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Moldbug on Libertarianism, Neocameralism

From Moldbug: Why I am not a libertarian

This an important article that delineates Moldbug’s reservations about libertarianism, and outlines his proposal of ‘neocamerialism’ as an alternative to democracy and libertarianism.

Moldbug writes:

And this is the first reason I am not a libertarian. Libertarianism is, more or less, basically, the ideology of the American Revolution. And the American Revolution was, in my own personal opinion, more or less, basically, a criminal outrage of the mob – led by leaders who were either unscrupulous, deluded, or both.

The ‘American Revolution’ is not an ideology (although it was ideologically motivated). It was an action to enact, eventually, a constitutional republic, which, although does not concentrate power as tightly as an absolute monarchy, is not libertarianism. Although he later argues that libertarianism is, essentially, revolutionist in its Lockean avocation of ‘natural rights’ of man.

In my opinion, the practical problem with grounding libertarianism in the ideals of the American Revolution is that Americans no longer hold those ideals, and Europeans never did. Both, today, follow a moral code which is essentially socialist. It is true that this is the natural consequence of “education” at the hands of a government which is essentially socialist. It is also irrelevant. The consequence is the reality. You cannot explain to people that they ought to believe in, say, freedom of contract as a fundamental human right, when in fact they don’t. As Hume, again, pointed out, ethical axioms are not debatable.

The Constitution also granted the second amendment, which many on the left want to restrict or repeal. The high rate of gun ownership, as well a America’s culture of individualism, suggests that millions of Americans don’t wish to acquiesce to Europeans-style socialism. America’s constitutional republic endows its subjects with property rights, not only through gun ownership, but through the ‘rule of law’, whereas libertarian purists and anarchists typically don’t believe in the latter. Furthermore, there are few ‘absolute’ libertarians; many, such as Nozik, Rand, and Rothbard, and like myself, advocate some form a ‘watchman state’.

Some argue ‘America is socialist’ or ‘America is communist’, but neither of these labels is correct. America is a mishmash of many things – some elements of libertarianism (free market capitalism), some socialism (growing entitlement spending), some authoritarianism (‘militarization’ of the police, homeland security, etc.), some Communism/Marxism (SJWs, cultural Marxism in universities). If America were Communist, as some erroneously insist, you wouldn’t have all these multi-millionaires in web 2.0; you wouldn’t have the majority of the Forbes 400 list as Americans. China’s government is technically Communist, but they abandoned market-communism long ago, as more evidence of how there is subtly behind these labels.

My ‘theory’ is you start with some tacit assumptions about how a government should work, and in striking optimal balance between individual and state power you end up with something similar to what we have now, albeit with some gradations. Some countries are more authoritarian, some more lenient; some more socialist, some more laissez faire.

Rejecting the American Revolution is especially problematic for a libertarian, because the great libertarian writers of the twentieth century – Rothbard, Rand and Nozick – all defined libertarianism as an ethical ideal. Probably the best rigorous one-book definition of the mainstream libertarian (or “anarcho-capitalist,” a term which has always struck me as utterly dorky) perspective is Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty.

EOL works very hard to define the moral principles that make libertarianism philosophically ineluctable. Needless to say, these principles are none other than the Lockean natural rights of the American Revolution. The theological roots of these “rights” are obvious (Rothbard may not have been a Christian, but Locke certainly was), and any suggestion that they are in some sense philosophically universal violates Hume’s is-ought principle.

This is the crux of Moldbug’s argument – libertarians believe in ‘natural rights’ and ‘liberty’; monarchists don’t.

However, I offer a caveat regarding externalities and consequences. Libertarians, conservatives understand that actions that have negative consequences on others should be punished, thus limiting ‘personal freedom’. For example, I technically have the freedom to hit someone, but I may go to jail. Regarding externalities, consider obesity. Some may argue that an unhealthy lifestyle is a personal choice, but if your lifestyle imposes a cost on society in terms of higher expenses, maybe by being obese and or living an unhealthy lifestyle you ‘waive’ your right to public healthcare.

Thus, libertarian principles cannot be logically justified except an appeal to the historical traditions that have descended to all Americans as received wisdom via the Patriot branch of the evolutionary tree. A libertarian, therefore, is fundamentally a conservative.

And if you admit that the Loyalists may have been right and the Patriots may have been a bunch of asshats, conservatism takes a heavy slash to the neck from Occam’s razor. Because a so-called “conservative” who is a Patriot – or even a supporter of the “Glorious Revolution” – is someone who believes in progress up to a certain point, but no further.

While such a position may indeed prove correct, there is certainly no reason to give it the benefit of the doubt. In fact, considering the length of time for which it has held that benefit, it probably should be treated as if it were a boiling radioactive vial of Ebola.

This is a slippery slope argument, that some ‘progress’ must eventually lead to full-blown liberalism. Maybe it’s true; maybe not. Ironically, a boiling vial full of Ebola would be safer than a room-temperature one, because the heat would have easily killed the virus.

