Saturday, 28 February 2009


'Augustine teaches us: the greatest part of virtue lies in the absence of opportunity for vice ...' Strip this down and it reveals an ethics based wholly upon happenstance. Cool, or what?

Friday, 27 February 2009

The Wealth of Nations

Smith's The Wealth of Nations always strikes me as a title that's been prematurely truncated. In some more truly prophetic alternate reality Smith wrote: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and How it Dissolves the Very Category of Nation.

Thursday, 26 February 2009


The folded corduroy of a fingerprint.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Says the reader

“I read to be shocked”—“wonderful! Because I want to shock you!” This is the wrong reply, of course; like the gag about the masochist asking the sadist to whip him an the sadist replying—“no!” A better answer would be: “but what you think will shock you, an excess of stimulation (as it might be, sex, violence, the abject) won’t actually. You are not aware of what will really shock you …”

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

On writing

Sometimes I read things that pierce me, like a sharpened pencil straight through the heart, in instant recognition. Here’s Hermione Lee on Katherine Anne Porter (LRB 12 Feb 09): “Like Lawrence, who she read with critical attention, she seemed not always to have known whether what she was doing was good or not, but to have written because she felt she had to."

Monday, 23 February 2009

Where is my mind?

Jerry Fodor's ‘Where is my mind?’ reviews Andy Clark’s Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action and Cognitive Extension, and really doesn’t like the thesis … broadly, that our minds extend into the world around us, and aren’t just contained in our heads. The view that, as David Chalmers puts it:
I bought an iPhone. The iPhone has already taken over some of the central functions of my brain … The iPhone is part of my mind already … [Clark’s book] defends the thesis that, in at last some of these cases the world is not serving as a mere instrument for the mind. Rather, the relevant parts of the world have become parts of my mind. My iPhone is not my tool, or at least it is not wholly my tool. Parts of it have become parts of me … When parts of the environment are coupled to the brain in the right way, they become parts of the mind.
Seems a reasonable case to me. But Fodor doesn’t like it. He takes a heuristic trot through one of Clark’s thought-experiments concerning Otto and Inga ‘both of whom want to go to the museum. Inga remembers where it is and goes there; Otto has a notebook in which he has recorded the museum’s address. He consults the notebook, finds the address and then goes on his way. The suggestion is that there is no principled objection between the two cases: Otto’s notebook is (or may come with practice to serve as) an “external memory”, literally a “part of his mind” that resides outside his body.’ Fodor asks himself: ‘so could it be literally true that Chalmer’s iPhone and Otto’s notebook are parts of their respective minds?’ He answers, no. But I don’t take the force of his objections. So for instance:
[Clark’s] argument is that, barring a principled reason for distinguishing between what Otto keeps in his notebook and what Inga keeps in her head, there’s a slippery slope from one to another ... That being so, it is mere prejudice to deny that Otto’s notebook is part of his mind if one grants that Inga’s memories are part of hers. That being Clark’s argument, the parity principle doesn’t come into it; which, as we’ve been seeing, is probably just as well. But it does bear emphasis that slippery-slope arguments are notoriously invalid. There is, for example, a slippery slope from being poor to being rich; it doesn’t follow that whoever is the one is therefore the other, or that to insist on the distinction is mere prejudice. Similarly, there is a slippery slope between being just a foetus and being a person; it doesn’t follow that foetuses are persons, or that to abort a foetus is to commit a homicide.
But this really is to miss the point. The analogy (since Fodor forces it) is not that Clark is arguing the brain is ‘rich’ and the notebook ‘poor’ and that these are the precisely the same thing; but rather that they both have something in common—as ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ have money in common—the difference being only that one, the brain, has lots of this (call it ‘mind’) and the other, the notebook, has very little. That seems fair enough to me. Fodor goes on to deliver what he takes to be a knockout blow:
The mark of the mental is its intensionality (with an ‘s’); that’s to say that mental states have content; they are typically about things. And (with caveats presently to be considered) only what is mental has content.
But lots of the data on my computer is ‘about’ things; indeed, arguably, the arrangement of petals on a flower is ‘about’ something (it’s about how lovely the nectar is inside; it’s about attracting insects). Fodor is surprised Clarke doesn’t deal with intensionality, but let’s say it’s a red herring and move on.
Surely it’s not that Inga remembers that she remembers the address of the museum and, having consulted her memory of her memory then consults the memory she remembers having, and thus ends up at the museum. The worry isn’t that that story is on the complicated side; it’s that it threatens regress. It’s untendentious that Otto’s consulting ‘outside’ memories presupposes his having inside memories. But, on pain of regress, Inga’s consulting inside memories about where the museum is can’t require her first to consult other inside memories about whether she remembers where the museum is. That story won’t fly; it can’t even get off the ground.
Fodor, on the evidence of this, has never heard of a mnemonic? Surely not. Or is he denying that the mnemonics I have in my mind are, somehow, not in my mind ‘on pain of infinite regress’?

