The centrally planned economy, Hayek, and the red spot of Jupiter.

Jupiter

After the fall of the Soviet Union, economic marginalists triumphally proclaimed that the market is the only realistic system to manage our complex, global civilization of billions of people.   Although homelessness, vacant houses, starvation and food waste persist, the marginalist will argue that the market is not perfect but that no better alternative exists. Yet, an incoming catastrophe in the form of climate change may pose the question of a democratic and globally planned, socialist economy – after all, it seems self-delusional to think that an economic system made of competing firms and nation-states can respect the planetary boundaries. Global warming was almost entirely caused by the laws of motion of  capitalism, which lead to the wear and tear of bodies and the Earth, given how competition drives firms and nation-states to harvest the cheapest labor and natural resources.  Furthermore, the  fact that the length of the working day has not decreased in almost a century, and imperialism has exacerbated predatory asymmetries between the core and the periphery, should make the question of global, economic planning central for socialists.

The planned economy  has a bad rap, even amongst socialists.   The debate seems to have been settled in the first half of the 20th century with the so called “socialist calculation problem”, where  marginalist economists such as Hayek and  Mises  criticized the inability of centrally planned economies to compute the authentic demand and supply for specific goods. Hayek in particular, gave the most sophisticated attack, with his essay,  The Use of Knowledge in Society where he argued that the market acted as an unconscious, distributed computer where resources are efficiently allocated through the computation of the demand of goods by price signaling between different parts of the system (e.g., individuals and firms).   Many socialists have  criticized Hayek’s arguments throughout the last century, yet many of the socialist retorts are posed from a philosophical and epistemological perspective.  However, I believe the argument for central planning can be contextualized using new mathematical sciences, such as computer science, and nonlinear dynamics – fields that didn’t exist in Hayek’s day. So I will attempt to contextualize Hayek’s argument using a more “mathematical”  ( but not quantitative) method and I will retort from a pro-planned economy, socialist perspective.

The theme of Hayek’s argument is that the central planners have no possibility of knowing all information required to efficiently allocate goods in  a society. In contrast, the market acts as a giant, distributed computing system, where firms and individuals act as “parallel processors”, where each individual processor computes a small, local problem: a shop-keeper computes that a particular brand of cigarettes is very popular in  their neighbourhood, and consumer calculates their individual demand  on cigarettes the moment he looks at the available cigarette brands.  The parallel processors, which are embodied in individuals, firms, and institutions, then in turn communicate with each other,  finally collectively computing the price of a particular commodity, which embodies the aggregate demand and supply of a particular good. To conclude,  central planners can never  acquire all the required information to compute efficiently the needs and wants of a particular good, while the market, which acts as a distributed network of processing cores, can efficiently allocate goods because each processor computes a smaller, simpler problem (e.g. the want of an individual for marlboro cigarettes over parliaments, or the observation by a small shop keeper that 5 ft long USB cables sell out abnormally fast in a particular Best Buy), and communicates with other processors through pricing and purchase, leading to the allocation of goods where they are demanded.

However,  the old socialist would counter that there is nothing efficient about the market, given the vacant houses, food that goes to waste, massive poverty, the business cycles,  etc. However the marginalist would retort that the market as a distributed computing system has its problems, but it will still always be better than  central planning,  citing toilet paper shortages, and long bread lines.  Hayek argues that  problem is ultimately about information – the central planner will never have enough or timely information to plan the demand at the granular level – e.g. the demand for a specific brand of cigarettes, or for the right size of a smartphone, or a particular laundry machine.

However, the Hayekian attack on central planning is only valid at the granular level. If the strong form of the Hayekian attack against central planning were true,  then the natural sciences would be invalidated.    The lack of information at the granular level is actually a common problem in the natural sciences – where for example, we can predict the climate (e.g. the average temperature of the Earth averaged throughout ten years) but are unable to forecast the weather (the temperature, precipitation, etc for one hundred kilometre squared at a given day). Similarly, we can predict the average thermodynamic properties of a gas, such as temperature or pressure, but we cannot predict the movement of an individual molecule in a gas.   This can be understood in scientific parlance as random noise at local scales that makes theories more uncertain at smaller scales but still allows for predictions and modelling at larger scales.  The  “random noise” can be thought as unpredictability arising because of lack of information at smaller scales. For example, in the case of weather forecasting,  the lack of information about all the variables affecting the weather, such as precise temperature measurements,  numerical errors arising from the computers solving the hydrodynamic equations that govern the air flow, the  inadequate modelling of the physical geography etc, rapidly leads to  inaccurate results at the local level. However, in the case of making predictions about the global scales of climate, such as the average temperature of the whole earth in the next ten years, the statistical noise at smaller scales becomes irrelevant. What Hayek is implies,  is that because  statistical noise  exists in a given economic system, that economic planning is absolutely impossible. He frames his argument as informational, stating that the central planner has not sufficient information on the demand of goods at the local level. Yet, many natural sciences have to deal with extreme statistical noise at small scales, making forecasting only possible at larger scales, so his argument would seem to invalidate the natural sciences such as astronomy, climate science, and ecology as well. Therefore, a physical scientist would reply that his argument only applies to the smaller scales where the noise dominates, and does not say anything about larger scale systems.  Hayek argued  that one cannot compare the economic and natural sciences, because the latter is concerned with objective, natural laws, while the economic sciences are concerned with subjective, human wants; however that argument is irrelevant, because it’s obvious desires can be quantified,  which is precisely what psychologists or firms like Amazon do. Finally,  empirical evidence invalidates his argument against planning, for the institution of private property and the rule of law, which are necessary for the existence of the market, are large-scale, national and sometimes even international systems that require inordinate amount of coordination and planning, given that these institutions have incredible overhead in the form of the police, the paper-pushers, the lawyers and judges. These institutions are formally necessary for the market in general, even if social welfare or food regulations don’t exist.