I mean, why in God’s name would anyone come to the conclusion that the US political system is in some sense reformable? Talk about the triumph of hope over experience. And all the energy, and money, and time, that the Beltway libertarians put into trying to apply a single smudge of lipstick to some flap of flesh in the remote vicinity of this hog’s maw is energy, and money, and time uninvested in putting the beast to sleep. Moreover, since the official story of Washington is that it represents everyone, it fits all sizes, it contains multitudes, a few decorative pseudolibertarians may be just the right camouflage for it to weather another century’s storms.

Moldbug believes the system itself, beyond the left/right dichotomy, is irredeemable and that ‘conservatism’ or ‘libertarianism’ is just putting lipstick on a pig. Everything needs to be ‘reset’, ideally to before the Glorious Revolution.

Moldbug ends by offers his alternative to libertarianism, which is similar to minarchism, but with a subtle distinction:

My preference, as a resident of Plainland, is for simple, libertarian or minarchist government. I notice that Washcorp does not provide this service. My question is: why not?

Note how distant this engineering approach is from Rothbardian ethical libertarianism. We treat liberty as a goal, rather than an ideal. We ask: how can we design a system that will achieve this goal, and maintain it sustainably?


And this is how formalism leads us to neocameralism. Neocameralism is the idea that a sovereign state or primary corporation is not organizationally distinct from a secondary or private corporation. Thus we can achieve good management, and thus libertarian government, by converting sovcorps to the same management design that works well in today’s private sector – the joint-stock corporation.

He calls it formaism, which leads to neocameralism.

Note that this hypothesis is entirely testable. It is perfectly practical to create private cities. The step from special economic zones, which are often new cities (see, for example, Saudi Arabia’s forthcoming entry in the game) to sovcorps is quite short. Again, once property rights are stabilized, the difference between primary and secondary property are organizationally irrelevant. Government is management, good government is good management, and bad government is bad management.

If it strikes you as farfetched to imagine the US Government as a corporation with a stock symbol, you might find it easier to start by thinking in terms of private city-states. While none of them comes anywhere near the neocameralist ideal, the city-states of Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong certainly provide a very high quality of customer service. Note that none of them has any concept of constitutional, limited, or democratic government.

A ‘peev’ is that I have mentioned Dubai a couple times on this blog as an example of a modern ‘reactionary’ government, but the idea hasn’t gained any traction, nor does anyone talk about it. I mean…it’s right there – an example of a functioning absolute monarchy – but no discussion about it.

But another problem is ‘neocameralism’ seems kinda vague. How would the shares be allocated? Who gets what? I’m sure a billionaire would get more shares than a pauper. What would happen if someone were to start liquidating these shares; it may cause inflation and other problems. The whole idea is so far-fetched (even by the standards of this blog) that it’s hard to make any sense of it. The solution almost seems more daunting than the problem. Another complaint is that neocameralism and other speculative forms of government are seldom discussed by the NRx community anymore.

My proposal of offering government employees ‘options’ in the S&P 500, similar to employee stock options, seems similar.

But one problem is that all this debate is the equivalent of splitting hairs, or may not have the intended result of starting anew. True, under neocameralism there is no longer a democracy or a constitutional republic, but the result may still not be too much different than what we have now. If the problem is moral decay (smut on TV, porn, etc.), how does the joint-stock state fix that? How does it fix SJWs or rampant feminism? Traditional conservatives, to their credit, take a hard-line stand against that stuff, whereas others tend to dance around the issue or defer to abstractions.

But given that everything is kinda the same in the end, my solution is more incrementalist: gradually retiring America’s obsoleted democratic institutions. Techno-commercialism, for example, is a good start – putting guys like Thiel in charge.

My version of libertarianism, which I call ‘partial libertarianism‘, is more abstract, with elements of neoconservatism, Social Darwinism, futurism, HBD, and neoreaction. Not the usual ‘bleeding heart’ brand of libertarianism that is all too common.

Vox Explains the ‘Alt Right’

Vox.com explains the ‘alt right’.

In agreement with posts I wrote in 2014, elements of the ‘alt right’, including NRx and HBD, are starting to gain more mainstream appeal, as evidenced by Vox.com, a mainstream online news source, expose on the ‘alt right’, replete with all the usual characters like Moldbug and Land. This also agrees with the rise of the esoteric celebrity, because Nick Land and Moldbug, through Vox and other media sources, have received much more visibility through their complicated, esoteric beliefs than most people ever will. The article was also shared 5,508 times, a record high for Vox.com, indicating a substantial amount of interest and curiosity in the ‘alt right’, and introducing millions of people to this intricate web of ideologies and intellectuals, that until recently was mostly underground.