Sunday, 22 February 2009


Look at this contemporary woodcut:

There goes Cramner, in a puff (in a series of roils) of smoke. Doesn't 'Frier John' look like an ugly customer, rushing in from stage left with his pudgy blob-disfigured head? But those aristocratic men in the front row of the seated audience ... surely they can't be baddies? And doesn't that scroll, unrolling from the martyr's mouth ('Lord receiue my fpirit') look lovely? The roils of smoke are drawn to resemble it, I'd say, as if Cramner is being martyred not by fire and smoke but by paper and the word. And the folds of cloth on the three seated gentlemen is part of the same visual logic (look at the sword hilt of the one nearest us: it looketh as if it be wreathed around by the sacred papersmoke).

Papersmoke might be a way of saying; 'fire cannot hurt the true servant of God; he is wrapped in curling paper, like a precious object, on his way to heaven.' But it might also be a way of saying: paper? Words? Even holy paper and words? It is as smoke. Everything, including the grace of God, is a transient thing, and burns.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Parting at Morning poem

The sun has extended a limb of light
Over the bright sea
Arm afflicted with the Parkinsonian tremor
Of the wind.

Friday, 20 February 2009


I was reading an essay by Edward Said called ‘Imaginative Geography and its Representations: Orientalizing the Oriental’ [in Race Critical Theories: Text and Context (eds Philomena Essed, David Theo Goldberg; Blackwell 2002, 16-17]:
Schwab’s La Renaissance Orientale [argues] … that “Oriental” identifies an amateur or professional enthusiasm for everything Asiatic, which was wonderfully synonymous with the exotic, the mysterious, the profound, the seminal: this is a later transposition eastward of a similar enthuisiasm in Europe for Greek and Latin antiquity during the High Renaissance. In 1829 Victor Hugo put this change in directions as follows: 'Au siècle de Louis XIV on était helléniste, maintenant on est orientaliste.’ A nineteenth-century Orientalist was therefore either a scholar (a Sinologist, an Islamicist, an Indo-Europeanist) or a gifted amateur (Hugo in Les Orientales, Goethe in the Westöstlicher Diwan) or both.
This has given me pause. Said seems to imply a straightforward shift from Greece & Rome to 'the Orient', with an implied equivalence between them. But these two things (and notwithstanding the extent to which 'Greece' was sometimes seen as an oriental culture, or at the least as the mediator between the West and the East) are surely quite different, and have quite different roles to play in the discourses of the west. In one root sense, for instance, classicism was constantly harping on one theme: that Greece and Rome are us (that the classics shaped us, that we are the direct inheritors of the classical tradition); whereas Orientalism is the utterance of a series of markers of difference, of otherness. Nor, despite that lovely Hugo quotation, was the C19th century the site of a shift from Athens and Rome to Arabia and China. Indeed I don't think that has even happened yet. If I were required to refute the assumption underlying Said's statement here and was permitted only three characters in which to do so, with the added constraint that I was not permitted to use any portion of the alphabet in my argument, I would say, simply: 300.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Kid Lear

I'd like to see a performance of King Lear in which all the parts, except the King himself, are played by kids. I wonder if it's ever been done?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


After quoting the archangel Michael's Miltonic talk to Adam, Max Weber opines:
Anyone can sense immediately that this mightiest expression of earnest Puritan worldliness, that is, valuing life as a task to be accomplished, would have been impossible in the mouth of a medieval writer.

