Moldbug’s latest has triggered a wave of discussion by emphatically re-stating the long-standing thesis:

America is a communist country.

The supporting argument is richly multi-threaded, and I won’t attempt to recapitulate it here. Its dominant flavor can be appreciated in these paragraphs:

When the story of the 20th century is told in its proper, reactionary light, international communism is anything but a grievance of which Americans may complain. Rather, it’s a crime for which we have yet to repent. Since America is a communist country, the original communist country, and the most powerful and important of communist countries, the crimes of communism are our crimes. You may not personally have supported these crimes. Did you oppose them in any way?

Whereas actually, codewords like “progressive,” “social justice,” “change,” etc, are shared across the Popular Front community for the entire 20th century. They are just as likely to be used by a Cheka cheerleader from the ’20s, as a Clinton voter from the ’90s.

‘Progressives’ aren’t called out on their all-but-overt communism for ‘reasons’ of tact, rooted in a complex structure of intimidation, which itself attests to comprehensive Left triumph. It’s rude to call a ruling communist a communist, and being rude can be highly deleterious to life prospects (it’s a communist thing, which everyone understands all too well).

Despite all this, Outside in probably won’t be stepping up its counter-communist rhetoric in any obvious way, because there’s a criticism of the AIACC analysis that remains unanswered — and which Moldbug seems averse to recognizing. Fascism is the highest stage of communism. Already in the 1930s — which is to say with the New Deal — even small-c ‘communism’ had been clearly surpassed by a more advanced model of slaving the private economy to the state.

Yes, America is a communist country, in much the same way that it is a protestant, and puritan one. The ideological lineage of its governing establishment leads through communism, in exactly the way Moldbug describes. The evolution of this lineage, however, has long passed on into politically incorporated pseudo-capitalism. This is a fact which can only be obscured by excessive attention to preliminary — and now entirely extinct — political forms.

There is absolutely nobody on the empowered Left seeking to dismantle the co-opted oligarchy in order to establish direct ‘public’ administration of the American industrial base. In this respect America is no more communist than the Third Reich (and also no less). Central planning is restricted to the monetary commanding heights, with a pragmatic apparatus of regulatory coercion enforcing political conformity among private businesses. This arrangement is accepted as far more consistent with effective direction of society through Cathedral teleology, in which the accumulation of cultural power is acknowledged as the supreme goal. Furthermore, it enables government insiders and allies to be rewarded relatively openly, economizing on the administrative, political, and psychological costs of extensive subterfuge.

Understanding that fascism is an advanced communist ideology is at least as important as recognizing AIACC, with more significant consequences, on the ‘right’ as well as the Left. Progressives progress. Communism was just a stage they went through.

September 19, 2013admin 82 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction


82 Responses to this entry

  • Contemplationist Says:

    Inserting fascism into the analysis further muddies the waters!
    Reasonable people will agree that Pinochet, and Franco were (successful) fascists.
    How does Cathedralist neo-Puritanic social regulation combined with extensive, comprehensive economic
    regulation come close to Pinochet or Franco or Mussolini?


    admin Reply:

    I strongly disagree [with the claim] that either Pinochet or Franco were fascists. That’s to use the word as a substitute for ‘authoritarian rightist’. That’s exactly what we have to stop doing.


    Alat Reply:

    Neither Pinochet nor Franco were fascists. One could have something of a case against Franco, since he did ally with fascists, but an even better case can be made that Franco neutralized Spain’s real fascists (test: compare what the Falange Española Tradicionalista was under Primo de Rivera and what it became under Franco).

    And to call Pinochet fascist is laughable. The man reduced the state’s role in the economy, and returned power to the same leftists he had originally overthrown… after losing an election. If that’s fascism, it just ain’t what it used to be.


    admin Reply:

    Absolutely right.


    Posted on September 19th, 2013 at 8:04 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rasputin's Severed Penis Says:

    “Despite all this, Outside in probably won’t be stepping up its counter-communist rhetoric in any obvious way, because there’s a criticism of the AIACC analysis that remains unanswered — and which Moldbug seems averse to recognizing.”

