Friday, February 5, 2016

Political Elites And “Magic Dirt”

     It’s not that long ago that the badly maligned and generally underappreciated John Derbyshire soliloquized on this subject:

     In the past couple of decades we’ve seen the rise of one particular explanatory strategy [for racial differences in academic performance and social conduct]. That strategy recently acquired a name—or possibly it’s had the name for a while and I only just recently noticed. Whatever, I really like the name: Magic Dirt.

     The core idea is that one’s physical surroundings—the bricks and mortar of the building you’re in, or the actual dirt you are standing on—emit invisible vapors that can change your personality, behavior, and intelligence.

     That’s why, for example, you read so much about “bad schools” or “failing schools.” The thing to be explained is that schools whose students are overwhelmingly non-Asian minorities—blacks and mestizos—get much worse results on academic tests than schools whose students are majority white and East Asian. This has been so for decades, defying even extravagantly expensive efforts to change it, like the Kansas City fiasco of the 1990s.

     Parsimonious explanation: innate differences in behavior, intelligence, and personality between the races.

     Magical explanation: Bad schools! The bricks and mortar of these schools, the asphalt of their playgrounds, are giving out invisible noxious vapors that enstupidate the kids!...

     Magic Dirt theory is a key component of immigration romanticism, too. Sure, Mexico and Central America are messed-up places, and presumably their inhabitants played some role in messing them up. If we just move thirty or forty million of those people to the U.S.A., though, our Magic Dirt will transform them into civic-minded Jeffersonian yeomen!

     Now watch as the great Mark Steyn applies his clarity and intellect to Europe, with particular application to Germany:

     There’s only one element to “magic dirt” thinking that these two thinkers leave largely unaddressed...which, of course, is why you’re reading this essay.

     Now and then, a fiction writer will express an important idea more clearly than any pundit or “policy wonk.” Here’s a case in point:

     How did they use electricity in Hell? But outside the power plant was an athletic man chained to a wheel-less bicycle set in concrete in front of the exhaust pipe of the generator. Black smoke poured around him, almost hiding him from view.

     As we watched he began pedaling furiously. The hum of the gears rose to a high pitch—and the generator inside died. There was a moment of quiet. The man pedaled with sure strokes, faster and faster, his feet nearly invisible, his head tucked down as if against a wind. We gathered around, each wondering how long he could keep it up.

     He began to tire. The blur of his feet slowed. The motors inside coughed, and black smoke poured out. He choked and turned his head away, and saw us.

     “Don’t answer if you’d rather not,” I said, “but what whim of fate put you here?”

     “I don’t know!” he howled. “I was president of the largest and most effective environmental protection organization in the country! I fought this!” He braced himself and pedaled again. The hum rose, and the generator died....

     Corbett had to be guessing when he suddenly asked, “You opposed thermonuclear power plants?”

     The guy stopped dead, staring as if Corbett were a ghost. The dynamo lurched into action and surrounded him with thick blue smoke.

     “That’s it, isn’t it?” Corbett said gently. “You stopped the nuclear generators. I was just a kid during the power blackouts. We had to go to school in the dark because the whole country went on daylight savings time to save power.”

     “But they weren’t safe!” He coughed. “They weren’t safe!”

     “How did you know that?” Benito asked.

     “We had scientists in our organization. They proved it.”

     But of course this is Hell, a place of ironies surpassing all Earthly ironies. And so...

     When I looked down, Benito was fumbling through saddlebags attached to the stationary bicycle.

     The man cried “What are you doing?

     Benito took out papers. The man snatched at them, but Benito backed away. He read, “Dear Jon, I could understand your opposition to us last year. There was some doubt about the process, and you expressed fears all of us felt. But now you know better. I have no witnesses, but you told me you understood Dr. Pittman’s demonstration. In God’s name, Jon, why do you continue? I ask you as your sister, as a fellow scientist, as a human being: why?”

     He began pedaling again, ignoring us.

