Yearly Archives: 2013

Ought / is

T. Greer linked to this (long) article by Adam Elkus about the relation between academia and politics. Academia and politics are quite different institutions, made up by very different people with often antagonistic tempers. But they also have a lot in common, both claiming to have authority, and in most states they have tend to be integrated into the power structure. They make two of the three big pillars of the Cathedral.

Or so we tend to think of them, as a common tenet of neoreaction takes elite academics as perhaps the shadow power behind the Cathedral. Academics control the education system, and thus the brainwashing of common people. And they are also the “experts” that every media organ or politician cites when he wants to make a point. It would seem that academics are the ones setting the (evil) agenda of the Cathedral. Somebody on twitter recently asked if journal editors aren’t the most powerful people in the world, given that they decide what gets published in science journals, i.e. they get to decide what is officially true.

Yet when you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense. For one there are way too many academics, and being numerous is not a characteristic of a powerful class. Also modern academics are often compared with medieval priests, which also were in charge of setting official truth and brainwashing the masses. But hardly no one considers them the actual ruling class of the Middle Ages.

At least since the breakdown of the bicameral mind, the priestly class is not the ruling class in any society, even though it may have a fair degree of influence. This influence comes from their status as advisors to the actual rulers. And that’s what the article is about, academics resenting their lack of influence in the policy making process.

Academics, as I guess the medieval priests also did, regard themselves as having superior knowledge and expertise on things that matter. It’s only natural to conclude that they deserve to be put in charge of those things they have expertise on. Why should some snake oil salesman who happens to be friends with some rich guys have more power than someone who actually knows something about the matter at stake. A very logical conclusion to make, but of course it doesn’t work like that. Power is power and you don’t get power just by knowing about stuff. You get power by getting power.

Elkus writing is very disordered but he makes a very good point. Policy making is a saturated market, everybody wants to decide things, everybody wants to decide power. Academics though have no real leverage to make their voice heard. What they do have is technical knowledge to help the policy makers implement what they have already decided.

Policy is a condition or stipulation (e.g. Carthage must be destroyed, South Korea must remain independent) that must be satisfied by strategy. Strategy is a bridge between action and political payoff. Strategy, in turn, is implemented as tactical actions. (…)

 Because policy is “what must be” and strategy is “how we can make it so,” the dynamics that craft policy and strategy are different. While both creatures of politics, policy is at least in theory more related to the outcome of a messy political process. Why is it messy? A political process is essentially a struggle to decide what should be that plays out as a struggle between policy elites.(…)

[Strategy] questions are areas where social scientists and academics in general have historically provided great value. And in providing that value, academics have also stimulated advances in their own fields.  We owe a substantial amount of economic theory to the game theory and decision theory problems of World War II and the Cold War. Trying to find out how to best understand Japanese culture in WWII produced a landmark work of anthropology.  Thinking about specific communication, command, and control problems spurred landmark theoretical innovations in computer science. And we also owe Clausewitz’s On War to the “cognitive challenge of war” faced by the Scharnhorst school as it attempted to grapple with how to comprehend the shifts in warfare signaled by the “God of War” Napoleon Bonaparate.

This “what must be” and “how we can make it so” is a very useful framework, and it reminds me of the is/ought dichotomy by David Hume. Oughts are “what must be”, which Hume warns can’t be derived from an “is”, i.e. from actual facts. Which is a pretty shocking thing to say. If I can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”, it follows that I have to derive an “ought” from an “isn’t”. Which sounds very wrong.

The very reason that the is/ought dichotomy is so famous is just how wrong it sounds to normal ears. The more facts one knows i.e the more expertise one has, the more it wants to use them to make decisions with them, to set “oughts”. But unfortunately it just doesn’t work like that. David Hume was making a deep philosophical point, but perhaps he actually was talking about actual politics. The “oughts” are most often decided not by a careful appraisal of the facts, but through a “messy political process”. For all it matters, as a scientist you might as well assume that oughts fall down from the sky engraved in stone tablets, and all you can do is focuses on your “is”es, and try to find some which are of some practical use to implement the ought of the moment.

