The State is a tool for violent suppression of one group of people by another with massive transfer of resources from producers to the State’s clients. The State grows within Society pretty much like cancer grows within organism with the similar result achieved over time. There is no way to stop it, but it still worth to try to understand process and write about it for individuals with interest in understanding of society history and future.
- Author introduces notions of difference, conflict, and distribution of power between the State and Society. The State in this case is government with its hierarchy of bureaucrats and violent machinery of army and police continuously obtains more and more power pushing out Society from different areas by using mechanism of emergencies and protection from various threads.
- This chapter is about USA specific indexes of increase in the State power: Concentration of power at the federal level; Dramatic increase in numbers of bureaucrats at all levels; Conversion of poverty and government provided assistance into permanent political asset for the State
- This is a brief review of the State growth with emphasis on history, which clearly demonstrates that it is not a new process brought in by the New Deal, but rather continuing development from the very beginning of the republic. Author also stresses the generic nature of this process common for all humanity and easily recognizable in all its variations existing at the time whether it is Italian Fascism, Russian Bolshevism, or German Hitlerism.
- This is a look at the specifics of the process of the State taking power from Society as it occurred in Western democracies: USA and Great Britain. The key difference is that in democracies no spectacular revolution similar to Hitler’s or Lenin’s occurred and the State grab on power is conducted in stealthy way, successfully trying to avoid cultural resistance. It also stresses indoctrination of youth as one of the post important tools of the State expansion.
- This is an interesting discussion on nature of societal change with stress on cultural socialization that instills specific attitudes to the State, Society, and power in people’s mind so some conditions of live perceived as normal and dramatic change in such conditions leads to revolutions and change. The examples are: conversion of colonial America into republic via revolution against Britain, monarchical Russia into collectivistic via revolution against Russian upper classes, Germany and Italy from constitutional states into totalitarian.
- This chapter represents a more detailed discussion about two different method of organization that author calls Society and State with reference to Thomas Paine and Jefferson’s contemplation on organization of Indian tribes that represented Society without the State.
- Here author goes even further back into history discussing Aristotle who, author believes, confused state and government. Author then expresses the opinion that the State is based on banditry, war, and confiscation. The important point here is that the State is predicated on existence of wealth to steal or rob. If there is no such wealth as in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, there is no place for the State.
- This part is about Herbert Spencer and his analysis of the State with specific examples of British state encroaching on British Society. From these examples the State comes out not as some acting entity, but rather as a tool in form of bureaucratic hierarchy that violently redistributes resources to benefit controllers of this hierarchy. Theoretically aristocratic state uses force in interest of aristocracy, merchant state in interests of merchants, and proletarian state in interests of proletarians.
- Here author looks at the reality of the State when it is quite obvious that it is bureaucratic hierarchy and regardless of formal arrangements it always uses its power in interests of bureaucrats. The danger of this is that in its growth and aggrandizement the State is devour Society that could mean its destruction similar to destruction of Rome and contemporary Europe is moving closer and closer to the point of no return.
- This part is about the State’s development in America. The interesting point here is that American colonial institutions were to large extent of Dutch origin rather than British. These institutions were geared up to serve merchants rather than aristocracy. Author discusses in details what he calls Merchant-State that opened road for individualism in all areas of live including religious live and eventually leading to ideas of popular sovereignty.
- Here author reviews history of American institution and influence of the fact that British state and its American subjects were separated by ocean and it was really impossible for this State to have close control in such circumstances. It was also complicated by civil war in England and by the fact that semi-private entities such as Massachusetts Bay Company were real power in colonies at the beginning.
- Here author discusses the idea that natural rights and popular sovereignty not necessarily were philosophy of American Merchant-State at the beginning. Rather it was quite undemocratic based on practices of Bay Company and provided support for state religion. However author also reviews role of the people of Rhode Island and their subversive promotion of democratic ideas, that eventually took root everywhere in America.
- This is continuing discussion about history of the State in America where violent nature of the State as tool of robbery was somewhat limited because of huge amount of available land and small numbers of population made land speculation relatively poor method of exploitation.
