Tuesday 28 April 2020

Dirk Philipsen elbowing out the Public Good

Prof. Dirk Philipsen has an article in Aeon titled 'Private gain must no longer be allowed to elbow out Public Good'.

 Philipsen gains by getting this publicity for a book he has recently written.  But, it is a private gain. Does it elbow out 'Public Good'? Yes. At the margin, time spent reading Philipsen's article, or money spent buying his book, represent a sub-optimal use of resources. There is a better article or book, Society should have taken notice of. Thus, 'private gain' has caused 'allocative inefficiency' and reduced the Public Good. However, there is a 'market discovery' process here which may be 'dynamically efficient'. In other words, everybody competing to write articles and books may promote the Public Good more than would have been the case if the most suitable author to write on this topic had been selected by a benevolent Public Agency and if the resulting product had been distributed on the basis of Social Interest, not Private greed or lust for fame.

 'Dynamic efficiency' may have to do with innovation or streamlined production. But, there is another reason why we might prefer the allocative inefficiency associated with competition to write worthless shite based on greed for money or fame. That reason has to do with the value of freedom in and of itself. Asserting our right to write shite even when we don't feel any great compulsion to do so is a way of ensuring we will be able to write shite at some future time when we might become incapable of committing any other type of public nuisance so as to relieve our feelings. One reason this right is important is because if we lack it then some Public body may write and talk shite on our behalf. But that shite is likely to be even more noisome.

The alternative to everybody having rights and being able to exercise them in a self-interested or egoistic manner is our subordination to the stupidity and ignorance and penchant for pi jaw of public officials. It may be argued that it is better that bureaucrats talk worthless shite rather than that ordinary people do so. The problem is that bureaucracies tend to foster
1) Monopolies
2) Mercantilism
3) Militarism
at least this was the experience of Northern Europe in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century. Thus the alternative to Absolutism terminating in disastrous wars was laissez faire Liberalism. The Finnish clergyman, Anders Chydenius is emblematic of the new type of Political Economy upon which the liberty, prosperity and relative equality of the West is founded.

Sadly, Professors tend to ignore books written by non Professors- like Chydenius's 'The National Gain' which was published a decade before Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'. 
Adam Smith had an elegant idea when addressing the notorious difficulty that humans face in trying to be smart, efficient and moral. In The Wealth of Nations (1776), he maintained that the baker bakes bread not out of benevolence, but out of self-interest. No doubt, public benefits can result when people pursue what comes easiest: self-interest.
Smith was critical of Mandeville's 'Fable of the Bees' , published before he was born, because bad motivations- greed, hatred, envy etc.- are bad in themselves. They are likely to cause cognitive biases- e.g short-sightedness- and lead to bad consequences. Self-interest ought to militate against cognitive biases because impulsive or short-sighted actions can boomerang upon us. However, hypocrisy is not self-interested. There is no good reason to pretend we are shitting higher than our arseholes, morally speaking.

To act in a self-interested, as opposed to an impulsive, thymotic, manner is not 'what comes easiest'. The thing requires discipline and motivation and rationality. What comes easiest is a deluded type of mimetic behavior- e.g strumming air guitar rather than doing your Maths homework in the expectation of becoming a Rock Star rather than a Cost and Management Accountant like Dad.

The thing which comes easiest is mimicry- doing what others are doing. Rational Self-interest works differently in a place where everybody is mimicking a short-sighted sociopath rather than a far-sighted entrepreneur. On the other hand, as Mandeville pointed out, a puritanical Society which valorized thrift and Godliness, apart from being very boring, would also lack economic dynamism. It is better not to be in denial, or to indulge in hypocrisy, regarding human motivations. Liberalism assumes that freedom will permit human flourishing simply through the pursuit of rational self-interest. There is little reason to believe this will happen. Still, provided there is unrestricted 'Entry' & 'Exit' to different 'Tiebout Models'- in other words, so long as people can relocate to places with the right fiscal mix of taxes and public goods- including 'rule sets'- then there is room for hope.

On the other hand, Societies have to cope with catastrophic events. Liberal Institutions are seldom 'robust' unless they aren't Liberal at all but simply mimic best practice under exigent circumstances.

There is no 'logic' to Social Choice any more than is a 'logic' to the evolution of a Species. Only the fitness landscape- which is radically uncertain- matters.
And yet: the logic of private interest – the notion that we should just ‘let the market handle it’ – has serious limitations.
Economics could be considered to represent 'the logic of private interest'- it tends to neglect the fitness landscape and thus generates stupidity- but it does recognize the existence of externalities, non-convexities, information asymmetry, Knightian Uncertainty etc, etc. By following the correct 'Muth Rational' regret minimizing course we can overcome such limitations albeit with tradeoffs. One has to do with 'hysteresis'- path dependence. We know this is inefficient yet there is expensive to get rid off. One example is the way in which countries with recent experience of a coronavirus outbreak had 'Institutional Memory' such that the problem was more quickly contained. Other countries, without the lived experience, could have created Administrative Capacity against that contingency on the basis of mimetics. But they didn't because the attempt to do so soon created a bureaucratic cluster fuck. The US, because of its size, was a particularly egregious example.

Particularly in the United States, the lack of an effective health and social policy in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has brought the contradictions into high relief.
The US had a plethora of pandemic plans. But they were crap. Both the CDC and the NIH appear to be wholly dysfunctional. But the UK, which has a very different approach, too, appears to have been woefully unprepared. Some blame distraction posed by Brexit.                         
Around the world, the free market rewards competing, positioning and elbowing,
This may be true about politics but it isn't true about open markets- i.e. one's where all agents are price-takers. Markets don't get to be open unless freedom increases. Capitalism is a work in progress.
so these have become the most desirable qualifications people can have.
as opposed to what? being as rich as shit and having a massive dick? I don't think so.
Empathy, solidarity or concern for the public good are relegated to the family, houses of worship or activism.
But families and Churches and Activist groups do worse if their members stop doing useful stuff and go in for empathy and solidarity and concern for the public good. That's why useless people with no friends should definitely go in for it- if they want to remain lonely and useless.
Meanwhile, the market and private gain don’t account for social stability, health or happiness.
Very true. Instead of hiring workers, motivated by private gain, Governments should employ slaves motivated by fear of the whip.
As a result, from Cape Town to Washington, the market system has depleted and ravaged the public sphere – public health, public education, public access to a healthy environment – in favour of private gain.
Cape Town? What is this cretin saying? Apartheid South Africa built up the public health and education system. Then a bunch of uppity niggers took over the country and started hiring people through the market and paying them the going wage. This neo-liberalism ravaged the country. Fuck you Nelson Mandela! Why couldn't you just know your place?
COVID-19 reveals a further irrational component: the people who do essential work – taking care of the sick; picking up our garbage; bringing us food; guaranteeing that we have access to water, electricity and WiFi – are often the very people who earn the least, without benefits or secure contracts.
But they aren't slaves or subjected to Apartheid type restrictions. Sadly, they are rational and thus won't do shitty jobs- like caring for the sick as opposed to caring for very healthy and beautiful nymphomaniacs- unless they can't get anything less shitty.
On the other hand, those who often have few identifiably useful skills – the pontificators and chief elbowing officers – continue to be the winners.
Not to mention Professors like the author. He's got the pontificating down pat. Whom did he have to elbow to get tenure?
Think about it: what’s the harm if the executive suites of private equity, corporate law and marketing firms closed down during quarantine?
What's the harm if this Professor's Department closes down permanently? We don't know and don't care unless we are footing the bill. What other people do with their money is something we know less about, and thus are in a worse position to judge, than they themselves.
Unless your stock portfolio directly profits from their activities, the answer is likely: none.
So, the Professor is asking about the harm to you if some other guy can't go to work. He thinks there is no harm if you lose no money. But we might equally ak 'what's the harm if some guy who isn't making you richer is enslaved or shot in the head?' The answer is, assuming you don't mind slavery or murder, is that if it can happen to him, it could happen to you. It is in your interest to see harm in the curtailment of freedom of somebody else even if they belong to a different identity category.
But it is those people who make millions – sometimes as much in an hour as healthcare workers or delivery personnel make in an entire year.
So we are supposed to hate people if they are richer than us. But we are richer than some other set of people. After we have stripped those above of us of their freedom, we may find our freedoms are the next to go.
Simply put, a market system driven by private interests never has protected and never will protect public health, essential kinds of freedom and communal wellbeing.
Public health protects the market system- not the other way around. The same is true of essential kinds of freedom and 'communal well-being'. Why? Healthy, free and happy people want the market system so as to flourish even more. On the other hand, if they are sick, enslaved and fucking miserable, they may evince great love for the Supreme Leader.
Many have pointed out the immorality of our system of greed and self-centred gain, its inefficiency, its cruelty, its shortsightedness and its danger to planet and people.
A few people can make a little money talking this stripe of shite. The magic of the market-place is that even the most boring and stupid people can profitably connect with those who wish to become equally boring and stupid.
But, above all, the logic of self-interest is superficial in that it fails to recognise the obvious:
the logic of this Professor's self-interested argument is indeed superficial. But then, if he recognised the obvious he'd be out of a job.
every private accomplishment is possible only on the basis of a thriving commons – a stable society and a healthy environment.
But a thriving commons is not possible. Unless enforceable property rights are introduced, there will be a tragedy of the commons.
How did I become a professor at an elite university?
You told us already. It involved elbowing and pontificating.
Some wit and hard work, one hopes. But mostly I credit my choice of good parents; being born at the right time and the right place; excellent public schools; fresh air, good food, fabulous friends; lots of people who continuously and reliably provide all the things that I can’t: healthcare, sanitation, electricity, free access to quality information. And, of course, as the scholar Robert H Frank at Cornell University so clearly demonstrated in his 2016 book on the myth of the meritocracy: pure and simple luck.
No. The American people made good choices. They didn't toss a coin to decide not to listen to this Professor's brand of shite. They used their common sense and experience of the world to reject silly arguments.
Commenting on how we track performance in modern economies – counting output not outcome, quantity not quality, prices not possibilities – the US senator Robert F Kennedy said in 1968 that we measure ‘everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile’.
But measuring the things which make life worthwhile is not worthwhile. Governments keep track of Domestic Production of goods and services so as to r raise taxes. Thus GDP is relatively easy to compute.
His larger point: freedom, happiness, resilience – all are premised on a healthy public.
And a healthy public is premised on the production and availability of goods and services so we are back with GDP.
They rely on our collective ability to benefit from things such as clean air, free speech, good public education.
But it costs a lot of money to keep air clean. Countries with high per capita GDP can afford to have cleaner air. London once had terrible air quality. The Great London Smog of 1952 killed 5000 people. Rising GDP meant that a trend which had been worsening since the 13th Century started reversing itself.
In short: we all rely on a healthy commons.
No. That third, or half, of the population which died during the Black Death relied on a healthy commons. On the other hand, their Doctors were for shit. It's taken a lot of money and a lot of greed to get us to a situation where, as is happening in India, mortality declines during a pandemic because the lockdown reduces traffic accidents. 
And yet, the world’s most powerful metric, gross domestic product (GDP), counts none of it.
It could easily measure changes in that respect and consider it a type of depreciation so as to arrive at Net Domestic Product which is linked to National Income.
The term ‘commons’ came into widespread use, and is still studied by most college students today, thanks to an essay by a previously little-known American academic, Garrett Hardin, called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ (1968). His basic claim: common property such as public land or waterways will be spoiled if left to the use of individuals motivated by self-interest. One problem with his theory, as he later admitted himself: it was mostly wrong.
Resources where no property rights exist may be too rapidly depleted. Communal ownership may be an effective solution. What matter is whether it can exclude third parties
Our real problem, instead, might be called ‘the tragedy of the private’.
No it mightn't.
From dust bowls in the 1930s
at least partly caused by the Government which believed 'rain follows the plow'
to the escalating climate crisis today,
at least partly caused by Government policies
from online misinformation
at least partly caused by Professors
to a failing public health infrastructure,
wholly caused by Governments
it is the insatiable private 
and insatiable Government
that often despoils the common goods necessary for our collective survival and prosperity.
So people, whether in the private or public or voluntary sector screw up because they have foolish beliefs.
Who, in this system based on the private,
or in the Soviet system based on the public
holds accountable the fossil fuel industry for pushing us to the brink of extinction?
If people are wrong and the result of their being wrong is the same whether they are Government people or private individuals then the problem has to do with people being wrong not with whether they were greedy private citizens or diligent public servants.
What happens to the land and mountaintops and oceans forever ravaged by violent extraction for private gain?
The same thing that happens when they are ravaged by the Government.
What will we do when private wealth has finally destroyed our democracy?
The same thing we will do when public intellectuals have finally destroyed our ability to think.
The privately controlled corporate market has, in the precise words of the late economics writer Jonathan Rowe, ‘a fatal character flaw – namely, an incapacity to stop growing. No matter how much it grew yesterday it must continue to do so tomorrow, and then some; or else the machinery will collapse.’
But the same could be said of this author's favorite availability cascade. 
To top off the items we rarely discuss: without massive public assistance, late-stage extractive capitalism, turbocharged by private interest and greed, would long be dead.
Because the private sector does not pay taxes to the public sector. The Government does not tax anybody at all. It just hands out money to wealthy people. But the scandal does not stop there. See that young guy with thick hair and a sculpted body? The reason he looks so much better than me is because the Government gives him youth and good hair and it transfers all the muscles I acquire weight training to him.
The narrow kind of macroeconomic thinking currently dominating the halls of government and academia invokes a simpleminded teenager who variously berates and denounces his parents, only to come home, time and again, when he is out of ideas, money or support.
What about this simple-minded Professor who berates and denounces the Private Sector despite the fact that it pays for Government expenditure?
Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Exxon – all would be bust without public bailouts and tax breaks and subsidies.
But the Treasury would have been much worse off if they hadn't been bailed out. Incidentally, Trump inflicted a 5 billion tax bill on Goldman Sachs.

