Month: November 2016

Accountability, Equality, and Partial Fairness

Seal of the Handicapper General - Harrison Bergeron

Seal of the Handicapper General – Harrison Bergeron

One of the bigger problems with the ACA or any health insurance system which outlaws medical rating is its removal of the financial consequences of bad health habits. Progressives believe heavy taxes on cigarettes will reduce smoking and thereby reduce lung cancer and early death; a financial penalty on a self-destructive habit justified by the social welfare state’s future payment of medical expenses. (One issue is whether this is even true — it turns out most actuarial calculations show those who die early as a result of lung cancer have less spent on their medical care in old age and forego social security payments, so they save the welfare state money.)

But if you equalize the cost of medical insurance regardless of health habits, you are reducing the consequences of unhealthy habits and thus encouraging them. Accountability — having to be responsible for one’s actions — suffers under equalizing systems. Drivers with many accidents and drunk-driving convictions on their record will pay much more for (and find it difficult to even obtain) car insurance, and that’s normally considered a Good Thing because we want there to be financial penalties for habits that endanger others, like driving recklessly or under the influence.

The reasonable objection to charging for health insurance based on health record is that health status is only partly controlled by previous habits and behavior; a big chunk is genetics and chance. So it seems unfair to those who are sick because of bad luck in the genetic lottery — or even by accident, as cancers, for example, are thought in some cases to be created by accidental mutations, and only some cancers are caused by avoidable environmental exposures like smoking.

And many children begin life behind the eight-ball, having inherited problematic genes that make them more likely to suffer from conditions that cost a great deal to treat. Should insurance companies be able to use the results of genetic tests to offer low-cost policies to some, and much higher-cost policies to the unlucky?

In a laissez-faire world, insurance is an adversarial game with customers trying to hide any damaging information from the insurer as the policy is being sought, and the insurer doing their best to deny claims afterward. As a result, governments set up insurance commissions and regulators since it was impractical to adjudicate disputes over every consumer’s insurance policy in an expensive court of law. Arbitration and insurance commissions have done a fairly good job in the past of managing this conflict of interest, with some states being more pro-consumer than others.

One partial workaround for the medical rating problems is the idea of “continuous coverage.” The initial risk pool is assumed equal, and anyone who keeps paying for coverage continuously is allowed to stay in that average-risk category because some small part of their earlier premiums is true insurance — covering the risk that a health issue will turn up which makes them a bad risk in the future. Insurance contracts typically cover one year, and so if there is no requirement to continue coverage beyond that contract, rates could adjust upward or renewal could be denied based on negative events that happened during that year. Requiring renewal at the same rate as the rest of the risk pool makes the contract insurance against the long-term costs of treating any illness acquired during the period, not just that year’s costs.

What happens to people who allow their insurance coverage to lapse because they can’t afford the premiums or simply forget to pay? Most states had a high-risk pool with required must-issue, but rates were very high (of course — since the people seeking insurance under it were far more likely to need expensive care in the short term.) Some hybrids, like exclusions for pre-existing conditions for six months or a year, helped get people coverage at in-between prices.

The PPACA (“Obamacare”) tried to eliminate the problem with must-issue (no one could be refused insurance) combined with narrow time windows for seeking coverage and penalties for going uninsured. These were intended to force everyone to get insurance and to keep them paying for their insurance even if they were being charged much more than they were likely to receive in benefits. Younger, healthy people were expected to pay more to cover the costs of older, sicker people. In practice this did not work — even the subsidized rates were too high to get healthy young people to join up, and the penalties of going without insurance were small compared to the inflated new prices for insurance. So individual insurance coverage pools shrank and were dominated by new customers needing a lot of expensive, deferred care, and rates rose further as doctor networks were narrowed and more healthy people stopped paying.

The Supreme Court’s ruling deeming the ACA constitutional was only partial — the attempt to force states to increase Medicaid enrollments was deemed unconstitutional, so many states did not expand Medicaid. This left a bizarre hole in coverage in those states where a person could make too much to get Medicaid coverage, but too little to get private insurance subsidized through the exchanges. And the expansion greatly increased Medicaid enrollments in those states that participated, accounting for nearly all of the decrease in the uninsured in the US, but Medicaid itself has never been shown to improve medical outcomes or decrease mortality, and many people complained that they were forced to join Medicaid when they would have preferred to buy private insurance.

Also, the Supreme Court’s swing voter on the case, Chief Justice John Roberts, specifically warned that the fine for not having approved insurance was only constitutional if it was viewed as a tax, and an increase to the fine to an amount sufficient to force compliance would make it unconstitutional. This cuts off the ACA proponents’ attempt to raise fines to try to force more enrollment.

Which brings us to the subject of this essay — how do we decide what is fair when consequences of simple bad luck and genetics are mixed with the downside of behavior under a person’s control? Suppose a well-off person (let’s say the son from a wealthy family who left him a trust fund) drinks, smokes, and plays video games all day throughout his life. In his 40s now, he’s obese and unhealthy, with emphysema and cardiac problems imminent. Should his expensive future healthcare be subsidized by middle-class families who have worked hard, exercised, and been careful to avoid bad habits? That is the way ACA policies are now set up. Even unsubsidized, policies for wealthy people in poor health are much cheaper under the ACA than they would be in a free market, and those who have restrained their appetites and sacrificed to maintain their health better pay more than they otherwise would to make up for those costs.

But there’s no easy way to separate those “bad unhealthy” people whose illness is due to their own choices from those “deserving unhealthy” people who are ill because of chance or genetic inheritance.

The ACA plan tried to compel more equality of premiums regardless of actual risk or likely use of medical services, which removed some of the incentive for healthier behavior and burdened those who made the effort and sacrifice to keep themselves healthy. This tried to protect those who were simply unlucky, but many of those people are worse off than they were under previous high risk pool plans provided by the states, and have had their care disrupted or cut off by the high prices and narrow networks.

Every complex system is adaptive, and human systems especially so, with people quite capable of understanding the rules and seeking out every loophole to their advantage. The ACA has failed because people aren’t easily herded by programs designed by committees, and by finding the loopholes (paying for one month and using it for three, staying off until actually ill then signing up under the many loopholes in enrollment windows to get expensive care then dropping out again), the people have ensured the ACA cannot be sustained in its current form.

The ACA, which was promoted as saving everyone money, has ended up being much more costly for most than the old system. It has helped a few, but cost far more tax and premium dollars to help those few than a direct subsidy to the existing high-risk pools would have. The redistributionists have again discovered that unintended consequences will make nonsense of their social engineering schemes.

Philosopher John Rawls is usually cited by progressives intent on redistribution; his thought experiment suggested we view a system as just if we would choose it willingly, not knowing in advance what advantages or disadvantages we would be born with. You can argue that much behavior is also dictated by fate — our example of the obese videogamer may well have been doomed by being born into his particular family with parents who could not guide him toward a better way of living. But under that view, no one is responsible for anything, and we know that people can change to overcome even the worst background and genetic inheritance. Removing rewards for modifying one’s behavior toward the socially-valuable means a society which is less civilized and poorer in every way.

The classic Vonnegut story “Harrison Bergeron” takes equality to the extreme. The government has decreed that all must have equal abilities and outcomes, and so those who are more intelligent or talented are handicapped to bring them down to average. Of course, this becomes a nightmare with tragic outcomes as society grinds to a totalitarian halt.

But suppose we already have a little bit of this deadening effect introduced by the government’s emphasis on hiring by ethnicity or sex rather than ability. Would we even realize that the but-for world where only merit is considered would be wealthier, happier, and more fulfilling for most if not all people? If one has never seen a ballet performed to perfection by the most talented dancers on Earth, would we notice that the dancers are being dragged down by lead weights they have been forced to carry — or selected for political reasons rather than talent — making their performance less satisfying?

Socialists and redistributionists tend to think diversity and choice and product improvement are not as important as providing the poorest an equal quantity of goods, and the central planners of the USSR counted quantities of production, not quality; the stories of great quantities of useless, poor-quality, ugly products available from state stores while people schemed and bribed to get better-quality goods from abroad show how central planners failed to understand what mattered to the people. Even Bernie Sanders, who should know better, suggested there was too much choice in deodorant and shoes, and restricting choice would somehow allow more poor people to be fed, clearly missing a lesson or two of the socialist past.

So if you had never seen a perfect ballet or operatic performance, you might not notice how the ones you have seen have been compromised for the sake of political goals. Similarly, if you’ve never seen a world of free enterprise without identitarian politics or Party corruption, you will never realize how much freer and more productive your society might have been. The US overcame a history of race and sex discrimination to more closely approach the standard of merit alone — then has been backsliding incrementally as race- and sex-conscious employment policies took hold. While it appears the US is now limiting progressive overreach by not electing Hillary Clinton president, there has been a lot of damage already, with government agencies especially dysfunctional. It will take a lot of work battling entrenched special interests to reverse the educational system’s failure to teach children civics, history, and economics.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Materialism vs Purposeful Life: Trump, Bannon, and Teilhard de Chardin
Sekrit Reform Agenda: Untangling Government: Medical Deregulation
No More Elections or Campaigns: Liquid Democracy
“Death by HR” – High Tech Threatened by Social Justice Activists

Seal of the Handicapper General - Harrison Bergeron

Seal of the Handicapper General – Harrison Bergeron

Followup: Materialism vs Purposeful Life

Crony Capitalism - Prager U

Crony Capitalism – Prager U

Thanks to Instapundit for the link to yesterday’s post, Materialism vs Purposeful Life: Trump, Bannon, and Teilhard de Chardin. I want to expand on some parts and add some new links for completeness.

First, “Lie Swarms,” which discusses how the atomization of media has created copied and mutated lies which swarm the victim from so many directions that the repetition establishes truth for many news consumers:

Spengler said that the attacks on Bannon are an example of the Big Lie. I take issue with that. What we are seeing with Bannon, and have seen and are seeing with Trump, is something different: it is the Lie Swarm.

