Friday, 31 January 2014

Domain Query: Mo' women, mo' problems

The venerable Halfbreed had a question regarding my post on marriage:
What are your thoughts on plural marriage?

You know, sister wives?
Let's get the doctrinaire stuff out of the way right now: for reasons moral, economic, spiritual, and practical, I am categorically against polygamy. In my opinion the only form of marriage that works is the form that has worked for over 10,000 years (probably longer, actually): one man, one woman. Yes, I am well aware that Islam states that it is possible to have up to four wives (six, in some interpretations), since this is what the "prophet" did; it should also be remembered that their "prophet" was also a paedophile, a rapist, and a mass-murdering psychopath. I have supported and defended my position on the subject elsewhere, so I won't waste much time repeating myself here.

(For the record- I have exactly zero problems with a man having multiple long-term relationships or multiple simultaneous relationships while unmarried, provided he does not lie about his intentions with regards to monogamy. I have a big problem with a man sleeping around during marriage- as far as I'm concerned, marriage is a commitment, so don't take it on unless you really mean it.)

Now that this has been dealt with, I'm going to look at the question through the lens of game a bit more closely as a theoretical exercise of sorts- it is, after all, a very interesting question.

Let us suppose, for the sake of discussion alone, that it is legal for one man to marry multiple women but not for one woman to marry multiple men. (Ye cats, it would be depressing if the latter were possible...) From the perspective of a man with a high sex drive, this is theoretically a Very Good Thing- multiple women all available for sex? Who cook and clean for you? And raise your kids and keep your house? Sounds great, right?

The way I see it, there are two major problems with multiple marriage and sister wives.

The first is that, as any married man can attest, marriage is hard work. (I'd like to make it perfectly clear that I'm going by what I've seen from the marriages of my relatives, not from personal experience with the institution- marriage ain't a word, gents, it's a sentence!) And that is if you're married to just one woman- remember that you have to maintain dominance, frame, and masculine strength, and that takes work. Many men these days don't even have that in them. Of those that do, the rewards are unquestionably great and enjoyable, but never forget that marriage is indeed work and needs to be approached with only the most serious commitment. Maintaining frame and "hand" is absolutely critical to making marriage work- I'll be coming back to this later, because interestingly enough, Halfbreed himself actually provides much of the answer to this problem in his latest post.

The second major problem has to do with the nature of women. If you've been reading the literature on game for any length of time, you will have noticed by this point that there are several basic truths about the nature of women:
  1. In virtually every case, a woman will choose to share an Alpha male with several other women over having sole access to a Beta or lower male.
  2. Women are extremely prone to jealousy, which is an incredibly powerful emotion; it can be used to manipulate women through preselection, anxiety due to the presence of rivals, and fitness testing- but it can also destroy relationships with astonishing speed.
  3. Female hypergamy- the very real and very observable hardwired tendency of women to seek out the highest-status man that they can get in socio-sexual terms- requires that a man needs to maintain or enhance his socio-sexual rank in order to start and grow his harem.
  4. Women do not approach relative status in the same way that men do. For men, status is a question of strength and dominance, and it is relatively straightforward for us to work out who is top dog. For women, status is secured through far more underhanded means- i.e. through bitchiness, veiled insults, subtle (and not-so-subtle) peer pressure, and constant competition.
On the first problem, I refer you to Halfbreed's latest post regarding the importance of the "pimp hand". Now I want to make it crystal clear that neither he nor I are advocating naked aggression against anyone. Nor do I at any point seek to equate husbands with pimps, in any capacity whatsoever. I seek only to point out that Halfbreed's basic insight about maintaining a strong frame is a generally applicable and valid rule. Any man, whether he be a virgin out to get his first notch, an experienced player, a married man seeking wedded bliss and stability, or a stone-cold pimp, needs to maintain dominance in his relationships with his women. Without that dominance, he rapidly goes the Way of the Beta.

In practical terms, this simply means that if polygamy were legal, and acceptable, and practical, then any man who chooses to be polygamous would absolutely need to maintain his status as the head of the household. If he did not, his women would eat him alive. There is nothing that disgusts women (and men, for that matter) more thoroughly than a weak or spineless man. If you have multiple women in the same house and the same family, and you're supposedly sleeping with each of them, then you'd damn well better be capable of passing s**t tests with flying colours every time.

Secondly, such a man has to know that a hierarchy would rapidly form. He can influence it himself- and by the way, this is true of soft harems and royal harems as well, subjects on which you'd do well to ask Halfbreed himself about- but unlike a soft harem, in which the women in question don't necessarily know each other, in a polygamous household, they all know each other. If that hierarchy is not kept harmonious through the repeated and overt efforts of the man and his favourite woman to keep it in line, then you've got a very nasty scenario- lots of unbalanced estrogen in a confined space.

I should point out that, from an introvert's perspective, having more than one woman in the house is just painful. We like our privacy and we like our alone time. A lot. Having that intruded upon constantly by multiple women is just beyond the pale, which is why I suspect most deep introverts would be just fine with MLTRs and OLTRs, as Blackdragon calls them, but would find the idea of having multiple women running around in the same house to be a shoulder-sagging prospect. (For more details, and considerable amusement, check this out.)

My final thought on the subject is that in theory, having sister wives is not impossible; it isn't even necessarily undesirable, even though, as I said, I do not agree at all with the concept. I just think that making such an arrangement work would require very strong relationship game. The best analogy that I can think of comes from one of the very few mainstream TV shows that I actually like- a very funny right-wing sitcom called Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen, who plays a "man's man" in a household with three girls and his wife. If you observe the family dynamics at play there, the reason that Mike Baxter is not a henpecked husband in that show, and is actually respected and loved by his children, is because he is unquestionably the head of his household and demonstrates this repeatedly and effortlessly. (There is an episode in which, right at the end, his youngest daughter is on a date with this idiot kid in the living room- while Mike is cleaning his shotgun in plain sight in the den; that is exactly what I'm on about. Plus, it's hilarious.)

As with any other kind of relationship, masculine strength and dominance are key to success, just even more so (i.e. turn it all the way up to 11).

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Why it's good to be English

Aside from the rather grating grammatical error that Hiddles makes somewhere in the middle ("obsessed by power"??? Where did the idiot who wrote that line of dialogue learn to speak English?), this is without question one of the funniest and best ads I've ever seen. It is indeed good to be bad(ass)!

The triumph of steel


STEP 1: Hail the Lord of Steel!