    There is another issue that to me the Neoreaction seems averse to addressing head on – the issue of the 1%, or even the 0.01% – who control such a disproportionately large percentage of the world’s total capital. Since railing against the ‘privilege’ of the 1% is one of the central planks of the Leftist economic propaganda, it seems strange to me that this issue is so consistently avoided or skirted around in the Neoreactionary blogosphere. You often refer to ‘crony capitalism’ but – for me at least – it would be helpful if you were inclined to write (or could link to) a Neoreactionary perspective concerning the significance / insignificance of the 1%, and by extension the Left wing argument that hinges on it.


    Doug Reply:

    The reactionary accepts two facts. One man is a hierarchal animal. Two man is not a blank slate, some men are born simply more capable than the average. (A slight extension is that those capabilities are frequently inherited).

    Those two combine into a simple fact every system has its own aristocracy, whether it overtly acknowledges it or not. For example if egalitarianism is possible anywhere, it should certainly be so in Sweden. The country is aggressively egalitarian in ideology, law and politics. And it has been for a hundred years. Its highly homogenous culturally and genetically. It has very low corruption and and high honest. Yet even in Sweden we find that the descendants of the aristocrats from 1700, are still running the country and the economy. Feudalism or social-welfare democracy, the aristocracy will always be with you.

    Even in countries that abolish private property, like the USSR, there is still an overclass that enjoys privileges, benefits and comforts far out of reach of the ordinary man. Every society will always have an aristocracy. If someone is trying to sell you something different they are lying to you. Furthermore they are probably trying to use you as a tool to substitute their faction into the aristocratic elite. All under the guise of fighting for the common man. This pattern has been followed from the Gracchi brothers to Barack Obama. The American ghetto voters that launched him to office haven’t improved one iota since 2009, yet the Obama surname will be getting kids into Harvard for the next three centuries.

    A reactionary doesn’t concern himself with hysterics about the 1%, because a reactionary refuses to be a tool. Those who have power and privilege, have power and privilege. The reactionary is fine with this, this is the state of human society. Make-believe fantasies of “people power” notwithstanding. Playing pawn to shuffle around the people on top is a beta move.


    Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Reply:

    For the record, Doug is over-generalizing, there are in fact some strains of reaction that offer critiques of the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of transnational global elites.


    Doug Reply:

    Well, I suppose this tangents into an argument over semantics which is rarely ever productive. But I would argue that those who you are thinking about probably fall under the category or right-wing populists rather than reactionary. Wanting to reset to the early, ethnically homogenous, New Deal state as your typical Sailer-ite does certainly does not qualify you as a reactionary.

    Almost all reactionaries view the high point of European absolute monarchy as some of the finest examples of government in history. The concentration of wealth and power in that age makes our current world look like a hippy commune. Not to mention the fact that the elites then were far more transnational than today, the King of France had far more in common with the Czar of Russia than he did with the peasants 20 miles away from Versailles.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Tolerable hierarchies are ones that are temporary and genuinely meritocratic, as in a genuine free market system where you have to scramble continually to stay on top of the heap. Or else permanent, traditional hierarchies where status is organic and doesn’t imply that you are a superior person (see Tolkien’s defense of the monarchy). Most modern hierarchies are neither. They are aggressive and corrupt status hierarchies masquerading as meritocracies.

    spandrell Reply:

    Says the investment banker.
    Talk for yourself, will ya? I for one curse the plutocrats before every meal.


    Doug Reply:

    Reactionaries don’t “fight the man”. That’s the antithesis of reaction. A proper reactionary kneels to the king and respects power. Which isn’t to say that if a reactionary sees a legitimate chance to overthrow power he won’t take it. But as Omar says, “Come at the king, you best not miss.” Until then a reactionary certainly doesn’t impotently whine like a beta-boy bitch. Or participate in limp-dicked make-believe pageants designed to fool the masses into thinking they actually hold power, when they don’t. That’s why Pinochet’s a reactionary, but Rush Limbaugh isn’t.

