Quotulatiousness

July 20, 2017

Deirdre McCloskey defines libertarianism as “Liberalism 1.0”

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The introduction to her “Manifesto for a New American Liberalism, or How to Be a Humane Libertarian” [PDF] states:

I make the case for a new and humane American “libertarianism.”

Outside the United States libertarianism is still called plain “liberalism,” as in the usage of the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, with no “neo-” about it. That’s the L-word I’ll use here. The economist Daniel Klein calls it “Liberalism 1.0,” or, channeling the old C. S. Lewis book Mere Christianity on the minimum commitments of faith (1942-44, 1952), “mere Liberalism.” David Boaz of the Cato Institute wrote a lucid guide, Libertarianism — A Primer (1997), reshaped in 2015 as The Libertarian Mind. I wish David had called it The Liberal Mind.

In desperate summary for you Americans, Liberalism 1.0 is Democratic in social policy and Republican in economic policy and non-interventionist in foreign policy. It is in fact mainly against “policy,” which has to be performed, if there is to be a policy at all, through the government’s monopoly of violence. (To confirm this experimentally, try not paying your taxes; then try to escape from prison.) Liberals 1.0 believe that having little or no policy is a good policy.

That does not put the Liberals 1.0 anywhere along the conventional one-dimensional left-right line, stretching from a compelled right-conservative policy to a compelled left-”liberal” policy. The real liberals instead sit happily up on a second dimension, the non-policy apex of a triangle, so to speak, the base of which is the conventional axis of policy by violence. We Liberals 1.0 are neither conservatives nor socialists — both of whom believe, with the legal mind, as the liberal economist and political philosopher Friedrich Hayek put it in 1960, that “order [is] … the result of the continuous attention of authority.” Both conservatives and socialists, in other words, “lack the faith in the spontaneous forces of adjustment which makes the liberal accept changes without apprehension, even though he does not know how the necessary adaptations will be brought about.”

Liberals 1.0 don’t like violence. They are friends of the voluntary market order, as against the policy-heavy feudal order or bureaucratic order or military-industrial order. They are, as Hayek declared, “the party of life, the party that favors free growth and spontaneous evolution,” against the various parties of left and right which wish “to impose [by violence] upon the world a preconceived rational pattern.”

At root, then, Liberals 1.0 believe that people should not push other people around. As Boaz says at the outset of The Libertarian Mind, “In a sense, there have always been but two political philosophies: liberty and power.” Real, humane Liberals 1.0 […] believe that people should of course help and protect other people when we can. That is, humane liberals are very far from being against poor people. Nor are they ungenerous, or lacking in pity. Nor are they strictly pacifist, willing to surrender in the face of an invasion. But they believe that in achieving such goods as charity and security the polity should not turn carelessly to violence, at home or abroad, whether for leftish or rightish purposes, whether to help the poor or to police the world. We should depend chiefly on voluntary agreements, such as exchange-tested betterment, or treaties, or civil conversation, or the gift of grace, or a majority voting constrained by civil rights for the minority.

To use a surprising word, we liberals, whether plain 1.0 or humane, rely chiefly on a much-misunderstood “rhetoric,” despised by the hard men of the seventeenth century such as Bacon and Hobbes and Spinoza, but a practice anciently fitted to a democratic society. Liberalism is deeply rhetorical, the exploration (as Aristotle said) of the available means of non-violent persuasion. For example, it’s what I’m doing for you now. For you, understand, not to you. It’s a gift, not an imposition. (You’re welcome.)

July 8, 2017

Demonizing the Koch brothers

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Julian Adorney on the amazing contrast between the way the Koch brothers actually spend their money and the demonic sins they are regularly accused of by progressives:

The Koch Brothers recently announced a $21 million anti-poverty program in Dallas, designed to reduce gang violence and encourage young entrepreneurs. But their efforts to end poverty are unlikely to earn credit from progressives, who frequently demonize the family. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid routinely blasts them for, “crooked works” and “nefarious actions”; and when Charles and David Koch donated $100 million to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, leftists demanded (unsuccessfully) that the hospital return the gift.

