|Government is the Rule of |
On Human Sacrifices and Other Modern Superstitions
This 33000 word essay  develops the ideas that I presented in the speech I gave on November 10th 2002 at the Liberty 2002 Conference organized in London by the Libertarian Alliance and the Libertarian International. The essential intuition I had already exposed in articles previously published in French: L'étatisme, forme moderne de la magie noire (QL #108), and Magie blanche contre magie noire (which latter article was since translated to English as White Magic vs Black Magic). However, the present essay is considerably expanded as compared to the previous articles, and contains developments in economics, psychology, philosophy, epistemology, sociology and ethics (pphew!). Note that the slightly edited contents of section 2 of this essay was published as an independent article: Public Goods Fallacies — False Justifications For Government. A previous version of this essay has been published in the Québécois Libre as a series of three articles: Part One (QL #126), Part Two (QL #127), Part Three (QL #128). I also feel particularly honored that Christian Michel selected this essay for publication on his website Liberalia.com (section Knowing). I since translated the essay to French: L'État, règne de la magie noire. Subsequent speeches I made at Libertarian International events can be considered sequels to this one: The Enterprise of Liberty vs The Enterprise of Politics (October 2004), Capitalism is the Institution of Ethics, (April 2005).
1.1 A Grim Conclusion
1.2 The Question of Government
2 Government: The Official Justifications
2.1 Public Goods
2.2 The Ad Hoc Fallacy in Any Collectivism
2.3 A Brief Review of Statist Justifications
3 Explaining Irrationality Rationally
3.1 Opinions And Interests
3.2 Patterns In Irrationality
3.3 Government: The Unofficial Justification
4 Black Magic vs White Magic
4.1 Two Opposite Attitudes
4.2 The Magic Color Of Life
4.3 A Comparative Table
4.4 Magic Formulas
5 The Magic of Human Action
5.1 Good, Knowledge of Good, and Action toward Good
5.2 The Hierarchy vs The Enterprise
5.3 Statistics vs Cybernetics
5.4 The Law of Eristic Escalation
6 Black Magic At Work
6.1 Human sacrifices
6.2 Black Magic Spells
6.3 Staging the Worship
6.4 Does Black Magic Work?
7 Conclusion: The Real Enemy
7.1 The Enemy is Enmity itself
7.2 Know Thy Enemy
7.3 Strike The Root
7.4 Hope Ahead
Unless you visited my website recently and consequently see what I mean  you are probably befuddled by the title of my essay: ``Government is the Rule of Black Magic, On Human Sacrifices and Other Modern Superstitions´´. You're wondering: ``is this guy some kind of looney? is he going to tell us that government is not our real Enemy, but only the visible manifestation of hidden forces of Evil that dominate our world through black magic?´´. Well, yes I'm a looney, and yes this will be more or less my conclusion. But my bet is that before you reach the end of this essay, you will also be the very same kind of looney, and you will agree with this conclusion. Actually, since you're reading this page, you probably already agree with me and just don't know it yet. To convince you, I will only have to cast a new light on this Evil the manifestations of which are all too familiar to you .1.2 The Question of Government
But first things first. If I am to tell you the intellectual trip that led me to this grim conclusion, I might as well start from my point of departure. The question that bugged me is a question that must bug most rationally inclined libertarians at one point or another. And most libertarian activists are probably the same kind of rational cerebral libertarian as I am (i.e. NT in the Myers-Briggs typology ). That question is: are there any rational justifications to the existence of government? What can we say of existing explanations that serve as official justifications? In other words: is government the answer to the problems it claims to solve?
Of course, the answer that we libertarians have reached is that no, there are no rational justifications for government , its official explanations are bogus, and not only does it not solve the problems it claims to solve, but it creates these problems to begin with. This answer even defines us as libertarians. But this answer is not enough. It is a mistake to close the debate there and think that we've solved the problem — just our knowing that government is wrong won't in itself make government go away. We must ask: if these explanations are fake, then what is the real reason for people to believe in government? What is the rational explanation for these irrational explanations ? In other words: if government is the answer, then what was the question?
That's how I'll uncover the dark secret of government. Then, I'll develop the theme of black magic: its principles; the principles of white magic, its opposite; how black magic manifests itself, etc. I will conclude briefly with the task that lies ahead for us.
|2 Government: The Official Justifications|
The most popular tentative justification of government in rational terms is Public Goods theory and its variants, whether presented from a utilitarian point of view (often with the help of its econometric toolbox), or from a moral point of view: some activity is of a special nature or has a special importance, and therefore must be managed by a central agency ``in the interest of the public´´. Without analyzing the details for the moment, suffice it to say that all other justifications of government somehow boil down to a more particular or more general case of the Public Goods argument. The ``public good´´ considered may be some form of service related to security (police, justice, army), infrastructure (transportation, telecommunications, education, health), ``harmonization´´ in some matter (information, education, language, industry standards), certification (identity, land registry, verification of conformity to standards), etc.
Unhappily, many libertarians concede some ``public goods´´ to the statists, but then they are on a slippery slope, for there is no reason to stop the public goods argument to any particular service. To paraphrase Emile Faguet: minarchists are libertarians who do not have the courage to accept the full consequences of their ideas; anarchists are uncompromising libertarians . Indeed, using arguments of the ``public goods´´ type, government can intervene in just any domain — and once it does, it will make sure that the domain is so messed up that, by the same argument, it will have to extend its grasp over it until the domain is both completely under its control and completely messed up — and neighbouring domains in turn suffer. But of course, intervention is based on the premise that government intervention is useful, to begin with — and this is precisely the point that statists posit as a petition of principle; it is precisely the point that needs to be disputed.2.2 The Ad Hoc Fallacy in Any Collectivism
The arguments for the collectivization of some service into a state-managed ``public good´´ contains an intrinsic ad hoc fallacy: Why pick any particular form of collectivization?
Indeed, why collectivize or not collectivize, say, ``toilet paper´´? Isn't there but a more specific need to collectivize ``green soft toilet paper in 5-inch-wide rolls sold under a brand the name of which ends with an S´´? (After all, some company may very well have a dangerous monopoly on these!) Or why isn't there instead a need to collectivize production of all paper? Why collectivize at the scale of Great Britain? Why not collectivize at a smaller scale, say Westminster or the block next door? Or at a larger scale, say Northern Eurasia, or our quadrant of the Milky Way? And why collectivize it on a geographical scale at all? Why not collectivize for people whose name begin with an ``R´´, or for people who wear black socks?
As for arbitrarily choosing the scale, we could as well argue that the considered services are of such a particular nature or importance for an individual that he shouldn't be deprived from his own ability to choose without being coerced, as an independent individual, how these services should be provided to him. Or if we are to take the opposite view, why stop? If collectivization of the considered service is of such an importance that the necessity for everyone to obey the same orders is an absolute priority that justifies coercion and violence until everyone agrees, then we should stop all other activities, withhold all human rights and wage world war until there is a world government so that at last everyone will be under the same rule. And why stop there even? Before we have any respect for individual rights, it is also urgent to send space ships to conquer the universe and compel space aliens into accepting the same social laws as we have.
Collectivists implicitly accept that their argument is not universal: their claim verily supposes the existence of an important counter-effect that becomes preponderant and limits the applicability of their argument. What are these counter-effects, their relevance, their limits? Only by identifying and studying these counter-effects can the possible applicability of their argument be established. In other words, their claim contains its very own contradiction, which they dismiss by voluntary ignorance. Their call for governmental coercion is based on a one-sided view of government. This is the case of all statist justifications .2.3 A Brief Review of Statist Justifications
Here is a brief review of the justifications given by statists to argue for the necessity or utility of government. Other arguments for ``public goods´´ can be found to be fallacies as well . See footnotes for details.
|3 Explaining Irrationality Rationally|
It is one thing to know that statist arguments are logical fallacies, but it is quite another thing to understand why and how these fallacies arise. What are the mechanisms of thought that lead to developing this kind of beliefs and this kind of justifications? How come so many people take it for granted that government can magically solve any and all problems that they fear or encounter?
A common way to answer these questions is to analyze the popularity of these fallacious opinions in terms of the interests of the people who spread them and who accept them . From this perspective, these people will better prosper who spread or accept opinions from the respective popularity or displayed acceptance of which they derive higher marginal benefits and lower marginal costs . This point of view has been successfully used to develop Public Choice Theory, that explains the underlying mechanisms of political decision in democracies. It is a very important tool to understand the strength of the forces that underlie political oppression and plunder throughout the world.
These forces are such that any time there is a potential for exploitation, someone will come and use this potential to his profit. And the potential in this case is the acceptance by people of their being exploited : any time people have beliefs that make them willing to be exploited, then political entrepreneurs will rush to turn this opportunity into actual exploitation. Note that this is another reason why government subsidies are never useful and can always be counted as almost pure consumption: because any promise of potential exploitation generates lobbying toward collecting (and keeping) the subsidies, up to the amount when the marginal gain (subsidy minus lobbying cost) equals the marginal return on investment in other industries . People specializing in ``political entrepreneurship´´ will discover or create new untapped resources that they will exploit, all the while preserving and intensifying the existing exploitation .
The conclusion of this analysis is that the battle for freedom is not a battle between people, it is a battle between ideas. In as much as the ideas that currently allow for exploitation to exist are in widespread acceptance, the actual potential for oppression remains just as strong, and fighting current oppressors and abolishing current forms of oppression will only lead to different oppressors taking control and instituting new forms of oppression. It is the voluntary servitude, as La Boétie called it, the acceptance of power, that must be fought.
Now, as far as suggesting ways to fight fallacies, this approach does not offer very encouraging answers; it certainly gives general recipes for how to lobby or not to lobby, but such advice is worthy whether you're lobbying for or against liberty, and it seems that the enemies of liberty already have a headlong advance at levying such techniques . If we are to go further and actually fight these fallacies, if we are to choose actions that will better the statist propaganda, then we have to take an approach that is qualitative rather than merely quantitative. Why are these fallacies surviving, rather than other fallacies? If these fallacies were successfully dispelled, would exploitation be vanquished, or would the interests at stake just spawn different fallacies to replace them, with exploitation remaining just as intensive? Is there something in these fallacies that can be traced as the Evil to be struck, rather than the superficial shapes that it can replace at will when they are defeated? To find out, we must analyze the common patterns of thought behind the fallacies used to justify government.3.2 Patterns In Irrationality
A first obvious common point in all the justifications for government: they all suppose that government somehow provides some kind of goods for free, without any costly counterpart. The existence of this pattern among statists is not anything new; we libertarians even have a mantra to dispel this pattern: TANSTAAFL . However, what is remarkable is that all statist justifications include this pattern, albeit sometimes in a less than obvious way. The pattern is most visible in the trivial cases, where the goods to be provided for free are the subsidies that are not compared to the corresponding taxes. In more subtle cases, the pattern is hidden behind the increased complexity of the situation, but it's still there: for instance, government is supposed to bring the coordination of people toward some common good for free. Ultimately, what government is supposed to bring is some kind of a warranty that evil won't happen; some special sense of security. But in all cases, government is supposed to conjure something out of thin air : The only thing supposedly required for government to grant us its blessings is to demand them by petitioning it with enough faith.
A second pattern that can be found to accompany the first pattern is that government is seen as an external entity, something outside of society and above it. And this divine nature is precisely what allows it to create and dispense goods, services, trust or whatever, at no cost. This divine nature can be put clearly in evidence through the awe of people before the visible power of the State: ``how could mere individuals accomplish that?´´ will they wonder, when it is suggested that a government monopoly on this or that activity should be abolished. Yet, government monopoly or no government monopoly, it is always ``mere´´ individuals doing things! Of course it is, and it cannot be otherwise. Politicians and government officers are not more than other individuals; actually, experience as well as theory shows that they are usually less than other individuals — because they are irresponsible. Government doesn't sprinkle any pixie dust on its masters and servants, it doesn't endow them with any magic power. Actually, Government does grant them a special ability that normal individuals don't have — and this ability is indeed what characterizes Government: it is the ability to recourse to legal coercion against those who refuse to obey. The God that statists worship is Brute Force. So, translated in real terms, without the veil of magic, the question that those awed people wonder about really is: ``how could this be achieved without coercion?´´ And the answer is then obviously ``with less suffering´´ .
As we progress toward the dark secret behind statism, we find a third common pattern among justifications for government: they all introduce a false tradeoff between liberty and some good, where government is supposed to be the divine entity with which trade happens. Divine, because it is clear to everyone, including the statists, that no human force could propose such a deal . But statists either ignore human behavior, or classify the State out of it — to them, Government is a God, a superior collectivist entity with which to trade. (Where's my invoice ?) The way they evade the crucial question: ``Who warranties the warrant ?´´ is by pushing it back behind a veil of ignorance and blind faith. Once again, some supernatural force is meant to create trust out of nowhere, for free. Magic mantras, sacred texts with magic power, such as constitutions , the complex rituals and formal apparatus of the State and its administration, all contribute to lure people into attributing a divine aura to the State.
Finally, a common point between all of these fallacies is that all their arguments contain dynamically self-destructing notions. That is, they imply the dynamic opposite of the axioms used to justify them. They rely on premises the effects of which lead to the quick disappearance of the premises. This particular kind of contradiction shows that underlying these fallacies is a way of thinking that ignores the dynamics of human action through causation and focuses on static assessments about society using correlations. Such dynamic contradictions are based on some kind of static reasoning that ignores the very basics of dynamic human behavior — that ignores the very nature of man. This makes it paradoxical that statists often accuse libertarians of being utopian and unrealistic and ignorant of human nature, whereas it is precisely the statists who deserve such comments! But this kind of paradox is frequent with statists.
All in all, the justifications for statism are not a collection of isolated mistakes; they stem from a systematic line of flawed reasoning, from a strong paradigm, from a view of the world.3.3 Government: The Unofficial Justification
From our study of them, it appears that all the justifications of the State ultimately boil down to this: religious worship of the State as an almighty supernatural authority. The State is the idol of a self-denying pagan cult. Belief in such nonsense would be considered a mental disease, if it were not so common. And hopefully, in a not so far away future, it will indeed be considered as a mental pandemic, an infantile disease that swept away the world at a time when mankind is still very young. However, for the time being, it is still up to us to devise a cure — and to be able to do so, we must first understand the disease, how it survives, how it propagates. We must investigate the psychological mechanisms underlying such a belief system, identify the weaknesses of the mind through which this parasite belief enters people's mind.
Governments are assuming undue authority. Thus, in as much as the structure of human feelings is a common genetic heritage, any strong and coherent tendency in a lot of people to believe in government has an explanation in terms of the usurpation of some natural sentiment of submission to authority. Natural sources of authority are not many: parents have some authority on their children, in as much as they provide for them; friends give their opinions to be taken into account in as much as their alliance is to be preserved; chiefs lead people in short times of emergency (war, fire, natural disaster, etc.); elders or great achievers have authority on laymen, in as much as their wisdom is acknowledged. In evolutionary time scales, these are probably as much complexity as could make way into the innate structure of the human mind .
The first kind of natural authority in human life is parenting. And the fallacies used as justification for government are fallacies of parenting indeed — they ride on the primitive mental mechanisms by which young infants relate to their parents. To a young child, the parents appear as external superior entities that give one goods for free, if only one moans and cries, without one having to think about the ins and outs of the production of the goods thus bestowed. Parents are understood as well-meaning, having with their children a relationship of mutual love; young infants have an absolute trust in their parents . Finally, it is almost universally accepted that parents have an authority to decide for their children, and even to punish them in certain cases — though the precise limits of parental authority are debatable .
There is no doubt that governments pretend to assume the role of parents. In autocracies of all times, the personal tyrant has always posed as Father of the Nation , Big Brother, or something similar . In countries where power is more diluted, no single statesman might dare claim such a pompous title — though it is not uncommon that powerful and lasting politicians be given by journalists both flattering and joking a surname of the same vein ; but even in these countries, government as a whole nonetheless claims the role and powers devolved to parental care: the mythology of government as a parent, or of the Nation as a parent of which government is the spokesman is still very present in the public discourse about government. This is revealed by the ease with which are generated and accepted such common symbols as Uncle Sam or the motherly personification of various nations. And it is not uncommon, when discussing with statists, that they will explicitly appeal to the notion that government fulfills the role of parent with respect to citizens, who are maintained within the role of irresponsible children.
Now, the statist disease doesn't just substitute government for parents: it attempts to confer government authority from all possible sources. Democracy, the concept of Nation, and the notion of ``Social Contract´´, are tricks for the State to assume the authority of a voluntary alliance of friends, although there lacks the basic premise that would give validity and a friendly nature to such an alliance, namely its voluntary nature, — in other words, the liberty to enter it or refrain from entering it, and even exit it. Governments assume the role of a chief in times of emergency. They begin by excluding any competition; then they reinforce their power by creating a permanent climate of emergency. The failings of governments are thus instrumental to their self-preservation, by prolonging and extending the emergency that governments are meant to solve. Finally, governments, through the heavy subsidy of whichever alleged ``scientists´´, ``artists´´ and ``experts´´ support their authority, thereby claim the endorsement of human wisdom for their edicts.
Even if all these roles were legitimately assumed, they wouldn't endow governments with any of the political rights they claim: to enslave citizens and non-citizens part-time, to rob and imprison those who won't cooperate, to kill and torture those who resist — and most importantly, to make laws. Law-making is the godly power to unilaterally define and redefine the rules that relate governments to people under their dominion, and that relate these people to each other. Parents, friends, wise men, and even chiefs, have none of these prerogatives upon those who voluntarily accept their authorities, not to talk about those who decline their authorities. Through all these tricks of emotional fraud, governments are really trying to impersonate God — the supreme authority .
So as to achieve its emotional and intellectual fraud, the statist meme  does much more than just divert existing emotions from their rightful targets: it severely distorts the way infected people view the world, to begin with. It must bypass the natural defense system of the human mind, its immunity system: reason, the bullshit detector. And it must take constantly renewed measures to keep this defense system disabled as far as it is concerned . Yet at the same time, it cannot simply destroy all human understanding, otherwise infected humans would not survive long enough to be infected and propagate the meme . The successful parasite must selectively destroy understanding; it must condition the application of its fallacious content so it doesn't prevent basic surviving skills; it must leave enough of the mind alive and well so as to nurture and transmit the illness .