Another interesting assault against planning comes from Nassim Taleb, who has revived the Hayekian argument in spirit but with the use of modern statistical tools.  His most important point is the existence of “black swans”, rare and unpredictable, extreme events that can  trigger radical changes in a given system.  Some  black swan examples are terrorism,  massive floods of coastal cities, and nuclear melt downs. All of these are rare events with extreme and almost unpredictable consequences. For example. terrorism’s body count is highly variable, from a couple of people dying at a given event, to thousands of people. Terrorism can also   trigger unpredictable  social instabilities in a given polity.   Other black swans come in the form of famous works of arts,  economic crises, the overthrow of governments, and   world-historic events. The problem with economic planning, then, is that by its own nature it’s blind to black swans; thus  planned economies are very fragile to unpredictable shocks, not unlike a very complicated clockwork that can crumble the minute one of the cogs breaks. However, the existence of black swans such as economic shocks is not really an argument against economic planning, given that  human societies throughout history have always been endangered by black swans and shocks, with disease, wars, and technological inventions wiping out whole societies. So whether the  economy is planned or not, dangerous black swans could still appear. A way to deal with black swans is with sensible risk management; although we cannot predict black-swans, we can design systems to be robust to shocks.  For example, buildings in seismically active regions are built to withstand earthquakes, the latter which are black-swans,  given their rarity, extreme nature, and unpredictability. Hypothetically, there is no reason why economies can’t be built to withstand shocks.

My retort to the Hayekian argument is highly abstract and formal given that the original form of  Hayek’s argument is very formalistic. However, it would be interesting to see how a global, central planned economy would look like, and how the granular uncertainty Hayek pointed at would be dealt with.   Economic planning could be made of two processes: a distributed, decentralized planning from below, and a broad-stroke centralized planning from above.  The broad-stroke, central planning would be directed by elected and recallable councils but would deal with planning at the central, global level, dealing with planetary objectives  such as making sure the economy doesn’t surpass ecological constraints (e.g. global warming). Another global, planning objective would be reducing the length of the working day. This latter point is important given that marginalists like Keynes promised a short working day that will triggered by the movement of the market. However, now it is obvious that the working day is entirely a planned and political thing, and cannot be reduced just by the stochastic behavior of the market. In fact, the historical shortening of the working day happened entirely because of legislation triggered by the militant activity  of  the working class. Finally, global central planning would have to deal with global problems capitalism  exacerbated such as global inequality and imperialism.  The  distributed, decentralized planning from below, would be in charge of the micro-economical calculations of supply and demand for particular goods, such as the appropriate way to stock stores for consumers.  Capitalism is  competent at the micro-economic  part, stocking shops  with commodities based on the supply and demand as mediated by price signals – this latter point was at the heart of Hayek’s argument. Yet, there is no reason why efficient, micro-economic calculation couldn’t be made by local, democratic councils with the aid of advanced computers.  Input data on consumer wants and needs, which can be signaled from what individuals pick up at stores, can be quickly processed by machine learning algorithms, not unlike how in capitalism purchases and pricing propagate the information of supply and demand. In fact, this sort of big data processing is already done with intra-firm planning today, with companies such as Amazon and Wal-Mart planning resource allocation based on consumer data that is processed with machine learning algorithms.  The socialist democratic councils that would plan micro-economic movements could act as semi-autonomous, but publicly owned, firms as well, using a similar micro-economic calculation approach to modern capitalist firms, but without having to depend on price signals, and instead using consumer big data and information related to global  constraints such as world resources, global development plans,  ecological risk,  global resource allocation etc (these global constraints  would  be outputted by global planning councils).

Global planning is a very big hypothetical, and would require the existence of a world, socialist council republic.  However, given the hard, planetary constraints that global warming unearthed, it’s urgent to argue for alternatives to the anarchy of the market.  If socialists don’t argue for an alternative, factions of the capitalist class, such as fascists, will certainly come up with their own forms of centralized, authoritarian economies given the social and political threats that global warming would bring to the table.  Global warming is going to trigger humanitarian disasters that will lead to unquantifiable social and political consequences, such as a massive refugee crisis that will embolden reactionaries and nationalists. Therefore, the problem socialists face will not only be ecological, but political, and if we do not bring our own alternative to the table, our enemies will.

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Nationalism as the ideology of the firm

De ratificatie van de Vrede van Munster

 

It seems the Left’s conception of nationalism as a reactionary force froze by WWII.    The nationalism Leftists oppose is the one that summons images of workers killing each other in inter-imperialist wars,  and men in brown shirts and boots thirsty for revenge against Jews, immigrants and other minorities.    Leftists oppose a right wing nationalism that they see as mystification that blurs class divisions for the sake of  manipulating workers into the defence of the state and capitalism. Yet, although the nationalism of angry white men driven into violent hatred for anyone that looks and speaks differently still exists, the mainstream of nationalism is not the one of the blood, soil, and the fatherland, but that  of technocratic management of capitalism. In other words, the nation-state is, at a first order approximation a  national firm, and civic nationalism is the managerial ideology that encourages the firm to become more competitive and profitable. Not only that, the well being of the average worker is also tied materially to the profitability of the firm, given that the citizen receives indirect “dividends” through infrastructure, public services, and decently paid jobs.  Because the nation-state is a firm, leftists projects that amount to the management of the nation-state simply become the management of the firm, and therefore, will always be constrained the imperatives of competitiveness and profitability.

The ideology of the  national firm can be  gleaned from the way pundits, politicians, and the everyday workers talks about the nation.  The national firm has a ” national economy” that is a function of not only the exogenous factors like the global economy, but endogenous dynamics, such as policy and labor regulations.  This gives rise what is commonly known as “politics” in western, developed countries, which more often than not, is merely a technocratic debate about policy and management, rather than a real clash of world-views. This technocratic discourse contrasts to early 20th century, fledging liberal democracies  that appeared in Europe, where political discourse took a highly ideological flavour;  political parties not only waged a battle for  fundamental values in parliament/congress  in contrast to just managerial policy (e.g. socialists and communists versus conservatives and fascists), but had large parastatal  infrastructures including street-fighting units  and partisan taverns.   This shift in the nature of politics, from a worldview based discourse, that was also enforced in the streets through partisan formations,  to technocratic managerialism, also came with a change of the ideology of nationalism. In short, the  conversion of the narrative, from a highly ideological nationalism speaking about blood, soil,  and the fatherland, to a technocratic nationalism that concerns itself with the health of the national economy as a function of managerial decisions and policy,  correlated with the transformation of the nation-state into  a national firm.

Discourse is  only one aspect of the national firm and is ultimately tied to a real material element. The State, a  bureaucracy made of career politicians and institutionalized paper-pusher,  has at its end goal to  maintain economic growth for the national firm. This behaviour is analogous to the corporate management of the traditional firm, which is also focused on competition and profitability.  Much of austerity, the slashing of labour regulations, and the offshoring of jobs into the third world, is more often than not justified as necessary for maintaining the competitive edge required for increasingly marginal returns.  One could say, that as a first order approximation, the policies of the national firm are a function of economic growth and strengthening of the national currency.   Therefore, it would be quite vulgar to simply state that  the policies of the “national firm” are merely a function of enriching the capitalists – they are about, first and foremost, generating profit for the national firm, which sometimes could mean  that it could affect negatively the interests of certain factions of the capitalist class.