The Big Lie is an effective propaganda tactic in a centralized, vertical media system dominated by a small number–and in totalitarian systems, basically one–of information channels. Radio or television with a small number of national stations either directly controlled by the state, or subject to substantial state pressure (e.g., the US in the days of the Fairness Doctrine). To oversimplify only a little: one message, one medium.

In the modern fractured information environment, with a proliferation of outlets and social media that allows free access to millions, coordinating on a single message is far more difficult in such a diffuse and fragmented system. But this technology is perfectly suited for unleashing a swarm of half-truths and lies that forms what can best be described as an emergent order. It is not consciously designed by anyone, but without central coordination design it does exhibit order and synergistic behaviors.

One swarm tactic that is becoming increasingly common is Six Degrees of Hitler/Putin/The KKK/etc. Target A has some connection to B who has some connection to C who has a connection with D who said something that could be interpreted as being vaguely fascist . . . so Hitler!

In some respects, it is harder to fight the Lie Swarm than it is the Big Lie in a society where there the media is not rigidly controlled. A single lie can be rebutted if the target of the lie has the ability to make the case and the access to enough eyeballs and ears to do so. It is almost impossible to swat every lie in the swarm, especially since the lies change and mutate from day to day, and since whenever you are in a position of rebutting a lie you tend to draw attention to it. But unrebutted lies are often as treated as facts, so if you don’t kill them all some damage is done.

Bannon, and especially Trump, are primary targets of the Lie Swarm, especially since Trump had the temerity to actually prevail in the election. Don’t get me wrong–there is much about Trump to criticize. But there has been a kind of Gresham’s Law at work here: the bad criticism has driven out the good. Screeching “racist!” “Anti-Semite!” “Fascist!” on the basis of the most twisted and biased interpretation of the flimsiest evidence has overwhelmed substantive argument.

And the Swarm really hasn’t figured out that their attack will do little to get Trump supporters to change their minds. If anything, it will do the opposite, because the “deplorables” know that they are being attacked and smeared as much as Bannon and Trump. Furthermore, the Swarm seems hell-bent on living out Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Hillary’s whole campaign was based on personal attacks on Trump and his supporters, and she enlisted the Swarm in this endeavor.

And it backfired stupendously. Why should they expect that doubling down on it will work any better?

Behind-the-scenes coordination a la Journolist isn’t even required. The clickbait factories read each other’s output and copy the talking points almost immediately, so a Huff Post article is usually just a simplified and more hysterical version of Daily Beast, which in turn comes from a WaPo writer. See the hype progression on today’s news:

WaPo: Trump picks Sessions for attorney general, Pompeo for CIA. Sen. Jeff Sessions is known for his hard-line views on immigration.

Daily Beast: Donald Trump Puts the White Back in White House, Taps Jeff Sessions For Attorney General. With Jeff Sessions, Mike Flynn, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s early picks suggest he’s doubling down on his ugliest instincts.

HuffPo: DARK AGE A.G. – Civil Rights Groups Condemn Sessions… An ‘Extreme Anti-Immigrant’ Voice… Will ‘Erase 50 Years Of Progress’… Warren: Senate Has ‘Moral’ Obligation To Nix Nomination… FLASHBACK: Too Racist To Be a Judge… Said The Only Issue With KKK Is Their Drug Use… Suggested White Lawyer With Black Clients Was A Race Traitor… Denounced Civil Rights Groups: ‘Un-American’…

We’ve always had yellow journalism, but the clickbait farms are influencing the mainstream sites, making them compete to be more alarmist.

More thoughts on the forms of capitalism and the two forms Steve Bannon decried at the 2014 conference:

But there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. I believe it’s what Holy Father [Pope Francis] has seen for most of his life in places like Argentina, where you have this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many many friends that’s a very big part of the conservative movement — whether it’s the UKIP movement in England, it’s many of the underpinnings of the populist movement in Europe, and particularly in the United States.

However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it to what I call the “enlightened capitalism” of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost — as many of the precepts of Marx — and that is a form of capitalism, particularly to a younger generation [that] they’re really finding quite attractive. And if they don’t see another alternative, it’s going to be an alternative that they gravitate to under this kind of rubric of “personal freedom.”

He correctly calls out crony capitalism, and the fascist capitalism you see in China and Russia to a great extent today, where enterprise is heavily controlled by the state and the corrupt entanglements enrich the connected in both state and enterprise. There’s way too much of that in Obama’s America as well.

His mention of Ayn Rand and Objectivism is interesting. Ms. Rand’s followers have tended to the cultish, with a romantic emphasis that is anachronistic sixty years after she wrote her seminal works. While explicitly atheist, Rand replaced the element of religious purpose with the aggrandizement of the creative individual. As Bannon says, in a time of collectivist thought-police expropriating the fruits of labor and denying any individual credit for achievement (“You didn’t build that,”) her creed can be very attractive to the young rebelling against stifling conformity.

What’s left out of Ayn Rand’s heroic vision is room for the personal altruism of the family and friendship. She railed against mindless altruism and self-sacrifice, but that was aimed at those who glorify sacrifice to the state and abstract others like “public opinion.” She had built her heroes without dependents or those boring long-term attachments that aren’t glamorous or transgressive, so the real underlying motivation for most people, making a better life for not only themselves but their children, family, and friends, was left out. Attachments would have spoiled her superhuman heroes and heroines, and her villains were often relatives — social-climbing wives, clingy brothers and the like.

Libertarian-ish thinking today has evolved to include more nuance and understanding of economics, game theory, and evolutionary psychology. While there is a definite “drive to create” that motivates many artists and business founders, the more important drives are for status (for the esteem of others and attracting better mates) and the obvious fulfillment of basic needs for food, shelter, and security for oneself and attached others.

Capitalism works best conducted in a neutral setting with a predictable legal backing. It is also dependent on trust — the willingness to put some money or effort out despite the risk that the supplier you are contracting with will stiff you or turn in shoddy work. You trust initially because your commitment is small and you’ve checked out the reputation of the supplier, and you trust more later after completing numerous satisfactory transactions with that supplier. You share your good experience with others despite the fact your supplier may gain new customers and raise prices or have less capacity to do your work, because you are also building a reputation and credit for being a good cooperator. This trust is what really makes capitalism efficient and more capable of producing what is satisfactory for others than any other system.

So community on small and large scales is necessary to success. This isn’t “You didn’t build that,” which is intended to imply that government supplied you with the environment critical to your success; the legal system, the roads, the communications nets, and your network of suppliers all use the framework of law and government in the background, but it was the private elements that created the trust and incentives to produce. Law and government are necessary as backstops, but not sufficient, and no one who is productive owes the proceeds of their success to government. Taxes to pay for government need to be neutral, too: extracted as much as possible in proportion to services demanded, kept as low as possible to provide those critical services.

The Pope’s view of capitalism is colored by his Argentinian background; Argentina has been in the grips of crony capitalist-fascist demagogues for decades. But the notion that values are critical to capitalist functioning is reasonable; no business does well to neglect the health and security of its customers and employees, and individual transactions are about more than money and goods exchanged.

Materialism forgets about the human background, and its various flavors are damaging in different ways. Communism purports to replace the profit element and private ownership with central planning and state ownership, which destroys the incentives that make society run. Democratic socialism similarly reduces the rewards of effort and transfers to strangers the fruit of one’s effort, which weakens the strength of community bonds as the state replaces voluntary association. These flawed ideas are based on redistribution of material goods as if they were far more important than human relationships of cooperation and reliance which are critical to happiness and productivity.

Ayn Rand’s ideal society has never been tried, for the obvious reason that human beings are almost never like her characters. It is probably best to view her work as intended to counter the collectivist central planners of her youth in the USSR and later in America; she emulated the romantic socialist propaganda but to promote individualism, which was denigrated at the time. Her vision lacked the bonds between people that make them more than homo economicus, the model of man as cold calculator of transactional benefit.

So Bannon has a point here, even if he oversimplifies the views of today’s libertarian thinkers. Some overarching purpose to life and work is required to make an economy grow, and the Obama era’s stifling correctness and overregulation has been sapping the will to open new businesses and to invest in new employees. Vanquishing religious thought damages the motivation of those who rely on it, and some of the other streams of purpose — emphasis on competition and production — have been deprecated in favor of inclusion and identity politics in staffing (see my book Death by HR below.)

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Materialism vs Purposeful Life: Trump, Bannon, and Teilhard de Chardin
Sekrit Reform Agenda: Untangling Government: Medical Deregulation
No More Elections or Campaigns: Liquid Democracy
“Death by HR” – High Tech Threatened by Social Justice Activists

Crony Capitalism - Prager U

Crony Capitalism – Prager U

Materialism vs Purposeful Life: Trump, Bannon, and Teilhard de Chardin

Lots of interesting reading today as Trump’s victory has focused attention on the assumptions that led to underestimating his chances.

The media spin is working toward delegitimizing him further by casting his advisor Steve Bannon as an alt-right, antisemitic, neo-Nazi éminence grise. This isn’t backed up by much evidence other than guilt-by-association, with Breitbart the junkyard dog of new media flouting the rules of political correctness. But having rabid commenters and hosting some incorrect writers like David Horowitz does not make a media conglomerate or its managers antisemitic, antigay, misogynist, or otherwise the spawn of the Devil, which is what is being implied.

Alan Dershowitz went on MSNBC to decry the antisemitism charge:

The reliably rational Scott Alexander marshals the evidence that Trump is racist-sexist-etc and finds it wanting in his post, “You Are Still Crying Wolf.”