This circumvention and selective destruction of the immunity system is the essence of the statist disease, as of all diseases. It is the fundamental point about the statist disease, the source that enables all errors. It is the flaw through which the disease can invade the whole of a human's understanding of society and the universe. It is the cause that fatally leads to terrible consequences. It is the cornerstone to all intellectual and emotional frauds; it is the key that justifies all massive criminal behavior. Only by identifying this flaw can we build new defenses and find a cure. Therefore, we must study more deeply the immunity-altering mechanism of this mental disease; we must fully analyze the ur-Evil of this statist meme that infects human minds. And to begin with, we must give this Evil its name: Black Magic.
|4 Black Magic vs White Magic|
Like all diseases, Black Magic can be characterized by its symptoms. We find a fine, precise and concise summary of these symptoms in an entry of The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce:
Pray, v.: To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Black Magic is best evidenced by contrasting it with the opposite attitude of White Magic, that is adopted by sane minds .
Everyone seeks happiness, success or redemption; but we can distinguish two radically opposite path to follow while striving for them. A follower of Black Magic begs for grants, he humiliates himself, submits to superior forces. An observer of White Magic earns rewards, he develops self-pride and mastership of nature (in a non-hierarchical sense). A follower of Black Magic tries to obtain favors from superior forces by making sacrifices, by destroying things or people, by making a show of one's friendly intents, or even by humiliating himself in groveling submission. An observer of White Magic tries to obtain satisfactions from earthly things and people (in a non-hierarchical relation ), by enhancing himself and his property, by creating goods and services, by doing actual work, by proudly developing his skills. Followers of Black Magic are ignorant of nature and how it works, and they rebel against it when it doesn't satisfy their whims. Practitioners of White Magic try to understand nature and its mechanisms, they accept it as it is, and use their knowledge of it to achieve satisfactions. To followers of Black Magic, Gods are supernatural beings above us; their nature is Holy and suffers no questioning. To practitioners of White Magic, in as much as things can be explained in terms of Gods, Gods are but aspects of Nature itself. To followers of Black Magic, the ultimate goal is the fulfillment of all wild desires, with impossibility being vanquished in a surreal paradise to be granted to worshippers in some far future or after death. To practitioners of White Magic, the ultimate goal is to achieve appreciated satisfactions before death, with the wisdom to reevaluate one's desires so as to fit the realm of the possible.
This is what I call Black Magic — the belief and practice of seeking good things as miracles bestowed by a certain kind of jealous and venal Gods: Gods who require you to humiliate yourself before them; Gods who reward sacrifices that prove subservience; Gods who relish the abjection of their believers, and the reduction of unbelievers into subjects; Gods who rejoice from the destruction or debasement of oneself and other people; Gods with unlimited powers and arbitrary whims, that are not bound by any law knowable by reason, but are meant to be influenced by a display of compliant intentions from their humiliated followers. Of course, awful gods who could be corrupted by such an attitude would not deserve being worshipped at all. They are monstruosities against which any self-respecting human being can but revolt. Those that grovel at the feet of such gods are slaves, swine; they are creatures lacking the dignity of their own free will, and they are prompt to forsake their free will indeed.
On the contrary, White Magic is a wholly different set of beliefs, involving a wholly different kind of incorruptible but well-meaning Gods: Gods who require people to improve themselves; Gods who reward the creations that proves one's mastership with the creations themselves; Gods who relish from the self-esteem of believers, and the raise of unbelievers into partners; Gods who rejoice at their observers' self-reliance and pride; Gods who have limited power, whose behavior is circumscribed by knowable laws of nature, who are only moved by appropriate engineering by proud observers. These Gods are not to be worshipped, but understood. They are facts of nature that humans must learn to know and accept. Those who master these Gods become better humans; they are moral beings exerting their morality by making choices, and who indeed seek liberty and its dual face, responsibility, as the mother of all virtues.4.2 The Magic Color Of Life
Black Magic and White Magic are two opposite poles in the universe of attitudes that humans can have toward Life. In actual human behavior, in actual human beliefs, religions and discourses, within the complexity of any single person's mind, the two opposite attitudes may be simultaneously present, and their many instances interwoven, combined, and blended. The reality of human behavior oscillates between these two extremes, and more often than not yield shades of gray. But this gray doesn't mean that black and white do not exist: the very notion of shades of gray presupposes that black and white exist, that they can be separated and that you can be closer to one than to the other.
Separating white from black is not easy. Indeed, both aspects are simultaneously present in traditional cultures and religions; the very same words will contain several meanings with radically different colors; and most people will conflate these meanings into a vague confuse concept that prevents them from distinguishing the opposition between those meanings. Thus, confused or deceiving people will often resort to patterns of thoughts that jump from one meaning to the other without most listeners noticing the mistake or fraud. And this permanent confusion is no sheer bad luck: Black Magic systematically develops deceitful appearances: it will impersonate white magic so as to claim its creations, and thus to usurp power and legitimacy. Black magicians, the great destructors who dominate society, will dress in white, and claim to be great creators, whereas they will dress in black the enslaved white magicians who actually create.
Thus, people who believe what they are taught by schools and mass media will often have an inverted idea of what is white magic and what is black magic, of who is being exploited and who is exploiting, of what are the principles of creation, and what are the principles of destruction. The more gullible people will indeed invert black and white on a wide area of issues, wherever the official propaganda is efficient. Less gullible people will be confused into seeing gray everywhere. Of course, people find it usually obvious to distinguish what is constructive and what is destructive when it concerns themselves directly, so that the black magic propaganda can seldom deceive people regarding their immediate self-interest; but it can deceive them regarding their long-term self-interest, and regarding the self-interest of those people they don't know well. It inverts the long-range moral vision of gullible people, and induces moral myopia in less gullible people. This inversion causes a lot of confusion; it creates for each believer an intermediate area where everything is blurry or self-contradictory, between their correct short-range understanding and their inverted long-range understanding; this in turn induces a feeling of absurdity about life. In the end, this leads to a form of schizophrenia among those who accept theories too far from everyday practice , to self-destruction by those who will not adopt practices opposite to their theories; and to atrophy of the minds of those who seek to avoid mental conflict by rejecting theory altogether.
So as to understand the world, we must learn thus to untangle the tree of white magic from the parasite lianes of black magic that surround it. So as to assess the effects of various attitudes and deeds, we must examine the respective influences of Black Magic and White Magic in human behavior. Black magic always wins in appearance; you will always see it dominate the established institutions, glorified by formal rites and astonishing shows. But it is white magic that actually makes the world go round, even if it requires discernment to see that. Black magicians are expert in wishful thinking, idle imprecation, and deception of themselves and other people; but only through the dedicated work of white magicians does the world actually progress. All creation stems from the principles of white magic. White magic serves as the basis for civilization itself. And Black Magic itself can survive but as a parasite to White Magic, — for if there is no creation, there soon remains nothing left to destroy.4.3 A Comparative Table
Murray Rothbard, in the conclusion of his book Power and Market, made a small comparative table between the consequences of what he called ``The Market Principle´´ and ``The Hegemonic Principle´´. We may very well extend his table to summarize the opposition between the broader underlying principles that are White Magic and Black Magic. Actually, considering this table, we may equally name these principles respectively the Libertarian Principle and the Authoritarian Principle, or else the (classical) liberal principle and the statist principle, the merchant principle and the warrior principle, the principle of economics and the principle of politics, the voluntaryist principle and the coercitive principle, etc.
|Some Consequences of|
|The Market Principle||The Hegemonic Principle|
|general mutual benefit (maximized social utility)||exploitation — benefit of one group at expense of another|
|mutual harmony||caste conflict: war of all against all|
|power of man over nature||power of man over man|
|most efficient satisfaction of consumer wants||disruption of want-satisfaction for citizens, made secondary to the whims of political masters|
|economic calculation||calculational chaos|
|incentives for production and advance in living standards||destruction of incentives: capital consumption and regression in living standards|
|White Magic||Black Magic|
|Praxeology — rational thinking on dynamic choices||Magic Thinking — wishful thinking on static parameters|
|Science as a process of free inquiry||Superstition under the authority of official dogmas|
|Simple universal rules||Complex ad hoc statements|
|Internal consistency — reason as an unescapable filter for beliefs||Double think — withholding reason to preserve beliefs|
|Understanding Nature||Worshipping ignorance|
|Accepting Facts||Revolt against nature|
|Realizing Actual Potentials||Running after whimsical ghosts|
|Economics is a point of view on all human action||Economics is about monetary payments, to be taxed by the State|
|Those who can actually make useful predictions reap rewards on the market||Those who make useless statistics are paid by the State to justify its plunder|
|Earning one's life||Being granted one's life|
|Production: mutual exploitation for mutual benefit||Predation: unilateral exploitation to one's benefit and the other's loss|
|Harmonic interests, positive-sum win-win games||Conflicting interests, negative-sum win-lose games|
|Convincing with persuasion||Coercing with force|
|Internal discipline of self-help and exercise||External rituals of helpless begging prayers|
|Rational Arguments||Emotional arguments|
|Right to dissent||Obligation to comply|
|Liberty, Mother of Order||Order, Pretense for Oppression|
|Emerging Order||Imposed Chaos|
|Morality based on good actions, intents behind actions being irrelevant||Morality based on good intentions, any outcome of actions being irrelevant|
|Justice based on respecting and restoring the individual property rights of everyone||Justice based on coercing individuals into the collective utopia|
|Dynamic choices||Static wishes|
White Magic and Black Magic attitudes are pervasive. Indeed, it is by structuring the way people think that they influence the way people act. Like all self-reproducing memes, they spread and survive in as much as the act they entail will in turn contribute to spreading the meme. A major target for the memes is thus the center of language, the mechanisms with which individuals associate meaning to words and relate words to each other and to emotions, the way people understand the world.
George Orwell, in his famous novel 1984, described how totalitarian regimes try to limit the way people can think, express and exchange ideas that may be subversive to their established order, by reshaping the language into what he dubs novlang: the vocabulary is reduced; the terms are redefined to mean only what the party wants; and to have the connotations in line to the party ideology; the subversive words and meanings are eliminated, etc.  When the enemies of liberty do not hold totalitarian power, they cannot manipulate the language at will; however, they can still spread their connotations into words, and add enough secondary meanings to existing words so as to render them useless (or at least much less useful) at conveying opposing ideas, or precise ideas at all. Indeed, Friedrich Hayek has observed how the adjective ``social´´, when a prefix to such terms as ``justice´´, ``contract´´, ``responsibility´´, etc., was actually used to have justice, contract, responsibility, etc., mean the opposite to what libertarians would use these words for. Philosophers like Henry Hazlitt or Ayn Rand have also observed how the words ``egoism´´ and ``altruism´´ were being used by enemies of liberty with grossly incoherent meanings, promoting them as incompatible and opposite to one another, with egoism being evil and altruism being good, thus justifying the sacrifice of individuals to the collectivity, as incarnate in its government .
We may pinpoint a case where Black Magicians have strongly biased a word in our preceding comparative table: the word ``exploitation´´. Exploitation means fulfilling some potential of usefulness; bringing the good out of something or someone. So mutual exploitation is something quite good, that allows everyone to be better off, with a net result of creation of wealth for everyone — mutual exploitation is the root of everything good in society . But the black magicians have loaded the word ``exploitation´´ to specifically means unilateral exploitation of one to the benefit of the other, with a net result of destruction of wealth. Once again, they want everyone to implicitly admit that society is not based upon relationships of production, but only upon relationships of predation. Black magicians think in terms of predation; then they reproach exploitation as evil when other people do it, and they claim it as good when they do it (though they won't utter the unholy word ``exploitation´´ in this case). Actually, since a society based exclusively on predation is impossible, in the end, Black Magic will be based on a fraud wherein most followers of Black Magic will themselves be enslaved producers, victims of predation, but who are completely delusioned about what is production and what is predation. The belief in Black Magic will thus be a parasite infesting people who actually live thanks to the creative rules of White Magic; it may allow few real Black Magicians to live at the expense of these people; but it may even survive without benefitting much anyone.
Sometimes, White Magic wins in the battle over vocabulary. My favorite witness is the word ``to earn´´, — a typically English and American word, that has no real equivalent in French. It implies a dynamic relationship between a result and the means to achieve it: through hard work, you get something valuable that you deserve. A whole morality of creation, productivity, honesty, individual property, personal responsibility, and liberty lies behind this word. Yet, even as I try to describe the meaning of this libertarian word, I have to use words that can cause confusion, and that the authoritarians will happily hijack: hard work, productivity. Black Magicians, who are unaware of causation relationships, will disconnect work from its result, and will either blame all work as bad in itself , or otherwise praise the virtues of work as good in itself . White Magicians value ``hard work´´, not in proportion to the intensity of the efforts, but in proportion to the intensity in results . It is understood as a law of nature that easy gains will be quickly reaped and considered as acquired without particular care (any required care means the gain is not so easy). Thus, any fruitful work that predictably yields a valuable result will probably imply some intense efforts or some rare insight. And it is precisely the propensity to sacrifice obvious immediate pleasures to a remote unobvious result that deserves praise — in as much as the remote result is indeed a net gain. Still, what is praised is the readiness to see and act beyond immediate gains — the ultimately greater good made possible by the immediate sacrifice; it isn't the immediate evil of the sacrifice itself ! The praise or lack thereof deserved by hard work can be related with the praise or lack thereof deserved by intense reflection: what matters is not the effort spent in thinking per se, it is the result in terms of depth of the thought reached. And even this depth is to be valued only through the improvement in behavior that it allows; in turn, this improvement is to be measured in terms of enhancement in satisfactions in one's life (including the indirect satisfactions achieved through cooperation with other people who can be more directly satisfied thanks to this understanding). The goal is ``less thought, more results´´, and not the other way round ; deep thought is good only if on the overall it enables new strategies of behavior that save the need for future thinking while achieving a same or better result — it's a capital investment.
Black Magic, the Authoritarian Principle, is a meme that profoundly distorts its victims' view of the world, as opposed to the correct view that is achieved with White Magic, the Libertarian Principle. If we libertarians want to cure people from the Black Magic meme, we must take the full consequence of the way Black Magic distorts the understanding of its victims. For we can cure them but by convincing them, and while communicating with them, we will have to cross the semantic gap between the words as we understand them, and the same words as these victims understand them — with each victim having his or her own subtly different set of distortions .
|5 The Magic of Human Action|
In the previous section, we have identified the basic attitudes of White Magic and Black Magic as two competing memes (or a family of pairs of competing memes). Now that we have studied them from the memotypical point of view , we shall proceed with the phenotypical point of view: how these attitudes translate in terms of dynamic individual behavior.
One crucial step of feedback between one's understanding of the world and one's actions upon the world, lies in the way that one decides what is good and what is bad, which actions to prefer and which actions to avoid, which goals to actively seek and which goals to actively shun. These questions define not just personal morality, not just personal taste, but personal life. So the first question of ethics is: is there in the world anything sacred, holy, good, or whatever the name? The second question of ethics is: how can we identify the sacredness, holiness, goodness, or whateverness, with enough precision to distinguish it from what is base, unholy, evil and unwhatever? And the third question of ethics is: having identified these worthy goals, how can we best promote them ?
The first question of ethics is answered easily enough: the very asking the question, the very breathing of the asker, supposes that life is worthwhile; we know some things are better than other things, we feel it, and that's why we act to begin with . This dispels moral nihilism.
With the second and third questions, Black Magic and White Magic entail opposite approaches, opposite epistemologies. Black Magicians have a static view of the world; they see information as flowing unilaterally, from Authority to you, and from you to those who are further from authority. White Magicians on the other hand have a dynamic view of the world; information is not known wholly in advance, and how we interact with the world is instrumental not only in furthering good, but also in discovering what is good to begin with.
This leads to two very different structures of social organization: the ur-structure after which Black Magicians will model social interaction is the hierarchy; the ur-structure after which White Magicians will model social interaction is the enterprise.
With Black Magic, each man is an ``end in himself´´, distinct from all other men and opposite to all of them. In-fighting is the natural mutual condition of men, and only an externally imposed order may keep them cooperating; and this cooperation itself may happen for only one possible common goal: fighting common external enemies, be them actual enemies (wild animals that may be predators or preys, foreign people who may either invade and enslave ``us´´ or be invaded and enslaved by ``us´´), or symbolic enemies (that may be invaders like unemployment, poverty, illness, or potential slaves like commercial processes, electricity, space). The externally imposed order takes the form of a command structure above men; this command structure is actuated by men who must themselves be coordinated by a command above them, and so on, in a hierarchy, until one man holds the ultimate command, and obtains his Authority directly from the official ultimate Black Magic principle of authority: The Right of Conquest, The Ruling Class, The Superior Race, The Natural Order of Things, God, Religion, The People, The Nation, The Indivisible Republic, Democracy, etc. Nature is seen as a struggle at many levels, from the Cosmic to the trivial, and social organization matches the structure of nature, by being divided in a nested hierarchy of groups with common external enemies and otherwise internal conflicts forcefully solved by an authority keeping subgroups from freely interacting. The prototypical figure of Black Magic is an administrative manager of men, who commands to people below him and receives order from above.
With White Magic, each man has ends of his own, but the ends of men are not intrinsically incompatible or opposite: men benefit from cooperation, and their ends can thus be seen as harmonic. Each man is thus a legitimate mean to the ends of each other man, with cooperation being achieved by people mutually helping to fulfill the ends of each other, both being used and using in mutually beneficial mutual exploitation . The natural condition of society is thus an emerging order of cooperation; and this cooperation happens by each man tending to his own ends, and using other freely cooperating people as means. Together, people may build, improve, replace and abandon rational structures, both mechanical or social, to master nature, to put it into motion, to react to its events, adapt to its changes, etc. We produce the satisfactions of the self-defined goals of our lives by engineering natural processes into serving these ends of ours; we implement the structures that satisfy us with the available resources . The organization of defense against aggressors is but a particular case of ensuring that the structures we create are not destroyed by external forces; and this taking into account of the adverse forces that decay and destroy the structures we create is itself an integral part of our engineering of these dynamic structures. Just like any other problem of life, the danger of aggression is to be solved through free cooperation so as to maximize output and minimize input. The organization of society is a dynamic adaptative structure of cooperating individuals, coordinating through voluntary contracts tied on free markets. To White Magicians, Life is a Creative Enterprise. The prototypical figure of White Magic is an entrepreneurial engineer, who masters a technique and seeks cooperation with other men to use it at building structures that make the most satisfactions out of the least resources .5.2 The Hierarchy vs The Enterprise
To Black Magicians, certain knowledge flows from the Authority to the mere mortals. The ideal society of Black Magic is thus organized hierarchically around the Authority, in a caste division: At the top are the priests, wise men, brahmins, inner party members, official intellectuals, politicians, or whatever the name, from whom flows the order of society. Afterwards are the military, warriors, policemen, administration clerks, civil servants, teachers and other political commissars, who disseminate and enforce the superior order upon society. Below is the mass of producers, workers, peasants, craftsmen, technicians, engineers and other slaves, who do the grunt work; though a minority of them may have advanced skills regarding mastery of nature, they are themselves considered socially but as tools in the hands of the elite; and while these skilled laborers have to be paid more (or else they would abandon their skills and do grunt work like others), the official ideology will make them less than physical laborers. At the very bottom, barely tolerated if at all, are the traders, merchants, money-lenders, speculators, who do some despicable job, that is best understood as scavenging the leftovers of the orderly administration, profiteering from the misery of people in mysterious ways, doing dirty tasks that are below the current higher concerns of the Hierarchy.