STEP 3: Adjust your gear so that you don't look like a complete tool:

How, and when, NOT to wear a belt

Services held at least three times a week.
Mocking gym idiots a specialty.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The chicken-or-egg question

Uh... it does?
As mentioned in my review of David P. Goldman's book, How Civilisations Die (and Why Islam is Dying Too), the author, better known as the online conservative columnist Spengler, peppered that same book with a series of thought-provoking epigrams that he calls "Spengler's Universal Laws" that formed the backbone of the entire book and generally provided a theme for his writing. One of those laws recently came to mind when I thought about the nature and realities of the modern sexual market place:
Spengler's Universal Law #11: At all times and in all places, the men and women of every culture deserve each other.
If you think about it, this goes a very long way toward explaining just how bad things have gotten in the West in terms of sex and marriage. It explains perfectly the current reality of the SMP. The distribution of the SMP is heavily skewed to the left, where a woman's SMV peaks young and declines dramatically over time, while a man's rises over time until about the age of 50 and then slowly declines after that. Modern women lament the endemic of feminised, sackless beta males who refuse to "man up" and marry them after they've finished riding the carousel and taken in a yard (or ten, or more) of cock; modern men lament the demise of sweet, feminine, nurturing women even as they beat off to freely available porn and lose themselves in video games while never eating right or lifting heavy stuff or doing an honest day's worth of self-improvement in their lives.

Meanwhile, at the very edge of the SMP, natural and studied alphas clean up with the horniest and most beautiful women and spend as much of their time as possible improving their bodies, their minds, and their game, while the most eligible women glom onto men who are willing to put up with their "eccentricities" in order to act as providers and protectors.

In every way, Spengler's 11th Law perfectly describes the modern nature of the SMP.

What it doesn't do is answer the broader question as to why this happened. Nor does it explain who is truly at fault- men, or women? That seems like a chicken-or-egg question if there ever was one.

In fact, there is an answer to it. For that, we need to turn to several of Spengler's other laws. Specifically, we need:
Spengler's Universal Law #7: Political models are like automobile models: you can't have them unless you can pay for them. 
Spengler's Universal Law #14: Stick around long enough, and your civilization will turn into a theme park. 
Spengler's Universal Law #15: When we worship ourselves, eventually we become the god that failed.
And perhaps most importantly, we need:
Spengler's Universal Law #20: Democracy only gives people the kind of government they deserve. 
This is perhaps most relevant in relation to concepts like universal suffrage and equal rights for all- a political model that demands a truly astronomical price, yet that price does not become apparent until years or decades later. The funny thing about equality is that when you try to make everyone equal, you inevitably end up introducing inequality whether you like it or not. You end up in a situation where once-free men and women lose faith in ancient virtues and ancient gods, and begin worshipping themselves instead. (If you don't believe me, check out what happened to Germany after Bismarck reunified it under Prussian rule and introduced a massive welfare-state bureaucracy- he did so with the specific intent of keeping the ruling Juncker class in power for as long as possible by drugging the masses with promises of endless panem et circenses.) And in fact that is exactly what happened when America (along with most of the West) abandoned strict limits on power in favour of universal democracy, and rejected masculine virtues for the softer, though transient, joys of welfare-statism.

This did not happen overnight, to be sure. It took over a century of progress and rapid economic growth for this country to get to the point where the masculine virtues that created it seemed no longer appropriate or sufficient. The God-fearing, hard-working, strictly hierarchical values of the men who built this land were tossed aside in favour of utopian values brought over from the increasingly welfare-statist European nations. The resulting erosion of liberty is coming to a head in our generation; we will probably be the last generation to have even a remote understanding of what it truly means to have freedom in any form. And today, Western civilisation is indeed little better than a cross between a theme-park and a toilet- bereft of masculinity, direction, and hope.

The question remains, though- who is at fault for this abandonment of strength and vitality?

The answer, unfortunately for us all, is hidden in plain sight. It was men who did this. The fault is ours. Feminists keep conveniently forgetting that, for all of their bluster and their bitching, they can't do a damn thing without the support and power of men. We did this to ourselves. We have no one to blame, ultimately, but ourselves.

Think about it- would the 19th Amendment have passed if it were not for Woodrow Wilson's calculated recognition that universal suffrage would add a huge voting base to the progressive cause? How many foolishly liberal laws, ranging from gun control to state-managed education to universal health care and beyond, would have passed without the full-throated backing of female voters, who always and inevitably prefer security to liberty? In a society governed by old-fashioned masculine virtues in which a man is defined first and foremost by his ability to look after his own, would it have been possible for the current SMP to evolve?

We did this to ourselves. We men did this. It is our fault. And because we screwed things up this badly, it's up to us to fix it. By any means necessary.

That doesn't mean, by the way, that we should attempt to keep the current system going. The way things are right now, the collapse- when it comes, not if- will be horrifically painful. There is no vitality to this culture anymore, no worth, nothing left to save. We could follow the example of Flavius Aetius, Last of the Romans, and hold the line against the barbaric hedonism of a matriarchal society for a few more years, until the inexorable weight of history finally destroys us.

Or, we could simply stand back and let it all collapse. And then, when the time for rebuilding comes, it will be our responsibility to come forward and do what must be done.

In practical terms, this means that men- of all ages- need to understand a few very important points:
  • Your independence- mental, physical, and monetary- is paramount. Do not sacrifice it for anything. Find sources of income that do not depend upon your job, build up your physical strength and stamina, and keep your mind as sharp as possible at all times.
  • Your health and fitness come first, above and beyond anything else in your life.
  • Do not ever put yourself in a position where a woman dictates the course of your life. Your woman is not your master and will resent it, consciously or otherwise, if you put her in that position.
  • While it is currently impossible to be free of government, it deserves nothing from you and will take everything from you if it can. Don't ever give it the opportunity.
  • Now that the government has effectively decided that it can do whatever the hell it feels like on any given day, do whatever you can to reduce its hold over you, by any means possible, while staying out of the clutches of an increasingly irrational and unjust system of "laws".
Western civilisation is dying. Whatever strength, virtue, and worth that it once had is dead and gone. The collapse, when it comes, will be terrible; but there is still hope that when it comes time to rebuild, it will once again be men who lead the way to a better tomorrow.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The stupidity of genius

Not too long ago I wrote a post about free trade and I mentioned something in passing that I think needs some elaboration. I stated that India followed openly socialistic policies designed to produce self-sufficiency in most basic goods and services from the time of its independence until roughly 1990, when it became perfectly clear that the course India had embarked upon was completely unsustainable. A major course correction followed; neo-liberalisation opened up India's markets and unlocked its talent pool, and the resulting economic boom that lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty continues, mostly, to this day.

The reason I bring this up is because of a recent discussion that I took part in, concerning (among other things) different outcomes in global car markets. Korea's car industry is much like India's in many ways- heavily subsidised, protected from international competition, guaranteed many privileges that foreign manufacturers would kill to get. Why, then, is it that the Koreans are capable of producing cars that can go toe-to-toe with American and German manufacturers- and win- in terms of quality, reliability, value-for-money, and enjoyment, while India's car industry for 50 years produced basically the same car that was originally manufactured by Morris Motors, with zero innovation, atrocious quality, little by way of comfort, and at best spotty reliability?

This was debated back and forth for a while, meandering through a variety of topics. There are many reasons why the Koreans succeeded where Indians did not when it comes to manufacturing cars. One of them is, of course, the fact that Korea doesn't have anything like as big a domestic market as India does. For Korean manufacturers, they had to figure out a way to export their products, which is exactly what they did- and they followed more or less the same course that the Japanese had thirty years earlier. When Korean cars first started being exported, they had a reputation for being cheap, horrible little snotboxes that were miserable to drive, built to the lowest common denominator with the cheapest materials available, and designed to fall apart after just a few years- Top Gear actually did a hilarious review on the subject about ten years back. Today, however, the Koreans build cars that can compete openly with any American or German mainstream brand, though they still have a long way to go in the luxury market. Meanwhile the Indians are only just figuring out how to build the same sorts of horrible little deathtraps that the Japanese were exporting in the 1960s.