Both the Brietbart and Vox write-ups list 4chan and Reddit as being the ‘ground zero’ for this nascent intellectual movement, which again agrees with posts from 2014 where I explicitly list 4chan and Reddit as being on the vanguard of the post-2013 anti-SJW movement, originally under the banner of ‘gamergate’ but now expanded to include Trump and ‘Cuckservative’. As someone who in 2008 wrote about un-egalitarian economic systems, I saw the potential of the ‘alt right’ to fill the gaps of mainstream conservatism, in rejecting egalitarianism and political correctness. The Vox article also mentions Elon Musk, whom I have also written about many times on this blog. In 2005, I realized that the days of companies paying mediocre-talent people $20-50 an hour to just fiddle around were unsustainable, and I became interested in entrepreneurship, and then the financial problem of 2008 hit, with the perpetually anemic labor market that has remained sluggish long after the stock market and economy recovered, in agreement with my hunch.

From the Vox article:

Moldbug explains. “Good government is effective, lawful government. Bad government is ineffective, lawless government. How anyone reasonable could disagree with these statements is quite beyond me. And yet clearly almost everyone does.”

As evidenced by America’s high incarceration rate and militarization of police, America does a pretty good job at enforcing law, almost to a fault, except for illegal immigration which law enforcement turns a blind eye. But overall, excluding immigration and rowdy anti-Trump protests, America is among the most lawful countries in the world, while also strongly enforcing property rights, and I think that’s why America may be closer to the ‘reactionary ideal’ than many believe.

Due to tough law enforcement and long sentences for repeat offenders, America ranks among the bottom for assaults, among developed nations:

Muggings and burglaries are very common in Europe, mainly because the punishments are so lenient and law enforcement is inept, and maybe immigration plays a role too.

However, America has a higher homicide rate, although the explanation may not be politically correct one.

Get rid of the trial lawyers and turn back the dial some decades, and we may be 90% of the way there. Also, the Founding Fathers, despite rejecting monarchy, were critical of democracy and were concerned about a ‘tyranny of the majority’, choosing to establish a representative system of government instead of a direct democracy.

The parts about paloconservatism could have been omitted. The ‘alt right’ seems specifically a post-2013 movement, along with variants of ‘less wrong’ rationalism, and bears only tangential resemblance to 90′s-era paleoconservatism. Rationalists, including the ‘rational right’, care more about empirical evidence and the pursuit of truth and understanding, even if such truths go against political correctness, than identity politics and activism.

However, even for a group that prides itself on rationality and data (such as Michael Asmiov’s statistics which Vox lists), there are potential logical inconsistencies that may be difficult to reconcile:

When asked who should lead it, Moldbug’s tech roots come through. “It’s easy to say ‘put Elon [Musk] in charge, he’ll figure it out,’ and he might well,” he tells me via email.

The 19th-century Scottish thinker Thomas Carlyle, a hero to many neoreactionaries.

Libertarians also tend to be big fans of modernity, and despite its affinities to the tech world, neoreaction really, really is not. Neoreactionaries believe that for a long time — maybe since the French Revolution — things have been going to shit. Moldbug likes to trot out anecdotes about crime in the Victorian era to make his point. Here’s a description of 1876 London he cites:

The problem is Musk seems like a ‘free trade’, pro-tech-immigration guy, which goes against some of the protectionist and isolationist views of the ‘alt right’. As shown by the UAE, you can reject democracy and have a monarchy while still having immigration (guest workers make up the bulk of the UAE population) and free markets (provided in the case of the UAE it doesn’t violate Islamic law). That’s why I’m a reluactnt neoconservative – because it’s still the most logically consistent of major ideologies in balancing personal autonomy with markets, property rights, the ‘rule of law’, and national defense – or partial libertarianism.

eoreactionaries are not individualists. They think in terms of social structure and order, and view social classes or races as the units determining the future of society, much as Marxists speak not of individual workers and capitalists but of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie as a whole. They are tribalists, and for the most part — let’s not mince words — they are racists.

Moldbug in particular views American society as a kind of Indian-style caste system. He views the Democratic Party as a coalition of Brahmins (liberal intellectual types who went to fancy schools), Dalits (poor, mostly black or Latino people), and Helots (Mexican immigrant workers). “What the Dalit alliance gives progressives is more than just a vote bank,” he writes. “What the Dalits are is muscle, a militia, a mob. … Basically, the Brahmins have every possible Machiavellian interest in encouraging an invasion of Third World barbarians. The more, the nastier, the better. Their real hereditary enemy is the native barbarian — the half-civilized Vaisya, the ignorant megachurched Okie redneck, the Huckabee voter, the Bircher and McCarthyite, America Firster and Coolidge voter.”

Hmmm…but individualism and castes need not be mutually exclusive. Social Darwinism is a good sorting mechanism for a mixed-economy society, with ‘intellectual castes’ within a meritocracy. The idea is that in a meritocracy or free market, ‘order‘ and ‘structure’ will arise out of biological differences such as IQ, with less intelligent people tending to fall to the bottom through autonomous processes. It’s analogous to the Peter Principle, which states that people will be promoted to their level of incompetence, except people will rise to their IQ level, however high or low that may be, although there may a point of diminishing returns for very high IQs.

