White privilege as Normative Commons

The Propertarian definition of property is expansive, it far exceeds the Lockean rationalist theory of property, which is limited merely to objects. See Operational Property for an expanded discussion. Conservatives tend to intuit a large range of property, far beyond what Libertarians intuit. One of the most interesting forms of property, at least it should be of obvious interest to conservatives, is Informal Institutional Property:

d) INFORMAL INSTITUTIONAL PROPERTY: Informal (Normative) Institutions: Our norms: manners, ethics, morals, myths, and rituals that consist of our social portfolio and which make our social order possible.
“Those properties in which we have invested our forgone opportunities, our efforts, or our material assets, in order to aggregate capital from multiple individuals for mutual gain.”

A social portfolio which makes our social order possible. That sounds very important to me. Things that make our social order possible are profoundly important to me.

No libertarian can conceive of a set of norms being a form of property, although they are something in which we invest, and something that we defend. This may seem abstract, so let us develop a concrete example of Informal Institutional Property, a normative commons with which we are all familiar: White privilege.

White privilege is a normative commons. A norm is a standard of behavior. A commons is a property that is maintained by a group, because it brings economic benefits to the group. A normative commons is a set of behaviors that brings benefits to a group.

Many know the tragedy of the commons dilemma often quoted in Austrian economic theory. In this situation, the commons is destroyed. How is it destroyed and how is it maintained? For a commons to exist, the group must pay a cost: opportunity cost. In the grazing sheep example of the tragedy of the commons, the herders allow the field to be overgrazed and destroyed for all. Each herder who does not overgraze the field pays an opportunity cost. He has the opportunity to grab all the resources for himself, and deprive them to the next guy. When he only grazes responsibly, he forgoes the opportunity to grab all the resources for himself. Forgoing this opportunity is the opportunity cost. If everyone forgoes the opportunity cost, the commons is maintained, if they do not pay the opportunity cost, the commons is destroyed.

In a normative commons, each person who forgoes the opportunity of breaking the norm, then pays the cost of maintaining the norms. So, when one lives in a White area, common areas such as shops (markets) will likely be open for browsing, because the norm of behavior is to not steal. Each time a White goes into a store and does not steal, he pays the opportunity cost, equal to the value of the items not stolen. By paying this cost, the norm of keeping shopping areas open to browsing is maintained. Areas with large numbers of Blacks experience increased incidence of crime. In these areas, the risk to shop owners or other providers to allow Blacks free access exceeds the benefits of open browsing (with a main benefit being increased economic velocity). Thus you see convenience stores with no common area, that only sell what can be passed through a bullet-proof teller window. The commons has been destroyed.

Or perhaps someone will follow Blacks through a store to make sure they do not steal, while allowing Whites to browse freely, in this case the normative commons is extended to White co-ethnics, but not to Black co-ethnics. The Whites are the beneficiaries of this normative commons, because they (as a group) pay the opportunity cost of maintaining it.

It is common knowledge that Black cab drivers will often drive past Blacks and pick up White passengers instead. This White privilege is accrued to the White ethnic group because the members of the group tend to forgo the opportunity to rob the Black cabbie. Black cabbies understand this and accord the privilege to the White ethnics who will maintain the normative commons. Blacks could earn this privilege by paying for it through maintaining the normative commons. Unfortunately for them, enough of them create the tragedy of the commons for their own co-ethnics by abusing their privilege and not forgoing the opportunity cost.

Privilege is said to be unearned (though I doubt any form of privilege is really unearned). White privilege is not unearned. It is bought and paid for through the cost of maintaining the normative commons. To insist that the privileges accorded to Whites (who maintain the normative commons), be accorded to ethic groups who do not pay the cost of maintaining the commons is futile: market forces will ensure that the privilege is only accorded to those who pay for it. Call it racist if you want. It is simply the market at work.

Whites as a group defend this normative commons vigorously, using education, shaming and other tactics. Most middle-class Whites will have definite memories of how they were taught not to steal, and why stealing is wrong. Though certainly none of the lessons included the concept of a normative commons or informal institutional property.

This example should help you grasp exactly how a set of behaviors (norms) are a property. They are a property because they are defended. They are created through investment, paid for by forgoing opportunity costs. The social portfolio of these normative commons are what allows Western civilization to flourish with a stable social order. They are the tools that have led to the economic dominance of the Western peoples, and now the increasing dominance of the civilized Asian peoples, which defend a rich set of normative commons. The value of this particular property should not be underestimated.

