13 June 2020

I used to wonder why systems analysis isn't taught

The last few months have made it extremely obvious why it isn't taught.

Stocks, flows, feedbacks, constraints.  The stuff that happens in the short term—the general operation of the system stuff—is the feedback.  In severe oversimplification, the stronger feedback wins.

In these terms, when you advocate for defunding the police, you're talking nonsense unless and until you're taking three things into account.

First thing is that the police absolutely will open fire in preference to submitting to civil authority.  They've been threatening just that for decades and they've nigh-certainly done that already even to the powerful.  (It's absolutely certainly when considering the not-powerful.)

Second thing is that, by defunding the police, you're attacking the enforcement arm of white supremacy.  Note what happens to notionally sovereign politicians who attempt to oppose the resource extraction arm of white supremacy; the same response is going to happen if you successfully defund the enforcement arm.  (That is, you get a coup and the political process is replaced and reverses the defunding action.  The Mammonite preferred outcome, private security forces, is at least not unlikely as a long-term outcome.)

Third thing is that white supremacy is an economic system.  It starts as a legitimisation ploy for looting; if you are easily sunburned, you are inherently morally superior and can take anything you have the strength to take from anybody who isn't easily sunburned.  This turns into a "hey, wait, let's steal abstractions like sovereignty and economy"; you get colonialism.  Somewhere around 1970, out of material stuff to steal but completely unwilling to accept fundamental structural change to the economy, the great and good decided that the purpose of the economy was not to safeguard wealth but to guarantee wealth; the Mammonite faction gets political ascendancy, and the idea that you don't get subjected to systemic looting if easily sunburned goes away.  The stack of axioms that permit billionaires, treating labour as a cost to be minimised, or the argument that being rich should free you from paying taxes are, in effect, the Mammonite heresy of white supremacy.  (Classical white supremacy sees the common interests of the ruling class as including long term social stability because if you don't have stability you have change.  If you're already on top of the heap, all change is bad, because you're overwhelmingly likely to be worse off, you have nowhere to go that isn't worse off than your current position.  The heretics aren't zero-sum conservatives; they're negative-sum death cultists.  The point is not to preserve existing relative eminence, but to guarantee eminence by reducing everyone else to misery.  (misery limits your scope of political opposition to something certainly ineffective.  Very important when you're expecting people to submit to being part of the mass extinction.))

So that's what we've got.

What's the least sufficient thing to have stronger feedback?

As a Canadian example, to abolish the RCMP, raze RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, and convert the underlying land to indigenous sovereignty, complete with sufficient funds to remediate it into something other than a hole in the ground.  If you don't have the political power to do that in such a way that it sticks despite a dead-eyed kitten eater getting in with a majority government, you don't have enough political power to defund the police.

That's not going to happen as a single step.

All power is unitary.  If you want to reduce authoritarian white supremacy's functional power, you go after the thing that funds it; great personal wealth.  (It's a system for increasing retained loot!  It has never been anything else!)  That DOES NOT mean that you insist that people pay their taxes, have the tax authorities do hostile audits (richest first!) or that you start responding to obfuscated assets through forcible liquidation and permanent penury.  All that's doing is shifting the direction of hostility from the authoritarian system.  (The public sphere equivalent would be making rules that say there are no white cops or male judges for the next hundred years.  Emotionally satisfying but ineffective policy.)

The effective steps are producing economic alternatives; removing the limited liability of corporations ("I cannot be held responsible for the collateral damage of enriching the owners") and creating collective forms of land tenure and social organisation.  (Remember that the big problem with indigenous anything comes down to land tenure; from the viewpoint of the extractive wing of the authoritarian white supremacy, nothing is permitted to tell them they can't have that.  From the viewpoint of the Mammonite wing, nothing is permitted to reduce the cash flow.  Look at trends in land tenure since 1950 and you see "only corporate ownership is legitimate ownership" very clearly.)   You're after an economy that creates not only a "this is better" feedback but a "we don't need them" feedback.  Get it out of the context of control of the authoritarianism -- let the authoritarianism collapse for lack of economic participation -- and then you can start the audits.

So, sure, defund the police.  But the human economy has to be there, too, or it shan't stick.


D. C. said...

Similar to the "going after wealth in steps" is the "going after police power in steps." Also, with better slogans; "defund the police" is too susceptible to redefinition by opponents. "Demilitarize the police will poll a whole lot better and incrementally reduce their opportunities to stage a coup.

Graydon said...

Anything is vulnerable to redefinition.

"Defund the police" is what the black folks most subject to police concluded to call it. And "fewer resources for causing harm" seems like as good a place to start as any.