Why are the Kochs so often criticized by the left, while far less progressive individuals are given a free pass?

Unlikely Alliances

The Koch brothers have spent at least $1.5 billion working to advance traditionally progressive causes. They have funded public television, museums, and hospitals. They contributed $25 million to the United Negro College Fund, the nation’s largest minority education group. The donation offers scholarships and support for historically black universities.

Politically, the Kochs have pushed for criminal justice reform. The brothers worked with Van Jones on his Cut50 project, which aims to cut America’s incarcerated population in half over the next ten years. The Kochs have partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for American Progress to reduce prison populations and enact more humane criminal sentencing. And in 2011, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers gave Charles Koch its annual Defender of Justice award.

But criminal justice reform is far from the only progressive cause the Kochs have embraced. They publicly oppose corporate tax breaks and subsidies — including the ethanol subsidies that boost their bottom line.

In spite of this, many progressives disdain the Kochs as far-right extremists. On his Senate website, Bernie Sanders claims that the goal of these, “right wing billionaires” is to, “repeal every major piece of legislation … that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.” The Koch’s high-profile efforts to help the most vulnerable population in the nation, those victimized by the criminal justice system, receives no mention.

[…]

Progressives vilify the Kochs for the same reason that many venerate FDR: politics encourages black and white formulations. Prominent Democrats lambast the Kochs as ill-intentioned billionaires, and the specter of the Kochs has played heavily in Democratic fundraising attempts. Fear motivates, and boogeymen inspire fiercer opposition than the complicated reality of the Koch brothers.

Similarly, Democrats may turn a blind eye to FDR’s anti-progressive actions because they don’t wish to tarnish one of their own. FDR’s economic policies owe much to fascism: Roosevelt admitted that he was, “deeply impressed by what [Mussolini] has accomplished.” Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration stated it more directly: “The Fascist Principles are very similar to those we have been evolving here in America.”

This similarity is easy to brush off if FDR is perceived as a leftists titan, because in the public eye progressives and fascists are diametrically opposed. It is harder to ignore when one accepts that FDR’s record on human rights was only a few degrees better than Mussolini’s.

April 3, 2017

Ici Londres: Karl Marx didn’t get a single thing right

Filed under: Economics, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 22 Mar 2017

March 20, 2017

Towards a taxonomy of the tribes of the Alt-Right

Filed under: Gaming, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A guest post at Catallaxy Files tries to identify the various sub-groups of the larger Alt-Right movement:

The Alt-Right may be described as the group of people who have been cast out of polite, progressive society. It is not a particularly intellectual movement, but this is a characteristic of the mechanism of its formation: Intellectuals as a group largely have the capacity and inclination to avoid being kicked out of polite society. This is not to suggest that the typical member of the Alt-Right is brutish; far from it. One of the characteristics of the progressive movement is its tendency to attack the people for their privilege: the people who choose to become Alt-Right are both able and independently minded. These are people who get things done.

[…]

Who are they and what do they believe? Again, there isn’t exactly a formal list. Moreover, many loudly deny being part of the Alt-Right, while quietly indicating that they are somewhat aligned. There are some identifiable groupings. Among them there are degrees of acceptance of the truths that are colloquially called ‘red pills’ (as per the Matrix). To this end, Vox Day, one of the more intellectually capable individuals who is openly part of the Alt-Right, set out 16 points on which there is general agreement. A new person in the movement – either intellectually curious or recently cast out – may only agree with 3 or 4 of these points. These people are considered ‘Alt-Lite’. Anyone who agrees with the vast bulk of these points is ‘Alt-Right’. Those on the spectrum from White Nationalism to White Supremacy are a subgroup referred to as the ‘Alt-White’; those with a broader view that has scope for all nationalities and peoples as the ‘Alt-West’. Finally, there are a group of generally aligned intellectual strands which are referred to collectively as the Dark Enlightenment.