     “You knew?” I demanded. He pedaled faster, his head bent. I leaned down and put my face close to his. “You knew?” I screamed.

     “Fuck off.”

     Big Juju wins again. Too much, but appropriate. As we walked away, Jon screamed after us, “I’d have been nothing if I gave up the movement! Nothing! Don’t you understand? I had to stay as president!”

     Ponder that for a moment while I fix more coffee.

     There are some things that cannot be said too often. This is one:

Politicians worship power.
They’ll do anything to get and keep it.
It trumps all their other priorities.

     Inversely, a politician who feels himself losing power will react to that more powerfully than to any other symptom of decline. But to appreciate the range of possible conditions under which a top-tier political figure will feel such a decline, one must appreciate the nature of political power.

     Political power is power over others. The magnitude of that power varies directly with:

  • Its scope: i.e., what range of behaviors and interactions with others it covers;
  • Its numbers: i.e., how many persons are subject to it.

     Thus, the ruler of a nation whose population is increasing, whether by birth or by immigration, can assess his power as increasing as well...but the ruler of a nation whose population is declining has every reason to feel that he’s losing power with each subject that emigrates or dies.

     When Mark Steyn asks “Can you have Germany without Germans?” he asks a question that would occur to a free man, uninterested in power over others. But that’s not the question that would be uppermost in the mind of an Angela Merkel. She would think, “How can I be Chancellor of Germany without subjects to rule?” The “solution” to her “problem” is a simple one: import them.

     Of course, her “solution” involves the infliction of many evils upon those native Germans that remain. Does that matter to her? If at all, only as a minor consequence to what she views as a necessity. In the mind of a top-tier politician, power trumps all other considerations. The rights and prerogatives of others barely register on Merkel’s thoughts.

     Political power is, of course, a form of status. Other kinds of status appeal to other kinds of people, such as the “environmentalist” in the citation from Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno. And indeed, the sort of “status uber alles” behavior observable among politicians will be easily found among those who put some other kind of status – e.g., wealth or popularity – above all other considerations.

     However, among all the relational varieties of status, only power is wholly addictive and utterly noxious. Politicians never willingly retire – and the longer they enjoy power, the more willing they become to do anything to enlarge and keep it. Consider the recently deceased Arlen Specter, or the odious Jim Jeffords, for examples of the tenacity of the power-luster’s grip. Consider further the conscienceless, remorseless drive of Hillary Rodham Clinton for the presidency. Granted, the same suspicion applies to any candidate on either side of the fence, but in Mrs. Clinton we have a particularly egregious case.

     In summary: To explain European power-mongers’ willing acceptance of savage Middle Eastern hordes, a goodly fraction of them likely terrorists-to-be, for their new subjects, combine their agony over the decline of their nations’ populations with the wishful thinking that allows one to believe that “everything will be all right if I can just fix this one thing.” Sprinkle with “magic dirt” and bake in a moderate European oven for about a year...then run as far and as fast as you can.


Anonymous said...

The Barnhardt Axiom.

Tim Turner said...

Fran, as usual, I probably am going off on a tangent.

I understand your point about politicians and power. But instead of railing against politicians (who will "always be with us") I would advocate for just loudly and repeatedly addressing facts.

* Nuclear power: safety and cost have advanced dramatically since 1970. Thorium-salt has some tremendous possibilities.

* Black crime and education results - the numbers are there.

* Non-violent crime incarceration rates, the cost of the war on drugs versus results - the numbers are there.

* Gun rights (sigh) - the numbers are there.

Without trying to intuit the mind-set of politicians, minorities or liberals, there are facts that can be presented right up front and OVER AND OVER without having to get into the viscous, nebulous slanted talking points of SJWs, homosexual activists, race-baiting demagogues, college children, feminists or American apologists.

What I mean to say is that you are probably right about politicians and power. But power only resides in those that we believe have it. Chaos and revolution come when two or more factions argue over who really has power. More moderate change comes when people consistently acknowledge reality, declare facts and teach history.