The main reason for this is that India's elites just never bothered learning from the mistakes of others. At all. Ever. Which is why, throughout that entire debate, I kept coming back to a simple fact of life:
The elites never learn from the mistakes of others, because they keep thinking that they're too smart to be that dumb.
In the most basic terms, this just means that it takes someone very intelligent to believe in something very stupid.

You have to understand something about India's leadership at the time of independence in order to understand the rest of what I'm going to write. The men who led India's push to independence from the British Raj were exceptionally well educated. Men like Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, and indeed most of the top leadership of the subcontinental freedom movement, had studied at the finest universities in the world- which is to say, in Britain- almost to a man. (The father of modern Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, was in fact so thoroughly Anglicised that he didn't speak Urdu or Hindi properly at all; upon announcing the creation of an independent Pakistan by saying, "Pakistan zindabad!", his accent mangled the words so thoroughly that his English-speaking listeners thought he was saying, "Pakistan's in the bag!")

These men were brilliant. They were highly educated. They were extremely well-informed. They had access to resources that almost nobody else in India did at the time. They were well acquainted with the circles of international power.

And to a man, they were all socialists.

Yes, I thought the same thing- "how the hell can smart people constantly be that retarded???"

Socialists love to think that they are cutting-edge, that their ideas are new and radical, and that they have all the answers to all of the old problems. They are, of course, complete morons to think this, because their ideas are in fact very old and no more workable today than they were three thousand years ago when the Spartans were first giving it a try. The socialist distrust of competitive markets, for example, is not new. During feudal times in Western Europe, kings who mistook the creative destruction of free market competition for chaos decided to do away with such disorder by imposing state-backed monopolies on various industries, such as salt and iron and wheat. The result was entirely predictable: prices went up, quality went down, shortages were inevitable.

You would think that any man with a classical Western education would know this (at least, back when the West actually provided a decent education in its universities- which wasn't all that long ago, in fact). Of course, guess what the leadership of India decided to do? It decided to start granting near-monopolies to various businessmen in order to "advance the national interest". So Tata became the "national" tea company, Ambuja became the "national" cement company, Birla became the "national" steel company, and so and so forth ad nauseam.

The net result? India's economy went down the crapper for forty years, sustained only by its massive domestic market and no small amount of Soviet help. Why, by the way, did India turn to the Soviets for help and emulate their five-year plans and their disastrous economic policies? Because at the end of WWII, the socialists of Nehru's circle decided that they wanted nothing to do with what they perceived to be an imperialist, exploitative Western model of economic planning. (There are legitimate reasons for feeling this way; India during the British Raj was taken for a real ride, much of its national wealth was stripped by the British. The point that such fire-eating Indians keep forgetting is that the British also gave India the entire basis for its national infrastructure- an infrastructure that has sustained the country ever since.)

You understand, I am sure, the irony in the idea that the Soviet Union somehow was not exploitative, manipulative, and openly imperialistic.

The personalities of the men involved were very important too. There was a good book published a while back called The Elephant Paradigm by the former head of Procter & Gamble India, in which the author pointed out that every time someone started talking to Nehru about liberalised economic policies, the man would simply stop listening. He thought he, with his big Cambridge-educated brain, knew better than millions of his fellow citizens what was best for each of them individually. This conceit is common to every socialist I've ever seen; it transcends borders and boundaries, and it is exactly the same disease that afflicts the busybody American government, at every level. This absurd belief that central planning is somehow capable of effectively organising an entire economy has never withstood the test of reality, and the reason it keeps failing is that no one man or organisation, no matter how brilliant or well-intentioned, can possibly keep up with the sheer volume of information required to manage an economy like that.

And what of that information, as well? Whenever they fail- as they inevitably do- the elites keep complaining that they didn't know enough, that the next time they will do better. Yet it was well-known in the 1930s and 1940s that the Soviet economy was failing. Walter Duranty's propaganda pieces in the New York Times about the wealth and prosperity of the Soviet Union were exposed, repeatedly, as the lies and fictions that they really were- the man still won a Pullitzer Prize, which the Times has never disavowed. It was well known as early as 1925 that the Soviet economy's attempt at full socialisation had completely failed, resulting in the need for Lenin to institute the New Economic Plan, which restored a certain amount of free market incentives to people. It was well known in the 1900s that the first American colony in Jamestown failed completely because it operated on socialist principles of communal work and sharing, yet the same ideas were tried repeatedly around the world. After J. M. Brury published his economic analyses of the reasons behind the fall of the Roman Empire, the socialist origins of the Crisis of the Second Century were known to anyone with a classical education in history- which most of India's leadership had, by the way. It has been well-known for over two thousand years that Sparta was organised along openly communist lines, with an openly militaristic society designed specifically to stay on a permanent war footing, and yet the exact same mistakes that toppled the Spartan empire after its dramatic victory in the Peloponnesian War are being repeated right here in the United States today.

Why is it, then, that the elites never seem to learn from their mistakes? It always comes back to this conceit that they hold, that they are just too smart to be so stupid as to repeat them, that this time is different. Of course, history does not repeat, but it very often rhymes, and the elites who keep making the mistake of closing their ears to avoid listening to those rhymes are inevitably condemned to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Their credentials and their knowledge are always shown to be lacking right when they really matter.

Tom Kratman made a similar point (after a similar series of meanderings) in his afterword to Tuloriad several years back:
Did religion poison those Christian sailors, rowers, and Marines at Lepanto? No; it was not poison to them, but the elixir of strength that gathered them and enabled them to prevail against a religion that was poisonous to them and their way of life. And isn't that odd, too? That such a bright man as Hitchens should claim religion poisons "everything," when the plain historical record, just limiting ourselves for the moment to Lepanto—something a bright man ought to know about—shows that this is not the case? 
Hmmm. Perhaps "bright" doesn't mean, after all, what "brights" want it to mean.

Theft of the word "bright," while it doesn't quite rise to the level of linguistic matricide (the malicious murder of one's mother tongue), so common in PC circles, is still an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. It's hardly the only one. For example, it is often claimed that there's not a shred of evidence for the existence of God. This is simple nonsense; there's lots of evidence, some of it weaker and some of it stronger. Some of it is highly questionable and other portions very hard to explain away. (And one of our favorite bits revolves around just when and how Pius V knew that the battle of Lepanto had been won, at the time it had been won, and in the absence of long-range communications. Look it up. Really.)
Trust not in the wisdom of those who believe themselves to be your betters, whether in the government, the media, the education establishment, or anywhere else. Trust instead in your own mind, your own knowledge, and the wisdom and strength of the Almighty. Ultimately, those are the only things you can rely upon in this world- not the half-assed stupidity of genius.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Book Review: Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear

Greg Bear is an author with whom most sci-fi readers will be quite familiar. He is widely and highly regarded as one of the finest minds writing modern science fiction, and is noted for his imagination as well as his grasp of actual hard science. For my part, I've found his writing to be of decidedly uneven quality; his Forerunner Trilogy was a bit naff until the brilliant, monumental third book made up for all of his past sins, but the other books that I've read in his canon provided mixed results. To this day, I have still not been able to read Eon, which is supposed to be possibly his greatest work.

