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Culture Politics

Day 644 and Status Equivalence and DAO Leadership

Capitalism has largely been a triumph of hierarchy as an organizing mechanism. As we evolved from mercantilism into corporatism, appointing and holding accountable a single point of failure in a chief executive officer has become an effective shortcut for managing complexity when deploying capital. Leadership is responsible for the outcome.

The aphorism “failure is an orphan but success has many fathers” abuts against the reality that while we love to lavish praise upon executives, monarchs and other singular nexuses of responsibility it’s often not reflected in reality. Our bias in the post-industrial revolution has been towards leadership via individual even as post Enlightenment values valorize democracy and community participation. It’s been a tension for since the Industrial Revolution. America exemplifies this as the country most committed to both participatory federalism and corporate capitalism.

I am particularly interested in this tension as I believe we may be on the crux of larger organizational needs and are seeing them begin to coalesce in crypto. As decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, make an attempt to become the new corporate governance structure in Web3, it seems worth studying the question of whether leadership is a singular or collective exercise for humans.

What does the historical and anthropological record have to say about how we organize? What are we evolved to prefer and are we capable of evolving further?

The bias we operate with now is great man theory. But what if that is not just wrong but not even the predominant form of human organization through history? Critics of cooperation might do well to explore this in particular.

I came across a Rob Henderson blog post which is an extended overview of a piece of sociology Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior by the UCLA anthropologist Christopher Boehm. According to Rob’s post, the main question of this work is whether humans are by nature hierarchical or egalitarian. And it turns out our hunter gatherer forefathers were mostly egalitarian. The bulk of our history is egalitarian.

The anthropological record along with research on extant modern hunter-gatherers suggests that for most of human history we have been egalitarian, defined as “status equivalency among the decision-makers of a group.”

Rob Henderson reviews Hierarchy in the Forest

If you extrapolate this into a modern corporate context, the C-Suite or executive team, or perhaps even the founding team, are roughly the status equivalent decision makers. Maybe there is a first among equals in the CEO or founder but they can, in theory, be replaced by a board. But what if instead of a C-corporation you are managing a cooperative like a DAO? What then?

Apparently we humans are rather good at maintaining status equivalence. Richard Wrangham’s Goodness Paradox discusses how humans have self domesticated to avoid too much resource and power aggregation.

Over time, early humans eliminated those who were overtly aggressive. They killed or ostracized upstarts hungry for power; men with aggressive political ambitions. Other men would quietly organize to commit collective murder of troublesome male

Rob Henderson on Goodness Paradox

Moral communities evolve and punish those who deviate from acceptable standards. If you are too ambitious as an individual we swoop in as a species. It seems a bit miraculous in that light that we live in an era of kleptocracy and power consolidation given our tendency to murder upstarts. Great man theory isn’t all that sustainable. Or is it? Perhaps it’s that we asset influence obliquely. I’d wager any woman would agree.

Oftentimes, headmen display “self-effacing” behavior. Headmen and informal leaders usually obtained their roles through talent in hunting or warfare, storytelling ability, or congeniality. They rarely assert direct authority.

Rob Henderson on Boehm

If indirect authority is a sustainable organizational preference in the anthropological record, perhaps corporations are more amenable to reconstruction as DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) through the principle of status equivalence.

The autonomous part seems the trickiest, but decentralized authority inside tribal organizations are at least recognizably human. If as a group we disliked a status or resource hungry “great man” we leaned on the leadership preferences of status equivalent equals and forced you out.

I see no reason we can’t write in similar parameters into a smart contract as an experiment. At the first hint of a rug pull let the burning begin! We are already seeing political battles for resource allocation inside bigger organizations like MakerDAO. Crypto may be a worthy space for experienced leadership to show that figureheads like CEOs or founders are not the crucial lynchpin for progress and stability we believe.

Which would be quite a balm to me personally as I’m deeply skeptical of authoritarianism as a solution for our technical and social problems. I’d much rather we explore the wisdom of past tribal knowledge to guide us than look to a mythical great man to save me.

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Politics Travel

Day 631 and Reunion

I normally spend a lot of time my husband. During the pandemic we got very accustomed to being around each other twenty four seven. We quite enjoy each other’s company so it’s been a life upgrade.

