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The Anti-Reactionary FAQ

[Edit 3/2014: I no longer endorse all the statements in this document. I think many of the conclusions are still correct, but especially section 1 is weaker than it should be, and many reactionaries complain I am pigeonholing all of them as agreeing with Michael Anissimov, which they do not; this complaint seems reasonable. This document needs extensive revision to stay fair and correct, but such revision is currently lower priority than other major projects. Until then, I apologize for any inaccuracies or misrepresentations.]

0: What is this FAQ?

This is the Anti-Reactionary FAQ. It is meant to rebut some common beliefs held by the political movement called Reaction or Neoreaction.

0.1: What are the common beliefs of the political movement called Reaction or Neoreaction?

Neoreaction is a political ideology supporting a return to traditional ideas of government and society, especially traditional monarchy and an ethno-nationalist state. It sees itself opposed to modern ideas like democracy, human rights, multiculturalism, and secularism. I tried to give a more complete summary of its beliefs in Reactionary Philosophy In An Enormous, Planet Sized Nutshell.

0.1.1: Will this FAQ be a rebuttal the arguments in that summary?

Some but not all. I worry I may have done too good a job of steelmanning Reactionary positions in that post, emphasizing what I thought were strong arguments, sometimes even correct arguments, but not really the arguments Reactionaries believed or considered most important.

In this FAQ, I will be attacking not steel men but what as far as I can tell are actual Reactionary positions. Some of them seem really dumb to me and I excluded them from the previous piece, but they make it in here. Other points from the previous post are real Reactionary beliefs and make it in here as well.

0.2: Do all Reactionaries believe the same things?

Obviously not. In particular, the movement seems to be divided between those who want a feudal/aristocratic monarchy, those who want an absolute monarchy, and those who want some form of state-as-corporation. Even more confusingly, sometimes the same people seem to switch among the three without giving any indication they are aware that they are doing so. In particular the difference between feudal monarchies and divine-right-of-kings monarchies seems to be sort of lost on many of them.

In general, this FAQ chooses two Reactionary bloggers as its foils – Mencius Moldbug of Unqualified Reservations, and Michael Anissimov of More Right. Mencius is probably the most famous Reactionary, one of the founders of the movement, and an exceptionally far-thinking and knowledgeable writer. Michael is also quite smart, very prolific, and best of all for my purposes unusually willing to state Reactionary theories plainly and explicitly in so many words and detail the evidence that he thinks supports them.

Mencius usually supports a state-as-corporation model and Michael seems to be more to the feudal monarchy side, with both occasionally paying lip service to divine-right-of-kings absolutism as well. Part 2 of this FAQ mostly draws from Michael’s feudal perspective and Part 4 is entirely based on Moldbug’s corporation-based ideas.

0.3: Are you going to treat Reaction and Progressivism as real things?

Grudgingly, yes.

One of the problems in exercises like this is how much to take political labels seriously. Both “Reaction” and “Progressivism” are vast umbrella concepts on whose definition no one can agree. Both combine many very diverse ideas, and sometimes exactly who falls on what side will be exactly the point at issue.

Part of Part 3 will be an attempt to define Progressivism, but for now I’m going to just sweep all of this under the rug and pretend that “Reactionary” and “Progressive” (or for that matter “leftist” and “rightist”) have obvious well-defined meanings that are exactly what you think they are.

The one point where this becomes very important is in the discussion over the word “demotist” in Part 2. Although debating the meaning of category words is almost never productive, I feel like in that case I have more than enough excuse.

1: Is everything getting worse?

It is a staple of Reactionary thought that everything is getting gradually worse. As traditional ideas cede to their Progressive replacements, the fabric of society tears apart on measurable ways. Michael Anissimov writes:

The present system has every incentive to portray itself as superior to all past systems. Reactionaries point out this is not the case, and actually see present society in a state of severe decline, pointing to historically high levels of crime, suicide, government and household debt, increasing time preference, and low levels of civic participation and self-reported happiness as a few examples of a current cultural and historical crisis.

Reactionaries usually avoid getting this specific, and with good reason. Now that Michael has revealed the domains in which he is critiquing modern society, we can start to double-check them to see whether Progressivism has indeed sent everything to Hell in a handbasket.

But I must set some strict standards here. To support the Reactionary thesis, I will want to see long-term and unmistakeable negative trends in these indicators. Nearly all Reactionaries agree that the advance of Progressivism has been a long-term affair, going on since the French Revolution if not before. If the Reactionaries can muster some data saying that something has been getting better up until 2005 but declining from 2005 to the present, that doesn’t cut it. If something else was worsening from 1950 to 1980 but has been improving since then, that doesn’t cut it either. I will not require a completely monotonic downward trend, but neither will I accept a blip of one or two years in a generally positive trend as proving all modern civilization is bankrupt.

Likewise, if something has been getting worse in Britain but not the United States, or vice versa, that will not suffice either. Progressivism is supposed to be a worldwide movement, stronger than the vagaries of local politics. I will not require complete concordance between all Western countries, but if the Anglosphere countries, France, Germany, and Japan seem split about fifty-fifty between growth and decay in a certain indicator, blaming Progressivism isn’t going to cut it.

So, without further ado, let’s start where Michael starts: with suicide.

1.1: Is suicide becoming more common?

Here’s the US suicide rate from 1960 to 2002:

In those forty years, considered by many the heyday of the leftist movement, forty years encompassing the Great Society, the civil rights movement, the explosion of feminism onto the public consciousness, the decline of the traditional family, etc, etc…suicide rates dropped about 20%.

What evidence have the Reactionaries cite for their side? Michael cites a New York Times article pointing out that suicide rates rose from 1999 to 2010. Apparently my new job is reminding Reactionaries that they cannot blindly trust New York Times articles to give them the whole truth.

Suicide rates did rise from 1999 to 2010. But if we’re going to blame leftism for rising suicide rates it’s kind of weird that it would choose the decade we had a Republican President, House, Senate, and Supreme Court to start increasing. A more likely scenario is that it had something to do with the GIANT NEVER-ENDING RECESSION going on at the time.

As we mentioned above, since Reactionaries believe that Progressivism has been advancing simultaneously in many different countries it is worthwhile to check whether other nations show the same trends as the United States. If every country that was becoming more Progressive showed increased suicide rates, this would be strong evidence that Progressivism were to blame. But if some Progressive countries experienced lower suicide rates, that would suggest country-specific problems.

In Britain, we find not only that suicide has generally been going down for the past thirty years, but that – as predicted above – there is a bit of an upward tick corresponding with the Great Recession.

Even better, we find that suicide peaked in Britain in 1905 – just after the Victorian period – and has been declining ever since.

I try to be nice. I really do. But I will say it – the Reactionary argument that suicide has been increasing during modernity from a low during some fantasized Victorian Golden Age is unacceptably shoddy.

1.2: Is everyone falling further and further into debt?

Here again the Reactionaries overstate their case. Michael tried to support his point with…

…which shows government debt rising ceaselessly and alarmingly through the simple tricks of not adjusting for inflation or rising GDP. Keep yourself honest by taking those steps, and the situation looks more like this:

To his credit, Michael fixed this when I pointed it out. But to me, the new graph looks like gradual decrease in debt since World War II up until Reagan’s big military buildup, followed by a gradual retreat from that military buildup. My God, won’t somebody stop Progressivism before it’s too late?!?!

1.3: Is crime becoming worse?

Michael’s statistics for crime deserve more attention:

Question number one: what does this graph mean by “indictable offenses”? This very broad term introduces no fewer than three dangerous biases. First, we have reporting bias – the more police there are and the more active there are, the more crimes get heard about and reported. Second, we have definition bias within individual crimes – for example, larceny in Britain fell by two thirds in 1855, but this was because Parliament passed a law raising the minimum amount of property that had to be larcened for it to count. Third, we have broader definition bias in what is or isn’t a crime – how much of that rise around 1970 was the “indictable offense” of people smoking marijuana, something that was previously neither illegal nor widely available?

Criminologists’ recommended way around this problem is to look at murder. The murder rate tends to track the crime rate in general. Murder isn’t as subject to reporting bias – if someone is killed, the police are going to want to hear about it no matter how understaffed they are. And murder is less subject to changes in definition – dead is dead.

So let’s add the homicide rate to the above chart:

Alas, I can only find the numbers since 1950 rather than 1900. But as we can see, despite the huge rise in “violent crime”, homicide rates stay very steady and perhaps even decline a little over that period.

Question number two: Michael is American. All his other statistics make reference to American numbers. Why does he suddenly switch to Britain when we talk about crime? I won’t impugn his motives – long-term US crime data is really hard to find. But it’s worth pointing out that what there is, is much less sensational:

I wish I could find longer-term US crime rate data, but it doesn’t seem to be out there. I can, however, find longer-term homicide data:

We see ups and downs but no general pattern. A Reactionary might cite the apparently very low level of homicides in 1885, but historians pretty much agree that’s a reporting artifact and that the period ending in 1887 had the highest murder rate in American history. In any case, right now we seem to be enjoying a 50 year low. And lest someone bring up that medical technology has advanced enough to turn many would-be murders into attempted murders – which is true – aggravated assaults, the category of crime that would encompass attempted murders, are less than half of what they were twenty years ago. Kind of hard to square with everything getting worse and more violent all the time.

Actually, stopping at 1885 is for losers. Let’s go really long-term. From Marginal Revolution, themselves drawing from Manuel Eisner’s Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime:

We’ve got to go deeper! From HBD Chick, citing Steven Pinker:

1.3.1: But the Victorian Era had amazingly low crime rates! People could walk out in any corner of the country unmolested! Crime was basically a half-forgotten memory!

This is one of Mencius Moldbug’s favorite points. He cites approvingly an 1870s British text which says that

Meanwhile, it may with little fear of contradiction be asserted that there never was, in any nation of which we have a history, a time in which life and property were so secure as they are at present in England. The sense of security is almost everywhere diffused, in town and country alike, and it is in marked contrast to the sense of insecurity which prevailed even at the beginning of the present century. There are, of course, in most great cities, some quarters of evil repute in which assault and robbery are now and again committed. There is perhaps to be found a lingering and flickering tradition of the old sanctuaries and similar resorts. But any man of average stature and strength may wander about on foot and alone, at any hour of the day or the night, through the greatest of all cities and its suburbs, along the high roads, and through unfrequented country lanes, and never have so much as the thought of danger thrust upon him, unless he goes out of his way to court it.

Reactionaries take this idea and run with it – past societies were so well-organized that they had completely eliminated crime, whereas our own democratic government turns a blind eye while thousands of people are beaten and mugged and murdered and…

Again, let’s concentrate on “murdered”. It’s the only crime that gives us a shot at apples-to-apples comparison. So what was the Victorian murder rate?

Homicide is regarded as a most serious offence and it is probably reported more than other forms of crime. Between 1857 and 1890, there were rarely more than 400 homicides reported to the police each year, and during the 1890s the average was below 350. In Victorian England, the homicide rate reached 2 per 100,000 of the population only once, in 1865. Generally, it was about 1.5 per 100,000 falling to rarely more than 1 per 100,000 at the end of the 1880s and declining even further after 1900. These figures do not take into account the significant number of infanticides that went undetected. The statistics for homicide are therefore probably closer to the real level of the offence.

So, Victorian murder rate of between 1 and 2 per 100,000 people. And the current British murder rate? According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, it stands at 1.2 per 100,000 people, rather lower than the Victorian average. But if the Victorian crime rate was as high or higher than it is today, how come Victorians felt completely safe and thought that crime had been eradicated?

Normally this is where I’d start talking about how we moderns are constantly exposed to so many outrageous and terrifying stories in the media that we don’t realize how good we have it. But in this case that turns out to be explaining away a nonproblem. The Victorians were absolutely terrified of crime and thought they were in the middle of a gigantic crime wave. Here’s Understanding The Victorians on the “garroting panic”:

Violent attacks by strangers were seen as grave cause for concern. There was a disproportionate amount of attention paid to violent nighttime assaults by strangers in urban areas, called “garroting” and similar to what we might call “mugging”. There were garroting panics in 1856 and 1862, in part because of extensive press coverage. In the highest profile case, MP Hugh Pilkington as attacked and robbed in London at one o’clock in the morning on July 17, 1862, after leaving a late session in the House of Commons. Press reports of garroting increased dramatically, and the public quickly became convinced there was a serious problem. Garroting panic was so rampant that it became a topic of satire: Punch published several cartoons of men running from their own shadows or from trees that they were convinced were garrotters.

And A History of Criminal Justice In England and Wales on the same topic:

Crimes of violence were perceived to be on the increase in the 1850s and panic set in when an outbreak of garrotting occurred in various parts of the country in the period from 1856 to 1862. Garrotting involved choking, suffocating, or strangling a victim. During these years, Punch magazine carried a whole series of cartoons and lengthy jokes about the crime, including many eccentric means of defense. One advertisement appeared offering the public an “anti-garrot collar”. This was a steel collar to be hand-fitted round the neck with a large number of sharp steel spikes pointing outwards. Despite such bizarre forms of protection, the offence caused a great deal of fear among the public and it was generally regarded as a very serious threat to law and order. Letters to The Times began to appear from gentlemen who had been so attacked and robbed. In response the judges began to order severe floggings in addition to penal servitude in an attempt to stem the growth of the crime. Their example was then followed by Parliament which, against the wishes of the government, enacted the Security From Violence Act 1863.

So if there was so much panic about crime, how come the person who wrote Moldbug’s favorite book felt Victorian Britain was crimeless?

I guess it all depends on your perspective. I live less than two miles outside Detroit city limits, and I’ve never been the victim of a single crime in my life or even felt particularly threatened. Some people just live sheltered existences.

But apparently most other Americans agree with me. According to Gallup, 89% of American men currently feel safe walking alone at night in the city where they live. If 89% of modern US men feel that way, I’m not surprised Moldbug could find one Victorian guy willing to express the opinion.

1.3.2: Why does this matter again?

For some reason, the Reactionaries have made crime an absolute linchpin of their case. A very large portion of Reactionary thought goes implicitly or explicitly through the argument “Progressives have legitimized minorities, minorities cause crime, crime is destroying our society, therefore Progressivism must be destroyed.”

The extent of the Reactionary obsession with crime never fails to amaze me. Moldbug writes:

Security and liberty do not conflict. Security always wins. As Robert Peel put it, the absence of crime and disorder is the test of public safety, and in anything like the modern state the risk of private infringement on private liberties far exceeds the official of public infringement. No cop ever stole my bicycle.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. On the other hand, non-desperate times call for non-desperate measures. And this is a time when everything is pretty much okay. Murder and violent crime are at historic lows, and almost 90% of American men feel safe walking outside at night. Crime is very nearly a non-issue, and when designing a system of government it is probably a bad idea to give them a blank check to ruin everything else in the pursuit of decreasing it.

1.4: Are people becoming less happy?

Michael’s source for decreasing happiness levels is Blanchflower & Oswald: Well Being Over Time In Britain And The USA. But read the abstract, and you find it’s more complicated: “Reported levels of well-being have declined over the last quarter of a century in the US; life satisfaction has run approximately flat through time in Britain.”

Once again, we find these supposed effects of a global trend are very much limited to individual countries.

Second, when we check the breakdown, we find, as the paper puts it, that “[American] men’s happiness has an upward trend, yet American women’s well-being has fallen through the years.” At a guess, I’d say this is because more women are working full-time jobs. This may be a bit of a victory for Reactionaries, who are no fans of feminism, but it is a very limited victory with little broader implication for other aspects of society. If you’re a man, there’s never been a happier time to be alive.

Further, Blanchflower and Oswald aren’t the only people trying to measure happiness. Ruut Veenhoven has collected 3,651 different happiness studies into a World Database of Happiness. Inglehart, Foa, and Welzel have sorted through some of the data and find that:

Among the countries for which we have long-term data, 19 of the 26 countries show rising happiness levels. In several of these countries – India, Ireland, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and South Korea – there are steeply rising trends. The other countries with rising trends are Argentina, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. Three countries, the US, Switzerland, and Norway, show flat trends. Only four countries, Austria, Belgium, UK, and West Germany, show downward trends.

Investigating further:

By far the most extensive and detailed time series comes from the US, and the full series covering the 60 years from 1946 to 2006 shows a flat trend. But the subset from 1946 to 1980 show a downward trend, while the series from 1980 to 2006 shows a rising trend. A similar picture appears from the much scantier British dataset. The entire series from 1946 to 2006 shows a downward trend, but the series from 1980 to the present shows a clear upward trend.

So there you have it. In 19/26 countries, happiness has risen since 1946, and in both America and Britain, it’s been rising since 1980.

1.5: Is time preference decreasing?

Time preference is a mathematical formalization of whether people live only for the moment like the proverbial grasshopper, or build for the future like the proverbial ant. We’d probably prefer if people had pretty low time discounting (ie are more ant-like). Michael claims that in fact we’re becoming more grasshopper-like.

He cites as his source Wang, Rieger and Hans’ How Time Preferences Differ, which is a fascinating study but which does not, as far as I can tell, make anything like the claim Michael says it does. It seems to be entirely about comparing different countries. There is only one thing that looks even close to an intertemporal comparison:

In particular, 68% of our [2011] US sample chose to wait. For comparison, in the survey by Frederick (2005) where he used the same question…only around 41% of students chose to wait.

Here we see people saving more over time, ie becoming more ant-like, although it would be absurd to think this represented a real effect over such a small time period.

Michael may be referring to a claim buried in the study that collectivism is linked to lower discount rates than individualism. This study was done entirely on Israeli Arabs and Jews, with Jews as a proxy for “individualist cultures” and Arabs as a proxy for “collectivist cultures”. Suffice it to say this is not how broad human universals are established. A similar experiment compared Western-primed Singaporeans with Eastern-primed Singaporeans to “conclude” that Confucian cultures had a “longer-term outlook” and thus a lower discount rate. This would be all nice and well except that in the main study, Canadians had a lower discount rate than Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, or Koreans. So much for Confucians.

1.6: Is civic participation decreasing?

The argument is simple. Democracy fractures traditionalist societies, destroying civic cohesion, which in turn reduces voter turnout. Therefore, the only way to increase voter turnout is to abolish democracy.

No, actually the argument is more complex, and Michael cites Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone to make his point for him. Since there is no one statistic for civic participation, I can’t refute it with pure data the same as I tried to do with the others.

But I will point out that Putnam’s own thesis is that it is technology – our options of watching TV, playing video games, or hanging out on the computer – that make us less involved in our communities. He may be right. But blaming the politically neutral force of technology acquits Progressivism.

Even so, a word to defend technology. Right now I am typing a lengthy essay that will be read by a few thousand people. A couple dozen of those will discuss it in the comments. Among those will be people with whom I’ve had interesting discussions, friendships, and even a couple of romantic relationships. Through the ensuing debate, I will meet new people with whom I will likely keep in touch and discuss my extremely niche interests with on a near daily basis for many years to come, forming bizarre but intellectually fecund communities that will inevitably end up with everyone involved moving to the Bay Area and having kids together.

And we are supposed to be upset because the technology that makes this possible has cut down on the number of bowling leagues? That’s like condemning butterfly metamorphosis for decreasing the number of caterpillars.

1.7: Are international conflicts becoming more frequent?

This isn’t in the paragraph quoted above, but Michael has expressed the opinion to me in person, and anyone familiar with Reactionary thought will recognize this as a staple. The theory is that monarchies had strong international law between them that prevented or settled conflicts quickly, but that democracies have the “sham” international law of the UN (exactly what makes it a sham is never explained) and constantly interfere in one anothers’ business as a continuation of their own internal politics or obsession with human rights.

As far as I know no Reactionary has ever dared to cite statistics that they say support this claim, which is probably for the better. But just for the record, here’s the counterclaim:

You can find a much more exhaustive discussion of this topic here.

1.7.1: What about the Concert of Europe? The great statesman Klemens von Metternich used Reactionary ideas to create a brilliant system that kept peace in Europe for nearly a century!

The Concert of Europe lasted from 1815 to 1914. During that time, Europe suffered – just counting major interstate wars involving Congress of Vienna participants – the French Invasion of Spain, the Crimean War, the Schleswig Wars, the Wars of Italian Independence, Austro-Prussian Wars, the Franco-Prussian War, and, let’s not forget, World War I.

The modern equivalent of the Concert of Europe is the European Union, but built on Progressive rather than Reactionary principles. It has existed from 1951 to 2013 so far, and In those sixty-two years, major interstate wars between EU members have included…well, none.

1.8: Okay, you’ve discussed the trends Michael listed as supporting Reaction, and found them less than convincing. Do you have any trends of your own that you think support more modern societies?

Yes. Most of the graphs below come from 31 Charts That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity.

Hours worked per person

Global illiteracy

Global poverty

World Hunger

I’m trying to keep things fair by deliberately excluding health care victories since these are at least partially due to technology, but these would include infant mortality dropping a hundredfold, the near elimination of smallpox, diphtheria, polio, tuberculosis, and typhoid from the developed world, the neutralization of AIDS.

Yet in reality, political and social trends played a role here too: for example, smallpox would not have been eliminated without the concerted effort of the WHO and other global health organizations.

1.9: Final thoughts on this section?

Of the seven categories Michael cites as especially supportive of the Reactionary thesis, zero are actually getting worse and several of them appear as best we can tell to be getting better. And I don’t want to beat Michael up too much here, because these are the same sorts of things that other Reactionaries cite, and he got picked on only because he was the one to put them all in one place and claim he had evidence.

Reactionary claims that the modern world shows disappointing performance on indicators of social success turn out to be limited to one cherry-picked country or decade or else just plain made up. The very indicators Reactionaries cite turn out, on closer inspection, to provide strong evidence for things getting better.

Progressives, on the other hand, can point to some amazing victories over the last fifty years, including global poverty cut in half, world hunger cut in half, world illiteracy cut in half, war grinding almost to a halt, GDP quintuple-ing, violent crime collapsing, and self-reported happiness increasing in almost all countries.

1.9.1: Other than crime, few of these points have data before 1950, and the crime ones are highly speculative before that date. Don’t you think that even if things have been getting better for the past few decades, they might have been getting worse over the past few millenia?

Yes. In a few cases this is obviously true. For example, Michael cites good data showing that traditional rural societies have lower suicide rates than our own. And obviously they have lower divorce rates. The same may be true with some of the other points here, though probably not as many as Reactionaries would like.

But I do think it’s important to establish that things have been getting better over the past few decades. For one thing, it suggests a different course of action. If things are constantly declining, we should go into panic mode and try a radical restructuring of everything before it’s too late. If things are getting better every day, we should hang tight and try to nudge forward trends that are already going on.

For another, it suggests a different interpretation. If things keep getting worse, we can attribute it to some process of social decay (since everyone seems to agree social decay is Getting Worse All The Time). If things are getting better now, we may perhaps separate societies into two groups, Traditional and Industrialized, admit that the transition from the first to the second caused a whole lot of problems, but be satisfied that industrialized society is gradually improving and fixing its defects.

So while I accept that traditional rural societies a thousand years ago were better on a number of social metrics, I don’t think that’s particularly actionable. What’s actionable is what’s going on within industrial societies right now, and that seems to be improvements on all levels.

2: Are traditional monarchies better places to live?

2.1: Are traditional monarchs secure?

Much of the Reactionary argument for traditional monarchy hinges on monarchs being secure. In non-monarchies, leaders must optimize for maintaining their position against challengers. In democracies, this means winning elections by pandering to the people; in dictatorships, it means avoiding revolutions and coups by oppressing the people. In monarchies, elections don’t happen and revolts are unthinkable. A monarch can ignore their own position and optimize for improving the country. See the entries on demotism and monarchy here for further Reactionary development of these arguments.

Such a formulation need not depend on the monarch’s altruism: witness the parable of Fnargl. A truly self-interested monarch, if sufficiently secure, would funnel off a small portion of taxes to himself, but otherwise do everything possible to make his country rich and peaceful.

As Moldbug puts it:

Hitler and Stalin are abortions of the democratic era – cases of what Jacob Talmon called totalitarian democracy. This is easily seen in their unprecedented efforts to control public opinion, through both propaganda and violence. Elizabeth’s legitimacy was a function of her identity – it could be removed only by killing her. Her regime was certainly not the stablest government in history, and nor was it entirely free from propaganda, but she had no need to terrorize her subjects into supporting her.

But some of my smarter readers may notice that “your power can only be removed by killing you” does not actually make you more secure. It just makes security a lot more important than if insecurity meant you’d be voted out and forced to retire to your country villa.

Let’s review how Elizabeth I came to the throne. Her grandfather, Henry VII, had won the 15th century Wars of the Roses, killing all other contenders and seizing the English throne. He survived several rebellions, including the Cornish Rebellion of 1497, and lived to pass the throne to Elizabeth’s father Henry VIII, who passed the throne to his son Edward VI, who after surviving the Prayer Book Rebellion and Kett’s Rebellion, named Elizabeth’s cousin Lady Jane Grey as heir to the throne. Elizabeth’s half-sister, Mary, raised an army, captured Lady Jane, and eventually executed her, seizing the throne for herself. An influential nobleman, Thomas Wyatt, raised another army trying to depose Mary and put Elizabeth on the throne. He was defeated and executed, and Elizabeth was thrown in the Tower of London as a traitor. Eventually Mary changed her mind and restored Elizabeth’s place on the line of succession before dying, but Elizabeth’s somethingth cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, also made a bid for the throne, got the support of the French, but was executed before she could do further damage.

Actual monarchies are less like the Reactionaries’ idealized view in which revolt is unthinkable, and more like the Greek story of Damocles – in which a courtier remarks how nice it must be to be the king, and the king forces him to sit on the throne with a sword suspended above his head by a single thread. The king’s lesson – that monarchs are well aware of how tenuous their survival is – is one Reactionaries would do well to learn.

This is true not just of England and Greece, but of monarchies the world over. China’s monarchs claimed “the mandate of Heaven”, but Wikipedia’s List of Rebellions in China serves as instructional (albeit voluminous) reading. Not for nothing does the Romance of Three Kingdoms begin by saying:

An empire long united, must divide; an empire long divided, must unite. This has been so since antiquity.

Brewitt-Taylor’s translation is even more succinct:

Empires wax and wane; states cleave asunder and coalesce.

And of Roman Emperors, only about thirty of eighty-four died of even remotely natural causes, according to this List Of Roman Emperors In Order Of How Hardcore Their Deaths Were.

2.2: Are traditional monarchies more free?

A corollary of Reactionaries’ “absolutely secure monarch” theory is that monarchies will be freer than democracies. Democrats and dictators need to control discourse to prevent bad news about them from getting out, and ban any institutions that might threaten the status quo. Since monarchs are absolutely secure, they can let people say and do whatever they want, knowing that their words and plans will come to naught. We revisit the Elizabeth quote above:

Hitler and Stalin are abortions of the democratic era – cases of what Jacob Talmon called totalitarian democracy. This is easily seen in their unprecedented efforts to control public opinion, through both propaganda and violence. Elizabeth’s legitimacy was a function of her identity – it could be removed only by killing her. Her regime was certainly not the stablest government in history, and nor was it entirely free from propaganda, but she had no need to terrorize her subjects into supporting her.

It is true that Elizabeth did not censor the newspapers, or bludgeon them into publishing only articles favorable to her. But that is less because of her enlightened ways, and more because all newspapers were banned in England during her reign. English language news in the Elizabethan Era had to be published in (famously progressive and non-monarchical!) Amsterdam, whence it was smuggled into England.

Likewise, Elizabeth and the other monarchs in her line were never shy about killing anyone who spoke out against them. Henry VIII, Elizabeth’s father, passed new treason laws which defined as high treason “to refer to the Sovereign offensively in public writing”, “denying the Sovereign’s official styles and titles”, and “refusing to acknowledge the Sovereign as the Supreme Head of the Church of England”. Elizabeth herself added to these offenses “to attempt to defend the jurisdiction of the Pope over the English Church…”. Needless to say, the punishment for any of these was death, often by being drawn and quartered.

But at least she didn’t have a secret police, right? Wrong. Your source here is Stephen Alford’s book on, well, the Elizabethan secret police, although’s review, The Elizabethan CIA: The Surveillance State In The 16th Century will serve as a passable summary.

2.2.1: How come we perceive traditional monarchies as less oppressive than for example Stalinist Russia?

Well, for one thing Stalin was in a category all of his own, going far beyond rational attempts to maintain his status into counterproductive paranoia. We shouldn’t expect the average communist police state to be Stalinist in its intensity, and so we need not be surprised when traditional monarchies aren’t.

But a more comprehensive answer might draw on a proverb of Oceania’s in 1984: “Animals and proles are free”. Anyone too weak and irrelevant to be dangerous doesn’t suffer the police state’s attention.

Before about the 1600s, the average non-noble neither had nor could have any power. All wealth was locked up in land, owned by nobles, and all military power was locked up in professionals like knights and men-at-arms, who could defeat an arbitrary number of untrained peasants without breaking a sweat.

After about the 1600s, wealth passed into the hands of capitalist merchants – ie non-nobles – and military power became concentrated in whoever could hold a gun – potentially untrained peasants. As a result, kings stopped worrying only about the nobility and started worrying about everyone else.

Or else they didn’t. Remember, all of the longest and most traditional monarchies in history – the Bourbons, the Romanovs, the Qing – were deposed in popular revolts, usually with poor consequences for their personal health. However paranoid and oppressive they were, clearly it would have been in their self-interest to be more so. If monarchy were for some reason to be revived, no doubt its next standard-bearers would not make the same “mistake” as their hapless predecessors.

2.3: Are traditional monarchies less bloody?

Michael Anissimov writes:

Bad kings are not nearly as bad as Demotist/Communist dictators. Bad kings are in a different universe from bad Demotist leaders. There is not even a vague comparison. In the traditional system, kings rely on the aristocracy and clergy for support, and have trouble doing anything without them. For a Demotist leader, there tends to be far fewer checks and balances. They can cause a million deaths in a place like Iraq with a snap of their fingers. Study up on the history of “death by government” to get a better perspective on what I mean. Kings and emperors very rarely, if ever, engage in mass murder against their own people.

2.3.1: Are demotist countries bloodier?

Look up demotist in a dictionary – Wiktionary will do – and you will find it means “one who is versed in ancient Egyptian demotic writing”. Mr. Anissimov’s use is entirely idiosyncratic to Reactionaries, or, to put it bluntly, made up.

It is interesting that every time Reactionaries make this argument, they use this same made-up word. Here’s Moldbug:

Let’s define demotism as rule in the name of the People. Any system of government in which the regime defines itself as representing or embodying the popular or general will can be described as “demotist.” Demotism includes all systems of government which trace their heritage to the French or American Revolutions – if anything, it errs on the broad side.

The Eastern bloc (which regularly described itself as “people’s democracy”) was certainly demotist. So was National Socialism – it is hard to see how Volk and Demos are anything but synonyms. Both Communism and Nazism were, in fact, obsessed with managing public opinion. Like all governments, their rule was certainly backed up by force, if more so in the case of Communism (the prewar Gestapo had less than 10,000 employees). But political formulae were of great importance to them. It’s hard to argue that the Nazi and Bolshevik states were any less deified than any clerical divine-right monarchy.

Why use this made-up word so often?

Suppose I wanted to argue that mice were larger than grizzly bears. I note that both mice and elephants are “eargreyish”, meaning grey animals with large ears. We note that eargreyish animals such as elephants are known to be extremely large. Therefore, eargreyish animals are larger than noneargreyish animals and mice are larger than grizzly bears.

As long as we can group two unlike things together using a made-up word that traps non-essential characteristics of each, we can prove any old thing.

None of Michael or Moldbug’s interlocutors are, I presume, in favor of Stalinism or Nazism. They are, if anything, in favor of liberal democracies such as the United States or Great Britain. Michael and Moldbug cannot bring up examples of these countries killing millions of their own people, because such examples do not exist. So they simply group them in a made-up category with countries that have, and then tar the entire group by association. This is, of course, a riff on the good old Worst Argument In The World.

If there were any nonmotivated reason to group these countries together – if they were really taxonomically related – there would already be a non-made-up word describing this fact.

So the answer to the question – are demotist countries bloodier than monarchies? – is the same as the answer to the question “are eargreyish animals larger than grizzly bears”. The answer is “Here’s a nickel, kid; buy yourself a real category .”

2.3.2: Even if the “demotist” idea was invented for this debate, and even if it has little relevance to liberal democracies, isn’t it at least a good basis for further study?

Remember Moldbug’s definition: “Let’s define demotism as rule in the name of the People. Any system of government in which the regime defines itself as representing or embodying the popular or general will can be described as demotist.”

But “the leaders have to say they rule in the name of the people” is a pretty low bar. King Louis Philippe of France said he ruled in the name of the people:

Louis-Philip wore the title of the King of the French…This title was in contrast to the King of France, which reflected a monarchy’s power over the country, instead of a king’s rule over its people. This title reflects that the king does not take his mandate from God but from the people themselves.

On the other hand, ever read Les Miserables? Yeah, that was him. Eventually the actual people hated him so much that they had a violent revolution and tried to kill him; the king managed to flee the capital in disguise and escape to England, where he died.

Why accept this stupid standard for the definition of “demotist”? Because a more reasonable one – like “elected by the people” or “liked by the people” or “not universally hated by the people and he has to have a giant army to prevent them from immediately killing him” would exclude for example Stalin, the figure Reactionaries are most desperate to paint as “demotist”.

What about the regime which Reactionaries are the second most desperate to paint as “demotist”? For this one let’s bring some class into this essay and quote Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn:

As an honest reactionary I naturally reject Nazism … fascism and all related ideologies which are, in sober fact, the reductio ad absurdum of so-called democracy and mob domination.

You heard it here first. The Nazis were baaaaasically the same as progressive liberal democrats.

To which all I can say is: you know who else opposed “so-called democracy and mob domination?”

By rejecting the authority of the individual and replacing it by the numbers of some momentary mob, the parliamentary principle of majority rule sins against the basic aristocratic principle of Nature

– Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, p. 81

2.3.3: Even accepting all that, is Michael’s last sentence even true?

Michael’s argument ends by saying: “Kings and emperors very rarely, if ever, engage in mass murder against their own people.”

I propose a contrary hypothesis – traditional absolutist regimes have always had worse records of massacre and genocide than progressives. However, technology improves efficiency in all things, including murder. And population has been growing almost monotonically for millennia. Therefore, it is unsurprising that more modern absolutist regimes – like Nazism and Stalinism – have higher death counts than older absolutist regimes – like traditional monarchies.

On the other hand, traditional monarchies have some pretty impressive records for killing their own people. Let us take a whirlwind tour of history:

The Albigensian Crusade, run by the French monarchy against its own subjects – with the support of the Catholic Church – may have killed up to a million people, which is pretty impressive considering that at the time there were only about twelve million Frenchmen. As a proportion of total population, this is about the same as the number of Germans who died during World War II, or Chinese who died during the Great Leap Forward.

The Harrying of the North was totally a real historical event and not something I stole from Game of Thrones. William the Conquerer, angry at the murder of a local earl, managed to kill about 100,000 northern Englishmen from 1069-1070, which was probably about 5% of the entire population.

Another 100,000 people died in the 16th century German Peasants’ War, an event which so blended into the general mayhem of the time that you have never heard of it. Actually, the claim that Reactionary regimes have ever been peaceful would have trouble surviving a look merely at Wikipedia’s disambiguation page for Peasants’ War.

Third century BC emperor Qin Shi Huang was not only responsible for the Burning Of Books And Burying Of Scholars, but killed about one million out of his population of twenty million with various purges and forced labor projects, one of which was the Great Wall of China.

[This section previously included a paragraph on Chinese warlord Zhang Xianzhong. Despite living in a 17th century monarchy, he held some pretty progressive values and his Reactionary credentials have been challenged. Rather than let his story distract from the more obviously Reactionary murderers above, I will concede the point]

But Michael goes even further. He says of democracies that “[with] a Demotist leader, there tends to be far fewer checks and balances. They can cause a million deaths in a place like Iraq with a snap of their fingers.”

Ignoring for a moment the difference between snapping one’s fingers and getting a bill to declare war passed through both houses of a hostile Congress (since Michael certainly does) we note that Michael has just authorized us to also compare monarchies and democracies in their ability to wreak havoc abroad.

On this particular historical tour, we will start with King Leopold of Belgium. Belgium itself was a constitutional monarchy run on a mostly democratic system, and in fact has always been a relatively pleasant and stable place. However, Belgium’s colony, the Congo Free State, was under the direct rule of King Leopold. Not only was it responsible for the deaths of two to fifteen million Congolese – ie about as many Jews as were killed by Hitler – but the manner of those deaths was about as brutal and callous as can be imagined. Wikipedia writes:

Leopold then amassed a huge personal fortune by exploiting the Congo. The first economic focus of the colony was ivory, but this did not yield the expected levels of revenue. When the global demand for rubber exploded, attention shifted to the labor-intensive collection of sap from rubber plants. Abandoning the promises of the Berlin Conference in the late 1890s, the Free State government restricted foreign access and extorted forced labor from the natives. Abuses, especially in the rubber industry, included the effective enslavement of the native population, beatings, widespread killing, and frequent mutilation when the production quotas were not met. Missionary John Harris of Baringa, for example, was so shocked by what he had come across that he wrote to Leopold’s chief agent in the Congo saying: “I have just returned from a journey inland to the village of Insongo Mboyo. The abject misery and utter abandon is positively indescribable. I was so moved, Your Excellency, by the people’s stories that I took the liberty of promising them that in future you will only kill them for crimes they commit.”

This is an especially good example as it describes (we will see later) the ideal Reactionary state – one run by a single person identical to a corporation trying to make as much money as possible off a particular area and possessing overwhelming force.

The story does however have a happy ending – progressive elements within Belgium were so horrified that they forced the king to cede his claim – the colony was then governed by Belgium’s democratically elected legislature, which did such a good job even Mencius Moldbug cannot resist the urge to praise it, and under whose rule Congo was a relatively liveable place up until a native uprising kicked out the Belgians and restored dictatorship.

Another good example of kings and emperors at war is Imperial Japan. This state – again run under principles no Reactionary could fault – accomplished the astounding feat of reducing the Nazis to the second biggest jerks on the Axis side during World War II. During the war, Imperial Japanese troops murdered between three million and ten million foreigners, mostly Chinese. Once again the brutality of their killings is impressive. According to Wikipedia on the Rape of Nanking:

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East estimated that 20,000 women were raped, including infants and the elderly.[40] A large portion of these rapes were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped.[41] The women were often killed immediately after being raped, often through explicit mutilation[42] or by stabbing a bayonet, long stick of bamboo, or other objects into the vagina. Young children were not exempt from these atrocities, and were cut open to allow Japanese soldiers to rape them

Meanwhile, Michael says that “Kings and emperors very rarely, if ever, engage in mass murder” but is absolutely horrified that America caused a million deaths in Iraq (more sober sources say 100,000, of which under 10,000 were civilians directly killed by US forces) while making the utmost effort to avoid unnecessary violence and launching war crimes proceedings against anyone caught employing it.

2.3.4: Conclusion for this section?

Reactionaries believe that monarchs are wise and benevolent rulers, and that it is only “demotists” who engage in genocide and mass murder.

But this argument is based on a con – “demotist” is an unnatural category they made up solely to win this debate. When we look at the governments their opponents actually support – liberal democracies – we find they have a much better history than monarchies.

Further, the Reactionaries fail even on the terms of their own con. Monarchs have a fantastically bloody history, and the regimes they want to paint as demotist really aren’t.

2.4: Are traditional monarchs good leaders?

In his perhaps optimistically named “Ten Objections To Traditionalism And Monarchism, With Answers”, Michael Anissimov asks, with commendable bluntness: “What if the king is an idiot or psycho?” He answers:

Then the prior king appoints a regent to take over the affairs of state on behalf of his successor. There is also a debate within the Reactionary community as to whether adoptive succession is preferable to hereditary succession, which avoids the issue of stupid or crazy children. Such extreme scenarios rarely ever happened during the age of Renaissance European monarchs. One of the greatest statesmen of all time, Klemens von Metternich, strongly influenced the mentally deficient monarch Ferdinand I of Austria during his reign, sat on the regency council, and ran most important affairs, presiding over a hundred years of relative peace in Europe.

We shall start with the theoretical objections before moving on to the empirical counterexamples.

Theoretical objection the first: what if the king doesn’t become an idiot or a psycho until after he is on the throne? The onset of schizophrenia can be as late as twenty-five; later in rare cases. Traumatic brain injury, certain infectious diseases, and normal human personality change can happen at any age. Smart psychopaths will have the presence of mind to avoid revealing their psychosis until they are safely enthroned.

Theoretical objection the second: what if the king seizes power some other way? A decent number of history’s monarchs got tired of waiting and killed their fathers. We would expect these to disproportionately include those who are crazy and evil, not to mention those who think their fathers would take away their power.

Theoretical objection the third: regency councils are historically about the least stable form of government imaginable. Unless everyone has truly commendable morality, either the king kills the regent and seizes power, the regent kills the king and starts a new dynasty, or some third party kills the regent and becomes the new regent. Once again, reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms will prove instructional.

Theoretical objection the fourth: we are counting on the king’s father to object if the king is an idiot or psycho. But a lot of idiotic psychotic kings’ fathers were, in fact, idiots and psychos. The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

Onto the historical counterexamples. Historical counterexample the first: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, “Caligula” to his friends. Absolutely beloved by the Roman populace. Unclear whether he killed his uncle Tiberius to gain the Empire, or just stood by cackling kind of maniacally as he died. Took power to general acclaim, ruled well for a couple of months, gradually started showing his dark side, and after a year or two reached the point where he ordered a large section of spectators at the colosseum to be thrown into the ring and torn apart by lions because the average amount of tearing-apart-by-lions at a Roman gladiatorial games just wasn’t enough for him.

Historical counterexample the second: Ivan the Terrible. His father died of infection when Ivan was three years old. His mother was named as his regent – kind of a coincidence that the most qualified statesman in the realm would be his mother, but let’s roll with it – but she died of poisoning when Ivan was eight. In this case I’m not sure who exactly is supposed to decide whether he’s an idiot or psycho, and apparently neither were the Russians, because they crowned him Czar in 1547 . Ivan was okay until his wife died, at which point he became paranoid and started executing the nobility for unclear reasons, destroyed the economy, and burnt and pillaged the previously glorious city of Novgorod (part of his own kingdom!) with thousands of deaths. According to some sources:

Ivan himself often spent nights dreaming of unique ways to torture and kill. Some victims were fried in giant frying pans and others were flayed alive. At times, he turned on [his death squads] themselves, and subjected their membership to torture and death. In a fit of rage, he murdered his own son; however the guilt of this act obsessed him and he never recovered.

Our story does not end there! Ivan died of a stroke, leaving the throne to his intellectually disabled son. Here at least the system worked – brilliant statesman Boris Godunov was installed as regent and ruled pretty well. He did, however, eventually seize the throne – likely because if he had not seized the throne everyone else would have killed him out of suspicion that he might seize the throne. He died, there was a huge succession squabble, and thus started the Time of Troubles, whose name is pretty self-explanatory.

Historical counterexample the third: Charles II Habsburg of Spain (not to be confused with various other Charles IIs). A strong contender for the hotly contested title of “most inbred monarch in history”, Wikipedia describes him like so:

Known as “the Bewitched” (Spanish: el Hechizado), he is noted for his extensive physical, intellectual, and emotional disabilities—along with his consequent ineffectual rule…

Charles did not learn to speak until the age of four nor to walk until eight, and was treated as virtually an infant until he was ten years old. Fearing the frail child would be overtaxed, his caretakers did not force Charles to attend school. The indolence of the young Charles was indulged to such an extent that at times he was not expected to be clean. When his illegitimate half-brother Don Juan José of Austria, an illegitimate son of Philip IV, obtained power by exiling the queen mother from court, he covered his nose and insisted that the king at least brush his hair

As Charles’s father died when Charles was 3, he was given a regent – his mother (another case in which the most qualified statesman in the land is the monarch’s mother! What are the odds?!) But when his mother died, Charles took power in his own name and ruled for four years. His only notable achievement during that time was presiding over the largest auto-da-fe in history. He died at age 39. Again quoting Wikipedia:

The physician who practiced his autopsy stated that his body “did not contain a single drop of blood; his heart was the size of a peppercorn; his lungs corroded; his intestines rotten and gangrenous; he had a single testicle, black as coal, and his head was full of water.” As the American historians Will and Ariel Durant put it, Charles II was “short, lame, epileptic, senile, and completely bald before 35, he was always on the verge of death, but repeatedly baffled Christendom by continuing to live.”

Oh, and thanks to the vagaries of self-interested royal dynasties, his passing caused a gigantic succession struggle which drew in all the neighboring countries and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Historical counterexample the fourth: Henry VIII. Really? Yes, really. While perhaps calling him an idiot or psycho goes too far, he certainly thought that marrying confirmed hottie Anne Boleyn and having a son with her was worth converting England to a newly-invented Protestant religion – a decision which killed tens of thousands, displaced some of the country’s oldest and most important institutions, and set the stage for two hundred years of on-and-off warfare. Whether or not you like the Church of England (or, as it was almost named, Psychotic Bastard Religion) yourself, you have to admit this is a sort of poor reason to start a religious revolution.

King Henry wasn’t an idiot or a psycho. He was just a selfish bastard. You can’t expect his father to pick up on that. Even if you could, his father wasn’t exactly Mahatma Gandhi himself. Worst of all, his personality may have changed following traumatic brain injury from a jousting accident – something that could not have been predicted before he took the throne.

This is exactly the sort of problem non-monarchies don’t have to worry about. If Barack Obama said the entire country had to convert to Mormonism at gunpoint as part of a complicated plot for him to bone Natalie Portman, we’d just tell him no.

There’s another important aspect here too. Reactionaries – ending up more culpable of a stereotype about economists than economists themselves, who are usually pretty good at avoiding it – talk as if a self-interested monarch would be a rational money-maximizer. But a monarch may have desires much more complicated than cash. They might, like Henry, want to marry a particular woman. They might have religious preferences. They might have moral preferences. They might be sadists. They might really like the color blue. In an ordinary citizen, those preferences are barely even interesting enough for small talk. In a monarch, they might mean everyone’s forced to wear blue clothing all the time.

You think that’s a joke, but in 1987 the dictator of Burma made all existing bank notes illegitimate so he could print new ones that were multiples of nine. Because, you see, he liked that number. As Wikipedia helpfully points out, “The many Burmese whose saved money in the old large denominations lost their life savings.” For every perfectly rational economic agent out there, there’s another guy who’s really into nines.

2.5: Are traditional monarchies more politically stable?

Reactionaries often claim that traditional monarchies are stable and secure, compared to the chaos and constant danger of life in a democracy. Michael Anissimov quotes approvingly a passage by Stefan Zweig:

Michael’s comment: “[This] does a good job capturing the flavor and stability of the Austrian monarchy…it’s very interesting to read this in a world where America and Europe are characterized by political and economic instability and ethnic strife.”

I am glad Mr. Zweig (Professor Zweig? Baron Zweig?) found his life in Austria to be very secure. But we can’t just take him at his word.

Let’s consider the most recent period of Habsburg Austrian history – 1800 to 1918 – the period that Zweig and the elders he talked to in his youth might have experienced.

Habsburg Holy Roman Austria was conquered by Napoleon in 1805, forced to dissolve as a political entity in 1806, replaced with the Kingdom of Austria, itself conquered again by Napoleon in 1809, refounded in 1815 as a repressive police state under the gratifyingly evil-sounding Klemens von Metternich, suffered 11 simultaneous revolutions and was almost destroyed in 1848, had its constitution thrown out and replaced with a totally different version in 1860, dissolved entirely into the fledgling Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, lost control of Italy and parts of Germany to revolts in the 1860s-1880s, started a World War in 1914, and was completely dissolved in 1918, by which period the reigning emperor’s wife, brother, son, and nephew/heir had all been assassinated.

Meanwhile, in Progressive Britain during the same period, people were mostly sitting around drinking tea.

This is not a historical accident. As discussed above, monarchies have traditionally been rife with dynastic disputes, succession squabbles, pretenders to the throne, popular rebellions, noble rebellions, impulsive reorganizations of the machinery of state, and bloody foreign wars of conquest.

2.5.1: And democracies are more stable?

Yes, yes, oh God yes.

Imagine the US presidency as a dynasty, the Line of Washington. The Line of Washington has currently undergone forty-three dynastic successions without a single violent dispute. As far as I know, this is unprecedented among dynasties – unless it be the dynasty of Japanese Emperors, who managed the feat only after their power was made strictly ceremonial. The closest we’ve ever come to any kind of squabble over who should be President was Bush vs. Gore, which was decided within a month in a court case, which both sides accepted amicably.

To an observer from the medieval or Renaissance world of monarchies and empires, the stability of democracies would seem utterly supernatural. Imagine telling Queen Elizabeth I – whom as we saw above suffered six rebellions just in her family’s two generations of rule up to that point – that Britain has been three hundred years without a non-colonial-related civil war. She would think either that you were putting her on, or that God Himself had sent a host of angels to personally maintain order.

Democracies are vulnerable to one kind of conflict – the regional secession. This is responsible for the only (!) major rebellion in the United States’ 250 year (!) history, and might be a good category to place Britain’s various Irish troubles. But the long-time scourge of every single large nation up to about 1800, the power struggle? Totally gone. I don’t think moderns are sufficiently able to appreciate how big a deal this is. It would be like learning that in the year 2075, no one even remembers that politicians used to sometimes lie or make false promises.

How do democracies manage this feat? It seems to involve three things:

First, there is a simple, unambiguous, and repeatable decision procedure for determining who the leader is – hold an election. This removes the possibility of competing claims of legitimacy.

Second, would-be rebels have an outlet for their dissatisfaction: organize a campaign and try to throw out the ruling party. This is both more likely to succeed and less likely to leave the country a smoking wasteland than the old-fashioned method of raising an army and trying to kill the king and everyone who supports him.

Third, it ensures that the leadership always has popular support, and so popular revolts would be superfluous.

If you remember nothing else about the superiority of democracies to other forms of government, remember the fact that in three years, we will have a change of leadership and almost no one is stocking up on canned goods to prepare for the inevitable civil war.

2.6: Are traditional monarchies more economically stable?

Once again, we come to Michael Anissimov’s claims about Austria:

Demotist systems, that is, systems ruled by the “People,” such as Democracy and Communism, are predictably less financially stable than aristocratic systems. On average, they undergo more recessions and hold more debt. They are more susceptible to market crashes. They waste more resources. Each dollar goes further towards improving standard of living for the average person in an aristocratic system than in a Democratic one.