    A reactionary’s a man, and a man takes what he gets, stoically. Participating in ideologies or movements that not only have no chance of ever succeeding is for petulant children. Any ideology that tries to dispense with the plutocracy has no chance of ever succeeding. It directly contradicts the entirety of human history. No civilization ever has existed without a plutocracy. Even Soviet Russia and the Volksdeutsche had their own plutocracies, they were called party members. The most primitive backwards hunter-gatherer tribes have plutocracies, they’re called chiefs. The hippiest of the hippie communes had plutocracy, alpha males that made all the decisions and got all the women. Plutocracies everywhere and always.

    You need to digest reactionary patron saint Moldbug a little better. He advocates voting for Barrack Obama and shutting down the Republican party forever. That’s because he respects power, and advocates submitting to it. Moldbug respects and submits to the ruling elites, and so should you. That’s what proper reactionaries, who are always men even if they’re women, just do.

    spandrell Reply:

    I don’t think anybody around her besides you and Moldbug vote for Obama, so I guess we have a schism in our hands.

    And stop writing like such a preachy douchebag. It’s annoying. I must not be stoic enough as I hard it hard to endure.


    Doug Reply:

    “And stop writing like such a preachy douchebag. It’s annoying. I must not be stoic enough as I hard it hard to endure.”

    Apparently I’ve struck a nerve. Are you just a wee bit sensitive for me daring to impugn the fantasy of you actually holding the tiniest sliver of micro-power?

    Don’t worry “spandrell”, it’s quite alright. I’m sure your play time game of actually exercising some influence through an obscure blog and a splattering of comments on the wrong side of the internet will pay off. You’re a regular Henry Kissinger, spreading ideas, wielding influence and changing policy. Why, your last post got a whole 39 comments! Oh my gosh! Us plutocrats are shaking in our boots, just knowing you’re out there!

    If it’s a schism of everyone and me and Moldbug I’ll take it happily. There’s a reason Moldbug clearly overshadows every other reactionary out there. Among his many points of genius is refusing to indulge in your type of “political masturbation.” If one doesn’t have power, one shouldn’t pretend like they do by fantasizing about taking down the “big ole’ meanies” at the top. It’s not a very good luck for a grown man.

    spandrell Reply:

    Where did I ever call for revolution, “Doug”? If a political arrangement sucks, the people in power are at fault for it. If “being a man” were about sucking it up, accept your fate and and defer to the manifest superiority of the aristocracy we would all still be serfs to inbred feudal nobles.

    At this rate, your new aristocracy is going to be the Obama twins, Anil Dash, Antonio Villaraigosa and whatever black retarded transexuals the left can find around. You can of course enjoy the status gained by selling mortgages of McMansions in Nevada to clueless German banks, and make big ass donations to the Democrats so they bail you out when you need some trillions. An awesome aristocracy you make. 3 centuries of Obamas, hah. If you’re lucky you can get one of your kids to marry into their family.


    R.J. Moore II Reply:

    Of course he’s ignoring that all aristocracies started out as fucking Conan the Barbarian spitting in the face of the Catehdral and cutting the heads off of emasculated, too-comfortable sissies who were used to ideological propaganda doing the slave-pacification for them. The conservative/Catholic meekness towards power is completely at odds with the strident, peacock, feuding individualism and elitism that actually made the Western kingdoms something other than oriental despotisms or exterminationist tribal thugs. Really, the issue is they’re trying moral universalism – but the morality of the aristocracy, the priests, the townsman and peasant are not naturally the same, and there’s no reason they should be. Badass 7′ tall guys having the same ethical norms as skinny little autistic weirdoes that end up in the priesthood is the height of inanity and it’s a sign that moral universalism has deep claws in Reaction.

    Posted on September 19th, 2013 at 10:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Doug Says:

    “There is absolutely nobody on the empowered Left seeking to dismantle the co-opted oligarchy in order to establish direct ‘public’ administration of the American industrial base. In this respect America is no more communist than the Third Reich (and also no less). Central planning is restricted to the monetary commanding heights, with a pragmatic apparatus of regulatory coercion enforcing political conformity among private businesses.”