But occasionally we take longer chunks of time apart. It started as a deliberate effort, but now as the post pandemic world works itself out travel is starting to happen naturally again. We haven’t seen each other for two weeks. And completely organically.

And we couldn’t have had more diverse life experiences and seen more varied cross sections of America if we’d planned it. Alex was at an investment firm’s CEO summit in Santa Barbara while I was in Billings Montana taking wilderness medical incident first responder training. He was hobnobing with bankers while I was doing “stop the bleed” with wildfire fighters and EMTS.

When we reunited this evening after being apart, and for such disparate types of experiences, it was so much fun to compare notes. The types of concerns and the expectations for the good life couldn’t be more divergent for the two poles of people. And I am modestly afraid that as America polarizes and different industries code for different versions of America that it will be rare for different classes to intersect.

And that’s a real problem if bankers are so far removed from paramedics as to have entirely different interests and ideals for their shared country of America. It’s clearly possible to encounter all types of Americans across all classes but I’m not sure I’m optimistic about enough people making the effort to bring us all together.

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Chronic Disease Politics

Day 618 and Personal Politics

I hesitate to share too much detail about this but, I’m an opioid user.

Actually I’m not hesitant to share that at all, it’s in fact the core salient point I want to make today. I have a chronic disease and sometimes, blessedly more and more infrequently, it can only be effectively treated with pain medication.

Why am I talking about this? And in public no less? Because unless powerful people that have a degree of social, personal and political capital discuss things we deem unsavory we never make any damn progress on humanizing our inhumane responses. And our response to the opioid epidemic is inhumane.

The backlash to the crisis, a mash up of intense scrutiny, government intervention and rigid rules, has now reached a point where it is doing as much harm as the original crisis of overprescribing. And I hope my personal story allows you to see why.

My spinal condition (ankylosing spondylitis) can be so debilitating that the only way I can get out of bed to accomplish basic tasks is by taking a mild opioid called Tramadol. It’s not in the same category as OxyContin or Percocet but it’s not risk free either.

I’m lucky that my condition is relatively well controlled. I don’t need pain medicine all the time and I work very hard on alternative treatments in the hopes that I won’t need it at all in the future. I spent a small fortune making sure I don’t need a core useful medicine. Let that sink in.

I’m not an addict. I am monitored by a team of professionals. Every step of the way is in fact monitored extensively by state and federal systems along with massive insurance and hospital system oversight. It’s the closest I’ve come to experiencing the Panopticon. It’s life altering in its scope. My entire life by necessity has to revolve around when the system deems it safe for me to get a prescription. Not when my doctor thinks I need it. When Uncle Sam does.

I fucking hate relying on something so dangerous and so demonized but also so regulated. I hate that my entire private medical life is so closely monitored by the state. I hate all of it. But, on very bad days, the choice is immobilization or Tramadol. And I’m not at all ashamed to say I pick Tramadol. I want to be a working productive member of society and that’s hard to do when you are unable to move from the pain.

There is no grace in suffering but what it teaches us. And I’ve learned we use pain as a cudgel to control people in our society. That it is so effective is why I am both a libertarian and fiercely against the carceral state. One day it might be you suffering and you won’t deserve it either. And I pray that you will be shown grace in your personal circumstances.

But I’m lucky. I’ve got other pharmaceuticals, like biologic injections which treat inflammatory conditions, that I can rely on. I’ve got THC and CBD for their anti-inflammatory properties. I’ve got good old fashioned steroids like Prednisone. Which interestingly, my physicians universally believe is more dangerous than my Tramadol usage and did actually require an extended titration down as I was physically dependent on it, as your body stops producing the necessary hormones. They’d rather I use Tramadol for flares.

But you notice the government isn’t up in your face with a massive publicity campaign showing cops busting down Prednisone rings. There are no political advertisements showing how an opponent supports big steroid. Even though if you saw Donald Trump after he got Dexamethasone during his fight with Covid it was pretty clear he felt pretty good. Steroids have gotten me far more fucked up and also higher than any opioid ever has. But no massive surveillance program has ever come down on anyone for anti-inflammatory drugs.