It is in this context that modern, 21th century nationalism should be understood.   It is the ideological expression of the nation-state as a firm,  an ideology that comes in all sorts of political flavours, from the leftist nationalism of the “oppressed”, which was associated with the developmentalist regimes in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, to the right wing nationalism that conjures the libidinal impulses of overzealous men protecting marble Rome from hordes at the gates.    It’s not merely  a “mystification” to manipulate workers and poor into the defence of the nation-state and therefore capitalism,  or a psychological conspiracy to extract the primal impulses of the populace in order to render them to the service of the mighty State, but also the rational expression of a population that is tied materially to the future of the nation-state as a firm, where the availability of jobs, social programs, and infrastructure is contingent to the profitability of the firm.

The Left has many examples where their governments collapsed due to reduced profitability of the nation-state as a firm.   Venezuela’s PSUV, Brazil’s Worker’s Party, and Greece’s Syriza, are some of the more recent examples where ostensibly “socialist” and “anti-capitalist” governments collapsed due to attrition of the national firm’s returns.  Unemployment,  scarcity of basic goods, and collapse of the national currency’s value were not merely willful conspiracies enacted by the capitalists against leftist governments, but a real effect rooted in the reduced competitiveness of the national firm.    This is if anything, evidence of the materiality of nationalism – that it isn’t merely a “mystification”, but the rational expression of a global  economy mediated by nation-states in competition. Indeed. Modlbug, the neoreactionary intellectual, in a moment of clarity where he understood his position as the spokesperson of purified capitalism, argued that the nation-state should be managed literally as a corporation, with shareholders deciding the board of directors, where he called his model neo-cameralist. Yet, he failed to notice, that liberal democracy, the system he loathes, already asymptotically approaches his fevered dream.

Sometimes it seems  the condition of the nation-state as a firm is better understood by the liberal centre and the conservative right wing than the left wing, even when this nature is almost never vocalized, with the exception of Moldbug.  Canadian “progressive” immigration policy, is for example, almost entirely a function of  technocratic policy making, with the amount of available visas, work permits, and  permanent residentships, being contingent to  national demand of certain trades and professions.   The far right,  although  drunk  with ideological wine, makes arguments that appear to defend the profitability  of the nation-state, with exaggerated statistics on the fiscal and social cost of immigrants.  However, the Left positions itself in an ineffective, contradictory, and weak-kneed centre: it pays lip service against imperialism, border-controls, austerity, and outsourcing, while promising to maintain the national firm competitive in order to keep workers employed at acceptable salaries, and infrastructure and social services functioning.  In short, it has cornered itself into the same logical framework that drives centrist and right wing  policy making, which is the profitability of the national firm, while defending universalistic and humanistic values that run counter to market imperatives.

The form of the national firm has not been friendly to Leftist aspirations – from reduced profitability destroying leftist governments, to Leftists getting cornered to the defence of imperialistic and xenophobic policies (e.g. Lexit) given the constraints of the national firm. Yet, because the popular imagination remains bounded by the market – where the possibilities of this world are always imagined to be embedded in a system made of rational agents and firms, not unlike the most boring textbooks of micro-economics, the Left chooses to frame its arguments in these existing logical frameworks.  Yet,  the battle for the national firm will be a battle that the Left will ultimately, always lose,  because the aspirations of a more humane, internationalist, and leisurely society run counter to the optimized imperatives of national competitiveness.  Rather than the Left merely jumping into the constrained discourse of the national firm only because it is the only narrative available, they should create their own discourse that exists beyond nations, borders and capitalism – that aspires for  a global and universal, worker’s republic.  With the advent of climate change, a global phenomenon that cannot be tackled in a system made of fractured national firms that compete against each other, perhaps  Einstein’s aspiration for a universal republic is now more necessary than ever.

Leftists should wage a culture war for Science and Technology.

joel-filipe-200538

In the  english speaking internet, a cultural war wages between the Left and the Right, that is perhaps representative to an extent of anglo society as a whole, which was recently chronicled by the controversial book “Kill All Normies” by Angela Nagle.   The Left side of the war, which is embodied in tumblr, “social justice warriors”, etc., usually explains the disadvantages faced by women, transgender people, and people as color, as  produced by socially constructed systems, such as  rape culture, the patriarchy, white priviliege, etc. – constructs that were developed in the annals of humanities’ academia. The online right wing, in contrast, explains the disparities and inequalities  faced by women and marginalized minorities as rooted in biological sources, using a  “scientific” language that refers to  evolutionary psychology, behavioural psychology, the distributions of IQ, etc., as  evidence.  The ontologies used by both sides are in some sense incommensurable – the Left uses humanities’ assumptions such as the relevant social forces being  abstract and socially constructed and therefore hard to measure – while the right wing  explains  perceived social disparities   as sourced in biological variables that are tractable and measurable.

Previously, I criticized the “pseudo-scientific” aspects within the far-right for their tendency to correlate complex social phenomena with one or a couple of biological variables. I speculated that a psychological source of the “univariate mind” of right wingers  is the training of the people who make these sort of arguments – typically engineers, programmers, and system administrators,  and the like, who were exposed to simple, univariate systems and beginner statistics in their undergraduate curricula.  However,  a similar   epistemic cage of method also constrains the Left (although I am using the term “the Left” this post specifically addresses the Left in the english-speaking world, rather than the Left in general).  Since the Left’s march through the academe in the 60s, the Left has acquired an alienating  language and methodology  that can only be parsed by the “initiated” (hence the term “woke”).  One of the main, alienating assumptions is  that the categories and frameworks we use to make sense of reality, from common sense, all the way to experimental science, are shaped by the ideology  of the powerful to the point that  these frameworks are always suspect. Furthermore, the Left, because it refuses to embrace a sort of universalism – a common human experience that transcends gender and race,   is unable to reach out to those who aren’t “initiated”, given that the Left is not vested in creating a universalized language. Instead, the Left has produced a labyrinth of “woke” signalling, that can only be understood  and accepted by members of a specific subcultures – in this case, the Left, and the humanities. The Left’s hostility against universalism is related to  the post-structuralist turn in academia, where all broad statements about humanity are rendered suspect, because all knowledge, even the superficially objective type,  is always tainted by power structures. For example, a common  post-structuralist attack against “positivism”, the tendency of science to abstract all social and physical phenomena into well defined, quantitative laws,  is that it is rooted in euro-centric understanding of the world; in other words, the fact that we accept positivism as valid is connected to the dominance of western civilization.

