Fear and Loathing Against Neoreaction from Fellows on the Right

Conservatism has been a blatant failure for decades, even centuries. No matter how much traditionally-minded people try to hold back “Progress,” it keeps on “progressing”. Lately, some conservatives have realized that both the Republican Party and the Libertarian Party are not conservative or traditional parties at all, but rather progressive parties. This has led to a “New Reaction,” or neoreaction for short, a distinct separation from the Republican and libertarian camps. This reaction was vitalized (and arguably founded) around 2009-2013 by the injection of various “post-libertarians” who have an analytic approach to political reasoning not shared by the usual paleoconservatives or traditionalists. In theory, all these groups are supposed to synergize and create a new strain of reactionary thought which draws people away from the GOP and libertarianism to a new future of post-democratic enlightenment.

In the extremely limited amount of time it has had to act (since 2009), neoreaction has been rather successful. This has especially been the case in the last two years or so, since a core group assembled on Twitter and many blogs and other commentaries proliferated. Two particular effects are noticeable: expansion and dilution. As neoreaction expands, it has diluted on the edges. This means that weaker forms of neoreaction, transferred through “osmosis” of interacting with people on Twitter are now more dominant, rather than the older way of reading the core texts. The most superficial elements of neoreaction are seen as its key characteristics by people encountering it at certain edges, because that’s all they see and they have neither the time nor inclination to read the core texts. This combination of expansion and dilution has made the edges of neoreaction weak enough to be effectively attacked.

In the process of expansion, neoreaction has come into contact with many older ultra-conservative groups, many with decades of failure or marginalization under their belts. Threatened by the newcomer, these older movements are responding aggressively, trying to defend their home turf and adherent bases. This archipelago of far right movements has been broadly called the “AltRight” by Richard Spencer, because it is the alternative to the conventional right. Neoreaction, strictly speaking, is a subset of the AltRight, arguably its most intellectually active, analytically rigorous, and popularly palatable variant. Among neoreaction, it is common for people to have some understanding of abstract concepts of effective government, while in the rest of the AltRight there is more of an exclusive focus on cultural issues and profound ignorance of more technical policy questions.

In the course of its rapid expansion, neoreaction has reached certain boundaries where these other AltRight groups are pushing back against it. Some of the factors causing the pushback are the following:

  • a perceived insufficient attention to ethnic issues within neoreaction
  • the notion that neoreaction is insufficiently separated from libertarianism
  • rank anti-intellectualism against people who simply have higher average IQs
  • a sort of grunt-level aversion to insufficient emphasis on personal masculinity
  • the impression that neoreaction is based on excessive materialism
  • the feeling that neoreaction is atheistic and threatening to religion
  • the conception that Moldbug’s historical analysis has major glaring holes

Some of these complaints and criticisms are more valid than others. The last one is obviously a problem. Many have been analyzed in devoted blog posts by others. More analysis, probably more than any reasonable-minded person would care to read, will surely be forthcoming.

In the AltRight, it has become somewhat alarming the extent to which the general flow of activity has been pushback against NRx. In many cases other mini-movements have abandoned developing their own ideas in a positive fashion and have begun spending all their time just attacking neoreaction. In some cases such attacks may be counterproductive. Other groups may be underestimating the extent to which NRx is a transitional philosophy that benefits them greatly in the long run. Even if they do not agree with all of its points or all of its aesthetics, that does not mean that it doesn’t serve a key transitional role. People do not go directly from A to Z. They go from A to B to C. Among many groups in the AltRight, there is a complete failure to understand this, demanding that people may only be Z and may only jump from A to Z. Proceeding from A to Z through the intermediate steps is not to be permitted. To think this way is shallow-minded. The broader AltRight—and Reaction in general—needs to adopt a more flexible attitude towards transitional modes.