Yet, every now and then, he comes up with a book that makes it clear that he is, in fact, worthy of the many awards that he has won for his writing. This is one such book.

Anvil of Stars is a direct sequel to The Forge of God, and follows the crew of a ship crafted from the remains of the destroyed Earth on their mission of justice. The Benefactors, the mysterious alien race that saved a small fraction of humanity, destroyed Saturn's ice moon Europa, and directed the fragments of that moon to the dead worlds of Mars and Venus in order to terraform (areoform? aphrodiform?) those planets into homes for the remnants of Earth's children. They also created huge ships capable of moving through the interstellar void, called Ships of the Law, out of the remains of the dead planet. Now, after several hundred years spent in cryogenic sleep, the teenaged children of the dead Earth are sent out in these Ships of the Law in order to enact The Law upon those who perpetrated Earth's death.

That Law is simple: any intelligent species that builds and sends out self-replicating killer probes must itself be destroyed.

On the surface, this book is nothing more than a simplistic revenge story. As you read it, though, you quickly come to realise that there is much to the writing that is not immediately obvious. There are layers of morality, ideology, science, and politics that take time to savour and appreciate. And by the time you get to the end, you will realise that, when he stops messing about and really puts his mind to it, Greg Bear is an amazing writer.

This book is, in every way, far superior to its predecessor. The concepts that Bear comes up with are truly mind-boggling. Take, for instance, the society of the Ship of the Law. The narrative centres entirely on the viewpoint of Martin Gordon, who was but a child when his planet was destroyed in the previous book. He, along with his similarly young companions, are the crew of the Ship of the Law as it travels through the stars at near-lightspeed to seek out and destroy worlds that might once have been inhabited by the Killers. The society of the Ship starts out as basically something straight out of a combination of The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh- a society of freedom, individual action, and libertarian ideals in which order is preserved through mutual cooperation with only the vaguest hint of top-down leadership, and sex is essentially unrestrained between the teenagers of the ship. (I found the latter to be quite distasteful- it is made perfectly clear that male homosexuality is both open and active among the children of the Ship of the Law. I do not agree with homosexuality at the best of times; I most assuredly do not approve of it in teenagers.) As the book progresses, you see what happens as such a libertarian society is faced with the pressures of the mission, and the need for strong central command in the face of open war; and eventually, you watch as the society of the ship turns into something resembling The Lord of the Flies.

Take also the question of whether it is even ethical or moral to enact The Law upon the Killers. The crew of the Ship of the Law at first think that they have found a candidate world once inhabited by the Killers, but soon realise that it is a trap, and that through truly ingenious means, the Killers have found ways of turning matter into antimatter. The Ship barely escapes the trap, and Martin loses both of his dearest loves in the process, before the Ship of the Law eventually meets up with another Ship of the Law crewed by alien beings, who ally with the humans to enact the Law.

When the combined crews finally get their chance to enact the Law in what they believe to be the home system of the Killers, they are confronted with a terrible dilemma. The Killers no longer appear to exist in that system- but in their place exists a wondrously complex, impossibly advanced confederation of alien races that exist together in complete harmony. To enact the Law in that system would mean putting to death trillions of innocents. The moral implications of this choice are staggering, especially when you realise just how advanced the client races are compared with the humans and the Brothers (more on them shortly). If they enact the Law, they risk staining their hands and their consciences with the blood of uncounted trillions who have done nothing to deserve such a fate; on the other hand, if the Killers existed in that system, then they must be brought to justice. The same question is actually confronted by the inhabitants of an earlier Ship of the Law, occupied by a species that the humans call the Red Tree Runners, who eventually decided against enacting the Law and died out as their ship became a ghost ship travelling the void on an unknown, unknowable trajectory.

It is a weighty and difficult question, and as I read through the latter third of the book, in which this moral choice became clear, I wondered how I would respond in a similar situation. Would I be willing to overlook the atrocity committed upon my species in order to save trillions? Or would I instead choose to visit the sins of the fathers upon their children and destroy the Killers and everything they created? I could not answer the question easily, but I suspect that if I ever had to make such a choice, I would choose to enact the Law, even at the cost of my own soul. Some evils cannot be balanced; some crimes cannot be forgiven. Such, indeed, is the weight of the moral quandary facing the crew, and the way Bear handles it tells you that he understands human psychology just as well as he understands hard science.

There is more cleverness to be found as well in the way that Bear handles alien races, many of which are encountered in this book. Of particular interest is the species of Brothers, which inhabit another Ship of the Law and who make contact with the humans and eventually become part of the combined crew of the united Ship. The Brothers are not actually individual creatures but gestalt organisms- Bear presents it in terms of individual cords that are basically large non-sentient centipedes, that then join together into braids that achieve full sentience and personality. The cords themselves are of limited use, but the braids are highly evolved and intelligent, and their methods of communication- through scent as well as through speech- are handled quite brilliantly by Bear. In particular, you immediately understand through his writing how a gestalt entity might think of itself- "I we us", "We we our", "All we us", that sort of thing. The author basically introduces them with their odd manner of speaking and then very nearly ruins everything by trying to explain it all; fortunately, the reader should by that point be able to intuitively understand how the gestalt references work, such is the quality of the writing.

There were a couple of things about this book that annoyed me, of course. The first was the concept of "momerath"- an incredibly advanced form of high-order mathematics that the children of the Ship of the Law learn which allows them to do extremely complex calculations mentally and at tremendous speed. The concept is never really explained very well, so it comes across as a lot of hand-waving mumbo-jumbo, especially to a trained mathematician (which I am). The second is this concept of "noach communication". If I understood it correctly (I probably didn't), it has something to do with the spin of any given quantum particle; through the application of string theory and quantum physics, Bear would have you believe that it is possible to communicate basically instantaneously across the span of an entire star system. I found this more than a little ridiculous.

The flaws in this book do not detract, much, from its overall quality. This is in every way a brilliant science fiction book, and has done a great deal to restore my estimation of Greg Bear's skills as a writer. I knew he was good- anyone who wrote something as brilliant as HALO: Silentium can't have produced just a single fluke- but I didn't think he was this good. It would appear that I was, of course, mistaken- he is that good, he's just maddeningly inconsistent.

Didact's Verdict: 4.2/5, in every possible way this book is vastly superior to its predecessor and is both powerful and thought-provoking in its ideas and its implications.

Buy/download Anvil of Stars here.

