Valleys have two sides

Still planning to write a decent post about Reaction, but it’s taking longer than I thought and kind of just coming out piecemeal, so I’ll roll with that for now.

Many people poked some much-deserved holes in the original post, but one part I didn’t see criticized was about the idea of uncanny valleys.

This was the idea that Progressives, despite having noble aims in mind, were really making things worse because getting halfway to a noble aim was worse than not having any noble aim at all. For example, pacifism might be a wonderful thing, but conducting a war half-heartedly so that it drags on and on may be worse than just being brutally efficient and getting it over with. And no matter what you think of democracy, an unstable despotism where a paranoid despot has to solidify his grasp on power by any means necessary is worse than an absolute despotism where the despot can just hang out and build palaces of solid gold or whatever relaxed despots do.

Let’s concede the point that uncanny valleys like this exist.

In that case, all we have proven is that perfect unimpeded progress up the right side of the valley is better than attempted progress up the left side which is constantly dragged down by lingering rightists.

But this is totally comparing apples and oranges. The opposite of perfect unimpeded progress up the right side of the valley is perfect unimpeded progress up the left side of the valley. The opposite of attempted progress up the left side dragged down by lingering rightists is attempted progress up the right side dragged down by lingering leftists.

In other words, this argument only works because the Reactionaries are comparing our gritty reality to their beautiful thought experiment.

Like, it seems almost unfair to ask this. But how, exactly, are we going to get a perfectly secure despot with no fear whatsoever of rebellion when less than 1% of the population is currently in favor of such a despot? Even the old-timey kings, who lived in an era when monarchy was obviously the only possible government form and everyone believed that they ruled by divine right – even they got overthrown and beheaded every so often.

Moldbug mentions the possibility of a military of cryptographically secured weapon systems to which only the monarch has the password, but I don’t think even other reactionaries take him seriously on this one. Traditionally one of the better coup attempt methods is to curry favor among the palace guard, and this does absolutely nothing to prevent that. Another popular coup method is to be the military, which means the worst the monarch can do is shut down their fancy guns and then get clubbed to death with rifle-butts. Also, what happens when the monarch dies of a brain aneurysm and all of a sudden your entire military requires a 128-digit number which no one has? And mightn’t it be kind of embarrassing when Scott Aaronson builds a quantum computer that can factor prime numbers in polynomial time and then becomes the new god-emperor?

(and by “embarrassing”, I mean “awesome”)

I endorse the uncanny valley theory of the criminal justice system and (possibly) even of (some) war. It seems reasonable to push for them in the same way one pushes for other, normal political ideas like gun control or abortion. If enough people believe they’re correct, then the government will act on them and hopefully they will be good policies. If 51% of people start believing that corporal punishment of criminals is a good idea, we might well start having corporal punishment of prisoners.

But the uncanny valley of dictatorship works completely differently. If 51% of people support it, then we have an extraordinarily unstable dictatorship that does terribly, just like real dictatorships tend to do. Getting 100% of people to support it – in a country where we can’t even convince 50% of people that it’s a bad idea to keep making a penny that costs 2 cents to produce – seems like a high bar.

And if the goal is to just implement a dictatorship and then let the dictator kill all who oppose him – well, then we’ve left behind the uncanny valley idea and we’re right back in the traditional dictatorship that is a terrible place to live and which has given dictatorship its well-deserved bad reputation. “Well, we’ll be brutal for a little while, but then all the enemies will be gone and we can switch to niceness.” Sure. That worked for the Communists.

Actually, the Communists are a great example here, in that they had a great plan for how the world would be perfect once everyone agreed with them, and total absence of a plan for what to do about most of the world not agreeing with them.

I said in “We Wrestle Not…” that every age has a zeitgeist based on how to gain and keep power. The zeitgeist may or may not be pleasant, and there may be a lot of incentives to defy it. You can get away with doing so only if you have total control over your own country (so that no one can harness the zeitgeist to win internal struggles) and total control over the rest of the world (so that no foreign country can harness the zeitgeist to take you over).

The Communists got total control over a couple of countries, then realized (correctly, in my opinion) that if they went and formed a nice communal utopia they would be sitting ducks for the first capitalist superpower who wanted to invade. So they compromised with the zeitgeist and ended up being far more oppressive than the capitalists they railed against, all with the vague promise that in the future, they would overthrow the capitalists, control the entire world, and have the power to defy the zeitgeist. Maybe they even believed it.

But that never happened, and they just ended up killing hundreds of millions of people for no reason.

Reaction will never end up with that kind of power, but if it does, I see them in the same position as the Communists. Reaction is contra-zeitgeist. Societies, left to their own devices, become more Progressive; a Reactionary state is going to have to constantly expend energy pumping against entropy to prevent that from happening. That energy is going to take the form of internal oppression and incur automatic enmity with the rest of the world. As long as that happens, they won’t be a secure dictatorship. They’ll be a communist dictatorship promising security just as soon as those evil evil progressives are taken care of, one day in the Golden Future.

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80 Responses to Valleys have two sides

  1. DB says:

    Yes, a Moldbuggian dictatorship would be contra-zeitgeist. However, Singapore does not appear to be (even if a few of its ill-fated policy experiments were). So, while you have an effective argument against promises of reactionary utopia, it does not extend to the views held by more pragmatically-minded reactionaries.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yes, agreed.

      EDIT: Actually, I’ve noticed I keep vacillating between using Singapore as an example of Reaction and using it as an example of “not Reactionary enough to be interesting”, so I’m looking into it further. I’m starting think it’s more an example of “not Reactionary enough to be interesting”. It seems to be even more obsessively multicultural than the rest of the world (you can go to jail for criticizing minorities) and an electoral democracy with somewhat rigged votes. Given its small size and its other advantages, this doesn’t seem too out of line with my theory.

      I’m starting to think I should stick it in the same category as places like Saudi Arabia, which get away with having non-democratic governments because oil makes them rich and the government can buy off the populace. Maybe Singapore just replaces oil with being an international trading hub?