Furthermore, the level of resentment towards neoreaction and the emotional outbursts against it (by others on the Right, which is the current topic) are a sign of weakness. Other, weaker strains of reactionary or paleoconservative thinking are clearly losing intellectual ground to the energetic dynamo of neoreaction, and they are responding not with respectable blog posts presenting coherent contrary positions but with, for the most part, juvenile attempts at bullying. This further highlights their intellectual bankruptcy, which accelerates the expansionary momentum of neoreaction.

I would advise the critics of neoreaction to learn how to write blog posts. A couple such blog posts have appeared, at places like Counter Currents, but they have been largely unimpressive and do not meet the intellectual standard of neoreaction. In these blog posts, the critics of neoreaction will have to better specify what exactly it is about it that bothers them. Often, it seems to be a heavy current of resentment at intellectualism, an inability to come to grips with the idea that some people are smarter than others. This is not necessary because neoreaction has plenty of object-level flaws that have nothing to do with the higher average intelligence of its members and the nerdy tradeoffs that entails. Instead of critiquing the intelligence of neoreaction, which will only appeal to idiots, perhaps a better critique would focus on object-level points on which neoreaction is incorrect, some of which are outlined above. The focus should be object-level, not ad hominem and not typical conservative resentment towards intellectualism. I humbly submit that conservative resentment towards intellectualism is what has caused its historical failure in the first place.

David Boaz of Cato Thinks We Should Let Voters Earmark Their Taxes

The new libertarian top dog is David Boaz, VP of Cato. His latest in the Washington Post is an idea I’ve heard tossed around many times; the notion of allowing taxpayers to earmark funds for specific purposes. Boaz outlines the idea then says the following:

boaz_taxes

To respond to Boaz, taxpayers shouldn’t make direct decisions about how much money to spend on government programs because taxpayers cannot be expected to make good decisions about effective government. Expecting this is no different than expecting a plumber to make excellent decisions about master sculpting, or expecting average people to make good decisions about higher mathematics. The challenge of government is something best left to experts, as it is in practice. Why, when the subject changes from advanced mathematics, which the layperson openly admits he has little to say on, to government, suddenly the most mundane amateur thinks he can appropriately allot funds among different programs to achieve the best national outcome?

The mainstream view of government, apparently shared by everyone but reactionaries, is that effective governance is a matter of dividing control up into ever-smaller slices so that each individual has a little bit of say. The idea of giving taxpayers the right to specifically allocate funds is an example of this. Part of the problem is that it doesn’t end. No one is ever satisfied, and they want to continue augmenting their tiny slice, until the overhead of sustaining the logistics of decisions becomes overwhelming.

That’s a big problem here—the overhead. The federal government is already bloated enough as it is. The electoral process is already wasteful enough as it is. Boaz suggests we then complicate the process even more by allowing hundreds of millions of taxpayers to arbitrarily earmark funds for specific programs. This would only lead to more Demotism—the decentralization of governance and a corresponding decrease in the quality of decisions and an increase in chaos and unnecessary internal political competition, which magnifies political polarization and national disunity.

Imagine the new incentives if taxpayers could allot funds. Politicians would have to run new commercials to tell people to allot their funds to specific programs, which would steal away more money and attention from the public to the business of government, which is overhead. The objective of government should be streamlined administration, not huge overhead to accommodate excessively decentralized power structures.

If Boaz’ suggestions were implemented, taxpayers would be given a new power without any corresponding accountability or responsibility for that power. That is a recipe for failure and part of the reason why we find ourselves in the ever-expanding government disaster we see today. The input of the public into government must be harshly restricted, otherwise the overhead of managing, integrating, soliciting, informing, and analyzing that input puts prohibitive costs on the whole system. The government turns into a monster truck show, with the lowest common denominator shouting their lungs out in favor of inexpertly selected programs which maximize immediate payouts at the expense of long-term solvency.