Book Review: The Forge of God by Greg Bear

Greg Bear is one of those odd sci-fi authors whose work is at once very accessible and very dense. It's difficult to explain this unless you've actually read one of his books. I have read several, and I have found his books to be of decidedly varying quality. Some of his books are amazing, and others are just incomprehensible. For me, the high point of his work was definitely HALO: Silentium, mostly because he really made the long and rich back-story of the Forerunners and the Prometheans, who figure so prominently in HALO 4, come alive. But I have also tried reading some of his other books, such as Eon and his (abortive) foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I found Eon in particular to be just plain bizarre; I simply could not understand what the hell he was on about after the first 200 pages or so, and it's a 500-pager.

This book is somewhere in between those two extremes, and as such is one of Greg Bear's better books, if I am any judge of such things.

The premise of the book is very intriguing. It basically asks the question, "if the world were to end due alien intervention, just how would that happen?". The answer, according to Bear, is really quite fascinating. There is no sci-fi wizardry going on here, no nonsense about planet-cracking Death Stars or faster-than-light travel or exploding suns. There is instead a realistic, scientific explanation of how an incredibly advanced and capable future civilisation might send out self-replicating "killer probes" to worlds to sentence them to death.

The book essentially presents a very interesting and complex answer to Fermi's Paradox. The legendary physicist once asked, albeit somewhat ironically and probably with his mouth full of a sandwich, something along the lines of "where the hell is everyone?". If you think about it, this is actually a pretty good question. After all, there are plenty of planets scattered throughout this galaxy and throughout the rest of the Universe that are probably capable of supporting life (we just haven't discovered them all- we are, after all, a pretty young species in Terran geological terms, never mind compared to the age of the Universe).

The answer that Bear presents is that it is quite possible that most other alien civilisations have either died out or gone into hiding- and ominously argues that the reason they have gone into hiding is because other, very old alien civilisations have found ways to send out killer probes to seek out and destroy any species or civilisation that might potentially pose a threat in the very distant future.

That is precisely what happens to Earth. A strange-looking alien shows up in an odd-looking craft and informs the American military unit that finds it that the world is under sentence of death and will be destroyed in a year's time, before dying mysteriously due to causes that no autopsy can determine. The American President, upon hearing this, basically gives up all hope of fighting back and claims, in his State of the Union address, that the Earth is now subject to the Forge of God, doomed without hope of reprieve. As the book progresses, self-replicating killer probes are found seeding the ocean floor with machines that convert water into hydrogen and oxygen, creating the raw materials for fusion bombs that will be used to crack open the planet's surface. At a slightly later point, two "bullets" of extremely dense neutronium and anti-neutronium are shot into the Earth's oceans, burrowing through the planet until they reach the Earth's molten core, where they simply circle until they eventually meet and annihilate each other (and the planet) in the process.

The narrative of the book centres around several characters and has several different themes woven together into a single plotline. The book's plot centres mostly around the scientist Arthur Gordon, who is among the first to witness the strange phenomena that precede the destruction of Earth. It focuses on his attempts to communicate with the strange messenger from the stars after being drafted onto a team of military and civilian experts attempting to decipher the mystery of the alien's presence; later, after hearing the sentence of death pronounced upon his world, he tries desperately to cope with the doom that is coming, while still maintaining life at home with his wife, his young son, and his dog. At a very human level, it is difficult not to empathise deeply with Arthur Gordon and everything he is experiencing; through his eyes, you see the world itself attempting to deal with its coming destruction.

The book also pulls away at several points to deal with broader perspectives, and switches in between several main viewpoint characters in order to build up its secondary plotlines. One of those secondary plotlines concerns the interventions of a second group, the Benefactors (though they aren't called that until the very end of the book), who race desperately to save what little can be saved and who act in the background to thwart the Killers wherever they can (including a pitched battle in the asteroid belts between Mars and Jupiter, interestingly enough). But they are incapable of stopping the coming destruction of Earth, so they eventually switch to using small spider-like robots to mentally "enslave" and thereby save whatever few humans they can gather into "lifeboats" of a sort, just before the world itself comes to an end. This particular plotline takes rather a long time to get going, and you don't really begin to understand it until the latter third of the book, but once you understand what the Benefactors are doing, you really begin to see why Greg Bear is considered to be one of the foremost thinkers in sci-fi.

There are, of course, some big flaws with this book. The first concerns the highfalutin scientific chicanery that goes on in the background. Now, I'm not exactly of subnormal intelligence- far from it, in fact- but I found myself struggling with some of the concepts that Bear was trying to develop. It's interesting to note that I don't have any such problem with other authors who use authentic physics and chemistry to develop interesting sci-fi ideas, so it is likely to be a problem with Bear's writing more than anything else. (I recently finished re-reading HALO: Silentium and found it to be vastly easier to understand, and as a result far more enjoyable, than the first time I read it- and I really liked that book in the first place- so I suspect that if you read Greg Bear's books a couple of times through, they start to make a lot more sense.) The concepts of matter versus antimatter and all of that were easy enough to figure out, but the way he describes the alien visitor to Earth, and the actions of the Killers' self-replicating probes, make no sense at all.

The second concerns the death of the planet Earth itself at the end. After all of the drama and tension of the preceding few hundred pages, the death of Earth comes across as a remarkably clinical and subdued affair. I would have thought it would have been... well, just more dramatic. It is instead described in rather cold and remote fashion, even though you find yourself watching it through the eyes of Arthur Gordon and his son, and you see in the epilogue how the novel sets up its sequel, Anvil of Stars.

Like much of the rest of Greg Bear's writing, The Forge of God is a complex, dense, powerful piece of work, but it is plagued as always by the inconsistency of the author's writing. I would still recommend it, though, it's a thought-provoking work of fiction and really does an excellent job of answering a difficult riddle.

Didact's Verdict: 3.5/5, a few big flaws here and there do not completely detract from an interesting and complicated work.

Buy/download The Forge of God here.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Introverts and marriage

The Need for Monogamous Marriage

Reading through the reams of literature out there about the dangers and downsides of marriage, one is tempted to come to the conclusion that in the modern world, there is no such thing as a good reason to get married. Horror stories abound about how more than half of marriages in the West end in divorce; about how horribly skewed the incentives of divorce are towards the interests of women at the expense of men; and about how easy it is for an otherwise sane and rational man to commit himself to what he thinks is a lifetime of happy commitment to The One, only to wake up in front of a family court judge several years later, about to have his life, his wealth, his wife, and his children ripped away from him before his eyes. When presented with the sheer weight of evidence showing what a raw deal modern marriage really is, it is hardly surprising that most red-pill men turn completely away from the idea and refuse to have anything to do with it.

I am not one of them.

My view of marriage is simple: a monogamous, committed marriage between one man and one woman is the absolute bedrock of society and therefore of civilisation. The moment you abandon monogamous marriage, you abandon everything that makes your civilisation worthy of strength and virility. And if you want to raise children right, to be strong and independent and free-thinking, then the only way that seems to work is the one that has been tried and tested for over 10,000 years of civilised history- monogamous, committed marriage.

In some ways I differ from much of the M(A)ndrosphere crowd in that I come from a very happy, very stable home with two loving parents who have been together for literally a lifetime. I have personally seen what a strong and stable marriage can do for a deep introvert. In most respects I am very much my father's son (though he is more naturally charming than I am- both of his parents actually liked other people, he's actually the odd bird in his family in that respect), and I tell you now that if you get it right, and if you marry the right woman, life can actually be quite good. Here I respectfully part ways with deep introverts like Halfbreed and Blackdragon, both of whom argue strongly against marriage and its trappings.

