Social Engineering

Apparently, Aristocracy is Inevitable

Time for a digression, not something even remotely academic, but something I have often thought about, and something I’m pretty certain is true: aristocracy is inevitable.

So, yeah, in 1917 and the years immediately after, the Russian people rose against their rulers, killed the Czars, inspired the Anastasia conspiracy theories and installed a communist government.

Aristocracy, they told us, was dead.

Russsian Revolution

A handful of years later, the party elite had their Black Sea dachas and were driven around in chauffeured cars while everyone else watched the carriages with undisguised resentment.

Exactly the same as in the pre-1917 era.  The only thing the communist revolution managed was to industrialize the country and create a new royal family.  (in their defense, they also defeated Hitler, but I’m not trying to make a different point here, not criticize communism per se).

China, another communist country, currently has 373 billionaires while a good billion people live the agrarian life of a Russian serf.

Another notable revolution that was supposed to get rid of the aristocracy was the French.  France currently has 40 billionaires…

So, whether capitalist, socialist or communist, society naturally seems to stratify into classes.  An upper class defined by either wealth (or in the case of communist Russia, by access), education or refinement springs up in every system.

Even the failed nations, the African warlord republics or Venezuela have a clear definition of haves and have-nots.  In Venezuela, the dictator’s corrupt cronies live like kings, for example.

Why?

I think I know: people with talent and drive don’t want to be counted among the masses. They work hard to achieve status so that either they or–failing that, their descendants–can have an easy life and enjoy themselves.  After all, enjoying yourself is much better than any of the alternatives.

Elon Musk worked to make his billions and now works just as hard at doing stuff he loves.  His definition of enjoying himself might put mankind on Mars.  Which means that, annoying as his electric cars might be, we’re all rooting for him.

And that’s the wonder of the modern world. You don’t need to be born a von-Anything to gain access to the world of the aristos.  All you need to have is drive, brains and a modicum of luck and you will get there, eventually.   Or be a really good soccer player.  Or a brilliant neurosurgeon.  Or guitar virtuoso.  There are infinite roads, but all require talent and hard work.

Unless you live in a communist country.  In that case, you will need political ability to enjoy the spoils.  But the same principle applies: if you’re GOOD at it, you’ll make it.

So I generally oppose systems which pretend to make the world an equitable place.  Evidence shows that the only way to enforce this is to give more and more power to the government, which just means a different subset of people fill the role of the aristocracy.

Since I generally respect talent and hard work more than I do political ability, I’ll probably always want the free-market people to win.

But whoever ends up in the drivers seat, know this: a talented group willing to put in the hours are going to have stuff the rest of the people don’t.  All the current political divide is doing is trying to define which group that will be.

Me?  I will stay on the sidelines wondering why it’s important for some politician on the left to have everything versus some dude who started a company.  I don’t actually care who it is, but you’ll generally find me in free-market countries because my talent does NOT lie in political acumen.

Anyway, just some random thoughts to break up the reviews for once.

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose published work spans every genre from literary fiction to comic fantasy.  His dark fantasy is collected in Pale Reflection.  You can have a look here.

Urban Planning for Gypsies*

Pruett-Igoe - social housing being demolished

Whenever I hear the words “sociology” and “science” used in the same sentence, I know that I am about to be sucked into an argument.  The sticking point here is what, exactly constitutes science, and what makes someone a scientist.

If you ask a sociologist, they will say that sociology is a science, just like physics.  If you ask a physicist, they will ask you what the sociologist was smoking when he made that statement.  You see, the physicist knows that science is built by hypothesis and logic, but is only validated through empirical verification. A sociologist, on the other hand, might say that the hypothesis and the theory are enough (I say might, because some sociologists are true to the scientific method, and I don’t want to generalize excessively).

There are both practical and philosophical reasons for the sociologists’ position.  Practical, in the sense that doing science with large groups of people can be difficult, and is understandable to a certain degree.  The philosophical is more insidious, as it involves the sociologists’ belief that as a scientist his theories are valid, and can be built upon with no experimental confirmation, which leads to houses of cards that seem incredible (through the lens of observation of actual human behavior) to anyone but another sociologist.

Hence, the title of this post, oxymoronic as it is.

gypsy_caravan1

I don’t really mean to imply that all sociologists are pseudoscientists, of course.  Many of them do keep their scientific training in mind and don’t fall into the trap of believing that well-constructed philosophy is in any way related to good science.  The bad ones, of course, become social engineers.

Social Engineers seem to commit the classic logical error of taking something particular and generalizing it.  The upside is that when they present a solution to this “problem”, they immediately have a compelling argument that shows that what they are proposing is important.  Typically however, social engineers (especially amateur ones) create more problems than they solve, simply by trying to do good.  Paving stones on the road to hell…

the reality of social engineers

They spend all their time trying to cure symptoms as opposed to studying the numbers and making decisions based on what is really going on, and seem to think that a small amount of sacrifice from everyone seems to be justified, if that can keep an individual or small group from suffering a little bit more.  Essentially, they are against any form of privilege and rile at anyone enjoying life when others can’t.  They seem to feel that we all have to be in the same boat – despite the fact that history teaches us that that’s not the case.  When, I ask of them, has everyone really been in the same boat?

prohibition - most people didn't want it

So we end up with things like Prohibition, Political Correctness, the Hays Code, Library book banning, gender/race quotas in companies and universities, protests against genetically modified foods, and countless others.  My favorite example is how many of the people involved in the anti-tobacco movement seem to be the same people pushing for the legalization of marijuana – despite the fact that a lot of the pulmonary health issues are the same!

To summarize, Social Engineering seems to be all about using small data sets to make generalizations about the whole of society, and to use anecdotal evidence (as opposed to statistically relevant evidence) and moral outrage when challenged.  Then, using nothing but these arguments, they force everyone into doing what they want (helmets on $%&!! motorcycles, for christs sake!) Seeing the state of the world, it seems to be a surprisingly effective way of doing things…

To quote longtime Road and Track Engineering Editor Dennis Simanaitis:

Social Engineering is to Engineering what Social Disease is to disease.  Both involve he hypocritical screwing of other people.

Yep, that’s precisely it.  Sad that we still have to say it twenty years after he did!

*MAJOR Brownie points if you can tell me where this phrase came from initially –  book and author.