- Here author looks at causes of American Revolution and comes to a tentative conclusion that main cause was English attempt to limit westward expansion and acquisition of the new land for increasing population. Overall however it was clash between existing British State violently protecting interests of British upper classes and fledgling American States violently protecting interests of Colonial upper classes.
- This is an interesting look at contradiction of ideas expressed in Declaration of Independence versus actual practices of colonial leadership, and Constitution of 1789, both of which practically ignored these ideas.
- Here author looks at the idea of the State and its application by mass-men who kind of support this idea and happy to see use of State power to support their interest. However in reality the State slowly takes over society killing it as parasite kills a living organism.
- This is look at the mechanics of power play of 13 initial states of America with specific stress on absence of any attempts to support ideal of the Declaration of Independence.
- This is the review of multiple interests and ideas that drove 13 states together leading to creation of union that become much more powerful state than was possible in previous arrangement.
- This is a look at the American party system that even in its infancy demonstrated an interesting variance of attitude to strict constitution depending on position of the Party. Party in power neglects constitution and Party out of power demands strict adherence.
- This is a discussion of seemingly parallel development of people’s attitude to the state to historical development of attitude to the Church: initially unrestricted support with slowly growing enervation. This enervation develops as result of continuing intervention of the state into multiple economic activities sometime leading to improvement, but much more often to deterioration of quality of live.
- Here author discusses ethical approach to the state that he characterizes as ignorance and delusion combined with moral debility and myopic self-interest. This follows from general lack of understanding of the nature of the State as anti-social institution. Author believes that the State growth is a natural condition of humanity and it will continue until the State completely destroy Society similarly to what happened many times before with ancient civilizations.
- In the final chapter author expresses believe that Western society went too far in the process of destruction by the growing State. But he still believes that it worth to write such essays for some individuals who enjoy understanding of the world, even if there is no practical way to correct its problems.
My Take on it:
I think it is a very nice and neat essay about the State nature and characteristics. It is very much close to my understanding of this thing, but the big difference is that authors believes that process of state growth and killing society is non-stoppable, while I think that it is just an intermediate part of process and society has great chance of recovering mainly due to development of new information processing technology resulting in complete change in relations between humans and environment on one hand and different groups of humans on another. Obviously it remains to be seen, which one of these two believes will eventually pan out.
The main idea here is to analyze evolution of memes in noosphere as self-directed actors similar to genes using for illustration variations of teepees design in Indian tribes. This analysis provided using background of travel through great planes and discussions of their history. Author also makes an interesting suggestion that memes are taking over from genes the role of main object of evolution.
Part I: Only Human
Chapter 1: Weirdoes: Misting Up; The Top Five Weirdest Wonders in All Creation; Super-Natural?
At the beginning author establishes his philosophical views on the world stating that everybody looks at the world through some goggles and his are Darwinian goggles. However not everything fits into Darwinian model and he provides top 5 deviations with humans being at the top place because author considers human brains a huge overkill for needs of survival.
Chapter 2: The New World: The Great Indoors; Sandwich Selection; Little Lars on the Prairie; The Road to the Ultimate Problem Solver; Future-proof; A World of Our Own; Into the New World;
Here author presents the new artificial world that humans created for themselves and then provides his classification of live depending on method of evolution:
- “Darwinian” Creatures: regular evolution with change occurring at genetic level and selection by survival of next generation
- “Skinnerian” Creatures: evolution occurs at the level of randomly changing behavior with beneficial patterns continues and harmful patterns not repeated. In other words behavior trial and error.
- “Popperian” Creatures: evolution is still at the behavior level, but trial and error is supplied by preliminary modeling of the future in the brain or in other word by planning. That’s where a big brain becomes really useful: better memory and analytical abilities provide for better modeling of future outcome of actions.
- “Donnettian” Creatures: evolution occurs not at the level of one brain, but at the level of multitude of brains interconnected via language, visuals, and now via Internet. For these creatures the survival occurs not at the level of individual, carrying behavior pattern of models of the world, but at the level of memes that represent such patterns and models.
Part II: What’s the Idea?
Chapter 3: Evolution, Minnesota: Is the Force with Us, Always? Mr. Darwin’s Idea; Finch Mob; Barn in the USA;
Here author discusses and applies Darwin ideas to the meme of barn construction pattern in Minnesota.