(the police are not actually militarised; the police have ditched the notion of policing by consent, and gone tacticool in response. Not the same thing.)

D. C. said...

>>> the police are not actually militarised

You must have missed the news. Yes, they are loaded up with "surplus" gear such as APCs and RPG launchers. Fully functional.

I used to live in Joe Arpaio's county, and he loved to show off his department's APCs, AED-armored vehicles with belt-fed 12.7 mm weaponry,and grenade launchers. All provided by a very generous program from the Do"D" and some civil asset forfeiture.

We were supposed to be comforted by his ability to wage a civil war against drug gangs; quite a few of us were not under the illusion that his bunch would last a day against those boys. We know who the toys were supposed to impress.

Graydon said...

You're misunderstanding "militarised".

The police are not adding anything actually military to their organisational patterns; no fire and movement, no unit cohesion, no capacity to operate opposed. (We have been seeing a complete inability to do that!)

What you've got is effectively a bully gang; do what you're told or these guys come round from the boss and beat you/break your stuff/formally enslave you. Only they're stochastic bullies, doing it on their own recognisance and effectively escaping from civil control. (There's this big swathe of confederate politicians who consider the civil control part illegitimate.) To keep the bully gang compliant, you give them things the rest of the population can't have. (This is precisely the opposite of what happens with actual military; there, you generally de facto lose rights. Simplest example is unions; police have an organisation they control to advocate for them when subject to discipline. Soldiers don't.)

In the US, with firearms, "regular people can't have" necessarily gets pretty extreme; full auto, and vehicle mounted. It remains that to a first approximation the police don't know how to use any of it effectively and treat is as a status marker, rather than tools of the trade.

Is this a concerning trend? Damn betcha. Is it militarisation, the police more closely resembling formed combat units? (Particularly in "complex evolutions" and "cohesive central control" senses?) Absolutely not.

D. C. said...

I'd say we're in agreement on the substance -- the police are manifestly not operating as a (modern) military organization, nor taking steps in that direction unless you include some of the (much) earlier mercenary companies [1].

But just as "defund" has a technical meaning that does no good in a war of slogans,"demilitarize" has a colloquial impact that doesn't mean what the precise terms does [1]. What people are calling for is actually refactoring, not defunding, and as you point out not demilitarization either. But it works as a slogan in part because it's close enough to what activists want and far enough from what others fear that it might actually sell. "Refactor the police" is a total nonstarter.

[1] Complete with "foraging," come to think.
[2] I'm an engineer, physicist, and mathematician (yeah, degrees in all three.) Public vs. precise terms, ne'er the twain shall meet.

Graydon said...

"foraging" is totally a thing, yes. One of the signs of police operating as a protection racket; police concerned for Peelian principles are really intensely against that set of behaviours because it's not in their interests. (As it is in their interests if they're there to cow a subject population.)

If we're going strictly for slogans though, I still disagree with de-militarise, take away that stuff they got from the Army, as a slogan, the slogan to go for is disarm the police. Never mind the (intended) corrosion-of-civil-authority "armed group with a union" explanations or the white supremacy or all the other structural reasons; stick with "we don't trust these people with guns", and throw in clubs and tasers while we're at it.

One side benefit -- the people you get interested in working as police when the police don't have any firearms are entirely different. And possibly useful.

Moz said...

Look at trends in land tenure since 1950

In Australia we have "always" had a dual system of land tenure*. There's indigenous land ownership which is generally communal and traditional, and on the exact same land we have "squatters rights" at best, or just direct government control exploited via mining and pastoral leases. There's no pretense that the indigenous stuff is more than a pretense, with occasional "huge victories" like Mabo and Wik that lead to no meaningful change.

* in the sense that for as long as there has been a p[lace called "Australia" that has been the case. As QI keep reminding me on youtube, the answer to "who discovered Australia" is necessarily nonsensical, with QI opting for "the Chinese"*. Until it was unified by the British "Australia" did not exist as a coherent thing that can be named... so it was named *first*, then it became.
** a group that did not exist at the time of the alleged discovery. It seems likely that ships from China, Portugal and Indonesia visited Australia before it was "discovered", as well as at least two prior groups of settlers (the genetic evidence is tricky for ~50kya)

Graydon said...

+Moz there's absolutely that, but there's also the map you could draw of what percent of the mortgages in a given area are paid off. (And then you can weight these by the amount of money involved.)

Especially with things like reverse mortgages, "home ownership" turns into "advantageous (until you have to move or figure in the mortgage costs) rent rates", and it's only relatively advantageous, there's still a lot of cash extraction going on. It amazing how focused the whole thing is on forbidding capital accumulation by individuals.