Methinks Rees Mogg pere read some Mancur Olsen

The book’s 400-odd pages of near-hysterical orotundity can roughly be broken down into the following sequence of propositions:

1) The democratic nation-state basically operates like a criminal cartel, forcing honest citizens to surrender large portions of their wealth to pay for stuff like roads and hospitals and schools.

2) The rise of the internet, and the advent of cryptocurrencies, will make it impossible for governments to intervene in private transactions and to tax incomes, thereby liberating individuals from the political protection racket of democracy.

3) The state will consequently become obsolete as a political entity.

4) Out of this wreckage will emerge a new global dispensation, in which a “cognitive elite” will rise to power and influence, as a class of sovereign individuals “commanding vastly greater resources” who will no longer be subject to the power of nation-states and will redesign governments to suit their ends.

Point 1 is roughly Olsen’s thesis. That the state is the system by which special interests plunder us all.

2 and 3 are really Marx. The state of technology determines social relations. Change the tech and you’ll change the relations.

4 is just a reversion to Olsen but with different people using a different form of state and or governance to plunder.

There’s not, to be honest, a great deal libertarian about this.

22 comments on “Methinks Rees Mogg pere read some Mancur Olsen

  1. That article is an utter pile of shit and seems to be mainly about some Kiwi art wank, but it does mention that Thiel is a massive Tolkien fan, which might explain why he likes New Zealand.

    I’ve not heard of the Rees-Mogg book but the propositions outlined above have been covered, I suspect more entertainingly, in many works of science fiction.

    The lefties really hate the Moggster don’t they? He should be PM for that alone.

  2. Mark o’Connell is certainly a man of limited self-awareness. I was especially impressed by the way this writer of near-hysterical, bloated rhetoric thinks that William Rees-Mogg was guilty of the same crime against crefibility

  3. 3 is flat-out wrong. There are countries which don’t tax incomes – the Cayman Islands for example – but which raise revenue through import duties, property taxes, and other indirect taxes.

    Property tax is of course the big one: you can’t live in a BitCoin. At best, widespread use of crypto-currencies means substituting income tax for LVT, which (in economic terms) would be a good thing. The overall size of the state is unlikely to change.

  4. Point 1 is roughly Olsen’s thesis. That the state is the system by which special interests plunder us all.

    Seems reasonable. The author does not say so but the point must surely be that this plunder is unsustainable under the conditions of modern democracy and the welfare state. The 47% will just continue to vote themselves more and more of everyone else’s money. That is what is new.

    2 and 3 are really Marx. The state of technology determines social relations. Change the tech and you’ll change the relations.

    Are they? I am not sure about 2 but 3 is pretty much what everyone on the Left tells me about the EU and international organisations in general – the nation state is too small, it is obsolete, nations need to work together on an international global scale to solve the problems before us like Acid Rain etc etc. Normally the Guardian would be agreeing with both claims – certainly many governments seem to agree with 2 which is why they are trying to ban bitcoin et al.

    4 is just a reversion to Olsen but with different people using a different form of state and or governance to plunder.

    Yes but the Guardian’s readers see themselves as that cognitive elite that would be in charge. So they like that idea. Again normally the Guardian would be celebrating these opinions.

  5. I finally reached the end of this extraordinarily turgid piece of prose only to be amazed that someone can get so obsessed with the fact that a rich man has bought an estate in New Zealand. And all that wibble about Maori leaves me wondering whether it is just a poorly written joke. The Maori and their special bond with nature? Does anyone really believe that?

  6. Are the Maori the people responsible for the greatest number of extinct species? Did they not destroy vast tracts of woodland?

  7. As MC says above old Rees-Mogg has really got them shitting their red underpants with terror hasn’t he?

    A Tory leader with actual beliefs and perhaps even a real conservative. They know very well that the FFC is Jizza’a greatest asset. With her gone it would be downhill all the way and this is likely ZaNu’s last throw of the dice. Esp if we can get control of the left’s imported voter source and make all migrants wait 100 years for the vote. Retroactive (Thanks Bliar) to 1997.

  8. The funny thing being that there is a serious lack of silicon valley billionares in NZ. They managed to find one who isn’t exactly a frequent visitor, and that’s it.

  9. Diogenes

    “Are the Maori the people responsible for the greatest number of extinct species? Did they not destroy vast tracts of woodland?”

    No, they just killed off the moa and a few others, they did, however, achieve it largely by burning a lot of forest.

  10. There’s a handy short cut here and the clue is near-hysterical orotundity which the author probably thought was a clever put-down but which conveys the valuable message : “stop reading this now!”

  11. Diogenes – “I finally reached the end of this extraordinarily turgid piece of prose only to be amazed that someone can get so obsessed with the fact that a rich man has bought an estate in New Zealand.”

    We are supposed to be threatened by The Good Life but among the Silicon Valley set? If someone had said good bye to the toxic corporate lifestyle in London and moved to set up an intentional community in Skye, they would be creaming their pants with squeals of delight.

    David Moore – “The funny thing being that there is a serious lack of silicon valley billionares in NZ.”

    Kim Dot-Com?