The economic growth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1.76% per year) “compared very favorably to that of other European nations such as Britain (1%), France (1.06%), and Germany (1.51%)”.

The growth of Austria-Hungary was higher than that of other European countries for the same reason the growth of sub-Saharan Africa right now is outpacing the growth of America or Europe – it was such a backwater that it had more room to grow.

Urbanization is a decent proxy for industrialization, and we consistently find that throughout the Kingdom of Austria and Austro-Hungarian Empire period, Austria had some of the lowest urbanization rates in Europe, just barely a third those of Britain, and well behind those of France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland. In order to find a country as poorly developed as Austria-Hungary, we need to go to such economic powerhouses as Norway, Portugal and Bulgaria.

Nor was its economy especially stable. The Panic of 1873, probably the worst financial depression during the period being discussed and perhaps the worst modern economic crisis before the Great Depression, actually started in Austria-Hungary and only spread from there to the rest of the world. This is especially astounding given Austria-Hungary’s general economic irrelevance at the time.

2.6.1: What about Germany? Isn’t the German Empire a good example of an industrially successful Reactionary country?

I consider the Reactionary credentials of the German Empire extremely open to doubt.

The German Empire was a utopian project created by people who wanted to sweep away the old patchwork system of landed nobility and local traditions that formed the Holy Roman Empire and turn it into a efficient modern state. The Progressive origins of both the Italian and German unification efforts shine through almost every word of a letter from Garibaldi to German unification pioneer Karl Blind:

The progress of humanity seems to have come to a halt, and you with your superior intelligence will know why. The reason is that the world lacks a nation which possesses true leadership. Such leadership, of course, is required not to dominate other peoples, but to lead them along the path of duty, to lead them toward the brotherhood of nations where all the barriers erected by egoism will be destroyed. We need the kind of leadership which, in the true tradition of medieval chivalry, would devote itself to redressing wrongs, supporting the weak, sacrificing momentary gains and material advantage for the much finer and more satisfying achievement of relieving the suffering of our fellow men. We need a nation courageous enough to give us a lead in this direction. It would rally to its cause all those who are suffering wrong or who aspire to a better life, and all those who are now enduring foreign oppression.

This role of world leadership, left vacant as things are today, might well be occupied by the German nation. You Germans, with your grave and philosophic character, might well be the ones who could win the confidence of others and guarantee the future stability of the international community. Let us hope, then, that you can use your energy to overcome your moth-eaten thirty tyrants of the various German states. Let us hope that in the center of Europe you can then make a unified nation out of your fifty millions. All the rest of us would eagerly and joyfully follow you.

The result of this idealistic vision – the destruction of the ancien regime in Germany – was a state much stronger than the traditional-but-weak Holy Roman Empire or anything that had existed in that part of the world before.

Sure, Otto von Bismarck was no hippie, but he was first and foremost a pragmatist, and his empire combined both conservative and progressive elements. It was based on a constitution, had universal male suffrage (only 5 years after the US got same!), elected a parliament, and allowed political parties. Granted, the democratic aspect was something of a facade to cover up an authoritarian core, but real Reactionaries would not permit such a facade, saying it will invariably end in full democracy (they are likely right).

The amazing growth of the German Empire was due to two things. First, the virtues of the German populace, which allow them to continue to dominate the European economy even today with an extremely progressive and democratic government. And second, the catch-up effect mentioned earlier. Germany had been languishing under traditional feudal and aristocratic rule for centuries. As soon as the German Empire wiped away that baggage and created a modern Progressive state, it allowed the economic genius of the Germans to shine through in the form of breakneck-speed economic growth.

2.6.2: Is Progressivism destroying the economy?

Another frequent claim. But remember how Michael said Progressivism went into high gear around the time of the French Revolution in 1789. Here’s a graph of world GDP over time:

To put it lightly, I see no evidence of a decline starting around 1789?

Maybe the effect is just in the United States?

This image is actually even more astounding and important than the above, because it shows how growth keeps to a very specific trendline. On the graph above, the Reactionary might claim that technological advance was disguising the negative effects of Progressivism somehow. Here we see that no second variable that is not perfectly consistent has been interfering with the general economic growth effect.

I literally cannot conceive of a way that the data could be less consistent with the theory that Progressivism inhibits economic growth.

2.7: Are traditional monarchies just in general more successful and nicer places to live?

Great Britain and America have throughout their histories been the two most progressive nations on Earth. They’ve also been, over the past three hundred years or so, the two most successful. Other bright spots in the progressive/successful cluster include 1600s Netherlands, classical democratic Athens, republican Rome, and Cyrus’ Persia. In fact, practically every one of the great nations of history was unusually progressive for its time period, perhaps with the exception of China – which is exceptionally complicated and hard to place on a Western political spectrum. Other possible exceptions might include Philip II’s Spain, Louis XIV’s France, and Genghis Khan’s Mongolia – but the overall trend is still pretty clear.

Limiting our discussion to the present, our main obstacle to a comparison is a deficit of truly Reactionary countries. Reactionaries are never slow to bring up Singapore, a country with some unusually old-fashioned ideas and some unusually good outcomes. But as I have pointed out in a previous post, Singapore does little better than similar control countries, and the lion’s share of its success is most likely due to it being a single city inhabited by hyper-capitalist Chinese and British people on a beautiful natural harbor in the middle of the biggest chokepoint in the world’s most important trade route.

Saudi Arabia also gets brought up as a modern Reactionary state. It certainly has the absolute monarchy, the reliance on religious tradition, the monoethnic makeup, the intolerance for feminist ideals, and the cultural censorship. How does it do? Well, it’s nice and stable and relatively well-off. But a cynic (or just a person with an IQ > 10) might point out that a lot of this has to do with it controlling a fifth of the world’s oil supply. It’s pretty easy to have a good economy when the entire world is paying you bazillions of dollars to sit there and let them extract liquid from the ground. And it’s pretty easy to be stable when you can bribe the population to do what you want with your bazillions of dollars in oil money – in fact, Saudi Arabia is probably that rarest of birds – a Reactionary welfare state.

(Actually, this point requires further remark. Reactionary states tend to be quite rich. In the case of Singapore, Reactionaries trumpet this as a success of Reactionary principles. In the case of Saudi Arabia, that sort of causation is somewhat less credible. I propose an alternative theory: Reactionary states can maintain themselves only by bribing the population not to revolt. These bribes may be literal, as in the case of the Saudi welfare state. Or they may be more figurative – “Look how rich my government has made you – you let me stay in power and I’ll keep up the good work.” China is the classic example of this particular formulation. This is important because contra Moldbug’s inverted pendulum theory it suggests Reactionary regimes will be inherently unstable.)

But getting back to the issue at hand – given all these economic confounders, it’s hard to compare Reactionary and progressive regimes in an even-handed way.

This is par for the course. Political science is notorious for its inability to perform controlled experiments, and no two countries will differ only in their system of government.

2.7.1: If we could perform a controlled experiment pitting reactionary versus progressive ideals, what would it look like?

Well, assuming you were God and had infinite power and resources, you could take a very homogeneous country and split it in half.

One side gets a hereditary absolute monarch, whose rule is law and who is succeeded by his sons and by his sons’ sons. The population is inculcated with neo-Confucian values of respect for authority, respect for the family, and cultural solidarity, but these values are supplemented by a religious ideal honoring the monarch as a near-god and the country as a specially chosen holy land. American cultural influence is banned on penalty of death; all media must be produced in-country, and missionaries are shot on site. The country’s policies are put in the hands of a group of technocratic nobles hand-picked by the king.

The other side gets flooded with American missionaries preaching weird sects of Protestantism, and at the point of American guns is transformed into a parliamentary democracy. Its economy – again at the behest of American soldiers, who seem to be sticking around a sufficient long time – becomes market capitalism. It institutes a hundred billion dollar project to protect the environment, passes the strictest gun control laws in the world, develops a thriving gay culture, and elects a woman as President.

Turns out this perfect controlled experiment actually happened. Let’s see how it turned out!

Talk about your “Dark Enlightenment”!

From the Reactionary perspective, North Korea has done everything right. They’ve had three generations of absolute rulers. They’ve tried to base their social system on Confucianism. They’ve kept a strong military, resisted American influence, and totally excluded the feelings of the peasant class from any of their decisions.

Reactionaries, behold your god.

South Korea, on the other hand, ought to be a basketcase. It’s replaced its native Confucian traditions with liberal Protestant sects, it’s occupied by US troops, it’s gone through various military coups to what the CIA calls a “fully functioning modern democracy”, and it’s so culturally decadent and degraded that it managed to produce Gangnam Style. Yet I don’t think there’s a single person reading this who doesn’t know which one ze’d rather live in.

Yet according to the principles of Reaction (first quote Michael Anissimov, second Mencius Moldbug)

Legally speaking, monarchies tend to have fewer laws, but enforce them more strictly, following Tacitus’ dictum: “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” In general, monarchies put more power into the hands of local government. A key argument in favor of monarchy is that leaders tend to have a lower time preference, meaning they have a greater personal stake in the long-term well being of the country, compared to career politicians oriented towards four-year election cycles.

A royal family is a family business. Not one king in European history can be found who ruined his own country to enrich himself, like an African dictator.

North Korea is a family business. And the Kim family has done very very well for itself. But it’s not something I would like to see spread.

3: What is progress?

Reactionaries are not the first to notice – but may be the most obsessive in analyzing – a certain directionality to history. That is, rather than being a random walk across the space of possible values, at least the past three hundred years or so seem to have shown a definite trend. Those who are in favor of this trend call it “progress”. Those who oppose it call it things like “moral decay”.

However, it is notoriously difficult to determine exactly what this trend is and what drives it. A theory to this effect is at the core of what separates Reactionaries from simple conservatives.

In the remainder of this section, I will replace the word “progress” – with its connotations of inevitability and desirability – with the preferred Reactionary term “progressivism” – that is, the political ideology which flows with the historical trend under discussion.

3.1: Might Progressivism be merely a secular strain of some Protestant religion?

Reactionaries seem to agree that Progressivism is a religion. Perhaps Calvinism. From Moldbug:

I prefer “cryptocalvinism” [as a name for progressivism], meaning two things: that, like Calvin and as a direct result of his intellectual heritage, cryptocalvinists are building the Kingdom of God on Earth, a political system that seeks to eradicate every form of unrighteousness; and that they prefer not to acknowledge this characterization of their mission and heritage. Since I’ve changed the name, let me repeat the four ideals of cryptocalvinism: Equality (the universal brotherhood of man), Peace (the futility of violence), Social Justice (the fair distribution of goods), and Community (the leadership of benevolent public servants).

Or perhaps Quakerism. From Isegoria, quoting a different Moldbug theory:

Modern progressivism is in fact a form of secular Quakerism, with its doctrine of the Inner Light only slightly modified.

Or how about Judaism? From Age of Treason:

In a nutshell I object to [Moldbug]’s definition of Universalism, which is what he calls “the faith of our ruling caste”. It’s an important observation, but I think he gets it only half right. He associates Universalism only with Progressivism, which he blames entirely on Christianity. He does not address the Globalist tendencies of our ruling caste, and he pretty much gives Jews a pass…The close alignment of PC with Jewish interests? The Jewish support for Marxism and Bolshevism and hatred of Nazism perhaps?

Reactionaries seem much more certain that Progressivism is religious in origin than they are which religion exactly it originates from. And the differences between Calvinism and Quakerism are not subtle.

Given their total lack of consensus on a matter as basic as which religion, why is it so important to Reactionaries that progressivism be descended from a religious background? Moldbug explains:

[Progressives] believe their ideals are universal, that they can be derived from science and logic, that no reasonable and well-intentioned person can dispute them, and that their practice if applied correctly will lead to an ideal society. I believe that they are arbitrary, that they are inherited from Protestant Christianity, that they serve primarily as a justification for the rule of the cryptocalvinist establishment, or Polygon, and that they are a major cause of corruption, tyranny, poverty and war.

So the reason Reactionaries want the Left to be religious is to disprove the contention that it is based on reason. This would presumably discredit the Left and restore preeminence to Reactionary ideas such as that people should be ruled by a king, live in strong heterosexual nuclear families, avoid sexual promiscuity, and derive their values from fixed traditions rather than modern ideas of self-expression. You know, ideas with no religious background whatsoever.

3.1.1: Stop being snide and answer the question? Might Progressivism, far from deriving from some universal moral principles, actually be an arbitrary and parochial set of Calvinist customs and taboos?

The ideals commonly called progressive predate Calvin by several millennia. Consider the example of Rome. The early Romans not only overthrew their kings in a popular revolution and instituted a Republic, but experienced five plebian secessions (read: giant nationwide strikes aiming at greater rights for the poor). After the first, the Roman government created the position of tribune, a representative for the nation’s poor with significant power in the government. After the third, the government passed a sort of bill of rights guaranteeing the poor protection against arbitrary acts of government. After the fifth, the government passed the Lex Hortensiana, which said that plebians could hold a referendum among themselves and the results would be binding on the entire populace, rich and poor alike. By the later Empire, even slaves were guaranteed certain rights, including the right to file complaints against their masters.

The Empire was remarkably multicultural, even at its very highest levels. Emperor Septimus Severus was half-Libyan and some historians think his appearance might have passed for black in modern America. Emperor Maximinus Thrax was a Goth, Emperor Carausius was Gallic, and Emperor Philip the Arab was…well, take a wild guess. Although Rome did have a state religion, they were extremely supportive of the rights of minorities to continue practicing their own religions, and eventually just tried to absorb everything into a giant syncretistic mishmash that makes today’s “ecumenialism” seem half-hearted in comparison. Although their tolerance famously did not always extend as far as Christianity, when the Romans had to denounce it they claimed it was not a religion but merely a “superstition” – a distinction which itself sounds suspiciously Progressive to modern ears. Indeed, the insistence of Christianity (and Judaism) on a single god, and their unwillingness to respect other religions as equally valid (in a very modern and relativistic way) was a large part of the Roman complaint against them.

The Romans pioneered the modern welfare state, famously memorialized by its detractors as panem et circenses – bread and circuses. Did you know welfare reform was a major concern of Julius Caesar? That ancient Rome probably had a higher percent of its population on the dole than modern New York? That the Romans basically worshipped a goddess of food stamps?

And no discussion of ancient Rome would be complete without mentioning their crazy sex lives. Wikipedia explains that “It was expected and socially acceptable for a freeborn Roman man to want sex with both female and male partners, as long as he took the penetrative role. The morality of the behavior depended on the social standing of the partner, not gender per se. Gender did not determine whether a sexual partner was acceptable, as long as a man’s enjoyment did not encroach on another’s man integrity.” Gay weddings were not uncommon in ancient Rome, and were neither officially banned nor officially sanctioned. Juvenal and Martial both wrote satires condemning what they considered an epidemic of gay marriages during their era. And at least one Roman Emperor – Nero – married a man.

(well, married two men. One as groom and one as bride. And castrated one of them. And probably only married one of them because he was said to have an uncanny resemblance to Nero’s mother. Whom Nero had previously had sex with, then murdered. I didn’t say Nero was normal. Just unusually forward-thinking on the gay marriage issue.)

Moldbug listed the cryptocalvinist ie Progressive program as having four parts:

Equality (the universal brotherhood of man), Peace (the futility of violence), Social Justice (the fair distribution of goods), and Community (the leadership of benevolent public servants)

Yet Equality has a clear antecedent in the plebian secessions of ancient Rome, peace in the Pax Romana, social justice in the Roman welfare system, and community in…well, it’s so broadly defined here that it could be anything, but if we’re going to make it the leadership of benevolent public servants, let’s just throw in a reference to the philosopher-kings of Plato’s Republic (yeah, fine, it’s Greek. It still counts)

3.1.2: Yes, okay, the Romans tried to keep the peace and help the poor and stuff. That’s a pretty weak definition of Progressivism. What really defines Progressivism is this messianic fervor that if we just do this enough, we can create a perfect utopia. That is what these ancient cultures were lacking.
Even if you’ve never read The Republic, you can still get a sense of the utopian striving in the classical world from reading some of the stuff written during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Here’s Dryden’s translation of a passage from the Aeneid:

An age is ripening in revolving fate
When Troy shall overturn the Grecian state…
Then dire debate and impious war shall cease,
And the stern age be soften’d into peace:
Then banish’d Faith shall once again return,
And Vestal fires in hallow’d temples burn;
And Remus with Quirinus shall sustain
The righteous laws, and fraud and force restrain.
Janus himself before his fane shall wait,
And keep the dreadful issues of his gate,
With bolts and iron bars: within remains
Imprison’d Fury, bound in brazen chains;
High on a trophy rais’d, of useless arms,
He sits, and threats the world with vain alarms.

So please, tell me again how utopian desires for peace and social justice were invented wholesale by John Calvin in 1550.

3.2: Is the move toward Progressive social policy masterminded by “the Cathedral”?

Reactionaries have to walk a fine line. They can’t just say “people consider liberal policies, decide they would be helpful, and form grassroots movements pushing for the policies they support”, because that would make leftist policies sound like reasonable ideas pursued by decent people for normal human motives.

But they can’t just say “There’s a giant conspiracy where the heads of all the major Ivy League universities meet at midnight under the full moon”, because that would sound ridiculous and tinfoilish.

So they invent this strange creature, the distributed conspiracy. It’s not just people being convinced of something and then supporting it, it’s them conspiring to do so. Not the sort of conspiring where they talk to one another about it or coordinate. But still a conspiracy! Michael Anissimov describes it like so:

[The Cathedral is] the self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service…the Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil […]

Government and social policy is manufactured in universities, first and foremost at Harvard, followed by Princeton, then Yale, then the other Ivies, Berkeley, and Stanford. As far as politics is concerned, institutions outside of these are pretty much insignificant. Memetic propagation is one-way — it is formulated in the schools and pumped outwards. The universities are not significantly influenced by the outside. The civil servants that make government decisions are either borrowed from universities or almost totally influenced by them. The official mouthpiece of this ideological group is The New York Times, which is the most influential publication in the world outside of the Bible.

So now that we have this formulation of the problem, we can ask some more specific questions.

3.2.1: Are Harvard and the New York Times disproportionately linked to the Progressive ideas that now dominate society?

That depends partly on what “disproportionately” means, of course. But we can make some vague and qualitative observations.

The Roman and Persian Empires held some very Progressive ideals, all without the help of any universities or newspapers whatsoever. Parsimony suggests that whatever process pushed Rome to the left could be doing the same to the modern world.

But a better counterexample might be noting that even modern progressivism predates this institutions. The history of modern Progressivism – even as told by Reactionaries – goes from John Locke to the Glorious Revolution to the American Revolution to the French Revolution to the US Civil War on through John Stuart Mill to the New Deal and the United Nations and civil rights movements and on to the present. While Harvard (est. 1636) does predate all those events, I don’t think even its most fervent critic would accord it any level of influence on world ideas until the 1850s at the earliest. And the Times was founded in 1851. It is hard to chart the precise progress of Progressivism, but I don’t notice any sharp discontinuity at any point. Once again using parsimony, we might expect the forces that promoted Progressivism during the French Revolution and before to be the same forces promoting Progressivism afterwards. This takes any special role of Harvard or the New York Times entirely out of the pictures.

And modern progressivism doesn’t seem linked to Harvard or the Times in space either. New York and Boston are pretty progressive – by American standards. But there’s a whole world out there. Canada is further left than America; Britain is further left than Canada; France is further left than Britain; the Netherlands are further left than France; and Sweden is further left than the Netherlands. Russia and China are complicated, but they’ve certainly had their super-leftist periods. In fact, pretty much the entire developed world is further left than anywhere in the United States, New York and Boston not excepted. This does not seem an entirely recent development; for example, the Netherlands’ liberalism has clear roots in the Dutch Golden Age of the 1600s.

It is true that sometimes a prophet is without honor in his own country. Yet for an American college and a newspaper read almost uniquely by Americans to have affected every other country in the Western world more effectively than they were able to affect the United States seems, well – unexpected.

3.2.2: Do Harvard and the New York Times invent Progressive dogma and then shove it down the throats of a hostile country?

Gay rights will be an interesting test here, because it’s one of the issues on which society has shifted leftward most quickly and dramatically, and because it’s relatively recent so its history should be easy to trace.

Modern gay rights movements trace their history to Germany, a country not known for having Harvard or the New York Times, or for that matter Puritans and Quakers. The German movement included such pioneering activists as Magnus Hirschfeld and Max Spohr, but Germany kind of dropped the ball on gay rights with the whole Nazi thing, and the emphasis shifted to elsewhere in Europe. In America, the movement finally gained steam in the 1960s with a picketing in Philadelphia and a community center in San Francisco, and finally the Stonewall Riots in New York.

I can’t get any good information about Harvard’s position, but the New York Times helpfully has an online archive of every article they have ever published. So what, exactly, was America’s Newspaper Of Record doing while all this was going on? It was helpfully publishing articles like GROWTH OF OVERT HOMOSEXUALITY IN CITY PROVOKES WIDE CONCERN:

The problem of homosexuality in New York became the focus yesterday of increased attention by the State Liquor Authority and the Police Department…The city’s most sensitive open secret – the presence of what is probably the greatest homosexual population in the world and its increasing openness – has become the subject of growing concern of psychiatrists, religious leaders, and the police.

Sexual inverts have colonized three areas of the city. The city’s homosexual community acts as a lodestar, attracting others from all over the country. More than a thousand inverts are arrested here annually for public misdeeds. Yet the old idea, assiduously propagated by homosexuals, that homosexuality is an inborn, incurable disease, has been exploded by modern psychiatry, in the opinion of many experts. It can be both prevented and cured, these experts say.

The overt homosexual – and those who are identifiable probably represent no more than half of the total – has become such an obtrusive part of the New York scene that the phenomenon needs public discussion, in the opinion of a number of legal and medical experts. Two conflict viewpoints converge today to overcome the silence and promote public discussion.

The first is the organized homophile movement – a minority of militant homosexuals that is openly agitating for removal of legal, social, and cultural discriminations against sexual inverts. Fundamental to this aim is the concept that homosexuality is an incurable, congenital disorder (this is disputed by the bulk of scientific evidence) and that homosexuals should be treated by an increasingly tolerant society as just another minority. This view is challenged by a second group, the analytical psychiatrists, who advocate an end to what it calls a head-in-sand approach to homosexuality…

On and on and on it goes in this vein. And that’s not even counting other such wonderful New York Times articles as WOMEN DEVIATES HELD INCREASING – PROBLEM OF HOMOSEXUALITY FOUND LARGELY IGNORED. These aren’t editorials – this is the headlines, the supposedly fact-based objective reporting section. The editorials are worse – I particularly like the one warning that we need to fight increasing gay influence in the theater industry because gays cannot authentically write plays about love or relationships.

Now, to the Times’ credit, it eventually changed its tune and is now mostly in favor of gay rights. That’s fine for the Times but not so good for Reactionaries. The story here is very clearly of a gay rights movement that began as a grassroots push in favor of more tolerance. The New York Times opposed it, but somehow the movement managed to gather steam despite that crushing blow. Eventually its tenets became accepted by more and more people, and one of these late adapters was the New York Times, which now atones for its sin by defending gay rights against even later adapters.

This is not the pattern one would expect if all Progressive ideas were fueled solely by the New York Times’ backing.

3.2.3: Do Harvard and the New York Times successfully impose their values on the rest of America and the world?

Let’s examine exactly how opinions have changed on a host of important political issues. These are taken from the National Election Survey, Pew Research, and Gallup. I’ve tried to avoid cherry-picking – I took every issue I could find, starting from the first year data was available. In cases where I could find two different polls, I kept the one with a longer data series:

Of thirty-four issues that made the cut, opinion shifted to the left on 19 and to the right on 13. There was an average shift of three points leftward per issue. Contrary to Reactionary claims that Americans do not appreciate the extent of the leftward shift affecting the country, in a recent survey based on a similar chart, most people, regardless of political affiliation, slightly overestimated the extent to which values had shifted leftward over the past generation.

Not only is the leftward shift less than people intuitively expect, it does not affect all issues equally. The left’s real advantage is limited to issues involving women and minorities. Remove these, and opinion shifts to the left on 11 issues and to the right on 12. The average shift is one point rightward per issue.

On the hottest, most politically relevant topics, society has moved leftward either very slowly or not at all. Over the past generation, it has moved to the right on gun control, the welfare state, capitalism, labor unions, and the environment. Although the particular time series on the chart does not reflect this, support for abortion has stabilized and may be dropping. This corresponds well with the DW-NOMINATE data that finds a general rightward trend in Congress over the same period. The nation seems to be shifting leftward socially but rightward politically – if that makes any sense.

If the Left had seized control of the government, or the media, or the institutions of the country, we would expect it to do a better job pushing its cherished policies like abortion rights, gun control, environmental protection, et cetera. Instead, beliefs on those issues have remained stable or shifted rightward, while issues like marijuana legalization – an issue more libertarian than progressive, and with minimal support from leftist institutions – succeed wildly. Whatever advantage the left has, it must be something skew to politics, something that institutionalized leftism, from the Democratic Party down to the Humanities Department at Harvard, can neither predict nor control.

3.3: Then where does progress come from?

So the cultural shift of the past few centuries isn’t toward some weird Christian sect. And it wasn’t caused by Harvard or the New York Times. What was it and who did it?

The World Values Survey is the official academic attempt to understand this question. They’ve been polling in eighty countries around the world for thirty years trying to figure out who has what values and how they have been changing. Maybe you’ve seen the most famous summary of their results:

There is no end to the fun one can have with WVS data, and I highly recommend at least Wikipedia’s Catalogue of Findings if not the original studies. But the most important part is that dimensionality analysis finds that answers to value questions cluster together onto two axes: survival vs. self-expression values, and traditional vs. secular-rational values.

Over time, societies tend to move from traditional and survival values to secular-rational and self-expression values. This is the more rigorous version of the “leftward shift” discussed above.

Both within a single time period and between time periods, traditional and survival values are generally associated with poverty, low industrialization, and insecurity. Secular-rational and self-expression values are generally associated with wealth, industrial or knowledge economies, and high security. The difference is not subtle:

And if you want to know why countries are becoming more democratic and less monarchist, it’s hard to get a more direct answer than this graph (although its attempt at a linear fit was a bad idea):

All of this provides a simple and elegant explanation of the distribution of leftism, both in time and space. The most progressive countries today tend to be very wealthy, very peaceful, and comparatively urbanized. The least progressive countries tend to be poor, insecure, and comparatively rural.

Remember Michael Anissimov’s description of the leftward shift above? That the world has been growing further to the left ever since the French Revolution? Take a look at the course of the world economy:

Riiiight about the time of the French Revolution – which also happens to be around the time of the Industrial Revolution – the world economy suddenly shifts into hyperdrive, starting in the USA and Western Europe, spreading to Japan after World War II, and not quite yet having reached Africa or Southeast Asia.

And, well, right about the time of the French Revolution Europe and the USA started shifting to the left, with Japan following after World War II, and Africa and Southeast Asia still lagging behind.

This progressivism/economics link is so obvious that anyone who thinks about it for a few minutes can reach the same conclusion. I wrote “A Thrive/Surive Theory Of The Political Spectrum long before I was familiar with the World Values Survey, but its conclusions match the survey’s in pretty much every respect: rightist values are those most suited for hardscrabble existence where everyone must band together to survive a dangerous frontier; leftist values are those most suited for a secure postscarcity or near postscarcity existence with surplus resources available to devote to more abstract principles.

I’d like to examine one more aspect of this before I stop beating this dead horse, which is the rural/urban divide. The history of industrialization is in many ways the history of urbanization, and the distinction between insecure frontier life and secure postscarcity life mirrors the rural/urban divide. This predicts that more rural countries should be more traditional/survival and more urban countries more secular-rational/self-expression, which in fact we see. Of the countries furthest to the top-right on the WVS diagram, Sweden, Norway and Denmark all have about 85% urban populations. Go down to the three countries at the bottom left – Jordan, Morocco, and Zimbabwe – and despite Jordan’s anomalously high level they’re still averaging about 55%.

This is true even in the United States – the denser a county, city, or state, the more likely it is to lean Democratic, as we can see from this terrible and confusing graph:

Rural counties – those with <200 people per square mile - lean red at about 65%. Once they pass that 200 person mark, they very quickly start leaning blue until the densest areas - true cities, approach 90% Democratic. Or as Dave Troy notes, "98% of the 50 most dense counties voted Obama. 98% of the 50 least dense counties voted for Romney." This density effect applies even within cities. Here are America's largest cities graphed by density against percent Romney vote:

My sources point out that “graphs of the UK, Australia, and Canada look very similar during the same period, with left voting concentrated in urban and mining districts” and theyalso mention (just to fend off the inevitable reactionary critique) that “interestingly — and contrary to the much-stated view that Obama purchased the election with welfare, food stamps, and other entitlements, our analysis turned up no statistically significant association between Obama votes and the metro poverty rate and only a very small one for income inequality across metros.”

Why am I making such a big deal of this? Well, here’s America’s percent urban versus percent rural population over the period of time when our values were shifting to the left:

So please. Tell me again how the leftward value shift over the past two hundred years was caused entirely by a sinister conspiracy of Ivy League college professors

3.3.1: Can you give a more detailed explanation of why increasing wealth, technology, and urbanization would lead to the values we call Progressive?

Here are five specific examples.

Multiculturalism is a forced adaptation to the culturally unprecedented situation of large groups of people from different cultures being forced to live and work together. This situation arises because of technology and urbanization. Technology, because more Somalis are going to immigrate to the US when that means booking a plane ticket over the phone than when it meant a six month journey over stormy seas. Urbanization, because it’s much harder to immigrate into an agrarian society where every family knows each other and farmland is at a premium than into an urban society where you can apply for the same factory job as everyone else.

Modern gender roles are a forced adaptation to the existence of cheap and effective contraception, which decouples sex from pregnancy. Teen pregnancy is relegated to people unwilling or unable to use contraception, allowing other women to pursue the same careers as men rather than dropping out of the workforce to become full-time mothers.

The welfare state is a forced adaptation to mobile and urban societies. In agrarian societies, most people owned their own means of production – their farms – and “unemployment” wasn’t a salient concept. It was usually possible to get what you needed through the sweat of your brow, even if that meant chopping down trees to build a log cabin, and there was little sympathy for people who didn’t bother. In urban societies, people need jobs in order to support themselves, and those who cannot get them starve in full pitiful view of everyone else.

Socialized health care is a very big part of the welfare state – probably the majority depending on how you parse the numbers. As recently as a century ago there really wasn’t much in the way of health care technology for people to spend money on, and most people died quickly and simply without having to be kept alive in expensive hospitals for months. As health care gets beyond most people’s ability to afford, and the average lifespan lengthens, there becomes more demand for government to step in and fill the gap.

Secularism is a more viable intellectual option once Science has discovered things like evolution and the Big Bang. Just as “there are no atheists in foxholes”, people with a comfortable urban existence not dependent on the whims of the weather and the plague are less likely to worry about placating the Lord. Multiculturalism means that faiths no are no longer immune to challenge, as Christians and Muslims and Buddhists have to live next to each other and notice how totally unconvinced outsiders are of their ideas. And the movement from closely-knit communities to sprawling cities mean that the local church is no longer ties together your entire actual and possible social network so closely that it can exert pressure on you to conform.

And yes these are just-so stories, but the relationship between all these factors and wealth/urbanization are pretty much beyond dispute – so if it’s not true for these reasons it’s true for reasons no doubt very much like them.

3.4: Do you believe in “Whig history”?

Whig history is an approach to historical study that emphasizes how the past has been groping towards the truths and institutions of the present. It is usually used derisively, in a sense of “Oh, so you think the era in which you were born just happens to be perfect, and everyone else from Aristotle to Galileo was just failing at being an American of 2013.”

There is obviously a strong meaning of the term which cannot help but be false. The past did not share our values, it did not move linearly, and the present moment is neither perfect nor universally superior to other periods.

On the other hand, in a world where progress in areas as diverse as cars, computers, weapons and health care has been blindingly obvious, we shouldn’t place too low a prior on the possibility that there has been progress in social institutions as well. Such progress could be motivated by the same factors that advance other areas.

First, a greater store of empirical results. As time goes on, we have more virtuous examples and terrible warnings. No one pushes for prohibition of alcohol anymore because we’ve seen how that turns out – and in thirty years, people may say the same about other drugs. Very few people push full hold-a-revolution Communism anymore, and for the same reason.

Second, better data. With the invention of statistics and information technology, we now have numbers on everything from income inequality to how different types of policing affect the crime rate. Members of the civil service, politicians, lobbyists, and even voters use these numbers to decide what policies to support. Neither the data nor its interpretation is always unbiased, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the old method of doing whatever your prejudices tell you to do.

Third, social evolution. This is a complicated one, because all evolution is evolution to a niche, the niche is different in the modern world than in the medieval world, and so modern and medieval societies are optimizing for different things. But at the very least, we can say that modern institutions are better adapted to the modern niche than medieval institutions. Those governments that did not adapt were overthrown; those corporations that did not adapt went out of business; those institutions that did not adapt became unpopular and saw their influence shifted to other institutions. Those governments, corporations, and institutions that did adapt prospered and spun off copycats with small variations, and the evolutionary cycle repeated again.

To these three we could add things like greater education, better access to information, and more rational values (you can no longer get away with saying “Follow me because I’m the Messiah”, and that’s probably a good thing). So although it’s not some a priori law of nature that the modern period must be the best period in history, we do have some reasons to expect things to be getting better rather than worse. As Part I pointed out, those expectations have mostly been realized.

3.5: Is America a communist country?

Reactionaries tend to push this line by finding the platform of the US Communist Party from some year well in the past, then pointing out that a lot of their goals were achieved, then noting that since America did what the communists wanted, we are a communist country.

Moldbug and others have claimed it, it even has its own Facebook page, but Free Northerner has done by far the most complete job analyzing it and finds that of demands in the 1928 Communist Party platform, 70% of all demands, and 78% of domestic demands, have been met as of 2013.

I don’t want to belittle Free Northerner’s work – he did a great job, he was much more rigorous than I’m about to be, and anyone who writes a blog post on how awesome Turisas is is a friend of mine regardless of his political beliefs.

But although I can’t get my computer to load the platform directly, I notice when I check his transcription that the Communist demands mysteriously lack points like “workers control the means of production” or “all property held in common”, or even “not capitalism”. They do, on the other hand, include policies like “abolition of censorship”, “right to vote for everyone over 18”, and “paid maternity leave during pregnancy”.

Rather than conclude that America is a communist country, a better conclusion might be “the Communist Party of 1928 wasn’t especially “communist”, in the sense that we use that word today.” That’s no surprise. The meaning of words changes over time, and the Cold War made the more moderate elements of communism drop the “communist” label. Using a liberal definition of “communist” to claim that we satisfy the definition, then suggesting we should draw the conclusions and connotations we would from the strict definition of “communist” remains the worst argument in the world. Take out the Worst Argument In The World, and all the Communist Party platform experiment proves is that we support policies like “no child labor” and “free maternity leave” – ie things we already knew.

There’s a second counterargument, though, which is more interesting. Free Northerner writes:

I don’t have time to analyze the Democratic and Republican platform demands of the same year at this time, but I would bet significant sums that less than 80% of their demands were met and upheld by our present time.

I’ll take that bet!

I mistakenly got the Republican platform for 1920 (someone else can double-check 1928 specifically). The Republicans failed to conveniently list their demands in bullet-point format, but from their long manifesto I managed to extract 37 different points:

1. Give farms right to cooperative associations
2. Protection against discrimination for farmers
3. End to unnecessary price fixing that reduces prices of farm products
4. Facilitate acquisition of farmland
5. Reduce frequency of strikes
6. Good voluntary mediation for industry
7. Convict labor products out of interstate commerce
8. Reorganize federal government
9. Simplify income tax
10. Federal Reserve free from political influence
11. Fair hours and good working conditions for railway workers
12. Private ownership of railroads
13. Immediate resumption of trade relations with all nations at peace
14. Restrict Asian immigrants
15. No one becomes citizen until they have taken a test to ensure they are American
16. American women do not lose citizenship by marrying an alien
17. Free speech, but no one can advocate violent overthrow of the government
18. Aliens cannot speak out against government
19. End lynching
20. Money for construction of highways
21. Save national forests and promote conservation
22. Reclaim lands
23. Increase pay of postal employees
24. Full women’s suffrage in all states
25. Federal gov should aid states in vocational training
26. Physical education in schools
27. Centralize gov public health functions
28. End child labor
29. Equal pay for women
30. Limit hours of employment for women
31. Encourage homeownership for Americans
32. Make available information of housing and town planning
33. Americanize Hawaii
34. Home rule for Hawaii
35. Join international governing body such as League of Nations
36. No mandate for Armenia
37. Responsible government in Mexico

Not being too familiar with the 1920 political milieu, I don’t really know what they mean by 2, 22, 32. Others seem so broad as to be hard to judge: 4, 6, 8, and 37. That leaves 29 points.

I think the Republicans have achieved 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 33, 34, 35, and 36 – some unambiguously, others if nothing else by the very sketchy criteria Free Northerner used to rule in commie achievements. They have definitely failed 9, 12, 13, 14, and 30. As for 18, 27, and 31, these seem ambiguous – let’s count them half a point. That means they got 23.5/29 of the points they wanted – 81%. That’s better than the Commies, who only got 70%.

(if we were really trying to do this right, we’d want to have the person who evaluated the success or failure of a party plank blinded to which party it came from. I’ll leave someone else to try this).

So apparently the US is a Republican country even more than it’s a Communist country. I bet if we looked over the Democratic platform for the same time frame, we’d find it was a Republican, Democratic, and Communist country. And if we check the Nazi Party platform, we find that some of the same points Free Northerner counts as Communist victories – abolition of child labor, expansion of old age welfare – are also Nazi Party policies at the same time. So we are, in fact, a Democratic-Republican-Commie-Nazi country.

The alternative is that all parties liked to promise they would throw money at popular feel-good projects. Shorter working hours! Better welfare! Freedom of this! Freedom of that! As the country became richer it was able to support more feel-good policies, and so every party got much of what they wanted.

4: Could a country be ruled as a joint-stock corporation?

This is the plan of Mencius Moldbug, who gets points for being clever and creative rather than trying to rehash 13th century feudalism. I’ve heard different rumors as to whether he still supports it and whether it might or might not be a cover for supporting 13th century feudalism. Nevertheless the idea is interesting and deserves further investigation. However, it is missing some key details and suffers some probably irresolvable conceptual problems.

4.1: Would a joint-stock corporation prevent government decisions based on political tribalism and sacred values, in favor of government decisions based on maximizing economical value?

According to the theory, just as modern corporations like GE successfully remain dedicated to profitability, so America could be sold off in an IPO and restructured as a corporation dedicated to maximizing the value of US land.

But just calling something a corporation doesn’t make it start worrying about profitability. Making its shareholders worry about profitability turns out to be surprisingly hard problem, even though these shareholders themselves would benefit from its profits.

We can imagine two different distributions of shares: either everyone gets one, or only a few aristocrats get one (the degenerate third possibility, where only one person gets them, isn’t really a “joint-stock company”).

The first possibility might be suspected of being democracy: after all, every citizen equally has one share and therefore one vote. Moldbug argues it wouldn’t be: shares are transferable, and citizens have an incentive to maximize the value of their share.

So chew on this: suppose that banning abortion would earn the American government $10 billion dollars a year (how? I don’t know. Let’s just say it does). This corresponds to about $30 for every American.

How many leftists do you think would vote to ban abortion for $30?

What if their $30 was entirely illiquid, only accessible by the one-time event of selling their single share of stock, and would probably be so lost in noise that they would never see tangible evidence of it?

Okay, what if they don’t even know it will give them $30? No doubt Planned Parenthood will author a very scholarly report giving excellent reasons why an abortion ban will make stock shares plummet, and the Catholic Church will author an equally scholarly report giving excellent reasons why it will make everyone rich. Which side will people believe? Why, whichever side matches their natural prejudices, of course! As well ask a Democrat or a Republican whether Obamacare will increase or decrease the deficit.

The only thing that giving everyone a share of American stock would do to politics in the US is allow both the Left and the Right a chance to accuse one another of being secretly in it for the money, while both continue to do what they did before. Perhaps this wouldn’t happen in a country created de novo out of thin air, but US politics are far too entrenched for giving people little stock certificates to help anything.

Anyway, it would take about ten minutes for poor people to sell their shares for easy cash. So this case would immediately degenerate to the second possibility – one where only a small “ruling class” owns all the stock certificates. I think a few Reactionaries have proposed this, and then they can be “nobles”, and make up an “aristocracy”, and…

Hold your horses. Suppose a new ruling class of ten thousand people possess all these certificates.

By definition all of these people will be multibillionaires – once you own one ten thousandth of America, you’ve got it made. And we observe something interesting with multibillionaires – Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Page. They find other things much more interesting than money. Bill Gates is working on curing malaria. Warren Buffett is trying to give all his money away to charity. Larry Page is working on fascinating but bizarre projects with minimal chance of success during his lifetime. Once you’re a multibillionaire, you need more money less than you need to feel like you’re making some kind of wonderful contribution to the world that will make coming generations revere you.

In other words, these shareholders won’t care about the monetary value of their shares either. Take people like Ted Turner or the Koch brothers, give them a big chunk of the US government, and you expect them to focus on its monetary value just because you’re calling it a stock?

4.2 Would corporate governance at least have lower discount rates?

Likely no.

Do corporations today have low discount rates? Consider the example of Lehman Brothers and other pre-crash investment banks. They happily accepted (and invented) subprime loans that would raise their profits today at the cost of likely financial disaster tomorrow.

More broadly, reflect upon how few companies pursue long-term revolutionary technology. Even though nearly everyone agrees that the future will be less based on fossil fuels, research and development of the likely replacements – from fusion power to solar power to electric cars – is either run by the government or grudgingly performed by corporations only after being promised huge government subsidies. When companies do develop exciting new technologies of their own accord – Google’s Calico, SpaceX’s rockets – they tend to be associated with some already-super-rich Silicon Valley mogul who has enough money to play around, rather than a sober corporation driven by the bottom line or investment opportunities.

A quick reflection on corporate incentives explains this pattern nicely. In the case of Lehman Brothers, traders got bonuses linked to year-on-year profitability, and because of coordination problems each had incentive to maximize his own bonus but no incentive to maximize the solvency of the company as a whole over time.

But why would a CEO or other corporate governor create such a structure? Well, although Reactionaries mock elected politicians for having a four-year time horizon, the average CEO stays only 6.8 years. That’s less than a two-term president. And their own incentives are often also based on bonuses linked to short-term profitability.

In theory, the incentive to increase shareholder value ought to counteract short-term-ist tendencies. But it’s an open question exactly how much of a time horizon is built into stock prices. The average investor holds the average stock for about seven months. Although the hope is that stock prices are set by the market discount rate, at an weighted average cost of capital of 10%, this ideal situation still means that anything happening thirty or more years from now determines only 4% of the stock price.

In the real world, it’s even worse than this – CEOs have strong incentives to try to fool the market into short-term inflation of stock prices at the cost of real future profitability. This is both common and successful. With many investors using formulae that extrapolate from past or present earnings to determine future earnings, it is unsurprising that the CEOs of companies like Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs were able to increase both their stock prices and their bonuses for many years until the inevitable letdown came – hopefully on someone else’s watch.

4.3: Could a joint-stock corporate state ensure complete security by mandating cryptographic locks on all its weapons?

This is one of Moldbug’s proposals, and although I think it’s been blown out of proportion and he’s probably a little embarrassed by it now, it gets brought up enough to be worth addressing.

The idea is that shareholders of a corporate state possess cryptographic keys, and that these keys are necessary to fire the weapons in a country’s arsenal. Therefore, any military coup can be stopped in its tracks.

The first question is exactly how these keys work. Suppose there are 100 shareholders. If all keys are necessary, then a single shareholder can paralyze the military. If 51 of the 100 keys are necessary – well, I don’t know if cryptography can implement such a scheme securely, but let’s suppose that it does.

One can raise some peripheral problems with this scheme. Having all your country’s guns connected to the Internet might not be such a good idea…

…and it would be sort of unfortunate if your entire military could be brought down by a clever hacker or Scott Aaronson building a quantum computer in his basement. Further, the guns would have to be either default-on or default-off. If they were default-on, then military conspirators could disable the communications network (or just the radios on their weapons) and have free rein. If they were default-off, then a foreign military could disable the communications network and take over the country because none of the military’s weapons would work.

More important, this only protects against a small subset of rebellions. If every unit has a separate code, it may be able to give loyalist military units the advantage over treasonous units in the case of intramilitary feuding. But it can’t can’t stop a popular revolution – the type where rebels become guerillas and gradually defeat the military in combat. It happened in China, it’s happening right now in Syria, and it could happen again regardless of any cryptographic locks on weapons.

4.4: Would shareholder value maximization be a good proxy for making a country a nice place to live?

Suppose that all the above problems are solved, and we have installed a genuinely self-interested CEO with a long time horizon. Will the new policy of increasing shareholder value really make the country a nicer place as well?

In many ways the equivalence holds. If, as Moldbug suggests, a corporate state’s profits came from land value taxes, and so profits came from increasing land values, then things like decreasing crime, pollution, and poverty would be in the corporate state’s best interests. So would allowing its residents enough freedom to make moving to its land attractive.

But the ways it doesn’t hold are really horrible.

Businesses have an incentive to please their paying customers. As Mitt Romney informs us, a large proportion of Americans don’t pay taxes. In fact, they consume government resources in the form of welfare, while providing no economic value in return. In some cases, these citizens are “fixer-uppers”, people who with enough investment could become productive. In other cases – the indigent elderly, the physically and mentally handicapped, or just people with no useful skills – keeping them around would be a poor financial decision. When regular companies find they have people who aren’t producing value, they “downsize” them. It’s unclear what exactly would be involved in “downsizing” unproductive American citizens, but I’m betting it wouldn’t win any Nobel Peace Prizes.

In a post called The Dire Problem And The Virtual Option, Moldbug discusses some of these problems with his system. He admits that this is a major issues (the titular “dire problem”). With his trademark honesty:

As the King begins the transition from democracy, however, he sees at once that many Californians – certainly millions – are financial liabilities. These are unproductive citizens. Their place on the balance sheet is on the right. To put it crudely, a ten-cent bullet in the nape of each neck would send California’s market capitalization soaring – often by a cool million per neck. And we are just getting started. The ex-subject can then be dissected for his organs. Do you know what organs are worth? This is profit!

But his proposed solutions are bizarre and in many cases incomprehensible:

The simplest, broadest, and most essential prevention against this degenerate result is the observation that the royal government is a government of law, and a government of law does not commit mass murder. For instance, no such government could take office without promising to preserve and defend its new subjects, certainly precluding any such genocide.

A government of law is different from a “law-abiding citizen” or “law-abiding business” in that governments, in addition to occasionally following the law, also get to make the law. If the government had some strong incentive to shoot citizens, it could pass a law allowing it to shoot citizens. It is no more than dozens of other governments have done throughout history. Such a law need not even ruffle the feathers of its more productive “assets”: it could come up with some very clear criteria for whom to shoot and then stick to those criteria scrupulously.

No government could take office without promising to preserve and defend its new subjects in a democracy. Or, to be broader, no government could take office under such conditions as long as it was responsible to its populace and depended on their support. The entire premise of Moldbug’s utopia is a government whose rule is by force and does not depend on the consent of the governed.

If Moldbug’s King needed to gain the consent of the governed before taking power, they wouldn’t stop at making him sign a promise not to shoot anyone. They would make him sign a promise to rule for the good of the people rather than in order to maximize shareholder value. Heck, the last time we tried something like this, the people made the government sign the Bill of Rights.

Here Moldbug wants to have his cake and eat it too. His government will be unconstrained and effective because it doesn’t rule by consent of the people. But when we start examining how horrible an “unconstrained effective government” really would be, he promises that need for the consent of the people would rein it in.

Positing a government that can ignore the age-old constraint of popular consent is far-fetched enough. Positing one where the constraint only arises in those situations where it would be optimal for it to arise, but not otherwise, is just dreaming.

But do we really know it? The explanation that Royal California will not harvest the poor for their organs, because it will have promised not to harvest the poor for their organs, and its most valuable asset is its reputation, while certainly accurate, is too narrow for me. Having established this legalistic defense, let us reinforce it with further realities. More broadly, Royal California will in all cases treat her subjects as human beings. The maintenance of equity, as well as law, is crucial to her reputation. Thus, the Genickschuss is out, with or without the organ harvesting.

Our second layer of protection is that the king will preserve human rights and maintain equity among persons. I wonder if the person writing this has ever read Mencius Moldbug. He has some pretty interesting arguments against human rights and the equity of persons, and I’d be interested in hearing a debate between the two of them.

Carlylean to its core, the ideology of Royal California is that the King is God’s proxy on earth; whatever God would have him do, that is justice; the King, having done his best to divine God’s will, shall see it done. Or else he is no king, but a piece of cardboard, a “Canadian lumber-log.” Clearly, God is not in favor of harvesting the poor for their organs. You’re probably thinking of Huitzilopochtli. So this is another safeguard.

So our third layer of protection – and I am not making this up – is “the will of God”. Don’t you feel safer already? Politicians would never do bad things, even when it is in their own self interest, because God wouldn’t want them to. I think that’s pretty much all the protection citizens might need from their government, don’t you? Let’s write a letter to the libertarians and tell them they can all go home now, God has this one covered.

But I should not be too harsh on Moldbug. He goes on to admit we probably do need a fourth layer of protection, beyond the three he has mentioned. And he even steel-mans the case against him, noting that in a higher-technology world, more and more people will become unproductive until, instead of being a tiny proportion of citizens, it may become the majority or (in the post-Singularity case) everyone who has to worry about this. He gives a few possible solutions:

First, the King has no compunction whatsoever in creating economic distortions that produce employment for low-skilled humans. A good example of such a distortion in the modern world are laws prohibiting self-service gas stations, as in New Jersey or Oregon. These distortions have gotten a bad name among today’s thinkers, because makework is typically the symptom of some corrupt political combination. As the King’s will, it will have a different flavor.

