Defining Bioleninism

Setting out to defend the theory of Bioleninism, I found that we do not have a really precise definition. Spandrell set out the concept and discussion followed between those who “got it”. That means that they at least believed they had identified the essential features from the general description.

In order to broaden the discussion of the concept beyond those who immediately siezed on it, it is necessary to spell out exactly what the essential features are.

My proposed definition

  • Bioleninism describes the practices of an organisation
  • Members are preferentially selected for positions of power if they are members of social subgroups which have natural disadvantages
  • The preferential selection is overt, not covert
  • The members who are selected for positions of power on this basis are more reliably loyal to the organisation in its existing form than would be the case if they were selected purely on the basis of ability, because they would not expect to achieve similar status if the organisation were to be replaced or reformed.

The last point is Spandrell’s novel insight of a year ago. Surely an organisation that systematically selected the less able would suffer as a result and fail? The idea is that the extra loyalty that those selected have will compensate the organisation for their lesser effectiveness.

That eerily echoes an argument I put forward in 2012 as a defence of hereditary aristocracy:

The reason for the important people having hereditary peerages is that, when it comes to any kind of power, loyalty is more important than exceptional ability. That’s not to say that incompetence is OK, but if your system of government depends on having people of exceptional ability, then it’s broken. Instead take the most competent people from the pool of those brought up to privilege and loyalty, and if they’re not good enough to, say, run a car company, the solution is not to have a government car company. The Victorian meritocratic civil service was exceptionally effective, but it was a step down the wrong road. The motto of the civil service should be “Good Enough for Government Work” (what’s that in Latin?)

Is aristocratic government then bioleninist? That depends on the part of my proposed definition which remains vague: the “social subgroups which have natural disadvantages”. I left that vague because it has been vague, or treated inconsistently, in the discussions since November 2017. We won’t have a precise definition of bioleninism until we can pin down the concept of “naturally disadvantaged subgroups” more coherently.

Spandrell started out by describing what made the 20th Century communist regimes internally strong:
When Communism took over Russia and China, those were still very poor, semi-traditional societies. Plenty of semi-starved peasants around. So you could run a Leninist party just on class resentments. “Never forget class-struggle”, Mao liked to say. “Never forget you used to be a serf and you’re not one now thanks to me”, he meant.

In this arrangement, the peasant’s low status is not a natural thing, it is merely a social convention. But because it is such a widespread and long-standing social convention, the peasant can reasonably expect it to return if the regime falls. Therefore loyalty.

Bioleninism, in contrast, occurs in societies where the established norm is meritocracy:
If you live in a free society, and your status is determined by your natural performance; then it follows that to build a cohesive Leninist ruling class you need to recruit those who have natural low-status.

The term “Biological Leninism” implies that “natural low status” means actual biological disadvantage, such as womens’ lesser physical strength or some ethnic groups’ lower average intelligence. But there is also mention of “naturally repulsive” groups. Are transexuals really “naturally repulsive”, or is that a social convention? I’m not sure. This seems to be the blurry edge of the definition.

So, let me restate my definition with five points rather than four

  1. Bioleninism describes the practices of an organisation
  2. It depends on a cultural presumption that high ability is a natural qualification for positions of power
  3. Members are preferentially selected for positions of power if they are members of disadvantaged social subgroups, which by (2) means groups of lower average ability
  4. The preferential selection is overt, not covert
  5. The members who are selected for positions of power on this basis are more reliably loyal to the organisation in its existing form than would be the case if they were selected purely on the basis of ability, because they would not expect to achieve similar status if the organisation were to be replaced or reformed.

So that takes out feudalism as a bioleninist system, and concentrates it on the modern era where some concept of equality is culturally established. I think that makes it a more useful classification.


Bioleninism, Tokenism and the Apex Fallacy

Responding to the above criticism of the theory of Bioleninism is a useful way of clarifying the theory.

The essence of the theory is that a governing structure can gain stability by appointing to high positions members of groups with naturally lower performance, and that that process is advanced in current Western political systems.

“Natural” low performance is an especially controversial concept, but the criticism embraces it: “[women] are not contributing muscle to maintaining law and order to the same extent”

Whether the same applies to, say, homosexual or Punjabi firemen is debatable. I think the identification of sexually omnivorous firemen as the “wrong” kind of homosexual has a lot of merit.

As to Fulton County Sheriffs, a commenter who does not see Bioleninism as a force might well imagine they would “reconsider”, after the incident of a criminal overpowering a small female deputy and killing 3. A believer in the theory of Bioleninism would imagine the opposite. What’s the first link I see when I search “Fulton County Sheriff”? “A day on the job of Fulton County’s first female sniper“!  . It’s as if effectiveness on the job is not the dominant factor in appointments…

Emphasising the fact that there are still ethnic and cultural minorities in low-status positions is effectively the inverse of the Apex Fallacy  : That there is a phenomenon that takes members of some groups and promotes them to positions of power does not imply that it does not leave other members of those groups behind — even a large majority of those members. Bioleninism is a theory about who is selected for positions of power; those not selected can easily remain with the lowest status of all.