Because that would be fucking ridiculous even though it’s just as addictive in driving physical dependencies , just as debilitating and depending on your body chemistry, just as “fun” as narcotics. Fun fact about me, I don’t have whatever chemical makeup that allows an opioid to give me a high. Which as I’ve learned is a saving grace. Not everyone does. That’s kind of the rub. The risk profile on opioids is a bit worse because some pharmaceutical executives lied about the percentages of people who get addicted. Or who found it’s side effects pleasurable in the absence of symptoms. They did not lie about the benefit of not being in pain.

And that ought to give you a good sense of the problem at hand. The iron law of prohibition strikes again. A massive bureaucracy imposing a fix that intervened in crude and inflexible ways is causing more suffering than it fixes. It wasn’t the intent but it is the outcome.

The iron law of prohibition is a term coined by Richard Cowan in 1986 which posits that as law enforcement becomes more intense, the potency of prohibited substances increases. Cowan put it this way: “the harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”

Because doctors were lied to about the risk profile of certain types of opioids in the first place, the backlash is now as bad as the original sin the pharmaceutical companies committed.

Regular law abiding people are getting fucked in their treatment plans because hard enforcement is making it harder to get the low dose drugs. We treat Tramadol users with arthritis with the same tools as as criminals addicted to illegal fentanyl. I know shocker that the American federal government can be as evil as Purdue.

But also historically you know it’s true. And now a huge portion of normal people like me, who just want the benefits of not being in constant pain, are being turned into an over surveilled over controlled population. And I’m not saying there are no risks. But who do you want deciding that? A doctor who knows you well? Or the government? Yeah I’d pick the doctor too.

Categories
Politics

Day 617 and Overnight

I plowed through a bunch of choring yesterday. Which apparently tuckered me out. I took maybe an hour nap before dinner. I had a little extra CBD beforehand and found myself drowsy as hell. I passed out sometime around 8:30pm.

Alas the napping and the early bedtime, if you can call just utterly losing consciousness “bedtime,” had consequences. I came to around 1am and found myself wide awake. Oops.

At first I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this unexpected moment of being lucid and energetic in the middle of the night. I toddled over to the bathroom to pee. I crawled back into bed. I debated if I should try to force the issue with an Ambien. But I didn’t have anything in the morning so I thought maybe I should take those sleep hygiene folks seriously and just do something till I get tired.

Of course, the thing I decided to do was read on my phone. I cleared a few back logged essays from my collections on my favorite reader app Matter. I logged into Bloomberg to check pre-market sentiment. I opened up the New York Times and read Queen Elizabeth’s obituary.

Around 2am it seemed clear I wasn’t sleepy at all. Whether from the back lighting of my phone or the five hours of sleep I’d logged earlier. So I said fuck it and opened Twitter. I dig deep into the feuding discourses of “God Save the Queen” versus the survivors of British empire. Monarchists loved their kindly grandmother and the Irish did their best to be polite about the genocide of it all.

If the sun never sets on the British Empire the doom scrolling through the celebration of the end of the longest reigning monarch seemed like the way to go out. But unsurprisingly there was a lot of darkness to be found in the pre-dawn sentiment. I tweeted a reminder to myself to explore how enclosure movements and anti-colonial “fuck the federales this is our land” historical context plays into the American political moment.

Eventually I got drowsy. I feel asleep around 5am just as the rest of the country was waking up. I slept till 9am or so.

Categories
Culture Politics

Day 610 and Labor Day Weekend

America isn’t much for holidays compared to say Europe. The Chinese outwork us with 996 but by and large Americans are a people that work. Paid time off isn’t really our thing. Well, it’s not something that capital is keen on allowing labor to have as a thing.

But you can rely on Memorial Day and Labor Day to act as the basic bookends of summer and as days you should have off from work. I find it a bit comical that we have a holiday celebrating the labor movement. You’d think we would have rolled it back with the Reagan Revolution. But Labor Day is the summer ending day off we all know and love even if we killed most of the unions.

Ive got labor on my mind as I’ve taken all of August to move my family to Montana this summer. Most of my energy went into getting us here and settled. The month flew by. It still feels like I have so much left to do. And not just because we still don’t have a dining room table or a mirror in the bathroom suitable for doing makeup. Getting unpacked is a process.

