Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quantity controls on land use do not make infrastructure cheaper

This is based on a comment I made here.

The problem with zoning solutions for traffic congestion problems is that they do not work. Indeed, they are counterproductive since:

(1) the price effects of quantity controls on land use decrease the incentive to provide infrastructure, since the quantity controls provide easier revenue increases from higher land prices than does increased land values from providing (expensive) infrastructure (the reason to have government provide infrastructure in the first place, since it benefits from increased land values via taxes, unlike a private provider, so captures more of the increased value from the infrastructure so is more likely to provide it);

(2) they increases the cost of providing infrastructure (by making the land more expensive) and increases the resistance to providing infrastructure (by increasing resident activism to protect capital gains from rising land prices; there being a difference between being serviced by a freeway or railroad and being next to it). There is a reason land-controlled California gave us BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone): i.e. NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) on steroids.

Congestion charges (i.e. road tolls) work better if there are choices between modes of transport as how effective they are depends greatly on how much usage is responsive to price. They can be a useful part of any traffic management system, but are not a substitute for providing appropriate infrastructure. Which is why controls on land use can be so noxious: they actively frustrate appropriate provision of infrastructure.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rorty on truth

This is based on a comment I made here.

Matt Yglesias is a very clever guy, so it is sad to read him writing Rortarian mush. Yes, of course language is a matter of social conventions. It has to be to be language – that is, something used to communicate between sentient beings. If you do not know the operating social conventions, you cannot use the language.

But notice the cognitive slide involved in the term 'social convention'. It has that useful, to sceptical arguments, ring of "could be anything/it is just made up stuff". That any particular sound or symbol has a particular reference is arbitrary. That is why it is so hard to decode lost scripts. There is nothing in the structure of the universe that impels any connection between any particular sound or symbol and any referant beyond that which sentient beings give it.

But there is more to language than social convention. There is the whole realm of "meaning" – reference, connotation, etc. That 'water' refers to water is social convention. That water is wet is not. If language did not have the ability to usefully connect to the world, there would be no advantage to it.

But that utility is a consequence of such connection, not a driver of it. Nor is it an arbitrary or conventional consequence. The utility in "look out for that truck!" is a consequence of a connection between the statement and how the world is. And it is the ability of language to make and express such connections that make language useful. The connection is not a consequence of the utility, the utility being captured is a consequence of the connection and does not exist without the connection.

And whenever Matt Y explains what he means, he is making truth claims. Language is not possible without some concept of truth because otherwise no statement has any specific meaning. Every act of definition is a truth claim, a setting of connection.

Moreover, that a statement has utility does not mean it is true: lies can have utility. Being useful in general has no specific connection to being true. To have some specific connection between being useful and being true, including if one attempts to redefine truth in terms of utility, one has to define ‘being useful/having utility’ in some specific, restrictive way. When one does that, one will find that connecting to what is, is actually driving the restricting: ‘being useful/utility’ will not be adding anything to the process.

That statements are abstractions from reality, are about reality, so not the same as reality, and can never be complete representations of reality, is all true, but not a problem for truth: just overblown concepts thereof. Rortarian sceptical pragmatism obsesses over motive, distracts over convention and misses the underlying reality: which makes it archetypal post-modernism.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A History of Cambodia (2)

This is the second part of my review of David Chandler’s A History of Cambodia (2nd edition). The first part is in my previous post.

Between Thailand and Vietnam
The period when Angkor is abandoned by kings and rule shifts to Phnom Penh is very poorly documented. Likely, the rapid expansion of Chinese maritime trade under the Yuan and early Ming had something to do with the shift from an inland centre to a river port and what seems to have been a much more commercial version of kingship, particularly by the C17th. There were also regular wars between the Thai kingdom centred in Ayudha and Cambodia.

After being permitted to set up customs posts in the Mekong delta in the 1630s, the Vietnamese poured into the region, rapidly reducing the Khmer to a minority in what is now southern Vietnam, cutting Cambodia off from maritime access to the wider world. Increasingly, the pattern grew of Cambodia moving to a shifting pendulum of conflict and alliance between Thailand and Vietnam. Conflict with Thailand in particular seems to have been perennial, with the Thai capture of Lovek in 1587 being seen as a traumatic defeat for the Cambodians. This was also a period of increasing contact with Europeans, with at least one Cambodian king even promising to convert to Christianity if the Spanish would help him against the Thais. One Cambodian king converted to Islam, was defeated by the Vietnamese and carted off to Vietnam in a cage (Pp77ff).

From the late C18th to the mid C19th, Cambodia was a weak state oscillating between its more powerful neighbours Thailand and Vietnam. Succession disputes within the royal family would have aspiring would-be kings attempt to the support of one, leading to the incumbent king to seek the support of the other and successive invasions by both neighbours (Pp99ff).

This culminated in Vietnamese occupation and Cambodia’s (temporary) disappearance as a separate state. Chandler observes that:
Just as Jayavarman VII’s ideology can be compared in some ways to the ideology of Democratic Kampuchea, the first half of the nineteenth century bears some resemblance to the 1970s in terms of foreign intervention, chaos and the sufferings of the Cambodian people (p.117).
Thai and Vietnamese forces fought over Cambodia, with Vietnam essentially attempting to incorporate Cambodia from 1834 to 1847, being defeated by Thai military power and how different Cambodian society and rulership was from Vietnamese patterns. The reign of Duang (1848-1860) saw Theravada Buddhism and the Cambodian kingship restored, although a kingship subservient to the Thai monarchs Rama III and IV (Pp123ff).

Enter the French
In 1863, Cambodia became a French protectorate. Up until 1906, Cambodia was self-governing. After Sisowath’s coronation in 1906, French control intensified. In its last period, 1941-53, the French were reduced to trying to retain their position under pressure from Thais (France and Thailand fought a brief war, which went well for Thailand on land but badly in the sea and air), the Japanese and agitation for Cambodian independence (Pp 137ff).

