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I'm reading De Pony Sum's excellent list of demands for the protests, but I can't help but thinking none of these things will ever happen because it's just "not American." For example, eliminating cash bonds. You'd think that that exists because of special interests, i.e., private bondsmen, but I think it's just because of America's "tough shit" culture.

Which brings me to a bigger point, which as always, for me, is China. It would be nice if Taiwan, Singapore, or Japan became the new leading hegemon, all of which, despite their imperfections, are wonderful countries. But they can't, because the Asian method for global dominance is through sustaining larger populations than the West. And that award is going to China. The problem is that China is also a "tough shit" culture. Don't like that you're required to sit still in your chair from ages 2 through 18, "tough shit." Don't like everybody spying on you, tough shit.

Which then leads to a bigger point: Is the leading power in the world always going to be one that pushes the boundaries of brutality? The best state is the best value-maximizer, and that involves extracting the most value from its subjects with the least amount of cost. Renaissance Italy? The mafia or noble families might decide to seize your house. Ancient Egypt? Guess what: you lost your job and are now supposed to build these damn pyramids.

Another way of asking this is "does Moloch always win?" I hope not, but I don't have a lot of evidence for it. It's conceivable that the biggest/strongest polity will always be unpleasant for the majority of subjects, and the best plan is to be in the minority - either the lucky set in the hegemon, or in a smaller, satellite state.