I went to a prestigious University for my Masters in Philosophy where Conspiracy was front and center. It was something of an on-going test whether your ideas were too smart or probing or suggestive for taste. This went all the way to the point that very smart people needed to make open public statements against Conspiracies in general to make it out, even when suggestions made were in fact reasonable interpretations of facts. Asking the wrong question could be enough. It was sometimes a matter of who got to know what and when, but too often it could be leveraged politically. Trapping someone by leading them into territory that logically led them to make questions which for their own sake they shouldn’t, could be performed as a game and lead one into real and physical trouble. For this and other reasons I have made the suggestion of elections into the Intelligence Community. Writing and publishing atheoryof.us was very bold for someone like me (atheoryof.me). Whatever comes of me please don’t forget. In the end it really was a logical integrity that saved me, despite any and all creativity I display in these or other writings. But yes, Trump and other’s are making my case for a democratic IC (or MIC) easy. The need for at least representation among those with resources to understand the truth couldn’t be more apparent, whether you support the left or the right side of the aisle. I hope that turns blessing over the current curse.
I expected “Hamilton” to be a rather elaborate defense of The Eye of The Pyramid and it was certainly that. I did not expect a serious downplaying of Jefferson’s role in the Revolution, in a bit of New York slight on DC, even if Jefferson and Hamilton were rivals. There was some amends made in referencing Jefferson’s diplomatic work recruiting French support, while referencing Hamilton’s political neutrality on France’s own Revolution. And certainly, in terms of Character assessment, Hamilton’s enthusiasm for duels – that most manly of 1700 pissing contests – at the expense of his wife and family speaks far greater volumes than a brief adulterous affair; the effects of this were not down-played.
I cannot help but write my favorite Jefferson quote: “I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” He wrote it in the context of religion, but that wisdom applies to money all the same, as Jefferson knew. Still, in so far as popularizing interest in American History, I do think “Hamilton” does more good than harm; and I think we can all agree with Burr’s sentiments in the end: The world is wide enough for both Hamilton and Us.
We shouldn’t take the actions of the police in Minnesota lightly, but we should also not be blind to the fact that the violence we are seeing is a result of a more systemic injustice and difficulty, exacerbated by current economic conditions. That more systemic injustice and difficulty you can say is based on economic inequality, but in reality it is rooted in a systemic inequality in our education system. In saying this I do not doubt the intelligence – or capacity to be informed – of those rioting and luting (and of course not those protesting). I say this because education is the foundation of economic and social equality and stability, and we have known for some time that we are failing people of color in education.
I say it is a ‘difficulty’ and not simply an injustice, because education is long and it is strenuous. The difficulty is in the length of the eductation process: the ability to see a better world at the end of the study, the patience and persistence needed to complete an education. Even if our education systems changed to address the inequalities and overnight, the actual fruit of this metamorphasis would not be born for decades down the line, while this and that quick-fix promising to heal and now would be proposed to divert those from the necessary hard work to overcome the more systemic issue; some even going so far as to fight the required hard work by undermining the content of that education as not of value to this or that people; an argument which can seem compelling when one senses a need for a fix and now. Sadly, the process need be slow and steady – even if the start toward change should come quickly.
If there is a good to come out of this challenge to America, let it be in a quick change to educational inequality, and a realization of the need for patience, not chaos, in the long process to follow.
This piece is written on occasion of my cousin Lauren’s graduation – love you and congratulations!
It is only with great ignorance that we expect our elected officials to have the intellectual toolset required to grapple with most modern social and environmental issues. Social and Environmental threats and cures represent the height of complexity in decision making, and law makers rarely have the technological familiarity to appreciate the issues nor the mathematical background to comprehend them even if guided. This entails that our elected officials generally cannot be in a position to make the correct decisions on tough issues and must instead defer to their advisors, whether they received credit/blame to the public’s eye or not.
That this disconnect is not readily visible to ordinary citizens is what keeps our current form of democracy afloat. But it is becoming more and more apparent to more and more people, during the current coronavirus pandemic, that there is such a disconnect. It is becoming more and more clear that no amount of informing our leaders will put them in a position to do what they were elected to do: make decisions. But even as this becomes clear, there is probably the false impression that MDs are needed in office. The truth is that MDs as a whole would be more qualified than most politicians, but as a whole they fail to have the training in complex decision making and the technology which makes complex decision making possible.