Speaking in the full knowledge of the extent to which Weber's protestant ethic has shaped my own upbringing and worldview, I wonder whether the accuracy of this statement doesn't depend on how we define 'task'. In productive, material (let's say: capitalist) terms, Weber is right. But there are many varieties of tasks, not all of them material, and some of these would have been wholly consonant with a number of medieval worldviews.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

In Praise of Difficult Children

In the 12th Feb 2009 LRB a page-long piece by Adam Phillips with this title. And what is praiseworthy about difficult children?
When you play truant you have a better time. But how do you know what a better time is, or how do you learn what a better time is? You become aware, in adolescence and in a new way, that there are many kinds of good time to be had, and that they are often in conflict with each other. When you betray yourself, when you let yourself down, you have misrecognised what your idea of a good time is; or, by implication, more fully realised what your idea of a good time might really be. You thought that doing this – taking drugs, lying to your best friend – would give you the life you wanted; and then it doesn’t. You have, in other words, discovered something essential about yourself; something you couldn’t discover without having betrayed yourself. You have to be bad in order to discover what kind of good you want to be (or are able to be). One of the things you might have to discover is that some virtues are against the grain: it may not feel real to you to say sorry, or to be grateful, for example.
'You have discovered something essential about yourself; something you couldn’t discover without having betrayed yourself.' Does Philips really believe this? Which is to say, does he really believe that kids have actually to betray themselves to make this discovery? Doesn't he believe that kids, especially teenagers, have enough imagination (augmented by various aides-imaginations, books, video games, Goth and heavy-metal music and so on) to make this discovery without needing actually to transgress in the real world? More teenagers are well behaved, by and large, than ill-behaved; and many (I was one) wouldn't say boo to a goose.

Monday, 16 February 2009


I HAVE desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

Manley Hopkin's imaginative entry into a nun's yearning for quietude (as if a nun would yearn for such a thing! Why mightn't her heaven's be a raging passionate storm propelling her boat at exhilarating speed with the spray on her face? Still ...)

There is a deliberately judged syntactic play in 'Where the green swell is in the havens dumb', I think, as to whether dumb, there, modifies swell or havens; whether, indeed, it connotes silence or stupidity. Take the latter, for the sake of argument, and read back into the poem a critique of its death-drive quietism: 'hail' can be praise, as well as a meteorological phenomenon; blow means bloom but also the storm winds. Quite apart from anything, to take in the past tense (I have desired, I have asked) as if the desiring and the asking is now ancient history. To render heaven almost entirely in negatives, as to what is subtracted from the variety and colour of this existence ...

Sunday, 15 February 2009


Reading Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End (or the first chunk of it, the dotdotdottishly monkiered Some Do Not ...), I came across the following passage, in which Miss Wannop tells the aristocratic Tietjens that he has won over their yokel-Kentish coachman, Joel:

"You've got one admirer," she said to Tietjens. "'Punched that rotten strap,' he goes on saying, 'like a gret ol' yaffle punchin; a 'ollow log!' He had a pint of beer and said it between each gasp." She continued to narrate the quaintnesses of Joel which appealed to her; informed Tietjens that "yaffle" was Kentish for great green woodpecker ... [119-20]
Some of us, raised on this later masterpiece, wouldn't have needed telling. I don't think I realised how specifically Kentish Bagpuss was, although of course Postgate was a Man of Kent (I met him, when I was a teenager making films at school in Canterbury and he made a barn on his property available to us; he was thoroughly courteous). When UKC gave him an honourary degree he apparently declared that it was really for Bagpuss; but I prefer to think of it as the official acknowledgement of the academic standing of Professor Yaffle, full name "Augustus Barclay Yaffle".

My theory is that Bagpuss himself has aristocratic antecedents: he may be distantly related to Ralph-de-Bagpuis, a French nobleman who assisted William the Conqueror in his invasion of England in 1066 (the Oxfordshire village Kingston Bagpuize is, Wikipedia informs us, named after him).

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Rosetta Stone

Very lovely, qua artefact: the shark's fin of its top, the comfortable rubbed-away curve of its bottom-right. The solidity of stone and the precision and seeming-fragility of paper. In its secular, Western way it's an equivalent to another stone covered with mystic undeciphered glyphs from another world ... this one:

Click the image for a closer look. Apart from the swapping of the shark-fin from top right to top left, this is intriguingly close.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Truth as war

Giles Fraser's Against Innocence - Gillian Rose's Reception and Gift of Faith (quoted here) makes the case 'for what one might call the theology of the peace negotiator or mediator. Simply put, the mediator pursues a theology that refuses to accept that a disagreement can ever reach a point where there is no benefit to be gained from further conversation.' Rather strikingly he says:
To put it at its starkest: peace is better than truth.