Chapter 4: Variation, North Dakota: Plains Sailing; Barn Different; A Port on the Plains; “Home Sweet Home”;
The same analysis continues as author travels through Great Plains where it expands to include not only barns, but also teepees.
Chapter 5: Inheritance, South Dakota: Biological Brothers, Cultural Cousins; The Front of the Barn; Dead Man’s Hand; Tepee or Not Tepee; Big County, Big Picture;
Since author travels with his brother, analysis expanded to similarity and variation of presenting ideas of supremacy of cultural development over biological inheritance. The same extended to barns and teepees analysis.
Chapter 6: Selection, Wyoming: Mindless+; The Evolution of the Cowboy Hat, Served Three Way; The Idea;
Here author looks at evolution of Stetson hat and comes to conclusion that nobody really invented cowboy hat, or rather that hat invented itself by preserving features consistent with cowboy’s patterns of selection, regardless of reasons given for this.
Part III: History Lessen
Chapter 7- Mind Out: Goggles Off; Watchmaking; Differently Dull Flipbooks;
Here author is claiming to look at the world without Darwinian goggles, which he believes limit our ability to understand evolution of ideas in noosphere. He begins with the story of theologian William Paley who came up with analogy of watchmaker to reaffirm need for a god as intelligent designer of complex biological world, causing Darwin to provide detailed analysis of evolutionary development of human eyes by presenting multiple light perceiving organs of various complexity that could be encountered in nature. Then author comes up with his own analogy of evolution as flipbook each page of which could be representing variation in evolution of a specific individual starting with original cell with huge share of pages at the beginning common to all animals. Then he applies this analogy to barns, which could also have their own flipbook.
Chapter 8: How the West Was Won I: Finding the Edges: Hear the Herd? Trail and Error; The Southern Herd; The Nature of Panic; The Northern Herd;
Chapter 9″ How the West Was Won II: June 25, 1876: Culture’s Last Stand; Getting to the Phone; A Space for Design; A Space for Genius;
Chapter 10: How the West Was Won III: America Making: The Maul of America;
Making America; The Secret of Sitting Bull’s Tepee;
These 3 chapters are retelling histories of American movement westward with accompanying pushover and even destruction of Indian cultures. It is also retelling history of buffalo herd annihilation. This is used to build analogy with ideas that author considers to possess similar qualities to animals and as such are being developed and changed by evolutionary process only with changes being much more frequent and flexible.
Part IV: Who’s Driving?
Chapter 11: A Beginner’s Guide to Tepee Taxonomy: Among the Crow; Sort it Out; Tongues in a Twist; Drummers in the Dark; A Pattern of lslands; Poles Apart;
Chapter 12: Bound by Imagination: The World Turned Upside Down; The Medicine Wheel; Imagineering; Life’s Ratchet; Building a Super-super-super organism; Flipping Gulls; The Yellowstone Blues; Life Is Simple;
Chapter 13: The Genes of Culture: A Model Idea; Blackfoot Country; The Idea Behind These Goggles; The Indian Tipi; On the Origin of (These) Tepees
These 3 chapters are combination of discussion about nature of life and attempt to apply it to ideas of teepee construction. It is then extended to notions of superorganizm that includes multitude of DNA and Memes combined into one entity. Obviously it could be built in bigger and bigger entities until some multi-super organism includes everything conceivable. The supporting illustration is provided by teepees.
Part V: Mysteries Solved
Chapter 14: The Past: The Dawn of the Smelly Heads; Border Crossings; Food for Thought; The Art of Aping; Head-Smashed-In Humaneering; A Symbol Creature; Reason to Believe; The Ghost of an Idea;
For some reason author initially deviates into discussion of olfaction – ability to recognize smell specific to mammals. He seems to believe that it was one of important factors for development of the brain and that it allowed mammals to take earth over when dinosaurs were removed, opening multiple ecological niches. Then he follows through evolution process that resulted in creation of symbolic world of noosphere. From this point it is meme that is main subject of evolution and human hosts are just a necessary support system for memes for now, which may or may not be necessary for their existence and further evolution in the future.
