Exchanging Value

It’s taken for granted in modern society that our wonderful “elites” deliberately divide and conquer the public for their own benefit. No doubt that’s true. But what is less often discussed is that most people do a really good job dividing and conquering themselves without any outside assistance.

One of the main ways in which humans divide themselves is arguments over the exchange of value. This usually takes the form of disagreements about money. Introducing money into a friendship or even a family situation is a very dangerous thing if money has played no role prior to that. I know friendships that have broken up over $20 and families who no longer speak to each other over an ambiguously-worded will.

We have financialised almost everything in modern society and so value disagreement are usually over money. But value also includes concepts like meaning, significance and utility. (Interesting etymological side note, value is from the Latin valere and is related to valour).

One non-monetary way to create value is to be able to say the right thing at the right time. Sounds simple. Yet most people receive no training in delivering this kind of value. In fact, many people are terrified of public speaking because not only can you fail to say the right thing but you may very well end up saying the wrong thing. In that case, you create negative value.

I once attended a work lunch which was a send-off for a colleague who had resigned. The CIO was in attendance. He’d only been at the company for one week. As a result, he didn’t know the person who was leaving. But when the person who was supposed to give the farewell speech got called away at the last minute, the CIO was asked to do the speech in his place.

Imagine being given 5 minutes notice to speak in front of a roomful of people about somebody that you don’t know personally. Most of us would have to fall back to clichés and we’d struggle to sound genuine. But the CIO gave a 10 minute long speech that was not only not cliched, but somehow managed to seem personally relevant to the guy who was leaving the company. It was a very impressive example of saying the right thing at the right time.

Knowing how to say what needs to be said is a skill. For C-level managers, it’s probably the one truly mandatory skill because, even if you have no other skills, you can probably still bullshit your way out of trouble. On the other hand, you might be technically highly skilled, but if you can’t communicate your knowledge in the form others can understand, you won’t win support. Therefore, you can’t trade value. In a world where value was purely objective, these problems would not occur. But we do not live in such a world.

Knowing how to trade value is a skill that most people do not seem to have. They certainly don’t teach it to you in school. In fact, school is part of a default script for value trading. You get good grades and then you get a good job. The job allows you to provide value but providing value is very different from trading value. Trading value requires that you know what you are worth and that’s not something that is taught in school.

I learned some hard lessons in trading value back when I used to be active in the Melbourne indie-music scene. The indie-music scene provides a useful case study for the subject precisely because there is no real money involved. Almost all amateur musicians lose money on the deal. You have to pay for instruments, for rehearsal rooms, for sound engineers etc. Even if you manage to get signed to a record contract with some small label, you’ll probably still be lucky to earn more than what you could make serving burgers at your local McDonalds.

The value that gets traded at the bottom level of the indie-music scene is not money but gigs. Once you’ve formed a band and rehearsed your songs, the next step is to play in front of people. A gig normally requires there to be three bands on the bill. When you organise a gig, you’re not just booking your band but you need to find two others as well.

In organising a gig, you are creating value for those two other bands because you’re saving them the trouble of organising their own gig. If you stay on the scene long enough, the bands that you gave a gig to will offer a gig in return. Whether you realise it or not (most bands do not even realise it), you’re now trading value. It’s only the tiniest little slither of value, but this trade is enough to create “friendships” with the other bands on the scene.

So, it’s all a happy egalitarian world where everybody is comrades-in-arms, right? Well, for the most part, yes it is. It’s a communist utopia as long as everybody remains equal. But that changes when one band starts to succeed.

Let’s call the scene as we’ve just described it – Level 0.

All bands begin at Level 0; 0 being the number of fans your band has. The only people coming to your shows in the beginning are your friends. At the average Level 0 gig, there’s about 20-30 people in the audience all of whom are friends of the 3 bands who are playing the show. Sometimes, if it’s a Wednesday night in the middle of winter and it’s raining, there’ll be 5 people in the audience. In rare cases, there’s nobody except the sound engineer, which can challenge the morale of even the most enthusiastic wanna-be rockstars.

While your band and all the bands you are “friends” with are at Level 0, you happily trade gigs and everybody gets along fine. That changes when one of the bands gets to Level 1.

Level 1 simply means that your band has more than 0 fans. This is usually very obvious because there are people showing up to your gig who you don’t know personally. The only way to get to Level 1 is to have word-of-mouth. Somebody liked your band enough to recommend it to somebody else.

The difference between Level 0 and Level 1 is that, instead of there being 20 people in the audience, there’s now 40 or 50. That might not sound like much. But, on the local indie scene, if you can bring 50 people to a gig, you are ahead of 95% of the other bands. Venue booking agents will notice that fact and they will start to offer you better gigs.

What has happened in the transition from Level o to Level 1 is that you have created more value and you can start trading that value. This might sound like a good problem to have. But most bands, like most people, have no experience in trading value. They now find themselves in a strange position which they don’t know how to deal with.

Perhaps the strangest part is how this changes your relationship with the other bands on the scene, the ones who are supposed to be your “friends”. You might expect that they would be happy to see your band succeeding. In fact, what happens is the little green-eyed monster rears its ugly head.

The underlying problem is that the terms of the value exchange you had with the other bands have changed. Because you are now at Level 1, your gigs are more valuable than they were before. Because they are more valuable, other bands will actively seek to get on the bill. You start getting phone calls and messages from every band you ever played with asking for gigs.

The trouble is that those bands no longer have an equal value gig to trade in return. They can offer you a Level 0 gig, but that’s no longer of value to you. As a Level 1 band, you’re now hoping to trade with the bands who are at Level 2 by bringing your audiences to their shows. You’ll be playing weekend gigs at larger venues with bigger crowds.

What this boils down to is that the perceived egalitarian utopia has gone. Instead, you find that you are actually in a value hierarchy where you are one level higher than the bands who are supposed to be your “friends”. Nobody discusses this openly, but it’s the reality.

Your friendship with the bands at Level 0 was based on a reciprocal and equal trade of value. That equal trade breaks down when you get to Level 1 and this places the friendship under threat. What can you do?

Probably the most common response is to ignore the problem by not replying to all the calls and messages you are now getting. You become “aloof” and “unfriendly” and the bands stuck back at Level 0 begin to resent you for not helping them.

Another option is to try and keep the friendship alive by giving gigs to the bands who call you. This will keep them happy but now you will be the one who gets resentful. You’ll feel that you are being used by the other bands.

Yet another option is to try and acknowledge the value imbalance by telling the other bands you’re doing them a favour. But that just activates all kinds of pride and self-esteem issues. Besides which, it’s not what “friends” do and so will probably end up breaking the friendship anyway.

If not handled properly, and in the overwhelming majority of cases it is not, the imbalance in value exchange inevitably leads to resentment. Friendship turns to enmity. Jealously and envy rear their ugly heads. People start bad mouthing each other. All of this because nobody knows how to re-establish an equilibrium of value exchange. All this even though there’s no money involved and the stakes are, if we’re honest about it, completely trivial.

When you view society through this lens of the difficulties inherent in trading value, you can see how many positions exist simply to facilitate the trade of value. In the music industry, the band manager is one who takes this responsibility on behalf of the band. Outside of music, there’s real estate agents, used car salesmen, bankers, politicians, priests, managers, marriage counsellors, online dating apps, second-hand goods marketplaces, the list goes on and on. All these jobs exist because people are really bad at trading value.

Govern me harder, mommy

A very interesting subject came up in the comments of last week’s post and, strange to say given that I’ve been writing about the Devouring Mother for more than two years now, I hadn’t fully appreciated the depth to which the State-as-Parent and State-as-Family metaphors go. I’ve been focusing primarily on the psychological aspects but it’s almost certain that these metaphors (I would call them archetypes) are more fundamental.

I would have guessed that the State-as-Parent metaphor was a universal and, yet, as we will see shortly, that is not true since it seems to be absent from language used by the Romans and Greeks. Novel metaphors can always be created spontaneously and when that happens we are usually conscious that a metaphor is being used. But when a metaphor is really fundamental, it gets solidified into the semantic structure of a language. At that point we become unconscious of it and can only retrieve the metaphor through what amounts to linguistic archaelogy.

The State-as-Parent metaphor is one that has become solidified into our language. But it comes to us not from the words we use to describe our political institutions, almost all of which are from Latin. Rather, it comes from the words we use for religious institutions. Those come from Greek and the Judeo-Christian tradition.

A relatively recent example of the State-as-Parent metaphor that caught my attention is this stand-up bit by Dave Chappelle about Trump (the part containing the metaphor starts around the 1 minute mark). I’m normally a huge fan of Chappelle but the jokes here don’t work for me.

One reason the jokes don’t work is that the Trump presidency was itself a comedy. I mean this in a technical sense. The technical definition of a comedy is a protagonist who wins in spite of, or even because of, their flaws. There can be no doubt that Trump is flawed. Like any good comedy, the Trump presidential campaign did not hide his flaws but brought them out into the open for all to see. They became a key part of the story.

Who can forget the “grab ’em by the p***y” plot twist in the last weeks of the campaign? In technical screenwriting language, that’s called the High Tower Surprise. It’s when all seems lost for the hero. But all was not lost for Trump. He went on to win anyway. That’s why the story is a comedy.

An unspoken rule of comedy is that it should never “punch down”. A comedic story never makes fun of the protagonist who is, by definition, the weaker party. Rather, it makes fun of the antagonist, who is the stronger party. The protagonist wins in spite of their flaws. The antagonist loses despite being better positioned.

For this reason, a common feature in any comedy is that the antagonist behaves like a bumbling fool. It doesn’t matter that they are powerful, rich or even intelligent people. In fact, the comedy can work better when the antagonist is all of those things and yet screws it up anyway. That’s exactly the role that Hilary Clinton played in the Trump presidential comedy. She was the bumbling antagonist of the story who had everything going for her and lost anyway. The fact that she was pretending to be infinitely virtuous and intelligent just adds to the comedy.

For these reasons, it’s almost impossible to make any good jokes about the Trump presidency because doing so would count as “punching down”. That’s the technical problem with Chappelle’s Trump jokes. But there’s another big problem with it and this one relates to the aforementioned State-as-Parent metaphor.

One of Chappelle’s jokes invokes the metaphor explicitly. He likens Trump telling the public the truth about how bad things are with the government to his own family situation. Just like Chappelle wouldn’t tell his son that he’s struggling to pay the rent, neither should Trump tell the American public any bad news about the state of the government. The underlying logic is that parents lie to their children, therefore presidents should lie to the public. This is the State-as-Parent metaphor in its purest form.

There’s two things that struck me as strange about this joke and its use of the metaphor.

The first one relates to Dave Chappelle himself. Stand-up comedy is one of the few remaining genuine meritocracies in our society. The only way to get to the top of stand-up comedy is by being awesome and the only way to get awesome is to spend years working on your craft playing crappy gigs in dingy comedy joints in front of a handful of people. You don’t get to the top of stand-up comedy unless you are a dedicated, disciplined adult. Why would a dedicated, disciplined, highly-accomplished adult think the government needed to lie to them as if they were a child?

But the bigger problem is that Dave Chappelle is an American and so is the audience who laugh along to the joke. Last time I checked, America was supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Does a free and brave people need to be lied to by its government?

If ever there was a country where the State-as-Parent metaphor should not work, it should be the USA. The US declared its independence and fought a war against its “father” King George III. But of course, there has always been a huge paradox in the founding of the United States. The very men who fought for independence from the tyrannical “father”, King George III, immediately became the founding “fathers”. The US replaced one State-as-Parent metaphor with another one.

To shed some light on this paradox, I’d like to indulge my love of etymology. Let’s do a survey of some of the main words we use in relation to political matters.

Here is a list of the most prominent words we use to denote political leaders:

Boss, master, lord, monarch, emperor, magistrate, consul, sovereign, potentate, ruler, leader, governor, primate, chief, president.

Almost of all of these words come from Latin and they all had roughly the same meaning in that language which we can summarise under the concepts: supremacy, control, rule. These words literally denote a person who is in control, in command and has authority. That person can be a fool, a traitor or a tyrant, and many famous names throughout history were exactly that. But the words themselves simply mean a person who holds a position of power.

Similarly, our words which denote a political grouping such as public, republic, community and state also come from Latin and literally mean a grouping of people with no wider connotations.

“Tribe” is also from Latin where it had a non-metaphorical connotation. Rome was divided into tribes for the purposes of taxation and military conscription (from whence comes “tribune” and tribunal). This was a purely administrative matter. However, the word tribe was later used for the Biblical tribes of Israel where it took on connotations related to family since the tribes of Israel were the descendants of Jacob, hence the patriarchal connotation.

Then there is the “senate”. Senate comes from the Latin senex meaning old man. The founder of Rome, Romulus, created a senate of 100 men. I suppose we would call them “wise men” since that is the connotation. “King” also has a connotation of wisdom and age. Different translations of the Bible have either three wise men or three kings visiting baby Jesus, for example.

From this short survey, we can see that Roman political terminology was seemingly completely devoid of the State-as-Parent and State-as-Family metaphor. The Romans referred to their leaders in a very literal fashion. Here is a person-who-leads.

There is one Latin word that has a family connotation, although whether it was ever used in Roman political life is a question I couldn’t find a quick answer to. The word “nation” comes from the Latin nationem and relates to birth and therefore ancestry and lineage. It is very similar to the word “clan” which is Gaelic for family. The word “king” is related to “kin” and hence also must have had a family connotation once upon a time.

(Incidentally, the word “family” is from the Latin familia which referred to the domestic household in general including blood relations and servants/slaves).

It is not from the Roman tradition but from the Judeo-Christian tradition that we see the family and parental metaphors in full flight.

The church fathers are the patriarchs which is Greek for father. Patria meant “family”. The big one, of course, is “Pope” which comes from “papa” meaning father. Christianity has parental/familial metaphors built into the heart of the theology. The Pope is the “father” and the church is the “mother”. The first two items of the trinity are Father and Son.

In the Old Testament, man’s relationship to God is one of master-servant. In the New Testament, it’s Father-Son. St Paul’s letter to the Galatians succinctly summarises this change:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

We could fill up a whole book with more examples but this is enough to see the pattern. Western culture’s parental/family metaphor come not from the Roman and Greek political tradition but from the Judeo-Christian tradition. For most of Roman history, these were separate but they got mixed together late in the Roman Empire when Christianity became the state church. That mixture then gave birth to Faustian (European) civilisation and we are the inheritors of the linguistic metaphors summarised above.

The early Faustian civilisation was literally created by the Popes (fathers). The Pope was himself the mediator with God. There had been no need for a Pope in the earlier days of Rome since the king or emperor already filled that role.

Romulus was said to be the product of divine conception between the god, Mars, and the virgin, Ilia (sound like a familiar story?) Accordingly, he was already a mediator with the gods and was both king and head of the church, as were the subsequent rulers who followed him. There was no need for a Pope, since the king was already divine.

In the early days of the Faustian, the Pope took it upon himself to confer divine blessing on the various northern kings who probably had no idea what the point was. That’s why the Reformation would later happen in the north. The “barbarian” northerners were finally strong enough to throw off the foreign practices that made no sense to them.

Given this history, it’s no surprise then that parental metaphors were present in the rhetoric used at the time of the US independence movement. The US had significant protestant and puritan populations and these had explicitly rejected the Pope and therefore the earthly religious “father”. They were about to do the same thing to another “father figure”.

At the same time, the Enlightenment thinkers of that era were also rejecting the familial and parental aspects of religion. Consider the opening lines of Immanuel Kant’s essay What is Enlightenment:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage [childhood]…Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has freed them from external guidance. They are the reasons why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as guardians. It is so comfortable to be a minor.

For Kant and other Enlightenment thinkers, man has wilfully remained a child and now is the time for us all to become adults. The US declaration of independence was motivated by the same spirit. Independence from what? From the “external guidance” of King George III who was portrayed as the tyrannical father who would not allow the colonists their freedom.

The historian, Kenneth Lynn, summed up the situation this way:

The men who broke with Britain in 1776 had been prepared by their upbringings to make a successful separation from their parents and to face with equanimity the prospect of living independently. The psychologically painful experience of overthrowing the father figure of George III and of breaking the historical connection between the colonies and the imperial parens partriae was led by colonists who had not been tyrannised over by their own fathers, and who in fact were accustomed to thinking of parental authority as a guarantor of filial freedom and self-realisation.

Note that this analysis also implies the State-as-Parent metaphor. People raised by their parents to be independent will demand political independence too.

Given all this background and given the example of the founding “fathers” who really did demand their freedom and won it in battle too, how did the USA end up where it is today with a seemingly large proportion of the population that not only expects the government to lie to them but thinks that the government needs to lie to them in order to run the country properly? How did the State-as-Parent metaphor make a comeback? How did the US government become the Devouring Mother?

One reason is implied in Lynn’s analysis. If the founding fathers had been raised by their parents to be independent individuals and this is what motivated them to also demand political independence from the state, we can hypothesise that the opposite holds true today. Parents no longer raise their children to be independent, therefore the children do not demand political independence from the state. On the contrary, they demand that the state take care of them.

Of course, unlike in the days of the founding fathers, in the modern word the state itself plays a huge role in raising children through the education system. Can it really be a surprise that state-based education is going to educate children in just such a way to ensure that they will acquiesce to the needs of the state? And here is another paradox because the Enlightenment thinkers were obsessed with “education”.

As Kant noted: childhood is comfortable. How does one break the child out of its addiction to the comfort of the family? The anthropological literature shows us rites of passage that seem expressly designed to achieve just that outcome. In Australian aboriginal culture, for example, a young boy was literally (but mostly symbolically) torn from the arms of his mother and carried off for initiation with the men. He leaves as a child and returns as an adult. In between are a series of rites designed to break any lingering addiction to comfort.

Enlightenment thinkers wanted to replace religious rites with “education”. This education was supposed to develop the faculty of reason and that was supposed to be the thing that produced “grown-ups”. Is that really true? If laziness, cowardice and addiction to comfort are the problems, how does a scholarly education address the issue?

Modern education is designed to produce scholars, mandarins and bureaucrats. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Society needs such people, albeit in far smaller numbers than what we now produce. The problem is that there’s nothing in the life of a scholar, mandarin or bureaucrat that requires the development of courage or hard work. On the contrary, such people tend to lead lives of relative ease and are liable to fall into the trap of laziness and comfort.

Therefore, education as conducted in modern society is almost designed not to produce the enlightenment that Kant talked about. If it did, we would already be enlightened, since we are the most educated society in history. Instead, we live in a time where hysteria reigns. That’s one reason for the failure of the Enlightenment ideals.

A second arises when we look at the more practical uses of reason such as displayed by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was the ultimate do-it-yourself man. He built his own house, made his own furniture and even made his own reading glasses. But, as has been pointed out numerous times, he only had the time to do that due to his land holdings and the slaves who worked those holdings. Even then, he was in debt up to his eyeballs. The self-sufficiency ethic that Kenneth Lynn talked about was always problematic even among its finest practitioners.

As if these problems weren’t enough, industrial capitalism appeared on the scene. Kant’s enemies of Enlightenment were comfort, laziness and cowardice. Industrial capitalism was always designed to produce comfort. The romantics who argued against the bourgeois ethic did so on exactly the grounds that it was all about comfort, security and moral pretentiousness. It produced people who were fat, lazy and far too contented with themselves.

At first it produced comfort only for the bourgeoisie. In the 20th century, the comfort was rolled out to almost everybody in the West. Modern democracy, which began as a genuine movement aimed at wielding political power for the majority, morphed into little more than a giant exercise in pork barrelling as the State promised to deliver goodies in exchange for votes. Society became entirely predicated on material comfort.

The Enlightenment thinkers had assumed a continuation of the frugality and temperance that was natural to the time before industrial capitalism. They probably never imagined a world such as the one we live in but they could have predicated the consequences. I’m sure Kant would have known that showering down material excess on a population would not produce enlightened individuals able and willing to use the faculties of reason. It would produce spoiled brats.

So, we substituted one form of keeping people as children for another form. The Church kept its “children” in line by preaching a dour life of material scarcity with the threat of eternal punishment. Turns out it’s just as easy to keep people under control by promising that they can have whatever they want as long as they do what they’re told. As Kant said, it is comfortable to be a child.

On Solar and Lunar Knowledge

It occurred to me while writing last week’s post that the subject matter of the last few posts has provided yet more grist for the mill in support of my Devouring Mother analysis.

One of the issues I tried to resolve back in the early days after discovering the concept was when did the Devouring Mother appear on the scene? This led me back to Toynbee and Spengler and the idea that the Devouring Mother is actually the archetypal manifestation of the Universal State of Faustian culture; a position that I sketched out in this post.  

In the last few posts, I addressed what might seem like unrelated issues. Firstly, there was the question of reductionist science. Reductionist science ran out of steam in the second half of the 20th century. The questions is: why? Was it because it became corrupted by money? Maybe. But the systems thinkers explanation was that all the low-hanging fruit had been harvested and science began to face domains where there appeared to be inherent and irreducible complexity.

Is that complexity really irreducible or do we just have to wait for more geniuses to show up and work their reductionist magic? That’s a tough question to answer. One thing we do know, so far the geniuses have not arrived. There have been few major breakthroughs in the post-war years and certainly nothing to rival the century before that.

Instead, we got what I call Technocrats. The Technocrats apply the reductionist method to domains where it does not work. If this was purely a matter of scholarship, the Technocrats would have been consigned to the dustbin of history for failing to produce valid results. But the Technocracy is not primarily concerned about science and knowledge. The main game is power. The Technocracy assists the execution of power by invoking “magic spells” that utilise the vocabulary of science.

The rise of the Technocracy has correlated with another development that I outlined in last week’s post: sabotage. This might seem unrelated to the problems of science and yet the underlying shared factor is the same: complexity. Sabotage works in complex environments. The more complex society has become, the more sabotage has developed an esoteric character.

These more esoteric forms of sabotage have slowly become ubiquitous in business, domestic politics and even geopolitics in the 20th century. Timothy Mitchell (author of Carbon Democracy) noted that the British and Americans reverted to sabotage in the Middle East because they were not “strong” enough to hold the region by force. That’s only true if we compare against historical empires that were predicated entirely on military strength e.g. the Roman Empire.

But the “business model” of the Roman Empire was different from that of the British and American empires. It involved the payment of tribute and the projection of military power. The Roman Empire ended where the ability to project military force ended.

The British and American empires have been truly global in scope. This would never have been possible using traditional military means. Of course, the military is one aspect of those empires but it is part of a network of diplomatic, financial, business and deep state operatives. Military intervention is used only as a last resort. It is this network which has perfected the art of sabotage. To paraphrase US politician, Chuck Schumer, the deep state (the network) has 99 ways to sabotage you.

It is tempting to say that the use of sabotage to achieve political goals is a sign moral degradation or “weakness”. But it could simply be that sabotage is what works in complex environments. Von Clausewitz wrote in the 19th century that war is the extension of politics by other means. That’s true enough. But as geopolitics became more and more complex, sabotage has become the main extension of politics by other means used by the British and American empires.

What does any of this have to with the archetype of the Devouring Mother?

Well, we don’t need any sophisticated psychological theories to see how these modern developments correlate with archetypal gender traits. The use of sabotage is an obvious one. Anybody that’s been through high school knows that boys naturally resolve their disagreements with their fists while girls use far more subtle methods including gossip, teasing, manipulation and social isolation. Boys use brute force. Girls sabotage each other. Boys are like the Roman Empire. Girls are like the US empire.

Given that the use of sabotage has correlated with the rising complexity of the modern world, there is another obvious gender parallel. Men are simple. Women are complex. Stand-up comedians and comedy scriptwriters have written thousands, if not millions, of jokes trading on this simple fact. As the world became more complex, it became more feminine.

This also matches the historical paradigm. By modern standards, the Roman Empire was really simple. You pay your tribute and we leave you alone. You don’t pay your tribute and we’ll send a legion to beat it out of you. The rules were clear and everybody knew where they stood. The mechanism of the Roman Empire was a man’s one: military force.

Most European kingdoms for most of modern European history were run on this same paradigm. Two armies assembled on a field and had the equivalent of a military boxing match that was conducted according to fixed rules. It really was like modern sport. Kings were the team owners. Generals were the coaches.

As I noted last week, in the 19th century the use of sabotage as an industrial relations bargaining technique began with the same kinds of brute force methods. Workers smashed machines and capitalists smashed workers. It was all very masculine.

But then things got more esoteric or, we might say, more feminine. Sabotage moved away from the schoolboy use of the fist and towards the schoolgirl use of gossip, slander and gaslighting. Rather than physically assault union leaders, capitalists would spread lies and innuendo about them through the press. They would destroy the reputations of their opponents in much the same way that a group of high school girls will destroy the reputation of another girl they don’t like. This marked the transition away from robber baron capitalism to something more subtle that I call Imperialism 2.0.

All of this matches up to the increasingly complexity of the world starting in the 19th century and accelerating all the way up until our time. If we accept the premise that men are simple and women are complex, we might posit that increasingly complexity leads to an increase in the feminine. First the world became more complex. Then it became more feminine. Nobody planned it that way. It just happened. But perhaps there’s something more archetypal going on.

The rise of industrial capitalism coincided with the crisis of faith in Europe. Christianity had “died” around the time of the industrial revolution, arguably earlier than that in Britain. The English poet, Robert Graves, identified Christianity with what he called solar knowledge. According to him, solar knowledge is masculine while lunar knowledge is feminine. If this is true, then solar knowledge in the form of Christianity had already begun to wane well before the modern manifestations of complexity and sabotage, both of which imply the lunar/feminine. We might go further and say that the decline of the solar allowed the lunar to rise. Complexity is the effect, not the cause.

The young Robert Graves

Solar knowledge aims to bring everything into the light. The rules of sport, the rules of war and the “laws nature” achieved through reductionist science are all prime examples of solar knowledge. They are out in the open for all to see.

To change metaphors: solar knowledge is like a big net. Its strength is that it can capture a wide area of reality. But the gaps in the netting are also very wide and all kinds of things can slip through; things that are too small to matter. Lunar knowledge is concerned with the things that slip through the net. In Jungian terms, lunar knowledge is the Unconscious.

Solar knowledge wants to shine a light on everything. But when you try to shine a light on the things that have fallen through the gaps in the net, you are doing the opposite of reductionist science. You are increasing the number of variables and this leaves you unable to calculate laws anymore. That’s the problem of complexity. Translated into Graves’ terminology, it may be that complexity is inherently lunar. Applying solar reductionist science to it does not work.

The problem for the modern West is that we have told ourselves that reductionist science is the sum total of everything that can be known. We live in a culture which thinks solar knowledge is all there is and lunar knowledge doesn’t exist. In that case, everything that falls through the net of solar knowledge is seen as superfluous, redundant epiphenomena.

What if we’re wrong? What if those things do matter? Then we have ignored a whole realm of reality that is going to creep up on us quietly in the night, under a full moon, and whack us over the back of the head. Interestingly, this really is how many people think nowadays. There is an underlying anxiety which is caused by complexity but which, I think, Graves would attribute to the absence of lunar knowledge in our culture. We can’t handle complexity. More specifically, we try and resolve complexity by reverting to solar knowledge instead of dealing with it on lunar terms.

We might further hypothesise that the more solar knowledge has expanded in the form of reductionist science and industrial society, the more things have fallen through the net and the more “energy” has been building in the lunar realm. That could explain the outbursts of irrationality that we saw in the 20th century and which are plaguing society today.

What happened in the 20th century was that we ran out of things to apply the reductionist method to. Rather than acknowledge that fact, we continued to apply the method where it didn’t belong. This has led to the degradation of solar knowledge seen in the Technocracy. If we assume, with Graves, that solar knowledge equates to the masculine, can it also be a coincidence that there has been a degradation of masculinity in the general culture in the post-war years?

As society has become more complex, solar knowledge has become less able to handle it. This is not just a problem in science. Modern governments operate through a bureaucracy and a bureaucracy is also predicated on solar knowledge. It runs on rules. But the world has become too complex for bureaucracies to deal with. Therefore, it has become too complex for governments to deal with.

If complexity really is the domain of lunar knowledge, then our lack of such knowledge is the problem. Graves traces this all the way back to Christianity, but we can also see that the Reformation made things even more lopsided. Protestantism did away even with the cult of Mary which was Catholicism’s way of acknowledging the validity of lunar knowledge.

Contrast this…

Even then, Graves argues that the symbol of Mary recognises only a portion of the lunar/feminine. Contrast Mary with the Indian goddess Kali.

…with this.

There’s one more twist in the story. We can say with confidence that mainstream western culture does not know how to deal with lunar knowledge. And, yet, we have acknowledged that the British and especially the US empires have been run on the lunar. The US Empire and its allies have perfected the techniques which the British Empire had begun to develop (interestingly enough during the long reign of a Queen). These techniques, including sabotage, seem to be based in lunar knowledge. That is why we live in the world of the Devouring Mother. The Deep State is lunar, not solar.

The institutions of modern western society – parliament, civil service, bureaucracy –are based on the assumption of solar knowledge. But these institutions became incapable of handling the emergent complexity of the world. Rather than dismantle them and replace them with something else, we kept their external façade but within they took on a form based in lunar knowledge. It’s precisely because the West did not know how to handle lunar knowledge that we had to keep up the appearances of the old solar order. In reality, the operation of politics has become lunar.

We might be tempted to call this development “fraudulent” or even “satanic” or “demonic”. Graves would say that this just reveals the old biases of the Christian church which actively suppressed the lunar. Both Graves and Jung believed that the challenge ahead of us is to learn to once again incorporate lunar knowledge. Jung saw the dogma of the Assumption of Mary by the Pope as a big step towards that end. Graves believed the solution lay in poetry and the arts.

Jung also recognised a big risk. The failure to find a balance could lead to the destruction of the solar altogether and we would wind up in barbarism. It’s not a question of either/or. There must be a balance of the lunar and solar.

One of the ways to address that risk would be to acknowledge and fix the imbalance that has occurred within solar knowledge itself. Solar knowledge is not synonymous with reductionist science. It only became that way since Descartes and Newton. It’s not hard to see why we exulted this form of science. The results have been incredible. But if, indeed, we have reached the limits of reductionist science, then what is needed is a way to expand solar knowledge again so it encompasses more than just reductionism.


Some years ago I worked for a company that was a market entrant taking on an all-but-monopolistic existing company in a large Australian commercial sector (I’m deliberately keeping the terms vague here to protect the guilty). The company I worked for was mostly run by experienced people from the industry in question. I didn’t know much about the industry but their business strategy seemed ambitious bordering on delusional (not an uncommon thing when IT is involved).

Nevertheless, the monopolist opponent seemed genuinely worried to have a new competitor in the market. They took various actions in response. Some of those actions involved breaking the law. Commercial collusion is illegal in Australia, but that didn’t stop the monopolist from trying to convince other players in the market not to do business with the company I was working for.

The monopolist company knew very well that what they were doing was against the law. They were counting on the fact that lawyers are expensive and court cases take years to resolve. They gambled that the company I was working for would go broke before the legal case was heard. They were right. The company did go broke, not just because of the legal bill, but because it turned out that the management really was criminally incompetent. Two years after I left, I saw a news article that the shareholders were suing the board of directors. I wasn’t surprised.

So, here we have two companies. Both companies broke the law and yet, as far as I know, no managers or directors from either company ever went to court let alone to jail. Companies get sued, individual managers rarely do. Such stories are very common in business. I’ve heard from several people I know who run small businesses that this kind of thing happens all the time. Many people apparently consider it normal “business strategy”.

What name should we give to this practice which is a combination of deceit, fraud and collusion. I propose to call it sabotage. When we define sabotage in this way, we can see that it is everywhere in the modern world and not just in business. Sabotage is the water we swim in and like the proverbial fish we don’t even see it.

What’s sabotage?

As far as I know, the classic account of sabotage was written by the economist Thorstein Veblen. I haven’t actually read Veblen, so it may be that I’m going to repeat much of his analysis here. However, Veblen died in 1929 and I believe he was primarily concerned with the sabotage dynamic that existed in the era of robber baron capitalism, what I called Imperialism 1.0 in a recent post. In this post, I’d like to extend the concept and explore how sabotage has manifested in Imperialism 2.0 and now in the era of 3.0.

Machinery was a lot easier to break in the Luddites’ day. A good axe would do the job.

The word sabotage comes from the French meaning “wooden shoe” and apparently had something to do with either throwing wooden shoes into the gears of machines or maybe just dragging your feet at work. In any case, the original meaning of the word was one of physical destruction of machinery in the context of industrial capitalism. The Luddites were an early example. Later, sabotage would become a core tactic of the union movement in their battle against the robber barons.

For most of what I’m calling Imperialism 1.0, sabotage consisted of brute force material damage. But around the time of WW1, it started to become more esoteric and expanded into we might more generally call malicious mischief. Mischief has the connotation of subterfuge and secrecy. Somebody punching you in the face is not mischief. Somebody white-anting your reputation or deviously turning people against you is mischief. Sabotage went from being a punch in the face during Imperialism 1.0 to being malicious mischief during 2.0. In these days of Imperialism 3.0, we’ve gone beyond mischief and into outright psychological warfare. More on that later.

The reason we associate sabotage with workers and not capitalists is because the capitalists owned the newspapers and were able to impose their narrative on the situation. As Thorstein Veblen pointed out, capitalists were always involved in more subtle forms of sabotage. Capitalists sabotaged entire markets in their favour. They did so in order to combat the problem of oversupply which threatened to drive down prices and reduce profits. Capitalists took measures to cut supply and drive up the price to increase their profits. Those measures were taken against both workers and business rivals.

Corporate sabotage is completely taken for granted in our culture. Where is the line between “healthy business competition” and “corporate sabotage”? Nobody knows and corporate interests do their level best to ensure that the issue is never discussed in the media. That’s why white collar crime goes virtually unpunished. None of the rich men north of Richmond went to jail for their roles in the GFC, for example.

It’s worth noting that sabotage has become pervasive in direct proportion as society has grown more complex. Therefore, it’s practice is not limited to business contexts.

Consider modern warfare. Napoleon was the first to come up with the idea of supply lines for armies. This enabled him to create enormous armies that could be fed and supplied from a distance. That allowed him to project power much further but it also opened up a weakness. One way to take out an army was to cut the supply lines. Because supply lines were connected to the general wealth of a country, another way to fight the enemy was to sabotage his entire economy.

This meant that even geopolitics tended towards subterfuge and intrigue. In the old days, two armies would assemble on a field and knock the stuffing out of each other until one surrendered. It was very much like a boxing match and there were fixed rules that both sides agreed to. Because there were rules, it was also clear who “won”.

Fast forward to the Ukraine War which, although very real for those doing the fighting on the front lines, is part of a larger campaign of sabotage by the West against Russia. There were sanctions on Russia for years before the fighting started as well as various other diplomatic and corporate shenanigans designed to weaken the country economically and politically.

As a result, it is not clear what it would even mean for either side to “win” the Ukraine War since nobody even knows what the rules are and the outcome depends on second and third order effects that cannot be known.

This brings us to the use of sabotage in geopolitics and specifically the sabotage of entire nation states.

In Imperialism 1.0, sabotage was mostly about brute force tactics of workers smashing machines and capitalists smashing workers. The discovery of the strike, and particularly the general strike (I believe 1912 in Britain was the first general strike of all workers) represented a new kind of sabotage. Workers could now shutdown the whole economy and therefore sabotage could be conducted against the entire nation state (the German Revolution of 1918-19 that ended the monarchy in that country also began with a mutiny/strike). This kind of sabotage was real political power in the hands of workers who used it to get the state to give them what they wanted.

How did the state respond? Here we see a crucial development. Because the workers had a big numerical advantage, the state couldn’t take them out physically. It turned to the more subtle tactics that we have called malicious mischief. This included using the media to character assassinate the leaders of the union movement. Later on, it also involved the use of the security services.

MI5 in Britain was set up to counter German spies during WW1. After the war, it was turned against domestic opponents including union leaders. This is the exact same development we have seen with the CIA and FBI in the USA. More recently, the US went from fighting a “war on terror” externally to labelling its own citizens as domestic terrorists and setting the security services on them. Sometimes history doesn’t just rhyme, it repeats.

It’s all just a little bit of history repeating

In 1920, Britain had one million soldiers in what is now Iraq trying to get control of the oil fields. That’s the old-fashioned way of doing things, very much in keeping with Imperialism 1.0. They were forced to withdraw largely due to pressure by the union movement and so they had to come up with another way to control the oil. This marks the transition to Imperialism 2.0. Britain and the US could not control the oil-producing regions by military force. What they did instead was to turn to sabotage (malicious mischief).

From the end of WW2 until the second gulf war, the US and Britain (with a bit of help from France) sabotaged entire regions of the Middle East. This was all done in order to control the oil markets. The Middle East could produce oil cheaper than the United States and this threatened to undermine the US dollar’s status as global reserve currency. Geopolitics became identical with the old-school capitalist practice of sabotaging markets to extract economic rents and the new school practice of malicious mischief against political opponents.

There was also the problem of the workers. Even in the Middle East, there were numerous attempts to unionise to try and improve pay and conditions for workers. The British and the American operatives had plenty of experience in sabotaging union movements and they put their knowledge to good use. The failure of the workers movements eventually gave rise to populist Arab nationalist movements. These too were sabotaged in the usual fashion of controlling the media and flows of money. Sometimes, the sabotage escalated into assassinations and military coups, but these were all handled clandestinely and therefore fall into our definition of malicious mischief.

Zooming out, we can see that Imperialism 1.0 was the time of old school sabotage; workers and capitalist operatives fighting in the streets. The nation states of Europe also sabotaged each other leading to the world wars. After the wars, the nations of the West were united behind pax Americana. This was the period of Imperialism 2.0. Western nations no longer sabotaged each other. Instead, the West as a unit sabotaged the oil-producing nations of the Middle East. This was done at the ground level against oil workers and union leaders, at the commercial level by oil companies and at the political level against Arab nationalist leaders.

US soldiers picking up where the British left off 80 years earlier

This method “worked” for several decades. Eventually, however, the oil-producing nations got control of their oil and their countries. That’s ultimately why the US had to revert to old-fashioned military invasion with the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.  

That brings us to Imperialism 3.0 beginning, not coincidentally, around the time of the first Gulf War. Where is the sabotage now? Well, it’s everywhere. But one of the newer developments is that the imperialists are now targeting the nations of the West, in particular the old Anglo countries.

Imperialism 2.0 was built around the nation states aligned to pax Americana. But that system was only made possible by controlling the oil markets which supplied constantly increasing amounts of energy for consumer capitalism. Western citizens had been gradually turned into the consumers whose job was to be the demand side of the market. The workers unions in western nations were able to bargain for continually higher wages because the oil was still flowing and higher wages equalled higher consumption which meant that demand balanced supply and everybody was happy. It was fun while it lasted, but those days are over.

T’was the golden age of sugared water

Having spent decades sabotaging nationalist uprisings in the Middle East, the imperialists are now trying to sabotage nationalist uprisings in the West. That’s what the Trump drama is all about. This is the direct result of the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 90s. Those reforms were sold to the public on the propaganda line of “free markets” which was a line that had been used extensively during the cold war.

Imperialism 2.0 was built on domestic propaganda that said we in the West had “free markets” and free economies. That was true to some extent. But our free markets were predicated on a completely unfree global oil market. Only by rigging the market for oil could domestic markets be “free”. That worked only as long as the sabotage against the oil-producing nations of the Middle East worked.

Now that domestic markets in the West are increasingly being rigged by monopolist corporations, the right side of politics in the West claims that the solution is to return to “free markets”. That might have been true in Imperialism 2.0 because we controlled the oil. It’s not going to work in Imperialism 3.0 because control of the oil is slipping at the same time that we’ve almost certainly hit peak oil. It might still be true that free markets could be made to work. But that is not the agenda that is being followed i.e. the agenda of Imperialism 3.0.

Either way, the old paradigm is finished and that’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. We don’t want to talk about it because then we would have to talk about politics; real politics; not the hysterical nonsense that counts as political discussion these days which is, in fact, nothing more than the sabotage of the public square to prevent real political discourse from taking place.

In Imperialism 3.0, we have exactly the same problem we’ve always had. It’s always been a problem of managing markets. Markets need to be thought of as commons and commons need to be managed. The democratic tradition says that management is in the hands of the public through elected representatives. That became true for a short time during Imperialism 1.0 because the workers learned to sabotage the capitalists as much as capitalists sabotaged the workers. But that didn’t stop the Great Depression from happening.

A gaggle of experts

In the aftermath of the Great Depression, we handed over management of the markets to the “experts”. Meanwhile, the real power, literally and metaphorically, shifted to oil and therefore to the Middle East. Real politics was conducted far away in other countries that the average western citizen never heard about except as a snippet at the tail end of the 6 o’clock news. Such and such a foreign leader was overthrown in a “military coup”. Here’s Tom with the weather.

The result is that there has been no real politics in western nations for many decades. The neoliberal agenda of the 90s was sold to the public as being about “free markets”. In fact, it involved a fundamental change of paradigm as national governments ceded economic sovereignty to Imperialism 3.0. The whole thing was a big, fat lie and it took a couple of decades for the consequences of the lie to manifest politically in Trump. It’s the same pattern that happened in the Arab countries as the sabotage against oil workers eventually led to nationalist uprisings. Once again, “external” politics ends up manifesting internally.

It’s fair to say that much of the public in western nations is finally now waking up from their consumerist slumber to realise that the “experts” have assigned them a new role that nobody voted for or even knew about. Imperialism 3.0 involved turning China into the world’s factory by dismantling the manufacturing sector in the West, thereby reducing whatever (real) power the unions still had. Westerners were still allocated the role of consumers but even that is now on very shaky ground.

Ultimately, this is all a political question that will require there to once again be real politics in western nations. Those aligned to Imperialism 3.0 are doing everything they can to prevent real politics from happening. They are doing it by sabotaging on all fronts at the same time.

This includes geopolitically. There are no unions or labour movement in China, so no need to sabotage at that level. The Chinese government holds all the power. Can they be sabotaged? How might you sabotage the Chinese government? Secret viral laboratories, perhaps?

Sabotage has come a long way. From the old-school smashing of machines, to organised rebellion, corporate sabotage and geopolitical sabotage. Nowadays we have what can only be called psychological sabotage. The “system” will now sabotage your entire concept of reality in order to perpetuate its own power. We live in a society now where sabotage is so ubiquitous that nobody even knows how to identify it. Everybody is so busy sabotaging everybody else that basic agreement about what is real no longer exists.

As the old saying goes – it takes an order of magnitude more effort to refute bullshit than to generate it in the first place. As a result, public discourse is easy to sabotage; at least for a little while.

It was the Beastie Boys of all bands who summed up the situation perfectly in their 1994 song Sabotage:

Unlikely political philosophers

I can’t stand it, I know you planned it
I’ma set it straight, this Watergate
I can’t stand rocking when I’m in here
‘Cause your crystal ball ain’t so crystal clear
So while you sit back and wonder why
I got this fkn thorn in my side

Oh my god, it’s a mirage
I’m telling y’all, it’s sabotage

Get behind me, Technocracy

I had a bit of a eureka moment while re-reading some of Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy in preparation for writing last week’s post. It happened while perusing Mitchell’s account of the so-called Oil Shock of 1973. For those who don’t know, the Oil Shock happened when various oil-producing countries in the Middle East threatened to cut the supply of the oil to the USA due to US opposition to a peace settlement in Palestine at that time.

The official history for what happened during the Oil Shock is based on economics 101: supply went down, prices went up. What could be simpler? It’s science; a law of nature. Mitchell has a different explanation for what occurred:

Since interruptions in the supply of oil from one source could be made up from another, the embargo against the United States ‘never happened’. Other factors contributed to the sharp increase in oil prices. In the US Congress, the leader of the militarist wing of the Democratic Party, opposed to a Middle East peace settlement, introduced emergency legislation requiring the government to prepare a mechanism for fuel rationing and a programme to reduce the country’s oil consumption. Commercial users of petroleum products and the individual motorists began to panic, unnerved by the public discussion of the ‘oil weapon’ the Arabs had unleashed against the West. Uncertain about future supply, consumers purchased more petroleum than they needed. Governments worsened the problem by mismanaging the crisis, adopting emergency measures that impeded the distribution of oil and made the shortages more severe. Public debate contributed to the sense of threat, linking the oil embargo to a wider ‘energy crisis’…

My eureka moment occurred when I realised that Mitchell’s analysis of the Oil Shock was almost identical to my analysis of the corona “pandemic”. Mitchell’s point was that nobody had empirically proven that the Oil Shock was caused by an actual supply shortage of oil. In fact, no system of measurement existed which could prove such a shortage. What evidence there was suggested that there was no supply shortfall. The Oil Shock was caused by the government overreaction and a media frenzy that caused the public to panic.

If we take Mitchell’s exact paragraph and swap out the Arabs for the Chinese and the language of oil for the language of virology, it serves as a perfect summary for corona:-

Since the definition of a ‘case’ had been altered to focus on an arbitrary test not centred around actual illness, the pandemic ‘never happened’. Other factors contributed to the sharp increase in ‘cases’. Governments around the world introduced emergency legislation and embarked on mass PCR testing that created a perceived spike in ‘cases’. Hospitals and citizens began to panic, unnerved by the public discussion of the ‘bioweapon’ the Chinese had unleashed against the West by eating bat soup. Uncertain about future supply, consumers purchased more toilet paper than they needed. Governments worsened the problem by mismanaging the crisis, adopting emergency measures that impeded the distribution of cheap treatments such hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. Public debate contributed to the sense of threat, linking the ‘pandemic’ to a wider ‘climate crisis’…

Now, we might say that the eerie correlation between the “Oil Shock” of ’73 and the “pandemic” of 2020 is simply because in both cases there was panic. But there’s much more to it. In both cases, the official narrative is supposedly based in “science”. In reality, real science had nothing to with it. The basic conditions to conduct real science were not even present.

But this lack of real science was not just an omission caused by panic or an error of judgement. Something else was at play in both the Oil Shock and the “pandemic”. That something is the Technocracy. The Technocracy is to science what Macbeth is to Duncan; an imposter; an usurper; at the rate we are going, even a murderer.

In this post, I want to map out the distinction between science and Technocracy. Modern economics is the Ur-discipline of the Technocracy. It’s the one that started the whole thing. Virology is the latest addition to the team.

To clarify terms, I am not including in the definition of Technocracy all of the applied sciences like chemical engineering or other engineering disciplines. Those have a solid grounding in real science. It’s disciplines like economics and virology which belong to the Technocracy. These claim to have a grounding in science, they borrow the prestige of science, but they are a very different beast.

In order to understand how technocracy differs from science, we need to start with an explanation of what science is. What better way to do that than with the founder of modern science, Isaac Newton.

Newton was trying to account for the regular movements of the heavenly bodies. Our solar system contains thousands of celestial bodies, some more prominent than others. Out of this mesmerising display, humans have been able to find regular patterns of movement. The ancient Babylonians, Indians, Chinese and Mayans figured out that the patterns of movement would recur over enormous stretches of time. This gave rise to the study of astrology.

Finding patterns is the basis of all science. Science does not explain anything. Rather, it sets out to account for regularities in the behaviour of objects. The laws of nature are a lot like the laws of man. For any law there is a person who is willing to break the law. For any law of nature there is a set of phenomena that don’t follow the law because they have been deliberately excluded by the set of assumptions that ground the law.

Newton made a number of assumptions in developing his Law of Universal Gravitation. His genius was to simplify things down to the point where such a law could be calculated at all. The solar system contains thousands of bodies of different sizes and masses. Trying to calculate the regularities between them, the “effect” they have on each other, is an impossibility. Even with modern computers, there are too many variables. There was certainly no way Newton could calculate it by hand back in his day.

Newton re-formulated the problem by making a number of simplifications. He ignored all the other bodies of the solar system and concentrated on just the planets. He considered only pairwise interactions between the planets. And then he realised that, because the sun was so huge, he could rule out the interactions between the planets and just worry about each planet in relation to the sun. These simplifications gave him a calculable set of problems to solve and those calculations gave rise to the Universal Law of Gravitation.

Let’s call this method of simplification reductionist science. We leave out all the objects that we assume are too small to matter and focus on the big things. Note that much of historical scholarship implicitly involves the same methodology. Historians focus on the big names, the Napoleons, the Hitlers, the Alexanders and they treat all the other people as if they didn’t matter. Is that valid? Yes and no. The important point is to be conscious that it is a simplifying assumption you have made in conducting your analysis. In reality, it’s very hard to remain conscious of our assumptions. That’s why real science requires that you make your assumptions and your methodology explicit.

What about other social sciences like economics. Does the reductionist method work there? This question is of importance to our discussion because modern economics is the Ur-discipline of the Technocracy. It is the template which other technocratic disciplines like public health have followed and it increasingly sucks all legitimate science into itself like a giant intellectual black hole.

Most historical efforts to measure the “economy” have been motivated not by scholarship or science but by government’s desire to levy taxes. Measurement was done on the subsection of commerce that was worthwhile to tax such as the trade in grains (or tea, if you’re King George III). It may very well be that modern western society is the first civilisation to try and measure “the economy” as a generic object of study.

The word “economy” comes from the Greek oikonomia which means household management. In ancient Greece, as in most societies throughout history, the household produced things of value – growing vegetables, cooking, cleaning, knitting, mending etc. It was this value that oikonomia referred to and it’s fair to say that nobody in public life in ancient Greece or Rome paid the slightest bit of attention to it. On the contrary, to worry about such base matters would have been seen as highly dishonourable.

Why has our civilisation become so obsessed with “the economy”? One of the reasons is the aforementioned Newtonian revolution in physics which proved the powers of mathematics and measuring things. This really was a revolution and many scholars of that era thought of Newton as an almost godlike figure. We might, without hyperbole, liken it to a religion. Combine this obsession with measuring things with the growth of trade and the desire of governments to tax that trade and you start to see the emergence of our infatuation with “the economy” and also the rise of the nascent Technocracy.

Given this history, it’s not surprising that modern economists would formulate the problem of measuring the economy in the same way that Newton approached the problem of the celestial bodies. Just as there were too many objects in the solar system to allow calculation of all the variables, there are too many variables involved in economies. In fact, economies are way more complex than solar systems because the behaviour of human beings is far more unpredictable than the behaviour of planets. So, the challenge in this case is even greater than the one Newton faced.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is also a qualitative problem in economics. We want to measure the “value” of an economy. But value is a moral judgement and moral judgements belong to the realm of philosophy and even theology. That goes against the whole program of the Newtonian (and Cartesian) revolution where truth is only what can be measured. A priori, one would not expect that economics is amenable to reductionist science. But that didn’t stop modern economists from doing it anyway.

Let’s look at a practical example of the difficulties in measuring the economy.

A farmer grows a tonne of wheat. Let’s say that the entire tonne of wheat is going to be turned into breakfast cereal. The farmer will sell it to a wholesaler who then sells it to the companies that make breakfast cereal. Those companies then sell the breakfast cereal to supermarkets and those supermarkets sell it to consumers. In between, the wheat must be transported several times and various bookkeepers need to keep tabs on the debits and credits. How do we measure the “value” of this chain of events; this subsection of “the economy”?

Firstly, we need to decide which events to include or exclude. Is the value of the wheat realised when it is harvested, when it is sold or only when it is eaten? We might say only when it is eaten. But even then, with apologies to the squeamish, some of the wheat will be excreted from the bodies of those who ate it. In our society, we assign no value to that excrement. We flush it into the ocean. Out of sight, out of mind.

But there have been other societies throughout history that have assigned value to excrement and even paid people for it (see the book, The Farmers of Forty Centuries). Should the value of the excrement be included in the value of the chain of events beginning with the harvesting of wheat? Isn’t it just another link in the chain? If so, our reasoning becomes circular because the excrement will fertilise the fields that grow another round of wheat.

All these steps along the process are transformations. The wheat plant is harvested for its seed. That’s a transformation. The seed is then turned into breakfast cereal. That’s another transformation. Eating the breakfast cereal transforms it into energy in a person’s body and also excrement which can be used to fertilise soil. Which of these transformations do we include when measuring the “economy”?

Choosing which things to measure and the weight to give to the measurements is a judgement call. There is a kind of folk economics which represents common sense judgements about value. Common sense tells us that the wheat itself is where most of the value is created in the chain of events. Without it, there could be no subsequent activity. Therefore, the farmer is creating the most value.

It’s for this same reason that, for most of history, merchants, bankers and the other middlemen who move the wheat around were given low social status. They didn’t add much value to the process. They were, at best, a necessary evil. We see that economics is also tied in with social status and, therefore, politics.

Faced with all of these difficulties, modern economics nevertheless proceeded with a reductionist simplification in order to measure “the economy”. It ignored all the difficult moral and philosophical questions of value and decided that we could measure the economy by summating the nominal exchange price of every transaction. We simply add up the dollars and cents every time money changes hands and call that “the value of the economy”.

There are 99 problems with this idea. We’ve already outlined a couple. Let’s just take a couple more.

Firstly, this automatically rules out any transaction or transformation for which no money changes hands. If you barter with a friend, value has been exchanged but it won’t be counted. Similarly, all kinds of household value creation, ironically exactly the kinds of activities that constituted the original meaning of the word economy, are not included. Growing vegetables in a kitchen garden, cooking dinner, cleaning or mending clothes, raising children, some of the most fundamental activities that humans carry out, are not included in “the economy”. In a society which worships “the economy”, that’s a problem because it de-values those activities.

Even though modern economics claims to be objective and scientific, it has ended up creating its own moral valuations. In those valuations, middlemen and bankers have been raised from their historically low status to be top of the pecking order. This was inevitable because economics has always been a branch of morality and simply asserting that it was now “science” didn’t change that fact. We might also question the motives of those who benefited from this new set of ethical valuations.

More importantly, modern economics usurped to itself the right to create those valuations in the first place. In doing so, it took the valuations out of the hands of the public with their common sense judgements about value. This was the beginning of the Technocracy and the Technocracy’s war with the public.

There are also biological and psychological problems with the modern concept of “the economy”. Value is not a linear function in either a biological or psychological sense. A loaf of bread is of far more value to a man who hasn’t eaten for 3 days than to somebody who is 20 pounds overweight and has just polished off a box of donuts. Once you have enough food, more food is of no value. In fact, it is of negative value. Too much food will literally make you ill. Value changes with context.

In a biological sense, even basic necessities like water and food become poisonous when consumed past a certain point. A priori, we would expect that an “economy” that grows indefinitely would become poisonous at some point. And that is exactly what has happened in the post-war years in the West. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and numerous other lifestyle diseases are the direct result. Of course, such health issues only serve to create further “growth opportunities” by incentivising companies to create goods and services to address them. (Hello, Big Pharma).

We can see that the simplifications of modern economics are fundamentally different from those of Newton, even though on the surface they look the same. Newton started with the observed regularities in the movement of celestial bodies. His simplifications were a way to account for already existing behaviour. With modern economics, regularities were not observed, they were created. The simplifications of modern economics do not account for the behaviour of an already existing object, they create an entirely new object. That new object is called “the economy”.

The creation of this object only ever made sense because, from the very beginning, it was tied in with politics. It’s not hard to see why governments would be in support of modern economics. Measuring the economy as a series of transactions allows governments to tax those transactions. Meanwhile, bankers profit by facilitating the transactions. Governments and banks then use that money to hire the Technocrats. This creates the nexus of modern political power: politician – banker – technocrat.

The new “economy” was only made possible by the establishment of central banks such as the US Federal Reserve in 1913. Prior to that, you had a vast array of different banks with different local scrips. Many transactions were off-the-record or done through local accounts with specific institutions. Trying to normalise prices was just one more problem to the 99 problems of measuring the economy. Central banks quite literally created the conditions in which the “economy” could be measured because they were tasked with creating a single currency and managing its nominal value i.e. inflation rate.

All of this created the post-war era which has been the golden age of the middleman. We inverted the economic values that have existed since time immemorial. For most of history, those who produced something were seen as valuable while middlemen and bankers were the lowest of the low. Now, the bankers run the show and they do so with the help of the Technocrats who produce the magic spells that bewitch the public.

“GDP”, “inflation”, “recession”, “economic growth”, “interest rates”, “unemployment”. There’s been a spell for every day of the week chanted out on the 6 o’clock news like a mantra in a medieval monastery. If the Newtonian revolution was quasi-religious in nature, modern economics is a full-on cult with its high priests dressed in ceremonial suit and tie.

“The economy” did not exist prior to the discipline of modern economics and the corresponding institutions such as the Federal Reserve which make it possible. It does not build upon the common sense folk knowledge of economics. On the contrary, it turns that folk knowledge on its head. It overrides common sense judgements about economic value. The average person is then told to “trust the experts”. They have to trust the experts because nobody that hasn’t been lobotomised by years studying modern economics at university would have the faintest idea what “the economy” is about.

Of course, it’s not just national governments who use “the economy” as a taxation vehicle. The entire post Great Depression international order has been tied to it. “The economy” is the vehicle for US hegemony. The US is the banker to the rest of the world and it takes a cut of every transactions that occurs in “the economy”. The abstractions of modern economics might be meaningless in a scientific sense, but they are of utmost political importance. They hold the US empire together.

So, how does all this fit in with the corona “pandemic”?

Virology suffers from an almost identical set of errors as modern economics. Neither “science” is concerned with the establishment of cause-and-effect. Both rely entirely on correlation. The best that can be said is that they provide a constantly mutating set of probabilities. But a constantly mutating set of probabilities in indistinguishable from noise. Just like a Rorschach test only tells us about the mind of the person who sees a pattern in the noise, so modern economics and virology only tells us something about the political agenda that lies behind the surface illusion. The Technocracy creates the narratives that facilitate the operation of political power.

Just as economics turned its back on the real questions of “value” by simply asserting that price = value, so modern virology turns its back on the real object of study and asserted that viruses were entirely commensurate with their genetic code. It then applies mathematical algorithms to those genetic codes. The whole thing is entirely meaningless, but, to the uninitiated, it looks like science.

Of course, virology and microbiology are also a part of the modern “economy”. Modern economics does not care what is bought and sold. It only cares that the number of transactions is increased. One way to do that is to sell pharmaceutical products.

The childhood vaccine schedule in most western nations has grown exponentially in the last few decades. So has the number of medications available for sale. Each “vaccine” and each medication is a transaction. Thousands of new medications are unleashed every year on an unsuspecting public. Each sale increases GDP and if there happens to be health side effects from the medication, well that’s just more trips to the doctor which also increases GDP. Modern microbiology and pharmaceuticals needs be understood with the framework of the modern “economy” where the only thing that matters is increasing the number of transactions.

The nexus of power in the modern world is politician – banker – technocrat. The economists are the Ur-technocrats but increasingly doctors, nurses, climate scientists and others have been sucked into their ranks to feed the monster. We might say that Technocracy is what happens when science is corrupted by money. But it’s far more intricate than that. Technocracy is creative. In partnership with politics and finance, it brings into being new configurations of power. 

This was another point that Timothy Mitchell made. Periods of crisis reveal the nexus of power between politics – bankers – technocrats. The corona “pandemic” revealed the nexus of power that is the combination of testing laboratories, universities, globalist institutions, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, national bureaucracies, health systems and MSM.

These institutions created the corona “pandemic”; not by an overt conspiracy but because the Technocracy creates new networks of socio-political relations. That network is held together by shared financial and political interest and ideology. It’s in exactly the same way that the modern “economy” was created by the ideology of modern economics alongside institutions like the Federal Reserve with the support of the governments of the West.

The Technocracy has almost nothing to do with science or with common sense folk wisdom. In fact, it overrides both of these. Having been told for decades to shut up and trust the economists, the public is now told to shut up and trust the public health bureaucrats, the virologists, the doctors, the climatologists or whichever other groups of Technocrats are wheeled out onto the 6 o’clock news. This pattern began with the advent of modern economics in the early decades of the 20th century and it has been continually expanded since then.

There’s one final point to make. The Oil Shock of ’73 was really driven by the underlying politics of the Arab oil-producing states finally getting control of their oil. That threatened the British and American government’s ability to rig the oil markets and the support the US dollar’s position as reserve currency. The Oil Shock narrative served to hide that underlying political reality while also giving the US casus belli for future military engagements.

What was the underlying politics of corona? We might be tempted to say it was a fight against China. But note that politicians did everything they could to downplay China’s role. Initially, there were even heartwarming stories of China sending medical supplies to Italy. That was followed by complete radio silence about China for the whole 3 years that China was running rolling lockdowns.

The underlying politics of corona was really about Trump and presumably also Russia given the Ukraine War began almost immediately after Trump was ousted. Just like the Oil Shock was the beginning of a long process of overt US military aggression in the Middle East, so corona was part of the endless haranguing of Trump and now a proxy war with Russia. Trump is a populist and so he is the mortal enemy of the Technocracy for whom the public’s job is to be guinea pigs in whatever “experiment” is being conducted this week.

The Technocracy is currently trying for about the tenth time to kickstart another “covid wave”. There’s a new variant with a new name. But it’s not working. The magic of the Technocracy may very well be drying up. Experts predict it might be a difficult time for experts in the years ahead.