Bannon spoke and answered questions in 2014 at a conference hosted by the Human Dignity Institute at the Vatican. It’s a worthwhile read which dispels much of the simplistic narrative being spun by the New York Times and others. Here are some good bits:

I want to talk about wealth creation and what wealth creation really can achieve and maybe take it in a slightly different direction, because I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian west, is in a crisis…. It’s ironic, I think, that we’re talking today at exactly, tomorrow, 100 years ago, at the exact moment we’re talking, the assassination took place in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that led to the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the bloodiest century in mankind’s history. Just to put it in perspective, with the assassination that took place 100 years ago tomorrow in Sarajevo, the world was at total peace. There was trade, there was globalization, there was technological transfer… Seven weeks later, I think there were 5 million men in uniform and within 30 days there were over a million casualties.

…180 to 200 million people were killed in the 20th century, and I believe that, you know, hundreds of years from now when they look back, we’re children of that: We’re children of that barbarity. This will be looked at almost as a new Dark Age.

But the thing that got us out of it, the organizing principle that met this, was not just the heroism of our people — whether it was French resistance fighters, whether it was the Polish resistance fighters, or it’s the young men from Kansas City or the Midwest who stormed the beaches of Normandy, commandos in England that fought with the Royal Air Force, that fought this great war… capitalism really generated tremendous wealth. And that wealth was really distributed among a middle class, a rising middle class, people who come from really working-class environments and created what we really call a Pax Americana. It was many, many years and decades of peace. And I believe we’ve come partly offtrack in the years since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’re starting now in the 21st century, which I believe, strongly, is a crisis both of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism….

I’m a very practical, pragmatic capitalist. I was trained at Goldman Sachs, I went to Harvard Business School, I was as hard-nosed a capitalist as you get. I specialized in media, in investing in media companies, and it’s a very, very tough environment. And you’ve had a fairly good track record. So I don’t want this to kinda sound namby-pamby, “Let’s all hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around capitalism.”

But there’s a strand of capitalism today — two strands of it, that are very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And that’s the capitalism you see in China and Russia. I believe it’s what Holy Father [Pope Francis] has seen for most of his life in places like Argentina, where you have this kind of crony capitalism of people that are involved with these military powers-that-be in the government, and it forms a brutal form of capitalism that is really about creating wealth and creating value for a very small subset of people. And it doesn’t spread the tremendous value creation throughout broader distribution patterns that were seen really in the 20th century.

The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing, is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, I’m a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many many friends that’s a very big part of the conservative movement — whether it’s the UKIP movement in England, it’s many of the underpinnings of the populist movement in Europe, and particularly in the United States.

Bannon is clearly a Catholic and is defending the value of his religious feeling in a world of brutal materialists. The entire discussion is worth your time, but I’m going to take off from there to connect some dots on materialism vs. purpose in life, and why the current danger to human progress is thoughtless Progressive emphasis on collectivist social services and expanding the number of government employees and clients.

Why do we strive? The biological and evolutionary imperative is to reproduce, and underlying all of our humanity are the behaviors encoded by the DNA of ancestors who survived and reproduced. Humans were bred to cooperate and compete for resources, love and fight for a place in the tribe, and war on other tribes. The addition of language and culture to humanity’s animal heritage meant additional threads of evolution of memes, religions, and cultures were added to the mix.

We have big brains and consciousness — what for? Some provocative theorists suggest it’s entirely a fitness display to attract better mates. But our brains help us survive in a competitive social environment by manipulating it to our advantage just as our motor skills let us defend ourselves from predators and hunt and gather food from the physical environment.

Our evolutionary heritage explains why humans will generally strive to give their children the best chance of success. But the culture component gives even the childless a secondary motivation: one can contribute to the cultural heritage of mankind and thereby do everyone’s children a service. Your seed may not survive, but your intellectual children — your books, plays, art, contributions to the body of knowledge of science and technology — may carry on doing good for others long after you are gone. And we are all cousins, in the end, and every human is carrying our genetic heritage.

So survival comes first, and when your and your children’s survival is threatened you will be entirely focused on escaping the threat. Which is why the first technique used in propaganda is to paint a picture of threat — to make you afraid, and to point you toward taking action which suits the propagandist’s purpose. This can be anything from the small — swaying your vote toward candidate A instead of B — to the murderous, getting you to cut your neighbor’s throat because of his tribe.

Fear is the enemy of rational thought. Threats overrule reason, and since good decisions come from a mix of feeling and logic, fear leads to irrational actions.

Religions are an attempt to explain the world and create a framework for deciding what is moral behavior. Early religions mixed science with moral guidance — what made the world, what do we need to do to placate the gods who determine what happens in it? The gods could be cruel and demand sacrifice, as when Aztecs tore the beating hearts out of living victims, or the Carthaginians (apparently) sacrificed children to the fires of Baal.

Religions, too, evolve. Temporal power mixed with spiritual authority corrupted the universal (Catholic) church which continued the heritage of the Western Roman Empire. Catholic dogma retreated from explanations of the physical world as the competing explanations of science expanded and discredited some early Catholic writers — Christ himself said very little in the Bible about science, so this was not fatal to the corpus of Christian doctrine. Jesuits in particular were able to reconcile science and faith by viewing God’s hand as visible in the workings of Nature; the micromanaging God who would intervene by changing the workings of the laws of nature to produce miraculous outcomes was deprecated, but the sense of His power in arranging the universe as a demonstration and test of faith remained.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a Jesuit priest and scientist who eventually got into trouble with the Church for his attempts to transcend Catholic teachings to grasp a broader purpose — to explain what God was about, in other words. As a paleontologist and priest, he tried to reconcile evolution with his faith and introduced the concept of the noösphere, the body of all knowledge and culture created by humanity. He went on to hypothesize that God intended humanity to evolve and grow so that the noosphere would merge with the mind of God at the end of time. This led to a lot of serious science fiction like Olaf Stapledon’s 1937 The Star Maker and parodies like The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide series. De Chardin imagined a mystical union with God that would be a sort of Rapture and second coming of Christ as reconciled with the cosmology of scientists.

The Catholic Church now honors him as a thinker ahead of his time, though wrong on many details. His “heresy” was another attempt to outline a religious purpose for life — with the search for knowledge and understanding elevated to a calling of his faith. And this search for meaning and truth is at the heart of both science and faith.

I was brought up to be Southern Baptist and enjoyed the history lessons of Vacation Bible School. But my father was literally a crazy Bible-thumping Pentecostal preacher, and his irrational fervor (he heard from God directly!) caused me to react against all religious doctrines. He spent the rest of his life in and out of mental institutions after he left us when I was five, and I refused baptism when I was eight. Today I am neither religious nor denying the value of religion; I think personal religion can be a valuable guide to good behavior and useful habits of thought. All religious communities have good and bad people in them, and the good generally outweighs the bad, as in most human communities. My religious training, stripped of its specific doctrines, serves me well in helping me find my way to the Golden Rule and empathy for others.

Jews in America have tended to support a completely secular government, remembering the scars of European pogroms and antisemitism as the tribal impulse to use government to suppress and expel them. The Founders were quite supportive of a secular framework for governance, with the Bill of Rights prohibiting direct support for any single religion. This did not mean religious values were to be ignored — but law was not to be based on any sect’s singular view of morality, and the rights and liberty of individuals trumped all religious proscriptions. Many states retained established churches for years after 1787, but the live-and-let-live ideal won out, tying the different founding nations together and allowing free settlement between the regions. Americans learned to get along with their neighbors regardless of religion, and that made us a world leader in tolerance and freedom of belief.

There are still poisoned, prejudiced hearts that retain the hatred of people solely for their race or religion, but far fewer of them, and they are not in power — even under President-Elect Donald Trump. Bannon is no simple hater, but Breitbart’s tolerance for ugly commenters and attacks on political correctness can easily be seen by the paranoid as tarring both Bannon and Trump by association. Feeding this contamination theory of morality where failing to condemn the bad actors often enough makes you guilty by association suits the propagandists of the crony capitalist machine, which has gained nearly complete control of public education and the media in the West. The populist movements that have sprung up are indeed reactionary — reacting to the suppression of dissenting thought and speech. While some of the people supporting them are “deplorable,” the majority are not — and half the US voted for Mr. Trump despite all his flaws, wanting a change from the business-as-usual machine which systematically loots the middle class to support its credentialed nomenklatura and increases the fortunes of the financial industry and the 1% while pretending to care about income inequality.

What those voters want is an end to the condescension and being told what to do by people who think their education entitles them to direct the lives and even the simplest behavior (plastic shopping bag and lightbulb use, for example) of other less enlightened people. We now know from Wikileaks that Obama’s first cabinet was almost literally dictated by a Citibank employee, that Clinton campaign operatives hired people to disrupt Trump rallies then blamed Trump for inspiring violence, and that nearly all media broke journalistic ethics to try to elect Hillary Clinton after they had given Trump so much exposure that he won the Republican nomination. This story quoting a long-time New York Times editor gets at their behavior: the Times wrote to promote a narrative, selectively choosing facts to support it. Stories which did not support their desired narrative weren’t reported at all or were consigned to back pages.

The administrative state has malfunctioned and produced a bureaucracy that cannot build anything at a reasonable cost, or provide the best standard of healthcare for veterans or anyone else. There is little accountability, with even criminal and negligent employees shielded by government employee unions and Civil Service rules. The union of administrative state apparatchiks and the media elite has controlled what the people are allowed to see, but social media now reveal the lies and inconsistencies.

Which is the source of the anger that fed Breitbart’s growth. Citizens who strive to make a living for themselves and their families find themselves denigrated and blocked by bureaucrats. They want to see a return to rewards for the intelligent application of labor and an end to bailouts for losing bankers, subsidies for connected businessmen, and government-enforced monopolists charging too much and limiting their choices.

