Monday, June 13, 2016


     Just a few homilies – bits of folklore, really – before we really begin:

  1. A corporation has no soul.
  2. A corporation’s dynamic is to grow. This requires capital, which comes from stockholders.
  3. A corporation that cease to grow will be abandoned by the stockholders.
  4. People become stockholders to make money and for no other reason.
  5. Give people a way to profit at others’ expense and some will do so.
  6. Give corporations a way to profit at others’ expense and essentially all will do so.
  7. Corporations don’t make the laws that govern corporate activities.
  8. A law only matters to the extent that it is enforced.
  9. Unenforced laws weaken respect for the law in general.
  10. As laws proliferate, the “rule of law” disappears and is replaced by the discretion of the enforcers.

     If you can’t accept that this is the way things are and will always be, you will be unable to make sense of what follows.

     Every now and then, a reliably intelligent commentator will emit a real clinker: something so stupid that an intelligent reader will ask himself “What could he possibly have been thinking?” I’m sure it’s happened to me, as I’m no more infallible, and no less in love with my own percipience and intelligence than anyone else.

     Also – this is in the nature of a corollary – every now and then a fallacious idea will become implanted in the general public. Such ideas will:

  • Be superficially attractive;
  • Have apparent explanatory power;
  • Help to justify other fallacious ideas.

     Many notions about conspiracies arise from this mechanism.

     A conspiracy theory is founded on the perception of a motive shared by several entities. In the usual case, the motive will be ethically dubious if not blatantly evil. The conspiracy theory will add an assertion of conscious clandestine collaboration to the motive. Such theories can be extremely attractive to persons who need someone to blame for some malady in plain sight.

     But just as we have been warned “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity,” we should be wary about attributing to conspiracy that which can be adequately explained by “the way things are and will always be.” Fanciful conspiracy theories, including many that become widely popular, tend to attach to patterns that arise for that reason. The occasional genuine conspiracy, in contrast, tends to go unnoticed.

     Consider this recent statement from a usually intelligent commentator:

     Globalism is built on the concept of privatizing profits and socializing costs.

     Let’s unpack that a wee bit:

  • “Privatizing profits” means that some entity other than a government is profiting.
  • “Socializing costs” is more nebulous; in this case, it appears to mean the dispersion of certain costs over a whole population via taxation.

    The commentator in question refers to this as a “concept.”

     To which your humble Curmudgeon deposeth and sayeth:


     It’s not a “concept.” It’s certainly not a basis on which to posit a conspiracy, a notion that just about any word that ends in “ism” tends to evoke. It’s just “the way things are and will always be.” Refer to the homilies in the opening segment for the explanation.

     There are certainly persons hawking an idea of “globalism” that involves the de jure elimination of the Westphalian nation-state, with its enforceable borders and specific legal code. What tends to go unstated here is that those persons are politicians. To the extent that they profit from action in the “globalist” direction, it’s largely in increments to their personal power.

     However, public attention tends to fix on private entities – corporations, mostly – that draw monetary profits from “globalist” ideas such as the elimination of national borders. Is it not an error to focus thus, when the de facto elimination of national borders via neglect of enforcement is already upon us? And upon whom should the blame fall for that neglect of enforcement?

     Hint: It’s not the corporations.

     Politicians love to infect the general public with the idea that corporations – soulless entities that are easy to hate – are the reasons for their troubles. It allows them to evade responsibility for their own crimes, which flow from the exertion of power over affairs in which power has no legitimate place.

     For example – and the Sanders fanatics would tear me limb from limb for saying this – the minimum wage law is the principal attractor of illegal immigrants to the United States. Not that such illegals will be paid the legal minimum when they get here. They know very well that they have no chance of that, as they cannot appeal to the enforcers of the law without endangering themselves. What the minimum wage law does is make it attractive for employers to hire illegals as laborers for the lowest-rung positions; they can be paid less than an American who would have no fear of invoking the law.

     Illegals who manage to remain in the U.S. for a substantial length of time become de facto “legals.” In theory, many could still be deported under the law, as there’s no statute of limitations on the illegal-entry or illegal-residence laws. However, the communities in which they reside become protective of them. For example, an outcry would arise over an attempt to deport an illegal who’s been here for ten years, has established himself in his community – never mind that “his community” is quite likely composed entirely of illegals – and has produced a family that partakes of local institutions such as the schools. This, in tandem with the “anchor baby” phenomenon of birthright citizenship, compounds the original problem, which is entirely a product of minimum-wage law plus lax border enforcement.

     No conspiracy is required.

     In writing the above, I found myself mulling over the famous Principle of Parsimony. William of Occam tells us that “Entities ought not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” In more approachable terms:

When seeking explanations for an observed pattern in events, first test the simplest explanations – the ones with the fewest components and causal relationships – because they’ll be the easiest to disprove.

     The Principle is, in effect, a heuristic technique: a method for winnowing through the crap faster. Conspiracy always involves multiple components and causal relationships. “The way things are and always will be” is usually easier to test.

     This casts a deep shadow over the many fanciful propositions of “globalist conspiracies” propelled by persons hardly different from you. If they were to exchange places with you, the incentives that guide them would guide you in exactly the same fashion. You would be exceedingly likely to behave in approximately the same way.

     Remember who profits most from the misdirection of your attention and anger.


Amy Tapie said...

A conspiracy requires secrecy in order to operate effectively. How long could any group of conspirators hope to maintain that kind of secrecy in this day and age? Someone else would splash the story across the Internet in 72-point type long before the conspiracy was able to do much damage. And, the bigger the conspiracy, the likelier and sooner that will happen. (It's been said that the likelihood that a secret will be blown is proportional to the square of the number of people that are in on it...)

Francis W. Porretto said...

-- (It's been said that the likelihood that a secret will be blown is proportional to the square of the number of people that are in on it...) --

That is, according to both theory and empirical evidence, quite a good approximation. There are only (N*(N-1))/2 ways N people can interact, which is the key to the observation.

Roy Lofquist said...

What happened to the fipplestew?