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20170225 The Demon in Democracy



The main idea of this book is to demonstrate not just close resemblance, but actually common features of East European Communism / Socialism of XX century and West European Liberal Democracy. Most importantly this includes similar objective – to improve world for people by building completely new society and destroying traditional society in the process. The key to common approach of both Communists and Liberal Democrats is attitude to people as abstractions that should be led if necessary by force, to better live whether they want to go there or not. Obviously it is done without real understanding and even interest in lives of real human beings. Consequently this inevitably led to totalitarian inclinations of both systems clearly expressed by their intolerance and hostility to individual freedoms and non-conformist opinions. One of the most consequential results of this similarity in countries of former Eastern block like Poland was easiness with which former communist bosses accommodated to transfer of their countries into Liberal democracies, often taking powerful positions in the new system with huge support of Western Liberal Democrats, while former freedom fighters and dissidents found themselves in somewhat hostile environment due to their adherence to individual freedoms and religious views.



Here author refers to his experience as dissident in communist Poland and member of Solidarity movement who lived through the struggle and societal change to demonstrate his deep familiarity with both Communist / Socialist system and Liberal Democracy in order to validate veracity of his comparative evaluation of the two systems.


In this chapter author looks at historical commonality of two movements: they both are based on idea of inevitable linear progress of society from lower to higher forms of organization. They both linked to Marxist ideology, one openly and assertively relying on totalitarian violence, while another somewhat more softly and mainly relying on democratic process. Both systems aspire to take over all societal functions and both perceive themselves as the final stop in historical development. Author discusses in details notion of discontinuity of the new system from previous history of a given society, when the new system not just ignores, but also actively rejects it. Author also discusses anthropological minimalism as the key to understanding of liberal democracy and entertainment and education as main tools used to form a new either communist or liberal democrat man who overcomes human nature as it was developed through history in order to fit into the new society.


Here author makes point that both Communism and Liberal Democracy are utopian ideologies and looks at their similarities. After that he looks at democracy that is promoted by adherents of both ideologies, but with different levels of hypocrisy. Communists support democracy only until the moment they take power, after which they extinguish it completely, leaving only formal shell such as one party-one candidate elections, while liberal democrats typically not able to achieve complete control of society and tend to loose elections to their opponents after liberal policies cause some economic and/or political disaster. After that author analyses workings of democracy, providing an interesting take on reasoning supporting this form of political organization:

At the end of chapter he provides somewhat funny, but way too real method of Liberal Democracy actions of “coercion to freedom”, which is typical currently in Europe and elsewhere in any area of societal activities that fall under its control: education, entertainment, and mass media.


The discussion of politics points another common feature of Communism and Liberal Democracy: both promise to reduce role of politics, but in reality dramatically increase this role. Author discusses it as a paradox present in each of ideologies albeit somewhat differently. Communism is much more coercive and mainly satisfied with external and formal expression of loyalty with winning minds and hearts of people being secondary objective. Liberal Democracy works much harder and much more successfully on winning hearts and minds using coercion on much smaller scale, however this scale is growing consistently with increase of popular support. This discussion is going into great details of situation in Europe and political developments in EU.

CHAPTER IV. Ideology

This is discussion of ideological similarities between these two. The both see development as teleological process with progress being inevitable. They both see themselves as one and only true ideology and therefore anybody who does not agree with them is under influence of false consciousness. The difference however is that Communism openly accepts this approach, while Liberal Democracy pretends of being non-ideological, just following common sense. Historically Liberal democracy is much more successful than Communism in coercing people to comply with its ideology leading to some very funny examples like white individuals developing black racist attitudes or male developing radical feminist views. Another important point in this discussion is that both ideologies distract people from reality and trying to substitute it with some ideological constructs. Based on his experience author stresses that Communism was eventually destroyed not by challenge from Liberal Democracy, but by more traditional set of views like patriotism, religion, traditions, and strive for freedom. In these terms Liberal Democracy much more powerful mainly because it acts much more slowly, resorting to coercion only after it obtained majority support among influencers if not among general population.

