About Fnargocracy

I've been pretty active over at Moldbug's place. But I had this old essay I wrote up about one of his old posts, which explains neocameralism via our old friend Fnargl. So I thought I would post it to use a springboard for more general discussion about neocameralism.
...let's assume that the dictator is not evil but simply amoral, omnipotent, and avaricious.

One easy way to construct this thought-experiment is to imagine the dictator isn't even human. He is an alien. His name is Fnargl. Fnargl came to Earth for one thing: gold. His goal is to dominate the planet for a thousand years, the so-called "Thousand-Year Fnarg," and then depart in his Fnargship with as much gold as possible. Other than this Fnargl has no other feelings. He's concerned with humans about the way you and I are concerned with bacteria.

You might think we humans, a plucky bunch, would say "screw you, Fnargl!" and not give him any gold at all. But there are two problems with this. One, Fnargl is invulnerable - he cannot be harmed by any human weapon. Two, he has the power to kill any human or humans, anywhere at any time, just by snapping his fingers.

Other than this he has no other powers. He can't even walk - he needs to be carried, as if he was the Empress of India. (Fnargl actually has a striking physical resemblance to Jabba the Hutt.) But with invulnerability and the power of death, it's a pretty simple matter for Fnargl to get himself set up as Secretary-General of the United Nations. And in the Thousand-Year Fnarg, the UN is no mere sinecure for alcoholic African kleptocrats. It is an absolute global superstate. Its only purpose is Fnargl's goal - gold. And lots of it.

In other words, Fnargl is a revenue maximizer. The question is: what are his policies? What does he order us, his loyal subjects, to do?

Well, I don't think taking control is exactly that easy, although it depends on details. But let's ignore that.

What would Fnarglocracy be like? Well, I think Moldbug is right in that it would have strong private property. Fnargl's interests are aligned with ours in some ways, one of them being preventing wastage from violence, theft, and most of what we think of as crime. Economically, assuming Fnargl has reasonably finite computational power and/or limited abilities to gather information, he'd want a free market.

Fnargl would certainly not want a gold standard. Monetizing gold encourages saving it, including cacheing it and wearing it, both of which may result in lossage. Rather, he could set up a nearly perfect currency: fiat, with no dilution. If he came now, he'd probably just use dollars for this: new bills would be printed only to replace old; the Fed would be closed down, or at least open-market operations would be. This is what taxes would be collected in, so that it is what the world would have to use (not to mention it being superior even to gold as a store of value). Then Fnargl would use taxes to buy gold, which he would store in a heavily guarded pile somewhere. (How exactly he would do this is an interesting question, but I am ignoring it.) The price of gold would go sky-high, as a means to get humans to mine it assiduously. In this manner, Fnargl would use the free market to channel as much human effort as possible into gold mining.

I think it would probably be safest for Fnargl if he created propoganda (see discussion below) that there was a vague sort of gold backing for his money. This would be useful to justify state gold-buying and to explain the existence of the gold-pile, which otherwise might cause people to wonder why Fnargl is so interested in the stuff. If it is seen as just "backing up our money" in some vague and esoteric way, nobody will think much about it, just as nobody currently makes anything of the huge gold pile the USA has stashed away.

In other ways, Fnargl's interests are opposite ours and not libertarian in the
least. For one, he wants to extract the maximum possible tribute from us, so he'd tax us at nearly the Laffer maximum. He does want investment, to increase the size of the economy. He'd probably mandate high forced savings. But he'd let us run our investments ourselves, for the same reason he'd have a free market -- to let the market work to allow us to best motivate ourselves.

For a few other ways in which Fnargl's interests are not the same as ours, read on. What these boil down to is that Fnargl is not liberal -- he does not see the point of our lives as we do. Liberals agree that our lives should be for us to live; the specific lives we choose vary widely. To him, though, our lives are simply means by which gold is to be extracted, refined, and moved into his stockpile. These are very different goals. Our subordination to him allows him to align them, but only so long as we are productive as possible right now, or will be in future. This is not exact alignment. In particular, goals are different at the extremes of our lives.

Before we exist, we don't have goals, whereas Fnargl does. He wants only the most productive bacteria. Once we are alive, we very much value our own life, for its own sake, whereas Fnargl values it only if we produce. Otherwise, he'd prefer us dead, ceterus paribus. Also, we tend to value ourselves as we are, not in some alternate form. (We do change ourselves to a degree, but this is self-chosen, and usually minimal.) Fnargl may envision radical changes to us, and it certainly does not matter to him whether we would want these changes. Consider this simple question: do you think it would be a good idea to amputate your hand and replace it with a shovel? Probably not. Fnargl, however, might consider that worth doing if it speeds your ability to dig for gold.

