Response to Anti-Reactionary FAQ, July 2014

Someone on /pol/ commented on my refutation of Scott Alexander’s Anti-Reactionary FAQ.

On suicide: suicide rates are greater today than in traditional societies. The main reason is probably because civilization has forced us into socially alienated roles that are completely at odds with our genetic programming and our needs as human beings. Here’s a couple bullet points:

  • Suicide rates among adolescents and young adults in America nearly tripled between 1952 and 1996.
  • Between 1980 and 1996, suicide rates almost doubled among 14-15 year olds and rose by 14% in the 15-19 age group.

The linked source specifically mentions social isolation as a risk factor for suicide. Given Japan’s unhealthy obsession with work and neglect of family, it isn’t surprising that it has such a high suicide rate. Also given that whites tend to work longer hours and spend less time with family and friends than blacks, it isn’t surprising we have a higher suicide rate. The same cause is probably why men commit suicide more often than women.

See how one simple theory about suicide (social alienation and overwork) predicts the data? Social isolation has doubled since 1950 (according to Bowling Alone) and suicide among teens and young adults has tripled. The connection is obvious.

Traditionalism puts more emphasis on family and social networks, thus traditional societies suffer less social isolation, therefore less suicide. See the suicide rate of places like the Philippines, where family living is almost universal and the suicide rates are about a fourth that of the United States. Scott posted a graph that suicide rates in the United States have not increased in the last 50 years, that is average suicide rates. Here’s a graph that shows how suicide rates among the 15-24 age range has increased, especially among males:


We’ve gotten so much richer and freer, with diversity and all that great stuff, so why are young men committing suicide at 3-4 times the rate they did in the backwards, sexist 1950s? I’m not really impressed that the average suicide rate has stayed level if young men are blowing their brains out at three times the recent historical rate.

Suicide also correlates with divorce. The divorced are 1.7 times more likely to end their own lives. Sexual revolution, contraception, and no-fault divorce laws enable hypergamy which causes divorce which leads to suicide. 75 percent of divorce is initiated by women, which probably leads to greater relative suicide among men.

The problem with evaluating historical suicide rates going back further than 1950 is that I can’t find any data. Suicide was more taboo and statistics would have been fudged. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the suicide rate in civilized countries of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries were not 3-6 times lower than the suicide rate in America today. Even the suicide rate of Greece today is one-fourth that of America.

My overall position on suicide is that 1) it is a problem, 2) social alienation and divorce contribute greatly to it, 3) it can be fixed by improving social participation, fostering strong (non-Internet) local networks, encouraging marriage and discouraging divorce.

Onto the next issue: debt. The commenter seems to think that the vast increase in government and public debt over the course of the last century “doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.” With all due respect to the commenter, I don’t think this is worth arguing against. The data on this is all very clear and public. My source is the Long-Term Budget Outlook, a report published annually by the Congressional Budget Office. Anyone interested in the government debt can begin there.

The next issue is crime. The commenter says, “He claims there are many sources out there showing how crime has gotten worse, but never specifies exactly which ones. Meanwhile, Scott provided numerous figures and data showing that crime has not increased.”

First, Scott has come closer to my view since my original post. We agree that crime has dropped since 1985, but I don’t consider this very significant relative to the vast gulf in crime between the United States and Japan or the United States of 1931 and the United States of 2014.

Second, I have specified precise sources and showed that the murder rate has not only greatly increased, but that if it weren’t for better trauma medicine, the murder rates today would be between 7.5 and 28.75 times greater today than in 1900. (How did I get those numbers? Murder rates today are five times greater than in 1900, and the authors of the trauma medicine article estimated a 1.5-5.75 dampening factor on assault deaths due to better medicine. That is, murder rates would be 1.5-5.75 times higher without modern medicine. Five times 1.5 is 7.5, five times 5.75 is 28.75. If you actually go and read the article, the authors lean strongly towards the higher values–that is, the result that murder rates would be 20-30 times greater today if it weren’t for better medicine.)

People are using deadly force on one another at 20-30 times greater than the rate in 1900. Doesn’t this bother anybody? Why are neoreactionaries the only people making a fuss about it?

In addition, in my crime post I cited a source that said that aggravated assault is up by 750 percent since 1931.

I’ll leave my speculations on why the homicide/assault rate has exploded over the past century for another post. I’ll bet my readers have some good ideas of their own. These rates are slightly down in the last decade due to better policing, but still 20-30 times greater than they should be.

Regarding other points, the commenter says I was handwaving. I will address the other points if other people want to hear more on them, otherwise, I consider my initial response to be adequate.

A Brief Defense of Necessary Evil

Evil is when everyone else in the peaceful fairy forest is frolicking having happy time and and a big feast, and you are stealing and hoarding the food, stopping people from having fun and forcing them to do military training instead, trying to drive away or even kill the new fairies from the other forest, and so on. Now why in the world would you be evil like that?

Because winter is coming and the other fairies have forgotten that summer doesn’t last. Because things aren’t so peaceful outside the forest and the undead are being seen in disturbing numbers. Because the fairies from the other forest aren’t just like you, and are actually fleeing others like themselves.

We have recently gotten very rich and comfortable, and it’s gone to our heads. The big jump has made us too optimistic, but also taken the fight out of our hardworking ambition. We imagine that it will always be like this, so we can just iron out a few details and everything will be perfect. We’ve forgotten how mean reality is, and started overdrawing our accounts to maintain the illusion. We’ve taken to accusing anyone who dissents from this rosy picture of being evil.

