Roam Notes on “Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium” by Martin Gurri

  • Title:: Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium
  • Author:: [[Martin Gurri]]
  • Recommended By:: [[Austen Allred]]
  • Reading Status:: #complete
  • Review Status:: #[[third pass]]
  • Tags:: #books #information #media #authority #elites #[[the public]] #[[the internet]]
  • URL:: link
  • Source:: #kindle
  • Roam Notes URL:: link
  • Anki Tag:: gurri_public_revolt
  • Anki Deck Link:: link
  • Notes

    • Overview
      • The internet is transforming our world by dramatically increasing the volume of information and destroying elite quasi-monopolies on information. The result is a clash between the public (networked, egalitarian, bottom-up) and authority (elites, top-down, hierarchical).
      • The public, once a much more passive entity that would blindly accept direction from the top, has increased power in the networked age of the internet and can openly challenge elite narratives. Elites have not accepted this reality and continue to try to silence the public. Clashes between authority and the public will continue until something changes. The resulting turbulence puts much at risk, including liberal democracy itself.
    • 1. PRELUDE FOR A TURBULENT AGE (Location 85)
      • Supply of information has exploded in unprecedented ways in recent years and this decreases authority of any one source. (Location 117)
      • How Walter Cronkite became Katie Couric and the audience became the public (Location 146)
        • "Uncertainty is an acid, corrosive to authority. Once the monopoly on information is lost, so too is our [[trust]]…proof for and against approaches infinity, a cloud of suspicion about cherry-picking data will hang over every authoritative judgment." (Location 154) Disparities between elite interests and public interests become crystal clear. #uncertainty
        • The mass audience transformed into [[vital communities]]: groups of wildly disparate size gathered organically around a shared interest or theme. They are amateurs, educated non-elites and information suddenly began to circulate at this level. (Location 193) #Ankified
        • Ultimately this liberation of information changed the relationship between the public and authority in almost every domain, and this change in the relationship is the main theme of the book (Location 205).
      • I christen the new age and other definitional illusions (Location 207)
        • [[the public]]: amateurs fractured into vital communities, each clustered around an “affair of interest” to the group #Ankified
        • [[authority]]: trained professionals, with access to hidden knowledge, perched on top of a specialized hierarchy. Usually achieved thier position through difficult accreditation, and are reluctant to listen to those who haven’t gone through the same hoops. (Location 247) Lasting authority comes from institutions that speak on their behalf. (Location 254). E.g. government, corporations, financial institutions, universities, mass media, politicians, scientific research industry, etc. #Ankified
        • [[information]] doesn’t grow linearly, it experiences huge sudden changes or "Waves" that transform the landscape: (Location 271) #Ankified
          • [[1st Wave (information growth)]]: The invention of writing
          • [[2nd Wave (information growth)]]: Development of the alphabet
          • [[3rd Wave (information growth)]]: The printing press and moveable type
          • [[4th Wave (information growth)]]: Mass media
          • [[5th Wave (information growth)]]: Gurri proposes we are in this new wave right now – information technology
    • 2. HODER AND WAEL GHONIM (Location 291)
      • A twenty-something in Toronto opens a new continent of expression for Iranians (Location 305)
        • [[Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder)]], better known by his blog name “Hoder,” is an influential Iranian blogger that the regime saw as a real threat because he started a blogging revolution among Iranians. In 2010 he was sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison for blogging, but was pardoned in 2014. Gurri uses his example throughout this chapter (Location 292)
        • “The Dictator’s Dilemma”: for security, dictators must restrict communications to a minimum, but they also need prosperity to make their rule legitimate, and this can only be attained by the open exchange of information. (Location 332) #Ankified
        • "Bloggers, and in general all dabblers in digital communication, are often accused of insulting sacred things: presidents, religion, property rights, even the prerogatives of a democratic majority. They speak when there should be silence, and utter what should never be said. They trample on the sanctities, in the judgment of the great hierarchical institutions which for a century and half have controlled, from the top down, authoritatively, the content of every public conversation. The idea is not that some forbidden opinion or other has been spoken. It is the speaking that is taboo. It’s the alien voice of the amateur, of the ordinary person, of the public, that is an abomination to the ears of established authority." (Location 394)
        • Some people in authority are despots and thugs, but what’s relevant is their belief they have a unique legitimacy to speak about their domain, and challenges to this are a threat to this moral order "which must be crushed utterly in the name of all that is good and true" (Location 399). Examples:
          • News media failing economically, but describing it as a danger to democracy rather than just threatening their livelihood.
          • Current desparate claims of [[public health professionals]] trying to silence outsiders with reasonable opinions, but claiming it’s because of "[[misinformation]]" and "dangerous" views.