The book as a whole, I take it, is a mode of unpacking that statement. But it's startling, because it seems to hover between the outrageous (as an assertion of a kind of quietism: 'I sacrifice the truth simply for a placid life') and the tautological. This latter may be the more interesting angle; for there are countless examples of conflict in which 'truth', on either side, actually means 'the token of our belligerent intransigence, the means by which we prolong conflict'. Clearly peace is better than that; it is tantamount to saying 'peace is better than war.' But then, as I think it through, I start to wonder about 'war' precisely as a gloss upon this complicated word, 'truth' ...

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Our only goal

Our only goal is growing old.

It's not necessarily a goal we set ourselves, of course.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

On SF, again

Le Courbousier (L'art décoratif d'aujourd hui, 1925): 'the lesson of the machine lies in the pure relationship between cause and effect. Purity, economy, the reach for wisdom. A new desire, an aesthetic of purity, of precision, of expressive relationship setting in motion the mathematical mechanisms of our spirit; a spectacle and a cosmology.'

I've been pondering this, because (obviously) there's a good deal of science fiction that aims for precisely this dubious 'purity'. But that's not the most interesting sort. Indeed, I wonder if it doesn't approach a definition of good science fiction to say that it seeks to repudiate Le Courbousier's aesthetic, here: to articulate precisely a machinic dirt, compromise and contamination.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Speed John Glenn

He lights a bonfire underneath
his metal minaret; a bigger fire
than all the world's bonfire together.

He rises with the downward sound
of many niagras, and the ice
shears off his fuselage in leafs and sheets.

Monday, 9 February 2009


According to Tarkovsky, 'art is by nature aristocratic ... we have almost entirely lost sight of the beautiful as a criterion of art: in other words, of the aspiration to express an ideal.' I scratch my head as profoundly over this statement as ever I did over the deeper meaning of Stalker or Mirror. Perhaps it is a problem of translation; perhaps he means something Nietzschean and moral-genealogical by aristocratic; something (paradoxically) visually concrete by ideal.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Holocaust denial

I'm surprised that people don't make the obvious point about holocaust denial: that it is motivated by an ideological ulterior motive so obvious that calling it hidden agenda seems foolish. The motive is the rehabilitation of the Nazi project, in the largest sense: I don't mean the posturing of 'neo-Nazis', I mean the assimilation of Nazism into the political mainstream. What is particularly significant is the increasingly general sense nowadays that only the holocaust stands between us and an ability to admire 'what the Nazis achieved'. Take the holocaust away, and the road is clear not only to a reassessment of the economic, social and military successes of Nazism, but (crucially) to a reinstallation of these perennially popular ideologies at the heart of contemporary politics. In other words, at the core of holocaust denial is not so much the refusal of the fact of the holocaust, as the belief that mass-murdering Jews was an 'eccentric' or 'non-central' feature of what Nazism was 'really' about. Holocaust denial is in fact a denial that this malign sun was at the very heart of the Nazi regime, and a contrary insistence upon a kind of extreme geocentrism in which Nazi evil orbits somewhere outside Pluto (for not even the most dyed-in-the-wool holocaust denier would deny that the Nazis killed some Jews...). To put it another way: what motivates holocause denial is a peculiar sort of intellectual regret. The regret is that Hitler 'spoiled' his splendid achievement with this 'atypical' hostility against the Jews; if he hadn't done so, then his ideas would achieve the general purchase they deserve. That, rather than the fatuous factual denial, is the most poisonous feature of the phenomenon.

This is idelogically strategic in several ways. One is that other Nazi crimes against humanity fade from contemporary culture; that Hitler becomes perceived as 'just another' ... let's say 'just another Napoleon' or 'just another Frederick the Great'. Another is the way the holocaust becomes a problem not in an intrinsic sense but in an interpretive one: something to be 'dealt with' in one way or another.