I’m slowly readjusting my mindset back to a workflow that includes labor outside the home. Well, I still work from home. But labor with other people beyond my family. Calling it labor is a bit funny in the context of Labor Day as my labor is working with capital I suppose I’m allowed to celebrate Labor Day as the spiritual placeholder for back to work season even if I am technically “the man.”

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Politics

Day 609 and Dark Brandon Rising

I really don’t know why I’m commenting at all on it except that capturing some of immediate sentiment of the moment has some value. But I watched Joe Biden’s Soul of America speech.

I wasn’t planning to but the siren call of the Twitter feed sucked me in. Like the rest of America, I feel the call of the discourse. And I have to say I’m surprised yet again at how divergent it feels.

I saw Dark Brandon Rising memes come to life. Our usually stumbling gaff prone president was on fire. Literally as the background was red. I want to know what they pumped him up with. And I don’t think it was a playlist. But he seemed passionate and he made as decent a play for the values of democratic norms as I’ve ever heard. But he also did it on a red lit stage with marines and the imagery of the presidency and norms means pearl clutching from all sides.

I don’t think it’s bad to call out that Trumpism involves election denialism. January 6th has a clear message even if it lacked finesse. It’s not like we are seeing Americans at their best after two years of pandemic. I suppose I recognize that it’s insulting and maybe insidious to say that some people are worse than others. But differences of opinions become a bit less valid when one wants representative democracy and one acts like brute power is fine if it serves their interests.

I felt like it came across decently and relatively unifying and I’m sad that this is a position that is contrarian or in dispute. I’m no fan of the man but I also don’t want to become Argentina or Albania. America is supposed to be better.

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Politics

Day 598 and Reactionaries

I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to engage with a bunch of disposed reactionary young men on Twitter this weekend but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I took some pleasure in it. Cognitive dissonance and copium can feel like an amusing game if you don’t think too hard about the pain behind it. And I saw a lot of pain in the responses to me.

My husband asked me if we should increase security at the homestead. I told him I wasn’t sure if these boys were up to more than larping but in truth I’m not sure if teasing groypers and trolls is dangerous or not. The real danger is civilizational. We’ve got angry, disaffected, and emotionally violent men with nowhere to go and nothing constructive to do. Our politics reflects it but only barely.

What happens when the reactionaries go beyond Roe v Wade and clip the wings of democracy? Will the 19th amendment be up for discussion? You’d be surprised at what the discourse is considering at the moment. For all the whining about cancel culture, we’ve never had so much open consideration of rolling back modern liberalism.

I guess I’m glad that we are having conversations about the success of our current political and civilizational social contracts and whether or not some of our choices were failures. But if any of these boys thinks I’m giving up even an iota of the freedom to be responsible for my own life, well, they have got a surprise coming in.

Categories
Politics

Day 594 and Feminine Mystique

I spent my morning desperately trying to distract myself from the pain of menstrual cramps. It’s my first period being without the luxury of living on a city sewer and I am modestly grossed out by having to roll up my tampons in toilet paper and toss them in a tiny trash can.

If you haven’t had your own private septic system, well here is a lesson in rural living. You can’t be putting big globs of cotton into them. Technically you shouldn’t be flushing tampons into any kind of plumbing anywhere. But who amongst us hasn’t done so. Flushable wipes are a lie that big butt wipe has put a lot of marketing dollars into.

Were you uncomfortable reading that? I bet you were. The indignities of embodied life are plentiful but we especially dislike hearing about women and their reproductive system. Don’t trust an animal that can bleed for three days and not die amirite?! Something super mundane that is the reality for half the planet is treated as incredibly foreign and disgusting. I totally love how it makes me feel like a monster just for being human.

I am feeling this particularly acutely because the discourse around women and their rights is at a nasty place in America. We are barely a month out from Roe v Wade being overturned in America and the horror stories are pouring in. The curtain has been pulled back to reveal some unattractive realities.