Every time the private system works itself into a crisis, public funds bail it out –
Because public funds come from the private system. The parasite has to keep its host alive.
in the current crisis, to the tune of trillions of dollars. As others have noted, for more than a century, it’s a clever machine that privatises gains and socialises costs.
Very clever indeed! It's like how muggers enrich their victims by putting money into their wallets. Yet, muggers get sent to jail. How ironic!
When private companies are back up and running, they don’t hold themselves accountable to the public who rescued them.
Just as the victims of mugging don't hold themselves accountable to the muggers who very kindly treated their head wounds and stuffed money into their wallets. Instead, some of these mugging victims try to get their benefactors sent to jail! 
As witnessed by activities since the 2008 bailouts at Wells Fargo, American Airlines and AIG, companies that have been rescued often go right back to milking the public.
the way rape victims milk rapists of their semen.
By focusing on private market exchanges at the expense of the social good, policymakers and economists have taken an idea that is good under clearly defined and very limited circumstances and expanded it into a poisonous and blind ideology.
But 'policy makers' work for the Government. So the problem is with the Government. It can allow the public to be 'milked'. But greedy private citizens won't allow themselves to be robbed anymore than they will allow themselves to be raped. 
Now is the time to assert the obvious: without a strong public, there can be no private.
And without a chicken there can be no egg or vice versa. 
My health depends on public health.
I won't die so long as the public does not die.
My freedom depends on social freedom.
I can't be put in jail so long as Society remains free. 
The economy is embedded in a healthy society with functional public services, not the other way around.
The Pilgrims, landing at Plymouth Rock, immediately enrolled in the Public Health Service. They received free Education and Training. Then they set up what would become the American Economy.
This moment of pain and collapse can serve as a wakeup call;
Indeed. Ask yourself, if you get infected with this virus would you rather have look after you- a Medical Doctor or this Academic whose Doctorate is in something useless? This should be a wake-up call for those who pay attention to credentialized cretins.
a realisation that the public is our greatest good, not the private.
Yet, to beat this pandemic, we must accept lockdown in our private apartments. Our fear of getting infected makes us all safer. 
Look outside the window to see:
empty streets. People are cooped up within their own four walls.
without a vibrant and stable public
life, we are all safer. True, for economic reasons, we will have to go back to work- but we will still have to be careful and keep our distance from each other.

life can quickly get poor, nasty, brutish and short.
At least for those of us who are no longer young or who have pre-existing medical conditions.

What prevents life from being poor is zeal for Private Gain. It is perfectly possible for everybody to have tremendous Public Spirit but for most people to have nasty brutish and short lives because 'Games against Nature' aren't being played in increasingly smart ways. Our species does not inhabit a Moral Universe. It inhabits an uncertain, wholly indifferent, physical fitness landscape which has no means of distinguishing praiseworthy Public Spirit from despicable Private Greed. But then this is equally true of genuine Economics. That's a good thing. It can focus on mechanism design rather than scolding the Species while expressing empathy for the Universe.

Sunday 26 April 2020

As the sailor to the star, synderesis

Now Wine gives out & Shadows decamp 
& no oil is left my little clay lamp
Of Ezekiel's Eagles all I know is
Vines' water's scintilla rationis

Saturday 25 April 2020

So every Son incarnate Saudade

Grace & Beauty are not twins
One Chaste & Pure while the other Sins
Miscegenating the totems of our Couvade
A race, the Race, her Bastard wins.

Nor are Love & Life yet Gemini
Rather the scorched Earth 'twixt Thou & I
 So every Son incarnate Saudade
Let Icarus die & Shuka fly.

Friday 24 April 2020

Peacocks trample the Monsoon

Save Samadhi's windwheel of the Drunkard, his Shadow, & the Moon
Every perichoresis pegs out too soon
Till Beauty bridge its lack or Duty save from the sack
We step in a crack, break Mum's back & Peacocks trample the Monsoon.

Thursday 23 April 2020

Appadurai gassing on about Ortega Gasset

Ortega Gasset represented Spain's 'Generation of 1898'- the year America took away their colonies- Cuba and the Philippines. This humiliation led his cohort to seek to 'Europeanize' themselves by turning towards Germany- a retrograde move because it was the Anglo-Saxon world which was more developed and which would develop much further yet. Instead of going in for Pragmatism, Gasset got stuck with a vitalist, wholly vacuous, type of Phenomenology. 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says-
Although Ortega hesitates to proceed as far as Cohen, that is, to postulate the “facts” of science to be determined completely by thought, a sort of Neo-Kantian metaphysics remains in his fundamental philosophical point of view. For instead of positing pure thought as solely real, Ortega replaced Cohen's logic with the notion of “human life”. In other words, Ortega's generalized view of existence contains human life in place of human logic as the underlying unifying principle of reality. Ortega's major writings were concerned with the idea of life as the “dynamic dialogue between the individual and the world”; he was not concerned, as was Cohen, with assigning to external experience a reality that is contingent upon the principles of logic and mathematical physics. 
Ortega did not understand that Einstein had used 'the principles of logic and mathematical physics' to show that Phenomenology was not just empirically wrong, it was simply stupid. There could be no relationship between the 'laws of thought' and 'scientific facts' for a purely a priori reason discoverable by an armchair 'Gedanken' or thought experiment. It would be foolish to replace 'laws of thought' by 'lived life' because life is biological. It evolves stochastically, in a manner only Game theoretically understandable, on an uncertain fitness landscape.
The Stanford Encyclopedia states
Albert Einstein, he argued, struck the first telling blow against the concept of an objective reality—a concept that assumes the existence of universal time and space into which nature fits, independently of the observer. Einstein demonstrated that there is no single spatial and chronological frame of reference.
But everybody on Earth is part of very very nearly the same 'spatial and chronological frame of reference'. It is not the case that I am cruising at the speed of light while you, slowpoke that you are, are managing only a few thousand miles per hour.
Every observer is confined to a specific and relative time-space system.
But, for our species, it is almost exactly the same system.
Ortega perceived, in this system, the “human point of view” as that reality in which we live: situations, persons and things.
But 'situations' are game theoretic and feature Knightian uncertainty. 'Persons' represent 'an extended phenotype'. They are more like a coalition than a sovereign. As for things, Science discovers new facts about them all the time.
To establish distance between ourselves and reality as a manner of understanding these lived experiences—which are by no means absolute—we have to project ourselves into the place of another person and situation. In doing so, we may come to distinguish among persons, things and situations and thereby come to observe reality more closely (Obras, III: 361, 363, 362).
It is more likely that we will fool ourselves. Our lucubrations may have some literary or modish value. But they will have nothing to do with 'reality' and everything to do with silly availability cascades marking as deeply provincial cretins. It is not the case that 'lived experience' determines the truth of Scientific facts. Rather, Scientific advances may change our biology and have definitely changed our 'lived experience'. That is why the STEM subjects 'pay for themselves'. They improve 'lived experience' so much that we gladly pay for further Research. By contrast, Phenomenology did not pay for itself. It was a waste of resources. It now attracts only credential craving dunces. This is a wholly imaginary type of scholarship and Arjun Appadurai- an anthropologist too fastidious to spend his time with naked cannibals- has made a good living exploring a 'social imaginary' of an impoverished and puerile kind.