The picture Chandler paints of French colonialism is of a colonial power that never understood the society it was administering; a colonial rule which was very much, indeed increasingly, driven by its own internal dynamics. As Chandler observes:
… the volume of reports required by residents, and consumed by their superiors in Phnom Penh, Saigon, Hanoi, and Paris, increased dramatically. Residents, more than ever, were tied down to their offices, presiding over a two-way flow of paper; they were seldom in contact, socially or professionally, with the people they were intended to protect. In automobiles, tours of inspection became speedier and more superficial, for residents and their aides were confined to passable roads. In fact, the intensification of French economic and political controls over Cambodia, noticeable throughout the 1920s and after, was accompanied, ironically, by the withdrawal of French officials from many levels of Cambodian life (p.152).
Much of the revenue seems to have gone to support a colonial bureaucracy that was mostly concerned with revenue collection (and one technique of said rule was to supply plentiful free opium to the reigning kings [p.149]). Competence in Khmer declined among French officials (p.156).

There were some rationalising campaigns such as abolishing “slavery”—a campaign pursued without much sign of understanding the role bondage played in the economy and society, nor how to replace its functions (though a cynical view would be that there was in fact a deliberate intention to disconnect the local elite and replace them with French officials: either way, it provoked a major popular revolt in 1885-6 [Pp144-5]). But there was not much concern with, for example, suppressing brigandage in outlying areas (p.155), providing any education, electricity or similar C20th intrusions (p.156). They did succeed in creating a small, French-speaking intelligentsia whose aspirations they mostly frustrated and many of whom, ominously, picked up Sorbonne/Ecole-style Marxism.

Comparing the post-colonial experience of South-East Asian countries, clearly it was much better to be subject to British colonialism (Malaya, Singapore: though Burma is a bit of a black mark), retaining independence (Thailand) or Dutch colonialism (Indonesia) than suffering French colonialism (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam). This was not merely a matter of the direct colonial experience but also what framings your post-colonial elite imbibed. Even given the drag the Permit Raj has been on Indian economic growth, clearly it was better to have your post-colonial elite be Oxbridge/LSE-educated by such as Harold Laski than Sorbonne/Ecole-educated by Louis Althusser and his ilk. But Western intelligentsia criticisms of “colonialism” rarely consider the responsibility of folk such as themselves for post-colonial disasters.

From the 1930s, a sense of Cambodian nationalism began to arise among the small, French-educated elite. Including Saloth Sar (better known as Pol Pot) whose elder sister was one of King Monivong’s concubines (p.162). But, up until the fall of France in 1940, no doubts were offered by French officials about the permanence of French control: there were certainly no policies directed at a post-French rule future (p.164). The experience of French weakness from June 1940 to October 1945 changed everything:
By the end of 1945, Cambodian independence, impracticable and almost unthought of in 1939, had become primarily a matter of time (p.165).
In April 1941, a shy young prince, Norodom Sihanouk, became King: he was do dominate the country and its politics for most of the next half century (p.167).

The French continued their “improvement” projects, including an attempted replacement of the Khmer alphabet with roman letters; one of the first acts of Cambodian government after the Japanese pushed aside the French in March 1945 was to rescind this decree:
… as so often in Cambodian history, what the French saw as self-evident improvement in the status quo the Cambodians saw as an attack on the essential character of their civilisation, defined in part by what had been passed down from Angkorean times (p.170).
At Japanese request, King Sihanouk declared Cambodia independent. There followed a brief period (March – October 1945) when patriotic politics operated openly: along with the beginnings of anti-French guerrilla resistance. By 1946, Cambodia was once again a French protectorate, the French having control over defence, foreign affairs and finance, with the Cambodians promised the right to a constitution and to form political parties (p.172).

The re-imposition of French dominance turned out to be temporary. While Cambodia largely avoided the guerrilla warfare that convulsed Vietnam it (though the Thai government did finance anti-Japanese and anti-French guerrillas along the Thai-Cambodian frontier [p.174]), along with the rest of Indochina, became independent.

From what Chandler writes, it is clear that the model of modern statehood the French provided was little connected to the wishes or perspectives of the general populace, still less concerned with service delivery. It was marked by “rationalising” projects that arose out of the framings of the officials, not the needs, wants and perspectives of the ruled. This was an ominous model to impart.

Becoming independent
In the years prior to independence, political parties formed. Politics rapidly devolved into the Democratic and Liberal Parties, both led by Princes. The former proved to be much more electorally popular, leading it to a position to make the Constitution as it wished. Sihanouk resisted, eventually being able to achieve complete dominance over politics by effectively turning Cambodia into a one-Party state under his control, starting with his June 1952 French-assisted coup against his own government. In the lead-up to Sihanouk’s seizure of power, the Democrats faded, various right-wing groupings organised and the guerrilla movement transformed into the Cambodian Communist Party eventually led by Saloth Sar (Pp173ff).

Having achieved political dominance within Cambodia, Sihanouk then led the campaign for independence. In October 1953, the French caved, granting Cambodia control over its defence and foreign policy while the lack of fighting in Cambodia gave Sihanouk’s delegation a strong position at the Geneva peace conference. Sihanouk’s government, the French and the Vietnamese communists all agreed to freeze out the Cambodian communists (Pp184ff). As for the last:
For several thousand of them, 1954 marked the beginning of a “Long March” that that would take them to exile in Hanoi, not to return to Cambodia until the 1970s when almost all of them were killed by U.S. bombing, Lon Nol’s army or internal Communist purges at the instigation of Pol Pot, by then the leader of the Cambodian Communist party. A few hardy survivors of this group were given cabinet positions in the post-1979 government of Cambodia (p.186).
The story of Cambodia thereon is a countdown to disaster and its aftermath.

Sihanouk dominated Cambodian politics until 1970, treating the Cambodian people as his children, dissent as treachery, engaging in endless hard work, weaving a path between Americans and North Vietnamese, trying various (generally unsuccessful) economic schemes and eventually retreating more and more into making films he starred in and directed (Pp186ff).

One dynamic was that commercialisation basically meant more wealth to the Chinese and Sino-Cambodian minority: the association of “capitalism” with ethnic difference encouraged state-driven economic policies (p.201) even beyond confidence in state action being so much a dominant theme in intellectual and policy debates at the time.

After Sihanouk
In 1970, Sihanouk’s own Assembly (whose 1966 election he had failed to supervise with his normal care, giving priority to a major state visit by President de Gaulle [p.194]) voted him out of office and installed Lon Nol as Chief of State. Sihanouk retreated to exile in China and made common cause with the Cambodian Communists, who began to steadily win the civil war that now broke out in earnest. This culminated in the total victory of Pol Pot’s forces (Pp204ff).