As both a good Carlylean and a good Misesian, the King condemns economism – the theory that any economic indicator can measure human happiness. His goal is a fulfilled and dignified society, not maximum production of widgets. Is it better that teenagers get work experience during the summer, or that gas costs five cents a gallon less? The question is not a function of any mathematical formula. It is a question of judgment and taste. All that free-market economics will tell you is that, if you prohibit self service, there will be more jobs for gas-station attendants, and gas will cost more. It cannot tell you whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

There may be no jobs for men with an IQ of 80 in Royal California – at least, not in a Royal California whose roads are paved by asphalt rollers. But suppose its roads are paved in brick? A man with an IQ of 80 can lay brick, do it well, and obtain dignity from the task. Nothing whatsoever prevents the King from distorting markets to create demand for the supply he has.

Okay, so the corporate CEO in a government based solely on maximizing shareholder value will decide to trash his own economy in order to provide jobs for the jobless, because that’s just how much corporate CEOs respect human dignity. This is just like corporate CEOs today, who never fire anyone to increase profitability because maintaining jobs is more important. Sure, let’s roll with that.

Since we have abandoned the free market here, we no longer have the free market’s safeguards on job tolerability. Depending on how many make-work jobs the King creates, we will have either an oversupply, an undersupply, or a just-right-supply of unskilled laborers to fill them, which in turn will determine workers’ wages and living conditions. Will the King maintain them at a living wage in good conditions, or at conditions more like the immigrant farm laborers of today? If the latter, I suppose that’s better than killing off the unproductives, but it’s still pretty dystopian. If the former, then that’s quite nice of the King, but I can’t help noting that by instituting useless make-work government-provided jobs for everyone at guaranteed salaries, he has kind of just re-invented Communism, which seems to be the sort of thing I would have expected Reactionaries to try to avoid.

I would compare this idea to the idea of a Basic Income Guarantee. Both cost the economy the same amount of money. Yet in Moldbug’s plan, the poor spend their entire day digging ditches and filling them in again. In a basic income guarantee, the poor spend their days doing whatever they want – producing art, playing games, or working to make themselves more productive. Moldbug may wax rhapsodic about the dignity of work, and he is not entirely wrong, but the sort of work that has dignity is not the sort of work where you dig ditches and fill them in again to earn a government-set paycheck. I wonder if you asked the employed gas station attendant and the unemployed bohemian to rate the level of dignity they feel they have, would this support Moldbug’s thesis?

But never fear, Moldbug has yet another plan:

Or not. The low-browed man of 70 (and remember – for every 130, there is a 70) may still require special supervision. Besides a job, he needs a patron. Productivity he has, but direction and discipline he still requires. His patron may be a charity, or a profitable corporation, or even – gasp – an individual.

In the last case, of course, we have reinvented slavery. Gasp! Since the bond of natural familial kindness is not present in the case of an unrelated ward, the King keeps a close watch on this relationship to protect human dignity. Nonetheless, his wards are farmed out – it is always better to be a private ward than the ward of the State. Bureaucratic slavery is slavery at its worst. Adult foster care, as perhaps we will call it, is a far more human and dignified relationship.

So, we will force people to work for other people against their consent, but it will all be okay and humane, because the government will be keeping “a close watch on this relationship”? Darnit, I liked it better when we were being protected by “the will of God”.

If Moldbug agrees that bureaucratic slavery is “slavery at its worst”, what exactly does he mean when he says the King will “keep a close watch” on these “adult foster care” institutions. Will the King personally go out to each of them and evaluate? That seems like a lot of work in a state of 40 million people. Or will he appoint some government officials to do so, to inspect each institution and make sure it is up to code? If so, how is this different from “bureaucratic slavery”? Is it because the bureaucrats and slaveowners aren’t literally the same people?

Look, Moldbug. I know you don’t think you’re reinventing Communism, but you are.

Luckily he has one more trick up his sleeve:

If a human being cannot support himself in a civilized manner in the King’s economy, which has been carefully tweaked to match labor demand to labor supply, the King does not provide a “safety net” in the 20th-century style, in which he may lounge, sag, bob and fester forever. No – then, it is time for the Virtual Option.

If you accept the Virtual Option – always a voluntary decision, even if you have no other viable options – California will house, feed and care for you indefinitely. It will also provide you with a rich, fulfilling life offering every opportunity to obtain dignity, respect and even social status. However, this life will be a virtual life. In your real life, your freedom will be extremely restricted: to the point of imprisonment. You may even be sealed in a pod.

The result is that the ward (a) disappears from society, and (b) retains or (hopefully) increases his level of dignity and fulfillment. He remains a financial liability, because it is still necessary to prepare his meals and maintain his pod. But other residents of California no longer feel menaced by his presence. For he is no longer present among them.

This doesn’t sound so bad to me, although I’m probably a huge outlier on this and if you actually tried it on people you’d have a civil war on your hands.

But first of all, it’s impossible with current levels of technology, always a bad sign.

Second of all, it’s something that would be equally viable in a democracy and a monarchy. Compare these pods to television. Right now, we pay welfare money to the poor, and, in some cases, they use that money to watch television all day. When they complain, it generally is not due to a lack of television but to a lack of money. If we had virtual reality pods, no doubt the situation would look little different, and conservatives and Reactionaries would be the ones complaining that we pay the poor money to sit in virtual reality pods all day instead of getting a real job.

Third of all, it would probably cost more than any other option. Putting a man in prison – feeding him, boarding him, and putting some guards on the doors to make sure he doesn’t escape costs about $50,000 a year – more than sending that same man to any college in the country. The bulk of the expenses are health care and security – two problems that would be equally dire in these pods. In fact, solving the medical problems associated with prolonged immobility in a virtual environment might be further beyond our current technology than the virtual environment itself.

If the true reason behind the Virtual Option is keeping the poor out of everyday society – even though many of its residents would be old people, disabled people, and the like – why not just offer those people $40,000 a year to live in some nice community out in the country made up solely of other non-working poor? It would be cheaper, more humane, and after a few years with a stable income and a normal life the people involved might end up being unexpectedly productive.

This is, of course, a question one could ask of our own society as well as of Moldbug’s hypothetical. So let’s stick to criticizing Reactionaries, which is more fun and less depressing.

4.5: Would exit rights turn countries into business-like entities that had to compete with one another for citizens?

Exit rights are a great idea and of course having them is better than not having them. But I have yet to hear Reactionaries who cite them as a panacea explain in detail what exit rights we need beyond those we have already.

The United States allows its citizens to leave the country by buying a relatively cheap passport and go anywhere that will take them in, with the exception of a few arch-enemies like Cuba – and those exceptions are laughably easy to evade. It allows them to hold dual citizenship with various foreign powers. It even allows them to renounce their American citizenship entirely and become sole citizens of any foreign power that will accept them.

Few Americans take advantage of this opportunity in any but the most limited ways. When they do move abroad, it’s usually for business or family reasons, rather than a rational decision to move to a different country with policies more to their liking. There are constant threats by dissatisfied Americans to move to Canada, and one in a thousand even carry through with them, but the general situation seems to be that America has a very large neighbor that speaks the same language, and has an equally developed economy, and has policies that many Americans prefer to their own country’s, and isn’t too hard to move to, and almost no one takes advantage of this opportunity. Nor do I see many people, even among the rich, moving to Singapore or Dubai.

Heck, the US has fifty states. Moving from one to another is as easy as getting in a car, driving there, and renting a room, and although the federal government limits exactly how different their policies can be you better believe that there are very important differences in areas like taxes, business climate, education, crime, gun control, and many more. Yet aside from the fascinating but small-scale Free State Project there’s little politically-motivated interstate movement, nor do states seem to have been motivated to converge on their policies or be less ideologically driven.

What if we held an exit rights party, and nobody came?

Even aside from the international problems of gaining citizenship, dealing with a language barrier, and adapting to a new culture, people are just rooted – property, friends, family, jobs. The end result is that the only people who can leave their countries behind are very poor refugees with nothing to lose, and very rich jet-setters. The former aren’t very attractive customers, and the latter have all their money in tax shelters anyway.

So although the idea of being able to choose your country like a savvy consumer appeals to me, just saying “exit rights!” isn’t going to make it happen, and I haven’t heard any more elaborate plans.

5: Are modern ideas about race and gender wrongheaded and dangerous?

The past century has seen a huge opening up of racial and sexual norms, as a closed-minded traditional society willing to dismiss everything against their personal morals as disgusting or evil started first discussing and later embracing alternative ideas.

This was followed by a subsequent closing back up of those norms, as society decided it was definitely right this time, and this time for real anyone who brought up any alternative possibilities was definitely disgusting and evil.

Reactionaries deserve kudos for lampshading these taboos and pointing out various modern hypocrisies in a frank and honest way. But to invert an old saying, I will defend to the death their right to say it, but disagree with what they say.

5.1: Are modern women sluts?

This is a surprisingly important question in Reactionary thought. Just to prove I’m not strawmanning:

So you might say, Bryce, if you want an objective and useful definition of the word slut, you would have to conclude that most Western women are sluts. That’s not good. And I say “Exactly.”


Obviously democracy is not working, is failing catastrophically. The productive are outvoted by the gimmedats, in large part non asian minorities and white sluts.

Why would you take a slutty girl seriously? Once she accepted slut into her life, keep her out of yours. It is rare for a slut to truly reform so I would not even take the chance. Once a slut, always a slut. Do you really want your kids coming out the same place 10 other men have gone into? “But doesn’t that pretty much rule out about 85% of women or so?” Well, unfortunately it does. I wish there was a better answer but there is not. Do not settle for sluts, if they have such little respect for themselves imagine how little respect they will have for you. Manning up does not mean settling for a hopeless graying slut.”

Occidental Traditionalist

We live in strange times. Recently several religious conservative bloggers have suggested that the word “slut” is a slur against all women, and that it is a type of profanity. My best guess is they feel that sluts know that what they are doing is wrong, so even using the word in general is cruel to their already convicted hearts.


Telling women that sleeping around is bad just because it’s “slutty” is argument through mere connotation of words. Then again, accusing these people of “sexism” or “misogyny” would be the same. So let’s bury the insults and try to figure out what’s going on.

Are people becoming sluttier? Several studies have addressed this question (though, uh, not in those exact words). In America, we have only a few scattered studies recording a shift from an average of two lifetime sexual partners for women and six for men in 1970 to about four partners for women and six for men in 2006. But we change methodologies midstream and have to confuse means with medians to get those numbers. France is the only country to do the study properly, perhaps unsurprising given their legendary love of all things amorous. Their numbers seem similar to ours but more precise, so let’s use the French results:

Number of partners reported in the lifetime remained stable between all three surveys for men of all ages (11.8 in 1970, 11.0 in 1992, and 11.6 in 2006). For women, mean lifetime number of partners increased from 1.8 in 1970 to 3.3 in 1992 and to 4.4 in 2006.)

One of the first things we notice about these data is that they cannot possibly be true. Men cannot be having more (heterosexual) sex than women, nor can the two statistics trend in different directions. The least mathematically impossible explanation is that between 1970 and 2006, women have become less likely to lie about all the sex they’re having.

Does that contradict common sense, which tells us everyone is really slutty nowadays but was perfectly chaste in the past? Maybe, but common sense seems to be not entirely correct. Common sense would tell us that modern young people are having much more sex than youth fifteen years ago, but according to the study “no increase was observed between 1992 and 2006 in women under thirty; for men under thirty a decrease in the mean was seen in the most recent period – 10.4 in 1992 and 7.7 in 2006, p < 0.00001" (the growth of the Muslim population in France from 7% to 10% during that time period seems insufficient to account for the changes) 5.1.1: If a woman is a slut, does that mean her future marriage is doomed to failure?

Before you answer, consider a common failure mode. Some rule catches on for some very useful reason. Like “don’t have sex with your cousin, you’ll have kids with two heads.” Biological or memetic evolution selects for people who follow the rule, and eventually the rule becomes an unquestionable taboo.

But historically no one understood Mendelian genetics. The rule didn’t make sense, but it had to be followed. And so people came up with rationalizations. Some of them were simple rationalizations for simple folk: “don’t have sex with your cousin, God hates it.” Or “Don’t have sex with your cousin, it’s disgusting.” More sophisticated people demanded more sophisticated rationalizations: eventually you get “Don’t have sex with your cousin, it could go wrong and damage the structure of trust necessary for an extended family”, or “Don’t have sex with your cousin, it is contrary to this here complicated conception of natural law”.

Then suppose the original reason for the rule is taken away. Someone wants to have protected sex with their cousin, understanding that they cannot ethically have children. Or someone invents a gene therapy that allows people to have sex with their cousins without additional risk of birth defects.

Doesn’t matter. Everyone will have had so much fun making up rationalizations that they will object to the new harmless act almost as much as to the old dangerous act. “God still hates it!” “It’s still disgusting!” “It still damages the family structure of trust!” “It’s still contrary to the natural law!”

But it would be very strange if, the original reason for the belief having been neutralized, by coincidence the belief happens to be right anyway. Imagine that an explorer comes back from a distant jungle with a tale of a humongous monster. Everyone catches monster fever and begins speculating on how the monster may have gotten there. Then the explorer admits his tale is a hoax. Objecting “But there could still be a monster there!” is fruitless. If the original reason anyone held the belief is invalid, it’s unlikely that by coincidence the belief just happens to be correct.

Let’s get back to sluttiness. (I am following the lead of my interlocutors in concentrating on female sluttiness only here, since it seems to be the only type anyone cares about. Yes, you’re very clever for pointing out that men can be promiscuous as well. Why don’t you follow it up with the phrase “double standard” or a reference to “playing the field”?)

We know two very good reasons why sluttiness has been stigmatized in nearly all societies. First, slutty women were more likely to get sexually transmitted diseases. Second, slutty women were likely to end up with children outside of wedlock. Back when men were the sole providers and didn’t have much providing to spare, that would have been just about a death sentence.

These are two huge issues. These two issues alone are more than sufficient to explain the taboo on sluttiness establishing itself on every continent and in every major religion. These are more than sufficient to explain why some people think sluts are disgusting, why they’re low status, why we have a cultural taboo on sluttiness.

But of course, most sluts today have these two issues figured out. Contraception prevents the out of wedlock births. Protection and antibiotics prevent the STDs. So the old reasons no longer hold.

It would be quite the coincidence if a taboo that formed for one reason just happened to be vitally important for society for totally different reasons.

I admit the Reactionaries have their justifications for why sluttiness is bad. They say sluttiness before marriage can lead to sluttiness after marriage, and thither to infidelity, divorce and broken families. Or the slut’s previous experiences might have given her higher expectations, leading to divorce and broken families again. And…

…no, that’s actually all the justifications I can find. There are people who think they have other justifications, but they can never explain them in so many words. Read this article. No, really, read that article. Gods! Have you ever seen so many mere assertions and Arguments From My Opponent Believes Something in one place?

So okay. They have two just-so stories. I can come up with just-so stories too! Like – if a woman sleeps with a lot of people before marriage, she’ll be better able to estimate how compatible she is with any given partner. Or – if a woman can sleep with men before marriage, she won’t be compelled by horniness to marry the first loser she meets just so she can have sex with someone. Or – if a woman has a couple of relationships before she marries, she’ll have practice with relationships and won’t screw the important one up. This is fun! How about – if a woman sleeps with people before settling down, she won’t feel curiosity that makes her stray afterwards?

The reason these sorts of just-so stories about sluttiness keep popping up is the disappearance of the good historical arguments against the practice, leaving behind only a feeling of disgust in search of a justification.

One might argue – isn’t the proof in the pudding? Divorce rates have been going up lately, infidelity rates have been going up; correlation isn’t always causation but isn’t it at least suggestive?

In this case, no. We can even check. From Social Pathology:

Women with zero or one premarital sexual partners have more stable marriages than women with two or more partners. Okay. Who gets married a virgin these days? Super-religious people. They’re not going to divorce. And from the source, I gather that most of these stably married one partner women are women who had premarital sex with their future husband. Super-religious people who slipped up. Their poor self-control earns them a 15% lower likelihood of stable marriage: harsh, but fair.

The people with two or more partners are the ones who we know are “experimenting” – having sex with at least one person other than their future husband. Among this group, likelihood of unstable marriage goes down with more partners up until you reach the 20 partner or so level – at which point you’re probably capturing prostitutes, cluster B personality disorders, and other people outside the mainstream.

The data provide some evidence that an absolute commitment to purity – no sex before marriage, or sex only with your husband-to-be – predicts marital stability. But beyond that – in the two to twenty partner range in which recent social change has been occurring – there’s no correlation between increasing sluttiness and decreasing marital stability.

5.1.2: Woman only put out for macho but antisocial men. Our society encourages that tendency and shames “beta males” who are nice and prosocial but cannot get women. This incentivizes men to become jerks, and men follow those incentives in droves. Don’t we need to do something about women’s tendency to make poor choices?

There’s no shortage of places to find this argument, but the obligatory link goes to Free Northerner for One More Condom In The Landfill, a particularly good presentation of the idea.

In a broad perspective the point is correct – empirically, men with more psychopathic traits, less agreeableness, and greater narcissism have more sexual partners.

On the other hand, it is kind of ironic that the pickup artist community – one of the few communities to be perfectly honest about the above point – has become obsessed with scoring the hottest girls and denigrating the others, no matter how perfect they might otherwise be.

The complaint tends to be “You women keep asking where the good men are, but they’re right where you left them when you refused to date them because you only cared about cockiness and bulging muscles.” The countercomplaint might be “You men keep asking where the good women are, but they’re right where you left them when you refused to date them because you only cared about stylishness and big breasts.”

I also suspect (though I have no evidence) that it is primarily the hotter women who have been socialized to be irrationally attracted to “bad boys”, and that pickup artists’ disproportionate focus on this demographic skews their assessment of the problem.

If one were to phrase the problem as “Men and women both make stupid and counterproductive sexual choices; how can we optimize for avoiding those?”, then that might make the sane 30%-or-so of feminists join the conversation and get something done.

If you phrase the problem as “Those women make stupid and counterproductive sexual choices, how can we shift the balance of power toward men?”, even the sane 30%-or-so of feminists will ignore and oppose you, and with good reason.

I have no idea how to solve the object-level problems, by the way, although I would tentatively recommend my own strategy of sidestepping the problems with both hot men and hot women by dating a hot genderqueer.

5.2: Are Progressive values responsible for rising divorce rates?

Let’s get the obvious objection out of the way first: divorce rates have been falling since about 1980. They’re now at their lowest level since 1970 or so, and dropping still.

The other thing this graph tells us is that rising divorce rates were a phenomenon very specific to the period about 1965 – 1975. This was a good decade for liberal values, but little moreso than decades before and after it. The strictly time-limited nature of the phenomenon suggests something more specific (and no, it’s not no-fault divorce laws). The Pill, which came out in 1960, is an extremely plausible candidate, but a full treatment of this topic is beyond the scope of this essay.

Now that the obvious objection is out of the way, let’s discuss some less obvious objections. If progressive values cause divorce, how come people with more progressive values are less likely to divorce? College-educated women have about half the divorce rate of the non-college-educated (source). More conservative states have higher divorce rates than more liberal states (source). Atheists have divorce rates below the national average (source). Some of these factors seem to remain even when controlling for wealth and the other usual confounders (source, source). The link between sluttiness and stable marriage mentioned above reinforces this point.

I think this data is consistent with the following theory: new technology and changing economic conditions produced a strain on family life that was reflected in an explosion in divorce rates. Society’s memetic immune system sprung into action to contain the damage through the creation of new laws, institutions, and social norms. People who adopted the new ways survived the crisis and their family lives returned to a sort of normal. People who failed to adapt…well, don’t be one of those people.

The new norms created by the memetic immune system are exactly the progressive values that Reactionaries blame for the damage: marrying later, trying more partners, using more contraception, having fewer children.

This theory explains both why the progressive values arise at the same time as the broken families, but also why people with progressive values are less likely to have broken families than others.

The data on illegitimate children and single motherhood mirror the data on divorce and do not require a separate discussion.

5.3: Are we headed for a demographic catastrophe?

First of all, before we pretend that the minutiae of who has which values and who goes to church how many times affects fertility rate much, let’s see the inevitable GDP/fertility rate graph:

And before we worry about the United States experiencing demographic collapse and tumbleweeds rolling through the streets of New York City, let’s double-check to make sure that US population isn’t a near-perfectly straight upward-trending line:

Western Europe?

A few countries do have demographic problems. Singapore, for example, has the lowest fertility rate in the world – 0.79, 224th out of 224 countries. It should probably do something about that. But given that it’s generally accepted to be the most Reactionary country in the world, it’s hard to blame this one on Progressivism or suggest Reactionary values as the answer.

5.3.1: But what if I am racist? Isn’t it possible that fertile minorities and immigrants are hiding a fertility deficit among precious, precious, white people?

According to Edmonston et al’s projection of US racial fertility trends:

In 2100, the total U.S. population will eclipse 550 million people, and the racial composition of the country will be 38.8% white, 30.6% Hispanic, 15.6% black, 14.9% Asian and Pacific Islander, and 1% American Indian.

The absolute number of white people will be only a few million less than today, 209 million. That’s more than enough to run a wide selection of excellent country clubs, or achieve whatever other strategic aims we need a large white population for.

Perhaps most gratifying if you are a racist, the percent of black people will increase only about three percentage points. The biggest increase will be in Asians, a so-called model minority.

After that? If there are still biological humans in organic bodies transmitting genes naturally much after 2100, we have much bigger problems than race on our hands.

5.3.2: Are we headed for an idiocracy?

Poor, uneducated, low-IQ people have higher fertility rates than wealthy, well-educated, high-IQ people in almost all countries. Therefore, one might worry that this will have a dysgenic effect, selecting against genes for intelligence until eventually everyone is stupid or has other undesirable quantities anticorrelated with wealth and education. This was the premise of the movie Idiocracy, and in principle people are far too quick to dismiss it.

But in practice, the effect is too small be significant. Richard Lynn, who is the closest we will get to an expert on dysgenics, calculates that American society as a whole is losing 0.9 IQ points per generation. So by 2100, people will have lost on average 4 IQ points.

Since it’s hard to get a good intuitive graph of what 4 IQ points means, consider that IQ has been increasing by about 3 points per decade (average is still 100, but only because they recalibrate it). So absent any further Flynn Effect, losing 4 IQ points would take us back to…about as smart as we were back in 2000. I won’t say that won’t be unpleasant – the people of that era elected George W. Bush, after all – but it’s not quite convert-all-written-language-to pictograms-because-everyone-has-forgotten-how-to-read level unpleasant.

And what comes after 2100 doesn’t matter, because even on the off chance we’re still using human brains to reason at that point, it sure won’t be human brains in which the genes have been left to chance. To paraphrase Keynes, in the long run we’re all either dead or cyborgs.

5.4: Aren’t modern dogmas about race and sex and sexuality stupid and evil?

Let me be clear here. There is no excuse for the sort of extremist folk social justice crusades one can find on Tumblr or Twitter or Freethought Blogs. With a few treasured exceptions they are full of nasty and hateful people devoid of intellectual integrity and basic human kindness, and I am suitably embarrassed to be in the same 50%-or-so of the political spectrum.

Then again, there are lots of nasty and hateful conservatives and reactionaries devoid of intellectual integrity and basic human kindness too. Go take a look at Free Republic. Maybe we can call it a tie?

But this has surprisingly little bearing on the particular question above. As Christians are obligated by circumstance to point out, an idea is not responsible for the quality of people who hold it. And modern dogmas about race are agreed by very nearly everyone – including most Reactionaries! – including you! – to be both correct and very important.

Three hundred years ago, a pretty high percent of Americans were okay with black people getting kidnapped, enslaved, forced into back-breaking labor on plantations, raped, separated from their children, whipped if they protested, worked to a very early death, and then replaced with other black people.

Nowadays Reactionaries like to think of themselves as racist just because they believe the average black IQ is a standard deviation below the average white IQ. But one standard deviation implies that about a fifth of black people are smarter than the average white person. If you were to go back to 1800 and tell a conference of the most extreme radical abolitionists that you thought a fifth of black people were smarter than the average white person, they would laugh and not stop laughing until they died of laughter-induced asphyxiation.

And at least there the traditional and modern stereotype are still going the same direction. Did you know there used to be a stereotype that Jews were stupid and boorish and didn’t belong in polite society? A stereotype that Chinese people were dumb? A stereotype that black people were bad at sports? To make a corny statistics pun, there seems to be very poor inter-hater reliability.

Homosexuality is little different. Reactionaries take a bold stand against sexually suggestive displays at gay pride parades or whatever, but when it comes to why two people who love each other can’t get married because they’re both the same gender, they tend to be just as confused as the rest of us. Mencius Moldbug writes:

Although I am straight as an iron spear, I happen to see nothing at all wrong with “gay marriage.” In fact I am completely sympathetic to the Universalist view, in which the fact that couples have to be of opposite sexes is a sort of bizarre holdover from the Middle Ages, like the ducking-stool or trial by fire. It’s not clear to me why homosexuality, which obviously has some extremely concrete biological cause, is so common in modern Western populations, but it is what it is. However, because I am straight etc, and also because I’m not a Universalist, I happen to think the issue is not really one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity.

Moldbug is welcome to his opinion on what is or isn’t one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity (I would have said a couple of brain-dead Internet thugs from Gawker beating up on a random Twitter celebrity isn’t one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity, but to each his own) but I wonder if Moldbug notices that merely his unconcern on this issue makes him in let’s say the 95th percentile of most Progressive Americans who have ever lived. 95% of Americans throughout history have been quite certain that eradicating sodomy was one of the most pressing concerns facing humanity, and boy did they act on that belief.

In fact, if we put a Reactionary in a time machine headed backward, and made it stop when the Reactionary was just as racist, sexist, et cetera as the US population average at the time, I predict they wouldn’t make it much past the 1970s. Go into the 1960s and you get laws banning colleges from admitting both black and white students to the same campus (one helpfully specified that the black and white campuses could not be within twenty five miles of one another).

Now, there’s no problem with this – except for Nixon and disco, the 1970s were no worse than any other period. But Reactionaries insist that all Progressivism since 1600 has been part of one vast and monstrous movement – maybe a religious cult, maybe a sinister power-play, maybe just the death throes of the western intellectual tradition – dedicated to being wrong about everything. And that a very big part of this vast movement focused on race. And when they have to whisper “Except we agree with 99% of what it did, right up until the past couple of decades, and in fact they got it right when everyone else was horribly, atrociously wrong”, that is – or at least should be – kind of embarrassing.

5.4.1: But there’s a clear difference between the past policies Reactionaries support and the modern ones they oppose. Past policies were going for equality of opportunity, modern ones for equality of results. Isn’t seeking equality of results laden with too many assumptions?

Arguing about whether a post-racial society should provide equality of opportunity or equality of results is a little like arguing about whether in the worker’s paradise, everyone should have a pony or everyone should have two ponies.

Right now, there is not even equality of opportunity. Rigorous well-controlled study after rigorous well-controlled study has shown that women and minorities face gigantic amounts of baseless discrimination in various areas, most notably employment. This remains true even when, for example, the experiment is sending perfectly identical resumes out to companies but with the photo of a black or white guy at the top.

Once we have equality of opportunity, then we can start debating whether we should go further and try for equality of results. Until then, it’s kind of a moot point.

5.4.2: What about the studies that have shown black people have lower IQ/higher violence/other undesirable trait than white people?

If genetic differences across races prove real, this would be a good argument against seeking equality of results, but no argument at all against continuing to seek equality of opportunity – which, as mentioned above, mountains of rigorous well-controlled studies continue to show we don’t have.

If, as the scientific racists suggest, black people have an average IQ of 85 compared to the white average of 100, then there is still a pretty big civil rights battle to be fought getting the average black person to do as well as the average white person with IQ 85. After controlling for IQ, the average black person is still twice as likely to be in poverty, 50% more likely to be unemployed, and 250% more likely to be in prison (source, other gaps appear to disappear or reverse once IQ is controlled; see link for a more complete analysis.) But this is exactly the kind of discussion progressives won’t let us have! It is an unquestioned dogma of our society that all cross-racial differences must be based entirely on discrimination! In fact, people educated in public schools are incapable of even conceiving of the possibility that they could be otherwise! How are we supposed to be able to disentangle equality of opportunity from equality of results in such people?

From this Gallup poll:

83% of white people agree that the poor position of blacks in society is mostly not due to discrimination.

Want to see something even cooler?

60% of black people agree that the poor position of blacks in society is mostly not due to discrimination.

So no, doubting that all racial disparities in the US are due to discrimination isn’t a thought crime. It’s the majority position, even among black people themselves.

True, the number of people willing to consider genetic differences in particular would probably be far lower. But the great (and very legitimate) fear motivating more-than-academic interest in this question – that white people will forever be blamed for and forced to atone for minorities’ problems – is one that can be talked about productively and perhaps banished.

5.4.3: Even if the establishment has not managed to completely ban all discussion of race that contradicts their own ideas, isn’t it only a matter of time before political correctness takes over completely?

It’s hard to measure the power of the more intellectually bankrupt wing of the social justice movement, but as best I can tell it does not seem to be getting more powerful.

According to Rasmussen, support for “political correctness” is declining in America. As we saw above, fewer and fewer people are willing to attribute black-white disparities to “racism” over time. Gallup finds that in the past decade, the percent of blacks satisfied with the way blacks are treated has gone up nearly 10% (I can’t find similar numbers for white people, but I bet they’re similar). Both white and black people are about 25% less likely to consider the justice system racially biased than 20 years ago. The percent of whites who think government should play “a major role” in helping minorities has dropped by 10 percent since 2004; for blacks, there is a similar drop of 14 percent.

The percent of people who think women have equal job opportunities to men has gone up 15% in the past nine years. Women are less likely to identify as feminists than twenty years ago, and support for affirmative action is at historic lows.

Here we see really the most encouraging combination of trends possible: actual racism, perceptions of racism, and concern about racism are all decreasing at the same time. So how come social justice people have been making so much more noise lately?

My guess is changes in the media. The Internet allows small groups to form isolated bubbles and then fester away from the rest of society, becoming more and more extremist and paranoid and certain of themselves as their members feed upon each other in a vicious cycle.

Of course, as Reactionaries, you wouldn’t possibly know anything about that.

At the same time, the relative anonymity of the Internet promotes bad manners and flame wars and general trollishness. It’s not just that the writer is anonymous and therefore doesn’t fear punishment for what he or she says. It’s that their enemy is some nameless evil, rather than a person with a face whom they will treat as a human being.

And again at the same time, the national media has become more and more efficient at detecting outrageous events associated with some small town or some B-list celebrity and publicizing them to the entire world. This allows the hatred of the entire world to be focused on a single random person for a short period of time, which usually results in that person’s life being ruined in a way that would be impossible without this media efficiency.

But these processes are at least partly nonpartisan. With a rise in extremist online social justice has also come a rise in groups that didn’t even exist before, like men’s rights advocates. Still, isn’t the fact that progressivism was responsible for this sort of zealous and hateful social justice movement is a point against it?

I identify the worst parts of the social justice movement as basically reactionary in their outlook, even though from a coalition politics point of view they have been forced to ally with progressives.

Chief in this assessment is their strong beliefs that some topics should be taboo and bowdlerized from society. In the old days, you would ban books because they talked too much about sex. In the new days, we laugh at their prudishness, but still seriously debate banning books because they are “demeaning towards women” or “trivialize rape culture”. The desire to ban books that promote different sexual norms than we ourselves promote hasn’t changed, only the particular sexual norms we are enforcing.

The same is true of race. In the old days, we would ban books that insulted the King or the upper classes. In the new days, we ban books that insult the poor, or disprivileged or disadvantaged classes. Again, the desire to ban books insulting the classes we like doesn’t change, only to which classes we afford this privilege.

Real Progressivism is Enlightenment values – like the belief that free flow of information is more important than any particular person’s desire to “cleanse” society of “unsavory” ideas. Real Reaction is the belief that free expression isn’t as important as making sure people have “the right” values. Upper-class white Reactionaries will try to enforce values protecting upper-class white people. Lower-class minority Reactionaries will try to enforce values protecting lower-class minorities. Whatever. They’re still Reactionary.

Likewise, real Progressivism is color-blind. It may be sophisticatedly color-blind, which involves realizing that just saying “I’m going to be color-blind now, okay?” doesn’t work, and that affirmative-action type policies may paradoxically lead to more genuinely color-blind results. But it would be unlikely to promote the idea that people should have racial pride, or that one particular race is evil and is not allowed to have racial pride. “White people should identify strongly with white culture; black people have no culture” is the upper-class white Reactionary slogan. “Black people should identify strongly with black culture; white people have no culture” is the lower-class minority Reactionary slogan. “Lots of races have culture but let’s ignore them and let individuals identify with what they personally like” is the academically-neglected but still-popular true Progressive position.

Finally, real Progressivism opposes segregation in all its forms. Upper-class white Reaction says that it’s necessary to protect white people from being “polluted” by black culture like rap music. Lower-class minority Reaction says that it’s necessary to stop white people from “appropriating” black culture like rap music. Either way, we get white people not allowed to listen to rap music. Progressivism is the position contrary to both: that everyone can listen to whatever music they damn well please.

The conservative nature of social justice isn’t surprising if you, like me, believe the liberal/conservative divide mirrors a self-expression/survival divide – more simply, whether or not you feel safe. As society becomes more economically and politically secure, we expect it to become more liberal and progressive. But we also expect the subgroups of society that are least secure to remain conservative, and to continue to use conservative strategies to protect themselves in their unsafe environment. Those subgroups are women and minorities.

Because more liberal white people are more likely to be tolerant toward minorities and the poor, minorities and the poor are by political necessity forced to ally with liberal parties. But when we are able to separate issues out from political coalition-building and self-interest, the natural tendency of economically and physically insecure minorities to be more socially conservative shows itself. Black people are more religious, more likely to support amendments banning gay marriage, and more likely to oppose stem cell research, abortion, and out of wedlock births.

If you do not like certain extreme versions of social justice, then fighting their Reactionary memes favoring poor minorities with your own Reactionary memes favoring rich whites is unlikely to work. At best you would just end up with two angry clans demanding more power for them personally; more likely financial and signaling incentives will prevent rich whites from wanting to take their own side in a conflict and everyone will just ignore you. A better strategy would be to take the moral high ground and promote Progressive memes to both sides.

5.5: Is our society hopelessly biased in favor of minorities and prejudiced against white people?

The most visible parts of society, like affirmative action and conversational norms around political correctness, are biased in favor of minorities and against white people. But this is intended to counter less visible parts of society, which are biased in favor of white people and against minorities. Whether this gambit works is anyone’s guess. See An analysis of the formalist account of power structures in democratic societies for a more careful evaluation of this claim.

5.6: One particularly annoying politically correct idea is the demand that everyone feel guilty about colonialism. Colonialism helped industrialize the developing world. Wasn’t the Progressive attempt to “help” the developing world through enforced decolonization and self-rule actually a big step backwards?

There are a couple of studies on this question, but all have their issues. A particular problem in the comparison of colonized to uncolonized countries is the possibility that more prosperous countries would be more likely to attract colonization and more likely to successfully resist potential colonizers. This makes an attempt to formally compare colonized with never-colonized countries directly nearly impossible.

I am least dissatisfied with Sylwester 2005, which compares colonial countries before, during, and after decolonization. It finds that:

There was no decrease in growth [for newly independent countries] relative to the alternative of remaining a colony. The reason why decolonizers exhibited lower growth than did those not concurrently undergoing a political change is that decolonizers grew slower than did nascent countries. These results provide evidence against the claim that this type of political transition caused lower growth than experienced previously. There is no evidence of transitional costs.

The paper also finds that previously independent countries grew faster than did the existing colonies. Whether or not a region is independent or controlled by an external power appears important for growth outcomes”

In other words, countries grew faster after independence than they did as a colony. This provides some support for the leftist idea that colonial powers drained more resources than they introduced, at least towards the end of the colonial age.

5.6.1: Forget economics, then. Wasn’t decolonization a human rights disaster, considering all the civil wars and coups and mismanagement in former colonies that could have been prevented by a competent colonial government?

Everyone from every side of the political spectrum agrees decolonization could have been handled better. It might be that no decolonization at all would have been better than decolonization the way the Great Powers historically went about it. And it’s hard to excuse all the civil wars and mismanagement that caused.

On the other hand, the colonial era wasn’t exactly free of bloody wars either. Colonial wars included the Mahdist War (100,000 deaths), the Algerian Revolution (500,000 – 1.5 million deaths), the Rif War (70,000 deaths), the Italian-Ethiopian War (500,000 deaths), the Mau Mau Rebellion (20,000 deaths), Mozambique War Of Independence (80,000 deaths), Angolan War of Independence (50,000 deaths), the Herero Genocide (100,000 deaths), the Java Wars (200,000 deaths), Sepoy Mutiny (~100,000 deaths), the Mad Mullah Jihad (100,000 deaths, but on the brighter side, an awesome name) Philippine-American War (220,000 deaths), First Indochina War (200,000 deaths), Aceh War (100,000 deaths) et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

If we don’t limit ourselves to just wars, and include famines, genocides, and general mismanagement, we can add Congo Free State (8 million deaths), genocide of Brazilian Indians (?200,000 deaths), forced labor in Portuguese colonies (250,000 deaths), forced labor in French colonies (200,000 deaths), Italian colonial genocide in Libya (125,000 deaths), French colonization of Algeria (500,000 deaths, European eradication of Native Americans (350,000 deaths), and the Australian and New Zealander eradication of aborigines and Maori (440,000 deaths). If we are willing to count famines worsened by colonial mismanagement we can go almost arbitrarily high, 20 million deaths or more.

It is certainly possible to imagine a wise and paternalistic colonial government coming in, cleaning up after native misrule, and introducing things like sanitation and industrialization. But that’s not what happened. It’s not fair to compare an imaginary ideal version of one policy with the real-world version of another. Weren’t a lot of those colonial wars and human rights abuses actually caused by demotism and Progressivism? If people hadn’t revolted against their colonial masters, there wouldn’t have been these bloody colonial revolts.

Not a straw man!

The first answer is that even if we accept this weird premise, there are still hundreds of colonial atrocities that do not stand excused. Many of the above conflicts occurred during original colonial invasions, and a tendency to resist those hardly requires demotism. Others were simple genocides, during which resistance was minimal.

But let’s not accept the premise. I admit placing blame is complicated. To give just one example, thousands of homosexuals were killed in Nazi Germany. We usually blame the Nazis for this. But from a formal math point of view, it would be equally valid to blame homosexuality. After all, if not for homosexuality, those people would not have been killed, Nazis or no.

How to avoid such bizarre conclusions? One method is moral – even if both Nazism and homosexuality were to blame according to purely mathematical casual models, Nazism seems more morally to blame. Another method is practical- homosexuality is as old as the human race and probably not going away, so it’s easier to view homosexuality as a constant and vary Nazism than it is to hold Nazism as constant and vary homosexuality.

We can apply these same methods to the colonial wars. Morally, the colonized people seemed to be morally in the right – they were sitting around trying to live their ordinary lives when people invaded and tried to turn them into forced laborers. And practically, the desire for self-rule is older and harder to root out than the colonialism. Indeed, colonialism pretty much died off after a century or two, and the desire for self-rule is stronger than ever.

Some Reactionaries would contest this hypothesis. They would say that it is only the spread of Progressive ideas that make people want to revolt against their colonial masters – that if not for the New York Times deliberately sowing pre-revolt memes, no one would consider this a worthwhile thing to try.

Historical counterexamples abound, but the Jewish-Roman Wars (66-135 AD) seem like a particularly good one. If they don’t appeal to you for some reason, pick your own favorite example out of Wikipedia’s List of revolutions and rebellions.

And as we saw above, if Progressivism is an inevitable historical reaction to rising technology and security, rather than a meme spread by the New York Times or anyone else, then saying “My scheme would have worked if not for the spread of Progressive ideas” is no more virtuous than saying “My scheme would have worked if not for the conservation of matter”. Congratulations, you’ve found something that might have been a good idea in an alternate universe that ran on different rules.

5.6.2: Even if colonialism was historically bloody, wouldn’t today’s human-rights-obsessed, racism-hating era be able to sustain a type of colonialism that gives the good parts without the evil?

Yes, it’s possible that modern progressive ideals would be able to rescue colonialism. But it’s hard to imagine a nation being simultaneously progressive enough to colonize other countries wisely, but still so unprogressive that it would want to. It would have to be a country whose progressivism evolved on a path much different to our own.

5.7: Are schools are places where children get brainwashed into leftist and blame-America-first values? Are all parts of history that don’t fit with a progressive worldview whitewashed from the curriculum?

Our source here is James Donald, who for example says:

History gets radically rewritten at ever shorter intervals, and all older history books are effectively banned. Consider, for example the ever more radical rewrites of the career of Daniel Boone, which ended with him being expelled from history altogether, and that today’s student has no idea what “The shores of Tripoli” refers to. Ninety nine percent of what students used to be taught not very long ago, is now unthinkably controversial, shocking, and disturbing…

Look [these things] up in a history book written before the days of hate-America-first history. The New Century Speaker for School and College, published 1905.

Of course this would require you to read old books, but old books are like kryptonite to a progressive. Since they were written by dead white males, no respectable person will read them for fear that dangerous and forbidden thoughts might contaminate his brain. Like a vampire confronted with a bible, a progressive will cringe in fear before any dangerously old book. Ever since 1905 or so, kids have been taught hate-america-first history.

I worry James is confusing the sign of a value with the sign of its derivative. Certainly schools are becoming more willing to discuss leftist issues. But are they now disproportionately willing to discuss them?

Let’s take the example of Columbus. Modern Americans are taught not only the old history that Columbus was a brave explorer who sailed forth to boldly discover that the Earth was round, but also the new history of “yeah, but he was bad for the Indians”. The feeling I got was that sure, Columbus was all nice and well, but his bold voyages paved the way for later people to settle the New World which sort of by coincidence hurt the Indians because people were squatting on their ancestral lands. This is about as far as so-called liberal schools will go, and this is probably the sort of progressivism being introduced to history classes which James is complaining about.

But actually, Columbus was…well, The Oatmeal is kind of a low-status source to link to, but I think they said this one better than I could. It starts off with :

Upon his arrival, he demanded that the Lucayan [Indians] give his men food and gold, and allow him to have sex with their women. When the Lucayans refused, Columbus responded by ordering that their ears and noses be cut off, so that the now disfigured offenders could return to their villages and serve as a warning to others. Eventually, the natives rebelled. Columbus saw this as a perfect excuse to go to war, and with heavily armed troops and advanced weaponry, it wound up being a very short war. The natives were quickly slaughtered…there are eyewitness accounts of fallen Lucayan warriors being fed to hunting dogs while they were still alive, screaming and wailing in agony as the dogs feasted on their limbs and entrails.

(a commenter points out that some of its other claims are exaggerated)

As much as James may complain about how people vaguely mutter about something something Indians something on Columbus Day, I bet he didn’t learn this in school. In fact despite his protestations, I bet he didn’t learn very much leftist history at all in school, given that he thought Eugene V. Debs was a Supreme Court case.

One day, our school curriculum may become so leftist that the Right needs a book like A People’s History of the United States or Lies My Teacher Told Me (which was created not by armchair contemplation of what society’s biases must be, but by reading twelve actual history textbooks and spotting the actual lies in them). But that day hasn’t come yet.

What is James’ own evidence for a leftist bias? As far as I can tell, they’re things like that US classrooms keep going on about US enslavement of black people, but never mention the (African) Barbary Pirates enslaving white Americans. But this may have less to do with liberal bias and more to do with the fact that, as far as I can tell, only 115 white Americans were ever enslaved by the Barbary Pirates (and then released a few years later), whereas about 500,000 African slaves were brought to America, kept in slavery for centuries, precipitated the bloodiest war in our country’s history, and then became a racial group that makes up 12% of Americans today – over forty million people.

Oh, and actually, I did learn about the Barbary Pirates in history class, thank you very much. So it seems that prediction of James’ has been disconfirmed. Although he seems to have thought the government shutdown might end with Tea Party members and lawmakers being shipped to concentration camps, so I imagine having his predictions disconfirmed is a pretty common occurrence for him.

I apologize for the insulting tone of this FAQ entry, but I was accused of cringing in fear before old books, and being vampire-to-Bible-level afraid to study history. That hurts.

6: Any last thoughts?

6.1: Does this mean you hate Reactionary ideas and think they have nothing to teach you?

Absolutely not. Compare to communism. The people who called themselves communists had some great ideas, like shorter workweeks and racial equality. It was just that the narrative they used as a framework for that idea – historical dialectic, workers controlling the means of production, violent revolution, destruction of capitalism, destruction of democracy – were horrible. Their ability to notice problems tended to be better than their specific policy proposals which in turn tended to be better than their flights of fancy.

I feel the same way about Reaction. Some Reactionaries are saying things about society that need to be said. A few even have good policy proposals. But couching them in a narrative that talks about the wonders of feudalism and the evils of the Cathedral and how we should replace democracy with an absolute monarch just discredits them entirely.

6.1.1: What exactly do you like about Reaction?

I like that they’re honestly utopian. Their scathing attacks on everyone else for being utopian merely punctuate the fact, like the fire-and-brimstone preacher denouncing homosexuality whom everyone knows is secretly gay. The Reactionaries wants to throw out the extremely carefully fine-tuned machinery of modern society which evolved over several hundred years, and replace it with a bizarre Frankenstein’s Monster of modern and traditional elements that they dreamed up in an armchair, which has never been tried before and which, they say, will instantly fix all social ills like crime and poverty and war.

And this is awesome. Utopianism – trying to think up amazing political systems that lie outside the local Overton Window – is very nearly a dead art. The failure of the Communists’ utopian designs probably killed it – the Right made “utopianism” into a dirty word so they could use it to bludgeon the Left, and the Left turned against utopianism en masse to avoid getting bludgeoned. Right now the only two permissible dreams of a better future are a society much like our own but a little more libertarian, or a society much like our own but a little more progressive. Boring!

The more utopian ideas we have the more sources we have to draw from when trying to decide which direction our own society should go in, and the broader the discourse becomes. Reactionaries are geniuses at inventing new systems that have never been tried before and some of whose components deserve serious contemplation. And if there was a science fiction book set in Moldbug’s Patchwork or Royal California, I would buy it. But?

There are a few good things you can do with utopianism.

You can use it as a generator for ideas that become gradually adopted into the mainstream, as mentioned above. Communism was good at this – in the US, instead of starting a revolution, they just helped spark the modern labor movement, which eventually came to coexist with the rest of the economy and is now probably a useful part of the memetic ecosystem.

You can use it to start interesting intentional communities. There were a couple of communist communes within capitalist countries; some people even built phalansteries, and more modern versions like Twin Oaks are more successful. You can start a non-communal subculture, like the polyamory movement. If you happen to have a free land, you start a country or subnational government – it worked for the early American settlers, and it may yet work for seasteaders. The Free State Project is another noble goal along these lines.

But until it works in an intentional community or something, trying to push it on everyone else seems premature and irresponsible.

6.1.2: If we don’t do Reaction, does that mean we’re stuck with a boring inoffensive centrist democracy forever and ever?

No. There are lots of extremely creative ideas for radical new forms of government that don’t involve any Reactionary ideas at all. The better ones are off of the right-left spectrum entirely. Futarchy is my favorite. Or we could all just go live in the Shining Garden of Kai-Raikoth.

6.2.1: Has anyone written a response or rebuttal to this FAQ?

Ohhhhhh yes.

I am indebted to Reactionary blogger Legionnaire for putting together a good list of responses to this document, which I am reproducing here with only minor aesthetic changes.


Foseti – An Anti-Reaction FAQ

Xenosystems – The Decline Frame

Jim – Anti-Anti-Reactionary FAQ Part 2: Crime

More Right (Michael Anissimov) – Response to Anti-Reactionary FAQ, Lightning Round, Part 1


Jim – Anti-Anti-Reactionary FAQ Part 1: Terror And Mass Murder (this limited its complaint to a single example and seemed quite fair, so I have since removed that example from this document)

Jim – Anti-Anti-Reactionary FAQ Part 3: Freedom And Monarchy

More Right (Michael Anissimov) – Response To Anti-Reactionary FAQ Part 2: Austrian Edition


Jim – Progress

Jim – Anti-Anti-Reactionary FAQ Part 4: Ever Leftwards Movement

Anarcho-Papist – The Theory Of Demotist Singularity

Habitable Worlds – The Motives Of Social Policy


Anarcho-Papist – The Informal Systems Critique of Formalism


Anarcho-Papist – On The Opposition To Sluttiness, Among Other Things

Free Northerner – Sex: A Response To Scott Alexander

Jim – The Anti-Anti-Reactionary FAQ: Sluts


Nick Steves – Shots Across The Bow

Suntzuanime – Comment On Anti-Reactionary FAQ

I’ve only managed to read about 50% of these so far, but of the ones I have read, I am especially impressed with Anissimov’s Lightning Round Part 1 and Free Northerner’s post on sex issues as well-argued and pretty comprehensive critiques.

I will continue to update based on his list as a definitive resource, but if you’ve written something and want on here, post in the comments of this thread or email me and I will eventually get you up. This is likely to update very irregularly.

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849 Responses to The Anti-Reactionary FAQ

  1. Konkvistador says:

    As far as responses and criticisms of reaction go, this one is the best I’ve seen so far. The general standard is much lower, and example the recent Cato-But-Not-On-Cato piece ( ), declaring earnestly among other things that Nick Land is wrong because he is a White Nationalist (which he clearly isn’t).

    Your empiricism is commendable and I especially liked your reasoning on urbanization and politics, because it is a very important piece of the puzzle and has recently been getting much needed discussion among twitter reactionaries. I also commend you on moving more meta, you are now aware that Neoreactionaries aren’t super-Conservatives, something you consistently seem to have gotten wrong in your previous criticism. You still get the Cathedral wrong, but that is ok, despite much effort expended to clarify it, even many self-described reactionaries don’t understand it.

    It will take dozens of articles to address the points you raise however … and while we write those, your FAQ will be sitting here. Neoreactionaries are quite lucky we aren’t in the popularity game, because this is an excellent example why we can’t win it. Scott is just one rather clever and sane Progressive and he can produce something quite solid, but he is one of millions, whereas reaction is both likely a minority taste as well as one we at More Right have deliberately avoided spreading to low-quality followers, opting to optimize for epistemically strong contributions and critics.

    There is by far more brainpower available to progressivism, by multiple orders of magnitude, than there is available to reaction, it has avoided the brunt of this challenge, but only due to its irrelevance. This will change in time and we should find strategies to deal with, so naturally our game must be some form of conspiracy or rather markedly superior institution. I will elaborate on this gameplan in the manifesto of sorts I am working on, but I digress.