    • Athrelon says:

      Singapore is an interesting data point because it represents the upper bound of how repressive a government needs to be to remain meaningfully reactionary in a world where liberal democracy has literally and figuratively curbstomped other methods of governments. And we see that the policies do look meaningfully repressive. They have more checks and balances around freedom of the press, for example, which is interesting in that it looks like what happens when you take the whole Fourth Estate thing seriously. And there’s the caning and the very strict drug laws in what used to be a drug-smuggling hot zone. Other than that, though, it hardly requires as much jackbooting as Communism, which is the reference class Yvain uses.

      Let’s not forget that while it’s possible that liberal democracy is the natural telos of governments in our current technological state, “actually existing democracy” was very much spread by conquest and propaganda. Perhaps we could theoretically sit back and let history slowly take its course, but in practice the democracies are giving Singapore a run for its money in the entropy pumping department.

      • Athrelon says:

        “but in practice the democracies are giving Singapore a run for its money in the entropy pumping department.”

        This is actually a great time to break out the “when in a hole stop digging” line. America and Europe’s relative decline will be a mild nudge in that direction even without a change in policy, but there’s more room to go in the stop-digging direction.

        Also worth noting that entropy pumping is exactly why Moldbug and reactionaries spend a lot of time thinking about meta-political setups and the governments they incentivize. On the level of the individual, the traits that help you survive in Hobbesian anarchy are not the same traits that help you survive in a high-tech capitalist country. Similarly reaction is good at some things and bad at some things, and there are systems (Westphalian sovereignty would be a start, increased jurisdictional competition and exit rights might be another) that reward things that reactopias are good at, such as public safety and economic productivity, and make less relevant domains of competition there where they’re weak. Adaptiveness always depends on context.

        • Federico says:

          increased jurisdictional competition and exit rights

          Would you elaborate?

        • Oligopsony says:

          I don’t want to speak for Athrelon, but I suspect he may mean something like increased leeway for private courts, in addition to possibly self-governing communities (seasteading, &c.) There are several countries already who have a public courts system as well as opt-in private religious courts.

        • Misha says:

          Sort of like the complaints of people who claim they’ll go to Canada or the Isle of Man if romney or obama is elected except with actual weight, and applied to society in general instead. Eg: if Hitler proposes all Jews be killed, the Jews and Gentiles who don’t like it just move next door to France and no one is actually killed, and then Germany gets out competed economically?

        • Athrelon says:

          Yes, what Oligosony and Micha said. Not that these schemes aren’t often hare-brained, particularly on the question of how to get there from here. Moldbug sees the weakness in seasteading but many of the same claims apply to his more poetic proposals. Nevertheless meta-political systems have in fact changed over time.

      • Oligopsony says:

        spread by conquest and propaganda

        Aren’t those mutually exhaustive?

        • Athrelon says:

          The set of those two is different than “spreads by nature taking its course independent of efforts at prosletyzing”

      • anodognosic says:

        I don’t see where you get the idea that it’s an upper bound from. At most, you have a data point. Given that Singapore is unusually small and is located unusually favorably, there’s reason to suspect that it might be an outlier (e.g. less plagued by difficulties in coordination, with a public made more pliant by material comfort).

      • Damien says:

        ‘“actually existing democracy” was very much spread by conquest and propaganda’

        Most existing democracies came about through internal processes, likely imitating other models out there, not conquest. Dismissing the democratization of South Korea or Latin America as propaganda seems to be unfairly begging the question. Or that of the Arab Spring, with its mixed success.

    • Damien says:

      You know, Singapore is a place where you can be caned for chewing gum, but it’s also a place where women have the freedom to have a birth rate near the bottom of the global list. It’s had one strong long-time ruler, but also enough democracy to provide a formal incentive to keep the people generally happy, even if they aren’t approving every policy. It’s brashly multicultural. It’s not really that good an example of Reaction. One could even call it a Progressive society at heart, with some Reactionary surface that it’s gotten away with so far.

  2. Multiheaded says:

    Scott you fucking idiot you posted your real name.

  3. michael vassar says:

    At best, the communists had a pretty OK plan for what to do if everyone agreed with them. We get to see it in action in Sweden, for instance, where everyone does agree with them. I still would prefer to live somewhere more culturally dynamic, but if I wasn’t extremely confident in my abilities I’d definitely choose it over the extreme uncertainty and pointless poverty among abundance of 1920s capitalism.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m pretty sure Sweden isn’t remotely Communist in the sense of what Marx and Lenin were aiming at.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m really tired of people equating capitalism+taxation and welfare with communism. It’s like saying Britain is feudalist

      • im says:

        Agreed. Of course modern leftist economics is heavily influenced by marxist theory, but not by marxist ideology, particularly not the revolutionary aspects of marxist ideology. In fact, Sweden and the like pretty much represent the great failure of Marxism: Reform prevented revolution.

        • Doug S. says:

          David Brin made the same argument regarding FDR and 1930s U.S.; according to him, Marx correctly identified many problems with capitalism as it existed in his day, but his proposed solutions are better placed in the category of “self-preventing prophecy” – people did what had to be done to keep a revolution from being necessary.

        • Anonymous says:

          Actually, a lot of Marx was based on a report to Parliament years earlier. It had inspired the Factory Acts. So, no, Marx was not self-fulfilling. The processes that would ameliorate the problems were in action before he wrote —

          And he knew it.

        • Mary says:

          Whoops, that’s me.

      • michael vassar says:

        I’m pretty sure that it is, WRT Marx (Lennin was a despot with intellectual pretensions). I really don’t mean this to be an ideological claim. As I said, it’s a pretty nice but not perfect place. I think we should try discussing the details some time.

        Seriously though, the short version is that the means of production are controlled by intellectuals acting in the interests of the working class. This is simply true. It’s true, to a lesser degree in all modern societies.

      • Damien says:

        Lenin? No. But social democracy bears a distinct though not complete resemblance to the 10 point plan of the Communist Manifesto.

  4. Federico says:

    Moldbug said,

    Therefore: a Patchwork realm is governed by a Delegate, who is the proxy of the proprietors, and can be replaced by a majority of them at any time and for any reason. The Delegate exercises undivided sovereign authority, as in divine-right monarchy. Ie, in English: total power. (The Delegate is always Jewish.)