Given the language and assumptions embraced by the Left, namely that  all knowledge is tainted by the power, including   scientific knowledge, scientists will sometimes find the Left ridiculous and alienating.   An interesting example of this phenomenon happened the 90s, with the so called science wars, where Alan  Sokal, a physicist and   sympathizer of the old, materialist Marxist left, submitted a bunk article to one of the top humanities’ journals at that time, Social Text. His troll article, which got accepted,  argued that quantum gravity was a social and linguistic construct.  One could criticize his approach as bad faithed and counter-productive, but what was interesting about the affair is that he wasn’t really looking to discredit literary criticism and “postmodernism”, but to defend the Left from what he thought as negative anti-scientific  influences:

My goal isn’t to defend science from the barbarian hordes of lit crit (we’ll survive just fine, thank you), but to defend the Left from a trendy segment of itself..

It’s useful to analyze the history of the relationship between the Left and science.  Before WWII, it seems that Marxism and social anarchism, both which postulated a knowable, material world as the  basis of  social reality, had a friendly,  even if sometimes contentious, relationship with science.  For example,  Einstein had well publicized anarchist and socialist sympathies, and  the American state purged the Manhattan project of  “communist physicists”, such as Oppenheimer and David Bohm.  Nowadays, however,  the presence of the Left in scientific and technical milieux has dwindled, atleast in the United States.  Superficially, this lack of prescence is obvious in the “online wars”, where most of the writers  and social media personalities that  promote leftist views are overwhelmingly from the humanities,  while the right wing  that peddles anti-feminism, libertarianism, and “pseudo-scientific” racism have almost always technical backgrounds. Nowadays,  you can always guess that any public intellectual that leans to the Left has some sort of humanist background – from Richard Seymour to Zizek.  Furthermore in  the  United States, professionals and workers outside “blue-collar work” that tend to be unionized are public servants, such as teachers, university white collar workers, and bureaucrats – which tend to come overwhelmingly from the social sciences/humanities backgrounds. This contrasts to technical workers, such as programmers, which tend to not be unionized.

Is there an unbridgeable chasm at play – with anti-positivistic “critical theory” versus science? Since the abandonment of the pre-suppositions of the old materialist left, such as enlightenment and scientific humanism, the chasm  seems real.  However I don’t think the chasm is unbridgeable, and the raison d’être of this blog is partly  a leftist “intervention” of sorts  into the scientific and technical millieux.  For example, I think the talk of “systems” in some of the more “materialist” minded left, such as white supremacy, capitalism, or the patriarchy, can be  translated into “mathematical” language using the tools developed by complexity theory and nonlinear dynamics, namely, that society exhibits complex emergent phenomena, such as systematic discrimination of women, exploitation of workers, and systemic racism, that cannot be reduced to the properties of the individual units of the system – such as how psychology cannot be reduced to the action potentials of a neutron, or  temperature to the random motion of one molecule.  This stands in contrast with the pseudo-scientific crackpots  from the right that try to reduce gender disparities in STEM or  income inequality amongst races, to a couple of biological variables such as IQ or amount of testosterone.  Finally, capitalism, and its increasingly more intricate division of labour can also be blamed for the widening of this chasm – scientifically minded people fall into “everything can be explained by a measurable number” idiocy and humanists retreat to textual and cultural analysis,  frolicking in their innumeracy, and flaunting their cultural capital with increasingly more opaque and polysyllabic language.

We shouldn’t leave STEM at the hands of libertarians, racialist crackpots, and resentful anti-feminists, that recuperate the language and methods of technical workers and scientific professionals for reactionary agendas.   Instead, we leftists should wage a  culture war within STEM,  and make it understood that science can be used to build a better and freer world, rather than leaving science at the hands of myopic reactionaries with hard ons for biological essentialism and bad statistics. Therefore, leftists should become more educated in the “hard” sciences, rather than dismissing them as irrelevant for explaining social phenomena. Finally,  we should embrace a universal human experience as the basis of our politics, with scientific discourse forming part of the universalist language, rather than posit that humans of different nationalities and genders are divided by incommensurable experiences, which is implicit in much of the “post-structuralist” left.

 

The univariate mind of the far-right crank.

Normal_Distribution_PDF-2There’s a phenomenon that appears in some of the more conservative parts of  “STEM” professionals/students  which I refer as univariate mind.   Univariate mind is the tendency to abstract  the dynamics of extremely complex phenomena such as  whole economies, the gender wage gap,   dating rituals,  under-representation of certain sexual and racial minorities in industry, poverty, etc. into models that use one or just a couple of variables.  Some of the more committed far-right crackpots extend this ridiculous univariate and simplistic just-so stories into olympian limits, such as white-nationalists connecting the rise and fall of nations,  empires, and modes of productions to a couple of variables such as race, culture, or IQ.

The alt-right are probably the worst culprits of  this univariate thinking.  A superficial  review of some of the intellectual influences of the current alt-right, such as Charles Murray’s “The Bell Curve”, evolutionary psychology, cherry-picked studies from behavioural psychology, and an obsession with IQ reveals this intellectual sickness.   For example, a common justification for white ethno-nationalism is the correlation of IQ with a couple of other variables, such a race,  heritability,  a nation’s wealth and criminality.  Then a simpleminded racist would conclude that because certain races allegedely test lower IQ,  it means they are  genetically predisposed to poverty and criminality, and ergo, policy wise they should be marginalized from positions of power.

However what does one mean by correlation? One can measure the amount of correlation between two quantities using a correlation coefficient. In general,  correlations found in  behavioural psychology, which is probably the number one field univariate reactionaries abuse,  are weak to moderate, in the sense that one can fit a vulgar linear regression of through a data set and find usually a correlation coefficient that hovers from (-) 0.1 to (- )0.8, where 0 means no correlation and (-)1 means that there is a perfect, linear (anti)correlation between two variables.   To give a good idea of what a correlation coefficient means, here are some data sets with  fitted lines and their respective correlation coefficients.