Another piece of evidence for Hume’s point is that cognitive science has proved that most logical activity in the brain is not carefully making rational conclusions from actual facts, i.e. deriving ought from is, but rather strenuously rationalizing whatever preadopted conclusion your brain already had. Which is often the case in most academics, which chose their field of study and approach before having much expertise on it, and seldom change positions after years of ostensibly advancing their knowledge.

The article concludes that politicians set the ought, and they are quite happy ignoring the is unless the German Army can be seen through the window. But when that happens, the politicians will be quite happy to use the academics’s facts, if he knows about them, which he often doesn’t. To solve that he proposes a matchmaking service, a policy-making dating site.

Not a bad idea, but that’s like saying to a incel beta that all he has to do to get a woman is go register a profile at a dating site. It works for some, but the true solution to his problem is to learn Game. Elkus actually understands the problem when he says that academics who want policy influence must become Kissinger.

For sociobiology applies to all aspects of human society. The same way Game explains the actual dynamics of sex, Neoreaction explains the actual dynamics of power. Of course there are more women than there are powerful, so a consistent theory takes more time. But we’re getting there.

Plutocrats

A long standing debate inside the reactosphere is the question about what is driving the push for mass immigration into developed countries. Why would anyone argue for bringing millions of, to use PC speak, low-skilled migrants from Third World countries? Yes they are cheap, but it’s well established than in the long run they cost more in externalities than whatever you could save with their cheap labor. Not to speak of criminality, dragging down of school performance and just general tackiness. Read more »

High Level Entitlement Trap

I wrote recently about the High Level Equilibrium Trap in which China had fallen to in the modern era. Point was that Chinese labor and infrastructure was just efficient enough so that developing new machinery was never worth the trouble. Not to say they didn’t invent machines, but they never caught on, in a similar fashion to Classical Europe which we know was full of cool gadgets which the Graeco-Romans just couldn’t be bothered to use. Accumulation of capital makes less sense when you’re banging Thracian slaves in your Tuscan villa since puberty.

A famous anecdote is that China had automatic spinning wheels for hemp already in the 14th century, but after the introduction of cotton it fell into disuse. The funny thing is that instead of trying to develop something similar for cotton fibers, they just went back to hand spinning and never bothered automatic a process that had been automated for centuries. They just didn’t bother. Or in modern parlance, the incentives just weren’t there. Also see this story about why firearms never went mainstream in China: their bows were good enough.

This piece of history is universally acknowledged as a bad thing, as machines are good, more productive, and the inability to develop machines is a bad thing, a very bad thing as the subsequent history of China shows. People have this idea of China as being both an awesome ancient civilization and a huge modern powerhouse, which it sort of is. But it is also the biggest agglomeration of idiotic tacky annoying peasants the world has ever seen. I can really see how these guys didn’t bother developing automated cotton spinning. S.A.M. Adshead had this story of how the brutal Mongol invasion utterly devastated the cosmopolitan and innovative Song civilization, and when the Ming came up from the ashes, a deep shift happened where population moved back to the countryside, were tied to the land, and commercial life was kept to a minimum, producing a new culture of provincial, isolated, hugely fertile farmers which kept to themselves.

Fuck this shit

All that has is changed though, and China has bought into the new worldwide urbanized technological civilization from the West. Nothing to do with the old High Level Equilibrium Trap. In fact it’s gone to the opposite side with astonishing speed. Just read this news yesterday. Translation is mine:

Big Cities Labor Shortage Goes Chronic: No workers even for 500 yuan a day.

Right now the proportion of female workers in the construction sector is growing, and the age structure of the workers is shifting upwards, with some workers pushing over 60 years old. In tradition labor exporting regions, the idea that “working odd jobs is disgraceful” is has appeared, making young people unwilling to work in construction.

The article goes on with small company owners repeating the age-old lament: “People used to work for peanuts, but now they refuse! What has the world come to! My BMW uses a lot of gasoline dontcha know?!” Apparently some companies have started offering up to 700 yuan a day (USD 115) during harvest season, else they can’t attract any peasants to work for them. The article goes on talking about the high prevalence of bosses refusing to pay wages in the *very* lightly regulated Chinese construction sector, and also the broader trend for young people to dislike blue collar get-hands-dirty jobs. Kids today all want to be businessman, be their own boss, and working a dirty job plus the risk of not getting paid is not worth the higher wages. “We came here to make some money and go back to the village, but in the end we became urbanites, or at least our kids did. But they refuse to work in this sector, because they don’t want to make money, they want recognition and respect.”