    This fragile-looking design can succeed at the sovereign layer because, and only because, modern encryption technology makes it feasible. The proprietors use a secret-sharing scheme to control a root key that must regularly reauthorize the Delegate, and thus in turn the command hierarchy of the security forces, in a pyramid leading down to cryptographic locks on individual weapons. If the Delegate turns on the proprietors, they may have to wait a day to authorize the replacement, and another day or two before the new Delegate can organize the forces needed to have her predecessor captured and shot. Fiduciary responsibility has its price.

    That modern cryptography was not available to the Most Serene Republic of Venice does not mean they wouldn’t have used it if they’d had it. Since we have it, we can use it. Since the algorithms date to the 1970s, it’s not surprising that history has no record of cryptographic organizational structures at the sovereign level. Since the neocameralist design for a sovereign corporation depends on them, it’s not surprising that history shows us nothing of the kind. While as a reactionary I believe that the legal and political structures of old Europe, so often defamed as “feudal,” are a treasure trove of sovereign organization and if restored in toto tomorrow would prove on balance a vast human boon, it is a slight overstatement to assume that everything old is beautiful and sweet, and anything new must suck.

    So you missed the point about cryptographic weapons. They are supposed to check the dictator, by technology rather than separation of powers. He doesn’t have a password.

    Nonetheless, the idea is preposterous. Moldbug’s fans take it more seriously than he. Moldbug secretly wishes to be a science fiction author, and this bleeds into his visions.

    Without cryptographic shareholder control the whole “absolute monarch” idea is shot.

    The first category is: how do the shareholders retain control of the corporation? The second category is: why do you assume the corporation will be well-managed?

    For the first, the easy solution is to list the shares in a separate jurisdiction, where it will be subject to normal corporate law. In my ideal world there would be tens of thousands of city-states, so it shouldn’t be hard to pick.

    Then you need to make the link between the management and the security forces unbreakable. Cryptographic weapon locks are probably an essential component in this.

    Second, humans are people and of course mismanagement happens. However, if you compare the incidence or magnitude of corporate mismanagement to that of democratic misgovernment, you are comparing cherries to watermelons.

    My impression of communist leaders is less favourable than yours. I think they were just thugs with an egalitarian figleaf, who took the chance to sate their lust for power. The Education of Lev Navrozov is a good book on this.

    Intoxication is more prevalent than Fnarglike circumspection, particularly amongst people who would seek absolute power in the first place. This is another reason to steer clear of handing anyone Bodinian sovereignty.

    USG went easy on the Soviets in WW2. The Western allies should indeed have allowed Germany and Russia to wear each other out, and then conquered them both.

    There is a frightening history of cooperation between USG and communists during the 20th century.

    McCarthy clearly got screwed. He was basically correct about everything. The tactics that we associate with “McCarthyism,” ironically enough, were basically only applied against McCarthy. He was correct all along, yet he ended up censured and soon dead from booze. Most of the people he “martyred” were quickly given high paying jobs in international organizations and were heroes in the elite set, which was the only set these people had any dealings with. At worst, they might be forced to open “a theatre in Greenwich Village called Club Cinema to air mostly foreign-language titles, with occasional live performances.” I did not make that up, it’s real. To get a sense of how McCarthyism worked, just (carefully) read the Wikipedia pages of some of McCarthy’s “victims.”

    Take, for example, Solomon Adler. Mr Adler gets called out by Chambers and Bentley. (As an aside, I can’t recommend Chambers’ book Witness highly enough, I’ll read Bentley’s as soon as I can get my hands on a copy). After getting “martyred” Adler had to tough-it-out working for Cambridge University and then as a propagandist for the ChiComs (Chinese Communists) – he helped translate Mao’s works into English. Adler is perhaps not the best example, since Wikipedia almost brings itself to say that Adler was actually a Communist who spied for the USSR on the US government and helped undermine US efforts in China. Adler thereby helped bring Mao to power and kill something like 60 million people. Viva la revolucion! The list could go on for days. It’s interesting that Wikipedia can’t quite bring itself to say that all of these people were in fact Communists or fellow-travelers working to undermine the USG.

    Here is a list of McCarthy “victims” from from Evans: Harold Glasser; Cedric Belfrage; David Karr; T. A. Bisson; Mary Jane Keeney; V. Frank Coe; Leonard Mins; Lauchlin Currie; Franz Neumann. Reading their wiki pages is illuminating – I’ll edit their wiki pages to say they were communists and we’ll see how long the powers that be let it stand despite the overwhelming evidence. Or try Annie Lee Moss. Wikipedia says (presumably seriously), “Among some conservative authors, the evidence of Moss’s Communist Party membership has been used as part of an attempted vindication of McCarthy. Historians with a mainstream view of McCarthy have placed little importance on the issue of Moss’s guilt [emphasis mine].” It doesn’t matter that McCarthy was right and therefore it doesn’t matter that these people sold hundreds of millions of other people into slavery and death! After all, McCarthy was sometimes kind of a jerk! That’s the argument from “mainstream” historians.

    Senator McCarthy was a far greater man, from the perspective of “shut up and multiply”, than Oskar Schindler. Imagine how he would be remembered if USG had been full of Nazi sympathisers, facilitating Holocaust after Holocaust.

    Albeit I can’t give reactionaries too much credit, whilst they too endorse absolute sovereignty.

    • Randy M says:

      Yes, Scott’s portrayl of communist dictatorships as basically having to resort to totalitarianism and democide while their people lived with perpetual shortages and paranoia because if they had gone ahead with their plans for happy utopia land they would have been conquered by those rampaging capitalist armies is just… wow.

      I’d like to think I was stawmanning the host, then I re-read “just ended up killing hundreds of millions of people” again.
      “Whoops! Comrade, are is my face ever red!”

      • Multiheaded says:

        Agentic vs. systemic violence. As some commie said, there was no Capitalist Manifesto. Communist dictatorships might’ve committed horrible crimes, but the argument of their apologists here is that they’re successfully broken up several far older, more or less spontaneously arising Unfriendly systems – like the rent-seeking rule of landlords and bureacrats in China (which kept a huge population at or below subsistence level) or the subjugation of women in Asia, and so on and so on.

        I don’t think even Robert Lindsay would deny that Stalinism was pretty damn evil and cruel – but as far as backlash against already existing Unfriendly systems could go, I think Communism resulted in some systemic improvements for undeveloped countries.

