Bill's backlog, government control

[From Rick Marken (940211.0930)]

Bill Powers (940210.1100 MST) --

Rick Marken has been trying to explain why an identical
disturbance replayed does lead to worse control. What he has
failed to mention is that...the disturbance is not generated
in the same way in the two cases.

I did. But thanks for explaining why it works

So the first experiment shows different effects being produced by
the same cause, and the second shows the same effect being
produced by different causes.

Both studies are described in "Mind readings", chapter 3.

Exactly the same
cursor position could result from an infinity of different
combinations of handle position and disturbance magnitude. This
is what makes it hard for me to understand how cursor position,
or the perceptual signal representing it, could contain any
information about either the disturbance or the output.

Of course it is hard for me to understand this too. I think,
however, that we are not really supposed to understand it; we are
just supposed to believe it. The argument seems to be that if
control happens, then there MUST be information about the disturbance
in the controlled perceptual variable or control couldn't happen (never
mind that we already know how control happens, and that it has nothing
to do with information in perception).

There's no point in asking what PCT has to say about randomly
collected facts of behavior if you have no reason to believe that
they are facts. And that is true of just about everything that
has been said about human behavior to date.

This is probably THE most important (and controversial) aspect of PCT.
It is not a conclusion that comes from the PCT model itself; rather, it
is an attitude (that many people don't seem to share, even though they
accept the PCT model of behavior) about what constitutes a "fact" and what
constitutes an explanation thereof. I (personally) don't think one can
fully appreciate the PCT model until one adopts this attitude toward facts
and models. But, then, I'm the Barry Goldwater of PCT -- you know,
extremist and all that.

There are many reasons why PCT has made little or no headway among
conventional psychologists. But probably the number 1 reason
is that PCT rejects not only the current theories of conventional
psychology -- it rejects MOST of the current "facts" as well.
This tends to make conversations with conventional psychologists a
bit, ah, strained.

Bill Leach (940210.18:50EST) --

Government is evil...
Less evil than anarchy but still, if
left to itself, fundamentally evil!!

OK, I'll bite. Why is government "fundamentally evil"?

I think govenment (in PCT) is a system level perception -- slightly
different for each person, of course, but controlled (maintained
at some reference level) as a way of maintaining cooperative
relationships with other control systems (people). I think that
"government" is a perception that, for most people, is likely to differ
considerably from its reference specification. After all, "government",
like all perceptions, is a VARIABLE. Moreover, the value of this
variable depends, to a large extent, on the activities of other people
who are controlling perceptions of what they call "government". "Govenment"
is a perception that exists because groups of control systems control for
it. It is also very likely that each person who is controlling
for "government" is controlling a slightly different perceptual variable.
And even when people's perceptions of "govenment" are relatively similar,
these perceptions are being maintained at different reference levels
(some people want "more" and some want "less" "government" -- suggesting
the existence of a higher order system that specifies the level of
"government" to be perceived in order to control some other perception;
why do people control for "more" or "less" government?). This suggests to
me that "government" is likely to be a perception that, for most people, is
rarely near it's reference level. So the "government" control system in
one's brain will probably be a source of chronic error. I suppose that, in
this sense, "government" is evil -- but there is not something "out there"
called "government" that is actually trying to hurt us. "Government"
(according to PCT, I think) is a perceptual variable that is difficult
to control. When we recognize this fact about "govenment" and understood WHY
we try to control this perception it might be possible to achieve
(individually, of course) better control of our perception of "government".



<[Bill Leach 940212.09:48EST(EDT)]

[Rick Marken (940211.0930)]

You probably noticed that I dropped the excess signature lines. I did
that for two reasons. One is that in this list, no one else seems to
have such "tag lines", thus mine was "out of place". The second is that
the content of that particular statement has resulted in the start-up of
numerous discussions, sometimes in inappropriate places.

However, considering the manner in which you phrased your comments I
suspect that it IS possible to have a side discussion of my remarks and
stay within the realm of PCT. Let me give a little background for why I
make that assertion first in hopes of establishing some common ground for

         The first question to address is: "What is government?"
         and the related question is: "What is society?"

It is probable that government was initially whatever the strongest
person within a group was able to maintain that it was. All of the
monarch, oligarchy type governments were based upon the idea that the
ruling class would force compliance with the governmental structure.
There is little doubt that in some cases the ruling elite used "custom"
and "religious" beliefs for their purposes and equally little doubt that
they themselves were often "subject" to these same beliefs.

Attempts at "democratic" rule always failed even after a somewhat
auspicious beginning.

History tells us that in all cases of governmental control that given
enough time, said government will eventually act against it's own best
interests -- that is said government will eventually act in such a manner
toward its' subjects as to cause the subjects to perceive that support of
that government is not in their best interests. PCT does have something
to say about this (as did Machiavelli) and that is that the people WILL
act to correct the perception.

Much governmental theory goes into why the various forms of government
"failed". There is also quite a bit of discussion about accomplishing to
most good for the greatest number of people... the "best" for society
sort of stuff.

I really had not thought of this in terms of what PCT might have to say
about the "problem" with government and I actually developed these ideas
prior to ever considering PCT however, I think PCT does, at least in a
sense, predict the nature of the problem. I admit that most of my
thoughts concerning governmental systems are a result of studying the
thoughts of Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin, Madison and Lincoln.

The concepts of PCT state that the control system will act to adjust the
perception to match the goal. Now this is postulated to be true
regardless of the size or complexity of the control system.

As long as the control action(s) maintain control of the perception to
within the "deadband" there should be no problems, no excess stress. If
however, the control actions DO NOT result in a satisfactory adjustment
of perception then severe problems will occur.

The reason that government IS fundamentally evil is that there is NO
direct link between the available control actions and perception within
the government itself and those that are governed.

I suspect that the founders would have been fascinated with PCT and
Franklin in particular probably would have contributed greatly to the
study. In any event, they clearly understood that people tend to act in
what they perceive to be their own best interest.

If a person believes that making slaves of others is in their own best
interest then they will attempt to do so. If they recognize that
"society" is "better" for them in the long run when everyone is "happy"
than when only a few are happy they might reconsider their position.

Though the founders of the US certainly did not have the last and final
word on the subject, they made certain of their beliefs pretty clear:

1. On the whole, people free to act as they wish will produce more ideas
and more wealth than people that are restricted in their freedom.

2. A person that knows that another person or group of people can use
force against him because they choose to is not free.

3. People that understand 1 & 2 will fight if necessary to maintain
conditions that provide such freedom for all.

They recognized that 1. by it self is anarchy and is not particularly
conducive to a growing, productive society. They believed that a
government must exist with the power to prevent anarchy (that is the
legal right to use force against its citizens must exist). Their
formation of the United States government was based upon the necessity of
providing protection to the individual for item 2.

The founders believed fully that society produced and would always
produce people that would willing subvert and use the power of government
to their own ends. The founders believed (as some stated directly) that
giving the power of compulsion to government, though necessary, made
government evil. Thomas Jefferson was not completely joking when he said
that the people should revolt and overthrow the government every 20 years.

Thus, in providing protection to the individual from other individuals
they created the monster with the responsibility and authority to provide
such protection. They were fully cognizant that the monster itself then
became the greatest danger. Indeed, the arguments of the "Federalists"
and the "Anti-Federalists" were not over the idea that government IS evil
but rather were about the possibility of controlling and restricting this

Our problem with government today (as Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison and
Franklin among others predicted was possible), is that we as a people
have forgotten what the issues were or have lost the will to create a
better world. We seem to want "someone else" to solve the problems that
we face and there is always someone there ready to do the job but we
don't ask the price.