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Rethinking the State

A product of enlightenment thought, the nation-state tried from the beginning to make people into interchangeable citizen-workers. Whether in Japan, France, China, or Italy, no matter when, the program was always the same—to force everyone to speak the dialect of the capital city, wipe out regional differences, and mandate total participation in an impersonalized money economy. It allowed humans coordinate as never before, every citizen with an identification number and papers tracked from cradle to grave, everyone pumped through the same school system to be given the same standardized knowledge and experiences. By the 19th century, homogenized mass states were behemoths able to easily crush other forms of organization. The nation-state craze led to the colonization of most of the planet and culminated in the relentless meat-grinder of senseless world wars. Then an unstoppable force began to come apart.

The one-size-fits-all philosophy of the nation state is its demise. When nationalism stripped away traditional cultures, it never really replaced them with anything of substance. By making all a country one place, all the country became no-place and everyone became no-one. After the world wars, the cognitive dissonance was finally overwhelming. What had all the death and destruction been for? The mass state could grind on like a machine for its own sake and take on a hideous inanimate life devoid of the capacity to care.
The illusion of purpose in the nation-state slipped every time 100,000 young men ended up dead over one mile of ground or a beautiful ancient city was bombed flat for an airy idea. For some decades longer nationalistic zeal was perpetuated by the antagonism between the USA and the Soviet Union. But one could not continue without the other. Without the distraction of threatening outsiders, growing internal divisions could no longer be ignored.
Now, internet and smartphones have made 19th century nationalism obsolete. This is because the advantage of factory-style nationalism is the ability to coordinate millions of people at a time, however clumsily, and overwhelm the enemy.
This is a strategy appropriate for a world where the telegraph, railroads, steamships, and mass production were recent technologies. 1860s nationalism was a way for states to take full advantage of those advances in logistics and communication to crush their competitors. One mistake from a general or bureaucrat could get a million men killed, but so long as the other 10 million made it through, they could win the war.
The problem is communications and logistics have continued to rapidly develop since those days. In an agile world nation states are like drunken giants—mighty, slow, and clumsy.
War has left archaic nation states behind. Paralyzed by the threat of nuclear war, they continue to waste their wealth on massive conventional weapons that just sit there. When they try to use them against small, agile non-state groups, they fail. It’s like trying to swat mosquitoes with missiles.
The world of commerce has left the old nations behind. Corporations have little connection to any nation and they make a profit wherever they can. They are like nomads going from one pasture to the next as they will. When one archaic nation is used up, on to the next.
Culture is leaving behind the nation state as well. With the internet, only language barriers really limit communication any longer. This inherently challenges the ability of each nation to keep a closed off herd with limited access to information. It would be hard for us to imagine WW1 with smart phones. Everyone’s Mom and Dad would see the piles of dead on facebook and everyone would quickly realize the whole disaster had been caused by the machinations of a few effete nobles. With modern communications borders on a map are no longer the main way people determine affiliation. People are still limited by geography, but within their range, they naturally group with others who are like them and share their interests. This is the re-emergence of tribal identity within nations. In United States, politics become increasingly divisive as each faction in a diverse population begins to become more conscious of itself as a separate entity with its own interests diametrically opposed to those of other factions. Elections are thus becoming zero sum competitions to see which groups can screw over the others.

The nation-state became dominant even though it was less efficient and natural to humans than tribal groups because it could operate on a much larger scale. With mass communications, tribal groups can now also operate on a massive scale, neutralizing the advantage of having a monolithic nation.
I have pointed out there will be a state even if it’s just the local gang running things. The difference is there will be tribe-states instead of nation-states. This will mean the rules that could once only be applied to small groups will be applied to large groups.
In my latest articles discussing the ethics of economies, I am applying the rules of small societies to large ones, anticipating what the tribe-state might look like. The enlightenment thought that ultimately devolved into relativism and nihilism in government, commerce, and culture will be abolished. Every action by everyone will be understood to have a purpose in accomplishing a common goal.
It won’t be an order of equality, the most valuable will be rewarded best, though in proportion to what they offer. There will likely be informal castes where different types of people are encouraged to stick to what they’re best at. And I doubt it will be a peaceful time. The world is overpopulated and people are now scrambling to join whatever group they think will help them grab more scarce resources. History doesn’t take breaks and humanity is about to begin another big transition. There could be a dark age for awhile, but it will lead into the next age.

Money Should Only Belong to Cooperators

Every dollar is a vote—so it is of supreme importance to make sure these votes are given into the right hands.  Someone of low character with millions of dollars can cause great damage to society just by influencing the market with their preferences.  Imagine a political election where ambitious psychopaths get super-ballots worth 10,000 normal votes.  It sounds bizarre if we think in terms of elections for political office, yet this is how the economy works and most of us are okay with it.
We approve of parasitic financiers hoarding away millions or even billions of dollars.  So long as someone “earns” their wealth, we don’t care if they’re being awarded in proportion to the value they contribute or even if they intend to use the group’s very lifeblood to defect.  In a system of economic nihilism, where economies are left to drift without guiding purpose, nothing matters so long as you get money while managing to stay out of a jail cell.

