The right time and place for power

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Papus79
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The right time and place for power

Post by Papus79 » September 7th, 2020, 5:47 pm

An attempt to put my finger on what seems to be a core bug in our world, or it's at least a bug if progress in the liberal democracy direction is your goal.

While power is needed and valuable it has a way of mangling everything it comes in contact with if it's pursued for it's own sake, a bit like if everything gets economized everything that comes in contact with economy that doesn't naturally fit into profitability for its own sake gets mangled.

I'm thinking the right way to look at 'power' is that it's one ingredient in the cake, not a spice as that would be marginal but more of a core ingredient like flour or eggs. The problem is you can't break out a pile of flour and say it's a cake, no matter how impressively large the pile of flour is, nor can you call a bowl full of mixed egg whites and yokes a cake no matter how many broken eggs are in that bowl.

Another thing that seems to be true - very little that's worthwhile seems to happen without some kind of consensus support. We used to bust monopolies for example and it made sense in the context - for various reasons the will to do that seems to have vanished. The question - should we be thinking about some public consensus about what relevant range power for its own sake should or shouldn't be allowed to play? It seems like power and economy seem very close in certain ways, for example the analogy that you should use markets to tell you how to do things efficiently but not what to do seems to apply to power as well - ie. practical ways of getting from point A to point B, not what should be dominating peoples lives. There are certain military considerations that are difficult to ignore without having a rival country's priorities dominate your own. Some of the clear problems with power include arms races and multi-polar traps where the arms races become deals no one can refuse and it tends to escalate toward self-destruction for those involved (ie. the problem of a boat about to go over Niagara Falls with all four men, women, etc. on the boat with knives to each other's throats and whoever tries to jump off dies).

I get that dealing with the proper place and containment of power seems to be one of many 64K questions these days, meaning if we had an answer as to how we could be doing things better than we are now we'd be in much better shape. Any particular thoughts on what natural places those lines might fall and what kinds of social consensus could actually maintain them?
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Terrapin Station
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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by Terrapin Station » September 8th, 2020, 7:14 am

I'm not a big one for consensus support in general because I often don't agree with the consensus. By consensus, people will often decide to allow or not allow things that I strongly disagree with. Consensus basically amounts to mob rule, and the mob can be f---ed in the head from my perspective. People have a tendency to want to control others, to control what they can choose to do. In most arenas, I'm ethically against this.

Cooperation is a good thing in my view. Control via consensus is not. For cooperation, you do not need to agree with the people you're cooperating with. For example, maybe you want to paint all of your colorful walls white, you want to remove tiles from some walls, etc. I wouldn't want to do that, but I can still cooperate with you and help you do it. We can help each other achieve the different things we want to achieve, even though different people want things that are not what we want for ourselves.

Re what we allow others to do, I think we need to err on the side of extreme permissibility. Of course, I'm basically a minarchist libertarian when it comes to this. I don't want mobs telling people that they can't wear their pants low, that they can't gamble, that there are some things they can't say, that they can't paint or decorate the exterior of their house however they'd like, etc.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by Papus79 » September 8th, 2020, 8:27 am

I'd largely agree with the above. I'm thinking about danger thresholds though, like areas where we know that the baser qualities of humanity will reliably win out over the better ones. I think Jonathan Haidt talked about this a bit with the idea of right to exclusion and having places where conversations could be had but where the speakers, participants, and audience were selected - ie. that it just takes a few people who want to derail a discussion being left in a room for them to be able to do so successfully. Similarly in a lot of companies it just takes a few divide-and-conquer sorts of people in the right places the change the culture of the workplace considerably for the worse. It seems like there should be lines of some kind that we can reference back to when we're dealing with people who are just trying to use their power destructively, not always but quite often because they're miserable people who've made miserable choices and they want to inflict that misery on others. IMHO we should be open-minded and tolerant enough to allow just about anyone whose not impinging on the liberty of others to have maximal freedom, we shouldn't be so tolerant on the other hand that we give ourselves right into the hands of the next tyrannical force that wants power over us simply because they used our tolerance game-theoretically against us.