As caricatural as it may seem, this is exactly the model of all the totalitarian utopias: it is the ideal followed by the ancient empires of Egypt, China  or Andies; it is the model proposed in Plato's The Republic, in the theories of indian brahmins or european legists; it is the vision of communism and its softened social-democrat spin-offs. The fact that there is hardly any variation among all the many totalitarian ideals from so many different times and places, even in absence of intellectual communication with each other ought to have been a strong hint of a common evil behind: the Authoritarian Principle, Black Magic.
Also, we see why a Black Magician will both revere Power in itself, yet hate whoever is in power, if said powerholder does not follow the One True Authority as understood by said Black Magician: the world in its current state is quite a dystopia to a Black Magician who won't fully identify with government; yet, with the pace of change in the world in general and in governments in particular, and with the variety of flavors of Black Magic, full identification of people with their government is forcibly rare. Black Magicians who identify enough with their government will seek to take hold of it, and to reform it toward a better match with their ideals. Black Magicians, horrified by too great a discrepancy between their view of Good and the current reigning authority that they reject, will seek a revolution, or, if they are too weak, an escape, or else, they will live as antisocial parasites ruining a society they abhor.
An essential myth on which rests the Authoritarian Principle is the myth of objective knowledge, whether it is justified as stemming from the ``true religion´´, or, in contemporary days, from ``established science´´: beliefs that must be accepted without possibility of dissent by the people who receive it from the high priests; knowledge the search of which is good if done by the official elite, evil if done by others. This objective knowledge is to be contrasted with the relativism claimed by Black Magicians of late about reality when justifying the variety in arbitrariness of the many tyrannies they defend: if reality contradicts their theories, then reality is wrong, or it is ``plural´´, so that they are exempt from the rational need of logical coherence.
White Magic, on the other hand, rejects the premise of an objective knowledge about a relative reality, but is instead based on relative knowledge about an objective reality. All knowledge is conjecture, but reality provides a solid framework against which to test and enhance our knowledge; though it is more correct to reverse the direction of previous sentence: reality doesn't exist to try our knowledge and discriminate godsend truth from devil-inspired falsity; quite on the contrary, we develop knowledge to organize our behavior within reality, to adjust this behavior so as to implement internal goals of ours.
Note that looking at the fact that all knowledge is conjecture from the static point of view of Black Magic precisely leads to the fallacy of relativism, the negation of reason, and the preeminence of brutal force as the ultimate criterion for ``truth´´. On the contrary, looking at that fact from the dynamic point of view of White Magic leads us to seeing knowledge as a bet and to realizing that every act of life is an entrepreneur's choice . In the paradigm of Black Magic, Life is Struggle, every man is a fighter for his own sake in an absurd world. In the paradigm of White Magic, Life is Entrepreneurship, every man is the entrepreneur of his own life in a world made meaningful by his own purpose.
Indeed, any knowledge we have about the future can only be obtained from past experience by induction. David Hume showed that induction could never lead to certain knowledge, but only to conjectures, for any general rule we may induce from past experience can always be invalidated by future experience . There are infinitely many ways to digest data into a set of rules. However, some of these ways are simpler, considering the background knowledge that varies with individuals and with time; and it is in a strong sense an optimal strategy to give exponentially more credit to simpler explanations than to more complex ones: such strategy minimizes the amount of time and energy being spent while leaving the least leeway for manipulation by memes attempting to parasite us by inserting themselves in explanations .
Now, though the same strategy, disregarding the initial knowledge, will ultimately lead to the same asymptotic behavior when faced with the same sequence of events (and this constitutes its weak criterion of consistency), in practice, we each start with a different initial knowledge, we each have a different intellect, we each face a different sequence of events, and our life is too short to ever get near the asymptote. Thus, in the end, knowledge is something subjective and personal: it is based on experience that cannot be wholly shared; it is adapted to each of our lives; it is unadapted to any other person's life; it improves from the feedback of decisions taken based on it; it goes wild without proper feedback.
The social model proposed by White Magic is thus not a hierarchy, but an interaction, where each individual takes intrinsically personal decisions, with a paradigm that yields simultaneously self-improvement and respect of other people: liberty, responsibility, property.
To Black Magicians, knowledge is sacred; it is objectively gained by following the Authority. To White Magicians, the learning-living process is sacred; subjective knowledge is born out of respecting Liberty. To Black Magicians, knowledge preexists and must be followed. To White Magicians, knowledge is one kind of good among many, that may be generated, at a cost, when we bet that it will be relevant to making better decisions, for an improvement worth the cost ; knowledge is never perfect, but it doesn't ever need be perfect, it just has to be good enough — or rather, it's one among the many parts of our individual entrepreneurial capital.5.3 Statistics vs Cybernetics
Black Magic and White Magic have opposite approaches to knowledge. We saw how this led to two wholly different models for the organization of society. But it also implies opposite approaches to how social knowledge is achieved. Indeed, in Black Magic, those people who hold social power still need base their decisions upon some information; while in a simple rigid society, a fixed hierarchy may be enough to get orders transmitted without discussion from top to bottom, as the society being parasited by Black Magic grows in complexity, such a rigid hierarchy just cannot scale; thus, the Black Magic institutions develop tools of their own, to produce information that Black Magicians may agree upon, so as to take decisions as to how to prey upon the parasited society. By contrast, in White Magic, the freedom to acquire and use knowledge and provide knowledge-based services to other people means that various people will specialize in various forms of knowledge, so that other people may ignore them and still benefit; none of the specialist will have any a priori authority, but instead, each will have to sell his services on a free market; nonetheless, methods will be developed for specialists to acquire knowledge as well as for laymen to detect good specialists, in a competitive cooperative environment.
The Black Magic approach to understanding the world is static. It tries to describe the world in terms of parameters, the relevance of each of which is measured by the emotional resonance of a change in its value, rather than by any rational theory in terms of causation chains in events that affect these parameters (though as we saw in the case of public goods justification, an appearance of rational explanation may be given to satisfy the refrained White Magic urges of parasited people). These parameters are in turn measured, and the measures and their science, the statistics, are the heart of the Black Magic approach to knowledge; they serve to justify statist policies, where the State, considered as an entity outside of society, takes measure to magically modify parameters toward a more desirable value (as claimed to be by the statisticians).
Now, since there are infinitely many parameters that may be affected by infinitely many events, the statistical point of view always gives a partial, false, and ultimately fallacious image of the world. Given a static set of statistic measurements, you can always invent a statist intervention that will make them produce better-looking figures, by ``sweeping the dirt under the rug´´: that is, those aspects that are measured will be enhanced by worsening everything that isn't measured; and those aspects left unmeasured will comprise those preconditions indispensable for the preservation of the meaning of the measured quantities; so that a possible positive variation of the measures that would follow intervention wouldn't even signify a partial betterment. Thus, when statistic measures are used as goals (as in ``convergence criteria´´, or governmental bragging rights about the reduction or increase of some figure) the result is that governments will intervene in such a way that unmeasured things will get worse and that the measures themselves will become meaningless  .
The statistical justifications for government thus always consists in (1) focusing on a particular set of measured parameters as the ``problem´´, disconnecting these parameters from other parameters required to make the measure meaningful. (2) applying an instance of the What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen Fallacy to show how some scheme could improve the measures, without regard for fact that this intervention actually worsens the unmeasured parameters to the point of being harmful (3) positing governmental coercion as the magic solution to the problem of imposing the devised scheme, since it fails to appear by itself.
The statistical attitude doesn't require figures to be wrong: the partial focus on static parameters, the disconnection of modifications done to these parameters from the dynamic consequences of the means used to modify them, the invocation of government as a magical god that can intervene for free — all these define the statistical point of view, and explain why it is an intellectual fraud in itself. Figures are but a way to give pseudo-scientific value to the statistical attitude. They are just a ritual ornament meant to inspire awe, in the religious staging of the statist black magic religion .
Of course, the more elaborate the coverage of the statistical measures, the more complex the technocratic apparatus needed to intervene in ways that better the measured figures (to the detriment of the public at large). When statistical goals are used as a guide to develop public administrations, the weight, cost and effectivelessness of these government agencies will increase, producing more statistics and more complex interventions, up until the point when even such new measures can't improve the figures anymore; beyond that point, the government is in a permanent atmosphere of crisis, where it works hard with no positive results, even by its own crooked standards . Statistics are the tool by excellence by which governments play the fallacy of what is seen and what is not seen. Some try to use the government's own tool to push government intervention away from them: they will produce counter-statistics, etc. But it will cost them a lot to maintain these statistics, that will be disputed by the government, and in the end, the best they can achieve is that government will include new parameters in its statistics, leading to increased, more complex and more subtle government intervention. Counter-statistics can be an effective way to lobby for government intervention in your favor, if you manage to get your statistical measurements adopted by government, or if you manage to sell to government your remaining quiet. But counter-statistics cannot be used as a way to diminish overall government intervention.
Actually, statistics were born as a tool for fiscal accounting; in effect, it is the way for the State to track its assets. The ``economic´´ calculus of Black Magic is indeed based on accounting and statistics, focusing on who possesses what riches and who exchanged what with whom, so as to tax them . Citizens are forced to declare all they own and all they earn, so that the government can take some of it away; government in turn promises reprisals and confiscation when citizens do not properly declare everything to the administration. The use of statistics as a paradigm for deception is an outgrowth of this original accounting purpose; it is an evolutionary adaptation of the State, when faced with a technical society where it is indispensable that some rationality be widespread in the people, so that raw force cannot be used without taking the deceptive appearance of reason.
White Magic is based on a completely different epistemology. It has a dynamic approach to understanding the world in terms of causation, of decisions taken based on information, of dynamic flow of information and energy, etc. It is a cybernetical approach. The basic notions it considers are decisions, events, choices, each with its dynamic implications, instead of aggregates that give static figures independently of any causal chain. In other words, the White Magic view of the world is still partial, but it focuses its study on understandable means rather than ununderstandable ends. It allows us to take decisions that are not flawed by the systematic bias (whether voluntary or involuntary) of the statistic-making process. And indeed, the information we process can eventually influence the world but through the decisions we make. Decisions are thus the basic element with which human life is built. They are the very fabric of life: not static joy and pain, but responsible decisions and their consequent feedback.
The accounting fallacies of Black Magic compare the present to the past (within the scope of a few parameters, while others are hidden); they attribute credit to ones and debit to others (in practice, the privileged get the credit, and the exploited pay); accounting is a record of property transfers; it gives information on what happened, but cannot in any way predict what will happen to adapt to the inevitable change of life. Now, when one makes a choice, one is never, ever choosing between the future and the past; time flows, whether one agrees to it or not. One is always, forever, choosing between multiple futures. Hence morality and economics (and actually, economics is the very same as morality) is never concerned about accounting costs; instead, it is always concerned about opportunity costs, that is, expected difference of outcome between the various opportunities. Accounting costs are irrelevant; the only people who ever care about accounting costs are tax officers — in other words, robbers .
Economic calculus in the White Magic paradigm is thus praxeological reasoning: It considers the opportunity cost of various decisions, rather than the irrelevant accounting costs. It compares the present to several possible futures, as indexed by the various actual choices that one faces, rather than by miraculous changes in external parameters. It tries to evaluate what are the difference between the various outcomes that each available alternative can bring (which difference is the economic cost of the alternative, also known as its opportunity cost). It gives information on what could happen, and is a tool for decision-making. It serves as a guide to allocate each resource to one project rather than one another.
Given the knowledge of the various opportunity costs, and the preferences of individuals, the praxeologist proceeds to determine which decisions will be preferred and taken. Of course, the knowledge of the various opportunity costs might be but partially known, and these costs evaluated differently by various individuals depending on their own knowledge and preferences. But this can itself be viewed as an opportunity: it means that exchange of information between people can help them take better decisions, by having better models of each other's and their own preferences and opportunities, so as to adapt not only to what nature can do but also to what each other will do. Thus even though this information about opportunities and preferences  may depend on a lot of unknown or unmastered factors, it is possible to make useful predictions; moreover, cooperation between people allows to actually diminish risks and lessen the effects of unmastered factors, by sharing knowledge, by building elaborate strategies based on coordinated action, by distributing responsibilities about each subject to those who know better about the field, etc.
The precise prediction of the outcome of the combination of all human choices, considering all the particular conditions in which these choices happen, is out of reach of any person or combination of person — if only because the knowledge on which to base this prediction is itself not available. We can never know for sure which of two choices another person will prefer, unless we do offer him to make the choice, and see what he chooses, at which point it is too late to make a prediction. And that is for one choice only, whereas the combination of all human action is much more complex. Thus, the full understanding of human society is beyond the reach of anyone. But that doesn't mean more partial forms of understanding are unachievable, and that no useful prescriptions are possible. Indeed, it is possible to discern immutable general laws of human behavior, that are no less laws of nature than are the laws of electromagnetism; and from the knowledge of these laws, it is possible to deduce general principles of behavior, and an art of behavioral engineering, much like there are general safety rules for the use of electromagnetic devices and an art of electrical engineering.
From the rules that people explicitly acknowledge or implicitly follow, an order emerges in society. This order is seldom if ever used as an explanation to justify the rules to follow — what matters, though, is that said order is actually an inevitable consequence of the acceptance of the rules. Cyberneticians are interested in these rules, what they are, what they can be, how they affect the emerging order, how to change them, within what limits they can be changed, what recipes can be followed to build better behavior, etc. While studying rules of behavior, cyberneticians will pay particular attention to variants and invariants: which potentials and which information are being conserved by which kind of events, and which are irreversibly spent; which phenomena are the locus of positive feedback, and are conducive to evolutionary forces; which phenomena are the locus of negative feedback, and are conducive to partial equilibria; which events modify available opportunities, etc. With such an analysis, it becomes possible to systematically weed out such fallacies as that which is seen and that which is unseen that defy basic natural laws of conservation, and to focus energy and attention on plans that may actually work.5.4 The Law of Eristic Escalation
White Magic and Black Magic differ not only in the way they encourage us to gather information and determine what is good, but also in the way they have us act toward what we think is good. Whereas the static thinking of Black Magic implies an ends-oriented theory of moral action, the dynamic thinking of White Magic implies a means-oriented theory of justice.
The Authoritarian Principle argues that some people know what is good, that they have the authority to determine what is good. Consequently, for authoritarians, people who go against opinions expressed by this authority are acting in evil ways, and should be prevented from doing it; coercion is thus considered as a legitimate way to enforce against dissenters the opinions of authority upon its acknowledged domain.
On the contrary, the Libertarian Principle argues that goodness in general and useful knowledge in particular emerge from each person being free of choosing and responsible for one's choices within the limits of the property one creates and acquires. To paraphrase Hayek, we libertarians do not deny that there are superior people, better choices, moral and immoral deeds, etc. What we deny is that anyone would have the authority to decide who these superior people are, what these better choices are, which deeds are moral or immoral, etc. 
Indeed, assuming that some people know better, how do we establish who these people are? Authority does not solve the problem of the knowledge of what's good; it only pushes this problem back, to be swept under the rug of irrationality. Ultimately, each individual, so as to determine which authority to heed, will still have to use one's own reason, one's own experience, one's own traditions (that are but experience accumulated for centuries). One's own mind is irreducibly the ultimate criterion for one's own choices, even if one chooses to delegate; some personal liberty and responsibility cannot be negated, even by the most authoritarian setting.
For even if you accept some authority, even if God speaks directly to you and you know it, other people might not know it. They have no means to ascertain your claims, and thus they have no reason to believe you a priori, to follow the exact same authority, etc. There's no way they can reasonably trust your word for it. And even if they agree with you in a formal way, agreeing to your opinion, using the very same words as come from the very same authority, they might actually have a different interpretation of these words, they might understand them with a different meaning, with subtle but essential differences. So even with a formal agreement on a common authority, there remains the question of how one can communicate one's actual ideas of what Good is, and have them prevail against opposing ideas. Supposing one knows what good is, how can one have other people also know what good is? Assuming that one's notion of good has a potential meaning to other people that one wishes to transmit, what are the legitimate or efficient ways to achieve this transmission?
This is another way by which the Authoritarian Principle cannot evade the practical necessity of having to convince people through peaceful ways: every would-be authority doesn't have the direct individual resources to coerce at most but a few other people into doing one's bidding; it is only by acquiring the cooperation of minions, henchmen, followers and accomplices that one can extend one's grip on unconsenting individuals. And all these servants and accomplices have to be convinced, seduced, or otherwise persuaded, not out of a preexisting authority, but out of non-authoritarian means. Now, in the case of Black Magic, these non-authoritarian ways include fraud and deception, the culture of superstition and irrationality, as well as gangs of consenting mobsters victimizing unconsenting third parties.
On the contrary, the Libertarian Principle, since it bars authority, coercion, fraud, deception and any kind of victimization, induces the development of very particular means to acquire the cooperation of other people: rational discussion, or at least seduction in a way compatible with rational criticism. It can even be said that rational or otherwise logical reasoning in general are born out of the liberty to negociate under what terms to cooperate, and to ultimately choose whether to cooperate or not. And therefore it is no surprise that axiomatic mathematics was born in the freest cities of Greece. Indeed, when free people have to gain the voluntary acceptance of other free people, including foreigners from other cities, so as to cooperate, one has to convince other people that it is their interest to cooperate, and at the same time one must avoid being foolishly convinced against one's own interest. Thus, in a society of mutually free individuals, everyone develops to some degree skills in both communication (rhetorics, dialectics) and analysis of communication (logic, politics). And these skills are only developed in such societies of free and responsible people: for there is no interest to invest in reason when one is not going to decide or when one is not going to suffer the consequences of one's own decisions, whereas one has to decide well when one is free and accountable. Hence coercion makes people irresponsible and irrational, whereas freedom makes people responsible and reasonable. That irrational seduction develops and prospers is a sure sign that the principles of freedom and accountability are not being respected.
