfare State failure happening before our eyes now, it is more then difficult to remain both intellectually honest and politically Left wing at the same time.
On legal ideas that AD presents in his book I probably agree with some 60-70% with his opinions and I think remaining 30-40% seems to be not completely ossified in his mind so it would be interesting to hear more extensive discussion of them with somebody of equal intellectual capabilities.