From the above link, it’s evident that a finite (anti)correlation coefficient sometimes is not very impressive,  usually means a weak to moderate trend with fairly large scatters.  There’s also other more complex  metrics  that go beyond correlation coefficients that actually adjust for the number of data points, because a correlation coefficient that uses  two data points is obviously more suspect than one that uses a million data points. The correlation coefficients found in data usually cited by white nationalists and professional misogynists (e.g. coefficients of 0.1 to 0.7) to argue for biological causes of gender and racial disparity are mostly unacceptably low  for the physical sciences, but find their way into the social sciences  because social theories are more uncertain and inexact given that human society is orders of magnitude more multivariate, complex and nonlinear than the electron orbitals of a hydrogen atom.   The lower coefficients, which imply a larger scatter, means that the complex social phenomena that these studies try to model have not only one relevant variable, but many, and sometimes such social phenomena are  not linear and they a can’t be fitted with just a  straight line.  There’s also the question that  over 50 percent of psychology research is non-reproduceable and therefore not trustworthy.  I don’t state this limitation in order  criticize the social sciences by any means, because most of those researchers are aware of the limits, but to warn about  far-right cranks with tiny minds that can only imagine the socio-economic world as a simplistic, linear function that is only dependent  of a few variables (such as IQ, or race).

A demonstration of the univariate fallacy is in the book “IQ and the Wealth of Nations“, which is pretty popular amongst far-right “pseudo-statistical” cranks.  The authors made a linear regression between IQ and GDP for various countries and found a correlation coefficient of 0.76.  Not only  did they find a statistical correlation, but made very bold claims about how IQ is a function of these countries’ racial composition.  Not withstanding the poverty of the IQ data itself (for example, the author didn’t have an IQ number for around half of the countries considered and instead interpolated the IQ from  neighbouring countries, also some of the sample size for calculating the IQ in these countries were small and poor),  critics showed  with a rudimentary multivariate  analysis that IQ was much less significant than other factors. In other words, the writers suffered from the “univariate mind” sickness, pushing all sorts of racialist charlatanry based on a one variable linear regression.

Now that I delineated the limits of political arguments based on the univariate fallacy, it would be interesting to explore the question of why these positivistic and vulgar approaches are popular with right wing cranks. One of the most obvious trends worth exploring is the training behind many of the people who peddle these  reactionary beliefs. Although I don’t think most of people involved in STEM are racist or misogynist, there is a significant percentage that are (e.g. Moldbug, James Damore), and I think people like that are susceptible to using the sort of basic statistics and univariate, linear functions one encounters in the typical undergraduate curricula of the “hard” sciences. So these guys (almost always guys) get a small whiff of the power of mathematics and abuse them, without understanding  multivariate analysis, complexity science, chaos, and nonlinear differential equations, which are concepts one learns at the PhD level. This couples with their usual reactionary disdain for the humanities, the latter which eschews the positivistic approach of looking at variables in isolation, and instead deal with society “as given”.   Beyond that, there’s also the larger question of instrumental reason and the division of labour in capitalism, which hyper-specializes humans to the point they are unable to see the world without the filters of their method or trade, reducing the problem of societies into a vulgar line that runs through a  scatter of data. 

Far-right charlatans are the most obviously diseased with univariate sickness. However, the illness is more or less generalized at this point. Much of liberal policy, which drives standardized tests, education policy, and our belief in market-based economies, relies on many techniques similar to the one used by racial crackpots.  Namely, the belief that a certain form of linear regression, much of the time using very few variables, is strong evidence for certain policies.  Beyond the problem with this approach as delimited in the above paragraphs, there’s also the problem of dynamism. We live in a class society, with inequalities, war, etc, and  therefore any correlations and laws one could find are only specific to the current exploitative, gendered, radicalized and ecocidal social configuration. Ergo the economic and social laws that regulate this society might be meaningless when imagining a world without classes or nations, as Einstein once said in “Why Socialism?“:

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

The dilemma of neutron stars: socialist democracy against political experts.

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A common trope about Americans is their  supposed predilection for cranks and pseudo-science, as opposed to experts and technocrats – hence the common stereotype of Americans as dumb. Nowadays,  the discourse gravitates around  Trump, who equates climate change to some Chinese conspiracy, and filled his royal court with cranks and billionaires.  A couple of months ago this protest against Trump’s idiocracy  took a street-activist form, with rallies  under the banner of “March for Science” – a reaction to the  “anti-scientific” excesses of Trump.  This narrative of anti-scienific authoritarians is a  very common progressive  shibboleth. After all, the radicals of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century used the discoveries of Darwin, Maxwell and Newton to struggle against kings, priests and emperors. In the late 90s, and early 2000s, science and expertise was contrasted against a conservative right that denied evolution,  abortion rights, and justified  islamophobia with fevered dreams of biblical apocalypse.  Yet  this narrative, of “pro-science” liberalism opposing a pseudo-scientific conservatism is very limited.   Although in the current era, “pro-science” and “pro-expertise” statements may seem progressive, given the right wing’s  love for radio cranks, oil engineers masquerading as climate scientists, and youtube racists,  “scientism” by itself can only lead to the mediocre centrism typified by the Democratic Party – a technocracy staffed by teachers’ pets and Lisa Simpsons,  specialists  that produce stacks of white paper and graphs to justify war, austerity, and ecological annihilation.  Furthermore, scientism leads to the unwarranted rule of  the credentialed, professional and managers – a hierarchy based on  claims of expertise and knowledge that are epistemically shaky.  In other words, technocratic managers claim  mastery  on subjects where study and experience lead to diminishing returns in knowledge, given the extreme difficulty of modelling political and economic phenomena accurately.  Because study and experience on politics and economics will only lead to authentic knowledge up to a certain low threshold, it follows that  educated civilians have the necessary understanding to rule themselves, which contrasts with the current outsourcing of  political administration to career-politicians and technocratic specialists.  I will sketch in the following paragraphs why political expertise is dubious at best, and why the fetishization of it can be politically reactionary.

Political and economic phenomena are extremely complex and non linear systems that are opaque to rigorous, careful study.  I’ve written a couple of posts on this subject matter.   To summarize, in linear systems, the behaviour of a system can be deconstructed into the behaviour of its units. For example,  white light can be decomposed into various colors.  Two water ripples can interfere and create another ripple that behaves as the sum of its parent ripples.  Therefore, careful study of the unit will reveal also the behaviour of a larger  linear system that is composed by those units.  Much of the physical sciences reduce to the research of linear systems, precisely because they can be rigorously studied. Yet most of relevant systems are  nonlinear, therefore they cannot be understood as  a sum of their parts. For example, understanding the individual human psyche will not extrapolate to an accurate picture of society. Furthermore, socio-economic  systems are  complex because different units of the system influence each other even when the distance between the units is large.  A tweet by Donald Trump, typed  from his Tower in New  York, could affect the global  stock-market, and increase the price of  tortillas in Mexico the next day.  The complexity and non-linearity means that  returns in  the study of  that system diminish sharply.  For example, it seems unlikely that someone with a PhD in economics will predict better the onset of the next economic crisis than someone with just a bachelor’s in economics, simply because these systems are so complex and vast,  and therefore some understanding, while possible, is severely limited beyond a couple of heuristics.  Paper-pushers in the Pentagon thought in 2003 that the Iraq war will be a clean, smooth  and fast operation, yet, many untrained, liberal teenagers sensed  intuitively that it the war was going to be a mess – as we know from hindsight, the intuitive teenager was more correct than the trained, military “scientist”.