Let us now investigate the quintessential legacy of the Authoritarian Principle: coercion made a legitimate means of action. Coercion does not convince — it cannot. Its very principle is to eschew conviction and the means to achieve it. It can make people do what you desire — but only if you're the strongest — and only for a moment, after which things are even worse than before. For not only will people have remained unconvinced, they will also have abandoned the now unnecessary mental tools of rationality and responsibility necessary to develop deep conviction. This is why coercion can never be used to make people moral, according to anyone's idea of morality: they will remain as immoral as before, just more so for accepting the rule of their masters, while the masters themselves become monsters. It makes the subjects hypocrites and the masters haughty. In one case, they are under the power of other people's will, and lose all sense of responsibility. In the other case, they are unaccountable of their decisions as long as they remain in power, and become prisoner of their violent means of living. In both cases, they end up being both unfree and irresponsible.
The eventual vanity of coercion as a principle of action has been nicely summarized by discordians. Discordianism is some kind of ``ha ha, only serious´´ religion made up by a particular kind of libertarians: the funny kind. In one remarkable discordian website, Hyperdiscordia, you can find the divine ``Law of Eristic Escalation´´, originally from the Principia Discordia, thusly commented (bold emphasis is mine):
This Law (originally found in the Honest Book of the Truth, Gospel According to Fred, 1:6) pertains to any arbitrary or coercive imposition of order. It is:
Imposition of Order = Escalation of Chaos
Fenderson's Amendment adds that the tighter the order in question is maintained, the longer the consequent chaos takes to escalate, BUT the more it does when it does!
[The Thudthwacker Addendum to Fenderson's Amendment goes on to prove that the presence of a nonlinear term which crops up in Fenderson's calculations serves to cause the escalation of chaos to be completely unpredictable in terms of the original imposition of order — Ed.]
Armed with the Law of Eristic Escalation and Fenderson's Amendment [And Thudthwacker's Addendum — Ed.] any imbecile — not just a sociologist — can understand politics.
|6 Black Magic At Work|
Now that we saw the static and dynamic principles of Black Magic, we can examine the effects of Black Magic in real-life, and relate its modern expressions to their traditional archetypes.
Human sacrifices: Black Magicians invoke sacrifice as good in itself, something that pleases the gods, with the ultimate sacrifice being human sacrifice. They will thus justify killing for the good of the people: for instance, Aztec priests used to sacrifice humans everyday, so that sun would rise again tomorrow. Nowadays, the primitive form of human sacrifices is not so frequent, but such sacrifices still exist in disguised forms: wars, embargoes and other governmental operations cause many direct deaths, collateral damages and other ``inevitable casualties´´ that serve to satisfy the power trip of political managers, under the pretense of domestic security, the defense of democracy, national interest, the indivisible union of the republic, etc. directors of intelligence agencies may even let the people they are meant to protect get killed so as to promote their agenda of stricter ``security measures´´ toward the public opinion. To Black Magicians, individual human lives are ``expandable´´ before the superior motives of the collectivist entity they claim to dictate.
Zombies: Black Magicians create beings that are more dead than live. For that, they typically hypnotize and drug their victims, that they then use as slaves until they die; such people might not be very productive, but the magicians don't care since they get to benefit, even though the operation is a greater loss to the victims, and a net loss for global welfare. The chosen victims were often first drugged into faking death, so that the Black Magician could pass as its resurrecter and savior. Nowadays, workers are forced to surrender the four fifth of their lives; citizens are deprived from the responsible choices that are the very stuff life is made of. They are not so much of living beings, though they aren't completely dead either. Yet, the Black Magicians of government claim being their saviors, and their owing the little life they have left to government intervention. And indeed, since the official statistics don't make the difference between a living man and a zombie, they will serve as a justification to whatever policy will ``enhance´´ the visible official statistics at the invisible cost of transforming humans into zombies.
Material Sacrifices: Black Magicians will require destructions meant to appease the gods: valuable goods are destroyed in the hope of a magic reaction from the gods, outside of any rational mechanism of natural causation that will link the sacrifices to any positive effect. Of course, Black Magicians will insist on the importance that a properly anointed priest should control the sacrifice (and be paid for his office, obviously). Non-ritual sacrifices will be recognized for the murder, vandalism, robbery and fraud that they are; whereas ritualized sacrifices under control of Black Magic priesthood will be presented as valid and working invocations. For instance, private forging of money somehow will be decried as robbery and decreasing total wealth, whereas government-backed inflation, which amounts to the same forging of money, will be boasted as somehow increasing wealth. Governments will build great public monuments at great expenses; they will build roads, plan up massive economic intervention, etc.; for that, they will demand the public to consent to new taxes as a sacrifice necessary for the Godvernment to grant them its divine benefits. When faced with the shortage and failure of government supplied goods and services, they will invoke the civic duty to reduce their consumption and expectations. They will invoke the reduction in work time, so as to diminish unemployment . Though material sacrifices do not end human lives, they spend the human life that was necessary to build the sacrificed material. Just like zombifying people is enslavement — the partial murder of one's future, — material sacrifices are robbery — the partial murder of one's past .
Sacrifices have many effects that reinforce the power of Black Magic: they benefit the priests of Black Magic who levy their share of the loot; they thus create a class of powerful citizens interested in maintaining the belief. Properly directed, sacrifices will destroy the enemies of Black Magic, and deprive them of the resources through which they could grow. Sacrifices commit all those who participate in such abominations; these people, to preserve respect for themselves, will refuse to acknowledge their own foolishness, their own sins, their own crimes; to relieve their own guilt, they will happily reject the blame on the sacrificial lambs, the victims of ritual sacrifices, or some other symbolic enemies. Sacrifices divert the attention of the public away from the real causes of their sorrow, the real grieves, the real culprits, toward the accomplishment of the ritual. Sacrifices give hope to the believers, that since the sacrifice was made, now their lives will get better; with this hope, believers will continue to get the system going. Sacrifices give fear to the believers, that if the sacrifice were not made, their lives would get worse; with this fear, believers will prevent changes from toppling the system.6.2 Black Magic Spells
In Black Magic, the priests cast spells: they recite formulas, conduct rituals, make magic items. The goal of these spells is manifold: they divert the attention of followers from topics where reasoning could show the absurdity of Black Magic; they focus this attention on some activities that the Black Magicians control; they give an opportunity for the Black Magicians to get paid for these activities; they cultivate habits of dependency among the followers; they turn the intensity of cult worship into a means of social signalling among the followers, with followers competing to be more prominent worshippers, and excluding the lesser worshippers (or worse, non-worshippers) from high-profile social activities (or from society at all, when the power of Black Magicians is great enough).
Black Magicians brew magic potions and recite formulas that they promise will have various beneficial effects if followers drink the potions and follow the rituals. The modern Black Magic forms of these potions and formulas are legislative jaculations, political platforms, demonstrators' demands, strikers' requests. If you should back the projects of politicians, then things will improve for you, — or so they say. The laws being voted, the regulations being issued are as many magic formulas meant to dispel evil. People, those who enforce as well as those who endure, don't have to understand the mechanisms of these laws, the reasons why they are meant to bring prosperity; they have to be smitten by the magic of these laws, by their superficial appearance of goodness, by their official purpose full of good intentions, by the congruence of their rituals with other accepted rituals. Oftentimes, the people who participate in these rituals will recognize how absurd and destructive they are, but they will nevertheless abide by the prescriptions of Black Magic, and accept the belief that these obvious failures are but part of a beneficial big picture, and maybe even the consequence of a lack of respect for Black Magic principles, to be solved by appeals to more Black Magic.
Black Magicians use voodoo dolls as symbols of enemies and phenomena that they claim to master through symbolic intervention. They use these symbolic interventions to claim as their success any progress visible against enemies or in the phenomena, whereas any regress will be the fault of people not complying to their precepts, or otherwise of a lack of Black Magic power and intervention. Modern Black Magicians use statistical models for this very same purpose. Expert statisticians will build models tailored to justify any desired intervention by the government, and to explain how it is thanks to government intervention that the economy is going better.
Black Magicians regularly call for massive religious gatherings, so as to build up cosmic forces, so as to summon good spirits. These grand masses have none of their proclaimed magic effects on the external world; their real purpose is their effect upon the members of the cult themselves: they are the opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the movement in face of opposite odds; they serve to assess the loyalty of members to the movement, and to force people into committing to the movement; they rouse tribal feelings of belonging to the group, and other crowd reactions; they strengthen the members' view of the world as ``us against them´´; they confirm the Black Magicians as the leaders of the mob. Votes, polls, referendums, mass demonstrations, etc., are to a great extent such Black Magic masses: they don't have much effect on the outcome of events, but serve to give a mantle of legitimacy to those who rule in the name of the Common Cause.
Black Magic is a tool to confer power to a class of priests, higher and lower. The modern form of Black Magic serves its own class of politicians, big and small. They interpret the ``will of the people´´ or whatever the official ruling principle is. The religious class is organized in a hierarchy of actual rulers. Aside this hierarchy is also a large class of theologians who will invent intellectual justifications for the regime and its interventions, as well as provide a reserve of potential rulers. The modern form of this class of men is the intelligentsia, made of ``experts´´, statisticians, statist ``economists´´, etc. Most of them will be paid by government or otherwise receive various privileges as university professors, directors of various administrations, journalists, political consultants, etc. These alleged brainiacs will provide alibis to Black Magic; they give it the apparent authority of reason. The apparatus of State-controlled intellectual activities will offer to intellectuals the choice between two opportunities: they may live well as servants of the Minotaur , gaining in social status as they spread the official ways of thinking; or they may be officially discredited and be excluded from controlled means of communication should they prefer to be dissidents.
Black Magic, being based on wishful thinking rather than reason, always insists on intents rather than causal connections. In popular literature, a pure heart, — according to the Black Magicians' morality, — rather than patiently developed skills, — as adapted to mastering nature, — is the key to all blessings. In modern Black Magic, this focus on intents is still prominent. Political measures are backed not with an explanation of their effects, but as serving the just cause of the people, of the workers, etc. Leaders will display how touchy-feely they are, they will cultivate feelings and sentiments; anyone trying to analyze rationally and debunk their justifications will be dismissed as having dark intents, as being an ``enemy of class´´, a servant of Evil, of foreign enemy forces. As marxists used to explicitly say, to Black Magicians, it doesn't matter what you say, it only matters ``where you speak from´´.
Black Magic is based on a manichean view of the world, where the Black Magicians assume the role of Good, White, etc., whereas anything that stands up against their aims is considered as Evil, Black, etc. In this manichean cosmic struggle, everyone is forced to take one of two sides. This is the quintessence of political polarization. Of course, among Black Magicians themselves, factions that compete for power will each claim to be White, whereas the opposite faction is Black, or at least manipulated by evil forces, or allied to them, or at best ``objectively allied´´ to them. In democracies, this competition for the claim of being good against evil takes paradoxical form, as the political life is polarized in two poles (left and right), each identified by its radicals, but at the same time, each competing for the marginal voters around the median opinion, far from the professed radical ideals used for intellectual justification of the parties. People in democracies, are thus led to constantly choose between the ``Lesser of two evils´´, away from either of the two main branches of Black Magic ideals. Democrats are both aware of this limitation of democracy as the means to advance their Black Magic ideals , and at the same time, fanatically attached to democracy as part of the consensual doctrine accepted by the two main branches of democratic Black Magic.
Another paradox of Black Magicians is their relationship with money. They will institute a precise accounting of private and public activities in terms of money, so as to be able to tax the ones and fund the others; they will thus express everything in terms of money; they will see money everywhere. Money is a magic thing to them; when any emergency happens, all the government has to do is to ``unblock money´´ so as to fund a budget for whatever emergency measures have to be taken. Black Magicians worship, admire, envy, desire the power conferred by money. They love to generously spend other people's money, with laws, subventions, feasts, institutions, constructions, etc. However, doing so, they spend not just people's money, but also their lives: for the utility of money comes from its use as an intermediate for the adaptive cooperation of individuals who are free to choose how to cooperate or not. The power of money is ultimately tied to the freedom and creation of White Magic; people only accept government-controlled money as a compulsory legal tender because they expect that despite the inconvenience, they will be able to use it as a practical universal intermediate in free trade. So Black Magicians are ambivalent about this. They hate the Free Market and all it represents, because it is a negation of their basic premises. At the same time, they recognize that a Free Market economy is inevitable, and indispensable, if they have to have anything to prey upon. Black Magicians will thus learn to have a double hypocritical attitude regarding money: they will openly claim it as good when it is confiscated and spent by the Godvernment, and as an instrument of vice to be despised when it is in private hands; yet they will do whatever they can so that the money flows, sacrificing their ideals to the private lobbyists who promise prosperity; finally, they will personally indulge to the power of this great ``corrupter´´ that is money, although by identifying themselves with the Great Cause, they will easily pardon this vice in regard to the services that they render to the Nation (or whichever the Great Cause is).
Black Magic leads to many such paradoxes, and Black Magicians must thus train themselves and their followers into techniques of double-think, whereby they will be able to manipulate concepts from two or more logically contradictory points of view, depending on the context, while actively avoiding any situation where the contradictions become too obvious. The ultimate spell of Black Magic is thus to confer its followers some kind of schizophrenia allowing them to survive despite the contradictions upon which their beliefs are founded .6.3 Staging the Worship
Black Magic is a cult that must be kept alive by constantly occupying the minds of people. And the best way to occupy their minds is to also occupy their bodies. The Godvernment will seek to intervene in any and every aspect of social life. It will even intervene in so very personal things as intimate relations between people in love, by regulating marriage, giving it an important place in fiscal and civil regulations, etc. Any domain that is not subject to heavy regulations is disconsidered as lawless savagery, a wild anarchy, a lack of legislation, to be promptly remedied by new legislation. At the same time, all this intervention must be accompanied by constant rhetorics, by appeal to the citizens' spirits, and ultimately by actual concern of anxious citizens, so that the Godvernment will appear positively rather than negatively. This is why Black Magicians will resort to a series of tricks so as to stage the public worship of Black Magic.
War is the grandest way in which the Godvernment is presented as the savior of the People. War may be an actual war against a foreign country, if possible led by an obvious tyrant. It may also be war against unofficial governments reigning over areas abandonned by official legal governments: the mafia, drug trafficking organizations, terrorists, guerillas, etc. In a more rhetorical way, it may be war against some official vice: drug consumption, smoking, prostitution, drinking, unofficial religions, etc. Politicians will resort to the vocabulary of war even as they claim to fight poverty, fight unemployment, fight any ``social disease´´ or misery. All these wars serve as a justification to the State impersonating the role of Good in a cosmic struggle between Good and Evil. Their ultimate goal is not external, it is internal: the important effect and strong incentive for Black Magicians to wage war is not to fight the claimed enemy, but to tighten the subjection of the allegedly protected citizens . The ``exceptional´´ situation of war will serve as an excuse for whatever crimes and attempts to the rule of law that godvernmental forces may commit, as well as a diversion from whatever misachievements they may make on ``secondary´´ fronts. This situation of exception is so beneficial to Black Magicians that they will make it become permanent: indeed, once they have spread the idea that they are the solution rather than the problem, they will use the very failures of their policies as a pretense for ever increasing their interventions. An initially small temporary intervention will thus eventually turn into a permanent war to struggle against the permanent fiasco caused by the very intervention of the State.
Throughout all their staging of life as a cosmic struggle, Black Magicians will cultivate among their followers a feeling of righteousness. According to Black Magicians, the world is ``us´´ against ``them´´, it is friends versus foes — and you better be among friends. Friends are to be identified by their intents, their community of interests, their belonging to a nation or a race or a social class or any other category proposed by the Black Magicians' ideology. Black Magicians thus propose an easy, undemanding, relaxing, and false grid for understanding the universe . This simple grid offers followers the immediate benefit of saving the need for sustained enquiry, indulging their intellectual sloth . According to this grid, bad guys will be equated with people with bad intents, and the other way round, while similarly good guys will be equated both ways with people with officially good intents . Enemies who claim to have good intents will be classified as hypocrits, or as deeply misguided pawns manipulated by a greater Evil. Friends who have bad intents are to be justified, pardonned, or excommunicated. This polarization of life in its extreme forms can lead to Conspiracy theory, where some people want to see a common intent, a common will, concerted interests, a central organization behind any Great Evil in the world. Anything wrong must have been meant as wrongdoing . The dual form of Conspiracy Theory is much scarier: Totalitarianism. It is the belief that, at some scale, there can be any Good in the world only if behind it there is a common intent, a common will, concerted interests, a central organization. All in all, this Black Magic polarization of people's vision of the world is Animism: the want to see willful intent everywhere.6.4 Does Black Magic Work?
Our claim all throughout this essay is that Black Magic, the Authoritarian Principle, is an intellectual fraud; it is a mental illness; it is a parasite meme that makes people insane; it is a profoundly erroneous view of reality. There is a fundamental inadequacy between the discourse of Black Magic and the very actions of Black Magicians, that ultimately take place in the real world, the reality of which doesn't match the expectations provided by Black Magic. Black Magicians may choose to be ignorant of nature and to revolt against it, but by very definition, neither their whims nor their actions will ever change the laws of nature . Furthermore, we affirm that White Magic, the Libertarian Principle, is a correct paradigm for apprehending Life; it is mental sanity, a valid way of understanding the universe as we may live in it.
Yet at the same time, we take note that Black Magic, though it may bring sorrow, distress, failure, suffering and death to its followers and their victims, is itself surviving and prospering: It is a Memetic success. It is another proof case where memetic fitness for a meme to survive is not the same as the fitness to survive for those who adopt it, or as the propensity of said meme to pass the test of rational criticism. Black Magic somehow ``works´´, but it doesn't work as advertised. This is why we must examine the real reasons for its success. We must ask ourselves, what makes Black Magic so successful? What are the memetic forces that lead to Black Magic? What are the memetic forces that may help to resist and dispel Black Magic? On the long run, is Black Magic going to grow or to dim away? And what can we do about it?
