The Long Peace, and the Slowdown

In an earlier post Our Less Participatory Times, I discuss how political blogging, by in large, peaked in 2012-2013, and I still stand by that. Part of the problem is pundits, bloggers, commentators, and writers in the ‘political sphere’ are starved for ‘something to happen’, so we have to either go in circles, invent or breath life into ‘un-provables’, invent ‘paradigm shifts’ where none exist, or repeat sound bites to fill the void of silence, similar to Parkinson’s law which states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion,” except it’s the media that is doing the filling. Although things have been slowing down since late 2014 or so, they have slowed markedly since early 2016, and even Trump’s win hasn’t been enough to reverse it.

In diagnosing the problem, the slow news cycle [1] (save for Trump’s win), stands out as the chief culprit. Second, the US economy, which has transitioned from a boom-bust cycle to a perpetual, monotonically-increasing ‘boom’, albeit a slow one, is party to blame. Third, the ‘long peace’ as described by Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature, remains intact despite Isis, the deterioration in Syria, the European refugee crisis, and other problems. [2] All three of these tie in with the trend towards increasing stability of large, interconnected systems–the opposite of the entropy some say exists.

Fourth, since 2014, the increased importance and discussion of immigration, border, and nationalism, as a consequence of the European refugee crisis and Trump’s campaign. Although these are important issues, sometimes it gets repetitive and predictable. Nationalism and ethno-interests are never going to be ‘highbrow’ no matter how much you dress it up in intellectual prose, because by definition such things tend to be populist and collectivist, in contrast to right-wing elitism such as neoconservatism. Libertarianism [3] is fun in terms of debate and theory, but like a sitcom or other work of fiction, is fundamentally detached from reality. Nationalism, borders, and culture is less fun and more serious, because it’s practical and less theoretical. Between 2012, when NRx was first conceived, to around early 2014, there were themes of libertarianism, technocracy, and Nietzsche, but the 2014-2015 European refugee crisis pretty much ended that, because it became apparent that civilization could not be saved by theorizing and individualistic self-interest–but rather by forging a ‘collective identity’ united against obvious external forces that threaten it. You have to get out of the comfort of the ‘ivory tower’ and take a stand. From Against the Ubermensch:

In the past year or so, we’re seeing a re-branding or transformation of NRx…less Nietzsche’s ubermensch as embodied by John Galt (and the Californian ideology) and more like Oswald Spengler or Pat Buchanan. Maybe the old, pre-2014 NRx may have put too much emphasis on capitalism, individualism, and technology and not enough on culture and identity politics, as man lives not within his mind but as part of a social order and culture. Maybe this is a step in the right direction to broadening the appeal of NRx

[1] this depends on how you define something as ‘eventful’ – I define it as something that changes the way people fundamentally understand the world and the human condition. The 2008 financial crisis qualifies, although barely. 911 does, as does the fall of the USSR, and certainly the second world war. But there is also tendency in retrospect to see events as being pivotal, whereas in the present as they are unfolding, to be less so.

[2] Such, problems although they fill headlines, have not had any negative effect on the US economy, although it has hurt Europe to some extent due to increased terrorism (abetted by incompetent leftist policy in much of central and northern Europe).

[3] As in ‘pure’ libertarianism, not minarchism, partial-libertarianism, or anarcho-monarchism, whereby personal autonomy is maintained in high-trust societies. I generally remain sympathetic to libertarian ideas, but I can understand they have fallen out of favor in the wake of the increasing threat of Islam against Europe.