Or in other terms, they want status.

Gimme status

All of this would be great and grand if it wasn’t the case that youth unemployment is a big problem in China. As it is everywhere else. Which doesn’t make much sense a priori because developed countries have low fertility, ergo fewer young people, ergo less supply for what supposedly is more or less constant demand. Alas in the labor market it is not only about supply and demand. Confused economists come up with confused concepts that they themselves don’t understand too well, like “sticky wages”. Which is close but not quite it. A better name would be “sticky status”, or more accurately “sticky self-imagined status”, where young people refuse to work not because they are offered too little money, but because the jobs that exist don’t confer the status that they believe they are entitled to.

The history about the High Level Equilibrium Trap sounds quite foreign to our ears, we who live in an era where automation is the talk of the town, and everybody predicts the doom of human society after the billionaires automate every job out of existence, depriving the common people of an income, and what is worse, of status. While it’s easy to blame the greedy plutocrats, and I’m on the record for doing so, one also has the impression that that can’t be the whole story. What if it’s the other way around? The High Level Equilibrium Trap theory says that China didn’t develop industrial machinery because it had plenty of skilled and cheap labor, so it never had a need to. Which means that it is the supply of labor that drives the development of machinery. So if today, the incentives for development of machinery have sky rocketed to the extent that everybody is in a rush to build machines that do away with any human input at all, perhaps the reason is that human input just can’t be found, because people are refusing to work.

A common reaction to the recent articles on the Dire Problem as Moldbug named it, is that it doesn’t make much intuitive sense. There is no reason that the market can’t find jobs for people, there will always be stuff for people to do. And that’s quite correct. In China, where the willing-to-work-for-peanuts generation and the entitled generation coexist, you can find people who stick protective films on smartphones for a living. There’s always stuff to do if you are willing to do it and be annoying in pushing people to pay you for it. It doesn’t even need to be like Cheap Chalupas or WRM envision, a return to a Victorian era of plutocrats employing dozens of servants for every minute task. In a society that places value in labor, people would find stuff to do. But the zeitgeist today is that people don’t want to work. And I don’t say that as a patronizing complaint, I very much avoid labor as much as I can get away with. Given the incentives, all human behavior is rational by definition.

The smart conservative reaction against complaints about labor shortages is to ask for wage increases, as Steve Sailer often does. Ron Unz, who not by chance is patronizing (I hope generously) Steve Sailer in his new website, has taken the argument to the end and is putting his own money into arguing for a 15 dollar minimum wage. To which libertarians, with their characteristic cluelessness, say this:

Libertarians don’t get that the Sailerite argument for high wages is an ethnic one. If you’re forced to pay 15 dollars an hour, more whites will be willing to work for that money, so the incentive to hire Mexicans ceases to exist. The overt case for minimum wage is that greedy bosses should share more of their wealth with their employees. The covert reasoning is that higher wages means low productivity people should move out of the place. But libertarians actually think diversity is good for the economy.

But back to the point, what if the Sailerite argument is obsolete. Maybe it’s not about money anymore. The combination of low fertility, feminism and inequality make children enjoy a high standard of living, which gives them the illusion of high status, but a status that is never enough now that women have access to their own income and state patronage. And high inequality makes it worse by skewing the threshold for alphaness that women find acceptable, and feeding the all too common lottery-mind where everyone is obsessed with trying to make it Big and join the overclass, and making a normal, quiet living is no longer worth it.

Of course all this dysfunction feeds on itself, demotivated workers making companies more annoying, uninterested men making women more uppity, unambitious masses making rich people less generous, etc. A giant clusterfuck sized vicious cycle that drives the fertility rate lower still. But the tech companies haven’t gone anywhere, and what can they rely on if not robots? The Romans amused themselves to death. Maybe we are amusing ourselves into Skynet.

And robots will see it that we are kept amused.

Bitcoin and modern government

So Bitcoin has reached one thousand dollars, and suddenly everyone out there is freaking out. Early adopters rejoice, crazy bullshit marketers change their minds, smug bullshit marketers don’t, tenured bullshit marketers keep their options open. Everybody’s onto it.