The Alt-White holds an interesting position within the Alt-Right. From one perspective, they have been cast out the longest, and were also the originators of the term ‘Alt-Right’, which lends them a touch of primacy. At the same time, they are inclined to a degree of overextension and the their intellectual output is targeted at a broader but less educated base than some other groups. There is a degree of tension, especially where white nationalism gives way to white supremacy. […]

The Alt-West seems to be where a lot of those who were cast out from a more liberal or libertarian position seem to end up. These people may have come to the Alt-Right out of Gamergate, out of the computing/technology industry, out of science fiction community, or a number of other incidents. […] Gamergate is a story in itself, starting with a personal feud on a gaming site and morphing into an acrimonious ideological confrontation between an “alt-right” group and the feral left.

The Alt-Lite is really about getting your toes wet. Its transitional. As such it described people in process more than a set community. That said, places like this expose people to a metered dose of this red-pill.

There is another faction that is roughly ‘men’s groups’, men trying to navigate a world that is hostile to them and to family formation. There is some deep stuff in there if you are looking into social interaction, but it’s largely not suitable for ‘polite company’. A number of the men who started that grouping have broadened out from that starting base. See this site or this one for something less given in to the hedonism and base tendencies of the age.

January 31, 2017

MSM bias is baked-in, and has been for generations

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In last week’s Goldberg File, Jonah Goldberg talked about the default left-leaning mainstream media (that’s most of the media):

I agree with pretty much all of the right-wing criticism of the mainstream media these days, or at least the intelligent stuff, of which there has been plenty. What the MSM still fails to appreciate is the degree to which they’ve spent the last 40 years — at least — presenting news as unbiased and objective when it was in fact coated with, saturated in, and bent by all manner of confirmation biases, self-serving narratives, assumptions, and ideological priorities that leaned left. No, it wasn’t all “fake news” (man, am I exhausted by the ridiculous misuse of that term), at least not most of the time [insert outrage over Duranty’s Pulitzer, Janet Cooke’s and Steve Glass’s fabulations, and of course that time Dan Rather climbed the jackass tree only to hurl himself down, hitting every branch].

I would even go so far as to argue that most of the time liberal bias isn’t even deliberate. Maybe because I’ve been reading so much public-choice theory and psychology stuff of late, I tend to credit conspiracy theories less and groupthink more for the wayward state of the mainstream media (though Mark Hemingway makes a good point about Plowshares’ sub rosa complicity in pushing the Iran deal). Still, the more you get to know elite “objective” journalists, the more you can appreciate that they are trying to do it right. But it also becomes all the more obvious that they live in a social milieu where the borders between the Democratic party, liberal activism, and liberal experts are very, very fuzzy.

For instance, last week I wrote about that ridiculous article in the Washington Post accusing David Gelernter of being “anti-intellectual.” Much of the Post’s “reporting” hinged on a lengthy, catty quote from a member of the Union of Concern Scientists. As I noted, the Union of Concerned Scientists has always been a political operation. It’s a classic example of an outfit that liberal journalists invest with non-partisan authority so they can pass off partisan views as “science” or some other objective expertise.

In 1985, the editors of National Review wrote:

    The Union of Concerned Scientists, except for the publicity it commands, can be dismissed. It has been a scandal for years — a letterhead with a few distinguished names acting as shills for a membership of left-wing laymen (anyone can be a Concerned Scientist, just by paying the membership fee).

Countless activists-in-experts-clothing organizations run on some variant of this model, from the Women’s Sports Foundation to the National Resources Defense Council.

Reporters routinely call experts they already agree with knowing that their “takes” will line up with what the reporter believes. Sometimes this is lazy or deadline-driven hackery. But more often, it’s not. And that shouldn’t surprise us. Smart liberal reporters are probably inclined to think that smart liberal experts are right when they say things the smart liberal reporters already agree with.

For these and similar reasons, liberal ideas and interpretations of the facts sail through while inconvenient facts and conservative interpretations send up ideological red flags. Think of editors like security guards at a military base. They tend to wave through the people they know and the folks with right ID badges. But when a stranger shows up, or if someone lacks the right credential, then the guards feel like they have to do their job. This is the basic modus operandi for places like Vox, which seek to explain not the facts or the news, but why liberals are right about the facts and the news.