Chapter 15: The Present: Welcome to the Jungle; Idea Ecology; The (Post) Modern World; The Truth
This is final summarization of author ideas based on current environment with projection into the future when “meme life would triumph over gene live”. The final truth author believes in is that memes already took world over to such extent that we all have goggles that distort reality to adjust it to command of memes occupying our brains and the only way put is to communicate intensively with other people who have different goggles in order to break free from memes’ control.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I find ideas of this book somewhat interesting, albeit not really consistent with reality. The reality is that memes are just a notion existing in human brains in form of neuron connections and levels of their conductivity, making them extremely flexible easily changeable via signals received from senses and changes in internal material conditions of the brain. Genes, however, are not easily changeable and correspondingly to high extent define structure and functionality of animals making their evolutionary process slow and maintaining high levels of stability. We humans and other animals with all our complexity and huge amount of unconscious processing are still one and only entities that consciously build representation of the environment in our brains and act to move from our current situation to whatever situation we consider an improvement over the current. Neither genes nor memes have such ability and I am not sure that attempts to analyze development and evolution as if they were self-directing entities are that useful.
The main idea is that American government system arrived to the point of paralysis when bureaucracy greatly impedes nearly all activities, dramatically decreasing quality of live. This is result of huge overuse of laws and regulations, which prevents people from applying initiative and practically removes individual responsibility of bureaucrats. There is no easy remedy, so it could be done only via addition of 5 new amendments to constitution that author proposes.
This starts with example of a tree that fall into the creek. It had to be removed, but some official recalled that it is C-1 type creek so it took many days for bureaucracy to approve tree removal. This is as fine example as any of bureaucracy’s paralyzing impact on American everyday live.
Part I The Rule of Nobody
THE RULE OF NOBODY
Here author provides more examples of bureaucratic activities or more precisely lack thereof and makes 2 propositions:
- America has lost the ability to make public choices
- Doing anything well requires human energy and judgment, but if left to bureaucracy all energy goes to career building and nothing is left for getting something actually done.
Author supports the first proposition by describing huge negative impact of regulation on ability to do what needs to be done. The second proposition is stating the obvious fact government regulation redirects human energy to jumping through bureaucratic hoops in order to get permission to do something instead of actually doing something. Consequently it becomes a lot easier to avoid doing this something
RETHINKING THE RULE OF LAW
This is discussion of lawyerization of American live and tendency of democratic government to create insurmountable mountains of legal rule to limit ability to act for public officials. Here author makes another two propositions:
- Regulating with precise dictates undermines the goals of law in most social activities
- Compulsive distrust of human choice is anti-democratic
REGULATING BY PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
As effective alternative the author proposes is to give much more space for decision making to government officials setting up clear objectives and leaving them to decide and act as they wish in order to achieve objectives. As example he provides Australian reregulation of nursing houses, which materially improved lives of their customers by giving more discretion to bureaucrats. Two propositions are:
- Regulating by principles revives human responsibility
- Regulators should focus on results, not punishment
THE FRAMEWORK OF LAW, PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD
Here author discusses boundaries of law that in his opinion defined in America way too narrow limiting human ability to act according to specific requirements. The proposition is:
- Official authority requires an open area of choice defined by legal boundaries
This would mean practical expansion of legal boundaries allowing bureaucrats more space for actions.
ENDING BUREAUCRATIC AMORALITY
The traditional American attitude is that ideology of bureaucracy is that it has no ideology. The same applies to morality: bureaucracy should be amoral. Neither of these two ideas is conceivable in reality. This leads author to the next two propositions:
- Public choices that avoid values soon embody bad values
- No act of government is morally valid unless it can be justified as being in the common interest
HISTORY OF HUMAN CHOICE IN AMERICAN LAW
This is a brief, but interesting review of relations between human action of judges and law either codified or common. It starts with original constitutional discussion when Madison stressed that piece of paper could not possibly govern, but it rather men who do it, but constitution should provide framework for such action and keep them within commonly accepted rules. Author then goes into history discussion creation of administrative law and regulations as methods of governing without responsibility.