      • A burning man on Facebook lights the way for political change in Tunisia (Location 440)
        • This section focuses on a Tunisian uprising, which started when [[Mohamed Bouazizi]], a street vendor, set himself on fire after humiliation by regime officials. (Location 465)
        • One insight from the event is incredible redunancy in the transmission of information, which means authoritarians can’t really shut it down. You can shut down pieces, even the entire internet, but not what Gurri calls the [[information sphere]], which refers to the broader space that includes internet, social media, mass media, and more. (Location 491) It can’t really be blocked by government, and it’s usually what determines the outcome of a political conflict. #Ankified
      • A Google employee in Dubai schedules an Egyptian revolution as a Facebook Event (Location 494)
        • "If you were to ask me to name the most significant geopolitical transformations since the fall of the Soviet Union, the 2011 uprising in Egypt, which followed close on the heels of Tunisia’s and repeated the same pattern, would rank very near the top." (Location 501) #Ankified
        • [[Wael Ghonim]] is a central character in the uprising. He created a Facebook page "We Are All [[Khaled Said]]", who was a young man beaten to death by thugs in the Mubarak regime. Images of Khaled’s face after the beating were used in the marketing campaign against the regime. Ghonim created a Facebook Event calling for protests. #Ankified
        • He attracted a huge audience, despite the fact that internet penetration in Egypt was around 20%. It turns out, this is enough to enter the consciousness of the public, and researchers like [[Roland Schatz]] have estimated the tipping point of awareness for something to diffuse and gain widespread attention is about 15%. (Location 560) #Ankified
    • 3. MY THESIS (Location 690)
      • A war of the worlds, deduced from the devil’s excrement (Location 707)
        • "My thesis is a simple one. We are caught between an old world which is decreasingly able to sustain us intellectually and spiritually, maybe even materially, and a new world that has not yet been born. Given the character of the forces of change, we may be stuck for decades in this ungainly posture. You who are young today may not live to see its resolution." (Location 708) The two sides in this conflict are: #Ankified
          • [[authority]]: Industrial, top-down, hierarchical institutions of authority that have dominated globally for a century and a half. Slow, plodding, inflexible.
          • [[the public]]: fluid, networked, flexible, fast, unsteady in purpose
        • Changes in ownership and availability of information is what has stoked this conflict. The [[5th Wave (information growth)]] has networked and connected the public through digital devices. #Ankified
      • The center cannot hold and the border has no clue what to do about it (Location 755)
        • You can also categorize the two warring groups of authority and the public as [[the Center]] and [[the Border]] (terms employed by Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky in another context)
          • [[the Center]] expects and protects the status quo (Location 764)
          • [[the Border]] is composed of “sects” or “networks”—voluntary associations of equals. Their purpose is to oppose the Center, and have no intention to actually rule, govern, or develop policy-this would imply rank or hierarchy and the Border is opposed to this. Opposition provides unity for the border. (Location 765) #Ankified
            • Sect: a group of people with somewhat different religious beliefs (typically regarded as heretical) from those of a larger group to which they belong. #Ankified
        • "Viewed from within this scheme, the stories of the last chapter appear in a new light. Hoder, Wael Ghonim, and Shawn Fanning emerged as sectarian heroes of the digital Border, striking at the forces of monopoly and centralization. Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, and Jack Valenti each represented a mighty hierarchy of the traditional Center, slow-turning yet implacable, perfectly willing to smash the individual to preserve the system." (Location 775)
        • The Center is failing (e.g. 2008 financial crisis, intelligence in Iraq), and the fractured, sectarian public criticizes, mocks, and magnifies, leading to perpetual distrust and conflict, especially since the public cannot govern or solve issues. (Location 798)
        • It’s uncertain what will happen, and unlikely that any particular group will "win". Gurri’s greatest concern is for the future of liberal democracy – it is part of the battleground. (Location 832)
      • [[Cyber-utopians]], [[cyber-skeptics]], [[cyber-pessimists]], and how all their sound and fury signifies very little (Location 836)
        • [[the public]] wasn’t really possible until the printing press – before that it was more of an inchoate lump managed by elites in authority. Two conditions required for a public to exist: self-consciousness (irritation or dissatisfaction to pry it apart from the elites) and a means of communication for the public to voice its thoughts and opinions. (Location 837) #Ankified
        • [[cyber-utopians]]: See digital media as a boost to human collaboration and democracy.
        • [[cyber-pessimists]]: Find many ills in the internet—the corruption of our culture, governments spying on their citizens.
          • Gurri is skeptical about these claims: "As analysis, the exhortations of the pessimists hover somewhere between pointless and trivially true. Of course dictatorships wish to spy on dissidents, just as dissidents seek to avoid detection—a game made vastly more difficult for those in power by the proliferation of digital hiding-places. Of course dictatorships wish to manipulate media of all kinds to influence opinion. In the industrial age, however, they did so boldly and officially, from authority, while under the new dispensation despots must try to impersonate the public to have any hope of influencing it." (Location 891)
          • [[Malcolm Gladwell]] would fit into this category. He thinks “If you’re taking on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy.” i.e. you have to be trained professionals for political change. Gurri suggests this has been contradicted by [[5th Wave (information growth)]]. (Location 885)
      • [[homo informaticus]], or how choice can bring down governments (Location 921)
        • How can information influence political power? (Location 922)
        • The predecessor to [[homo informaticus]] is [[unmediated man]] – lacked access to media, likely illiterate, and probably didn’t have ability to travel far – only information channels are the people around him. #Ankified
          • "The single most important aspect of this information environment was that so very little was new. The range of interests was narrow, the set of sources small." (Location 945)
          • Authorities only needed to control the community to stay legitimate, and unmediated man is limited in thinking about alternative stories. Authority receives little feedback or dissent from them.
        • [[homo informaticus]]: information man – we are all him – "end products of an evolutionary process involving the spread of education, expanded levels of wealth and security, and improved means of communication." #Ankified
          • They’re informed, literate, and have access to a variety of media. They’re exposed to the larger world. They may access information that subverts the legitimacy of the elite. This is why authoritarian regimes must deploy costly and elaborate state media; but they can only do so much. As sources increase -> greater chance of dissonance with the regime’s story, and the first step towards potential revolution. (Location 932)
            • He can be more easily influenced by [[demonstration effects]]: Information influencing actions by revealing something previously unknown or believed impossible. (Location 995)
          • "the rise of Homo informaticus places governments on a razor’s edge, where any mistake, any untoward event, can draw a networked public into the streets, calling for blood. This is the situation today for authoritarian governments and liberal democracies alike." (Location 1050)
          • Homo informaticus sounds a lot like [[Tyler Cowen]] "infovore" in his book The Age of the Infovore.