    I think a useful discussion point for neo-reactionaries is to examine the industrial de-regulation that occurred in the Carter administration. Obviously that administration was as progressive as American progressive can be. Yet it relinquished control over wide swathes of the transportation, energy and telecom industries. Why would the Cathedral, always vociferous for power, just choose to give up control in these areas without a fight?

    I think if you can answer that you can get a lot closer to the examination of the AIACC hypothesis. Specifically there’s some internal force or mechanism that stops the Cathedral from pushing for full-out socialism. And it definitely seems to be at work here. That same mechanism seems to missing from the Western Cathedrals’s progressive counterparts in the East and South. Anyone with Moldbug like command of history like to take a crack at what’s going on here?


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    If you were conspiratorial-minded, you wouldn’t really need to ask why a transnational chattering class movement wanted to lower barriers to communications and transportation.


    Posted on September 19th, 2013 at 10:06 pm Reply | Quote
  • Orlandu84 Says:

    Are Communism, Fascism, and Social Democracy stages of in the evolution or alternative arrangements of totalitarian states? I will certainly agree that all three political arrangements involve states using their citizens as resources to be exploited for maximum benefit to the state. What I do not see is the causal relationship that leads Communism to become Fascism.

    Now, if the claim is that all totalitarian states tend to favor their own internal good (Fascism) over the good of the international community (Communism), I have no problem with the argument. I am interested, however, with the concept of “pseudo capitalism.” I have heard a lot of people claim that the market is not free on account of certain interests coercing it. This leads to the question of money (a voluntary good) having coercive power. How would one know if he is in an authentic capitalist system from the functioning of the market itself? In other words, without using social and political descriptors (this group of people has this amount of money and likes these policies), how would one distinguish a “pseudo” capital market from a real one?


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:


    We have to be careful with definitions. If we accept Sheldon Richman’s description of “fascism” (see the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics website): “As an economic system, fascism is socialism with a capitalist veneer.” This doesn’t make fascism evil by definition. It’s possible to claim that WWII German hard fascism was evil because it was conjoined with militarism and racism, but that modern American soft fascism is all things true and beautiful. If I read this post correctly, Admin’s use of “fascism” is similar to Richman’s. Even if we decide that “fascism” is a poor word choice, we still need *some* word that means “fascism as an economic system” because otherwise it’s *really* hard to talk about the US health care system, etc.

    “Totalitarian” may be too strong a word. I want to describe an economic system, not *necessarily* the be-all and end-all of life. Even if we regard fascism as a religion, not all religions are totalitarian.

    Communism and fascism could be seen either as alternative arrangements of socialism, or as alternate paths to socialism (respectively, heavy and light on the class warfare and violent internal revolution). But there is a natural tendency for fascism to win in the long run for two reasons: (1) it is more economically efficient because it is a less complete departure from a system of private property, and (2) it allows The Powers That Be to deflect criticism more easily. Laurence Iannaccone makes a similar point about deflecting criticism in his discussions of the difference between magic and religion. If a magician fails to deliver the goods, he has to admit that he can’t control what he claims to control, but a priest is an intermediary who can always blame the gods. A priest can say, “Your prayers *were* answered. The answer was ‘No.'” You see something similar in _Atlas Shrugged_, where every failure is blamed on the free market. No matter how much political interference there is, there is still enough of a veneer of private property to allow blameshifting.


    Posted on September 19th, 2013 at 11:01 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    Well, if I were Steve Sailer I’d say the difference is that Americans are good at sticking up for themselves. They see something that is obviously retarded — say airline regulation in the 1970s — and they say “This has to change.” And change it does. In Venezuela they were 20 IQ points dumber and didn’t use airplanes much back then anyway. So their government could get away with doing all kinds of crazy things. I actually think those days are ending in the Venezuelas of the world because IQs are rising so fast. In fact, you could probably argue that the number of really hopeless pathetically run countries is a lot lower today than 20 years ago. We can put Venezuela, Argentina and Zimbabwe on the list. Those are the first three that pop to mind. But just about everywhere else things are getting better and governments are avoiding making really stupid decisions. Within 10 years Argentina will get on a better path too because Cristina Kirchner is such a moron and her and her ilk will be sent packing soon.

