In formal logic, an axiom is defined as “A self-evident principle or one that is accepted as true without proof as the basis for argument; a postulate.” (dictionary.com). In practice, axioms are the assumptions one makes before starting to communicate an idea. Postulates are things one thinks are true; or things, which for the purposes of facilitating a given debate, are held to be true by consensus. One reason the logical and deductive methods are so useful in mathematical proof is that once a thing has been proved, one can refer to its proof and state it as an axiom for the next proof without having to restate it in full. This page is for the philosophical equivalent of this bootstrapping process.
When I investigate an issue in the pages of this blog, and lay out my reasoning to reach my conclusion, I may find myself referring back to that reasoning in later articles or comment threads. I will then place an abstract of it here, with a link to the full argument. I will also start to place entries at the head of articles which indicate the prior work I’m building on.
What I am absolutely not doing is trying to compile a 100% complete list of all the things I hold axiomatic when studying socio-politics. You don’t have the time, I don’t have the time, for explaining why “I think therefore I am” leads directly to “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose” in detail. If I come across a situation where a comment thread, or a particular article, need me to clarify a postulate, I will do that and then it will move onto here, but as it stands, this page is organised chronologically as contentious statements appear in the blog.
- 1. Governments are in the business of control, therefore wars are in the interests of government.
- – A restatement of Orwell’s principle of perpetual war.
- 2. Addicts are not demons.
- – How the Puritans tried to kill Christmas, and other medieval attitudes surviving in the modern world.
- 3. When you apply organised, government-ordained violence to peaceful people, you create paramilitaries.
- – As seen on the streets of London recently.
- 4. You cannot answer post-industrial problems with industrial-era solutions.
- – Education -> higher expectations -> less exploitable workforce. New social metrics for valuing human contributions are now needed.
- 5. The planet is a petrie dish: if we don’t get out of the gravity well, we may find out that Malthus was right.
- – Exponential population growth + accelerating resource depletion + closed system = disaster movie.
- 6. Ideologies are intrinsically short-term.
- – Change-resistance is both the strength and the downfall of ideological, rather than paradigmatic, structures.
- 7. Early taxation models provide the origin of capital wealth accumulation, and are thereby the origins of capitalism.
- – To get wealth accumulation in a subsistence agriculture society, you need a
- 8. The process of capital accumulation is, in origin, reciprocal.
- – In a subsistence economy, unlike a modern one, for one guy to get rich a bunch of people do have to get poor.
- 9. Three factors are determinant in competition between civilisations: what do you know, how well do you learn, how fast can you spread the word.
- – It’s all about communications. We are at heart the gossiping ape.
- 10. Our evolved global economic system is, inherently, a machine for moving wealth created at the edge of the web into the hands of those at the centre.
- – The Great Machine was built long enough ago that the beneficiaries of its motion (i.e. the Industrialised West, and its plutocratic class) can’t see it any more.
- 11. Statist/hierarchical capitalism is the best performing civilisation model at low bandwidth-levels.
- – But we’re rapidly fixing the bandwidth deficit.
- 12. The biggest problem with Britain’s democracy is that it is too stable, and has been so for too long.
- – “Safe seat” is an oxymoron in any functional democracy.
Governments are in the business of control, therefore wars are in the interests of government.
From: War on Peace
Anthropocentric mythology tends to describe humans by their predatory characteristics, by comparison (for example) with a wolf-pack: but focii of myth are not typical of humans. Most humans display behaviours which are much more analogous to the herd than the pack. This is what we call “mob psychology”. It translates, in real terms, to the truism that a fearful population is more inclined to renounce personal responsibility to an authority figure or organisation, thus making a given population easier to control.
The raison d’etre of government is control; therefore it is in the interests of government to create and manipulate a level of fear in the population. A frequent modern method is the prosecution of a foreign war and the propaganda pertaining thereto. George Orwell posited that logical goal of government is to develop a never-ending war which takes place somewhere else: like the War on Terror, or the War on Drugs.
Corrollary: the same process of reasoning can be applied to criminalisation.
Addicts are not demons.
Prior to the Reformation and the rise to power, in the West, of puritanism, our social attitudes and law codes reflected a clear distinction between the use and abuse of substances. The puritan revolution linked a pre-existing superstition about mental illness (that it was in fact demonic possession) to the abuse, and then to the use, of pretty much anything fun.
