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.