    In the breaks between that and interesting pursuits like finding ways to feed myself, I look forward to the intellectual labor to address this piece, it certainly sets up a benchmark. Others like Athrelon have expressed interest in such labor as well, so the google doc is up, hopefully we shall be productive, but even in the best case it will take time. Have patience, there is more fun to be had.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Tl;dr: “AAAGHH!! I’ll be back when the hyper-anti-proton array is fully charged and pointed at Detroit! Until then, I’ll lick my wounds in the omnious cyclopean moonbase!”

      • Moss_Piglet says:


      • Konkvistador says:

        Don’t be silly, the hyper-anti-proton array can’t possibly do as much damage as Detroit has already taken.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Scott seems to love the hell out of Detroit and reportedly feels at home and at ease there. Sufficiently so that he has publicly been smug about the right-wing trope of “white liberals fleeing from actual diversity” on several occasions.

        • Konkvistador says:

          By objective measures Detroit declined terribly to the point of large areas of it being hard to distinguish on sight from abandoned Chernobyl. I never claimed there weren’t nice parts, just saying the city isn’t worth nuking. Indeed the nuking of Hiroshima seems to show it does less long term damage than whatever happened to Detroit.

        • Moss_Piglet says:


          Not just the objective measures either. My entire maternal line back through the 1890s lived and worked in Detroit, and I’ve spent some time there myself, and anyone who says the residents don’t see what a disaster area it has become is simply lying.

          Ask anyone over 40 what happened to Detroit, even the liberals, and they’ll gladly tell you exactly how and why things turned out the way they did. The fact that any of them still call themselves Progressives is evidence of severe Stockholm syndrome in my eyes.

        • Athrelon says:


          Without blowing Scott’s cover, he lives not in Detroit proper but in one of its far-out, mostly white suburbs, which has a fairly low crime rate per this map:

        • Multiheaded says:

          Ask anyone over 40 what happened to Detroit, even the liberals, and they’ll gladly tell you exactly how and why things turned out the way they did.

          Um, sure. Here you go. Here’s a liberal telling you exactly how and why things turned out the way they did. Notice the conspicious lack of N-words.

        • Multiheaded says:

          @Konkvistador: some reasonable comments from the above link –

          It’s sort of similar to how people on reddit view Russia. They see some pictures (a lot of which aren’t even from the right place) and form an opinion based on that. Also, most people from Michigan are absolutely terrified of Detroit, partially due to racism, partially due to the myth that it’s as bad as it was right after the riots, and partially because they never go there.

          Sure, some areas are really really bad but Downtown Detroit and the areas immediately surrounding it are cool as hell, beautiful architecture, great food, great music, etc but it seems like the only people who know this are the ones who live there. I’m actually considering moving there at some point.

          New Orleans has a higher murder rate per capita and people are absolutely fine with coming to this city. It’s all about myths and public perceptions.

          The way I always saw it was, any population anywhere in the world’s society would get violent and out-of-control if it went from being a thriving industrial center to a former thriving industrial center turned ghost town but people stayed there anyway. It’s not really about race, it’s about unemployment and desperation in levels that were previously unheard of. Well, its sort of about race in that a strong sense of community is what kept people from detroit from leaving, but thats just kind of a sad positive. That’s what I would tell people talking about it in a racial context, and I’d mention it in terms like ‘what if everyone in your town lost their jobs because of an economic downturn that ever really corrected itself?’ People were forced to choose between poverty and the economic death of their community, and they chose the latter by staying instead of fleeing like all the white people did. As a white person, I think that says a lot about the different values of two different cultures and I do respect that strong sense of community because its something I’ve never experienced.

          The questions on labor-management relations and globalization are even more difficult than the racial ones, I would almost say.
          Being Russian, I can sure vouch for the first sentence above.

        • Moss_Piglet says:


          Even in an SRS thread you still see every one of the top comments admit what a deserted shithole the place is. The only difference is they add “great Yemeni food” on as a plus and do a little guilt dance about how it’s really the evil white people’s faults that the city mysteriously collapsed right around when the “demographic shift” happened.

          And again; getting secondhand anecdotes through a known Leftist propaganda mill < my experience and that of fully half of my relatives for generations. Maybe you should visit, judge for yourself? Because I’m going back this December, just like every year, and I will promise that the Falafel is not going to be in my list of top 10 of “shit I saw while in Detroit.”

        • Multiheaded says:

          Plain ol’ white liberals and pinko hippie scum: making nuanced, thoughtful comments that include complex argumentation, historical facts and citations.

          Edgy fearless neo-reactionary ubermensch: chanting “Nigger nigger nigger nigger” and implying that black people are not even a subhuman species, but literally evil magic, with an aura of decay about them.

          I think many non-leftists here would agree that “leftist propaganda” like this makes for a more worthwhile, informed read than your Lovecraft-ish crap.

          Hell, let’s just ask em, in fact.

        • MULTIHEADED! You have now said that word more than anyone else in this thread.

          (Also, I think that neoreaction blames mismanagement by white people (Progressive white people?) for Detroit’s failure?)

        • Multiheaded says:

          You have now said that word more than anyone else in this thread.

          Yeah, ok, I agree that it might be insensitive and even oppressive of me to satirize the emotionally charged language of my opponents in this crude manner… but I figured that if Scott could sarcastically adopt the reactionary use of “slut” to attack their sexual rhetoric, I might as well attack their racial dog-whistles…

          Okay, sorry, still not okay. I get it. Fuck me, I agree. Please consider it to be “N****r” and “Gay*****rs”? Really, sorry, black people who might be reading this – it’s your call if I fucked up here.

          Oh, and –

          The only difference is they add “great Yemeni food” on as a plus and do a little guilt dance about how it’s really the evil white people’s faults that the city mysteriously collapsed right around when the “demographic shift” happened.

          So no, re: latter point it seems to me that the mainstream liberal/politically-correct position blames most of all that on “progressive”-aligned corrupt politicians – …the socialists and anarchists might simply do their “Liberals, eh?” without adding qualifiers, “corrupt liberal” would be called a tautology in some circles – …but most reactionaries just go directly for the easy target of poor, destabilized ethnic communities.

          Moldbug is probably the exception, I admit, but that’s because he appears unwilling to admit much agency on part of the demos for good or ill.

        • Konkvistador says:

          I firmly blame Progressive mismanagement. Black people obviously have a lower capacity for civilization than most other groups, but a mostly black city can be managed much better than that.

          This book also provides an interesting perspective that I’m not sure what to think about (yet):

        • Konkvistador says:

          Anarchy-Tyranny nicely explains why the riots wrecked the city a few decades back and why crime was allowed to go as far as it did.

          It doesn’t in itself explain the additional mismanagement, but then Progressivism manages to mismanage just about everything, even squandering much of the potential of San Francisco, except when it basically governs a city like a fascist would (see New York in the past 20 years).

          In the second half of the 20th century the American black underclass was a big stick used to beat its middle and recently over-proud working class. This is why unions where in mostly nonwhite parts of the US (in the white parts they still have some pull) allowed by the Polygon to be defeated. They had found another thug that could plausibly threaten violence.

          I say the black underclass is a tool, because large scale successful riots have never ever proceeded in the US when they have not been to the benefit of the Brahmin. They where the bad cop to the nice cop from Harvard. They have no social infrastructure of their own to make rioting work or if it does work channel the fear it creates into goals of their choosing. Even if they did it was trivial to crush with the vast power of the state (the same goes for any white rebellions in the US). There is a reason the Black Churches, the closest they had to noteworthy independent organizational capacity, where fully integrated into the Progressive machine in the 20th century.

          I feel greater sympathy for Moldbugs extensive focus on safety and violence recently as I have spent more time studying the psychology of violence. Submission and domination. I now think someone who is intimidated, will only feel intimidated if his monkey brain circuitry thinks there is hope of resistance, otherwise he will cook up reasons for why he wanted to do what he was intimidated into doing anyway.

          It seems a many people, far more than we like to admit, spend a lot of their time somewhere on the spectrum towards Stockholm Syndrome. The more I study the less the latter looks like some aberration, the more it looks like the human condition. This makes me terribly afraid.

        • Konkvistador says:

          @von_kalifornen: You are wrong. No one else used “nigger” at all.

        • Konkvistador says:

          If America is a communist country as they say, so why would a city like New York be run as a fascist country?

          The excellent, if somewhat unnecessarily violent, management of New York can perhaps be attributed to the better incentives in mega-cities, at least ones that have a tradition of being governed by so called “Political machines”.

          (this reminds me, this illustration makes reactionaries giggle )

          “An army led by a council seldom conquers: It must have a commander-in-chief, who settles disputes, decides in emergencies, inspires fear or attachment. The head of the Ring is such a commander. He dispenses places, rewards the loyal, punishes the mutinous, concocts schemes, negotiates treaties. He generally avoids publicity, preferring the substance to the pomp of power, and is all the more dangerous because he sits, like a spider, hidden in the midst of his web. He is a Boss.”

          “cities experienced rapid growth under inefficient government”

          Sounds rather efficient to me. These seem to be pretty ruthless in their operation but have mostly benign incentives as far as civilization accomplishment goes.

          New York displays surprising amounts of sovereignty, certainly more than many European satraps of the US. What was that quote by Bloomberg, “we have our army”? Ah let me give the entire quote:

          “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have,”

          That quote is better than I remembered, unlike what some anti-semites claim, a Jew pwning a country doesn’t look like Adorno, he looks like Bloomberg. Can’t you sense unrefined power and truth oozing from that quote? Its like something Putin would say, not at all like what the Democratic actor-political is usually allowed to say.

          Let me further quote la wiki:

          ” having served three consecutive terms since his first election in 2001. With a net worth of $31 billion, he is the seventh-richest person in the United States[1] and the thirteenth-wealthiest in the world. He is the founder and 88% owner of Bloomberg L.P., the global financial data and media company notable for its Bloomberg Terminal”

          The Political Machines of most great American cities where nationalized by FDR and so broken, some of their function was put on the Federal government, but it scaled poorly after an initial decade of energy and has now reached sclerosis. But here is a sign the New York political Machine has reasserted itself, perhaps the failures of the 70s had something to do with this.

          But recently some Progressive voices have been criticizing the jack booted thugs that keep the peace in the city. This is most concerning, as it might return mismanagement of the greatest concentration of human talent on the planet. Fortunately the vast accumulation of capital in New York has a healthy self-defense mechanism and seems willing to prop up the Cities Machine from attempts of Ivy League recolonization, however it also uses the machine to enable its own rent-seekers that it unleashes on the rest of the world.

  2. Vaniver says:

    I agree with pretty much everything. I was going to lead off with the joke that my only complaint was the missing period at the end of section 3.1.2, but on reflection I do have some criticisms, that rarely rise above the level of a quibble.

    In 3.2.2, the German Pietists were specifically recruited by English Quakers in populating Pennsylvania because they were kindred spirits. I don’t know enough about the history of gay rights in Germany to know what role they played, though.

    In 5.1, I think comparing to 1970 sidesteps the Reactionary complaint about long-term changes in sexual behavior, and if the number of lifetime partners is not compared by age, then the population growing younger might mask an increase in promiscuity (and the population growing older might mask a decrease). I’m almost certain that modern Americans have sex with more partners than the historical Puritans- but suspect that modern Americans have sex with about as many partners as the historical borderers and Southerners, which suggests that this is a culture thing and not a “Progressive” thing (and the historical Puritans, stern Calvinists, seem much more Progressive than the explicitly Reactionary Southerners).

    I get that you can’t address everything, and I don’t know how much this is a Reactionary position or not, but I take the “women as guardians of social virtue” argument somewhat seriously. A brief sketch: most men primarily care about access to sex, and so do things like work and shave primarily to get access to sex with women, preferably higher status and more beautiful women. When women require that men shave, dress nicely, and pay for dinner in order to get sex, then men will, and when women don’t require those things, then men won’t. Note that while this has some connection to frequency of sex- if you change the supply function, the market-clearing quantity supplied should change- it mostly has to do with the side-effects of the sexual market.

    If you’re familiar with the distinction, plow culture vs. hoe culture seems relevant. To the extent that modernity is moving from a plow culture (where men work hard because it is necessary) to a hoe culture (where men mostly focus on leisure and being sexy, because women will do all the work), that seems troubling socially. I can’t say it’s troubling economically, because it looks like total hours worked will drop for the foreseeable future, and more specifically, we will become increasingly stratified, with some high-value people working lots and many low-value people working little, and there is little evidence that the highest-value women are *not* acting as guardians of social virtue.

    I’ll add on to 6.1.1 that I got a lot from Moldbug’s view of the world and history. In particular, I think his definition of “church” is a very useful one, and clarified my thinking about what I want communities like LessWrong to be.

  3. Protagoras says:

    On the connection between societies being progressive and being famously successful, you mention that the case of China doesn’t obviously fit. You do say it’s complicated, which of course it is, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t a straight up counter-example. I remember once reading a fairly compelling case that Confucius was much more progressive than what came before. For example, one of the enduring results of his influence was the almost complete disappearance of hereditary succession for government posts.

  4. Aaron Brown says:

    [The part of] this [that I have read so far] is good and you should feel good.

    Typos (feel free to delete this comment after you’re done):

    london –> London

    adition –> addition

    lynchpin –> linchpin

    succint –> succinct

    reduction ad absurdum –> reductio ad absurdum

    monotically –> monotonically

    homogenous –> homogeneous

    everywere –> everywhere

    prsence –> presence

    theyalso –> they also

    unsuprising –> unsurprising

    embarassed –> embarrassed (2 instances)

    embarassing –> embarrassing

    disparties –> disparities

    amd –> and

    bowlderized –> bowdlerized

    indepedent –> independent

    decolonizer –> decolonizers

    phanasteries –> phalansteries (???)

    • Aaron Brown says:

      “Reduction ad absurdum” was’s typo. The source does have “reductio”.

    • Daniel Armak says:

      Also: “four partners for women and sex for men in 2006” -> six for men. Unless, you know, you just meant men got so slutty they couldn’t even count their partners. But your source doesn’t support that.

      Also, you say 2006, but your link says 2005 and it also seems to say the data was published in 2005 but collected in 2002. The citation is: Mosher WD, Chandra A, Jones J. Sexual behavior and selected health measures: Men and women 15–44 years of age, United States, 2002. Advance data from vital and health statistics; no 362. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2005.

    • Aaron Brown says:

      necessary to white people from –> necessary to stop white people from

      James MacDonald –> James Donald

    • Scott Alexander says:

      All issues here and in children of this comment so far fixed. Thank you.

    • Charlie says:

      auto-da-fe should have an accent on fé.

  5. Kaj Sotala says:

    … wow. I’m impressed.

    How long did this take you to research and write?

  6. Daniel Armak says:

    One of your graphs’ images is missing: (below the words “its attempt at a linear fit was a bad idea”).

    Also: you are amazing and if I had to choose a philosopher-king hereditary monarch you would absolutely get my vote.

  7. ozymandias says:

    I really like this and was laughing all the way through and reading bits of it aloud. So let me say all the things I disagree with!

    In 1.3.1 you say that 89% of Americans believe it’s safe to walk home alone at night, but that’s actually 89% of American men. To be fair, American women almost certainly are irrational about how safe it is to walk home alone.

    I think that Bowling Alone was quite accurate when it came out (2000, based on a 1995 essay) in which the Internet was much less prevalent than it is now. We had a few decades of experimentation with the idea that it is sensible to replace friends with TV, that turned out to suck, and we’re correcting for the mistake by inventing a kind of shiny glowy screen you can have friends through.

    Farms totally have a right to cooperative associations nowadays. (Basically coops are a bunch of farmers getting together to handle in common the marketing and processing of crops and giving loans and stuff like that, so they aren’t exploited.) So point for the Republicans. Also I’m pretty sure we have private ownership of railroads?

    I think that the greater number of sex partners of obnoxious people might partially reflect that hot people with nice personalities end up in long-term relationships, and hot people with obnoxious personalities keep getting dumped because they’re obnoxious. Also narcissistic disagreeable psychopaths might be more likely to be rapists or to pressure and manipulate people into sex, or more likely to self-aggrandize by lying on the surveys. (However, I certainly appreciate your implementation of the ‘avoid terrible men and women, date genderqueers’ plan. :D)

    • Army1987 says:

      To be fair, American women almost certainly are irrational about how safe it is to walk home alone.

      Do you mean they overestimate it or underestimate it?

      • ozymandias says:

        I mean they overestimate it. In my admittedly anecdotal experience, American women are often very afraid of being attacked or raped or murdered if they walk alone at night, but very unlikely to actually be attacked. This seems particularly irrational, given that women are at higher risk of rape or murder from an intimate partner than from a stranger, and yet most women *don’t* seem to take precautions against that.

        A few years ago I decided this was stupid and that I would go walking whenever I damn well pleased. In this time, I have never been faced with anything worse than some people choosing a very inappropriate time to hit on me, despite walking through neighborhoods that people Very Seriously warned me against walking through. Admittedly this is anecdotal but…

        • [pedantic grammar nitpick mode] I think ‘it’ in Army’s question was referring to safety (since that’s what’s mentioned in the quote), but ‘it’ in your answer appears to refer to risk, thus making “they overestimate it” have the opposite meaning of what you presumably intended if you don’t read carefully. I suggest that you should both disambiguate your words; Army should ask “Do they overestimate or underestimate their safety?” and you should reply “They overestimate their risk” or alternatively “they underestimate their safety”. [/pedantic grammar nitpick mode]

          So yeah, I’m doing a lot of proofreading this week and the habit kind of sticks…

        • Army1987 says:

          Yes, I realized my question was ambiguous shortly after I posted it, but hoped the answer wouldn’t be.

    • Berna says:

      I think that the greater number of sex partners of obnoxious people might partially reflect that hot people with nice personalities end up in long-term relationships, and hot people with obnoxious personalities keep getting dumped because they’re obnoxious.

      Haha, yes, exactly!

    • nydwracu says:

      We had a few decades of experimentation with the idea that it is sensible to replace friends with TV, that turned out to suck, and we’re correcting for the mistake by inventing a kind of shiny glowy screen you can have friends through.

      Nope, still sucks. As evidence I cite living in a series of places utterly devoid of interesting people, turning to the internet, and being only mildly less, er, ‘bored’ doesn’t even begin to describe it, than before, and then occasionally escaping to places where there are interesting people and noting the disappearance of the crushing isolation that the internet does very little about. I know [through the internet, of course] quite a few other people who have had similar experiences, though often without an environment that doesn’t suck for comparison.

      The internet is useful, sure, and it can even lead to building IRL social capital; but it’s no substitute for whatever was lost.

      My guess is that the problem is partially suburbs, and partially that improvements in information-schlepping infrastructure allow [certain] people in rural areas to pick up suburban/urban social attitudes and norms, which lead them to have little in common with the other people there and usually end up hating/resenting them. The latter part is an inevitable consequence of technological advancement, and probably can be solved only by exit to an urban area (the only solution to Nietzsche’s advantage of the ordinary); the former is a consequence of 1) the car industry 2) the problem of the inner city, i.e. progressive governance failure. (Does it make any sense whatsoever that abstracting away from the inhabitants can make some of the actually worst areas into some of the theoretically best?)

      • misha says:

        I think there’s a very important difference between using the internet to stay connected to people you met and grew to like in real life and using it to try and connect to new people.

        • Brian says:

          I’ve actually had quite a bit of luck with both. You tend to meet people on the Internet for different reasons and in different ways, though, and so the heuristics you use in real life for figuring out whether you want to spend more time with this person don’t transfer very well.

          Which is not to say that it’s a one-for-one replacement for in-person interaction; there are channels it can’t provide, and the bandwidth on the ones it can still tends to be lower.

      • ozymandias says:

        *shrug* My anecdotal experience is that Internet vs. real life is more-or-less a wash: better people, but less cuddling and long walks. (Especially since I got a webcam so I can meet my seeing-people’s-faces need.) I suspect this is a personal preferences thing.

        Yeah, blaming it entirely on TV was oversimplifying (although I think TV was a major factor– you can’t watch four hours a day on average without losing socialization). I agree with you about suburbs and urban social norms. Also, I think the demise of third places (i.e. places like coffeeshops and bars where people can socialize outside of work and the home) is important.

        Also there are a lot of vicious cycles. If more people watch TV, then there are fewer people to socialize with, so for lack of anything better to do you watch TV. If people don’t go to the third places, then they close, and no one *can* go to the third places.

  8. Jack says:

    As someone who knows almost nothing about it, thank you, that was hilarious and generally informative. (In fact, it may be too persuasive — I started with the idea that I didn’t know what this was but it sounded like nonsense, and this post did nothing to persuade me, despite the fact that you obviously see it based on _some_ good ideas. I’m off to read the steel-man version.)

    A minor comment, when you’re saying that being “slutty” is (a) not as prevalent as it’s made out to be and (b) nothing wrong with it, it still sounds really bad to me that you use the word to describe people, without using scare-quotes or similar, because it’s one many people will find offensive (even if one many people have reclaimed).

    • Jack says:

      PS. Um, I’m sorry, I tried to be non-judgemental in that last para but now I reread I’m worried it still sounds too harsh. I’m pretty sure that _you_ don’t care in the slightest how much sex people have and think it’s so obvious that it’s morally neutral that you can’t understand how anyone could possibly think it’s important, except for lingering hold-over meme-complices from before contraception and all the other reasons you explained.

      And that the whole thing is a description of a point of view that (as you repeatedly stated) you strenuously disagree with.

      But even if it’s obvious that you’re _criticising_ the point of view that there’s anything wrong with sleeping with more than N people, you still use their terminology of the s-word for those people (even though you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that), and I think that’s something that will hurt a number of people. If you could make basically the same point with a word not normally seen as judgemental, that would be fine, I think… Um, sorry for rambling.

      • Protagoras says:

        I tend to agree. In the social circles I travel in, I almost never hear the word “slut” in anything but an ironic or reclaimed sense, but every once in a while I am surprised to encounter someone for whom it has strong, painful associations, and I get the impression that that’s a lot more common in some social circles I don’t frequent. Probably a word worth being careful with.

    • Kaj Sotala says:

      I have to agree with this one – that word kept bothering me the whole time that I read the section in question.

    • VXXC says:

      Jack we’re trying to make a world where slut is offensive and there’s no micro-agressions parsing and hashing of it.

      Also a world where micro-agressions do not exist, real agression does, and the two are not confused.

      Finally slut is a common term used in reaction. The author was quite accurate to employ it in a discussion of reaction.

      • Michael Vassar says:

        Can I parse this as “a world where one can gain status by engaging in open aggression and ‘winning’ and where one looses status by engaging in concealed aggression and ‘winning’ rather than the inverse? Would everyone be much happier if we had a unique and clearly defined mechanism for ranking people in status hierarchies, whether it was boxing or birth rank or net worth? Is the real problem here that obfuscated status hierarchies lead to obfuscated conflict over status which leads to status conflicts poisoning all of human interaction?

  9. Ben Lehman says:

    I like this a lot it’s quite exhaustive.

    You have a few errors, largely re: China and colonialism, which if you’re interested in I’d be happy to go over with you, but they’re fairly minor.

  10. orthonormal says:

    This is great, and you should feel great! A few suggested edits below.

    2.5.1: In addition to Bush v. Gore and the Civil War you should include one more succession hiccup: the 1876 election was disputed and only resolved by a fascinating but terrible quid pro quo. Your larger point is still viable, of course.

    3.3: The image underneath the following paragraph isn’t loading for me: “And if you want to know why countries are becoming more democratic and less monarchist, it’s hard to get a more direct answer than this graph (although its attempt at a linear fit was a bad idea):”

    5.1: Typo: “a shift from an average of two lifetime sexual partners for women and six for men in 1970 to about four partners for women and sex for men in 2006.” Actually, maybe that’s not a typo.

    5.1.1: Unclosed HTML tag on “Read this article. No, really, read that article. Gods! Have you ever seen so many mere assertions and” (I see what you did there): Typo: “bowlderized”

    5.5: Typo: “Is our society is hopelessly biased”

    5.6.1: Unclosed HTML tag on “the Mad Mullah Jihad (100,000 deaths, but on the brighter side, an awesome name)”

  11. James S says:

    “The Line of Washington has currently undergone forty-three dynastic successions without a single violent dispute.” (in 2.5.1)

    Um. American Civil War, anyone? Other than that, still digesting.

    • Protagoras says:

      I’m assuming that didn’t count as a violent dynastic dispute since the Confederacy was trying to secede, rather than seeking to have Jefferson Davis replace Lincoln or anything like that.

      • Protagoras says:

        Ugh! Sorry for screwing up the tags.

      • Yes. It’s interesting that the US has never destroyed and replaced its own leaders. Some people tried during the 1960s, and now the other side is trying to pretend to try, but neither have gotten close at all.

        • A case can be made that the JFK assassination was about e.g. Nixon wanting to ascend to the throne, though.

          But I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I swear!

        • Doug S. says:

          There have been several assassinations, but they’ve rarely been the result of organized campaigns. (Lincoln’s assassination being the exception.)

      • Dan says:

        “Before the 1860 presidential election, many Southerners had warned that if Lincoln won, the Southern states would secede, or withdraw from the Union. Supporters of secession based their arguments on the idea of states’ rights. They argued that the states had voluntarily joined the Union. Consequently, they claimed that the states also had the right to leave the Union.
        On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede. Other states in the Deep South, where slave labor and cotton production were most common, also considered secession. During the next six weeks, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas joined South Carolina in secession.”

    • I had this thought too, but thought it was pretty well addressed when shortly thereafter he acknowledged democracies sometimes having problems with regional succession. Aka what Protagoras said.

  12. Roi says:

    About the poll data – +80% people being in favour of more regulations at two different points in time is something I would caracterize as a period very much in favor of regulation. Where is the option for less regulation?

    If people are getting more right-wing economically, it doesn’t show up when looking att goverment spending / GDP. In Sweden it does, but that is after a huge crisis during the 90s. The Social Democrats also did their part in cutting back during 1993-2006.

    No one ever seem to be decreasing regulation though. Seems like entrophy…

    “women as guardians of social virtue”

    I think of it as a bottleneck. Bottlenecks are what regulates throughput and chaneing antything but the bottleneck will change nothing at all.

  13. zac says:

    So Zhang Xianzhong was a rebel, and lead a peasant revolt. He is much more like Stalin than Louis XIV.
    He was…

    Born into a poor family
    Served in the army, and had a poor service record
    Styled himself a leader of the people in a time of hardship
    Recruited a huge army and took over
    Led a purge of the educated class
    Become convinced of internal plots against him and killed a bunch of people

    I’m pretty sure most reactionaries would describe him as a ‘typical progressive’ or something actually.

  14. Alyssa Vance says:

    I mostly agree with this, but its arguments are largely orthogonal to “Reactionary Philosophy”, which I also mostly agree with. Where they aren’t orthogonal, the points here don’t address the previous arguments in the opposite direction, which seems kinda cheating. In particular, regarding colonialism:

    – The argument that, eg., Botswana is a much nicer place to live than Ethiopia still seems totally valid.
    – Sub-Saharan Africa was decolonized during the 50s and 60s. Shortly afterward, GDP flattened out, and then started to go down, reaching a bottom around 1995. Indeed, Africa in 1960 was richer than China under Mao (which was never colonized). This doesn’t especially support the “colonial exploiters” theory. Data:
    – There was a fair amount of colonial violence, but that has to be compared to pre-colonial violence, which we often don’t even know about because there were no written records. In cases where we do know something, can you really argue that, eg., Cortez was a bigger jerk than the Aztecs, or that American settlers were bigger jerks than the Comanches?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, your observation is correct.

      Someone on IRC said it better than I could – I am much more likely to agree with object-level Reactionary policies – which was what Nutshell talked about – than with meta-level Reactionary theories – which are mostly what this is addressing.

      I agree with Nutshell on most of the object-level policies that didn’t get directly rebutted here, except insofar as they’re things that are hard and probably counterproductive to change. But many of the parts that say “If you’re in a hole stop digging” seem mostly correct to me.

  15. Moss_Piglet says:

    This is a really top notch article and absolutely food for thought. The degree of work put into it and the skill of that work are both mindboggling when I think about the fact that this is essentially a hobby. Though I disagree with the conclusion, and have a few questions here and there, overall I liked the FAQ; for the most part, assume any other quibbles I might have had were even more minor and thus not even worth a 5min comment post.

    I realize how hard it is to get good statistics, especially on topics like sex, but it comes off as fairly disingenuous to use studies starting from 1970 and later to try to say we haven’t become more promiscuous as a culture. This is the most extreme example here, but outside of Part 1 there are very few graphs which go back even as far as 1930. Again, I completely sympathize with the absurd difficulty in gathering good data but there is a price to be paid in accuracy for using lower-quality statistics.

    In the same vein, it’s fairly odd to see claims that one’s opponents are ignoring monotonic technological increases allowing for greater mass murder/sex & drugs/collection of crime statistics when at the same time ignoring said technological increase yourself when talking about life expectancy/GDP/world hunger. I actually agree with you on pretty much all of them (it’s hard to imagine what Qin Shi Huangdi would have done even just with access to grapeshot, much less helicopter-mounted 50cal machineguns) but it’s certainly a striking juxtaposition. Again, this might just be an area where good statistics are not realistically available but it’s still fairly troubling to see.

    Finally, dismissing disgust as a reason to oppose something seems rather strange to me. Our sense of disgust is an extraordinarily fine-tuned system, and tracks pretty well to danger even in modern conditions. Our disgust is a very strong signal that something is wrong, and hardly irrational. Toleration of the disgusting is not just aesthetically offensive but also very often foolhardy.

    • Ishaan says:

      Some people think incest is disgusting. Some people think homosexuality is disgusting. Some people think eating insects is disgusting. Some people think that public sex is obscene, while others think that public kissing is obscene. Some people think that certain types of animals are inherently disgusting. Some think that certain types of people are disgusting, due to caste / class / occupation. Some think that animal feces are disgusting, while others use it for fertilizer, fuel, insulation. Some people believe that cow dung has anti-septic properties and don’t find it dirty at all.

      Point being: Outside of what psychologists term “core disgust”, what is and is not disgusting is largely culturally conditioned.

      That doesn’t mean it’s illogical to use it as a moral indicator. You are
      allowed to use whatever you like as a moral indicator without breaking any laws of logic.

      However, it does mean that you will have a hard time using appeals to disgust to convince anyone who has not been subject to the same cultural conditioning as you have.

      • Army1987 says:

        Even within the same culture, people with higher Openness to Experience will probably be disgusted by fewer things.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The neat thing about being asexual and finding sex mostly repulsive is that it gives me a free saving throw against “wisdom of repugnance” type arguments.

      • ozymandias says:

        JSYK I attempted to favorite this comment.

      • Moss_Piglet says:

        There really isn’t a good way to say this, but you are aware that asexuality is not exactly a fitness-enhancing condition right? If you are disgusted by sex for that reason, it seems to be more of an issue of your disgust .

        But really, this is an issue of not seeing the forest for the trees. You are disgusted by sex and I am disgusted by the sound of styrofoam, but we are both (excepting where we’ve been trained not to be in our professions) disgusted by dead animals, fecal matter, rotting food, diseased people, blood, the ugly, seriously antisocial behavior and a thousand other things which are still very good indicators of danger. Playing with blood and feces will very likely get you infected, even today; hanging out with the diseased or antisocial is a risk to your safety, even today; having sex with ugly or stupid people will tend to get you ugly stupid kids, even today; etc.

        Things like promiscuity (male) homosexuality and incest, which were taboo in most human societies across history and which we have to use elaborate tolerance education to desensitize our children to, are still measurably much higher risk than the traditional alternatives even with every modern precaution. Our feelings of disgust are hardly irrational when they tell us that we shouldn’t tolerate those behaviors.

        (One last bit; it bugs the hell out of me when people say or imply that modern “safer sex” technology has made sex risk-free and harmless. Even though risk is certainly lessened they are still absolutely present, and even a basic understanding of human psychology will tell you that people presented with safety measures typically compensate by becoming even more reckless. People who don’t approach sex with the respect needed for any dangerous activity are in for a rude awakening.)

    • nydwracu says:

      Finally, dismissing disgust as a reason to oppose something seems rather strange to me. Our sense of disgust is an extraordinarily fine-tuned system, and tracks pretty well to danger even in modern conditions. Our disgust is a very strong signal that something is wrong, and hardly irrational. Toleration of the disgusting is not just aesthetically offensive but also very often foolhardy.

      My mother (who majored in microbiology in college) has disgust reactions toward sashimi, and I’m sure there are plenty of other people who would agree with her. Westerners generally have disgust reactions toward eating non-aquatic bugs; Easterners, as far as I’ve heard, generally have disgust reactions toward cheese. I like hákarl, but Gordon Ramsay went on TV with it and couldn’t keep it down.

      Also, as I’ve noted in a few articles over on Theden, there are quite a few Brahmins who are disgusted by technological advancement. The most obvious examples of this are the GMO nonsense (which is 10% reasonable paranoia in priors and 90% “FISH TOMATO!!!!!”), Google Glass, and Bitcoin, but I’ve seen people start signaling disgust about *space travel*. So statements about the utility of disgust have to be qualified massively if they’re to be of any use. Is there a qualifier that would pass cheese, but not homosexuality or whatever you’re trying to get at? (NB: the test has to be based only on disgust; if you start talking about whether the disgust is *justified*, there’s no need to even start talking about disgust.)

    • Julia says:

      Regarding disgust: I grew up reading Louisa May Alcott novels in which people married their cousins, and didn’t realize until adulthood that it’s no longer kosher in the mainstream US. I never developed a sense that cousin marriage was weird or disgusting. Some cultures have prohibitions on parallel cousin marriage (your mother’s sister’s children or your father’s brother’s children) but “cross cousins” (children of your parents’ opposite-sex siblings) are fine. People like Einstein and Darwin married their first cousins. So I’m not at all sure there’s an innate disgust about cousin marriage – it seems to have a big cultural component.

      • Konkvistador says:

        Having a taboo on cousin marriage is the weird thing rather than its absence for humans. It being a taboo is almost unique to the West, and until very recently (early 20th century) it was quite common here as well.

        Marrying your cousin was a very common experience among our ancestors, depending on where you are from (say the Middle East), the number of your ancestors who married their cousin may outnumber those that didn’t.

  16. Alyssa Vance says:

    “But they can’t just say “There’s a giant conspiracy where the heads of all the major Ivy League universities meet at midnight under the full moon”, because that would sound ridiculous and tinfoilish.”


    “Facing Justice Department charges that they violated Federal antitrust laws, the eight colleges and universities in the Ivy League have agreed to stop sharing information on student financial aid and to avoid collaborating on tuition increases. (…)

    The universities also agreed to stop holding an annual meeting at which they and 15 other prestigious Northeastern institutions jointly discussed the financial aid applications of 10,000 students who had been accepted to more than one institution in the group. The purpose of this “overlap meeting” was to agree to uniform financial aid offers.”

    • ozymandias says:

      I feel like there is an important distinction between universities colluding for their financial benefit and universities going MUAHAHAHAHAHA and trying to take over the world.

      • misha says:

        yeah but it’s a lot smaller than the distinction between Universities don’t collude don’t be silly! and Universities collude to rule the world.

        • There is not one big conspiracy. There are a lot of conspiracies, some of them quite big. For example we have the internal emails of the Global Warmist conspiracy. Natural selection acts on the memes of these conspiracies, with the effect that in some ways they act like one big conspiracy, while in other ways they do not. To the extent that they act like one big conspiracy, that is the Cathedral.

          But the reactionary critique of the Cathedral is not that it is capable of acting like one being, but rather that, unlike a monarch, it is incapable of acting like one being. Thus, we get the tragedy of the commons with public spending and regulation – each regulator pursues his own good, rather than the general good of regulators as a whole, so we get more regulation than is good for regulators, and more public spending than is good for government employees. Observe that governments that plausibly tax at the long term laffer limit, for example the the government of Dubai, tax at far lower levels than western governments.

          The neoreactionary epithet “Cathedral” implies that the Cathedral is one being, but the neoreactionary epithet “Anarcho Tyranny” implies that the Cathedral is many beings.

  17. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    A general heuristic I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of recently is that statements of the form “all X are Y” are unlikely to be true in most domains, while statements of the form “there exists an X such that Y” are likely to be true in most domains, the former because there are many opportunities for them to be false and the latter because there are many opportunities for them to be true. This is a kind of generalized anti-conjunction fallacy.

    It may be too obvious to point out except that I think a certain kind of intellectual, namely one with a mathematical or hard-science background, is used to “all X are Y” statements actually being true because math and hard science are bizarre wonderlands, and when these intellectuals try to move to domains that don’t resemble math and hard science it seems like they have a tendency to get tripped up by this pretty badly if they aren’t careful.

    • g says:

      The reverse phenomenon is possible. I am a mathematician, and I am (I think) of all people I know the least willing to make (or agree with) “all X are Y” statements, precisely because I know what they mean and what the world has to be like to make one true.

      • Doug S. says:

        Old joke:

        There are three men on a train. One of them is an economist and one of them is a logician and one of them is a mathematician. And they have just crossed the border into Scotland (I don’t know why they are going to Scotland) and they see a brown cow standing in a field from the window of the train (and the cow is standing parallel to the train). And the economist says, ‘Look, the cows in Scotland are brown.’ And the logician says, ‘No. There are cows in Scotland of which at least one is brown.’ And the mathematician says, ‘No. There is at least one cow in Scotland, of which one side appears to be brown.’

  18. ckp says:

    >Habsburg Holy Roman Austria was conquered by Napoleon in 1805, forced to dissolve as a political entity in 1806, replaced with the Kingdom of Austria, itself conquered again by Napoleon in 1809, refounded in 1815 as a repressive police state under the gratifyingly evil-sounding Klemens von Metternich, suffered 11 simultaneous revolutions and was almost destroyed in 1848, had its constitution thrown out and replaced with a totally different version in 1860, dissolved entirely into the fledgling Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867, lost control of Italy and parts of Germany to revolts in the 1860s-1880s, started a World War in 1914, and was completely dissolved in 1918, by which period the reigning emperor’s wife, brother, son, and nephew/heir had all been assassinated.

    I was writing a smaller-scale but more in-depth critique of Anissimov’s claims about Austria in particular and absolutist monarchy in general, but you’ve done a better job in one paragraph than I did in 3 pages ;_;

  19. Alyssa Vance says:

    “Meanwhile, in Progressive Britain during the same period, people were mostly sitting around drinking tea.”

    I agree with the general point about monarchies being unstable, but this is totally cheating.

    All but one of the problems you list in Austria were caused by dealings with nearby foreign powers. Britain (and the US for that matter) mostly didn’t have to worry about those, due to being isolated by water.

    For a fairer comparison, France was quite close by, and in 1800 was certainly more progressive than the millennium-old Holy Roman monarchy. Was France more stable from 1800 through 1918 than Austria? Wikipedia suggests not:

    • Scott Alexander says:

      France is a poor example because during that period it was never really a stable liberal democracy. It went from dictatorship to Empire to monarchy to Empire again to eventually democracy. Once it reached democracy in the 1880s it became pretty stable aside from an unfortunate tendency to get invaded by Germany.

      I can’t think of a good example of a progressive liberal democracy on the European mainland at that point, though that’s probably more due to my ignorance of the period than to its nonexistence.

      • Julia says:

        After watching Europe have lots of revolutions in 1848, the king of Denmark decided (with some hints from the populace) it would be wise to switch to constitutional monarchy. They had a bloodless revolution (I was taught that the only death was one guy who had a heart attack during a demonstration from the excitement of it all, but I can’t find confirmation of this). After that they lost part of their southern land to Germany, but otherwise pretty much did fine until WWII.

      • Damien says:

        Switzerland seems like it’d be close. Unbroken universal male suffrage since 1848, no kings or nobles, a federal society that ended up with national direct democracy in a few decades, probably building on older local traditions.

        BTW, the much feared “dictatorship of the proletariat”, before Lenin got ahold of it, basically meant universal suffrage, an exotic thing when the phrase was coined, existing (for men) only in, well, Switzerland. France had tried it but not for long. Recall elections and legislators being paid the same as workers were related ideas, but the core was workers ruling society via the dangerous act of voting.

  20. Pingback: Response to Yvain on “Anti-Reactionary FAQ”: Lightning Round, Part 1 | More Right

  21. Here’s my preliminary response.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I actually agree with a lot of what you said there (including the bit about tone – sorry, but the NYT joke was too good to pass up).

      I think you overstated your case by saying that things have been getting worse within societies in the short-to-medium term, and that’s what I was addressing.

      Your point about “traditional” versus “modern” societies, for example in suicide rates, is well-taken.

      But one thing I don’t think came through this FAQ as much as I wanted it to was that my claim is that modern societies are attempts to adjust for disruptive technological/economic changes like urbanization, demographic transition, increased level of wealth, increased education, greater availability of weapons, etc.

      That is, you *can’t* have a society that both has as much wealth and security and scientific knowledge and health care as our own, but also the low suicide rates of Pakistan. Or at least if you can, it’s a really hard problem involving the invention of a new form of utopia, and not just importing Pakistan’s political/social structures onto our own society, or even loosely basing our society on Pakistan with some modifications.

      I think you feel I was being unfair because I seized on your decision to include short-term graphs since 1970 or whenever without addressing your main complaint that there’s a huge difference between our society, both 1970 and today, and say the society of 1000 AD or modern African villages. I accept that in your perspective that’s unfair.

      From my perspective I’m interested in seeing how our society is adjusting to its new disruptive technologies, and as far as I can tell it’s adjusting positively – that is, it keeps getting better. Whether things are getting better or worse is very important – in the latter case, we may need to destroy everything and start over before it declines too far – in the former, we just need to sit tight and maybe encourage trends that are already going on.

      EDIT: This seemed important enough that I added it as 1.9.1

      • Medivh says:

        I think you shouldn’t take the pakistani suicide rate seriously.
        A quick google search on “suicide rate pakistan” returns results like:
        – there are no national suicide statistics
        – suicide in pakistan is massively underreported
        – suicide rate escalates
        – suicide is a serious problem in pakistan

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        Suicide rates all over the world are so ridiculously low that it’s absurd to see them as worth shaping political systems around. The social harms of suicide are negligible compared to, say, even tiny shifts in GDP, the probability of war, or animal welfare standards.

        You can also model suicide as another legitimate “exit option” which few people actually take, as opposed to something that needs to be prevented by aggressive authoritarians.

    • ozymandias says:

      I am really not sure why you mentioned the subprime mortgage crisis in your section on debt. Debt that individuals have and debt that governments have seem importantly different from each other. For one thing, banks very rarely end up foreclosing on the government and taking its house. It also does not seem particularly relevant to your point, which is about government debt.

      If you are allowed to blame all the positive things on technology, then I think we should also get to blame social disconnection (and thus higher suicide rates and so on) on the invention of the television.

    • Alexander Stanislaw says:

      “This graph, by the CBO, conveniently leaves out the federal debt held by foreign investors and governments. Add those in, and the debt is well above 100% of GDP”

      No it doesn’t. Admittedly the terminology is a bit weird though.

      Regarding crime, you ignored Yvain point about changing definitions of crime. I take it you disagree that violent crime is a better variable to compare over time?

  22. Anon says:

    Excellent post overall. I’m commenting to dispute the interpretation/framing of the debt plot. Here is an up-to-date plot of US debt as a fraction of GDP from 1790 to day, supplemented with the CBO’s projection through 2040. Take a look.

    As you can see, debt has continued to climb dramatically as a fraction of GDP in the 5 years since your plot cut off at 2008. Furthermore, the extra historical perspective emphasizes what, to me, is the obvious interpretation: we are at a higher level of debt (as a fraction of GDP) than any time except immediately during/following WW2. We now have 50% more debt than we took on during the next 5 most debt-inducing events: Cold War, Great Depression, WW1, Civil War, and Revolutionary War. Most importantly, we have no plans of paying it down unlike for every other major debt event save the Great Depression, which abutted WW2 and was paid down alongside it. The debt is expected to keep growing strongly as a fraction of GDP in the coming decades. We will have as much debt in 2040 as we did immediately following WW2…if things go as planned.

    What happens if we need to actually finance an emergency, like a major war or catastrophe?

    I do not think this is compatible with “the new graph looks like gradual decrease in debt since World War II up until Reagan’s big military buildup, followed by a gradual retreat from that military buildup.” At the very least, I think you should update your plot to one that doesn’t chop off 5 years of very relevant data.

    • Anon says:

      Wow, Michael Anizzimov pointed out in his reply that looking at the public debt (as I have mistakenly done) doesn’t account for the huge amounts of debt held by foreigners, which undoubtedly has significantly increased since WW2. I didn’t even notice that, and it makes the much problem far worse. Debt as a fraction of GDP is over 100% and will surpass WW2 in the near future.

      • Eric Rall says:

        I think Micheal is mistaken about that. My understanding is that “debt held by the public” is merely total debt minus debt held by the US federal government (mainly the Federal Reserve and the Social Security Administration), and includes debt held by foreigners.

        Source (Bureau for the Public Debt):

        What is the Debt Held by the Public?

        The Debt Held by the Public is all federal debt held by individuals, corporations, state or local governments, Federal Reserve Banks, foreign governments, and other entities outside the United States Government less Federal Financing Bank securities. Types of securities held by the public include, but are not limited to, Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, TIPS, United States Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities.

        • Anon says:

          Whoops, thanks very much for the correction Eric! I retract what I said about unaccounted for foreign debt. (I still stand by my first comment.)

      • Crimson Wool says:

        Debt held by the public is all debts except intragovernmental debt. It doesn’t mean debt held by the American public. Intragovernmental debt is the government raiding Social Security and Medicare and promising to pay it back.

    • Army1987 says:

      Yvain’s whole point is that progressivism has existed for centuries, so if the current debt crisis has only existed for years it’s quite unlikely that progressivism is its sole cause.

      • Anon says:

        I sort of agree with you, except that Yvain specifically was arguing about the 1940-2008 time frame. So he thought that time frame was relevant to the disagreement and all I’m doing is looking a bit *further back* for perspective and adding more data in the future. And I don’t think anyone has to say progressism is the sole cause for it to be a necessary component of the crisis, i.e. if you remove progressivism, it goes away. (And the other causes maybe uncontrollable, i.e. tech.)

        Also note that this is consistent with a story about progressive states starting out responsible but then inevitably becoming insolvent through pubic raiding of the treasury on some sort of reliable time frame where the clock starts when the state is founded. I have no idea if that’s backed up by the evidence.

    • ozymandias says:

      I feel like the giant disastrous economic downturn that happened in 2008 is potentially important here?

      • Anon says:

        Sort of. I mean, people call it “disastrous”, but this isn’t like a war where real capital is being destroyed, or even like the great depression where a third of the workforce is being wasted. It’s much milder than any of those things, and yet we’re going to have a higher debt-to-GDP ratio than ever before.

        Further, the debt is projected–by everyone, not just detractors–to just keep rising in the future even under good economic conditions. This is totally unlike all the major disasters in the past.

        • Damien says:

          I’d be less certain about the workforce not being wasted. The official unemployment rate is high but not 25%, but it also doesn’t measure people who’ve simply given up on looking for work. And unemployment destroys capital, human capital, through idleness and despair.

          The misery is less but that’s because of all those progressive policies like food stamps and unemployment insurance and Obama’s inadequate stimulus.

          The debt problem would vanish if the economy recovered and we raised taxes a little bit. Controlling the rise in medical costs would also help, since Medicare’s growth is the big long term threat to the government budget. Studies have to be very recent to include the trend that Obamacare is coincident with a massive slowdown in medical costs.

  23. I generally agree with this, but I think characterizing the Greco-Roman world as progressive is a little odd. Widespread infanticide, mutilation as punishment, and the existence of slavery as something that wasn’t even questioned are about as unprogressive as it can get.

    • Yes, but you could also have a traditionalist, theocratic state with full equality between men and women and much more humane treatment for criminals than we have now. You’re mistaking the trappings for the way of thinking.

    • Vaniver says:

      Widespread infanticide, mutilation as punishment, and the existence of slavery as something that wasn’t even questioned are about as unprogressive as it can get.

      Read “widespread infanticide” as “pro-choice.” (Agreed that mutilation as punishment and private slavery are unprogressive.)

      • Isn’t the current justification for pro-choice positions that a women can decide how to regulate affairs within her own body? Once the cord is cut, it seems like pro-choice arguments would no longer be relevant.

        • Vaniver says:

          Isn’t the current justification for pro-choice positions that a women can decide how to regulate affairs within her own body?

          Sure, but I don’t see that as being the true justification (which I suspect is family planning / abdication of responsibility). I think the official justification in the US is “privacy,” which seems much more dubious than bodily autonomy.

          Before modern medicine, I get the impression that abortions were dodgy affairs at best, and exposure is a better option for all involved. (This way, at least, the child gets a chance at adoption!)

    • Julia says:

      Compared to their neighbors, though?

  24. Three thoughts:

    1. I think you underestimate how subtle the Cathedral gets, to the point where there aren’t going to be studies. (that said, it doesn’t work even slightly the way that reactionaries think it does.) Might want to look at a close analysis of how stuff becomes the new normal. Important are that it moves the goalposts and it makes methods of thinking obscure.

    2. Some stuff here is asymmetrical. For example, there are some quasi-reactionary “social justice warrior” types. They are mostly either lower-class/less educated, or are Marxist. The rest are what I would call “deconstructionist” and are based more around views of power, specifically a rather bizarre inversion of slave morality that condemns any power that cannot be used to destroy a superordinate power.

  25. The Representatives Of All The Other Ambitious Fringe Belief Systems On The Internet says:

    Rebut me next! Rebut me next!

  26. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    This is very well written. I think the first part, the “empirical section”, was the strongest.

    I dislike the section where you talk about “real progressivism” and “lower class reactionaries”. It seems like a word game to me; a redefinition of terms.

    • Julia says:

      I also found that part confusing. Most of the people I know who advocate what you call “lower class reactionary” ideas are white people with degrees from liberal arts colleges. The poor people of color I know mostly don’t care whether white people listen to rap.

  27. gwern says:

    I remember once reading a fairly compelling case that Confucius was much more progressive than what came before.

    Ever read the Book of Lord Shang? Given that the Qin were Legalist and Confucianism was successful only after them, I am unable to think of any other political philosophy (ever, anywhere) which would not be accurately described as “much more progressive than what came before”.