What is needed is a new kind of toolset, with a new kind of credentials, to complement the current legal system. It is what I have called in atheoryof.us a ‘Technology Congress’ and the credentialing – though perhaps initially borrowing from technical professions – would entail familiarity with the requisite technology and mastery of the required mathematics. In point of fact, this Technology Congress would do less to change the way things actually work than it may seem. Today we have an opaque Intelligency Community of de facto decision makers filling the role which our elected officials cannot. But in point of fact, we have no reason to trust these decision makers, because they were not elected by the people – this trust, if I need remind you, is what Democracy is for. Without it we are relying on benevolance of the well positioned, and history often does not speak highly of such people.
Upon reflecting on my take on U.S. diplomacy in this blog (‘Obama’s Diplomatic Legacy’), I have to ask whether Trump was specifically the antidote to a good image for the U.S. abroad, funded by a New York Wall Street guard who prefer global power reside with the U.N. in the seat of New York’s influence rather than with American ideals embodied in, say, Jefferson or Lincoln or, yes, Obama. Not since the sinking of the General Slocum have we seen a ship go under so quickly as American Diplomacy, as a result of its losing leverage as a place where people coexist. This is eerily Civil War material, were it not the result of an adversarial foreign influence America knows already all too well. One can’t forget that the seat of KGB influence in America is in New York; and they are there because that is where the money is. They know all too well that their ambitions had been previously lost to economics. It is time that America take back its Economy, and that does not happen by feeding from the Devil’s hand.
The following is an excerpt from the book atheoryof.us. It is most relevant to today, America’s independence day. It represents the most difficult political matter which America faces (and ignores) today: the fact that the structure of our government does not support a balance of power in the modern world.
Precautions against imbalances of power in a system of government cannot be treated like any other risk. This risk is posed by the government itself, and against the rights of the people they are supposed to protect, in virtue of the structure of government. The basic problem, of course, is the potential for a top-heavy (or otherwise imbalanced) power structure, which may become more interested in protecting the elite and their interests than defending the rights of the people. Furthermore, any system which allows for such a top-heavy (or imbalanced) structure is itself a risk to its own stability through the accompanying issues of trust by the people who realize the potential imbalance. These issues must be addressed in system design.
According to Libertarian principles, we should not assume that American governance turned out uniquely correct. Nevertheless, our forefathers were well aware of the problem of asymmetric power, and for this reason, the American government is specifically constructed to prevent it. Nearly every policy which is not designed to cover a basic right is a (pragmatic) hedge against the possibility of abuse of asymmetric power, from the right to not quarter soldiers, to the right to bear arms, to the right to free association and militias, to freedom of the Press, to Representational Democracy into ’three separate but equal branches’ system of government itself.
From this list, three ’hedges’ stand out: the right to bear arms; the freedom of the Press; and Representational Democracy. In this chapter we examine these, and whether they achieve there original intent today.
The right to bear arms serves two fundamental purposes. The first is the enforcement of rights in those situations where the government is not in position to provide protection. That is, it is a means to enacting your right to self-defense, which is necessary given the essential limitations of any system of law and order. The second is – in conjunction with the right to armed militias – a means of balancing power against the government itself, should the time arise where the government is not properly representing the people by protecting their rights.
For all of the issues with gun violence, it is hard to argue that basic weapons don’t serve an essential purpose of self-defense in situations where the system of law and order is doomed to fail (i.e. be too late). Outlawing guns is therefore not in the cards unless and until there is better assurance that the need for self-defense will simply not arise. It is difficult to envision a state of the world in which the need would never arise, anywhere in the country, and for now the matter of a right to hold basic arms is not on the bargaining table.1
But the right to bear arms currently fails part of its initial purpose. Initially, this right – together with the right to armed militias, not to quarter soldiers, etc. – put the citizenry on a level playing field with the government itself, technologically. This is quite clearly no longer the case. However one may argue from this to the point that one needs a right to automatic weapons or more, there will never be symmetry in this area again, de-nuclearlization or not.
More and more, therefore, the people must be assured that decision makers are protecting their rights and that they are qualified to assess risk to rights.