Black Magic spreads based on faith and fear and other basic emotions, on animal reflexes, on intellectual sloth, on a primitive way of thinking through emotional associations, symmetrical binary relations. It appeals to the primitive parts of man's mind and develops the pride of keeping one's mind in a primitive state. Indeed, Black Magic consists precisely of withholding rational thinking, and letting someone else — the Authority — decide on one's behalf. This Authority may be a past tradition, a present ruler, or a future power accepted in advance as a ruler (as with political elections). Black Magic is essentially the promise that a friendly superior force will solve your problems if you abandon your fate with faith in its hands. It is the faithful abandon of responsibility. It is the sweet bliss of ignorance. The ignorance that it spreads is itself the protection against the realization of the misery that the same ignorance causes. Black Magicians worship the holy warranty that the Godvernment promises to them about the difficulties of their lives; Goverment as the ultimate fallback plan; Security out thin air, if only you have faith. As with all kinds of faith, people believe because ``it would be so nice if it were true.´´ Those who deny the value of the promise are seen as enemies who try to destroy this value, assumed to exist.
Black magicians hate the Free Market, because it is not a personal god that they can bribe. But at the same time, they find it easy to blame the Free Market because it has no authoritative spokesman that can defend it: the common interest incarnate in Free Market is not any particular lobby's interest, and will find few people to actually defend it (as opposed to claiming to defend it while demanding protectionist measures for a special interest group). So Black Magic can survive through the distortion of reality by which it promotes the special interest of a focused group of organized predators who exploit a widespread group of disorganized preys, while making believe that it promotes the general welfare. People are born ignorant, and Black Magicians will cultivate and grow this ignorance among people as long as they can, so as to victimize them.
Now, ignorance is not a stable state . Once someone is taught the principles of White Magic, and shown the nocivity of Black Magic, it becomes much more difficult to attract one's active support in participating to the cult of Black Magic, helping to victimize oneself and other people. And knowledge is irreversible: once someone knows such a simple principle as White Magic, one knows it until one dies. That is why Black Magicians must spend efforts at trying to prevent people from thinking, and from ever being put in tight contact with the paradigm of White Magic. But these efforts will increase as methods are developed for spreading knowledge of the reality behind Black Magic. Ultimately, it hopefully will become so hard to remain ignorant, and so expensive to maintain other people in ignorance, that investing in Black Magic will be no more marginally profitable.
|7 Conclusion: The Real Enemy|
Government lives on Black Magic. Government produces Black Magic. But Government is not Black Magic. More precisely, the Principle of Government is the main instance of Black Magic; however the body of people and activities known as ``Government´´ is not. Though they are historically, emotionally and semantically related, these two meanings of the word ``Government´´ must be distinguished, if we are to apply White Magic rational thinking to the underlying concepts, instead of merely Black Magic emotional feeling of them.
On the one hand Government — its Authoritarian Principle — will monopolize, absorb and corrupt the production or delivery of goods and services actually produced through White Magic, and now made part of Government — the Administrative body. Government — the Principle embraced by the rulers of the Administration — will latter use these monopolies as justifications for its existence: ``public goods´´ that only It (the body) provides, because It prohibits competition or regulates it away. However, the goods and services being monopolized by Government, the productive parts of the Administration, are in fact creations of White Magic. Hence, these parts of Government — the Administrative body — we do not seek to destroy, but verily to free and regenerate: we wish to remove the chains that subject these services, their producers and their consumers to the Authoritarian Principle of Government.
Now not only is Government (the body) not made of pure Black Magic (since it absorbs White Magic components), but Black Magic is also very much present outside Government (the body) and even to some degree outside of Government (the openly claimed Principle). There are plenty of accomplices to the activities of Governments as such, who albeit having a status of ``private´´ people and organizations, end up benefitting from public privileges; these accomplices serve to ``privatize´´ the rent captured by those who hold power. There are also plenty of candidates who wish to replace current governments with new governments of their own, based on even more retrograde forms of Black Magic than currently rule: this includes all the religious fundamentalist movements, the worst among them being the socialist revolutionaries, etc. Then there are plenty of bandits and frauds who feed on the weakness, credulity and superstition of other people, though on a much pettier scale than instituted governments. Finally, Black Magic exists as part of the activities of many people who otherwise live through White Magic: political activists who do their best to get some party elected, trade unionists who demonstrate in the streets for their corporate interests, businessmen who pay lobbyists to court politicians, all these people have both this Black Magic activity of political manipulation, and (usually) a main White Magic activity of production. The latter kind of people constitute the major body of Black Magicians; most of them are victims of Black Magic as well as servants of it, suffering from the consequences of the mental illness that they wilfully propagate.
Thus, Government, as an instituted body, is not the main Enemy, it is but the manifestation of the Enemy. Should we manage to destroy the current government, evil as it may be, if we didn't dispel the belief in Black Magic, then Black Magic will spurt off a new government, just as evil as the preceding one; and any violent means we used to destroy the previous government will only have resulted in pain and destruction while evicting the old government, and pain and destruction again as a new government struggles to establish its new power over people. Our main Enemy is more elusive, it resides in people's minds: it is the very belief in Black Magic, it is a disease from which we want to cure people. It is not Government as a body, it is Government as an idea; it is not the State, it is Statism; it is not the political militants, it is politics. Our Enemy is a mental illness, not the victims it infects. Our Enemy is a view of the world where the interests of people are antagonistic instead of harmonic. Our Enemy is the principle behind Enmity itself .7.2 Know Thy Enemy
Let us not overestimate the Enemy: it is not a devil endowed with a personal will; it is not capable of any coherent synchronized overall action; it cannot design concerted plans of action. Black Magicians may be animists, we are not; we know that some phenomena emerge without any wilful intent nor any concerted action. On the other hand, let us not underestimate the enemy: it is not susceptible to be destroyed by a focused, narrow action, whereby we'd neutralize a few key people. Of course, such surgical actions may be necessary as a small but important part of an overall treatment, to inhibit the catalyzers of Black Magic; but the treatment cannot be narrow, for the meme of Black Magic is widespread in the human population, and is active even inside those of us who are conscious of its nefarious nature. The treatment will involve some form of education, to build some awareness of the Evil in those who currently think in political terms, and to build some healthy reflexes in everyone.
Among the most potent obstacles that we will face, the more dangerous and evil people will not be the victims completely infected by Black Magic, those mindless superstitious people who abandonned their lives into the hands of Authority; these people are incapable of initiating rational, efficient action; though they may act in evil ways, their mechanisms of thought can be well understood; their actions can be foreseen; remedies can be found for them. Our most dangerous enemies will be those who use White Magic to efficiently cultivate Black Magic in other people, so as to unilaterally exploit them. Our most dangerous obstacles are Grey Magicians, who master enough of both forms of Magic so as to delude other people into serving them. These people understand the issues at hand; they can use White Magic techniques of rational design to lead and move the masses infected by Black Magic; and their interest is in preserving some form of Black Magic in other people. We must learn how these Grey Magicians think, how we can counter their work of evil, how we can turn some of them to our side, how we can use them to neutralize each other, how we can subvert their activity against Black Magic itself. Now, these Grey Magicians will adapt to our action; they will design new plans; they too will try to neutralize us, or to subvert our actions to their profit.7.3 Strike The Root
If we want our actions to be efficient, we must eradicate the source of the evil that destroys our freedom. It may be expedient to fight the visible manifestations of Evil, and indeed it is sometimes even necessary to do it. But the only useful fight on the long run is the fight against Evil itself. And it is the fight in which fewest people actually participate. As Henry D. Thoreau put it:
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root .
Compromising on results is a necessity of life: the moral choice of the best of available opportunities is constrained by the set of available opportunities. Fighting the manifestations of evil is thus an everyday endeavour, that will always exist, that can never fully succeed. It is a part of life. But it is not the cause that we are specifically defending. Any results achieved while fighting the manifestations of evil are short-lived when the original evil is untouched and keeps spawning ever more subtle new manifestations. The cause we are defending, the cause of Freedom, requires us to dissipate evil at its very source. This is why we cannot compromise on our goals, on our discourse. Compromission about principles, compromission about means of action, is yielding to the Evil of Black Magic; it is abandoning the very cause of freedom that we ought to defend .
We must learn to fight Black Magic itself, not its manifestations. So as to eradicate this parasite, so as to open the eyes of its ignorant victims, we must design a cure for this disease; and so as to design such a cure, we must understand enough of this illness and its mechanisms. We must understand how it works, and what efficient countermeasures there are. We must understand how it spreads, and how we can best prevent contamination. In other words, we must approach this problems with the White Magic attitude of engineering solutions, which supposes that we first develop a science of the mental mechanisms involved, call it ``political psychology´´, ``chromothaumaturgics´´ or ``power memetics´´.
Our endeavour is Memetic Engineering for Liberty. It is not so much ``Fighting For Freedom´´ (against oppression) as it is ``Building Freedom´´ (where it can thrive). We must engineer memes of White Magic that will successfully compete with the memes of Black Magic; this engineering includes successfully marketing the engineered memes. We must identify the psychological resources that Black Magic feeds upon, compete for those resources, and starve Black Magic from these resources. We must find and attack the weak defenses of Black Magic: the memes with least negative feedback for Black Magic and most positive feedback for White Magic. We must discover by which chains of control Grey Magicians maintain the belief in Black Magic among the population, and disorganize, cut or subvert the longest of these chains.7.4 Hope Ahead
My speech may sound melodramatic. It is meant to. I plead guilty as charged of trying to raise emotion about the Evil that lies beneath government. Actually, I would have failed in my attempt, if I didn't sound melodramatic enough. Yet, there is hope. And hope is very important for raising emotion, too. Without hope, there is no need to worry; whereas with a great hope, the greatest difficulties will be happily faced.
In his 1860 article, Panarchy, P. E. de Puydt suggested that someday, people would cease to consider violence as a legitimate way to impose political opinions, just like they don't consider violence anymore as a legitimate way to impose religious opinions. This is our hope: someday, in civilized countries, governmental oppression will be remembered as a nightmare of ancient barbarian times, something unthinkable to civilized people, just like Wars of Religion now seem a barbarous thing of the past to inhabitants of most civilized countries.
And indeed, this utter delegitimation of aggressive violence will be but the final achievement of a long process of individualization of society. It is the same process by which religion was individualized , with the recognition that each individual has to seek his salvation independently from the collective, and much later with the official separation of Church from State. This process will be complete when people commonly accept the separation of Morality from Justice .
And there are good reasons to be optimistic in the long run. First, remember that Black Magic can exist but as a parasite to White Magic. Black Magic may always appear to be winning, dominating, etc. But deep down inside, White Magic is always the strongest. It is up to us to make this strength prevail in the open. One way to see Black Magic is as a parasite meme; we may say, to paraphrase Einstein, that like the measles, it is an infantile illness of mankind. We may then hope that we'll find good medication to cure this polymorphous evil. Then again, looking at things on a grand scale, we may actually consider that Black Magic is a relic of the past, a gangue of mud out of which Mankind is quickly emerging — quickly in evolutionary timescales.
Indeed, at evolutionary scales, social interaction has long been limited to coordinating common interests against predators and preys, and otherwise managing the intrinsic conflicts of interests between tribal group members. What the conscious mechanisms of thought were used for was recognizing friends and foes, preys and predators. Nature took care of all the engineering, through innate mechanical reflexes, internal biochemical processes, etc. Black Magic was the only kind of thought. The design of dynamic strategies of social interaction for hunting, escaping predators, reproducing, warring, is novel in evolutionary times. And modern man is unique in using conscious design of dynamic strategies to domesticate nature, to build new structures, to invent tools. This ability of dynamic thinking, of conscious engineering , is the distinctive trait of Mankind: It is the criterion to distinguish the human being from his animal ancestors. It is the criterion by which we are superior to them, and by which our descendants will hopefully be superior to us. It is also the very principle of White Magic. White Magic is thus as a great but relatively novel thing.
Black Magic is a remnant trace of primitive animality, of wild savagery, of ignorant barbarianism in man. White Magic is the principle of Mankind, a principle that has been tremendously successful at accelerating an evolution of Life toward new limits previously unconceivable and unconceived .
: A bit under 20000 words in the main text plus a bit above 13000 words in footnotes total above 33000 words.
: This speech is based upon articles previously published in French: L'étatisme, forme moderne de la magie noire (in the Québécois Libre #103), and Magie blanche contre magie noire (the latter now also available in English as White Magic vs Black Magic).
: Actually, I realized, a few days after I gave this conference, that this light is not that new. Indeed, Karl Hess briefly mentions magic thinking as the force behind politics in the conclusion of his 1969 article The Death of Politics:
... politics is just another form of residual magic in our culture — a belief that somehow things come from nothing; that things may be given to some without first taking them from others; that all the tools of man's survival are his by accident or divine right and not by pure and simple inventiveness and work.Bastiat himself in the first chapter of his Economic Harmonies, reckons that artificial organization is based on deceptions that falsely appeal to the religious instinct of man. Ludwig von Mises also discusses Statolatry, — state-worship, — in his works about Socialism.
A good article about Magic Thinking in general is Magic, by Bill Whittle. An excellent article about the superstitious nature of government is The Nature Of Government by Frederick Mann.
: About libertarianism and psychological characters, see my previous speech at the April 2002 Libertarian International Conference: Reason And Passion: How To Be A Convincing Libertarian.
: A common confusion at this point is to fail to distinguish ``government´´ as a monopoly of force from ``government´´ as an organization of force. In this essay, we are using the word ``government´´ in the first meaning, that of a monopoly of force. ``Government´´ in the second meaning, that is, organization of force, always exists, just like ``the market´´ always exists; it may be simple or complex, it may be structured in a variety of ways, but there is no question being ``for´´ or ``against´´ it; the question is about individuals being free or subjected, about there being monopolies and privileges, or there being a free market. Libertarians support freedom, in the way that force is organized just like in all other matters. On this topic, read for instance Revisiting Anarchism and Government by Tibor R. Machan.
: As Claude Bernard wrote, ``Il ne suffit pas de dire: ``je me suis trompé´´; il faut dire comment on s'est trompé.´´ — It isn't enough to say: ``I was mistaken´´; one must say how one was mistaken.
: The material in this section has been published in a reorganized form in a separate article, Public Goods Fallacies — False Justifications For Government.
For a libertarian bibliography on this topic, see the Public Goods Theory section of Roy Halliday's bibliography for the LNF.
: The original quote in French is from his intellectual biography of Benjamin Constant:
Un libéral systématique est un anarchiste qui n'a pas tout le courage de son opinion; un anarchiste est un libéral intransigeant.
: In turn, collectivists may rightfully challenge individualists to justify why they accept individuals as the limit of their theory of rights. Incidentally, the answer is given in the etymology of the very word ``individuals´´: entity that cannot be divided. Individuals are by definition the elementary unit to which liberty and responsibility apply. As far as social interrelations matter, you can't meaningfully treat parts of a same human being independently or many individuals indivisibly. If you try, then experience will prove you wrong, as (for instance) teaching some behaviour to one human in a group won't mechanically teach any other group members, whereas you can't influence the behaviour of the live part of a human body without affecting the rest of the body (if only because said body must be at the same place as the part you handle, or else must be seriously taken care of in the intensive care unit of a hospital). Now, if by some currently mysterious feat of technology or psychology, you manage to split the individuality of a human, or to tie the individualities of many, then you will have moved the lines of individuality without invalidating the concept. But to achieve this feat, wishful thinking won't be enough; just decreeing the left and right half of a human as two individuals, or a whole nation as one, a mere magical incantation won't suffice: you must effectively establish how these two halves learn independently from independent experience; how this nation has a coherent will wherein all parts inherently behave in a congruently coordinated way toward a common end.
: See also Fallacies in the Theories of the Emergence of the State by Bertrand Lemennicier.
: In Economics, an externality is the side-effect of an action that concerns third parties not involved in the action. The externality is said to be negative if the effect is detrimental to the third parties, and positive if the effect is beneficial to the third parties.
: The idea that externalities were not solved by government but concentrated, I found first explicitly stated in Bryan Caplan's Anarchism Theory FAQ.
Actually, governments create new externalities. Indeed, an externality always corresponds to either the lack of definition of a formal property right, or to the lack of enforcement of an existing property right, or to the contradictory enforcement of overlapping property rights. In as much as governments coercively impose their monopoly on the definition and enforcement of new and old property rights, they are the cause of any lasting externality. Governments prevent the use of natural mechanisms by which property rights emerge and externalities disappear: homesteading and the common law. Whenever government defines a rights protection policy or lack thereof, it makes the protection services stray away from what market forces would lead to, overprotecting some properties, and underprotecting other properties. It thus creates monopolies and hidden protectionist subsidies to the overprotected privileged ones, and at the same time creates the Tragedy of the Commons and a hidden taxation to the underprotected victims of its policies — in both cases, it generates a dynamics of plunder, whereby people are incited to lobby for ever more protection, all the while being discouraged from respecting underprotected properties, so that these underprotected properties will be more and more overexploited.
As for the way externalities are treated by governments, it is remarkable that in democracies, protectionist laws against political competition from emerging parties are welcome as a way to secure that the will of the people will prevail, and to guarantee the ``power of the people´´ against the ``power of money´´ and covert lobbies. Actually, political protectionism increases the power of the established parties over the people, and replaces public campaigning based on the interest of the people with private lobbying based on the interests of the established politicians and of those who can have them vote protectionist laws in their interest (or have to pay racket protection to the politicians for the politicians not to vote laws against their interest). What the collectivists are actually doing is to replace private people responsibly launching public advertisement campaigns with shadow agencies lobbying political powers that be, and with irresponsible political parties directing propaganda at the public. Now, private advertisers can be sued for fraud if they breach their promises; they must fund their campaign on the expected marginal increase in the revenues of their own legitimate activity. On the contrary, the political advertisers constantly lie; they fund their campaign with taxes levied on the population and with the sale of protectionist favors to various political lobbyists. Thus once again, politics does not remove the ``problems´´ of a free society, but actually concentrates them and amplifies them.