If the economy gives great rewards to people who contribute relatively little value, we can envision the heart sending the best of its blood supply to the appendix, or in the case of someone who harms society, to a tumor or tapeworm.  We see this circulatory system acts against the interests of its own body.  It’s a violation of natural law that strikes us as repulsive and wrong in living things, but most of us are unable to make the abstract leap from what we understand viscerally.
That is how the lower castes have always been subjugated, not primarily through force, but through their inability to extend principles.  Under the influence of economic nihilism even those capable of deeper reflection have forgotten that the distribution of society’s influence points is one of the most important and sacred tasks, vital to the success and continuance of a people.

We are told, for instance, that the job market is about giving jobs to the most competent and hardest working.  In practice, this really only applies to the most skilled and important work.  The vast majority of work can be done somewhat competently by most people with a bit of training.  So in practice, jobs are foremost billets we use to support members of society.  The act of hiring someone isn’t “just business,” it gives someone a sacred mandate to exist in society and benefit from its fruits.  Even with low pay, a worker is given money that will supply at least some of the necessities of food and shelter by permission of the many.  If we buy a sack of potatoes rather than stealing it or growing it for ourselves, we do so by accumulating enough dollar votes, each of which is a material token of the collective will.  What could be more amazing than a piece of such abstraction made into a solid thing?
To pay someone well carries even greater meaning.  It allows a person not just to survive but to have surplus needed for offspring and the leisure and buying power required to exert influence on society.  This is to plant the seeds of a garden, to elect someone who will form the character of society for generations to come.  Yet we ask only if they can do the job the best, not whether they are deserving of the distinction of holding society’s precious wealth or whether they will handle that responsibility well.
More important than doing the job as well as possible is to be a cooperator with the group’s mission.
This is why the owner of a small business hires a friend even if the world is full of people who may be better qualified.  The owner trusts his friend and his wealth goes to an ally rather than a stranger.
This is why in the long run a nation that prides itself on “work ethic” over allegiance loses to tribes that put allegiance first. Thus, the nation-state model that’s gone global since the 1860s is now challenged by the tribe-state.
A small tribe doesn’t have a “job market” with little worker atoms floating around. It has slots with roles that need to be filled and those slots are given to the best and most loyal. The choice of who is appointed to those posts and how many influence points they’re given decides success or disaster. Who we hire selects our tribe.
Conversely, there is a clear duty to deny influence points to those who will hurt the group and to hunt down those who abuse the points system.

What Money Rewards, We Get More Of

In a tribe, status is determined by individual deeds and attributes.  Let’s imagine a tribe where the best hunter gets the best cuts of meat, the best women, the best of everything.  He enjoys the rewards of being the most effective at helping his society survive. The social order is kept strong.
In a nation of anonymous millions we require money as an abstract standin for tribal status and reputation.  It’s how we organize in economic groups far larger than our monkey instincts can handle.  If I walk into walmart and grab a bunch of bananas, there’s no way the cashier can know if letting me walk out of the store is a net benefit to society or if I have social value and credibility greater than the value of the bananas.  So we all default to money.
Money is a good behavior points system.  In 1st grade there were gold stars, as adults, there’s dollars.   Money measures how valuable we are to society.  How many dollars you have is how much every other holder of dollars wants you around.  If you can’t be valued enough in money points to survive, you’re effectively “voted off the island.”  Ideally, it’s equivalent to being exiled from a small tribe because you hurt the group or just didn’t contribute enough.  Because money is an abstract construct in place of the real thing, it is in practice naturally vulnerable to abuse.

If I can steal a dollar from someone and get away with it, society values me a dollar more for my ability to do it.  If I could get away with selling illegal drugs or human organs, I would be making big money enjoying society’s best luxuries while actually hurting the abstract mass tribe.  It would be the equivalent of a small tribe richly rewarding a traitor.
Or imagine someone who gets the best rewards merely by gaming the money system within the letter of the law.  Maybe he just shuffles around securities producing no value for others. Maybe he buys up drug patents and charges hundreds of dollars per pill to desperate dying patients. Or spends 4 decades grinding in a cubicle. It doesn’t matter how he gets money so long as gets it.  In a small tribe he’d be like a guy who just pretends to work all day yet gets the best rewards!  Worse, each dollar gives the traitor or  the scammer more gravitational pull, more votes over what shape society is to take.  Once the defector-parasites are powerful enough to reprogram society’s immune system in their own interests everything good is finally drained and used up.

Worst of all, seeing defectors rewarded destroys group morale.  Why work hard to do things the right way, when parasites get ahead?  When people see the unproductive are most successful they eventually will want to join them.  A society that rewards unproductive or harmful people doesn’t deserve anyone’s dedication or loyalty anyway.  Once athletes, entertainers, and financiers are in the top levels of the hierarchy, that society has lost its mandate of heaven.   In a small tribe where a traitor was rewarded best everyone would eventually become traitors.

 

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