    While we’re nitpicking, there are some spelling errors in OP, and Moldbug’s ‘policeman would not steal my bicycle’ is hilarious given police pensions and civil asset forfeiture – they don’t need to steal your bike, but given them an excuse and they will anyway.

  28. raptros_ says:

    section 3.1: you say

    So the reason Reactionaries want the Left to be religious is to disprove the contention that it is based on reason.

    we don’t want them to be anything, tbh, but that aside, what the Left is is protestent, which is a problem because that means they’re, well, protestant.
    if you don’t get why that’d be a problem, i don’t think you’re going to comprehend reactionary thought in general.
    oh, which reminds me, section 0.2 is a total copout and also wrong (evidence: Bryce Laliberte is a reactionary with an anarchistic political idealogy).

  29. suntzuanime says:

    So I want to thank you for writing this piece, which I largely agree with and find interesting. While reading through, however, I had a few concerns. Well, a lot of concerns, really, but I blame the length of the piece for that. What follows is a list of counterpoints I would have made if this had been the two of us talking, rather than me reading an essay of yours. I apologize that it is less developed and empirically supported than the essay to which it responds.

    *When you talk about crime being a non-issue in modern America you cite statistics saying that most American men feel safe walking alone at night. I hate to sound like some sort of hardcore, unreasonable feminazi, but I feel like women should be allowed to go outside.

    *It’s totally fair to call Hitler an example of the failure of Democracy, since he took power legitimately under the rules of a democratic society. He’s a better example than Stalin, who was essentially the appointed successor of a dictator that took power through violent uprising.

    *Since when have we needed a bill to declare war in the US? Much less, say, Hitlerian Germany or Stalinist Russia.

    *The heck there haven’t been any succession disputes in the US! There was an extremely violent dispute over the succession of King Abraham I which threatened to tear the nation apart and resulted in millions of deaths. Oh you just aren’t counting that as a succession dispute but rather as a nationalist revolt which just happened to correspond to the wrong guy succeeding to the throne. Seems like splitting hairs.

    *It is sort of not North Korea’s fault that every other country is hopelessly corrupt and therefore it cannot engage in trade with them. Or maybe it is, but like, the fact that being a Liberal Democracy means you get the super-wealthy USA as a patron isn’t really a strong argument in favor of Liberal Democracy in general, and the fact that being a Crazy Dictatorship means that you get embargoed by all the Liberal Democracies who make up most of the world isn’t really a strong argument against Crazy Dictatorship. By similar logic, Atheism is a greatly harmful philosophy because it tends to get you burnt alive for blasphemy, which hardly ever happens to good Catholics, ergo the Church is an extremely beneficial force for society.

    *So you are aware that all of these progressive things about late Rome are what Reactionaries will point to as why it collapsed, right? “Our empire is going the way of the Romans because of liberalism and perversion” is something I’ve heard from that group more than once.

    *Roman progressivism and welfare state was predicated on exploitation of the provinces for the benefit of the Romans. You could make the same argument about the US welfare state and the third world, I’m just saying, maybe it’s not such a cause for progressive celebration.

    *A distributed conspiracy does not seem all that strange if you have ever tried to evolve a population of agents to play the iterated prisoner’s dilemma against one another. You can get cliques of agents that genocide anyone unlike themselves, without having to coordinate amongst themselves, simply by promoting people who act like them and destroying people who don’t.

    *People who read Slate Star Codex are probably unusually exposed to the Reactionary idea that politics is shifting leftward, regardless of political affiliation. A survey of SSC readers is probably not representative of the US in general, especially since not all of them are US citizens.

    *Again on the political opinion change survey, consider the question “we need more gun control”. “Yes” answers have gone down significantly. This could indicate an opinion shift to the right, or it could indicate no opinion shift at all, and just *more gun control*, to the point where people’s appetites are sated. A lot of the questions seem to be like this, where it’s hard to tell if what’s shifted is political beliefs or actual facts on the ground.

    *The Reactionary argument for Communist USA is a lot deeper than you present, and basically includes the claim that McCarthy was right, our government was riddled with outright self-aware Communists who were making policy. There’s also a bit about how FDR and Stalin were sitting in a tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G, in pretty much those exact words.

    *I think the idea behind Moldbug’s “you can’t get away with murdering your own citizens even without Democracy” is that either other nations would get upset and strike you down, or your people would get upset and emigrate and if you tried to stop them other nations would get upset and strike you down. Whic doesn’t seem all that plausible but at least it’s not contradictory.

    *There is definitely some politically motivated interstate movement in the US. I graduated high school in the middle of liberal doom and gloom about the illegitimate president George “W” Bush, and one major factor in deciding what college to attend among me and my friends was whether or not the college was located in a Blue state. And I remember a recent ad campaign where Governor of Texas James “Rick” Perry was trying to persuade entrepreneurs to move to Texas based on the friendly political climate there.

    *If contraception prevents the out of wedlock births and protection and antibiotics prevent the STDs, then, uh, why do we have all these out of wedlock births and STDs?

    *I think you are too blithely ignoring the possibility of a Great Stagnation ala Tyler Cowen in which we neither all die nor all become cyborgs and we have to actually care about long-term social issues. Technological progress might slow down and there is some evidence it already is doing so. The Singularity is a beautiful dream/terrifying nightmare but like all good millennial cultists we should have a backup plan in case the end of the world doesn’t happen.

    *It’s not about the particular Gawker thugs and the particular Twitter celebrity, who isn’t even a good person worth defending. It’s about the implications for freedom of expression! Surely we all agree freedom of expression is a really great thing and things that threaten it threaten something valuable. The concern is that getting people fired for their private political views is part of a very dangerous trend in the “first they came for the misogynists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a misogynist” vein.

    *Disco is quite nice, and former US President Richard “Dick” Nixon has been unfairly demonized by history just because his political opponents managed to make his private thoughts public.

    *You can start going for equality of results before you have full equality of opportunity. Inequality of opportunity is indeed often used as a justification for equalizing results, e.g. in the form of “affirmative action” and “disparate impact” law. And this leads the right to cry “racism” and the left to laugh and point out that you can’t be racist against white people, and the right to cry “reverse racism” and the left to laugh and point out that, haha, that doesn’t even make sense, racism only goes one direction. And then earnest leftists who believed the old lines about equality under the law become very disillusioned and become easy prey for the Reactionaries who advertise themselves as being more intellectually honest on race, with some justification.

    *This talk about “real Progressivism” is setting off my “true Scotsman” alarm. Real Communists might not suppress the rights of their citizens but if your “Communist” party is full of dictatorial assholes who aren’t Real Communists I’m still going to be terrified of Communism, you know?

    *Maybe if enlightened progressive colonialism would be a real good thing, we good progressives should try to implement it? “Protecting the downtrodden” is a good progressive value, right? That’s a justification for wanting to colonize. “Take up the post-racial person’s burden” and all that.

    • Roi says:

      >”*Roman progressivism and welfare state was predicated on exploitation of the provinces for the benefit of the Romans. You could make the same argument about the US welfare state and the third world, I’m just saying, maybe it’s not such a cause for progressive celebration.”

      I’d rather look at the petro-dollar. Being a global reserve currency directs a lot of savings toward the US.

    • Army1987 says:

      *When you talk about crime being a non-issue in modern America you cite statistics saying that most American men feel safe walking alone at night. I hate to sound like some sort of hardcore, unreasonable feminazi, but I feel like women should be allowed to go outside.

      Yes, but I’d guess the Victorians who said they felt safe walking alone at night were mostly men too?

    • Max says:

      “It is sort of not North Korea’s fault that every other country is hopelessly corrupt and therefore it cannot engage in trade with them. Or maybe it is, but like, the fact that being a Liberal Democracy means you get the super-wealthy USA as a patron isn’t really a strong argument in favor of Liberal Democracy in general, and the fact that being a Crazy Dictatorship means that you get embargoed by all the Liberal Democracies who make up most of the world isn’t really a strong argument against Crazy Dictatorship. By similar logic, Atheism is a greatly harmful philosophy because it tends to get you burnt alive for blasphemy, which hardly ever happens to good Catholics, ergo the Church is an extremely beneficial force for society.”

      This is a salient objection, but not, I think, a sufficient one. It’s not as if the United States refuses to do business with communist countries (such as our single biggest trading partner,) or monarchies (such as Saudi Arabia or Brunei,) or that first world nations in general refuse to do so. The real issue is that the Kims have utterly failed to be pragmatic in their international diplomacy. In other words, they have ideological motivations which have been sufficient to impoverish their country. And of course, their lousy domestic policy hasn’t helped either. They might have done better if the there were more wealthy monarchies and dictatorships on the world scene, but maybe not; they are after all a *crazy* dictatorship, and being crazy is not a point of commonality which tends to draw people together.

    • Anon says:

      North Korea seems to be a case of exceptionally bad government even taking the isolation into account.

      It was richer than the South until the 70s at least, so it wasn’t doomed from the start. It didn’t totally fall apart until the famine of the 90s, which — how coincidentally! — was when Kim Jong-il took over. Seems like a point for the “bad government” hypothesis.

      Plus, isolation hasn’t been a death sentence for other countries. The two countries which pop to mind when I think “estranged from the U.S.” are Cuba and Iran. They aren’t Singapore or Norway, sure, but they seem like more or less civilized and stable places to live. No worse than much of China, certainly better than most of Africa, probably on par or slightly worse than most of South America. Iraq gets an honorable mention; bad dictator, but not famine-level insane while the U.S. was isolating him, and there was still a middle class before the invasion.

  30. Daniel Speyer says:

    The “futarchy” link needs an http://

    Substantive comments to follow.

  31. Pleeppleep says:

    Well, I’m an idiot. I went too far trying to account for a bias towards Whig history and against Chesterton’s fence. I don’t quite agree with everything here, and I never totally agreed with Reaction in the first place, but this seems pretty knock-down (I can’t believe North Korea VS South Korea never occurred to me). I’ll have to try harder to remember how mind-kill-y politics can be before reaching conclusions. Thanks Scott.


  32. Dib says:

    “13. Immediate resumption of trade relations with all nations at peace

    “I think the Republicans have achieved … 13…”

    What about Cuba, Iran, and the twenty or so other countries with Federal trade restrictions?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I had assumed that this was in some context of not trading with other nations for stupid reasons, and that they would accept “we hate them and they are our enemy” as a good excuse along the lines of “not at peace”. But you’re right and I should hold myself to a higher standard. I’ll change it.

  33. Daniel says:

    This post is a demolishing. Well done.

    One counter-argument you might see from Moldbug fans: they don’t like to rely on statistics. Moldbug has explicitly said this a number of times. He believes the crime statistics are manipulated a’la Campbell’s Law:

    Of course, the counter to that counter would be for the reactionaries to prove that the specific data itself has been manipulated, not just in the general case.

    • peppermint says:

      Moldbug doesn’t dislike statistics simply because everyone knows that crime statistics are politically sensitive and manipulated. He inherits his rejection of statistics from Carlyle.

      A WITTY statesman said you might prove anything by
      figures. We have looked into various statistic works,
      Statistic-Society Reports, Poor-Law Reports, Reports
      and Pamphlets not a few, with a sedulous eye to this
      question of the Working Classes and their general con-
      dition in England ; we grieve to say, with as good as
      no result whatever. Assertion swallows assertion ; ac-
      cording to the old Proverb, “as the statist thinks, the
      bell clinks”. Tables are like cobwebs, like the sieve
      of the Danaides; beautifully reticulated, orderly to
      look upon, but which will hold no conclusion….

      Statistics, one may hope,
      will improve gradually, and become good for some-
      thing. Meanwhile it is to be feared, the crabbed sa-
      tirist was partly right, as things go : “A judicious man”,
      says he, “looks at Statistics, not to get knowledge, but
      to save himself from having ignorance foisted on him.”
      With what serene conclusiveness a member of some
      Useful-Knowledge Society stops your mouth with a
      figure of arithmetic. To him it seems he has there
      extracted the elixir of the matter, on which now no-
      thing more can be said…

      Twice or three times have we heard the lamenta-
      tions and prophecies of a humane Jeremiah, mourner
      for the poor, cut short by a statistic fact of the most
      decisive nature: How can the condition of the poor be
      other than good, be other than better; has not the aver-
      age duration of life in England, and therefore among
      the most numerous class in England, been proved to
      have increased? Our Jeremiah had to admit that, if
      so, it was an astounding fact; whereby all that ever he,
      for his part, had observed on other sides of the matter
      was overset without remedy.

      –Thomas Carlyle, Chartism, 1839

      Really, just click the link and read all of Chapter 2, Statistics.

      (While you’re at it, you might be interested in reading the first and last chapters of The Latter-Day Pamphlets, which include systematic takedowns of libertarianism and progressivism, and Shooting Niagara, which says things that aren’t just unprintable but unthinkable)

      It is now almost my sole rule of life to clear myself of cants and formulas, as of poisonous Nessus shirts.

      –Thomas Carlyle

    • James James says:

      Statistics are fine but they need interpretation, judgement. E.g. the statistics show the murder rate is flat. Does this mean the reactionaries are wrong? No, because without modern medical technology the murder rate would be way up. Statistics are fine but they can be trumped by other statistics, which might in turn be trumped by other statistics.

      One solution to this is to rely more on deductive arguments. Everyone relies on a combination of deduction and evidence, even the Austrians (, but sometimes it’s a good idea to rely more on deduction.

      I find the first half of Hoppe’s “Democracy: The God The Failed” to be very convincing. (The second half argues for anarcho-capitalism.) Hoppe describes the logical consequences we may expect from democracy, and makes only a few deductive slip-ups. He predicts that democracy will increase the crime rate, and I find his argument convincing. It might be wrong, and evidence will make me look harder for a counter-argument, but evidence on its own would have to be very strong to make me doubt Hoppe’s argument. With evidence like murder statistics, it’s more likely that the statistics aren’t telling the whole story, than that Hoppe’s argument is wrong.

      • drum says:

        Except that murder rates aren’t flat, if you look over hundreds of years. They have declined steeply.

        • Murder is still illegal. The knockout game is effectively legal, provided you don’t attack Jews by mistake. Mugging is effectively legal if you are black. Home invasion robbery, hot burglary, is still illegal in America, effectively legal in Britain.

          Thus looking at murder rates fails to measure civilizational decline.

        • Troy says:

          Re, James A. Donald: Mugging is effectively legal if you are black.

          I live in a majority-black neighborhood, am no stranger to black crime, and agree with many of reactionaries’ empirical claims about race. But I still think this is a ridiculous statement. I can think of no evidence to support it, and counterexamples to it in my own experience.

          • Martin Trayvon assaulted a bus driver, no problems ensued.

            He was found in possession of ten items of jewelry matching the description of what was stolen from a house close to his school and burglary tools. No problems ensued.

            Most of those defending Martin Trayvon and accusing Zimmerman argued that Zimmerman provoked Trayvon, which implicitly admits that they think Martin Trayvon mugged George Zimmerman, as described by George Zimmerman, but that he was entitled to do so.

            Thus, mugging and burglary effectively legal if you are black, at least in some substantial parts of the US.

        • Troy says:

          The only source I can find for the bus driver claim is a tweet from his cousin. Martin may have lied about that. Or the bus driver may have not pressed charges. As for the jewelry, that his school didn’t turn him in to the police after finding the jewelry doesn’t imply that had the police known, they wouldn’t have arrested him. And that defenders of Martin say stupid things certainly doesn’t imply anything about what the police or court system will do. After all, Zimmerman was (rightly) found not guilty, despite the media clamoring for his head.

          I take it that for X to be “effectively legal,” the police have to not arrest people for X even when they know they have committed X, or people have to not be charged for X when they are arrested. I don’t see that here. Do the media and elite downplay black crime? Absolutely. But is mugging by blacks “effectively legal” in America? Absolutely not. Those two are very different statements.

          • the bus driver may have not pressed charges. As for the jewelry, that his school didn’t turn him in to the police after finding the jewelry doesn’t imply that had the police known, they wouldn’t have arrested him.

            That the bus driver did not press charges, that the school did not report him to police, implies that charging blacks with crimes that they commit is politically incorrect.

            As was obvious in the debate about Trayvon and Zimmerman.

            And that therefore, not charging black with minor crimes that they commit is politically correct.

            When political correctness collides with your job duties, what do you do? If you want to stay employed, you do what is politically correct, not what your job theoretically requires.

        • Troy says:

          That the bus driver did not press charges, that the school did not report him to police, implies that charging blacks with crimes that they commit is politically incorrect.

          That’s a pretty big leap. Blacks are arrested and charged all the time for both serious and minor crimes. Just look at all the left-wing clamor over blacks being arrested more than whites over drug possession. Their numbers are correct, even if their “cops are racist” explanation of them is dubious (other plausible explanations: blacks are less careful in their drug deals; cops are more likely to arrest dealers than others for possession, and blacks are more likely to be dealers; cops arrest people allegedly for drug possession when they suspect but can’t charge them with something more serious, like domestic abuse). So clearly the police are willing to arrest blacks for drug-related offenses.

          Another example: post-Zimmerman trial riots. The police were obviously prepared and cracked down pretty quickly on these almost everywhere, so that there was very little loss of life. Compare race riots in previous decades, or indeed riots in other parts of the world after political firestorms like the Zimmerman case.

          I’m not saying that contemporary rhetoric on race doesn’t make people wrongly uncomfortable about admitting the reality of black crime. Clearly it does. But there’s a disconnect between what people are willing to say and what they’re willing to do. Right now, our society is still willing to charge and arrest most criminals, of all races; people just don’t like to talk about the racial disparities in polite company.

          • That the bus driver did not press charges, that the school did not report him to police, implies that charging blacks with crimes that they commit is politically incorrect.

            That’s a pretty big leap. Blacks are arrested and charged all the time for both serious and minor crimes.

            About ten years ago, not sure about the exact date, I personally compared the situation in San Francisco and Redwood City. Blacks were arrested and charged all the time in San Francisco for very minor crimes. To be a black criminal in San Francisco was a really bad idea. To be a black criminal in Redwood City, no problem.

            Looked to me at the time that the ruling elite wanted to move the blacks out of San Francisco, and move the whites out of Redwood City.

  34. Daniel Speyer says:

    Seems like there’s still more to be addressed (kind of like how JRRT thought LotR was too short 🙂 ).

    From the nutshell post, an important meta-point made without evidence:

    The good Catholic in medieval Spain doesn’t feel repressed, even when the Inquisition drags away her neighbor. She feels like decent people have total freedom to worship whichever saint they want, total freedom to go to whatever cathedral they choose, total freedom to debate who the next bishop should be – oh, and thank goodness someone’s around to deal with those crazy people who are trying to damn the rest of us to Hell. We medieval Spaniards are way too smart to fall for the balance fallacy!

    I rather suspect this description of medieval Spain is false. But I don’t have good evidence of it. It’s not the impression I get from the 163x series, which has some serious research in it but is still politically-motivated fiction and has no footnotes. And they seemed to face substancial popular revolts rather frequently, despite a willingness to put them down with great brutality. But that’s still a rather crude metric. Some indicator of how oppressed the average good Catholic in Spain felt would go rather to the heart of things.

    I’d also looked forward to a tearing apart of the Fnargl concept. Leaving aside the obvious obvious gold-mining grey goo, Fnargl falls apart in more fun ways. Precommiting to buy gold with complete price indifference sends the price to infinity. Price controls get pretty clunky. Fnargle’s courts will probably ignore violent crimes against people far out of the gold-production stream. And rebelling against an invincible gold-fiend is straightforward: sabotage the gold mines until he finds it more cost-effective to go away and mine asteroids. The whole thing smells of just-world or maybe universally-convincing-argument.

    While irrelevant to the main point, I see that suicide is flat except for a drop in the late 90s. Internet penetration?

    Perhaps most significant, I see no rebuttal of the culturalist theory of race outcome differences. Is it correct? If so, there are very interesting follow-up questions, like “which specific memes produce these outcomes?” and “can we vastly improve the world by deliberately spreading these memes?”.

    • Protagoras says:

      Lots of people want to spread memes on purpose. They also want to prevent their rivals from spreading rival memes. Combining the opposition from rival meme-spreaders with the resistance people have built up because of all the manipulative, exploitative meme-spreading attempts going around has created substantial obstacles for any deliberate meme-spreading scheme. Not that it isn’t worth trying, but it’s certainly not going to be an easy way to improve the world.

      • Daniel Speyer says:

        If we can refine this to just the memes that produce good results, we might find less opposition. If we try to sell Alabamans on keeping kosher, we’ve got a no-starter. But I’m guessing the best ideas won’t set off as much defensiveness.

        • Protagoras says:

          Sadly, trying to convince people the memes have good effects is one of the most common tactics of those who use memes to manipulate, and so one of the things people are most resistant to. Thus, I fear you’re much too optimistic about how much easier it will be to spread ideas just because they’re good.

  35. If I understand social justice correctly, white people are permitted and perhaps even obligated to listen to rap music, but should be extremely cautious about performing rap music.

  36. Andy says:

    You say:

    Imagine the US presidency as a dynasty, the Line of Washington. The Line of Washington has currently undergone forty-three dynastic successions without a single violent dispute.

    While a supporter of liberal democracy, I have to quibble on this point. You bring up secession movements like our own Civil War, but the proximate cause of the South’s secession was that Lincoln had gotten elected without a single Southern state. The Southern aristocracy saw that they had lost control of the Electoral College for pretty much the first time since the Revolution, and unlike previous aberrations (like the election of either Adams, or other occasional Northern or Northern-sympathizing presidents) demographics wasn’t going to bring power back to them. See “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James McPherson for a LOT more on this. I recommend the Kindle edition because it’s a simply enormous volume.

    But the Civil War was NOT simply a secession crisis, it was a violent rebalancing of power between the agricultural South and the industrial North, the Industrial Revolution writ in metaphor into the fabric of our nation.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      Agreed. Writing off the Civil War as a “secession movement” is disingenuous.

      Scott also mentions a number of violent succession events, like when old Roman emperors were poisoned, as criticisms of Reaction, but these seem to me like little different to ballot-stuffing. Unless the conflict raises to the intensity of a civil war, it’s not a good counterpoint.

      • The other thing about the Civil War is that it was a huge powerful part of the country, that was very close to the Northern power base, unlike a lot of seccessions.

  37. Davis says:

    You’re pretty good.

  38. Mike Steinberg says:

    ***If, as the scientific racists suggest, black people have an average IQ of 85 compared to the white average of 100, then there is still a pretty big civil rights battle to be fought getting the average black person to do as well as the average white person with IQ 85. After controlling for IQ, the average black person is still twice as likely to be in poverty, 50% more likely to be unemployed, and 250% more likely to be in prison (source, other gaps appear to disappear or reverse once IQ is controlled; see link for a more complete analysis.)***

    Note that IQ is only one metric on which you’re likely to see group differences. After all, differences likely arose due to environments (cultural and geographic) favoring different traits. As UC Davis economist Greg Clark notes, in the lead up to the Industrial Revolution you had selection for more “middle class traits”. Clark writes:

    “But the arrival of settled agriculture and stable property rights set natural selection on a very different course. It created an accelerated period of evolution, rewarding with reproductive success a new repertoire of human behaviors – patience, self-control, passivity, and hard work – which consequently spread widely.

    And we see in England, from at least 1250, that the kind of people who succeeded in the economic system – who accumulated assets, got skills, got literacy – increased their representation in each generation. Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world. Modern people are thus in part a creation of the market economies that emerged with the Neolithic Revolution. Just as people shaped economies, the pre-industrial economy shaped people. This has left the people of long settled agrarian societies substantially different now from our hunter gatherer ancestors, in terms of culture, and likely also in terms of biology.” (The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin: 2010)


    Anthropologist Peter Frost writes in relation to East Asia:

    “The main cause was the establishment of a State society, its monopoly on the use of violence, and its creation of an orderly, rules-based society. Reproductive success depended on being able to play by the rules.”

    In contrast, in societies where you had tropical agriculture, female farming systems, polygamy and lower paternal investment you get selection for more “big man” traits. As Henry Harpending writes in the chapter on cultural diversity in “The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution”:

    “These different subsistence ecologies are not only products of evolution and natural selection, they are also important contexts for it. If belligerent violent warriors, killers, have a reproductive advantage as the do among the Yanomamo of the Amazon basin (Chagnon 1988) then over a time scale of centuries males will become better and better at being belligerent and violent. If instead the social system favors white collar skills, like the niche of northern European Jews in Medieval times, intelligence and other related skill will increase. Centuries of peasant farming should select for being a good peasant farmer and related abilities. A system with a high interest rate, social stability, and the rule of law should select for the ability to defer rewards, against violence, and in favor of the ability to work hard. Gregory Clark (2007) suggests that precisely these circumstances in Medieval Europe led to the Industrial Revolution, that evolution forged a new kind of human that could sustain an industrial society.”

  39. Zakharov says:

    If 51 of the 100 keys are necessary – well, I don’t know if cryptography can implement such a scheme securely, but let’s suppose that it does.

    It can indeed.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Yet another of those computer science things that sounds like a 5th level Wizard spell.

    • What cannot be implemented securely is a weapon lock that is simple, reliable, and proof against being “hacked” — that is, with a hacksaw. Not to mention that weapons become less relevant when one has an organized body of militarized troops who are perfectly capable of appropriating other weapons or beating people with the stocks of the locked ones. Controlling a force so technologically, against a conspiracy that has time and hiddenness to secretly plan a way around an uncooperative weapons system, is a pipe dream.

    • Konkvistador says:

      @Von_Kailfornen: Is that really the case? It looks to me that the ongoing automatization of the military (think drones) makes command easier to centralize.

      We are fast approaching the day, when the tank will simply roll over the protester because that is what it is programmed to do and no amount of sympathy among regular foot soldiers will help because the tank will roll over them too if they object.

      • Unless the dictator is literally sitting in the control room himself and commanding (or programming) all the tanks, he still has to retain the loyalty of the people who do. Smaller groups are easier to keep happy, sure, but then again they are also easier for conspirators to take over. I suspect the full technological solution to this problem is AI-complete.

        • peppermint says:

          No one needs a full technological solution, just a control room. The leader himself drives the tank into the protester, or personally holds a gun to the guy who does.

          It can even be anonymous as to who sent the order. Maybe the control room can even be in a location that the leader can have some plausible deniability as to whether he was in it at the time the tanks crushed the protesters. Regardless.

          Once upon a time, the pinnacle of less-lethal crowd control was spraying protesters with a firehose. That was a great solution, because it made protesters uncomfortable without actually injuring them. Unfortunately, the last people to use firehoses were opposed by the Cathedral, so firehoses as crowd control are worse that kkk nazi jim crow slavery.

          Recent developments include pepperballs, microwaves, and sound cannons, all of which can cause serious injury, but are much less dramatic-looking.

          Ending riots has been a completely solved problem since the introduction of the shotgun. Technology has just gotten better and better. Which means that any time you see a riot, the biggest question is, what faction in the government thought it was a good idea to allow it?

  40. Douglas Knight says:

    Tone: I think the tone is fine. There is something related, which is that there are a tremendous number of errors that appear to me to be introduced for rhetorical purposes. I feel uncomfortable correcting them – it makes it look like I missed the joke. Indeed, the point is probably to muddy the water.

    But even if the tone is obnoxious, I am disturbed by your repeated acknowledgement of Anissimov’s complaints about it, when his tone is so much worse.

  41. jsalvatier says:

    That British homicide rate graph 1950 – 2010 is hard to read because its so much smaller than the other lines. Maybe put it in its own chart?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yes! Graphs like that are a mistake. Graphs are for additive variables. When you try to put several variables on the same axes by normalizing by dividing by the value in 1950, they become multiplicative and you should make them additive again by taking logs. In addition to the problem you mention that the homicide range is squashed because it’s smaller than the violent crime change, there’s the additional problem that graphs of multiplicative changes are sensitive to choice of normalization because it’s harder to see the number halve than to see it double. This causes Scott to misread the graph:

      But as we can see, despite the huge rise in “violent crime”, homicide rates stay very steady and perhaps even decline a little over that period.

      No, the homicide rate has not held very steady, but ranged through a factor of two or three. Also, those are the graphs you were looking for that go back to 1910 or 1900.

  42. Sniffnoy says:

    For what it’s worth, the Sepoy Mutiny link is broken.

  43. James James says:
    BMJ. 2002 September 21; 325(7365): 615.
    PMCID: PMC1124155
    Medical advances mask epidemic of violence by cutting murder rate
    Roger Dobson
    “Murder rates would be up to five times higher than they are but for medical developments over the past 40 years.”
    “Without this technology, we estimate there would be no less than 50 000 and as many as 115000 homicides annually instead of an actual 15 000 to 2000”
    “They found that while the murder rate had changed little from a 1931 baseline figure, assaults had increased. The aggravated assault rate was, by 1997, almost 750% higher than the baseline figure.”

    So we see that what we’re actually interested in, violence, has massively increased over the 20th century, as is perfectly obvious when you read newspapers from a hundred years ago and compare them to now. One man’s modus ponens is another man’s modus tollens.

    • James James says:

      “Murder and violent crime are at historic lows”

      Sorry, where did you demonstrate that violent crime is at a historic low? It isn’t. This is bait and switch.

    • James James says:

      That should be 20,000, not 2,000.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      This was mentioned and responded to in FAQ. Search for ” And lest someone bring up that medical technology has advanced enough to turn many would-be murders into attempted murders – which is true – aggravated assaults, the category of crime that would encompass attempted murders, are less than half of what they were twenty years ago.” [when murder rate was at its peak]

      • peppermint says:

        20-40 years ago was the time of race riots and White flight, spurred on by the Kerner report and the respectable media blaming racial violence on White racism.

        The murder rate is down since the days when Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther Minister of Propaganda, attempted to ambush the police (then fled to Paris, came back and pleabargained for an assault charge and no jail time).

        So yeah. Crime is down, and this is social progress.

      • James James says:

        Yes, I saw that. != “violent crime at historic lows”

        Even Pinker’s “Better Angels” shows that violent crime was at its historic low during the Victorian period, and is higher now than it was then.

        • James James says:

          Also, how do you deal with the BMJ claim that murder rates are only flat because of technology?

          (I’m focussing on crime because, like you, I think it’s one of the strongest neoreactionary arguments. I think the strongest neoreactionary argument is architecture, but that’s harder to quantify!)

  44. coffeespoons says:

    Among this group, likelihood of unstable marriage goes down with more partners up until you reach the 20 partner or so level – at which point you’re probably capturing prostitutes, cluster B personality disorders, and other people outside the mainstream.

    Or women who’ve been single for long periods of time, but haven’t been celibate! A woman who has mostly been single at the age of 50, could easily end up having had 20 partners or more without being particularly promiscuous. Also, despite the fact that this group probably includes people with personality disorders, it’s worth pointing out that marriages are still more stable than for people who’ve had 2 partners!

  45. Deiseach says:

    Huge and fascinating post which will take a lot of digesting and consideration.

    I have no idea if I am a Reactionary or a pseudo-Reactionary or a sneaking-sympathies-with-Reaction type. Some of what you say they believe or propose sounds crazy, but if I was pushed, I would probably take monarchy over state-as-corporation and definitely a feudal monarchy over a Divine Right one.

    You make very good points about the Elizabethan era – little to no propaganda? When she controlled the dissemination and iconography of her image (remember, the vast majority of her subjects would only see her in paintings and print images) to reinforce a particular message about her right to rule? Nothing about Walsingham, her spymaster and Secretary of State, and the quite clever ploy whereby previously, “Bloody Mary” had burned people for heresy which was terribad, but under “Good Queen Bess”, instead they could be hung, drawn and quartered for treason instead (recusant laity and clergy coming in from the Continent were tried and executed not for being Roman Catholics as such but as being traitors and rebels against the Crown)?

    Henry VII was quite aware of his son Henry’s character (or lack of it); there are suggestions he intended his younger son for a career in the Church, and supposedly he said the boy would be better off as a monk – had Arthur, the elder son and heir not died young, Henry would never have succeeded to the throne. Henry VIII burned through the fortune his father had accumulated in trying to prosecute foreign wars (the main way to achieve power, glory and fame in those days) so as to make England an important power: this was one reason he was so strapped for cash and wanted to take over the headship of the Church in England with its revenue stream. He never actually thought he was inventing a new religion, merely claiming the temporal (and later notional spiritual) authority which he as head of state rightly exercised over the national church. Two at least of his wives (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Parr) were much more strongly adherent to the Protestant Reformation than he ever was; part of the thing about “denying the Sovereign’s official styles and titles” which you mentioned was the Papal title “Fidei Defensor” (which still appears on the British coinage) awarded to Henry after he wrote a book on the seven sacraments and the primacy of the papacy; after the split with Rome, Henry hung on to the title and denied that it could be revoked by the pope, so using/refusing to use it when referring to the king was a pretty clear indication of where you stood on the matter of the pope versus the king.

    Regarding Elizabeth and her legitimacy, this had been denied by her own father (three separate Succession Acts were passed; the first, in 1534 when Anne Boleyn was pregnant and they assumed the child would be a boy declared his first daughter, Mary, illegitimate and removed her from the succession; the second, in 1536, after Anne’s execution for adultery and treason made Elizabeth illegitimate and removed her from the succession; the third, in 1543, restored Mary and Elizabeth to the succession but did not restore their legitimacy).

    Lady Jane Grey and her succession to the throne is a very grey (heh) area: Edward did name her in his will, but this contravened the Third Succession Act which permitted Mary and Elizabeth to succeed in the case that there were no other heirs after Edward, his children, or children of Henry and Katherine Parr – which there weren’t). Basically she was put on the throne by family power mongering (her parents were involved in all kinds of intrigues and almost-rebellions and it is said her mother literally beat her until she agreed to be made queen under Edward’s will) and Mary having her executed was sad but reflected the political realities of the day. Jane Grey’s comment on her upbringing to a visitor:

    For when I am in the presence either of father or mother, whether I speak, keep silence, sit, stand or go, eat, drink, be merry or sad, be sewing, playing, dancing, or doing anything else, I must do it as it were in such weight, measure and number, even so perfectly as God made the world; or else I am so sharply taunted, so cruelly threatened, yea presently sometimes with pinches, nips and bobs and other ways (which I will not name for the honour I bear them) … that I think myself in hell.

    Same reason Elizabeth I had Mary, Queen of Scots executed: Elizabeth had supported the Scottish Rebellion of John Knox against Mary in 1560, partly because Mary was considered the legitimate heir by the Catholics and because of all the arguments over Elizabeth’s own legitimacy. Mary was a threat, and when her counter-rebellion failed, Elizabeth had her imprisoned until she worked up the nerve to have her executed (how much Mary was actively involving in all the plotting and intriguing that went on about her is a perennial question).

    So no, the Tudor Monarchies were not perfect, happy, trouble-free, everyone loves them examples 🙂

    No crime in Victorian times???? I’m astounded, to say the least. I refer you to the sensational (and sensationalist) Eliza Armstrong Case; one consequence of which was the raising of the age of consent from 12 (previously, it had been difficult if not impossible to prosecute cases of rape where a middle-class man paid a poor family for sex with a young daughter; he could claim that it was consensual and if she was at least 12, that was old enough) and several unintended consequences (like the infamous Labouchere Amendment).

    So you might point, for instance, to ‘lower incidence of rape’ where the matter was that a case might not be prosecuted as rape and so wouldn’t be counted there, even if by modern standards it was statutory rape or child sexual abuse.

  46. lmm says:


    Ok, you’ve provided an evolutionary just-so story for why men don’t like sluts. That’s nice. But explaining why I have a given preference, and why that reason no longer applies, doesn’t mean I stop having that preference.

    I like cookies. You can provide an evolutionary explanation for why that is (high calories), and why the modern diet means they’re actually harmful. But even so, I still like cookies, and if the availability of cookies were to decrease (or the price to rise) I would still see this as a social problem in need of solving.


    You admit you have no evidence, so I think that part doesn’t belong in a FAQ. And while you’re arguing effectively that the reactionary point is ineffectively phrased, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.


    I don’t think reactionaries generally accept the singularity, or even a weaker notion of accelerating social progress (almost by definition). Not to mention that it seems more likely the second derivative is constant than the first. That is to say, the white population has gone from fast growth to slow growth to slow decline. It seems clear what the likely next step is.

    Also the personal part about dating a genderqueer is probably likely to put off those who could benefit most from reading the arguments, and seems to already have acted as an applause light from what I see in these comments. Obviously there’s a tradeoff here between how much you value not hiding that kind of thing vs. communicating through the FAQ.


    I don’t think this resolves the question, especially to readers who are not entirely consequentialist. “Does this college admission procedure unfairly favour black students?” “It doesn’t matter, it’s outweighed by the bias future employers will have against black applicants” is rather unsatisfactory, if only because it seems to necessitate keeping a complex web of different biases and counter-biases around more or less forever.

    Asking someone that poll question is giving them permission to answer. I think there’s still a case to answer in terms of what you can and can’t say in public, what’s likely to get you fired (e.g. ruby conference drama), etc.

    As others have already said, comes across as no true scotsman.

    • coffeespoons says:

      Ok, you’ve provided an evolutionary just-so story for why men don’t like sluts. That’s nice. But explaining why I have a given preference, and why that reason no longer applies, doesn’t mean I stop having that preference.

      Fair, enough. Date someone who hasn’t been promiscuous. But reactionaries assert that promiscuous women make bad long term partners, which really doesn’t seem to be true. If all they were saying was “it’s ok to not want to date women who’ve had lots of partners” that would be fair enough”. But they seem to be advising all men not to date women who’ve had lots of partners.

    • ozymandias says:

      No one cares if you don’t want to date sluts, dude. People shouldn’t date people they don’t want to date, and there are more than enough dudes who don’t care or prefer sluts. But it is incredibly narcissistic to decide that everyone else ought to make their life decisions on the basis of your boner.

      (I mean if we’re going to do that I say we should optimize to please *my* boner, since that at least ought to get us more Scotts)

      • Sometimes it… almost makes sense when you consider competition, inter-generational cultural trends, prisoner’s dillemas, etc. However, it seems like a New Normal would be a better idea here.

      • Harold says:

        If you go around saying that a significant percentage of men don’t want to date sluts, I think you will find that many people do care.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Feminists and generally pop gender theorists do discuss the Madonna/Whore complex and its baggage of cognitive dissonance in some detail. So yes, we agree many “people” do clearly “care”. The implications drawn, however, could scarcely be more different.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      5.1.1: I hold personal preferences differently than I hold moral beliefs. For example, I personally prefer vanilla ice cream to strawberry, but I would never dream of condemning people who like strawberry ice cream, or trying to ban it. And if there were some way to change my preference and some practical reason to do so (maybe strawberry costs less, and I can get super-cheap-and-safe neurosurgery to enjoy it more) I would do so in a second. Compare to moral beliefs, where I do condemn people who don’t hold them, and I don’t want to change them. I am arguing that even if people hold non-sluttiness as a personal preference, they should not hold it as a moral belief which they try to enforce and preserve.

      5.3.1: Reactionaries are pretty good at accepting that technological progress exists, though some of them think it is slowing down. I don’t think it should be too controversial that we’ll have important genetics/etc advances in a century.

      5.4.1: I’m not particularly in favor of affirmative action, and this wasn’t meant to defend it.

      • lmm says:


        But all our moral beliefs are also ultimately accidents of evolution. e.g. some of us value children’s lives more than adult lives, and would prefer to save the lives of five children than ten adults. I can easily imagine being given an evolutionary explanation of why we would feel like this, and why those feelings are no longer optimal for the purpose evolution originally had for them. But so what? I don’t think that explanation would or should convince me that I should instead choose to save the adults.

        Or to come at it from the other side, if someone feels that sluttiness is morally wrong, and the reason for this is some particular evolutionary/cultural circumstance, why is that fundamentally different from thinking that murder is morally wrong, the reason for which is also some particular evolutionary/cultural circumstance?

        • Konkvistador says:

          Nope that doesn’t address this well at all Ozy.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Because the evolutionary reasons for disliking murder STILL HOLD.

        • Konkvistador says:

          @Alexander Stanislaw: Unless you value fitness maximization to the exclusion of all else (a real evolution worshiper), which I think no human does, this is not a good argument at all.

          There are plenty of emotions that where put there for reasons evolution would say still hold that you presumably do not approve of.

          I assume for example you don’t approve of religiosity for starters? I expect some post-hoc reasoning response to this, but the truth is our moral sentiment bottoms out at the cultural and biological inheritance we have. This inheritance has no good reasons for being there except that it is, we sometimes get confused and start worshiping principles that seem to explain a large amount of this inheritance, discarding other parts, but this is no different than the scenario of confusion where post-hoc rationalizations become values in their own.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:


          Morality is complicated, and I don’t feel this is getting productive so let me ask directly:

          Do you actually disagree that holding moral beliefs for obsolete reasons is problematic? I’d be surprised if you do. The much more interesting question of whether it is justified moral beliefs for reasons that still hold is rather complicated but actually irrelevant.

          I brought that up because Im asserted that being against murder belonged to the former category of beliefs (like slut shaming) when in fact it doesn’t.

          I don’t know what the point of bringing up religion was but. No I don’t oppose religion is general, if for instance in small villages (this is arbitrary) it serves its purpose of increases social cohesion, helping villagers through times of stress etc. then what’s the problem?

        • lmm says:


          I actually disagree that holding moral beliefs for obsolete reasons is problematic. In so far as there are reasons for my moral beliefs they seem like accidents of history; why should I care whether my morals happen to maximise my genetic fitness in the present day?

      • Also, Mr. Anissimov is a transhumanist. His reaction is in part influenced by fears that a demotist society, with its tendencies towards social engineering, might cause a singularity to result in some form of dystopia.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        I hold personal preferences differently than I hold moral beliefs. For example, I personally prefer vanilla ice cream to strawberry, but I would never dream of condemning people who like strawberry ice cream, or trying to ban it. And if there were some way to change my preference and some practical reason to do so (maybe strawberry costs less, and I can get super-cheap-and-safe neurosurgery to enjoy it more) I would do so in a second. Compare to moral beliefs, where I do condemn people who don’t hold them, and I don’t want to change them. I am arguing that even if people hold non-sluttiness as a personal preference, they should not hold it as a moral belief which they try to enforce and preserve.

        I thought you were a preference utilitarian? If not, where do your moral beliefs come from?

    • Army1987 says:

      I like cookies. You can provide an evolutionary explanation for why that is (high calories), and why the modern diet means they’re actually harmful. But even so, I still like cookies, and if the availability of cookies were to decrease (or the price to rise) I would still see this as a social problem in need of solving.

      No, it’s your problem, not a social problem, and the way of solving it that maximizes everybody’s profits is still for you to spend money on cookies to encourage people to make them. We should not subsidize cookies unless they have positive externalities. Scott’s point is that cookies used to have positive externalities but no longer do, and so we should no longer subsidize them.

      • Crime is very nearly a non-issue,

        When you buy a house with the intention of having children and a family in it, no matter how progressive you are, you are likely to inquire about “unfavorable demographic trends”, or whatever the latest PC code for that is these days.

        And you will find a house where you are not likely to have “unfavorable demographic trends” costs a few hundred thousand dollars more.

        Safety for one’s children costs a few hundred thousand.

        Which prevents people from having children and grandchildren.

        Which is a pretty big issue.

        • nydwracu says:

          Good schools. That’s what they say these days. If the schools aren’t good, they might ask about crime, or, as my father did, question whether the neighborhood looks like it’s full of the sort of people who would go bowling.

          And if the schools aren’t good, that’s about $20k per year per child for private school, because tracking is racist.

      • Novick says:

        This is the best comment of the page.

  47. naath says:

    Wow, that’s super long.

    I’d like to add that I find the idea that “increased divorce rate” == “a bad thing” very worrying. I *like* the fact that it’s easier to get divorced if I want to (supposing I were to marry first, as it happens I am cheerfully cohabiting) like, if my husband beat me, or raped me, or forced me to do all the housework, or even just if I decided I didn’t like him that much any more.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I used to believe that the statistics showing kids of divorced families did worse were overblown, or just reflected class-and-genetics-related confounders, or just reflected family strife in general. I’ve since found what I consider strong evidence that this isn’t true, and that it seriously scars children.

      Although obviously people should still have the option to divorce in cases of abuse, and perhaps even general discontent, I am sure the overwhelming majority of divorces are non-abusive, and I suspect that marital discontent rates are higher than they were in pre-divorce times although I can neither justify nor explain this.

      So in part my dislike of divorce is a proxy for dislike of marital discontent, but then it also raises its own problems too.

      • Obviously being just so perfect that there are no divorces is the best. I’ve heard some claims that arranged marriages in societies that have substantially liberalized but where arranged marriages are common divorce less due to better expectations and less culture of being in love with love. Or it could just be social pressure not to divorce.

      • ozymandias says:

        I am incredibly curious what the strong evidence is.

      • Randy M says:

        “I suspect that marital discontent rates are higher than they were in pre-divorce times although I can neither justify nor explain this.”

        Do you mean prove an explanation or offer one? Here’s one offered: Having a divorce option means taking more seriously the comparison between one’s spouse and potential other spouses, although since one will only see the darker side of one’s spouse and rarely that of potential spouses, there will be a ‘grass is always greener’ effect. Whereas with little divorce as an option, people may try harder to look for the bright side.

        Or, all those divorces are damaging the models of the children and leading to less pleasant marriages in the next generation.

        Or they are only correlated, not causally linked to each other but to something like an increased focus on personal feelings and such.

      • coffeespoons says:

        What is the strong evidence that it isn’t true? Since parenting in general impacts children far less than their genes and the environment, I would have thought that divorce wouldn’t have much of an impact.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think we’ve put so much pressure on marriage to be the perfect relationship that it is no surprise that divorce rates have risen – that, and if you make divorce easier to get and applicable in wider range of cases (e.g. now you can get divorced for more reasons than adultery or abuse), then of course people will avail of it more, as well as that marriage is no longer necessary as a means for women (in general) to have some means of support – they can now earn their own livings.

        Marriage in previous generations was not primarily about love. I think I’ve quoted on here before the anecdote about a cousin of my mother, whose marriage was arranged when her mother met a man buying cattle at a mart and she told him “I’ve a nice little heifer at home”. Since we’ve put all our eggs into the basket of marriage being only valid if it’s for love, if both parties are in love for the duration of the marriage, that kids are robust and resilient and won’t be harmed by marriage breakup (i.e. better a good divorce than a bad marriage), that personal fulfilment/satisfaction trumps voluntarily-assumed obligations, and that love means a state of permanent sexual/romantic excitation, then as naath says, if she decides one day she doesn’t like her theoretical husband that much anymore, of course she’s going to trade him in for a better model.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Marriage in previous generations was not primarily about love. I think I’ve quoted on here before the anecdote about a cousin of my mother, whose marriage was arranged when her mother met a man buying cattle at a mart and she told him “I’ve a nice little heifer at home”.

          But informal monogamous partnerships like that still obviously happen! Just substitute old-timey social networks for, y’know, “social networks”. Clearly there’s lots of cases where people cohabitate and have sex voluntarily but for less-than-romantic motives and without any particular ideas of “true love”. So yes, I might concede that those might’ve superceded some of the old marriage’s functions – but it’d surprise me if modern people actually hated every sort of “low-expectations” partnership.

      • houseboatonstyx says:

        What about distinguishing marriages with children from childless/childfree marriages? Rate of parents divorcing may go in a bad column, but availability of divorce for the childless/childfree couples in a good column.

      • Damien says:

        Do children of divorce do worse than children of parents who would divorce but can’t because it’s not an option? What’s the comparison made by your evidence? Sampling our current society to find that children whose parents divorce do worse than children whose parents don’t, doesn’t prove divorce is the scarring factor; could be the divorcing families were dysfunctional to begin with, leading to both divorce and scarred children.

        Or in two words, selection bias.

    • Konkvistador says:

      I don’t see much point in having marriage be an institution at all if divorce is easy.

      • Multiheaded says:

        I don’t see much point in having marriage be an institution at all if divorce is easy.


        Say, Konk… you’ve been running this More Right thing for what, 9-10 months now? More? Anyway, when you advertised it on LW, I warned you that your totally “easy” way of posting comments by email submission only would make ALL the difference from normal pre-moderation. You persisted.

        So how many comments have you been mailed since then?

        Tl;dr – trivial inconveniences not only work, they work with KILLER efficiency.

        • That explains the 40% (or more) divorce rate pretty well I guess.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Multiheaded: why are you acting so … strange?

        • Konkvistador says:

          I’m stating that disincentivizing divorce via pre-commitment is what marriage is what marriage is all about. It doesn’t really matter to my mind if this is a trivial inconvenience ballooned out of proportion by human irrationality or strong penalties.

          I was saying that without a divorce that at least seems difficult to all involved, why marry? Why have the institution in place? If one doesn’t believe in this, why not advocate the boyfriend-girlfriend institution that sprung up in the past 150 years seems widely spread enough to pick up the slack.

          Those who on the left argue for abolishing marriage usually seem more consistent for this and other reasons.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:


          Because even with no fault divorce, marriage is pretty obviously very different than just calling each other boyfriend(s) and/or girlfriend(s).

          If this is just a semantics debate though, feel to make up two new words for marriage with and without no fault divorce. (If your arguing that one is superior to the other that’s rather different than arguing that only one is “really marriage”)

        • Crimson Wool says:

          If this is just a semantics debate though, feel to make up two new words for marriage with and without no fault divorce. (If your arguing that one is superior to the other that’s rather different than arguing that only one is “really marriage”)

          You don’t need to make up a word. There’s already a word for an exclusive, monogamous relationship between a man and a woman which can be ended quite easily by either of the partners where the two live together. It’s called concubinage.

        • Konkvistador says:

          I don’t recall ever claiming that I’d get a load of comments. I did claim I’d get a much better signal to noise ratio and it would nicely fit the time I had allotted to them. The emails and subsequent correspondences they launched make me feel quite vindicated about.

          I certainly wouldn’t trade 500 comments of the kind one sees here for the 50 emails.

        • Konkvistador says:

          (at) Alexander Stanislaw: Cohabiting with your girlfriend/boyfriend actually looks legally and otherwise basically the same as no fault divorce marriage.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          @Konkvistador and Crimson Wool
          I await an argument that marriage without no fault divorce is better than marriage with no fault divorce.

          An argument to the contrary are that no fault divorce allows women to escape domestic abuse without the emotionally draining process that marriage without no fault divorce forces women to go through.

          Also I’m shocked by the characterization as no-fault divorce as “easy”. Easier perhaps, but easy?