So if what is knowable is severely constrained, what is expertise?  Much of professional and academic expertise is not necessarily about the dominion of true  facts, but in understanding a method. In  other words,  advanced credentials train you to do things a certain way,  regardless if that way reveals the truth or not.  This is true, even in the physical sciences.  Theoretical astrophysics is a good case study of this phenomenon. For example,  neutron stars,  the zombie remnants of  massive stars that have depleted their fuel, are very extreme and compact objects, given that they are so dense  that their gravitational field distorts space and time, and the laws of nuclear physics as we understand them start to break down. For example, it’s theorized that the neutron stars’ core densities are so extreme   that  exotic phases of matter appear, such as the melting of neutrons into quarks.   However, the interior of these objects are almost epistemically opaque to us, given that these extreme densities cannot be recreated in labs, the astronomical observations  are poor, and quantum chromodynamics, the theoretical framework that studies matter at those extreme conditions,  faces computational  problems in that regime, such as the so called “numerical sign problem”.  Yet, these large obstacles and uncertainties do not not stop scientists from creating their own models and equations to study the interior of the neutron star. These scientists follow an identifiable method for their models, which not only respects the known laws of physics, but also uses specific forms of scientific activity, such as computer simulations, mathematical descriptions,  and peer-review publishing. In other words, although it is very hard to prove the veracity of these models, given that many different  approaches can  reproduce the scarce observational data of neutron stars,   “model-creation” is done in a scientifically valid matter, respecting all known physics, publishing in the right journals, and containing certain quantitative rigour.  In that sense, this research is scientific, yet, just because it is scientific, does not mean it reveals an accurate description of reality.

My point is not so much to debunk expertise, or the study of neutron stars (research that I find fascinating), but that sometimes expertise in a specific field will not necessarily lead to factual knowledge, but instead, training in a way of doing things that has an ambiguous track record in delivering accurate descriptions of reality.  This implies then that up to a certain  point,  training and experience will deliver diminishing returns of knowledge about the world, given that further study and experience will only lead to understanding of a particular way of doing  and seeing things – a method, not necessarily into the mastery of world-facts.    So to return to the example of the bachelors in economics versus the PhD economics, although the PhD spent six more years in school than the bachelor’s, both will probably have a similar track record in predicting the next economic crisis, given the diminishing returns of knowledge.

The difficulty of studying neutron stars is revealing, because the problem of the political adminstration of society is orders of magnitude harder. Thus, it follow that the point at which credentials and “experience” stops returning  knowledge about true economic and political facts, but instead only returns understanding about the particular method, is a very low threshold, lower than the one for theoretical astrophysics.  This is because the problem of political adminstration is much more nonlinear, uncertain and complex, than the problem of neutron stars.  If the threshold is low, then it means that any reasonably educated person should be capable  of reaching this threshold, and participate in the political administration of their reality with  the same competence than heavily groomed polticial-careerists that spent all their life padding their resumes.  Yet, the current capitalist state is an opaque machine where experts with impressive credentials operate largely without the input of their subjects – directing their white paper and conferences at each other, only receiving input from a minority of politicized civilians (in the U.S., only about 35 percent of the population votes) in the form of a mediocre vote for a roster of choices filled by career-politicians, who justify their positions through the language of expertise and science. Yet, up to a certain point, they are merely experts at “expertise” and “careerism”.  Finally, not only these “experts” know very little more about the political  and economic realities of the world than the educated civilian, but they transform the State into their own image. This is what is commonly referred as “rule of law”,  where administrative transactions that should be straight-forward become bureaucratized as they most follow a set of labyrinthine laws and regulations only accessible to specialists and lawyers.  So rather than the State accomplishing things in the most effective and leaner sense, it needs to incorporate other “specialists” to navigate the labyrinthe of laws, regulations, and forms, created by  specialists themselves.

The right-wing has so far incorporated a critique of the specialist, albeit from a crack-pot and cynical perspective.   We see this in the stereotypes of the leftist as an “ivory tower academic” that doesn’t actually know the true facts of the ground. This vulgar criticism of the specialist is weaponized by the  right also against scientists that endanger  reactionary beliefs, such as climate scientists or pro-choice biologists.  However, socialists shouldn’t  fall into the uncritical defence of the political specialist, such as the weak-kneed centrists do.  Nor we should embrace uncritically the idea of “scientists” ruling the world, as Neil Degrasse Tyson recently did, given that the problems studied by scientists do not give them more expertise about our political reality than the average, educated worker. We should instead argue  that there is no legitimate expertise that justifies the rule of unaccountable specialists. Instead, any reasonable educated population should be  able to rule itself through transparent, democratic mechanisms; political administrators should be  democratically chosen from the population of workers, be accountable, recallable, and have stringent term-limits. Furthermore, such a State, instead of being structured in the image of the specialist, with complicated and opaque regulations and laws, and therefore, always chained to lawyers, courts, and judges, should be transparent, lean and de-emphasize “rule of law”.  Finally, higher education, which is nowadays chained to the imperatives of the division of labour and the  market, should be  used to create a rounded, well educated population, in contrast to how capitalists use universities as outsourced job-training centers that they do not have to pay for,  shifting the financial burden on workers and tax-payers.

 

 

The tragedy of the socialist atomic bomb.

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One of the  biggest ironies of history is that many of the scientists hired by the  State to build the atomic bomb were communists, socialists and pacifists – people who rejected the first world war as an inter-imperialist massacre of workers.  Many of the individuals that solved the  equations of nuclear scattering in their day jobs, read Karl Marx at night.   The House Un-American Activities Committee summoned many names immortalized in physics textbooks: Oppenheimer, that loathsome  snitch that outed his communist friends to the Feds just to save his career; David Bohn, a Communist Party fellow traveller that self-exiled to Brazil after any possibility of a career in America was destroyed because he refused to tattle his comrades to Hoover’s dogs.   Across the sea, in the gulag, the brilliant mind of Lev Landau clicked with theorems about liquid helium and neutron stars, condemned to  prison because he denounced Stalin as a fascist traitor to communist principles. After his colleague pleaded to Beria for Landau’s freedom, Landau was released, turned into a “learned slave” that solved the mathematics of nuclear destruction.