Rather than get into the motivations of Hillary or Obama, et. al., I think we would be better served by constantly quoting the facts of unemployment, black crime, gun statistics, immigration data, the history of appeasement, the mathematics of debt creation and inflation, minimum wage laws, and the money and politics behind crony capitalism as opposed to real free markets.

The truth/fact/reality is there.

By the way, Mark Stein's phrase: "Preemptive submission"? Priceless and spot on.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Dear Tim,

1) Yes, you've gone off on a tangent.

2) Power arises from the ability to coerce others and get away with it. It isn't always a matter of concession by others.

3) You talk about what you prefer to talk about, and I'll talk about what I prefer to talk about. I consider the psychology of the power-seeker a critically important subject, which is why I write about it frequently.

4) Steyn didn't originate that phrase "preemptive submission." It appears in Herman Kahn's 1961 book On Thermonuclear War, and can be found in other publications as well. It is, however, an evocative phrase, as we would expect from Steyn.

Tim Turner said...

3) You're far more erudite and compelling than I am. I just wanted to comment (or say SOMETHING on a tangent.) :)
4) Oops. Sorry, again.

2) "Power arises from the ability to coerce others and get away with it." Uh-oh. You're right, of course. But in this case, I feel the temerity to sort of disagree.

From Game of Thrones:

Varys leaves [Tyrion] with a riddle:

“In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me who lives and who dies?”

. . .
[Varys]] asks if Tyrion has thought on his riddle, and Tyrion replies that it is a riddle with too many answers, as it all depends on the man with the sword.

“And yet he is no one,” Varys said. “He has neither crown nor gold nor favor of the gods, only a piece of pointed steel.”

“That piece of steel is the power of life and death.”

So does that mean the swordsmen all have the true power? Varys asks. And if so, why do they obey kings, even when they are children or “wine-sodden oafs”?

“Some say knowledge is power. Some tell us that all power comes from the gods. Others say it derives from law. Yet that day on the steps of Baelor’s Sept, our godly High Septon and the lawful Queen Regent and your ever-so-knowledgeable servant were as powerless as any cobbler or cooper in the crowd. Who truly killed Eddard Stark, do you think? Joffrey, who gave the command? Ser Ilyn Payne, who swung the sword? Or another?”

Tyrion cocked his head sideways. “Did you mean to answer your damned riddle, or only to make my head ache worse?”

Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.”

Tim Turner said...

"Thus endeth the lesson."

I remember when I first thought I understood modern economics: it's a house of cards!

As I get older, I think EVERYTHING - civilization, politics, culture, finance - is a "gentleman's agreement" based on nothing other than consent to an abstract. We talk about ethics, physical reality, God-given morality or mini-max Darwinian evolution. But the truth is, whatever humans let others do to them that they don't agree with is ONLY because humans believe there is a consensus. That "consensus" might be between an individual and his God, but it is usually understood as being, "what everybody else thinks or is willing to put up with."

As an example, I grant you that the NKVD in Russia in the '30s had "the ability to coerce others and get away with it." But you must admit that the Russian people had the overwhelming ability to stop Lenin, Stalin and the Bolsheviks early on. And even in the '30s, there were never enough secret police or government bureaucrats to stop an uprising of the "soviet" peoples.

Power resides where people believe it resides. You and I can't give power to those who might have agreed with the people behind the Oregon-Bundy-Malheur standoff. Schools/media/government can indoctrinate, "inform" and coerce all they want. But history has shown time and again that committed minorities have often overwhelmed established and seemingly powerful foes.

I grant you that those are also examples of "the ability to coerce others and get away with it." But you seem to imply that power itself is inherently "wrong," whereas I would bet that you recognize that "power" just "is," whether it resides in an individual, a bureaucracy or a people.

