Vouch Nationalism

I just Googled the phrase “Vouch Nationalism”, and there were no results.

I want to start something new.

This is my gift to the world on my 56th birthday.

I propose that if you want to legally own a gun, the easiest way for you to do this would be to to have ten law-abiding adults with spotless records (including when they were minors) vouch for you. If you choose not to go this way, the state can come up with more onerous rules to incentivize people to form and maintain ties with upstanding citizens if they want certain privileges.

If you want to have a kid with generous support from the state, you should have to have ten law-abiding adults vouch for you and your spouse.

If you behave badly with a gun, or your kids behave badly so that they become a burden for the state, those who vouched for you should have to pay a stiff price.

If you want to have kids without anyone vouching for you, you should have to pay an extra $10,000 a year in taxes as social insurance.

When I renewed my passport in Australia, I had to get a fair dinkum Australian who was not family to vouch for me.

We’re too individualist a society. We need to go in a more corporate direction. Vouching might be the way to go. If people don’t want to get the required number of vouches, then they should have to endure the onerous consequences.

If you want to drive a car, you should have to get ten adults with clean records to vouch for you, and if you become a social hazard, those who vouched for you should be on the hook to clean up the mess.

Big cities may want to up vouch requirements given that anti-social behavior, particularly with guns and cars, may have more devastating effects on more people than those who live in isolated areas.

With vouch nationalism, people will be strongly incentivized to build and maintain ties with others. People should be allowed to withdraw their vouches at any time (and thus reduce the penalty that accrues to them if those they vouched for behave badly), and so people will be incentivized to get many people to vouch for them and stay vouching for them when the vicissitudes of life cause original vouchers to drop away.

Perhaps this could apply to livestreaming and posting on the major social media platforms. If you want to livestream on Youtube, for example, you should have to have a certain number of adults with clean records vouch for you.

Perhaps there should be whole swathes of society that you can only enter if you have ten vouches behind you. Perhaps locales should be allowed to set a minimum number of vouches to enter. Perhaps you should have to have 25 vouches to enter Manhattan or 15 vouches to fly to Los Angeles. Imagine how awesome it would be to go on vacation to a place that requires 30 vouches. It would be a touch of heaven. Knowing you were in a city that required a high number of vouches, you could walk around at night, and leave your phone on the beach when you go swimming. You’ll feel more incentivized to build social trust and social cohesion and social capital. You might even feel like volunteering.

Comment: “Couldn’t I just pay someone to vouch for me? Also what if one of the vouchers decide to retract their vouch? Not to mention, how do you know the vouches are legit? Who vouches for the vouches?”

Yes, you could, but you would have to pay a lot of money because the people who vouch for you will be on the hook for your behavior. If one of your vouchers decides to retract, and you have an excess of people vouching for you, it won’t matter, but if you drop below the required number of vouchers, the police will be notified.

The more people who vouch for you, the higher your social credit score. You could post on Facebook and watch your credit with people rise or fall. If you get a speeding ticket, are delinquent paying your taxes, get convicted of a crime, your social credit score would fall. People with low social credit may be restricted from certain privileges such as flying on a plane, leaving the house at night, traveling beyond 10 miles from their home, etc. They could rebuild their credit by taking vouch education classes where they learn social skills.

I think the number of people willing to vouch for you will roughly line up with your credit score. If we restricted gun ownership to only people with 800 plus credit score, we’d have fewer murders.

People with a high social credit score should be able to get lower interest loans and be more sought after in employment. We could get apps on our phone notifying us of the social credit scores of people nearby, and we could get an emergency beep if someone with a low score is approaching.

People could make their vouches dependent on certain variables, such as a person maintaining a minimum of 20 vouches, that way your vouch risk is shared and reduced and when certain conditions aren’t met, your vouch goes away. Many employers and employees might vouch for each other during the length of the employment. Members of a congregation might vouch for each other as long as each is regular in attendance and commitment. A rabbi might vouch for you if you attend minyan every morning. Business partners might vouch for each other as long as they’re in business together. A therapist might vouch for a client as long as the client stays in therapy. Members of a 12-step group might vouch for each other as long as they’re active. A 12-step sponsor might vouch for sponsee who complete Step Nine.

This could lead to some wonderful conversations, such as, “You say you’re my mate, but you won’t vouch for me. Why?”

People will get clarity about the strength of their relationships.

On the other hand, if 30 or more people who live or have lived within ten miles of you vouch against you, this could trigger an investigation of your fitness to own weapons.

Vouch nationalism is a bit like how science works through bonding. Stephen Turner wrote in his 2013 book The Politics of Expertise:

*…when an academic program awards a degree or a journal accepts an article, the program or journal assumes a risk that its assurances of adequacy will be found out to be false, and the consequence of error is damage to “reputation,” which translates into a loss of the value of future assurances of the same type. This feature is central—and for this reason, and for convenience, I will retain the term “bonding.”

