Anissimov Responds to Scott Alexander on “Empirical Claims”

Responding to this

3. There were (and are) several post-industrial monarchies; the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, predominantly. According to Wikipedia, “The government played a powerful role in the industrialization of the German Empire founded by Otto von Bismarck in 1871 during a period known as the Second Industrial Revolution.” The production data is here. The industrial production index shows a continuous, stable progression, without a recession, for the 47 years of the Empire’s existence. In contrast, over the past 47 years, America has had at least 7 years of recession (15%), more like 11 years (23%) if you count the United States as being in a continuous recession since 2007, as economist Tyler Cowen and blogs like Zero Hedge do. The economic growth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1.76% per year) “compared very favorably to that of other European nations such as Britain (1%), France (1.06%), and Germany (1.51%)”.

The economic development of France under Louis XIV was an economic miracle. (Just ask Voltaire.) Same for the development of Russia under Catherine the Great, Sweden under Charles XV, Prussia under Frederick the Great, and Portugal under Manuel I, to name a few. However, it’s true that the vast majority of modern economic development has occurred under Demotist systems. This is a Catch 22 for the reactionary. Revolutionaries were able to destroy most monarchies before the Industrial Revolution really took off. Some theorists have argued that the economic improvement was actually the cause of these revolutions; the lower classes achieved levels of wealth historically associated with high-level political power, which they then grabbed violently — or at least the illusion of it.

Here is a list of some of my favorite kingdoms. As we can see, most of them were before the Industrial Revolution.

kingdoms

Interestingly, however, the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution all occurred under the patronage of monarchs. It was the rise of absolute monarchies which provided the political stability and economic wealth which made the Scientific Revolution possible.

The debate is difficult to resolve because it is never apples-to-apples. It is always apples-to-oranges, and relies on deep historical knowledge and subjective appraisals of relative importance, guided by confirmation bias all the way.

4. I’m not just saying that there are certain ideas which are popular, but that there is a secular religion that permeates most of society, enforcing a uniformity of thought rarely seen before in history outside of Communist countries. In 1835, de Toqueville wrote:

“I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”

If it was bad then, it’s far worse now.

Regarding America being global policeman, it’s all in the degree and the framing. We have so many military bases overseas and meddle in the internal affairs of so many other countries, we are acting as global policeman whether or not we choose to bomb countries like Syria or Libya. The “disputes” are about whether we should be an extremely aggressive global policeman or merely a highly aggressive global policeman. By the standards of pre-Wilson Americans, we are up to our eyeballs in global policing. We consider this the status quo and only quibble over the decimal point.

The “all men are equal” quote is supposed to apply to just the law, but it does not. In practice, all democracies display a “leveling mania” that implicitly associates wealth or natural aristocracy with wrongdoing. Look at the phrase “all men are created equal,” which has no Biblical basis. This phrase does not just apply to legal treatment, it’s a dogmatic maxim that is supposed to dictate the worldview of every citizen and somehow be self-evident. Before the late 18th century, it was obvious to everyone that men are not all created equal; they have different levels of intelligence, industriousness, quality of character, courage, capability, and so on. That is why natural aristocracies have been a practically universal feature of human civilizations prior to the French Revolution, stretching back to Sumerian city states and Indo-European tribal groups.

Again, this is a matter of degree and framing. We are so soaked in Lockean political theory that we debate over tiny details of it and fancy ourselves open-minded. Yet only a hundred years ago, over 70 million people lived in highly successful societies (Austria and Germany), which won more Nobel Prizes than Britain, France, Russia and the United States combined, and categorically rejected these “immortal principles” of equality. We rarely hear about this, because the Demotist side won World War I and rewrote history accordingly.

Tell a college class or any group of non-rationalists, “Some people are simply superior to others” or even “IQ is real and more predictive of life outcomes than any other factor” and watch their faces. It is disingenuous to argue that the sentiment “all men are created equal” applies only to the law and nothing else. If political science 101 states an “intended interpretation,” no one strictly follows it. The actual interpretation is so much broader, and is baked into the roots of the Demotist style of thinking.

5. I’m not saying that having “sacred values” is bad. I just want the traditionalist values to be sacred rather than Demotist values. My opinion on that is pretty straightforward and has nothing to do with “fairness” or anything similar. I am not interested in “fairness,” I am interested in the dominance of values that promote stability.

6.  The elections matter for a few broad-strokes policies like Obamacare. Indeed, legislatures spend the majority of their time fighting over hot ticket issues such as these. I am not saying that elections and elected officials do not matter, just that they matter less than many people suppose. The iron law of oligarchies — that all states are oligarchies whether they act like it or not — is still in effect. I just want the oligarchies to be explicit and stable rather than implicit and constantly engaging in low intensity civil war. Universal health care in the United States was always just a matter of time. If Romney were elected rather than Obama, it would have been the next President who advocated for it instead of this one. The idea that the people would consistently vote for a President or Congress who do not advocate for universal health care is not realistic in the mid-to-long term. It is a developmental inevitability regardless of the elected.