It seems that the sudden spike owes a lot to the sudden increase of Chinese people buying into Bitcoin, with Bitcoin China having become the biggest exchange worldwide as of now. Why did this happen? Bitcoin certainly is a godsend for Chinese people who like to save money, but are victims of rampant inflation, and have nowhere to stash their savings beyond real estate, which has fueled a really insane housing bubble, with whole million-strong cities made of crappy apartments being built just to absorb the demand for storage of value. Bitcoin solves the problem and it is also easily transferable, which is also a godsend for China where capital controls make moving money abroad a real hassle.

One, which is prone to think of modern government as a rapacious Leviathan who uses its tremendous power to prey upon their citizens as matter of instinct, would think that the Chinese government must hate Bitcoin and everything it stands for. Hence it must crack down on it. Moldbug and Handle think the same way of USG. No way the erosion of state power which Bitcoin represents will be allowed to survive.

Yet the whole Chinese Bitcoin craze only started when months ago Bitcoin miners were shown on national TV news (which is broadcast forcibly in all channels, i.e. everyone has to watch it), making much fanfare of all the money they were making with Bitcoin. It didn’t stop there. Baidu, the Google of China, i.e. a company which could be construed as being part of the government, started accepting Bitcoin in October. And this week, China Mobile started accepting Bitcoins for some campaign. China Mobile is state owned.

Now this is of course doesn’t mean the government is going to start accepting tax payment in Bitcoin. But they are tolerating the thing, which they don’t really have to. The same could be said for governments worldwide. Why did Bernanke come up and more or less say that Bitcoin’s pretty cool? They know what it all means, they could have shut it down months ago, shut down MtGox and send the guy to Guantanamo. I’m sure that’s what FDR would have done. You don’t play with the money supply.

There’s some interesting speculation on why China would tolerate Bitcoin, and both domestic and international politics have interesting angles. But I wonder if it isn’t simpler than all this? That it’s not the result of Machiavellian calculations by the powers that be, but the mere result of the dysfunction of the modern world order.

One thing that bugs me, and I’m sure it bugs more of the less capitalism oriented, not necessarily traditional but let’s say more rustic side of neoreaction, is the modern cult of growth. Now that the financial sector has grown out of all proportions to become the center of the economy and politics of any country, the investor mentality has become pervasive. Now it’s all about growth, about return. I put cash in, and I want to make money out of it, and that’s all that matters. Nobody gives a shit anymore about the fundamentals of any company or country. Nobody gives a shit if a company makes money or not, or if a country is being run over by Africans in boats; all that matters is GROWTH. The left has tainted the word, but sustainability is not a concern for an investor who wants to cash out and buy a bigger house in the Hamptons. He wants Greece to Grow, even though it has no industry and 25% native unemployment; the population must be increased for investors to make money. He wants Japan to Grow, even though it has been losing working population for 20 years. Interest rates are on the floor for governments to pay for their debts, so financial return has come the holy grail that everybody seeks after.

Well if you’re obsessed with Growth, hell Bitcoin is growing like crazy. 10x a year! And if it gets popular a single coin might be work billions in some time. That’s some serious ass-kicking GROWTH for ya. The state must not like it, but lay finance men should be in love with this insane growth generator. What if our new ruling class of finance jocks are so stupidly short-termist that they are joining bitcoin to make money, even if it kills the finances of the governments that sustain them? Lenin said the capitalists would sell them the rope with which they hang them. It is not implausible that the financial state will buy his way into his own demise.

By the way might I remind my readers that my bitcoin address is on the right column. It is probably a bit selfish of me to ask for donations, but a crowdfunded NR think tank is an idea that has been floating around for some time. If gaylord Peter Thiel isn’t likely to fund us, maybe some new NR bitcoin millionaire would like the idea.