GOVERNMENT BY REAL PEOPLE, NOT THEORIES
After reviewing process of governing, which is always done by real people, author comes up with 3 more propositions:
- Law must empower officials to apply social norm
- Authority properly understood dramatically expands freedom
- American Government must be rebuilt on the principle of human responsibility
Part II Restoring Human Control of Democracy.
DEMOCRACY WITHOUT LEADERS
This chapter starts with an example of infinite continuity of governmental programs due to impossibility of decision makers to stop them, even if there is 0 chance of such program to be approved now. Then it goes to abdication by Congress of its constitutional responsibility to legislate and transfer of this responsibility to bureaucracy. This situation practically led to triumph of lawlessness because infinite number of laws and regulations and their huge complexity practically allow bureaucrats to do whatever they want.
A NEW CHARTER FOR PUBLIC LEADERSHIP
Here author is trying to show that this situation could not possibly keep going for a long time and dramatic changes are coming. He makes a few more propositions:
- Clean house: Congress should appoint independent commissions to propose simplified codes in each area
- All laws with budgetary impact should sunset periodically
- The President must have effective powers restored
- Judges must act as gatekeepers, dismissing invalid claims
CITIZEN SUPERVISION OF GOVERNMENT
Author believes that traditional democratic election and free press do not provide citizens with sufficient control over government and proposes additional measures:
- America needs a Council of citizens to oversee government
- Fixing democracy is a moral imperative for citizens, not just for public officials
Appendix: Bill of Responsibilities–Proposed Amendments to the Constitution
Amendment XXVIII: Sunset of laws
Amendment XXIX: Increase in presidential authority including line item veto
Amendment XXX: Complete presidential power over personnel in executive branch
Amendment XXXI: Limitations on lawsuits
Amendment XXXII: Establishment of Council of Citizens to oversee government
MY TAKE ON IT:
It is very good analysis supported by numerous examples of government going wild. I agree that situation will lead to drastic measures and I believe it would be more drastic than anybody can imagine now. I would guess that it would be on the scale of New Deal if not bigger because it would have to clear huge pile of laws, regulations, and, most important, change established habits of mind. Hopefully it would lead to completely new legal arrangement for society with a lot more freedom to act than Americans have now. The alternative of continuing on the same path for a long time seems to be unfeasible, because it would lead to continuing deterioration of quality of live and Americans are not known for accepting such outcomes without fight.
The main idea is that human personality includes two pieces: conscious self and adaptive unconscious, which are somewhat loosely linked. Of these two the unconscious includes a multitude of processes managing not only low level controlling functions, but also emotions, attitudes, and is responsible for a significant share of decision making. The conscious self is mainly limited to formal long term planning and justification of whatever person did as result of complex unconscious processes. The clear understanding of this could help individuals not only understand how their brain works and what kind of personality they really have, but also modify this personality into direction they want using roundabout processes like “ to do in order to be”.
This book is about self-knowledge or, more precisely about our current understanding of interplay between conscious and unconscious in human decision-making, actions, and behavior. It goes way beyond Freud’s ideas, retaining practically only his notion of unconscious being much more significant part of personality than it was perceived before.
1 Freud’s Genius, Freud’s Myopia
Here author discusses unconscious in contrast to Freud as adaptive unconscious that is a number of autonomous and semi-autonomous systems in the brain and nervous system that manage a multitude of parallel processes in such way as to assure an adequate response of the human individuals to inputs representing continually changing environment. Here is a brief catalog of such processes:
- Lower order mental processes that occur outside awareness
- Divided attention processes
- Automaticity of thought
- Unconscious prejudice
- Lack of awareness of one’s own feelings
- Nonconscious self
The implication of all this is that it is not possible to achieve self-insight without taking into account all these unconscious processes going on in our minds. Author believes that it could not be achieved by introspection, but could be obtained by carefully analyzing our own behavior and how others react to us.
