Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Inventing Conservatism 3.0

If modern conservatism were a software product, then Burkean classical liberalism would be Conservatism 1.0.  Supply-side economics and Reaganism would be Conservatism 2.0.  The new books by George Gilder and Kevin Williamson would be Conservatism 3.0.

Let us use the concept of "less wrong" as developed by Kevin Williamson in The End is Near and It's Going to be Awesome.  He asks the question: "How do private companies know what to produce for public use" without someone issuing specific orders?  The answer is simple.  They respond to their mistakes.  They realize from day to day that they are getting things wrong, and so they work to make things "less wrong."
The system works because the underlying spontaneous order, even though its vast complexity is beyond our understanding, has a built-in mechanism for getting less wrong over time, mostly through trial and error -- which is to day, mostly through failure.
Actually, what we are really looking at is the vital importance of death.  "When hordes of people don't show up to buy the product, the product dies."  So why is America in such a mess?  The answer is politics.  Here is the money paragraph:
The problem of politics is that it does not know how to get less wrong.  It is as a practical matter impossible to design a national health-care policy that can be tweaked and improved every quarter, or on-the-fly in real time as software is...  Resistance to innovation is part of the deep structure of politics.  It never goes out of business -- despite flooding the market with defective and dangerous products, degrading the environment, cooking the books, and engaging in financial shenanigans that would have made Gordon Gekko pale to contemplate.
I suppose that the root of the problem is the whole question of Social Darwinism.  What do you mean that biological evolution is science but social evolution is horrible?    Death and extinction apply to everything living.  Animal species that can't compete go extinct, and so do cultural species, such as corporations and nation states and empires.  Ask the Soviet Union.

George Gilder in Knowledge and Power: The Information Theory of Capitalism and How It is Revolutionizing Our World applies the lessons of Claude Shannon's communication theory to the economy.  Claude Shannon defined information as surprise.  But Shannon's law does not such apply to communications.  It applies also to the economy.  For surprise in the economy has a difference name.  It is called profit.  Profit is a surprising surplus in the corporate accounts.  That is how the iPod worked.  It was a surprise.  Nobody back in 2000 imagined how light, portable electronics would revolutionize human communication.  That is how Apple climbed back from near bankruptcy.  One "i" surprise after another.

Gilder argues that the world is noise.  But knowledge is information.  So it is that humans, by learning and creating, are inserting surprising information into the limitless ocean of noise.  Every little surprise has the potential to add to our knowledge, and create more information in the ocean of noise.  Living things, of course, are such islands of surprising information.

Governments, of course, are opposed to surprise.  So governments are forces that are trying to rub out the little surprises of life that turn into knowledge and prosperity.

You see how both Gilder and Williamson are saying the same thing.  Learning from mistakes, getting things less wrong, creating surprises.  This is nothing less than life itself.

Not learning, not adapting, not changing, not creating surprises.  That is the road to death and extinction.

It's not really that hard to understand.

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