Adding Depth To Taleb’s Insight That Minority Rule Is Superior To Majority.

(Shhh. Its all in the incentives.)


(edited for clarity)

I’ll fortify your thought experiment a bit. To the best of my knowledge the general argument that reflects the evidence is this:

1) The slower the rotation of elites, the more consistent the policies, the least ‘virtue signaling expenditure’, the least waste, and the least fragility. Consistent policy allows long-term low-cost investment in commons. Preserves knowledge in the administrators.

2) The longer term the incentives the more capital will be accumulated in all its forms. So, Monarchies have the best intertemporal incentives, houses of ‘lords’ so to speak the next best, Westminster/German model parliaments the next, and democratically elected representatives in the American model the worst incentives. Germans seem to produce consistent policies, yet can still be removed from office.

3) Minorities face higher consequences if deposed from power than members of a majority, and they are easier to depose, so they have both incentive to rule well (reduce cost of defense), and to maintain rule(preserve their investments). (The HAN, RUSSIANS/Muscovites), and the TEUTONS/Germanics understood this. The Europeans no longer do. They lost this sentiment in the world wars. Aside from Jefferson’s attempt to codify natural law in an extant document and order, America has been a very bad influence on the world since its revolution.)

4) The more thorough the rule of law, the higher the trust, the faster the economic velocity. So, Rule of law (common, judge-discovered, natural law) is more important in producing good policy than the form of government if the aristocracy (martial class) is large enough. If a professional bureaucracy can form prior to the expansion of the franchise, then Continental Law can function as well as Common Law with a smaller aristocracy (martial class).

5) So, most civilizations fail to defeat i) Malthus, ii) Rent Seekers(corruption), iii) Familism(corruption) for any one of these reasons: (a) inability to form a military/martial/nobility class capable of enforcing rule of law and profiting from its enforcement (Nobility). (b) inability to concentrate wealth without ever-expanding corruption (Homogeneity), (c) inability to direct proceeds to the production of commons(universalism), (d) inability to create a class capable of sustained policy development (minority control)

So it’s not so much that it’s minority rule, but that it’s CONSISTENT rule, with intertemporal incentives, while still able to ‘throw the bums out’, with rule of law limiting their actions, and suppressing corruption. And minority rule tends to be more consistent. (And monarchies were more tolerant.)

Net: incentives of representative governments constantly trying to hold to their positions produce the worst policy because they have the worst of all incentives: urgency and unaccountability.

Reversal: If you are in a heterogeneous, tribal, familial, civilization, lacking a militia (universal military), and a large enough middle class to demand and require rule of law, and if you have its opposite (universal theocracy), and if you do not have harsh winters to reduce the size of the underclasses without invoking moral hazard, you will have a very difficult time creating prosperity compared to a homogenous, outbred, militial civilization, with harsh winters, and putative rule of law. Nobility makes an administrative class, makes a middle class makes a working class, makes an over-reproductive underclass, and rents expand by all classes until the civilization is fragile or stagnant and cannot respond to shocks or competitors.

Curt Doolittle
The Propertarian Institute
Kiev, Ukraine

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A probabilistic argument in favor of the minority rule dictating societal values is as follows. Wherever you look across societies and histories, you tend to find the same general moral laws prevailing, with some, but not significant, variations: do not steal (at least not from within the tribe); do not hunt orphans for pleasure; do not gratuitously beat up passers by for training, use instead a boxing bags (unless you are Spartan and even then you can only kill a limited number of helots for training purposes), and similar interdicts. And we can see these rules evolving over time to become more universal, expanding to a broader set, to progressively include slaves, other tribes, other species (animals, economists), etc. And one property of these laws: they are black-and-white, binary, discrete, and allow no shadow. You cannot steal “a little bit” or murder “moderately”. You cannot keep Kosher and eat “just a little bit” of pork on Sunday barbecues.

Now it would be vastly more likely that these values emerged from a minority that the majority. Why? Take the following two theses:

– Outcomes are paradoxically more stable under the minority rule — the variance of the results is lower and the rule is more likely to be emerge independently across populations.

– What emerges from the minority rule is more likely to be be black-and-white.

An example. Consider that an evil person wants to poison the collective by putting some product into soda cans. He has two options. The first is cyanide, which obeys a minority rule: a drop of poison (higher than a small threshold) makes the entire liquid poisonous. The second is a “majority”-style poison; it requires more than half the liquid to be poisonous in order to kill. Now look at the inverse problem, a collection of dead people after a dinner party, and you need to investigate the cause. The local Sherlock Holmes would assert that conditional on the outcome that all people drinking the soda having been killed, the evil man opted for the first not the second option. Simply, the majority rule leads to fluctuations around the average, with a high rate of survival.

The black-and-white character of these societal laws can be explained with the following. Assume that under a certain regime, when you mix white and dark blue in various combinations, you don’t get variations of light blue, but dark blue. Such a regime is vastly more likely to produce dark blue than another rule that allows more shades of blue.



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