08 September 2009

Dennis Wheatley

My Leader, Ian PJ, has dug up the "Letter for Posterity" written by popular author Dennis Wheatley in 1947, and tried to claim him as a Libertarian.

It will hardly do. Wheatley was at the very least conservative, and I would happily claim him as a reactionary with only slight reservations.

In particular, he had no respect for mass democracy. His letter (available in full as an 11-page pdf from the BBC) disposes of it in a couple of paragraphs:

... But the voice [of the people] was stilled by the coming of the electro-machine age, as the new inventions enabled the professional politicians of all parties to get into direct touch with every community, however remote. First came the electric press, enabling a million or more copies of a newspaper to be run off in a single night -- and enormously improved arrangements for distribution. Then came the wireless telegraph -- which swiftly developed into radio, with a five times a day news service which, by means of a cheap receiving set, could be picked up in every home. And these were followed by the cinematograph which soon became one of the most insidious weapons for political propaganda.

The result was that instead of forming their opinions by quiet thought and reasoned discussion, the bulk of the people took them ready made (from so called "informed" sources) ...

Quite.

And before you ask, no, blogging doesn't help. What led to the centralisation of opinion-forming was not the necessity of centralisation - such as has been attributed to the capital costs of printing and broadcasting - but the possibility of centralisation: the fact that the most immediately attractive ideas could reach everyone at once, unfiltered, and gain credibility from their momentum.

(Do not imagine that I wish to reimpose the filters on the flow of ideas: it can't be done, and it shouldn't be done. I don't want to control the opinions of the masses, I want to ignore them.)

So, no, Ian, Wheatley would not think all the better of us for being "committed to peaceful change through the ballot box". He would think we are wasting our time.

Unfortunately, his prescriptions are not optimistic, unless you accept his assertion that when we are killed fighting for our freedom against the state, we will be reborn with "a finer, stronger personality" as well as being an example to others. (The problems of being an atheist and a reactionary are a subject I've been meaning to write about for a while).

Back to Wheatley's non-libertarianism; if we have any historical model of libertarian government, it is probably Whig Britain at the end of the 19th century. Here's what Wheatley's recurring hero the Duke de Richleau says about the classical liberal movement, in a scene set in 1906

The main plank in the Liberal platform has for long been Free Trade, and with it they have won the votes of the masses in the towns because, on the face of it, their policy means cheap living. But go a little deeper into the matter and you will find that it has another altogether different aspect. The great strength of the Liberal party lies in the industrial north, and the money to finance industry comes from the rich manufacturers and the old Whig families who have invested their wealth in commerce. They are very shrewd people, and they know that if they can bring the cost of living down they will then be able to force down wages and derive bigger profits from their factories.

"Vendetta in Spain", Dennis Wheatley, 1957 ISBN 0-09-004660-9 p.153

I mentioned slight reservations about Wheatley's reaction - simply, he is too soft. In the letter, he defends Kings being answerable to an aristocratic class, and even to the will of the people when that was not short-circuited by mass communication.

06 September 2009

An Enhanced Model of Zombie Infestation

It's finally here! I have corrected what I saw as the major flaw in the zombie-infestation model I described earlier, and proceeded to draw a number of interesting conclusions about the effects of zombies on a human population based on my enhanced model.

I even went to the length of learning LaTeX so as to write it up properly.


Here it is! [pdf]
(link updated Nov 2010)

There's actually a lot more I could do, but I don't have enough time at the moment. I have run a lot of simulations, implemented in Ruby, which guided me to the approach I took. It would be interesting to parameterise the difference between my model and the Ottawa one - they had zombies becoming corpses when killed by humans, whereas I have made them destroyed altogether - I could add another parameter γ which is the proportion of killed zombies which are destroyed. It would be zero in the original model and one in mine, and I could calculate how values less than one affect my conclusions.

There is a serious side to this. In accepting the approach taken by Munz, Hudea, Imad and Smith? I constrained myself, while improving the model, to using the same basic technique. If I could include some phenomenon in the model as a rate of change of a population variable, I did. If I couldn't model it in that way, I didn't include it. So including a natural decay rate of zombies would be easy, but introducing the effects of age on humans or zombies would be very difficult.

Most strikingly, I didn't make any correction to an obvious error in the model, that humans and zombies do not achieve better "combat" results by outnumbering the enemy. I didn't do it because the line I did take was more interesting. But Mencius Moldbug's law of sewage applies - if you base a conclusion on N assumptions, and one of them is crap...

Of course, nobody would really rely on such crude mathematical treatments when planning for unlikely events, would they?

Would they?

05 September 2009

Political Passivism

For two years now I have been hanging on the words of Mencius Moldbug, who's analysis of the politics of our time (Unqualified Reservations) I find almost completely persuasive.

Having advanced a vision of government by for-profit corporations, MM has at last started to lay out the path by which we can get from democracy to responsible, effective, secure government.

His answer so far validates both my high estimate of his understanding, and my pessimism. The logic is completely sound.

The problem with government is politics - the fact that no government can aim primarily at the welfare of the population, or for that matter even at its own profit, when it is constrained most of all by politics to do whatever is necessary to hold off rivals for power.

Anyone who attempts to improve the government, in any aspect, by any method, is committing politics and is therefore part of the problem. MM gives us a steel rule - that in order to become worthy to hold power, the first requirement is "absolute renunciation of official power".

Will this approach - passivism - work? It doesn't seem likely. But, it doesn't seem likely that activism will work either. I've said before, long shots are all we've got

Passivism appeals to me. I even put forward my own version when I refused to sign a petition calling for Gordon Brown to resign. But I have not completely abandoned activism, albeit in the form of half-hearted engagement with the least effective activist movement imaginable.

Since passivism is the prerequisite to step 1 of the procedure for reaction, and since 9a implies at least a 9b, there may be something I can do to bring about a better government. When I find out, I will consider it here.

03 September 2009

Politics is a spectator sport

More evidence for my claim that the main value of politics to ordinary people is as a spectator sport:

The Monkey Cage writes:
the actual audience for news wants to hear more about strategy. Why? Probably because they already know what candidate or, in this case, policy they favor — at least in broad terms (e.g., yea or nay on health care reform) — and so they want to know whether their preferred policy is “winning.” That’s what strategy coverage provides them.

via TGGP

(By the way, I've been quiet lately because I'm working on something that will revolutionalise the state of the art of zombie population modelling).