They have very good reasons for doing so, and I happen to agree with almost all of their arguments- I'll get to that in a bit- but I do happen to think that a man who is self-aware stands a pretty good chance in marriage.

And there is a small but vocal and influential group of bloggers within this movement, if you can even call it that, who are all firm believers in both the necessity and the utility of monogamous marriage. They are, as far as I can tell, a minority- but to a man, they are intellectual heavyweights in the 'Sphere. Vox, Rollo, Athol, Keoni Galt, and Dalrock are the best of them, but there are far more. And to a man, they are experts at game- but they all know that the type of game that works for singles in the dating scene is very different from, yet no less important than, the kind of game that is required to keep a marriage fresh and interesting

Relationship game is critical to making a modern marriage work; without it, you might as well sign your divorce papers along with your marriage certificate.

How (and Why) You Should Not Get Married

The objections to marriage in the 'Sphere are pretty comprehensive, and as I said above, I agree with almost all of them. Blackdragon has done a particularly splendid job of putting the entire concept of monogamy feet-first through a wood-chipper. Modern women, it should be clear, are brought up with ridiculously unrealistic expectations of marriage- they are being raised to expect that lavish weddings and Disney-style fairytale endings are the norm. (Read through a few of Halfbreed's posts and lay reports and you'll realise that it is a depressingly common epidemic.) They think that they will eventually meet their Prince Charming, who will sweep them off their feet, make them swoon with love and passion, and live happily ever after. They think that all of the hard work of marriage- learning to adapt to their spouses, learning to think in terms of we and not me, learning that the whole is more than the sum of its parts- just sort of happens in the background aether.

Meanwhile, the modern, liberated woman is taught that it is possible to have it all- that it is entirely acceptable to spend her time from her late teens to her late twenties partying and riding the carousel, before finding some poor sap to settle down with after she's had her fun and is ready for children and responsibility. (The best phrase I have ever heard to describe the latter phenomenon is "baby rabies"). Such women have been raised almost from birth to believe that it is entirely right and justified for a man to waste an absurd amount of money buying a chunk of compressed carbon to stick on her finger as a symbol of his undying commitment and love (read: complete betatude), and that there is no contradiction whatsoever between forcing a man to commit vast amounts of his current and future wealth to her at the moment of proposing, since it makes her haaaappy, and forcing him to give up most of his current and future wealth and happiness to satisfy her financial needs when she divorces him because she was unhaaaappy.

And if you propose in that fashion to a girl like the ones I've described above, you deserve whatever you get.

(Also, if you end up proposing to a girl and she turns into a bit of a Bridezilla- or a Kardashian, which is basically the same thing- just end it, man. Do yourself a huge favour and avoid becoming a sad-sack case like this guy.)

However, if you walk into marriage with your eyes wide open, if you know your future spouse and- most importantly- know yourself, then you can save yourself an enormous amount of pain and grief in the future. This is crucial to understand. If you are the average man marrying the average woman in today's society (or anywhere within 1.5 standard deviations of average, I would argue), then your odds of ending up divorced, broke, and angry are anywhere between 40% and 90%.

If you are self-aware, however, you greatly skew the odds in your favour.

The Questions You Have to Ask

This is especially important for us introverts. Perhaps the finest description of introverted marriage that I have ever seen comes from Tempest, who stated quite aptly that the secret to a happy marriage is to find another introvert to sit around and be quiet with. This is certainly true of my parents; it is assuredly true of most of their married friends. For introverts, the single worst mistake I think any of us could ever make is to get married to an extrovert. This is not to say that this sort of pairing doesn't work. It does, it's just extremely rare.

More importantly, you have to recognise that there is no such thing as a fairytale marriage. My parents sure as hell don't have one. As I grew up, and my relationship with my mum moved from uneasy to very close, she and I would have long discussions about many things, including the nature of marriage; one thing she kept driving home, time and again, was the importance of understanding that marriage is work. Both of my parents have quirks and rough edges that grate upon each other endlessly and that have persisted after well over three decades of marriage. Yet somehow, they have managed to figure it out, because both of them understood, the day that they agreed to marry, that their commitment was for life. They were lucky in the sense that there was no pressing economic or social motive for their marriage; it was very much a case of two rational adults who honestly believed that they were better off together than they were alone. Their marriage works because they work to make it that way.

Before you even think about getting married, you have to ask yourself, and her, a number of difficult questions:
  • What is your financial situation like? More importantly, what is her financial situation like? If you propose to a woman who is up to her ears in debt, you're making a huge mistake- one way or another, that debt will become yours to manage.
  • Do you want kids? Rather more importantly, does she want kids? If you don't want to deal with little rugrats, and you then fail to account for her inexplicable attacks of baby rabies, you're in a world of trouble. And if you want kids and she doesn't, it's even worse; last time I checked, men are not capable of parthenogenesis, so you're S.O.L. if your woman refuses to go off her birth control so that you can have a shot at being the World's Greatest Dad, and then you're stuck.
  • What kind of lifestyle are you aiming for? This is particularly important if the answer to the previous question is "yes" for both parties. Children are absurdly expensive. You'll be spending money on your little tykes faster than you can make it, for years.
  • What is her N-count? She will almost surely lie about this. It is an observable fact of life that (relatively) chaste women make far better long-term marriage prospects than promiscuous ones. And it's pretty obvious as to why.
  • Is physical passion important to you? If yes, then consider following Athol Kay's advice to the letter. Sex in a non-red-pill marriage is sort of like a unicorn- you hear a lot about it, rarely if ever do you actually see it.
  • Most importantly, are you planning to marry her, or are you trying to save her from herself? If the latter, you're an idiot. Women cannot be saved from themselves any more than men can, and it is a great fool indeed who invests his time, energy, and wealth in saving a damaged woman. (You know, the kind that cuts her long beautiful hair short, serially cheats, has an eating disorder, has "personality issues"- that sort of thing.)
Understand also that when you get married and have kids, you're essentially signing away a large part of your life. For instance, plenty of guys get married thinking that they'll look the same in ten years as they did when they got married; and then they let themselves go, thinking that they have no one to look good for anymore, and fifteen years later, they're fat, balding, wooden caricatures of the men they used to be. Don't let this be you. There is no getting away from this- if you think that you can propose to a girl, settle down, and expect that life will continue as normal, you're smoking something a damn sight stronger than what those jerks in the mosh pit were at my last concert. And if you're not prepared for it, the stress that comes with running headfirst into that reality will destroy you. You have to be willing to work on both yourself and your wife.

And this is where game becomes so very important. The reason that men like Vox and Rollo argue strongly in favour of marriage is because they understand the fundamental importance of gaming your wife. She will test you. She will attempt to usurp or undermine your dominance from time to time. She will be irrational and difficult. She will throw tantrums. She will sulk. She will be a terrible cook (at first, hopefully that improves over time; if not, get used to ordering Chinese take-out). She will probably get fat. She will certainly change from being the sweet, feminine, sexy thing that you fell in love with to the dumpy harridan that you can't wait to get away from.