    • 4. WHAT THE PUBLIC IS NOT (Location 1083) #[[the public]]
      • It’s hard to define the public, so he uses [[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]] “[[subtractive knowledge]]” method to characterize complex systems: rather than assert what the public is, explain what it is not. Think chipping away at the stone until a portrait emerges. (Location 1098) #Ankified
        • "The public is not the people, but likes to pretend that it is" (Location 1106)
          • "this is true in all circumstances, everywhere. Since, on any given question, the public is composed of those self-selected persons interested in the affair, it possesses no legitimate authority whatever, and lacks the structure to enforce any authority that might fall its way." (Location 1135)
        • **"The public is not the masses, but was once buried alive under them" **(Location 1174) #[[the masses]]
          • The industrial age led to [[the masses]] becoming organized into gigantic hierarchies for every domain of activity. This buried the public as it served to benefit the hierarchy. (Location 1194) #Ankified
          • "The eighteenth-century public was minute but highly active. The public in the industrial age was immense but bullied into a reactive posture. The masses absorbed the hundreds of millions of ordinary persons who entered history in the nineteenth century, and placed them under the command of structures which allowed few authentic decisions, few real choices of opinion and action." (Location 1243)
        • "The public is not the crowd, but the two are in a relationship (it’s complicated)" (Location 1282) #[[the crowd]] #Ankified
          • "Members of the public tend to be dispersed, and typically influence events from a distance only, by means of “soft” persuasion: by voicing and communicating an opinion." (Location 1287)
          • "A crowd, on the contrary, is always manifest, and capable of great physical destructiveness and ferocity. It is a form of action which submerges the desires of many individuals under a single rough-hewn will." (Location 1291)
          • The public can create a crowd, but also a crowd can create its own public. E.g. Pope John Paul II trip to communist Poland in 1979 – the crowds provided [[demonstration effects]] that created a public of anti-communist resistance. People may have joined the crowd for religious reasons, but it inspired anti-communism, which wasn’t the original intent of the crowd. (Location 1303)
    • 5. PHASE CHANGE 2011 (Location 1406)
      • Elites never trusted the public, but what has changed is the public increasingly distrusts authority and has more power to translate that into action. (Location 1413)
      • Theme for this chapter: "At some moment of 2011, the script went awry. Toxic levels of distrust sickened democratic politics. People began to mobilize for “real democracy,” and denied that their elected representatives represented them. They were citizens of liberal democracies, but they demanded something different. They wanted radical change: and the great mystery, casting a shadow beyond 2011, was what this change away from current democratic practices might look like." (Location 1426) Gurri provides evidence of this change by pointing to various events that occurred in 2011 that share some important characteristics. #Ankified
      • Complex systems (e.g. society, politics) tend to experience sudden, dramatic changes. They accumulate noise, and the forces holding them together diverge silently under the surface. Eventually the dam breaks (e.g. [[Soviet Union]]). (Location 1434)
      • The limits of outrage, or the sound of a silent scream (Location 1448)
        • What now? If the old elite institutions are despised and destroyed, what will replace it? The public never provides clear answers to this question. Solutions often involve rules and hierarchy, which the sectarian public opposes. (Location 1515) #alternatives
      • The sources of outrage viewed from below, viewed from above (Location 1554)
        • The level of outrage among the public public is often way out of line with their standard of living, which is often high. Two complementary perspectives that explain the outrage (Location 1556): #Ankified
          • From below / ground level: revolt explained by failing of ruling institutions.
          • From above / birds eye history view: revolt propelled by nihilism – self-destructive contempt for the world, a complete rejection of the institutions leading to a desire to burn it all down, so we can have a better world. The "better world" part is always vague and unexplained, because you can’t know the results of experimental or alternative histories. Nihilism is all about negation, and it tends to be self-defeating – if they have their way, they will destroy themselves. This is "a political pathology frequently encountered in the wake of the Fifth Wave". Gurri’s definition of [[nihilism]] – The will to destruction, including self-destruction, for its own sake, with a frivolous disregard for consequences. (Location 1668)
      • How a tent city in Tel Aviv became a circus of middle class discontent (Location 1685)
        • Focus of this chapter is on the tent city protests Israel in the summer of 2011. These protests began on Facebook, among the usual university educated, young, affluent [[Daphni Leef]] – a common demographic in these 5th wave events (Location 1691). She posted a facebook event to pitch tents in the city after she found she could not afford an apartment within [[Tel Aviv]]. This caught on significantly and received widespread public support, changing the political landscape in Israel. They often had contradictory political fantasies, and they had the nihilistic attitude of destroying their own roots. (Location 1737) #Ankified
        • The Israel protestors ultimately wanted the government to make things right, somehow. They had no plans to do this nor did they really understand what it meant. It’s government’s job to figure this out. (Location 1754) #alternatives
        • The protests ultimately led to some significant political concessions, but demonstrators didn’t see it that way – incremental changes were seen as obstructionism or a bribe. Anything positive or specific was a threat. (Location 1774) #Ankified
      • Occupy Wall Street and the baffling politics of negation (Location 1797)
        • Occupy Wall Street fits into the typical 5th Wave revolt for 3 reasons: similar demographic and behavioral characteristics, drive from negation (no coherent demands, lots of accusation), and they lived virtually (Location 1806)
      • London in August, or the recurring question of [[nihilism]] (Location 1947)
        • This section revolves around the story of Mark Duggan who was shot dead in London in 2011. This led to protests, which broke out into 4 days of violent riots and looting, with 5 deaths. (Location 1951) These were called "The BlackBerry Riots" by the Economist, due to the use of BlackBerry Messaging Service among participants. #Ankified
        • "Belief that political power could switch off the [[information sphere]] was shown to be more than an aging dictator’s hallucination. It was a persistent delusion of [[the Center]]." (Location 2026)
          • Gurri’s point here is supported by the expert reaction to the [[COVID-19]] pandemic. There are constant calls to fight and squash "misinformation". The problem is, what is misinformation and who gets to define it? Early on, experts opposed people using masks. They also denounced any suggestion that COVID escaped from a [[China]] lab, and as of [[May 6th, 2021]], this is one hypothesis that can’t be eliminated.