For three-and-a-half years, Pol Pot’s surreal regime tyrannised, destroyed, slaughtered and starved: about a million Cambodians, or one in seven, of the population died. Chandler manages to tell the bizarre and horrid story in dispassionate language. Eventually, Pol Pot’s revolutionary hubris provoked a Vietnamese invasion, which rapidly subdued most of the country and installed a puppet government, to the relief of the vast majority of the population (Pp209ff). In all the appalling global record of Leninist tyranny and slaughter, Pol Pot’s regime remains the epitome of utopian madness: of the attempt to transform people and society by totally centralised control, heedless of human cost, aimed at creating the “final society”.

In the second edition, Chandler concludes with a chapter on post-Pol Pot Cambodia, up to 1991 (Pp227ff). So the edition does not include the UN intervention, the the 1993 restoration of the monarchy and a multi-party democracy. Hun Sen, one of the leaders brought to power by the Vietnamese invasion, remains PM; having been such since 1985, the longest-serving head of government in South East Asia. With Cambodia once again a monarchy, those elements of continuity in Cambodian history that are so much a part of Chandler’s narrative manifested again.

Precisely because the details of Cambodian history are so limited for so long, Chandler is forced to concentrate on patterns. Even better, he does so in a way that is clear, perceptive and revealing. Throughout the book, he keeps the reader well informed on the sources used and available. A History of Cambodia is a useful and enlightening work of history.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A History of Cambodia (1)

I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in why Buddhism and won out over Hinduism in South-East Asia, when matters had gone the other way in India. She loaned me David Chandler’s A History of Cambodia (2nd edition) which a Quaker friend who had worked in Cambodia had told her was the best history of Cambodia.

And a fine history it is too.

The Introduction sets out several themes of Cambodian history: from the mid C18th onwards, the effect of its location between Thailand and Vietnam; the relationship of C20th Cambodia to its past; the “pervasiveness of patronage and hierarchical terminology in Cambodian thinking”; and the inertia of a largely peasant society:
Until very recently, alternatives to subsistence agriculture and incremental social improvements of any kind were rarely available to most Cambodians and were in any case rarely sought, as the outcome could be punishment or starvation. In the meantime, crops had to be harvested and families raised as they had been harvested and raised before as they had been harvested and raised before (p.2).
This social inertia encouraged a myth of “changelessness”.

Given my interests, this caught my eye:
the spread of Theravada Buddhism (and its corollary, Thai cultural influence) diminished the importance of the brahmanical advisers to the kind and broke down the influence of brahmanical families who crowded around the throne looking for preferment. In Angkorean times, these families controlled much of the land and manpower around Angkor through their connections with royally sponsored religious foundations. As these foundations were replaced by wats (Buddhist temples) the forms of social mobilization that had been in effect at Angkor diminished in importance; so did extensive irrigation. The two or three annual harvests of rice that had been reported at Angkor diminished in importance came to a halt. The elite undoubtedly grew less numerous as a result (p.3).
That brahmin power and wealth depended so much on royal patronage would clearly be very important in explaining how a series of Buddhist dynasties and kingships replacing Hindu ones would lead to religious change.

It is striking to learn that Cambodia’s population at independence was four times the size it had been when the French originally took over (p.5).

Continuity seems to be the main theme in Cambodian economic history: a peasant subsistence economy based particularly on wet rice with a persistent technology and, prior to colonisation, exports largely limited to what grew wild in the woods—notably rhinoceros horn, hides, ivory, cardamom, lacquer, and perfumed wood (Pp6-7).

People who knew how to make pots lived in caves in north-western Cambodia as early as 4200BC. Skulls and human bones from c1500BC suggested they looked much like modern Cambodians, given recent infusions of Chinese and Vietnamese bloodlines. Khmer is likely a very old language, dating back in its local origins thousands of years. A certain conservatism:
perhaps, is characteristic of a subsistence-oriented society, in which experimentation can lead to famine and in which techniques of getting enough to eat are passed from one generation to another (p.10).
Likely continuing elements in Cambodian life and thinking across thousands of years are:
the village games played at the lunar new year; the association of ancestor stones (nak ta) with stones, the calendar, and the soil; the belief in water-spirits or dragons; the idea that tattoos protect the wearer; and the custom of chewing betel, to name a few (p.11).
. But lots of continuity does not mean there has not also been considerable change.

Indian Asia
The first set of revolutionary changes being Indianisation; the adoption of aspects of Indian life and thinking over a thousand years of Cambodian history, likely starting around two thousand years ago. Cambodians came to dress in Indian styles, eat with fingers and spoons, carried goods on their head, wore turbans and skirts, use Indian forms and styles of musical instruments, jewellery and manuscripts—living and acting more like Indians than like their neighbours the Vietnamese. One scholar suggested it was a matter of a common “monsoon culture” converging on Indian models (Pp11-12). Up to about 500BC:
India provided Cambodia with a writing system, a pantheon, meters for poetry, a language (Sanskrit) to write it in, a vocabulary of social hierarchies (not the same thing as a caste system), Buddhism, the idea of universal kingship, and new ways of looking at politics, sociology, architecture, iconography, astronomy, and aesthetics (p.12).
Cambodia was thus very much part of “Indian Asia”.

This being a process of neither conquest nor colonisation, Cambodia’s relationship with India lacked the angst that characterised Vietnam’s response to China. It seems to have been very much a process of Cambodians adopting what worked for them; the caste system never took root in village life and its use at court seems to have been more a ritual respect for Indian traditions than anything more substantive (Pp12-13).

For the first few centuries, written sources about Cambodia are almost entirely Chinese, and so filtered through Chinese framings. Remains of a port active in C2nd and C3rd—which include Roman coins and Indian artefacts—suggest trade between and with India and China, likely including warehousing facilities. The port likely declined in the C4th and would have been a useful conduit for Cambodia exports of forest products, such as elephants, feathers, wild spices and the products listed previously. How developed or centralised a political authority underpinned this is still an open question (Pp14ff).

