Belmont Club

The Perils of Trust

Mother Jones has an interesting article on the fall of a Canadian radio star to charges of cruelty to women.  In trying explain why it took so long for this behavior to come to light, Tasneem Raja explains that nobody would have suspected such a politically correct man of such incorrectness:

It just doesn’t make sense that this beloved, artsy, liberal, talented public radio star with the Flock of Seagulls haircut and the cool jeans allegedly has a weird thing going on involving a teddy bear and punching women in the face till their ears ring and forcing his cock into their mouths until they nearly vomit.

And in a reference to events south of the border Raja adds, “just like it doesn’t make sense that the beloved fatherly comedian who reminds you of sweaters and pudding pops has been accused over and over of drugging women and sexually assaulting them. Or that the beloved all-American champion football coach is a serial child molester. And so on, and so on.”

But actually it makes perfect sense. There’s a connection, believe it or not, between abuse of trust and yesterday’s post on the rise of private money in response to to the debasement of the public tender.  Back in the Great Depression, when people lost trust in their institutions, they began to work with each other and issue local scrip.

It’s all about trust. The point of scrip and self-help in general is not to have too much of it.

This reflects itself in the way we network with people. The most important tool of libertarians is the P2P or peer-to-peer network. This is how Napster used to work and that is how Bitcoin works. “Peer-to-peer (P2P) computing or networking is a distributed application architecture that partitions tasks or work loads between peers. Peers are equally privileged, equipotent participants in the application.”

Nobody has a privileged position.  Nobody has all the trust.

By contrast, the “liberal” or leftist world and the entertainment industry work on the opposite principle. With socialism there’s the Vanguard and the Masses. With Hollywood there’s the Star and there’s the Audience.  The whole purpose of these systems is to build hierarchies of power. One side has the monopoly of money, force and trust.  The other side has the need to trust.

This basic asymmetry means that, under socialism government is not ‘another word for things we choose to do together’. It is another word for something that tells you what to do.

All hierarchs can use the royal “we”. Now modern leaders try to hide this fact, but sometimes the pose slips. For example, president Obama recently said: “and sometimes someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay at home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. That’s not a choice we want Americans to make.” The ‘we’ in the last sentence is the royal ‘we’.

You can’t retort: “who are you anyway?” Because the implicit reply is: “I’m the president”.

It’s a client server type deal, without even the refinement of much client side code, like a web page from 1995. You, one of the masses, post a form to a target agency, and the server gives you back a response, either as a letter in the mail or in the shape of armed men who show up outside your door.

Request, response, request, response.  It doesn’t work? “Oh well if only Stalin knew”.

To the credit of the old men who authored and gradually amended the Constitution, they didn’t have much use for client server either. Even though none of them had taken computer science, they sort of got the idea anyway. They accepted the existence of privileged nodes as a necessary evil but hedged it about with all kinds of restrictions which Cass Sunstein calls “negative rights”.

The First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and so on are all ‘negative rights’.  They are restrictions on the privileges of nodes. The founders did this because they understood that power corrupted. And absolute power corrupted absolutely.  They knew that for as long as human nature remained what it was, then Hollywood actors, popular presidents, television dads and Canadian talk show hosts would one day, in the umbra formed by their power,  do something they shouldn’t.

So it makes perfect sense “that this beloved, artsy, liberal, talented public radio star with the Flock of Seagulls haircut and the cool jeans allegedly has a weird thing going on involving a teddy bear and punching women in the face till their ears ring and forcing his cock into their mouths until they nearly vomit.” Just as it makes perfect sense that there are abusive clergy and corrupt judges. Privileged nodes.

What does not make sense is why we should want more of it. Most conservatives understand that we live in an imperfect world and are sadly resigned to living with the imperfections, mitigating them when they can, in preference to giving absolute power to some server to which they will relate as a client; dreaming of creating some omnipotent backend to which we can submit the ultimate form — for free healthcare, free housing, free everything — and get back the Ultimate Reponse — the Worker’s Paradise.

When the server is all powerful, you get back what you get back. Request, response, request, response. Request … waiting … request … waiting. Knock, knock.  If there’s a knock at least it’s not a no-knock raid.

The Canadian talk show host wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last. The difference is, the libertarians, anarchists and conservatives know it.

To have no secret place wherein
I stoop unseen to shame or sin;
To be the same when I’m alone
And when my every deed is known;
To live undaunted, unafraid
Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretense or shame
Exactly what men think I am.

To leave some simple mark behind
To keep my having lived in mind;
If enmity to aught I show.
To be an honest, generous foe,
To play my little part, nor whine
That greater honors are not mine.
This, I believe, is all I need
For my philosophy and creed.

That, and a little more peer to peer.


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