And I’m not even talking about just abortion. A whole slew of reactionary positions are being floated by the Moldbug crowd and spun up into adjacent meme spaces by feral readers of Bronze Age Pervert. They are happily chatting away about the failures of liberalism and chief amongst them is women’s right to vote. It’s not at all shocking to hear open discussion about how the franchise should only be open to land owning heads of family. So naturally sorry women. It just follows.

I’m getting a lot of pushback from more progressive men (and by that I mean anyone who thinks women voting isn’t up for debate) on my feeds absolutely confident this isn’t happening. No one could possibly believe this they assure me. It seems so shocking to them. But I’m here to stare back into your soul and say “honey please.” It’s all up for debate when people are hungry and angry.

But since you need convincing. I’m telling you that regular people with normalcy bias have already decided I have less bodily autonomy than you. What makes you think these reactionaries have any respect for my franchise if you didn’t even notice the right to chose mattered.

It’s offensive to say this as women have never had more rights but also I’m still a second class citizen. And I’m a white married lady so I know how fragile my perch is and how very high in this delicate dénouement of the battle of the sexes. Progress is fragile. Branches can snap.

Categories
Politics

Day 592 and Politicians

We say we want accountable politicians but then we punish them when they hold firm positions. Principled politicians are begging ravages right now. Of course, they reward our fickleness with their own. It makes political discourse a conduit for performing accountability instead of doing it.

If a politician cannot hold a viewpoint or position that you disagree with but still holds your generation support, we’ve stopped having a civic body and instead developed into rabid fandoms. And we wonder why the leading lights of both parties only pay respects to their most radical members. Everyone gets abandoned in that situation. Your only options are bad ones.

I say this because I think it is time we started endorsing politicians for who they are as people, even if their policy positions might not align with yours. Trusting someone because they have demonstrated good faith is a social good. We should strive to be accountable to each other even in total opposition. That’s the only way anyone will ever build systems in which any of us are free. Otherwise it’s coercion anyway you slice it. And what’s fucked up is you probably know it but are ready to argue me on the technicals.

We have to expect others to have principles in order have them respect our own. That’s always been the fundamentally libertarian platform. That others have the freedom to hold firm in their own version of the good life and we should have our good life respected as well. Live and let live.

If just coercing someone to your side is enough for you, if mere compulsion is an adequate civilizational goal, then by all means reconsider if you are American. It’s an imperfect union.

Me having a line means that you can have a line too. Our respect for boundaries is what allows us to interact as adults capable of ring responsible for our own actions. Maybe it’s not ways to our advantage. But having a line means you can be trusted. And being trust worthy is safety.

Categories
Politics

Day 575 and Harm’s Way

I got put in a hotel room for the final days of packing up our Colorado townhouse. I’m useless at lifting heavy things right now. I find this to be vaguely insulting as I used to be an avid power lifter.

But I can’t dispute that the high cost of my energy makes it uneconomic to involve me in physical labor. My family and friends reasonably want to keep me out of harm’s way. My role in our groups is to be Tom Sawyer not the paint brush brigade. Or if you prefer a story with less moral grey area, I am the mouse Frederick from Leo Leoni’s classic tale about story tellers and community. I scan the horizon and organize people. It’s probably the original professional path for the disabled. We’d have gone instinct in a Darwinian view of simple capacity and yet here we remain.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to mitigation of tail risks recently as the person tasked with keeping our group out of harm’s way. The average prepper isn’t much more convinced that the world is ending than your average person. We simply think that probability being what it is, it is worth doing some work to stay out of harm’s way if you can. Complicated worlds have complicated risk profiles. Buying insurance is just doing the math.

Not everyone is convinced that moving to Montana is staying out of harm’s way. A marketing executive and Vice contributor recently wrote a viral essay about how people like him (and me) are walking into some kind of a Trumpian civil war. I am skeptical of this position having been raised in the mountain west that things are quite so dire in Montana. It’s not Idaho.

But I agree with the basic gist that culture wars are getting hot. But I’m also a native of the West and deserve to be there as much as anyone. I code just as much right wing as I do left wing. My plans are to integrate back into country living. I am all for good neighbors and church and building sustainable communities. But I am also virulently anti-MAGA as populism tends to go badly for diverse populations. And I believe the only way we keep anyone out of harm’s way is by simply resisting simple narratives and taking sides.