A crucial feature of social dynamics is that:
People, rather than land per se, are needed to cultivate wet rice. … as well as the low density of the population in the entire area (always excepting Java, Bali, and the Red River Delta in Vietnam), it is easy to see why throughout Southeast Asian history overlordship and power were so often thought of and pursued in terms of controlling people rather than land. … territory per se (mere forest in most cases) was never as important as people.
Indeed, the notion of alienable ownership of land, as distinct from land use, does not seem to have developed in traditional Cambodia. Land left fallow for three years reverted to state control. The king, theoretically at least, was the lord of all the land in the kingdom, which meant he could reward people with the right to use it. Many of the Cambodian-language inscriptions from the Angkorean period … dealt with complicated quarrels about access to land resources (Pp.16-7).
Land-controlling, land-dispensing kings whom brahmin families were dependant on, plus no caste system for brahmins to administer, left them in a much weaker position than their Indian equivalents. If the kings switched to Buddhism (particularly Theravada Buddhism), then the brahmins had little or no basis for social power.

It is likely that, in the first 8 centuries A.D., Cambodia was divided into lots of small states with a local king and elite, operating both as Indian “universal” kings and local Cambodian chieftains, their power resting on their perceived ability to provide protection, both practical and divine (Pp17-8).

In this period, Hinduism and Buddhism both flourished in Cambodia, operating similar notions of merit and reward across a chain of lives. Localized religious cults seemed to have stressed community welfare:
for without communities to perform the work, irrigated rice cannot be grown (p.19).
A concern that, at least one location (Ba Phnom) included an annual human sacrifice to a consort of Shiva at the beginning of the agricultural year, this continuing to occur as late as 1877 (Pp18-19).

If land use was granted by royal authority, and private landownership was unknown, then genealogies mattered less:
Because genealogies were not maintained in Cambodia, except among the elite, the nak ta, or ancestor people, had no family names. They became the symbolic ancestors of people in a particular place, or by dying in a place they came to patronize its soil. Nak ta in inhabited sites could be spoken to and tamed; those in the forest or in abandoned places were thought to be more powerful and more malignant (p.19).
There is much similarity with the kami of Japanese Shinto. But a similar sensibility pervades animism generally and feeds easily into polytheism. Chandler is surely correct to suggest that Hinduism was more likely to adopt and blend with such sentiment than confront it. Indeed, the nak ta could become gods during periods of high Indianisation while the gods could blend back into ancestors when such receded (Pp19-20).

The first dated Khmer-language inscription was incised in 611, the earliest Sanskrit one being carved in 613. For centuries, the two languages served different roles: Sanskrit spoke in prose and poetry to the gods, Khmer (always in prose) to the people. Sanskrit was the language of poetry, praise and merit; Khmer of the founding of temples and temple administration (such as how many slaves were attached to a particular place, inventories, duties and protective curses). Recording land grants on stone provided recognition and protection while curses sought to protect the same. Sanskrit was the language of those few “rescued from the mud” as Khmer was of those whose rice-growing labour supported all (Pp21-2).

Chandler then tackles the vexed issue of what knjom (usually translated as “slave”) meant. Wherever land has been more plentiful than labour, bondage has been a normal social mechanism to extract a usable surplus. But how much, in Cambodian usages, we are talking of slaves—full property who were bought and sold—or some sort of bondsperson or “serf”—bound to a place, is not entirely clear from the available evidence and may have varied considerably (Pp23ff).

It is likely the region remained a welter of small principalities. Indian notions:
seem to have played a prominent role in molding and directing these societies, perhaps because ideas of this hierarchical kind were useful in legitimizing the extraction of surpluses more or less by force (p.27).
Or, at least (if one accepts a recent critique of the notion of legitimacy) providing a common framework for expectations.

Having set out the themes of Cambodian history and its beginnings, Chapter 3 moves on to Kingship and Society at Angkor, the most architecturally dramatic period of Cambodian history. Conventionally dated by historians as 802-1431, Chandler points out that Khmer-speaking peoples had inhabited the Angkor region for centuries; that the royal city was briefly re-occupied in the 1570s; that Buddhist statuary continued to be placed there every century to the C19th; that the latest inscriptions date from 1747; and that:
When the Angkor complex was “discovered” by French missionaries and explorers in the 1850s, Angkor Wat contained a prosperous Buddhist monastery inside its walls, tended by more than a thousand hereditary slaves (p.29).
(Though ‘bondsfolk’ is likely a better translation of knjom in this instance: as for any shock to our sensibilities about Buddhism or monastic life, there were Christian monasteries in Western Europe supported by bondsfolk up until the late C18th.) Still, the dates are useful because:
they mark off Cambodia’s period of greatness. At various times in those six hundred years, and only then, Cambodia—known in its own inscriptions as Kambuja-desa—was the mightiest kingdom in Southeast Asia, drawing visitors and tribute from as far away as present-day Burma and Malaysia as well as what were later to be Thai kingdoms to the west … these periods of systematic domination were infrequent and relatively short (p.29).
One gets the distinct impression that Southeast Asian rulership was more fluid, and embedded in less dense and resilient institutional networks and connections, than was the case for Latin Christendom in the same period. There was also clearly no warrior class even vaguely equivalent to knights, samurai, azadans, mamluks, or even iqta or similar: these are not medieval societies in any useful sense of that term.

It is also worth noting that the notion of ‘tribute’ was likely often a particular way of framing trade relations (such appears to be a feature of Chinese history, for example).

Even during the Angkorean period, the historical sources are seriously limited (Pp29ff). Historical inference has to be gleaned from inscriptions, made for particular purposes and often referring to events decades or more earlier. The likely third Angkorean ruler (Indravarman r.877-889) followed what seems to have been (or became) a conventional pattern of building: irrigation works, followed by honouring of his parents and capped off by creating a temple-mountain (Pp37-8).

His son, Yasovarman (r.889-c.910) created the royal city at Angkor (Yasodharapura as it was known until the C14th) and was the first of the grandiose temple builders, bespeaking ability to command considerable labour resources (Pp39ff).

A succession of kings either rejected or (more commonly) extended the Angkor complex. Chandler examines Angkorean kingship through the prisms of the king’s relationship with Shiva, their public role as hero of Indian epic and their connection to everyday life (Pp46ff). While Cambodia stopped short of importing the Indian caste system, the vocabulary of varna provided a way of framing the radiating patterns of patronage through which kings ruled (p.48).

Manifesting the fluid religious framings, the largest Angkor complex—Angkor Wat—was dedicated to Vishnu (Pp49ff). Chandler suggests that Angkorean rulership was, in its close relationship between water management, priesthood and temple foundations, was much like that of Pharoanic Egypt and Mayan Guatemala (Pp53-4).