BBC reading Moldbug

I didn’t set out to make a series on BBC snippets, but I feel that I must. I shouldn’t even be watching BBC documentaries. But somehow tricked by my love of their nature documentaries (which are just amazing) and some residual memory of their great series on Civilisation, I downloaded in bulk a series of recent BBC shows that looked interesting. But of course the BBC being what it is, basically the representatives of evil on earth, these recent documentaries I’ve been seeing are so jarringly and boorishly leftist, so in-your-face on their promotion of evil that I feel I must take something good from them. I’m that sort of man that hates wasting time on anything, I must always be able to rationalize any activity as having made learn something, or been the groundwork of some future productivity. I can’t say I learned much of this BBC show so I might as well make a blog post on it.

So the BBC makes this 3 part documentary on the Ottoman Empire. And it’s presented by this man who looks a lot like an old Egyptian waiter I knew from years ago. Why would they use an Egyptian to make a special on the Ottoman Empire? Beats me. Beats me more still when I check out the guy’s name and learn that he isn’t Egyptian, but Somali. He’s not a dark Egyptian then, but a light Somali. And a connected one by that. Name’s Rageh Omaar, public school and Oxford educated. Younger brother of the Somali Foreign Minister. Who’s also been to Oxford apparently.

Now this reminds me of Jim Donald’s latest post. He talks of Alassane Ouattara, which is some guy from Ivory Coast who’s educated in the US and gets a cozy fief  job in the international bureaucracy. Then for some reason he’s installed as president of the Ivory Coast, even though he doesn’t live there, has no local power base, and is married to a white Jew who probably has never even been to the place. As he has no power base, the locals rebel against his rule, only to be gunned down and replaced by foreigners.

For all the anti-colonialism and anti-imperialist rhetoric of modern liberalism, it’s clear that whatever the reason imperialism came to be in the first place, the reasons seem to continue existing today, and thus effective imperialism also goes on to this day. Now instead of having overt rule by European administrators, they have corporations doing whatever business needs to be done, and some plausibly local guy educated in the metropolis sent over as a figurehead. In exchange you give the figurehead’s younger brother a job in the BBC. And a white wife, of course. That’s indispensable.

Anyway what does all this have to do with the Ottoman Empire? I didn’t get it either, until they got to this point:

See what they did there? Look again. It’s such an bold-faced piece of bad propaganda, their Soviet ancestors must be crying in their atheist underworld. The BBC screenwriters must have felt so smart with all that covert symbolism. Ethnic nationalism. Stories of the war. An inter-faith choir. Modern-looking women. Did you hear what they’re singing though?

It sounds very strange to me that any self-respecting Bosnian Serb would join a choir with Muslims and chant Allah for a 100 times like in that clip. I bet you half the black stone in the Kaaba that Muslim Bosniaks don’t join Serbs in chanting Gregorian Chant and sing the glories of Jesus Christ.

And the poor Bosniak woman thought the war was hell. Oh war sucks so much when you lose. It sucks really really badly. She wouldn’t say that had her side won, and her brothers the ones gunning down Christian boys and raping their little sisters. That’s, you know, politics. It happens.

And all that talk about how we all got along so well back then. Respect! Multiculturalism! What’s infuriating is that this clueless kin of pirates had just 1 hour ago talked extensively about how Christian were taxed heavier, their children were kidnapped and enslaved into service to the Sultan, and their Churches were always made simple and down-run in contrast to the big and pretty mosques on the same town. Hey, but there was more respect! Funny that it’s the people in Sarajevo saying that. Why didn’t they ask the people of Belgrade or Athens?

My wasting-time-stop-this-now reflex was going overdrive listening to the Ottoman’s Empire multicultural respect, when I arrived to the end of the clip. Now that’s just priceless. Let me quote it in big letters:

In the case of the Ottomans, what is most impressive to us is that they were able to think through a system of government that did not depend on ethnic sovereignty.

No kidding? No fucking kidding? A Cathedral minion finally asks the right question. How did the Ottomans come up with a system not based on ethnic sovereignty? How did that happen?

Well, that system has a name actually. It’s called Absolute Monarchy. And that particular flavor was commonly called Oriental Despotism.

It seems the BBC has finally come up with the answer to how to make multiculturalism work in the modern world. What we need is Absolute Monarchy. And slavery. Heh. I didn’t see that one coming.

Jewish soul

I have my reserves towards the, let’s call it Moldbug theory of Jewish leftism, which argues that Jews aren’t a causative agent of leftism, but that during Emancipation the Jews contracted the virus of Progressivism, and being highly talented, they caused the virus to mutate and grow further into the catastrophic malady that it became.