He has written an article titled 'The Revolt of the Elites' in the Wire-
José Ortega y Gasset is a largely forgotten 20th century thinker, an unconventional Spanish philosopher whose most important social science work, 'The Revolt of the Masses', reflected his fears about a world in which liberal individuals were disappearing and the “mass man” was emerging.
Gaseous Gasset liked Nietzche. He thought people like himself who had a superior 'lived reality' should form an Elite and save Society from the smug, materialistic, philistines. Sadly, Gasset's political life was a failure. He ran away from the Republic and only returned for a while to Franco's Spain after the Second World War when the regime was keen to keep in America's good books. Thankfully, this meant that technocrats could run things and so Spain's economic development took off. Its 'mass-man' could become Western European rather than, as Gasset had said of Unamuno, suffering the doom of 'Africanization'. Like Heidegger's Germany, Gassy Gasset's Spain moved in a Liberal direction under American tutelage. Thus Pragmatism won. Phenomenology shat the bed.

Ortega’s idea of the mass man was not a picture of the poor, the destitute or the proletarian multitude but of a mass of average men, who were rendered similar by their tastes, dispositions and values, rather than by their dispossession. In this way, Ortega was closer to the later American critics of the men “in the grey flannel suit” than to the Frankfurt School critics of mass society. Still, Ortega was an early voice in seeing the masses, of whatever kind, as revolting against the liberal ideals of the 19th century.
But the liberals of the 18th century thought the masses were revolting against them as did those of the 17th century and so forth. Gasset was unusual in that he got elected to Parliament shortly after publishing a book about the Revolting Masses. But those Masses kept revolting more and more revoltingly and so he ran away. Franco systematically raped and beat the shit out of the revolting Masses till it was safe for Gassy Gasset to come back.
I return to Ortega now because I think the 20th century has exhausted the major forms of mass revolt
because revolting masses get beaten and raped and Gulaged till they stop being so revolting.
and that we have entered a new epoch which is characterised by the “revolt of the elites”.
Coz Appadurai posed as a Leftie to an American audience. So he is making out he is against elites though he was part of the Credentialist Ponzi scheme which promised students entry into power elites.
These revolting elites are those who support, surround, promote and flatter the new autocracies of Narendra Modi, Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Jair Bolsonaro, Boris Johnson, Viktor Orban and many others who have created what could be called ‘populism from above’ – where the people are electoral tools for a mass exit from democracy.
Coz if someone Appadurai doesn't like gets elected it must be because there was a 'mass exit from democracy'.
Why call this behaviour of the new autocratic elites a “revolt” rather than simply predatory capitalism, cronyism, neoliberalism in its latest guise, disaster capitalism, all of which are available terms?
Why not simply speak of Fascism and compare everyone you don't like to Hitler?
Who are these new elites and what are they revolting against?
There has been no change in the composition of elites around the world over the last thirty years. Nor, truth be told, has there been any 'revolt'. True, a certain sort of academic has lost prestige- but that was bound to happen because they started to publish stuff in e-zines available to the masses who soon discovered these guys were stupid, ignorant and more than a little kray kray.
First, they are revolting against all the other elites whom they despise, hate and fear: liberal elites, media elites, secular elites, cosmopolitan elites, “Harvard” elites, WASP elites, older economic elites, intellectuals, artists and academics (these categories are a pool, from which different national populists choose the appropriate national and cultural terms). So, this is an elite which disguises its own elitism in a discourse of anti-elitism.
Just as Appadurai is doing here. Essentially he is describing a Paretian 'circulation of elites'. But that sort of thing has always happened. There is nothing new here.
Second, this revolt is against all those who are believed to have betrayed the real elites and captured power illegitimately: blacks in the US, Muslims and secularists in India, leftists and LGBT people in Brazil, dissenters, NGOs and journalists in Russia, religious, cultural and economic minorities in Turkey, immigrants, workers and trade unionists in the United Kingdom.
Because the US and India and Brazil and Turkey and Russia and the U.K are all so similar, naturally you'd see the same sorts of revolts happening in each of them! But what about the 'yellow vests' in France? Why no mention of 'populist' movements in Italy and Greece and Spain? What makes them different?
This is a revolt by those who think they are true elites against those they consider usurpers or false elites.
Very true. Ghanchis have been saying for a long time- 'we are hereditary oil-pressers by caste. We are the true elite.' That's why Modi is Prime Minister. From birth he was told that he had an entitlement to the highest office in the land.
Third, the revolt of these new elites is against the chains that have bound them in the epoch of liberal democracy.
But, Appadurai you silly man, you are saying their revolt has succeeded! Thus no 'chains bound them' in the preceding epoch.
They hate liberty, equality and fraternity, except for themselves.
How does Appadurai know? Perhaps he thinks those he castigates are like unto himself in this respect.
They hate checks and balances, which they view as illegitimate restrictions on their freedom to act without restraint. They hate regulations of any type, especially of corporate privileges, which they see as a conspiracy against capitalism which they view as their private jurisdiction. And above all, they hate deliberation and procedural rationality, since they involve listening, patience and adherence to collective rationalities. They also do not believe in the separation of powers, except when their friends control the legislature and the judiciary.
Appadurai is describing the behavior of senior Liberal Arts Academics like himself. But the upshot is that portion of the Academy shrinks and becomes adversely selective. If regimes are dysfunctional, they get voted out. Why pretend that any of the 'autocrats' Appadurai mentions can't be displaced at the next General Election?
What this means, most simply, is that the revolt of the new elites is against democracy, but the twist is that this revolt is undertaken in the name of the people.
No. The twist is there are no new elites- more particularly because Appadurai insists they are actually the old elites rebelling against the increasing power of Homosexual Minorities.
In other words, the modern idea of the people has been completely split from the idea of demos and democracy. This is a revolt – in the sense that uprisings to seize power are always revolts – but not a revolution, intended to change something in the fundamental order of polity or economy. This revolt is the effort by one elite to replace another.
So this isn't a revolt. It is merely the ordinary working of the law of the circulation of elites.
All this might seem overly general and historically familiar if we do not ask a few sociological questions. What is the nature of this new elite? Who defines its conditions of entry? Who speaks for it? What are its social roots? These questions quickly bring us to specific societies and states.
But specific societies and states have already decided that people who ask sociological questions are as thick as shit.
In the case of the United States, the elite that Trump speaks for and to come from backgrounds like his: they are not over-educated, they are mobile entrepreneurs or politicians, they are the rulers of the Republican Senate, the Republican side of the House, and Tea Party jetsam and flotsam at every level of politics. In addition, they include the more megalomaniac or neo-fascist CEOs (including Silicon Valley icons like Peter Thiel), the vast majority of the television and radio media, and the extensive network of racist and greedy evangelical pastors, churches and donors. Add to this the careerist hacks in the major right-wing think-tanks.
But these guys have been around for a long time! Where is the 'revolt'?
At the very core of this network of elites without any obvious cultural roots, status or history are secret networks such as those in the Federalist Society,
Wow! The Federalist Society is a 'secret network'! Who knew!
with ties to such transnational groups as Opus Dei.
who employ albino assassins.
These are networks of opportunism, greed and profiteering which have no other traditional ties or values.
coz Opus Dei aint Catholic. It is a bunch of Jews, Freemasons, atheists and other such rootless cosmopolitans.
A similar picture could be painted of the elites of the current regime in India, which is openly contemptuous of every democratic institution except elections. It is composed of half-educated economists, career thugs, kleptocratic business tycoons that work through monopoly, lobbying and straightforward corruption, and the newly shameless class of criminal politicians and legislators.
But this has always been the case! Still, things have gotten better. Unlike Manmohan, Modi does not have any actual murderers in his Cabinet.
The revolt of this elite is against every person or group associated with Nehruvian socialism, secularism and pluralism.
Yet, one of Nehru's two great-grandsons is an M.P for the ruling party while the other is with the Opposition. Had his Daddy not died in a glider accident, Maneka, not Sonia, would be heading the Congress party and Varun, not Rahul, would be a P.M candidate.
It is an elite that believes that the Hindu Right (their own club) are the sleeper-saviours of Indian history, waking up after the long slumber of Mughal, British and Congress rule, an alliance forged in the crucible of anti-Muslim ideologies, policies and pogroms. There is no real class unity for this revolting elite, except for their hold on the means of impunity, political, social and economic. Like Trump’s elite partners, this is an elite of opportunism, lubricated by contempt for participatory institutions of every type.
So, Appadurai's 'social imaginary' lets him see India and America as identical. Yet, one country is rich. The other is poor. Their histories are very different. Yet, for Appadurai, they are identical. What happens in one country must happen in the other because Americans and Indians are virtually identical.