The fundamental balance of power in America’s current age must be information. How do you know that decision makers are protecting your rights? Keep an eye on them. Press them for information. Question and analyze what you see and here. This is a freedom of the Press. But there are three fundamental problems about disclosure.
The first is that public announcements no longer simply reach an American audience. They reach the world. In some cases this means that you have pressure from the world, through the American Press, to disclose when it is detrimental to American interests. Given the current system of informing the American public on anything (i.e. public media or nothing at all) it is difficult to see how this can be prevented.
The second is that technology and the risk-to-rights from technology make it impossible to disclose much of anything. Often one cannot publicly announce that such and such is a risk from technology without giving the idea to criminals who may in turn leverage that risk. Furthermore, often the public is not in a position to understand the risks from technology without effectively understanding the technology itself. And should you explain the technology, you may only be exposing the citizenry further.2
The third is credibility. In the current state of society, it is very difficult to know where to look for valid information on the work of government and its officials. Some major media outlets still exist, but are being drown out by a cacophony in social media. This is not helped by the the problem of trust in representation (which we deal with in the next section).
Our forefathers did not and could not have anticipated the problems for disclosure posed by weapons technology in conjunction with information technology. Considerations for weapons technology were in their infancy at the time and messages were still ridden on horseback.
Given an apparently necessary asymmetry between government and its citizenry in both force and information, it would seem that our assurance against systemic risk-to-rights should have to come from the stalwart, Representational Democracy. In principle, a representative whom we trust would do their best to walk the line between informing us of what is going on in government and not disclosing what would be detrimental (at a time and place and to an audience) to American interests. At the same time, this individual would hear what the public has to say and fight for the policies, within the government decision making process, which best protect its citizen constituents’ rights. This all sounds fine, but it fails.
The fundamental problem is that if you are in the intelligence community, the best way to prevent a representative from disclosing sensitive information is not to tell them the sensitive information. There appear to be clear cases of elected officials who cannot well keep a secret. Those elected officials, naturally, would be your last choice to tell sensitive information to. This fundamental question of what the intelligence community should disclose to an elected official is a systemic problem, because our elected officials have no particular credentials to handle sensitive information.
The risks of disclosure are great. With the exception of one-on-one conversations with constituents, what a representative says to their constituents will be equally part public announcement to a connected world. But unless the representative can be trusted with information, they are in no position whatever to know and understand the risks to the citizenry of the asymmetric advantages held by government, and are not going to be an effective member in the decision making process within government.
Most representatives have no particular qualifications to handle secure information 3 The result is that elected officials often cannot, therefore, do their job of representing the people in any way, neither as liaison or representative decision maker, because they are elected to positions for which they are not qualified. This damned if you do, damned if you don’t moment is brought to you by a system of democratic representation with no credentialing.
In the previous sections we have discussed the issue of abuse of asymmetric power as a hypothetical, but it goes without saying that the revelations on domestic spying turn that into a reality. Moreover, framing the issue as one of spying under-appreciates the problem, for where there is spying there is usually meddling. Here’s a hypothetical: if the government did target individuals for harassment, they would need to know where they are. ’Meta-data’ would help. But while we have argued that our representatives need to be better qualified, the problem neither begins nor ends with representatives who understand information technology, its potential for abuse, and are cleared to handle and discuss technological risks.
When an elected official enters office, they do so on the presumption of representing the American people and within government; but due to corporate-government collusion, we have what Eisenhower called ’The Military Industrial Complex’; it is a social network of decision makers who may seem to do what they deem fit, whether that be for America or themselves. But however they make their decisions, American’s have no assurance, in virtue of electing a public official, that this official will have any real persuasion as even a diplomat to the Military Industrial Complex, much less command over it when they enter office.