CHAPTER V Religion

This chapter is pretty much application of general approach to struggle of these two ideologies against religion, especially Christianity and how representative of these religions respond. Once again direct coercive nature of Communism led sometimes to strong resistance, especially when supported coreligionists from countries outside of Communist control. However within Communist countries and later within Liberal Democratic world official religious structure typically vacillate between conciliatory and capitulatory approaches, both eventually leading to elimination of religion from human live.


Here author discusses not just affinities between Communism and Liberal Democracy, but their impact on culture and general condition of society. He referrers to his experience in Poland where Communism came in one of the most cruel forms of Soviet occupation that followed after another extremely cruel form of socialism – Nazi occupation. The resulting destruction of culture and tradition turned out to be persistent and individuals formed by the Communism ideology turned out to be perfectly fit into Liberal Democracy as it substituted Communism after it fall. The contemporary result of both and any of these two ideologies is a vulgar and primitive individual who rejected history, traditions, and religion of his ancestors and busy accommodating to whatever current fissionable turn of ideology would provide most reliable access to goods, services, and power. Author can see one of two future outcomes: either the new human being produced by ideology is in reality true human nature and will permanently exist in world of vulgarity and mediocrity, or true human nature is different and would eventually lead to rejection of ideology and return to freedom and aspiration to live a wonderful live.


Since I have similar background it seems to be easy for me to understand where author is coming from. His comparison of these two ideologies is right on target and his characterization of Liberal Democracy as softer, more human, but consequently more dangerous relative of Communism is exactly right. The significant point I think is missing here is that both these ideologies have strong deleterious character for economical as well as cultural development of society. This comes from the key feature of both these ideologies: the strong believe in top down management and control of society by experts, whether these experts are members of Politburo of Communist party or Harvard PhDs. History demonstrated that human society overall and economics specifically are way too complicated for such approach to work. In short both ideologies severely impede human pursuit of happiness to the extent they are implemented, inevitably cause deterioration in production of goods and services, and consequently could not possibly be stable on the long run. The seemingly more powerful ability of Liberal Democracy to convince people in its validity is illusory because a relatively peaceful development and ascent to power of Liberal Democracy, unlike Communism, initially keeps in place market economy that provides satisfactory amounts and quality of goods and services. However with increase in power Liberal Democracy obtains more control over all areas of live leading to top down control that fails produce effective results inevitably leading to its rejection. The question is obviously what comes next, but it is outside of the scope of this discussion.


20170218 What Washington gets Wrong



The main idea of this book is that American system as it was evolved over XX and early XXI centuries is, for all practical purposes, an overwrite of constitution, which substituted the original system of power divided into legislative, executive and judicial with nearly all powerful administrative state run by professional bureaucrats with materially different believes and attitudes than general population. Authors suggest that remedy could be improvement in education of both population and bureaucrats by teaching both of them realpolitik attitude to governance and trying to instill in bureaucrats a notion that their role is to serve population not to lead population to whatever ends they consider beneficial.


Here is the gist of this book as described by author:

Chapter 1. Unelected Government: The Folks Who Really Run Things

Administrative agencies have become “relatively autonomous,” to borrow an idea from Marxist social theory. Though federal bureaucracies are, to some extent, overseen by Congress, the president, and the courts, America’s administrative agencies exercise a good deal of discretionary authority as they promulgate rules and regulations that have the force of law. For most Americans, in realms ranging from healthcare through air travel, encounters with federal authority involve interactions with administrative agencies. Do these relatively autonomous agencies have appropriate regard or sympathy for the citizens for whom they work?

Chapter 2. The Chasm between Us and Them

Using a statistical measure called propensity scoring, we compare citizens and officials along a number of dimensions. To summarize these comparisons, we introduce a measure we call “civic distance”. This measure is derived from another useful Aristotelian notion, that of Kowov (koinon, or political commonality), and is designed to statistically capture the extent to which citizens and officials inhabit similar political worlds on the basis of education, income, experience, and beliefs. We discover that when it comes to politics, the two groups actually live in rather distinct cognitive universes, viewing issues, policies, and events through disparate lenses.

Chapter 3. What Those Who Govern Really Think about You and Me

Many Washington officials have little regard for the citizens they nominally serve.

Inside the Beltway, ordinary Americans are seen as knowing very little about government and politics and as expressing outlandish and uninformed opinions.