: In Game Theory, simple mathematical ``games´´ such as the prisoner's dilemma or the ``chicken´´ race, model situations where there is a potential benefit for players in finding a way to coordinate their action. All the ``theorems´´ about each of such games merely restate in formal terms the informal hypotheses that were put in the considered model. It certainly does not follow that government is the right way to achieve this coordination — though such is precisely the non sequitur claim of statists. Actually, it is possible to apply game theory to compare coordination through government coercion with coordination through market competition; and this exercise in game theory will easily show how dreadful the effects of government intervention are.
Coordination is not something that magically happens, without cost, by divine intervention, just because the playing parties agree that coordination would be a good thing if it happened. And if it did, no coordinator would be required to begin with. Coordination is thus a service, and this service is worth whatever benefit the coordinated players get that they would not get if left uncoordinated. There remains to determine the most cost-effective way to achieve this coordination — assuming there exists such a cost-effective way.
In a free market, the playing parties are free to choose a coordinator. Their interest will thus be to find a coordinator that will provide the best value for his cost. If there exists a service provider that can indeed bring coordination at a cost less than what coordination is worth, then the interests of all concerned will converge toward this coordination happening. If the costs of enforcing coordination actually overwhelm the benefits of this coordination, then the interests of all concerned will converge toward this coordination not happening. All in all, the free market, i.e. the freedom for the players to choose who will coordinate if anyone, ensures that coordination will happen if it is good, at the best cost.
Let us now consider the case of government as a coordinator. Just like any private service provider — for government is made of private individuals, just like any institution — government is a player that will maximize its interests. The only thing that distinguishes government from a free market coordinator is that government detains the means of coercion, with which it can exclude or discourage any competing service providers. Thus, at equilibrium, a government will monopolize the coordination of a game; it will then reap off most benefits of the game, leaving the players with just what it takes for them to make the game profitable. In an opt-in situation, where people have the choice to either call for government coordination or relinquish coordination, the government will leave to the players barely more profits than the ambient marginal interest rate (with respect to stakes invested in the game) — and that only if this cooperation proves profitable to all concerned despite the monopoly cost of government. Things are much worse in an opt-out situation, where a government can coerce people into accepting its protection services for some pattern of activities. In such situation, government will not only reap out all the benefits of coordination, but will also go further and charge a surcharge that makes players worse off than if they had not played. This surcharge will indeed increase until it reaches the marginal interest rate for the transaction costs of opting out of government intervention (by emigrating, going into civil disobedience, hiding into clandestinity, lobbying the established powers to promote one's interest, seizing political power democratically, making a revolution, or whatever). And the more powerful the government, the higher are both this cost and the interest rate.
In the end, what game theory proves — if that was needed at all — is that coercive power benefits whoever holds it to the detriment of whoever endures it — which isn't exactly big news. Actually, game theory is but a way to formalize things in mathematical terms, but can say nothing less and nothing more than could be said without it. The same common sense reasoning that is required to see how the qualitative mathematical formalism does or does not map to reality can be used directly to reason about reality, without the intermediate mathematical jargon. As usual, mathematics is used in a pseudo-scientific way to inspire awe in people who are presented with complex-looking models. This awe is used to hide the fact that the very same old fallacies are being presented but with a different vocabulary. Oh, and by the way, as far as argument from authority goes, I am a mathematician born and raised in a family of mathematicians.
: Now, the very notion of the government allocating splits of the common good, and excluding people from it are contradictory to the premises that were meant to justify government intervention to begin with. The allocation of quotas, the rationing, the toll booths, etc., set up by the government prove that the ``common good´´ was not indivisible after all. The exclusion measures taken by the government, such as immigration control or compulsory birth control, or the surveillance of land by armed forces, prove that exclusion from the goods is possible. All the alleged impossibilities about exclusion are but bad excuses to justify conferring to the government a monopoly on the actually possible power of exclusion.
Maybe exclusion is indeed impossible without the use of armed force, but the only reason why the use of armed forces seems impossible without government is because the premise that government should have a monopoly on the use of armed force was silently posited, from the outset, in a hugely circular reasoning: government should have a monopoly on some goods, because it has the monopoly of force — which original sin of a monopoly is admitted as necessary without justification. Once again, the government is supposed to be made of superior people, or to have some magic pixie dust, that enables it to do what is admitted to be impossible to mere mortals. And once again, we find that in the end, the magic pixie dust is nothing but the power of legal coercion — brute force.
Now, as nicely remarked by Pascal Salin, having the monopoly to decide who to accept or to exclude about the use of some good is by very definition the property right on said good; what governments actually claim under false pretense is thus the expropriation of property from its legitimate owners, to confer it to an illegitimate political body. The claims of impossibility are just a trick of prestidigitation, and it is not externalities that have been shifted and concentrated: it is actually property rights that have been stolen and concentrated into the hands of the politically strong of the moment.
: The fallacious argument goes that when there is an extraordinary catastrophe in a particular field, then government intervention is necessary to save that field, at least until the issue clears up, and then to intervene permanently to prevent further catastrophes. But how does legal coercion actually help with saving people and helping them recovering their situation? If government already exists and has special powers of clairvoyance, why didn't it prevent the previous catastrophe, to begin with? If it couldn't prevent it, why would it be able to better avoid the next one? Finally, if some occasional catastrophes in the private sector justify taking management out of the hands of private people, don't the permanent catastrophes in the public sector justify taking management out of the hands of government? And in whose hands should things then be? The hands of a super-government? The hands of God?
A variant of the argument says that it is their special importance to the collectivity (national independence, national self-sustenance and some such), that make it necessary to manage some goods collectively by fear of mismanagement. But by considering any good or service collectively, rather than individually, just everything can be of ``national importance´´. Rothbard showed in Power and Market, that this was a fallacy of average collective choice, as substituted to the correct reasoning in terms of marginal individual choice: If there were suddenly no more light bulbs, no more toilet paper, no more wheat, or no more hairdressers, no more bridge operators, no more toilet cleansers, then the nation would be in a sorry state indeed. But that doesn't mean we have to collectivize any of these operations. Indeed, the sudden disappearance of these goods or services doesn't correspond to any imaginable real-life event in the free market. As long as each patron of each of these activities is ready to pay a marginally profitable price for a marginal increment of the activity — i.e. as long as the activity is worth it at all —, then there will be people ready to provide the service for a profit. On the contrary, the only way that such operations could be put collectively in danger is precisely by their being collectively managed, so that bad decisions by the central administrator can ruin the whole industry.
: For instance, in democracies, ``the people´´ is to be coerced to do what it is alleged to want to do but is blatantly admitted to not want at all, to begin with (or else, it wouldn't need to be coerced). Indeed, if, say, 50.1% of the population wanted to fund this or that other insurance, charity, research project, army, etc. then there's no doubt that said insurance, charity, research project, army, etc., will be abundantly funded, without the need for coercion. In a free society, each of the ``public´´ goods that a majority of the people want to fund, and even those goods that only a minority wants to fund, will be funded, by people who care, confiding their money to people that they — caring people — deem able to best provide these goods. That is, each ``public good´´, charity, or whatever, will be controlled by those responsible people who are most interested in it. In contrast, in a democracy, these goods are actually controlled by a class of politicians and public administrators, who are not checked by people who do care, but by a vast mass of people who don't care; most people are disinterested in any particular ``public good´´ or charity, and won't vote for one of the two main parties (those who have a chance of forming a government) on the basis of any particular issue. Finally, the knowledge that they will have to pay for something on which they have little control anyway makes them cease to care: they are made irresponsible, deprived from any will, by the very system that claims legitimacy from their responsibility and their will.
Similarly, a nation or collective can be good only in as much as people gladly identify with it; coercing people into some policies will only make them less prone to identify with it: though they may submit to the compulsory public role-play of abstract patriotism, they will actually retreat to their personal interest, and sever their direct ties with the actual people of nearby or larger neighborhood. Compulsory forms of nationalism and collectivism only replace genuine concrete love of one's neighbor by hypocritical appearance of love of an abstract entity, that only hides fear of the Power, and indifference, despise or hatred toward other people.
: Example deeds which make this double standard obvious: stopping people at arbitrary points along roads, forcing them to humiliate themselves, and levying a ``fee´´ on riches they carry or sending them back where they came from; forging currency is claimed to be backed on riches one owns but isn't really; compelling people into using such currency; threatening to rob, detain or kill people who do things that displease one, and enforcing one's threats if they do not abide by one's wishes; offering people ``offers they cannot refuse´´ to sell them service they don't want, with a non-satisfying quality, at a price they can't negociate; forcing people to spend their money, their lives, etc., in a war they don't want, waged in a way of which they disapprove. The only difference between these criminals and government agents is the official seal, this magic pixie dust that creates legitimacy when it is sprinkled over the worst crimes, including mass killings. This superstition was once characterized in the case of democracy with the following well-known quip:
Majority, n.: That quality that distinguishes a crime from a law.
Behind this double-standard is the fallacy of What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen: the statists will count only the ``positive effects´´ of intervention on people who benefit from it and conspicuously forget to count the negative effects on people who suffer from it — and this fallacy is successful because the benefits are concentrated, whereas the costs are spread. Although the fallacy is most often used in this crude form, when confronted to its substance, statists will go a long way toward sweeping their fallacy behind the veil of complexity.
For instance, if faced with the absurdity of their broken window argument, they will quickly retreat toward a ``differential´´ version of it. In this differential version, they acknowledge that government's coercive interventions don't magically institute a spontaneous generation of goods for free, and that government services are to be paid at a hefty price; but then they promptly assert that irresponsible government officials endowed with coercive power can somehow take better decisions than responsible citizens (probably thanks to some magic moral purification that is brought by their coercive power). The underlying argument is still the very same magic creation of riches through coercive destruction — but it has been pushed back behind a thickening veil of complexity. And of course, when an increasing complexity makes arguments either way inconclusive, they will victoriously claim that their case was established, by petition of principle.
Keynesians take the fallacy one step further: when faced with sufficient evidence (which they will never be honest enough to be the first to bring forward), they will not deny that the way their equations are utter nonsense when applied to meaningful, understandable, quantities. They will just evade the obvious falsity of their equations as applied to any understandably meaningful measurements, by claiming that their equations should only be applied to special ``aggregate´´ measurements blessed as such by keynesian economists. In a word, they claim to be high-priests of a religion the tenets of which are obviously absurd when inspected, but they claim a monopoly on interpreting their magical equations, and evade criticism by complexifying the question.
: Indeed, the very corrupting nature of power will attract to it people who do not have the scruples to refrain from using it, and drive even the honest leaders into being self-righteous aristocratic tyrants. This process was remarkably described by Friedrich A. Hayek in his excellent book The Road to Serfdom. Meanwhile, coercion will spread not only suffering, but also physical and mental apathy, moral and psychological retreat, among those who are deprived from the choice of their life, plus hypocrisy and servility when they are in contact with their masters and their master's enforcement administration.
Libertarians are often unduly reproached to worship a myth of the good savage — quite on the contrary, it is statists who worship the myth of the good statesman. To quote Edward Abbey,
Anarchism is founded on the observation that since few men are wise enough to rule themselves, even fewer are wise enough to rule others.
Actually, it is a common pattern that statists will reproach to libertarians what is actually a blatant failure of their own way of thinking.
: Egoism, self-care, is not opposite to altruism, care for others. Indeed, care for others can mean nothing but support for these other people's own self-care; altruism thus verily presupposes, requires, respects and supports egoism in other people. Moreover, the psychological basis for altruist behavior can be but the egoist self-satisfaction derived from cooperating with others. Some forms of cooperation may appear as ``self-less´´ to external observers who neglect to take psychology into account; but to a consistent utilitarian, even the most ``self-less´´ attitudes are really egoistic once non-material gratifications are taken into account (and ultimately, all gratifications are psychological, not material).
Thus, this fallacy is based on a deep misunderstanding of utilitarianism. This misunderstanding tries to separate the altruism in people from their ``self-interest´´, and pretend that only government can take advantage of this altruism and limit the ``evilness´´ of self-interest. But in a proper utilitarian setting (as opposed to the caricatures of it used by statist economists and philosophers), ``self-interest´´ will already account for the interactions with other people. For a given personal ``utility´´, one doesn't want either other people's utility or disutility in addition to it; possible love and hate are already included in personal utility functions; utility already includes the physical and psychological benefits from cooperation with others and other ``altruist´´ behavior. The correct utilitarian stance is one of mutualism, where people can, will, actually did, do, and will continue to adopt rules of cooperative conducts out of their own self-interest. The usual lot of fallacies on the subject, and their debunking, have all been well treated by Henry Hazlitt in his book: The Foundations of Morality, that extracts the quintessence of the achievements of classical anglo-saxon moralists, and corrects their mistakes.
Thus, altruism, in its mutualistic form, is already included in personal self-interest. Not only cannot government increase total utility by magically unleashing a secret source of altruism in people; but government can and will only act in an altruist way if it is actually controlled by the altruist tendency in people, which must preexist to any altruism by government. Government is not a superhuman source of altruism, but can only give back the human altruism that was successfully put into it. And then again, nothing warranties that this altruism rather than antagonism will dominate the coercitive apparatus of the state. On the contrary, by concentrating coercive power, government is a great incentive for people without scruples to strive toward seizing power, whereas really altruistic people won't partake in the struggle for power.
: Thus, contrary to the implicit prejudice behind this fallacy, governments only ever manage things on the short run. Indeed, the horizon of foresight of any political party is the next elective mandate. If ever one politician wanted to see further than the rest, his party would soon remind him of his duties toward it; political parties that do not force politicians to think in the short run get quickly wiped out of significance by parties that do; politicians without a political party simply don't get elected; and since even ``good´´ political parties can't remain in power very long, even if their policies are oriented toward the long term, these policies will be changed with next government. In conclusion, politics mean that whatever is politically managed will be led by short term demagoguery.
Technocratic administrative bodies, in as much as they last longer than governments, may act on the long term — but then, unchecked by any ``democratic control´´, and moved around by governmental directives as far as their official role is concerned, the only consistent direction in which they act in the long run is the interest of the administration members themselves: excessive wages and outrageous ``work conditions´´, protectionist measures against change or competition either internal or external, political power given to official labor unions, continuous extension of the ``duties´´ (i.e. powers) of the administration, etc. All that to the detriment of the citizens being ``served´´ what they don't want, of the taxpayers having to fund an administration they don't like, of the potential competitors and innovators, forced to bankruptcy or prevented from existing (if external) or compelled into following the hierarchically-imposed way (if internal) — and even of most members of the administration, who have to bear with a rigid hierarchy that makes them as hapless as useless.
The real force toward positive long-term planning has always been private interest of foresighted people. Private pension funds typically consider interests over decades (and it is typical that collectivists will be angry at pension funds, because they are precisely the way by which freedom turns the salarymen into the greatest capitalist force in the world, instead of the slaves that they collectivists want workers to remain). Banks, despite their being made largely irresponsible by the statist central banking system, also typically invest with decades of foresight, and used to invest with one hundred years of planning. Established families typically invested several centuries in advance, before the governments completely destroyed the incentives: the estate tax destroyed long-term family planning for physical property, and the state education destroyed it for intellectual tradition.
: For instance, let us consider the limits to the jurisdiction of a government. Statists will argue that it is the number of persons to which laws apply that makes the effectiveness of laws and limits their utility, they then deduce, firstly that uniformity is good, and secondly that governments are the only good way to achieve uniformity, and thirdly that governments must be as large as possible.
Firstly, they suppose that laws are forcibly good — whereas laws may be bad. But, let us suppose that for some reason, some given laws are to be considered as good. Now, they are not such an absolute good that everything must be sacrificed to them, including the life of every single man, woman and child on earth. This good is comparable to other goods, and the costs involved in achieving this good are comparable to the costs involved in achieving other goods. Therefore, this good is not sacred, and choosing whether to pursue it or not, and in which way, is but one another of the moral choices that are part of every man's life. Whether it is more or less urgent than other goals is a question to be examined. And another question worthy of simultaneous examination is the means to achieving this good.
A special mention must be made about the notion of uniformity that is often invoked by statists at this point. Uniformity is not good per se. A bad law uniformly enforced on the whole wide world is extremely bad. A change toward uniformity can be bad, if it comes from worsening the law at some place to make it conform to widely accepted bad law. A change toward disuniformity can be good, if it means better law somewhere freeing some people from universal slavery. Uniformity doesn't directly matter; it is not a goal worthy of pursuit, and not even a proxy for a goal worthy of pursuit. Similarly, a change toward equality by the dissemination of poverty is bad, whereas a change toward inequality by the creation of riches is good.
Secondly, even though some laws may be good, this does not justify the use of coercion to impose them upon other people. Indeed, the use of governmental coercion supposes that an evil much larger than the good being spread is at work behind the coercion — and this unleashed evil is prone to enforcing evil laws and corrupting even good laws, rather than to promoting good laws. The extension of the jurisdiction of good laws and good institutions is good; but in theory as well as in practice, the only laws and institutions the jurisdiction of which coercion can extend are those that are so bad that people won't voluntarily support them.
All in all, even though sometimes, widely accepted good laws may be good, statists still fail to make any point considering either the goodness of the particular laws they wish to promote, or the relative desirability of extending the acceptance of these laws, or the means of extending this acceptance, or the process by which governmental coercion can be confined into contributing positively rather than negatively to all these problems. In short, there is no problem, and government is not the solution; statists are but basing their claim on a double petition of principle.
Liberty and Responsibility are the only possible warranty that people will choose to obey good laws rather than bad laws. Peaceful persuasion through rhetorics filtered by critical reasoning and demonstrable benefits is the only way that good habits, good laws, and good institutions can be durably spread among the population, while at the same time discarding bad habits, bad laws and bad institutions.
: At this point, the vocabulary and concepts of Memetics can help us. Memetics, introduced by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene, and extensively developed afterwards by many people (see the Principia Cybernetica Project), is the study of memes, patterns of thought that can be spread from people to other people.
Memes evolve by natural selection, for they survive in as much as people voluntarily embrace them, according to their (well- or ill-) understood self-interest. Of course, people embracing them may be wrong about their self-interest, and indeed, memes can survive and spread by systematically deceiving people about their self-interest.
Knowing that, one must beware to avoid using the following justification as an explanation of the success of some ideas: ``these ideas have success because they are in their believers' perceived self-interest´´. Indeed, such an argument would be a circular reasoning. Though it may be true in the particular case considered, it would be but a post hoc tautology, an affirmation that is generic to all memes and cannot explain and distinguish the dynamics of specific memes.
