A Primer on (Alternative) Institutions
A Future, if You Can Build It
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” We are facing off against a Goliath, an apparatus I can only call Blue Empire, which combines the powers of the Press, Tech, and the NGO universe with the funding of Wall Street and the legions of manpower and stamp of Science TM that Academia can deliver.
I have written before about the lack of meaningful organization against this force, and how the “I just want to be left alone” conservatives neuter themselves in the face of this Goliath slowly destroying everything these conservatives hold dear. The rest of the avenues for potentially meaningful challenges to Blue Empire have been subsumed or neutered as well. Libertarians are corporate bootlickers. Unions are corrupt. Identity Politics have been used as a bludgeon against any potentially dangerous anti-Neoliberal sentiment amongst the youth and the urbanites.
We are immersed in the world Blue Empire controls. Many of us know this, but few seem to grasp how to get out effectively. Building institutions is hard, especially building bottom-up institutions. Institution building without patronage remains difficult; however, it is not impossible. Resistance against hostile institutions requires changing the playing field. And changing the playing field in such a way you don’t get sucked back into Blue Empire’s clutches.
So how does one do this? How do we avoid screaming into the void and impotently raging against the machine? Why has nothing worked? I believe this stems from a misunderstanding of institutions, including what they are and how they form. On top of that, I believe people don’t truly grasp what must be done to get these institutions built and sustainable. So let’s talk about that.
So what is an “institution” then, smarta**?
At its most basic, an institution is a formalized network with assets (usually some amount of human, financial, physical, and social) consciously directed towards a goal.
It is important to understand the distinction between an institution and a network.
Networks arise “organically”. A bunch of people in a localized geographic area (or a connected virtual “area”) will begin to generate networks almost immediately. Trade, friendships, etc. These networks may be entirely transactional, or possess a deeper core to them (like a friendship). These networks are not consciously organized; they arise due to factors related to connectivity.
Institutions on the other hand, do not arise organically. They arise consciously. Institutions arise with a goal. Within the network, a group of people may wish to spread the word about some topic. They organize: they become a formally recognized network both internally and, hopefully for them, externally as well. This formally recognized network will have human capital to begin with, and will usually have some amount of physical and financial capital as well.
Before continuing, a brief aside to head off a misunderstanding I hear: understanding networks and institutions this way does not imply that everyone begins on an equal footing when networks are “first established”. We aren’t talking about some mythical state of nature here. Locke lovers, please exit stage left. Hierarchies form naturally and organically. Sovereignty occurs. All of this is entirely compatible with this delineation of networks and institutions. So let’s not get too off track with those kinds of critiques.
Anyways, returning to where we were, Institutions become powerful generally by maximizing as much of their capital as they can, whether that be human, financial, physical, and/or social. Generally, financial and social capital can be reduced to their effects on human and physical capital. Financial capital provides the resources to purchase access to amounts of human and physical capital; social capital allows the Institution to convince new human capital to join and bring their own social and financial and physical capital with them.
Forgive me for speaking in such dehumanizing terms about people; I am trying to lay out the groundwork of how institutions work, so you can understand how institutions break and otherwise fail. To grasp this, understand something:
Institutions rarely collapse. Instead, they are typically outcompeted.
Two Failed Strategies
Inoculation and Shielding. Both terrible. Why? Because neither one provides an answer. You cannot give your kids a “taste” of media. Or hide them from it. They will experience it. And it serves a point. Social Media is addictive, yet we keep using it even though we know how destructive it is. Media captures our attention when we know it shouldn’t. Everyone hates online dating yet its still widely used anyways.
You can’t just say “don’t use these.” They only exist because there are no widespread viable alternatives that provide the services they do. Outcompete, or die.
Hit ‘em Where They’re Weak!
Alternative institutions will only ever get off the ground and start being adopted if they fulfill at least one of the following 2 conditions:
They adequately answer a need that isn’t currently being addressed at all
They provide a better answer to a need that is currently being addressed but not in a sufficient manner
(We will discuss Phase 2 - surviving the onslaught of Blue Empire - next)
To understand this, you have to get involved locally (unless youre rich - in which case, if you’re reading this, pay me to be an advisor thanks :]). That means tapping into the networks you are involved in, getting involved in new networks, and listening. Figure out what needs to be done, what’s failing, what still needs to get fixed.
Understand two things:
one of the most critical parts of the early stages of institution building is establishing and nurturing social capital. Optics matter. Don’t be a bloody wignat.
Your organization must be fulfilling a need. It cannot be just another organization. Volunteering raking leaves will not do much, and will work far too slowly to challenge Blue Empire.
None of us are going to change the world, but we may be able to organize a few like-minded people to work on something for an hour each week.