    David Moore – “No, they just killed off the moa and a few others, they did, however, achieve it largely by burning a lot of forest.”

    On the other hand they did manage to kill, eat, castrate and/or enslave the entire Moriori population once the British nicely pointed out to the Maori where they were.

  12. I suppose the author of this twaddle was unable to bring himself to read it through afterwards in order to remove the strangely contradictory things he writes. It seems odd, for example, that he writes that Thiel has not been seen in New Zealand since he bought his estate and then, near the end, describes an encounter with the man in New Zealand a few days after his own visit. I am coming to think that this is a piece of parody, not very amusing to be sure but a piss take of bien-pensant attitudes to Trump voters

  13. “… Marx. The state of technology determines social relations. Change the tech and you’ll change the relations.”

    OK. But it surely isn’t original to Marx, is it?

  14. True, dearieme. We’re certainly seeing radical changes in social relations, currently. With the only influence of Marx being the availability of their old films free on Pirate Bay.

  15. I was surprised they didn’t mention that Thiel is gay – I guess they didn’t want to do anything to ruin the Bond villain image.

  16. A 477 acre farm on Lake Wanaka would have about 12 sheep on it. It’s not even remotely good farming land.

    There are farms 50 times that size in the North Island, which is far greener and more profitable. Not that sheep farming is very profitable these days.

    The “sell-off” aspect of the story is ridiculous hyperbole. It’s grist for the loonies left, which is amusing. They are insistent that NZ take more immigrants. Presumably only poor ones though.

  17. The key words here are “Silicon Valley”, the home of techno-autism. They really are a weird bunch.

    That hit-piece on Thiel though:

    Thiel is in one sense a caricature of outsized villainy: he was the only major Silicon Valley figure to put his weight behind the Trump presidential campaign;

    Man supports major party candidate in democratic election, apocalypse at 11.

    he vengefully bankrupted a website because he didn’t like how they wrote about him

    Maybe Gawker shouldn’t have vengefully broken the law (while openly taunting the US legal system that they had no intention of abiding by a court order) then.

    he is known for his public musings about the incompatibility of freedom and democracy

    Radical stuff.

    for expressing interest – as though enthusiastically pursuing the clunkiest possible metaphor for capitalism at its most vampiric – in a therapy involving transfusions of blood from young people as a potential means of reversing the ageing process.

    Gay chap hopes to consume biological fluids of fit young men. Not my cup of tea – as a married man I sometimes have mixed feelings about the sweet release of death – but unless Thiel takes to wearing a fabulous pink cape and biting people’s femorals, not really an issue, is it?

    When we met in her office at the Auckland University of Technology, the legal scholar Khylee Quince insisted that any invocation of New Zealand as a utopia was a “giant red flag”, particularly to Māori like herself. […]

    “I find it incredibly offensive,” she said. “Thiel got citizenship after spending 12 days in this country, and I don’t know if he’s even aware that Māori exist. We as indigenous people have a very strong sense of intergenerational identity and collectivity. Whereas these people, who are sort of the contemporary iteration of the coloniser, are coming from an ideology of rampant individualism, rampant capitalism.”

    Won’t somebody think of the descendants of cannibals? 🙁

  18. We’re certainly seeing radical changes in social relations, currently.

    I once read that if someone starts wittering on about a period of history you know nothing about, you should nod gravely and say:

    Indeed, it was a time of strained relations and uncertainty amid great social change

  19. SMFS

    “Kim Dot-Com?”

    Not exactly a silicon billionaire…

    “On the other hand they did manage to kill, eat, castrate and/or enslave the entire Moriori population once the British nicely pointed out to the Maori where they were.”

    The Maori were quite happy to kill and eat anything, even each other. They don’t much like this being mentioned in these polite times.

  20. Governments are formed amongst Men for mutual protection.

    As time goes by, the governments become decadent, and engage in increasingly more activities not related to their raison d’etre.

    ‘The democratic nation-state basically operates like a criminal cartel, forcing honest citizens to surrender large portions of their wealth to pay for stuff like roads and hospitals and schools.’

    Eventually, inevitably, the governments breakdown, for failing in their original purpose.

    ‘Out of this wreckage will emerge a new global dispensation, in which a “cognitive elite” will rise to power and influence, as a class of sovereign individuals “commanding vastly greater resources” who will no longer be subject to the power of nation-states and will redesign governments to suit their ends.’

    A period of anarchy will ensue.

    Then, governments will be formed amongst Men for mutual protection.

    Blame the Visigoths if you wish. But it’s really your own decadence.

  21. William Rees-Mogg may have been a great editor of The Times; but, after his retirement, his economic prognostications and social theorizing were eccentric, based as they were on gold-buggery and chartism.

  22. Goes wrong at Point 1.The modern state was formed to bring good order and a sign of its success is a rise in land values ,(according to Adam Smith, sometime patron saint of this blog).The state has the right to take raised land values in tax in return for doing good but no other taxes are legitimate. Any future difficulties with raising Income Tax make the case for LVT stronger, although its a matter of substituting LVT for Income Tax, not levying LVT as an additional tax.
    These propositions ,advanced in the 1770’s,are regarded as worse than Communism in the UK.

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