Monday, May 28, 2012

"Complexity" - The Last Refuge of Ego (and Hubris)

Ego and hubris are in plain sight whenever anybody argues that "complexity" has made the world unpredictable.

The world was NEVER predictable.  Anybody who believes differently focused only on risk and not at all on uncertainty.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: the world is no more complex today than it ever was before.  And humanity is just as simple as it always has been.  When the simple human meets the complex world, the simple human fakes it.

Plato and Aristotle Penned the Post Mortem for Athens

As I read more from and about Plato, Aristotle and their times, it becomes clear to me that these two political philosophers did not mark the height of Greek (or Hellenistic) civilization but the demise of the Athenian culture.

It simply is incorrect to lump in the heterogeneous city states of Greece and argue they represent an homogeneous Greek (or Hellenistic) culture.  The tendency to do so is most likely the legacy of Roman historians, who could not help but to think of Greece as a prior Rome.  Moreover, what Plato and Aristotle did amounted to nothing more than a post mortem of Athenian culture to identify what had gone wrong and how to correct it going forward.

Plato and Aristotle did not come to praise Athens, but to bury it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Losing The Argument By Accepting the Frame

Here is a comment I made to this post, in which the author, in making the case that "Robert Shiller Is Wrong," all the while accepts Shiller's false assertion that world was once graced by "virtuous" finance:

We would all love to go back to the world Shiller describes.
That statement accepts the false premise that Shiller's world once existed.   
Accepting a false frame of a problem renders any subsequent disagreements about its solutions irrelevant as the frame defines the range of acceptable solutions.
Finance never has been and never will be "virtuous."  Finance always has and always will be parasitic and, when abused, oppressive.  Finance, like nuclear fission, can be put to productive use (instead of destructive use), but even when the short term result appears benign, you need to carefully consider the long term, malignant consequences.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Irony of Arriving Among the Elite

To reach "elite" status from the outside, you must continually exceed expectations (which are naturally set lower because you are not connected).

But once you have reached elite status, you cannot exceed expectations, you can only meet them, or not.  As an outsider, the very instincts that vaulted you to the top of the heap can bring you down much more quickly.  To continue succeeding within the elite stratum, you must conform to expectations (or appear to do so).

The irony is that this practical reality implies that the elite are not elite, that there is a class beyond the elite that rules them, just as the elite rule the masses.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hatred of Democracy

Today, I received two books written by Jacques Ranciere.

I just started reading the first, Hatred of Democracy, and the first two paragraphs resonate with me.  Here they are:
A young woman keeps France in suspense with her story of a make-believe attack; a few adolescents refuse to take their headscarves off at school; social security is running a deficit; Montesquieu, Voltaire and Baudelaire dethrone Racine and Corneille as texts presented at the baccalaureate; wage earners hold demonstrations to defend their retirement scheme; reality TV, homosexual marriage and artificial insemination increase in popularity.  There is no point looking for what groups together events of such disparate natures.  Book after book, article after article, journalists and writers, have already supplied us with the response.  All these symptoms, they say, are manifestations of the same illness; for all these effects there is only one cause.  The cause is called democracy, that is, the reign of the limitless desire of individuals in modern mass society.
It is imperative to see what constitutes the singularity of this denunciation.  Hatred of democracy is certainly nothing new.  Indeed, it is as old as democracy itself for a simple reason: the word itself is an expression of hatred.  It was, in Ancient Greece, originally used as an insult by those who saw in the unnameable government of the multitude the ruin of any legitimate order.  It remained synonymous with abomination for everyone who thought that power fell by rights to those whose birth predestined them to it or whose capabilities called them to it.  And it still is today for those who construe revelations of divine law as the sole legitimate foundation on which to organize human communities.  The violence of this hatred is certainly on the contemporary agenda.  It is not, though, an objective of this book, for a simple reason: I have nothing in common with those that spread it, and so nothing to discuss with them.
A couple things.  First, the author is French, and so are his examples (for Debra).  Second, in the first paragraph, every example does not in any way implicate democracy, i.e., government action invoked by the will of the people.  Instead, what is implicated (and indicted) is individuals being individuals, something which the modern "market-based" economy requires to continue, as atomization is key to encouraging unnecessary consumption.  Third, in the second paragraph, we see examples of how the very "rugged individualism" that encourages the masses to embrace and speak their individuality, which is horrible, provides the very basis for "elites" to assert their superiority.  The problem is that any "elite" who believes that their capabilities differentiates them is no different than the masses who believe their individuality differentiates them.  Self-described "elites" who think they deserve having more have no clue about the game that is played around them every day.  Therefore, they are not truly elite and will ultimately suffer the same fate as the masses they deride.