    Anyway, the point here is that unworkable policies don’t get traction in the US because they are just too STUPID and they are changed. Obamacare is an interesting case study here, however. It’s obviously riddled with stupid elements. But so far it hasn’t been repealed because it seems to have some things in it that people like — and which Republicans weren’t making happen when they had power. Hopefully over time the retardationalisms in Obamacare will be excised.


    Doug Reply:

    Interesting hypothesis, certainly seems like what Occam would say. But then the question becomes why can the Cathderal not get traction on certain policies, but so successfully adopt other ones. Sure centrally setting airline route fares is stupid. But prima facie many other policies are a lot stupid-er and continue unabated. I would suspect that the median American could a lot more easily grasp why affirmative action is dumb.

    Not too mention that the Cathedral successfully pushed for these regulatory policies in the first place and kept them in place for decades. Then all of a sudden they went away without nearly any political resistance. I don’t think the Americans of 1938 where that much dumber or weaker than the Americans of 1979. The quality of the American people certainly means that progressivism ends up having a lot more mild effects here than elsewhere. But even taking that into account there seems to be a certain X factor on certain policies at certain times.


    Kgaard Reply:

    Well, perhaps it’s a zeitgeist thing. A policy can be stupid and hang around as long as it’s not too irritating to too many people. But once it becomes too irritating, then it has to go. Something must have changed in the airline business in the 70s. Perhaps inflation played a role? Or maybe entrepreneurs got better at scheduling and thus the door was sitting there waiting to open for new competitors like Southwest? Or perhaps more people were flying and thus demanded better service?

    A policy like affirmative action can hang around for a long time because it’s not TOO irritating. But a policy like mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes just is too ridiculous and is now on the way out.

    I think reasonably smart people learn how to govern themselves through a Hegelian process of trial and error. Politics becomes the intersection of the present and the future. That which is no longer working gets considered for change. That which is working well enough doesn’t come up. So, for instance, at the moment we don’t see much discussion of child labor laws. They are working well enough. Ditto national highway speed limits.

    But ONE issue that is now under review is lifetime alimony. It is so atrocious that it’s being dialed back. Even Bloomberg has been writing about it (and they are commies). So the Cathedral gets what it can but when it goes too far and starts to wreak havoc it is (generally) reigned in …


    Doug Reply:

    I like it.

    Your approach certainly seems to explain a lot of history without being overly complicated, stretching credibility, or jumping through too many mental hoops. Thanks for the excellent analysis.

    spandrell Reply:

    How do you define “irritating”? I guess having to import wheat from America was quite irritating to a lot of people in the USSR bureaucracy, but it didn’t make them abolish the kolkohzes.

    And surely the Euro is irritating a lot of people yet undoing it doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Something about the USA bureaucracy makes it be very ideological yet also more reactive to reality than other systems.

    Posted on September 19th, 2013 at 11:18 pm Reply | Quote
  • Scharlach Says:

    . . . surpassed by a more advanced model of slaving the private economy to the state.

    Will that do as a definition of fascism? it sounds more like a good definition of totalitarianism. no need to play semantics, of course. i think ‘slaving the private economy’ (and indeed, slaving everything about the private sphere) to state control is a broadly progressive goal, no matter what stage is in. i guess i’m asking: are we drawing an equivalence between contemporary western states and, e.g., the third reich?

    there is absolutely nobody on the empowered left seeking to dismantle the co-opted oligarchy in order to establish direct ‘public’ administration of the american industrial base.

    right. so we’ve ‘progressed’ beyond pure communism, and easily enough, because i think the american left always knew that doggedly and blatantly trying to apply direct state control would be more trouble than it was worth.

    central planning is restricted to the monetary commanding heights, with a pragmatic apparatus of regulatory coercion enforcing political conformity among private businesses.

    i think this begins to answer doug’s question about any examples of de-regulation in the 20th century, at least partially. (we would need to analyze people like thatcher and reagan differently.)


    admin Reply:

    Fascism (def.): Post-communist totalitarianism — Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato.


    spandrell Reply:

    There’s the problem that fascism as a system actually predates Soviet communism, which only came to form after Stalin. Mussolini didn’t build upon communism, he built something new altogether. The fact that post Mao China has become quasi fascist doesn’t mean it’s a natural progression


    admin Reply:

    I can’t accept this history. Stalin was already well advanced into post-communism (revival of nationalism and the orthodox church). In fact, the fascist reformation of communism dates back to Lenin’s New Economic Policy (1921), at the latest. Trotskyism emerged as the refusal of the new path (in the name of paleo-utopianism).

    spandrell Reply:

    So communism starts in 1918 and dies in 1921? Come on. Basic logic says that the differences between Brezhnev and Mussolini are what constitute communism.

    China became more nationalism during the Cultural Revolution. Was it less communist than before?


    admin Reply:

    Why start communism in 1918? It was obviously a self-conscious mass-movement by the 1870s at the latest. The Paris Commune was its zenith moment (because it didn’t wield enough power to discredit itself). As for the differences between Brezhnev and Mussolini, do you think it’s obvious what they were? Given the very different starting points of the two regimes, were they converging or diverging? Only if the latter is true does this get close to knock-down evidence.

    Was China transitioning from communism to fascism during the Cultural Revolution? Yes, I think so. (Chinese communism died in the Great Leap Forward.)

    spandrell Reply:

    The way you are defining it, communism is an utopian ideology from the middle 19th century which upon contact with reality (seeing it just didn’t work) morphed into fascism and stayed there.

    I tend to dislike out-defining communism in a way it doesn’t include the USSR. You’re kinda repeating the old leftist trope about the soviets being state-capitalism and Not True Communism.

    Exfernal Reply:

    You can call that monopolist state socialism.

    Posted on September 19th, 2013 at 11:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:

    Doug said:

    “Not to mention the fact that the elites then were far more transnational than today, the King of France had far more in common with the Czar of Russia than he did with the peasants 20 miles away from Versailles.”

    That doesn’t make him transnational in the same way that today’s elites are.

    He had firm ties to the land of France, because he was the hereditary King of France.

    That gave him an incentive to manage France in a way that maximized his take over the long (or at least medium) term, rather than looting what he could, burning the rest and moving on.

    He was a stationary bandit. Today’s elites are mobile bandits. Their incentive is to loot and move on.


    Posted on September 20th, 2013 at 12:25 am Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:

    Calling it fascism may be a useful rhetorical tactic but it is of course an inverted fascism, an anti-fascism if you will.

    Internationalist instead of nationalist. Globalist instead of protectionist. Instead of binding people together like… a fasces, creating strength through unity, it does everything it can to split them apart and keep them divided, achieving strength through the dis-unity of the populace.

    Instead of devotion to a strong leader, it offers apathy towards a beige oligarchy. Instead of ethnocentrism, ethno-masochism (at least for some groups).

    There are a few economic similarities, admittedly.


    admin Reply:

    Some chewing-over time needed on this (I agree that I tend towards Marxo-Libertarian economic determinism).


    Posted on September 20th, 2013 at 12:34 am Reply | Quote
  • Arc Says:

    I’m surprised that, in all of these discussions on neo-reactionary blogs, nobody has yet pointed to this article about how American liberals sought to adopt communism for themselves… “Taking Communism away from the Communists:
    The Origins of Modern American Liberalism.”


    Posted on September 20th, 2013 at 3:19 am Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:


    I’m not a historian, but….

    1. Feelings of moral superiority are more important than power.

    2. Voters have more moral agency than a lot of reactionaries like to admit. The “Yes, Minister” model is an exaggeration, especially in the US, where we have primary elections. (Daniel Hannan writes in _The New Road to Serfdom_ that primary elections are the main difference between the US and the UK.) Anglosphereans on average really are more economically sophisticated than Venezuelans.

    3. Bryan Caplan has a discussion in _The Myth of the Rational Voter_ of the differences in the incentives of incumbents vs. challengers. Politicians are caught between voters’ preferences for policies that sound good and policies that work. Challengers get elected by promising the voters policies that sound good. Incumbents get re-elected at least partially by producing outcomes that the voters like, even if this means policies that the voters dislike. Journalists and political activists may have a lot of influence over the voters’ behavior, but they’re not really much more rational than the average voter; they have the same problem of liking policies that produce results that they don’t like.