To quote Douglas Adams:

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

Donald Trump may end up being a terrible president. But what’s clear from the hysterical reaction to his victory is that the media-academic-bureaucratic forces will sacrifice their credibility to demonize him and try to erode his legitimacy even before he takes office. The new administration would be doing the citizens of the country a great favor if they help Congress take back much of the rule-making and enforcement authority delegated over the years to the executive branch agencies, staffed largely by partisans and entitled hacks. Reforms to Civil Service and government employee unions are necessary to reduce their corrupt and deadening influence on government productivity. Citizens are not getting their money’s worth and are getting tired of the agencies ruling against growth and business, which has created the stagnation that has half of our youth underemployed and the lowest rate of new business formation in post-Depression history. The return of accountability and popular control of government means some incompetent bureaucrats, teachers, and law enforcement personnel will have to find other things to do.

As for me, I retired from running a family office for a wealthy high-tech friend around 2003, when I realized none of the extra money I was making for his family by clever investment was going to do the world any good. Quite the opposite — his wife began donating large sums to causes like the National Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and Democratic politicians. More than likely they gave a large sum to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Emily’s List. These organizations actively harm the people and the future of humanity through promotion of anti-free-market and anti-limited-government propaganda, and are staffed by lawyers living well by doing good, if good is defined as blocking other people’s projects and regulating some businesses to death while awarding others that support their agenda monopolies and subsidies. Because the core support for the Progressive bulldozer is elite, educated people who work in academia and government jobs, where business is seen as a threat likely to lift the Wrong People up to threaten their comfortably class-ordered existence. The ultimate conservative is the cloistered academic or bureaucrat, who sees danger in the freedom of others to act out of their control, and whose income is secure no matter how slowly the economy grows.

And to connect this to my attachment theory works, I should point out how many of the those so shocked by the election result appear to be substituting belief in progressive government for religion and personal attachments. The failure to get what they want — be it election results or attention from attractive others — makes them angry or despairing, as if they were personally insulted. About 20% of the adult population — and closing on 40% of the unmarried population — is anxious-preoccupied, tending to be insecure in their relationships and demanding reassurance from partners.

Followup post expanding on the crony capitalism-libertarian comment: Followup: Materialism vs Purposeful Life

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men



Sekrit Reform Agenda: Untangling Government: Medical Deregulation

I have been researching issues of dysfunctional government and over-regulation for the next book, which won’t be done for months. But now is a good time to discuss some of the results that bear on the new administration’s agenda.

Trump rode a popular wave of anger at being lied to and cheated by the DC pols and bureaucrats who have been in the pockets of special interests — oligopolic corporations, unions, and regulated industries — for several decades now. The fog of disinformation funded by government PR and interlocking media conglomerates obscured how regular people were being shafted to fund ever-increasing costs for medical care, education, housing, and cable TV, special interests that had captured their regulators to increase profits at the expense of middle-class families. Proximate causes of voter anger: the lies of Obamacare and the intentional subversion of the law and welfare systems to support a large population of illegal immigrants intended to tip the electoral balance against citizens who were born in the US or entered legally. The government cheerleaders denigrated blue-collar and less degreed workers, while promising and failing to deliver good jobs. “College for everyone” policies meant college degrees came to be required for all good jobs, and meanwhile failed public schools graduated students unprepared for even low-level college work, then stuck the dropouts with nondischargeable student loan debts. College tuitions rose far faster than inflation while an elite class of academics and administrators took home fat paychecks and enjoyed job security and benefits unavailable to most taxpayers — meanwhile abusing nontenured adjuncts to do the actual teaching for poverty-level pay. Lives have been destroyed by the promises of the social engineers, and the people finally stopped buying the propaganda.

Trump is not beholden to the usual billionaire donors and subsidy-seeking industries. His administration is the first opportunity in decades to seriously overhaul the regulatory structure that has crippled US competitiveness. Real structural reform could unleash a wave of growth and new jobs and lower costs of housing, allowing people to move to where the jobs are and start rebuilding families and lives that have stagnated since 2008’s Great Recession began.

I’m going to propose an agenda of radical reform that not only would create a business boom, but a freedom dividend. The elitists have tried micromanaging normal people by regulating the most trivial details of daily life (for example, incandescent bulb and plastic shopping bag bans) and opposing all new housing, pipelines, and industrial development. They should be told to mind their own business.

Radical reform agendas affecting multiple sectors have a problem getting accepted. One can try to build a coalition to get people to accept the parts they don’t like for the sake of others they do, but you run the risk of notifying the entrenched interests that you’re threatening their monopoly profits. Those special interests will join together to fund propaganda to frighten the population into halting the reforms. This was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s downfall in California; he took on the entrenched power of public employee unions — nurses, prison guards, and civil servants — who funded a massive PR campaign against his reforms and halted them at the ballot box. Schwarzenegger gave up, convinced the interests he had challenged were too powerful to curb. So perhaps the reform agenda should be secret — picking off the interests one by one with as little fanfare as possible, so the people wake up one day to discover they are richer and more free than before. Announcing that you intend to fire millions of paper-pushers so they can go to work in real jobs that actually add value might possibly be a bad idea… even those paper-pushers might be better off in the long run working in more dynamic industries, but it is hard to convince someone to voluntarily undergo wrenching change for some long-term good.

So slow and steady change, with due regard for transitional measures to smooth the way. But smash the system, gently, and let people choose freely how to live and create. The status quo is no longer sustainable, and change rolled out before the inevitable collapse of the debt-based economy will perhaps forestall the worst scenarios.

One of the downfalls of the Democratic-Progressive machine was the failure of the Rube Goldberg ACA / Obamacare health insurance scheme they believed would cement their electoral dominance by creating more dependent citizens. Passed in a hurry when they were about to lose their lock on the Senate, the law was a Frankenstein monster of parts assembled by special interest groups and progressive policy wonks, famously cheered on by MIT Prof. Jonathan Gruber, who admitted the proponents had intentionally obscured its true nature: to greatly raise the cost of insurance for healthy middle-class families so that poorer, sicker people could get subsidies without revealing the huge hidden tax increase involved. Repeated lies were used to pass it, including Politifact’s Lie of the Year for 2013, Obama’s “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” plus the promise of $2500 per family yearly savings.

But the current death spiral of the ACA individual insurance market is far worse than the planned hidden tax and subsidy scheme. Through its poorly-designed rules of payment for coverage, the scheme allowed and encouraged gaming — clever consumers discovered they could sign up and pay for one month, then get lots of expensive healthcare services for three months before being cut off for nonpayment. And the loopholes allowing enrollment outside normal time windows were so easy to bypass that many people dropped coverage, returning to pay only when they had a major medical expense upcoming. Because of the high prices — which were barely affordable even with subsidies, and many times the cost of similar pre-ACA policies for those who were not subsidized — many or most of those eligible chose not to buy in, leaving the sickest and poorest to drive up average medical spending for the risk pool.

As a result, the trumpeted increase in coverage was entirely due to expanded Medicaid, which is free and worth every penny. The Oregon study which showed that Medicaid coverage did nothing to increase health or decrease death rates for newly-covered people was ignored, and the claims that new Medicaid coverage would save thousands of lives every year and decrease ER usage among the poor turned out to be false — ER usage rose as poor people continued to prefer no-appointments, no-payment access to ERs over Medicaid clinics with long waits for appointments. Meanwhile, the 20 million people who had paid for their own insurance before the ACA have been soaked, and there are now only 10 million people enrolled in the new individual ACA plans. So while proponents continually claim success in that more people are “insured,” the deteriorating quality of the coverage and the reduced participation by the young and healthy who were supposed to pay the bills mean that it is becoming both a financial and a healthcare disaster.

What happens when a significant number of voters have supposed facts drummed into them by political leaders, but discover they were all lies, and many middle-class voters are being soaked for insurance that covers less and costs much more, reduces choice in providers, and limits travel because they can’t get coverage outside their area of residence? They begin to doubt the word of the “experts” of the government propaganda machine on every other subject, and they yearn for honesty.

Passed to satisfy all major special interest groups, the ACA appeared likely to increase profits for health insurance and drug companies, which is why they supported it. It has not worked out that way, with the companies generally losing $billions on individual health insurance plans. Progressives are now calling for a public option which would somehow undercut the pricing of private insurance companies, many of which are nonprofits, while doing the same work the government way — we can see how well that might work by how patients are treated by the VA.

But the failure of the ACA has created a climate for real reform because the old mostly-functional system is now smashed to pieces and there is less to lose from drastic change. The ACA, ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, established that the Federal government could regulate and interfere with the healthcare markets of every state. Under the expanded Commerce Clause powers now established as precedent, nothing stops Congress from seizing direct control of medical professional licensing. The balkanized 50-state regulation of care is part of the inefficiency of the system — it should go. In practice there is no evidence that doctors licensed by one state become hazards to care in a different state, and the complex schemes that restrict supply and raise costs for medical certifications need to be streamlined and unified. Irish doctors who go through a four-year program are just as good as doctors trained in the US’s standard eight-year program, which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars more. Services which can be provided by technicians in cheap clinics like those popping up in drugstores nationwide should be expanded; for example, checking for suspicious skin growths to screen for cancer can now be done by AI-based optical scanners at very low cost. Standard tests and treatments for colds, flu, STDs, skin fungus, and impacted earwax don’t require a doctor’s knowledge. State laws requiring doctor supervision of even routine care do little to improve care but a lot to restrict availability and raise prices.

Medicaid is both expensive to taxpayers and provides delayed and substandard care. An expanded system of clinics for the poor is a much better way of spending public money on low-income patients. Hospital ERs need to be free of the requirement to treat non-emergency patients, and free to pass them off to public clinics who can more cost-effectively treat the less urgent problems they bring in.

Requiring prescriptions for drugs raises costs and reduces availability for everyone, even wealthy people — having to see your doctor several times a year to renew routine prescriptions for birth control, blood pressure, cholesterol, and other common medications adds to costs with minimal benefits. Doctors have to waste time jumping through insurance company hoops intentionally imposed to reduce drug costs, and vast amounts of time and money are spent needlessly.