This, of course, is not to contradict but rather to reaffirm what Deborah Lipstadt says in her Denying the Holocaust -- The Growing Assault onTruth and Memory: "the central assertion for the deniers is that Jews are not victims but victimizers. They 'stole' billions in reparations, destroyed Germany's good name by spreading the 'myth' of the Holocaust, and won international sympathy because of what they claimed had been done to them. In the paramount miscarriage of injustice, they used the world's sympathy to 'displace' another people so that the state of Israel could be established."

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Two snow poems

Frost on the windows
had boarded-up the house.

Antique looking-glasses
Where pavements used to be.

The small surf stands still
on the lip of the tyre tracks.

A snowfall is about the
control of perception:
each cloud has a vested
interest in integrity

in trying to return
the world to a state
of perfect intactness,
of harmonious opacity.

Friday, 6 February 2009


According to Badiou, 'dictatorship is the natural form of organisation of political will.' Natural? Surely he's not refrying old Rousseau for us? Has he not seen the internet?

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Protest is Beautiful

A slogan I saw in Radical Philosophy (I think it was): Protest is Beautiful. But howsoever my heart goes out to that (protest is ... necessary, heartening, envirogirating, wonderful) I wonder if beautiful is quite right. Plato on 'beauty' nailed it, maybe. Beauty speaks to a deadening erasure of the particularities of life--to an other life, and afterlife rather than to here. Beauty is fascist. We need an livening gnarliness instead, a Gothicisim of the moral aesthetic.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Doll's Toy

'...the main writer of this distant age was called in English (his native tongue possessing a quite different and eye-bewildering alphabet) Doll's-Toy, perhaps in comical reference to the very large scale and scope of his big books. His novels were panoramic and sweeping, encompassing the degraded as much as the noble, something reflected in the fact that all his titles begin with a grunt or a verbal ejaculation: Wah! Rant Piss covers many decades, several nations and hundreds of characters, railing throughout at the excretory baseness of life; Ah! Knack Of Running Her is a pimp's account of how he managed a particularly successful prostitute.'

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


It's the t in the equations that dissolves the Platonic Idealist dream. Which is to say, the Platonist finds herself unable to leave it at 'I know that three pints of beer mean I;m no longer safe to drive home', or 'three biscuits is more than I need'; she has to add 'but where is three?' Three must exist, says the Platonist, independent of sandwiches or pints. Now, maybe we agree with this point; but it's a mistake to go on from that to say 'if it exists it must exist somewhere'; because that's what leads to the elaborate fantasy worldbuilding of the Realm of Forms (where? there!) as the location for this existence. Some things exist without location; some things exist but don't exist anywhere. We all know this; since things exist and then cease to exist in a particular place without ceasing to exist: that's how time works. Shakespeare exists, but not in any particular place. (The Platonists know this: not for nothing is the Realm of the Forms supposed to be timeless. Which always made me think: but then what are time-dependent things supposed to be modelled upon?)

Monday, 2 February 2009

Wasp in a Wig

Carroll's 'Wasp in a Wig' chapter (I've never been persuaded as to the authentiticy of the fortuitiously discovered proofs perporting to be this lost Alice chapter): one reason it was dropped is this Tenniel letter to Carroll (June 1, 1870):
…I am bound to say that the "wasp" chapter doesn't interest me in the least, and I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking – with all submission – that there is your opportunity.
Wikipedia reports the title was 'possibly a play on the commonplace expression bee in the bonnet'. Possibly, but I wonder if the allusion isn't more Aristophanic: 'wig', to a nineteenth-century individual, was as like as not to conjure up the image of a barrister. Maybe this suppressed piece cast a bewigged wasp as a Looking Glass sphēkes, the whole a satire on the legal world and its looking glass logic ...