In other words, it is sometimes good to remind general statements, whenever there is general ignorance and confusion about them, but they cannot replace a specific study of the topic at hand.
: Thus, according to this theory, people who have interest in some government intervention will profitably lobby for this intervention; and they won't even have to lie for that, for their interest will make them the first to believe their own arguments.
Now, so that a meme of exploitation may survive, it must also ensure the cooperation of the victims of the exploitation. Therefore, interventions that will be successful are interventions that even victims won't have marginal interest in leaving; and they won't, because the cost of individual secession will be too high. There will then be an apparent paradox about victims having the marginal interest in not to do anything against oppression, despite oppression being very detrimental to them on the average. This paradox can be exemplified as follows, with the principle of ``take five (unconditionally) and give back four (conditionally)´´. Government might make it certain that (unless it is overthrown) 5 units of goods will be taxed away from normal (exploited) citizens, whereas citizens will conditionally receive 2 units back if they don't resist, and maybe even 4 if they are active accomplices of government. Thus, even though on the average, government is always detrimental to all their citizens, costing them 1 unit of riches in the best case of their actively defending the system, the marginal case for a citizen to support the government will be a gain of 2 for those who simply don't resist, and a gain of 4 for those who become active accomplices.
Of course, to maintain such a discrepancy between marginal interest and average interest, government must ensure that taxation remains certain, whereas its subsidies will remain conditional. (As said Benjamin Franklin: ``In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.´´) The ultimate danger to a government is civil disobedience: people massively refusing to cooperate, and the government not being able to enforce its political decisions anymore, — with its own agents refusing to enforce its edicts against people, and people being ready to fight back against anyone trying to enforce them. That's why governments will actively campaign to prevent their opponents from coordinating an overthrow: constant propaganda through media and education control, harassment of potential high-profile dissenters, denial of working conditions, hefty fines and imprisonment for those who do not cooperate with the system (which begins with paying taxes), etc. Measures of this kind are necessary to keep the government exploitation going; and these measures may end up eating most of what governments manage to plunder away from their citizens. Note that in democratic countries, one of the measures used to settle the power is to encourage opposing parties that are as statist as the ruling party or more so even, so that the only plausible change will be favorable to the principle of the established power, and thus to the running party that expects to gain back someday the power it may lose and to continue to take its share of the political loot in the many constituencies where it will remain strongest.
When quasi-certainty is acquired in the mind of some people, they will have no marginal interest in learning about alternative high-cost low-probability possibilities; they will be ``rationally ignorant´´ of any dissenting idea. When in addition, these people somehow get benefits from being the displayed accomplice of government intervention (social advancement, avoided or reduced harassment, psychological relief from the feeling of being a victim, etc.) then they will be ``rationally irrational´´ and they will actively believe in the very propaganda that maintains them under an oppressive regime.
Note that in these two expressions, ``rationally´´ refers to the concept of rationality used by economists: the fact that the preferences revealed by people's actual behavior are congruent with each one's idea of his own interests, and remain so as one's ideas evolve. In contrast, in the second expression, ``irrational´´ refers to a more casual use of the word, denoting the attitude of having beliefs that do not pass the soundness filter of simple logic.
: The idea that psychological potential is a resource that is spent as it is tapped was notably developed by Raymond Ruyer in his book, les nuisances idéologiques.
: The realization that lobbying will waste in advance exactly the benefits of any putative form of government subsidy was made (at least for me) by François Guillaumat, in a personal communication. He has since published an article with George Lane about this law of political economy, La Loi de Bitur & Camember, and I have written a more extensive article on the topic: Political Welfare is Pure Waste.
Of course, this equality is asymptotic. In as much as the means to lobby are specific, they can't be converted from existing industries, and they can't be reinvested in other industries — they are a sunk capital investment. A corollary is that the existence of political power creates converging interests for people having invested in such capital, to maximize the profitability of this capital, and thus to continuously extend power in place.
: Some Public Choice theorists distinguish in political entrepreneurship the two activities of milking existing potential and lobbying toward the public opinion to create new potential. But these two activities are not separable in practice, because as far as self-interested behavior is concerned, political exploiters do not have exploitation in general as their goal, so much as exploitation to their own benefit.
Actually, people who feel deeply attached to political ideologies may lobby for more governmental intervention in general, — but as far as the dynamics of political entrepreneurship is concerned, these people as such are part of the potential to be tapped, rather than of the entrepreneurs tapping the potential. Of course, people who are (or think they are) in the beneficial side of the exploitation have interest in spreading such ideologies, and the best way for them to do it is to genuinely believe in such ideologies, to begin with (feeling righteous is also essential for them to sleep well at night).
As for the remark on people who ``think they are´´ on one side of exploitation, political lobbying, just like all scams, will of course consist at least partly in making people think they benefit from oppression, even though most of them actually suffer from it. Indeed, as scam artists put it: ``if you don't know who's the sucker, how he will be fooled, and how much money will get from whose hands to whose hands, then you're probably the sucker yourself.´´
: This certainly does not mean that we should ignore these techniques — we must learn to use them. Indeed, it is only through such techniques that exploitation can be vanquished. See for instance Why Sophisms Die Hard: The Power Of Ideas Over Interest, by Bertrand Lemennicier.
There is no reason to believe that current exploiters are particularly efficient at using lobbying techniques; thus, since we are to enter the market of ideological entrepreneurship, we may use a better, systematic knowledge of the techniques to overtake the political entrepreneurs with our anti-political enterprise. However, since their very existence will then be at stake, we must expect political entrepreneurs to keep up with whatever better technique we use, and compete using all the resources of plunder that they can use and that we cannot use.
: ``There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.´´ — a famous quote from Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In other words, if such thing as a free lunch existed, it would be better than anything else (there wouldn't be anything like it), however, it doesn't really exist (there isn't anything like it), for there is always someone, somewhere, paying for anything valuable that is apparently ``for free´´, and that might indeed be marginally for free to someone when it is already being paid for in a hidden way.
: This is why What Is Seen And What Is Not Seen is truly the model of all political fallacies.
: Once again, the Ad Hoc Fallacy behind collectivism really means that there is no reason to consider that their collectivity is the right one to take any specific decision. Why not a bigger or smaller or different collectivity? There obviously isn't a universe-wide government, yet humans manage to coordinate mostly without wars and conflicts. People peacefully engage in international commerce and tourism without the need of a common international government to coordinate them. If anything, political behavior causes wars and conflicts where economical behavior entails peace and cooperation. The right solution to the problem of determining the shape and size of collectivities is that the right collectivities are those that people freely adhere to — and such collectivities have no particular reason to be territorial (although physical proximity between people might play a role in helping people coordinate, which role gets smaller and smaller as means of telecommunication develop).
In the line of statists reproaching libertarians both something and its opposite, we can see how the collectivists who lament about the impossibility of doing anything big without government intervention denounce the ``intolerable power of multinationals´´ whenever anything big is actually done without government intervention (which disproves their point). Then, they claim they want this ``power´´ checked by governmental intervention, or completely replaced by governmental intervention. It's really a religious war that collectivists are waging: the real thing they reproach deep down in their heart is that something dare exist outside of their values; from then on, your mere existence is an insult to them, and they will reproach just any sign reminding them of it.
: If anyone not blessed with the divine power of government would ever propose to you that you should surrender your liberty to one in exchange for any kind of good whatsoever, that someone would immediately be spotted as a crook. Your liberty is the very warranty that ensures that the people with whom you deal will respect you: if that commerce isn't satisfying, you will switch to another dealer. Free communication will help spot the bad ones and take them out of business; a justice system will chase the fraudulent ones.
There is nothing anyone can do out of your liberty but to oppress you into extracting from you the payment of further favors. So if someone asks for your liberty under the pretense that it will save you expenses for the services he renders, it's an obvious lie: not only will you still have to pay for everything he'll do for you — because he just cannot physically provide any service without acquiring the means to provide them first, which will ultimately come from the payments of his customers — but you'll now have to pay at his conditions, without recourse. It sure saves him expenses, but to your detriment, not to your benefit.
The very idea of trading liberty for security is a contradiction. It is a ``sign error´´ in a basic equation of human behavior. To give a dealer the unlimited right to decide for his customers under the pretense that he will then be able to serve them more easily is a negation of the very basic premise that ensures that the agent remains at the service of the principals. ``Yeah, it'd be great if the agent would still serve us after we agreed to stop watching him;´´ — except we'd be fools to believe that he will.
The only thing our refraint from watching can bring is the ``government´´ stopping to serve us. And collectivizing the way we may control government is such a refraint.
Note about the above word ``refraint´´: Hazlitt regretted that the word ``refraint´´ (self-imposed constraint) didn't exist just like the word ``restraint´´ (constraint imposed by other people) did, the word self-restraint being kind of an oxymoron with misleading connotations. Well, he was wrong: all the words exist and have the meaning(s) we agree to give to them. He didn't hesitate to create the word ``utilism´´, after all (to cut through the accumulation of ending syllables in ``utilitarianism´´ — and he could have made it even shorter: usism). We thus see that even with neutral technical terms, words can already be misleading. How much more misleading can ideologically laden words be! Using words in such a way as to imply a lot of its ideology, having its words, its problematics, and its paradigms implicitly accepted in all discussions — that is the way the collectivist meme is extending its control over people's minds.
: This godly trade is one of the underlying justifications of government, used by those promoting the polymorphous myth of the ``social contract´´: this institution of violence would be a magic contractor under the orders of a collective entity named ``the people´´. Yet none of us ever received a detailed contract or invoice saying what is paid for what service. We are kept out of the knowledge to judge and out of the right to judge whether we pay too much for too little, for services we need or need not. As opposed to what happens in a legitimate trade, citizens cannot refuse the monopolistic dealer. They are kept from even thinking about refusing it.
: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who shall watch the watchmen themselves?) — Juvenal, Satires, VI, 347
: Constitutions solve no problem. Politicians learn to bypass the spirit of them by slowly changing the meaning of the letter. And they will also change the letter of the text itself whenever there is a clear corporate interest for politicians to do so. Constitutions are a but way to induce into citizens religious consideration for government; just as in the Cabal, they uses the psychological impact of (written) words as magic anchors that fascinate the mind, until the hypnotized minds discuss the words without questioning the origin of whatever meaning they might really have.
More generally, at the heart of magic thinking is the mistake of nominalism, that Frederick Mann from BuildFreedom.com calls the Ghost Not phenomenon: the human mind is able to imagine inconsistent concepts, and to use words to communicate these concepts; those who are exposed to words will presume that they forcibly represent a valid coherent concept even though it mightn't be the case, and will associate to each word the murky concept made from the locally consistent contexts in which the word is used. However, because they are not educated to become aware of the semantic limits of a word, and to reject incoherent concepts, most people fall into the trap and use words in contexts that are invalid because of global inconsistencies (due to semantic shifts from one locally consistent context to another incompatible locally consistent context).
: This above list is not meant as a definitive coverage of psychological patterns of natural authority, but as a first attempt at such a coverage. Our purpose is not to establish an authoritative classification, but to open the path to more comprehensive and detailed studies of the statist phenomenon from the point of view of human psychology. And of course when we say ``innate´´, we include all genetically programmed acquisitions.
: This general relationship between parents and children evolved into its current existence by natural selection because it indeed is mutually beneficial to parents and young children; such a relationship allows to provide for individuals and to invest capital in their human beings before they are able to productively provide for themselves. So the pattern has some good use. But it also has some bad abuse. And indeed, this blind trust in parents dissolves as children mature and become responsible adults. The problem is conspicuously not in the blind trust of young infants, but in this trust lingering among adults and being diverted into a faith in the power of a supernatural entity incarnate in the decisions of political leaders. A saying goes: ``Politicians are like diapers: they must be changed often. And for the same reasons.´´ — To this saying, we may add that adults don't need either of them.
: The common consensus nowadays is that parents cannot go so far as killing their children, or even hitting them into hospital. Now, as to establishing precise limits to the authority of parents, legislation doesn't promote liberty of action for either children or candidate foster parents, but rather substitutes government authority to parent authority — government behaving as a super-parent. On the contrary, many libertarians argue that parental authority is largely unnecessary and unjustified; parents are not entitled to coerce their children into complying to their whims. According to this view, governments, even if they were some kind of parents, would not deserve any special authority for that. See the Taking Children Seriously movement, also presented at this conference, that develops ways parenting without coercion. In any case, it is clear that together with progress of society will go a de facto diminution of the violence and frequency of coercive acts by parents.
: Stalin, more ambitious, was the Little Father of the Peoples — which he demonstrated by killing millions, deporting entire populations, and exterminating whole nations when he felt he was being resisted.
: Hô Chi Minh was ``Elder Uncle´´, which he also demonstrated by killing anyone who resisted him.
: For instance, the french president François Mitterand, was surnamed ``Tonton´´ (Uncle) and in the end of his 14 years of presidency, the outrageously deferential ``Dieu´´ (God) even stuck to him.
: Thus, the most secular governments, and even overtly atheistic ones, are no less blasphemously superstitious than the most blatantly religious theocracy: their fundamental claim is to incarnate Authority itself, whether by personal identification, by godly delegation, by mysterious transsubstantiation, or by a combination of the above. A case in point is how democracy transsubstantiates the result of ballots into the holy ``Will of the People´´, conferring godly powers to the elected politicians.
: See the footnote above in the section on Opinions and Interests for a short introduction to Memetics.
: The measures taken to prevent people from using reason are to build a wall of strong emotions around the issue to avoid. A primary set of measures is to use FUD tactics to instill fear of any change. Governmental coercion is thus offered as a guarantee, the Ultimate guarantee against Evil. But the only things that the right to coercion warrants are injustice and evil themselves, whereas the only possible warrant of good is the harmony of self-interests in a society of freely cooperating individuals. These tactics are the emotional equivalent of the Catastrophe-Prevention Fallacy and the Moral Fallacy discussed above. Yet they are effective: people are willing to escape the risk of some bad outcome by embracing the certainty of the worst possible outcome. What it takes is making the risk obvious while hiding the nature of the certainty; people are risk averse, and they seldom understand that with liberty, their only risk is to get better.
The other main set of tactics is to isolate people from each other and prevent them from cooperating, so as to appeal to the marginal interest of individuals versus their average interest, in a big prisoner's dilemma. (Once again, it is striking that statists use game theory arguments based on government intervention being meant to solve the prisoner's dilemma, whereas it is precisely governments creating the problem of a huge nation-wide prisoner's dilemma, to begin with.) Any emerging competition is to be subjected by force, or made ineffective by fraud, or to be subverted by corrupting its leaders into becoming part of the establishment. By some legal mean or some other (which might require enacting new legislation), any coordination of the oppressed into an anti-political movement is systematically suppressed. Actually, constant political propaganda, tax-funded religious fervor for political reform, and even tax-funded ``political opposition´´, try to constantly canalize any potential energy among the public into debates that accept the basic premises of political power.
: Bastiat, in his Economic Sophisms, noted that it is impossible to fully follow a false theory: even the most ardent proponents of collectivist systems in theory live by the principles of life in their individual practice; they may apply their false theories more or less, but they cannot be coherent in applying them, lest they die. The principles of Life and Truth are coherent, whereas the principles of Death and Falsity are not — actually, it is precisely this coherence that ultimately characterizes Truth, and this is the reason why, despite superficial symmetries, you cannot exchange Life and Death, Truth and Falsity, Good and Evil. Emotional judgments are in terms of two categories like Friend or Foe; they are related by symmetrical links of alliance and opposition. Rational judgments, on the other hand, though they may look superficially as being in terms of two symmetrical emotional categories like Truth and Falsity, are actually based on logical structures of infinitely many categories, related by intrinsically dissymmetrical links of logical implication.
: Evil can only parasite good. The forces of Death can only feed upon Life. Parasites and predators can never ``win´´ over their victims and preys, or they would extinguish themselves too. This is why even the most oppressive regime cannot sustain itself unless there are more creative forces active in the body of oppressed people than there are destructive forces used by the oppressors — and if these oppressors don't fall before, these creative forces will ultimately win over them, though it may take quite a long time for them to win, during which the destructive forces will cause suffering and destroy not just material capital, but even part of the basic psychological capital that allows for human cooperation. Libertarians must thus be confident in the far future; what we are to be concerned about is how to make progress nearer rather than farther — what part we can take in making progress happen.
: I originally introduced and explained this usage of the terms ``Black Magic´´ and ``White Magic´´ in an article, White Magic vs Black Magic.
: To a Black Magician, the relationship to nature and to other people is hierarchical: there are inferiors and there are superiors; the Black Magicians displays violence toward inferiors and subservience toward superiors. To a White Magician, the relationship to nature and to other people is not hierarchical: there is no purpose in establishing categories of ``superior´´ or ``inferior´´; what matters is to recognize the various characters of the many alien forces, to learn to respect them, and to master their use toward the best results.
: Schizophrenia is inherent to any theory that isn't equated with practice. Indeed, when a theory describes a world different from the real world, it is false, thus it isn't sustainable, and practice cannot completely and permanently follow theory. Practice will thus contradict theory, and there will have to be a breaking point in any theoretical follower's mind between the accepted theory and the behaved practice. Hence, schizophrenia is a sure companion of any lasting false theory. A typical symptom to diagnose this kind of schizophrenia is the following piece of pseudo-wisdom, often uttered with a proud feeling of cleverness by a black magician: ``In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is´´. The black magicians accept as a wise paradox what would in reason be the sure sign that their theory is false and should be changed. Now of course their black magic precisely consists in not developing theories out of individual reasoning, and instead submitting to a collective authority so as to adopt a theory.
: This manipulation of the language to ends of thought control is coherent with what is known as the (weak) Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: that the language has a major structural influence on the way we may think.
: We already saw in our section about public goods fallacies that it was a fraud to pretend that government could be a source of altruism external to citizens themselves, and that the only thing that it genuinely introduced was coercion. We may further our analysis, together with Henry Hazlitt, and see that egoism as self-love is not only compatible with altruism as other-love, but also a prerequisite for other-love: if the one has no self-love, no taste for personal satisfactions, it is impossible or pointless for others to offer him personal satisfactions. And indeed, the ``altruist´´ black magicians do not seek personal satisfactions, but the abolition of them, and their replacement by ``collective satisfactions´´ as revealed by increasing statistics and by satisfaction of the political elite regarding its prowess at managing a submitted society of slaves.
