Introducing Phalanx

Phalanx

Phalanx, alternatively rendered as >>>, is a reactionary fraternity for the cultivation of masculine virtue and the development of social and moral capital. If degeneracy is the cancer that’s killing the West, Phalanx is regeneracy.

Phalanx is not about collective action or activism in the perverse leftist sense. It is about physical, social, and spiritual self-cultivation, becoming better men, and supporting ourselves, each other, and our communities. The plan is not to directly engage, but to become strong and worthy.

We won’t try to do everything at once, but we envision a group of men meeting regularly to do things like the following:

  • Go to church.
  • Shoot guns, go hunting.
  • Train martial arts.
  • Get stronger.
  • Wing each other and support Patriarchy in our relationships.
  • Go camping.
  • Study practical skills like coding, fixing stuff.
  • Study history and old books.

That’s not all we want to do, and we’ll start with less, but it gives the idea. Whatever we end up doing will be configured to not take up too much time; enough to forge solid relationships and deliver the value, but not so much that you can’t have a job and other hobbies. Less than 10 hours a week, but hopefully at least a few.

Phalanx membership will be selective, so that we get men who are serious and useful. We are looking for men with some level of physical, intellectual, and social talent, a willingness to grow, and a commitment to reactionary virtue and saving Western Civilization.

This is in the early experimental phase, but if you’re interested, contact us on twitter @phalanx_nrx or by email at phalanx.nrx@gmx.com. We’re especially interested in men around Vancouver, NYC, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

Data vs Theory

Experimental Physics characterizes the interesting phenomena of physical reality to high accuracy, collecting data that must be explained.

Theoretical Physics sits in an armchair and explains the data it has access to, providing a better framework in which to reason and collect further data.

Not all fields have this fact-theory synergy structure explicitly, usually to their detriment, but conceptually it is an important distinction.

Smart intellectuals seem to theorize by default, but theorizing quality is largely a function of the amount of solid relevant data known or quickly accessible to the theorist. Despite this, people do not seem to automatically go out of their way to find and curate data, much preferring to theorize on what they already know. I would explain many intellectual trends in these terms:

  • Useful science happened exactly when the collection and cataloging of large amounts of data became high status.
  • Kepler formulated his planetary laws in response to Brahe’s comprehensive data.
  • Physics did well because physics needed the least data, and it was easiest to get solid data.
  • Fundamental physics has largely stagnated because good data on edge cases has become very expensive.
  • NRx happened when the Internet and Google books made possible fast and easy access to large amounts of relatively unfiltered information.
  • The problem with social science is its tendency to draw conclusions based on small amounts of data collected by single researchers.
  • The flaws in this post are almost entirely due to incorrect and missing information.

I therefor posit the following:

If a school of thought seeks to improve its ideas or spread ideas it believes to be true or subvert enemy ideas it believes to be false, the highest-leverage action is the production and curation of high-quality data sets.

The id of the basic income

There’s been a lot of talk lately, from many ideological corners, about the idea of a basic income guarantee – the idea of scrapping all our complex welfare programs and replacing it with a guaranteed income.  From first principles, this seems doable.  Our modern transfer programs cost a lot of money, and if you do the math, it works out to roughly enough to let everyone live at the level of a grad student.  Based on the lives of my grad student friends, that seems pretty awesome.

There are serious criticisms of the proposal as well.  Many of the proponents seem to be relatively isolated from the actual struggles of the poor, and how much of it is about being immersed in a bad culture rather than (in the US) actual material deprivation.  And they tend to assume that we’d have enough unified political will to prevent it from quickly drifting back into the mess we have today, when confronted, say, by cute pictures of starving kids whose parents gambled away their dole for the year.  But I’d like to address a different point here: regardless of the merits of the proposal, there’s a lot to learn from the fact that it’s becoming popular today.

Let’s leave the quibbles over the mechanics and bean counting and view the proposal as poetry, as aspiration.  What do its proponents think people will *do* with all their free money?  Let’s look at the best written scenario I’ve read on the subject, from Slate Star Codex:

Or consider your life on a $20,000 a year income guarantee. No longer tied down to a job, you can live wherever you want. I love the mountains. Let’s live in a cabin in Colorado, way up in the Rockies. You can find stunningly beautiful ones for $500 a month – freed from the mad rush to get into scarce urban or suburban areas with good school districts, housing is actually really cheap. So there you are in the Rockies, maybe with a used car to take you to Denver when you want to see people or go to a show, but otherwise all on your own except for the deer and squirrels. You wake up at nine, cook yourself a healthy breakfast, then take a long jog out in the forest. By the time you come back, you’ve got a lot of interesting thoughts, and you talk about them with the dozens of online friends you cultivate close relationships with and whom you can take a road trip and visit any time you feel like. Eventually you’re talked out, and you curl up with a good book – this week you’re trying to make it through Aristotle on aesthetics. The topic interests you since you’re learning to paint – you’ve always wanted to be an artist, and with all the time in the world and stunning views to inspire you, you’re making good progress. Freed from the need to appeal to customers or critics, you are able to develop your own original style, and you take heart in the words of the old Kipling poem:

And none but the Master will praise them
And none but the Master will blame
And no one will work for money
And no one will work for fame
But each for the joy of the working
Each on his separate star
To draw the thing as he sees it
For the God of things as they are

One of the fans of your work is a cute girl – this time I’m assuming you’re a man, I’m sure over the past four years you’ve learned some choice words for people who do that. You date and get married. She comes to live with you – she’s also getting $20,000 a year from the government in place of an education, so now you’re up to $40,000, which is actually very close to the US median household income. You have two point four kids. With both of you at home full time, you see their first steps, hear their first words, get to see them as they begin to develop their own personalities. They start seeming a little lonely for other kids their own age, so with a sad good-bye to your mountain, you move to a bigger house in a little town on the shores of a lake in Montana. There’s no schooling for them, but you teach them to read, first out of children’s books, later out of something a little harder like Harry Potter, and then finally you turn them loose in your library. Your oldest devours your collection of Aristotle and tells you she wants to be a philosopher when she grows up. Evenings they go swimming, or play stickball with the other kids in town.

When they reach college age, your daughter is so thrilled at the opportunity to learn from her intellectual heroes that she goes to Chase-Bear-Goldman-Sallie-Manhattan-Stearns-Sachs-Mae-FEDGOV and asks for a loan. They’re happy to give her fifteen thousand, which is all college costs nowadays – only the people who are really interested in learning feel the need to go nowadays, and supply so outpaces demand that prices are driven down. She makes it into Yale (unsurprising given how much better home-schooled students do) studies philosophy, but finds she likes technology better. She decides to become an engineer, and becomes part of the base of wealthy professionals helping fund the income guarantee for everyone else. She marries a nice man after making sure he’s willing to stay home and take care of the children – she’s not crazy, she doesn’t want to send them to some kind of institution

Your younger son, on the other hand, is a little intellectually disabled and can’t read above a third-grade level. That’s not a big problem for you or for him. When he grows older, he moves to Hawaii where he spends most of his time swimming in the ocean and by all accounts enjoys himself very much.

You’re happy your son will be financially secure for the rest of his life, but on a broader scale, you’re happy that no one around you has to live in fear of getting fired, or is struggling to make ends meet, or is stuck in the Rust Belt with a useless skill set. Every so often, you call your daughter and thank her for helping design the robots that do most of the hard work.

Note how different it is from the lives of the Aristotle-reading, Kipling-quoting class today.  If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say it’s independent.  Not only are you socially independent, living in a remote mountain cabin with a small group of close friends, you’re intellectually independent too.  Freed of the anxieties of citation-mongering or trying to land the big sales account, our protagonist embarks on an isolated intellectual quest answerable only to himself for his progress.  His life – as full of intellectual ferment as it may be – looks, and feels, leisurely. [1]

This rigorous yet free life of the mind sounds extremely appealing to the intellectual 1%, and living in this utopia would be reason enough to favor the basic income guarantee, even leaving out all the selfless stuff about fixing the culture of poverty.  Yet upon reflection this is not a dreamy utopia of the far future, but a lifestyle that has existed throughout the past.  From the philosophers of Athens to the aristocrats of the Invisible College, from the monasteries of the Middle Ages to the mandarins of the Middle Kingdom, many cultures had a space set aside for the life of the mind.   The form varied, but the bargain usually ran like this: in exchange for giving up some worldly status-climbing and wealth, you get a position of moderate freedom – and a moderate amount of guaranteed prestige.  And the bargain worked incredibly well.  [2]

That bit about prestige might sound trivial, but it’s the one thing that makes all the rest of the setup possible. Having a floor of status you can’t fall below seems somehow necessary to allow intellectual freedom.  Keep in mind that the Colorado retreat is perfectly feasible now.  It’s totally feasible for anyone making a moderate income to retire to a simple life after working about ten years.  Certainly Scott himself, set up to make a physician’s salary, can easily retire after a decade, even including the years of his residency.  The limiting factor isn’t stuff, it’s status and social narratives.  There’s no narrative in our head that painting landscapes and reading Aristotle all day is okay, let alone admirable.  Someone trying to live that life would be much less respected than a practicing physician – if they’re not just regarded with frank incomprehension and skepticism.  And so, the idyllic retreat slowly gets worn down among constant questions from parents when you’re going to get on with your life, the lack of nearby parents who understand and approve of how you’re raising your kids, and the gnawing worry that even your intellectual work will never be as cool as what those kids at Harvard or Berkeley are working on.  And so smart people march on to officially approved lifestyles and become doctors and coders and accountants and postdocs, and yearn for that rustic mountain cabin in the Rockies.