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Neoreaction notices Propertarianism

Nick Land is the author of the Dark Enlightenment series of posts which were a seminal moment in the formation of Neoreaction. In the posts, Land boils down Moldbug into a more digestible morsel. This is perhaps Land’s greatest ability: synthesizing vast sources of information into the Neoreactionary consensus. His Xenosystems.net site is an array of breadcrumbs, packages of data synthesized into information and tied up with a bow and left along the road for Neoreaction to follow. He regularly provides ‘Chaos Patch’ updates, which are collections of links that point in the direction that the reactosphere is heading, with an ‘open thread’ forum for discussion of the meaning.

Propertarianism received this week to be what I believe is its first direct link from Nick Land, provided in Chaos Patch (#40).

Some reactosphere highlights: Questioning secession, basedness and other values, racial double-binds, doomed boomers, a call to order, warfare in the progressive-style, Dugin on IR, deconstruction in the mosh-pit. Why capitalism really sucks (a response, in part, to this lamentable development?) — highly related. Propertarianism versus NRx (hard to distinguish from a tech-comm ‘correction’ of NRx). Bonfire of the sanities. The return of Satan (see also these). Thoughts on torture. Narrative games (link mania). “This ends the third cycle …” Fragmentation continues. Megameta.

Propertarianism has appeared in comments sections on Xenosystems before, but I don’t believe it has been directly linked by Land. Of course, this is because Doolittle’s post directly references Neoreaction, as it highlights some of the differences between Neoreaction and Propertarianism. Land labels Propertarianism a correction of NRx from the techno-commercialist faction.

I make this post, because I expect to see more Propertarian ideas being discussed in Neoreactionary circles, there is simply too much overlap between the systems for NRx to not begin to assess the fruits of Propertarianism. I believe that the current problem is that as Nick Land is to Mencius Moldbug, there is no current figure who holds that same relation to Curt Doolittle.

Still, it appears that Neoreaction may have taken notice of Propertarianism. If Propertarianism is a correction to NRX, it would be wise for NRx to study this correction.

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Ferguson Riots

During a reading of “Sacredness as Practiced by Religious Entrepreneurs“, I encountered a link to a G&*k#r article “The Economic Case for Riots in Ferguson“. Notice that the second link is wrapped via Unvis.it. This wrapper allows us to link to the ideas in the content, while removing the economic benefit from the content provider. I hope you will use this service in your posts to similarly deprive these sites of clicks.

The author of The Economic Case for Riots in Ferguson writes (emphasis mine):

To be sure, burning down AutoZones is not an optimal way to impose costs on state authorities. It would be, as some interviewed Ferguson residents noted, far more effective to target police equipment or other property nearer to criminal justice authorities. But these targets are often difficult and risky to reach, unlike local business interests. Since state authorities are always and everywhere most concerned about capital and business interests, threatening to impose costs on them via rioting should have a similar impact on police incentives.

Although rioting, through its imposition of costs, can theoretically deliver huge benefits by dissuading bad behavior, that doesn’t mean it makes sense to riot all the time and at any level of intensity. Just like enforcing and imposing criminal sanctions is costly, sanctioning via rioting is costly. Economic wealth is destroyed and economic activity is temporarily interrupted. For rioting to be economically efficient, it has to be the case that the costs of rioting (measured in terms of how much stuff is destroyed) are lower than the benefits of curbing bad police behavior.

Conducting such a cost-benefit analysis on the Ferguson riots, though necessarily speculative, is not impossible. It’s estimated that white officers kill black suspects 96 times a year[6]. Cost-benefit analyses conducted by safety regulators peg the value of a human life at $9.2 million[7]. This means the economic cost of white cops killing blacks is around $883 million per year. If the jolt caused by Ferguson’s rioting can chill police authorities and cause adjustments that save just 3 black lives per year, that’s an economic savings of $27.6 million. It’s hard to tell now how much damage rioting in Ferguson has caused, but I’d doubt it’s anywhere near that figure.

[snip]

Thus far, the rioting question has been focused on whether it’s good or bad, as if those are the only two answers. From an economic perspective, surely the question is whether the level of rioting is optimal: Do the potential benefits of Ferguson rioting as a police sanctioning tool outweigh its immediate wealth destruction? I suspect it does and, in fact, that the current rioting level is likely economically suboptimal.

The author supports the anti-racists and other critical race theory advocates. The interesting thing is that he is making his case in economic terms. Propertarians will immediately recognize this gambit. I detect memetic mutation: this is a novel approach from the Left. It appears that as Propertarians are attempting to build a scientific economic language to defend conservative intuitions, that the Left is similarly attempting to adopt this strategy. We might even call this Left-Propertarianism. So Propertarians will not have a problem with this re-worded the assertion that “The rioting question has been focused on whether rioting is good or bad… the real question is whether there is a level of rioting that is economically optimal“. Here we have the view of rioting as a social feedback loop. That leads to a question: What is the cost/benefit analysis of rioting as a social feedback loop? If the costs imposed by riots are less than the benefits accrued, then there is an economic benefit to rioting and it can then be viewed as a useful social feedback loop. We can then compare this cost/benefit to other feedback loops such as voting, protesting, and civil disobedience.