        • Randy M says:

          I’m not convinced, but I also think that is besides the point. The blood drenched nature of the communist leaders paints them rather convincingly as something other than mislead idealists, rather as power mad egomaniacs. They did not have a great plan for how the world should be–they had propaganda.

        • Mary says:

          That’s like defending an amputation on the grounds the patient had an infected toenail — and at a time where he was getting antibiotics that were working. The Communists invariably took power when reform was already underway.

      • Damien says:

        Yeah, it’s not like Western armies invaded the early USSR seeking to overthrow it or something. Oh, wait.

    • im says:

      Agree that those crytographic weapons are a bit goofy. I think you would need a LessWrongian Super AI (Basically a god with arbitrarily determined thought processes and goals) to enforce these. Need something that cannot be disabled with a good set of hand tools.

      Not sure of wisdom of tryign to deliberately wear out Russia and Germany, then conquer. Seems like could end up very, very wrong. Would have even higher death toll. Might loose allies. Nukes?

      • Deiseach says:

        Yes, that thing about a group of people shares the key needed to let the dictator unlock the weapons so they can shut him/her down doesn’t strike me as completely foolproof:

        Proprietors – Ha! We are going to replace you, Absolute Despot, and don’t try firing your shark lasers because we’ve locked you out!

        Dictator – Oh, shucks. Any chance you’d give me a second go? Here is a wagon load of gold apiece.

        Proprietors – Um…

        Dictator – Alternately, for those of you who don’t want a wagon load of gold, I suppose I will just have to have my fanatically loyal personal guard (made up of my absolute trusted allies and people personally beholden to me and those of my family, tribe or ethnic group) torture the key out of you the old-fashioned way with the burning and the beating and the cutting off digits. Want to reconsider that whole “replacing you now” thing?

    • Doug S. says:

      McCarthy actually was right about the existence of Communist infiltrators. On the other hand, my impression is that his methods were completely ineffective at figuring out who they were.

      • Federico says:

        If you read the Wiki entries for the list of names I quoted, he evidently got some of them. That’s a minimum of quite effective.

        • That’s lazy. What’s the denominator?

          This (via google): trashes “McCarthy was right”.

        • Federico says:

          It depends what you mean by “McCarthy was right.”

          He underestimated, as that article implies, the force of communist opinion in America at the time. There wasn’t much difference between “socialism” and outright communism, just shades of grey.

          Were it possible to have magicked all these people away, preferably before WW2, America’s foreign policy would have been far saner. This is, of course, rightly impossible in a constitutional polity.

          McCarthy thought USG was hampered by spies. They were—for example,

          At Yalta, Stalin got all he asked for. Roosevelt, too, got all he asked for—the United Nations with Stalin in the middle of it with a veto to paralyze action by the West; he also got Stalin in the war against Japan—which, as is now abundantly obvious, was the source of most of our present woes in Asia […]

          Roosevelt told William C. Bullitt “that Stalin . . . doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world democracy and peace.

          Where would Roosevelt have gotten an idea like this? Roosevelt’s main adviser at the conference was Alger Hiss [communist spy]. Of course the agreement at Yalta followed from the agreement at Quebec, where Roosevelt’s adviser was Harry Dexter White [communist spy].

          So let’s not pretend that Soviet agents were big sillies doing no harm. There is a very short causal chain that links them to mass murder and tyranny.

          Had these people been as revolting to elite opinion as, say, neo-Nazis and Islamic terrorists today, McCarthy’s methods would have been fine. But he threatened all the demi-communists amongst the elite, regrettable though they were, and to that extent he was naive.

          Still, I find it hard to believe he was a net harm to anti-communism. I don’t know the rate of false positives; neither do his detractors. I’m impressed by the known successes.

  5. “One part I didn’t see criticized was about the idea of uncanny valleys.”

    Okay, then let me criticize it.

    In The Better Angels Of Our Nature, Steven Pinker reads the history of the decline of violence as being about a steady decline with a lot of noise on top of it. Now data like that, you could read as actually having some uncanny valley effects in there… but if so, they’re relatively small valleys which we’ve repeatedly come out on the other side of. So it doesn’t really work as an argument for reaction.

    In general, I’d say it’s hard to maintain the “uncanny valley” argument if the claim that things are worse now than in the Victorian era (or whatever).

    • Addendum: in fairness to brutal dictators, Pinker does argue that brutal dictators are better than anarchy (including real-world patterns of tribal warfare). But it seems that once you’ve gotten the anarchy under control, rulers can gradually ease up on the brutality without a return to anarchy.

    • michael vassar says:

      Better Angels is a well researched propaganda piece. Pointing out the massive and numerous flaws is left as an exercise for the reader.

    • Damien says:

      _Better Angels_ is mostly about lethal violence, with some spillover into torture, animal cruelty, and rights. If one wanted to attack his “states make things much better” argument, I think the most promising ground would be to look at the oppression of being a heavily taxed and malnourished peasant. Is it better to be free, healthy, and have a good chance of being hacked to death, or to be an overworked serf/slave/wife in purdah safe from violence if obedient? A pretty oversimplified dichotomy, but the spirit is “bursts of lethal violence vs. lifetime grinding violence”.

  6. Medivh says:

    I want to poke a big hole in the uncanny valley of dictatorship:

    The more power a dictator has, the more he can squeeze his people without causing rebellion.
    The option of Rebellion is the major constraint that forces the Ruler to make sure that at least the basic needs of the population are met.
    The Pharaos of ancient Egypt, for example, had very much power – but they had to make sure the irrigation system worked properly, else people would have starved and rebelled.

    About Fnargl: Do you really think there are no ways to optimise his gold revenue that are really bad for the people? Like killing all the old and crippled and low performers?

    When confronted with demands from the people, the dictator has two options:
    1) supression
    2) give in to the demands (or compromise)

    Often, rulers decide to go for the second option.
    Example : the democratic movement in Germany in the 19th century. The rulers tried some supression, but in the end the germans got a semi- parliamentary system.

    • im says:

      I agree that Fnargl would probably be kinda-sorta-fascist like that.

    • Max says:

      Keep in mind that part of the premise is that Fnargle is omnipotent. He has no need to oppress because he can’t be defied, but he also has no need to fear oppressing because, again, he can’t be defied.