My point is (to address your original post's concluding paragraph) that if Europe will stop Islamist immigration, it won't be by understanding or defeating Merkel's power or the "state's" power. It will be by Europeans exercising their collective power of nationalism, rationalism, self-interest and understanding that THEY - in their collective millions - have the actual power to determine their fate.

By the way, I do not disagree that "the psychology of the power-seeker a critically important subject." I believe you write cogently and compellingly about important topics. Please don't take my posts as disagreement with your core points.

Akaky said...

The European powermongers are forgetting their Machiavelli. They are doing all of this stuff in order to maintain their grip on power, but the people they are importing have no interest in being ruled by them. Eventually, when the Muslims take over, the old ruling class that tried to hang on using the Muslim voters will be replaced and probably not in a very nice way. Machiavelli was right: when the new ruling class takes over, the first thing it does is slaughter the old ruling class. The Bolsheviks didn't keep Nicholas II and his family around for very long, did they?

Andy Texan said...

Politicians don't derive their prerogatives only from the total number of people under their sway but the kinds of people (Germany and the US are still putative democracies). 'Syrians' like mooslems everyway (in civilized nations) vote left. Thus european and american left wingers are hard on it. If they did not vote left then they would be blocked from coming.

Reg T said...

Furthermore, many people much brighter than I have spoken about the fact that the politicians/kings rule by the knowledge they have cops/soldiers/men-at-arms who will enforce their will. It does no good whatsoever to talk about how there are Oh, so many citizens than enforcers. Solzhenitsyn said it: if the people are too timid, fearful, to rise up it doesn't matter how few the enforcers.

Additionally, although I am certain individuals such as Merkel and Obama and Cameron are stupid, even for politicians, how can they look at what is happening in France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, and England, and not realize they have no power over their muslim subjects/citizens/immigrants or over the "refujihadis" flooding their respective countries. They are trading meek natives who _will_ follow their commands as enforced by their minions for a collective mass of invaders who will NOT follow their commands.

Why do you think their enforcers won't patrol or police the ghettos/banlieu where these muslims congregate? It is much easier to subdue the native Germans as they peacefully protest than to subdue the muslim swine who were finger-raping their women - their wives, daughters, and sisters. Just as it was easer for the mayor of Baltimore to let our ignorant savages rampage and destroy public and private property in her city.

The traitorous elite who currently rule Western civilization (remember - we no longer live under the rule of law, but the rule of men) _may_ be stupid enough to think they will have power over the murderous muslim scum they have been importing in large quantities, but I think the game is larger than that. No, I don't have a clue what the end game is, but I'm pretty damn sure they think they do, and that one world-wide government is part of it, run by them - from bunkers, if necessary, but preferably from Gstaad or Fiji or wherever they will move to in order to avoid direct consequences from their folly.

Joseph said...

The Magic Dirt theory might explain why European Americans are so much less statist than Europeans in Europe. It might even explain why Switzerland is so much less statist than the rest of Europe.

Anonymous said...

Tim... "ain't no point in talkin' when there's nobody listenin'"
your apparent desire to reason with the unreasonable is laudable, but the time is long passed that 'they' share your desire to entertain discussion. As brother Fran has stated, 'they' are interested only in power - maintaining it, and acquiring more. Don't bother 'them' with details like truth and numbers - for neither of those lie; thus, you would be speaking a language foreign to them.
We shall soon be at that point in history where the only thing 'they' will understand (and we've seen examples lately...) is violence. The sad fact is, 'we'; for many diverse reasons, are likely very well versed in delivering said violence... and all will see that in an 'us vs. them' event, it will be either all of us, or all of them. Sad,that. But as the last ones of "them" fall (or hang...) they will surely be surprised - and still try to blame 'us'...
But, as victors, we shall write the history. At that time, your logic, truth, and numbers; shall assist in explaining 'why'.
- Grandpa

Sherman Logan said...

"Politicians never willingly retire – and the longer they enjoy power, the more willing they become to do anything to enlarge and keep it."

Almost always true. But I proffer the counter-example of G. Washington, who gave up power willingly, twice.