Jayavarman VII, who was crowned in 1181, shifted the dominant model from Hindu to Buddhist kingship. Where Hindu kingship focused on the king as the fount whose approval all sought, Buddhist kingship celebrated the king’s merit manifested in his compassion for his subjects:
Put very starkly, the difference … resembles the difference between a monologue that no one overhears and a soliloquy addressed to an audience of paid or invited guests. A “Hindu” king’s rule was an aggregation of statements—rituals, temples, poems, marriages, inscriptions and the like—and his grandeur and godliness. A Buddhist king made similar statements, but he addressed them, specifically, to an audience consisting of his people. This made the people less an ingredient of the king’s magnificence … than objects of his overwhelming compassion, an audience for his merit-making and participants in his redemption (p.58).
Jayavarman VII’s dramatic break with the past seems to have been connected to the traumatic Cham invasion of 1177 and 1178. Having defeated the Cham in battle prior to his coronation, he spent his reign of about 30 years essentially turning Cambodia from a Hindu kingship to a Buddhist society. He seems to have been a man in a hurry, imposing his personal stamp on Cambodia more than any other ruler before modern times (Pp58ff). Chandler notes some ominous parallels in:
his break with the past, his obsession with punitive expeditions, the impetuous grandeur of his building program, and his imposition of a national religion rather than his patronage of a royal cult (p.69).
The only feature of Angkorean life:
singled out for praise by Democratic Kampuchea was precisely the full-scale mobilisation of the people that Jayavarman VII, but very few other kings, managed to carry out (p.69).
He was a devotee of Mahayana Buddhism. Over the next 50 years, Mahayana Buddhism gave way to Theravada Buddhism as the dominant Cambodian religion. While we know that missionaries from the Mon-language parts of Siam, Burma and Ceylon played a role, the reasons for the shift are unclear, though the lack of inscriptions at Angkor during this period imply an interaction between political and religious upheaval (Pp68ff).

A Chinese traveller, Chou Ta-Kuan, wrote an account of his visit to Angkor in 1296-7, by far the most detailed picture of everyday life and appearance at Angkor. Brahmanism, Shaivism (whose followers Chou calls ‘Taoists”) and Theravada Buddhism co-existed. The former seem to have been largely an official class while Shaivism was clearly in decline—monastic Shaivism disappeared entirely after Angkor was abandoned, though Indian cults persisted. Chou was struck at how accessible the king was, with his twice-daily audiences (Pp71ff).

This review will conclude in my next post.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Against the notion of malinvestment

This is based on a comment I made here.

I do not like the Austrian concept of "malinvestment" because what is or is not a good investment depends very significantly on larger economic conditions. What is a great idea in New York may be a really dumb one in Port-au-Prince. If you are going to make any sense of the notion of "malinvestment" it is that unwarranted monetary expansion misleads folk about the future path of economic activity. As conditions change, investments based on such unwarranted expectations are "exposed" and need to be liquidated to free resources to go to more valuable uses.

But suppose one slides into (in compete contradiction of Austrian value subjectivism) the notion that being a "malinvestment" is an intrinsic quality of an investment. Then the level of economic activity become irrelevant to the level of "malinvestment". So, you can happily advocate any amount of restrictive "adjustment" because the level of "bad investments" wasting resources is set.

Conversely, if you understand that what is or is not a good investment depends on economic conditions, then driving down income expectations does not "release" resources, it increases (potentially considerably) what becomes a non-returning investment. Such restrictive adjustment is a "cure" which is, in fact, more of the disease. Thus does poor analytical terminology leads to bad policy thinking.

Austrian or quasi-Austrian thinking is much stronger in American conservatism than British (or Oz) varieties, which may help explain differences in policy debates.

ADDENDA It appears that Swedish economist Gustav Cassell was way ahead of me (by about 80 years).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monstrosities of nature

Went to a paper at Melbourne University by Francois Soyer on Monstrosities of Nature: Demonic Possession, Ambiguous Gender and the Inquisition in the Early Modern Iberian World which, after putting the Inquisition in context, concentrated on the Portuguese Inquisition’s 1741-4 Maria Duran case.

Maria Duran was a runaway Catalan housewife (she left after her husband contracted syphilis) who went off and became a dragoon officer in the Spanish cavalry. She then turned up as a nun in a Portuguese convent where she had sex with various of the nuns. Her case was referred to the Inquisition. She was arrested in 1741, and interred for two years in solitary confinement. She was then questioned, tortured, tried (the trial record extends to 800 pages, one of the 47,000 trials carried out by the Portuguese Inquisition from its founding in 1536 to its abolition in 1820) and sentenced to 200 lashes and exile. After the sentence was duly carried out in a 1744 auto-de-fe, she disappears from the historical record.

There was witness testimony that she had been examined by a doctor, and found to be “a simple woman” but nuns and other women testified that she had a penis when she had sex with them—some of this recorded testimony was quite graphic. Given the lack of said penis when medically examined, the possibility of a demonic pact had been considered: it was all too hard for the local Church authorities, who referred the matter (and Maria) to the Inquisition. During the period of examination, she was re-examined by a doctor hired by the Inquisition and also made to stand naked in warm water to see if relaxing the muscles would make the alleged penis appear.

The Inquisition decided there was insufficient evidence to accept that any pact or demonic possession had occurred, that there was no sodomy—as no penis—but that she had told the nuns to not tell any confessor about what they had done: this was the crime she was found guilty of, publicly whipped and exiled. The actual details of her crime were not read out, this was felt to be too embarrassing.

Prior to going through the case, Francois Soyer took us through the origins, remit and operating procedures of the Inquisition. Both the Portuguese and Spanish Inquisition were arms of the state (the king appointed the Inquisitor-Generals) staffed by men of the cloth who enforced Church doctrine. They arose out of the problem of the conversoes; determining whether the forced converts were true Christians or not (since, having publicly accepted Christianity, apostasy was not permitted, so there was no going back).

Sexual concerns (homosexuality, bigamy, bestiality, solicitation of sexual favours by priests in the confessional) developed after the 1545-63 Council of Trent. Homosexuality was “sodomy” or “the abominable sin” (so awful, it could not be named). It was part of a demonic plot to destroy Christendom itself, with the example of Sodom and Gomorrah providing warning of what God would do to a society that tolerated it.