The most interesting alternative view is that Bioleninism appears to be happening but is in fact fake: “If women succeed in taking over half the posts in the cabinet… this just means that the cabinet have changed their role to that of national mascots.” We are looking at Tokenism, not Bioleninism.

Tokenism is absolutely a real phenomenon. It is a different category of phenomenon than Bioleninism, however. Tokenism is in principle an individual motivation. “I am pretending to promote this token person so as to get the reputational benefits of doing so, but I don’t really want to give them any influence”. Bioleninism is an emergent tendency of a political system. A movement which promotes the naturally low-status succeeds because they have loyalty to the system without which they could not possibly achieve the same status. (One of the conditions that gives rise to the phenomenon of Bioleninism is that any rival movement appointing naturally high-status people tends to suffer from problems of lack of loyalty. Other things being equal, it is better to rely on high performers than low performers).

The significance of an emergent tendency, as opposed to an individual motivation, is that nobody needs to believe in or even understand Bioleninism for it to happen. The individual motivations that produce the Bioleninist outcome can be quite unrelated: they can be some theory of Justice, or even be exactly Tokenism. It is a feature of any large movement that pretending to believe something is effectively the same as believing it. The attempt to pretend to believe a thing is what Scott Alexander called “Kolmogorov Complicity”, and he explains why it fails.  . A tight conspiracy of people who trust each other can have a secret agenda and a public agenda. A movement that has to compete in the public square cannot sustain the distinction for very long. If you claim loudly and dishonestly to believe that it is just to appoint women to cabinet, you will be succeeded within your movement by people who are not in on the joke.

A sceptic comments on Bioleninism

Note: The following response to Spandrell’s “Biological Leninism” was posted by one of this blog’s regular commenters in the comment thread of “Hollywood, and Media as a Business”. I’ve pulled it out, with the author’s permission, so that the question of evidence for or against Bioleninism can be discussed properly.


A Nonny Mouse says:

I read Spandrell’s rant with amusement, but object to his self-indulgent statement: Who is high status in the West today? Women. Homosexuals. Transexuals. Muslims. Blacks. Obviously this is false. The most that these categories of person can hope is that they enjoy the same status as white, Christian, heterosexual non-transsexual males, but that they enjoy a higher status than them simply is not true.

The conspiracy of evil fat black disabled women and transsexual Muslim paedophiles running our society strikes me as no more of a clear and present danger than the march of bodybuilding male nudists. Here in Merseyside we have not yet learnt to treat these classes of people as our rulers, but rather continue to isolate, pillory and demean them, as this video shows:-

The transsexual in question works in a charity shop, not yet having assumed executive power. I was approached by the evil ugly fat black woman yesterday, she asked me for spare change, which I did not give to her. I don’t think she enjoys a particularly high status in our society either.

You see, I am a bit of a Particularist myself. In Ceredigion we had an MP who was half Green and half Welsh Nationalist. My dream team includes people like this. Nor do I see myself as in thrall to the “slogans of the gone-and-forgotten proletarian revolutionaries”.

It would be indiscrete to name the Fire Brigade I worked for, but the Station Officer assured me he had been present when the visiting Margaret Thatcher (Finchley, Con) drank from a cup of tea around which every man in the Station had previously wiped his penis. From this we divine that there was quite a gulf between the ruling Conservative Party and the staff of this useful and necessary public service, but they were not exactly proletarian revolutionaries: one member was quite an enthusiast for the Liberal Democrats, I imagine the rest were satisfied with Labour. Their programme was quite mild and did not include Permanent Cultural Revolutions or liquidation of kulaks: it merely involved banalities such as the continuation of Emergency Services, the imposition of Fire Retardant Cladding, and permanent, pensionable full-hours contracts for Public Service workers.

This was well into the days of enforced diversity, Equal Opportunities and the like. As I recall, in a force of hundreds, we had on our books but three women, one who got pregnant and exited the force, one who, disabled from active service, was permanently on light duties and one who had taken and passed every single examination in Fire Fighting Tech and so passed seamlessly into administration.

Fire-fighting is a not only a male orientated activity, but one which attracts the less cerebral, more physical sort of male. Diversity meant there were White firemen, West Indian, Sikh and Muslim firemen but no Jews, Chinese or Hindus that I noticed.