2 The Adaptive Unconscious
This is a more detailed look at adaptive unconscious that author defines as evolutionary adaptation. Adaptive unconscious here is viewed as background processor of 11Mbit/sec perceived by our senses and supporting the following functions:
- Pattern Detection
- Relevance Filter
- Interpretation of inputs based on previously acquired knowledge
- Evaluation of inputs and production of feelings and emotions
- Unconscious goal settings
3 Who’s in Charge?
Here author briefly discusses philosophical implications and provides a neat list of properties for comparing adaptive unconscious vs. consciousness:
4 Knowing Who We Are
This is unconventional look at psychological traits research, stating that personality contains two relatively independent parts: conscious construal of self and adaptive unconscious that are not necessarily in synch. This is demonstrated by low correlation between personality traits indirectly defined via questionnaires and observed behavior of individuals and opinion by others. These two parts control different types of actions: adaptive unconscious controls spontaneous responses, while conscious self normally controls complex planned responses. Author provides some guidance for external assessment of behavior:
- Scanning patterns: Chronic Accessibility
- Transference: seeing old in new
- Working models of attachment
- Dual motives and Goals
- Variance between self-evaluation and evaluation by others
5 Knowing Why
This chapter is about causes of our actions, which in reality are often hidden in some areas of the brain inaccessible to our consciousness. In such cases consciousness often used to generate a plausible story for reasons of our actions, which is typically has nothing to do with real reasons. A good example is experiment that is involving people with divided brain, when information causing action is presented to one part of brain, while remaining is unknown to another, which quickly invents causal story. Experiments show that causal explanation of own action is often not better, than explanation of action of strangers.
6 Knowing How We Feel
Similarly to actions emotions and feelings are often product of adaptive consciousness generated without knowledge of conscious self. Author believes that in this area psychoanalysis could be useful, helping people to understand their own feeling. Author discusses two main uses for this: unconscious early warning system and love / hate attitudes. He present description of experiments demonstrating that it is quite possible for people to believe that they have one feeling, when they actually have another one.
7 Knowing How We Will Feel
This chapter continues discussion of emotions only this time not current, but anticipation of the future. People typically either over or under estimate their future condition as consequence of some event. Neither winners of lotteries nor victims of disable event experience long-term happiness or suffering they expect. The effects are typically wearing out over relatively short time returning people to their typical emotional condition before event demonstrating high levels of resilience.
8 Introspection and Self-Narratives
This is about attempts to discover one’s own personality and unconsciousness through introspection. It goes back to Freud and his idea of archeological digging in individual’s history and memory to discover suppressed memories and emotions. It is illustrated by example from real estate experience when a good professional would never except buyers description of what he wants, but would lead buyer through process of discovery by showing different houses and carefully registering unconscious reaction until the unconscious set of requirements identified and appropriate would be sold. Similarly author is highly skeptical about requirement lists and sees psychoanalysis as discovery process to identify emotional needs and causes of problems.
9 Looking Outward to Know Ourselves
This is about using various objective methods such as time of reaction to subliminal messages to identify individual’s unconscious attitudes. For example it become popular to test racial attitude by pairing views of white and black faces with good and bad words. For example pair black and robbery and white and neighbor considered as fit together causing quick reaction, while white and robbery causes slow reaction. Also important for self-understanding is careful analysis of reaction of other people to us. Typically our own evaluation would be either over or under mark.
10 Observing and Changing Our Behavior
The final chapter is about observing our own behavior as the most important source of self-knowledge. A good quote for this from E.M. Foster: “How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?” In addition author looks at process of self-fabrication when person actually becoming what he/she is doing as in “do good, be good”. On other side of self-fabrication is fundamental attribution error when people attribute their actions to external circumstances. All this creates an opportunity to mold ourselves into whatever our conscious self wants us to be by doing, consequently training out adaptive unconsciousness to be what we want it to be. As example the author’s ability to overcome introversion by consciously forcing himself communicate with other people led to increased easiness of doing it and change of personality to be higher on extraversion than before his conscious effort.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I pretty much agree with notion of complex personality model with conscious and adaptive unconscious being semi-independent parts. I think that this understanding creates opportunity for people to use indirect methods such as analysis of behavior and feedbacks from others in order to improve understanding of adaptive unconscious and train it to some tricks that our conscious self wants us to be able to do. The methods of reaching to one’s adaptive conscious and taming it should become a big part of education for any human being.