The other bit of trouble - many if not most people are cowards and they turn a blind eye to developing problems. If that's a reliable thing then it's probably best that the few people who have the courage not to do that have some reliable metrics or thresholds past which they have good reason to believe they'll be listened to or taken seriously. That's sort of where I think we need to have a much more thorough conversation about the nature of power itself, ie. I get the sense that we're so clumsy in dealing with these sorts of things because we're still lacking the thought structure and language to dig into the mechanics of it. Power through competence is something that seems relatively easy to understand, power through domination is something we have a harder time getting our heads around because it tends to morph in order to find whatever way in it can but the overall trick seems to be how many demons on a leash one can terrorize others with.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by Terrapin Station » September 8th, 2020, 9:26 am

Papus79 wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 8:27 am
I'd largely agree with the above. I'm thinking about danger thresholds though, like areas where we know that the baser qualities of humanity will reliably win out over the better ones. I think Jonathan Haidt talked about this a bit with the idea of right to exclusion and having places where conversations could be had but where the speakers, participants, and audience were selected - ie. that it just takes a few people who want to derail a discussion being left in a room for them to be able to do so successfully. Similarly in a lot of companies it just takes a few divide-and-conquer sorts of people in the right places the change the culture of the workplace considerably for the worse. It seems like there should be lines of some kind that we can reference back to when we're dealing with people who are just trying to use their power destructively, not always but quite often because they're miserable people who've made miserable choices and they want to inflict that misery on others. IMHO we should be open-minded and tolerant enough to allow just about anyone whose not impinging on the liberty of others to have maximal freedom, we shouldn't be so tolerant on the other hand that we give ourselves right into the hands of the next tyrannical force that wants power over us simply because they used our tolerance game-theoretically against us.
The thing to guard against is people wanting to control what others can (consensually) choose to do, whether it's a majority of a population doing this or a small handful of people or even just one individual.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by Papus79 » September 8th, 2020, 9:54 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 9:26 am
The thing to guard against is people wanting to control what others can (consensually) choose to do, whether it's a majority of a population doing this or a small handful of people or even just one individual.
That's not always easy if whoever's doing it has a good enough cudgel or set of cudgels in their hands.

A good example of that right now is what I might call the 'Evergreening' of US politics and a lot of what Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying have been talking about which it seems increasing numbers of people left of center (like Matt Taibi, Noam Chomsky, etc.) are seeing and commenting negatively on. If someone or some group of someones can destroy just about anyone with a label, accusation, or epithet anytime there's a lack of solid positive evidence that the epithet was inaccurately assigned then the royal road to mangling culture and making sure that political extremes mute the center is pretty well assured. Having a cudgel that can slay just about anyone is game-theoretically brilliant, it's also profoundly anti-liberal.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by Terrapin Station » September 8th, 2020, 12:52 pm

Papus79 wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 9:54 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 9:26 am
The thing to guard against is people wanting to control what others can (consensually) choose to do, whether it's a majority of a population doing this or a small handful of people or even just one individual.
That's not always easy if whoever's doing it has a good enough cudgel or set of cudgels in their hands.
Sure, but that's a good reason to make sure that you have physical resources and skills to counter that, as well as having a number of people who want to guard against people controlling others.
A good example of that right now is what I might call the 'Evergreening' of US politics and a lot of what Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying have been talking about which it seems increasing numbers of people left of center (like Matt Taibi, Noam Chomsky, etc.) are seeing and commenting negatively on. If someone or some group of someones can destroy just about anyone with a label, accusation, or epithet anytime there's a lack of solid positive evidence that the epithet was inaccurately assigned then the royal road to mangling culture and making sure that political extremes mute the center is pretty well assured. Having a cudgel that can slay just about anyone is game-theoretically brilliant, it's also profoundly anti-liberal.
Re language, this is why it's important to not restrict any language, which helps people not believe something just because someone says it.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by Papus79 » September 8th, 2020, 1:25 pm

Memory's the biggest problem to that last point, it echoes the problem illustrated in the Book of Judges where the story line was that Israel needed heroes every third or fourth generation to deliver them from slavery because the generation before them - lacking historical memory - believed whatever sounded good, or seemed convenient, and did things that sent them right back to slavery. There might have been earlier comments on this sort of 'hard times make strong men, strong men make good times, good times make weak men, weak men make hard times' theme but it's one of the first places where it was really stressed as a reliable repeating problem.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by LuckyR » September 9th, 2020, 2:13 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 7:14 am
I'm not a big one for consensus support in general because I often don't agree with the consensus. By consensus, people will often decide to allow or not allow things that I strongly disagree with. Consensus basically amounts to mob rule, and the mob can be f---ed in the head from my perspective. People have a tendency to want to control others, to control what they can choose to do. In most arenas, I'm ethically against this.