In truth, the attitudinal difference between officials and citizens, though significant, is less than the officials think. Officials tend to exhibit a sense of false uniqueness, thinking themselves so superior that they cannot imagine that ordinary folks share their lofty thoughts. Viewing the public as benighted, officialdom seems more concerned with how best to induce citizens to obey, than with how best to serve the public. Hence, “enforcement” is a hot topic in official Washington.

Chapter 4. What the Government Does versus What the People Want

Officials’ lack of concern or even knowledge of the views of the general public does not leave us with much confidence that the interests of ordinary citizens will carry much weight in the process of administrative rulemaking. Using a data set drawn from the federal government’s Unified Regulatory Agenda, we present an analysis of the determinants of rulemaking by federal agencies. Some scholars assert that the impetus for the thousands of rules and regulations written every year by government agencies is extrinsic – that is, determined by political and other events outside the agencies. Other scholars, though, have argued that the agencies, perhaps working with their supporting constellations of interests and stakeholders, march to and govern according to their own drummers and rhythms! Our study would appear to indicate that the second group is closer to the truth. Congressional intervention into rulemaking seems to bring rules closer to public priorities. Left to themselves, though, administrators’ priorities and those of the more general public seem to diverge. It is no wonders that many Americans believe the government is out of step with their views and are willing to give their support to political outsiders in the 2 of 16 presidential elections.

Chapter 5. What Should Be Done to Make the Government Listen?

Given the findings presented in chapters 1-4, can anything be done to enhance the government’s “sympathy” for the people and the likelihood that policymakers will be guided by popular interests and preferences? Many institutional and procedural reforms are, of course, discussed in the policy and administrative literatures. Our focus is a bit different. We recommend changes in American civic education. Today, under the rubric of civics, American citizens are taught to be good and dutiful subjects. Fortunately, they are not taught very effectively and many quickly forget their classroom history and civics lessons. Officials, on the other hand, with one significant set of exceptions, are taught leadership skills but very little about the people whom they lead or their responsibility to those people. The one exception consists of military officers who do receive training in their duties to the people of the United States. Civilian officials, on the other hand, are taught little or nothing about their duties and obligations to the people. We propose that citizens be taught realpolitik, the German term for political realism, rather than civic mythology to prepare them to be actual citizens rather than subjects. The Athenians distinguished between citizens-individuals who had the capacity to debate in the agora, or marketplace and idiots who lacked that capacity. America could do with more citizens and fewer idiots. We also propose measures that might remind officials of their own civic responsibilities to the citizens whom they nominally serve.

Chapter 6. What If What Should Be Done Isn’t Done?

We conclude by pointing to the significance of our findings for more general issues of representative government. We also consider the relevance of our findings for understanding the major problems associated with the rise of bureaucratic governance in the United States. Bureaucrats are certain that they are more competent than ordinary citizens when it comes to matters of governance. This sense of superior competence, however, can become a dangerous delusion–damaging to both democracy and governance.

Here are a couple of tables demonstrating difference between population and bureaucrats:




This is a great collection of research and derived knowledge about America’s real ruling class of bureaucrats and politicians. It demonstrates all features typical for such classes: distance from population, arrogance, hubris, and, most important, dogged pursuit of their own interest at the expense of general public. There is no doubt in my mind that this ruling class, as many similar groups in history, would lead country to social disaster unless American exceptional quality of highly distributed wealth, power, and well armed and independently thinking population decisively come into play. Despite all negative developments of the last century and a half, these exceptional qualities of America made it impossible for ruling class of bureaucrats and politicians fully control information flow, discussion about issues, and even selection of issues to discuss. Even their stringent effort to instill Political Correctness as rigid framework limiting speech mainly failed at least so far due to the very strong believe of population in free speech. It also makes it all but impossible to fully control raw power, which is in America traditionally distributed between federal armed forces strongly indoctrinated to face outside of the country, state level forces, multiple police forces, and last but not least multitude of well armed individuals who could easily band together into significant force in case of perceived danger to their freedoms (however illusory these freedoms are). In short, every time in American history, when distance between rulers and population became too obvious and much resented, Americans used formal democratic procedures of election to find some outsiders to elect and at least temporary defeat and diminished the class of ruling bureaucrats and politicians. This was the case with Andrew Jackson 190 years ago and it seems to be the case with Donald Trump now. The key for understanding here is that the rulers’ defeat is only temporary and after all settled, the administrative state would start its growth again – that is, until complete system will change so that all resources would be in full ownership of population in such way that nobody is left behind without resources and therefore no redistribution is possible.