        • Gurri believes these protestors used similar arguments other [[5th Wave (information growth)]] protests made, and took them to their logical conclusion – they turned violent and destructive, descending into [[nihilism]]. "The British rioters acted as if the government, the police, and the law lacked legitimacy." In other protests in 2011, the rebels waffled on this: "Most were the children of the comfortable middle class, too interested in the drama of the moment to accept the implications of their own rhetoric. " (Location 2033) #Ankified
          • "They behaved as if desirable things were part of the natural order, like the grass under their feet. Detestable systems of authority only stood in the way." (Location 2046)
      • What Guy Fawkes’s mask can teach us about the turmoil in 2011 (Location 2053)
        • "Fascination with a [[revenge]] melodrama offered a hint about how the young transgressors of 2011 viewed themselves—and what they imagined they were doing." (Location 2057)
          • They were self-dramatizers: "The disconnection between their words and their actions, between their understanding of effects and their indifference to causes, can be explained by this trait." (Location 2088)
        • The ideal world of the protestors and their expectation of government was incredibly high in scope and also ill-defined. They believed government could work miracles. (Location 2102)
        • "That was the most profound consequence of 2011: sowing the seeds of distrust in the democratic process. You can condemn politicians only for so long before you must reject the legitimacy of the system that produced them. The protests of 2011 openly took that step, and a considerable segment of the electorate applauded." (Location 2139) #democracy
    • 6. A CRISIS OF AUTHORITY (Location 2249) #authority
      • [[authority]]: flows from legitimacy and monopoly. The public needs to heed and trust them to some extent or else they’re simply not an authority. Authority must rely on [[persuasion]], because [[force]] destroys [[trust]]. (Location 2255) #Ankified
      • The crisis of authority has resulted from the visible gap between expert competence claims and their actual performance. This gap was always there, but the public now is hyper-aware of it. (Location 2287)
      • If science is the modern deity, then the public is on the verge of deicide (Location 2305) #science
        • Science is facing this crisis of authority. E.g. [[peer review]] – presupposes reviewers are independent and can evaluate manageable data, and both of these are called into question. (Location 2356). Gurri gives [[climategate]] event as an example.
        • Science was once a sectarian "[[the Border]]" practice, and since 1919 with Einstein, it’s become part of [[the Center]] with large bureaucracies. (Location 2367)
        • The lack of trust in science may be understated and ready to explode, since most people think Einstein when they think of science and not the bureaucracy and politics that pervade science today. On specific issues you can see the public’s distrust. (Location 2458). Expectations about scientists and their prestige is inflated, and now they are exposed due to expectations not meeting reality.
          • A disturbing example of this is the Italian Scientists that went to jail because they didn’t predict an earthquake. They were really convicted because "they had been unwilling to admit, in public, to the degree of uncertainty which science imposed on them" (Location 2511). [[authority]] claims certainty, and works hard to avoid being perceived as being uncertain. #uncertainty
      • The panic of the experts, or how those who thought they knew didn’t (Location 2537)
        • The economic crisis of 2008 is a key moment in the public loss of trust in experts. [[Alan Greenspan]] is a key example of an expert that fell from grace. (Location 2545).
        • The left blame lack of regulation, the right blame government involvement, and they’re both right. The bigger issue is that nobody saw it coming, and the gap between expectations of experts and their actual abilities was exposed. (Location 2666)
      • A corporate bum’s rush, or the economic ramifications of the [[5th Wave (information growth)]] (Location 2683) #Business #[[private sector]]
        • The business world seems to be not only surviving, but thriving, in the networked age. Why? (Location 2688)
        • [[markets]] are pure [[trial and error]] and this works to their advantage: "The trial part of trial and error entails mostly error, unless the set of trials is large and competitive enough to produce a possible success, and the system is smart and [[agile]] enough to recognize success and reward it." (Location 2764)
          • There is an incredible amount of [[churn]] in companies. Many fail. "average lifespan of a company on the S&P 500 has declined from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today." (Location 2745) This churn gives the public what it wants – companies that don’t give them what they want fail. (Location 2762)
        • In contrast, many institutions that have been less successful in this environment face single-trial process or define success hierarchically from [[authority]] (they ignore [[the public]]). They explain away and double down on failure. This doesn’t work in the modern age where the public can question everything. (Location 2769)
        • It’s not that businesses are smarter; it’s that [[capitalism]] is well-equipped to adapt and failing companies are replaced. Individual companies are usually not great at change, because [[innovation]] fundamentally threatens [[authority]] of powerful people and groups in corporations, despite lip service to "culture of innovation" and "thinking like a startup".