I should say that at this point I am literally describing one of my relatives (by marriage, not by blood, thank God). All of these things can be mitigated or even eliminated with a healthy dose of game, but if you don't have it in the first place (like this particular woman's husband does not), then you have exactly zero business getting married.

The Frame of a Successful Marriage

The point of married game is to maintain the frame of masculine strength that (hopefully) attracted her to you i the first place. This means:
  • You stay in shape. Get thy fat ass to the gym and do squats and deadlifts, and/or take up a martial art. Oh, and think about adding some kettle bell exercises to your regime. Your woman will thank you for it. When she's not on her back thanking the good Lord, that is. (Yeah. I'm going to hell. Save me a seat and a martini.) You must maintain or improve your sex rank these days. In my parents' time it wasn't very important because divorce just wasn't done. Today that's gone out the window, which means that you have to work to keep her attracted to you- by playing on her insecurities, even if you are 100% faithful and never even so much as look at another woman for the rest of your life.
  • One leads, one follows. In every marriage that I have ever seen that actually works (i.e. the people involved stay together because they want to, not because they have to), the man is unquestionably the head of the household. There is no debate on this one. If you force a woman to adopt a role that she is biologically and temperamentally unsuited for, then do not be surprised when she fails to adapt and you end up paying the price. The only exceptions I have ever seen are households with serious beta males who, for all of their masculine failings, dearly loved their wives and had the additional (and very considerable) safety net of living in a society in which divorce was the absolute worst thing that could happen to a woman short of widowhood. The latter stricture does NOT apply to Western society.
  • Marriage is a two-way relationship, but the principles of leadership are the same whether in the bedroom or the boardroom. I've yet to hear of a successful leader who ignored the advice of his counsellors and went about things blindly, or who refused to take a stand and make a decision.
  • Keeping your marriage interesting means staying unpredictable. This can be a big problem for introverts. We like routine. We like stability. And we especially like solitude. Unfortunately, these things are all marriage-killers if not handled correctly.
  • Solitude is non-negotiable, but so is time spent together. Carve out your own time, your own space, for doing your own thing, away from your wife, but always be there for the important things. If you observe my family when we're all at home, you'll be puzzled by what you see. We all spend the entire day in completely different parts of the house and we hardly seem to spend time together- with some very important exceptions. It doesn't matter how busy we are during the day- mealtimes are sacred in our household, especially when my dad is eating. Everyone drops whatever he or she is doing and sits down together for a meal. It's not difficult, it doesn't take long, and it's quite enjoyable. Afterwards, everyone goes back to doing his own thing again. That tradition has persisted for more than thirty years and is a fundamental reason why we are so close as a family.
  • When it comes to kids, don't ever drag your kids into your private disagreements with your wife. If she does it to you, punish it, immediately. A very large part of the reason why my parents are still together is because their fights and disagreements took place very much in private. As children, we were hardly ever aware of it (except for one very memorable incident which I remember as vividly as if it happened yesterday- because such a thing was so rare). If they had dragged us into their fights, I seriously doubt that their marriage would be as happy.
In conclusion, you should never get married just to satisfy some idiotic expectation that your relatives have. You should never get married just because of social pressures (i.e. "all of my friends are married with kids now, maybe it's time for me too"). You should never get married just because you think it "might be the right time". You should absolutely never get married because you think you can't do any better than your current woman- in reality, you probably can, especially as you get to somewhere between thirty and forty years of age.

You should get married because you are fundamentally deeply compatible, because her very presence calms you down and gives you strength, because you agree on the really important things (kids, money, values, that sort of thing), and because you like, or at least can tolerate, her family (and vice versa).

There are no guarantees for a happy marriage. It is hard work. As far as I can see, if you choose well and wisely, then that work brings great and wonderful rewards. Never forget, though, that the work comes before the rewards, every time.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

From the meetup: Free trade and its flaws

(This is going to be one of several posts in a series dealing with my thoughts on various topics that came up during our Singapore meetup late last year. I haven't forgotten about what we discussed, it's just been a busy few weeks since I got back. Since I am far more articulate in the written rather than the spoken word, these should serve to clarify a few things and expand upon a few ideas. Comments and criticism are of course welcomed, especially from the guys who were there.)

One of the most doctrinaire assumptions of the libertarian creed is that placing artificial constraints upon voluntary exchange is harmful. The axiom of human action argues that Man acts, at all times to better his life and his means, and it would be sensible and consistent to argue that free trade between individuals is simply another expression of that very human action. The good of the individual is maximised by voluntary and free trade between himself and other individuals. And indeed, logic, reason, and empirical evidence all bear out this line of thought. Your productivity, your ability to create things that others want, can be exchanged, through the transmission mechanism of money, for goods and services that you desire- things that are produced by the productivity and the skills of others. Logically, therefore, no external party should ever attempt to stifle these interactions.

It is tempting to take this line of logical computation to its extreme and argue that there should thus be no barriers whatsoever to trade between nations. And indeed that is very much what the economist David Ricardo argued when he wrote his seminal work, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. His basic argument stemmed from the notion of comparative advantage- the idea that if the butcher specialises in his chosen area of expertise, and the tailor specialises in his, then the two can engage in mutually beneficial trade that makes each better off. Ricardo extrapolated this thought experiment unto entire nations by arguing that if two nations each specialise in their own particular areas of competence and then engage in unlimited trade with each other, the results are inarguably superior to the mercantilist, protectionist, and outright corporatist attempts of the time to manage trade flows and business cycles.

Ricardo came to these conclusions by essentially using the same (in)famous ceteris paribus argument that is taught to every single modern student of economics: holding everything else equal, let us control the movements of two or three very specific variables in an economy and therefore come to conclusions derived from such thought experiments. (To their great credit, most Austrian economists reject this method of inquiry, since they know full well just how flawed it is.)

There is, of course, a gigantic methodological problem with this approach, which Vox Day outlined superbly in his excellent book, The Return of the Great Depression. It centres around an idea known as the Three-Body Problem. The idea is simple enough. When the legendary mathematician Sir Isaac Newton came up with his theories of classical mechanics, he was able to figure out and quantify the gravitational interactions between two large masses in space and thereby derived his famous Law of Universal Gravitation. (Given what we know of quantum physics, it is perhaps more accurate these days to follow David Berlinski and argue that the "laws" of physics are really at best "guidelines" for understanding a wondrously complex Universe.) The problem with Newton's law of gravitation was that it only really worked if you considered two bodies in complete isolation. In reality, empirical observations showed up severe flaws in Newton's laws- and interestingly enough, Newton was fully aware of them. He simply couldn't do anything about it; even a mathematician as brilliant as he was, with his towering intellect and formidable talents, could not extend his observations about two-body interactions to three or more interacting bodies.

