Not just a happy coincidence
Posted by aogWednesday, 16 April 2008 at 11:18 TrackBack Ping URL

Orrin Judd accounts for the incompetence of our cultural enemies by divine providence. I think it’s much more of a structural issue. Essentially, if our enemies were competent, they wouldn’t be our enemies or we wouldn’t be theirs. It’s the same logic as the New Model Empire — the sort of liberal democracy present in the USA is been known model for operating a technological society. Such societies are very unlikely to be enemies, so any enemy will perforce have to select inferior organizational structures. This will happen either deliberately (as with Black Liberation Theology) or incidentally because of a “cargo cult” mentality which apes the forms of Western structure but has no understanding of them (Al Qaeda). The only successful way to be non-Western is to accept the limitations of an alternate form (e.g., the Amish) but by accepting the secular dominance of Western society, such niche societies make themselves not enemies of Western civilization.

The result is that, until something fundamentally better comes along, our enemies will by their choice of being enemies be more incompetent than we are. We can still lose by rendering ourselves too incompetent, but that can’t be imposed from without. And, if someday a better societal structure is found, I expect we’ll change to adopt it, rather than fight it.

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cjm Wednesday, 16 April 2008 at 13:00

but, but, everyone tells me this is the chinese century and our time is over?!

on the whole, Americans are a practical and flexible people, a combination that has proven unbeatable.

i guess the big question is “will the chicoms strike westwards or eastwards, when internal pressure requires an outlet?”.

Husker Friday, 18 April 2008 at 21:29

Any day now America will be overtaken by Germany USSR Japan China …

cjm Friday, 18 April 2008 at 23:50

the reality is we are accelerating away from all other competitors at an increasing rate. we are at least two generations ahead militarily. imagine where we would be if we had an educational system that wasn’t a patronage system for the socialists.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 23 April 2008 at 00:45

I’ve been revolving this in my mind for a couple days. I think you’re too hopeful, that it’s at best a one-way filter.

Looking around, it doesn’t seem that the more competent have any advantage when it comes to ousting an established incompetent structure. Once in, the competent may be well set up — although Germany would argue: not always.

It seems the structural advantage goes to whoever got in first. People are hard to revolutionize. See Russia.

joe shropshire Wednesday, 23 April 2008 at 01:27

The idea you are looking for here is lock-in (also known as the QWERTY effect.) But lock-in is notably a market epiphenomenon, an effect that’s strong when there’s some means of affirmative feedback, like parting with your own money, that carries some real meaning. Seventy years of May Day parades, by comparison, turned out not to carry quite so much, and so there turned out to be not very much structural advantage after all. Possibly revolutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. But you boys were certainly in, once, and so only incompetence explains why you are now out.

erp Wednesday, 23 April 2008 at 11:24

… and we’re not tapping our foot waiting for them to catch up to us.

If we weren’t hostage to an “educational system that’s a patronage system for the socialists,” we’d be eons ahead of the pack. Luckily our ranks are constantly being strengthened by newcomers who haven’t been tainted yet.

h/t but very funny. The article on the front page of our local liberal rag gave Hillary the treatment usually reserved for Republicans. Her margin of victory in the PA primary was down in the third of fourth paragraph and the opening line of the piece was, “Hillary Rodham Clinton ground out a gritty victory .…” Doncha love it!

cjm Wednesday, 23 April 2008 at 11:39

the democratic party and all of it’s brain warping disconnects is on full display to the electorate, and the results aren’t very pretty. i have to think that the party itself is being questioned by many voters, as all the semi-hidden relationships(msm, academia, dem pols, leftist kkoks, islamicists) are dragged out into the light.

i think the record of competent democracies versus incompetent tyrannies is pretty clear; i know where i would put my money.

Gronker Wednesday, 23 April 2008 at 15:05

Democracy has one fatal flaw. The freedom of Democracy nearly always causes prosperity. And that very prosperity allows a larger and larger segment of the population to be, in a word, useless. That baggage becomes larger and larger as the prosperity grows from those who fully embrace the opportunies presented by Democracy’s freedom. As the baggage population becomes larger and larger, the nature of Democracy allows them to vote themselves bigger pieces of the prosperity. When the baggage class becomes a majority, the system is doomed. I beleive we have passed that point.

Harry Eagar Wednesday, 23 April 2008 at 20:13

That’s just the point. The commies never were really in. They never got real assent from the Muslims, Georgians, Finns etc. Nor from all the Great Russians. That’s a structural flaw of class-based revolutions, and the Chinese ought to be thinking very hard about that (they’re not).