December 10, 2016

ESR spelunks the alt-right

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

ESR has been busy with absorbing technical projects, so he’s not blogging as frequently as he used to. Here’s his take on the alt-right phenomenon:

First, while I’m not entirely sure of everything the alt-right is (it’s a rather amorphous phenomenon) it is not the KKK and neo-Nazis. The most that can truthfully be said is that ‘alt-right’ serves as a recent flag of convenience to which some old-fashioned white supremacists are busily trying to attach themselves.

Also, the alt-right is not Donald Trump and his Trumpkins, either. He’s an equally old-fashioned populist continuous with William Jennings Bryan and Huey Long. If you tossed a bunch of alt-right memes at him, I doubt he’d even understand them, let alone agree.

The defining characteristic of the alt-right is, really, corrosive snarkiness. To the extent an origin can be identified, it was as as a series of message-board pranks on 4chan. There’s no actual ideological core to it – it’s a kind of oppositional attitude-copping without a program, mordantly nasty but unserious.

There’s also some weird occultism attached – the half-serious cult of KEK, aka Pepe, who may or may not be an ancient Egyptian frog-god who speaks to his followers via numerological coincidences. (Donald Trump really wouldn’t get that part.)

Some elements of the alt-right are in fact racist (and misogynist, and homophobic, and other bad words) a la KKK/Nazi, but that’s not a defining characteristic and it’s anyway difficult to tell the genuine haters from those for whom posing as haters is a form of what 4chan types call “griefing”. That’s social disruption for the hell of it.

It is worth noting that another part of what is going on here is a visceral rejection of politically-correct leftism, one which deliberately inverts its premises. The griefers pose as racists and misogynists because they think it’s the most oppositional stance they can take to bullies and rage-mobbers who position themselves as anti-racists and feminists.

My sense is that the true haters are a tiny minority compared to the griefers and anti-PC rejectionists, but the griefers are entertained by others’ confusion on this score and don’t intend to clear it up.

As has been pointed out many times, the habit of all too many on the left to describe anyone to the the right of them politically as being racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., has reduced the effectiveness and even encouraged otherwise sensible people to start describing themselves in those terms. In the same way that the epithet “fascist” no longer has any meaning beyond “something or someone I don’t like”, these other terms have also lost much of their power through massive over-use.

November 23, 2016

QotD: The Progressive worldview

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:00

In order to understand this, we must first identify what the Progressive worldview is. Boiled down to its simplest, it’s this: “The government can do it better”. Do what? Anything. Individual Progressives might believe that there should be certain limits on what the government should do, but the overall guiding star of the movement is that everything will work better when the government is in charge. It’s nothing more than a Utopian vision: Things aren’t perfect now, but when WE are in charge of them, then we can make them perfect. The fact that perfection is impossible never enters their minds.*

[…]

* I’m taking their stated beliefs at face value, and many of the foot soldiers of the revolution, Lenin’s “useful idiots”, probably do in fact believe that they are working for a “better world”. Most of the leadership behind the Progressive movement is far too smart to believe any such thing. Utopia is just the flashy bling to dazzle the rubes. Their motivations are no different than any other humans. There’s an acronym that identify why people become traitors or spies — MICE — which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego. I don’t think it vastly different here, although I’d substitute Power for Coercion in those that seek to be the ruling class.

Weirddave, “Fundamental Concepts – Why the Left Hates Families”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2015-03-28.

September 29, 2016

Today’s utopian visionaries

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Daniel Greenfield describes them very well:

The sort of people who set off class wars as a hobby have very particular classless societies in mind. The average left-wing revolutionary is not poor. He is a homicidal dilettante from the upper classes with a burning conviction of his own importance that he is unwilling to realize through disciplined labor. His revolution climaxes with a classless society in which he is at the very top.

Not near the top, not adjacent to the top, as he usually was before, but at the very top.

Utopia has a class system. At the top are the thinkers, the philosopher kings who develop plans based on how things ought to be and then turn them over to lesser men to actually implement. They are the priestly class of an ideological movement whose deity is politics and whose priests are politicians.