Although I do not know enough about the social origins and pet peeves of Erdogan’s crew, or Putin’s, or Bolsonaro’s, or Duterte’s, I am prepared to speculate
on the basis of impartial ignorance
that each of these revolting elites has a similar profile: resentment of traditional cultural and social elites, contempt for liberal proceduralism, hatred of intellectuals, academics, artists, activists, socialists, feminists, admiration for capitalism so long as it regulated only in their favour, and a hatred of democracy matched by their cultish pursuit of the voter (rather than the people).
Appadurai has made a great discovery. Everybody is actually the same person. Why bother with Geography and Linguistics and so forth? Whatever Appadurai says is happening in one country- viz. the elites are revolting- must be happening everywhere else. Such is the power of the 'Social imaginary'.

Orban has just declared his eternal and absolute power in Hungary, Trump has required his name to be printed on COVID-19 relief checks and said that he can use emergency powers to do whatever he likes in the present crisis. Modi has more or less declared himself above the constitution of India, has made common and public cause with Bolsonaro, Trump and Netanyahu, and has used the COVID-19 crisis to extend to all of India the policies of curfew, police beatings, false imprisonments and generalised repression tested in Kashmir. In all these moves, these leaders rely on a network of sympathisers and collaborators who believe that they will thrive if they comply with the Supreme Leader.
Previously, Appadurai had mentioned Boris Johnson as representing a similar 'revolt of the elites'. Why no mention of BoJo in the above list?

Thus, if the elites who characterise many of the world’s new populist autocracies are “populists from above” elites revolting against previous elites, revolted by liberal democracy, how do we account for their followers, their voters, and their base, the “people” in whose name and with whose burning consent they are undoing many democratic structures, values and traditions?
We know how Appadurai accounts for them. They are all actually the same person.
There are some familiar answers to this most troubling question. One is that these autocrats understand and use the instruments of affect (sentiments of love, loss, sacrifice, hate, anger) whereas their opponents are adrift in a sea of quasi-academic arguments about concepts, norms and logic, which have lost all popular purchase.
In other words, guys who get elected talk like normal people while guys who don't get elected talk gobbledygook.
The second is that there is something about the global rise of technologies of aspiration (advertising, consumer goods, celebrity cults, corporate windfalls) that has made the poor and subaltern classes impatient with the slowness of liberal deliberative processes. They want prosperity and dignity now, and these leaders promise it to them.
Unlike when Obama was in office when people said 'we don't want prosperity and dignity now. We prefer poverty and humiliation.'
Another argument is that the lower classes are so fed up with the exclusion, impoverishment and humiliation that they identify with their predatory leaders (who simply grab what they want) that they are more than ever susceptible to the distractions of ethnophobia (against Muslims, refugees, Chinese, Gypsies, Jews, migrants, and so on). All these arguments make some sense in some national contexts
to Appadurai. But the man is as stupid as shit.

But I suggest that the biggest insight that Ortega y Gasset offers is to help us to see that we are in the beginnings of an epoch in which the revolt of the masses has been captured, coopted and displaced by the revolt of the elites.
So Gassy Gasset helps Appadurai to see he is at the beginning of some epoch or the other. For him personally, if not death, it is likely to be dementia. For the rest of us, however, no epoch is beginning or ending. We now know that the Liberal Arts are shite. Professors of shite subjects develop a mania for parading their naked imbecility on shittier and shittier E-fora. Just think, if Appadurai had kept his mouth shut and pretended to know about headhunting cannibals, we'd still think well of him.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Vitae Summa Brevis... et domus exilis Plutonia

That there was once a Day long enough to stretch to Wine and Roses
Only the Divorcee's bitter Anniversary supposes
Not just in Horticulture must Horace blunder
Every Vintage outlasts its Wonder

& as Vandals under whom conquered Vineyards to the desert return
 to drink of the deeper cellared, we yet pillage & burn.
For aye we live tho', in Truth, of shame, we die
Where in Youth we did most lame & ineffectually lie

Christopher Horner, Beyonce & the Beautiful Soul

 Christopher Horner  in 3 Quarks
notes the troubling presence of a phenomenon that characterises too much of politics in and beyond the left. This is the Beautiful Soul. Let me explain.

The term occurs in Hegel, and I am going to wrench his account, without apologies, from its context in the Phenomenology of Spirit, as he  captures something that is a feature of the modern political landscape. The Beautiful Soul – let’s call it ‘BS’ – comes up when Hegel describes a certain kind of romantic sensibility.
Hegel was looking at ' The antinomy of the moral view of the world, viz. that there is a moral consciousness, and that there is none, or that the validation of duty lies beyond consciousness, and conversely, takes place in it- these contradictions were gathered up in the idea in which the non-moral consciousness has validity, its contingent knowing and willing are assumed to
have full weight, and happiness is granted to it as an act of grace. Moral self-consciousness did not accept responsibility for this self-contradictory idea, but shifted it on to a being other than itself.'

This means that Hegel is examining 'an unhappy consciousness' which feels it is subordinate to something outside itself without being able to accept, or propose, a theological grounding for such subordination or alienation. Thus, 'conscience' here is something different than it would be for a 'honest consciousness' at home in the world. This 'unhappy consciousness' is either ontologically dysphoric or else it has dynamics and therefore is dialectical and thus can potentially be reconciled to this world.

By contrast, for 'honest consciousness', the world is 'one period'. There is the right thing to do and the intention to do the right thing. Neither past nor future matter. Conscience is not something tactical or strategic. It is univocal. It may be 'natural' as in the theological idea of synderesis. The Scottish, 'common sense' philosopher, Thomas Reid, influenced F.H Jacobi whose novel 'Waldemar' influenced Hegel's notion of the 'Beautiful Soul' who must confess his error so as to be readmitted to comradeship on the common sense terms of a moral and ethical fellowship. Hegel however is a post-Kantian. He can't be happy with a Scottish type of 'honest consciousness', which may be perfectly happy with itself so long as it is undeniably utile. Rather Hegel recognises that the 'thing in itself' Reality which underlies 'common moral consciousness', is, quite justifiably, exactly what the self-reflective Beautiful Soul must consider 'evil' because it is in some sense heteronomous and involves compromise with the powers that be.

I may mention that the Jains, who have a relativist Epistemology but a 'common sense' type of atomistic ontology, would equate the 'kevalyin' (i.e. liberated and omniscient being) with the Beautiful Soul which will do no wrong and which has no other on which to act. The same can be said of the older Buddhist notion of a 'Pratyeka Buddha'.

Jains do a lot of charity, though this does not 'cancel out' negative 'aashrav' (influx of karma binding particles) and piously venerate their 'Tirthankars' though they resolutely maintain that 'substance can't act on substance.' No Grace is operative. We may imitate the enlightened till our own conception of the world accords with that Enlightenment. We have no greater cause to complain that the Enlightened aren't Enlightening us that we do that other people aren't answering calls of nature on our behalf. The Jain, or various Hindu and Buddhist or Theosophical, conceptions of the Mahatmas- who possess souls of singular Beauty which therefore become a purely aesthetic, or metaphorical, efficient cause for soteriology- are in contradistinction to notions of 'Incarnation'- which, of course, Hegel as a salaried Prussian Civil Servant, needed to give place for. However, there are Religions which reject the notion of Incarnation. Heredity is itself a type of incarnation. But, unless one is supporting a supposedly Socialist Dynasty, it is not clear why 'Left Hegelians' need to bother with the dialectic of 'the Beautiful Soul'. After all, if Incarnation is not on the Soteriological table, it doesn't matter if the 'Pratyeka Buddha' or 'Kevalyin' has become too gaseously Beautiful to remain anchored on Earth. So what if they float away into the Empyrean? Roman 'pietas' suffered no diminution when various Beautiful Bodies, lusted after by Gods, turned into rivers or birds or what have you. The 'bonus paterfamilias', descended though his 'oikos' be from some such Demi-God, nevertheless must exercise such diligent 'economia', even regarding counter-parties, that no 'culpa levis in abstracto' occurs. The Beautiful Soul may exercise itself over matters which class as 'akrebia', not 'economia', but then Beauty is not a necessary predicate of the bonus paterfamilias. This is the Scottish 'common sense' view which fired the Teutonic 'Liberalism of the Officials' and whose most notable exponent was Christian Jakob Kraus. Contra Kant, the Beamtenliberalen thought there was no need for a Frederick the Great to provide 'the hard shell' within which the seed of 'Enlightened' autonomy might develop. After that monarch died, this was the natural view of things. Yet, Kant remained popular precisely because Despots remained Despots and Enlightenment's horizon had contracted into such Dawns of Freedom as 'History on Horseback' Despotism might providentially incarnate. But this was scarcely Scottish 'Honesty' or, indeed, 'Common Sense'.

Hegel, squaring that circle, says ' While the 'honest consciousness' always seizes merely the empty thing itself, conscience, on the other hand, wins the thing in its fullness, a fullness given to it by conscience itself. Conscience is this power because it knows the moments of consciousness as moments, dominating them as their negative essence.'

 But this is not how the word 'conscience' is ordinarily understood by 'common moral consciousness'. Hegel is describing consciousness of an acutely self-aware and critical type which we have no good reason not to think of as a histrionic, virtue signalling, nuisance. But Hegel, because of his peculiar type of Idealism, thinks Conscience must have a dialectical form. But why should it? One might say 'Spirit' demands it or 'God' ensures it or something of that sort. But why should there not be some consciousness which is transparent to that Spirit or to God? After all, there are plenty of people who say they are nothing but the humble vessel of some type of Spirit or, indeed, of the Creator of the Universe. Such 'Prophets' may serve as the 'Conscience' of Society.  Hegel, as an employee of the Prussian State, had a good reason not to worry too much about this objection. He had a job to do and he did it to the best of his ability. The 'Beamtenliberalen', 'cameralist Liberals', might retain Beautiful Souls but Hegel's thought must sport stigmata and invoke kenosis. The Geist it celebrates must accommodate Christology's Holy Ghost.

