the cosmic calculation problem

this is a great primer on the (economic) calculation problem, in its lineage from Mises to Carson, via Hayek and Rothbard.

the calculation problem revolves around the problem of how to distribute scarce resources between different productive endeavors (consumption can be bracketed as per Say’s law). if there wasn’t any scarcity, communism would be perfectly doable: waste wouldn’t be a problem, so poor distribution wouldn’t matter at all.

scarcity, of course, can never be abolished. not by fiat, but also not by mega-production (even if it’s perfectly balanced). scarcity will be here with us because time is always already running out.

there is the second law of thermodynamics. in this closed system we call the universe, entropy always goes up. which means anything of value – air, water, planetary surface, metals, life, concentrated solar energy, solar energy itself, etc – will eventually be dissipated into a heat death.

unless you manage to send energy – without any loss – back in time (closing a loop of infinite wealth), efficiency will always be a problem to be solved. the calculation problem will keep haunting even the most shining programs of “post-scarcity commune”.

of course, entropy is the one problem of the universe. if it isn’t solved, it dies. the palliative solution so far has been indefinitely postponing. which is achieved through entropy dissipation, the bright name for “letting the unfit die off”. thus value is created, ever more locally.

but at some point, if something else isn’t found, heat death will reach even the highest of extropy towers.

need. more. time.

bit-nations and sovereign services

okay, since we’re talking about immigration, it makes sense to talk of higher level  libertarian solutions everyone will ignore.

if you don’t know Bitnation yet, be sure to check it out. it’s, quite simply, an free associative nation. deterritorialization taken to extremes.

now, the problem of immigration is a problem of knowing who to trust. in modernity, “institutions advance by substituting for trust”. bit-nations (the one extant, and the many yet to come) do that for societies: you can anonymously associate to a network of mutually reassuring parties.

of course, if you took to Bitnation’s site, you’ll see they are merely the network, not the space. some people within the network supplies it with a few embassies across the world, that can be accessed by their members (for a fee). but this could be made by another service provider, such as a sovcorp. we’ve been talking a quite lot about them lately.

couple these two concepts: a bit-nation makes a deal with a sovcorp, so that the members of such nation can access (for a fee) the sovereign holdings of the sovcorp. rent a city. various bit-nations can hire the services of various sovcorps, creating an effective market for sovereign services. this is almost ancap proper, come to think of it.

this solves the problem of immigration even more easily, as I’m sure you realize.

a (sensible) libertarian immigration policy

there has been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth lately, from all camps, on immigration policy. from some quarters, even the slightest approval of aliens is a clear sign of racial treason and insecurity. from others, anything less than total open borders is a serious offence.

i’ll here outline a simple and mostly effective immigration policy that, as usual with simple and mostly effective policies, will be totally ignored:

  1. home buyers become citizens, since the nation belongs to proprietors.
  2. tenants, employees and invitees remain under supervision of their sponsors (landlords, employers or hosts), until they can afford the equivalency price of houses (and thus citizenship).
  3. tourists can come and go (nobody lives forever in a hotel), and eventually they will be pressed in section 1 or 2.

couple this with “only citizens vote”, and 90% of the problems go away immediately.


[this is an attempt to rewrite what I take to be the important message here, without all the flamboyant humanism.]

equality is the founding principle (and ultimately indistinguishable from) freedom. of course, it’s only in one specific sense of “equality” that this sentence is true.

to try and eliminate the bullshit, let’s turn to networks again:


any nodes’ degrees of freedom is the number of nodes they are connected to in a network. freedom is maximum when the network is symmetrically connected, i. e., when all nodes are connected to each other and thus there is no topographical hierarchy (middlemen) – in other words, flatness.

in this understanding, the maximization of freedom is the maximization of entropy production, that is, of intelligence. As Land puts it:

Entropy is toxic, but entropy production is roughly synonymous with intelligence. A dynamically innovative order, of any kind, does not suppress the production of entropy — it instantiates an efficient mechanism for entropy dissipation.

this is the point where the libertarian ideal and the accelerationist understanding join at the hips.

* * *

a side-point: can there emerge hierarchies in such a flat network? the “entropy dissipation” line seems to imply so, since dissipation means the detachment of nodes from the network (death/bankruptcy). but a flat network is a fully connected one. when a node gets out, all other nodes lose the same amount of connections. it’s only insofar as something makes impossible some connections – and thus reduce freedom – that hierarchies start to emerge.

the diagrams of acceleration

I’ll start by drawing what I take to be Nick Land’s view on the complete circuit of acceleration. then I’ll take a look at the leeches – decelerators – that he proposes. then I’ll sketch my own view of the necessity of runaway “suppressors” to keep the positive feedback running. in the meanwhile I’ll try and speculate what exactly l/acc and r/acc can mean in this view.