One of the central fallacies of progressive thought is that you can naively avoid the ugly realities, like that some people’s lives are going to really suck, or that we have to do hard things in the short term to survive in the long term. If you don’t make sure fertility is eugenic, Gnon will destroy you. If you deconstruct all your social technology because it hurts some people, Gnon will destroy you. If you bend all your resources towards making sure no one has it significantly worse than anyone else, Gnon will destroy you. If you reason that we don’t have to take drastic steps to keep civilization running, that civilization grows on trees, Gnon will destroy you. If you decide that fighting, mining, blue collar work, and dirty industry is too ugly to be done, Gnon will destroy you. If you take necessities from your future to pay for luxuries in the present, Gnon will destroy you. While we may at some point through grit and hard work be as rich as we think we are, we are currently not. For now, reality is harsher than anyone is willing to admit.

We can either take the pain and sacrifice and become metal enough to face that head on, or eat the seed corn and get destroyed by Gnon. The former is evil, but the latter is naive.

Reaction and the Poor

A Marxist attack on neoreactionaries ends with the sentence: “They’ve never role-played the part of the peasant.”

Funny that they should bring this up, because such a central focus of both Moldbug and neoreactionary thought in general is the systematic disenfranchisement of the Vaisya (blue collar workers, “flyover country” inhabitants) in favor of the Brahmin (university graduate progressives whose values come from Harvard). In general, Vaisya tend to be described by coastal yuppies as “white trash” and only mentioned with derision. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you and all your friends are Brahmin. The extreme split between upper and lower class whites was described by Charles Murray in Coming Apart.

Theden has an article that goes into the difference in more depth. In his writing, Moldbug refers to Vaisya as “the wrong kind of white people”. The goal of progressive whites (Brahmins) is to signal to themselves and everyone around them that they’re not the wrong kind of white people, but the right kind. Brahmins are the whites who are playfully mocked on the website Stuff White People Like, people who non-ironically love TED.

The world of the 19th century onwards has been controlled by the merchant class—as with so many important social changes, I believe this happened around the time of the French Revolution, maybe a decade after. Countries with the merchant class placed at the top of the social pyramid are generally called capitalist. The question is whether life for the poor, the peasants, is better under the merchant class or under the old aristocratic class. Brahmin values are merchant values.

In traditional societies, taking time off was a common thing:

Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.

As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way: John Maynard Keynes, one of the founders of modern economics, made a famous prediction that by 2030, advanced societies would be wealthy enough that leisure time, rather than work, would characterize national lifestyles. So far, that forecast is not looking good.

What happened? Some cite the victory of the modern eight-hour a day, 40-hour workweek over the punishing 70 or 80 hours a 19th century worker spent toiling as proof that we’re moving in the right direction. But Americans have long since kissed the 40-hour workweek goodbye, and Shor’s examination of work patterns reveals that the 19th century was an aberration in the history of human labor. When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren’t trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. “The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed,” notes Shor. “Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure.”

The capitalist system pushes us to work as hard as possible to increase our wealth and therefore our social status. In a world with less emphasis on tribes, community, and extended family, wealth has become the primary indicator of social status. Communists/socialists and libertarians/capitalists are equally obsessed with wealth, money, and their distribution, speaking of them as if they were the beginning and end of all human value, providing us not with just essentials for living but also the substance of social status and the arbiter of self-worth.

The traditional view of life places higher value on family and independent pursuits over “work” for the sake of work itself. This is why Evola places action over work.

In a capitalist, industrial system, without the benefit of organic, local social order, there is a tendency for national corporations to grow in power until they exert decisive influence over all aspects of human society. A social system is created where income is the sole determinant of social status, so there is no reason not to work as long as possible. This process has reached its logical conclusion in places like Japan and South Korea, where fertility rates are at extreme lows and people with corporate careers regularly work or spend time with their co-workers all day every day. This has led to social devitalization whereby many young people have even lost interest in romantic relationships. This is the neoliberal capitalist endgame; 70 hours of work a week, no children, no family.

In a traditional, normal society, more emphasis is placed not only on leisure but also personal study, activity, hobbies, and exploration. That is why Keynes and many futurists of the 20th century believed that in the present time (post-2000), we would use our great wealth to facilitate more time away from work. Instead, we’re trapped on a status treadmill that asserts we must continue to work harder at any cost, to improve our social standing.

The trouble with social standing is that it is a zero sum game, and the harder everyone works, the harder everyone is in turn forced to work to advance themselves. This frantic ladder-climbing can be contrasted with the point of view of the peasant or farmer, who is happy with who he is, and works towards a secure life within the limits of his natural station. Instead of purely working towards maximizing income, he values the good things in life, the things that actually are known to bring happiness: family, an emphasis on producing work with an individual touch, directly benefiting from one’s own hard labor, leisure time, socializing, and so on.

Interestingly, these “good things in life” are also enjoyed by the ultra-rich. Primarily, they are enjoyed by the upper lower class and the ultra-rich. The middle class are stuck trying to move themselves in the direction of the ultra-rich, unaware that if they just sat still, they might be happier. The parallel between the upper lower class and the upper upper class was noticed by Paul Fussell in his book Class. Neither class has anything to prove, and is satisfied with who they are.

Within neoreaction, it is actually passion and concern for the lower class and lower middle class that motivates many of our arguments related to crime, the economy, social order, and so on. When social order begins to collapse, the poor feel it first; not just sacralized victim groups of the poor, but the poor in general. Liberalism fails to make cities safe for the poor, because liberal ideas come from inherently safe places like Harvard. A set of values formed in places like Harvard is not practical or helpful for actually helping the poor in general. It is based on the social assumptions of the wealthy and well-educated, who inhabit a social world very different than that of the poor, a world where physical force has no place.

There are many other points to be made along these lines, but these suffice for now.