      Assuming for the sake of the argument that Fnargle is barred from simply stripping out all of earth’s gold personally via omnipotence, I think it’s a lot more likely that he’d enslave the entire populace in order to maximize gold production than that he’d leave people largely unmolested. Why let people engage in activities orthogonal to gold production when you can incentivize them to participate directly in the gold production apparatus via threat of torture? Rebelling or running away are both futile, Fnargle holds the world in an iron grip, probably only a small fraction of the world’s population would have to be killed before the rest came to heel.

      Slavery was, after all, more profitable than hiring workers and incentivizing them to work hard with money. Think how much more sustainable it would be if the slaves knew they couldn’t run away, and didn’t know anyone who wasn’t likewise oppressed to compare themselves to.

      • im says:

        I am still a bit skeptical of that. Fnargl’s reign is long enough that such a method might be blatantly impractical. (also, remember than slavery tends to be either brute labor, which is not even super useful to modern gold mining, or not quite what we would normally think of as slavery, like the Greeks and various other societies did. I’d actually expect him to demand a tribute of slaves rather than that.

  7. Oligopsony says:

    It’s not really true that Communists had any plan about what to do in the Perfect World Where Everyone Agreed With Us. The dogma since Marx has been not to write recipe-books for the cookshops of the future. It’s tended to be the nonrevolutionary socialists who had the detailed blueprints. Communist theory, by contrast, has been more or less exclusively about understanding the enemy and effectively fighting it, rather than communism as such.

    I’d also dispute that Communists didn’t do anything other than kill a lot of people! The material accomplishments of actually existing socialism were pretty impressive across the board. The last time I tried stuffing a million links into a post it went into moderation purgatory, which is reasonable given spambots, but the information’s out there if you go looking for it.

  8. Qiaochu Yuan says:

    Obligatory pedantry: anyone can factor prime numbers in polynomial time! It’s really easy!

    • komponisto says:

      Funny…I didn’t actually catch that, even though I remember having a momentary, barely-conscious “something may not quite be right” reaction when I read that sentence!

      (Reminds me of how the eyes of doctors who missed anomalies on a scan were found to have momentarily paused over the anomaly.)

  9. Douglas Knight says:

    The Communists got total control over a couple of countries, then realized (correctly, in my opinion) that if they went and formed a nice communal utopia they would be sitting ducks for the first capitalist superpower who wanted to invade. So they compromised with the zeitgeist and ended up being far more oppressive than the capitalists they railed against…

    What are you talking about? When?

  10. Mary says:

    The Communists got total control over a couple of countries, then realized (correctly, in my opinion) that if they went and formed a nice communal utopia they would be sitting ducks for the first capitalist superpower who wanted to invade.

    Huh? They got total control over a couple of countries and then discovered that the people they were building their nice communal utopia out of were about as fit to be its building blocks as water would be for a real building — if not steam would be. The people wanted their own property, their own land, their own labor. The Communists discovered that they had to compromise with that to keep the country lurching along at all.

    Despite desperate efforts to remake human nature, they proceeded to needing to compromise all the time because they were still dealing with human beings.

    • Leonard says:

      I’ll second this point. There is no uncanny valley between right and left. The left does not fail because of rightist opposition as such; it fails because it assumes a (abject lack of) human nature that does not exist. People keep insisting they own their stuff even if you say they don’t. So it can never even in principle get 100% agreement, and yet, its political formula is based on “will of the people”.

      By contrast, the right assumes humans have a nature, which includes selfishness, clannishness, greed, sloth, sexism, racism, etc. (You know, all those things that the left thinks are cultural artifacts which we must educate away.) And furthermore, the right understands dominance, and submission: people are built able to submit. So, a rightist state does not need 100% or even 50% of the population to support it. Indeed a right state with 50% support would be very secure, whereas a democracy at the same level teeters on the brink. Communists sit in between.

      • Multiheaded says:

        “But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it endure under Anarchism?

        Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?

        John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?
        – Emma Goldman

        I don’t think this is a 100% true description, but the heuristic of suspicion towards an imposed “norm” is a hugely important one. 200 years ago you’d be railing about the impossibility of ending slavery too, quoting Aristotle that some people are just subhuman and slaves by nature, sucks doesn’t it; hey, let’s make them do everything that we natural aristocrats are unworthy of.

        • Mary says:

          Exactly how many dead bodies are required before you admit your “heuristic of suspicion” is trying to torture people into a society that they can not constitute?

          (I note that Aristotle said that some people are fit only to be slaves because they have mental defects that mean they can’t run their own lives, and observed that this bore no relationship to who was actually a slave — that anyone could see slaves with the bodies of free men and free men with the bodies of slaves.)

  11. Doug S. says:

    I said in “We Wrestle Not…” that every age has a zeitgeist based on how to gain and keep power. The zeitgeist may or may not be pleasant, and there may be a lot of incentives to defy it. You can get away with doing so only if you have total control over your own country (so that no one can harness the zeitgeist to win internal struggles) and total control over the rest of the world (so that no foreign country can harness the zeitgeist to take you over).

    There was at least one case in history that comes pretty close to this; the government formed by the American Revolution was lucky in that the nearest military that could threaten it was on the other side of an ocean. France and Russia were not so lucky.

    • Oligopsony says:

      Soi-disant American revolutionaries didn’t want to effect any major change in social relations, and they still had to make ideological compromises with reality in e.g. military structure. (And then of course they did get invaded again, but got better.) The ocean strikes me as more important for allowing the separatists to succeed in the first place. Most changes in government tend to leave state borders intact, and those that don’t seem almost always to revolt on an ethnic rather than social basis (Katharine Chorley’s Armies and the Art of Revolution has some insightful thoughts on this.)

    • Mary says:

      Great Britain thought it had defeated Napoleon and was discussing whether to send Wellington to fight the War of 1812.

      He refused. If he was appointed, the populace would expect him to make the United States sue for peace, and he knew he couldn’t do that, that they would have to negotiate a peace.

    • Damien says:

      “Malaria was endemic in the marshlands of eastern Virginia during the time, and Cornwallis’s army suffered greatly from the disease; he estimated during the surrender that half of his army was unable to fight as a result. The Continental Army enjoyed an advantage, in that most of their members had grown up with malaria, and hence had acquired resistance to the disease. As malaria has a month-long incubation period, most of the French soldiers had not begun to exhibit symptoms before the surrender.[73][74]”

      Kind of a major barrier to continental power in the southern US. Unless they recruited black Africans as soldiers or something.

