Control And Command From The New Yorker: ‘The Planning Machine’

Full piece here.

A follow-up on that Chilean cybernetic revolution that never panned-out, right before Pinochet came to power:

‘Yet central planning had been powerfully criticized for being unresponsive to shifting realities, notably by the free-market champion Friedrich Hayek. The efforts of socialist planners, he argued, were bound to fail, because they could not do what the free market’s price system could: aggregate the poorly codified knowledge that implicitly guides the behavior of market participants. Beer and Hayek knew each other; as Beer noted in his diary, Hayek even complimented him on his vision for the cybernetic factory, after Beer presented it at a 1960 conference in Illinois. (Hayek, too, ended up in Chile, advising Augusto Pinochet.) But they never agreed about planning. Beer believed that technology could help integrate workers’ informal knowledge into the national planning process…’

This is the New Yorker, so you’ve probably got to play to your audience a bit:

‘The problem with today’s digital utopianism is that it typically starts with a PowerPoint slide in a venture capitalist’s pitch deck. As citizens in an era of Datafeed, we still haven’t figured out how to manage our way to happiness. But there’s a lot of money to be made in selling us the dials.’

Well, we’ve certainly seen enough faith in techo- and bureaucrats to harness the current high rate of technological change to better human life through government lately, as it seems a hallmark of the progressive Left.  Beneath such dreams is a lot of grubby politics, incompetence, personal and professional commitments, self-interest, cronyism, cynicism, etc.

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See this Reason piece here.

Click through for the photo.

‘The system, designed by British cybernetician Stafford Beer, was supposed to allow powerful men to make decisions about production, labor, and transport in real time using up-to-the-minute economic information provided directly by workers on the factory floors of dozens of newly nationalized companies’

A shag carpet probably would have been out of place, but I like the white pod chairs (Captain Kirk to the bridge for fuel price re-allocations).

‘In fact, the network that fed the system was little more than a series of jury-rigged Telex machines with human operators, transmitting only the simplest data, which were slapped onto old-style Kodak slides—again, by humans. The controls on the chairs merely allowed the operator to advance to the next slide’

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In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

See AlsoBrasilia: A Planned City and Review Of Britain’s “Lost Cities” In The Guardian

Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

Repost-Politics Here, Politics There, Politics Everywhere?-From The Hoover Institution: ‘David Mamet On Conservatism’

Video included at the link.

Celebrated American playwright David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

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Christopher Hitchens referenced Hayek’s work in reviewing Mamet’s book.  For Hitchens it seems, Mamet was adopting the grim literalism of religious texts without a richness of irony vital to the Western tradition (Hitchens cites Hegel).  He also charges Mamet with taking-up his new political commitments with the zeal and ignorance of the newly converted.

Hitchens:

 ‘I have no difficulty in understanding why it is that former liberals and radicals become exasperated with the pieties of the left. I have taught at Berkeley and the New School, and I know what Mamet is on about when he evokes the dull atmosphere of campus correctness. Once or twice, as when he attacks feminists for their silence on Bill Clinton’s sleazy sex life, or points out how sinister it is that we use the word “czar” as a positive term for a political problem-solver, he is unquestionably right, or at least making a solid case. But then he writes: “The BP gulf oil leak . . . was bad. The leak of thousands of classified military documents by Julian Assange on WikiLeaks was good. Why?” This is merely lame…,’

So, why is Hollywood so reliably liberal on so many issues?:

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Related On This SiteVia Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

Taking religion out of the laws, and replacing it with a Millian/Aristelolian framework?: Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder…From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

People are using art for political, religious, commercial and ideological reasons as always…right or left…believer or non-believer…Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit

Trading Robert Moses for Brailia…an authoritarian streak?:  Brasilia: A Planned CityAnd AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?

Jay Z And Marina Abramovic Via Twitter: A Pop-Rap Art Marketing Performaganza… A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Can Kant do all that heavy lifting…what are some of the dangers of Enlightenment project?:  From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

What E.J. Dionne Neglects To Understand-Todd Zywicki At Volokh: ‘Dionne v. Hayek’

Full post here.

In response to an op-ed by E.J. Dionne:

‘So the problem is not the welfare state, it is the central planning.

Obamacare provides the illustration of this, as I think many people have intuited. The “economic problem,” of course, is inescapable in health care. The supply of health care is scarce (only so many resources can be dedicated to it relative to other ends in society) and the demand is pretty close to unlimited. Somehow or other we have to decide how to allocate these scarce means among all the different ends–preventive medicine, end-of-life care, primary research, specialists v. generalists, etc.’

And under the ACA, we’ve opted to involve politicians and their short-term goals (getting re-elected) much more than before in making these decisions, which I understand to be a net loss.  If folks at the AMA or independent panels think they’ll be operating free of such public-choice and political pressures, they might want to think again.