* * *

Land posits a positive feedback cycle at the heart of modernity. this cycle, he insists, is a techno-commercial or techonomic one. the second part of this loop is already pretty well expressed in Marx’s M-C-M’ model. From Fine & Saad-Filho’s Marx’s Capital:

cycle of capital

I’ll simplify this to:

cycle of capital 2

similarly, Land proposes technology and science evolve in a similar cycle, a techno-scientific effort. as he puts it:

“Acquiring knowledge and using tools is a single dynamic circuit, producing techno-science as an integral system, without real divisibility into theoretical and practical aspects. Science develops in loops, through experimental technique and the production of ever more sophisticated instrumentation, whilst embedded within a broader industrial process. Its advance is the improvement of a machine.”


cycle of science

finally, the techno-commercial loop that characterizes modernity would be this:

cycle of modernity

below the levels here portrayed, it’s conceivable every node is, in itself, a positive feedback loop. finance capital, product design, gadget invention and theory building being the immediate sub-levels.

the more it happens, the more it happens.

* * *

I won’t lie, I’m no great connoisseur of left-accelerationist thought. so I won’t talk a lot about it. my point of contention comes mostly from this line in the MAP:

“capitalism cannot be identified as the agent of true acceleration”

which implies something else is the true accelerator. what could that something else be?

I’ve heard hinted now and then that it could be the “industrial cycle” of technological development. since I’m guessing l/acc types want to pose capital as, at most, a once sympathetic medium for acceleration (now utterly decelerative), I’m supposing that such “agent of true acceleration” is the science cycle pictured above. is that correct? I’ll suspend criticism until this is more thoroughly established.

* * *

as for “right acceleratism”, insofar as it can’t be identified with Land’s stance of “unconditional acceleration“, remains very poorly formalized or even addressed. some kind of transhumanist monarchism maybe? if that’s it, their interest is much more on the acceleration of the science cycle, as well, but with a subordination to very different norms than those that presumably would govern l/acc-type cycles. insofar as it isn’t an explicitly anti-capitalist monarchism we’re talking about, the commercial side of the cycle is still present, but with how much force?

lots of mysteries remain. but I won’t invent adversaries where none appears to be.

* * *

ok, enough for accelerators, why aren’t we seeing a techno-commercial singularity, if such dynamics is indeed at the heart of out times? Land proposes a decelerator. what would it amount to?

a few ways to break the cycles and compensate for them:

  1. taxation: this deviates resources from capital and buries them into the consumption of the tax-receivers (namely the Cathedral bureaucracy). trash and shit.
  2. regulation: there are various ways this could work, insofar as regulation is very inventive. but the main pattern has to do with deviating capital from the most rentable (i.e., (self-re)productive) investments, into those that are most likely to become un-recyclable thrash, at least in the long run.
  3. politicization: this deviates brain-power from technological producing theories into, well, bullshit research departments, especially through politicization of academic funding of hard sciences.
  4. protectionism: since this protects technical developments from properly feeding back into the commercial cycle, it breaks the link between technical advantage and capital accumulation, leading lots of resources into stupid gadgetry.

all these being forms of fucking up the incentive structures that allow the accelerative cycle to be. in diagram form:

the cathedral

if the Cathedral is actually efficient, the more it happens, the less it happens.

* * *

my theory of constitutionalism is based mostly on the premise that, given real conditions, capital needs not only to accelerate – as is intrinsic to it – but also to suppress its decelerators. constitutional orders are a good way to tame politics (and thus the Cathedral), and there’s a historical case to be made on how capitalism correlates to good constitutions.

here, I’ll limit myself to the abstract form of these “runaway suppressors”. they are complimentary to the runaway producer of techno-commercialism: the less it happens, the less it happens. in such a way that they intrinsically contain a program for their own dissolution: as soon as their object of suppression vanishes – thus liberating the productive process that engineered them – they themselves vanish. it’s friction that produces them.

suppression, in such analysis, means compensating the compensators. a few forms for that to happen:

  1. counter-taxation: mechanisms through which taxation is dodged or reversed (anything from tax dodging, money laundering, corporate welfare, etc).
  2. illegibility: ways through which agents become invisible to the state apparatus, and thus can operate beyond, behind or beneath its regulations.
  3. cypherpoliticsbecoming grey to the colorful politics, effectively avoiding social outcomes based on political discourse. cryptographic media use, in a way that allows science to become neutral because anonymous. also, other uses of unidentity. (seriously, the link explains way better)
  4. exit: if some idiot thinks tariffs are a good idea, you move. neo-nomadism should be a thing already.

as resources flow back into the cycle, acceleration happens at ever higher rates. the formalization of said mechanisms into a diagram of suppression applied to the decelerator is a feat for another post, though.

red markets and the monetizing of justice

one lesson any libertarian has to have learnt already, from the many “Wars On…” that progressive governments waged across the centuries is that not only do they not eliminate anything perceived as evil, they strengthen it and produce even more entropic undercurrents. example on display: the war on drugs. cocaine, marijuana, etc have become more available, and mega-cartels are now sometimes bigger than their host societies.