      • Uncertainty, impermanence, and other symptoms of life without authority (Location 2807)
        • Symptoms of the crisis of [[authority]]
          • excessive expectations among the public which are encouraged by the authorities
          • Elite loss of control over the story told about their performance
          • Alternative centers of authority
          • Impermanence – a lack of inevitability is bad for authority because if people doubt it’s permanence the authority is reduced (Location 2860)
        • "You would expect, in a time of uncertainty, a landscape crowded with frauds and con artists peddling positive formulas for happiness, love, sex, good health, and better government. You would expect, too, the most trivial assertions to be attended with much noise and thunder: absent authority, every message must be shouted to have a hope of being heard. Stridency will infect every mode of communication, but will be most disruptive of political rhetoric. Just to keep an audience, politicians and commentators will have to scream louder and take more aggressive positions than the competition." (Location 2855)
        • Impermanence may lead to increased [[religiosity]]. E.g. in the Middle East, Islamist groups prospered where secular Arab authoritarians wobbled. [[Christianity]] in [[China]] is growing. #religion #Ankified
          • "For the governing classes and articulate elites of the world, this turn to religion is both appalling and incomprehensible—but this is a denial of human nature. If the City of Man becomes a passing shadow, people will turn to the City of God." (Location 2889)
    • 7. THE FAILURE OF GOVERNMENT (Location 3024) #government #[[government failure]]
      • Why is government rhetoric completely out of line with what government can reasonably achieve? (Location 3044)
      • How JFK won by failing while Obama succeeded his way to defeat (Location 3058)
        • The Bay of Pigs invasion was a major failure for [[JFK]]. He was forgiven by the media, which is surprising from the modern perspective – he would have been pilloried today. Obama had his governing majority shattered in Congress in 2010 due to failed stimulus, and the public was much less forgiving. (Location 3059)
        • For [[government failure]], you need two things: something that happens that’s perceived as a failure, and a ruptured relationship between government and governed. (Location 3243)
      • How Brasilia and Cabrini Green became Dodd-Frank and the EU Constitution (Location 3281)
        • [[Brasilia]] – a new capital built from nothing in [[Brazil]]. Government set grand expectations, and it didn’t come close to meeting those expectations (Location 3307). #Ankified
        • It’s a great example of a [[high modernism]] project: grand government projects that aim to make the world anew. Authoritarian examples include the [[Great Leap Forward]]. High modernism efforts of today would include the Obama stimulus, which took 1,000 pages to describe and costing $800 billion. #Ankified
        • [[late modernist]] government sometimes attempts [[high modernism]] level of ambition. Despite being failures to meet their objectives, high modernism dazzled elites and public since elites could control the story of these projects they weren’t failures but "epic activity, high drama, reaching for the stars." (Location 3349) That simply doesn’t work anymore with a fractured and connected public. #Ankified
        • "[[high modernist]] government was an austere prophet, demanding the destruction of the muddled present to make room for the perfect future. [[late modernist]] government is more like a kindly uncle, passing out chocolate chip cookies to his favorite nieces and nephews. He doesn’t wish to transform them. He just wants them to be happy—most particularly, with him." (Location 3362)
        • [[late modernist]] policies try to address every little injustice and become recognized for it, but it necessarily spreads itself too thin and becomes ineffective. It also presumes everything can be solved by government (Location 3390) It takes [[high modernist]] claims to achieving anything, and also adds claims they can intervene anywhere to promote happiness. (Location 3396) This typically fails, killing legitimacy of government.
      • Paul Ormerod and why most things fail (Location 3415)
        • "At some point around the turn of the new millennium, elites lost control of information, and power arrangements began to flip. Assured of the public’s wrath, elected governments have acted, or failed to act, motivated by a terror of consequences. Legitimacy was equated with the deflection of blame, and the aim of governing became to exhibit a lack of culpability." (Location 3420)
        • Politicians will eventually be tempted to engage in the type of [[negation]] the public uses. Obama engaged in this type of negation rhetoric. (Location 3530)
      • [[Barack Obama]] and the joys of [[negation]] (Location 3536)
        • "There is a [[democrat’s dilemma]] that is no less perilous than the dictator’s. Politicians must promise the impossible to get elected. Elected officials must avoid meaningful action at all costs." (Location 3541) #Ankified
          • Obama dealt with this balance by eventually avoiding meaningful action, while engaging in rhetoric that made him sound like a righteous outsider calling out the corrupt establishment. He embraced public negation and fanned the flames. (Location 3556)
          • "Barack Obama, I believe, represented a new and disconcerting development in democratic politics: the conquest of the Center by the Border, and the rise of the sectarian temper to the highest positions of power." (Location 3649)
          • "The accusatory style of government must be understood as a pathological development, a deformation, brought about by the underground struggle between the public and authority." (Location 3672)
    • 8. NIHILISM AND DEMOCRACY (Location 3778) #nihilism #democracy
      • [[nihilism]] is a logical conclusion of the forces hypothesized in the book – the system bleeds legitimacy, and there will ineviteably be people who argue it should be put out of its misery. (Location 3793)
      • Portrait of the nihilist as the sum of our negations (Location 3976)
        • The nihilist sees "[[government failure]]" as lying and cheating. (Location 3984). The nihilist is loud and irreconcilable. He turns to violence in physical contact, and online he is eager to find ideas to "hack, expose, paralyze the institutions that run the world".