There are some medications which need to be controlled to prevent overuse. Antibiotics, for example, gradually lose their effectiveness as organisms build up resistance, and so having some authority limit their use to cases of real need is cost-effective. But most standard medicines should be free for sale over the counter — only antibiotics and highly addictive drugs need to be controlled. This would cut out layers of cost and reduce prices and the cost in time and trouble to patients and doctors. OTC birth control costs the system much, much less than Obamacare’s “free” birth control pills.

Many newly-approved treatments are startlingly expensive. One reason for this is a hidebound FDA, which requires massive double-blind controlled studies for approval. For each drug that is approved, many more fail, so the billions spent have to come from somewhere, and that means very high list prices for patented treatments. The focus on approvals can make or break billion-dollar companies, and so the FDA deciders are subject to influence-peddling campaigns and barely-hidden bribery, making their decisions less transparent and more political than is decent. Meanwhile, foreign countries control prices and reap the benefits of new treatments while not footing much of the development cost. It’s only because the US government enforces this setup that the market works this way; removing bans on imports and equalizing world prices for medications would force the pharmacy companies to price more rationally and fight the price-controlling developed countries that are free-riding on US research costs.

So setting up a commission to investigate modernizing FDA approvals, freeing up provision of most medical services and licensing, and allowing US sales of any drug approved by reputable agencies abroad would be a good start. Drug companies will fight this since it means they have to find another way to charge the costs of research more broadly to the rest of the developed world while selling at marginal cost to poorer patients wherever located, but the current situation is not sustainable — just as the US no longer dominates the world economy and can no longer afford to pay the lion’s share of defense costs for its allies, medical research and drug approval costs have to be more widely shared. And the paternalistic control of what adult citizens choose to eat, drink, smoke, and take as drugs needs to end. It is vastly wasteful and costly to freedom.

All insurance is a bad deal in that it costs more than the services one might expect on average to get in return; the overhead of the insurance company, claims managers, and payment systems has to be built into the price. Thus insurance for small expenses one could easily afford to pay is a bad deal; extended warranties for appliances, phones, and travel insurance are overpriced. Most people who bought their own insurance pre-ACA had catastrophic coverage, which kept premiums down by having high deductibles. But these policies got them access to the insurance company-negotiated prices, which is important because hospital list prices have been set artificially high in response to the Medicare reimbursement system. Bare-bones policies covered the truly unaffordable costs of serious medical treatments, which is the correct use of insurance. Now many people who had catastrophic coverage can’t get it at the formerly reasonable prices since even unsubsidized policies must conform to ACA rules.

So the first relief for ACA problems is to end regulation of policy benefits so individuals can buy what they actually need in coverage. If medical screening is allowed, setting up a national subsidized high-risk pool for poorer people with pre-existing conditions can help solve that problem, or regulations could require anyone with continuous coverage to be accepted, as they did before the ACA in most states — only a few people would find themselves uncovered and needing a subsidized high-risk pool. Most of the damaging gaming of ACA policies comes from those who stop paying in until they have an expensive need, and requiring continuous coverage limits that problem.

Subsidies for lower-income people are problematic in many ways. One is the benefits cliff, which penalizes someone who increases their income many times the increase, punishing efforts to better their lives. Another is the high cost to taxpayers — the costs have been less in total than expected because ACA policies have been much less popular than expected, but higher per covered person. Getting medical costs down overall through deregulation and heightened interstate competition and economies of scale will help, and making any subsidy required be available through income-tax credits eliminates the need for the costly and mostly failed state and national marketplace web sites, easier dreamed of and promised than executed by government contractors. Those have cost $billions but have proven unsustainable even when they work. Let insurance companies sell directly, let any aggregator compete to sell policies, and get the government out of health insurance provision entirely.

The FDA was once focused on policing the marketplace for food and drugs — its predecessor started under the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and the emphasis was on preventing fraud. Focused on dangerously adulterated food and false claims of efficacy for medical treatments, proper manufacturing and labeling were effective at reducing problems, with the Prohibition-like bans on some drugs and detailed regulation of what chemicals a citizen could buy coming later. Most of the damage caused by quacks and adulterated foods and drugs could be prevented by emphasizing consumer information and labeling instead of prohibition — making sure what is sold is what it is labeled as being and preventing unsupported claims of efficacy are really all that is required, and the growth of FDA regulation beyond that is retarding progress and increasing costs to consumers with very little benefit. Patients with their doctor’s guidance ultimately choose what is needed and useful in medical care, and the FDA has forced them to smuggle in lifesaving medications from abroad and set up a system that prices treatments far above affordable costs. No one who is facing a life-threatening illness to should be kept from trying promising treatments the FDA is too slow to approve. And advanced countries like Britain allow pharmacies to sell, for example, codeine (similar to heroin!!) with acetaminophen tablets for the asking — with little additional risk, though they have been criticized for not warning enough against the dangers of overuse of acetaminophen (Tylenol).

And the FDA is legally prevented from halting the advertisement of and wasted money on homeopathic medicines, which do nothing but can harm people by delaying treatment with real medication. They are also barred from halting supplement sales, and liver toxins like valerian root are still sold freely without appropriate warning labels. Consumers are lead to believe authorities have made the world safe for them, and do not investigate and are not sufficiently skeptical of claims made.

The Hoover Institution’s studies of medical reform are in line with what I’m suggesting, though less radical. I’m particularly bored by HSAs and schemes to jigger tax credits when the underlying problem is that costs are just too damn high, but those incremental improvements would be worthwhile.

[next installment: Sekrit Plan for media conglomerates and cable TV companies, now one and the same]


Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Who Killed Prince?: Update – Buprenorphine Implant Approved by FDA
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
No More Elections or Campaigns: Liquid Democracy
Death by HR Introduction: HR Pushes Damaging Regulations Into the Enterprise
Death by HR: Thiel, Trump, Palantir: Regulation as Partisan Weapon
Update on: Who Killed Prince? Restrictions on Buprenorphine
California Dream Choo-Choo Lives On: Bay Bridge Lessons Ignored
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
The VA Scandals: Death by Bureaucracy

No More Elections or Campaigns: Liquid Democracy

Liquid Democracy - Pirate Party wiki

Liquid Democracy – Pirate Party wiki

I’m watching friends develop ulcers and crack under the strain of anxiety related to the election today. The huge amount of time and money spent to manipulate voters to cast their vote for candidates and ballot measures, with most of the propaganda oversimplifying or outright lying to gin up outrage or hatred of others, is one of the least productive activities in our lives. Two sides at war in a not-quite-literal sense, not devasting cities and killing people, but dividing and coarsening the people’s understanding of what it is realistically possible for a good government to do and denigrating the good faith of the opposition.

There are better ways, enabled by the new zero-cost, high-bandwidth communications of the Internet.

Athenian-style direct democracy lives on in the New England town meeting. Ideally, direct democracy means a community comes together in one hall and decides important issues by discussing and voting on them directly, as in ancient Athens. But even small communities had trouble handling all of the complex issues that might come up and eventually had to elect representatives, allowing citizens to delegate their votes to one person they trusted to act in their stead. Direct democracy was not scalable, and democracy itself could be dangerous since majority rule needed to be restrained by individual rights. A majority could otherwise vote itself benefits and loot the treasury or persecute individuals.

The last chapter of P. J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores colorfully describes the problem of today’s New England town meeting form of government. A developer has proposed a golf course and condo complex, and town residents are voting on a sewer issue that can prevent it. The future residents, of course, have no say in the vote:

It was at this moment, in the middle of the Blatherboro sewer debate, that I achieved enlightenment about government, I had a dominion epiphany, I reached regime satori. The whole town meeting was suddenly illuminated by the pure, strong radiance of truth (a considerable improvement over the fluorescent tubes).

It wasn’t mere disillusionment that I experienced. Government isn’t a good way to solve problems; I already knew that. And I’d been to Washington and seen for myself that government is concerned mostly with self-perpetuation and is subject to fantastic ideas about its own capabilities, I understood that government is wasteful of the nation’s resources, immune to common sense and subject to pressure from every half-organized bouquet of assholes, I had observed, in person, government solemnity in debate of ridiculous issues and frivolity in execution of serious duties. I was fully aware that government is distrustful of and disrespectful toward average Americans while being easily gulled by Americans with money, influence or fame. What I hadn’t realized was government is morally wrong.

The whole idea of our government is this: If enough people get together and act in concert, they can take something and not pay for it. And here, in small-town New Hampshire, in this veritable world’s capital of probity, we were about to commit just such a theft. If we could collect sufficient votes in favor of special town meetings about sewers, we could make a golf course and condominium complex disappear for free. We were going to use our suffrage to steal a fellow citizen’s property rights. We weren’t even going to take the manly risk of holding him up at gunpoint.

Not that there’s anything wrong with our limiting growth. If we Blatherboro residents don’t want a golf course and condominium complex, we can go buy that land and not build them. Of course, to buy the land, we’d have to borrow money from the bank, and to pay the bank loan, we’d have to do something profitable with the land, something like — build a golf course and condominium complex. Well, at least that would be constructive.

We would be adding something — if only golf — to the sum of civilization’s accomplishments. Better to build a golf course right through the middle of Redwood National Park and condominiums on top of the Lincoln Memorial than to sit in council gorging on the liberties of others, gobbling their material substance, eating freedom.

What we were trying to do with our legislation in the Blatherboro Town Meeting was wanton, cheap and greedy — a sluttish thing. This should come as no surprise. Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst offsloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores.

The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.

Now we have C-SPAN, and in theory we could all be watching the legislative debates and voting on the laws directly. We’re kidding ourselves if we think most of our legislators understand in detail the bills they vote on — see Nancy Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it….” comment about the ACA. But even if we had the time to make ourselves expert and the bills weren’t abominations of complexity and special-interest obfuscation, literally no citizen could follow all issues and vote on all bills in an informed way. This cannot work unless the law is shrunk to a reasonable size, and it would do little to rein in the Administrative State (the agencies that now legislate by issuing ever-increasing volumes of regulations and enforce them nearly free of Congressional and court oversight), which is now beyond the control even of well-meaning executive appointees.