        • Crimson Wool says:

          I await an argument that marriage without no fault divorce is better than marriage with no fault divorce.

          Divorce without good cause (“good cause” being abuse, infidelity, or the like) is a betrayal of a solemn promise to a person who (presumably) trusted you deeply. That sort of treachery should not be easy.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Oh you’re a deontologist. Okay well I nothing to say to that.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Oh you’re a deontologist. Okay well I nothing to say to that.

          I’m not a deontologist, I’m a consequentialist. I oppose betrayal on the basis of: timeless decision theory (people won’t cooperate with you if they believe you are the sort of person who will betray them; the best way to avoid them believing that about you is to not be that sort of person), the adaptive nature of reciprocal altruism, and the severe negative emotional consequences which come from betrayal of trust.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Alexander Stanislaw says:

          An argument to the contrary are that no fault divorce allows women to escape domestic abuse without the emotionally draining process that marriage without no fault divorce forces women to go through.

          Actually that’s an excellent argument against no fault divorce.

          Women have a taste for anti-social traits in men.

          Men have a taste for whatever gets them women.

          Allowing no fault divorce lets women lie to themselves about the nature of their future husband – knowing that they can get out of the relationship easily if they don’t like the outcome.

          So the question is – are women getting “tricked” into relationships with dark triad men or do they prefer those men? Because if they prefer those men the incentive is for all men to improve their fortunes with women by acting in an anti-social manner.

          Of course, women really do prefer those anti-social traits in the abstract and what happens with easy divorce and with “domestic violence” intervention is that our society chooses to make it easy for women to have sex with anti-social men by providing all sorts of resources to get women out of relationships with those men after it’s gone over whatever line that woman has. This, of course, provides a huge incentive for men to act anti-socially and breeds for anti-social people.

          It’s like civilization in reverse.

          If women got trapped in these relationships they would think more seriously before getting involved in them – which would align the social incentives much better.

        • ozymandias says:

          Steve Johnson: …Um, you *do* realize that the rate of emotional abuse for men and women is basically identical, yes? If your explanation for abuse is that women are attracted to dark-triad men, then men must be equally attracted to dark-triad women.

          It is true that men are less likely to date people who physically abuse them. I suppose under this theory men just like people who mindfuck and degrade them, while women like people who mindfuck them, degrade them, *and* hit them.

        • I have a notion that some women like scary men for the same reason that some men like motorcycles.

          This is amplified by the cultural idea that women ought to be able to improve their men.

          I don’t know how much some men end up with scary women because they like the thrill of danger, and how much it’s that there’s social pressure for men to chose the best-looking women they can get, which means being less able to chose based on emotional factors.

          Other possibilities include people behaving a lot better when they’re courting, and replicating traits from the family a person grew up in.

      • Damien says:

        It’s a bundle of next-of-kin, property-inheritance, and child-custody/guardianship rights.

  48. Pingback: On the Opposition to Sluttiness, Among Other Things | Anarcho Papist

  49. Anonymous says:

    I found much of this post informative and agreeable on many matters, but…

    Scott Alexander said:
    If, as the scientific racists suggest, black people have an average IQ of 85 compared to the white average of 100, then there is still a pretty big civil rights battle to be fought getting the average black person to do as well as the average white person with IQ 85. After controlling for IQ, the average black person is still twice as likely to be in poverty, 50% more likely to be unemployed, and 250% more likely to be in prison

    You are looking at black/white differences through the rubric of an individual level analysis, when you should be looking at them through a population-IQ-outcome model. Consider the difference in social context for a white person with an IQ of 85 and a black person with an IQ of 85. Probabilistically, the white person is more likely to have a family, community and peer-group with a higher average IQ than the black person’s family, community and peer-group. The anti-social tendencies of the black guy are more likely to be reinforced by his surroundings, while they anti-social tendencies of the white guy are more likely to be discouraged by his surroundings.

    I don’t see how one can realistically expect to equalize these racial IQ equivalent outcomes without some totalitarian forms of social engineering that involves coercively ripping blacks and whites away from their community, their friends and their family.

  50. Said Achmiz says:

    The quote from Cyrus’ coronation oath is apparently fake. (This is the site Wikipedia points to as a source for the translation.)

    • gwern says:

      In some ways, the source of your fake claim makes his use even more powerful (emphasis added):

      the Cyrus Cylinder remains an interesting document, because it shows that the common elements of Babylonian and Assyrian royal propaganda were also used by the Persian conqueror: for example the restoration of the temples, good care for the gods, the return of exiles and the statues of the deities (cf. ABC 2, 15-17), and a lengthy titulary (cf. the Nabonidus Cylinder from Sippar). So, Cyrus presented himself to the conquered nation as a normal ruler. There is no evidence that Cyrus inaugurated a new policy of tolerance.

      (Since he’s just trying to show how far back we can see these policies being popular, and if Cyrus’s version was not ‘new’ and can be traced back to multiple earlier civilizations, that pushes back the earliest-desirability-attestation by another few centuries or maybe millennia.)

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Well and good, except that if you read the text of the inscription, it seems that the only concrete measure of tolerance Cyrus speaks of is reverence for the conquered people’s gods, and the return of certain exiled peoples (though not, in fact, the Jews). No mention of human rights, anti-slavery, personal freedoms, or anything else of the kind is to be found.

        In any case, my objection was first to the quoting of a fake historical document, and only second to its implications (although I note that as said quote is the entirety of Scott’s reply to the question of that section, he should perhaps reconsider and rewrite the section).

        • gwern says:

          I’m a little confused now. Are you saying he’s quoting a quote from a faked inscription, which itself is fake since the quote is not actually from the faked inscription?

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Your confusion confuses me. Elaborating:

          The Cyrus Cylinder is a real historical document.

          Its text has been translated, and its contents are known to us.

          The passage Scott quoted is not, in fact, anywhere within that text.

          Where is Scott’s quoted passage from, then? Well, it seems someone (in modern times, likely sometime between 1879 and 1920 [1] [2]) wrote a fake translation, inserting some text (the quoted passage) about human rights and so forth.

          Scott attributed it to the actual, real text of the Cyrus Cylinder. This attribution is erroneous, and thus any conclusion drawn from the alleged fact that the Cyrus Cylinder contains the quoted text is based on an invalid premise.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Thank you. I’ve removed that reference.

      • nydwracu says:

        If the linked Wikipedia article on Zhang Xianzhong is at all accurate, the Seven Kill Stele is probably a Qing-era myth, and a lot of the rest of the story also comes from Qing Dynasty historians, who do not seem particularly trustworthy on the topic of the regime that directly preceded them.

        • Konkvistador says:

          I’m somewhat surprised the Seve Kill Stele was used as an example of monarchist horribleness at all, because on a certain IRC channel it was widely discussed a few months back as a (possibly fictional) example of a leftist singularity going beyond the Jacobin Terror stage, beyond the Khmer Ruge stage about as close to the terminal stage James A. Donald describes as is possible.

          “The left singularity is the same each time in its approach to infinite leftism, but differs chaotically and surprisingly each time in its ending short of infinite leftism

          If it did not end, the final outcome, infinite leftism in finite time, would be that everyone is tortured to death for insufficient leftism, except the last torturer, who then commits suicide to punish himself for failure to inflict infinitely severe torments, but this does not happen in practice, because always at some point short of infinite leftism, something, or someone, goes boom – though not necessarily very far short of infinite of leftism.”

          Considering his regime began “with such liberality, justice and magnificence by which he captivated all hearts that many mandarins, famous both in civic as in military affairs whom fear was keeping concealed, left their hideouts and flew to his side.”

          And allegedly ending with having his followers kill everyone, then kill their wives, then kill each other is relevant. Also note that if I recall right Chinese Communist historians sought to rehabilitate him as a progressive figure since at least the 1950s, praising him for his far minded social reforms.

          A milder account of his actions can be explained as a case of collapsing time preferences, as he beings to lose the war to overthrow the Empire he more and more spitefully burns all around him.

          Also the description of many dissidents coming out of hiding to join his enlightened society followed by a campaign of terror, made me at the time wonder if this was account of a ancient hundred flowers bloom gambit.

        • Konkvistador says:

          “It is a measure of the moral atmosphere of Chinese communism that this revolting psychopath, on account of his early land-to-the-peasants moves and his patriotic opposition to the Manchus, is rated as a “positive character” in communist history books — even, in one 1979 encyclopedia, a “hero of the common people.” ”

          -John Derbyshite, here

          • I am pretty sure that the story of Zhang Xianzhong’s autogenocide is true, and denial is just PC excusing leftists.

            Despite Pol Pot, Cambodia is still full of Cambodians.

            Sichuan, however, contains few or no Sichuanese, which is compelling evidence of a very close approach to the left singularity.

            The Seven Kill Stele is so very twenty first century: Just substitute earth for heaven:

            Earth brings forth innumerable things to nurture man.
            Man has nothing good with which to recompense Earth
            Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.
            10:10 no pressure.

            Placing this in the pattern of past left singularities, and supposing it to be the most extreme example of the group, then logically the Sichuanese would have, as reported, all flayed each other alive.

        • Konkvistador says:

          “It is a measure of the moral atmosphere of Chinese communism that this revolting psychopath, on account of his early land-to-the-peasants moves and his patriotic opposition to the Manchus, is rated as a “positive character” in communist history books — even, in one 1979 encyclopedia, a “hero of the common people.” ”

          -John Derbyshire, here

        • Konkvistador says:

          In his new post on my hypothesis James cites this gem:

          “Follow the right way on behalf of heaven in killing the wealthy and aiding the poor”

          So we see Zhang Xianzhong’s regime was clearly nasty rightism, cleverly disguising itself under leftist slogans.

  51. Steve says:

    1. Wow.

    2. Holy crap, wow!


    Suppose there are 100 shareholders. If all keys are necessary, then a single shareholder can paralyze the military. If 51 of the 100 keys are necessary – well, I don’t know if cryptography can implement such a scheme securely, but let’s suppose that it does.

    This has been a solved problem since 1979. The default-on/off problem reduces to a key distribution problem, which is less solved but has a lot of well-studied workarounds.

    But I agree that any real-world implementation would likely be heavily flawed; and maybe even worse in net than the current system.

  52. Crimson Wool says:

    But of course, most sluts today have these two issues figured out. Contraception prevents the out of wedlock births. Protection and antibiotics prevent the STDs. So the old reasons no longer hold.

    The latter is definitely untrue. STDs are still a substantial risk encountered with sexually promiscuous women over non-promiscuous women. This… should really be obvious. Condoms break (and also don’t effectively protect against all STDs). Some STDs are incurable. The more sexual partners you have, the more likely you are to have an STD. I can’t believe I have to write that. It’s just… really obvious.
    I suppose I could steelman your argument by saying, “well, but we can determine whether or not someone has an STD and just use that as a metric,” but the problem is that you can’t. Many STDs are infectious well before they’re symptomatic, many, many people with STDs do not realize they have them, etc. That’s leaving aside the possibility of one’s sexual partner lying – a quite significant possibility, it must be noted, when dealing with something as stigmatized as an STD. You could, theoretically, go with a potential sexual partner down to the clinic to get tested for an STD before having sex with them, but although that is a very logical and eminently reasonable thing to do, I’d imagine it’s something of a mood killer. Alternatively, you can appeal to the wisdom of the ancients, and use a potential sexual partner’s number of past sexual partners to estimate their STD risk. While a bit half-assed and less reliable than testing, it’s certainly better than nothing.

    (I am following the lead of my interlocutors in concentrating on female sluttiness only here, since it seems to be the only type anyone cares about. Yes, you’re very clever for pointing out that men can be promiscuous as well. Why don’t you follow it up with the phrase “double standard” or a reference to “playing the field”?)

    I agree. Men should not have sex before marriage. In fact, I recently chewed through the NSFG data for men a bit, and found that men who waited until marriage had a 94.38% probability of an unambiguously successful marriage (still on first marriage or a widower). For men who lost their virginities to a woman they were going steady with and later got married to someone (no easy way to determine whether it was that same special someone, alas), the odds plummet to 65.93%. Divorce risk over the two cohorts rose from 4.06% to 30.31% (the remainder were separated from their first wives). This is a substantially greater advantage for men than women [1]. If anything, we should be encouraging men not to go about having premarital sex.
    Part of the reason for focusing on female promiscuity is probably that it’s where most (if not virtually all) of the data lies. I have gone out and looked for data on the subject of male sexual promiscuity and its effect on future marital health, and I couldn’t find much (there’s a BYU study where more sexual partners = less likely to rate oneself as extremely sexually satisfied with one’s current spouse). The numbers I just gave you are the most substantive I’ve ever found, and I personally went through the data myself. Even the aforementioned data set (CDC NSFG) does not include the question “what is your current relationship to your first sexual partner” for men. For women it asks that question. I don’t know why this is. If I was being cheap and pithy, I could say it’s because men are worried that the results won’t be to their liking (i.e. that men having premarital sex turns out to have a huge negative impact on future marital health – which it seems that it does), but I honestly don’t know.

    The data provide some evidence that an absolute commitment to purity – no sex before marriage, or sex only with your husband-to-be – predicts marital stability. But beyond that – in the two to twenty partner range in which recent social change has been occurring – there’s no correlation between increasing sluttiness and decreasing marital stability.

    I agree. People should only marry virgins.
    (Obviously, one shouldn’t get legally married at all, as modern marriage is a legal deathtrap for men, and it’s completely open to being changed in any kind of arbitrary/retarded way the government feels like over the coming decades, but a spiritual/personal marriage without government involvement, definitely.)
    [1] Women who waited had an 81.35% chance of unambiguous success and a 14.55% chance of divorce. Women who were going steady had a 63.45% chance of success versus a 30.67% chance of divorce. Interestingly, there was a statistically significant variation in odds of first marriage success for men who waited until they were engaged versus men who had sex with a girlfriend (p=0.000392), whereas there was no such variation between women who waited until they were engaged and women who had sex with a boyfriend (p = 0.287941).

    • ozymandias says:

      I find it quite interesting that to you women are quite willing to lie about whether they have STIs but not about how many sexual partners they had.

      Your chart covers syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital warts, genital herpes, and “self-reported high risk of HIV.” The first three are curable. The latter two are asymptomatic for most people, there’s a vaccine for the kinds of HPV which cause cancer, and warts can be removed. I am not sure what “self-reported high risk of HIV” means. But by some definitions I’m at high risk because I’ve had protected sex with an HIV-negative man who decades ago had sex with an HIV-negative man. Like… I’m kind of surprised 21+ is only at 40%!

      That said, if you are poly or serially monogamous and don’t get tested for STIs regularly, you’re an idiot.

      I feel like traditional values in general and religion in specific are *huge* confounding variables on the sexual promiscuity data. Most of the people who are virgins when they get married also believe divorce is immoral. Obviously, if you think divorce is wrong, you’re less likely to get divorced. But that doesn’t mean that people who stay virgins until they get married and don’t believe divorce is immoral are less likely to get divorced.

      It also means that divorce rate is a less reliable indicator of relationship satisfaction: for all we know, a lot of that 94% is miserably staying together because they find divorce unthinkable, making themselves and everyone else around them wretched. I mean, it might work out okay if you only care about divorce rate and not relationship satisfaction? But that seems like a weird thing to do.

      • Crimson Wool says:

        I find it quite interesting that to you women are quite willing to lie about whether they have STIs but not about how many sexual partners they had.

        They do not necessarily have to be more willing to lie about STI status. There only has to be a significant number of women who will lie about STI status but not claim to be virgins.
        I don’t personally care that much about STDs. It’s not a terribly important reason to avoid premarital sex (though it is a decent one). Scott mentioned it, though, so I reacted to it. It’s simply absurd to think that a woman with five past sexual partners has the same STD risk as a woman with one. I mean, I can imagine universes where that might be true, but it’s really obvious this isn’t one.

        That said, if you are poly or serially monogamous and don’t get tested for STIs regularly, you’re an idiot.

        Yeah, well, people are idiots.

        I mean, it might work out okay if you only care about divorce rate and not relationship satisfaction? But that seems like a weird thing to do.

        I do, actually.
        The problem is that being married doesn’t actually make people happier and relationship satisfaction tends to go down over time, which makes the idea of “relationship satisfaction” being a good model for “successful marriage” seem… wrong-headed? Ill-advised? Liable to jack up divorce rates? I mean, either you have to abandon the idea of marriage altogether as a failed enterprise that doesn’t succeed at its goals (if relationship satisfaction and/or happiness are its goals), or you accept that it serves a purpose other than having a positive influence on your emotions. If the latter, success at that purpose would probably be better measured by something like, I don’t know, divorce rate plus abuse risk combined, than by relationship satisfaction.
        I personally believe it’s the latter, namely, that it serves a purpose of constructing a formalized, explicit, lifelong (sometimes contractual) relationship with symmetrical investments from two (or more) parties. Such a thing is obviously beneficial even excluding other advantages, like having children, financial considerations, exclusive sexual access, etc.

        • ozymandias says:

          I’m a hedonic utilitarian, I think the only way to judge *anything* is based on the positive influence on people’s emotions.

          Thank you for pointing me to those articles; I have something new to investigate. However, assuming the author’s thesis is correct, that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to stop caring about relationship satisfaction. It just means the problem of relationship satisfaction is bigger than I thought it was, and there’s more of a need to help people find and maintain satisfactory relationships. It does not particularly make sense to me to argue that marriage is neutral-to-bad and therefore we shouldn’t give people a chance to get out of it.

          (Yes, children. But divorce actually helps children of sufficiently unhappy marriages.)

        • Crimson Wool says:

          I’m a hedonic utilitarian, I think the only way to judge *anything* is based on the positive influence on people’s emotions.

          I view “not betraying those who trust you” as a terminal moral value, i.e., all else being equal, you shouldn’t do it. I view divorce (under most circumstances) as a betrayal of those who trust you: your spouse trusted you to stand by them through thick and thin because you said you would, and you, well, didn’t. A person who will file for divorce (under circumstances where they have not yet been betrayed) is basically practicing a “fair-weather love,” except dressing it up in the language and garb of true love. We think of fair weather friends as shitty friends: shouldn’t we think of fair-weather lovers as shitty lovers? At least, when they explicitly say “till death do we part”?
          From a hedonic utilitarian perspective (I thought you were a preference utilitarian?), betrayal is bad for a variety of reasons it’s rather trivial to come up with. IMO, the most interesting one is that betrayal is a bad strategy, as seen by the fact that tit-for-tat is the optimal strategy for the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. Think of a marriage like an iterated prisoner’s dilemma: cooperate (help your spouse, be nice to them, etc) or defect (divorce, cheat, abuse, etc). Defection is wrong, here, just in terms of strategy. There’s also the timeless decision theory analysis of betrayal, i.e., don’t do it, because nobody wants to marry a traitor.
          Another example, a quote from C.S. Lewis’s excellent We Have “No Right To Happiness” (highly recommended):

          Mr. A.’s action [divorcing his wife who had, quote, “consumed herself by bearing his children and nursing him through the long illness that overshadowed their earlier married life” in order to marry a younger woman] is an offense against good faith (to solemn promises), against gratitude (toward one to whom he was deeply indebted) and against common humanity.

          I’m trying to conceptualize an argument for betrayal being bad, and it’s a bit hard because I’m not sure how you can hold another position? Maybe the problem is that you don’t see divorce as betrayal? I mean, you made a solemn promise, after (hopefully) some serious consideration, to someone who knew and trusted you, to be true to them “in good times and bad.” If you don’t follow through, it’s a betrayal. I guess it’s alright if you both agree to get divorced, but what if you don’t? What if you go through all the trouble and pain of caring for someone and staying by them through their hard times, and then when your hard times come around, and it’s their turn to go through pain and trouble, they hand you divorce papers? Haven’t they done something especially wrong? It is, I suppose, less wrong to divorce your spouse if they haven’t yet had to go through the trouble of supporting you in trying times, but I think it’s definitely still wrong if they would have, given reason.

          It does not particularly make sense to me to argue that marriage is neutral-to-bad and therefore we shouldn’t give people a chance to get out of it.

          Much like how although I think that people should wait until marriage, I don’t think the government should forcibly stick chastity belts on them, I also think that although people shouldn’t get divorced without really good cause, I don’t think divorce should be an unavailable choice to people without really good cause. I do think it’s a choice that, legally speaking, divorce should tend to incur costs on the traitor, in proportion to the degree of betrayal, etc. (To put it another way, if, after a 20-year marriage and huge investment, your spouse leaves with some pretty young thing, you should get more in the divorce than if, after a 20-year marriage and huge investment, you get bored and decide to fuck off.)

          (Yes, children. But divorce actually helps children of sufficiently unhappy marriages.)

          I was actually talking about having children with your spouse, rather than just having them out of wedlock by surrogate or sperm donor or something. I’d imagine that people prefer that. As in, that’s an advantage to being married versus being single, not necessarily to being married versus being divorced.

        • ozymandias says:

          I think the difference is that I don’t necessarily see divorce as a betrayal, yes. In fact my intuitions are more along the lines of “why on *earth* would I want someone I love to stay in a relationship with me when that relationship is making them miserable?”

          That said I think there’s something to be said for precommitting to put absurdly large efforts into working out any marital problems, for exactly the reasons you outline. I mean, I’d do that myself, for both aesthetic and practical reasons. But I don’t think I’d say that ought to be a rule for everyone, nor would I say that relationships that adopt a more “as long as we want to be together we’ll be together” model shouldn’t have the benefits of marriage.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          I think the difference is that I don’t necessarily see divorce as a betrayal, yes. In fact my intuitions are more along the lines of “why on *earth* would I want someone I love to stay in a relationship with me when that relationship is making them miserable?”

          Well, consider the opposite case. Can you imagine a situation wherein you would be very unhappy in a relationship but still believe that you ought to stay in it? I can, rather trivially, and I’d expect any potential spouse to reciprocate that emotion.

          That said I think there’s something to be said for precommitting to put absurdly large efforts into working out any marital problems, for exactly the reasons you outline. I mean, I’d do that myself, for both aesthetic and practical reasons. But I don’t think I’d say that ought to be a rule for everyone, nor would I say that relationships that adopt a more “as long as we want to be together we’ll be together” model shouldn’t have the benefits of marriage.

          “Together, no matter what,” works fairly well with the legal construct of marriage as it necessarily exists. “As long as we want” does not. A very important part of marriage is the legal merger of the assets of two people, as well as a variety of other effects. That makes sense if and only if you can reasonably expect the people involved to stay together. The trouble of unmerging assets, however, becomes not just possible but expected in the “as long as we want” model (the percentage of failed first marriages has become enormous; an estimated 50%-ish of first marriages will end in separation or divorce by the 1995 NSFG data, for example). Uniting one’s property cannot make sense in the “as long as we want” model: it’s too fickle and risky to whoever has more assets.

          Further, there is no way for the good, loving, righteous people interested in the “together, no matter what” model to avoid marrying the “as long as we want” people if you call the legal arrangement they both get involved in by the same name and give it the same rules. “As long as we want” people still (generally) swear “for better, for worse,” “till death do we part” and other such clearly “no matter what” oaths, since “we promise to be together, so long as it is convenient for both parties, and so long as no negative emotional affect ever comes from our union” is terribly unromantic. I suppose you could argue that “well, you really ought to know the person you’re marrying well enough to tell!” but 1) people vastly overestimate the degree to which they know other people and 2) that would presume that no one ever moves from one category to the other.

    • Protagoras says:

      The STD study link you provide gives virtually no information about who was studied, methodology, etc. I’ve often seen studies of STD rates which report the opposite, and have generally heard the opposite from experts in sexual health, so without further information I have to say I’m quite skeptical of this one. Perhaps as ozy suggests this study is relying too heavily on unreliable self-reporting.

  53. Harcourt Mudd says:

    Demotic/ism/ist appears in Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence. I’m not entirely sure if an encyclopedic work seeking to draw out themes from western civilization’s ‘progress’ over 500 years plus is exactly making up a word to suit an argument. They likely got it from him or thinkers he cited in that book.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Barzun/Moldbug is an interesting connection. Thanks!

      “Demotic” appears (in non-egyptian sense) in every dictionary. Barzun never uses “demotist” and “demotism,” nor probably anyone before Moldbug. But Barzun does use “demotic” with an unusual shading, very close to Moldbug.

      Furthermore, one could replace Moldbug’s “demotic” with “super-republican,” PR in place of SPQR. Many people are surprised that there is a category “republic” meaning “not a monarchy.” Usually “not X” is a bad category, but historically many people find it useful to unify dictators and democracies. If Scott appeals to the existence of words as evidence of useful categories, he must accept that this is a useful category. And thus he should also accept super-republican as a useful category, deserving a word, even if he might dispute the contents of it.

  54. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    Haven’t finished it yet but this bit has entered into my list of greatest things ever written:

    “Suppose I wanted to argue that mice were larger than grizzly bears. I note that both mice and elephants are “eargreyish”, meaning grey animals with large ears. We note that eargreyish animals such as elephants are known to be extremely large. Therefore, eargreyish animals are larger than noneargreyish animals and mice are larger than grizzly bears.”

  55. Violent attacks by strangers were seen as grave cause for concern. There was a disproportionate amount of attention paid to violent nighttime assaults by strangers in urban areas, called “garroting” and similar to what we might call “mugging”. There were garroting panics in 1856 and 1862,

    Victorians were horrified by a “crime wave” of one mugging in the city of London every few weeks.

    The crime wave, obviously, did not go away, but has become steadily worse and worse.

  56. On your data, murder and suicide shows no long term trend, but public safety is way down, and the state is imprisoning vastly more people: This is consistent with the reactionary description of the current social order as anarcho tyranny: Everything is illegal, except crime, which is legal.

  57. Pingback: Shots Across the Bow | The Reactivity Place

  58. Gunlord says:

    Utterly fantastic post, Scott. I’m sorry to say I can’t give you any constructive criticism or suggestions—your commentators have already handled that wonderfully. I don’t have much else to offer besides effusive praise and the assertion that this is both the most comprehensive and effective response to neoreactionary ideology I’ve yet seen. I was honestly thinking of making some of these points in a future post on my own blog (particularly in regards to technology and progressivism), but I’m in ckp’s predicament: You’ve already expressed the ideas better than I ever could! ;_;

    Well, on further contemplation, perhaps I could attempt to provide something more substantial than flattery. While your article does an excellent job of addressing neoreactionaries on empirical and historical grounds, have you thought of refuting them with other neoreactionaries? You have repeatedly pointed out that neoreactionaries aren’t a monolithic group (very charitable of you—your ability to live up to your own ideals is something I admire), but neoreactionaries themselves have not been shy about highlighting the various factions of their movement, not all of which are entirely comfortable with the others. If you’re interested, these posts are a decent starting point:

    The ‘habitable worlds’ link is particularly interesting—just looking at how crowded its “taxonomy” is should give you an idea of how divided the ‘reactosphere’ is. I have my own opinions on the phenomenon, but after reading this article I would wager you’d have an even more insightful analysis of it.

    Of course, I hope I’m not coming across as insisting you write on it, or anything else you may not necessarily find compelling for that matter. Since you are interested in these people and their ideology, though, I hope that I’ve introduced you to some engaging reading, at the very least, and I hope that is a contribution worth more than nothing. In any case, thanks again for the excellent work you have here. I think I’ll be paying more attention to this blog from here on out!

    • A few notes: 1. The Visualizing Neoreaction graph includes a large number of… really awful people, who, unlike neoreactionaries, honestly seem to be motivated more by hatred than by anything else.

      2. There seems to be a lot of anger about Nick Land right now, mostly coming from the more technological/futurist/interested-in-other-forms-of-government angle. I’m not sure of the particulars.

      • Gunlord says:

        Perhaps so, but that seems to strengthen my point. The ‘visualizing neoreaction’ picture was reposted with some regularity on neoreactionary blogs and, so far as I can tell, was generally accepted with few significant criticisms. If it has so many of what you consider to be awful people (and I mean no disrespect, we haven’t met before, so I’m not sure if you’re a reactionary yourself or closer to Scott’s politics), it might be worth pondering why the the banner of Reaction has attracted so many disparate groups and what it bodes for their chances of success.

        • I am not a neoreactionary, nor am I very close to Scott’s politics (although I agree with most of what he does say, I disagree with things he doesn’t say.)

        • Gunlord says:

          Ah, good. In that case, may I ask which ones you consider to be “really awful?” I’m not entirely sure how any of the ones in Visualizing Neoreaction are any more or less motivated by hatred than any other.

        • Let me put it this way: I would see Mr. Anissimov made a dynast, and the “Heartiste” hounded by my geisterdamen for the rest of his mortal life.

        • Gunlord says:

          Geisterdamen? Might that be a Girl Genius reference, perchance?

          That said, your description gave me a good chuckle. I certainly understand where you’re coming from now, though I confess to being unsure of whether or not Mr. Anissimov would be that much more benevolent than the Dark Lord of the Crimson Arts when all the chips are down.

  59. BenSix says:

    I have no idea how you can combined work in medicine with the crafting of posts like this. Please give me the secret to living without sleep.

    On technology and civic participation – There are obvious benefits to technology, but the amount of men and women who are capable of participating in Less Wrongesque communities is probably smaller than the amount of people who think the mullet remains fashionable. And what’s with the dig at bowling leagues? I mean, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

    On America-as-a-communist-country – This is the argument that makes me wonder how many reactionaries are sophisticated trolls; far more inspired by flaunting their deviant status than pursuing their supposed aims. If America is a communist nation, could someone tell me why it backed right wing coups and regimes in Guatemala, Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, Venezuala, Nicaragua, Indonesia and so on? And, indeed, why 1% of its household owns over a third of its private wealth.

    On immigration and the nature of progressivism – You are right, of course, that technological progress has made migration more attractive to prospective migrants, and more convenient for advocates of free migration, but it does not explain why the latter have become so keen on it. I think it has at least as much to do with cheap labour as liberalism but, still, it is less of a natural process than this implies. Japan, for example, is as urbanised as France or Britain and it has far less immigration.

    • BenSix says:

      Some guy who linked to this post observes that it is monopolised by consideration of empirical claims, while those of reactionaries may be less quantifiable. I think he’s in a minority of reactors who care about architecture, art and so on, because most of them appear to be stats geeks and highly sexed young men, but if people are interested in the anti-modernity case on these issues they could do worse than reading conservatives like Roger Scruton and Theodore Dalrymple.

      Also, sorry for the dreadful grammar in my first post.

    • nydwracu says:

      The AIACC question is easy. Moldbug calls it the Anglo-Soviet split, but most people talked about it in terms of the Old Left and the (60s) New Left. The Old Left cared about class; the New Left not so much — their concerns are the standard race-and-gender stuff that gets thrown around in universities, and I suspect many of them forget that poor white people exist. (Out of sight, out of the running as a potential voting pool, out of mind…?)

      • BenSix says:

        I agree, of course, that mainstream Liberals drew upon the anti-racist and feminist ideas of the New Left but if they don’t care about class calling ’em communists makes about as much sense as calling people who don’t care about Jesus Christians. If the “communism” that neoreactionaries feel defines the United Status bears little relation to the ideas of Marx, or even the regimes of Lenin, Stalin and Castro, I’m not sure what the term is supposed to accomplish.

        • Gunlord says:

          calling ‘em communists makes about as much sense as calling people who don’t care about Jesus Christians.

          For what it’s worth, Mencius Moldbug tells us we “live in an actual, genuine, functioning if hardly healthy, 21st-century Puritan theocracy.” Matt Forney, another reactionary luminary, ends one of his more famous and beloved (judging by the popular demand for reposting it) with the assertion that “liberals may praise rationality to the skies and profess their atheism, but they are nothing more than Puritans, working to turn America and the world into Calvin’s fabled “city of glass.” God may be dead, but Christianity lives on.”

          One apparently does not have to believe in the Lord to be a Christian, or specifically a Calvinist (or just a plain Protestant, as Nick Steves might say), in the reactionary taxonomy. At least so far as I can tell.

          • One apparently does not have to believe in the Lord to be a Christian, or specifically a Calvinist (or just a plain Protestant, as Nick Steves might say), in the reactionary taxonomy. At least so far as I can tell.

            Reactionaries read old books, therefore reactionary taxonomy is cladistic. Progressives are puritans in the same way that humans are apes.

        • Gunlord says:

          So who’s the Last Universal Ancestor?

        • Furthermore, the New Left often seems to follow a bizzare inverted form of slave morality, while the Old Left doesn’t.

    • misha says:

      America:communism::america:democracy. Arguably both are ideological forefathers of much of what goes on in this country and government of it, but our modern nation bears little resemblance to what Marx wanted or what the ancient Greeks had.

      The moldbug argument for things like financing right wing revolts is basically this: America is more than one country. The military is broadly right wing, the state department is broadly left wing, and so on and so forth. The parts of america that sponsor coups in south america are in fact enemies of the parts of america that wanted us out of Vietnam.

      • The parts of america that sponsor coups in south america are in fact enemies of the parts of america that wanted us out of Vietnam.

        Fairly regularly we get State Department proxies and Pentagon proxies shooting at each other. I look forward to the day when the Pentagon starts shooting at the State Department.

        The fact that Australia can turn around boats full of illegal immigrants and send them back to where they came from, while Greece cannot, reflects the fact that Australia is part of the Pentagon Empire of bases, while Greece is part of the state department empire.

      • BenSix says:

        It seems true that the state department has become more inclined towards liberal policies than the Pentagon but – communist? When did that happen? John Foster Dulles was supporting Operation Ajax and pushing for increased involvement in Vietnam right at the time that his bro Allen was controlling the CIA. Henry Kissinger fronted it as the US backed Pinochet, Videla and Suharto. Even Colin “Handwringer” Powell mouthed off to the UN to help Bush promote the Iraq war. “More progressive” seems to be a defensible thesis but you’d have to use one heck of a broad definition of “communism”.

      • “America is more than one country” is pretty important to keep in mind here. Also, i think that democracy encourages culture war between subsections of the country.

  60. Contraception prevents the out of wedlock births. Protection and antibiotics prevent the STDs. So the old reasons no longer hold.

    This was the funniest part of the, overall quite worthy, piece.

    Except out-of-wedlock birth account for about 40% of all births today, and tho’ I’ll make no sweeping generalization about STDs this source claims 1 in 5 US adults have one.

    So I’d recommend amending the statement to:

    Contraception prevents the out of wedlock births for high IQ persons with low impulsivity. Protection and antibiotics prevent the STDs for high IQ persons with low impulsivity. So the old reasons no longer hold for high IQ persons with low impulsivity.

    • ozymandias says:

      I am curious about why you believe IQ and ability to put on a condom are related. It is not like the instructions on a condom are particularly difficult to understand, nor is the reasoning (“if you don’t wear this when you have sex you might get sick or have a baby when you don’t want one”).

      • Empirically, a LOT of people seem to ignore instructions for safe sex / will take the risk when their chest is heaving and the world is far away / etc. I’ve heard of people who had been instructed, and still thought that they couldn’t get pregnant if they didn’t want to, of women so cowed by their men that they did not set boundaries, etc. Does not necessarily have anything to do with IQ, but your strength (and your exposure to sex-positivity) are far from universal.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        1. Using condoms is much harder than you think it is. I know Ivy league students who used them consistently, but incorrectly.

        2. Everything is predicted by IQ. Anyone who knows anything about IQ would predict this relationship. If data confirmed the claim, would it convince you that knowing about IQ is valuable?

        3. IQ predicts conscientiousness, obedience to authority, and long time preference. Maybe those points are all that matters and IQ has very little additional value, but that probably hasn’t been tested, particularly since their measures aren’t standardized. But you didn’t ask about Nick’s conjunction, only the IQ part.

      • nydwracu says:

        IQ correlates negatively with impulsivity, and probably with susceptibility to myths about pregnancy/STD prevention, or, at a higher level, failure to understand things like “it is a good idea to have evidence for beliefs, and to go out and research claims if you don’t have evidence; and no, anecdotes don’t count.”

      • Ozymandias:

        I’m poking some fun. Alexander is I think saying: We know why taboos against X arose, because of pathologies Y and Z. And today we have prophylactic measures A and B, making Y and Z easy to avoid, and thus nullifying taboos against X.

        Except, in the actual real world, Y is higher than ever (or even imaginable 50 years ago) and Z is pretty damn bad too. It almost looks like prophylactics A and B are increasing the incidence of pathologies Y and Z.

        Yet clearly the prophylactics are supremely effective, when used and used properly, as they tend to be among the very well adjusted (the high IQ with relatively modest impulsiveness). And the left 2/3 or so of the bell curve is more fucked (tee hee) than ever before, at least on scales of these particular pathologies.

        So maybe the original theory about why taboo against X arose needs some modification.

    • Multiheaded says:

      Except you’re ignoring the elephant in the room, namely that people, especially young people, especially among the lower classes, have almost always fucked like rabbits, and it resulted in a shit-ton of back-alley abortions and infanticide and prostitution and sexual abuse of the subjugated classes/races and… hell, the past was just NOT clean and proper and Catholic. Basically nowhere.

      • Ummm… which elephant? So contraception DOES make it so the “old reasons do not hold”? And while assertions do not magically become data by prepending expletives to them, it is far from clear who is you think might be asserting that the past was clean, proper, and Catholic.

      • misha says:

        Multiheaded as I scroll down through the huge amount of comments I can’t help but feel that you are doing nothing but screaming CARTHAGE MUST BE DESTROYED over and over again. Your actions make sense if you see reactionaries as literally evil and whose values are alien to you. But if you consider human nature, I think it’s more likely that you simply find it more convenient to assign them the quality of evil and thus ignore anything they have to say because they are an enemy tribe. You are doing no good to your own side in this debate. I hope you’re trying to building up a reputation that you can point to in the inevitable communist takeover saying “SEE! I SUPPORTED YOU!”

        • Multiheaded says:

          Your actions make sense if you see reactionaries as literally evil and whose values are alien to you.

          We both probably agree there are few actually “evil” people, most of whom are, of course, tragically mentally damaged. I’m sure that most of the reactionaries who post here are half-decent in their daily life (well, outside of interacting with women, perhaps). The problem isn’t even selfishness, it’s the conflict of values and preferences itself.

          I hope you’re trying to building up a reputation that you can point to in the inevitable communist takeover saying “SEE! I SUPPORTED YOU!”

          Oh come on. I have basically zero hope for my side’s (pre-singularity) eventual victory – and I wouldn’t want to support anyone to whom I’d have to actively prove my loyalty above and beyond the demonstrable ways I think and act.

  61. Long term real growth:

    It is a standard and universal reactionary argument that official statistics are cooked, that western statistics for growth increasingly resemble Soviet and North Korean statistics for growth. You need to look at the big mac index, and similar: How much bread can the average person buy, how much electricity does the average person use, how long does it take to earn enough money to buy a car.

    By which standard growth slowed drastically in 1972, and GDP per head predictably peaked in 2006-2007.

    • That *may* have to do with the decline in state-sponsored super-science since 1970-1980. (Which has something of a reactionary reading, potentially…) Alternatively, it could have to do with increasing inequality, the whole one percent thing. (Although also, how much of that is paper wealth? For all the vaunted private-plane-yacht-big-house stuff you hear about, I honestly don’t hear about much material wealth commensurate with modern rich people.)

    • Ben Southwood says:

      I don’t think book-cooking would need to be involved there—standard GDP and GDP/capita trends say the same thing about post-70s growth. But growth *everywhere* slowed since the 1970s, and economic historians aren’t sure (or can’t agree) why, technological improvement might be a reason, scientific research might be an improvement, investment/consumption choices might be a reason. The evidence seems to show that supply-side policies undertaken then *enhanced* growth capacity (see e.g. so it’s certainly an interesting question.

      • standard GDP and GDP/capita trends say the same thing about post-70s growth. But growth *everywhere* slowed since the 1970s,

        No, growth everywhere did not slow. Singapore, for example, continues to grow at seven to nine percent a year.

        If we take direct measures of stuff, for example, concrete, electricity, and so forth the discrepancy is even larger, indicating that most growth in the US is creativity with statistics.

        Technology is stagnating, and to the extent that it continues, it is eurasian. Software continues to be developed under the rule of the US, but new technologies involving physical things usually involve very substantial efforts to evade US state power, firms run through servers located in tax havens, production facilities in China, run by CEOs with more passports than you can shake a stick at.

        • Ben Southwood says:

          I think a book-cooking conspiracy that encompassed all of Western Europe and the US (at least) is far too large to keep covered up given how statistical bureaus work (I used to be an economic journalist and went into the UK Office for National Statistics weekly, knew the statisticians etc.)—I find this extremely implausible unless you think you have some interesting comments on systematic ways the numbers are mis-measured.

    • Will says:

      Going through census data, comparing a teacher’s salary in the 1970s to a teacher’s salary today, it seems like bread is about the same as in 1970, beef is cheaper, eggs are about the same, milk is cheaper. The cost of restaurant meals is way down. The big mac is up, but only slightly. This matches my anecdotal experience- my parents have lots of stories of bachelor-chow type recipes they cooked when they were first out of their parents house, and scrimping for the occasional night out ,and I ate out regularly even in grad school.

      Car costs are harder to compare, but it looks like maintenance + car costs are way down (amortized over the life of the car, primarily because newer cars last longer), but gas is obviously way up. This also jives with my life experience- my dad bought his first car free-and-clear while working a farming job over the summer, and it broke down regularly and required constant work, and was dead within 3 years. It took me two years to pay off my first car, but I’ve owned it for nearly 10 years now, with minimal maintenance, and it easily has another 5 years left in it.

      The only things that seem substantially pricier are housing and education (probably why we, being society, talk about them so much).

      • Going through census data, comparing a teacher’s salary in the 1970s to a teacher’s salary today, it seems like bread is about the same as in 1970, beef is cheaper, eggs are about the same, milk is cheaper.

        my dad bought his first car free-and-clear while working a farming job over the summer, and it broke down regularly and required constant work, and was dead within 3 years. It took me two years to pay off my first car, but I’ve owned it for nearly 10 years now, with minimal maintenance, and it easily has another 5 years left in it.

        The only things that seem substantially pricier are housing and education (probably why we, being society, talk about them so much).

        So, if we ignore housing and education, living standards have not fallen since 1970

        Hurray progress!

  62. JRM says:

    US violent crime stats back to 1960:

    Warnings for all crime stats: Crimes change/reporting changes/reporters sometimes cheat (even on homicides, though that’s tougher)/categorizations change. Using homicide rate is mostly safe.

    Paper on U.S. homicide rate from 1850-1950:


  63. asdf says:

    I’m not going to address the entire FAQ. Partly for time, partly because it addresses aspect of Reaction I’ve never agreed with (monarchy or the whole protestant history thing). I’m going to go point by point, but don’t take an omission as agreement.

    1.2: Is everyone falling further and further into debt?

    A theme of all these counter points is you choice of empirical data, which I consider wildly inaccurate and misleading in many cases. Take debt. You’ve chosen public debt, but most debt growth has been private, and there are many debts that wouldn’t be included in that list.

    BTW, as a preliminary I’m hitting these points fast and having to link to sources that I can’t vet fully, but that roughly show a data point or trend I know to be true from earlier research. If there is a particular gotcha on a certain source I can follow up.

    See the following for discussion of why debt is out of control and you are wrong.

    1.3: Is crime becoming worse?

    If you look at crime rates in 1960 per population they are across the board WAY WAY better. Its practically a different society.

    Your reference to the homicide rate is particularly bogus. Increases in medical technology have saved the lives of more attempted homicides which causes a lower homicide rate, but not because people aren’t trying to kill each other.

    Murder rates would be up to five times higher than they are but for medical developments over the past 40 years.

    Particularly dishonest progressives will try to say that crime is down since 1990, as if a slight rollback from the heights of the inner city crack epidemic are an accomplishment. I think the relevant comparison is still pre-counter culture in the mid to late 60s, since its the society that existed before that we are trying to recreate. Compared to that even the slightly lower numbers today are appalling. In addition I don’t think I need to link to prison statistics, but it represents the human tragedy that helped to get crime under control in the 90s.

    1.4: Are people becoming less happy?

    There are two ways to tackle this.

    1) If we eliminate the effect of those countries that were bombed out or third world in 1946 becoming happier today because of acquiring modern economies, are they happier?

    2) A lot of reactionaries question “happiness” as an effective term. For instance, the people on “Honey Boo Boo” might feel happy, and report that they are happy, but would we call the mindless and self destructive hedonism of their lives “good”. I think a lot of reactionaries question the value of hedonistic happiness, and believe there are other more meaningful kinds of joy in life that modern society fails to provide.

    3) The fact that there is a stark gender divide shows that female “liberation” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

    4) This study cutes off in 2006, but so much of what’s relevant to today relates to the post-economic crash world. It’s like when someone linked me a study showing that construction worker wages in Spain and Greece increased from 2000-2007, as if nothing important happened after that date!

    More may be possible when I have time to read through these.

    1.6: Is civic participation decreasing?

    Since no data is presented here I won’t be addressing it in this reply, but its not an issue I’m granting agreement on.

    1.8: Okay, you’ve discussed the trends Michael listed as supporting Reaction, and found them less than convincing. Do you have any trends of your own that you think support more modern societies?

    All of this falls under the role of “the industrial revolution and technological advancement made a lot of things better”. There is no reason to believe that these things wouldn’t have happened in a more reactionary political environment (indeed, have happened). And many of these wonderful trends have slowed down or stopped in many advanced countries.

    1.9: Final thoughts on this section?

    I would say that the two main criticisms of this section are thus:
    1) Some of the data is wildly inaccurate and purposely misleading, and once this is corrected it debunks your case.

    2) The technological gains of going from pre-industrialized to industrialized country aren’t really something we should attach to “progressivism”. They could, and did, happen in more reactionary environments. Most Asian countries are xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, and anti-immigrant. They still managed to industrialize into first world economies and their smart phones are better then ours.

    In addition, scientific and technological innovation is slowing in the first world, and progressive interference with it is part of the problem.

    5.1.1: If a woman is a slut, does that mean her future marriage is doomed to failure?

    Your data is garbage, thus all that comes after it is garbage. Here is better data:

    There is lots of other data on his site.

    So yes, additional partners is bad all the way around. It’s especially bad for the first one or two.

    It seems to me this demolishes your argument. Sexually pure people are in fact getting and staying married in higher numbers, which is probably one of the most important things in life I can think off. Broken homes are not worth “experimentation”. That’s a triumph of selfishness and lust over real lasting and important values. If you disagree with that opinion I don’t know if we can ever reach consensus.

    5.1.2: Woman only put out for macho but antisocial men. Our society encourages that tendency and shames “beta males” who are nice and prosocial but cannot get women. This incentivizes men to become jerks, and men follow those incentives in droves. Don’t we need to do something about women’s tendency to make poor choices?

    I won’t comment much other then the counter claim that men only want hot women seems ridiculous to me. Go to any IT department and its full of good beta male providers that would make great providers and would marry a fatty if she would have them…and they are still incel.

    My time out in the dating market has convinced me that men aren’t the problem here, and that female lusts have a really dark side, but I’ll leave it at that.

    5.2: Are Progressive values responsible for rising divorce rates?

    Reactionaries want to return to the pre-counter culture divorce norms, we don’t care that things are slightly less worse then whatever post counter culture peak you want to pick. It’s still much higher then it was.

    Moreover, one of the reason people aren’t getting divorced is they aren’t getting married.

    They also aren’t having children, I encourage you to look through the link:

    Progressives appear to be more stable in marriage because
    1) So few of them marry, and when they do its late in life.
    2) Progressives tend to be higher IQ, which means lower divorce (and all other sorts of good behaviors). Though as we will see high IQ non-progressives are outbreeding them.

    This is hardly good for progressives. Despite having everything need to carry on the line they can’t put aside their self gratification enough to start a family. That’s the one solace one can take, progressives are literally going to be eliminated by their own way of life.

    This will also get back to the dysgenic issue, but the only smart people still breeding are religious traditionalists.

    I consider this a real nail in the coffin for progressivism. I understand progressive non-judgementalism states that we can’t judge people’s life choices, but I’m going to go ahead judge peoples life choices here. Starting a family is immensely fundamental part of becoming a complete human being. It fulfills and elevates us. If one doesn’t start a family it should be for a good reason, like they are devoted to an important cause (monasticism, trying to accomplish something remarkable, or adverse conditions beyond your control). However, if these statistics reflect what I’ve observed in my life, progressives are choosing really shallow things over family (climbing corporate ladders, cocktail parties, hedonism, amorphous purposeless “freedom”). So yes, I’m going to go ahead the judge.

    The fact that the few who do manage to get married and breed don’t get divorced is mostly the result of their IQ, the age of the woman at marriage (out of options), and their high earnings/status that makes the kind of things that cause divorce for the lower classes not an issue.

    As to explaining statistics among the lower classes reactionaries offer theories for this all over so I don’t know why you ignored this. The reactionary believe is that:

    1) The welfare state replaced working class men as provider, and you need to be higher up the SES ladder to be a better husband then the government.

    2) The lower class has lower impulse control in general (genetic) and need greater controls over their behavior. These used to be provided by the very traditional institutions that progressives destroyed, and they destroyed them because even though they don’t generally engage in this behavior themselves they want to keep their options open and they don’t want to be judged if they make a “mistake”.

    5.3.1: But what if I am racist? Isn’t it possible that fertile minorities and immigrants are hiding a fertility deficit among precious, precious, white people?

    Reactionaries aren’t fans of Mexicans, and they care about whites as a % of population, not a meaningless absolute number.

    After that? If there are still biological humans in organic bodies transmitting genes naturally much after 2100, we have much bigger problems than race on our hands.

    And I was supposed to have a flying care by now.

    We don’t know what the possibilities or timeline for genetic manipulation and other tech are. If your plan is, “I’m going to court disaster and hope some technological solution saves me from myself in time,” then that’s a shitty plan.

    5.3.2: Are we headed for an idiocracy?

    I will leave you to google on the Flynn Effect yourself, but it is a pretty debunked science at this point. If that’s all you’ve got as a counter your simply wrong on this issue.

    5.4: Aren’t modern dogmas about race and sex and sexuality stupid and evil?

    Homosexuality and traditional marriage repel. The number of gay men that want to get married and be monogamous is so small as to be a rounding error. Gay marriage was never about marriage, but about normalizing gays and the gay community in the mainstream. The few gay guys that wanted to have a ceremony and live together have been able to do that for a long time, and the fact that civil unions weren’t good enough shows it wasn’t about legal arrangements or civil rights.