        • The nihilist is now connected digitally to coordinate with other nihilists just as destructive. (Location 3990)
        • The disturbing thing about the nihilist is not what he is, but where he comes from: he’s a child of [[privilege]], he is a beneficiary of the system he comes from, he’s not marginalized. (Location 4007) #Ankified
          • "He’s healthy, fit, long-lived, university-educated, articulate, fashionably attired, widely traveled, well-informed. He lives in his own place or at worst in his parents’ home, never in a cave. He probably has a good job and he certainly has money in his pocket. In sum, he’s the pampered poster boy of a system that labors desperately to make him happy, yet his feelings about his life, his country, democracy—the system—seethe with a virulent unhappiness." (Location 4012)
        • He expects perfection, and any deviation from his expectation triggers his urge to destroy. (Location 4042) The nihilist appears once "[[privilege]] is felt to be natural, a matter of birth rather than previous effort". (Location 4065)
        • "Every great institution is justified by a story." (Location 4090) "Such stories aren’t surface gloss. They influence our behavior directly. This is why paper sometimes beats scissors: soft words ignite powerful historical memories, and the public takes to the streets." (Location 4096) #stories
    • 9. CHOICES AND SYSTEMS (Location 4205)
      • This chapter tries to answer what to do – what can the public, government, you, and me do to deal with the turbulence? (Location 4207)
      • If structure is destiny then the personal will trump the political (Location 4238) #[[personal sphere]]
        • [[personal sphere]] – "This is the circle of everyday life, experienced directly, in all its local specificity. Here the choices meaningful to an individual get generated: spouse, children, friends, career, faith." (Location 4238) #Ankified
        • The problem we face is not with [[democracy]], it’s with outlandish government claims that constantly fail to meet expectations. (Location 4284) #expectations #[[under-promise over-deliver]] #Ankified
          • [[the public]] must also update expectations about what democratic government can deliver. (Location 4303)
        • The solution is not [[direct democracy]], but a return to the [[personal sphere]]. Returning [[choice]] to the personal sphere will allow issues to be addressed directly with local knowledge, with lots of [[trial and error]]. Then personal failure doesn’t take down the entire system. (Location 4294) #Ankified
      • Telescopic philanthropy, or the politics of the impossible (Location 4305) #[[personal sphere]]
        • We need less reliance on broad indicators like [[GDP]] to evaluate performance. "Numbers like the GDP fulfill a rhetorical function. They partake of the prestige of science, appearing superior to the confused jumble of reality as actually experienced. They sustain the high modernist claim that we can know at a glance the truth about vast systems." (Location 4342) #[[high modernism]] #quantification
          • "But we know that we don’t know. The number is an illusion. If I lose my job, I understand what this signifies in all the intimate details, because I have direct access to my [[personal sphere]]. If I am told that the unemployment rate went up from 5.1 to 5.6 percent over the last month, I have no idea what this signifies. I lack access to the reality behind the number." (Location 4344)
          • "In the end, the most persuasive story wins, not the highest score." (Location 4354) #stories
          • People then confuse personal and statistical, leading to more [[negation]]. "I may hold down an excellent job, but the failure of the stimulus to meet its targets infuriates me." (Location 4358)
        • [[Charles Dickens]] illustrates the issues with overemphasis on the public rather than private sphere with Mrs. Jellyby of Bleak House – a character that spent much time working to improve the lives of others while completely neglecting her own children. "[[telescopic philanthropy]]—the trampling of the personal sphere for the sake of a heroic illusion." (Location 4364) #Ankified
          • "A telescopic philanthropist, from the moral heights, would call this selfishness or escapism. Yet selfishness, it seems to me, would entail the demand that the government meet all my needs. Escapism would mean burying my personal responsibilities under a concern for the brotherhood of man." (Location 4384)
        • Control and satisfaction can only be found in the [[personal sphere]]. (Location 4382)
        • You can engage in politics and government, form opinions and act, among other things. What you should not do is demand certainty of complexity or expect statistics will ordain the future. (Location 4390)
      • Advice to the prince, or the art of government in societies of distrust (Location 4393) #government #[[public administration]]
        • Government can try to will the world back to before the internet, but this is doomed to fail. The alternative is government to retain some control by moving information online in a way that the public can interact with it. As much as possible, create "[[open government]]". (Location 4452) #Ankified
          • Shorter, readable laws. (Location 4459)
          • Work on drafts out in the open, online
          • Reduce pseudo-technical jargon
        • This could create incentives for persuasiveness in place of current incentives for opaqueness. They could get a more productive feedback loop from the public. It could also demystify government and set public expectations properly. (Location 4465)
    • 10. FINALE FOR SKEPTICS (Location 4536)
      • If my story has been fiction, the null hypothesis must be true (Location 4575) #predictions
        • this section discusses what we expect to see if the thesis is true, vs what you would see from the null hypothesis.
        • If the thesis is true:
          • "Additional higher-level effects include a progressive loss of inhibition by the public in its attacks on authority, the rise of anti-establishment political groups, and the possibility, lurking in the shadows, of the nihilist and his fever dream of annihilation." (Location 4613)
          • Government will make it a priority to defend itself against the public. (Location 4618)
          • "In democracies, elected officials will be tempted to gain favor by distancing themselves from the democratic process." (Location 4621)
        • If the null hypothesis it true:
          • "A political environment safely entrenched within the processes of the industrial age. Government actions and policies are sheathed with authority and persuasiveness, while government failures implicate specific politicians or parties but never the system as a whole. You should expect, under such conditions, for political life to be characterized by continuity rather than disruption. Protests occur, but they target specific rather than systemic issues. Public opinion will be more forgiving—even, on occasion, as gentle as it was with JFK over the Bay of Pigs." (Location 4636)
          • Opposition is loyal, shares assumptions of people in power and sits within the political system. (Location 4641)
          • Information belongs to institutions and remains under their influence. (Location 4645)
      • The future’s uncertain but the present is always here (Location 4663)
        • "Books that interpret events sooner or later will be falsified by events: you just hope it’s later." (Location 4672) #predictions
      • The old democracies and the new structure of information (Location 4797)
        • History can be driven by [[negation]], not just contradiction. This means that, even though there is no better alternative to liberal democracy, it could still be in trouble due to forces of negation pushing along despite there being no clear alternative.