One problem is our House Representatives and how we elect them. Their districts now have an average of over 700,000 residents, and no one can campaign personally enough to give each citizen a direct sense of them. So TV and advertising became critical, which required big money, which requires a coalition of party and big donors to have a chance of unseating an incumbent — which is why so few are unseated. The Senate is even worse, with a big state like California having 30 million people to sway. Since the 17th Amendment (which changed election to the Senate from a state legislative vote to a popular vote), senators have ceased to represent their state’s government and now have a nearly independent power base, which makes a sitting senator even harder to dislodge.

In parliamentary-style systems, the legislature selects the executive from among the members — so parties form to support a large enough majority to select the executive and pass the legislation the government desires. The government often chooses when an election will be held, and the timetable is usually short. Since it’s the members of parliament that choose the executive, the question of who that will be is not directly on the ballot, so the party takes responsibility for choosing the member that will lead them most effectively. Until recently this did not make a large difference, but it has become more noticeable lately that the US government, with its more complex structure and greater division of powers, is less able to actively do anything — including reforming the administrative state, which has taken on a life of its own that threatens to strangle freedom and economic growth. In the US, a party that controls the presidency, the House, and the Senate still finds senators and House committee leaders that have veto power over changes, and the senate filibuster makes a law written to resist change, like the ACA, almost impossible to roll back when it proves problematic — a minority of senators or the president can block repeal. If the election of 2010 had taken place in a parliamentary system, the Republicans would have taken control of the executive branch and been able to repeal the ACA before major damage had been done.

There have been proposals to return to a modified form of direct democracy which would have elements of representative government, notably “liquid democracy.” In my future-history Substrate Wars series, the student rebels who had invented quantum superweapons and forced the world’s governments to cede control of security to them discussed how they might implement liquid democracy:

“So to get back to the central discussion. Who makes the law for our judges and AIs? How do the people control their universal government, which might start with the people in this room, but grow to include ten billion people over a thousand planets?”

“What we have now seems to work well,” Prof. Wilson observed drily.

“Because,” Ben said, “we all agree on most things, and we want the same outcomes, and we’re too busy to worry about someone else’s job. But that won’t last, and we’ll have major disagreements, where one faction wants one thing while another thinks the opposite is better. And we need a way to efficiently decide such disputes. Back on Earth, democracies elected representatives who traveled to large halls to discuss and vote on laws. We will have the universal Net, which can guarantee who you are and what your authority is, and a way of including anyone interested in the debates on any law. You can participate and vote on the Net.”

“So we were talking about ‘liquid democracy’…” Justin said, raising his eyebrows.

“Liquid democracy, also called delegative democracy. This is the new type of democratic-republican system we are looking at. The basic idea is that every citizen has a vote on every law or issue, but for practical reasons they delegate their vote to a representative, who bundles together all the votes delegated to him or her and casts them as they think best. The key difference between this and republican systems we are used to is that there is no fixed term for a representative, and citizens can take their proxy back at any time to give to another representative, or to vote themselves directly. Thus ‘liquid’ — citizens can react to what their representative is doing, even down to revoking their proxy during a speech on the issue that sways them. Citizens who want to participate in every issue can; most people will give their proxy to a representative they trust and only occasionally consider switching. Participation in debate and the writing of legislation would have to be limited to a practical number of representatives who hold the most proxies, but a citizen would be free to watch the process and communicate ideas to their representative.

“Proxies can be limited or full. For example, I might delegate my vote on defense matters to Samantha, who is hard-headed enough to impress me as a wise choice for that, while giving my proxy for research funding to Steve, because he’ll always be better at that. There’s no pre-election period where a government can suck up to voters and spend money unwisely to get elected, then act as they wish for years after. The people can intervene quickly if they don’t like the way things are going.”

“Who chooses the executive, and what about those bureaucracies?” Prof. Wilson asked.

“The executive would be elected by the representatives, and have to work to keep their confidence, as in a Parliamentary system. We are intending the powers of the executive be limited this time — in the unlikely event of a war with an outside power, there would of course be emergency needs. But the huge bureaucracies for defense, agriculture, education, tax collection, and all that would all be unnecessary. A dispersed, connected, and footloose people with replicators won’t need assistance surviving, and no external enemies exist that we know of. The executive government may never need to be more than a few dozen people.”

No one has yet implemented a true liquid democracy for a real government. The Wikipedia entry on delegative democracy further describes the idea:

Crucial to the understanding of delegate democracy is the theory’s view of the meaning of “representative democracy.” Representative democracy is seen as a form of governance whereby a single winner is determined for a predefined jurisdiction, with a change of delegation only occurring after the preset term length (or in some instances by a forced recall election if popular support warrants it). The possibility usually exists within representation that the “recalled” candidate can win the subsequent electoral challenge.

This is contrasted with most forms of governance referred to as “delegative.” Delegates may not, but usually do, have specific limits on their ‘term’ as delegates, nor do they represent specific jurisdictions. Some key differences include:

• Optionality of term lengths.
• Possibility for direct participation.
• The delegate’s power is decided in some measure by the voluntary association of members rather than an electoral victory in a predefined jurisdiction. (See also: Single Transferable Vote.)
• Delegates remain re-callable at any time and in any proportion.
• Often, the voters have the authority to refuse observance of a policy by way of popular referendum overriding delegate decisions or through nonobservance from the concerned members. This is not usually the case in representative democracy.
• Possibility exists for differentiation between delegates in terms of what form of voting the member has delegated to them. For example: “you are my delegate on matters of national security and farm subsidies.”

Google has ongoing research into the topic, since their Hangouts have much of the technology needed to make this work — secure identity with encrypted communication and group meeting capabilities. Google did an experiment using as an example the critically important decision of what should be on the lunch menu. They have also issued a good video lecture on the concepts:

More interesting discussion of liquid democracy can be found in this Marginal Revolution post.

Here’s an open-source software project for implenting similar systems: LiquidFeedback. The German Pirate Party has been experimenting with the system to bring together its large membership to discuss and decide its policies, a form of direct feedback that has helped ithe party to grow rapidly to become an electoral force.

Here’s another discussion of the technologies needed to make this work safely in an environment of state-supported hackers: Liquid Democracy and Emerging Governance Models. At the very least, the identity and secure communications issues have to be solved, and a citizen’s view of their proxy status always available, yet secure from others. These are soluble problems, but not by the government programming mentality that brought us current voting machines.

One day we may be able to both vote on and help write legislation in areas we are expert in, while ceding most decisions to trusted representatives whose proxy to vote on our behalf is revocable at any time. No more gigantic omnibus spending bills that ensure spending never gets cut. No more election campaigns, lowest-common-denominator party hacks, or trickery designed to sway your vote past that one golden moment when you could have said no….

And that still does not solve the issue of who selects the judges who might determine when a new law infringes basic constitutional rights. The Supreme Courts which have deferred to Congress and agency regulation, rarely turning back the overreaches that have become increasingly common (see again the ACA!) are a big part of today’s problem with expanding government.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


For more reading goodness:

Death by HR: Biased HR Degree Programs Create Biased HR Bureaucracies
Death by HR: Pink Collar Ghettos, Publishing and HR
Death by HR: Who Staffs HR Departments? Mostly Women…
Death by HR: The Great Enrichment to the Great Slackening
Death by HR: Good-Enough Cogs vs Best Employees
Death by HR: EEOC Incompetence and the Coming Idiocracy
The Justice is Too Damn High! – Gawker, the High Cost of Litigation, and the Weapon Shops of Isher
Regulation Strangling Innovation: Planes, Trains, and Hyperloop
Captain America and Progressive Infantilization
The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
FDA Wants More Lung Cancer
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Unrealistic Expectations: Liberal Arts Woman and Amazon Men
Stable is Boring? “Psychology Today” Article on Bad Boyfriends
Gaming and Science Fiction: Social Justice Warriors Strike Again

“Death by HR” – High Tech Threatened by Social Justice Activists

Fantasy Gains from Inclusion (Intel Corporation)

Fantasy Gains from Inclusion (Intel Corporation)

But pressure to hire more minorities and women in tech has existed at least since Jesse Jackson’s first run at it in 1999.[1] Why is resistance crumbling almost twenty years later?

First, today’s high tech is more software than hardware, with a new generation of executives more willing to appease the activists. Most people in the industry want to be sure women and minorities are fairly treated and feel welcomed, and the networked activists can quickly trash your public image if you cross them. So appeasing donations and lip service are the most common responses by today’s execs.

Another new factor is the hardcore third-wave feminists and “critical race theory”-trained products of academia that are making activism their life’s work. Many college students are adopting the victim culture and identities as protectors of the weak—women, plus transgender and all the other flavors of other. These newer, mostly upper-class-academic activists are besieging the older engineer-dominated companies as well as the new software giants. The culture wars, where activists infiltrate one cultural area after another then try to demonize and expel any conservatives that remain, have reached the gates of high tech.

“Gamergate” was a skirmish in the culture war; computer gaming companies with corrupt relationships to game-reviewing magazines and sites came under fire from gamers, and a full-scale battle between social justice activists and gamers who wanted their games built for fun and not political correctness began. There were well-publicized nasty trolling tactics on all sides (though the activists had more friends in the media to promote their story), and at one point the gamergaters persuaded many advertisers to cancel ads in the offending publications. Intel cancelled some of their ad support, then was subjected to activist attacks. To defuse the issue, Intel pledged $300 million to activist groups.[2] Shortly thereafter, Intel cancelled its sponsorship of the (merit-based) Science Talent Search and cut budgets in research and administration by… $300 million.[3]

Online swarming now results in censorship of speech disagreeing with these activists. One article was withdrawn by Forbes online after activist swarming because it denied that diversity in high tech was a problem. This was an instance of kafkatrapping, a mechanism for repressing all contrary thought by labelling anyone who speaks it as racist, sexist, or homophobic — your denial of base motives for disagreement with the activist point of view means you are what you deny, and your speech is hate speech to be suppressed.[4] Badthink must be stamped out so that Goodthink will prevail. The article in question was so extreme:

Repeat after me: there is no “diversity crisis” in Silicon Valley. None. In fact, there is no crisis at all in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is doing absolutely gangbusters. Apple has $200 billion in cash reserves and equivalents—and a market valuation of about $630 billion. Amazing. Facebook now garners a billion daily users. This is a nearly unfathomable number. Google is worth nearly $450 billion and has $70 billion in cash on hand.