20170211 – Not by Genes Alone



Culture is the necessary feature of human existence and has deep biological roots providing for coevolution of individual and group with successful group supporting genetic selection of the most fitting individuals, while at the same time providing much more flexible and adaptable set of features supporting group’s cultural survival.


Chapter 1 Culture Is Essential

The nature of culture as essential feature of human condition is demonstrated here by looking at well-established and well-known pattern of US Southern vs. Northern Culture. The key points here are:

  • Culture is critical for understanding human behavior
  • Culture is part of biology

The way it works is this: humans genetically predisposed to acquire cultural patterns of behavior from other humans during their childhood and maturation. After such patterns acquired and fully established, they define biological reaction of human organism consistent with this patterns. For example a casual insult to Southerner causes immediate activation of biological response to fighting situation, while similar insult goes practically unnoticed by Northerner’s organism.

Authors provide a nice definition of culture as “information capable of effecting individual’s behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission.”

The core theory of culture that authors are supporting is population thinking, that is thinking about a group and its characteristics as much as about individual. They also discuss link between cultural characteristics and individual characteristics formed by genetic and cultural evolutions correspondingly. The connection is strong and clearly has two way character when survival of individual and survival of the group interdependent, albeit not always simultaneous. Generally effective group outcompete less effective, but then normally provides opportunity for inclusion for individuals from defeated group. At the same time individual belonging to winning group quite often had to forfeit individual survival for the sake of the group. This creates an interesting interplay between features promoting individual and group survival.

This logic goes back all the way to Darwin who clearly understood connection between individual and group with culture being practically all covering media between them. However his thought was pretty much ignored by social sciences.

Chapter 2 Culture Exists

The main point here is rejection of popular view that culture is not important and analysis should start and pretty much end at the level of individual. The reasons provided in order to reject this view are:

  • Cultural differences account for much of human variation
  • The “common garden experiment’ – mental experiment of transfer individual between drastically different environments demonstrates impossibility of survival without possession of appropriate culture.
  • Example of natural experiment provided: variance in behavioral patterns between farmers of different cultural background in the same natural environment in Illinois
  • Natural experiment of group competition between Noer and Dinka in Africa
  • Multiple other examples.

Most important inferences: environment does not explain difference between group in full despite little to none differences in genetic makeup.

Authors also look at dynamic development of culture and find multiple samples of group evolution either internally driven or via process of adaptation from other more successful groups. Also important point is that culture normally evolves via small changes that happen all the time, leading eventually to huge variances in cultures that allow explaining magnitude of human variations.

Chapter 3 Culture Evolves

This is about process of culture evolvement or in other words evolvement of information content of brains that consequently expressed in behavior of these brains owners. Authors look at the acquisition process for believes, skills, and attitudes that actually are culture and define behavior. Here is a nice graphic presentation of the process:



Chapter 4 Culture Is an Adaptation

This chapter is designed to prove that the meaning of culture is adaptation for the group. This is different from usual perception that culture just simplifies individual learning by postulated higher level of knowledge than individual brain is capable of obtaining, leading to qualitative difference between individual and group adaptations. Here are main points that authors make:

  • Culture is derived trait in humans
  • Social transmission of behavior is common, but much more complex in humans than in other animals
  • Cumulative cultural evolution is practically unique for humans
  • Cultural transmission based on imitation with selective learning that allows for cumulative improvement
  • Culture is adaptable when learning is difficult and environment is unpredictable.