    Therefore, I think we ought to ask if gay normalization is a good idea. We know that people are social animals and they are influenced by their peers. Are gays a good influence? Absolutely not. Let’s look at gay values both in the practice of most gays and the center of the gay rights intellectual movement.

    Homosexuals all have higher rates of social dysfunction. They have higher rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness (besides being sexually deviant), promiscuity, and I believe if statistics could be accurately collected they would have higher rates of criminal behavior when controlled for race and other factors. Anecdotally, homosexuals appear to be overrepresented in radical political groups of the right and left. Their hedonism is off the charts. With gay marriage it is safe to predict that homosexual “partnerships” will be shorter, non-monogamous, and more disordered.

    Not only is all this true, but homosexual leaders claim its not wrong. I can handle people falling short of the ideals (hey, I’m Christian) but homosexuals don’t even repent. They belong to the church of progressive non-judgementalism that says that any choice is a good choice (with a loosest “harm” based morality thrown on top).

    I can already see the denial building, but I think a great case is the recent work on Mathew Shepard.

    We were all told evil bigots tortured and killed him because he was gay. However, it turns out it was just one of a million instances of meth, promiscuity, and jilted lovers that encapsulates the gay community. If anything I think the statistics would be worse if publishing crimefacts wasn’t something that held back your career (I think good science is only going to get harder and harder to do, I’ve noticed political progressivism affecting it in my own life).

    Moreover, we know that people are social animals, and that what people see in those around them are habits they pick up themselves. Anyone who has dated a “fag hag” has noticed this. The Pride Parade and the Slutwalk are connected, monkey see monkey do. And I think The Onion does a great job of describing the Pride Parade.,351/

    As we saw in earlier points after correcting your data traditional sexuality leads to the best outcomes. Gays are the anti-tradition, and mainstreaming them is like mainstreaming an outlaw biker gang. It’s just a group you want to keep your kids away from because they are a bad influence.

    5.4.1: But there’s a clear difference between the past policies Reactionaries support and the modern ones they oppose. Past policies were going for equality of opportunity, modern ones for equality of results. Isn’t seeking equality of results laden with too many assumptions?

    Reactionaries believe that cases of discrimination are really overblown, and that statistics and real world experience show blacks have lots of advantages. We believe and equality of opportunity already exists to a great enough degree that affirmative actions is bad.

    5.4.2: What about the studies that have shown black people have lower IQ/higher violence/other undesirable trait than white people?

    It’s true that in addition to black IQ being low and blacks being violent they also have an awful culture. However, this is most definitely progressivisms fault (don’t judge them!). Reactionaries would take a more paternalistic stance with blacks, which would be a lot better for them. But this is exactly the kind of discussion progressives won’t let us have! It is an unquestioned dogma of our society that all cross-racial differences must be based entirely on discrimination! In fact, people educated in public schools are incapable of even conceiving of the possibility that they could be otherwise! How are we supposed to be able to disentangle equality of opportunity from equality of results in such people?

    5.4.3: Even if the establishment has not managed to completely ban all discussion of race that contradicts their own ideas, isn’t it only a matter of time before political correctness takes over completely?

    At the end of the day anyone that talks about race outside the confines of their own mind or personal conversations gets Richwined. Go into work tomorrow and say blacks have low IQs and watch how fast you get fired for stating a true fact.

    I have no doubt lots of people know its bullshit deep down, but the people in charge punish based on that bullshit and write policy based on that bullshit. So how come social justice people have been making so much more noise lately?

    How many people does the Men’s Right Movement get fired for thoughtcrime again?

    There is no equivalence. Still, isn’t the fact that progressivism was responsible for this sort of zealous and hateful social justice movement is a point against it?

    What have you done to stop it?

    BTW, “real reactionaries” are free flow of information, but they do believe they are right! In other words anyone can say what they want, but that doesn’t mean moral relativism. I think you can talk about gay marriage being a good idea all you want without censorship, but I don’t just think your mistake I think your wrong and it will hurt a lot of people.

    The same is true of actions. Sin shouldn’t necessarily be outlawed, but its still sin. And if people want to freely form communities that try to keep sinful elements out (segregation) they can do that.

    5.5: Is our society hopelessly biased in favor of minorities and prejudiced against white people?

    Addressed already above. I think this is so obvious that if it even takes debate we are coming from wildly different experiences.

    6: Any last thoughts?

    If I had to sum up what reaction is to me it goes something like this.

    There is a way of life that is basically correct with some variance from person to person. You live a roughly traditional life. You get married reasonably young and try not to have a lot of sexual partners (preferably just the spouse) and monogamy is important. You have kids, you try to excel at using your talents at work, in the community, and at home. You live a balanced life that takes others into account. Community and religion play a part in this. The goal of political economy is to make this kind of successful life possible.

    We more or less achieved this in the 1950s. It was not “something people only thought existed.” It really did exist, as testified by the people who lived it and the statistics of the era. Going back to it would improve society. I hope my correction of your statistics above aids in showing this, but I would think it should be obvious from lived experience as well.

    The common reasons given for why this era didn’t work are women and blacks.

    However, these groups are worse off today. It’s easy to see in your personal experience and statistics. I’m not saying we should ditch civil rights, but if you think civil rights was a good tradeoff for:
    1) Having a father at home.
    2) That father having a job.
    3) The family living in a community with low crime and drug rates.

    Then I think your crazy. I think if you resurrect MLK and offer him that trade he takes it in a heartbeat. Progressivism has been a really shitty deal for blacks.

    Progressivism holds in a sort of moral relativism where everyone’s choices are equal and shouldn’t be judged (with a flimsy layer of “harm” based morality thrown on top). This non-judgementalism has become militant and is deeply in error. Some decisions are just wrong even though sin is tempting. It’s the inability to repent, rather then the sin itself, that is so dangerous about progressivism.

    Finally, the best blog that mirrors my believes on this issue is the following, and there is a quote from his favorite essay that sums a lot up.

    “Most of us reach an age in which we experience an instinct to settle down and have a family. What we then seek is a happy marriage and not just “some intimacy, some form of commitment” which is all that Edgar is prepared to bequeath to the younger generation.

    What the older generation owes to the younger is to uphold the conditions in which it’s possible to marry successfully, rather than to leave it to millions of competing wills to negotiate a relationship in a climate of self-serving individualism.

    It’s not plastic, open or unique relationships that young people need, but stable, secure and workable ones, in which some measure of independence can be sacrificed to a healthy and natural interdependence.”

    • asdf says:

      Gays, Mexicans, Blacks, and Meth. A good look into the effects of progressive culture and its effect on our country, right in your own back yard.

      Occasionally normal straight white people get mixed up in this stuff, but never in the same numbers and they know they are doing the wrong thing when they do.

      • I thought that meth was mostly a poor white man’s drug.

      • Multiheaded says:

        and they know they are doing the wrong thing when they do.

        Well that’s just killer on so many levels. The poor, confused innocent dears! Their hearts are in the right place, but they’re just too weak and submissive to resist all the cunning seduction by Gayniggers from Outer Space!

        Hm, wait a minute, so of course white people are oppressed by these fiends – but isn’t it improper and un-rightist to resist oppression? (And clearly they’re just too fragile and precious to attempt it.) Maybe whites should just submit to all the horrible depredations and hope that this reign of violence leads to sedentary bandits emerging, who institute a (heavily tanned, fabulous, Hispanophone) new regime?

        P.S.: here’s for a real piece of journalism about Normal Decent White People in a (better-than-average) American “meth town”.

        “…I just thought people liked to party. I guess up there ya just do like one or two drugs at a time or somethin’ like that.”

        A veritable portrait of innocence, eh?

        • asdf says:

          When you control for economic circumstances, IQ, geography, and other factors I think you’ll find lower drug use amongst straight whites then gays and minorities. Comparing the nice gay guy with the 120 IQ from your college to some 90 IQs in a closed down factory town with no future is not exactly apples to apples.

          gay people are seven times more likely to take illegal drugs than the general population, with one in five of those surveyed showing signs of dependency on drugs or alcohol.

          More than a third of gay, lesbian and bisexual people took at least one illegal drug in the last month.

          While drug use in the general population tends to decrease with age, the report found almost as many lesbian, gay and bisexual 36- to 40-year-olds were taking drugs as their younger counterparts.

          With 200+ million white people, I’m sure you’ll find examples from any class and group, including well off people doing stupid ass shit. However, is anyone seriously proposing that its as rampant as it is in these other groups.

          And while one can always find examples of perverse straight activities, can anything match the heights of gay perversion? To me the enduring image of gays will be dude popping pills and fucking thousands of people in the bathhouses while single handedly incubating AIDS in this country.

          I never really had an opinion on gays growing up and wasn’t religious until recently, so when I moved to NYC I had not preconceived stereotype. However, if one spends any time in the village, around these pride parades, or getting to know gays you soon realize all these negative stereotypes are true. And in addition to my own experience the statistics bear it out.

          • I think you replaced one wrong stereotype with a different wrong stereotype. Also, AIDS is (and has been for a long time, though not originally), a mainly straight problem. It’s mostly an accident of history that its rise was associated with gay boheminans.

            What drugs? Marijuana use is very common among the general youth, to the point at which despite its illegality its social role is similar to that of cigarrettes or alcohol, and the harm it does to the body is similar or even less.

            Bathhouse culture is… pretty much gone now, and anyway was only one subculture. Pride and other stuff is pretty big still, but even then is mostly just combination of fairly mild but worryingly politicized bohemianism and an extended version of the things most people do in their youthful days of easy physicality. The only thing that remotely rises to the level of worry is queer people who see themselves as designated heroes who will destroy the evils of marriage, gender, capitalism, et. al. And they are not actually capable of doing that.
            This bohemianism is not harmful to the majority culture, is far from universal among the 2-9% of sexual and gender minorities in the population, and you, without title or rank, have no grounds by which to attack them so.

          • Moss_Piglet says:

            What sort of “title or rank” do you need to have “grounds to attack” gay culture? Is ‘Doctor’ or ‘Officer’ good enough or does it have to be a military rank? Are there Field Marshals of criticizing gay people, and if so how does one apply for that job?

            But seriously, you should look at what you’re saying and how the facts bear it out;

            According to the CDC, ‘Male-Male Sexual Contact’ was responsible for the transmission of Aids to ~16,700 people in 2011 compared to the ~1,000 people who caught HIV from ‘Heterosexual Contact’. That does not include the ~1,400 people who caught HIV from the separate (and presumably non-overlapping) category of ‘Male-Male Sexual Contact and Injection Drug Use’ that year. So somewhere south of 4% of the country is transmitting 56% of the HIV… yeah, that sounds like a straight problem alright.

            As for drug use, the gay party drugs of today become the scourge of middle America tomorrow. Meth was a gay drug for more than a decade before it took hold deep enough for truckers and dispossessed rednecks to start tweaking, and the same Party-and-Play scene is responsible for creating a lot of the demand for synthetic drugs (remember Bath Salts?). The rates of hard drug use, especially intravenous drugs, are absolutely absurd as other posters have mentioned. It’s really not just a case of rolling a joint now and then, but rather a subcultural drug addiction.

            In terms of gay ‘bohemianism’… what would it actually take to not be ‘mild’ anymore for you? Places like Seattle and San Francisco are famous for constant public nudity and open sex acts during Pride parades, and while the Village has luckily been spared that indignity it’s still a pretty fucking weird part of town. If you’re in the Progressive “free love” mindset, sure that sounds like paradise but if you live in the real world where sex has consequences and dignity has value you see it’s absolutely poison. The open unpunished violation of taboos makes it impossible to assert any kind of genuine moral authority, and if you don’t think that’s at least partially related to the collapse of urban culture you’re sorely mistaken.

          • Moss_Piglet says:

            Err, that was supposed to be 10,000 heterosexuals… my bad. Doesn’t actually change the stats, I used the right ones in the 56% figure, but I did write it an order of magnitude off.

        • asdf says:

          How is AIDS a “straight problem”.

          HIV rates /person amongst gays are monstrously higher (also much higher amongst blacks). It is a “gay thing”.

          I’m talking about hard drugs, go look up the statistics.

          Yes, gay bathhouse culture is so dead that it wasn’t right at the top of google:

          Do we have to start posting partner counts and statistics on how many gays actually stay monogamous in marriage?

          I know these statistics can be dry reading, but I’m just trying to get you to trust your eyes. We’ve all seen what gay culture is like in the big city. I saw it in the Village. You’ve seen it in SF. Anyone whose ever been to one of those pride parades has seen it.

          “The only thing that remotely rises to the level of worry is queer people who see themselves as designated heroes who will destroy the evils of marriage, gender, capitalism, et. al. And they are not actually capable of doing that.”

          They sure are trying. I wouldn’t have thought people could accept something as terrible as fag marriage one day, polygamy is just around the corner.

          “It’s a no-brainer that (homosexual activists) should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. …(F)ighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.

          The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago.”

          For a polyamorous dude that is all pro polygamy, I’m surprised your even arguing this point.

          I will agree on one thing. While I think gay marriage compounds the problem, its more a symptom then a cause. Society has to be pretty fucked up already to even contemplate gay marriage. It’s the sort of thing only a damaged mind comes up with.

          Once you accept the tenants of the sexual revolution accepting gay perversion and the destruction of marriage are more or less inevitable.

        • I’m not polyamorous, and you need to stop treating personal disgust as strong evidence of broad, universal immorality. I do not find the extremes of these bohemians particularly pleasing to myself, but I also do not expect Scott to take your implicit insults toward his lover kindly.

          Gay marriage is not actually going to hurt straight marriage, despite the bizzare fantasies of some people whose company I find preferable to yours. In fact, I honestly believe that reactionaries should be in full support of it. Marriage will survive on its own merits.

          And while I greatly disdain the eagerness with which such people break taboos, as if the taboo existed merely to be broken, I would note that they simply have other taboos, and moral authority is maintained.

        • Konkvistador says:

          @Von_Kalifornen: Why are you silent about their challenge to your AIDS and drugs claim? The statistics are pretty damning.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:


          What do you propose to do about the problem? The data suggests that increasing parental acceptance is a good first step:

        • asdf says:

          von Kalifornen,

          Site OP is either poly or pro-poly from some other post if I remember. And poly is a progressive and gay approved thing. I can’t keep track of the particular stance of every commentator.

          “Gay marriage is not actually going to hurt straight marriage”

          I disagree. People’s morality is learned at an intuitive level and shaped by the environment and people around them. As gays become more mainstream we should expect the mainstream to become more like the gay community. As I’ve already stated you can see this effect both in the influence on straights with lots of gay friends (fag hags), the prevalence of corrupting themes in mass media (of which gays have a disproportionate share in), and the taking on of the basic philosophical assumptions of the gay community (expressed best by the “pride parade”, a once yearly satanistic festival in which the primary sin of human pride is celebrated) which now has its equivalents in things like the slut walk.

          To me the gay community challenges the heart of western civilizations at a fundamental level. It places the self at the very heart. Pride Parade is about pride, about telling the world that man decides his own morality and not God or anything else. Aptly enough, the morality these people choose is one in which getting glittered up nearly naked and licking each others nipples in the heart of Manhattan with children watching is “moral”.

          I can handle a person falling short of their moral goals. We are all human. What I can’t handle is someone telling me that sin isn’t sin. The unrepeated sinner is committing the only truly unforgivable sin. And once a year gays have a giant parade to tell the world they are going to do whatever the fuck they want and nobody, not even God, has a right to judge them. The implications are profoundly far reaching, it takes willful ignorance to see otherwise.

        • ozymandias says:

          Oh no! If we let the gays run around naked and glittery and lick each other’s nipples, the straights will start doing it too! Where will it end?

          There is some empirical evidence that acceptance improves mental health outcomes for LGBT people. I mean, if a group of people is often bullied, kicked out of their homes by their parents, etc., of course they’re going to have mental health problems!

          I feel like it’s dishonest to discuss gay male HIV rate without mentioning that (a) if a large portion of your dating pool has HIV, you’re at higher risk of HIV, even if you’re not that promiscuous (b) unprotected penile-anal sex is basically the highest-risk behavior for HIV transmission (c) gay bathhouse culture emerged out of a specific culture and norms about what ‘gay liberation’ means (basically, having lots of sex) and does not necessarily reflect The Reality Of What LGBT People Are Like Now And Forever Amen.

          Now, you can argue that many of those norms are destructive. I agree! (For one thing, those norms also led to NAMBLA. Ew.) But if you want more LGBT people to endorse pro-marriage norms, maybe you should let them get married?

          I also want to reemphasize that no one (at least not in this thread) is arguing for *no* sexual norms. The ‘sex-positive’ side has plenty of norms: use condoms, don’t rape people, be honest to your sex partners, communicate, don’t be a dick. Not sharing your sexual morality =/= not having a sexual morality.

        • asdf says:

          “Oh no! Because I have no argument I’m going to get snarky and sarcastic!”

          (a) A large % of gay men have HIV because of how the gay community behaves. It is a self inflicted condition you have nobody to blame but yourselves.

          (b) Then stop doing it, or are you perverts just too fucked up to show some self control.

          (c) It’s still ongoing. There are still bathhouses. In addition there are all sorts of bathhouse technological innovations (grindr, etc). The fact if gay men are still racking up 100s or 1000s of partners today and I see no reason why this won’t continue.

          Gay’s don’t want to marry. Again, the number of gay people that actually get married when its available is small. And the number that are married and monogamous is a rounding error. Moreover, has the advancement of gay marriage mellowed the gay drive for changing sexual norms or increased it, because everything gays get is just a stepping stone to another it seems. This isn’t about, “if gays were accepted they would just be normal people.” Gays are basically accepted, the problem is with who they are not how they are treated. The way the gay community behaves, especially now that they basically run things, shows you what its all about. If they were just normal people waiting to be treated normal all this nonsense would have stopped already.

          As to gay sexual morality, the proof is in the actions. If gay sexual mores worked the gay community wouldn’t be in the state its in. So they are bad sexual mores. I don’t know why this is a surprise, it should have been obvious that fucking around all the time would cause problems.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:


        Can you comment on what you would do about the problem? I have suggested one measure that is supported by the relevant data. Do you disagree that increasing parental acceptance is a good first step to addressing problems regarding substance abuse, mental issues etc.?

        • redneck says:

          Do you disagree that increasing parental acceptance is a good first step to addressing problems regarding substance abuse, mental issues etc.?

          Observe the high correlation between all these bad behaviors and fatherlessness.

          Obvious solution: All children should have fathers. All fathers should have willow switches, and apply them to the backsides of badly behaved children.

          To ensure that all children have fathers, women should not be considered adult until they reach menopause.

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          That’s orthogonal to my suggestion. (besides this is regarding those problems specifically in LGBT youth)

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          Sorry, I didn’t realize what you were replying to. Okay but how does that address the problems specific to LGBT youth?

        • asdf says:

          What is to be done?

          I think we need to go back a bit and ask what the problem is. I don’t think gays are the problem itself, but a (very loud an obnoxious) symptom (that probably feeds back into the problem some too). I think the main problem is that society has to be very culturally ill before gay marriage or the general behavior gays exhibit is considered “ok”.

          So let’s talk about the real problem: the sexual revolution. Earlier I think I made my point as to why the sexual revolution was bad by replying to a lot of your arguments and statistics. To me the family is absolutely critical to society and the people that make it up, but its been almost totally destroyed. If you went back to the 1950s and told them that the sexual revolution would cause the kinds of divorce rates, fatherless households, low TFR, and all sorts of other negatives of the sexual revolution I’d like to think those people would make different decisions the next time around. The sexual revolution was sold as something that didn’t really turn out that way. Only a progressive, who assumes history goes in one direction, could think that it all had to be worth it. To me its obvious it was not, so obviously so that to believe otherwise seems like either a sign of mental defect or and intensely sinful nature.

          What is to be done about the sexual revolution is a big topic, and most of it won’t involve government policy. There has to be a change in hearts and minds that occurs on the ground at the local level and can’t be described in a comment. Fertility will also play a big role in fixing it (people with old fashioned sexual morals have more kids) so long as immigration doesn’t cancel it all out.

          Part of the reason I’m against gay marriage is because its not being pitched as a function of civil rights (something civil unions could accomplish), but as a kind of government facilitated cultural referendum pushed by mass media to try to shape sexual and cultural norms. If the line for gay marriage was, “yeah, they are a bunch of degenerate faggots, but even perverts deserve the legal right to marry,” I’m not sure I would agree with it, but I would consider it honest and if 50%+ of people felt the same way I wouldn’t lose sleep over a change in the law. However, that’s not the line the gay marriage lobby takes. They take the line, “fags are totally the same as you and me so they deserve this.” Which makes a false statement (they obviously behave in a very different (deviant, harmful)) way and assumes a certain relationship to the institution of marriage (right vs privilege) that I don’t necessarily endorse.

          So long as gay marriage is about forcing gay values down everyone’s throat I feel I have to oppose them out of empathy for the vast majority of people in my society. It’s straight marriage and straight families that makes the gears of society turn and its on life support. Mainstreaming gay values aren’t going to help that, its just going to reinforce and further the perverted ideas of the sexual revolution.

          I see gays like an outlaw biker gang. Maybe their mothers didn’t love them and that is why they are acting out and it would be great to get them some help, but so long as they are being a bunch of unrepentant outlaws the focus has to be on protecting the community from them before saving them.

          As to the specific things that should be done for gays I do not know and may never have that great a handle on it being neither gay nor someone especially trained in the matter. It would be like asking me how to convert the German barbarians to Christianity during the dark ages. I know the story, but its a rather fantastic one that would have been nearly impossible to propose in its entirety before the fact. I only know that the current behavior I observe with gays is degenerate, destructive, and corrupting which must first be addressed.

          Finally, I think you need to understand my view on sexual morality. I don’t consider it a higher moral value then any other. It would of course be nice if everyone had satisfying sex lives, but its not a right nor the most important thing in life. I think you’ve got to have an awfully warped sense before sexual satisfaction because the total center of an individual or society on which all its morality and activity revolves (which I think we are at, and which is why I consider gay marriage more a symptom then a cause). No matter what you are pursuing in life there are rules and restrictions in which the pursuit of that happiness must comply. And if that leaves you celibate, so be it. It’s not the worse thing that ever happened.

          View this link:

        • Alexander Stanislaw says:

          “I only know that the current behavior I observe with gays is degenerate, destructive, and corrupting which must first be addressed”

          This is rather hyperbolic, gay people have worse mental health and more social problems than their straight counterparts. Yet you decline to provide an actionable way of addressing these problems whereas I have – and provided the data to support it.

        • Roman Davis says:

          On rights: I don’t mean a natural right, I mean a contractual one with the US, through the constitution, and the US’s obligation to keep their promise of equal protection under the law. Without gay marriage, I feel, that they are not receiving equal protection, for the same reasons that before Virginia VS. Loving, interracial couples did not receive them.

          I can understand how the breaking of a promise can be thought of as harm to a person by “stealing” the fruits of the continuation of a reliable promise, but I can not frame gay marriage in such a way. Your fretting about seems really shrill and silly.

        • asdf says:

          @ alex

          Asking me what action items I would use to “fix gays” seems to me a rather ridiculous task. You might as well ask me how I would fix people born with a predilection toward psychopathy or any other mental illness. I assume that the right actions will vary from person to person and that family, community, and professionals will be in the best position to decide, not some guy on the internet with a few bullet points.

          The only thing I can say is that any solution that amounts to, “the way the gay community is behaving is a-ok and there is nothing wrong with it,” is silly and dangerous. Though I can see how if you accept all the massive failures of the sexual revolution as “good” then it could be hard to see that.


          If it was just about rights then civil unions, which attempt to create all the exact same rights but just have a different name, should have been enough. However, they were not so this shows it was never about rights. Moreover, the rhetoric used by the gay lobby is never about rights (which are independent of behavior) but natural rights (gays are just like straights so there is nothing morally wrong with it and they deserve it).

          You can also tell its a moral case because the lobbying doesn’t end with government. Do gays not attack anyone who criticizes them in the media? Do gays not call churches that won’t recognize gay marriage “backward”? Do people not lose their jobs for going up against the gay lobby in their private lives? Do gays not try to organize massive boycotts and propaganda campaigns against anyone who has ever criticized gay marriage, even when then product/service is totally unrelated? I went to read a review of Ender’s Game only to have the guy spend half the review talking about how Orson Scott Card is worse then Hitler because he is against gay marriage. This isn’t some dispassionate argument for equal rights, this is a full court press on shaping moral norms.

        • Roman Davis says:

          Separate but equal doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work because we tried it for a hundred years. You know this. You’re smarter than this. How could you not know this was what I was going to say?

          Anyway, yeah, people don’t want to be persecuted and will lash out against percieved persecution. The only difference between now and a hundred years ago is now gays can talk more freely because we aren’t sending them to jail for sodomy anymore. Scott’s right: the values changed on their own first.

          Here’s the thing: I know you feel the same way. I know you feel like you can’t see mean things about gay people without consequence seems like a violation of your freedom to you. And I’m like, “Of course there are consequence to saying mean things about your coworker’s brother, or your boss’s best friend, or whatever. How did he make it through kindergarten?”

          It sounds like more shrillness, more silliness. Like a thin vernier over an argument that boils down to “how dare they!” I don’t see what the big deal is. That’s the truth.

        • asdf says:

          “How could you not know this was what I was going to say?”

          Because it is a nonsensical argument. Can you not see why? What is the point you are even arguing here?

          Separate but equal didn’t work because the things weren’t equal, and they largely weren’t equal because of political influence and funding. Are you afraid that civil unions won’t be funded? That the laws won’t be enforced? Is there serious evidence this was the case in the places and times they were implemented in the recent past?

          Moreover, are we to believe that something like school funding in the deep south 50 years ago is the same situation as family courts in 2013? Is that a serious charge being leveled?

          And exactly what form would this discrimination take? All “marriage” is in a legal sense is a contract with a bunch of set terms and tradition of case law. If family courts tried to discriminate against gays how could they even do that? Seems to me that for the most part these entities arbitrate between the people involved in dissolved marriages. Any discrimination would have to be in one of their benefits.

          I think your problem has nothing to do with civil rights, as one could easily make a case for a credible legal solution that didn’t use the word marriage. I think your problem is that most people think that there should be some correlation between the law and morality. They will accept freedom of action for amoral things (consumer choice, etc) and they will accept that certain vices are logistically impossible to outlaw (prohibition), but they will always be very uncomfortable with large gaps between the law and their moral beliefs. Most people look at it and figure that there isn’t much point to gay marriage (they are right) and that society got on just fine without it (they are right) and that if particular individuals want to start living together and acting married they can do so with or without the law (they are right). Such people see no need to change the law, it’s hard to make the case for gay marriage on a purely civil rights basis. You have to change their moral beliefs, and that is why I consider the gay marriage issue a cultural issues and not a civil rights issue. The goal isn’t to gain a civil right, but to change the underlying culture.

          “Of course there are consequence to saying mean things about your coworker’s brother, or your boss’s best friend, or whatever.”

          There are consequences, but the last time I checked saying a mean thing about my boss or co-worker was judged on its merits by the people immediately in my life, not by lynch mobs and political groups. When my criticisms are correct people often take my side.

          However, when you deal with a “designated victim group” all that goes out the window. People are no longer interested in whether the criticism is valid, but in pushing the narrative and political interests of the interest group. A straight guy being obnoxious in a stereotypically gay way is the object of fun, but a gay guy acting just as obnoxious is protected. If for instance I chastised the obnoxious gay dude at my cooking class the other day I’d be made into a villain, while the actions themselves were clearly rude but uneasily tolerated by everyone out of fear.

        • Roman Davis says:

          Proposing a solution that is separate but equal can not work because of the ways laws work and have always worked: they’re constructs that are vulnerable to linguistics. If this wasn’t true, legal loopholes wouldn’t exist. Having different words for things means that is an inevitability that they are treated differently.

          To me, this is a problem. Maybe to you it isn’t a problem, but again: you had to see this coming. You simply can’t be that obtuse.

          Obviously, I’d like laws to line up with my moral beliefs, but my moral beliefs are something different than the linguistic constructs I use to describe them. It sucks, but that’s life.

          I think there’s a reasonable set of arguments to be made for gay marriage, and they’re all legal. Inhertience, visitation rights, adoption, taxes, a few other things I probably forgot. The idea of marriage as a civil institution being seperate from that as a religious institution goes back a long way, and you know it.

          Look, if your church had a rule that they weren’t going to marry interracial couples, I think that should be legally okay, but some people will think your pastor is a bigot. That’s life. Same for gays.

          The rest of your post simply doesn’t line up with reality to me. I roll to disbelieve. I know gay people who are jerkwads who jerkishness can be talked about with friends separate from their sexual orientation.

        • asdf says:

          “Having different words for things means that is an inevitability that they are treated differently.”

          Why? I get your point, but its not unlimited. There are specific factors that applied to say separate schooling that don’t apply in the case of civil unions vs marriage. Exactly what (legal or enforcement) difference do you expect between them and why? Explain it to me.

          “Inhertience, visitation rights, adoption, taxes, a few other things I probably forgot.”

          All of those can easily be included in civil unions, and we can reasonably expect them to be enforced properly by the law.

          “The idea of marriage as a civil institution being seperate from that as a religious institution goes back a long way, and you know it.”

          If its separate though why does the issue never stop with the state? Why are there constant attacks on church’s that don’t marry gays as “backward”? Why is anyone who criticizes homosexuals an evil bigot whose probably worse then Hitler? Let’s not play pretend, there is a specific view that could be called the “progressive” view, they don’t like anyone else with a different view and will punish them, and the only thing holding them back is how quickly the Overton window moves.

          “Look, if your church had a rule that they weren’t going to marry interracial couples, I think that should be legally okay, but some people will think your pastor is a bigot. That’s life. Same for gays.”

          Is it legally ok? That seems to be getting hazier and hazier. Also, we have to keep in mind that overt legal punishment is only one of the ways progs go after people. The favorite way is through social and career pressure. I saw a lot of that in government, let’s just say the overton window on the far left side has gone full retard. I’ve been told that if your against forcing people to pay higher health premiums so that sex change operations can be fully covered for other people on their insurance plan (when did “insurance” start covering elective cosmetic procedures?) that makes you a hateful bigot who just needs to get with the program or else.

          More and more criticizing gays or any protected group is becoming a thought crime. Most of the time its punished with economic and social sanctions because that does the job, but in many countries now thought crime commissions are starting to come into law. I watched the interrogation of someone who criticized Muslims in a political cartoon by the “human rights commission” the other day.

          In addition forced indoctrination and labeling Christians as a hate group are becoming more common. Here is some great stuff from Elusive Wapati.

          Several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops were told last week that the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.

          The briefing was held at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and listed the AFA alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam.

          “The instructor said AFA could be considered a hate group because they don’t like gays,” the soldier told me. “The slide was talking about how AFA refers to gays as sinners and heathens and derogatory terms.” The soldier, who is an evangelical Christian, said the chaplain defended the Christian ministry. He kept asking the instructor, ‘Are you sure about that, son? Are you sure about that?’” he said, recalling the back and forth.

          Later in the briefing, the soldiers were reportedly told that they could face punishment for participating in organizations that are considered hate groups.

          Also, its not the same for gays. They can get away with anything. They are a protected and privileged group.

          Yes, I can talk about it with my friends in hushed voices in a totally private atmosphere too. However, you can’t do it at work, in the public or political sphere, or anywhere else where conflict, policy, commerce, or anything else important can get resolved.

        • Roman Davis says:

          I expect that there will be attempts to politicize and warp it from day one. I expect legislation to be targeted against it by opposition parties on the federal level (40%) and by both parties on the local level, especially in more conservative areas (85+%). I expect there to be attempts to dtismantle the new institution in the state and local courts, and I suspect they might win, because making a special class of contract for gays might actually, really be unconstitutional (70+%). Again precedence already exist in interracial marriage and in segregated schools.

          The reason there are attacks on bigots is because the values have already changed for some people. I really think bigotry against gay people is unnecessarily phobic and hateful, and if you say it has a religious grounds your religion is bigoted and hateful. Not every one feels this way. Religions adapt to changing more all the time, but that’s how I feel and that’s how a lot of nonreligious people are going to view this sort of thing.

          There are consequences for going against the grain. I don’t agree with a lot of social justice stuff, but every major radical for civil rights has understood that there were consequence for being percieved as a radical. There are still real consequences for me just saying I’m an Atheist; there are real consequences for saying that you don’t like gay marriage. If you don’t like that, change things, but accept the consequences.

          I can’t help but find it hypocritical how you are so concerned with how you are perceived for your position against gay marriage while also attacking gays for trying to change the way they’re perceived by the public at large. You’re both playing the same game: you’re just a sore loser.

          The same is true for gay marriage: if the use of the word was really unimportant you wouldn’t be arguing that it was. It actually is somewhat important. That’s why the argument exists.

          Your talk about gays as a protected group continues not to line up with the reality I experience. I do not believe you. I don’t know what evidence I expect to exist if merely being gay is enough to get away with anything. The only gay criminals I can think of is the high profile Bradley Manning case, who has been imprisoned indefinitely without trial.

  64. DB says:

    * Yeah, monarchy has enough negative variance to be a bad bet, so does “joint-stock government”, so does futarchy (Moldbug did get that right, at least; prediction markets and decision markets are very different beasts), …. Good governance is HARD.
    * And no, America cannot meaningfully be called a communist country.

    * While most other variables are almost irrelevant, demographics is still a huge deal. Maybe it won’t be in a century due to new genetic or other technologies, but we’re not there yet, and it makes sense to choose policies that maximize our chance of getting there, and maximize the share of humanity that isn’t at severe risk of being permanently left in the dust at that time. Some progressive policies score really, really badly here. However, you acknowledge that reactionaries tend to be right when their policy proposal is simply “stop digging deeper”.
    * “I also suspect (though I have no evidence) that it is primarily the hotter women who have been socialized to be irrationally attracted to ‘bad boys'”… er, think carefully about what you have written here. Hotter women tend to have more choice in men, and it would be bizarre if that mattered less than some difference in socialization. The more plausible hypothesis is that hot women have more opportunity to act on preferences present to some degree in most women.
    Of course, both you and I only tend to be interested in women unaffected by this, so we should leave this discussion to others and spend our time on more promising endeavors, like figuring out how to genetically reengineer the next generation of women and men to be more to our liking.
    * Edward Snowden correctly judged that his real exit rights were very limited.

    * The Flynn effect is restricted to a subset of abilities, and there is considerable evidence that it is ending in the West. My mental model of it is a set of logistic curves reflecting penetration of good nutrition, etc.; sadly, unlike the case for e.g. Moore’s Law, we don’t seem to be doing a good job of finding new logistic curves to climb here before the current ones top out. Again, I don’t think it’s good practice to bet everything on a technological deus ex machina.
    * “women and minorities face gigantic amounts of baseless discrimination in various areas”… define “baseless”. While narrow counterexamples still exist, most discrimination I have seen in 21st century America has been of the statistically justified kind. Nobody has perfect measuring ability, and unfortunately, it is usually mathematically correct to count measurement uncertainty against members of poorly performing groups. (The best solution is to work to increase individual measurement accuracy in all areas; I’m sympathetic to some amount of regulation here but it has the unfortunate side effect of incentivizing cheating.)
    * “there is still a pretty big civil rights battle to be fought getting the average black person to do as well as the average white person with IQ 85” — I don’t think it’s a matter of civil rights at this point, and as you observed, I’m in an increasing majority even though the mainstream media is still doing almost everything it possibly can to slow its growth and slow down constructive discussion. I’m pretty sure the most effective policy changes that could be made toward that result are conservative/reactionary.
    * “But this is exactly the kind of discussion progressives won’t let us have!” This complaint is absolutely on target. Again, the poll results you cite are in spite of constant propaganda to the contrary. The disconnect between mainstream news coverage and reality on these issues is almost unbelievable; fortunately, people don’t need to read Moldbug to notice this sort of thing.

    • Randy M says:

      >>* “But this is exactly the kind of discussion progressives won’t let us have!” This complaint is absolutely on target. Again, the poll results you cite are in spite of constant propaganda to the contrary.

      Yes, a poll response (probably anonymous) and a public discussion are quite different.

      >>* “women and minorities face gigantic amounts of baseless discrimination in various areas”… define “baseless”.

      I’m pretty sure the huge corporation I work for doesn’t discriminate against women, but were they doing so they might have fewer temps to train as half a dozen took some months off (and reassigned to non-lab tasks) for pregnancy. (I took 3 days and extra off for like reason). I haven’t checked all your links yet, so that kind of gender performance difference may be mentioned there.

  65. peppermint says:

    We are the Whites and Jews of the Hajnal Line. Lower your trade barriers and prepare to be outcompeted. We will add your biological and cultural distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is futile.

    I think this is really the main thrust of this and the other article about reaction and progressivism. And really, it’s a slogan I can get behind. I think I’ll call it darkly-enlightened progressivism.

  66. Tyrrell McAllister says:

    This is an awesome post.

    I’m not sure whether you mean to endorse the claims about Columbus in the Oatmeal comic, or if instead you’re just pointing out how far the modern-public-school Columbus is from the true-blue leftist version of Columbus offered by authors like Zinn.

    Just in case, though, it’s worth mentioning that that comic takes some quotations egregiously out of context. For example, the comic quotes Columbus as saying “A hundred castellanos are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand, and for all ages a good price must be paid.” The comic sites this quote as evidence for the claim that Columbus was enslaving young girls and giving them to his Lieutenants.

    You can read the context of the quote in this long letter:

    The context shows that the actual meaning of the quote is just about the opposite of the one that the comic imputes. Columbus wasn’t bragging about how profitable sex slavery is. On the contrary, he’s trying to horrify the reader with the immorality of what he’s describing. Not, it is true, because enslaving natives is immoral, but rather because settlers who enslave girls are shirking their duty to enrich the crown.

    The letter is basically one long complaint by Columbus about how hard his life is. He says that he gets no respect back in Spain, and he gets no respect from the settlers in America. These settlers, he complains, aren’t working for the glory of the crown, as they should be. Instead, they take gold for themselves and then leave. Since gold is so easy to find, and since the settlers are lazy, they just steal what gold they can, instead of settling down to profitable pursuits such as farming and mining. In particular, they enslave and sell native girls instead of starting families and fulfilling their obligation to enrich Spain.

    In short, that line was supposed to horrify the reader with how immoral the typical settler is. It was supposed to cause the reader to pity Columbus for having to deal with such moral reprobates.

  67. Pingback: The Forest hidden amongst the Trees | The Legionnaire

  68. Army1987 says:

    Am I the only person bothered by the fact that “out-of-wedlock births” is an unnatural category, lumping together both cases where the mother is still in school and has no idea who the father is and cases where the parents are living together and stably employed but haven’t yet bothered to have an expensive ceremony in formal dress for whatever reason (and may do so in the near future)?

  69. Deiseach says:

    My one criticism would be this: you say “Likewise, if something has been getting worse in Britain but not the United States, or vice versa, that will not suffice either. Progressivism is supposed to be a worldwide movement, stronger than the vagaries of local politics.”

    But many of your graphs represent single-nation trends only (mainly the U.S.A. though I see one at least for Germany).

    Isn’t that undercutting your own argument a little? So what if the number of wheels of cheddar sold in Wisconsin correlates with the reduction in gun licences in Ohio? What has that to do with the price of eggs in Andalusia?

  70. VXXC says:

    You speak of Industrialization as if it were a good thing and essential to Progress.

    It was.

    You do realize that America has been De-Industrializing for 40 years, and that the HardScrabble existence mandating Traditional Values to survive is regenerating all around you? Without the Traditional Values, as Bread, Circuses and tolerable Prisons make them non-essential?

    When I sum the USGs Industrial Policy: Close Factories, Build Prisons…I’m talking about the Rust Belt. Also parts of NJ and CA, the parts that counted. This computer and the Computer/Radio/Telephone devices people have were invented in NJ. Your Iphone or Android [or whatever] should have been assembled in Camden. Yes, that Camden. But instead Camden’s factories shuttered to be replaced by Bread, Circuses, and Prison. You may file the criminal element under all three. Without guaranteed Bread criminals might have to toil instead of enterprise [crime], and prison holds no terrors for them. Crime also falls under Circus, for much of it is indeed entertainment for the Criminals.

    You have an interesting interface on Life, and it is an interface: Data and the Trends helpfully extracted from it. The rest of us are living it and it’s increasingly hardscrabble. Our cities and border areas with Mexico for instance meet all the qualifications of “Frontier”, they’re most certainly a violently contested area.
    As to the King and his nobles, here is what this means and it’s Important: Dark Enlightenment/Neo-Reaction is a small but highly motivated faction of the Cathedral Party. Nearly all of them are part of the Cathedral, if not they came from it like Moldbug himself. They see that the Party is ending and wish to keep it going from their view of Self Interest . They want a King because the Court Party has no one in charge and it’s bankrupting and destroying the feast . They also want the corner office, and the unqualified woman or minority who’s been a thorn in their Cathedral Careers sides out forever.

    I have hurled this at them again and again, they mildly rebuke “populist”, not so mildly make reference to trash, Jersey Shore, Reality TV et al…few actually answer. Jim Donald does and answers “absolutely”.

    So you have a faction of the Court Party turning against the Official Religion and the bulk of the Court from within it, and they are acting out of increasingly and palpably desperation at the real numbers [and not yours Sir] they are looking at…for they desire to maintain their lives but without chaos and need what is a Dictator to keep their livelihoods.

    They fear and loathe the People because they sense they are coming, this is the terror of democracy.

    So this community is very, very unusual and significant because of who they are and that self interest is the spur.

    [I also agree it’s the most original and fearless thinking around].

    • KramlmarK says:

      Oh goody, the old “my anecdote trumps your data because my life is hard and yours isn’t” argument. Can you call me an elitist or something for making fun of it?!? THIS IS LIKE CHRISTMAS.

      • VXXC says:

        Jack we’re trying to make a world where slut is offensive and there’s no micro-agressions parsing and hashing of it.

        Also a world where micro-agressions do not exist, real agression does, and the two are not confused.

        Finally slut is a common term used in reaction. The author was quite accurate to employ it in a discussion of reaction.

  71. James says:

    Thank you for this thought-provoking piece! I admire your willingness to engage all comers in such detail. I’m not a reactionary, and I think it good to keep one’s identity small. However, I shall answer some of these points.

    The extent of the Reactionary obsession with crime never fails to amaze me.

    I think that when reactionaries talk about crime, they sometimes import a progressive attitude. The statistical incidence of murder, theft and so on is mostly quite good, but a serious problem is that certain kinds of criminal and thug are a protected class.

    Acquaintances who have been to Singapore talk of the absolute safety in which a husband feels prepared to take his wife and children about on the streets at night. This is not the case in Britain, and there are many areas where middle class people would not wish to raise a family. A good little book on this subject is ‘Time to Emigrate?’ by George Walden. (Many native Britons do emigrate, although they don’t advertise their motives.)

    I recently had to stay overnight with someone in an NHS hospital. The staff were informed that a youth was going to be brought into this unit, who had allegedly suffered a drug overdose and was dangerous. He was brought in, accompanied by three police officers. His behaviour in the hospital was contemptible; he continually shouted at the top of his voice, and didn’t appear to have any ailment. In spite of his behaviour, the strongest reprimand that the police officers would give was to shout “RELAX”, and of course the youth knew that threats of suicide and accusations of brutality guarantee him soft treatment. The reactionary perspective is that the police officers are victims of a progressive culture that would see them eventually fired if they were to behave differently.

    Likewise, Elizabeth and the other monarchs in her line were never shy about killing anyone who spoke out against them.

    Tocqueville said the following in ‘Democracy in America’:

    When the Roman emperors were at the height of their power, the different nations of the empire still preserved usages and customs of great diversity; although they were subject to the same monarch, most of the provinces were separately administered; they abounded in powerful and active municipalities; and although the whole government of the empire was centered in the hands of the Emperor alone and he always remained, in case of need, the supreme arbiter in all matters, yet the details of social life and private occupations lay for the most part beyond his control. The emperors possessed, it is true, an immense and unchecked power, which allowed them to gratify all their whimsical tastes and to employ for that purpose the whole strength of the state. They frequently abused that power arbitrarily to deprive their subjects of property or of life; their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few, but it did not reach the many; it was confined to some few main objects and neglected the rest; it was violent, but its range was limited.

    It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them.

    The reactionary perspective is that Tocqueville was correct, although he underestimated the period of horrid instability that would ensue before the advanced countries settled on a stable politics of the democratic era. The extensive, mild despotism of administrated equality–invasive taxation, social legislation, centralised welfare and education–is better than what was going on in the early-to-mid 20th century, but might we now be able to outgrow it?

    You heard it here first. The Nazis were baaaaasically the same as progressive liberal democrats.

    Since both have accumulated power in the 20th century, there are bound to be similarities. The Nazis made sure that young people ‘learned nothing else’ but to think as Nazis; progressives are too sophisticated to say so, but that is also the purpose of our socialised schooling system, from four to eighteen or thirty, which few sensible people would defend on grounds of the ‘education’ that it provides. Another similarity is the way in which both Nazis and progressives have transformed charity into an arm of the state.

    Moldbug’s essay on the Nazi and progressive politics of race is my favourite.

    So they invent this strange creature, the distributed conspiracy.

    Moldbug’s theories about the ‘Cathedral’ are reductive and do smack of a conspiracy theory. However, the useful concept to which you allude is called distributed Machiavellism. The insight is that it is a mistake to consider ruthless and elaborate political schemes to be impossible in an age when individual action is rarely decisive. Like market exchange, the behaviour of people influenced by legislation, creative lawyering and state funding is a distributed order that can produce high degrees of politically motivated coordination.

    The Climategate emails were a view into academia’s distributed Machiavellism. Skeptics should also read Hazlitt’s fisking of the preposterously false Keynesian ideas whose substance is still expounded, or at least tolerated, by almost every professional economist.

    I have yet to hear Reactionaries who cite them as a panacea explain in detail what exit rights we need beyond those we have already.

    ‘Exit’ is a synonym for jurisdictional competition, which I learned about from Nick Szabo (e.g. see comments here). This seems to be pretty abstruse stuff that ought to have more exposure and research activity…but I don’t think these ideas are palatable to academia.

  72. Kevin Nowell says:

    Murder rate is not an accurate proxy for crime rate. This is such a fundamental error it is hard to take this FAQ seriously. Medical technology and techniques are vastly superior today than they were 100 years ago. Police response times are much, much faster than they were 100 years ago. Cellphones have only been popular for about 25 years. Home security systems and auto anti-theft systems are now very common. If anything the murder rate should have dropped significantly. Yet it has not.

    Despite the proliferation of increasingly dangerous weapons and the very large increase in rates of serious criminal assault, since 1960, the lethality of such assault in the United States has dropped dramatically. This paradox has barely been studied and needs to be examined using national time-series data. Starting from the basic view that homicides are aggravated assaults with the outcome of the victim’s death, we assembled evidence from national data sources to show that the principal explanation of the downward trend in lethality involves parallel developments in medical technology and related medical support services that have suppressed the homicide rate compared to what it would be had such progress not been made. We argue that research into the causes and deterability of homicide would benefit from a “lethality perspective” that focuses on serious assaults, only a small proportion of which end in death.

    • Kevin Nowell says:

      The above quote is from criminologists Anthony R Harris and associates’ abstract to the paper “Murder and Medicine:The Lethality of Criminal Assault 1960-1999” which was pbulished in the May 2002 issue of the journal Homicide Studies

    • Multiheaded says:

      What if criminals now just finish off their victims more thoroughly, so that with the victim’s greatly increased survivability, achieving the same goal (a dead body) takes more work, but murderers merely end up working harder? Come to think of it, what was the registration rate for non-lethal assault-type crimes in the 19th century? Police might’ve not even bothered.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It is right in the FAQ, right underneath the part on murder rate: ” And lest someone bring up that medical technology has advanced enough to turn many would-be murders into attempted murders – which is true – aggravated assaults, the category of crime that would encompass attempted murders, are less than half of what they were twenty years ago.”

      • Kevin Nowell says:

        The assault rate is almost triple what it was 50 years ago though. There were 16.9 assaults for every murder in 1960, 20.9 in 1970, 29.3 in 1980, 45.0 in 1990, 58.9 in 2000 and then it leveled out to 52.7 in 2010 and 51.6 in 2012.

        Twenty years ago was the peak of the crime epidemic in this country. Comparing 2013 to 1993 is comparing rotten apples to rotten apples with crack in thm. Crime only started going down around this time because we started locking people up and throwing away the key around that time. Make a graph comparing incarceration rate to the violent crime rate for the last 30 years and then see if you can see what I see and other reactionaries can see.

        • CaptainBooshi says:

          I really just want to comment on you last statement here that “Crime only started going down around this time because we started locking people up and throwing away the key around that time.”

          This is a textbook case of mistaking correlation for causation. While I have no doubt that increased incarceration played some role in the decrease in crime, saying it’s the only reason is just plain wrong. How can I say that so definitively? Because crime also went down at a similar rate in places that did not skyrocket their incarceration rates, like in Canada for example. The simple fact of the matter is that the ridiculous increase and decrease in crime in the 80’s and 90’s is still a matter of great debate, and although there’s a ton of different theories, no explanation is obviously correct yet.

        • asdf says:

          Yes, increased incarceration is only one of the many reasons crime went down. There’s also:

          1) Fewer young men in general due to demographic changes

          2) An increase in isolating technology that keeps people off the streets (media, videogames, pornography) which is self destructive but keeps the self destruction more isolated.

          3) Changes in police methods in many major metros. Guiliani in NYC is the one I know the best.

          4) The crack epidemic of the early 90s does present a terrible spike much like say tech stocks in 2000. I would expect it to be a local high that is hard to match, even if crime in general is way up compared to before the counter culture.

        • Should be noted that high incarceration leads to its own social pathology…

        • Kevin Nowell says:

          This is a textbook case of mistaking correlation for causation. While I have no doubt that increased incarceration played some role in the decrease in crime, saying it’s the only reason is just plain wrong.

          Actually, no it is not such a textbook case as you even admit that there is a causative relationship between the two and any person with common sense can see it. What you doubt is that it is “the only reason” that the trend lines of all forms of crime suddenly reversed their drastic upward spikes at this time.

          Well, I’m not commited to the idea that it is the only reason; but, that it is a major reason I have no doubt. But, what other changes in the socio-political-cultural environment could help to explain such a turnaround? Please note demographic changes have been gradual and so could not explain such a sudden change.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The comparison with Canada suggests that the effect of incarceration is zero.