Sunday, 1 February 2009

New model armies

Josiah Ober’s Democracy and Knowledge (Princeton 2008) (or, to be precise, this LRB review of it by David Runcimann) raises some interesting question. The premise is that ‘knowledge aggregation’ (the wisdom of crowds, infotopia, wikinomics) is a positive feature of contemporary life: ‘lots of people knowing many small things can result in a very big deal for everyone’. Democracy ought to be the paradigm for this, but isn’t. Modern democracies, unlike the successful bottom-up collective endeavours such as wikipedia, are not truly democratic: ‘they are not direct but representative, which makes them top-down keader-oriented popularity contests, not exercises in knowledge aggregation. Ober, though, argues that ancient Athens was precisely this sort of democracy, and that it owed its success as a polis to that fact.
Athens had many things going for it—philosophy, oratory, drama, magnificent buildings—but it was also a violent, faction-ridden, capricious, war-mongering slave-owning society, clinging precariously to its privileged position and regularly picking fights it couldn’t win. It doesn’t exactly sound like the Google (company motto: ‘don’t be evil’) of the ancient world.

Ah, but:
Josiah Ober is here to tell us that we have this last point completely wrong … Athenian democracy really was an open, flexible, dynamic and remarkably successful political society, able to marshal its resources and outperform its rivals. … Essentially his argument has two parts. First, he needs to show that Athens did indeed outperform its rivals to become the most successful polity of its age. Second he needs to show that this advantage was a direct result of its being a democracy, because as a democracy it was able to acquire, aggregate and codify knowledge in ways that its non-democractic rivals couldn’t match.
Ober thinks he can demonstrate both these points; Runcimann isn’t quite so sure. But it’s a fascinating, and of course relevant, question.

One thing it makes me think is the way political debates of the 1930s and early 1940s sometimes restated these premises. For instance, a good number of people believed that World War II was effectively a fight to see whether a democratic system could beat an authoritarian one. Fascists argued that democracy was necessarily riddled by internal contradiction; that for instance no democracy could focus the will to stay in a long, destructive and expensive war. On the other side the allies’ victory was taken by many precisely to be the victory of democracy over authoritarianism. We might object that the allies ran their democracies in pretty authoritarian ways—people who opposed the war tended to be silenced, or locked up, or if they disagreed vocally enough shot. But this in fact speaks to the effectiveness of ‘representative democracy’ rather than actual democracy to do things like, for instance, win wars.
Around 500 BC Athens got democracy, but less than twenty years later they also got lucky, and rich, with the opening up of a new group of silver mines in southern Attica which produced a substantial windfall profit for the state. … Ober weaves this big slice of natural advantage into his story of democratic achievement by pointing out that when the assembly had to decide what to do with the first influx of extra wealth it chose to spend it on building the navy that went on to defeat the Persians at Salamis in 480BC rather instead of distributing it among individual citizens. Compare and contrast, say, with Sarah Palin’s Alaska (admittedly one of the least plausible candidates ever for that hotly disputed title ‘Athens of the North’) With oil prices high early last year, Palin decided to use the extra state income to fund $1000 credits to every Alaskan to help with their fuel bills. Ancient democracies used their good fortune to take tough decisions in the common interest; modern democracies use it to bribe the voters with handouts.
I’m not sure about that last line (neither, as it goes, is Runcimann). But the article as a whole is very stimulating, and I’ve been wondering about joining up its dots. New e-democracy utpopianism is fuelled by new technologies that make it much simpler to canvas everybody’s opinion quickly and efficiently. One of the shaping ideological forces of the second half of the twentieth century is that democracy is not just ethically better than dictatorship, it is practically superior—viz. the number of wars fought between the two regimes and always won by the former. This is fair enough; and personally I’m very glad that the democratic allies won WWII rather than the fascists. But although armies from democratic nations (USA, UK) fought armies from authoritarian nations (Germany, Italy, Japan) and won, nobody suggested that the armies themselves should be run on democratic lines. There has never been in the history of humankind a properly democratic army; not even Cromwell’s new model force was that.

But why not? The obvious objection—that it would be impracticable to orchestrate the trappings of democracy, the hustings and votes, in the heat of battle—is rendered null by new technologies. The conceptual objection (that soldiers would tend to vote to run like cowards rather than engage the enemy) seems to me equally unfounded: the history of democracy suggests the reverse. Indeed, morale (military code for: making sure that feudal soldiers don't feel too much like slaves led by people who don't especially care if they live or die) would be much less of a problem; logistics would be easier -- new model soldiers would not specialise; specialisation is the bane of feudalism ... all would have net-access to enormous bodies of expertise, practical, medical, tactical, and all would weild it. They'd revolutionise warfare.

I'll write a book about it to show what I mean.