    • 11. (Addition to 2018 Edition) TRUMP, BREXIT, AND FAREWELL TO ALL THAT (Location 4958)
      • The Revolt of the Public was first published in June 2014. This chapter is an extension written in 2018 providing some reconsiderations. (Location 4960)
      • His main reconsideration is that "The great unraveling of the institutions has proceeded faster, further, and deeper than I imagined possible in 2014." (Location 5012)
      • Eternal surprise of the elites, or the world turned upside-down (Location 5026)
        • "From start to finish, the 2016 presidential race can best be understood as the political assertion of an unhappy and highly mobilized public. In the end, Trump was chosen precisely because of, not despite, his apparent shortcomings. He is the visible effect, not the cause, of the public’s surly and mutinous mood." (Location 5072)
        • Trump was lucky in his moment. His strategy wouldn’t have worked in 1980, 1990, or 2000.
      • The Russians are coming, the Nazis are here, and everywhere you look there’s Donald Trump (Location 5265)
        • "This is how the global elite class and many others interpret what I have called the revolt of the public: as the death of democracy and a descent into authoritarian darkness." (Location 5276)
        • The idea that we should control social media to tame the revolt of the public is misguided. People often praise [[China]] for some of their capabilities and even their censorship. "The regime in China survives on economic prosperity, which demands the free flow of information. But sooner or later, the economy will begin to wobble—should that information be allowed to flow?"
          • "China’s elites are riding a tiger and know it. Whatever the future brings to this antiquated power structure, it is no more likely than North Korea or Cuba to provide the escape route from liberal democracy in the twenty-first century." (Location 5316)
        • [[Vladamir Putin]] is significantly overrated in his capabilities and success as an authoritarian (Location 5327)
        • "I don’t see authoritarian rulers prospering under current conditions." (Location 5380) #[[To Ankify]]
          • Democracies are drifting toward dysfunction and paralysis, not authoritarianism. (Location 5453)
        • Politicians dilemma: if they get into office as an anti-establishment person, they can continue to criticize institutions but they’ll damage the economy and their popularity; if they compromise with the elites, they lose credibility with their base. Trump’s rhetoric can be seen as a way to escape this – loud and vulgar negation rhetoric that is often unrelated to policy. (Location 5530) #Ankified
        • "For all the sound and fury about [[fake news]], not a shred of evidence exists that they influenced the election outcome." (Location 5617)
      • The fate of the industrial elites and the uncertain future of liberal democracy (Location 5881)
        • "The recovery of truth requires the restoration of trusted authority. At the moment, that is nowhere in sight. The question before us is whether the current elite class can ever resume that function." (Location 5903)
        • The defeat of ISIS demonstrates the ability of bipartisan elites working together with confidence to defeat the nihilists. (Location 5906)
        • Elites must bridge the gap with the public, and to do this they have to have a positive vision that counteracts the negation of the public and includes them in the vision. (Location 5912) Unfortunately democratic elites have so far shown no interest in trying to reach the public. They go the opposite direction by trying to restore distance and silence the public rather than persuading.
        • [[devolution]] may be part of the answer: "the federal government is now an agent of division and polarization, state and local government, as well as certain private entities, can become rallying points of community. The negation of the nation-state must mean either anarchy or devolution to the city-state." (Location 5978)
        • What we really need is the emergence of a legitimate elite class. (Location 6086)
      • How is a legitimate hierarchy formed? (Location 6091) #hierarchy
        • Hierarchy forms naturally in human interaction in day-to-day life. Exemplary people are bestowed it through their example, and healthy societies assign authority this way. What is this quality that helps them rise? It "isn’t power, or wealth, or education, or even persuasiveness. It’s integrity in life and work." #Ankified
        • "Modern government’s original sin is pride. It was erected on a boast—that it can solve any “problem,” even to fixing the human condition—and it endures on a sickly diet of utopian expectations. We now know better." (Location 6143) #Ankified
        • Two qualities to look for in elites: [[honesty]] and [[humility]]. (Location 6147) Another key virtue: [[courage]]. This is required because "truth must be spoken even when it hurts the speaker or the audience. Distance must be reduced to a minimum, even at the risk of physical danger. (Location 6153) #Ankified

Roam Notes on “What the Pandemic Revealed”, By Brink Lindsey

  • "Author::" [[Brink Lindsey]]
  • "Source::" https://www.niskanencenter.org/what-the-pandemic-revealed/
  • "Recommended By::" [[Tyler Cowen]]
  • "Tags:: " #libertarian #[[COVID-19]] #politics #[[role of government]] #[[state capacity]]
  • Overview

  • [[Brink Lindsey]] discusses libertarianism in the context of [[COVID-19]]. While there was significant government failure in handling the crisis, Lindsey suggests that what we need is greater government capacity, not to cut government services. According to him, this is the only solution Libertarians have regarding government. They offer valuable points on the limits of government, but they do not provide insights on how to improve the quality of government.
