Thursday, September 05, 2013

The Left Talks About Evolution. Why Not Put it into Practice?

I mentioned yesterday that Gilder -- although he doesn't describe it as such -- implicitly presents what amounts to scientific basis for modern conservative liberalism.

In information theory there is the message -- i.e., the information -- and the medium or channel through which the message is encoded, transmitted, and decoded at the other end.

In order for this sequence to happen, the channel must be ordered and regular; or in other words, it must be low entropy, not full of surprises. Thus, "A stream of uncoded chaotic noise conveys no information." But at the other end, "A stream of predictable bits contains no information" either.

The main point is that "the success of the transmission depends on the existence of a channel that does not change substantially during the course of the communication, either in space or time."

The implications are obvious for, say, biology, where evolution depends upon the underlying stability of the genome. If that weren't the case, then there would be no information about the past encoded in the species, and each animal would have to start from scratch.

Applied to the plane of economics, we see how "technology can radically change," even while "the characteristics of the basic channel for free entrepreneurial creativity cannot change substantially."

In short, the conservative understands that the low entropy economic channel is what needs to be conserved, in order to make change and progress possible. Tamper with that stable foundation, and information is deprived of its medium. Surprises will still happen, mostly nasty.

In the classical liberal (i.e., modern conservative) view, the purpose of government -- insofar as it touches on the economy -- is to be the guardian of the low-entropy channel, leaving it as free as possible of noise, manipulation, or destruction (or in a word, to render it as transparent as possible).

When government instead attempts to dominate the channel -- as in leftist economics -- the result is a decrease in information, as we see in Obamacare, where the state acts unpredictably, based upon the needs of power. Again, for the state, power is a substitute for knowledge, since it is impossible in principle for any actor or group of actors to gain a fraction of the information dispersed throughout the system. The leftist doesn't know that what he doesn't know dwarfs what he does know, thus provoking the omnipotent ignorance of an Obama.

So, what are the most important attributes of the channel that government must preserve? Property rights free from the reach of the state, obviously. To which Gilder adds "free trade, sound currency, and modest taxation." These apply to the hardware, so to speak, but there are also important conditions for the software -- i.e., the human capital -- such as trust, shared cultural values, and education.

Conservatives are very much interested in conserving all these things, on both the systemic and human levels. To cite one particularly glaring example, we know what causes the vast majority of poverty in the U.S. and it isn't due to the government failing to fill the channel with more noise, i.e., direct cash payments and other valuable prizes. That seriously distorts the market, as when welfare payments exceed the minimum wage, and creates a perverse incentive that ends up draining the system of information.

Rather, the nearly failsafe way to avoid poverty is to shore up the channel by not having children out of wedlock, getting married, staying in school, not taking drugs, etc. If one fails to create the stable channel, then no amount of cash poured into the system will change anything. That's why the War on Poverty, which was supposed to last about a decade, has no exit strategy in sight.

It turns out that what goes by the name of "family values" touches directly on this question of a stable information channel. I prefer the term "tradition," because "values" sounds too transient and relativistic. But tradition essentially embodies all that human beings have learned and internalized about real world conditions, over multiple generations.

And this all dovetails nicely with another recent book on the first conservative, Big Eddie Burke. His insights are quite amazing, especially considering that he arrived at them in the latter half of the 18th century. For the left, he was wrong then and wrong today. Which is about as ringing an endorsement as one could imagine.

One of Burke's most famous wisecracks is that "A state without the means of some change is without the means of conservation."

An implicit corollary is that a state with no means of conservation is without the means of meaningful change. Again, the conservation at one level leads to change at the other. Which means that -- and I suppose a fully indoctrinated leftist would consider this *ironic* -- nothing brings about more meaningful change than adherence to unchanging conservative principles.

Just consider the profound unleashing of entrepreneurial creativity brought about by the "Reagan Revolution" -- which wasn't actually a revolution at all, but rather, a reversion to first principles that pertain to the economic information channel, e.g., lower taxes, less regulation, and sound money -- while at the same time championing the private values that maintain the channel. This led to an unprecedented quarter century of economic growth.

Conversely, what are we getting by Obama filling the channel with noise? Through the magic of the famous Keynesian multiplier effect, we are getting less than zero.

