Institutional Purpose Scrapbook

The purpose of institutions, obvious and hidden, are explored at my InsTic blog as they had been at and Scrapbooks there may get read in here. Meantime, new scribble:

2011 07 07 Distinguish between “institution” as something ancient, ubiquitous, possibly essential: marriage … and fiat institutions: where some political authority, like God, says, Let there be … a US Post Office! An FBI! A federal mint!
With the latter, in all cases, beware a series of attendant illusions:
1) if you’ve named something it’s real!

We have the name Baal, a god; if we say Baal, especially in a group, then Baal actually exists, has power, can be made to do our bidding. (So if we can print money, why we must be rich! If we have a hospital, we must be healthy!
2) if you’re spent money On something, especially other people’s money, coerced, forced, why then nothing more could possibly have been done: if you’ve spent billions and trillions on roads, well then there must be no traffic problem!

In other words a basic purpose of politically fiated institutions is to render us stupid, helpless, unfit for survival.

Nature selects for survival,
Man for appearance.


2011 06 19 On primary purpose of religion is to prescribe glib answers to hairy problems.
Societies with one dominant religion have it really easy. No matter what problem the medieval boy might have had, the priest had one analysis: “You’re thinking dirty thoughts!” and one solution: “Say a Hail Mary.”
You think Communism is better? No matter what problem the soviet has the party member can explain it to him: you lack trust in the inevitable overthrow of the bourgeouise by the proletariat.

Once upon a time the hungry could eat a leaf, eat a berry, eat a bug … The civilized person must want a slice of Wonder Bread.

2008 07 10

We must distinguish between natural “institutions” like “the family” — something biologically evolved, not politically mandated — and culturally or politically created institutions. Male and female allying and bearing children which they then care for is natural, not an innovation of the state. Dont’ confuse natural “marriage” with Hebrew or Roman Catholic or Baptist dogma on how males and females should unite.

(I do Not mean to suggest that nature is perfect or that we shouldn’t try to change what’s natural. Famine might be natural: that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to water the garden if we can. Of course all those things are complicated. It’s scarcity that’s natural, not famine. There was no famine before the invention of agriculture; merely not enough to eat. Famine follows from human interference and poor planning: over population, foolish irrigation …)

Further, we may also distinguish between institutions anciently established by cultures we can hardly trace, and recent political interference with both nature and tradition. I am not saying that the state we find ourselves evolved into should not be interfered with. Neither am I saying that tradition is better than innovation (or visa versa). I am saying we should be as clear as we can on which is which. Don’t let the deceivers palm yesterday’s politics onto the ancient culture, or the ancient culture onto nature as thus far evolved; or either onto today’s politically innovated institutions.

I believe we should be cautious with innovation; but not automatically opposed to it. I believe we should respect nature; without worshipping it as infallible.

Nature is no more infallible than God. And God is no more infallible than you or I: or the Pope.

Every institution has sleeves in which to hide trick decks
or cards un-messed with:
and total discretion over when which is employed.
Lying has an article on Why We Lie. Author Robin Lloyd relates lying to self-esteem: we all lie to protect self-esteem. We all do it: all the time.

People try on the truth like hats.
If they don’t like how they look, they don’t buy it.

Lloyd further related types of lies to gender: males lie as just summarized: to protect their self-esteem; females lie to make others feel better. pk expands: gender specializes different aspects of socialization: males lie to make themselves attractive (mating-related); females lie as social cosmetics: let’s all pretend that things are working better than they are.

pk also adds: if we’re lying, it’s no surprise; what’s astonishing is that sometimes some of us are NOT lying!

Good. But now, consider an important question:How applicable is the same principle — that ALL of us lie, without even knowing it — to our institutions. If the braggart lies to inflate his image as worthy, does not also … oh, say, the media lie to inflate OUR image? Doesn’t history lie? Doesn’t history SELECT which assertions about ourselves to keep repeating? Aren’t our “mirrors” more cosmetic than surgical? Etc. Etc. Etc.From that devolves an even more important question:How could we objectify our answers to that last question (including all of its cognates)?That is, if we’re all liars (and we are), could some method exist to reveal and tell the truth anyway?

All that needs development — if the state lies, if the AMA lies, if the bar lies, doesn’t the church also lie? — but not necessarily this minute.

2006 10 01

Cheating is a form of lying: apropos of the above, see this report: Cheating Is an Awful Thing for Other People to Do. Author C. Daniel Batson observes:

Moral language is really the language of victims. We use it more to condemn other people’s behavior than we do to motivate our own.

2002 05 05

My notes for expand far faster than can ever catch up with, not so long as it’s run by pk alone without adequate resources, but when I do an “institutions” notes search, this is where I’ll deposit the scrap for further processing.

2006 10 01

Speaking of that, I’ve intended to read Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy novels for decades, at least to sample them. This English major has long been weak on the Eighteenth Century. I had at least heard of his comic effect of taking “a hundred pages” to describe the circumstances of his birth and then calculating low long it will take him to bring the narrative up to date. Finally, I read it: last week or so.

Note around pk domains how regularly pk speculates or makes jokes about how maps and models tend to require more data than the thing being mapped or modelled. And if you have ever worked on a Rubix Cube you know that it can randomize in far fewer strokes than it can be solved!

2004 09 19

Apropos of centralized schooling, Kevin Carson ( writes:

… I guess you’ve read Paul Goodman’s *The Community of Scholars* on the ways a professional culture is imposed from the top down by boards of regents, and other representatives of outside power. If universities were self-organized learning co-ops of students pooling their own money to buy instruction in stuff they were interested in (or scholars’ guilds negotiating service fees with students), the institutional culture would be a lot different.

One note I put here rather than put it into the general notes data base:
Free Inquiry writes (in a current subscription mailer)”Many educated pastors harbor deep unbelief about their churches’ most basic teachings — but they are not sharing this secret with their parishioners”How is this different from the practice of any other institution? Do students have a clue how their teachers feel about compulsion in education? about grading? about keeping records of grades? about sharing that information with government? with industry? about the accuracy of school texts? Do students really believe that teachers prefer to have their salaries coerced from the public rather than contracted in a free marketplace? (There in the latter alas I suspect that most teachers DO prefer to have their tuitions stolen and handed to them.)

(Homeostasis [search blogs, all pk writing] applies with any organism (though some are far more calcified than others).)

2004 05 19

I recently read a nice distinction concerning institutions which I promise to digest better and to incorporate here: institutions are what we have: they’re the territory, not the map, the building, not the blueprint.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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