The average taxpayer has no expertise on government spending or how money should be allotted to best serve the interests of the United States. As much as I’m skeptical about politicians, at least they spend their lives analyzing these questions and have an abundance of education, intelligence, and information which average voters do not. I trust a budget by a unified executive far more than I would trust a traffic jam composed of over 200 million different inexpert budgetary views mashed together.

In private corporations, it is clear that top-level decisions for the company are not best made by painstakingly carving up decision-making power among every single employee and creating a huge infrastructure to accommodate and implement the integration of these decisions. Why do people think so differently about government? I think part of the reason may be the assumption that everyone votes and acts completely selfishly, so such a fine division of decision-making power is the only path to an equitable outcome. This is untrue, and neglects the lower quality of decisions made if and when every non-expert in the country has an equal say which overrides expert decisions. Expertise is not so unimportant that executive decisions can simply be made by a weighted sum of every low-level inexpert taxpayer. In fact, our government only works today to the extent that voters are insulated from the real decision-making mechanisms; that is, the permanent civil service. Breaking down this wall is a recipe for more disorder, not more order. It is exactly what gave us this process of ballooning government in the first place:

spending

The long-term financial position of the United States is precarious because we gave voters the power to expand the government beyond its means in the first place. The new standard of government spending is more than ten times larger than historical governments because we gave voters the power to do that. Voters have no understanding of long-term financial stability for the government and accordingly vote for whatever benefits them right now. We are going have our federal government crushed by overwhelming interest payments because voters lack long-term financial foresight. David Boaz thinks we should give these unwise voters more power, not less? Please, libertarians. Stop naively thinking like everyone else that the only solution to problems with democracy is more democracy.

In a tweet, Boaz says:

boaz_taxes2

More democracy, always more democracy. What if less democracy is better for freedom, liberty, and good governance, not more?

Anonymity and the Right

The main problem that the neoreactionary Right faces right now is anonymity. Three years ago it was not enough people. Now, many, many new people are joining, but the vast majority are doing so under the cover of anonymity. In this post I will explain how anonymity holds us back and how we can change that.

Our objective is to roll back leftward drift, put the breaks on the signaling spirals leading us towards left singularity, which is ultimately Stalinism or 1984:

kluwe

But this guy is unusual, right? No, not really. Cass Sunstein, who was Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs during Obama’s first term, has called for legal restrictions on conspiracy theories or racial epithets meaning you could be put in jail for using a racial slur or for saying Bush did 9/11. Sunstein is married to Samantha Power, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Such efforts to punitively punish speech hearken back to Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance” essay which argues that tolerance is something which ought to reserved for the Left only, never for the Right, or even further back to the Communist notion of free speech as a “bourgeois freedom”.

If people like Sunstein ever succeed in getting a bill that restricts free speech (meaning socially conservative speech, which is what they want to ban) passed, it will be pretty much game over. We have to raise a fuss now to prevent that from happening. We need to show the United States that we value our free speech and we mean to keep it.

The best way to defend the front line of free speech is for an individual to go out in public using their real name and face and to say socially conservative things which offend the liberals who control much of the media and government. This is why I can sometimes appreciate Ann Coulter. She says bombastic things, some of which make her seem unstable or intentionally inflammatory, but for my purposes I don’t really care if she actually believes them or not. Regardless of the intent behind these statements, they serve as a barrier which must be taken down for leftward drift to proceed. She serves as a nuisance to the left, a valuable nuisance which acts as an umbrella for other people to follow behind her.

If the statements made by Ann Coulter were made by an anonymous Twitter account with an oil painting avatar, they would carry much less weight. The whole reason Ann Coulter became a major name on the national political scene is because at some point, in the late 90s, she put her face and name out there and attached it to controversial statements. In the late 90s, when Coulter began writing columns, it was more socially acceptable to say socially conservative things in print. Her background and the momentum behind her words carried her to the national stage.