  12. Chevalier de Johnstone says:

    You’ve reinvented Original Sin. If 51% of people decide to live lives of irresponsibly hedonistic immoral bestialism, the world will not be particularly pleasant. If 100% of people do so, nobody will be left to clean up the trash and we all die out. On the contrary, if 51% of people strive their best to live responsibly, caring for themselves, others, and their environment, there will still be a lot of hardship, strife, pain, and disease in the world. One, because “strive their best” cannot equal perfection, and two, because the other 49% will continually screw it up anyways.

    So which is the better choice? The answer depends on your belief about the purpose of life. If you believe all that matters is the material outcome, you’re going to end up a decrepit worm-eaten corpse and you can save yourself a lot of pain and problems with incontinence and just get there as fast as possible. Preferably with some morphine to take the edge off. If you believe that the means of living determine the purpose of life, then to “strive your best” is well worth the effort, even if it is inevitable that your best will not be good enough, and that no matter how hard you strive you will still live in a decaying, immoral society.

    Reaction is indeed the contra-zeitgeist. The core of Reaction is the belief that whatever the zeit is, its geist is wrong. The true geist is zeit-less. We can strive to make ourselves, and thus our society, approach the true spirit by seeking out those things which are “timeless” – which we find, e.g., in some forms of tradition and traditional society – not because tradition is inherently good, but because pretty lies perish and the truth tends to out over long periods of time: if something worked for 2000 years, it is likely to work today, although past performance does not guarantee future results. Reaction is not about turning back the clock, it is about a fundamental rejection of the temporal. Of course this is impossible. But it is still right.

    When you are standing in the valley, you have to ask yourself which direction you would like to go. You can, of course, choose to stay in the valley. Most people do. If you would like to climb higher, you have to pick which side you want to go up. You must decide which option you prefer. Your choice will in part be determined by what sort of person you are. Will you pick based on the mountaintop or the next hundred yards? If you pick based on the mountaintop, you may never get there. You may have to content yourself with the act of climbing. If you pick based on the next hundred yards, you will probably get to see them. They might be nice. As you get higher, the scenery may not be as rewarding. But that’s your choice.

    Though in fact the situation laid out is false. The actor is in fact on a plateau. The choice is whether to take the easy route downhill, or to climb. Climbing is strenuous, dangerous, and you may never reach the top. Going downhill is a lot easier. There are generally more people down there as well. As you descend, however, you may find that a lot of other things flow downhill as well.

    Mencius’ problem is that he keeps wanting an all-powerful being to step in and convert “striving your best” into “perfect success”: aliens, kings, crypographically-powered chief executives. He knows the pristine mountain-top is there, but he wants to take the 3-minute cable-car ride. In lieu of climbing, he’ll wait around for someone to build the cable-car, and in the meantime he writes a lot about how wonderful it would be to be on top of the mountain and how horrible the stench is coming up from below – his solution is to hope for some sort of magical saving grace.

    Basically he’s looking for God, except that he professes not to believe in God. (And anyways, those who find God tend to be they who struggle on the mountainside, not they who sit around and wait.)

  13. I do not think reactionaries believe that the uncanny-valley exists in the way you have framed. At least I do not believe that it exists.

    The reactionary position is that the more stable/legitimate/secure a regime, the better. It is not a valley, just a slope. By regime, I mean the whole system of governance structures. Reactionaries also believe that the more accountable the individual leaders within the regime, the better. By “leaders” I mean the mandarins, president, senator, CEO, etc.

    I do not think that progressives and reactionaries disagree about this. The disagreement is that progressives think that accountability must take the form of majoritarian, universal suffrage elections. Reactionaries think some other accountability mechanism would be better – but no one agrees on what that mechanism should be. Progressives also believe that universal suffrage is the best way to create legitimacy/security/stability in government. Reactionaries point out that the track record of universal suffrage elections in promoting legitimacy/security/stability is quite bad, and often worse than the track record of less open access regimes in comparable circumstances.

    In some circumstances, when you have a ruler who is a psychopath in a regime with no accountability mechanism, then you do have an uncanny value effect where you would probably be best off either with that ruler being so insecure he gets removed or so secure that he doesn’t bother wiping out his enemies. But it would be best to avoid psychopath, unaccountable rulers in the first place, and to design regimes that do not produce psychopaths.

    For any “good thing” there always exists a dynamic where that thing done badly is worse than not doing it at all, for some definition of the word “badly”. The reactionary believes that we have empirical evidence that on average 1950’s style colonialism provided superior governance in Africa than post-colonialism. But of course in the worst cases of colonialism done badly, it is worse than no colonialism at all.

    • There is one point I will concede.

      Any reactionary movement that actually wishes to take power must make damn sure it takes power in a way that creates a broad sense of legitimacy in the new regime. A great example of this is the Federalist counter revolution. If George Washington had just attempted a coup the result would have been disaster. But by going through the quasi-illegal constitutional conventional process, he managed to install the new aristocratic republican regime in a way that made the new system legitimate. Conversely, military coups have the nasty habit of creating counter-coups and civil wars. Thus a such a coup should only be considered in extreme circumstances such as if the country was already going up in flames.

    • Mary says:

      Progressives at the moment think that majoritarian, universal suffrage elections are better. They have certainly held other views in the past, and not so distant past either.

    • Mary says:

      One also notes that, to continue the analogy, that what looks likes a hill ahead — blue with distance — can also be a cloud. In which case blaming one’s lack of success on how your efforts are “constantly dragged down by lingering rightists” is rather silly.

      One also notes that the Communists were always blaming lingering rightists for their failure. That’s why the Gulags were so large. Like sticking to the Ptolemaic system, or even the Copernican one, and adding epicycle after epicycle rather than admit that Kepler was right.

    • Damien says:

      “Reactionaries think some other accountability mechanism would be better – but no one agrees on what that mechanism should be.”

      Bit of a fatal flaw, there.

  14. Leonard says:

    Moldbug mentions the possibility of a military of cryptographically secured weapon systems to which only the monarch has the password, but I don’t think even other reactionaries take him seriously on this one.