Hegel says that the 'unhappy consciousness' is only implicitly 'the notion of Reason'. The next step would be Reason reasoning with itself but what if Consciousness gets stuck in that way? To preserve the purity of its heart, it flees from contact with actuality, and it steadfastly perseveres in its obstinate powerlessness to renounce its own self, a self which has been tapered to the final point of abstraction. It stably exists in its powerlessness to give itself substantiality, or to transform its thinking into being and to entrust itself to absolute difference. The hollow object which it generates to itself it thus now fills only with the consciousness of emptiness. It is a yearning which only loses itself as it becomes an essenceless object, and as it goes beyond this loss and then falls back on itself, it only finds itself as lost. – In this transparent purity of its moments it becomes an unhappy, so-called beautiful soul, and its burning embers gradually die out, and, as they do, the beautiful soul vanishes like a shapeless vapor dissolving into thin air.
The beautiful soul is also displaying a 'hard heart' to the other with whom it ought to be interacting. Inasmuch as the self-certain spirit as a beautiful soul does not now possess the force to relinquish itself of the self-knowing holding onto itself, it cannot arrive at an equality with the consciousness it has repulsed, and thus it cannot arrive at the intuited unity of itself in an other, and it cannot arrive at existence. Hence, the equality comes about only negatively, as a spirit-less being. The beautiful soul, lacking all actuality, caught in the contradiction between its pure self and its necessity to empty itself into being and to turn itself around into actuality, in the immediacy of this opposition to which it adheres – in an immediacy which is alone the mediating middle and the reconciliation of an opposition which has been intensively raised to the point of its pure abstraction, and which is itself pure being or empty nothingness – is thus, as the consciousness of this contradiction in its unreconciled immediacy, shattered into madness and melts into a yearning, tubercular consumption. It thereby in fact gives up its severe adherence to its being-for-itself but engenders only the spiritless unity of being.

This may be what happens in certain genres of romantic poetry but what does it  have to do with Politics? After all, beauty is only interesting because it is attractive- sexually or otherwise- and we feel a resentment that the thing is being meanly held back for some neurotic, or megalomaniacal, reason.

Horner explains-
The BS is someone who relies on his or her inner feeling, conscience and sense of what they know in their heart to be right. It’s this inner sense that they consult in order to know what is right. It’s a complex world, hard to make sense of, and harder still to do the right thing. So it is difficult to criticise this impulse. But the BS wants purity in a messy world, and the purity of their convictions is the supreme thing. So they cannot accept less from the decisions they make, or from the people they meet.
This is all very well, but why would one want anything from a beautiful soul? A beautiful body- okay, sure, I get that- but a soul?  I suppose the picture which arises in our mind is of someone with a lot of money living a refined life. That fucker should hand it over to us for the cause just as someone with a beautiful body should hand it over for the sexual gratification of the comrades.

The trouble here is that not everybody who is in interested in politics wants to embezzle money from wealthy narcissists or to pimp good looking, preferably upper class, young people.

If such a thing as a BS exists, why should we care who pimps or otherwise profits from it? Politically, the thing scarcely matters precisely because it only pimping that is going on. Narcissism or stupidity are scarcely the qualities we look for in 'effective political actors'.

This leads the BS into a position in which it is difficult to be an effective political actor, since there are only two ways to go with this unconditional demand. We can imagine two Beautiful Souls, each taking one of the two routes. The first BS neither grasps the complexity of the situation nor wishes to, but thinks the purity of their commitment will carry through into their actions.
So, they potentially represent a public nuisance of a particular type. But nuisances we will always have with us. At the margin, they can be curbed by the law or some collective act of disapprobation. After all, if dog owners now pooper-scoop- leaving our pavements less strewn with turds- why should we not hope that in the fullness of time the nuisance caused by virtue signalling gobshites, or fanatical demonstrators, will similarly abate?

On the other hand, in real life there are plenty of very useful people who 'don't grasp the complexity of the situation'. Indeed, they wouldn't be useful, because their actions would not be predictable, if they pretended to understand a type of complexity which, to our knowledge, can't be fully grasped. This is because we see no examples of omniscience in our Social Life. Judges get things wrong same as Stock Brokers and Policemen and Surgeons and Ministers and Generals. Nevertheless, a professional whose understanding is as good as anyone else's, who acts with pure intentions is highly useful because at least one can predict what they will do. We want a Lawyer or an Accountant or a Doctor who will do exactly the same thing for her client regardless of 'complexity'. We don't want a Lawyer who cheerfully says 'I threw your case because from the point of view of the Universe, you ought to be in jail'. Nor do we want a baker who poisons our bread because his knowledge of complexity causes him to believe that this will prevent some greater calamity.
 The second BS goes the other way: they cannot bear to be contaminated by compromises in a corrupt world, and so they withdraw from action entirely, preserving their purity by doing nothing and condemning those who are complicit in the evil of the world.
What's wrong with that? If they are not making a nuisance of themselves, why bother with them? After all, it isn't as though there's any crying shortage of virtue signalling cretins.
This second type mainly confines their politics to the purely verbal, which in 2020 usually means making use of a keyboard.
Hey! That's what I do! Where's the harm? Nobody reads my shite. People do read Horner's shite but only because the guy is better educated than us and so we get to feel better about ourselves because we aren't as stupid and ignorant as he is.

It is easy to see that both types will have problems in being any kind of political actor.
No. The first sort will be a great big nuisance- i.e. a political actor who helps the other side. The second sort don't matter.
Being a Beautiful Soul of either variety means seeing the political as essentially about morality, and about purity and corruption.
But 'common moral consciousness' sees things the same way. Politics features Agent Principal hazard. Striving for 'incentive compatible' mechanisms in political life is highly utile. We can speak of it as curbing corruption and purging impurities or pathogens from the body politic.
Therefore it tends to think in terms of individuals and their virtues, or more often, vices. But what happens when the two BS types meet each other?
Who cares? The thing is a comedy like the encounter between a Sadist and a Masochist. If no violence occurs, then the meta-masochist wins unless the other is a meta-sadist. So this is really a game of rock paper scissors. The solution is for both to play a mixed strategy so that the Masochist never knows whether the outcome was designed to frustrate her. But the same is true of the Sadist.

More generally, assuming Beautiful Souls crop up across the political spectrum, these opposite types merely cancel each other out so, by the magic of the Law of Large numbers, the Condorcet Jury theorem prevails. Democratic Social Choice conforms to what is conscionable.
Hegel stages that encounter for us in the Phenomenology.
Actually, he stages the encounter between 'common moral consciousness' and the complexity obsessed 'beautiful soul'.
Each sees the other as corrupt, possibly evil. The judgmental purist who keeps their hands clean condemns the one who acts as a hypocrite: a person claiming to have high ideals while doing filthy deals and acting in bad faith; likewise, the one who acts from the purest of motives sees the other with the clean conscience as a hypocrite for the same reason – someone who is only concerned with themselves.
This does not actually happen in the Phenomenology. Instead there is a wholly internal drama.  The breaking of the hard heart and its elevation to universality is the same movement which was expressed in the consciousness that confessed. The wounds of the spirit heal and leave no scars behind; it is not the deed which is imperishable, but rather the deed is repossessed by spirit into itself; the aspect of singular individuality, whether present in the deed as intention or as existing negativity and limitation to the deed is what immediately vanishes. However much the opposition into which conscience enters when it acts, expressing it within its innerness, still it is also at the same time the inequality directed outwards in the element of its existence, the inequality of its particular singularity vis-à-vis other singular individuals. – Its particularity consists therein, that both moments constituting its consciousness, the self and the in-itself, each count as having unequal value; that certainty of itself is the essence vis-à-vis the in-itself or vis-à-vis the universal, which only counts as a moment. Confronting this inward determination is thus the element of existence or the universal consciousness, to which universality, duty, is instead the essence; in contrast, singular individuality, which is for itself vis-à-vis the universal, only counts as a sublated moment. To this adherence to duty [the universal consciousness], the first consciousness counts as evil because it is the inequality between its inwardly-turned-being and the universal, and while the latter at the same time also pronounces its doing as equality with itself, as duty and conscientiousness, to the universal consciousness it counts as hypocrisy.
Hegel was a Prussian Civil Servant- like all Professors in Berlin. He could think of duty as univocal. In the Anglo-Saxon system, however, we think of duties as clashing with each other. They are defeasible, not sublatable. There is no higher stand point from which all conflict is resolved.
The movement of this latter opposition is initially the formal establishment of equality between what evil is within itself and what it pronounces; it must come to light that it is evil and thus that its existence is equal to its essence. The hypocrisy must be unmasked. – This return of inequality, which is present within hypocrisy, into equality is not something which has already taken place, so that hypocrisy, as people commonly say, as a result demonstrates its respect for both duty and virtue by seeming to be both of them and then using that semblance as a mask to hide itself from its own consciousness no less than from the consciousness of others, and in which recognition of the opposition would in itself contain the equality and agreement of the two. – Yet at the same time, hypocrisy is just as much beyond this verbal recognition and is reflected into itself; and in using the existent-in-itself only as a being for others, hypocrisy’s own contempt for what exists-in-itself and the exhibition of its total lack of essence is there for all to see. For what lets itself be used as an external instrument shows itself as a thing which has within itself no proper weight of its own.
 This equality is also brought about neither by the evil consciousness
in its one-sided insistence on itself nor by the judgment of the universal. –
However much the former denies itself vis-à-vis the consciousness of duty,
and however much it asserts that what the latter pronounces to be wickedness, absolute inequality with the universal, is instead as an action according to inner law and conscience, still there remains in this one-sided assurance of equality its inequality with the other, for this other neither believes his assurance nor does it give it any recognition. Or, since the one-sided insistence on one extreme dissolves itself, evil would as a result confess to being evil, but in so doing would immediately sublate itself and thus would not be hypocrisy, nor would it have unmasked itself as such hypocrisy. It in fact confesses to being evil through its assertion that it acts according to its own inner law and conscience in opposition to what is recognized as universal. If this law and conscience were not the law of its singular individuality and its own arbitrary free choice, then it would not be something inward, not be something its own, but instead be what is universally recognized. Whoever for that reason says that he acts with regard to others according to his own law and his own conscience is saying in fact that he is mistreating them. 
However, actual conscience is not this insistence on knowing and willing which opposes itself to the universal; rather, the universal is the element of its existence, and its language pronounces its doing as recognized duty.

