Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Political Philosophy

Ghadafi as Philosopher-King

Mr. Kurtz's International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness anticipates Ghadafi's wish for an international organization for philosopher-kings--the practice of one would approach that of the other.  See a serious political scientist, Robert Putnam (an admirer of Tocqueville and Edward Banfield), on his conversation with the Libyan dictator back in January, 2007.  Putnam compares his visage to that of "the aging Mick Jagger."

There were some translation problems:  "Libyan history includes nothing remotely analogous to Rotary or Little League or the Knights of Columbus, so we settled on "veterans' associations" as the only intelligible illustration of my argument."  I thought Putnam was at Harvard, not Syracuse. 

By the way, the Edward Banfield website has been renewed, with downloads of several of his books, links to his writing, including his fiction, and others on him, such as Leo Strauss's praise of him.  Banfield is clearly one of the major political scientists of the late twentieth century. 

Discussions - 1 Comment

I like Putnam, that is a good article.

I am sure Ghadafi was something of a genuis and a creative and immaginative tyrant. He gave a hint at some questions of political science involving how far one can decouple from reality.

Ghadafi's personal stake in realism was small, his stake in his immagination was large.

This can be a winning poker is called loose aggressive. In financial markets it is called high beta, with the hopes of being high alpha.

So before you are too quick to say Ghadafi was an idiot philosopher, I think you have to realize first that somehow he came to power.

The world have mercy on a table or nation plagued by a loose aggressive player on a hot streak.

Allah be praised when he tilts and gives it all back!

Of course the line between the ideal of loose aggressive and tight aggressive is hard to walk.

My theory in the game of poker or the world of contracts, is that not everyone is playing for table stakes all the time. When folks aren't playing for table stakes things get interesting and quite dangerous for the less than nimble.

The problem is that Ghadafi really decoupled the game. There is no true philosophy or insight that can be gained from Putnam stranded in the desert and surrounded by AK-47's. The loose aggressive learns far more than the cautious tight aggressive, but if he changes the game and ruins all his feedbacks, then he is completly deceived for as long as he comfortably can be.

Loose aggressive is an extremely dangerous style to play well. Its actually some a highly immaginative calculation about how many people you can fool how much of the time. The more power or luck you muster the wider and wider you extend the calculation.

It was obvious to even the meakest tight passive player that Ghadafi was off the reservation and needed his bluff called.

To do good we must be undeceived. I call it my Texas holdem insight, and by illusion I think it has broad application.

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