Actually, egoism, as self-love, even without other-love, is good, and is the very motive force of society, as Bastiat showed. It is it that makes every man eager to learn, to improve, to cooperate with other people, etc. The fallacy is to make believe that personal interests are intrinsically antagonistic to one another, whereas they really are in harmony with one another, in what Hazlitt calls mutualism. On the contrary, ``altruism´´ without egoism is evil; people who don't respect themselves will not be able to respect other people; people who think other people are wrong to seek personal satisfactions will happily remove satisfactions from these other people, and think they have done well. Actually, altruism is but a pretense for the political elite to seek its personal satisfactions, while feeling comfortable in sacrificing the subjected people to official ``altruistic´´ motives.
: Black Magicians fail to see cooperation in any dissymmetrical exchange; they insist that one party unilaterally exploits the other. Yet purely symmetrical exchange where each one receives exactly the same thing as he gave, is no gain for anyone, only a loss of time at exchanging anything. Thus the ideal of Black Magicians is individual autarky — the dissolution of society. And this is indeed the logical conclusion of conceiving all human interactions as predation.
Quite on the contrary, cooperation is born from dissymmetrical exchange, where each person, being specialized, offers what is relatively easier for one to do and receives what is relatively harder for one to achieve. In cooperation, people help fulfill each other's potential. An artist has a talent useful for some part in some attraction, but none for prospection, marketing and sale, he looks for an impresario — the best he can find, to do this job for him. The impresario in turn looks for the best actors to promote, and sells their talent to the best producers he can find. A producer gathers a pool of the best talents, each useless in isolation, to produce the best show, to sell to the best customers. And the public in turn is ready to pay for some piece of entertainment the enjoyment is such that they couldn't have better for cheaper. Everyone gains from everyone else. Everyone exploits everyone else. And everyone is happy about it — exploitation is good. Freedom to walk away and to choose with whom to cooperate, in other words, competitive free markets, is precisely what guarantees that everyone will be served as best as he can find, in this mutual exploitation, the name of which is social cooperation.
: Example such Black Magicians are proponents of the ``droit à la paresse´´, a right to laziness by which parasites who conspicuously refuse to work demand that political force be used to take money from those who work so as to grant them money, various satisfactions and other privileges.
: Such is the case of all the ``altruists´´ who praise sacrifice to the collectivity without measurable satisfaction.
: This may be summarized with this quotation of James J. Ling: ``Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done.´´
: See Hazlitt's chapter on Sacrifice. To illustrate the issue, you may consider the notion of ``Gambit´´ in Chess, whereas a valuable piece is sacrificed to achieve a better positional development, or something that in the end positively contributes to the final victory. It is clearly not the loss of a piece in itself that is considered as good, but the cleverness by which a net gain is achieved through a temporary sacrifice, that would not have been achieved without it.
: This is in essence what Alfred North Whitehead meant in this quote about progress in civilization:
It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking about what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the numbers of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them. Operations of thought are like cavalry charges in battle — they are strictly limited in number, they require fresh horses, and must only be made at decisive moments.
: We have previously discussed the problem of convincing people in our speech at the Libertarian International Spring Convention 2002, Paris: Reason And Passion: How To Be A Convincing Libertarian. We are unhappily far from having pre-built solutions to propose, and are very interested in hearing of methods that work to cure the mental illness that is the Authoritarian Principle.
: Just like Richard Dawkins built the word ``meme´´ by analogy with ``gene´´, the word ``memotype´´ is built by analogy with ``genotype´´. See the Principia Cybernetica project for information about memetics.
: The reader may compare these to the three questions of Ayn Rand in Philosophy: Who Needs It: ``Where am I? How can I discover it? What should I do?´´, with which she characterizes metaphysics, epistemology and ethics.
Of course our thesis is precisely that while one of these aspects may be stressed separately or may be locally separated from the other aspects, they are inseparable from each other in our behavior strategies. Black Magicians hierarchize metaphysics then epistemology then ethics, with the universe being some data about which you get information and then inside which you act. White Magicians know that you can only get information by interacting with the universe, which in turn modifies the universe, so that the information flows both ways, from ethics to epistemology to metaphysics as well as the other way round.
: Arguably some don't know it, don't feel it, and don't act. They die. Genetically, memetically, they are dead ends, quickly wiped away by life. Relativists will argue that dying might be no less ``good´´ than surviving, that existing is not better than not existing. Maybe. But those who are dead, those who don't exist, things that are not real, are irrelevant. They don't come and change the outcome of our lives (though our real ideas of unreal things definitely do). We live. If you don't, you're out of our scope. If you don't want to live, go away and die; you'll be irrelevant while we will focus on things that matter to our lives. Life is a valid premise to all rational discussions, because any denial of life is a performative contradiction.
A weaker answer is that even if nothing is more worthwhile than anything else, then the reply we give is no less worthwhile than any other reply. In any case, the argument that there is no purpose is self-defeating. Some Black Magicians will nevertheless resort to it, as a way to inhibit rationality in others and have their force prevail, rather than as a rational argument.
: On the topic of man as a means to other men, see Norbert Wiener's The Human Use Of Human Beings: Cybernetics And Society as well as Henry Hazlitt's The Foundations of Morality.
: Life is metabolizing external resources. And this happens not just at the biochemical level, but also at the social level. Our better genes and memes survive in as much as they spread their structure. These structures are to be efficiently implemented in a competitive environment, using resources that are external and have a different organization if any; these resources are used by imprinting them with a proper part of the internal order of the life form that absorbs them. The locally anentropic (some would say ``extropic´´) transformation of an unknown, ununderstood and maybe unknowable organization of some resources into a known, understood, friendly pattern is the characteristic activity of life: metabolization.
At the biochemical level, there exist membranes (cellular membrane, skin, etc.) that separate the internal world, made of resources having been transformed or reserved for upcoming metabolization, from the external world, made of resources subject to an external order. But even these membranes are not absolute, absolutely precise, uncrossable, unbreakable borders. Rather, they are self-repairing adaptative limits that provide an attempt at separating the interior from the exterior in a productive compromise between efficiency and affordability. At the social level, property rights are also such membranes, that identify resources that have been metabolized by people who have transformed them or have reserved them for an ongoing transformation. Homesteading, the rule attributing resources to those who first use them, is but the acknowledgement of this process of life at the social level.
: At this point, we have to restate how hierarchies and entreprises, just like Black Magic and White Magic, are but two poles, two extremes, and that reality develops in-between. In our societies of grey magic, corporations and institutions are typically something in-between ideal hierarchies and ideal entreprises; even in highly centralized administrations, individual entrepreneurship is essential to making things happen; even in highly competitive companies, the social decision flow is felt by participants and instituted as a hierarchical relationship. So here too, there is grey, and here too, grey is meaningful but by reference to black and white.
: This utopia is summarized in the proverbial ``sĩ nông công thương´´ (administrator, peasant, worker, tradesman) hierarchy of traditional vietnamese and chinese society.
: The word ``bet´´ above is not to be understood as a wager in a zero-sum game of mutual predation based on sheer luck, as in a casino or when gambling on horses. Quite on the contrary, it is to be understood as the commitment of resources in a positive-sum game of production, where wit matters. And the proof of the wit or lack thereof is precisely in the wise or unwise commitment of resources. Those who commit their resources wisely will get great return for their investment, whereas those who take bad decisions will lose their stakes and beyond. What we seek to convey by the word ``bet´´ is the statically uncertain but dynamically valuable nature of any and all knowledge: as a static body of information, knowledge is radically uncertain and worthless; but as a dynamic basis for adaptation, knowledge has the value of the adaptative better commited choices that it leads to.
: This idea was later formalized at length by Karl Popper, who concluded that induction was impossible as a context-free principle of reasoning. However, Popper never seems to have fully caught on the formalizability of a positive principle of induction for reasoning with an evolving context, rather than merely his merely negative principle of ``falsification´´.
: This is the famous inductive principle followed by all scientists, often recalled as Occam's razor, and well formalized by Ray Solomonoff.
: The lighter and darker side of knowledge is summarized in ``Finagle's Laws of Information´´: ``The information you have is not the information you want. The information you want is not the information you need. The information you need is not the information you can obtain. The information you can obtain costs more than you want to pay.´´ Of course, just as with Murphy's Law, it only talks about the failures, that come back and haunt us, because we take the successes for granted.
: To prevent people from realizing that the measured parameters become meaningless, Black Magicians attribute a magic power to the words themselves; once pinned with magic belief in its absolute meaning, the word can then be used to name a measurable parameter the actual meaning of which drifts into irrelevance. Black Magic, once more, is based on wishful thinking.
: I have since learnt that amongst economists this phenomenon was known as Goodhart's law.
: In The Pretence of Knowledge, Hayek debunked the pseudo-science behind the statistical approach to economy. But he failed to acknowledge the wider pattern of static thinking, where irrationality is not an accident, but a purposeful feature.
: This is what Anthony de Jasay calls the ``drudge´´.
: Remarkably, for statists, the word Economics is verily defined to represent everything that can be subjected to taxation, and nothing else.
: On the difference between accounting costs and opportunity costs, see our subsequent article Economic Reasoning vs Accounting Fallacies: the case of ``public´´ research, as translated from our original in French, Raisonnement économique contre sophismes comptables: le cas de la recherche ``publique´´.
: Note that an opportunity's ``cost´´ has meaning only within the set of preferences of an individual. Note also that preferences are ordinal rather than cardinal; that is, they allow to choose between alternatives, to sort them in order of preference, but not to put them in a numerical scale — and even less so in a scale common to several people. This is why collectivist forms of utilitarian calculus are intellectual frauds.
: The original quote is as follows:
``The [classical] liberal, of course, does not deny that there are some superior people — he is not an egalitarian — but he denies that anyone has authority to decide who these superior people are.´´ — F. A. Hayek, Why I Am Not a Conservative
: The Hyperdiscordia article on the ``Law of Eristic Escalation´´ goes on like this:
So I will translate them into the lingua franca of the Western world: An imposition of order creates a chaos deficit, which compounds until it is paid off (by enduring all the outstanding chaos).
Of course, Eris thinks all chaos is outstanding. But we mortals find too much of a good thing a little overwhelming. Thus we cringe when we encounter an anerism — a pronouncement, that is, which is innocent of the Law of Eristic Escalation.
If you hear that outlawing prostitution will eradicate rape, you are listening to an anerism — a manifestation of the Aneristic Delusion. (If you read The Sacred Chao — instead of skipping over it in the recommended way — you will comprehend the anamysticmetaphysics of aneristics.)
An anerism nearly always enters the world through the mouth of a politician — but it can come by way of any authority figure such as a minister or a teacher or a parent or a boss or Ronald McDonald.
: An example is the french law that limits legal work schedules to a maximum (average) of ``35 hours´´ per week. The alleged rationale was that working less was a sacrifice that would allow to ``share´´ the available work with the currently unemployed. Moreover, the employers, not the employees, were asked to pay for the sacrifice. Of course, for all further jobs, all this means is that the cost of employment will have risen, so the employer can pay less for a given productivity, whereas people whose productivity is too low to justify a minimal wage plus additional costs to the employer, will not get hired. The net result is thus a raise in unemployment, as well as a decrease in total wealth being produced, since people work less. As for existing jobs, then some employees may indeed win in the short term, but then the employers will face such financial hardship as to go bankrupt; though in the case of government as an employer, the taxpayer pays for the bankruptcy — and the increased tax pressure shifts bankruptcy onto other companies. Politicians don't care, as long as they expect this measure to move more votes in their favor than against it in next elections; and the measure will remain as long as politicians think that cancelling will have a detrimental effect on their reelection.
: See also this Introduction to the Philosophy of Liberty by Ken Schoolland and Lux Lucre for a brief explanation of murder, enslavement, and robbery.
: To use the term introduced by Bertrand de Jouvenel in Du Pouvoir.
: For a parody of this choice between lesser evils, see Cthulhu.org. Notice how the very notion of choosing between two evils is a mix of White Magic and Black Magic: In White Magic, you have to make choices; but there is no a priori notion of evil; assuming for the sake of the argument that there are but two choices then all that matters is that, considering all the expected consequences, including those relative to the acceptance of general rules of behavior, one is to be preferred to another one, and thus is ipso facto better, and the other one worse, without there being any other relevant scale of Good and Evil. Of course, in practice things are more complex than having to side with either of two well-defined camps; instead the relevant question is to determine where to spend your marginal resources (including your attention), which might involve active siding with neither of the two proposed camps. (See in French my article Faire la guerre ou ne pas la faire? Faux dilemmes et vraie morale.) In Black Magic, there is an absolute Good and an absolute Evil (though not forcibly under those names) and having to choose between two Evils is an unexplainable paradox, a source of pain and sorrow, another reason to revolt against nature. In practice, the necessity of a choice is acknowledged by Black Magicians, which is at the same time a tribute to White Magic, and a formal condemnation of it as Evil.
: See in French my article Schizophrénie socialiste.
: Orwell, in his 1949 novel 1984, explained the paradoxical slogan ``War is Peace´´ as signifying that by creating a state of war with an external enemy, the State could achieve internal peace without opposition to the government. In 1918 already, Randolph Bourne wrote a famous article explaining how War is the Health of the State. But it has been remarked long ago that the real purpose of war is to strengthen the power of politicians over their own subjected people:
``In reviewing the history of the English Government, its wars and its taxes, a bystander, not blinded by prejudice nor warped by interest, would declare that taxes were not raised to carry on wars, but that wars were raised to carry on taxes.´´ — Tom Paine, Rights of Man, I.
: For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. — H. L. Mencken
: Working around the contradictions of the system also offers plenty of room for mindplay to those who like to exercise their intellect while accepting the premises of the system. Only those who refuse to accept incoherent premises are truly irreducible enemies of Black Magic.
: It is thus characteristic that Black Magicians will put forward morality as the justification of politics, the proper goal for the use of force; whatever their politicial leaning, their politics really consists in as the forceful imposition of a moral order defined according to their own subjective tastes.
In contrast, White Magicians conspicuously separate morality from justice, and see use of force as justified in matters of justice, and illegitimate as far as matters of personal morality is concerned; whatever their personal preferences, their libertarianism really consists in the enforcement of a lawful order defined according to objective rules of reason.
: Have you never lost anything, for instance your keys, and wondered ``who stole my keys?´´? Apparently, trying to find intent in any event that concerns oneself is a natural reflex of the human brain. The brain constantly tries to match the events from the world into known patterns — either inborn patterns or acquired patterns. Now, patterns based on intent are deeply rooted in the fabric of our brains, consequently to millions of years of living in societies where intent mattered most: indeed, our ancestors had to deal with preys and predators and sexual rivals and partners that can be readily understood in terms of intent; they didn't deal with complex technology and social cybernetics for which intent-based explanations fail.
: As Philip K. Dick put it:
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
: That's why Black Magic not only tries to cultivate ignorance, but also and most importantly tries to fill heads with its own hogwash, so that there be no room left for any true knowledge. Total education control, permanent media hype, etc., are thus essential tools that Black Magic seizes when they exist, and develops to unprecedented levels.
: There is something of an oxymoron in this sentence. Actually, the entirety of the present essay is an attempt to turn the manichean imagery of black magic against black magic itself. Therefore, it may be seen as following the same principle as the GNU GPL, that turns against itself the legislation of information protectionism, or as Aikido, that turns the force of an aggressor against himself. It is a self-defense technique, that cannot describe the natural order of things, but only brings the means to fight its perturbations. For an effort to go further, see my next speech, The Enterprise of Liberty vs The Enterprise of Politics.
As for self-defense, we are thus using the principle of Evil against itself, knowing full well that this includes a dynamic contradiction that is precisely meant to limit, decrease and contain the principle of Evil, lacking the power to extinguish it. It will forever remain important to stay vigilant as to the use of the tools of violence, whereas these tools will always be necessary to fight the inevitable resurgences of the coercive principle in the world. But in this case not less than in other cases, it is illusory to think that this vigilance and this violence can be spared by confiding the monopoly of them to an official counter-power or by unilaterally abandoning the prerogative of them — for such a counter-power would soon become the main power itself, much more powerful than the one it used to keep in check, whereas this abandonment would be but a total surrender to those who wouldn't similarly renounce violence. Remarkably, this is the history of democracy and of pacifism. Once meant as counter-powers opposed to absolute monarchy, parliaments nowadays reign, and their own flavor of absolutism grows without bounds and has several times turned into totalitarianism. As for pacifism, it only served to lead millions of innocent people into agonizing death at the claws of great mass murderers. In short, antagonism and its violent resolution will never cease to exist, though they will never be the motive power of mankind; and in such antagonisms, it is better if force should prevail on the right side than on the wrong side.
: See the site Strike The Root.
: As Tom Paine put it, ``Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.´´
: The individualization of religion is a meme that historically succeeded as a symbiot to universal monotheist religions: it has begun riding on judeo-christianism when the jewish theocracy lost its power to foreign invaders. Indeed, after the persian armies conquered Judea, the jewish prophets were not able anymore to appeal to political power to enforce their will; instead they had to resort to convincing individuals to voluntary abide by their preachings. The christian religion, originally spreading in the roman empire against the will of political power, also had to appeal to people by individual choice. Liberty rose once again in Europe after the german invasions divided the roman empire into a great number of kingdoms, moving the political power away from the christian theocracy into the hands of the conquering military. In turn, this de facto separation of the church from the state led, through competition, to the development of some freedom of thought, and gave a competitive advantage to these societies that supported this separation of church from political power over those that didn't.
: This separation was notably theorized by Christian Michel in Should We Obey The Laws Of Our Country?, 2000. The distinction between Morality and Justice is already quite present in Henry Hazlitt's The Foundations of Morality, but his inclusion of Justice within Morality seems cybernetically incorrect to us, since decisions of morality and of justice are not taken by the same persons based on the same information: morality is how each one decides based on the personal information he has; justice on the other hand, is the result of the moral interaction of many individuals, who synchronize their actions based on publicly available information; it is a social phenomenon whereby the equilibrium of social forces leads to the legitimation of violent actions against malefactors recognized as such.
: We may identify this ability with what Alfred Korzybski called ``time-binding´´.
: This is why it can be rightly said that Libertarianism is the only true Humanitarianism. A true humanitarian can be libertarian and cannot be authoritarian, for authority degrades man to an savage animal, whereas liberty upgrades the savage into a civilized man. Liberty is the very fulfillment of Mankind.
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