While medical science has progressed immensely, society lags behind. Those who use drugs such as coffee and alcohol, and those who find shopping or gambling compulsive, are not demons. Nor are those who use nicotine, or THC. Our society needs to propagate a clear understanding of the distinction between having a dependency (chemical or behavioural), and having a problem.
When you apply organised, government-ordained violence to peaceful people, you create paramilitaries.
From: Paramilitary 101
A truism of the War on Terror. No matter how internally divided a failing state, no matter how hated a Glorious Leader, the one thing that will guarantee you a plethora of local paramilitaries inside of one year is invasion and occupation from outside. The increasing militarisation of the policing of public protest and political dissent in Britain displays this pattern. Thatcher created the road-warriors of the 1990s by unleashing paramilitary troops on mothers and children at the Battle of the Beanfield. A number of other high-profile instances cemented the trend. The football violence of the mid-90s gave the Establishment the opportunity to road-test their paramilitary organisation, and since 1998 it has been increasingly used to punish, rather than merely silence, dissenting opinions.
You cannot answer post-industrial problems with industrial-era solutions.
Thus far only one nation is clearly identifiable as post-industrial (Britain). Evidence suggests that this economic cycle will reveal that several of the other early adopters are now financially, rather than industrially, dependent economies. The social and economic maps of a post-industrial nation do not look like those of an industrial one, let alone like those of an industrialising economy such as the one we had when we defined the collective Western world-view.
An educated work-force demands better conditions and more realistic remuneration. Industrialism demands an educated work-force. These two interacting processes enforce a shift from industrial economics to financial economics. Less and less of the population are able to work in production (in the Marxist sense), leaving a major socio-economic problem unless first-class education is thoroughly propagated into your population. Britain is currently serving as an object lesson to the rest of the world on what happens if you go post-industrial without having already done this.
The planet is a petrie dish: if we don’t get out of the gravity well, we may find out that Malthus was right.
From: The Great Machine II
The flaw in Malthus’ extrapolation from microbial populations to human ones lay in his inability to recognise the effect of the closed system. No national economy is closed (one can always trade with the outside, etc.) and so the effects he predicted are not seen in the world outside the lab.
It is my contention that the global economy may display Malthusian properties. It is a truly closed system, unless we expand human resource access, habitation and industry beyond this one biosphere. The exponential acceleration of the species population, the economic convergence implied by global industrialisation, and the current rate of resource exploitation and depletion suggest that we may find out Malthus was right inside the next 250 years.
Ideologies are intrinsically short-term.
Ideology is the political equivalent of dogma in religion: each can be described as a selection of ideas codified as received wisdom, and as a group. In simplest terms, some famous person once said all these things, therefore all these ideas are now to be treated as parts of one idea. The strength of an ideology is that it is change-resistant, and can therefore unite disparate people across large land areas in low communications environments, or across long time-periods for civilisational development. This is enhanced by the advent of literacy.
As the pace of change has risen in step with communications technology, ideologies have both gained (in that they can spread much faster) and lost, in that it has now become apparent that their change-resistance is a flaw. Now that systemic change can occur several times during a single human life, ideologies are insufficiently flexible; they defy our need to dismantle them for spare parts and keep only the bits which work. In other words: the problem with a religion of the Book is that it precludes the possibility of a better book, later. This observation is equally true of political Books.
Early taxation models provide the origin of capital wealth accumulation, and are thereby the origins of capitalism.
From: The Great Machine III
There’s more than one way for this to happen, including early collectivist urban models, but the most common way, throughout global history, is that someone who’s good with a spear comes round and takes a small amount of your food each season, in return for which he doesn’t burn your farm down.
Early taxation systems are the origin of capital accumulation, in the sense that the first unitary investing authorities visible to archaeology are the administrative authorities in early cities, which functioned (and, indeed, developed) by concentrating the resources of a large parcel of subsistance-farmland into the hands of, typically, one
banditking. Those who are successful at it find they can feed a larger group of people during the next famine, so they end up better off than their competitor over the hill. Wealth that is being produced at the edge of society is concentrated towards the middle until there is so damn much of it that you end up building pyramids with it.
The process of capital accumulation is, in origin, reciprocal.