    Some do. Some do not. I do. I find the lack of imagination displayed by those who don’t rather puzzling. I mean, all the pieces of the tech are here now. You’d probably want to ban unlocked weapons, but an effective state can ban weapons. You’d have to do continual armory inspections and other such work to verify that the locks remain functional. We can do that now, too.

    As for your simplistic scenarios illustrating possible failure modes of a cryptographically controlled military: I expect a competent state to think about such things and plan accordingly. For example, right now if Barack Obama dies, I rather doubt that USG will no longer be able to use any of its nuclear weapons. Yet they are cryptographically controlled. So, how is it, do you imagine, that USG has solved this problem? Cannot a hypothetical corporate state do the same thing?

    Or consider your various scenarios for coup. All of these seem to rely on the same thing: that there are no loyalists whatsoever. If there were, then the loyalists’ weapons would not be turned off. And they would easily defeat rebels unless truly massively overwhelmed. So how do you get everyone to rebel at the same time, when being a rebel is certain death and even a suspicion of it is enough to remove a man from the security forces? Certainly the experience in the communist dictatorships of the 20th c is not helpful to your argument here.

    Finally, I think you are entirely captive by the modern political formula, namely, the divine right of the people. So it is not surprising that you make mistakes like the idea that there would be some thirst for rebellion among the security forces of a well-run sovereign corporation, based on something like “a yearning for democracy
    “. There would not, because to the degree the state was insecure, it would make damn sure to instill in all subjects a formula that justifies its position. What that would be, we cannot say, although I would guess it will be somewhat progressive in the sense that progressives hate actual democracy and want technocratic rule.

    The divine right of the people is just as false (and, from outside, just as risible) as the divine right of kings.

    • im says:

      This tech stuff can be extraordinarily brittle even if blatantly possible.

    • Earnest Peer says:

      As for your simplistic scenarios illustrating possible failure modes of a cryptographically controlled military: I expect a competent state to think about such things and plan accordingly. For example, right now if Barack Obama dies, I rather doubt that USG will no longer be able to use any of its nuclear weapons. Yet they are cryptographically controlled. So, how is it, do you imagine, that USG has solved this problem? Cannot a hypothetical corporate state do the same thing?

      There have been a lot of failures of the cryptographic controls of the nuclear weapons last century (mainly with lost codes), you certainly wouldn’t want those to happen with all of your normal guns.

      But even if you could make the future weapons cryptographically secure, how do you deal with nowadays weapons? The infeasibility of disarming the American people is one of the standard counterarguments to weapon control, 3D printers are already a thing, and AFAIK making a Kalashnikow-style gun is easy even without one.

      The third problem with cryptographic weapons is that if you doubt your guards too quickly, you open yourself to conspiracy: Just make the dictator doubt the wrong guards. (As an aside, how do you even know whose weapon to block?)

      Not saying that these crypto-weapons are useless, but I suspect they’re much more easily circumvented than you think.

      • Leonard says:

        Peer, you deal with existing weapons exactly as we currently do. Which is, if you feel they are a threat, ban them (or heavily control), and gradually remove them from existence. Criminals will of course circumvent any such ban, but such is the price of the security of the realm. Certainly it is easy to sell such bans to the people (if you care about their opinion), as to their benefit. The people are stupid.

        That said, I see no reason why any reasonably good government needs to disarm the people — of small arms. Small arms do not win modern wars. The realm only needs to lock down the heavy stuff — full-auto machine guns and heavier (missiles, tanks, drones, aircraft, nukes, etc.). A rebel army that has none of those will fare very poorly against one that has them. Consider Afghanistan or Iraq.

        In fact I see the opposite. A secure realm that has any sort of problem with criminals should insist that all men be capable of self-defense. Why should the realm provide expensive police when the people can police themselves? It should not. More profit for the shareholders.

        As for failures of control, there’s lots of things one can imagine. But look at it from the pov of a grunt security worker. You’ve been told in no uncertain terms what happens to rebels (they hang, or worse). And you know that the weapon you are thinking about rebelling with might — might! — have the security hole that some geek liberal is telling you should be exploitable. Do you rebel? With your life on the line, even the possibility that the locks work is a huge deterrent to rebellion.

        • Mary says:

          Machiavelli observed that you should not disarm conquered populations: they need those weapons to defend themselves, and the consequent trust is worth the trivial decrease in the difficulty of revolting against you.

  15. I have just what the Reactionaries need to become a political movement with realistic and useful goals, btw.

    Instead of trying to figure out how to get a stable and nice dictatorship going, they need to switch to re-inventing the traditional aristocratic caste of past societies in a new improved form.

    We could take the British House of Lords as a starting point, and think about how we could turn it into an actually useful and competent stably powerful institution:

    (1) Stop pretending that plutocrats (etymologically: people who are granted power because of wealth) are aristocrats (etymologically: people who are granted power because they are considered better than others). Currently you get into the House of Lords by e.g. having rich and influential parents. Most people there aren’t even well-educated, let alone intellectual in the slightest degree. In short, the institution as it currently stands is a clown show. (And it doesn’t have real power over much anything either.)

    (2) Agree upon the ways you measure who are the genuine aristocrats, i.e. people who are considered better than others. An easy starting point is measuring intelligence and education levels, we already know somewhat well how to do that. We should continue by figuring out reasonably good ways to measure other virtues, of which there are many, but one very important one is not being an egotistical prick. Personally, I would among other things require aristocrats to be the kind of people who *want* to live a materially humble existence, since that seems to correlate pretty well with a lot of genuine virtue.

    (3) After you have ways to measure the virtues you value, put additional safeguards in place to ensure that very smart but power-hungry and non-virtuous people aren’t able to game the system. This means making the role of an aristocrat such that only a genuinely virtuous person would *want* to live in that role. Requiring a materially humble existence is a good starting point, and as another key element I would propose having to live under *extreme* surveillance. The aristocrats at least, if not everyone else, should in the future live in a Transparent Society a la David Brin where perhaps their bedroom and toilet wouldn’t be open to round-the-clock publicly broadcast surveillance, but pretty much everything else would be.