(his father is Jewish, for one thing)

This information is unnecessary and maybe is an effort by the author to sow discord between NRx, which tends to reject antisemitism, with Neo Nazi nationalists.

Also the article gets other parts wrong, putting words in Moldbug’s mouth:

He is sympathetic to arguments for black racial inferiority. “Ever since Mill wrote his response to Carlyle on The Negro Question and probably well before, writers in the English Protestant tradition have been defending the blatantly theological proposition that ‘all men are created equal,’” he snidely commented on a 2008 blog post. “In the absence of any evidence for this proposition, one can always assert that evidence for the contrary is unconvincing. Note that exactly the same rhetorical strategy can prove the existence of God, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that matter.”

No one has said anyone is inferior or superior. Going by the data, certain groups tend to do better or worse than than others, at varying tasks, which could make certain people inferior at tasks where pertinent skills may be lacking. But, yes, not all men are created equal, biologically at least, but the Deceleration was likely referring to ‘equal under god’, in contract to the hierarchical system of Catholicism.

This has channeled into the Trump movement. Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart writer and major Trump defender who’s perhaps the most vocal exponent of alt-rightism online, famously employs an army of interns, a lot of whom he says are “young 4chan guys.” In their own alt-right explainer, Yiannopoulos and co-author Allum Bokhari argue that /pol/’s alt-righters have embraced racism purely for shock value:

Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures, from the Jewish “Shlomo Shekelburg” to “Remove Kebab,” an internet in-joke about the Bosnian genocide. Are they actually bigots? No more than death metal devotees in the 80s were actually Satanists. For them, it’s simply a means to fluster their grandparents … Young people perhaps aren’t primarily attracted to the alt-right because they’re instinctively drawn to its ideology: they’re drawn to it because it seems fresh, daring and funny, while the doctrines of their parents and grandparents seem unexciting, overly-controlling and overly-serious.

For good measure, they quote Moldbug/Yarvin: “If you spend 75 years building a pseudo-religion around anything – an ethnic group, a plaster saint, sexual chastity or the Flying Spaghetti Monster – don’t be surprised when clever 19-year-olds discover that insulting it is now the funniest fucking thing in the world. Because it is.”

There is truth to this, as I’ve written extensively about millennials and how they are leading the ‘alt right’, as well as other niche ideologies and movements. Because millennials may be better educated and more informed than earlier generations were, millennials are better able to grasp concepts like HBD, as well as a greater tendency to question authority, which today such authority emanates the leftist establishments in media and education. Also, there is the post-2008 disillusionment with Obama and post-2012 disillusionment with OWS, as millions of millennials realize that social liberalism isn’t working, that Obama couldn’t (obviously) keep his promises to make education and healthcare free and reign-in Wall St., with good-paying jobs for all. With the post-2009 bull market in its 7th year (the 2nd longest ever) and with tech luminaries like Musk and Zuck and Travis (Uber.com) making multi-billion dollar fortunes in less time it takes to graduate from college full of debt, millennials are realizing it’s better to try to get rich, to emulate the smart and successful, than fight a losing war against the rich and successful. Then you have the post-2013 rise of centrism and rationalism (the left’s version of the the ‘alt right’), in rejection of SJW-liberalism. Instead of going to expensive parties, millennials would rather ‘go Galt’, rejecting collectivism, in favor of intellectualism, minimalism, and wealth creation.

Against IQ-ism (response to Moldbug post)

Moldgug/Curtis has a new essay Why you should come to LambdaConf anyway

Good essay. Quick and easy to read, which cannot be said for some of the posts on Unqualified Reservations. It almost reads similar to what I wrote 2 days ago, against intellectualism.

No need to try to parse that. All Voegelin is saying is that if you experiment with “thinking from scratch” and the results are positive, you end up living in a different story from everyone else. What I see as reality, you see as a surreal dream world. What you see as reality, I see as a surreal dream world.

This part is especially good and echoes the ethos of ‘rationalism’, as I explain in Intellectual Solvent, Part 2

It is very difficult for high-IQ nerds to realize that a Twitter oligarchy of all the high-IQ nerds is not an effective government, that high-IQ people are not inherently better than low-IQ people, etc, etc. But we’re smart and we could try. The clue is out there, somewhere — maybe even in old books.

But you can fail to believe in HNU, and still not be racist. Why? A much more important reason: being intelligent doesn’t make you a better person.

To be frank, I think it does, if ‘better’ is measured by the ability to acquire skills that society finds economically valuable. Coding jobs pay more than bussing tables. Al else being equal, in an economic sense, the former is ‘better’.