The Soviets might have done, if they had practiced an assimilative nations policy. Of it they had raised living standards. Or both. And if they hadn’t had Germans and Poles for neighbors. So many difficulties rebuilding society.

There are numerous incipient revolutions, but not many are completed. That’s France’s problem: it never completed its Revolution, nor did it complete its counter-revolution. Germany had the same problem, but we solved it for them by wiping the slate clean.

If you think a century of liberal revolution, communist revolution and liberal revolution have changed anything fundamental in east Europe, try reading some Slavic blogs.

joe shropshire Thursday, 24 April 2008 at 13:56

Harry, for the better part of a century you could kick in any door you wanted, make any arrest you wanted, put a microphone in any bedroom you wanted. You were as in as in can be.

Harry Eagar Thursday, 24 April 2008 at 14:00

My mother says you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Gronker Thursday, 24 April 2008 at 16:00

Harry, because Democracy has a flaw does not mean that socialism or collectivism in any form is either viable or moral. There is nothing worse to the freedoms, spirit or productivity than collectivism. Its actually one of the true evils in this world.

Collectivism is even more dependant on the benevolence of its “leaders”. Central planning is so obviously and so vastly inferior to the market that I wont even bother to write it up. Any system where the market is not allowed reward the innovative and superiour ideas and allowed to kill the silly and useless, is doomed from the very outset.

Collectivism does worse than produce and carry useless people, it turns productive people into useless people. The drive to succeed that is the hallmark of effective, competent people is punished under these systems. You lament that if only USSR had raised standards of living but you are dreaming the impossible. The system kills innovation, ideas, individual thought, and any desire (or need) for hard work.

Collectivism is slavery; collectivism is inefficient; collectivism is self-destructive; collectivism is evil.

Robert Duquette Friday, 25 April 2008 at 03:14

We are not always more competent than our competitors. We should have won in Vietnam but gave the victory to the communists. Ford and Carter were incompetent presidents.

I think we excel because our success is not as dependent on the competence of our political leadership as our competition is. Our government is less authoritarian than almost any other major country, which frees up our human capital. We really are the historical exception in the world. Authoritarian governments are the norm, and when authoritarian governments are staffed by incompetent leaders, which they generally are, the energies of the people are handicapped.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 25 April 2008 at 09:18

I deliberately picked “enemy” rather than “competitor”. And one one must look at it on long time frames. In that case we see that Vietnam, or rather the nomenklatura who rule it, are in fact converting (slowly) to liberal democracy. I doubt they are doing that because they’ve been ideologically converted, but for the reasons I mentioned in the original post, that their choice is that or deliberate incompetence.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 25 April 2008 at 09:33

Referring further back in the comment stack, I think it should be made clear that I don’t think liberal democracies make fewer mistakes than authoritarian ones (frankly, the former probably makes more). The difference is recovery — liberal democracies recover faster and better when negative feedback occurs. Authoritarians ones (such as socialism / communism) don’t. Any mistake is deadly because it goes on and on, frequently leading to even more errors (see Hayek).

cjm Friday, 25 April 2008 at 11:18

aog: you have mistated my point; “more competent” isn’t equivalent to “less mistakes”. sure liberal democracies make lots of “mistakes”, that’s because they are more energetic and active than authoritarian regimes. the latter strive for stasis as any change to the status quo is perceived as a net loss for those in power. making mistakes is a way to map out a problem space and isn’t really a direct measure of competence — as long as you eventually wind up at the correct answer. now if a competing system makes fewer mistakes in their path to a solution — gets to the answer faster — then the mistake rate becomes a measure of relative competence. people like eagar are in love with a process that has been demonstrated over and over again to result in failure and misery; they are insane. the leadership of places like china only care about retaining power, everything after that (like improved living consitions) is optional.

Harry Eagar Friday, 25 April 2008 at 16:34

Authoritarian regimes can do very well if they luck into a talented autocrat.

The odds of that are low.

Democratic, multi-centric, communitarian outfits give themselves more choices: that’s why we have 9 supreme court justices, not just 1 justiciar.

I am (slowly) preparing a series of post at Restating the Obvious based on Amy Zegart’s new book ‘Spying Blind,’ in which she finds our federalism to be a serious, permanent and unbeatable impediment to collecting intelligence against an enemy like fulminating Islam.

She’s probably right. So, which is more important to you?

Depends on the strength, not the competence of the enemy: Iran has been at war with the United States since 1979, but it’s so weak we haven’t noticed. Iran gets a nuke and that will result in some values clarification.

h-man Sunday, 11 May 2008 at 08:54

“Authoritarian regimes can do very well if they luck into a talented autocrat”

Precisely and usually the result is a great haftime show

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