Here’s Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

‘Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

 First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization’

The fact is, with Obama’s political coalitions we already see union-interests, rent-seeking volunteers and activists influencing our politics.  Such is politics, in fact.  I don’t necessarily begrudge these folks their idealism and desire for change, but I do begrudge the means by which they are pursuing that change and the consequences of their idealism.

The less there is or there is perceived to be, the more people tend to fight over it, which suits some people accustomed to seeking their interests through political activism just fine (there will be winners and losers here), but we’ve arguably chosen a very poor way indeed to meet the moral aim of inclusion through health-care access, overall economic growth and thus more racial and pluralistic tolerance, as well as equality under the law (our politics seems even more contentious than ever).

As if the partisan divide, the rollout of Obamacare, the unmet political promises and the sheer complexity of the law wasn’t enough to make you doubt already…

Related On This SiteFrom The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

From The Volokh Conspiracy: ‘From “Liberaltarianism” to Libertarian Centrism?’

Liberaltarianism?:  Will Wilkinson And Jonah Goldberg On Bloggingheads: Updating Libertarianism?From Reason’s Hit And Run: What Kind Of Libertarian Are You?

Jerry Bowyer Interviews George Gilder At Forbes

Full interview here.

Gilder’s idea:

‘That capitalism is chiefly a knowledge system, rather than an incentive system.’

On Gilder’s thinking, people are learning and suffering from their own mistakes, more so than they would otherwise.  The capital being invested into the acquisition of knowledge is ideally risked by those whose money it is, not politicians who trade money for votes, and have their own goals (when was the last time you saw a politician not just as interested in perception and re-election rather than principles and ideals?).

Politics and political incentives are usually a few times removed from what’s going on in a society, and in my experience perhaps somewhat analogous to the HR department in your company (Addition: Responsible for human capital yes, but arguably non-essential, often beholden to upper management, with incentives to enforce and create more internal regulations.

Also:

‘What Wall Street likes, a lot of the time, is volatility and instability, and they want the downsides protected by government guarantees. That’s why there is this tension between Wall Street and Main Street and Silicon Valley, and why I think one of the tragedies of the recent era has been Silicon Valley’s defection to the government side; Silicon Valley now is oriented toward getting government guarantees for their green projects.”

The society isn’t just less wealthy by allowing green thinking and green ideals to be the highest things around, and even arguably less moral because the government has used the example of force to affect outcomes, but the whole society tends to be more closed, less able to adapt to events, and less dynamic.

Related On this Site: As someone interested in the humanities, I don’t want to leave the matter solely to venture capitalists, nor charter schools, nor Continental philosophies, nor the religious, nor the postmoderns by any stretch, but I do want to resist the institutionalized Dewey do-gooders and secular abstract idealists and humanists that lead to all those people and groups free-riding on the public good.  Does that really best serve our children from lower ed to higher ed?; Jerry Bowyer At Forbes: ‘A College Bubble So Big Even The New York Times And 60 Minutes Can See It…Sort Of’… The libertarian angle, getting smart, ambitious people off of the degree treadmill:  From The American Interest: Francis Fukuyama Interviews Peter Thiel-’A Conversation With Peter Thiel’ I think it’s going too far, trying to apply libertarian economics onto education, but Milton Friedman on Education is thought-provoking.

A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’Friedrich Hayek Discussion On Bloggingheads

-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

Big cities, especially New York, tend to over-regulate business, you can hope for efficient corruption: Richard Epstein At Defining Ideas: ‘City Planners Run Amok’Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Death By Wealth Tax’……Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’

Link From A Reader: ‘Richard Epstein Introduces Chicago’s Best Ideas To Students’

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The MPS in the Galapagos (14): The Evolution of Religious Belief ‘

Full post here.

As always, worth a read.  Do we make the moral laws, or do the moral laws make us?  Does Darwinian thought support conservatism?:

‘While wondering why Hayek’s writing shows so little overt discussion of religion, Father Sirico argued that Hayek’s understanding of social order as emerging best through spontaneous evolution is applicable to the evolution of religious belief.  He made three points in support of this claim.

First, he noted how often Hayek cited religious thinkers like Lord Acton and the late scholastics of the middle ages, who supported the idea of social order as the “result of human action but not of human design.”

Second, Father Sirico argued that Hayek’s condemnation of rationalist constructivism and scientism could apply to the rationalism of the “New Atheists,” who try to dispose of all inherited religious beliefs and then reconstruct all our beliefs as personal constructions of reason.