I really have my reserves. In the end it’s all about assigning blame, and when you think about it carefully, the whole idea is quite misguided. Assigning blame for particular memes is hard enough when talking about individuals; when talking about groups, the very concept of agency becomes quite fuzzy. So trying to come up with a comprehensive theory on blame or the origins of anything is quite probably the wrong way of looking at it.

Nonetheless it is always interesting to look at particular examples, particular people and particular ideas. Notwithstanding my reserves towards clearing the Jews of all blame about leftism, I have found a quite persuasive data point towards them being victims of infection by the progressive virus.

This is from a recent BBC documentary series on the Jews, led by Simon Schama. Simon Schama himself is quite a good example of Jews being victims of English ideology, but just watch the video.

Lol. The shtetto and the ghetto. That’s just humiliating. If you let that happen at your place of worship, you’re not dominating the world. Just saying.

High Level Equilibrium Trap

If you’ve read some history you’ll probably know about the Needham Question, i.e. why China didn’t have an industrial revolution. Personally my favorite answer is the High Level Equilibrium Trap, which is a theory saying that China had developed medieval technology so efficiently that it just never had a need to develop machinery and high density energy sources.

It is perhaps unrelated, but one does have the impression that Asians generally do more with less. The Confucian exhortation to self-improvement and mastery in some way produces a mindset conducive to extracting all the juice from whatever you have, instead of abandon it and come up with something new from scratch.

For a more graphic take on the idea, take a look at this:

Shibboleth Threat

Evo-psych has quite a bad reputation, as it has produced a lot of just-so stories with little in the way of falsifiability. Well that might be true, but so what? Evolutionary psychology might not be amenable to the bureaucratic scientific procedures set by modern academia, but that doesn’t mean it has no value. It has produced a lot of very reasonable theories on phenomena that modern science has no clue about and mostly refuses to study. I don’t know how many times I’ve explained to people around me the theory that women like shopping because they were in charge of fruit gathering in the ancestral environment, and a shopping mall unconsciously reminds them of a lush forest full of fruit, which back then must have been an orgasmic experience. Same with men being good at directions (gotta find your way around when hunting), and women being good at remembering where stuff is around the house. Compared to the common narrative these days, that every talent that follows a population pattern is the work of (evil) social conditioning, evo-psych makes for way better stories. Read more »

Monarchy

After refusing for years, I finally yielded to a friends’s insistence that I watch Game of Thrones. And it’s actually pretty good. Quite oversexed, you might say, but not comically so, as the infamous Rome series, which had Augustus fucking his elder sister, out of the blue. I have no trouble believing that a quarter or so of the medieval elite were oversexed whoremongers. We do have an unrealistic image of the Middle Ages as a time of piety and boredom and sheer peasant stagnation. Then again it does nag me to read that the author of the series, George R. R. Martin is an Obama supporter, and a Carter worshiper. Of all people. I wonder what Jimmy Carter would think if he watched the series, with all those naked women and guts spilling out of soldiers. Read more »

Globalization

I’m still reading Christopher Beckwith’s book.

The guy is still as nuts as I remembered him. Just a little example: back in Ancient China, around 300 BC there was a foreign people living in the Tarim Basin, which the Chinese called 月氏. There are good reasons to think those people were the Tocharians, an Indo-European offshoot. These characters are pronounced in MSM (Modern Standard Mandarin) as Yuezhi (sort of /yoo-eh-jrr/ in American English).

Of course the modern pronunciation has nothing to do with the ancient one. As of now we are fairly confident of how Chinese sounded around 700 AD, the Tang Dynasty days, and those characters were pronounced as /ngwat ji/. Well of course there are 1000 years of difference between 700 AD and 300 BC. But Mr. Beckwith insists that the first character, /ngwat/, was pronounced /Tokwar/. Well, 1000 years is a lot of time, but phonetic change does follow some rules, and it’s seldom, not to say never, that radical. Not to say it’s purely impossible. But then Beckwith comes up with another theory of his. Any student of European history knows of Attila and his Huns, called Hunni (singular Hunnus, probably pronunced as Hunno at the time).  Well it happens that in Ancient China, more or less at the same time frame as the Yuezhi, there was a tribe of steppe dwellers on the northern frontier called the 匈奴. These characters are pronounced in MSM as Xiongnu, which doesn’t ring a bell. But in 700 AD Chinese they were pronounced as Hiongno. Hiongno/Huns, steppe dwellers, good fighters… hey maybe they’re the same people! Makes sense, right? Nah, says Beckwith. Not a chance. So the Ngwatji are the Tokwar, but the Hiongno aren’t the Hunno. Right.