Authors discuss how culture had evolved and present and interesting idea that it could be because of dramatic increase in climate fluctuations making quick adjustment to a change via cultural modification on the same genetically unchanged basis effective tool for survival of human species. Here is graph demonstrating that such increase in fluctuations coincides with human development:


Chapter 5 Culture Is Maladaptive

This chapter is about another side of the story: culture can easily be maladaptive and there are multiple examples of this. Authors point out that it is quite similar to individual evolution when change is tested by environment that define validity of the change whether it increases chances for survival, decreases them or just neutral. They review multiple samples of adaptation and maladaptation driven by culture. The main conclusion here is that culture is built for speed not comfort.

Chapter 6 Culture and Genes Coevolve

This is about coevolution meaning that some cultural features cause genetic selection starting with typical example of lactose tolerance mutation clearly connected to cultural development of animal husbandry. Authors provide quite detailed analysis of egoism vs. selfless behavior within group and then discuss survival rates of groups as continuing process of selection most fitting cultural features. One interesting thing is that failure of a group not necessarily means extinction of its members. Much more typical is incorporation of members of failed group into the winning group with superior cultural features. The final point is that our modern institutions are based on tribal social instincts and that cultural and genetic evolution is practically indivisible and represents one process, albeit clearly two-sided.

Chapter 7 Nothing About Culture Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

The final chapter is designed mainly as response to the question: is dual inheritance theory the proper theory of cultural evolution? The obvious response is yes. It also calls for synthetic theory of human behavior that would include both micro and macro influences that define behavior according to genes, environment and individual psychology, but also includes macro impact from the culture of the group.

The final word is that key for understanding is evolution both genetic and cultural.


This book contains the great amount of supporting scientific material for my believe that human individuals being the product of combination of genes and environment, which to very high degree is defined by the culture of the group individual belongs to. However I would be very careful in applying mathematical methods just because the level of complexity is incredibly high. For beginning in contemporary world individual belongs to a multitude of groups by nationality, ethnicity, locations, and such. It is quite common for individual to go through multiple locations in different periods of live and so on. We’ve got far away from formative experiences of our first 90,000 years as humans, when we lived in the simple world of one person – one group at the time. I think it would take a lot more complex analysis and research to understand dynamics of constantly changing hierarchy of groups and loyalty to them that impact both formation of individual psychological self and everyday behavior in continuously changing circumstances. However the main dynamic: individual survival in interplay with group cultural survival remains key feature of human behavior.


20170204 To Sell is Human



The most important point of this book is that sales are not kind of activity that is going to disappear. On the contrary, author looks at the sales as an activity of communicating with other people and convincing them to do something (to buy) one is selling, whether these are goods, services, or ideas. In this view selling is the activity that takes significant part of time and efforts for everybody even for people who do not believe that they are in selling business. So the main idea is to look at the process of selling and provide recommendations on how to do it effectively in today’s world.


Part One Rebirth of a sale man

  1. We’re All in Sales Now

This chapter starts with the story about the last of disappearing breed of door-to-door salesmen – Fuller Brush man. The story demonstrates that job of selling is far from disappearing, moreover, in reality:


After that discussion goes into characteristics of non-sale selling, which takes about 40% of everybody’s work time and consist of persuading, influencing, and convincing others – critical part of every non-manual job.

  1. Entrepreneurship, Elasticity, and Ed-Med

This chapter demonstrates that selling is an integral part of any entrepreneurial activity and entrepreneurs are presenting millions of businesses, many without any employees whatsoever. This requires elasticity of skills combining technical organizational and sales specific skills. This follows by example of Ed-Med couple that needs selling skills to work effectively in education and medical services.

  1. From Caveat Emptor to Caveat Venditor

This chapter starts with description of cultural perception of selling as low activity done by sleazy people. Here is a nice presentation of this attitude by frequency of words use in relation to selling:


Author suggests that this approach while valid in the past due to widely used informational disparity between buyer and seller, leading to seller’s ability to sell lemons, is losing its validity due to Internet and wide availability of information that eliminates disparity. Author demonstrates it by discussing old style auto dealership serving poor and contemporary haggle free big dealership with preset prices and conditions for used cars where honesty really become the best policy.

