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September 14, 2007

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TGGP

I don't believe in free will. This will help explain.

Why do so many people that have lived not merit the low ranking I give those two? Because they did not have the opportunity to cause the amount of harm that S&M did. If either of them had dropped dead it is possible that someone else would have taken their place and done the same things, and then I would rank their replacements as among the worst, but in this reality it is instead them I pin the blame on. Even limiting things to Machiavellian terms (and why should I admire someone who benefits himself rather than me?) I have to agree with Mencius Moldbug & Brian Caplan that much of the behavior communist governments engaged in was simply idiotic and resulted in massive deadweight loss. Fnargl, the Vast and Pungent One, would do a much better job, not because he's altruistic but because he's not stupid or goofballs.

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP,
I'm not sure where to start with your ideas and framing in this comment, since they almost all seem to me to be below the best available modes of analysis, but I'll get in the gutter with you to point out why I view these ideas differently (you don't like praise, so you should enjoy this comment).
1. You "pin the blame" on S&M. Is this to serve a psychological need, to "pin the blame" on identifiable humans? How does this fit in with generally maximizing persistence odds?
2. "much of the behavior communist governments engaged in was simply idiotic and resulted in massive deadweight loss." It seems to me to be an arbitrary distinction to blame communist governments rather than exmaine the "massive deadweight loss" as a feature of the overall system they were part of.

Overall, I think you're demonstrating a commission/ommission bias, where you attribute blame to people and entities that "commit" bad things, but do not attribute equal or proportionate blame to people and entities that allow these bad things to happen through ommission.

Since it's a default bias, it's generally easy to engage in it without being called on it.

I'm curious about your response to this particular criticism.

TGGP

Why do I "pin the blame"? If you read the link in my comment here it explains that holding people responsible for their actions, even if they don't have free-will, is useful because it can be used to disincentivize their behavior. Even though Stalin & Mao are dead, one of the things people of their ilk are concerned with is their reputation, and if they are held in ill-repute people in the future in their positions will be less likely to engage in similar behavior. Social forces are the results of many actions taken by different individuals, and cannot be treated as anything else. You cannot strike part of a social whole and expect the mass to treat that as a strike against it. You can only inculcate in each individual the expectation that if they engage in certain behavior they will be punished for it. Attacking something amorphous like "deadweight loss" isn't going to make Mr. Dead W. Loss turn his tail and run. All we can do is encourage people not to create that loss. Lastly, as I said I'm not as committed as you are to maximizing persistence odds, but I'd have to say that discouraging mass murder seems likely to improve odds of survival.

Overall, I think you're demonstrating a commission/ommission bias, where you attribute blame to people and entities that "commit" bad things, but do not attribute equal or proportionate blame to people and entities that allow these bad things to happen through ommission.
I agree with Gordon Tullock than for any given individual acting against a system is unlikely to result in anything other than their own punishment, even if all of them acting together could possibly result in great benefits for each dissident. That is difficult coordination problem to resolve. Harping on an individual that they should do something does not seem likely to succeed. There are usually a much smaller number of people who are doing something harmful rather than merely permitting harmful things to be done, so it would seem more effective to focus on them.

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP, don't you think it's a bit suspect that your first reaction to almost all of your points isn't "this is an empirical question"? I suspect you're acting on an eww bias and reaching for rational justifications.

I think almost all your points should be open to empirical investigation, not assumed to be true because they conform nicely with common existing human biases (which may be historically functional, yet optimizable).

TGGP

Elaborate. What kind of empirical evidence should we be looking for? Which of my assumptions seems the most tenuous to you?

Hopefully Anonymous

"Even though Stalin & Mao are dead, one of the things people of their ilk are concerned with is their reputation, and if they are held in ill-repute people in the future in their positions will be less likely to engage in similar behavior."

This isn't necessarily the most tenuous assumption in your long comment that seems to me to be full of tenuous assumptions, but it's your first one. Besides my objection to you tossing the words "of their ilk" to prey on bias rather than expand enlightenment, what's the best empirical evidence on this? I suspect you think it just sounds right, and you're choosing to declare it as fact. Bad TGGP. Very, very BAD.

TGGP

I think they are concerned with their reputations because they create cults of personality, write Little Red Books, construct monuments to their greatness and so on. This is probably more true of Mao than Stalin though, perhaps because of the importance the Chinese place on venerating their ancestors.

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP, "I think" is well-put. It's a theory.

An alternate theory is that they care about maximizing their representational privilege (not quite the same thing as reputation) in which case condemnation could incentivize.

TGGP

representational privilege (not quite the same thing as reputation)
Could you elaborate?

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP, people like Mao and Stalin are historical celebrities. There is a maxim in show business "there' no such thing as bad publicity". So, even if their reputations may be poor, their representational privilege may be very high. Concepts of representational privilege and general pageantry are ones I'd like to explore in more detail. For example, some of Michael Kinsely's writings on kabuki in politics touch on this.

The class of people who are celebrities (political agent or entertainer) are their own sort of privileged class, even though I think they often preserve their privileged levels of attention from the general population by performing conflict with each other (Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan cat-fighting with each other, on a geopolitical scale).

TGGP

What is "representational privilege"?