Note that the Chinese name has no need at all to sound like the name we know. The Helenes were called Graeci by the Romans. The Chinese call themselves Han, or Hua. But Beckwith has a theory and he wants you to know it.

That’s not to say that the book isn’t interesting. It is, very much so. And it makes a lot of sense in general, leaving Beckwith’s pet theories aside. One of the most interesting themes of the book is the idea that the steppe civilizations run the Silk Road as a worldwide trade network since antiquity, meaning that to some extent the world’s, or at least Eurasia’s economy was pretty much connected during most of history. Which means that technologies, ideologies, and economic cycles were also transmitted worldwide since much earlier than we use to think. He talks of the worldwide transmission of chariot warfare, of the comitatus military system, of the Axial Age, of universalist religions, all of which became popular worldwide at more or less the same time.

This idea of early globalization has a lot of common with S.A.M. Adshead’s approach on World History. Adshead has also written on Central Asian history, but Beckwith doesn’t refer to him so perhaps he’s not aware of his work. I was thinking on the implications of this theory, when I opened my daily feed and found this op-ed by the Chinese Gobal Times.

Populism trends need to be curbed.

Populism has been gaining momentum in Chinese public opinion following several public events. Though an unconsolidated trend of thought, it is easily stimulated and could flare up in the future.

It is generally held that populism can be traced back to mid-19th century Russia, but it is ubiquitous in modern and contemporary times. With its enormous anti-elite sentiment and insufficient tolerance for different opinions, it seeks for absolute equality for all the people in a country. Though an important driving force for social justice and fairness, the concept, full of ideals and passion, lacks rationality. Populism can hardly find a footing in a Western society that often adopts an indifferent attitude toward it, which faces restraint there.

Populism has limited influence upon China but shows overwhelming power on the Internet. Certain members of the web elite take advantage of populism to advocate liberalism and some liberalist lawyers attempt to expand their personal influence. This leads to the awful consequence that inconceivable values and political groups are shaped in China.

A society is unable to campaign against populism even with huge effort because the idea takes on different variations and always appears with specific ideologies or political targets. Therefore, what a mature society should do is to get a lucid picture of the reality and nature of its objective existence, strive to prevent political forces in support of the thought from breaching laws and regulations as well as make its pursuit a disgrace in mainstream society.

If not maliciously utilized, populism is supposed to be “innocent” in itself since it only expresses some people’s sentiments accumulated in a natural way during the unbalanced development of society with no destructive power.

But such an assumption is all too idealistic, so mainstream society and in particular the government must identify targets in order not to fall into direct conflict with populism and get mired in a passive position in public opinion when cracking down on political extremism.

Given its clear-cut political direction, Internet populism has become politicized populism instead of pure sentiment or thought. Therefore, the general public needs to hold politics back from penetrating into this.

It must be noted that society’s call for order will prevail over people’s desire for catharsis with the gradual expansion of the middle class in China. Furthermore, those manipulating populism arbitrarily shall be given corresponding punishments in accordance with relevant laws.

Although populism should in no means be encouraged, the government must be prudent in tackling it to avoid defining such a trend as a complete opposition force. In a society with open public opinion, authorities have to remain resilient to a certain extent regarding populism, which constitutes a complicated topic in the realm of social governance.

Mostly unrelated to this, Hong Kong has already its own Occupy movement, which is growing increasingly important.

Any careful watchers of the US are seeing the trend is towards the death of the middle class, and a new social order where property is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small elite, and government outsources most of its functions to private contractors, while strengthens the surveillance and inquisition apparatus to quell dissent before it reaches critical mass. China has made a great effort to isolate itself from global ideological trends, but the overwhelming power of World History just can’t be fought. We truly are the mimetic ape.