One might tend to think, but that is the military, they are people of tanks and ships and airplanes and bombs and need their industrial support to keep America safe outside of America’s view. But enter now what was called, many years ago on the Nightly News, ’The Militarization of The Intelligence Community’, and what do you get? We certainly did not elect Zuckerberg to run Facebook! And yet, he is a significant decision maker within the MICs, a person of much public persuasion, and someone who directly effects your life every day.4
The Militarization of the Intelligence Community likely resulted from 9/11 and was given the justification that America needed to be on top of any and all games of asymmetric information for the sake of managing America’s risk. It is of course important to be aware what is going to happen prior to it happening, in order to mitigate the risks to liberty. On the other hand, the Militarization of the Intelligence Community may seem largely a means of protecting the Military Industrial Complex at disrespect to the economic costs of violations to privacy, and here is the rub: The American people have no reason to trust it is more, i.e. actually protecting life at liberty, because they have no representation in the Military Industrial Complex or its expansion into the Intelligence Community.
In other words, the American people have no assurance that a game of asymmetric information5 is not being played against them by those in power. It is not unlike what Jefferson sought to defend the people against, except that in place of lies has been substituted a permanent non-disclosure; while we are placated by a relative economic prosperity, the world’s future is being decided sight unseen.
When decision making is so far removed from elected leadership on matters directly effecting the lives of current and future citizenry, how are we to trust that the citizenry are represented in the social system at all? This is the problem of indirection. Even if our elected leaders were sound, credentialed, intelligent and otherwise capable of representing their constituents – all matters which in the previous section we came to doubt – we would run into the problem that, at best, their powers are circumscribed by ’MICs’ out of their control, and at worst, the MICs control them.
In the previous sections we have reached the conclusion that in the modern age, we must more heavily rely on a system of democratic representation to find assurance that essential asymmetric advantages held by government will not be used by the government against its citizenry. We have, however, found that the current system does assure that our elected leadership can carry out their functions of liaison and representative decision maker, because they are not necessarily credentialed to handle information on technological risk-to-rights which are definitive of modern governance. It can be added here that the Intelligence Community also has no real motive to change this situation, since the current system justifies their asymmetric advantage in every regard. This is the case whether the Intelligence Community is in the business of protecting citizens rights or not, but leaves the citizenry completely without the assurance required for a stable system6 Here we ask how the system of representation could change to better represent the people, averting disaster from unstable trust.
I will not here propose an entirely new system of governance. What I want to maintain is that the people deserve leadership who are sufficiently credentialed to properly represent them on matters of risk-to-rights from technology. I tend not to believe that ordinary credentials are sufficient and that a new system of credentials is essential. I also believe that the current elected positions should not be overhauled and do serve sufficient purpose in other ways; namely, as the ’heart’ of their constituent citizenry. Nevertheless, elected information officers with required credentials should serve as their liaisons to a ’Technology Congress’; essentially making up elected members to the Intelligence Community, where matters shielded from the people are discussed openly among representatives of the people. These officials should have accessible local offices and the capacity to inform constituents of risk and policy, in a modal way, while having their ears open to new risks.
Among the capacity of such representatives would be the ability to understand models of risk7. This would require some advanced testing 8 and vetting, as well as special education. But while this may, in the end, become very technical and advanced, it is not a procedure different than other governmental qualifying exams. What would likely set it apart would be that it is very advanced and also very general, a necessity in a world in which risk cannot be silo-ed.
5.6 Environmental Policy
It is clear that the issues in this section expand beyond those of environmental policy and touch on nearly everything we know and love about America, nevertheless, we can find our footing again in the question of how we are to be assured that the current social system is not destroying the earth for future generations. The answer is that we cannot take it as an article of faith and have no real assurance as long as our elected officials do not have a watchful eye on those in industry who have a history of disregard for the environment. On the other hand, in all likelihood, our representatives have no such clearance or capacity before or after they arrive in office so the demand seems undeliverable from the start. While the trust we should put in an unelected intelligence community holding industry accountable, when they are in collusion with them (MICs), is almost zero.
I have argued here for a system of credentialing and representation which would start to fix the problem. In the next chapter, we address a matter which may seem tangential, but is actually quite central to the issues we have encountered here. The matter of educating the people and how. This is the first start toward the new system we have glimpsed above.
Below is an excerpt from a work I view as Libertarian, but which nevertheless provides strong support for environmental protections (as well as health care and education) within that tradition. It is surely an idea unwelcome by some, but I consider it Jeffersonian, and it is where I stand.