The empirical Anglo-Saxon tradition recognises no 'duty' as a 'universal'. There may be a Christian moral law. But it isn't universal precisely because Christianity is personal. What of the Marxist Left in Anglo-Saxon countries? Surely, it must have this Hegelian quality because Marx started off as a Young Hegelian? The answer is no. Marx migrated to England and became an English type of economist. Conscience has to do with conscientiousness in the discharge of duties allotted by the invisible hand, which however are infinitely transferable or otherwise defeasible.
The moralism that thinks in terms of evil individuals and corruption at the top tends to be impatient with systemic thinking.
So what? Evil individuals do exist. Corruption is a real problem. Impatience with both is a good thing.
Still less can it easily come to terms with others who differ, even when those differences are relatively minor, and between those on the same side.
Why? Either the guy who differs from you is evil or corrupt- in which case there will be evidence of this, of a criminal nature- or else you are a paranoid fantasist whom others should give a wide berth.
In short, they are not good at understanding what it is to be a comrade.
This may be a feature of mental illness or incorrigible antaganomia.
A comrade is someone with whom you work towards a common goal; the comrade need not be your friend and they need not be admirable or in agreement with you on a range of issues, but they are with you in the key political goals you have jointly taken on.
But a bunch of comrades get to chuck out gobshites and nutters. All that remains is cooperation of the same sort that obtains in the non-political realm.
They may be quite annoying in a number of ways. It doesn’t matter. Both share in the project of transforming the world, a project that always changes those who undertake it.
Or preventing the world being transformed into shite- a project that may also prevent your turning into a mere gobshite.
The ‘narcissism of small differences’ has often been remarked on in this context.
An English school-master came up with this term which Freud popularized. It has nothing to do with Romanticism.
The origin of it comes from a romantic notion of what it is to be political that conflates the moral judgement of individuals with the political analysis of a system that is irrational and unjust.
No. It was about how small, neighbouring, countries exaggerate their differences. But this is a feature of 'monopolistic competition'- i.e. where barriers to entry are low, 'product differentiation' occurs. The result is a lot of 'spare capacity'. This is one reason Marx's economic predictions fail.
This is intensified when politics happens not in a street or a meeting, but though a screen, with a key board.
But the key-board only matters because politics does not happen on the street or in meetings. Rather there is information and preference aggregation through things like the Media and Marketing Agencies and, ultimately, the Ballot Box.
I won’t rehearse here the well known effects of that medium on the way we engage, or often fail to engage, with others.
If we 'fail to engage with others'- as Socioproctological blogs must intend to do- then we have amused ourselves without causing a public nuisance. No one else cares if you take a dump on a road nobody but yourself walks down.
If we do 'engage with others' then, sure, there is a potential nuisance. But people can try not to shit on the thoroughfare simply as a matter of 'common morality'. Anyway, we can always avoid the guy who has crouched down to take a dump if the thoroughfare is broad enough or if we can hop on a bus or other such more rapid conveyance. In other words, the ranters and ravers on the internet can be bypassed by going to a conscientiously curated 'expert' site.
But it is worth recalling that this isolating effect is one that capitalism encourages.
No. As Graciella Chichilnisky's work has shown, for markets- or language, come to that- to exist, a Goldilocks condition for preference and endowment diversity must exist. Capitalism is about coordination games, involving larger and larger numbers, though because of Hedging against Uncertainty as well as 'Income effects', there are corresponding 'Discoordination' games such that 'rents' can be secured and arbitrage opportunities opened up.
A certain attitude akin to consumerism sets in: you don’t like this ideology, that view, this person? Delete it, block it, cancel them.
Nothing wrong in that. To have friends doesn't mean having to be everybody's friend. Nor does finding a sexual partner necessarily imply having to fuck all comers.
They’ve gone as surely as an unwanted item on a shopping list from the online supermarket delivery service.
Does Horner believe that people we 'block' are fulminated from the Universe? If I delete Captain Morgan in favour of Bacardi from my shopping list- does the former brand of Rum cease to exist? If I continue to refuse to sleep with Beyonce, is she doomed to virginity for the rest of her life? Sorry, that was a bad example. Beyonce is definitely a virgin. Maybe I should consider letting her sate her lust riding my micro-penis.

In a similar way to that of a brand of clothing that is supposed to express one’s ‘unique personality,’ a moralising stance expresses one’s self-branding as an identity.
No. This is 'signalling', not auto-poiesis. To 'self-brand' would involve some copyrightable intellectual property.
But what goes with this is a kind of persecutory superego-effect, a gaze that the BS feels on themselves and everyone else, and which threatens anyone who says or does the wrong thing.
Signalling can hyper-trophy, sure enough. But what Horner is describing is a type of pathology anyone- not just a solipsistic BS- can succumb to. It happens in all walks of life. One's idee fixe can turn one into a bore all too easily. I notice that people tend to edge away from me at cocktail parties the moment I bring up the topic of Beyonce. Jealousy, no doubt, but still it hurts. I like to think of myself as a charming and genial host. Sadly, my guests tend increasingly to be cats.
This can induce anxiety and depression.
Tell me about it! The cats, on the excuse of the lockdown, are no longer attending my elegant soirees.
And it takes us back to the question of how one relates to a collective when it goes wrong or seems to fail. The BS has a simple solution: if the party lets you down, you leave it. Cancel your subscription. That’ll teach them! Except it won’t: a political party isn’t like a girlfriend or boyfriend. You may get the pleasant sensation of having been cleansed of something disappointingly compromised, but leaving and sulking has no effect on it at all. Meanwhile the world rolls on.
A political party is unlike a g.f- who has since hooked up with a hunk- in that it takes money of its members. Thus it is more like a prostitute. Whores do worry if they lose clients. They may have to invest in expensive S&M equipment and go for niche marketing. This means giving up the flat in Shepherd's Bush for one in Knightsbridge where the rents are sky high. The thing is a gamble.

This pathology isn’t limited to the radical left. There are plenty of centrists for instance, liberals who mouth platitudes about free speech and liberty and do nothing that might expose them to the embarrassment of actually doing anything. Quite the contrary, as they are blind to the hierarchies of power that makes some speech freer than others. As for the right, we too often find a dehumanising intransigence about the views of others coupled with a hangman morality. Their aim is to mythologise and naturalise hierarchy and to celebrate the wonderfulness of the National Tribe while demonising an Other. This is right-wing identitarianism of a particularly toxic kind.
Either these guys 'mouthing platitudes' are 'actually doing nothing' or they are doing everything. Horner must make up his mind. The fact is we all produce shit. Shit is toxic to consume. Nor should you use faeces as a body lotion for all sorts of medical and aesthetic reasons. But we don't speak of our human need to defecate as 'identitarianism of a particularly toxic kind'. No doubt, defecation on public thoroughfares is a grave nuisance and health hazard. But the thing can be curbed by municipal action.
  And then there are the comfortable who do very well out the struggles of others, and  who will tell you in the pub that they are ‘anarchists’ or ‘not political’.
Will they also tell you that Beyonce is crazy for their hot bod? I will. Buy me a pint, why don't you?
What the BS refuses to see here is that their refusal to engage with the dirty world is actually allowing them to benefit from the struggles and suffering of others.
If there is some benefit to be had from the struggles and sufferings of others then I want it. No doubt, it cost Van Gogh great suffering to produce his masterpieces. I buy cheap prints of his work on Ebay and derive an ample benefit. Is this wrong? Should only people who have cut off their ear get to look at a Van Gogh painting?
The BS refuses to act politically and leaves others to do the work for them.
If you refuse to shit in the street you are leaving others- perhaps economically disadvantaged homeless people- to do the work for you. This callousness of yours must stop! Get up out of your comfortable armchair and go into the street. Lower your trousers and at least try to squeeze out a turd or two before the cops come for you.
As Sartre saw, to abstain from action is to be an accomplice and to act is, if not to murder, at least to get one’s hands dirty.
Whereas to write shite is to go out into the street and lower your trousers and squeeze out a turd or two to the great edification of American College Students on their year abroad.

Which brings me, finally, to the second epigraph at the top of this article. Mark Fisher, in a well-known article (Exiting the Vampire Castle)  connected the unforgiving moralism and obsession with purity, to the repression of social class.
Very true. People who object to your shitting on their doorstep have an 'unforgiving moralism' and 'obsession with purity'. Just because there is a turd in the punch-bowl is no reason to leave the party.
I think he was right. To think class, to attend to the ways in which Capital actually operates, is to think systemically and politically.
Capital operates through Capital Markets. To attend to this means studying the Mathematical theory of Finance which, truth be told, is simply hilarious.
In no way should this imply that other forms of oppression – gender, sexuality, race – are not real and important.
They represent price, wage or service provision discrimination. There is a 'Law & Econ' approach which can redress these problems on a significant scale. But you actually have to be a lawyer or an economist with Statistical nous to contribute to this process of redressal. Talking worthless BS about Beautiful Souls is virtue signalling simply.
They are, and they are woven together with the way class crushes or deforms everyone. But to truly leave the ‘Vampire’s Castle’ of snark, cancellation and finger pointing is to move towards seeing what class is, and how it relates to multiple oppressions, to think systemically and positively about what can be done. And to act.
But stupid thinking leads to stupid actions. That helps nobody.