In a planned economy, they are the titans of industry and finance, they are the heads of banks and the men who move millions and billions around the board, and they are utterly unfit for the job. But they also make decisions in matters of war and science. And in all things. They measure political heresy in all things and all the activities of man are measured against their dogma and rewarded or punished.

This is the way it was in the Soviet Union or Communist China. But take a closer glance at the White House and see if you don’t spot the occasional similarity.

In the middle of Utopia’s class system is the middle class. This is not the middle class you are familiar with. There are no small business owners here. No one striving to make it up the ladder. Utopia’s middle class is the bureaucracy, the interlinked hive mind of government and non-profits.

At the top of Utopia’s class system are the philosopher-planners who issue the regulations. Or rather they offer objectives. The bureaucracy filters them through successive layers, transforming grandiose ideas into stultifying regulations and each successive layers expands them into further microcosms of unnecessary detail. This expansion of regulations also expands the bureaucracy. One feeds off the other.

July 6, 2016

QotD: The treason of the modern intellectuals

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The longest-term stakes in the war against terror are not just human lives, but whether Western civilization will surrender to fundamentalist Islam and shari’a law. More generally, the overt confrontation between Western civilization and Islamist barbarism that began on September 11th of 2001 has also made overt a fault line in Western civilization itself — a fault line that divides the intellectual defenders of our civilization from intellectuals whose desire is to surrender it to political or religious absolutism.

This fault line was clearly limned in Julien Benda’s 1927 essay Le trahison des clercs: English “The treason of the intellectuals”. I couldn’t find a copy of Benda’s essay on the Web. but there is an excellent commentary on it that repays reading. Ignore the reflexive endorsement of religious faith at the end; the source was a conservative Catholic magazine in which such gestures are obligatory. Benda’s message, untainted by Catholic or Christian partisanship, is even more resonant today than it was in 1927.

The first of the totalitarian genocides (the Soviet-engineered Ukrainian famine of 1922-1923, which killed around two million people) had already taken place. Hitler’s “Final Solution” was about fifteen years in the future. Neither atrocity became general knowledge until later, but Benda in 1927 would not have been surprised; he foresaw the horrors that would result when intellectuals abetted the rise of the vast tyrannizing ideologies of the 20th century,

Changes in the transport, communications, and weapons technologies of the 20th century made the death camps and the gulags possible. But it was currents in human thought that made them fact — ideas that both motivated and rationalized the thuggery of the Hitlers and Stalins of the world.

Eric S. Raymond, “Today’s treason of the intellectuals”, Armed and Dangerous, 2002-11-28.

June 16, 2016

QotD: Humanity’s near-infinite capacity for rationalization and self-deception

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

So how can an otherwise functional intellect close itself to all this irrefutable evidence and claim that the Holocaust was either a hoax or nowhere near as large in scope as claimed?

The answer, of course, lies in the nearly unlimited human capacity for self-deception. We are really, really good at both rationalizing our own preferences, and “explaining away” evidence that points to something we don’t want to be true. Denying Auschwitz is a piece of cake for someone with conviction when you consider that people can deny, on the spot, the reality of things that happen right then and there. That’s how you can have 9/11 truthers. That’s how you can have people claiming that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were a false flag operation perpetrated by a sinister race of “magical Jews” who can shape-shift. That’s why it doesn’t even matter if police officers wear body cameras — because you can videotape the most justified shooting of an armed perpetrator, and there will still be people who will watch the video and claim that the police officer executed someone in cold blood for no reason.

It’s because when you are invested in an ideology, you have to make reality subordinate to that ideology. And when the physical evidence points to the possibility that your ideology doesn’t match reality, then you have to deny that reality, or face the possibility that you ideology is wrong. It’s much easier to dismiss historical records or claim that a video was doctored than to examine your beliefs and concede that everything you believe is wrong.

