Reactionary Realism

From Poseidon Awoke, NRx: Against Platonic Rationalism:

I believe that the Dark Enlightenment is the realization that we are currently governed by pseudosciences, which were created out of the Enlightenment exuberance for the human ability to reason (rationalize). What the children of the Enlightenment did not understand was the limits of human cognition and the laundry list of cognitive biases that humans have. As such, we cannot simply think our way forward, deducing from first principles… we have to actually measure and experiment. We have to measure our mental models against the real world. Today, the pseudosciences assume that they are correct because they are logically consistent, but when the real-world outcomes to not match their imaginary models, it is because of some witchcraft (some evil crimethinker), rather than the fact that the imaginary model is not founded on observable truth.

Agree that democracy is a pseudoscience that (as I explain yesterday) requires its subjects suspend disbelief. But I’m not so quick to join the ‘humans are irrational’ bandwagon, because that often segues into turning IQ into a handicap, a tactic common among the left and liberal pop psychology charlatans. If smart people and their models are occasionally wrong, do you think less intelligent people will fare better? If a rocket blows up on the launchpad, do we fire the rocket scientists and replace them with ditch diggers? I would argue that all humans act in a way that they individually perceive as rational, but the rationalizations of smarter people tend to produce better results both individually and for society.

If I had to rename the site, maybe it would be called Rationalist Reaction, Reactionary Rationalism, or Reactionary Realism. The idea is to reconcile free will/ individualism/autonomy within a reactionary and deterministic framework, where the ‘social order’ is both an economic and biological one. This is similar to compatibilism. The example of Hobbes’ river, in contemporary society, is analogous to IQ and other biological factors. For example, the meritocracy by IQ, which means that individuals have free will and self-determination within their cognitive limitations. People with low IQs and genetic markers for violence are influenced by these biological factors to make poor life decisions, so while they have free will to make choices, these choices are often bad.

Conservatives tend to want to preserve the ‘status quo’, but biology helps by creating new caste systems within America, especially since 2008, stratified by IQ, with smart people tending to rise to the top and the less intelligent wedged between the cracks. Thus, Social Darwinism may, in fact, be compatible with conservatism, as both are a means to preserving a social order – the former by biology and the latter by rule of law, culture, and customs – or, preferably, by some combination of both. Rationalism is the understanding of this process, the entanglement of biology with socioeconomics, but it also goes beyond that, to understanding macroeconomics, and to the rejection of superstitions and wishful thinking by the embracing reality even if we don’t always agree with it or like it.

The suggestion that some people are intrinsically better than others is antithetical to egalitarianism and is a view many conservatives, liberals, and libertarians find offensive, wishing it weren’t so. They create these ‘myths’ to explain it away – we need more spending on social programs, more wealth redistribution, stronger families, less regulation…etc, etc. I’m sympathetic to the last two, and indeed stronger families will make for a better society, but it doesn’t change the fact some people are still, at the biological level, better than others. That’s the problem with Thomas Sowell…although he’s right about economics, he dismisses the role of biology and its connection with economic outcomes, arguing like liberals do that to posit such a link is racism. Biological and economic reality throws cold water on these ‘myths’, as evidenced by growing wealth inequality, or how smart, rich people tend to produce more economic value than poorer, less intelligent people. Or how high-IQ people create technologies and research that advances civilization, sometimes getting wealthy in the process, too. Again and again, the research is clear: IQ is biological and strongly influences socioeconomic outcomes. Therefore, some people, upon conception, must better than others – if ‘worth’ is measured by the potential to create economic value and advance civilization, which I think is pretty important. One could argue, of course, that not all high-IQ people are productive, useful members of society, and this is true, but, by in large, the there is a positive correlation between creative output and IQ. In other words, IQ is more than just a number, as much as many were it were.

Some libertarians and conservatives, to their credit, even in rejecting the idea of biological determinism, acknowledge that some people are superior to others by virtue of their economic, scientific, and social contributions.

But back to the subject of policy, if smart people occasionally draft poor policy, that doesn’t mean smart people are the problem. We need better policy and leaders.

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