The Inquisition used torture but, as it was staffed by men of the cloth, it was not supposed to draw blood, so used bloodless tortures (which included what is now known as ‘waterboarding’). There would also be a doctor present, to ensure the torture did not go too far. A person could only be tortured once, but that was got around by “suspending” torture sessions rather than officially ending them. The auto-de-fe, held annually, were grand spectacles meant to both terrorise and educate. The Inquisition did not actually carry out punishments themselves: the guilty person was “relayed to the secular arm” but it was Church doctrine that was being enforced.

Francois Soyer found striking that, in 350 years (the Spanish Inquisition ran from 1480-1834), the procedures do not change: inquisitors were asking the same questions in its beginnings as they were in its final days. This was a society and an institution where ‘novelty’ was a bad word. The operations of the Inquisition were highly codified. For example, three denunciations were required for arrest: but they could be years apart. The Inquisition had a network of agents to provide information. Charges read out to the arrested person would be stripped of identifying people and place and, once arrested, people would essentially have to prove their innocence. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of trials resulted in guilty verdicts (though not necessarily on all counts).

The Inquisition tended to be sceptical of accusations of demonic possession, it required proof. Exorcism was only likely after such evidence was accepted, particularly if the person renounced the alleged pact. Medical evidence also tended to trump witness statements. The Inquisition was also much less likely to find people guilty of witchcraft than other areas in Europe, such as East Anglia in the 1640s, or parts of the Holy Roman Empire. (Due its insistence on evidence.)

In its own terms, the Inquisition’s concern was for the prisoner’s welfare: their salvation. But it was their welfare not as they might conceive it, but as Church doctrine conceived it. So, the initial examination was put in terms of, having heard the charges, did the person having anything they wanted to unburden themselves over. Reconciliation with the Church was always the first option.

The Portuguese Inquisition recorded about 5,000 denunciations for homosexuality, leading to about 500 trials. Overwhelming, those denounced or tried were men, and generally foreigners. (Makes one wonder if local mores of masculinity was what was being enforced.)

Recolhimento were religious houses for women held to be vulnerable and in danger of falling into prostitution and where they could stay in hopes of reformation (marriage, employment as a domestic, going to a convent). Husbands leaving to go overseas could leave their wives there. Maria had spent some time in one.

‘Hermaphrodites’ (which covered a range of conditions) were accepted as part of nature: what one was supposed to do, however, was pick a gender and stick to it. Failure to do so would attract the attention of the Inquisition.

Francois Soyer’s reading of the evidence of the nuns and other women who had sex with Maria Duran is that they were confronted by having the sex—especially her (to put it mildly) “aggressive” mode of operation—with a woman and concluded she had to be a man (hence the penis) and the devil had to be involved. Maria Duran had previously attracted the attention of the Inquisition over passing as a man: the Spanish Inquisition had merely given her a strict warning not to do it again. But the Inquisition records included details about how she managed to pass as a man—binding her breasts, having a gourd full of water in her pants she would release against a wall, publicly fondling the breasts of women.

I enjoyed the presentation and subsequent discussion, though I was struck by the way the academics and graduate students present had difficulty talking about the gender, sexuality and natural law theological issues. It is not that they said anything silly or stupid, it was just a general diffidence and awkwardness. Admittedly, I have done a fair bit of reading in all three issues: still, it was striking. A useful reminder that, like the nuns confronted by Maria Duran’s sexual predation, dealing with things outside your normal framings can be difficult.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cultural panic and the economics of riots

Striking events such as the recent England riots provide opportunities for all sorts of attempts to “explain” the events (in this case riots) in terms of whatever “cultural panic” framings one finds congenial.

Fortunately, riot and civil unrest has been the subject of some quantitative social science, which allow us to develop analysis based on actual empirical evidence.

Economists Jacopo Ponticelli and Hans-Joachim Voth have produced a paper (pdf) on whether fiscal austerity (i.e. budget cuts) lead to social unrest, examining the European evidence from 1919 onwards. The short answer is they do find quite a strong connection between budget cuts and riots and other form of civil unrest. Tax increases have little connection to civil unrest, but budget cuts do, independent of other changes in GDP. They also find, unsurprisingly, that a propensity to civil unrest is associated with higher levels of public debt. Given other evidence that budget cuts have little association with loss of votes, their suggestion that expenditure is higher to buy social peace seems plausible.

There is, however, an interesting complication in that the effect disappears from the late 1980s onward: in other words, the period of the “Great Moderation” in economics and the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989-91. That they find that strongly democratic societies (where there are considerable restraints on the executive) show less propensity to riot and civil unrest give reasons why the latter might matter.

They also find that strong levels of media penetration are not associated with increased civil unrest. So, standard “cultural panic” explanations such as de-regulation/“neoliberalism”; high levels of welfare spending; mass media are all “contra-indicated”, as social analysts say. (A useful summary and short discussion of their findings is here.)

Also contra-indicated, it would appear, is the fiscal austerity explanation as the connection disappears from the late 1980s onwards. That, however, OECD countries generally have experienced the biggest collapse in nominal spending since the 1930s, a return to 1930s conditions might lead to a return to 1930s patterns, given that the authors find a strong connection between budget cuts and civil unrest across the rest of the period. Though fiscal austerity was clearly not the only (or even dominant) cause of civil unrest.

The Ponticelli and Voth paper seeks to answer the question: “what connection, if any, is there between fiscal austerity and civil unrest?” and deals only with European cases. A paper (pdf) covering a much wider range of cases, and testing standard economic explanations of riots, was produced in 1994 by economists Denise DiPasquale and Edward L. Glaesar (i.e. after the 1992 L.A. riots): Glaesar has a sensible opinion piece based on their findings here.

They find (completely unsurprisingly) that riots are urban phenomena associated with higher levels of urbanization. (In particular, bigger cities are at more risk.) They also find that ethnic diversity and high levels of unemployment are associated with riots while homeownership makes them less likely to occur but does not affect their intensity once they start.

Lacking a job or not owning a home obviously gives folk less to lose from rioting while concentrated populations are more likely to achieve the necessary "critical mass" of people who believe they can “get away with it”. The Ponticelli and Voth finding that budget cuts do have a connection to civil unrest, but tax increases do not, fits in with the DiPasquale and Glaesar findings concerning unemployment and homeownership. Basically, the sort of people not inclined to riot—employed homeowners—pay taxes while the sort of people much more inclined to riot—unemployed renters—receive government expenditure.