But reality doesn’t go away when you deny it. Those buildings and crematoriums at Auschwitz still stand, and every time someone denies what they were used for, they deny the humanity of all the people who died there. And just as importantly, they deny the human ability to commit such atrocities, which in turn paves the way for a repeat of those atrocities. To borrow my friend Kathy’s words, there’s a world of difference between “Never Again” and “It can’t happen here.”

Because if a society of civilized, educated people, the nation of Goethe and Schiller and Beethoven, can build and staff a place like Auschwitz and systematically murder millions of people in just a few years — if orderly, fastidious Germans can go from bookkeeping to putting on a uniform and herding women and children into gas chambers at gunpoint because they perceive the approval of society and enjoy the power they are given — then it can happen anywhere, at any time.

Marko Kloos, “on the holocaust and self-deception”, the munchkin wrangler, 2015-01-28.

May 24, 2016

The Great Enrichment

Filed under: Economics, History, Liberty — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

In the Wall Street Journal, economist Deirdre McCloskey pinpoints the launch point of the greatest increase in global human wealth ever seen:

In the 18th century, liberal thinkers such as Voltaire and Benjamin Franklin courageously advocated liberty in trade. By the 1830s and 1840s, a much enlarged intelligentsia, mostly the sons of bourgeois fathers, commenced sneering loftily at the liberties that had enriched their elders and made possible their own leisure. The sons advocated the vigorous use of the state’s monopoly of violence to achieve one or another utopia, soon.

Intellectuals on the political right, for instance, looked back with nostalgia to an imagined Middle Ages, free from the vulgarity of trade, a nonmarket golden age in which rents and hierarchy ruled. Such a conservative and Romantic vision of olden times fit well with the right’s perch in the ruling class. Later in the 19th century, under the influence of a version of science, the right seized upon social Darwinism and eugenics to devalue the liberty and dignity of ordinary people and to elevate the nation’s mission above the mere individual person, recommending colonialism and compulsory sterilization and the cleansing power of war.

On the left, meanwhile, a different cadre of intellectuals developed the illiberal idea that ideas don’t matter. What matters to progress, the left declared, was the unstoppable tide of history, aided by protest or strike or revolution directed at the evil bourgeoisie — such thrilling actions to be led, naturally, by themselves. Later, in European socialism and American Progressivism, the left proposed to defeat bourgeois monopolies in meat and sugar and steel by gathering under regulation or syndicalism or central planning or collectivization all the monopolies into one supreme monopoly called the state.

While all this deep thinking was roiling the intelligentsia of Europe, the commercial bourgeoisie — despised by the right and the left, and by many in the middle, too — created the Great Enrichment and the modern world. The Enrichment gigantically improved our lives. In doing so, it proved that both social Darwinism and economic Marxism were mistaken. The supposedly inferior races and classes and ethnicities proved not to be so. The exploited proletariat was not driven into misery; it was enriched. It turned out that ordinary men and women didn’t need to be directed from above, and when honored and left alone, became immensely creative.

The Great Enrichment is the most important secular event since human beings first domesticated wheat and horses. It has been and will continue to be more important historically than the rise and fall of empires or the class struggle in all hitherto existing societies. Empire did not enrich Britain. America’s success did not depend on slavery. Power did not lead to plenty, and exploitation was not plenty’s engine. Progress toward French-style equality of outcome was achieved not by taxation and redistribution but by the Scots’ very different notion of equality. The real engine was the expanding ideology of classical liberalism.

The Great Enrichment has restarted history. It will end poverty. For a good part of humankind, it already has. China and India, which have adopted some of economic liberalism, have exploded in growth. Brazil, Russia and South Africa, not to speak of the European Union — all of them fond of planning and protectionism and level playing fields — have stagnated.

May 22, 2016

QotD: Western suicidalism

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West’s will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.

But al-Qaeda didn’t create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West’s intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western intellectual life.

Consider the following propositions:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness” to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.

Trace any of these back far enough (e.g. to the period between 1930 and 1950 when Department V was at its most effective) and you’ll find a Stalinist at the bottom. Among the more notorious examples are: Paul de Man — racist and Nazi propagandist turned Stalinist, and founder of postmodernism; Jean-Paul Sarte, who described the effects of Stalinism as “humane terror” and helped invent existentialism; and Paul Baran, who developed the thesis that capitalism depended on the immiseration of the Third World after Marx’s immiseration of the proletariat failed to materialize.