  • Excerpts

  • On March 3, in response to reports that some Republican lawmakers favored free testing and treatments for [[COVID-19]], [[Derek Thompson]] of [[The Atlantic]] tweeted, “There are no [[libertarians]] in a pandemic.” The witticism bounced all over social media during the ensuing days and weeks – and with good reason, since the jab hit its target squarely on the nose.
  • When public safety is threatened, whether by war or disease, our dependence on [[Government]] becomes immediately and viscerally obvious.
  • In the first place, the fact that certain kinds of government action are necessary under the extraordinary conditions of a public health emergency – a fact freely acknowledged by many libertarians and partisans of small government – does not mean that expansive government across the board is a good idea in normal times. Further, in the emergency now upon us, overweening government has contributed significantly to the scale of the pandemic here in the United States. Effective responses to the outbreak have been badly hampered by inadequate supplies of test kits and equipment, and primary responsibility for this failure rests with the Food and Drug Administration and its heavy-handed regulatory approach. A key blunder was the decision in early February to allow only the [[CDC]] to produce and conduct tests; problems with the CDC’s initial test then led to weeks of disastrous delay. #[[FDA]]
  • Meanwhile, responding to the crisis has necessitated a string of regulatory waivers at the federal and state levels – to allow doctors and nurses to work out of state, to facilitate telemedicine, to expand the scope of work that non-M.D. health professionals can do, to allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol to takeout customers, and more. The relevant rules have been put aside temporarily as obviously dysfunctional now – but perhaps that means at least some of them are dysfunctional, if less obviously, all the time? #[[regulation]] #[[deregulation]]
  • But if the pandemic has shown that a critical stance toward government is always needed in formulating and evaluating policy, it has demonstrated even more forcefully the limitations and shortcomings of libertarians’ exclusive focus on government excess. The gravest failures in the government response to the pandemic were sins of omission, not commission – not unnecessary and ill-advised interference with the private sector, but the inability to accomplish tasks for which only government is suited. Yes, at the outset of the crisis the [[FDA]] was disastrously over-restrictive in permitting labs to develop their own tests for the virus, but it is flatly risible to suggest that everything would have worked out fine if only government had gotten out of the way.
  • While the economic collapse was doubtless aggravated at the margins by forced business closures and stay-at-home orders, those interventions largely codified the public’s spontaneous response to the uncontrolled outbreak of a highly infectious and potentially fatal disease. It’s quite simply impossible to run a modern economy at anything near its potential level of output when people are afraid that going to work or going shopping might kill them or their loved ones.
  • [[Government excess]], in other words, was not the fundamental problem. On the contrary, a large and activist government was all that stood between us and mass privation and suffering on a mind-boggling scale. Only government can mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic – in the same way it responds to other shocks that lead to other, less drastic slumps – by acting as insurer of last resort, using its taxing, spending, borrowing, and money-creating powers to sustain household spending and keep businesses afloat until resumption of something approaching normal economic activity is possible.
  • In the current double crisis, what has been lacking is not restraints on government power. What has been lacking – shockingly, shamefully, tragically lacking – is the capacity to exercise government power effectively. #[[state capacity]]
  • As to how to close America’s deficit in [[state capacity]], a question with millions of lives in the balance, [[libertarianism]] has nothing to say. The libertarian project is devoted exclusively to stopping government from doing things it ought not to do; its only advice about how to improve government is “less.” When it comes to making government strong enough and capable enough to do the things it needs to do, libertarianism is silent.
  • As I’ve already argued, none of this means that libertarians are wrong about everything, or that [[libertarian]] ideas are worthless. But it does mean that skepticism about government, standing alone, is an insufficient foundation for good governance. The insights of libertarian thought – suspicion of centralized power, alertness to how even the best-intended government measures can still go horribly wrong, recognition of the enormous fertility of the marketplace’s decentralized, trial-and-error experimentation – are genuine and abiding. But they are not sufficient.
  • I say this as someone who discovered [[libertarian]] ideas in the 1970s. Back then, the intellectual orthodoxy tilted heavily in favor of top-down, technocratic management of economic life. [[Paul Samuelson]]’s bestselling [[economics]] textbook was still predicting that the [[Soviet Union]] would soon overtake us in [[GDP]].
  • The intellectual turn against markets had derived enormous momentum from events. The catastrophic collapse of the [[Great Depression]] had seriously discredited [[capitalism]], while the energetic experimentation of the [[New Deal]] showcased government activism favorably. Belief in the benevolence and effectiveness of American government, and the crucial importance of collective action for collective welfare, gained further strength from the experience of [[World War II]]. And the glittering economic performance of the postwar decades under the [[Big Government]]-[[Big Business]]-[[Big Labor]] triumvirate seemed to confirm that government management and economies of scale had permanently displaced upstart [[entrepreneurship]] and [[creative destruction]] as the primary engines of [[progress]].
  • But by the 1970s, events had turned. [[Stagflation]], the combination of soaring prices and slumping output, was afflicting the country despite the fact that its very existence was a baffling mystery to the reigning practitioners of macroeconomic “fine-tuning.” In cruel mockery of the noble goals and soaring rhetoric of the “War on Poverty,” a major expansion of anti-poverty programs had been followed by waves of urban riots, a soaring crime rate, and the catastrophic breakdown of intact families among African-Americans. The auto and steel industries, pillars of the economy and only recently world leaders in efficiency and innovation, were buckling under the competitive challenge of imports from [[Europe]] and [[Japan]]. Gas lines and periodic rationing suggested a grim future of ever more tightly binding “limits to growth.”
  • Against this backdrop, the rising movement of libertarian thought and free-market economics represented a much-needed corrective.