        • asdf says:

          BTW, in addition to the above we are talking about the same Canada that doesn’t have many black people right? And crime is mainly a black thing, and most of the people in America’s prisons are black.

          Hmm, 2 + 2 = 4.

        • Kevin Nowell says:

          The comparison with Canada suggests that the effect of incarceration is zero.

          How so?

          Canada’s incarceration rate has stayed pretty constant, going up slightly in the 90s and then going back down. The crime level has gone down there since a peak in the early 90s but not nearly so quickly as in the US.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          US and Canadian homicides doubled between 1965 and 1975 and have since come back down, almost to where they started. The US ramped up prison, while Canada didn’t. The path down was not quite the same, but smoothed out, it’s pretty similar. The difference is the crack epidemic, which hit the US but not Canada. Incarceration had already been ramped up a lot by then, so it is evidence against the efficacy of prison.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          For the second link, try: smoothed out.

        • Alejandro says:

          Surprised no one so far in this subthread has not mentioned the one factor that is actually almost certainly responsible for the rise and fall of crime: lead.

        • Also, crime is far from mainly a black thing, although it is a particularly large problem for them.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Yes, you should take racial differences into account. It would be best to break out racial rates of homicide and prison separately. It is possible that Canada imprisoned a lot of blacks without much impact on the total imprisonment rate. But in the US the major changes in homicide and prison were the same for blacks and whites.

        • Kevin Nowell says:

          Douglas wrote:

          US and Canadian homicides doubled between 1965 and 1975 and have since come back down, almost to where they started. The US ramped up prison, while Canada didn’t. The path down was not quite the same, but smoothed out, it’s pretty similar. The difference is the crack epidemic, which hit the US but not Canada. Incarceration had already been ramped up a lot by then, so it is evidence against the efficacy of prison.

          Once again I must maintain that murder rate is not an accurate proxy for crime because it is heavily influenced by the level of medical technology and understanding.

          If one were, to look at the graph of the Canadian violent crime rate from 1962 to 2007 one sees a very different story. Violent crime went up by a factor of 5 between 1962 and a peak in 1992, and it has not gone down much since then. The spread between Canadian violent crime and U.S. violent crime is less than it has ever been. It is obvious then that the U.S. employed a much more effective strategy to combat the crime wave unleashed by the cultural revolutions of the 60s.

        • Cadmium says:

          Drive-by comment from Canada: We may not have black people, but I’d be more than willing to bet that our crime rates are even more racially polarized than America’s. Our Aboriginal population is proportionally much smaller than the American black population but makes up (I think) the majority of prisoners nationwide and (definitely) the vast majority in provinces with Aboriginal populations above a couple of percentage points.

          Sorry for the lack of data, but since I’m an intellectual lightweight among LW and Reactionary types, I’m sure you can find the data more efficiently if you need it :p

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Here’s a graph of Canadian incarceration by race. Aborigines are less than 20%. They are more overrepresented than Canadian blacks, but rarer and less overrepresented than blacks in America. They don’t drive the totals. Combining lots of statistics in a reckless way, I conclude that Canadian blacks are less violent than American whites.

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  74. KramlmarK says:

    Minor point, but if you’re not willing to provide data, I’d back off on the “30%-or-so” of feminists are not terrible estimation. It’s really, REALLY easy to overestimate the number of terrible feminists when you’re exposed to ten of them on tumblr for every one in real life. My own pulled-out-of-my-ass estimation is more towards 70% not-terrible, but that’s based on my experience at Midwest Hippie Liberal Arts College #237. The number is pulled from air, doesn’t add anything, and will get a negative reaction from not-terrible feminists. Better to avoid presuming to know the relative sizes of the camps without good data.

    • VXXC says:

      Data does not trump life. And yes when it’s my anecdote I have learned to learn from it and not your data.

      Especially when you is Prog. You are about power, money, status from Holier than Thou. Your data will serve these ends.

      I’ve quite had plenty enough wasted time attempting to convince anyone with facts, reason, data. Usually the change the subject, ignore the “data”, or going on the attack to cover weakness – as you did – is the response.

      But don’t worry, I shan’t try to talk ye into anything. It’s pointless. Your passions and casuistry align with interests perfectly. Talk is over.

      • KramlmarK says:

        We’re talking about trends supposedly going back to 1600. Unless you’re a vampire you haven’t lived that long, which alone gives me good reason to believe you’re using rhetorical tricks to avoid having to make a coherent argument (one of those tricks, by the way, is to accuse your opponent of the same — which I appreciated immensely). But I’ll assume you’re only talking about the graphs from the 1950s on, in which case…what is your argument? I’m not asking that rhetorically, I’m genuinely curious. Where does your experience fall into this?

        (Nice change in subtext from “progressivism is wrong because annecdote” to “I as an individual am choosing to ignore your data because annecdote,” by the way. I almost missed it, and I can’t even prove it.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      I’d say the 30% sane number is probably an underestimate for the people who will tell you they’re feminists if you ask, but probably an overestimate for the people who will volunteer without prompting. The problem is that in elite circles not being a feminist is almost as bad as being a Republican (!) so you end up with a lot of people giving lip service to the idea without really substantially checking anybody’s privilege. Especially at Midwest Hippie Liberal Arts College #237.

      • Multiheaded says:

        The good thing is that any actual feminist would be able to detect those within like a minute of polite questioning. Just get a sense of whether the “feminist” has any idea about “deep” issues that aren’t currently in the liberal media spotlight – like the systematic devaluing and exploitation of affective labour, or how chivalry is dangerous and rape-promoting when uncritically accepted. (FYI yes, I think it *is* rape-promoting.)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      The word “sane” in that context should not be taken to mean “stupid” or even “holds stupid views”, but rather “willing to hold rational discussions about their views with someone they are tempted to consider an evil enemy, based on the Principle of Charity”

      By those standards, 30% is probably an overestimation, as indeed it would be of any group.

  75. Multiheaded says:

    Two quick remarks:

    1) It’s very odd feeling that yes, in certain regards I am among the other, “weird” kind of reactionary in Scott’s classification in that I’m OK with (some) revolutionary violence, “crazy” feminism and the like, see some issues as a struggle for zero-sum things like relative privilege between groups and not a debate on the optimal way to live together, etc… Some months ago I’ve started to change my mind towards more libertarianism in general, but first and foremost I find myself a Machiavellian. Everyone who’s “weak” and not actively oppressing the other “weak” is my potential tribe, and the “strong” are another potential tribe, and we have incentives to beat them up and take their stuff, while they have incentives to keep the current system going. And it sure hurts! All other social, ethical and practical considerations are just an afterthought – although they do make the basic, asymmetrical struggle into something recognizable as “civilization”.

    2) Another thing that hurts is Scott’s uncritical adoption of anti-feminist language, as pointed out above. Somehow I again feel that the “weird-reactionary”/far-left perspective of attacking even the attempt at a “neutral” position wherever one of “ours” is the victim in an ongoing disaster… well, I’m sliding towards it. I just can’t find it a *worthwhile* part of Enlightenment values to discuss an issue of an unequal, antagonistic society on “neutral” ground. IOW: die cis scum, fear this queer, fuck whitey, etc.

    Let me be clear here. There is no excuse for the sort of extremist folk social justice crusades one can find on Tumblr or Twitter or Freethought Blogs. With a few treasured exceptions they are full of nasty and hateful people devoid of intellectual integrity and basic human kindness, and I am suitably embarrassed to be in the same 50%-or-so of the political spectrum.

    Then again, there are lots of nasty and hateful conservatives and reactionaries devoid of intellectual integrity and basic human kindness too. Go take a look at Free Republic. Maybe we can call it a tie?

    Y’see… NO. A year ago I would’ve agreed wholeheartedly, but now I’ve changed my mind towards the “unenlightened”, “hopeless” option. Things just seem to get done like this in our world: as long as you have a way to suppress the nastiness against the in-group, social violence works wonders.

    Martin Luther King would’ve been closer to an enhanced version of the crazy fiery-eyed feminist blogger than to an enchanced version of you, Scott – and could his people have done much without the Black Panthers on his left (well, you’d call it “black right”) pulling the overton window and framing their struggle as non-fringe?

    • Multiheaded says:

      A good example of the kind of activist that I like but Scott would presumably find a horrible, hateful person is the lady who blogs at The Bicker (formerly STFUConservatives on Tumblr). Another is Cerberus at Sadly, No! – both of them are much more to my liking than the frankly anemic words in favour of social justice one usually sees in the LW-sphere. I respect righteous anger when I see it, and I see quite a lot of it alongside all the noise and random chaff.

    • Moss_Piglet says:

      You do realize you’re not a Reactionary, right?

      Everything you’ve described puts you pretty squarely on the opposite end of the spectrum, including your preferred methods of “activism,” although admittedly the way you’ve framed it is refreshingly honest.

      I’m not sure where you got the idea that any of this was directed at you or people like you.

      • Multiheaded says:

        You do realize you’re not a Reactionary, right?

        Of course! Most days i oscillate between left-libertarian and full-on commie, basically I support almost everything that rustles your jimmies. I was just attempting to humor Scott when I bemusedly realized that according to him I’m not really his ally in advancing what he sees as Progressivism – he might be viewing the meta-level differences between him and the far-left people he takes shots at as more fundamental than the object-level warfare between said far-leftists (my tribe) and “reactionaries”.

        I’m not sure where you got the idea that any of this was directed at you or people like you.

        See above, Scott described certain far-left movements such as hardline feminism and “anti-white” struggles as anti-Enlightenment and therefore (implicitly) small-r reactionary. I disagree with the classification, but it’s an interesting and curious one.

        • nydwracu says:

          Certainly nothing new. Horseshoe theory and so on.

          Enlightenment/modernist/postmodernist would probably be a better model, especially given the division between the Communists I can get along with and the ones I can’t — I generally align with the modernists, have some respect for the Enlightenment types even though I think they have a hopelessly optimistic view of power, and can’t stand postmodernists. (I’m grouping with the postmodernists the ’60s Freudian types who took a few decades to realize that, you know, perhaps it is not a good idea to advocate for the normalization of pedophilia, but maybe the distance is wider than I realize; people are usually bad at distinguishing between enemy groups.)

        • Multiheaded says:

          I think that, unfortunately, a few of the postmodernist attacks on the modernist Left do have some substance to them – “unfortunately” because its effect has never been to give the modernist Left a vital shock, but always to demoralize it, sell it out and faciliate the great liberal betrayal. They have gradually seized and corrupted the spirit of 1968, making it the great counter-revolutionary force it is today – but if there was nothing true to that spirit in the first place, they couldn’t have crippled the Left with it.

          Add to that the fact that 3rd wave feminism actually started out quite well too, a late 60s backlash against welfare-state paternalism and the narrow conservatism of existing movements – and now it’s also embedded into neoliberalism, empowering the regime even where it says or does worthwhile things.

        • Multiheaded says:

          (Saw a good Guardian article re: that last one, but lost the link. Look under “Feminism” in CiF, I guess.)

  76. Apprentice says:

    You start out defining reactionary politics as being about a) traditional monarchy and b) ethno-nationalism. You trounce monarchy very carefully, for reasons I largely agree with. But a comprehensive critique of nationalism never really materializes. Maybe a follow-up post?

    To pick one potential place to start, here’s a video of some nationalists saying and doing things progressives disapprove of.

    The current majority population of country X would like to retain its status as a majority population. There seems to be a decent case that they are acting in their rational self-interest. But progressives would say that X-ians have a moral duty to help the people of country Y and that a good way to do so is letting some Y-ians into country X. The nationalist X-ians would argue that what Y-ians need above all is to fix country Y and that letting Y-ians into X will do comparatively little good for Y-ians and cause potentially substantial deterioration of conditions in X.

    It seems to me that Scott has already conceded huge swathes of territory to the nationalist position by his open-minded discussion of cultural and genetic differences between population groups. A popular progressive way to argue against ethno-nationalism is to insist on no important differences between nations. If Scott is not going to man that line of defence, how is he going to refute nationalism? I’m not saying he can’t do it but I will say that I haven’t yet seen him do so.

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  79. Dan says:

    (1) Moldbug should not be the standardbearer for reaction. He has no connection to religion and thus no connection to traditionalist culture.

    Most people from the past would reject someone like that as a rootless leftist radical.

    (2) Demographic replacements are much more dramatic than you acknowledge. Subsaharan Africa has a fertility rate of 4x that of Europeans. If a generation for them is 25 years and about 30 years for a European, we are greater than 100-fold reversal of relative numbers in 100 years among matching cohorts. Yes, birthrates could come down, but the latest trend is for Nigerian birthrates to rise from 6 to 7 in the past decade.

    (3) Communism is not reactionary; it is the bitterest enemy of reaction. That you would even suggest a Communist country suggests zero awareness of conservatism.

    (4) The Moldbug thesis that the dramatic leftist march began long ago in America is baloney.

    The sexual revolution was probably the beginning and that is only just playing out demographically. The shift to a nation largely on the dole just now occurred. Much of Europe went farther, earlier down the road of destructive liberalism and Europe has been an economic basketcase in recent years, even with very advantageous population traits.

    Real Calvinists were humble, feared God, and were builders. The current crop of leftists acknowledge no divine aspect and proudly live by no principle but personal pleasure. Both modern leftists and Calvinists rejected heretics, but the similarities end there.

    Bah, I’m tired.

    • Konkvistador says:

      Neoreaction has secular intellectual roots so Moldbug and Annisimov are appropriate. I’m assuming this article was intended at neoreaction in particular as titled and not the religious traditionalists.

      • Dan says:

        The roots aren’t Moldbug, although he played a part, helping to reawaken awareness of greats like Thomas Carlyle. But Carlyle came from Calvinism. Here is a bit on Thomas Carlyle, from rationalwiki. Carlyle was not strictly religious but he had a great deal of respect for religion.

        “The Everlasting No is the name given by philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle in his 1832 book Sartor Resartus to an attitude of aggressively malicious unbelief he claimed to find in some people. It is deliberately opposed by Carlyle to the Everlasting Yea, a spirit of resolute faith without a definite object, but it is important to note that the Everlasting No was more than idle atheism. It instead expresses a determination to mock and malign every aspect of the noblest sentiments of humanity.

        Carlyle felt that the truest proof for the existence of the divine could be found in the high feelings and ambitions of mankind, and that a persistent atheism could only exist and grow through the Everlasting No – e.g. by tearing down those high feelings and ambitions. Similarly, the most ideal form of the Everlasting Yea (in Carlyle’s opinion) was only to be found through devout opposition to the grim nihilism.[1] In this way, the Everlasting No and Everlasting Yea each actually owed their existence to the other, and were necessary to each other.

        I am sorry but Moldbug is pretty much the opposite of Carlyle in many things. Mr. Alexander would do better to start with Carlyle. Moldbuggery is lot of what Carlyle railled against.

    • Konkvistador says:

      “The sexual revolution was probably the beginning and that is only just playing out demographically. ”

      I disagree, this is hardly reactionary. Even the Paleocons at least recognize the huge leftist shift and reconstruction of American society under FDR.

      You can make the case Anglosphere leftism was less important than Continental leftism historically of course, but we live in a Anglo not Continental world today, had revolutionary France or the Soviet Union won maybe this would not be so.

      • Multiheaded says:

        I disagree, this is hardly reactionary. Even the Paleocons at least recognize the huge leftist shift and reconstruction of American society under FDR.

        Proeminent hardline leftists have also criticized such trends, which they date to the completion of the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the “welfare/warfare state”. Without getting into headier stuff like Foucault…

        • Konkvistador says:

          Yet, these concepts are most often explored by Paleocons and Libertarians:

          The very term “welfare/warfare state” you used was coined by Murray Rothbard. If there is a concept similarly prominent on the left that refers to the same phenomena, why didn’t you use it?

        • Multiheaded says:

          If there is a concept similarly prominent on the left that refers to the same phenomena, why didn’t you use it?

          Maybe because leftists tend not to separate these phenomena from their general analysis of the current stage of capitalism; Marxists especially emphasize the impossibility of any real boundary between Capital and the state apparatus, which is nearly the opposite of conventional American liberal assumptions. So they might not see a need to name such phenomena as if those were an aberration or an unexpected reversal in trends. See Marcuse, Illich (more of an anarchist), etc.

          P.S.: Marcuse might’ve not used that exact expression, “welfare/warfare state”, but a quote to the effect that welfare and warfare are the two foundations of the modern capitalist system is very definitely in one of his texts. Hell, Rothbard might’ve stolen that one from some Frankfurt School work – like he stole “libertarian” from, well, libertarians (AKA anarchists).

        • Konkvistador says:

          I would be interested in that quote, if its not too much trouble can you link to it or at try to find the title of the work?

        • Multiheaded says:

          It’s from The One-Dimensional Man, 1964. Sub-heading: “The Welfare and Warfare State” –
          Late industrial society has increased rather than reduced the need for parasitical and alienated functions (for the society as a whole, if not for the individual). Advertising, public relations, indoctrination, planned obsolescence are no longer unproductive overhead costs but rather elements of basic production costs. In order to be effective, such production of socially necessary waste requires continuous rationalization – the relentless utilization of advanced techniques and science. Consequently, a rising standard of living is the almost unavoidable by-product of the politically manipulated industrial society, once a certain level of backwardness has been overcome. The growing productivity of labor creates an increasing surplus-product which, whether privately or centrally appropriated and distributed, allows an increased consumption – notwithstanding the increased diversion of productivity. As long as this constellation prevails, it reduces the use-value of freedom; there is no reason to insist on self-determination if the administered life is the comfortable and even the “good” life. This is the rational and material ground for the unification of opposites, for one-dimensional political behaviour. On this ground, the transcending political forces within society are arrested, and qualitative change appears possible only as a change from without.

          And yet:
          The critique of the Welfare State in terms of liberalism and conservatism (with or without the prefix “neo”) rests, for its validity, on the existence of the very conditions which the Welfare State has surpassed – namely, a lower degree of social wealth and technology. The sinister aspects of this critique show forth in the fight against comprehensive social legislation and adequate government expenditures for services other than those of military defense.
          Denunciation of the oppressive capabilities of the Welfare State thus serves to protect the oppressive capabilities of the society prior to the Welfare State. At the most advanced stage of capitalism, this society is a system of subdued pluralism, in which the competing institutions concur in solidifying the power of the whole over the individual. Still, for the administered individual, pluralistic administration is far better than total administration. One institution might protect him against the other; one organization might mitigate the impact of the other; possibilities of escape and redress can be calculated. The rule of law, no matter how restricted, is still infinitely safer than rule above or without law.

          Ambiguity tolerance! It’s what separates the “thick”/left-leaning libertarians from the “thin”/unconsciously reactionary ones, IMO. A similar (welfare-critical but anti-reactionary) sentiment has later been expressed by Chomsky as “widening the floor of the cage”.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Chomsky, Expanding the Floor of the Cage”
          We know we’re in a cage. We know we’re trapped. We’re going to expand the floor, meaning we will extend to the limits what the cage will allow. And we intend to destroy the cage. But not by attacking the cage when we’re vulnerable, so they’ll murder us. That’s completely correct. You have to protect the cage when it’s under attack from even worse predators from outside, like private power. And you have to expand the floor of the cage, recognizing that it’s a cage. These are all preliminaries to dismantling it. Unless people are willing to tolerate that level of complexity, they’re going to be of no use to people who are suffering and who need help, or, for that matter, to themselves.

          Yeah, it really sounds like Adorno was on to something with that idea of his.

  80. Harold says:

    First let me join the chorus of those extolling the excellence of this post.

    Regarding sluts and marriage: Most divorces happen when people are young (and presumably still have value in the dating market). Marrying earlier then leads to a greater chance of divorce. One, of course, expects that 30 year olds will have tended to have had more sexual partners than 20 year olds. From these facts alone we would predict that more sexual partners before marriage would lead to a lower chance of divorce.

    Regarding a rise, or lack thereof, in crime: People don’t care about crime rates per se, they care also about how avoidable crime is; how dependent it is upon the choices they make. What they abhor is random crime that could happen to anyone independent of the choices they make; where whether they become a victim is totally out of their control. For example, if women are much less likely to be raped by their acquaintances than they once were, but are much more likely to be randomly assualted and raped by strangers, they may consider the situation to have become worse even if the overall rape rate has decreased (since women have some choice over who their acquaintances are).

    • nydwracu says:

      Crime is very avoidable, but that doesn’t make the situation any better; all you have to do to avoid it is either make a few hundred thousand dollars a year so you can live in a good area and send your kids to private schools or make only one hundred thousand a year, move out to the suburbs, pay out the ass for a car, and still probably send your kids to private schools.

      I have no siblings, both of my parents work, and my father is somewhere near the top of the GS pay scale, but I still had to go to public school and grow up in PG County. Thankfully, we live in a pretty empty area, so I don’t hear gunshots *that* often… but the fact that I have the choice of either avoiding crime, living in an area that has anything whatsoever within an hour’s walk, or saving to retire or send whatever kids I may end up having to college doesn’t make me feel any better about the crime situation!

      • Harold says:

        Sounds like crime is only avoidable at a huge cost. Not very avoidable at all.

        I thought of a real life example of the sort of psychology to which I was attempting to comment on. I support gun rights. Even if I acknowledged that more guns in more houses is likely to result in more lives lost due to accidents and suicides than lives saved by their use in protecting one’s self and one’s family, I would still support gun rights because they increase an individual’s agency rather than leaving them at the mercy of fate. In this case I am not only concerned with the number of deaths, but also with personal agency. Whether this is rational or not is another matter.

  81. Dan says:

    So many things wrong… where to begin…

    “the destruction of the ancien regime in Germany”

    The Ancien Regime would have been easy to destroy in Germany because it never existed in Germany, silly. It was French. Maybe the fact that the word is French should have clued you in that the Ancien Regime was, um, French.

    “Look up demotist in a dictionary – Wiktionary will do – and you will find it means “one who is versed in ancient Egyptian demotic writing”. Mr. Anissimov’s use is entirely idiosyncratic to Reactionaries, or, to put it bluntly, made up.”

    Pure comedy. Hard words! So confusing! So Scott Alexander personally doesn’t know the meaning of a word and consults the Wiktionary. Lol. If Scott Alexander has consulted the American Heritage Dictionary, he would have gotten as the first definition, “Of or relating to the common people; popular: demotic speech; demotic entertainments”. No cherry picking on my part: This is the very first item that appears you get when you type the word into Google.

    Pro-gay South Korea? Dude, no idea what you are talking about. South Korea is one of the least ‘pro-gay’ of all the developed countries. It’s not ever talked about or discussed. I’ve been there three times. You? Are you basing this on watching K-Pop on Youtube and thinking it looks gay? Those are hateful and intolerant stereotypes you are projecting, Mister 😉

    Arguing on crime without talking about the astonishing levels of incarceration and the enormous new police state in every US city needed just to keep it to reasonable levels is to have no understanding of what’s going on. Did you see the massive militaristic response to the two Boston Bombers, as though it were the US military occupying Baghdad? That was just Boston’s local force, and every major city has that now. Bloomie got into hot water because he’s been using martial law to control NYC crime all these years.

    Happiness? Here’s Harvard Medical School on the topic.
    “23% of women in their 40s and 50s take antidepressants, a higher percentage than any other group”
    “the rate of antidepressant use in this country among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008.”

    Happiness, yes I suppose so. Kind of a gross way to get happiness though.

    You talk about ‘progressive’ Europe and cite all the good things about it. Actually the progressive part was the eastern, Communist half (you know, rivers of blood, Gulags, economic collapse, blah, blah, blah) while the conservative half was Western Europe.

    Almost all the pluses are technological. The output of those horrible, non-diverse, high-achieving white men, with a few Japanese men tossed in later.

    • Aris Katsaris says:

      “Pure comedy. Hard words! So confusing! ”

      You should tread more carefully with your sarcasm, when you yourself just confused “demotic” with “demotist”.

      “You talk about ‘progressive’ Europe and cite all the good things about it. Actually the progressive part was the eastern, Communist half (you know, rivers of blood, Gulags, economic collapse, blah, blah, blah) while the conservative half was Western Europe”

      And now you’re confusing progressive social democracy with revolutionary communism.

      Progressivism in the given context is the same as the “Anglo-american liberalism” or “Universalism” described by Moldbug as one of the ideological combatants of the 20th century — the ideology which ended up victorious in the Cold War, not the defeated Soviet communism.

      Until World War 2 the ideological combatants were:
      Communism – centered in Soviet Union
      Fascism – centered around Nazi Germany
      Liberalism – America and UK

      After World War 2, and the defeat of Nazi Germany the remnants of fascism got allied to the West (e.g. Franco, Greek junta):
      Communism – centered in Soviet Union
      Liberalism & remnants of fascism – NATO

      And the way I see it, after Cold War ended, Europe has now two centers of gravity:
      Progressivism – centered around Brussels
      Remnants of communism & remnants of fascism – centered around Moscow

      If you doubt this, then let me note that the most reactionary (as in “the only nation that has neoNazis in the parliament), the most “revolutionary communist”-friendly (as in “burn the banks and kill the bankworkers”), and the most *failed* nation in the EU, has also been the one who has been most friendly to Moscow (namely Greece).

      • Multiheaded says:

        Hungary also has a fascist-like party in parliament, IIRC a far-right bloc even controls its government now, and it’s been getting all sorts of flak from Brussels.

        • nydwracu says:

          I wouldn’t call Fidesz far-right, and didn’t they change the constitution to pretty much guarantee themselves wins from now until forever?

          I would expect Greece to pass on one of those first two criteria in favor of Belarus — the only one I know of whose government has gotten approving coverage from both internet Communists and Counter-Currents.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Ancien regime is a broad term that can be used to describe various ancient regimes. As well argue “France never had a monarchy, because ‘monarchy’ is an English word”.

      I feel like your selection of antidepressant use as the criteria for happiness is a bit unfair. While I admit that technically no one in Elizabethan England used antidepressants, one wonders if this might be for reasons other than all Elizabethans being constantly elated.

      Your discussion of “progressive” Eastern Europe is turning into a dispute over word meanings. I’ve already said I don’t like or endorse Communism and do like and endorse liberal democracy. Liberal democratic Europe has done very well for itself. So the thing I’m actually arguing for is supported by the evidence I’m citing. This sounds like the eargreyish fallacy again.

      • nydwracu says:

        If you support Enlightenment ideals and dislike Communism, it would be less confusing for everyone — or at least reactionaries (who are naturally going to think historically) — were you to find a different label than ‘progressive’, which Moldbug is completely historically right about.

        Even ‘liberal’ is suspect; I’ve heard it applied to people like the Hollywood Ten, who were, well, Communists. In a Communist Party. Which was under direction from Moscow.

    • Damien says:

      “Arguing on crime without talking about the astonishing levels of incarceration and the enormous new police state in every US city needed just to keep it to reasonable levels is to have no understanding of what’s going on”

      This is silly, since it doesn’t acknowledge the War on Some Drugs and the concomitant manufacturing of crimes to keep the police (and now, private prisons) funded and busy. Nor is there evidence of an “enormous new police state” being what’s driving the fall in crime rates.

  82. identitynotpublic says:

    The slut stuff is actually pretty upsetting to read. As a single woman who is approaching 30, and has had a fair few partners (I spent a lot of time hanging around quite promiscuous communities (e.g. the poly community)), I am pretty sure reactionaries would hate me (which is why I’ve used a different name than usual for this post). I don’t think they’re correct, but I couldn’t undo sleeping with everyone I’ve slept with if they were!

    I think I have a similar reaction to it as men often have when women talk about them being creepy.

    I’m going to give internet dating a go soon, and I am worried about what more mainstream guys will think of my past. I’ll certainly tell them all about it early on! It was probably the wrong time to read reactionaries views on women.

    Not that whether it’s upsetting to me is relevant to whether the reactionaries are right or wrong (though I do still think they’re wrong), but I thought the fact that it’s pretty upsetting might be useful information.

    P.S. No I’ve never had an STI or got pregnant.

    • identitynotpublic says:

      Sorry about poor grammar etc in that post – I was pretty nervous when writing it, despite the anonymity!

    • Protagoras says:

      If it helps any, I tend to assume that a woman who has had very few partners either has a lot of sexual hang-ups or more charitably just isn’t very interested in sex, and either way that means she seems much less likely to be very compatible with me. I find experienced partners to be much more fun in bed. The opinions of the reactionary guys certainly aren’t universal among men.

    • I’m inclined to empathize with you; this is a bad case of the trappings outracing the substance. (which is structure, parenting, duty to society, and inter-generational stuff, which I think poly likely does *better*.) There are some really unfortunate ties between the “manosphere” and reaction. However, I agree with Protagoras that neither the reactionary nor manosphere views are at all widespread.

    • DB says:

      My own position is [woman honest about their sexual history, regardless of what it is] >= [woman with no or limited sexual history] > [woman with not-that-limited sexual history who tries to hide it from me]. But it seems difficult to signal this preference effectively.

    • misha says:

      I think the anti-slut branch of Reactionary thought is really just an outgrowth of puritanical strains that happen in every ideology. There are always strong believers that associate self-abnegation with virtue and are quick to condemn anything they don’t personally like as a sin. Slut-hating reactionaries are basically equivalent to Dworkin: Taking their own hangups and getting angry at everyone else about them.

      I think all it takes is the example of Rome to tell us sluttiness at worst takes centuries to destroy a glorious empire. If it’s evil it’s a very minor one. On the other hand it’s a very obvious one to see and be upset and jealous about. People get angry about income inequality and they also get angry about sexual inequality.

      re: internet dating, you may as well ignore mainstream guys. As a young woman you’re EXTREMELY advantaged compared to men and will receive many messages if you’re at all attractive (which you probably are). You can afford to be picky.

      • Konkvistador says:

        “I think all it takes is the example of Rome to tell us sluttiness at worst takes centuries to destroy a glorious empire. If it’s evil it’s a very minor one.”

        This is an important point.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Also: take the example of the USSR to see how enforcing gender and racial equality with an iron fist, if anything, can make a society stronger rather than weaken its cohesion/stability/etc. E.g. the Soviet state generally tried to paper over any ethnic tensions under the surface and pretend they’d been all eliminated already, but came down like a ton of bricks on any group that actually tried to start shit along national lines. Although re:gender the Eastern block was generally very mix and match, of course; lots and lots of divorces, abortions and single mothers, especially after the war – yet a puritan anti-sex climate.

  83. ivvenalis says:

    Could you please add a hyperlink index to the front of this?

  84. Lead and crime.

    More lead and crime.

    Do Reactionaries have a word for heterosexual men who have irresponsible sex lives?

    • No, but they have expressed frustration at heterosexual men who are uninterested in having children, getting married, or forming stable children. In any event, their argument is that women have changed and men have mostly stayed the same (which I think is moderately accurate). My own view is that relaxation of overly strict social rules about promiscuity and love is a great social benefit, but has come with some negative side effects in terms of expectations and duty to society. In the future, I hope for more formalized polyamories, more marriages, less slut-shaming, and possibly the development of a non-sexist variety of the old romance-marriage splitting.

    • Crimson Wool says:

      Do Reactionaries have a word for heterosexual men who have irresponsible sex lives?

      From what I have read, they seem to tend towards using the terms “player” and “alpha,” at least the ones who talk about sexual promiscuity to any substantial degree (almost universally Christians). It’s the product of a really weird crossover between PUA and conservative Christianity. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that these two groups got together.
      The language of slut/alpha is interesting in that there’s a lot less negative implications to slut. Like, a slut is just, definitionally, a woman with a good number of sexual partners, who is by implication not likely to be sexually loyal in marriage, more flighty, etc. Alphas have this as well, but they are also heavily associated with manipulativeness, incorrigibility, and dark triad traits. Thus, “alpha shaming” is viewed as pointless because these men are basically incorrigible, and preventing premarital sexual promiscuity relies on getting women to stop having sex with them. It’s not that men in general are viewed as sex-obsessed sociopaths – just “players” are.

    • Do Reactionaries have a word for heterosexual men who have irresponsible sex lives?

      Impossible a heterosexual male to have an irresponsible sex life, because seriously illegal.

      Let us imagine a rock star. Thousands of women want to sleep with him. Suppose he sleeps with a few thousand. Suppose he does not use a condom. Pretty soon he is hit with a thousand paternity suits and government child support orders.

      Suppose he sleeps with a few thousand and does use a condom. Pretty soon he faces a hundred rape charges.

      • That is not even slightly how it works. You might generate one or two false rape claims from a sufficiently ridiculous number of women, but people normally don’t do that.

        Also, I note that normal-ish women are often called sluts, but the male slut has to be some kind of freakish Don Juan with 99th percentile prowess at finding sexual partners.

        • Gunlord says:

          Many reactionaries, particularly within the associated ‘manosphere,’ believe that most if not all rape accusations are false and that it happens constantly, everywhere, to all men.

          That said, there’s an IRL example of Jim’s thought experiment: Wilt Chamberlain. He claims to have slept with literally thousands of women, and yet I’ve read no account of him being accused of rape even once.

        • Protagoras says:

          Wilt Chamberlain is also the example I thought of for a male who did actually get some criticism for his promiscuity. But of course he didn’t just have thousands of partners, he was also black.

    • Konkvistador says:

      I’ve heard cad and baby daddy used.

  85. deathpigeon says:

    I agree with almost all of this. I agree that reactionary states, especially monarchies, are horrible and western liberal democracies are a big improvement, but I fear you’ve a bit over romanticized how great western liberal democracies are and I’d disagree with you calling “workers controlling the means of production … destruction of capitalism” bad things, and I view violent revolution as necessary self-defense.

    This is not to say I like anything about the Soviet Union. They didn’t have worker control of the means of production, for example, only state control of the means of production, and their command economy was, in many ways, worse than the capitalist mode of production. To me, communism is a good thing and does not need the transitional stage coming from the marxist historical dialectic that the Soviet Union was attempting to be. True and direct worker control of the means of production is a good thing and the opposite of capitalism, and free gifting is vastly superior to market economies and ultimately can and have worked, such as in the Ukrainian Free Territory during the Russian Civil War.

    However, beyond those minor quibbles over stuff that don’t detract from your main point or were fully incidental to your main point, I think this is wonderfully written. 🙂 Good job.

  86. Julia says:

    Wow. I am so impressed.

    Re: the graph of divorce rate by women’s number of sexual partners in 5.1.1: I don’t think you’re being fair in writing off the first two columns as zealots. As a person in column two of that graph, I suggest that we may not all be “Super-religious people who slipped up” with “poor self-control.” We could also be… picky people? People who wanted marriage and didn’t want to get too close to someone until finding someone we really liked? People who wanted sex but whose partners didn’t? There are a lot of reasons for having few sexual partners – don’t assume religion is the only one.

    • Apprentice says:

      Good point. I’ll add one scenario: I married my high-school girlfriend even though neither of us is religious. There’s just never been any reason to break up.

      Then again, we may be traditionalists in the way that is relevant here. We both had the assumption that any relationship, even at the age of 17, was an attempt to establish a permanent bond – with marriage and children to come down the road. I didn’t even realize until later that not everyone thought in those terms.

  87. Daniel says:

    1. Wonderful post. Especially in conjunction with the “Pro” FAQ you did.

    I think there are some real insights about “how good arguments turn bad” that could be shown by comparing the arguments in the “pro” FAQ with the arguments in the “anti” FAQ.

    (Faq the Third: “How to turn a Good Idea into a Bad Ideology.”)

    2. You estimate that only 30% of feminists are sane, and you don’t say that only 30% of reactionaries are sane. So do you feel self-identified feminists are a less reality-based group than self-identified reactionaries?

    When I google “top feminist blogs”, I get Feministe, Feministing, and Jezebel. They’re not intellectually playful like the reactionaries, they don’t do the fun utopias, but they seem as or more reality-based than Moldbug or Anissimov. So if you compare apples to apples, it looks to me like “representative leading feminists” are not crazy by any standard by which “representative leading reactionaries” are not crazy.

    If it’s just that you happen to run into a lot of crazy feminist rants by accident of whom your favorite blogs link to, and you haven’t actually done the apples-to-apples comparison, then maybe you could refrain from painting feminists as significantly less sane than other political groups? It got my attention in a big, alarming way, coming from someone as judicious and fair as you.

    (That Gallup poll you link to says 1 in 4 women identify as feminist. So whether or not feminists are 70% insane is a pretty big deal!)

    • Crimson Wool says:

      When I google “top feminist blogs”, I get Feministe, Feministing, and Jezebel. They’re not intellectually playful like the reactionaries, they don’t do the fun utopias, but they seem as or more reality-based than Moldbug or Anissimov. So if you compare apples to apples, it looks to me like “representative leading feminists” are not crazy by any standard by which “representative leading reactionaries” are not crazy.

      Jezebel literally has an article about how many of the staff beat their boyfriends which treats it like grrrl power stuff. I wish I was joking. As far as I know, Moldbug and Anissimov have never bragged about domestic violence, which gives them a one-up on Jezebel.

      • First, Jezebel is actually widely disliked by feminists themselves. Second, that article is humorous, although I can’t actually tell which parts are serious and which are not.

        • Protagoras says:

          Clearly intended to be humorous, but it certainly isn’t actually funny. Some of the comments seem critical of the piece, but sadly not all of them. It has actually been my experience that there are more than a few women who seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s perfectly OK for women to hit men when they’re sufficiently upset. While I disagree with MRAs about most things, I have to agree that this is in fact not remotely OK and, contra Jezebel, not something to be trivialized with humor.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          I ran Jailbreak the Patriarchy on that article. See if your opinion of it is the same… with the genders reversed!

          With Amos Winehouse busting open a can of whupass on his wife last week, we decided to conduct an informal survey of the Jezebels to see who’s gotten violent with their women. After reviewing the answers, let’s just say that it’d be wise to never ever fuck with us.


          One Jezebel got into it with a lady while they were breaking up, while another Jez went nuts on his gal and began violently shoving her. One of your editors heard his girlfriend flirting on the phone with another boy, so he slapped the phone out of her hands and hit her in the face and neck… “partially open handed.” Another editor slapped a gal when “she told me she thought she had prostate cancer.” (Okay, that one made us laugh really hard.) And lastly, one Jez punched a steady in the face and broke her glasses. She had discovered a sex story he was writing about another lady on his laptop, so she picked it up and threw it. And that’s when he socked her. She was, uh, totally asking for it.

        • Yeah, there’s an explanation, involving the word “privilege”, for why such genderswaps don’t actually make a real argument. Occasionally, said explanation actually makes sense.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          Yeah, there’s an explanation, involving the word “privilege”, for why such genderswaps don’t actually make a real argument. Occasionally, said explanation actually makes sense.

          One of the privileges which definitely exists is the female privilege to have their DV victimization taken more seriously. How many men’s shelters are there in the USA? It’s not called the “Violence Against Intimate Partners Act.” And so forth. The automatic revulsion to the gender-swapped article that does not exist for the original article is actually a sign that men are less privileged in this regard.

        • suntzuanime says:

          “Real Progressivism is gender-blind. It may be sophisticatedly gender-blind, which involves realizing that just saying ‘I’m going to be gender-blind now, okay?’ doesn’t work, and that policies of selectively ignoring domestic violence by women may paradoxically lead to more genuinely gender-blind results.”

          Sometimes swapping “gender” for “race” can be as interesting as swapping “male” for “female”.

        • Crimson Wool says:

          “Real Progressivism is gender-blind. It may be sophisticatedly gender-blind, which involves realizing that just saying ‘I’m going to be gender-blind now, okay?’ doesn’t work, and that policies of selectively ignoring domestic violence by women may paradoxically lead to more genuinely gender-blind results.”

          Sometimes swapping “gender” for “race” can be as interesting as swapping “male” for “female”.

          This would only make sense if people had a pre-existing tendency to care more about male victims of female-perpetrated domestic violence than about female victims of male-perpetrated domestic violence, and thus counteracting it with an inverted tendency to care more about male-on-female DV made sense. However, the problem is that the exact opposite is true.

      • Gunlord says:

        I didn’t find the original article amusing, but I don’t find your gender-swapped version to be any more or less amusing. Violence against one’s significant other is shamefully crass and (worse, in my view) profoundly wasteful, foolish, and self-defeating. This is the case regardless of whether or not you are a man bullying a woman or a woman bullying a man.

      • The Jezebel piece was appalling, and no one seems to be mentioning what I’d count as the worst bit– “Another editor slapped a guy when “he told me he thought he had breast cancer.” (Okay, that one made us laugh really hard.)”

        What could possibly be appropriate about hitting a man for saying he thinks he has breast cancer? It’s something that really happens, though it’s rare compared to breast cancer for women. What’s funny about doing that?

      • coffeespoons says:

        That Jezebel article is horrible.

        As far as I know, Moldbug and Anissimov have never bragged about domestic violence, which gives them a one-up on Jezebel.

        I believe Roissy has though. I know he’s not a reactionary, but he’s part of a heavily linked movement.

    • Konkvistador says:

      A more informative comparison is to the Anti-Libertarian FAQ that Scott wrote. It reveals important differences in good faith attempts and I would argue motivated cognition.

  88. Nestor says:

    Shaka is another example of absolute ruler flipping out:

    ” after the death of his mother Nandi in October 1827, and the devastation caused by Shaka’s subsequent erratic behavior. According to Donald Morris, in this mourning period, Shaka ordered that no crops should be planted during the following year, no milk (the basis of the Zulu diet at the time) was to be used, and any woman who became pregnant was to be killed along with her husband. At least 7,000 people who were deemed to be insufficiently grief-stricken were executed, although the killing was not restricted to humans: cows were slaughtered so that their calves would know what losing a mother felt like.”

    This apparently went on until one of his followers told him to snap out of it, he wasn’t the only one who had lost a parent.

    “When Shaka’s mother Nandi died for example, the monarch ordered a massive outpouring of grief including mass executions, forbidding the planting of crops or the use of milk, and the killing of all pregnant women and their husbands. Oral sources record that in this period of devastation, a singular Zulu, a man named Gala, eventually stood up to Shaka and objected to these measures, pointing out that Nandi was not the first person to die in Zululand. Taken aback by such candid talk, the Zulu king is supposed to have called off the destructive edicts, rewarding the blunt teller-of-truths with a gift of cattle”

    The cathedral concept reminds me of the idea of manufactured consent that Noam Chomsky talks about in his book of the same name. I don’t think Chomsky is in any danger of being mistaken for a reactionary…

    • Yay for Gala! He might be the most effective speak truth to power person I’ve ever heard of.

      Should Shaka get any points for listening?

    • Konkvistador says:

      The Manufacture of Consent is what the Cathedral concept is all about. The Moldbugites contention is that the institutions that manufacture consent are effectively the institutions that rule.

      They produce memeplexes that grant them more power via the state and thus improve their ability to indoctrinate further. This terrible cycle produces systematic society wide insanity unless checked by outside forces.

      Chomsky if I recall right believes they are payed pawns of capital, we think this is substantially false, at least for the big ones, such as say Harvard. They indoctrinate their own class of wealthy donors, by controlling who is allowed among that particular class, and resist attempts by outsiders to purchase influence over the message they spread.

  89. Anonymous says:

    “Once we have equality of opportunity, then we can start debating whether we should go further and try for equality of results. Until then, it’s kind of a moot point.”

    Michael Young’s Rise Of The Meritocracy, which coined the latter term (as a pejorative) suggested that actual equality of opportunity requires equality of outcome, because in the absence of the former it would always be the case that people would use their superior outcomes to benefit their offspring. Additionally, he felt that merit-based competition would inculcate a sense of desert in those who succeeded, making them callous to the well-being of the poor.

    I tend to believe that he’s right, but that achieving either of these things would require basically taking a sledgehammer to things like familial love and the nurturing instinct which make life liveable in the first place.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I suspect life would be quite livable without things like familial love and the nurturing instinct. Have you never met an orphan?

      • Moss_Piglet says:

        And of course we should all strive for livability. Who cares if we end up as psychologically messed up as people who grew up in state orphanages ( if we can eliminate the evil scourge of people being more successful than average!

        But seriously; IQ is a highly heritable highly polygenic trait, and it strongly predicts everything from educational attainment and income to how responsible and happy people are. Even if you break every single structure in human society down to atoms you will find that a natural aristocracy will re-emerge as the most capable people (and peoples!) rise to positions of power over others. The only way to have every man on a level field is to dump them all in a mass grave together, and ultimately that is the conclusion your politics lead to.

        • Moss_Piglet says:

          (The reason I mention that it’s highly polygenic is that inevitably people give the brain dead responses “Well if it’s genetic, where’s the ‘smart gene’ huh?” or say that we can just hand0-wave the problem away with genetic therapy down the line. Modern research looking at the genetics of intelligence have found that anywhere from dozens or hundreds of genes and epigenes are responsible for general intelligence in humans; even when we identify them all increasing someone’s IQ will be a much more complex issue than just throwing some kbp-sized chunks of DNA in viral vectors at.)

        • Andy says:

          Moss_Piglet:Even if you break every single structure in human society down to atoms you will find that a natural aristocracy will re-emerge as the most capable people (and peoples!) rise to positions of power over others.

          Though in the situation you posit, where institutions have failed and the world is a highly dangerous place, an aristocracy is *exactly* the social form that would be best adapted to that situation. But it’s also the situation that’s the polar opposite of where the world is today. See Scott’s Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum:
          Using your favorite horse’s best ground as the setting of your example isn’t terribly persuasive.

      • Tommy says:

        Repeatedly. Though most were raised by relatives or adopted, which simulates biological parental affection tolerably well. When children don’t have anyone who is emotionally invested in them specifically, you get things like Ceausescu’s orphanages, which were so bad that I’ve seen at least one feminist use them as the central example of a pro-abortion argument. It’s not just the children’s welfare either: remove the “Give your children a better life than you had’ motive from the population, and it takes an awful lot of meaning, and a ton of motivation to work hard, away from the lives of parents. Or more technically, it would massively lower time preference for a significant chunk of the population.

        I’m not entirely sure whether you’re disputing the underlying point (that familial love is a really, really good thing that improves outcomes across the board) or just my (admittedly slightly glib) use of the word ‘liveable’ (in the Hansonian, poor-people-still-smile sense), though.

      • Tommy says:

        Quite a few. Though most of those were raised by aunts/grandparents or adopted, which simulate biological parental love decently well. Without someone who loves you specifically, you get things like Ceausescu’s orphanages, which were so bad I’ve seen pro-abortion arguments built around them. It’s not just the children either – many parents find ‘give my children a better life than I had’ a primary source of meaning in life (so losing that harms them) and motivation to push themselves at work (the loss of which harms everyone).

        I’m not entirely sure whether you’re attacking the underlying premise (that parental love is a really good thing with massive benefits) or strictly the use of ‘liveable’ (in a poor-people-still-smile sense), though.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I sort of agree, but these factors can be lessened. For example, if everyone has access to good schools regardless of how much their parents can pay, that’s a pretty big leveler. 5.1.3 of the Non-Libertarian FAQ is pretty relevant here – it’s saying that other countries empirically have less of a correlation between parental wealth and child wealth than America, so there must be ways to structure society that lessen that correlation compared to what we have here.

      • Tommy says:

        Apologies for the double post above, dodgy net connection. Feel free to delete.

        That’s pretty much where I am, Scott… in addition to inequality caused by some people trying hard to make their offspring better off, there is also at present inequality caused by people actively (though usually unknowingly) preventing poor/black/female/gay people from achieving their potential. Obviously that kind of inequality is utility-negative, and is well worth combating.

        The problem is that there remain people who do think absolute equality is a desirable end, and to achieve that they’d have to, say, ban me and a friend from betting on our respective beliefs, because whoever won would have money that ze might spend on a science book for zir kid, which would create an inequality vis-a-vis the offspring of the losing bettor. You wouldn’t even be able to make Nozick’s mutually-acceptable trades from an equitable starting position. At that point, you get pretty close to the Reactionaries’ Leftist Singularity.

      • Dan says:

        “if everyone has access to good schools regardless of how much their parents can pay”

        The problem is precisely that certain individuals positively cause a school to be a bad school (mostly by causing most of the time of teachers to be consumed by behavioral issues and remedial material). Unless the student-teacher ratio is reduced to 1:1, certain schools will be worse than others specifically because of the students, and this will be an unsolvable problem.

    • jdgalt says:

      I strongly agree, as far as that goes. If we must push for an equality-of-opportunity so complete that it includes everyone starting wealthy, the right way to do it is to forbid those below a minimum level of wealth (at least, anyone on welfare) from having kids, on pain of having them placed in foster care. (At the very least, religions ought to replace their obsolete commandments against sex outside of marriage with an ethic that it’s irresponsible to give birth to a child without first being sure of adequate wealth to support it.)

      For what it’s worth, I’m a different kind of “reactionary”, one who feels the United States was perfect right around 1880, just before Reconstruction stopped and the so-called Progressive Era replaced it.

  90. Kevin says:

    This may be the longest blog post ever written. I think it is certainly the longest one I’ve ever read. (I am in >99% agreement with you about Reaction and the contents of this post; I just enjoy reading what you write.)

    It’s not fair to compare an imaginary ideal version of one policy with the real-world version of another.

    You should link to Valleys have two sides here.

    I worry James is confusing the sign of a value with the sign of its derivative.

    That is an awesome description of a fallacy. Does it have a name?

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  93. Minstrel says:

    Very interesting piece, thanks for writing it up.

    One (pretty minor, really) question has nagged at me, though: what distinction or difference are reactionaries drawing between “demotism” and populism?

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  98. Sniffnoy says:

    A thought: What current countries could not be classified as “demotist”? Browsing Wikipedia a bit, I’m coming up with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Brunei, and Swaziland. Do those seem accurate (to the extent it is possible to judge the accuracy of such a thing)? Are there any I’m missing? Vatican City, maybe?

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  112. Karl Siegemund says:

    Both of you, Moldbug and you, completely missunderstood Stefan Zweig (for reference: ).

    When Stefan Zweig wrote this (in 1942), it was close to his suicide by barbiturates. He was a writer, who fled Austria in 1934, fearing Hitler, who just rose to power in neighbouring Germany. In this text, he compares the turmoil of World War II and the destruction of all culture and humanism by the Nazis. Compared with Europa during the War, monarchist Austria really looked like a stable paradise, and the time he experienced in Austria (born 1881) before the first World War was comparably calm and stable.

    If both of you take the writing of a man close to his suicide, who sees all he has loved as a child in ruins, as the reasoning of a rational, thoughful person, then something is clearly wrong.

  113. Karl Siegemund says: