Why Ideological Systems Fail

In my last post I explained that the source of an ideological system’s failure is never individuals acting in their self-interest. However, I did note that a source of failure can be individuals whose causes of unease aren’t proper for the system.

Consider the Soviet Union. Many self-proclaimed communists point to Stalin’s rise to power as the point where the country transitioned from a communist system to a corruption of communism. When Stalin came to power he eliminated anybody he perceived to be a challenge to his power. One of his sources of unease was obviously the thought of losing power. A communist system cannot succeed if the individuals in power are made uneasy by losing power because the goal of communism according to Marx is the transition to a stateless society.

Consider the United States of America. Many self-proclaimed capitalists point to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency as the point where the country transitioned from a capitalist system to a corruption of capitalism. Roosevelt came into power during the Great Depression and implemented a number of socialist programs in an apparent attempt to right the economy. A source of his unease was the continuation of the economic conditions of the Great Depression, which he felt could be corrected by a move away from capitalism. A capitalist system cannot succeed if the individuals in power are made uneasy by economic downturns because those downturns are a necessary response to resources being misallocated.

As I noted in my previous post sources of unease are unique to each individual. This brings us to a major reason why ideological systems fail. No single ideological system can remove or alleviate the uneases of every individual. Communism cannot remove the unease felt by a capitalist when his business is taken and given to his employees. Capitalism cannot remove the unease felt by employees who are not being paid the full value of their labor by a employer. Most proponents of an ideological system recognize this, but fail to grasp the ramifications.

When an attempt to implement an ideological system on a massive scale is made, individuals who are somehow made uneasy by that system (at least in its pure ideological form) will strive to undermine it. Attempts to counteract those individuals will make other individuals uneasy. For example, trying to purge anti-communists after a communist revolution will likely make many of the friends and family members of those anti-communists uneasy. They may attempt to alleviate their unease by undermining the communist system. Attempts at repressing them will just continue the cycle. Eventually so many people are attempting to alleviate their uneasy by undermining the system that its failure can no longer be denied.

All Action is Self-Interested Action

Most self-proclaimed communists refer to the economic system of the United States as capitalism. Most self-proclaimed capitalists point out that the economic system of the United States is actually cronyism. Meanwhile, most self-proclaimed capitalists refer to the economic system of China as communist and most self-proclaimed communists claim that what is implemented in China isn’t real communism.

This is how most arguments about ideological systems go. The critic points to a supposed implementation as proof that the system is trash and the advocate rebuts by claiming that the supposed implementation is a corrupted form of the system, not an actual implementation. If you then prod the advocate about the source of the corruption, they will almost always claim that the source is greedy individuals acting in their self-interest rather than the interests of all.

Is that true? Is the flaw in every ideological system individuals acting in their self-interest instead of the interests of all? Could humanity enjoy a utopian existence under communism if individuals would stop being greedy? Would capitalism not transition into cronyism if individuals worried about what is best for others instead of what is best for themselves? No. It’s not true because all individuals act in their self-interest. It is impossible to do otherwise.

My argument is seldom put forth because many, if not most, people make the mistake of believing self-interest is synonymous with acquisition of power and/or material wealth. But that’s a gross misunderstanding of self-interest. As Ludwig von Mises points out:

Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness1. A man perfectly content with the state of his affairs would have no incentive to change things. He would have neither wishes nor desires; he would be perfectly [p. 14] happy. He would not act; he would simply live free from care.

But to make a man act, uneasiness and the image of a more satisfactory state alone are not sufficient. A third condition is required: the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness. In the absence of this condition no action is feasible. Man must yield to the inevitable. He must submit to destiny.

When an individual acts, they seek to remove or alleviate a felt uneasiness. Unease is unique to the individual. What makes one individual uneasy may make another content. Consider a hypothetical love triangle where one individual, who I will call Julius, desires the murder of another, who I will call Gnaeus, because he won the affection of a mutual love interest, who I will call Scribonia. Gnaeus would be made content by the murder of Julius, but Scribonia would be made uneasy by the murder (Julius would probably be uneasy between the time the act or murder began and his death).

People often assume an act isn’t self-interested when they don’t know the source of unease that preceded the action. For example, one might mistake the act of an fire fighter running into a burning building to rescue somebody as an act against the fire fighter’s self-interest because it a cursory examination makes it seem that the fire fighter is causing themselves unease for the sake of another. But the sight or thought of another person suffering can (and probably for most people does) cause unease. The fire fighter may have gone into the burning building because they sought to remove or alleviate their unease of the thought of another individual burning to death. Or they may have instead gone into the burning building because they knew failing to do so would result in their termination from the job and the thought of losing their job caused them unease. Either way the act was in the fire fighter’s self-interest.

I’m sure one clever reader is saying to themselves, “Chris, you said acting against my self-interest is impossible, but I’m going to prove you wrong by stabbing myself in the gut!” Following through with the action would not prove me wrong because the action would be taken to remove or alleviate the unease caused by the thought of me being correct.

Thus the flaw in an ideological system cannot be a failure of individuals to act against their own self-interest. An argument could certainly be made that the primary flaw in an ideological system is individuals whose causes of unease aren’t proper for the system. That, however, is a different argument entirely.


I’ve recently started reading the works of Renzo Novatore, and Italian individualist anarchist. His writings on anarchism can almost be seen as a sequel to the writings of Max Stirner. One of his more famous quotes struck a chord with me.

Anarchy is not a social form, but a method of individualization. No society will concede to me more than a limited freedom and a well-being that it grants to each of its members. But I am not content with this and want more. I want all that I have the power to conquer. Every society seeks to confine me to the august limits of the permitted and the prohibited. But I do not acknowledge these limits, for nothing is forbidden and all is permitted to those who have the force and the valor. Consequently, anarchy, which is the natural liberty of the individual freed from the odious yoke of spiritual and material rulers, is not the construction of a new and suffocating society. It is a decisive fight against all societies-christian, democratic, socialist, communist, etc, etc. Anarchism is the eternal struggle of a small minority of aristocratic outsiders against all societies which follow one another on the stage of history.

When I started entertaining the idea of a stateless society, I spent a lot of time imagining what such a society would look like. I did this in part because I wanted to understand if anarchism could work and in part because the first question a statist asks an anarchist is how could [insert any state provided good or service] exist without government? The statist usually pats themselves on the back because they think that their question is both creative and unanswerable, but in reality the question merely demonstrates their lack of creativity.

However, as I traveled the path of individual anarchism I encountered increasingly radical authors. Friedrich Nietzsche introduced me to the concept of master and slave morality and the idea that those who follow a slave morality aren’t interested in making slaves into masters, but in making masters into slaves. I began to notice this phenomenon everywhere, especially amongst those who say that they want absolute equality for all. The equality they strive for isn’t one where all individuals hold absolute power, but one where all individuals are subjected to the whims of others.

After Nietzsche I came across Max Stirner. Stirner introduced me to the concept of spooks: imaginaries mistakenly treated as real. These imaginaries are most commonly used to restrain the individual. Whenever somebody claims that we live in a society or refers to a social contract, they’re arguing that the existence of the society and its accompanying contract are greater than any individual and thus every individual must subject themselves to them. But the concepts of society and social contracts are make-believe. They cannot think, reason, or act. As Ludwig von Mises said, “All rational action is in the first place individual action. Only the individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual acts.”

If society is a spook, then imaging an anarchist society is an exercise in creating fiction. If the goal of anarchism isn’t the creation of a society, then what is it? Now I want to return to Novatore, because his quote about anarchism explains what I’ve had a difficult time explaining. Anarchism by his definition can almost be thought of as anti-society. Whereas the concept of society attempts to restrain the individual, anarchism attempts to empower the individual.

As Novatore notes, the concept of society always offers a limited freedom. Whenever one imagines a society, they imagine prohibitions. The monarchist imagines a benevolent and just ruler establishing sensible restrictions that benefit all. The constitutionalist imagines a document written by wise men explaining methods for justly creating new restrictions. The communist imagines worker collectives deciding new restrictions by majority votes.

Anarchism viewed as anti-society can be thought of as a refutation of restrictions placed upon the individual by coming to the realization that society doesn’t exist. Just as society is an imaginary, so are its laws. George W. Bush was accused of referring to the Constitution of the United States as just a “goddamn piece of paper.” This accusation lead to a great deal of outrage, but the statement he was accused of uttering is correct. The Constitution is just a piece of paper. It has no power to think, reason, or act and it cannot restrain an individual from thinking, reasoning, or acting. This is true of all laws. Laws cannot stop an individual from murdering, raping, or stealing anymore than the boogeyman.

The pursuit of anti-society is the pursuit of exorcising spooks from your mind. It is the pursuit of breaking the chains which you’ve placed upon yourself by allowing yourself to believe that imaginary concepts can control your actions. It is the pursuits of the realization that those imaginary concepts aren’t real and therefore have no power over you.

Based on what I’ve written so far you probably assume that anti-society is a synonym for social Darwinism, a world where the strong prey upon the weak. It’s a fair assumption for one who has spent their entire life being taught and subsequently believes that societal restrictions prevent the strong from preying on the weak. In practice the opposite is true. Societal restrictions are established by the strong. Those who are called kings, representatives, and the majority are the conquerors. Those who are called subjects, citizens, and the minority are the conquered. The idea of society is the idea of the strong establishing restrictions for the weak to follow.

Anti-society has only been pursued by a minority of individuals. If pursued on a massive scale, anti-society might do a better job of preventing murder, rape, theft, and other activities you likely associate with unlimited individual freedom. A world where everybody has a nuclear weapon might be less predatory than a world where only a handful of individuals do. The doctrine of mutually assured destruction did dissuade the United States and the Soviet Union from entering a direct war with one another. Or it might not. It’s impossible to know and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care.

What I know for certain is that I’m no longer interested in a limited freedom. I want to break the chains I’ve placed upon myself. I want unlimited freedom. Perhaps you do too. If so, I welcome you to join me on my journey towards anti-society. If not, I respect your choice and will not insist that you follow me. But I’m going and nothing you say or do will stop me.

Ghost Stories

This evening I logged onto Facebook and saw a bunch of my friends were commenting on the following infographic:

It was produced by the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and has caused quite the stir (which is to say it has served its likely intended purpose). Some of my friends expressed agreement with it and some of my friends expressed disagreement with it. Not surprisingly there was a significant correlation (as in 100 percent) between a friend’s opinion and their expressed philosophical ideology.

However, even those who disagreed with it failed to address the primary problem with this infographic. The ultimate failure of this infographic isn’t that it claims that characteristics like rugged individualism, nuclear families, and Christianity are white or that it implies that those characteristics are undesirable. The ultimate failure of this infographic is the same failure of all commentary on “cultures,” “societies,” and “classes.” It’s listing “facts” about make believe.

Cultures, societies, classes and other attempts to treat unique individual as anything but don’t actually exist. They’re made up, as George Calin once said about rights, like the boogeyman. Listing facts about a culture, society, or class is no different than listing facts about elves. Doing so is often a fun exercise, but elves aren’t real (outside of Iceland, of course) so any “facts” you list about them are entirely made up.

With that said, I didn’t write this post to ruin your fun. Don’t let it stop you from arguing about this infographic. People argue passionately about make believe all the time. But do know that I’m laughing at you, not with you, because, as Max Stirner would say, you have a head full of ghosts and are badly in need of an exorcism.

The Users and the Used

I’m happy that computer technology (for the purpose of this post, I mean any device with a computer in it, not a traditional desktop or laptop) has become ubiquitous. An individual who wants a computer no longer has to buy a kit and solder it together. Instead they can go to the store and pick up a device that will be fully functional out of the box. This has lead to a revolution in individual capabilities. Those of us who utilize computers can access a global communication network from almost anywhere using a device that fits in our pocket. We can crank out printed documents faster than any other time in human history. We can collect data from any number of sources and use it to perform analysis that was impractical before ubiquitous access to computers. In summary life is good.

However, the universe is an imperfect place and few things are without their downsides. The downside to the computer revolution is that there are, broadly speaking, different classes of users. They are often divided into technical and non-technical users, but I prefer to refer to them as users and used. My categorization isn’t so much based on technical ability (although there is a strong correlation) as by whether one is using their technology or being used by it.

Before I continue, I want to note that this categorization, like all attempts to categorize unique individuals, isn’t black and white. Most people will fall into the gray area in between the categories. The main question is whether they fall more towards the user category of the used.

It’s probably easiest to explain the used category first. The computing technology market is overflowing with cheap devices and free services. You can get a smartphone for little or even nothing from some carriers, an Internet connected doorbell for a pittance, and an e-mail account with practically unlimited storage for free. On the surface these look like amazing deals, but they come with a hidden cost. The manufacturers of those devices and providers of those services, being predominantly for-profit companies, are making their money in most cases by collecting your personal information and selling it to advertisers and government agencies (both of which are annoying, but the latter can be deadly). While you may think you’re using the technology you’re actually being used through it by the manufacturers and providers.

A user is the opposite. Instead of using technology that uses them, they use technology that they dominate. For example, Windows 10 was a free upgrade for users of previous versions of Windows. Not surprisingly, Windows 10 also collects a lot of personal information. Instead of using Windows 10, users of that operating system are being used by it. The opposite side of the spectrum is something like Linux from Scratch, where a user creates their own Linux distro from the ground up so they know every component that makes up their operating system. As I stated earlier most people fall into the gray area between the extremes. I predominantly run Fedora Linux on my systems. As far as I’m aware there is no included spyware and the developers aren’t otherwise making money by exploiting my use of the operating system. So it’s my system, I’m using it, not being used through it.

Another example that illustrates the user versus the used categories is online services. I sometimes think everybody on the planet has a Gmail account. Its popularity doesn’t surprise me. Gmail is a very good e-mail service. However, Gmail is primarily a mechanism for Google to collect information to sell to advertisers. People who use Gmail are really being used through it by Google. The opposite side of the spectrum (which is where I fall in this case) is self-hosting an e-mail server. I have a physical server in my house that runs an e-mail server that I setup and continue to maintain. I am using it rather than being used by it.

I noted earlier in this article that there is a strong correlation between technical people and users as well as non-technical people and those being used. It isn’t a one-to-one correlation though. I know people with little technical savvy who utilize products and services that aren’t using them. Oftentimes they have a technical friend who assists them (I’m often that friend), but not always. I would actually argue that the bigger correlation to users and those being used is those who are curious about technology versus those who aren’t. I know quite a few people with little technical savvy who are curious about technology. Their curiosity leads them to learn and they oftentimes become technically savvy in time. But before they do they often make use of technology rather than be used by it. They may buy a laptop to put Linux on it without having the slightest clue at first how to do it. They may setup a personal web server poorly, watch it get exploited, and then try again using what they learned from their mistakes. They may decide to use Signal instead of WhatsApp not because they understand the technical differences between the two but because they are curious about the “secure communications app” that their technical friends are always discussing.

Neither category is objectively better. Both involve trade-offs. I generally encourage people to move themselves more towards the user category though because it offers individuals more power over the tools they use and I’m a strong advocate for individual power. If you follow an even slightly radical philosophy though, I strongly suggest that you to move towards the user category. The information being collected by those being used often finds its way into the hands of government agents and they are more than happy to make use of it to suppress dissidents.

Weaponizing Dependencies

How I miss the halcyon days of the Internet when perceived slights were commonly forgotten after a short period of inconsequential shitposting. Today perceived slights often result in real-world consequences. The most recent example of this is ThotAudit, the result of a bunch of pathetic sexless whiners perceiving women slighting them. In response to their inability to get laid, they have decided to sic the Internal Revenue Service (IRC) and third-part payment processors on online sex workers:

The campaign is called the “ThotAudit,” in reference to the derogatory term “thot,” which stands for “that ho over there.” It began over the Thanksgiving holiday as a grassroots effort to intimidate sex workers and women who sell access to private pornographic social media accounts by reporting them to the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion—without evidence of wrongdoing. But it quickly morphed into a battle over who has the right to make money on the internet.

The harassers are taking advantage of user reporting tools made available by companies like PayPal, Venmo, and CirclePay, in an attempt to force their targets offline and freeze their finances. The tactic has far-reaching implications beyond adult entertainment. Foreign governments and other groups have abused the policies to silence opponents on platforms like Twitter and Facebook for years. Attacking through the payment processors is a new wrinkle on that approach.

What kind of lowlife piece of shit sics revenuers on people? I mean, come on! That’s below the belt, guys!

Back to the story at hand. There are two aspects that I want to discuss in this post.

The first is the extent individuals will go to avoid acknowledging and accepting their faults. When I was young, I wasn’t exactly drowning in pussy. I didn’t blame women for that though. I acknowledged and accepted my faults, namely my socially awkward nature. I worked to overcome those faults. By the time I hit my mid 20’s, I was still socially awkward but I was at least capable of schmoozing a room full of people and was capable of gaining the attention of members of the opposite sex. While I’m still a bit socially awkward today, I have a smoking hot wife and have little trouble meeting new people and entertaining people at a party (entertaining people is commonly seen as an attractive quality and thus a skill worth cultivating).

The key to my transformation was accepting my flaws and working to overcome them. Most people who call themselves incels suffer from a lack of self-awareness and an unwillingness to overcome their faults. The reason they’re not getting laid isn’t because women are conspiring against them, it’s because they have a number of flaws that make them unattractive. Instead of working to improve themselves, they’re taking actions that make them even less attractive. They’re actually going so far as to exacerbate their faults to avoid acknowledging their faults.

The second thing I want to discuss is something I harp on a lot, the dangers of being dependent on third-parties. Those making themselves part of ThotAudit are trying to convince third-party payment processors to stop processing payments for targeted online sex workers. By doing this, they’re destroying the livelihood of those workers. However, this tactic is only feasible because those workers are dependent on third-party payment processors. The fewer third-parties you depend on, the fewer dependencies exist that can be weaponized against you. While it’s trendy to recommend cryptocurrencies for sex workers, that’s not the only option. Online sex workers could try pooling their resources and establishing a payment processor for their industry, which is a suggestion I made to gun stores that were being blacklisted by third-party payment processors. You might not be able to control the infrastructure yourself but if you have to rely on a third-party, it’s better to rely on one that specifically caters to your industry. After all, if your business is porn, Tumblr might cast you overboard but Pornhub probably won’t.

That New Car Smell

I’m always interested in cultural differences. For example, here in the United States people generally love the smell of a new car. It’s easy to think that since people here love that smell that the love of that smell is universal but that isn’t the case. Chinese in general apparently hate that smell. In fact they hate it so much that Ford developed a method of getting that smell out of new cars:

In the US, “new car smell” is a beloved scent. People even try to make their cars smell new with after-market cleaning products. But in China, customers find the same odor repulsive. As the Chinese auto market grows, car makers are looking for a way to make the aroma of their new vehicles more amenable to Chinese taste

Early this month, Ford filed a patent to reduce the odor of some of the adhesive, leather, and other materials that produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that contribute to new car smell. The patent appears to include software that senses the car’s location and the weather it’s experiencing, then it possibly detects whether the owner has “requested volatile organic compound removal from the vehicle.” Next, on a sunny day, the car will roll down a window and turn on the engine, the heater, and a fan in order to bake off the VOCs and their accompanying smell.

Often individuals make the mistake of believing that since they like something, it is universally liked. I learned at a young age that even smell, which is nothing more than a neurological response to stimuli and thus would seem to be a good candidate for being common amongst most humans, differs from person to person. My grandfather introduced me to sardines, which I enjoy to this day. I don’t find their smell repulsive but most people I know do. Likewise, I don’t find the smell of sauerkraut repulsive but most of the people I know do. Meanwhile, many of the body sprays and perfumes that people claim to like are repulsive to me.

You Have Only the Rights You Can Take and Hold

I lamented about living in a postliterate society when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips. Nobody read the fucking article so they decided that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of religious rights when it actually ruled in regards to procedural shenanigans. The American Institute for Economic Research has a good summary of what the ruling entails:

Reading this case literally, we can conclude the following. If you want to exercise property rights and behave as if you are free, according to the Supreme Court, you need to get religion right away and hope that the bureaucrats adjudicating your case put you down as a monster for that very reason. Then you can narrowly escape prosecution.

Otherwise you must comply. If you take the majority opinion on face value, had the deliberations in Colorado been undertaken with no invidious discrimination against the faith of the baker, the decision would have gone the other way.

In other words, you don’t have any rights.

I’ve discussed this matter before but it’s worth repeating. Questions regarding rights, such as whether or not you have the right to refuse to provide a good or service due to your personal religious convictions, are pointless. Why? To pull out one of my favorite George Carlin quotes, “Folks I hate to spoil your fun, but there’s no such thing as rights. They’re imaginary. We made them up. Like the boogie man. Like Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, Mother Goose, shit like that. Rights are an idea. They’re just imaginary.”

You can claim that you have the right to freely express yourself or the right to own firearms or the right to not incriminate yourself but you only actually have those rights if you can exercise them. Consider Jack Phillips’s case. He believed that he had the right to refuse to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage because his religious beliefs are at odds with such a union. When he tried to exercise his perceived right, government goons came down on him. Even after his Supreme Court victory, he doesn’t have the right to refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings because he failed to convince the Supreme Court, and by extent the various levels of government in the United States, that he had such a right. When (and it will be a matter of when, not if, because it’s human nature to push boundaries) another same-sex couple comes into his bakery wanting a cake for their wedding and he refuses, he’ll find himself in court all over again.

You only have the rights you can take and hold. How you take and hold them is irrelevant. If you are able to convince a group to respect your perceived rights, then you have taken and held those rights. If you have enough firepower at hand to scare people away from infringing on your perceived rights, then you have taken and held those rights. But if you can’t take and hold them, even if they’re written down on a fancy piece of paper, they don’t exist.