This is not a crisis. Silicon Valley is swimming in money and in success. Uber is valued at around $50 billion. Companies like Airbnb are remaking travel and lodging. Intel is moving forward into the global Internet of Things market. South Korea’s Samsung just opened a giant R&D facility in the heart of Silicon Valley. Google and Facebook are working to connect the entire world. Netflix is re-making how we consume entertainment.

Silicon Valley is home to the next phase of the global auto industry. Fintech and biotech are transforming banking and medicine. The success of Silicon Valley is not due to diversity—or to any bias. Rather, to brilliance, hard work, risk taking, big ideas and money.

Want to be part of this? Great! Follow the example of the millions who came before you. Their parents made school a priority. They took math and science classes, and did their homework every night. They practiced ACT tests over and over. They enrolled in good schools… They took computer programming, engineering, chemistry—hard subjects that demand hard work. They then left their home, their family, their community, and moved to Silicon Valley. They worked hard, staying late night after night. They didn’t blog, they didn’t let their skills go stale, they didn’t blame others when not everything worked out exactly as hoped….

From all over the world, from Brazil and Canada, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Norway, Egypt, fellow humans come to Silicon Valley to work, create, succeed. And they do. Silicon Valley is extremely diverse.

Of course, the iPhone wasn’t created because of diversity. Nor was Google. Nor Facebook, nor the computer chip, nor the touchscreen. They were created because a small band of super-smart people who worked very hard to create something better than existed before….

Silicon Valley doesn’t just create greatness, it’s probably the most open, welcoming, meritocratic-based region on the planet. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that disproportionately more Chinese, Indians, and LGBQT succeed in Silicon Valley than just about any place in America. Guess what? Everyone earned their job because of their big brains and ability to contribute.

Is that you? Then come here! It’s an amazingly inclusive place.

But be sure to bring your computer science degree, your engineering degree, your proven set of accomplishments. Be sure you are prepared to sacrifice “fun” for long hours and hard work. Offer proof of how well you did in school, in math, in physics. These matter dearly as they are fundamental to what makes Silicon Valley succeed.

Silicon Valley is not perfect. It’s certainly no utopia. But if you aren’t able to make it here, it’s almost certainly not because of any bias. Rather, on your refusal to put in the hard work in the hard classes, and to accept all the failures that happen before you achieve any amazing success….[5]

The coiner of the term kafkatrapping, Eric S. Raymond, was a pioneer in open-source development, where widely-dispersed programmers working together build a software project which is free to use, change, or incorporate into larger systems. One of the earliest and most famous of such projects was Linux, an open-source version of Unix originated by Linus Torvalds. Open-source projects have been infiltrated by online activists and “codes of conduct” that let them expel less politically-sensitive participants have been added. Linus himself was threatened by the activists.[6]

Another example of the activist entryists’ pressure tactics from Raymond’s blog (emphasis added):

The hacker culture, and STEM in general, are under ideological attack. Recently I blogged a safety warning that according to a source I consider reliable, a “women in tech” pressure group has made multiple efforts to set Linus Torvalds up for a sexual assault accusation. I interpreted this as an attempt to beat the hacker culture into political pliability, and advised anyone in a leadership position to beware of similar attempts.

Now comes Roberto Rosario of the Django Software Foundation. Django is a web development framework that is a flourishing and well-respected part of the ecology around the of the Python language. On October 29th 2015 he reported that someone posting as ‘djangoconcardiff’ opened an issue against pull request #176 on ‘awesome-django’, addressing it to Rosario. This was the first paragraph.

Hi, great project!! I have one observation and a suggestion. I noticed that you have rejected some pull requests to add some good django libraries and that the people submitting thsoe pull requests are POCs (People of Colour). As a suggestion I recommend adopting the Contributor Code of Conduct ( to ensure everyone’s contributions are accepted regarless [sic] of their sex, sexual orientation, skin color, religion, height, place of origin, etc. etc. etc. As a white straight male and lead of this trending repository, your adoption of this Code of Conduct will send a loud and clear message that inclusion is a primary objective of the Django community and of the software development community in general. D.

The slippery, Newspeak-like quality of djangoconcardiff’s “suggestion” makes it hard to pin down from the text itself whether he/she is merely stumping for inclusiveness or insinuating that rejection of pull requests by “persons of color” is itself evidence of racism and thoughtcrime.

But, if you think you’re reading that ‘djangoconcardiff’ considers acceptance of pull requests putatively from “persons of color” to be politically mandatory, a look at the Contributor Covenant he/she advocates will do nothing to dissuade you. Paragraph 2 denounces the “pervasive cult of meritocracy”. [Update: The explicit language has since been removed. The intention rather obviously remains]

It is clear that djangoconcardiff and the author of the Covenant (self-described transgender feminist Coraline Ada Ehmke) want to replace the “cult of meritocracy” with something else. And equally clear that what they want to replace it with is racial and sexual identity politics.

Rosario tagged his Twitter report “Social Justice in action!” He knows who these people are: SJWs, “Social Justice Warriors”. And, unless you have been living under a rock, so do you. These are the people – the political and doctrinal tendency, united if in no other way by an elaborate shared jargon and a seething hatred of [the]“white straight male”, who recently hounded Nobel laureate Tim Hunt out of his job with a fraudulent accusation of sexist remarks.

I’m not going to analyze SJW ideology here except to point out, again, why the hacker culture must consider anyone who holds it an enemy. This is because we must be a cult of meritocracy. We must constantly demand merit – performance, intelligence, dedication, and technical excellence – of ourselves and each other.

Now that the Internet—the hacker culture’s creation!—is everywhere, and civilization is increasingly software-dependent, we have a duty, the duty I wrote about in Holding Up The Sky. The invisible gears have to turn. The shared software infrastructure of civilization has to work, or economies will seize up and people will die. And for large sections of that infrastructure, it’s on us—us!—to keep it working. Because nobody else is going to step up.

We dare not give less than our best. If we fall away from meritocracy—if we allow the SJWs to remake us as they wish, into a hell-pit of competitive grievance-mongering and political favoritism for the designated victim group of the week—we will betray not only what is best in our own traditions but the entire civilization that we serve.

This isn’t about women in tech, or minorities in tech, or gays in tech. The hacker culture’s norm about inclusion is clear: anybody who can pull the freight is welcome, and twitching about things like skin color or shape of genitalia or what thing you like to stick into what thing is beyond wrong into silly. This is about whether we will allow “diversity” issues to be used as wedges to fracture our community, degrade the quality of our work, and draw us away from our duty.

When hackers fail our own standards of meritocracy, as we sometimes do, it’s up to us to fix it from within our own tradition: judge by the work alone, you are what you do, shut up and show us the code. A movement whose favored tools include the rage mob, the dox, and faked incidents of bigotry is not morally competent to judge us or instruct us.

I have been participating in and running open-source projects for a quarter-century. In all that time I never had to know or care whether my fellow contributors were white, black, male, female, straight, gay, or from the planet Mars, only whether their code was good. The SJWs want to make me care; they want to make all of us obsess about this, to the point of having quotas and struggle sessions and what amounts to political officers threatening us if we are insufficiently “diverse”.

Think I’m exaggerating? Read the whole djangoconcardiff thread. What’s there is totalitarianism in miniature: ideology is everything, merit counts for nothing against the suppression of thoughtcrime, and politics is conducted by naked intimidation against any who refuse to conform. Near the end of the conversation djangoconcardiff threatens to denounce Rosario to the board of the Django Software Foundation in the confused, illiterate, vicious idiom of an orc or a stormtrooper.

It has been suggested that djangoconcardiff might be a troll emulating an SJW, and we should thus take him less seriously. The problem with this idea is that no SJW disclaimed him–more generally, that “Social Justice” has reached a sort of Poe’s Law singularity at which the behavior of trolls and true believers becomes indistinguishable even to each other, and has the same emergent effects.

In the future, the hacker whose community standing the SJWs threaten could be you. The SJWs talk ‘diversity’ but like all totalitarians they measure success only by total ideological surrender – repeating their duckspeak, denouncing others for insufficient political correctness, loving Big Brother. Not being a straight white male won’t save you either – Roberto Rosario is an Afro-Hispanic Puerto Rican.

We must cast these would-be totalitarians out–refuse to admit them on any level except by evaluating on pure technical merit whatever code patches they submit. We must refuse to let them judge us, and learn to recognize their thought-stopping jargon and kafkatraps as a clue that there is no point in arguing with them and the only sane course is to disengage. We can’t fix what’s broken about the SJWs; we can, and must, refuse to let them break us.[7]

Raymond’s post is the distilled essence of commitment to engineering excellence and equal opportunity. His opponents are the people trying to tear down standards and replace them with identity politics, tribalists who don’t understand how to make the pie but want to get pieces for their friends.

Victim culture identity politics is a US-centric movement promoting narrower and narrower minorities as victims. The earlier Jesse Jackson-style affirmative action movement was supposed to get blacks and women into higher-paying, powerful positions in tech — but most tech companies are worldwide in scope and hiring, and it makes little sense for them to represent local population distributions. Silicon Valley is much more top-heavy with Asians than with white males:

[Most articles on tech diversity say] the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley are overwhelmingly white and male. While blacks and Latinos comprise 28 percent of the US workforce, they make up just 6 percent of Twitter’s total US workforce and six percent of Facebook employees.