In terms of Phase 2, you need two things:
Sufficient social capital to maintain support in the face of slander, lies, and gaslighting
Sufficient resolve to not give up in the face of an onslaught by Blue Empire
Understand something: Blue Empire’s major power comes from locking dissenters out of financially lucrative and socially desirable networks. Yes, some lawsuits fly. Yes, there is physical damage and intimidation, especially through their unwitting foot-soldier arms of Antifa and BLM. But their primary power comes from gatekeeping networks. That is what cancel culture, censorship, deplatforming all is. They control the flow of information. Even their allies in the Military-Intelligence sphere largely support Blue Empire through censorship and spying, not through secret police busting down doors (that may change, but we aren’t there yet…let us pray it never gets there). Blue Empire’s primary power is, therefore, social.
I wrote in my last piece about mediation and how, once you get local enough, the media cannot lie to you about something you can verify independent of the media. There are other similar effects (Gell-Mann Amnesia, for instance) as well. The lesson to be learned here is that you need to build sufficient social capital in your networks that the media is dismissed by people in your networks as liars even if those people aren’t part of your institution. These people will be told something by the media that clashes with their experience. Given sufficient social capital, your reputation will survive, and your network may even rally against the media for lying.
An important caveat: the media can spread lies about your institution outside of your network, and those other people, lacking experience dealing with you, will believe the media if they trust them. What this means is that much of the bottom-up institution building will have to be done in a kind of “Cell” framework. Formal institutions should be small and local and these small, local institutions (akin to “cells”) should communicate with each other in a broader network. This kind of organization provides greater resilience against Blue Empire attacks. Trying to fight force with force will do nothing. Blue Empire is orders of magnitude more powerful than anything we can muster.
What to Build? A Case Study
The obvious question now may be: so what institutions are weak? What should we build?
On a local level, you will have to discover the answers to those questions; however, there are problems that appear to be fairly widespread. While there are many of these problems, I would like to talk about a set of problems centered around K-12 education.
It is obvious K-12 education was doing exceptionally poorly for decades, and Zoom “classes” may have been the death knell for trust in the system.
I’m not here to hypothesize why the test scores haven’t gone up. At least part of that has been due to utter mismanagement by school administrations and a pedagogy that was bad when it was first introduced and that was over a century ago.
But again: wailing about a bad institution does nothing if there is no alternative to take its place. Want to cripple the stranglehold on our children’s education that Blue Empire has? There are quite a few ways for you to help, even if you don’t have children and have no desire and/or ability to teach.
Building a system that makes it easier to find and connect students with teachers/tutors. Imagine a Teach for America but for homeschooling. That should be the end goal. You can build platforms, apps, websites, etc. that can facilitate this. I am quite certain the legions of disaffected right/left/whatever-oids who somehow stumbled onto this blog have plenty of coding expertise amongst them.
Building a system that makes homeschooling *itself* easier. In other words, assist in curriculum building. My main point: the greatest tragedy of the internet is not the disinformation, but the disorganization. There are enough lectures, youtube videos, articles, textbook pdfs, etc. to teach absolutely anyone the entirety of K-12 and probably most of undergrad for most subjects. It is time we built a Knowledge Map: a collection of resources and guides on how to progress through the resources to go from from K -> 12 in any subject.
I also do not want to hear defeatism. There will be no “this cannot be done”. HBD sp*rgs crying about genetics will be yeeted. No blackpillers will be tolerated. I have no time for those who would rather wallow in defeat. I said in an earlier piece that if someone refuses to organize with you against Blue Empire it is because either they are naive enough to think no one will defect to B.E. or they are selfish enough that they envision a scenario where they would wish to defect for some gain. I should add to that: there is a category of terminally delusional individual on both the “Left” and “Right” who likes losing. They think being censored is a win. They do not want power because they enjoy being persecuted. It gives them some sense of superiority that they otherwise lack in life. None of these people are friends. These attitudes cannot be tolerated if one is to defeat Blue Empire.
Ultimately, this piece served two purposes:
To explain what an institution is (and how it is formed out of a network)
To explain why institutions rise and fall, and therefore how alternative institutions can be built and survive.
Education is a particular interest of mine, hence the focus, but it is not even close to the only problem that extends beyond local communities and plagues many people. Childcare, platforming/media sources, newspapers, etc. There remain many, many problems. But we have to start building. And we have to build well. Blue Empire is not going to fall because we whine on the internet. Theory is wonderful, but a single cobblestone path laid by a determined man will have a greater impact than every rambling we have sent into the void the past few years.
I intend to work more on policy and planning and building alternative institutions. I hope you will join me on this journey.
Hello, your thread regarding Wikipedia does not work, could you share what you wrote there. Is there anything being done about the disorganization of information on the internet? What happened to your knowledge map project? Also isn't Khan Academy a kind of knowledge map?