Coulter has an elite background that gave her the opportunity to reach national exposure. In law school, she was an editor of the Michigan Law Review, was president of the local chapter of the Federalist Society, and was trained at the National Journalism Center.

When politicos like Coulter are at the start of their careers, they survey the scene to see what seems socially acceptable and what doesn’t. They then make a compromise between their true views and what they think is socially acceptable. On the Left, people do this as well. Someone may well be a Communist in the closet, but write from the perspective of a liberal because they think their content will gain a better reception that way. A paleoconservative might try passing himself off as a neocon if he thinks that route will more effectively spread certain key ideas.

The “scene” that people like young Coulter looked at can be envisioned in a social grid format. Think of it as a network of dots connected by lines which represent relationships. These dots cluster around powerful individuals and organizations. Today, dots representing anonymous Twitter accounts might be represented as faded grey spots. The grey spots fan out over a wider area, both the extreme Left and the extreme Right, but they don’t matter too much if they are occupying a volume by themselves. To really matter, they need to be integrated with other dots; those representing real people. Think of these as black dots. These real people needn’t be rich or famous, but they must be real; a real name or a real face, and preferably both. These real people may appear as random commenters on the Internet, but at least they’re real. They have substance, corporeality.

The most important dots would be the bright blue or red dots; these represent powerful progressives and conservatives. These are the people who write columns for major newspapers, edit opinion pages at places like The Daily Caller, or run organizations like the Heritage Foundation. From the perspective of elite students eyeing their way up the political ladder, these are the only people that matter. Don’t blame me; I didn’t set up this system. I’m just telling you how it works. For a Yale or Harvard student, only a certain kind of person matters in politics, and it’s the big names. Otherwise, they don’t really give a damn. They may pretend to, but they don’t.

What is interesting to me is how growth of black and red or blue dots can occur by growing out into new space; space that was previously populated just by grey dots, or even by nothing. Ta-Nehisi Coates would be an example. In the 90s, he never would have made it as a columnist; he is too radical, making statements such as calling for reparations for slavery in the pages of The Atlantic. Yes, others have called for reparations before, but it’s the combination of socialist or far-leftist views in addition to the prestige of The Atlantic that makes Coates unusual. The “reparations” political space was not a grey zone until Ta-Nehisi Coates started writing on it, but it was definitively losing steam. His activity has rebooted it, allowing other “blue dots” to flood into the area in a way that would not have been possible before because someone, a new columnist with a fresh reputation and a new generation, had to take the first step.

Taking the first step is always difficult. Look at Moldbug. He has largely been saved from receiving fallout in his personal and business life due to his political writing because of a network of well-established professional connections and sympathetic individuals. Yet, for many years, he was largely alone in this space, alongside a few grey dots like Foseti. He didn’t even become a red dot until relatively recently, when his name was made public. Now he is a red dot in a space with a few other black dots: the likes of Nick Land, myself, and a short list of others.

In this brave new space, to the right of libertarianism, to the right of the Republican Party, to the right of… well, practically everything, is neoreaction. In the last few years, the influx of grey dots has accelerated to an impressive degree, to the point where it is fairly clear that there are at least 1,000 people regularly following neoreactionary activity, and probably many more who are familiar with the general ideas, are interested, and bring them up in conversations. The problem is that the number of black and red dots has not increased proportionally to the influx of grey dots. This is in contrast to something like transhumanism or utilitarianism where nearly everyone uses their real name as a matter of course.

Many of these grey dots could be transformed into black or red dots overnight; they would just have to go public. Of course, in doing so, they would expose themselves to potential fallout of the kind that Brendan Eich or Pax Dickinson suffered. But my point is that eventually, this has to happen if we are to succeed. He who dares, wins. Only through taking a risk with regard to our name can we halt the leftward motion. If we were all to go public simultaneously, we would be a formidable force. There are a number of powerful neoreactionaries in business and government who are secret because they have to be.