The ethnic diversity effect fits in with Robert Putnam’s findings that ethnic/cultural diversity lowers social trust. An effect likely to be particularly strong if ethnic group A is, in effect, policing ethnic group B (e.g. a predominantly white police force policing a black area): an incident of perceived police brutality is a classic riot-triggering event.

DiPasquale and Glaesar found that migration and poverty are not associated with rioting, though lower GDP per capita countries are more likely to have riots (presumably because there are more people with less to lose). Dictatorships are less likely to have riots: which suggests that the Ponticelli and Voth finding about fiscal austerity not leading to civil unrest in Europe since the late 1980s is less about the spread of democracy and more about general economic conditions. (There may also have been less funding and activist support for causing trouble in non-communist states.)

None of this “proves” why a particular set of riots happen. But they are highly suggestive. What they suggest is that the 2011 English riots are classic ethnic-diversity, unemployment and police failure riots: a combination which is easily enough on its own to explain why the riots occurred when and where they did.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences.

How do you judge a political party? From their rhetoric? From their behaviour in legislatures? By their activists? By their voters? From their policies?

The Greens: Policies, Reality and Consequences edited by Andrew McIntyre seeks to analyse the Greens in terms of their published policies. The Greens are not a “Party of Government”, they are not seeking to get that nth marginal voter that will give them a Parliamentary majority. So that may make their policies less important (since they are not likely to be implemented) but more revealing (on the grounds that they more unreservedly express their “world view” uninhibited by the need to establish a very broad appeal). Conversely, precisely because the policies matter less, folk may be more willing to let “indulgences” of particular individuals or sub-groups through the internal selection system, which would make the content of policies less indicative of the Party as a whole.

The Greens are, however, a “Party of coalition” in that governments have relied on their votes in Parliaments to form effective governing majorities—as is the case of the current minority federal Labor Government. That makes their policies more important, if they actually drive what they seek in negotiations with the Governments they support.

So, policies are unlikely to be a basis for a definitive analysis of a political Party, but they are some sort of basis for analysis: if even only what sort of policy “discourse” is (at some level) acceptable within that political Party.

The Greens provides a series of critical analysis of different Green policies from people with a range of expertise and perspectives of broadly liberal-conservative outlook. As is normal with such anthologies, the quality varies somewhat (particularly the balance of irritation versus information). Still, the picture is not reassuring for anyone who has been following the serious policy debate over the last few decades. Indeed, the Greens policies come across as the losers in those debates getting together and assuring each other that, in a just world, they would have won. That the Greens apparently disregard historical experience is a recurring motif of critical comment by contributors.

According to their polices, the Greens love the UN, hate Israel, distrust (or worse) private sector provision and have complete confidence in public sector control and provision—particularly in education and media. Whether their policies will actually lead to better environmental outcomes may reasonably be doubted.

A stand-out contribution is David Price’s withering critique of their indigenous policies: “maximising past failure” is a pithy summary (Pp60-5). David F. Smith’s piece on farming is both informative and devastating (Pp83-8). But Jim Hoggett’s piece on logging (Pp89-95), Walter Starck’s piece on fishing (Pp96-101) and Alastair Watson on water policy (Pp102-7) all give further reasons to think that Green policies would either make environmental results worse, or otherwise be not worth the costs.

Another continuing theme is that, according to Green policies, ethics means (government) control. Garth Paltridge’s piece on science policy brings this concern out particularly strongly: their proposed policies would make it even easier to squeeze out inconvenient science (Pp122-6).

The analyses in this volume collectively give good reason to think that Green policies would not make Australia a better society, even in environmental management terms. Which leads back to the original question: how much can we judge a political Party by its published policies? Whatever the practical answer to that question, a political Party is surely inviting itself to be judged by the policies it publishes, which this volume does in an informative way.

One quibble: the Greens do not have a “controlling majority” in the Senate (p.1). They control the swing votes, but that only makes them powerful if Labor and Coalition vote differently. If either abstains, or if they vote together, the Greens have no power to determine the outcome of votes: always something to keep in mind when people complain about the power of third Parties.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Post-modern conservatism

A friend who is a registered wizard (no, really) used the term “post modern conservatives”. The term niggled at me until I decided he was onto something. Which led to this post.

What do we mean by ‘conservative’? If it is to be more than just a “boo” word, then it surely means people who are in favour of conserving things. This makes it more a sentiment than an ideology. One sceptical of change, with an attachment and loyalty to already existing social patterns and structures. The intensity of scepticism, and of the attachment and loyalty, may vary but the general contours of conservatism are clear enough.

Which means conservatism is very much a matter of context. There is a huge difference between being a Soviet conservative c.1990, a conservative Muslim or an Anglosphere conservative; let alone the difference between being a continental European conservative in 1750, 1850 or 1950. A contemporary American conservative would be a raging (even radical) liberal across many contemporary societies, let alone past ones.

A conservative traditionally defends and resists. Defends what exists and resists attempts to seriously change it. Which leads to Hayek’s famous criticism of conservatism, that it lacks a vision of the future, that conservatives were doomed to being pulled along in an overall direction set by others.

But this is a peculiarly Western and modern criticism: the notion that society has a dynamic, a direction of change, is not one that would have occurred to most people in most times. It points to the fundamental dilemma of Western conservatism: that Western civilisation is, by far, the most dynamic of human civilisations. So, what does it mean to be a conservative in a civilisation whose most defining characteristic is its dynamism? What is seeking to conserve, what is one being conservative about?

The squabbling alliance
The dynamism of Western civilisation has deep roots. What became Western civilisation began in the squabbling alliance of Church and (mostly Germanic) warlords after the ruin of the Western Roman Empire. It rests on the triad of the preserved or rediscovered leavings of Graeco-Roman civilisation—the Classical heritage with which Western civilisation constantly re-engages; most dramatically in the Carolingian Renaissance, the Renaissance of the C12th, “The” Renaissance, and the Enlightenment—the Judaeo-Christian tradition of monotheist revelation and Germanic cultural notions, ultimately derived from the steppe origins of the Indo-Europeans, of contractual individualism (arising out of such cultural patterns as oath-bound warriors, patrons and clients bound in protection-and-service relations, binding rituals, common sagas, display and hospitality feasts, and guest-host connections).