Al-Qaeda didn’t launch any of these memes into the noosphere, but it relies on them for political cover. They have another effect as well: when Islamists characterize the West as “decadent”, and aver that it is waiting to collapse in on itself at the touch of jihad, they are describing quite correctly and accurately the effects of Western suicidalism.

Stalinist agitprop created Western suicidalism by successfully building on the Christian idea that self-sacrifice (and even self-loathing) are the primary indicators of virtue. In this way of thinking, when we surrender our well-being to others we store up grace in Heaven that is far more important than the momentary discomfort of submitting to criminals, predatory governments, and terrorists.

Eric S. Raymond, “Suicidalism”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-13.

May 8, 2016

QotD: The endgame of postmodern nihilism

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Lenin and Stalin wanted classical-liberal individualism replaced with something less able to resist totalitarianism, not more. Volk-Marxist fantasy and postmodern nihilism served their purposes; the emergence of an adhesive counter-ideology would not have. Thus, the Chomskys and Moores and Fisks are running a program carefully designed to dead-end at nothing.

Religions are good at filling that kind of nothing. Accordingly, if transnational progressivism actually succeeds in smothering liberal individualism, its reward will be to be put to the sword by some flavor of jihadi. Whether the eventual winners are Muslims or Mormons, the future is not going to look like the fuzzy multicultural ecotopia of modern left fantasy. The death of that dream is being written in European banlieus by angry Muslim youths under the light of burning cars.

In the banlieus and elsewhere, Islamist pressure makes it certain that sooner or later the West is going to vomit Stalin’s memes out of its body politic. The worst way would be through a reflex development of Western absolutism — Christian chauvinism, nativism and militarism melding into something like Francoite fascism. The self-panicking leftists who think they see that in today’s Republicans are comically wrong (as witnessed by the fact that they aren’t being systematically jailed and executed), but it is quite a plausible future for the demographically-collapsing nations of Europe.

The U.S., fortunately, is still on a demographic expansion wave and will be till at least 2050. But if the Islamists achieve their dream of nuking “crusader” cities, they’ll make crusaders out of the U.S., too. And this time, a West with a chauvinized America at its head would smite the Saracen with weapons that would destroy entire populations and fuse Mecca into glass. The horror of our victory would echo for a thousand years.

I remain more optimistic than this. I think there is still an excellent chance that the West can recover from suicidalism without going through a fevered fascist episode and waging a genocidal war. But to do so, we have to do more than recognize Stalin’s memes; we have to reject them. We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.

The process won’t be pretty. But I fear that if the rest of us don’t hound the po-mo Left and its useful idiots out of public life with attack and ridicule and shunning, the hard Right will sooner or later get the power to do it by means that include a lot of killing. I don’t want to live in that future, and I don’t think any of my readers do, either. If we want to save a liberal, tolerant civilization for our children, we’d better get to work.

Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.

April 27, 2016

QotD: The essentially bipolar nature of progressive ideology

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Historians and political theorists have long puzzled over how to resolve the glaring contradiction of Progressive ideology — namely, that Progressive “reform” emphasizes greater “democracy,” and championed innovations like the direct election of Senators, the initiative and referendum, etc. Give the people what they want! Up with democracy! At the same time, Progressives also advanced the theory of government administration deliberately remote from politics and popular accountability — the Administrative State staffed by elite “experts.” We can’t have those grubby people telling the government what to do! Down with democracy!

Steven Hayward, “Resolving the Contradiction of ‘Progressivism'”, Power Line, 2016-04-18.

April 22, 2016

QotD: Ideological warfare

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.

We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.

By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.

The Soviets had an entire “active measures” department devoted to churning out anti-American dezinformatsiya. A classic example is the rumor that AIDS was the result of research aimed at building a ‘race bomb’ that would selectively kill black people.

On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.

Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.

Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.

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