Part Two HOW to Be

Here author introduces new ABC of successful sales: Attunement / Buoyancy / Clarity

  1. Attunement

This is about attunement of seller’s action to buyer’s needs that become necessary in order to be successful. The idea of hard sell seems to run out its course and in reality the idea of empathic sale works a lot better. Author also discusses personality features most beneficial for sales: contrary to typical believes it is not Extraverts but rather Ambiverts who generally doing much better than Introverts. Here is nice graph for this:


  1. Buoyancy.

To demonstrate this feature author returns to the Fuller Brash Man and looks at details of his selling process when he returns again and again to the same potential buyer continuously probing and continuously going through the sequence:

  • Before: Interrogative Self-Talk – the process of setting up own mood and attitude to be effective in selling, which surprisingly is not command: “I Will”, but rather question: “Will I?”
  • During: Positivity Ratios – the positivity here means transmitting such attitude that one’s counterpart was felling that seller does everything possible the process of sale lead to win-win situation. The very interesting thing here is that research seem to identify effective ratio for positive to negative emotions as 3 to 1, with lesser ratio such as 2 to 1 being as bad as negative, while too positive around 11 to 1 becoming counterproductive.
  • After: Explanatory Style – here author relies on research of Martin Seligman discoverer of “learned helplessness”. This is related to Attributional Style Questionnaire (ASQ) that measure pessimism-optimism and can-do approaches. The results are: the best approach is optimism with clear eyes to reality. Either pessimism or rose glasses optimism fail.
  1. Clarity

The chapter on clarity starts with research of Hal Hershfield about retirement saving that discovered an interesting fact about human attitude: people see themselves now and in the future as different entities, so the problem is subconscious resistance: why am I, 35 years old, would make sacrifices for this absolutely unknown stranger – 65 years old me. Author uses this as example of necessity to carefully identify problem and formulating it with complete clarity before trying to solve it. To expand on this idea, author also discusses research by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that demonstrated materially higher level of success for people for trying to find problem before acting and people who are trying to solve problem before clearly understanding what it is. The second part of the chapter is about finding correct frame for the problem of sale and here are examples:

  • The less Frame – limit choices by eliminating some of them and allocating more effort to analyzing others
  • The Experience Frame – people prefer experience to staff, so frame staff as experience
  • The Label Frame – this is based of managed perception for example Prisoner’s dilemma framed as “Wall Street game” is played completely different when framed as “ Community Game”
  • The Blemished Frame – small negative added to the mix of mainly positive features actually improves chances of success
  • The Potential Frame – unknown potential benefits beats know benefits hands down. Nice example: “ He Is the Next big thing” loses to “ He Could Be the Next big thing”.

The final and very important point in this chapter is need for the clarity of future action that author characterizes as off-ramp.


Part Three What to DO

This part is about the process of selling. It defines it as 3 stages continuing process with the first one making people interested through Pitch, the second convincing them to close the deal, and the final after sales service that would create basis for the next sale.

  1. Pitch

The pitch chapter starts with story of Otis – elevator pitch, which was actually demonstration of save working elevator. It follows with description of 6 types of pitches:

  1. The one word pitch (Saatchi for MasterCard: Priceless)
  2. The question pitch (Reagan: Are you better off today?)
  3. The rhyming pitch (OJ trial: If it does not fit you must acquit)
  4. Subject line pitch based on Utility, Curiosity, and Specificity
  5. The Twitter pitch (winner of MBA application contest: Globally minded / Innovative and Driven / Tippie can sharpen)
  6. The Pixar pitch (The story framework: Once upon a time / Every Day / One Day / Because of that / Because of that / Until finally
  1. Improvise

This is about improvisation required in process of selling. Here are some tips:

  1. Hear Offers
  2. Say “Yes and…”
  3. Make your partner look good
  1. Serve

The final chapter is about service – ability to learn how goods or services used and improve this process in such way as to add value to acquired product. Example provided: nudge announcement passengers to control reckless driver in Kenya dramatically decreasing amount of accidents, personification X-ray prints with picture of patient improving recognition of diseases, improving compliance by nurses to procedure by adding purpose to protect patients to hands washing.


In my opinion this book is not really about sales, but rather about communication skills. The diversity of objectives of communication is practically infinite and sale when money exchange takes place is just a small subset of it. This book is a very nice collection of methods of preparation for communication and tools that could be used to make it effective. It is worth to remember and use as needed.