There is no future in personalising, privatising and moralising.
Yes there is. By contrast, pretending it is still the Nineteen Seventies and gassing on in a Hegelian vein is completely passe.
The rending, and self-rending that induces anxiety and depression serves only the interests of Capital.
Really? Soros is a Capitalist. Is he funding Universities for this fell reason? Come to think of it, the LSE, where Soros studied, received a large grant in its early years from the Tatas- Indian Capitalists. OMG! Look at what the Ford Foundation gets up to! The reason people like Horner have PhDs is because Capitalism is using this Hegelian bullshit to demoralize and mislead the proletariat! Only through a sustained and systematic program of Beyonce impersonation can we throw off our mind-forged manacles.
And it makes things easy for the right. I have said a lot about finger pointing on the left, but the dark web of racist and homophobic abuse that comes from the right is, by comparison, off the scale.To be political isn’t to give up having opponents, but it must lie in something more life-affirming than finger pointing, narcissism and sulk.
So, Beyonce impersonation is the way to go. You know you want to. Shake that booty and start twerking NOW!

Monday 20 April 2020

Aikin & Talisse must break up for Democracy to 'trive'

Scott Aikin & Talisse write, at 3 Quarks,
Democracy is a precious social good.
This is false. Democracy is a political arrangement which may or may not be productive of social good. It is not valuable in itself- i.e. people would not vote for it unless there was some individual benefit they received from its existence.
Not only is it necessary for legitimate government,
This is quite false. A Democratic government may lack legitimacy to tackle insurgent or revolutionary elements. As happened in Venezuela, it might let a coup leader out of prison with the result that a ruthless Dictatorship is installed.

A necessary condition for 'legitimate government' is a monopoly of coercion which, at the margin, is only very ineffectively contested.
in its absence other crucial social goods – liberty, autonomy, individuality, community, and the like – tend to spoil.
There is no evidence for this view. Jim Crow era America and Apartheid South Africa were democracies. If you wanted to marry across racial lines you had to cross State borders- into Portuguese controlled territory in the case of South Africa. But Portugal was then a dictatorship.
It is often inferred from this that a perfectly realized democracy would be utopia, a fully just society of self-governing equals working together for their common good.
Which cretins make such an inference? Name and shame the buggers. Deprive them of tenure and chase them out of the Academy.
The flip side of this idea is familiar: the political flaws of a society are ultimately due to its falling short of democracy.
Coz racial, religious, linguistic and other divisions will magically disappear if Democracy were perfected. Also the Sky would turn out to be made entirely of blueberry pie.
The thought runs that as democracy is necessary for securing the other most important social goods, any shortfall in the latter must be due to a deviation from the former.
Who has this thought? I suggest that nobody actually does so. Some may pretend to do so for virtue signalling or 'bullshitting' purposes. But such hypocrisy obtains in many other fields. Why not simply say, 'if everybody were nice, there would be no need for nasty prison cells.'?
This is what led two of the most influential theorists of democracy of the past century, Jane Addams and John Dewey, to hold that the cure for democracy’s ill is always more and better democracy.
But few have ever heard of either. Arrow's theorem, and the whole literature on Voting and Preference Revelation theory put paid to any such notion seventy years ago.
The Addams/Dewey view is committed to the further claim that democracy is an ideal that can be approximated, but never achieved.
But every merely notional thing, including the notion of an ideal or the notion of an approximation, is beyond our reach.
This addition reminds us that the utopia of a fully realized democracy is forever beyond our reach, an ongoing project of striving to more perfectly democratize our individual and collective lives.
It also reminds us that reminding people of stupid shite is an ongoing project of striving to more perfectly remind people of stupid shite.
This view is certainly attractive
to morons.
Trouble lies, however, in making the democratic ideal concrete enough to serve as a guide to real-world politics without thereby deflating it of its ennobling character.
Trouble lies in making vacuous shite into concrete. That is why concrete costs money.
Typically, as the ideal is made more explicit, one finds that it presumes capacities that go far beyond the capabilities of ordinary citizens. It turns out that democracy isn’t only out of our reach, it’s also not for us.
No. It turns out that listening to vacuous shite is not for us.
Those who recoil against this kind of view tend to
be equally stupid. Don't recoil, avoid.
embrace a more realist picture according to which democracy is no aspiration at all, but rather a mechanism for preserving a decent social order under conditions of individual freedom.
This is foolish. We know that no 'mechanism' exists which is capable of 'preserving a decent social order' under any conditions whatsoever. Mechanisms aren't magic.
The thought here is that there’s really no common good for citizens to work towards,
Nonsense! There is 'overlapping consensus' in this regard.  Nobody is saying 'We must blow up the world! Life will be so much better once we are all irradiated corpses.'
only more or less satisfactory decisions made among individuals who have varied preferences and interests.
But, because 'coordination' and 'discoordination' games arise in Social Life- i.e. because everybody is better off if certain conventions and 'channelizations' exist- there is still a 'common good' re. which there is 'overlapping consensus'.
On this view, democracy is that set of institutions and processes that facilitates generally peaceful negotiations among politically opposed parties; when it functions properly, democracy results in bargains and compromises that are tolerable enough to disincentivize revolt.
This is a foolish view. It presupposes something that can't be true viz. that Democracy is not a Tarskian primitive notion. It has an intensional definition in terms of set theory. But this means people can't decide for themselves what Democracy involves and what type of Democracy they want. That is undemocratic.
Revolt won't be disincentivized unless it is heavily punished. America fought a long and very costly Civil War to establish this principle. 'Compromises' and 'Bargains' did not prevent that Civil War. Indeed, Democracy is what made it inevitable.
Though it has the advantage of better capturing practices in contemporary democracies, it also requires one to cede a certain critical stance towards them.
But we all already have a critical stance to how we are governed. We more more of stuff we like- e.g. transfers- and want less of stuff we don't like- e.g. taxes.
Whatever else a conception of democracy must be, it should make intelligible the thought that some flawed political decisions in a democracy owe to the citizens’ failure to live up to democratic ideals.
No. A conception should be useful. It uses up cognitive resources. Only worthless shitheads in utterly shite University departments should talk worthless shite.
Saying 'bad stuff happens coz you failed to live up to some shite or the other' is completely useless.
You may say 'fuck off. I did not fail to live up to my ideals which is why I'm very rich and getting lots of tail while you are an ill-paid pedagogue with a harridan for a wife'. The reply would be 'but, if you lived up to the right ideals the sky would be made of blueberry pie.'
That a procedurally valid but substantively flawed outcome has been implemented stably does not establish its credentials as a proper exercise of democracy.
Yes it does. If the Supreme Court says the thing is kosher, that's exactly what it is. If you disagree then what you are saying is 'I conceive Democracy in my own way- not the way the Constitution says it is to be conceived (i.e. in accordance with the interpretation given by the Bench)'. But this utterance of yours has no probative value. It is merely idle talk.
This is why democratic citizens are entitled to criticize and protest political decisions even when they have been made by way of properly democratic processes.
There is no such entitlement. There may be an immunity. It depends.
The realist view contends that if the democratic process has produced an outcome whose implementation will not spark a revolution, the democratic citizen’s job is done, and any further contestation of the matter is nondemocratic.
It is idle talk which is not itself 'non-democratic'.  There may be an immunity with respect to this contestation if it doesn't cause much of a nuisance. But that may change.
In our new book, Political Argument in a Polarized Age, we develop a conception of democracy that opposes both of these views. 
To call it a 'conception' is only reasonable if one adds that the thing is a fucking monstrous abortion of a wholly unviable type.
Although we ally with the Addams/Dewey tradition (and against the realists) in seeing democracy as an ideal, we reject the claim that social ills are always the result of falling short of that ideal.
This is foolish. If the ideal is unrealizable it may be inexpressible and not cognitively accessible. There is no way off knowing if that inaccessible ideal, if implemented, might not get rid or all social ills and turn the sky into blueberry pie. Suppose there is some type of quantum entanglement in some particular neuron and that some Democratically decided procedure allows all voters to access the secret powers of the Higgs boson so that we enter a multiverse such that all live in their best preferred universe and yet interact in a higher dimension such that their felicity is unimpaired. Then this is the ideal of Democracy. It is Kant's Kingdom of Ends. It is Marx's final stage of pure Communism. It is Bulwer Lytton's 'vril' because anyone can blow up the world if he doesn't like it without anyone else's world blowing up and even the antaganomic blower-upper retaining perfect felicity.
We hold that democracy is an ideal composed of elements that are prone to conflict with one another.
Why? A more ideal ideal would be composed of elements which have overcome this propensity thanks to some clever mechanism design, perhaps with a technological twist.
These conflicts create sites for certain democratic dysfunctions, even when citizens are all performing as they should.
Buy democratic dysfunctions either already have 'sites' or 'sites' don't exist. Mention of them is worthless verbiage. Why speak of some imaginary conflicts creating imaginary sites? Why not simply say 'the dark elves erected the Caste of Naughtiness to the north of the Forest of Niceness. Since then, warfare has been incessant between the archons of Cuteness and the daemons of Uncuddliness.'
Accordingly, democracy suffers some ills that admit of no cure.
Also democracy is wearing a toupee. Its hairdresser told me so. Incidentally, that same hairdresser is having an affair with Democracy's Doctor. That's how come I know it has some ills- like haemorrhoids- which admit of no cure coz its arsehole is located in the Castle of Naughtiness and so the archons of Cuteness aren't able to administer Preparation H to its fundament.'
To explain, democracy is the ideal of self-government among political equals.
No it isn't. Political equals could choose a Monarchy or a Dictatorship or else a Nightwatchman State with Judges but no Kings or Presidents.
Political equality is a complex notion, but it’s clear that a byproduct of such equality is that citizens will exercise their own judgment, think their own thoughts, and formulate their own opinions about politics.
Nonsense! They will outsource 'judgment' to professionals. That's what actual Democracies do. I have the right to say you are a thief. You have the right to suggest that my income from Beyonce celebrity impersonation is actually the reward for plying a nefarious trade. However, we leave it to judges to decide whether or not you really stole my wig or whether or not you libelled me by saying I was a bum-boy rather than a jobbing Cost and Management Accountant who pretends that his exiguous earnings derive from his skill at twerking.
This means that citizens will inevitably disagree about such matters.
No. It is inevitable that they ought to disagree. Whether they actually do so is not inevitable at all.
And insofar as they are members of a self-governing polity, these disagreements will be engaged in some way:
they may be- but again they may not.
democratic citizens will not only hold different and opposing views about politics, they will also argue with one another about politics.
they are more likely to find this a waste of time and outsource the thing to professionals.
Now, even under the most favorable conditions, argumentation over important matters is fraught. Yet, as we document in the book, when arguing over matters of politics, particularly in a democratic context where we are required to regard our interlocutors as our political equals, novel obstacles emerge.
No Democracy requires us to regard interlocutors as other than imbeciles, not our equals at all. It is my claim that my voice commands many more votes than yours does.
To be specific, the urgency and moral stakes that are in play in most political debates amplify the need for competent and precise argumentation.
That may be true of Judicial, or other protocol bound, disputation. It is not true of political debates. Saying 'okay boomer. Whatever dude. ' works better than any 'competent and precise argumentation. Also, the ability to twerk like Beyonce lends one's utterances a certain undeniable gravitas, if not indefeasibility.
This requires us to develop a vocabulary for evaluating one another’s (and our own) argumentative performances.
Fuck off! That's the most effective vocabulary.
For example, we must craft a diagnostic idiom for identifying fallacies and other common foibles of reasoning.
No we mustn't. The thing is a waste of time. The above is a good example of a fallacy- viz. that imperative statements should (or can) have a logical form in order to be prescriptive.
However, politics is intrinsically messy, and consequently so too is the diagnostic vocabulary.
Fuck off you stupid wanker is 'diagnostic vocabulary'. It could involve messiness if you actually jerk off in the direction of the wanker you are instructing to fuck off. But, unless your ejaculate can really arch over considerable distances, this is not- speaking generally- an effective rhetorical strategy.
Witness terms like “politicize,” “fake news,” “troll,” “weaponize,” and “civility.”
What they have in common is that they are useful at this particular point in our history just as terms like mugwump or goo-goo was useful at some other point.
These terms enter the political diagnostic vocabulary as means for identifying errors in argumentation.
No. They impugn the objectivity and alethic quality of statements which may or may not have a logical form- i.e. qualify as 'argumentation'.
However, partly because they are crafted in media res and partly because we function both as players and referees in argumentation, such concepts are inevitably fuzzy and variable.
Surely, for the vast majority of us, they are 'ready at hand', not 'crafted' in the heat of battle. But they are 'ready at hand'- unlike stuff you just made up- e.g calling an advocate of the Capabilities approach a big fat Sen-na-pod- precisely because they represent clear and fixed, not fuzzy or variable, concepts- at least within the context you have in mind.