I disagree that "no publicity is bad publicity" for them. They frequently arrested those who spoke badly about them even in personal letters and would sometimes sent agents to kill dissidents outside the country. If they felt they were being done a favor, they wouldn't be trying to kill those who were doing it. Perhaps if you were in charge, things would be different, but you aren't in charge and I don't expect someone like you to be.

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP, well, definitionally they got at least some publicity out of "arrest[ing] those who spoke badly about them even in personal letters and ... sometimes sen[ding] agents to kill dissidents outside the country." -otherwise you wouldn't know that that's part of Mao and Stalin's narrative.

So now the question is did they get more publicity out of selective oppressing publicizers than they would've if they didn't. If they did, then the rational publicity-maximizing move would've been to selectively oppress publicizers.

Alternatively, perhaps their rational publicity-maximizing was punctuated with instances or idiosyncracies of non publicity-maximizing behavior. That doesn't mean that overall they were more effective publicity maximizers than most of their cohorts.

Looking at outcomes, Mao and Stalin were in their lifetimes some of the most known people in history. Not only is that a privilege in their lifetime (I imagine it would only help them get laid) but, if ressurection becomes possible in the future, it could be a play at future technology-based ressurection: particularly if the future is bored.

Who do you think is likely to be resurrected first, Mao or the 100th most known Missionary of Charity. The Mao strategy doesn't seem like an awful play from that perspective.

Finally, Mao's strategy doesn't seem awful intra-life. Let's say a rare product solving human mortality became available in his lifetime. He doesn't seem like he'd be awfully positioned to benefit from it as leader of a large, powerful country. It's possible that his every rational policy were necessary concessions he made to hold onto power so as to maximize his personal persistence odds.

I'm not saying these particular theories are correct. But I don't think representational privilege is an empty concept.

TGGP

So now the question is did they get more publicity out of selective oppressing publicizers than they would've if they didn't.
Where did we establish that it was selective rather than blanket? I honestly don't know their policies that well, so I think we need more information.

Alternatively, perhaps their rational publicity-maximizing was punctuated with instances or idiosyncracies of non publicity-maximizing behavior.
Certainly plausible.

Looking at outcomes, Mao and Stalin were in their lifetimes some of the most known people in history.
Try as they might, they could never top Hitler. I wonder who will accomplish that (religious figures excepted).

I imagine it would only help them get laid
Mao was famous for deflowering huge numbers of peasant virgins. Stalin once received a letter from a Russian school-teacher with her picture and an offering of herself to him. He sent back another letter with her picture in it. Stalin seems more rational than Mao (and that's saying something considering his trust in Hitler and his paranoid purges), but I don't think his goal was getting laid.

if ressurection becomes possible in the future, it could be a play at future technology-based ressurection: particularly if the future is bored.
You are really going out on a limb here.

Who do you think is likely to be resurrected first, Mao or the 100th most known Missionary of Charity.
Neither, if we do have that kind of technology we'll create people better than the real thing.

Finally, Mao's strategy doesn't seem awful intra-life.
Perhaps in hindsight it doesn't, although I can't imagine how you can spin idiotic plans of his like killing all the red sparrows and having having peasants smelt steel in their backyards. The cultural revolution was also practically an attempt to destroy his own government, which is why he realized his mistake near the end of his life. Most people now consider Hitler to be a raving lunatic who destroyed himself and damn near took his country with him. I don't think there's that much difference between him and some of these others, except that he lost. Singapore's Lee and Dubai's Sheik Mo are what I think of as rational leaders in the sense that they minimized the probability of their getting killed as their power crumbled around them, and I'd also like to encourage people to imitate their strategy.

Quill Recording Thought

Now this is someone using his power to attempt to improve survival chances when death seemed almost inescapable:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qin_Shi_Huang#Death_and_aftermath

Acquiring great power to afford extreme long-shot gambles (alchemy for biological immortality, and a massive tomb to benefit in any spiritual afterlife).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_Zedong#Death
Mao's body was publicly displayed (and thus irrecoverably ruined) when he died in 1976, 9 years after the first cryonic suspension.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryonics#History

Quill Recording Thought

Also, I second TGGP on Lee Kuan Yew, definitely one of history's most intelligent, effective, and beneficial (for his subjects) leaders, who is in a very secure position.

Vadim Shapoval

Mao and Stalin attacked intellectuals. Why? Mao had plans for turning China into a modern industrial state.
Mao Zedong, The Chinese Intellectuals and The Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1682
The famous Bulgarian prophetess Vanga (Vangelia Dimitrova) prophesied iron death of cancer.
Irons (Handcuffs, Manacles, Shackles, Fetters) & Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer (Iron Conception) http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1669

Vadim I. Shapoval

Mao, Stalin and Modern Intellectuals.
Armenia, Ferromagnetism and Cancer Conspiracy http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1978
Armenia and Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1948
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russian Scientific Mob and Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1787
Holy Writ, Pentagon and Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1698
Her Majesty The Queen, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1663
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Controllable Thermonuclear Synthesis-2018 and Ferromagnetic theory-2006 of cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1711
Harold Varmus, Nobel Committee, President Obama http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1278
California Institute of Technology, Oregon State University http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1531
Mesothelioma Research Foundation of America http://www.mesorfa.org/oncologist/
False Money, False Cancer Researches and Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=1894

Vadim Shapoval

Mao, Stalin and scientific mafia.
Cancer Patients, Cancer Researchers and Ferromagnetic Theory of Cancer http://www.tutuz.com/?p=2009

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