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Culture War Roundup for the week of September 26, 2022

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Not sure if this is exactly Culture War, but I think if anybody can tell me what the heck is going on, you lot can 😁

Okay, so the UK has a new monarch, a new Prime Minister and in the past couple of days, a new budget. And now it looks like a new financial crisis.

Can anybody explain to me, in the manner that Chesterton describes Arnold, with "a smile of heart-broken forbearance, as of the teacher in an idiot school, that was enormously insulting" what has caused this kind of meltdown? I'm cribbing from The Guardian, which is trying to explain what is the problem, but my big difficulty is that I don't understand why the Bank of England had to do this. How did the British economy get to the state that the pound is dropping like a metaphor in Amazon's "The Rings of Power" and the currency apparently would have been worthless?

when the Bank of England made a £65bn move to shore up the market in “gilts”, or UK government bonds, for fear that their plummeting value could lead to a situation where pension funds couldn’t pay their debts.

And why is anybody surprised by the tax cuts? They're a Tory government, the first thing they do when they get into power - or when a new PM is hoping to take over - is announce swingeing tax cuts for the better-off (along with swingeing cuts in public spending). So why is everyone now going "Oooh, that's a bit dodgy"? The only surprise for me is that it's Kwasi Kwarteng who is the guy in charge of the Budget instead of Rishi Sunak, but I suppose Rishi - being disappointed in his expectations to succeed Boris - has decided to spend more time with his family('s billions).

I think Britain's leaders have no idea what they're doing. Dominic Cummings has been screaming about this for the last 8 years, initially in long, well-thought out essays and more recently in angry, over-capitalized tweets full of made-up technical jargon. He strikes me like a Lovecraft protagonist going mad at the true nature of the eldritch horror.

In this case, the pension funds had decided to leverage themselves on government bonds, using them as collateral to buy other things. When Kwasi issued a particularly blase announcement that they'd borrow even more money, investors freaked out. The price of government bonds dropped since the supply increased.

Since the price of the bonds fell, the pension funds started having to sell their assets, including said government bonds. There was a risk of a deadly spiral. But because it's not a real market, the central bank decided to use its own money (that it freely prints) to buy its own bonds and shore up the price, averting disaster for now. The UK economy is now significantly closer to being an 'emerging market', a place where the currency is really just a piece of paper.

This could and should have been predicted. Lee Kuan Yew wouldn't have done things like this - he was all about fiscal prudency, avoiding the accumulation of debt where possible. But the Brits clearly didn't predict the reaction to their tax-less, spend-more plan. I favour Cumming's diagnosis that the UK political elite lives in its own pocket dimension, only tenuously tied to reality by what the newspapers say, rather than any actual world-modelling ability. They didn't know that they couldn't just borrow more money, they didn't imagine that waging proxy war against Russia might raise energy prices in the UK, a part of the European energy/economic system. They don't understand what causes economic growth, they don't know how to make things happen quickly or efficiently. They don't know.

One should be humble before God, but realistic in respect to others.

If Cummings is merely "Like a poster here" he's easily in the top 1% of government officials who have ever held senior office, and by far the most competent person in that cabinet. The stupidity, vacuity and hubris of the senior bereaucracy is almost impossible to internalize...

Its genuinely unbeleivable a man like Cummings penetrated it at all... The elite circles run off socialite style norms related to connections and status games that actively select against the kinds of people who make cohherent mental models and try to make them accord with the world. It the same as career politicans only with more pretense and less charisma, you see this in most academic sub-feilds related to politics as well...

The relationship of the words to actually reality is a 20th or 30th concern... the first concern is its relationship to Taboos and social signaling, and what's worse is all these fields select for people who do it subconsciously and can't tell the difference. People who aren't even capable of being true believers because they don't inherently process their words as being about the world as opposed to their social games.


Legend of the Galactic Heroes has a great moment:

The enemy out numbers the protagonist's fleet 3 to 2, and everyone's nervous about this... they would like to withdraw in the face of the superior force, but they can't because the enemy has divided into 3 that are able to head them off if they try any retreat...

Well the young High Admiral announces his plan. this is a classic case where defeat in detail is possible, if they strike out hard and fast at one of these enemy fleets they'll outnumber them 2 to 1... and then if they strike quick they can catch another, or worse case merely be outnumber 5-4 taking into account their losses and be able to force a draw... This is a real classic military scenario, Napoleon had a battle that went like this, and something like this is taught in almost every course on strategy.

One of the lesser admirals upon receiving these orders is outraged. "To reach for academic theory at a time like this!? In the midst of BATTLE!?"

so he defies the order tries to disengage his contigent, and he and that contingent die, while the battle turns from a sure defeat to that draw scenario.

The thing is, this lesser admiral who defied the order and died for it... he was the teacher of theory at their military academy! He had taught this theory every year for 20 years. Yet when given a command that directly aligned with the theory he had studied and taught for decades, he not only balked he was outraged!