There was one incident when a cleaning lady walked into a toilet and encountered a Station Officer sodomising one of the firemen. Curiously, instead of being promoted to encourage diversity, they were fired for outraging public decency. It seems to be the wrong kind of homosexuality, an opportunistic indulgence of dirty boys looking for fast, strings-free relief (encouraged perhaps by the intimacies of preparing cups of tea for visiting Home Secretaries), (the choice of the Fire Station for the activity indicating that they both led more conventional lives elsewhere), rather than the life long commitment with right-on demands for equality that constitutes political gayness.

Feminism I don’t see as that much of a threat because it is essentially bipolar and content free. On the one hand we have shrinking violets afraid of men photographing under their skirts, and on the other bull dykes who think they can run the S.A.S. They sort of cancel each other out. I was particularly impressed by a television programme on the unpromising topic of the interviewees for the position of Lighting Engineer at Royal Albert Hall. There were 350 of them, all male. To me this shows that ordinary men’s work—boring and unglamorous—continues to be done by men: it is only when it comes with high prestige and earning capacity that women start clamouring for equality.

If women succeed in taking over half the posts in the cabinet, then that means that the true seat of control lies elsewhere, business or the mafia perhaps. Certain roles, the models for Britannia or Hibernia for example, were always traditionally performed by women. This just means that the cabinet have changed their role to that of national mascots.

But the intrusion of women into the workplace is an ongoing, experimental process: initial enthusiasm often gives way to disillusionment. Either women can do men’s jobs, in which case we have to ask whether we were right to exclude them in the first place, or they cannot, in which case their candidacy will eventually be barred. A good example of this happened in Fulton Co, GA, which appointed as Sheriff’s Deputy a fat black 5́ 2 woman of 51 years and left her in sole charge of 6́ Brian Nichols (also black and extremely ornery) aged 33. He overpowered her, took her gun, and shot the judge and 3 others. One imagines that the appointments committee took notice and altered their practice. Allegations of sexism, sizeism and ageism should not be allowed to sway the appointment of Sheriff’s Deputies, though those of racism can still be investigated.

By contrast however we must consider the case of Det Con Hazel Savage, who obdurately and in the face of opposition from male colleagues insisted on digging up the property of Fred West, who had corrupted the male members of the force by giving them free rides of his missus.

So as I see it there should be an auxiliary female police force: I am prepared to believe that women can make better administrators (less likely to bend the rules) and better interrogators (I have some experience of male police interrogation, as perhaps do you). As the number of female police officers increases, the incidence of rape in the community declines, as does the incidence of workplace flatulence. But it is only in fictional police procedurals with science fiction bionic implants that they are better fighters than men, not because of a Cathedral conspiracy but because these things are written by women. So I still see them as auxiliaries and believe they should be paid less because they are not contributing muscle to maintaining law and order to the same extent.

It has taken considerable discrimination and a formidable colour-bar to maintain the existence of the Black population in the US. In Argentina, which once had slaves on the same scale as the US, only 149,493 (0.3%) out of a total population of 40,117,096 identified themselves as Afro-Argentine in 2010. At one time they were a third of the population in Buenos Aires. African DNA has disappeared into the general population through intermarriage, in the same way that Native American DNA has in the US. In Britain also, Windrush era immigration is in many cases no longer discernable in the current generation. So I would say that Spandrell’s objection to any persons of ebony hue enjoying the status they have earned when they are long standing citizens of the same country as him is an example of unacceptable reactionary bile. He does supply a good example of an undeserving case, but we cannot base a conclusion on a sample of one.

Note: The above response to Spandrell’s “Biological Leninism” was posted by one of this blog’s regular commenters in the comment thread of “Hollywood, and Media as a Business”. I’ve pulled it out, with the author’s permission, so that the question of evidence for or against Bioleninism can be discussed properly. My reaction to this post is “Bioleninism, Tokenism and the Apex Fallacy

Bitcoin as a Model Voting System

[note: this is the thread that I was in the process of tweeting when my account got locked]


Bitcoin is fundamentally a voting system. That is the clever bit. Answering “Did A transfer his funds to B?” is a trivial piece of public-key cryptography. “Did A transfer his funds to B before attempting to transfer them to C?” is decided by vote. How is that not terrible???

Reason 1 is that it’s costly to vote. That has to be better than letting any scumbag vote for free. But not that much better.

Reason 2 is that you are then rewarded for voting, if and only if you voted for the winning side.

What that means is that there is a huge incentive to vote for what you believe to be true. Trying to vote against it is bound to fail, because everyone else has huge incentive to vote for it, and because it will cost you big money.

Forget the fashionable silliness of applying “blockchain” to every problem. Think about applying “give people incentives to get it right” to every problem. Think about making “non-human value maximisers” out of people.

Related: are secret ballots the worst thing you can do to a democracy?