I would go one step forward and say: prohibitions don’t ever work. a moral hunt backed by massive troops payed from taxes do not provide the right incentives to reduce the production and distribution of anything. quit it.

the usual counter-move is: “but what about, say, murder“. as if I was some kind of puritan who, in face of the name of the devil, would shriek away from anything. no, the prohibition of murder also doesn’t work.  what works is some incentive structure that produce an eugenic trend and thus reduces murderers in the long-run, irrespective of how many battalions are after murderers.

my suggestion – wait, and spit on me – is to put a price tag on everyone. it’s also usually called “life insurance”. the workings are simple:

  1. you hire a life insurance.
  2. if someone attempts of actually murders you, they have to pay a fine, proportional to your life insurance (plus due process fees, etc).
  3. behavior adapts to such state of affairs.

the same can be applied to pretty much every crime.

this helps internalize costs (you have to pay for your own security – the more you pay, the safer you are). it frees people from state dependency (you can choose to protect yourself). it eliminates criminal and unproductive lineages of people in the long run (sometimes insurance companies will pay rogue death-squads to eliminate “negative premium” people – those whose debts are above their insurance premium). it incentivizes people to work in security of others (they can gather the premiums of deflecting criminals), all the while economizing on police forces (who can answer calls now based on insurance premium values), and disincentivize would-be criminals, given both the prices in money and blood they can incur.

also, prisons become obsolete and useless. why lock people away and spend millions taking care of them, or putting them in make-work, when you can put a debt in their balances, black-list them on general records, and still have them free to do productive work? if they become unproductive enough to not even cover the cost of their behavior, there good incentives in place to eliminate them, in decentralized form.

seriously, monetizing justice may be the greatest social improvement since private property.

on matters anthropologic

after reading Horkheimer’s “Traditional and Critical Theory”, and I can say Frankfurt school is distilled hubris. I mean, gee. one of their central tenets is that individuals are determined by society, hence individualism (liberalism) is a lie.

that is a principle stated by pretty much all modern social theory, since Durkheim: the state of nature was already a state of society. no liberalism needs to be so naive to the point of ignoring that society has purchase upon individuals, their choices and their values. but such criticism fails to the extent that it believes liberalism is an honest lie, a lie the liberal believes.

liberalism is rather an occultation, a camouflage. it is a social justification – an ideology, in its strictest sense – to push forward the autonomy of the instrumental. all liberalism ends up in private property. whatever justification is used is dispensable.  it is important to understand that this doesn’t mean that liberalism considers that society is made up by individuals through a contract, or that the state comes after (secondary) property as a right, rather than the fact of possession (primary property) – this (possession vs property) is an important Proudhonian distinction.

it may be a good moment to talk a little about Proudhon, who was arguably the first one to argue that “property is theft”, i.e., that the social body is hurt by liberalism. in such uncovering argument, he already prefigured cybernetics with his “justice as balance between property and community”. later in life he offered a new justification for property as the instrument for human self-improvement. every uncovering brings together a new cover, you see. so, for 21st century mutualism, after yet another uncovering, liberalism needs not extend any further than “property makes us rich” – arguably Adam Smith’s original argument in the Wealth of Nations. which is itself little more than a monkey-friendly version of Land’s “capital is self-propelling”.

but no, there is no anthropological error here. there is a very conscious camouflage. liberalism presents an ugly reality in a form palatable for humans. Locke used God, Hobbes used mechanics, Rousseau used the general will (and thus fucked it up considerably through demotic regulation of property), Smith used wealth, Stuart Mill used happiness, Bentham used utility, Rawls used fairness, Hayek used information, Land uses intelligence. every new term is a tool to keep monkeys sharp and hungry and hailing Moloch to the singularity.

now, one can either accept that, or one can pursue other more humanist goals (hubris) and see one’s dreams trampled underfoot by the strategic failure of such goals (nemesis). socialism and absolutism have it in common that both choose the later, and repeatedly failed. if there is an alternative, it hasn’t been presented.

but I digress. the main point is to affirm that liberalism is a social ideology, something every extant society must have.

take medieval european society, for example. it had a good deal of technical change and probably a whole lot more social change than modern societies. the fact that it doesn’t seem so is due to that, unlike moderns, medieval societies claimed they never invented anything new. every new thing was attached to and justified by tradition, as if it had always been there since time immemorial (which is probably the reason the early modern contractualists never talked about social evolution, but of a transition from nature to society). in that sense, medieval tradition was itself an occultation of its innovative character – an ideology, as well as liberalism – aimed at the preservation of tradition.

the main difference between modern and medieval european cultures is this: at some point, innovation became autonomous from tradition. “innovation without authorization” – the guiding principle of market economy – is the soul of modernity and death of tradition. of course, as put above, this is a tradition in and of itself. a tradition which hides its traditional condition, in order to justify and protect its innovative character (based on property).

to understand this antinomic character of the interaction between individuals and society – the occultation of either social preservation or social change (through individual innovation) – is core to mutualism. perceiving liberalism as a tradition that occultates itself, in order to propel something in camouflage is an important step in making any of the modern world intelligible. one can say Frankfurt (and most social science) has failed to do so, seeing only nihilism where there is an inhuman purpose.