It is a different matter that individuals conceptualize 'Schelling focal' terms in different ways. But that does not mean such focal points are fuzzy or variable, though they may be computationally or cognitively inaccessible. The 'Grothendieck Universe' in which we do Math has an inaccessible Cardinal. But that Cardinal is not fuzzy nor variable- it is merely inaccessible.
Given certain baked-in psychological inclinations, such as our tendency to positively evaluate arguments for conclusions we agree with even when they’re flagrantly fallacious,
but we may do the same thing with respect to arguments we don't give a shit about
our deployments of that vocabulary quickly devolve from being ways to diagnose errors in reasoning into new ways to express our favored conclusions.
Only if we are stupid or the thing doesn't matter two shits. Otherwise, we devise protocol bound, impersonal, juristic processes so as to advance a particular epistemic program or implement a particular Social Choice Mechanism. 
To give one vivid example, the realities of online political communication necessitated the coining of the term “bot” to refer to a social media account enacted by computer code to mimic human partisans.
No. The increasing ubiquity of non-human agents- robots of a particular sort- on certain fora, gave rise to the need for an economical way to refer to the phenomenon.
Now, however, in online discourse, “bot” is used as a term of abuse against human interlocutors with whom one disagrees.
But the suggestion is that the person in question is acting like a robot either because they have been paid to do so or because their own cognitive processes have been hijacked by the human equivalent of a computer virus.
As a result, democratic discourse devolves into a thinly disguised form of name-calling.
Nonsense! A not so thinly disguised form of name-calling, which masquerades as 'democratic discourse', loses its rags and attempts to appropriate the vocabulary of its mockers. It's like what happens when you try to explain, using a context-free Extended Backus Naur form of argumentation, why you have the right to watch 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' instead of 'Tellytubbies' but your interlocutor keeps saying 'poopy-head' till you lose your rag and say 'you're the big poopy-head! Not me. I have a degree from the LSE. Your parents are paying me big bucks to sit here with you. So who is the real poopy-head- me or you?' Anyway, that's the one argument with Raghuram Rajan that I actually lost.
There is no way to insulate our diagnostic concepts from this kind of devolution.
Yes there is. Every worthwhile type of discourse- one that can 'pay its way'- quickly evolves a protocol bound adjudicating process of an impersonal or alethic sort. So long as there is competition between such processes on an uncertain fitness landscape, no 'devolution' occurs. This does not mean that every Research Program which is currently degenerate was necessarily shite. But, what is certain is that it wasn't robust enough to 'pay its way'. 
And, what’s more, the devolution is often the result of our sincere attempts to reason well together.
But Scott & Aiken have never reasoned well together. They should split up.  It's like me and Beyonce. We both started off at the Karol Bagh skool of Mudern Dunce. But she got gender reassignment surgery and, I hear, is doing quite well for herself. I'm doing very well too. Really amazing stuff is happening for me. Big big wins all day, everyday. Truly Cosmic. I feel so Blessed. And, no, I won't release my tax returns but it I did, I gotta tell you that stuff is so-ooo fantastic it would just blow your tiny mind.

By contrast, Scott & Aiken got engaged but never managed to conceive anything with legs.
Our spirited engagements of democratic citizenship heighten our vulnerability to cognitive forces that distort our collective political reasoning.
Spirited engagements need not make you vulnerable to distortionary cognitive forces. Anyway, you could always adopt.
If your job is 'political reasoning' then, if your 'spirited engagement' is making the both of you utterly shite at it, then break up. Go your own separate ways.  Democracy won't suffer at all. It won't notice. That's the trouble with aggregating mechanism operating over millions of individual preference profiles. Stupid shite tends to cancel out against stupid shite of an opposite stripe. This is the magic of the Law of Large Numbers or the Condorcet Jury theorem. Get over yourselves. Split up and you too, like me & Beyonce, can achieve success in diverse fields.
Democracy suffers, even though citizens are acting as they should.
No it doesn't. Mechanisms are impassable, like the God of the theologians. It is not the case that the Cosmos entire weeps tears of blood every time you touch yourself inappropriately or get a hard on mistaking Beyonce for me.

If the fitness landscape for citizens is both heterogeneous and uncertain, then diagnostic parameters for Social Mechanisms must fluctuate. If they don't, it means- by something like Fisher's fundamental theorem- that the arrangement is not 'regret minimizing'. It reduces 'evolvability' in a manner potentially catastrophic.
Hence there is an ill for which more and better democracy cannot be the cure, because there is no cure.
Nor is there an illness as opposed to something some 'spiritedly engaged' couple disapprove of. 
However, the upshot of Political Argument in a Polarized Age is not despairing.
Because its cretinism impugns only a branch of Academia we stopped despairing of in order to make it a collective butt of satire and, there but for the grace of God, and my grades being too low to get into Grad School, schandenfreude. 
The point is not that democracy is doomed, but rather that in order to avoid doom democracy must be maintained.
Nonsense! Scott & Talisse must break up. They must not pay maintenance to each other. I know that both think the other will resort to environmentally unsustainable levels of onanism without such maintenance but tough shit, Gaia. Look after yourself the way the Cosmos does. By contrast, the Sun only rises so as to feast its gaze on my twerking. Without this necessary act of maintenance on my part, that yellow dwarf would fuck off to find Snow White at the heart of the Milky Way.
This means giving up the realist idea that democracy is simply a set of institutions and procedures that can be established and then left to run themselves.
So to make a little money pretending to provide maintenance services to Democracy or a yellow dwarf star or God or the Cosmos, you have to give up a 'realist idea'.
But it is not a realist idea that anything we have a theory, or a model, about was actually established by that theory, or model, and then 'left to run itself'. 
But is also means giving up on the idea that all of our political failings are due to an incomplete or imperfect realization of democracy.
An incomplete or imperfect 'realization of democracy' means an objective, protocol bound, juristic Social Choice Mechanism. We don't know, can't know, if some such Mechanism, perhaps using Technology little dreamed of now, might not overcome all of our 'political failings'. We can and do know that thinking in this way is helpful, if done by smart people, and can 'pay its way'. Thus we should not give up this idea at all. 
Democracy is always a work in progress, but it is also a work that, even at its ideal limit, is always flawed.
No. It is never flawed from some ideal perspective. The question is does current idiographic dynamics 'pay for itself' from the 'ideal', post res, intensional theory with 'univalent foundations'. Our guesses at the answer represent a co-evolved process which turns Knightian Uncertainty into a driver for endogenous growth.
In this sense, democracy can’t be fixed but only maintained. And we need to embrace that point if we want democracy to trive.
I have to agree. If these guys had said 'thrive', I'd disagree because what this unlovely couple embrace can't help anything to thrive. But trive is the good. Mobled Queen is good.