Trying to make do in the ruins of a collapsed Empire and fading civilisation, Church and warlords experimented and adapted, creating a very new institutional framework. Latin Christendom was not a particularly inventive civilisation, in the technological sense. Genuine European inventions prior to c.1500 may well be restricted to the Archimedean screw, distilling and the camshaft/gearshaft. But they were highly adaptive; adopting and adapting any vaguely useful technique or technology that came their way.

Where they shone was creating and re-creating institutions: modern Western societies have far more institutional heritage from the medieval period than from the Classical. To take a simple example, bonds are an invention of Latin Christendom—specifically, the Serene Republic of Venice in 1171. The notion that the thousand years of medieval Europe was all a stagnant “Dark Age” is a profound nonsense: that one can look at the frozen, soaring motion of the cathedrals—the tallest human structures between the Great Pyramid and modern skyscrapers—and imagine this was a stagnant society is a case of not seeing what is in front of you.

Western civilisation is the transformational civilisation. Latin Christendom transformed the world twice over. It created global history by, for the first time, connecting all the continents to each other so that (albeit erratically and slowly) all parts of the globe became aware of each other. In the words of Adam Smith:
The discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind.
The profound cognitive shocks involved to Latin Christendom from what its adventurers, explorers, merchants and missionaries discovered helped spark the Scientific Revolution and turn Latin Christendom into Western Civilisation. It then transformed the world again, with the Industrial Revolution. It is not only a profoundly dynamic civilisation, it is one of increasing dynamism. So what does Western conservatism rest on?

The conservative dilemma
This history of dynamism means that the Western conservative dilemma is pervasive. For example, conservatives are typically concerned about protecting family life. But Western civilisation—due to the strong formal rights and obligations of the Classical heritage; Germanic notions of oath and other relations which can equal (or even trump) kin connections; and the Church’s highly restrictive consanguinity rules (at one stage, people could not marry anyone they shared great, great, great, great grandparents with: this made so many marriages notionally incestuous that the Lateran Council reduced it to sharing great, grandparents in Canon 50)—is the least family-and-kin oriented, the most formal-connection upholding, of civilisations; a major factor in its dynamism.

That Edmund Burke has become a conservative icon expresses nicely this dilemma of dynamism. For Burke was not a Tory, he was a Whig. Indeed, it is not clear in what sense he is a conservative. He (albeit somewhat reluctantly) supported the American Revolution; his impeachment of Warren Hastings was a manifested critique of exploitive imperialism; as a Whig, his was the politics of consent and social contract, not the Tory politics of tradition and order. Adam Smith commented that Edmund Burke was:
the only man I ever knew who thinks on economic subjects exactly as I do, without any previous communications having passed between us
and Adam Smith is very much a figure in the classical liberal tradition.

[Read the rest at Skepticlawer. Also cross-posted at Critical Thinking Applied.]

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Voice, exit and virtue

Political scientist Xavier Marquez has proposed a suggestive political triad building on Albert O. Hirschmann’s analysis of exit, voice and loyalty.

Marquez suggests that right-liberals (including libertarians) focus on exit as their preferred response to problems of domination, that left-liberals focus on voice while serious conservatives focus on ensuring any existing domination is a legitimate one.

So, right-liberals favour market solutions:
in great part because they think that whenever such markets work well, they enable some people to escape from particular relations of potential domination: to leave jobs, or to switch products, or to escape oppressive social conditions, etc. The competitive market functions here as an ideal of exit, even if actually existing markets do not always work as advertised. … Domination, from this point of view, is captivity, and freedom is primarily understood as the ability to exit a relationship.
Analyses of the power of competitive jurisdictions fit within this pattern.

left-liberals (and other people on the left, though not all) are often far more enamoured of democracy than the dinghy realities of actually-existing democracies would seem to warrant, with their refractory electorates, poor quality deliberations, capture by organized minorities, etc. This is not necessarily because they are blind to their failings, but because their default solution to the problem of domination is to increase voice – more consultation, more deliberation, more organized representation, and the like. They find voice itself desirable, and understand freedom partly in such terms: to be dominated is to have no means of affecting the direction of a relationship, to be voiceless, and to be free is to have input into the relationship, to have a say, which in turn legitimates a relationship. … Democracy is the normative ideal of voice, just as competitive markets are the normative ideal of exit.
Marquez notes that, as unrestricted exit tends to undermine voice, the partisans of voice are typically sceptical of exit solutions. Exit tends to undermine voice by undermining the incentive to use or organise for voice as well as the resources available to do so: particularly if the more articulate and better-resourced are disproportionately those who leave.

If folk on the left are partisans of voice, this helps explain why "left-liberals" often end up being so concerned to regulate speech either formally (anti-hate speech laws, speech codes, etc) or informally (denunciation): if "voice" is your preferred mechanism to change social outcomes, then it is a precious resource to be husbanded and used with maximum effect. It also likely, as Xavier Marquez suggests, to lead to strong concern about who has access to the mechanisms of voice and how it is used. This notion of the normative importance and power of voice can be taken further and become a view that changing the language can itself fundamentally transform human and social relations.

Either way, elevation of the power of voice segues into a demand that certain voices (or at least certain uses of voice) be ostracised or blocked. Voice-as-mechanism comes to trump voice-as-manifestation-of-autonomy. Reaction to such outlooks generates the various critiques attacking the intolerance of the ostentatiously tolerant and the ad hominem abusiveness of the conspicuously compassionate: the tendency to accusation parading as argument familiar from so many comment threads. (Charles Krauthammer amusingly characterised this tension as "conservatives think liberals are stupid, liberals think conservatives are evil". A nice example of criticising Keynesian economics being taken as a failure of moral character is cited here.)

Modernism, post-modernism
A tendency towards ad hominem abusiveness attacking the motives and moral character of those who disagree flows from further steps in the process of elevation of voice. Voice is a manifestation of belief: one typically uses voice in accord with one’s beliefs. So good and proper beliefs lead to “correct” uses of voice, those that promote social harmony (or whatever the designated goal is). Harmful or wrongful beliefs lead to "incorrect" or "wrongful" uses of voice, those that inhibit the designated goal or goals.

[Read the rest at Critical Thinking Applied.]