…scientists whose achievements are recognized in various ways “accumulate advantage” so that a scientist who has gone to the right schools, published in the right journals, and won the right prizes is more likely to have his achievements cited… at each point of accumulation something has actively been done, at a cost, to create value through reducing risks, specifically by distributing risks to people other than the scientist accumulating the advantages. So the total value of the “product” in question, the science, is not only the ideas, the intrinsic value, but the guarantees that come along with it, in the form of risk bearing actions taken by editors, hiring departments, and prize givers, each of whom has put the value of their journal, department, or prize at risk by their actions. The accumulation of advantage is thus like the accumulation of cosigners to a loan…An established scientist will have passed through many tests, of which the CV is the archaeological record.

I was inspired to this line of thinking by a May 26, 2022 essay in The Atlantic:

How to Fix Twitter—And All of Social Media:

My purpose here is to point out a logical third option, one that can and should be tested out on a platform such as Twitter. In this approach, a platform would require users to form groups through free association, and then to post only through those groups, with the group’s imprimatur…

Platforms like Facebook and Reddit have similar structures—groups and subreddits—but those are for people who share notifications and invitations to view and post in certain places. The groups I’m talking about, sometimes called “mediators of individual data” or “data trusts,” are different: Members would share both good and bad consequences with one another, just like a group shares the benefits and responsibilities of a loan in microlending. This mechanism has emerged naturally to a small degree on some of the better, smaller subreddits and even more so on the software-development platform GitHub. A broader movement incorporating this idea, called “data dignity,” has emerged in spots around the world, and in nascent legal frameworks. My proposal here is to formalize the use of data trusts in code, and bake them into platforms.

Groups, as they appear on existing platforms, can be of any size. Some number in the millions. The sort of groups I have in mind would be much smaller as a rule. The point is that the people in the groups know one another well enough to take on the pursuit of trust and quality, and to rid their groups of bots. Perhaps the size limit should be in the low hundreds, corresponding to our cognitive ability to keep track of friends and family. Or maybe it should be smaller than that. It’s possible that 60 people, or even 40 people, would be better. I say, test these ideas. Let’s find out.

Whatever its size, each group will be self-governing. Some will have a process in place for reviewing items before they are posted. Others will let members post as they see fit. Some groups will have strict membership requirements. Others might have looser standards. It will be a repeat of the old story of people building societal institutions and dealing with unavoidable trade-offs, but people will be doing this on their own terms.

What if a bunch of horrible people decide to form a group? Their collective speech will be as bad as their individual speech was before, only now it will be received in a different—and better—social-cognitive environment. Nazi magazines existed before the internet, but they labeled themselves as such, and were not confused with ambient social perception.

We perceive our world in part through social cues. We rely on people around us to help detect danger and steer attention.

From Time magazine, May 16, 2022:

‘There’s No Such Thing As a Lone Wolf.’ The Online Movement That Spawned the Buffalo Shooting

But the gunman did not act in a vacuum. He saw himself as part of an engaged, active community. In the lengthy online manifesto being examined by authorities, he situated his alleged crimes as part of a larger movement. Part of the document is written in a conversational question-and-answer format. It includes sections with titles like “what do you encourage us to do?” and exhaustively cites his “many influences from others” about how to take violent action to prevent white Americans from being “replaced” by Jews, immigrants, and people of color. Dozens of pages lay out a clear instruction manual for the next attacker to follow.

“I think that live streaming this attack gives me some motivation in the way that I know that some people will be cheering for me,” the alleged gunman’s manifesto states. After driving several hours to a grocery store chosen for the high percentage of Black residents in his area, he donned a military-style helmet with a GoPro camera attached, which he used to broadcast the massacre for several minutes.

To analysts of racially-motivated extremism, the Buffalo shooting highlights one of the most pernicious and poorly understood aspects of the recent wave of domestic terrorist attacks. Even when crimes like these are committed by solitary extremists, the perpetrators see themselves as acting on behalf of a movement. “There is a community of like-minded individuals that give these people strength and make them feel like they’re part of a greater cause,” says Daryl Johnson, a former Department of Homeland Security senior analyst who authored a 2009 report warning of the rise of right-wing and white supremacist extremism. “And when you have that sense of community, it makes your cause seem more legit.”

For a new generation of extremists, this online engagement with white-supremacist movements has taken the place of formal affiliations, group meetings and plots, former officials and experts say. But it should be taken just as seriously. Manifestos circulate from attacker to attacker, who build on and claim allegiance to one another while laying out the playbook for the next violent act.

The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto is covered in anti-Semitic and racist memes and disinformation, making it tempting to characterize it as the delusional ravings of a madman. But such documents, however abhorrent, need to be understood as part of a coherent political ideology, former U.S. extremism officials and experts tell TIME—one whose reach extends far beyond fringe Internet forums. About 1 in 3 U.S. adults believes an effort is underway to replace white Americans with immigrants for electoral gains, according to a new poll, which is the root of the “replacement theory” cited by the Buffalo attacker.

That’s why portraying individuals like the Buffalo shooter as lone extremists whose self-radicalization on the Internet led them to commit inexplicable, “evil” acts divorces their actions from the larger movement they belong to. “We shouldn’t be dismissing these people as mentally ill or just a one-off,” Johnson tells TIME. “There are many, many people out there that are on a spectrum of radicalization following each other’s path.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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