To him all the theory he taught were polite words and and a social game, they bore no relation to the battlefield, they were related to academic life... he had dedicated his life to repeating the words and social concepts of being a professor of strategic theory, and he wasn't just willing to repeat those theories if they were wrong in fact, so long as they advanced his career... in his mind they only bore relation to his career, the idea they could be right or wrong about real battlefields in the future, as they were happening, was suplurflous or laughable. The theories were social games you played to describe maybe historical battles... And whether his own theories were right or wrong if deployed in the field was a laughable concern relative to how interesting or socially viable they might be...

He regurgitated "Defeat in detail" on tests, then in classrooms as the teacher... he maybe even believed he believed it... but to actually believe it would have meant resisting the thought, putting it under pressure, testing its mettle and how well he could rely on it... looking for contradictory examples, and only being satisfied once he'd concluded it'd held under his harshest scrutiny... And that's not what a "Model Student" who aspires to become a star teacher does. What if you discovered it was wrong? Or rather, in his psychology, that he's wrong and contrary to the social expectation. Is he going to risk placing himself in opposition to the institutional machinery he needs to appease and serve?

So when he received an order based on a theory that happened to be one of the best documented and well theorized realities of warfare ever given a name... one every moderately good strategy gamer should recognize intuitively... he balked and was outraged that some punk was either trying to play a status game to fuck with him, or that he's being lead by some dangerously delusional true believer who thinks these words were meant to constrain expectations about physical reality.


I've interacted with alot of academics, politicians, bureaucrats, mainline corporate types... everyone that's actively checked-in to the system instead of checked out and disgusted... the kind that will repeat the slogans sincerely... they're almost all like this fictional professor. Our society applies incredible consequences for social faux-pas and almost none for actually being wrong or ineffective. We lack both the scarcity and the high intensity warfare that creates those consequences for being wrong, and are drowning in the centralizing over-socialized morass that makes social norms sting.

Thus the people who get ahead in all but very niche fields are those who spend their lives thinking in relation to the social norms, and feel no compunction about any contradiction with physical reality for any myriad of psychological reasons ("What no I'm not making a probabilistic prediction!? what do I look like a booky! How Low class")... And those who are actually capable of making their ideas commit them to predictions and confine expectations are consistently selected against, or actively punished (Psychologically or socially).

Imagine the reaction if you asked a politician or bureaucrat who'd just made some optimistic statement about education for black kids to actually wager real money about what the test scores would be in 5 years on a consistent test... Naively one would think it'd matter if the politician didn't want to... if we expect the program to fail shouldn't we be doing something different NOW.... but of course they'd be outraged not at the politician who refused the wager with some "I don't wager on matters of morality" bromide... but at you for trying to impose expectations, and worse being willing to bet against black kids (you racist).

The idea these polite statements about opportunities for the future and everyone getting a chance should correspond to realized on the ground reality is laughable in politics, or an actively rude attack... And that casual dishonestly, even in one's own thoughts, that dismissal of the very possibility of a truth value in those words... that casual evil of banality... that's slowly infected everything our government or elite class has touched, and our elite no longer produces people meaningfully able to reach back and relate their linguistic games to reality any more...

they are all that professor of military theory and will intuitively turn and run when their own theories tell them they have the advantage... because that moment will be the first time they have to relate their words games to reality, and they'll immediately know (even if they don't already) that they haven't been doing that, and every cached thought, even one as basic as "Defeat in Detail"... They can't trust.

One of the lesser admirals upon receiving these orders is outraged. "To reach for academic theory at a time like this!? In the midst of BATTLE!?"

so he defies the order tries to disengage his contigent, and he and that contingent die, while the battle turns from a sure defeat to that draw scenario.

The thing is, this lesser admiral who defied the order and died for it... he was the teacher of theory at their military academy!

You're mistaken. The lesser admiral who dies is Erlache. The teacher is Staden, and he dies much later in different circumstances.

Mittermeyer kills Staden, right? I don't even remember Erlache... Time for a rewatch I guess.

Yes, basically. During the Imperial Civil War, Staden sides against Reinhard, which is not much of a surprise, and gets defeated in battle by Mittermeyer. He is evacuated and gets hospitalized due to combat-related stress (I had to look this one up on the interwebz), and his subsequent fate is left unclear. Presumably he was captured or killed.

Erlache is a forgettable character who doesn't do anything else besides dying pointlessly.

Yeah, rewatched a few civil war arc eps, and Erlache really is a blink and miss guy.

Been years since I last watched. Had forgotten just how much Schenkopp wants Yang's dic-tatorship, and how silly everyone's decisions are.

Like literally every single guy in the junta fleet goes full Yukio Mishima and refuses to surrender, even to the super popular hero admiral? Alliance troops were willing to surrender to the empire a few episodes ago!