Of course this is just a lie. Very few people would say a workforce that is 50 to 60 percent white, true of both Google and Microsoft, is “overwhelmingly white.” In fact, it’s less non-Hispanic white than the US labor force as a whole. I’ve linked to statistics in this very piece. They take about 10 seconds of browsing search queries to understand this.

But you don’t need to know statistics. Eat at a Google cafeteria. Or walk around the streets of Cupertino. There is no way that one can characterize Silicon Valley as overwhelmingly white with a straight face. Silicon Valley is quite diverse. The diversity just happens to represent the half of the human race with origins in the swath of territory between India and then east and north up to Korea.

The diversity problem isn’t about lack of diversity. It is about the right kind of diversity for a particular socio-political narrative. That’s fine, but I really wish there wasn’t this tendency to lie about the major obstacle here: people of Asian origin are 5% of the American work force, but north of 30% in much of the Valley. If you want more underrepresented minorities hiring fewer of these people would certainly help. In particular the inflow of numerous international talent coming from India and China could be staunched by changes to immigration law.

But these are international companies. Though they genuflect to diversity in the American sense (blacks and Latinos), ultimately they’ll engage in nominal symbolic tokenism while they continue on with business, with an increasingly ethnically Asian workforce and and increasingly Asian economic focus. Meanwhile, the press will continue to present a false caricature of a white workforce because that’s a lot more of a palatable bogeyman than Asian Americans and international tech migrants, and the liberal reading public seems to prefer the false narrative to engaging with reality.[8]

Money and power are being created by disciplined, organized hard work in one of the few US-based growth industries left, the connected computers that make up the Internet and allow cellphone apps to do the world’s business. Political parasites are trying very hard to gain entry and position themselves to feed from the resources others generated. While it may seem harmless to throw activists a bone—and Silicon Valley really does want more excellent minorities and women!—feeding the activists only lets them gather more allies to return to demand more. And when they gain power, all of us lose.

[1] “Jesse’s New Target: Silicon Valley,” by Roger O Crockett, Bloomberg, July 11, 1999.
[2] “Intel pledges $300 million to improve diversity in tech,” by Andrew Cunningham, January 6, 2015.
[3] “Intel plans job cuts across the company, internal memo says,” by Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian, June 4, 2015.
[4] “Kafkatrapping,” by Eric Raymond, Armed and Dangerous, July 18, 2010. ““Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin, racism, sexism, homophobia, oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin, racism, sexism, homophobia, oppression…}.”
[5] “There Is No Diversity Crisis in Tech,” by Brian Hall, censored at Forbes online but republished by, October 7, 2015.
[6] “From kafkatrap to honeytrap,” by Eric Raymond, Armed and Dangerous, November 3, 2015.
[7] “Why Hackers Must Eject the SJWs,” by Eric S. Raymond, Armed and Dangerous, November 13, 2015.
[8] “Silicon Valley Has an Asian-people Problem,” by Razib Khan, The Unz Review, February 6, 2016.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


More reading on other topics:

The Great Progressive Stagnation vs. Dynamism
Death by HR: How Affirmative Action is Crippling America
Death by HR: The End of Merit in Civil Service
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Public Employee Unions
Death by HR: History and Practice of Affirmative Action and the EEOC
Civil Service: Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive Dream
Bootleggers and Baptists
Corrupt Feedback Loops: Justice Dept. Extortion
Corrupt Feedback Loops, Goldman Sachs: More Justice Dept. Extortion
Death by HR: The Birth and Evolution of the HR Department
Death by HR: The Simple Model of Project Labor

On Affirmative Action and Social Policy:

Affirmative Action: Chinese, Indian-Origin Citizens in Malaysia Oppressed
Affirmative Action: Caste Reservation in India
Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech<a
Title IX Totalitarianism is Gender-Neutral
Public Schools in Poor Districts: For Control Not Education
Real-Life “Hunger Games”: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor
The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods (And Yours!)
Child Welfare Ideas: Every Child Gets a Government Guardian!
“Income Inequality” Propaganda is Just Disguised Materialism

Right Wing, Liberal, Conservative…? Political Orientation Labels

Political junkies will be familiar with the Political Compass test, which adds Authoritarian/Libertarian to the standard Right/Left two-dimensional scale. On this test I come down in the Right-Libertarian quadrant:

Political Compass chart

Political Compass chart

Which isn’t too surprising, since I tend to be a classical liberal: believing a self-organizing society of free markets and few laws works better for everyone in the long run. So it’s always a bit shocking when someone thinks I’m “right wing,” a label which has come to include anyone who dissents from Progressive orthodoxy and who expresses any doubts that bringing the best and brightest to power and passing laws to eliminate Bad Behavior will bring Utopia.

The best way to look at this is as modes of thought, all of which can be useful in the appropriate situation. None is always and everywhere correct. And those who inhabit one or two modes at all times are the least likely to make good policy decisions. Authoritarians are almost incapable of understanding that telling other people what to do and how to behave correctly almost never works to accomplish the intended goal of increasing Goodness as they define it, but often does encourage hypocrisy, lawlessness, black markets, and dependency which damage the natural governors of social life — reputation and community enforcement of good behaviors.

Going over the labels and what they mean:

Progressive: The idea of Progress is to leave old and incorrect thinking behind, and replace it with updated, more correct thought and behavior. A Progressive believes they are helping the Arrow of History by pushing along societal progress at a faster rate by using government force to change behavior; some elite of scientists and thinkers will guide the ignorant masses through law and social workers toward a better society. Progressives gave us eugenics, Prohibition of alcohol and drugs, homogenized public schools designed to indoctrinate the population with Progressive teachings, and US entry into WWI and a succession of alliances and wars since. More recently, they are responsible for Obamacare / ACA health insurance, which heavily taxed the small number of younger and middle and upper-class purchasers of individual policies to help subsidize the older, poorer, and sicker, but ended up in a death spiral of higher prices and falling enrollments. Other “make someone else behave correctly” ideas of theirs include plastic bag bans, high soda taxes, gun control, and complex green energy subsidies that are hurting lower-income power consumers. Progressives often correctly identify problems but then fail to understand why passing a law or regulation to ameliorate the problem will simply cause more and worse problems elsewhere while reducing the population’s autonomy and accountability.

Conservative: Conservatives tend to be uncomfortable with change and afraid of loss while having trouble imagining the good that comes with change. Conservative thinking should always be a part of policy discussions; the Chesterton’s Fence analogy suggests no proposed change to a complex system should be evaluated without understanding how the existing system evolved to reach that point. Excessive conservatism leads to stagnation, and defense of the indefensible, as Southern conservatives defended slavery and today’s Democratic party defends public school unions.

Right and Left Wing: These labels date back to the French revolutionary era, where the Assembly sorted itself by support for King and status quo on the right, and revolution and change on the left. The Political Compass test uses this dimension to indicate support for less or more control of individual economic decisions, which is far simpler than its normal use to indicate a raft of associations: the Right Wing with religious belief, smaller government, support for military and law enforcement spending, and less regulation of business, while the Left Wing supports larger government, smaller militaries, less religion, and greater collective control of economic decisions.

Liberal: The root is Latin for free, and this term once applied to those who believed in maximizing individual decisionmaking capacity. Early Liberals opposed the Corn Laws (restrictions on food imports) of Britain, which increased food prices to the poor while benefitting the remaining landed gentry. The liberal tends to examine the justification for each law that interferes with freedom. Conservatives of that era believed the laws should reinforce their moral beliefs and penalize bad behavior, even when the behavior did not effect them directly. “Setting the tone,” religious principles were enshrined in law. Liberals saw this as a fundamental error, but the current usage of the term in the US is for authoritarian Progressives who are closer to the Conservatives of two centuries ago, supporting a moralistic view of law that would use it to penalize immoral thoughts — but now the targets are racism and sexism instead of illicit sex and pleasurable activities.

Radical: This came from the Latin radix, the root. Radicals aimed to get at the root causes of inequality, and the term came to be associated with extremism — to be radical was the opposite of conservative, pushing to tear out the fences of tradition and precedent to achieve a just society. In the sense that policy changes should be based on addressing not the superficial symptoms but their root causes, I am a radical.

So I’m far from “right wing” — but I do reject Progressive principles, and think trying to micromanage other people’s behavior to satisfy my ideas of what is proper or desirable is itself morally wrong. If I can personally persuade someone to stop behaving in a manner that endangers themselves or others, I will; but I will not give power to paid bureaucrats to manage behaviors which aren’t directly injuring people. It is none of my business if there’s a whorehouse operating out of earshot, or people wasting energy, or wealthy people spending vast sums on luxury yachts. I do not know enough to decide these matters for someone else, and I choose not to be governed by a democratic tyranny that gives the dumbest 51% of the population the ability to control what I decide to do for myself. The Founding Fathers were quite rightly afraid of an unrestrained democracy, and added the Bill of Rights to make sure there were guardrails hoping to prevent the corrupt feedback loop we are now suffering under. The permanent and unaccountable Administrative State (built by Progressives) has taken control of education, the media, and government, making it nearly impossible to reform through elections — unless the people see that as the primary problem of this age, and rise up to change it by electing enough radicals to tear down the structure that supports it — the graduated income tax, the funded bureaucrats and academics, the protected oligopolies created by regulation like media cartels and medical care, and the public employee unions that make it impossible to punish malfeasance. This is a radical position, based on conservative appreciation for free markets and natural social relations based on mutually-beneficial exchange, voluntary social cooperation and charity, and freedom of religious belief and practice. Those who do not tolerate others’ beliefs and try to control behaviors that don’t directly harm them should have no power to compel others, and a government that is allowed to mold the population’s beliefs to suit its increasing power is to be resisted.