Conversely, there are people who kill themselves that Fnargl would probably want alive. In Fnarglocracy, suicide would be a crime, just as it was in monarchy, and for the same reason. You're depriving the state of your production! The difference is, human moral sentiments revolt against hurting innocents to punish a suicide. Fnargl would be happy to visit punishment on anyone near and dear to you. Now, he may or may not -- this depends on whether or not he feels the downside (him being seen as a meanie) would be more demotivational for survivers than the upside would be. Hard to say. But it is certainly a possibility.
will Fnargl allow freedom of the press? But why wouldn't he? What can the press do to Fnargl?
It can determine how people view him: God or devil. Benevelent and lovable? Or evil and greedy? It can also determine how people view working for him. This will determine other things. How likely it is that people close to him attempt to attack him or the regime? How willing are people to work for him? How much does he have to pay to get good help? He needs an apparat, just like any other state. Money helps when hiring, and he will certainly use it to get the best and brightest. But fanatical devotion can also be useful sometimes.

If Fnargl is invulnerable, why should he fear attack? Well, there are some attacks that might work, depending on the exact details of his powers. For example, Moldbug describes Fnargl as immobile. So, one way to deal with him might be to drop him in a deep hole or desert somewhere (perhaps he sleeps), and run for it. Or, perhaps you can't run: still, a sufficiently motivated suicide squad may be found to do this. Alternatively, you create a desert where he is -- perhaps via a thermonuclear attack. (Fnargl himself is invulnerable, by assumption. But it would clear out all nearby people and equipment, so that Fnargl is now isolated and cannot exert any control.)

Is it nitpicking to think of ways to attack Fnargl? After all, he's an imaginary alien. But he is supposed to stand in for Moldbug's preferred state owners --shareholders of a sovereign corporation. And they can be attacked, perhaps in ways analogous to attacking Fnargl. For example, they might be rendered unable to actually communicate with the CEO, which is analogous to stranding Fnargl in a desert. If the CEO is faithful, he'll find a way to reconnect. If he isn't, he may decide it's time for neocameralism to evolve into monarchy.

By controlling the press, and other information-transmitting institutions, Fnargl can ensure that he himself is loved by humanity. He should not tell them the truth (that he is here only for gold, that he cares for us not at all, and would happily blow up the planet if it secures more gold). Rather, he should tell us that his enlightened species has taken a benevelent interest in us, and that he has been sent to help us rule ourselves, to prevent our self-destruction (which his people's advanced social sciences have determined to be inevitable on our own), and to bring us into a golden age of freedom, equality, and righteousness. He should definitely hold elections, so allow us to endorse his rule. (Of course he should not allow any legislation which would significantly impair our gold extraction operations.) That is, he should coopt the existing progressive memeset and consent-manufactories to his own advantage. The more we love him, the more we consent to his rule, the less likely it is that anyone manages to bring off any serious attack against him or his state. As Moldbug himself said elsewhere: "Once people even start to see you as powerful, rather than responsible, a crack has appeared in your armor. You have enemies. And who wants enemies?"

Even after Fnargl manages to securely set himself up as god-king, there is still the problem of people being unproductive. They can steal from each other, for example. They might engage in intra-human politics or warfare to grab stuff. They might engage in strikes, or slow-downs, in ways that cut production. Or, they may simply not work hard. They might devote their lives to esoteric stuff that humans care about, but Fnargl doesn't -- the pursuit of as much sex as possible, for example. All of these things are more reasons why Fnargl will want a press that is not objective. Rather, the press should instill the correct values.

Hard work is one such value. I've read that in Japan, when a man is unhappy with his job he works harder, to attempt to shame his superiors into giving him a promotion or more pay. This is a memeset Fnargl wants, not the memeset where when you are unhappy you quit, slack off or strike. What else? Well, Fnargl certain does not want people idling away their lives on selfish pursuits, meaningful only to themselves. Sex and drugs, to take the most salient examples. But also writing poetry, gossiping, entertainment -- anything except work and reproduction. He will tolerate our distractions to some degree, I think, because they make us happy, and Fnargl wants us to have rewards so that we have a reason to work hard. But I think his press will discourage the more self-centered life. And he may well decide to keep laws against really addictive and disabling drugs.

What other values will Fnargl want? Law abidingness. Peacefulness, even pacifism. Docility. The brotherhood of man. Do these values sound familiar? Well, yes -- they are the values of progressivism! Again, Fnargl will do well by coopting this memeset, not by letting it die. He certainly does not want every bit of progressivism, but he does want some of it.

Do the values above remind you a bit of sheep? Well, no surprise -- wild animals are far more unruly than our domesticated breeds. We've bred certain behaviors out of them. Establishing progressivism as his state religion is one means by which Fnargl will domesticate humans. But then there is literal domestication, too. Why should Fnargl let us breed as we choose? He should not. Rather, he will want to control our breeding, so as to achieve several ends.

One important end would be to rapidly increase the total population of the Earth to near its carrying capacity. More people equals more production. Fnargl would want to stabilize the population only once there were enough people so that marginal human life was at zero gold(tax) production, that is, just scraping by. He's not concerned with our average quality of life: he's concerned only with total production. Given variable harvests, I don't think it unlikely that he'd let us go beyond the carrying capacity for a while, during years with good harvests, then let us starve back to it in bad years.

But there's more than just numbers here. Fnargl always will want to increase our productivity, and not only via capital investment (the current means), but also by cultivating better people. Eugenics! He'll want to increase our intelligence and decrease our time-preference, both of which are known to be correlated with (and most likely causal of) productivity. He'll certainly want us healthier, and probably also physically smaller (fewer calories per worker). And he'll probably want to increase our docility, law-abidingness, hard workingness, and general disinterest in selfish pleasures. How would Fnargl do these things?

Some of his eugenics could be done more or less in a free market way. I.e., Fnargl would probably subsidize reproduction, enough to make pregnancy and child rearing more lucrative than some work, at least for people whose traits he likes. Remember that he's got all the taxes he needs to do pretty much whatever he wants. Children pay out in the long run for Fnargl, but may not for us. From his POV, this is a market failure that he'll want to correct.

After he filled the world to the quantity of people desired, which would take a few generations I'd guess, then he'd start in with the harsher stuff. Once you've got sufficient quantity, then you start working on quality. (Increasing the supportable amount of humans would also be a goal, but the free market would handle that just fine; Fnargl doesn't need to invest in that himself.)

Some of the eugenics would be... less than free. Three generations of imbeciles would be way too much for Fnargl -- I doubt he'd even allow one. I don't see him allowing morons to live off the state, that's for sure. He'd probably let them live, so long as they are sterilized and paid for privately -- this goes in the category of "let them have rewards to keep them working". But without someone else paying their bills? Euthanasia. (The progressive consent-manufactories would be kept busy for quite a while with this one.)

With the world at its carrying capacity, Fnargl would want to start replacing the least productive people. This would be people with low intelligence, high time preference, and few skills. Some of them might accept being worked to death, but some might revolt or turn to crime, or otherwise cause problems instead of dying peacefully. This is an example of a situation where interests are not aligned -- our genes tell us categorically "do not die"; Fnargl cares not. These criminals he would kill if he caught them, perhaps having them disassembled for organs if possible. (He might also attempt to squelch the crime of desperate men by harsh measures: punishing their families.) I could also imagine Fnargl learning that working people to death was not cost-effective, and perhaps preemptable. I can imagine him clearing whole countries at a time via his snap, if he didn't like their average genetics and/or culture. Then he could resettle using people who were more to his taste. For PR reasons, he would probably try to justify his genocides, probably by manipulating a group he had decided to genocide into warring on a neighbor. His progressive PR organs would clarify these occurances to make sure that the world understood things correctly.

Fnargl would enforce breeding limits against people with all sorts of genetic problems. How would he do that? A caring (but steely) progressive bureaucracy. Every person would be genetically tested prenatally, and perhaps also at birth, with abortion/euthanasia for those found wanting. Further testing would be done later in life for personality and intelligence, with sterilization for the worst cases. License to breed granted conditionally. Justification? Overcrowding, and of course "the good of the children". Again, here's a situation where progressivism is vital: how else can Fnargl create millions of dedicated eugenecists and their staffs, the informers, the voluntary compliance to something as illiberal as this?

I also tend to think he would want focused inbreeding programs on small groups of people, to attempt to fix certain traits for general propagation. This is how we artificially select animal strains, and I see good reason for Fnargl to desire it. 1000 years is plenty of time to spread desirable traits to everyone living. Women (even girls) might be encouraged to reproduce using state-sponsored sperm donors, perhaps via very large subsidies. Or perhaps they'd just be forced, if not enough of them were volunteering. Droit de seigneur, indeed. Perhaps they'd call it "being drafted" and it would be highly praised as "doing your duty" and "serving humanity".