The exact same problem afflicts the standard Ricardian argument of comparative advantage. By reducing the incalculably complex interactions between individuals that comprise nation-states into overly simplistic two-body problems involving nations specialising only in the production of corn versus the production of wheat, Ricardo was able to demonstrate that both nations would be better off if the corn-producing nation sold its produce to the wheat-producing nation, and vice versa. However, the moment you unfreeze the interactions of all of the innumerable actors in between, the entire argument falls to pieces.

It doesn't take much to realise why. Consider the case of the United States of America versus China. The USA is unquestionably far superior at high-end manufacturing than China is- or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, over the last 5 years, high-end manufacturing has been experiencing a bit of a boom here in the US, as companies realise full well that countries like China simply don't have the talent, the legal regime, the property protections, or the R&D environment required to create a world-beating high-tech manufacturing industry. Does that mean that the USA is unquestionably better off by concentrating only on high-end manufacturing while China concentrates only on low-end manufacturing? This is, of course, a completely absurd argument; there are many things besides relative skill that need to be taken into account. One of them is China's worrying penchant for making cheap products of atrociously poor quality. A bar of soap or a stick of deodorant may well cost three to five times more when manufactured in the USA rather than in China, but it would also be thirty to fifty times less likely to contain carcinogenic chemicals. It would also be rather less likely to fall apart on you within a few months of purchase, because Chinese companies, in pursuit of notoriously short-term goals, have a distressing tendency to throw such antiquated notions as "quality control" and "extensive testing" straight out the window.

The argument in favour of unrestricted free trade then falls apart completely once you realise its most crucial implication: total free trade must by definition mean total freedom of movement of human capital. And this is precisely where Austrian economics runs into its most severe limitations.

One of the points that I brought up in our discussions during the meetup is the fact that Austrolibertarian thought, which does so much to debunk the extremely irritating tendency of modern economics and sociology to assume the existence of a can-opener, does precisely that when it comes to human nature. In order for the completely laissez-faire approach of the Austrian to work without exception, everyone, both within and without the society, would have to be more or less equally committed to the ideals of non-aggression and free trade. In other words, everyone would have to have a minimum IQ of at least 120. Reality is, of course, quite different.

It is an observable fact, an absolute and ironclad reality of life, that different races and different societies place different values on freedom. It is precisely for this reason that black Africans cannot seem to maintain civilisation no matter where they go, while white Europeans and at least three different types of Asians seem wired to do the exact opposite. Because of these observable realities, which conflict so radically with the clean and beautiful logic of a priori logical deductions from axiomatic first principles, opening up a country's borders to complete and unrestricted free trade would by definition mean letting in all manner of barbarians, whose very high time preferences would in very short order set about completely destroying the host society's carefully accumulated stores of capital and production.

We have seen this precise phenomenon in action in nations which have permitted the most unrestricted free trade. Western Europe has permitted virtually totally free immigration between member states; the inevitable end result has been that races with high time preferences have invaded nations with low time preferences, taking advantage of the highly civilised societies that were built so painstakingly over the past thousand years, and reducing those same societies to atomised shells of their former selves in less than two generations. In the USA, the massive influx of poorly educated Churchians from down south in Mexico has resulted in sweeping demographic changes that have tilted the balance of political power completely, and permanently, in the direction of ever-bigger government and ever more confiscatory government policies. In Singapore, as I have written numerous times before, the "growth through trade" strategy is running into serious problems as the government finally confronts the reality that mainland Chinese, subcontinental Indians, and pure-blooded Filipinos will never really be Singaporean and will never hold their new home in quite the same regard as those who were actually born and brought up there.

Now before we get on to an actual prescription regarding the best way to handle trade, it is vital to remember that going in the other direction is also a gigantic mistake. In this regard there is no better example than the opium trade used by the British Empire to force open Chinese markets in the mid-19th Century. For those who aren't familiar with that particularly sordid episode, the CliffNotes go something like this: when Britain first came to China and attempted to establish trade with the Middle Kingdom, the Chinese laughed at the "red-nosed barbarians" (the Chinese term, gwai-lo, is rather more expressive than this- something more in line with "white pig", I believe) and refused to trade with them unless they paid in gold and silver. Because demand for Chinese tea and silks was extraordinarily high in Britain, the resulting drain on the British treasury was simply not acceptable. So the British came up with a rather cunning solution: they would use China's own insistence on trading only in gold and silver to their advantage by growing opium in India, an extremely addictive drug (which also happens to be used for seasoning in some Indian cooking, by the way- it's an interesting country) that could be sold to the Chinese. They would then turn around and use Chinese gold and silver to buy the very goods that China was so jealously guarding.

It was a devilishly clever strategy. It worked brilliantly- from the British point of view, anyway- and the resulting massive outflows of gold and silver crippled China economically almost as badly as skyrocketing rates of opium addiction crippled it spiritually and morally. China was in no position to fight back, because after all its own rules were being used against it. The British were ascendant for decades, but their empire eventually paid the price for their own overweening arrogance and overreach. The lesson from this little detour into history is simple: mercantilism certainly pays off in the short term, but ultimately it destroys the very prosperity that it is trying to promote. The Chinese are (re-)discovering this to their own great detriment right now, in fact.

What, then, is the correct course of action? It should be clear by now that unlimited free trade is indefensible on empirical and logical grounds. It should also be equally clear from historical example that mercantilism is a costly and dangerous policy which leads to epic misallocations of resources by overambitious governments and their know-it-all central planners- just ask India, which tried to use mercantilism and government planning to run its economy for 40 years and failed in epic fashion until neoliberalisation began in the 1990s. (More on that in a future post- it's a symptom of a rather interesting disease.)

The answer is to impose low, universal tariffs on ALL goods and services as a means of revenue generation, while maintaining strict and absolute controls over national borders. It has been said elsewhere that any country has three possible courses- open borders, a welfare state, and economic prosperity- and can pick at most exactly two at a time. It cannot be stated clearly enough that unlimited free trade is completely incompatible with both national sovereignty and a welfare state. Since I am a paleolibertarian, I have no patience whatsoever for the welfare state- but I have endless patience for the idea of national sovereignty, and since unrestricted free trade destroys that concept, it is incompatible with the libertarian ideal of achieving the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order.

The devil, of course, lies very much in the details. Some nations (such as Singapore) choose to tax the bejeezus out of specific goods- cars, alcohol, cigarettes, and a variety of other "luxury" goods, for instance- while heavily subsidising others (food, in Singapore's case). Others choose to do very little of anything by way of specific tariffs, while maintaining strict control over their own borders. (I could be quite wrong, but I think the Swiss fall into the latter category.) All share a common predicament- how to maximise the wealth and economic prosperity that comes from relatively unrestricted trade without destroying national identities?

The only logical answer is one that the West has long since forgotten. Close off the borders to all but those that actually earn the right to enter. Do whatever is required to ensure that the population remains as homogeneous as possible, as dedicated to the ideals that founded it as possible. Do everything possible to maintain the flow of capital and investment that comes from low time preferences- which are realistically only possible in a relatively homogeneous, relatively stable society with very little by way of immigration. Let people work there without too many restrictions- but never give them the right to vote unless they prove worthy of it, never let them forget that they are guests in a host nation, and never forget that total free trade is poison to any healthy society.