From: The Great Machine III
By which I mean that for the first capitalists to accumulate, everyone else had to lose a bit. In a pre-monetarised society no-one is increasing the total size of the pie every year (which we now call “quantitative easing”, or something similar which doesn’t sound like it means “print more money and hope no-one notices”). Getting a large enough stockpile of food that you can feed a city full of people (who therefore can’t farm) is hard, and is traditionally done by taxing the farmers. Capitalist gets more, farmers have less.
NB: this is no longer true, in the sense that one cannot point to Sir Alan Sugar and identify a group of people that he has impoverished in order to get rich; that process now takes place systemically and at the national/corporate rather than individual level. Economics of scale, indeed.
Three factors are determinant in competition between civilisations: what do you know, how well do you learn, how fast can you spread the word.
From: The Great Machine IV
Analysis of the growth of civilisations towards technical competence, as expressed through their competition for taxable bodies and land to support them, suggest that information infrastructure is a determinant factor. How well you record your learning (are you literate as a culture?): how good are you at the process of learning (have you got monks, or the local social equivalent, yet?) and how fast do you get the word out (sociological bandwidth as expressed in terms of technological spread through society).
Corollary: because, at low tech levels, high-bandwidth communications equate to a guy on a horse with a big sack, one of the things hierarchical, statist systems (typically proto-capitalist, see above) do very well is organise communications systems which can cope with the bandwidth restrictions. They also tend to organise large-scale public works projects to upgrade said communications infrastructure; think Roman roads and the Tudor navy.
Our evolved global economic system is, inherently, a machine for moving wealth created at the edge of the web into the hands of those at the centre.
From: The Great Machine V
This observation is the heart of the Great Machine series, particularly articles III, IV, V and VI. The series makes a very high-level overview of the process by which taxation becomes free-market capitalism without at any point changing the function of the system. In an early tax regime it’s easy to see: Pharoah takes a lot of money, Pharoah spends it on food and boats and trade with Phoenicia and soldiers to fight the bandits and, ultimately, pyramids. Money flows from the edge to the centre.
In the modern era it is best typified with the situation of a business loan. I am a person at the edge of the machine, meaning I have no capital and will inherit none. I want to start a pub. A capital accumulator lends me 100 thousand. Ultimately, I will pay him (on average) between 150 and 200 thousand. From a systemic rather than personal perspective, net flow of money is from the person generating wealth (me) towards the capitalist: the edge towards the centre. The same principle can be seen at the national level in examining the difference between International Aid and global mega-corporate investment.
This is a morally neutral observation, though many of my friends on the Left would disagree. It is primarily significant because it is self-perpetuating; “To he who hath it shall be given, from he who hath not it shall be taken away.”
Statist/hierarchical capitalism is the best performing civilisation model at low bandwidth-levels. Since we are no longer at low bandwidth leves, the entire body of historical data on alternative civilisation structures must be re-examined for future viability.
From: The Great Machine V
And this was the point I was driving towards for most of that series. Having examined why this particular civilisation model has outperformed all of its competitors for the last seven thousand years, the key seemed to be that at low bandwidth levels, violent hierarchies are better at the holy trinity (what do you know, etc.) than any other system. It is apparent not only that the industrial west is now a high-bandwidth civilisation, but also that the third world is going to catch up fast (Moore’s law, the booming tech industry in India, foot-pedalled laptops, etc.).
My thesis is that as a result of these developments, not only can we start creating entirely new competitors to state capitalism, we can also re-examine older systems which failed (at low bandwidth-levels) to see if they’re viable with a better communications infrastructure.
The biggest problem with Britain’s democracy is that it is too stable, and has been so for too long.
From: The Confidence Trick
The British establishment congratulated themselves through the Napoleonic War with the thought that they’d had their Revolution a hundred years before the French, and better organised. What they’d conveniently forgotten is that 1688 was not our analogue to the Jacobin reign of terror: 1649 was. The Glorious Revolution was like the conquest of Cnut; no-one really cared if they were below the rank of Earl. In 1649 the British commons rose and cut a king’s head off.
The British haven’t seen real political change for over three hundred years. Not genuine, systemic change; an admission that the entire system is broken, that we should abandon it or strip it for spare parts but the world has moved on. That the entire political class are morally and ethically bankrupt, and need removing. That we need a new rule of Law and a new scheme of governance to keep pace with that change.
We haven’t seen a government overthrown in long enough that we have forgotten whose job it is to overthrow the bastards when they get it this badly wrong. If the politicians don’t see actual blood, their blood, in the streets every now and again, they invent expressions like ’safe seat’.