Third, he argued that Hayek’s account of how social order arises from a gradual evolutionary development could also apply to the development of religious doctrine.  The doctrines of Christianity arose through many centuries of experience as an evolutionary process of adaptation and refinement.  He found this best expressed in some of the writing of John Henry Newman’

On that second note of morality being derived from rationalist constructivism and scientism, this blog is still seeking forms of ‘classical’ liberalism in good faith, or a liberalism which runs on consent and which tolerates dissent, a liberalism which supports broad definitions of free speech and recognizes deep disagreement in the public square.  Is Isaiah Berlin’s value-pluralism an option?:  On this site, seeA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

In the political realm, seeking equality as an ideal, for example, and equality of outcome, rather than equality under the law, seems to get the incentives wrong, invites the mediocre to power, and misses the boat on human nature and the wisdom of constrained institutions.   It seems wise to ask:

“Freedom from what, and freedom to what end?”

“Do I support coercion in order to reach my desired outcome, ideal, or vision of the good society?”

“How are my commitments working out in practice?”

Hayekian thought may offer options to allow moral judgment, moral thinking, and even religious moral thinking to not necessarily be crowded out of the public square in favor of progressive Statism, eliminative materialism, and rationalist public policy.

Copied from Will Wilkinson’s piece on Gerry Gaus’s new book:

‘In sum, OPR defends public reason liberalism without contractarian foundations. It is Kantian without being rationalistic. It is Humean without giving up the project of rationally reforming the moral order. It is evolutionary but not social Darwinist. It is classical liberal without being libertarian. It is Hegelian and organicist without being collectivist or statist. It shows us how political authority can be justified but only by accepting that moral authority limits it. It pushes us to look towards the practical and reject the utopian while simultaneously maintaining that a truly free and equal social order is within our grasp. It rejects the aspiration of political liberalism to neutrality among conceptions of morality while simultaneously retaining its spirit by sectioning off social morality from other normative domains.’

I tend towards skepticism when the idea of a free and equal society is raised.  Food for thought.

Addition:  Ideals of freedom and equality unconstrained, but I’m certainly open to new ideas.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This SiteA Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’ 

The Chicago School:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……From The American Spectator: ‘Sowell, Race Hustlers, and David Hume’

Hitchens has crafted a path out of socialism…to a sort of American neo-conservatism and new Atheism…out of materialism and attacks on Mother Teresa but a sustained attack on faith from reason: Isn’t virtue attached to reason part of the problem of materialism, and isn’t that a deeper problem?:  Via Youtube: Christopher Hitchens On Faith And Virtue

People on the modern American right take issue with Rawls, but have they addressed his depth?:  From The American Conservative: Going Off The Rawls–David Gordon On John Rawls…Utilitarianism leads to problems.  Will the Rawlsian center-left hold up?:Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx

Walter Russell Mead seems to be envisioning a reinvigorated liberalism 5.0, arguing that 60′s progressivism and 40-50′s conservatism (American politics more generally) are behind the times.   There’s been a fundamental shift that we must adjust to, and it involves technology and globalization for starters.

Robert Nozick merged elements of Kant and Locke in a strong, libertarian defense of the individual A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Anarcho-capitalism:  Pro-market, anti-state, anti-war…paleo-libertarian: Link To Lew Rockwell Via A Reader…Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of KnowledgeTwo Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Roger Kimball At Arma Virumque: ‘Kenneth Minogue 1930-2013′William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss Ideology

From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases……

Leon Wieseltier At The New Republic: ‘A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher’

Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’

The neo-classicism of Leo Strauss and the reason/revelation distinction  Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’

Jesse Larner In Dissent Magazine: Who’s Afraid Of Friedrich Hayek? The Obvious Truths And Mystical Fallacies Of A Hero Of The Right

Full essay here.

There’s what you would expect: 

“A complex economy is something no person or institution can understand.”

“To Hayek, this is what socialism, communism, and collectivism—he makes little distinction between them—mean: the dangerous illusion of perfectibility.”

But also this:

“Plainly, transparently—and in stark contrast to many modern conservative intellectuals—he (sic Hayek) is a man concerned with human freedom. One of the unexpected things in Road is that he writes with passion against class privilege.”

You don’t have to get into bed with leftist utopianism to see that all groups of people tend to serve their own interests, regardless of ideological bent…and that this can eventually pose a threat to individual freedoms.  Perhaps the American right is being a little mystic with regard to Hayek, though Larner probably has his own motivations as well.

Larner points out the limits of Hayek’s ideas (and genius).  Beyond his central insights, Hayek was also deeply influenced by romanticism, possessed a rather mystic approach to law…both encompassed by a deep commitment to individualism. 

I’d also point out that there is standard German Idealism at work here, as well as the times: A hard, unyielding right and a utopian left in an embrace that later fell apart into chaos.  It’s understandable that Hayek was desperate to create a platform upon which to save individual liberty.

It might be worthy of note that Karl Popper and the Vienna Circle may have been similarly shaped by those times. 

Anyways, food for thought.

by animalitobaby

See Also:  Friedrich Hayek Discussion On Bloggingheads.  Bruce Caldwell discusses his new book on Hayek.

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