Embracing Modernity, Part 2

From the infamous Nov. 2013 Tech Crunch article Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries that introduced thousands of people to NRx:

Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, …

The veracity of this statement is questioned among many reactionaries who argue that technology and free market capitalism has made things worse by disrupting the ‘social order’, a view held by many paleo conservatives. Based on my own readings and my involvement, it definitely seems like NRx is rejecting the ‘Silicon Valley/technology’ subculture and putting much more emphasis on tradition and ethnocentrism, and this is especially evident in 2015 with ‘black lives matter’, the Confederate Flag, Donald Trump and immigration, and other social/culture issues that are on the forefront of the National Debate, pushing ‘technology culture’ to the periphery.

The technologists, while rejecting economic liberalism and some elements of social justice, aren’t really culture warriors. With the exception of the anti-feminist traditionalist George Gilder and others, the ‘culture wars’ are not their domain and they tend not to get too involved with those issues. But even George Gilder, who is a free market capitalist and anti-SJW, would disagree with the dovish ‘alt right’ over Israel and foreign interventionism, as well as issues such as immigration, since Gilder is notably pro-immigration. There is some acrimony by the right towards Silicon Valley over the later’s push for more immigration. Pro-immigration conservatives have faith in the rule of law to keep the state cohesive, despite the influx of new people, and see the free market has having precedence over ethnic interests. This divide between techno-capitalists and traditionalists on the rights just goes to show how diverse right-wing politics can be, even within the broader ideology conservatism. Among the the left, a similar divide exists among neo liberals, who support policy to create equal equal opportunities within a meritocracy, and welfare liberals, who want equal outcomes and for the system to be changed completely to achieve this goal.

Throughout this blog, I’ve argued against stagnation and in support of modernity, a version of NRx which puts me among a very small minority of the fledgling movement, which now seems to have become a dichotomy. There is even a Wikipedia entry for this – Reactionary Modernism – which embraces technology and modernity but rejects liberal ideals, so to some extent that’s what I am, but with more emphasis on personal freedoms and free markets.

Technology is how civilization advances, and if society fails the biggest losers will be the most productive and competent, who have the most invested intellectually and financially in Western civilization succeeding. Modernity, whether it’s the invention of fire in ancient times, to quantum computers today, is how people control their environments instead of merely being subjected to the whims of them, and it’s our ability to not only understand abstract concepts like mortality and finiteness but also take active steps to control it, is what makes modern humans unique from any other animal. Dinosaurs could not control their fate, and they had no such concept of mortality. We, as humans, do. And perhaps the onus is on the best and the brightest among us to create the technologies to save future generations from the unknown, future disasters that loom.

Charles Hugh Smith in an article, One Word Defines This Era: Stagnation laments how progress has stagnated, writing:

How many of you can honestly claim that the services you get from government or global corporations are better now than they were in 2000, or 1985? Get real, people; more often than not, the service has declined or stagnated rather than improved.

But there are improvements, it’s just they they don’t get as much media coverage as doom and gloom.

One examples is that Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) can be cured or put into long term remission, whereas in 1985 the mortality was much higher.

For example, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center recently analyzed 1148 CP-CML patients and showed that the 8-year survival was ≤ 15% before 1983, 42%-65% from 1983-2000, and 87% since 2001.6 Therefore, the projections for the next decade, taking into account the recent progress with second-generation TKIs, are for the life expectancy of CML patients to be close to that observed in the general population.


Thanks to the drug Gleevec, Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), which was one nearly 100% fatal, is now a chronic, manageable disease like AIDS:

Gleevec, marketed by Novartis, kicks chemotherapy in the ass, and is an example of how the free market improves lives.

Wages may seem stagnant but you also have to take into account new technologies and increased entitlement spending, although I do concede that the later is problematic and needs to be addressed, but solutions will be hard to come by. A problem that is decades in the making isn’t going to go away overnight. But when the left complains about paychecks not rising, they have to realize that everything from education to healthcare is being increasingly subsidized by taxpayers and employers, with out of pocket costs historically low. New technologies means you get more utility for your dollar. With Netflix, for $20 a month and the cost of internet, you can stream unlimited entertainment, whereas a generation ago entertainment options were much more limited. Americans are so well-fed there’s an obesity crisis.

That’s why I’m a little more hesitant to dismiss modernity and join the everything is doomed/sucks chorus. There is bad, but there is also good.

If you read Moldbug’s April 2007 essay, A Formalist Manifesto, while he rejects progressivism (and it’s modern liberal and conservative offshoots), moderation, libertarianism, as do I, his solutions are incrementalist – making small adjustments instead of creating a whole new system – which, is somewhat similar to my approach of optimizing cognitive and financial capital through better policy with our existing mixed economy.

But three, which is the real killer – so to speak – is that we are not, in fact, designing an abstract utopia here. We are trying to fix the real world, which in case you hadn’t noticed, is extremely screwed up.

So he says he’s not trying to make a Utopia, only fix our existing system from the perspective of how an engineer would do so so.

The goal of formalism is to avoid this unpleasant little detour. Formalism says: let’s figure out exactly who has what, now, and give them a little fancy certificate. Let’s not get into who should have what.
To a formalist, the way to fix the US is to dispense with the ancient mystical horseradish, the corporate prayers and war chants, figure out who owns this monstrosity, and let them decide what in the heck they are going to do with it. I don’t think it’s too crazy to say that all options – including restructuring and liquidation – should be on the table.

Essentially, this is propertarianism, which is kinda similar to the minarchist or ‘night watchman’ state approach. He’s not rejecting technology, but rather the liberal/democratic values of ‘the Enlightenment’, which I agree with. This is also the view shared by Michael Anissimov, a NRx blogger who is pro-technology and anti-egalitarianism.

Technology may actually be a tailwind for the NRx cause, hastening the decline of democracy and egalitarianism, with IQ as the new caste system in our hyper-competitive post-2008 economy.

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