The problem is a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma. From the “rational” perspective of Person A, it is more advantageous to hide himself and speak anonymously than to take professional risks by sharing his political views under his real name and face. The same applies to person B, person C, and so on. Everyone has an incentive to defect. But, if everyone defects, forward movement cannot occur. The weak-willed and the timid all defect, and we get locked into a timeline where left singularity is a real risk. Only through changing the incentives so that participation provides a greater reward than defection can we achieve our objectives.

There are many ways to do this, but they fall into two categories: carrot and stick. As always, they are most effective when used in combination. One form of a carrot is to assign higher status and respect to those who take the personal risk of making their names public. This happens automatically, but it can be encouraged deliberately. A stick would be a form of social discouragement which frowns upon someone if they have been in the community too long and they still plan to hide their name forever, for instance.

The nice thing about social pressure is that it is the most powerful motivator in the world. In nearly all cases it is a more effective persuader than violence, which people innately fight back against. Social pressure can be configured to uphold arbitrary status systems, which can be made stable and self-perpetuating. Once certain changes are made, if they are stable, they have a tendency to get locked in and persist as a matter of social convention. Civilization itself is an example of such a status system.

The young and powerful, the Harvard law graduates of the world, can and will creep to the Rightward edge of the Overton window, but only if they see a crucial threshold of black and red dots in the target zone. If they only see grey dots and a few black and red dots, they will not move. Only a sufficient density will cause them to take a risk and attach their name to new political territory. This is similar to how large donors will often only make six or seven-digit contributions to a non-profit if and only if there are already many hundreds or thousands of donors making contributions in the two or three digit range and dozens making contributions in the four or five digit range.

The way the world works is “unfair” in the sense that what a Harvard law graduate believes, politically, carries tens of thousands of times more weight than what a truck driver in Oklahoma believes politically. Again, I didn’t invent this, I’m just saying how it is. The morality of it all is irrelevant. What matters is that this is reality.

When the reactionary truck driver in Oklahoma refuses to take risks and put his name or even his face to his political views, he is selling both himself and his fellow travelers short. If only he and more people like him would take the risk, it would create a sufficient density of authenticity around these new views in a way that would attract elites. This is why these types are very wrong when they say what they think doesn’t matter; it does matter. Their faces being public matters because it adds up to conversions of more powerful people who can actually change things, things like preventing left singularity.

Today, the neoreactionary Right is like a class full of first graders at the edge of a small stream. To get what they want, they need to cross over to the other side. But everyone is afraid to make the first jump. To avoid perpetual leftward drift which ends in Pol Pot, the class will need to make the crossing, even if some of them temporarily lose their livelihood. A flawless crossing with no casualties is not possible. There will be people who lose their jobs, but this is a price that must be paid to get the future we want. There will be new jobs, new opportunities created within a new framework we build, but only if we stand publicly and proud. If we are only underground, we are weak. If we are public, we are strong. Sooner or later, a leader will push the class into the stream, and they will have to sink or swim, whether they like it or not. The stakes are too high to have it any other way.

RIP Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew was the living politician that most exemplified the neoreactionary philosophy.  Educated in the British system, he returned to Singapore and ruled it for decades after its independence.  He was pragmatic, technocratic, and a proponent of Asian values who took no truck with Western pieties.  He notably created an effectively single-party state, created an efficient, uncorrupt civil service, cut crime and racial tensions down to nothing in a highly multiracial society, and pursued both eugenic policies and a highly successful immigration policy.  Modern Singapore – a model of order and prosperity, is the result of this one man’s vision.  And to no small extent Lee also deserves credit for inspiring Deng Xiaoping’s drive for the economic liberalization of China.

May he rest in peace, and may his son inherit the strength and wisdom to continue his work.