But until very recently, they had another option.  Even after the death of the old aristocracy, there was a pretty guaranteed way to live a low-key life of the mind; you could join academia.  Now academia today is a rat race like any other prestigious career track, and if you want to make it you have to apply your nose firmly to the grindstone and not spend too much time fooling around.  But it’s really only quite recently that academia was so difficult and Darwinian to try to break into.  James Watson, as recently as the 1950s, was a mediocre college student until he read What is Life, got excited, and decided to go to grad school in Indiana to work on it.  Today he wouldn’t stand a chance against students who had spent undergrad getting good grades, working with the right mentors, and generally jumping through the right hoops.

I think the basic income folks are fundamentally reacting to this shift, this closing of the last sanctuary of aristocratic intellectual freedom.  The reason they have a low-resolution view of the poor[3] but portray an incredibly compelling portrait of what an aristocratic intellectual life could look like is exactly because that is the main driving force, a semiconscious cry of pain at the possibilities that were lost as the last academies closed their gates.  And whatever one may think of the policy proposal itself, I think this pain is perfectly real, not only for individuals but for a society’s intellectual health, and whatever else they do, the proponents have done a great service by articulating it.

 

[1] The only dissonant note is the notion that our protagonist wins a wife with his art, which hints that status is still the ultimate scarce commodity, and that the drive for status could ultimately become as all-consuming as it is today or at Versailles.

[2] I have a whole other essay in me yet about the productivity of aristocracy, but I will simply note here that practically all the intellectual production before 1900 was produced on this model, off the work of an aristocracy that was much less selected for IQ than our modern elites.

[3] Of course it has to be pitched as reforming charity, because “creating a new lifestyle for the intellectual elites” would poll terribly.  This despite the fact that the basic income is a much better tool for the latter than the former.

A World of Expanding Threats Requires Private Government to be Resilient

The United States government has failed to protect us from ebola by refusing to stop flights from West Africa. Scientist Greg Cochran recalls how American Samoa was saved from even a single case of the Spanish flu by a quarantine. The way our leaders are thinking about America has changed. From The American Conservative:

The deeper answer is that much of the American establishment has bought into “post-America”—the concept that the border shouldn’t mean much of anything. There is a right-wing and hawkish component to this: those feel we have the right and duty to meddle in every region of the world. ISIS is treated as primarily an American problem, as are ethnic fissures in Ukraine. The liberal side of the same paradigm is driven by guilt that the United States is richer or more successful than much of the world and hopes–by eliminating the significance of the border—to gradually erase such differences. The Washington Post recently ran an op-ed denouncing “borderism.” The piece opened by lamenting that someone born in New Mexico has better opportunities in life than someone born in Mexico.

We are living under a government that doesn’t take the idea of a border very seriously. They won’t even stop flights from an area of the world with a deadly, uncurable, exponentially spreading disease.

The future of most of America and Europe is unsafe. It’s unsafe because 1) there are cultures trying to do as much damage to us as possible, 2) people are constantly pushing us to start a war with Russia, 3) within a few years it will be much easier to arbitrarily design new pathogens, 4) our leaders aren’t insular-thinking enough to take the measures needed to defend us properly.

In Germany, pro-ISIS forces are running wild with machetes. This is Hamburg, not Mosul. 16 percent of French citizens support ISIS. I could go on.

The world is re-radicalizing, reaching back to its roots. Only Europe and America are lagging here. We retain egalitarian, universalist, multicultural values that make us easy prey for a new generation of guiltless fanatics. Only when we have been thoroughly exploited and ruined will we abandon our liberal values and truly fight back. The war has little to do with air campaigns. It’s about mass immigration which is a hostile invasion by foreign cultures.

Private governments are more likely to take actions that clearly benefit the people of a country, without worrying about whether it’s in fashion. For example, in Switzerland, all activities related to ISIS have been banned. There’s something related: Switzerland has rejected immigration. The common thread is putting the native citizen above the foreigner. Switzerland is not a private government, but its historic isolation makes it behave more like one than, say, America or the UK.

In a world of abundance, there is enough to go around. It’s easy to accept immigrants and grant unlimited public freedoms when the going is good. What about when the world becomes more dangerous, because any terrorist can cook up Ebola 2.0 in his basement, and he has a mind to spray it all over the New York subway? Then, the open society will fall. This is due to the simple fact that technology improves the ability to attack faster than it improves the ability to defend.