Cooperation is a good thing in my view. Control via consensus is not. For cooperation, you do not need to agree with the people you're cooperating with. For example, maybe you want to paint all of your colorful walls white, you want to remove tiles from some walls, etc. I wouldn't want to do that, but I can still cooperate with you and help you do it. We can help each other achieve the different things we want to achieve, even though different people want things that are not what we want for ourselves.

Re what we allow others to do, I think we need to err on the side of extreme permissibility. Of course, I'm basically a minarchist libertarian when it comes to this. I don't want mobs telling people that they can't wear their pants low, that they can't gamble, that there are some things they can't say, that they can't paint or decorate the exterior of their house however they'd like, etc.
I guess I am not detecting a practical difference between what you are calling consensus and cooperation. Could you go into some detail on that?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by h_k_s » September 9th, 2020, 1:52 pm

Papus79 wrote:
September 7th, 2020, 5:47 pm
An attempt to put my finger on what seems to be a core bug in our world, or it's at least a bug if progress in the liberal democracy direction is your goal.

While power is needed and valuable it has a way of mangling everything it comes in contact with if it's pursued for it's own sake, a bit like if everything gets economized everything that comes in contact with economy that doesn't naturally fit into profitability for its own sake gets mangled.

I'm thinking the right way to look at 'power' is that it's one ingredient in the cake, not a spice as that would be marginal but more of a core ingredient like flour or eggs. The problem is you can't break out a pile of flour and say it's a cake, no matter how impressively large the pile of flour is, nor can you call a bowl full of mixed egg whites and yokes a cake no matter how many broken eggs are in that bowl.

Another thing that seems to be true - very little that's worthwhile seems to happen without some kind of consensus support. We used to bust monopolies for example and it made sense in the context - for various reasons the will to do that seems to have vanished. The question - should we be thinking about some public consensus about what relevant range power for its own sake should or shouldn't be allowed to play? It seems like power and economy seem very close in certain ways, for example the analogy that you should use markets to tell you how to do things efficiently but not what to do seems to apply to power as well - ie. practical ways of getting from point A to point B, not what should be dominating peoples lives. There are certain military considerations that are difficult to ignore without having a rival country's priorities dominate your own. Some of the clear problems with power include arms races and multi-polar traps where the arms races become deals no one can refuse and it tends to escalate toward self-destruction for those involved (ie. the problem of a boat about to go over Niagara Falls with all four men, women, etc. on the boat with knives to each other's throats and whoever tries to jump off dies).

I get that dealing with the proper place and containment of power seems to be one of many 64K questions these days, meaning if we had an answer as to how we could be doing things better than we are now we'd be in much better shape. Any particular thoughts on what natural places those lines might fall and what kinds of social consensus could actually maintain them?
You should contrast Aristotle with Machiavelli in order to get a grasp of both ends of this polar issue.

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Re: The right time and place for power

Post by h_k_s » September 9th, 2020, 1:53 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
September 8th, 2020, 7:14 am
I'm not a big one for consensus support in general because I often don't agree with the consensus. By consensus, people will often decide to allow or not allow things that I strongly disagree with. Consensus basically amounts to mob rule, and the mob can be f---ed in the head from my perspective. People have a tendency to want to control others, to control what they can choose to do. In most arenas, I'm ethically against this.

Cooperation is a good thing in my view. Control via consensus is not. For cooperation, you do not need to agree with the people you're cooperating with. For example, maybe you want to paint all of your colorful walls white, you want to remove tiles from some walls, etc. I wouldn't want to do that, but I can still cooperate with you and help you do it. We can help each other achieve the different things we want to achieve, even though different people want things that are not what we want for ourselves.

Re what we allow others to do, I think we need to err on the side of extreme permissibility. Of course, I'm basically a minarchist libertarian when it comes to this. I don't want mobs telling people that they can't wear their pants low, that they can't gamble, that there are some things they can't say, that they can't paint or decorate the exterior of their house however they'd like, etc.
@Terrapin Station you and Plato are apparently thinking alike about the political issue of democracy.

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