Friday, September 04, 2009

To expand on yesterday's thoughts:

The goal of progressive societal reforms should be the more effective use of the cumulative attention of the masses, and the more parsimonious usage of the attention of the elite. The qualities of these reforms should be simplification, dispersion, and stabilization.

The core insight of social neoconservative thought was that the dispersal of liberal attitudes - cultural libertarianism & hedonism - from the elites to the masses, resulted in a societal catastrophe as indulgences of the avante garde, rich in social capital, spread to the working and lower classes with their corresponding poverty in said cushion of social capital. The familial and pharmacological affectations which a single female lawyer can handle, destroys the woman who takes in the lawyer's wash.

As this is generally true for the social and cultural spheres, so, I suggest, it might be true for economic spheres, with a slightly different cause. While cultural elites are rich in social capital, the meritocratic elite is rich in cleverness: the ability to make sense of fiscal and legal complexity, and a generally superior capacity for finding the cracks in increasingly legalized and complicated webs of options, rules, regulations and prohibitions. The fiendishly complex legal code under which a trained business lawyer can make a killing, traps the merely average in a distracting, time-wasting wilderness of opaque options, most of which can entangle the simple in accidental illegalities. The simple are forced to apply to the clever and well-trained to do what would be simple absent the interference of increasing layers of contradicting regulation. All of this is a drag on economic behavior, from grand decisions down to the details of daily life.

Legalization is poison to the general masses. It introduces cleverness into everything it touches, upgrades every task affected such that mere common understanding no longer suffices. An army of lawyers and para-lawyers and accountants spread out, flowing into every crack opened by each new wave of regulation, eating up the substance of the land, so to speak.

This is not to say that more complex instruments and options should be legislated out of existence: that's the "tyranny of choice" crowd, and they're a bunch of goddamn fascists. But the web of legalities, of regulation and petty statutory obligation which force the simple into complexity - this is an active evil. It's the legal community reproducing, lawyers writing increasingly complicated code for producing more opportunities for lawyers interpreting the growing thicket of complex code. In programming, these sorts of spaghetti codebases are sometimes written accidentally, by inept hacks, and sometimes written intentionally, to pad somebody's long-term employment security, but it always results in an intractable mess of barely-functional trash which isn't expandable, maintainable, or alterable without tossing the whole damn thing out & re-writing from scratch.

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