Think about the world from a perspective where the failure of an open society is inevitable. From that perspective, a democratic society isn’t an option; the question becomes, which kind of post-democratic system is likely to prevail?

A Critique of Neoreaction Worth Thinking About

Some people say we’re complicated or long-winded. That’s not necessarily true. We can be short and too the point also, like 90% of my posts on this blog.

Most of the critiques against us are pithy and short, just like any critiques. The one below, found on 8chan’s /pol/, caught my eye:

monarchy

You might say, “ugh, reading 8chan’s /pol/ and posting the critiques on your blog, that’s so low status”. Well, who cares. Since only a minority of people have blogs, and there is no barrier to entry on 8chan, we’re going to see a lot more frank critiques on the latter than the former, even if they aren’t what you’d call high status. It’s important for us to consider and address all the painfully obvious critiques, even if the first examples sighted in the wild come from “low status” sources.

I like the above critique because it probably represents what a lot of critics of neoreaction are thinking. Few people bother to say it because few people care. Neoreaction is a fringe political movement, barely worthy of response. Responses are happening with greater frequency, but mostly on image board discussions. That’s why I bother with 8chan at all.

Instead of responding to the critique in this post, I’m just presenting it here to let it stew a bit. I’m curious about the different tacks that neoreactionaries might use to respond to it.

Techno-commercialists might think the critique does not apply to them, because it’s critiquing a traditional monarchy. No, actually it does apply to you, because you’re advocating for a similar central executive, remember?

One last thing: you might be thinking, “why does Anissimov post such stupid critiques?” Well, because it’s not stupid. More learned critiques may begin with the same internal reasoning, with smart reasoning tacked on just to confirm the initial shallow reasoning. In that case, it’s far superior to focus on the initial, shallower emotional critique that precedes the post facto, educated-sounding rationalization. Rebuffing the latter is liable to be a waste of time, since another rationalization can easily grow from the remains, because the source is the first-order argument you see above, not the educated-sounding argument that gets posted in an online journal or whatever source you might call “high status”.

I repeat: this critique does concern techno-commercialists. Techno-commercialists cannot dodge critiques of monarchy, because neocameralism proposes a similar system. It isn’t credible to think that a techno-commercialist leader would be something new under the sun, unrelated to and immune from critiques of other forms of unitary governmental authority. All low time preference, private government is being critiqued by the above, not just the French monarchy. When people critique monarchy, what they usually mean is to critique private government in general. If you advocate private government of any kind, you must explain why it would not be quickly overthrown!

Neoreactionaries Don’t Plan to Be in the ‘Ruling Class’

Obnoxiously, this meme keeps going around:

A fair accusation, I suppose, it’s just entirely made up. This is an inference that is in critics’ heads and nowhere else. I explained why this impression is false recently, but I might as well spell it out more.

  • We neoreactionaries understand that we are just a community of everyday people on the Internet. Few of us are leader material. We are intellectuals, more than anything else.
  • If, in the off chance that a neoreactionary state is implemented somewhere in the world, say on a patch of land in Kansas, it mostly won’t effect you. So there is no need to feel personally threatened by neoreactionaries. This might make you feel it less necessary to make up the rationalization that neoreactionaries “want to rule” as a way of discrediting something you see as a threat.
  • Similarly, if a neoreactionary state pops up in Kansas, it’s more likely to be ruled by people from Kansas than people from elsewhere. This is because the nobility and the commoners must have a common culture. People from, say, California or Texas would not make great rulers there since they don’t know the families and don’t know the culture. When it comes to nobility, the more rooted in the local culture they are, the better. The first neoreactionary states are likely to be in rural areas with low populations where we don’t come from.
  • A new nobility would likely be extremely wealthy. Few of us are that wealthy. Therefore, we personally won’t be nobility, even in the off chance that a neoreactionary state is created in our lifetimes.
  • The kind of people capable of ruling over or managing plots of land are not the same kind of people who are good at writing political theory on the Internet.
  • The kind of men who are followed as patriarchs tend to be older, aged 60-80. Not aged 20-30, like the majority of neoreactionaries today. Even if there were a neoreactionary revolution tomorrow, we would be too young to rule.

The above are just a few reasons. We won’t personally join any new ruling class. Let me repeat that: none of us think we will be personally joining any ruling class.

To understand neoreaction, imagine people who see hierarchy as providing stability and prosperity, even if they personally aren’t in the ruling class.

Mostly, neoreactionaries just want to be left alone.

For the purposes of rhetorical attack, I can see why someone might falsely accuse neoreactionaries of having fantasies of rule (just like they might accuse us of being ‘fascists’), but in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.