Yet, the biggest socialist name behind the atomic bomb was Einstein.  Einstein had shown that a tiny morcel of matter could turn into immense amounts of kinetic and thermal energy through his theory of relativity.  Relativity applied to the heavens revealed that the Sun was not powered by coal or gravitational contraction – but by  the fusion of hydrogen into heavier elements. Yet, the second world war forced Einstein to consider the laws that regulate the starry night to the science of human massacre.  According to relativity, the fissioning of an Uranium-235 nucleus would  release large amounts of kinetic energy through  high energy particles and heat. The human body, which to zeroth order approximation is water, could be boiled into instantaneous evaporation by the electrons, neutrons, and gamma rays ejected from nuclear fission.     The same  man that had a thousand page FBI file for his left-wing and pacifist sympathies, called for a socialist world government, and  broke bread with spanish anarchist-communists, was now an acolyte  of  the cult of nuclear death.

The atomic bomb had domesticated the brightest minds of the world into becoming the mercenaries and slaves of presidents and politburos.     The world had turned the rebel scientist that had hurled  Diderot’s encyclopedia  against  popes and kings, into the priest of the new epoch unfolding: technocratically  managed capitalism in the west, and bureaucratic centralism in the eastern  stalinist states.  Thomas Kuhn, the physicist turned into a philosopher of science,  argued that the Manhattan Project was a turning point, a phase transition of the scientific community – the State, now became the largest financier and organizer of science, as generals, secretaries, and presidents discovered that they could incorporate relativity and quantum mechanics into the science of war.   The scientist was transformed from a casual and diffuse intellectual that survived from the generous patronage of some rich person or king, into another cog or spring of the State.  As the material means of scientific self-reproduction became increasingly tied to a racist, war-mongering State, the scientist became more conservative.  The scientific imagination that once dreamed of utopian communism in Mars, became chained in its left side by liberalism and in its right side by fascism. The only caveat was that the aparachnik must have the scientist’s ear – the opaque empire of  class stratification, technology and information was satisfactory only if it ran in a scientific and efficient manner.

Today,  the  ideological putrefaction of the scientist is revealed  in the imminent danger of climate change.  The old covenant that required the scientist to have the aparachnik’s ear  was broken by anti-scientific barbarians like Trump. Yet, as the ideology of “apolitical” technocracy and management chipped away the political consciousness of scientists,   they are only able to see all solutions to the problem of Earth as simply a question of the  presidential “great man” , the modern version of a monarch, taking scientific council seriously.     Those who are pro-science simply have to back the right politician –  such as Obama or Macron, that will hopefully apply the right scientific formula that will phase carbon fuels out of the market,  and develop enough solar panels, nuclear power pants, and wind turbines.

However, the technocratic dimension of the problem is simply a flimsy wrapper around a corrupt core. We live in a world-system fractured into competing nation-states, each side compelled by economic survival into cheap resource extraction and hyper-exploitation of human beings. The imperialist countries (e.g. USA, France, the Netherlands, etc,)  will simply transfer ecological damages into the third world, where lack of regulations allows the destruction of human bodies and the earth through overwork, cheap resource extraction, and pollution.  The imperialist states will bring the profit squeezed from the periphery into  the “regulated” global north, in order to build bike lanes, solar panels, and nuclear power plants. Although climate change is a worldwide phenomenon, the people that will experience massive casualties are the world’s poor in the global south, because the infrastructure of the imperialist countries can partly  sustain the abrupt change. The developing countries such as India, Mexico, etc are also forced to exploit their own natural resources and pollute their atmosphere to squeeze a profit margin that makes them  stay afloat in the merciless world market. Capitalist competition will always drive firms to wear and tear the Earth and human beings; to disengage in this ecological and human destruction is to become uncompetitive against the agents that actually choose to play this rigged game. A couple of “progressive” presidents scattered in various nation-states, having the responsibility to remain competitive in order to generate profits that lead to more jobs, roads and social programs, are  toothless before the blind, idiot god of capital.  Symbolic supra-natural organizations such as the United Nations and the Paris Agreement, which lack executive and legislative powers, cannot turn the tide.

After scientists turned into mercenaries and slaves of the State, many Leftists have grown suspicious – hence the modern phenomenon of Luddism, “small and local”, and Primitivism.  But, unless the world faces a horrible cataclysm that renders most of humanity into bands of hunter-gatherers, a post-capitalist world will be a technological civilization that shall require planning and scientific expertise.  If scientists want to save the world from ecological catastrophe, then their imagination has to transcend the current rules of the game – rules bounded by presidentialism, capitalism  and technocratism. Instead, scientists need to find inside their hearts that Einstein that penned “Why Socialism?” and called for a world, democratic government. Einstein referred to current class society as  “predatory human phase”, and therefore considered the economic rules that regulated capitalism to be void when imagining a  world without gods and masters. Perhaps, because we are living in a dark age of reaction, scientists haven’t awaken the Einstein inside them. Yet as crisis summons socialism into the minds of humans again, a new Einstein may emerge from the world-spirit, that will not only bring a new social revolution, but a scientific revolution that shall upend our notions of reality, space and time.

Edit: Some readers have pointed out that Einstein wasn’t directly involved in the Manhattan Project.  This is true to the extent that he wasn’t working in a lab, or scribbling equations for it, but he wrote the letter that was decisive in prompting Roosevelt into developing the Manhattan Project. In that sense, he is arguably one of the most responsible, perhaps even more than many of the people directly employed, in the development of the atomic bomb. In fact, Einstein regretted writing that letter. I also edited the wording of the article a little bit to reflect the fact that nuclear fission isn’t the same as relativity, given the comments of the readers. Relativity is “agnostic” to nuclear physics – although relativity predicts that conversion of mass to kinetic energy is possible, it doesn’t explain by itself the mechanisms (e.g. nuclear fusion, fission) of the conversion. However, the theory of relativity was still crucial in the development of the atomic bomb (and much of nuclear physics in general), because it’s through energy-mass equivalence that we can predict the kinetic energies and masses of the particles emitted in a nuclear reactions.

Against Chavez, heroes and all great men.