If you are a libertarian who lives in the country and appreciates the land; who like any libertarian wonders why or if one really must pay with taxation for services which seem to have very little to do with your life; but who nevertheless wonders why or if the earth must be subject to the ravage of heavy industry, for a corporate ideology; this work is written in defense of you. I here intend to give the grounds on which a ’Country’ libertarian may defend the governments role in protecting the land, water, and air from destruction. This is no simple task.
Our forefathers, whose work is the foundation on which most American-Libertarian theory is based, were not in a position to appreciate what would become of our earth 250 years later. They were very concerned with structuring a government ’by the people, for the people’; they were very concerned to avoid a State which would infringe upon the rights of its citizens for causes which were not the people’s own; and were concerned to lay the groundwork for a free-market economy with upward mobility. It would not be until the time of Teddy Roosevelt that there would be sufficient appreciation of the destruction to the earth enabled by technology, at least among ’The White Man’, to do anything about it at all.
Despite some appreciation, little has been done on a theoretical foundation for Libertarian thought which may encompass Environmentalist ideals. Part of the problem, of course, is that the Corporate libertarian does not want to address the environmental issue, and it is the Corporate libertarian who holds the libertarian wallet.
Another part of the problem is that a modern media rarely wishes to cover any position which embraces the ’L’ word. So I ask that if you are among an urban populace puzzled by the lack of support you may receive for your issues from the country at large; who stands in defense of civil liberties; but does not appreciate the country’s resistance on issues related to the environment, health care, and education. This work is also for you. In it, let you find both footing and understanding.
The final part of the problem, which I seek to address here, is that people are so busy fighting from what they perceive to be their interests that they rarely stop to ask whether their position is correct.
When you know a lot about a person, there is at least two ways you can approach them. The first is as a human. Compliment them on their positive qualities; compliment them on their good ideas and good actions; try to help them where they are failing, both in action and in principle; help them to help themselves with what they have to offer and by correcting where they are failing.
The second approach is to ask how a person may be used (exploited?); how can we take (steal?) from a person as much as we can while paying as little as possible; how a person can be made (coerced?) to agree; how can a person be made a non-factor by playing them against others or by stripping them of wealth, credibility, relationships, etc.
It goes without saying that a capitalism without ethics lends itself to the second approach, and breeds…
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There is no point to assuring social stability, political security, and optimal ‘liberty’ for future generations if they are to inherit an environmental wasteland that forces their hand into cleaning up our mess.
There must be restraints on the liberties which people and institutions take with our earth, just as there are laws against theft. In general, if a resource is both renewable and clean – with steps in place to renew it when important to do so (e.g. trees) – then there should not be restraint on industries which produce goods from these resources (e.g. paper). But should demand outstretch renewability (e.g. paper), then alternatives to these products must be sought (e.g. go paperless), and not ones which are wasteful or promote further pollution in other directions (e.g. plastics).
On the other hand, if a resource is rare or not clean or not renewable – like many rare metals that fall into all three classes – then there ought to be restrictions on their use even if they come from land which is not public. This reflects the importance of the issue to future liberty. We should not pretend, for instance, that wasting rare metals and polluting with them does not constrain future capacity for free action – liberty. It minimizes the future use of those metals and forces future action to focus on problems that were avoidable.
So much may seem acceptable for such things as Plutonium, but there remains the concern that government intervention into business practice would only hinder progress. If strong constraints were in place, after all, it would seem doubtful that such things as the iPhone would ever had seen production. The question is how to balance. This question is difficult. It is clear, however, that such products should not go to production without a plan for reuse and recycling, and for such plans to be valid, they must incorporate plans for reuse and recycling into the design of the products themselves. .
If it should seem that environmental concerns are directly contrary to business and therefore not libertarian concerns, consider that I am not, as a libertarian, concerned with the liberty of companies. I am concerned with the liberties of individuals – and the accountability that comes with it. Companies should be allowed to take risks, but those risks should not jeopardize the liberties of individuals, present and future. Again, forcing future generations into action is a reduction of liberty for society.
At the forefront of the conversation must be energy. Many issues would be solved by a viable renewable energy infrastructure. A renewable energy grid viable in fifty years time seems like so little to ask until you consider the scope of the project and the necessary war against inertia. As compromise libertarians we must tackle these problems head on, lest our future generations have constrained liberties due to our laziness.