His two part memoirs should be required reading.  He has also written some shorter, more accessible books that exemplify his worldview.  In the meantime, a brief selection of quotes:

With few exceptions, democracy has not brought good government to new developing countries…What Asians value may not necessarily be what Americans or Europeans value. Westerners value the freedoms and liberties of the individual. As an Asian of Chinese cultural backround, my values are for a government which is honest, effective and efficient.

Lee Kuan Yew ‘Democracy, Human Rights and the Realities’, Tokyo, Nov 10, 1992

If I were in authority in Singapore indefinitely without having to ask those who are governed whether they like what is being done, then I have not the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their interests.

Radio Interview, 1960. Quoted in South-East Asia: A Political Profile, Damien Kingsbury (2001, p. 337)

Equal employment opportunities, yes, but we shouldn’t get our women into jobs where they cannot, at the same time, be mothers…our most valuable asset is in the ability of our people, yet we are frittering away this asset through the unintended consequences of changes in our education policy and equal opportunities for women. This has affected their traditional role … as mothers, the creators and protectors of the next generation.

Wong, Theresa, Brenda Yeoh (2003). “Fertility and the Family: An Overview of Pro-natalist Population Policies in Singapore”. ASIAN METACENTRE RESEARCH PAPER SERIES (12).

“Freedom of the press, freedom of the news media, must be subordinated to the overriding needs of the integrity of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government”

Address To The General Assembly Of The International Press Institute At Helsinki, 9th June, 1971

I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, 20 April 1987

I started off believing all men were equal. I now know that’s the most unlikely thing ever to have been, because millions of years have passed over evolution, people have scattered across the face of this earth, been isolated from each other, developed independently, had different intermixtures between races, peoples, climates, soils… I didn’t start off with that knowledge. But by observation, reading, watching, arguing, asking, that is the conclusion I’ve come to.

Lee Kuan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997

“I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.”

2000 The Wit & Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew

Q: And immigration has been America’s strength.

A: Absolutely.  But mind you – immigration of the highly intelligent and highly hard-working.  If you get immigration of the fruit pickers [chuckles] you may not get very far!

The Charlie Rose Show

Sustainable Virtue

Imagine a world where the notion of healthy, moderate exercise has been lost.  You could see the population splitting into two camps.  On one hand you have fitness nuts, who idolize the star athletes of the past and spend a ton of energy optimizing their mile times and bench presses and body fat percentages, way beyond the point of diminishing returns.  On the other hand you have couch potatoes who correctly point out that a lot of fitness-nutting is insane, marathons cause arthritis, lifting causes chronic injuries, and so on.  And instead they sit around becoming flabbier, content that fitness nuts are wrong, and that exercise is “not for them.”

Slowly, throughout history, we’ve produced archetypes of what a good life could look like.  These happened to correspond to actual everyday individuals, who can do a lot of good without going crazy.  The resourceful housewife who raises a bunch of good kids.  The small business owner who runs an honest shop.  The craftsman proud of his skill.  And a bunch of moderate virtues – honesty, charity, courage – that applied to all.  In this world, everyone had a vision to aspire to, and indeed some could choose between multiple visions.  Nobody had to create their own.

For various reasons, we’ve lost that today.  The housewife is of course horribly low status, the small business owner and the craftsman fit uncomfortably with modern scale and logistics.  More generally, the notion of normativity and mentorship has fallen into disrepair.  People mostly don’t have local role models who tell them what to do – the local smith, the local priest – and the global role models we’re sold are selected more for flashiness than for sustainability.[1]

And so, we’ve split into two camps.  One tries to talk themselves into “being a hero,” aspiring to extreme (outwards facing) virtue without having a specific sustainable vision of what that looks like.  The other looks at the effort and unsustainability that involves, shrugs, says “meh, heroism is not for me,” and forgets about seriously striving for virtue and retreats to comfortable neoteny.

 

[1] I really would like to understand this mechanism better.  I don’t think economics is the whole of it – certainly; you can imagine completely fulfilling and economically sound “craftsman” narratives for programmers and academics and many others.