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The economic crisis in Venezuela has dealt a mortal blow to the Bolivarian project, with the popular support previously enjoyed by Chavismo dissolving under the weight of immiseration and authoritarianism.  The streets have became war-zone, where the police and the armed colectivo gangs gun down protestors and rioters. The  Bolivarian project failed, which wasn’t socialist in the first place, but another iteration of  what Marx called Bonapartism – the concentration of power into an autocratic but “benevolent” military leader that distributes some of the surplus generated by oil rent to the underclasses in order to secure a power base. The collapse of the Bolivarian project after death of their larger than life figurehead – Chavez, confirms that working class power was not institutionalized, but instead, the political foundation of Bolivarianism  was in Chavez’s charismatic persona – a scaffolding built upon his television show, his broad shoulders and thick wrists, his mesmerizing speeches against the imperialist yankees.  Yet, in order to advance the socialist project worldwide it’s necessary to understand the complex racial, social, and class divisions that gave rise to not only Chavismo, but the other charismatic (and sometimes autocratic) left-leaning politicians that recently emerged in Latin America – the Correas, the Lulas, and Morales. Furthermore, we must dispel the myths created by the right-wing opposition – the organized expression of a a racist, light-skinned and elitist alliance of  managers, professionals, and businessmen.  Finally, we should point out the limits of Chavismo:  which are nationalism, career bureaucrats,  and the fetishization of “larger-than life” men and their political form – the presidency, the latter which is nothing but a term-limited and sterilized variation  of the monarchy.

Chavismo cannot be understood without looking at the complex power differentials between classes and races in Latin America. Latin America suffers of stark economic  and political inequalites that are scaffolded by  complex racial  and social stratifications, many of these hierarchies inherited from the colonial era. Light-skinned latinos, or “whites”  are overrepresented in the managerial, professional, and wealthy demographics, while amerindians, blacks, and the dark-skinned make the bulk amongst the poor, the working classes, and the peasantry.  These class and racial divisions create a very tense political landscape.  In the last decade,  due to these social and class contradictions, a group of charismatic, left-leaning politicians took power in many south american countries – a phenomenon referred as the “pink tide”.  These larger than life figures –  Morales, Lula, and Chavez to name a few, were elected by  workers and slum-dwellers at the dismay of the largely white managerial and business castes.  While in office, many of these left-leaning politicians, such as Lula in Brazil and Chavez in Venezuela, rode a spike in prices of their countries’ export commodities. They used these surpluses to finance all sorts of social services and subsidies that made them very popular.  However, once the world-economy became unfavourable to their exports, the national economies suffered and thus their popularity waned.  In Brazil, this emboldened the right wing and culminated in the undemocratic coup against the Worker’s Party (PT), with the ousting of Dilma Rousseff and the sentencing of Lula.  In Venezuela, the traditional strongholds of chavismo, such as the urban slums, have eroded under the weight of shortages and economic crisis.

The organized opposition to this pink tide is largely reactionary and loathsome.  They are the political representatives of the credentialed, the managers, and the rich – a caste that was previously politically dominant, which oversaw the inequality and corruption that fuelled the current populist wave.   Their  elitist contempt for the impulses of what made chavismo, and the rest of the pink tide possible, is palpable. They think of  the working poor that supported  the leftist politicians as a largely ignorant,  lazy and amorphous mass –  a genetically inferior race that  lacks the white skin that the ruling classes inherited from their brutal and violent ancestors.   Within the opposition’s pathetic cries for democracy and freedom, and the dramatic stories they feed to their western audiences in Canada, the United States and Europe, there’s a concealment of the privileges they enjoyed as petroleum engineers, landlords, and businessmen.

The racist and incompetent capitalist class made the impulses behind the pink tide very legitimate.  However, these impulses weren’t  channeled  into the building of independent, democratic  and working class organizations that want to do away with the power of bureaucrats and managers, but directed into left-leaning  and “benevolent” career politicians.   Therefore, the success or failure of these leftist project were tied to the rise and fall of this leftist bureaucratic class – a managerial caste that had to consolidate  power for themselves in order to guarantee  social programs and wealth distribution. With this consolidation of power, comes autocracy, corruption, and embezzlement (hence the rise of the bolibourgeosie).   Once the world-economy triggered the  collapse of value of the export commodities these career politicians and caudillos used to extract a surplus,  their power base dissolved. Because these politicians  made themselves the rulers responsible for the fate of the nation-state, then the blame of all their country’s ills naturally fell on them.

Just as in the case of the venezuelan PSUV and the brazilian PT,  every leftist party that takes power through the ordinary means of the office, without eroding the narratives and foundations that give rise to the career-politician,  will ultimately be fragile, as it will take responsibility for all the liabilities of managing the nation-state.  Some of the structural beams that support political careerism are:  inflated salaries,  unelected and unaccountable officers,    aparachniks that make  a livelihood out of wielding bureaucracies, a judiciary branch appointed from above, and ultimately, the existence of an executive power personified in a “great man” – the presidency. These mechanism that concentrate power in a largely identifiable center, are not meant to empower the general populace, but instead create a bureaucratic caste that  maintains the status quo – a machinery that will sooner or later veto socialist policies.  In contrast, if the working class actually took power, by abolishing the presidency and creating a truly democratic republic that replaces career politicians with elected and recallable worker-officers  – a republic that merges the legislative and executive power into a federation of  democratic councils – then the success and failure of socialism will be the responsibility of the working class, and there will not be a larger than life hero to deify or demonize.

Finally, the nation-state cannot support  socialism, for the nation behaves as a firm connected to the world-economy.  The nation-state must remain competitive in a capitalist way in order to provide its subjects with clothing, shelter, and food – all which is largely produced by a complex global assembly line that couples all the workers of the world.  The leftist bureaucrats that took power in Venezuela made the nation-state uncompetitive, which ultimately caused a lack of basic goods and mass immiseration. Anti-capitalists cannot make the nation-state competitive in a capitalist market, therefore latin american socialists must fight for democratic forms that consolidate the whole continent into one polity, while aspiring to create a global, democratic and socialist republic in the future.  This vision heavily contrasts the nationalism that has infected most of modern latin american leftism.

Many leftists will say that the Bolivarian project failed because  it wasn’t sufficiently socialist – that the state didn’t expropriate private property or “abolish money” or some other leftist platitude. Yet chavismo was doomed to fail since the beginning, because it didn’t consist of the people taking power for themselves through democratic, transparent structures that they can wield, but instead, the workers  made nationalist politicians responsible for their livelihood and liberation. Some leftists will say that the communal councils and mass organizations are proof that Chavez was actually empowering workers, but if anything, these organizations served as a way to consolidate the power of career politicians on the shoulders of the proletariat. A socialism in Latin America will be continental, transparent, and democratic, or it will be surely overthrown by the pressure of the world-economy and degenerate into corruption and authoritarianism.