    (4) Do something useful with your modern House of Lords where the Lords are virtuous and well-educated intellectuals. My favourite two major powers to grant them would be (A) the ability to pass any law that you could get a majority of the people in a referendum to support. In other words, you could take the role of the more powerful lower house of parliament in the instances where the people agree with you. This would keep the corruption of the typical politicians in the lower house in check, as would the power of (B) after every election, being able to substitute something like the electorally lowest scoring 40% of democratically elected representatives with other candidates from the same parties that the aristocracy considers less corrupt and better people. Here the idea would not be to impose any political views of the aristocracy (and indeed candidates could only be replaced with other candidates that the same party originally nominated, so the parties control the options), but to go rather far in weeding out the bad apples from the political class. I expect this system would even lead to a lot of genuinely good and competent people having successful political careers, perhaps to the extent of transforming politics in a rather surprising way.

    So there you have it. In short, re-invent aristocracy by realizing that these days it is actually possible to *measure* who the better people are, and also with advanced technology to *monitor* the chosen aristocrats to such an extreme extent that you know you get the kind of people you were trying to get.

    And of course a key element is that you aren’t giving yourself power to do stuff the people strongly oppose, thus inviting revolution. Essentially, you’re transferring power from politicians to virtuous aristocrats, with the people having at least as much power as they have under what we currently consider democracy.

    (I’ve actually wasted quite a lot of time thinking about some of the details that arise in trying to implement and fine-tune this kind of a system. I plan to properly write on these issues in 10 years or so, which I estimate to be about the world-historical stage when thinking about things like this becomes fruitful instead of wasteful.)

    • Oligopsony says:

      Concentrating power in the hands of those with more education than wealth seems like the opposite of what you’d want to do if you wanted substantively reactionary policies. (Of course you may care about the formal means of arriving at policies than their precise outcomes.)

      • Multiheaded says:

        That’s an understatement! One of M.M.’s earlier posts, hilariously enough, defines “Leftism” as the “idea… ….that the world should be governed by scholars.” Of course, as people pointed out in the comments, this is nonsense, being entirely orthogonal to a post-Enlightenment, Western understanding of “left” and “right” philosophies – take Confucianism vs. anarchism – but I think there’s something to be said here for the necessity of completely mapping the power relations in a society/structure before discussing ostensibly “left” and “right” views regarding it.

        Here is a better attempt to describe what kind of elites “Leftists” or “Rightists” seemingly prefer to see in charge – but again, Confucianism or the Catholic Church don’t seem to have much leftist/liberal drift despite being organized around memetics/scholarship/control of information, and on the other side, some groups from hunter-gatherer tribes to the <a href=""Ukrainian or Spanish anarchists and modern Third World guerrillas combine “leftist” attitudes and egalitarianism with violence and rule by military force.

        As Oligopsony pointed out somewhere else around here, a better explanation would be that “leftists” are generally hostile to some types of hierarchies and relations of dominance, but not at all in agreement on how to displace/weaken them.

    • Deiseach says:

      To quote G.K. Chesterton:

      “For the whole modern world is absolutely based on the assumption, not that the rich are necessary (which is tenable), but that the rich are trustworthy, which (for a Christian) is not tenable. You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man. The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor. A Christian may consistently say, “I respect that man’s rank, although he takes bribes.” But a Christian cannot say, as all modern men are saying at lunch and breakfast, “a man of that rank would not take bribes.” For it is a part of Christian dogma that any man in any rank may take bribes. It is a part of Christian dogma; it also happens by a curious coincidence that it is a part of obvious human history. When people say that a man “in that position” would be incorruptible, there is no need to bring Christianity into the discussion. Was Lord Bacon a bootblack? Was the Duke of Marlborough a crossing sweeper? In the best Utopia, I must be prepared for the moral fall of any man in any position at any moment; especially for my fall from my position at this moment.”

  16. But this is totally comparing apples and oranges. The opposite of perfect unimpeded progress up the right side of the valley is perfect unimpeded progress up the left side of the valley. The opposite of attempted progress up the left side dragged down by lingering rightists is attempted progress up the right side dragged down by lingering leftists.

    Oppressive leftism – which is what we have now – makes politics compulsory.

    Oppressive rightism – which english speakers have not had for several centuries – makes politics forbidden.

    Thus leftism tends ever to lunatic extremism. Rightism does not. Given the number people killed by politics in the twentieth century, oppressive rightism has a plausible case.

    In the late nineteenth century, people were getting nervous about expressing politically incorrect views, a nervousness I never saw in older books except during the reign of James the second. They have been getting steadily more nervous – thus we have ever increasing levels of left wing repression, which cause ever more leftwards movement at an ever increasing rate.

    When Marie Curie got not one but two Nobels for work that was unremarkable when men did similar or considerably more important work, the world was already mandatory raving moonbat left, and has moved ever leftwards since then at an ever increasing rate.

  17. Dan says:

    I am a reactionary, and I think there is a reactionary solution that works really well. It is *localism*. Not some superstate. Localism is not one solution, and it is just a principle.

    Advantages of localism:
    1 – The system is robust, because failure is okay. With massive superstates, failure is a disaster.
    2 – Decisions are made by the people they affect and not at 30,000 feet.
    3 – There are many solutions going on simultaneously. Some will invariably be effective.
    4 – If you don’t like the place, no biggie. Just move to a different one, since there are many to choose from.
    5 – Places can learn from each other. If one place has a better policy that another place, it’s okay, because people are voting with their feet and the one with the worse policy will become uncompetitive.

    Localism is not pie in the sky. It is the heart of why capitalism works and why Communism does not. It is why America worked so well for most of its history. Localism is also the only thing that will save us. Marriage is not dead because high status and successful people recognize its value. Crime is not out of control because local jurisdictions everywhere looked into the abyss in recent decades.

  18. Dan says:

    In my view the reactionary ideal, and not coincidentally the most stable society in world history is Switzerland, not a monarchy, and certainly not any one of the 20th century dictatorships.

    Staying out of both WWI and WWII while being squarely in the center of it both times… This is utterly anomalous in world history. Der Fuhrer coveted Switzerland and hated its people desperately but no dice. A lake of glass-smooth calm amid the worst carnage in world history.

    And it continues. All of Europe roils in catastrophic economic disaster year after year and in Switzerland, right in the middle of it all…. almost nothing.

    What is the secret? Extreme localism. Power is disseminated locally all the way to the most local level, with every household required to have what is basically a machine gun.