The article poses the calculation 96 black lives/year x $9.2M/life = $883M/year. If the cost of the Ferguson riots is less than the benefit accrued through the reduction in black killings, then the benefit outweighs the cost and rioting can be seen as a net positive and therefore is a useful tool as a feedback loop, because the process of feedback generates more benefits than costs. The question is then, what level of rioting is optimal, as there will be a crossover point where the cost of the riots can exceed the benefits. I hope you can see that this is an amazingly reasoned argument for a cultural Marxist to make.

I would like to take this analysis to task on a number of points:

The Cost of the Life

While I don’t doubt that the cost of the average American life is $9.2M, we have to understand that we are including a lot of Bill Gates and James Watsons in that equation. What we are really looking for is the value of the average American black. Considering that the socio-economic standing of blacks is below that of whites, then I would expect the value of the average American black life to be worth less. The median white household income in 2011 was $55.4K, while the median black household income was $32.2K, or about 58% of the white household. 58% of $9.2M is $5.3. Now that is household income. Could this figure be misleading? This is of course an analysis of those who are working and earning money. What would be the valuation of someone on welfare? That number would be a negative number. If someone worked and received welfare, then that number could be near zero or even negative. What would be the valuation of someone likely to be imprisoned for long periods of time? Those numbers could also be large negative numbers. If we calculate the cost of a life of a person on welfare or likely to go to prison, who is then breeding others who will then be on welfare and/or go to prison, then the number could be staggeringly negative. What is the valuation of the average black life taken by a white officer? Who are the types of people likely to arouse deadly force from a white cop? Are we to assume that the average 96 lives taken are rocket scientists, CEOs, and clergy? Or is it more reasonable to assume that those lives are held by violent and unproductive blacks? Would it be unreasonable to assume that the valuations of those lives would be low to negative?

I don’t have numbers, but a serious analysis could get an average worth of the average black killed by a white officer. If that worth is low, then the cost of rioting would also have to be very low in order to be optimal as a feedback loop. A serious analysis would have to take this into account. The provided analysis does no such thing, but instead uses an obviously inflated number to define the worth of the black lives lost. Take into consideration that if the worth of the lives is negative, then there is no level of rioting above zero that could be optimal.

Hidden Cost: Militarization

Rioting results in increased militarization of police around the country, in anticipation of further rioting. If there is an optimal level of rioting, then it is important to keep the rioting below that optimal threshold. Thus the impetus for militarization. Militarization obviously creates costs in terms of physical resources. MRAPs aren’t cheap. Neither is riot gear or the other physical items. Then there is a cost in time and coordination. Militarization of the police is extremely expensive. Then there is the costs to decreased trust between the police and the public when the police militarize. There is a destabilizing effect, creating friction at a myriad of interaction points. The cost of the rioting is not simply the buildings destroyed. The article’s analysis completely ignores the hidden cost of militarization.

Hidden Cost: Social Trust

When rioting has a strong racial component it also increases racism and racial tension, animosity and mistrust. This creates even more friction at even more points of interaction between racial groups. It increases balkanization. How many businesses will have their insurance rates rise in areas containing large amounts of blacks? How many more people will avoid black areas, not even stopping into convenience stores to by gum or gas? I imagine that the Ferguson riots have accelerated white flight from a number of areas. When white businesses move out of black areas because of the fear of an unstable black population, that hurts economic activity in the black areas. Where are these costs in the given equation?

I’m sure that there are a number of other hidden costs that could be highlighted. I actually welcome economic arguments such as that posited in the article. I think it is a step in the right direction that the author attempted to frame his argument in economic terms, rather than emotional and moral ones. Attempting to define, articulate and calculate the cost/benefit of activities such as riots versus protests or civil disobedience is a valuable task.

In summary, I think that it is obvious that the costs of rioting over white cops shooting black males probably far outweigh the benefits, when all costs are taken into account. It is even possible that: if the average economic worth of the average black life ended by a white cop is negative, then there is actually a net positive economic benefit to ending those those particular black lives. [Note: I am in no way saying that ending all black lives is an economic benefit, in this case I am referring only to those particular black lives ended by white cops.] In this case, rioting not only produces zero benefit, but actually increases costs. The author of the article began this calculation of riots in terms of economics and lives, but I have the feeling that his Marxist intuition will be quite offended by the perfectly logical conclusion reached in this summary. I would also offer that non-violent feedback loops are much more likely to be economically beneficial on net, simply because the economic costs imposed by them are so much lower.