Referring back to the software side of the equation, the fundamental error of illiberal leftism is the insane -- and deeply unscientific -- doctrine of liberal individualism whereby human beings are analogous to isolated atoms. But the truth of the matter is that we are intersubjective to the core, which is what Aristotle meant vis-a-vis being "political animals."

To say that we are political animals is another way of saying that we are members of one another, which goes back the question of the family which makes this possible. The left's devaluation of, and attack on, the traditional family is just a corollary of the self-centered and atomistic individualism at its foundation.

Well, at least we can be consoled by the fact that the people who most support Obama are the very people most harmed by his policies.

Since I am out of time, I think I'll just end by saying that the left loves to talk about their belief in evolution. Why then don't they practice it -- i.e., celebrate the principles that make it possible -- as do conservatives?


Magister said...

Why don't they practice it? Because it requires effort.

I had a good long conversation with an Italian yesterday who said that, in Italy, he is stripped of 55% of what he earns by the State. "I work for the State!" he laughed, thinking of its absurdity. He is a constitutional lawyer, has significant property, a wife, and four young children. He's thinking seriously about retiring and collecting a pension because his government pension would be only slightly lower than his current private salary. "It is crazy," he says. "The problem in Italy, as everywhere, is the Welfare State. We can't afford it, and we can't sustain it. Something has to change, but it is difficult with this generation."

Magister said...

Speaking of evolution, here's something from von Balthasar:

Even if I knew that God had granted me faith as an infused gift, I could never be certain that I had received this faith in the manner God expects of me. ... If faith is the freely given participation in the perfect covenant-fidelity of Jesus Christ, then this faith does not really belong to me in its origin and in its centre, but to God in Christ. He is the mother-plant, so to speak, and I am only a shoot from it, and I cannot clasp faith's supernatural reality to myself as if it were something belonging to me as a possession. In faith and through it, rather, I am made open and dispossessed of self. The 'psychological' element of which I could become certain is the least interesting and characteristic side of faith. The important thing is the movement away from myself, the preference of what is other and greater, and precisely the person who has been expropriated for God does not want to become fully secure with regard to this Other and Greater.

Seen from this perspective, Christian experience can mean only the progressive growth of one's own existence into Christ's existence, on the basis of Christ's continuing action in taking shape in the believer.

So that homo sapiens can finally walk, er, upright.

mushroom said...

The problem at this point is that so many people work for the government and government at all levels is such a significant part of what is calculated as the GDP, removing it here or in Europe would result in an undeniable depression. We'd work our way out of it. If we would have done it voluntarily it would have been a lot better. Eventually it will happen, and things will get sorted out. I feel sorry for the younger folks. It will be a rude awakening.

mushroom said...

Au contraire -- there are Bushes -- and they have birds in them, or maybe just bird brains. One is presenting an award for furthering freedom, democracy, and equality against great odds to the bullet-dodging Bitch of Benghazi.

julie said...

Magister, I think it's not only that genuine evolution requires work; I think it's that many progressives, at some level, are deeply misanthropic. If not explicitly, then implicitly.

They don't strive to evolve because many of them honestly don't think there's any future worth evolving toward. So they don't have kids, and they aren't bothered by abortion, and they don't honestly believe the human race in general is worth saving because the human race is, like, killing the planet, man.

Gagdad Bob said...

The thing is, if you have the wrong structure in place, hard work can't pay off. A Mexican laborer works just as hard in Mexico, but has nothing to show for it.

julie said...

Good point. Also, it occurs to me that a lot of the things leftists support (mostly for other people) require much more effort than whatever system was already in place (and probably working just fine). For instance, modern appliances that don't do what they're supposed to do, because they need to meet "green" regulations. Or the hard work required to get the right permits to remodel a backyard.

Very few things they support make life easier, for anyone. But that seems to be the point. They don't think people should be allowed to have it easy.

Gagdad Bob said...

On so many levels, they are such SlackBandits.

mushroom said...

...that don't do what they're supposed to do, because they need to meet "green" regulations.

They took away my phosphates.

And these stupid front-loading washing machines. They are probably great for washing, I don't know, a spandex bicycle outfit.

Sick Sigma said...

Mushroom, you can buy phosphates (trisodium phosphate) in the paint section of department stores. "Get some today!" And add a pinch to your dishwashing and laundry detergents.