Look at it like this, if IQ were really as meaningless as many wish it were, there would be little to no debate or controversy on the matter, just as there is no debate about the existence or lack thereof of flying toasters in space. But people do get worked-up over it, because this number predicts an awful lot.

Maybe Moldbug trying to recant, or maybe he’s always been kinda ambivalent about IQ.

Our whole society works by picking the kids who do the best on tests, hazing them in high school so they hate jocks and cheerleaders, sending them to college where they learn to be bureaucrats

Colleges, if they aren’t completely watered-down by SJW-nonsense, do more than that – they produce discoveries in literature, physics, math, technology, and so on. Intellectualism , on it’s own or in small clusters, is productive. But maybe when too many high-IQ people congregate they form impersonal, inefficient bureaucracies.

Yes, general intelligence correlates across a wide variety of problem-solving skills. If you have a high SAT score, you are more likely to be a good Go player.

True, and the reality is that the ability to score well on IQ tests (and its proxies like the SAT) is not an isolated skill; studies have shown that high-scorers tend to be more creative as measured by intellectual output as well as other benefits. It’s more than just puzzle-solving ability. The IQ test is one of the great successes of human psychology for its predictive power. While not every genius scorer will be the next Goethe, Kant, or Hegel, his odds are certainty better than someone who only scores 90-110.

Moldbug may be falling for the reductionist ‘we don’t anything about IQ’ trap, when in fact, scientists know quite a bit about genetic properties IQ (pulled from the comments):

Not sure where you’ve been getting your information. The science here is actually pretty clear, though there’s a lot left to learn about the details.

Genetic clustering that matches self-reported race is well-documented. See Risch et al, along with many others. Steve Hsu has a map of human genetic clusters scaled by Fst.

See also Hsu’s paper on the genetic structure of intelligence. As he observes, the trait is highly polygenic (like height), and we simply don’t have samples big enough to tell us much. However, some GWAS hits that look robust have been reported.

Note also that your analysis works just as well for height, skin color (okay, now we can compute the genome->pigment function, but that’s a recent development), skeletal structure, etc.

You’d also find it interesting to try to answer the historical question as to how and why the Western scientific consensus changed from the beliefs of, say, Charles Darwin.

From a recent panel discussion on IQ, here is Steve Hsu talking about how IQ is predictive of success even for very small sample sizes.

Moldbug continues:

It’s true that a high IQ is useful in almost every field, including government. In no field is it sufficient. A much more important qualification is a clue.

For certain fields, it’s more like an insufficient but necessary condition.

Why are sh*t-tier whites voting for Trump, a barbarian who can’t even write a grammatical tweet in fourth-grade English?

It’s hard to sound eloquent with only 140 characters, and Trump is trying to pack as much power into each tweet as possible, at the cost of grammar. It’s a cheap shot and inaccurate. Trump is actually pretty smart and well-informed of the issues.

IQism is the arrogant ideology of a live ruling elite. 50 years ago, the jocks and cheerleaders handed over Detroit to the professors and journalists. How’s that working out for Detroit?

Detroit failed because its economy was dependent on auto manufacturing, most of which went away, and also ‘capital flight’ also hurt. Many reasons.

Just raising this potentially controversial discussion, taking a career risk in the process, is commendable. Academia used to be a forum for ideas, and then political correctness took over, stifling research and discussion on these matters.

Against Intellectualism

I’ve seen this quote passed around a lot:

I’m quite happy to be an anti-intellectual, actually. It is the modern equivalent of anticlericalism, and it is long overdue. One can oppose specific institutions without opposing thought in general. In fact, sometimes, it is even necessary.

It’s hard to believe it came from Moldbug, being the intellectual he is, but it did.

But maybe being an intellectual is not the same as intellectualism. That’s why I coined the term ‘smartistim‘ to describe a society, such as post-2008 America, where intellect plays a pivotal role in things like socioeconomic outcomes and social status, whether we wish it were that way or not.

In the Dawkins Pwned series, what Moldbug meant was that Richard Dawkins is a ‘secular-Christian’, that ‘clericalism’ has less to do with religiosity and more to do with hubris. Indeed, Dawkins has defended Christianity, and rightfully so, as a force against Islamic extremism.

From Moldbug, in the case of Dawkins, instead of Christianity, it’s ‘Einsteinism’ – a secular type of religiosity that has many of the mannerisms as how some perceive fundamental Christianity – provincialism and narrow-mindedness. Here is the pertinent passage from part 2 of Pwned:

With this adaptive taxonomy, atheism, secularism, laicism, etc, appear as extreme variants of pietism. The urge to tear down all ritual, to worship Reason and Man rather than Church and God, to whitewash the frescoes and melt down the candlesticks, is everpresent in pietism. Professor Dawkins’ entire shtick is perfectly consistent with the pietist niche. No wonder it’s so successful.

In other words, atheism shares many of the qualities of the religious fundamentalism it decries. But replace ‘god’ with ‘reason’.

Perhaps intellectualism is perceived by some as illiberal – not conservative, but rather impersonal, Kafkaesque, Draconian, Orwellian, etc. I had my own experience with the impersonal world of academia, trying to submit content on the Arxiv repository to no avail, which I will discuss in a later post. Although this has more to do with bureaucracy than intellect. Less intelligent people, when they try to organize, form mobs. But smarter people tend to form bureaucracies, which is preferable to disorder.

But also, let’s not forget that, historically, oppressive regimes systematically persecuted intellectuals. In any prison, you’re typical prisoner is not like Hannibal Lecter, but instead more likely to reside on the left side of the Bell Curve.

Ultimately, like many aspects of political economy and society, there is a middle ground between intellectualism (which tends to be impersonal, merit-based, individualistic) and collectivism (community, gregariousness, touchy-feeling stuff). Too much of the former results in atomization and hence no civilization; too much of the latter and you have a mountain of skulls.

From Individuaism vs. Thede

This is similar to the divide on the ‘right’ over libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, and neocons, who tend to favor free markets, defense spending, individualism, and autonomy, versus the religious/traditional right, who are more skeptical of free markets and too much individualism, supporting close-knit communities united by tradition, fraternity, and ethnicity. Paleocons and traditionalists argue that unbridled capitalism – especially free markets – subverts tradition and borders, promotes amorality, and hurts native workers. -

And from Family and Individualism

In any society, there is probably an optimal balance between individualism and collectivism. A society that is 100% atomized, by definition, is not a society. But history also shows that total conformity is no better. Those quirky people on the right side of the Bell Curve, with their idiosyncrasies, are needed for society to advance technologically, while everyone else goes about tending to civilization. If you go through Charles Murray’s database of human accomplishments, you’ll find virtually all accomplishments were made by smart people. Liberals value social justice and equality over quantifiable results. The left wants America to be a nation of takers, not creators.

And again from Moldbug, in a recent Reddit AMA discusses the inequity of biology, which includes intelligence:

It’s hard, especially for smart people, to give up the idea that smart people are better than stupid people. The ancient Greeks lent similar prestige to athletics; they believed a fast runner was spiritually better than a slow runner. They fought a lot of wars, so athletics mattered a lot to them; we write a lot of code, so problem-solving ability matters a lot to us. But one is a muscular talent, the other is a neurological talent. Neither has any mystical significance.

For better or worse, it’s this type of absolutist thinking that makes ordinary people, as well as other intellectuals, resent intellectualism. But Moldbug is right about smarter people being ‘better‘, as I have discussed numerous times on this blog. The fact that some people, upon conception, are ‘better’ than others, not surprisingly, makes many people uncomfortable because we’ve been brought up by culture to believe in the false god of egalitarianism and equality. The truth hurts.

We owe our technology to smart people; mediocre people owe their jobs to smart people, who create the jobs that employ them (these mediocre people).

From Brookings Make elites compete: Why the 1% earn so much and what to do about it:

In his “defense of the one percent,” economist Greg Mankiw argues that elite earnings are based on their higher levels of IQ, skills, and valuable contributions to the economy. The globally-integrated, technologically-powered economy has shifted so that very highly-talented people can generate very high incomes.

When someone like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg (ignoring their politics for a minute), who are members of the cognitive ‘elite’, create companies, they boost standards of living through the technology, and create thousands, even millions of jobs indirectly, in the process.

Once you stop believing in the mystical importance of intelligence, I think it’s very easy to accept that it’s unequally distributed (as athletic talent certainly is). I understand that this is very hard for our society, and especially for people like me who grew up believing that good grades were holy and professors were gods.

Right again. Moldbug mentions athleticism as an example of obvious biological inequality, but based on my own observations (and probably his own, too), people don’t get worked up over that, but people do get worked up over IQ. The declarative statement ‘blacks are better at jumping’ is not nearly as controversial as ‘blacks score lower on IQ tests, and thus may be less intelligent’. So why is this? Probably because of the increasing premium modern society places on intelligence, whereby IQ is a measure of personal worth in an economy that is becoming increasingly automated, which from a Social Darwinist standpoint favors smarter people, whereas a century ago, well-before the information revolution, things were reversed and a greater premium was placed on physical strength. It’s intelligence more so than athleticism which makes us ‘human’, and for someone – or some group – to to be less intelligent is to be ‘less human’, less sentient. Nowadays, people who can code are ‘wired for success‘, whereas 300 years ago those who could work for eight hours in the sun without passing out from exhaustion tending to crops, were at an advantage.

Mysticism, wishful thinking, and fairy tales are unhelpful rather than just the truth. But some of the ‘mysticism’ arises not from the properties of IQ or the biology of intelligence, but how smarter people may be more valued in a post-labor society, and how the social implications of IQ may be unsettling to some people.

What I learned in an American high school was that intelligence does not make me special or better. I agree that if I thought smarter people were better people, given the fact that no magic process has distributed the smarts equally, I would be a racist in the classic sense. (I also don’t agree that the talent to be a master, or the talent to be a slave, makes a person better or worse.)

High school, fortunately, is only four years of life, and many smart people tend to thrive afterwards, in college, or in technical jobs, or entrepreneurship. Although the data shows that smarter people tend to earn more money and are also more successful in terms of creative output, this may not bring happiness if their close environment doesn’t appreciate their talents, as in the case of high school.

Classical Liberalism, Democracy, Libtertarianism, Nihilism, and NRx

From Peter A. Taylor The Resurrection of Classical Liberalism

Here’s what I think happened. The US began as an expression of classical liberalism. The founders were steeped in John Locke’s ideas about natural rights, as modified and popularized by writers like James Otis, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson. What actually made it into the American political canon was a mixture of beliefs about natural rights and democracy. For example, the Declaration of Independence talks of unalienable rights and states “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….” I see two problems here. First, the clause about securing rights sounds good to libertarians and Objectivists, but what does “consent” mean? And second, the basis for the government’s legitimacy is overspecified. Do “just powers” stem from the necessity to secure rights or from consent?

To some extent (with the exception of SJW radicalism and other elements of post-ww2 liberalism) America still is that way.

Thus Progressives and Libertarians both engage in “cocktail party sophistry”, but their styles are different. Progressives feel good about cogency and political cohesion where Libertarians feel good about elegance and internal consistency. Progressives are having fun running in a potato sack race. Libertarians are having fun daydreaming about the perfect destination for a potato sack race. “Perfect” here more or less means “most elegant”. “Elegance” here more or less means “providing false moral clarity”. Elegance is the curse of the libertarian movement. The tendency to value elegance, combined with a tendency to grade your own work, are what give the libertarian movement the feel of being a “head game”. I believe this emphasis on elegance is closely related to the false diagnosis that a slippery slope problem (i.e. lack of moral clarity) was what did in the classical liberal tradition. Which came first, the craving for moral clarity, or the diagnosis that lack of moral clarity killed classical liberalism? I suspect the craving came first, but I’m not sure.

America is a partial libertarian country – free market capitalism, private property, but also a state, which is similar to a mixed economy. Through trial and error, feast and famine, this seems to be the most successful or stable configuration, with notable examples being China and Russia, as well as other modernized countries that have evolved to this state. That’s why it’s kinda pointless when you have libertarians and conservatives arguing about which is better – America has both (conservatives get military, police, and free markets; libertarians get free markets, and personal autonomy due to the 1st amendment, but with some regulation. Less business regulation and lower taxes would be better.)

There was little ‘democratic’ about early American government, and I’m not sure why so many people, even those as smart as Peter A. Taylor, get this wrong. Nor is classical liberalism the same as a ‘liberal democracy’. A ‘natural right’ does not necessarily include the ‘right to vote’.

Here is John Adams on democracy:

“I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.”

Thomas Jefferson:

This is relevant to the tyranny of the proletariat, in which the underclass using ‘democracy’ tries to overthrow the smaller productive class.

From Wikipedia:

Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. It developed in 18th-century Europe and drew on the economic writings of Adam Smith and the growing notion of social progress.

18th century America and Europe would be considered tyrannical -hardly democratic – by today’s left.

Democracy may be a means of constraining a government to tend to its legitimate business, but it cannot be the source of the government’s moral legitimacy. The distinction between a republic and a democracy sounds promising, but this distinction is only meaningful so long as the voters choose to honor it. Scratch the surface of a republic, and underneath you find a democracy.

The solution is to roll back voting rights to how they were hundreds of years ago, in accordance with the founding fathers, who saw voting as a privilege rather than a right.

The system we have, although certain aspects of it suck, is the best of the alternatives, and it’s what we’re stuck with.

But we can reform it, which is what this blog is about. We don’t need a monarchy. Just turning the dial back 100 years would be immense progress.

One of the questions libertarians sometimes argue about is whether there are moral-practical dichotomies. That is, are there ever situations where doing “the right thing” from a moral standpoint conflicts with doing “the right thing” from a practical standpoint? To someone like me, in the “moral sympathy” school of thought, it’s a silly question. The relationships under consideration are “loose, vague, and indeterminate”. It’s complicated. We probably don’t even have the same people’s interests in mind when we ask the question. Who exactly are my tribe? Is “morality” something I personally choose to benefit myself, or is it a set of social norms my peers impose on me as the (possibly exorbitant and possibly evadable) price of associating with them? Jonathan Haidt’s definition (from The Righteous Mind) mostly supports the latter view:

America is also consequentialist, as are many nations. Examples of consequentialist policy being the 2008 bank bailouts, fed policy, war on terrorism, and others – policies that may not be popular with large segments of the population, but are deemed necessary to stave off a worse problem.

Of course, there are gradations: some countries and government are more socially liberal (European Union); others less so (China, Russia). America seems to have struck a balance that for for the past 240 or so years has worked, although the wave of post-ww2 liberalism may threaten this harmony.

America is an amalgamation or patchwork of many ideologies, and maybe this dynamism is why it has succeed for so long when other nations have failed.

From Bruce Charlton, The salvation of Mencius Moldbug:

But (and you were waiting for that ‘but’, weren’t you?) his system is based upon arbitrary axioms and is pragmatic and ‘utilitarian’ – in the sense that MM argues that his plans for government and society would in practice lead to the greatest happiness and/or the minimum misery for the greatest number of people.

But, to some degree, utilitarianism and policy are inseparable. In order to optimize the ROI of ‘Public Goods’, optimization in the mathematical and socioeconomic sense is desirable. Right now, due to liberalism and other scourges, we have a problem of poor optimization – for example, excessive welfare for those who contribute little, if any, to society.

In other words, Mencius Moldbug is an advocate of pure nihilism: a total denial of reality (since bottom line ‘reality’ – i.e. human emotions and what triggers them – is by this analysis wholly reversible, hence wholly relativistic).

So according to Charlton, Moldbug is not a moral realist.

Charlton’s definition of ‘nihilism’ is frustratingly reductive and doesn’t apply to Moldbug. Anyone who believes in the rule of law, which is what Formalism is about, cannot be a nihilist, by definition.

The essay Why Nihilism is Not Anarchy is relevant to NRx thought, and why Christianity may be incompatible with NRx, bold added for emphasis:

Nietzsche saw the above as parallel to Christianity, an assertion of inherent order based on shared humanity. Science and Nietzsche agree that humans vary so widely that to construct a universal “human nature” or “human morality” is a pointless endeavor toward false inherency. No such thing exists; some humans rise above others.

Anarchy, liberalism and other false social notions of equality and the inherent importance of man are entirely anti-nihilistic. In fact, they’re descendants of Christianity: they are falsely inherent orders based on human desires for the universe to be centered around humans. It is not. We are thinking monkeys, and it’s great we have come so far, but it’s not really that far. We’re not that great. And most of us are morons, perverts, lazybones, selfish people, criminals, or people who smoke in bed.

Maybe also fatalistic, in understanding that economic and biological reality means we’re subject to autonomous forces outside of our control, with the result being humans who are more endowed for success will tend to rise above others. The rule of law is still applicable, even if such views may seem fatalistic, amoral, and nihilistic.

High-IQ Wins Again – Stocks Surge For 2nd Day

Stocks keep going up, the left’s shrill cries for crisis still being ignored. Zerohedge wrong again, another defeat snatched from the jaws of what seemed like a certain victory. So close and yet so far. The Nasdaq is up a mind-blowing 7% in the past 2 days alone – staggering. The S&P 500 up 6%. The left wants to live in a world where IQ is not important, where stocks stop going up, where wealth inequality is bad for the economy, where Bay Area homes prices & web 2.0 valuations fall – and it’s never gonna happen, sorry liberal perts. We’re still in the greatest wealth creation boom ever.

The NRx movement should embrace Silicon Valley and Wall St. as being places that reward merit, individualism, and wealth creation over egalitarianism and collectivism. HBD is still more relevant than ever. IQ, STEM, coding… all important. High-IQ stocks like Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix are rocketing higher day after day. You have to understand that America, more so than any other place in the world, rewards creativity, IQ, capitalism, and competence – and that’s why stocks always come roaring back, no matter how hard the liberal media tries to make things get worse. The left wants Silicon Valley to become another Ferguson, Baltimore, or Detroit. The only black lives that matter to the left are those who vote for liberal candidates.

I am aware of the moral decay problem, but even Moldbug said in his manifesto that decay is not the biggest problem, it’s violence, and I agree.

Especially organized violence. Next to organized human-on-human violence, a good formalist believes, all other problems – Poverty, Global Warming, Moral Decay, etc, etc, etc – are basically insignificant. Perhaps once we get rid of violence we can worry a little about Moral Decay, but given that organized violence killed a couple of hundred million people in the last century, whereas Moral Decay gave us “American Idol,” I think the priorities are pretty clear.

He’s right. The confiscation of private property by force and decree is worse than decay. Moral decay does suck, but you can always try to opt out of it. You can turn off the TV & radio, stop reading the trashy ad-filled newspapers that are trying to scare you. That’s what I have done. No TV and no radio and no newspapers. It’s crap. I don’t need to read the headlines to figure out that the supposed China crisis was mostly hot air or that stocks would rebound – I came to those realizations myself based on my years of knowledge about how the economy and stocks work. About china, there is hysteria is that GDP growth is slowing from 8% to 7%. I am not kidding…everyone is freaking out over a single percent, and there’s no evidence this weakness has spread to America. 99% of opinions & news is worthless. You need to find that 1%.