    Doug Reply:

    @Peter Taylor,

    Very insightful points. I’m going to have the check out the Hannan book (already read Caplan). Thanks for the response.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    I’m not sure how strongly to endorse the Hannan book. He identifies with the Roundheads. I want to like the Roundheads, but I would be hard pressed to defend them in a debate. Here’s my review:


    Posted on September 20th, 2013 at 5:12 am Reply | Quote
  • Vladimir Says:


    I don’t think this definition of fascism is particularly accurate or useful. The key characteristic of fascism, in my view, is that it is what happens when right-wingers decide to fight the left by using the leftists’ own methods and beating them at their own game. In other words, fascism is what it takes to make right-wing politics viable and successful in a modern world of bureaucratic total states, deracinated masses, and mass media hegemony of public opinion.

    (What it takes is, of course, exactly what the historical fascists did during their heyday in the interwar period. First, adopt a lot of the leftist agenda, particularly Jacobin nationalism and progressive economics. Second, adopt a nihilistic will-to-power ethos, become utterly ruthless and immoral, and respond to the leftists’ lies, dishonesty, backstabbing, demagoguery, and violence by doing the same, only ten times as nasty.)

    The historical lesson of fascism is important because it demonstrates sobering limits on what can be achieved by right-wing politics under the above-mentioned conditions of modernity. It produces pretty awful results when it’s victorious (which is not surprising given its compromises with leftism and its fundamentally immoral ethos), and moreover, it’s a futile strategy against modern-day leftists, who will reliably recognize it and nip it in the bud. This leads to the supremely important realization that if any sort of rightist agenda can be realized in the future, it will certainly not be possible through political organizing that treats these conditions of modern mass politics as given.

    With this in mind, I don’t think it’s a good idea to push “fascist” as a generic label for economic statism. This word should indeed be reserved as a term of chastisement for right-wingers, in the sense of denoting a particular failure mode of rightism.


    admin Reply:

    Strong argument, but what is it that makes fascism right-wing? We know that the Italian model version developed very organically out of the left, and a similar process then followed in Germany. The SA was slanted extremely far left in all respects except racism and nationalism — which are equally evident in such ‘communist’ movements as the Khmer Rouge and the North Korean (governing) Worker’s Party. The antisemitic aspect of this racism was inter-changeable with anti-capitalism, a common equation also on the ‘New Right’ today (and typical amongst for e.g. Counter-Currents writers). So I am failing to recognize the rightism in this, and it seems to me that when we realistically describe certain authoritarian governments as ‘fascist’ it is precisely in order to differentiate them from substantive right-wing orientation (i.e. pro-capitalism).

    Of course, if capitalism isn’t the defining agenda of the right, none of these concerns matter much, but we are also doomed to irresolvable swirling confusion penetrated only be rhetoric and metaphor substituting for political theory (‘order’, ‘identity’, ‘peace’, and so on …)


    Vladimir Reply:

    I see two problems with this last comment.

    The first one is that with this definition, “fascism” becomes essentially a synonym for modernity. Therefore, if we adopt this terminology, the world history since the late 19th century, or at least since WW1, has been an age of universal fascism, interrupted only by occasional bloody and disastrous experiments in communist utopianism, which however inevitably soon revert back to fascism. This perspective makes some sense, but it still means giving up on any attempt at a more sophisticated analysis of the 20th century. (In particular, such an analysis will certainly show that a significant role has been played by various degenerate forms of right-wing ideology as per my above description, and “fascism” fits very well as a general term for those.)

    The second one is that capitalism is definitely not the defining agenda of the right, at least unless we use this term with careful and appropriate definitions and caveats (which will arguably make it deviate significantly from its usual meaning). Private property as entailed by the traditional conceptions of political liberty is indeed, by all reasonable standards, very much a rightist idea. On the other hand, the pro-capitalist ideology of classical liberals and libertarians has historically often come in toxic leftist forms. (One common pattern is when they concede absolute sovereignty and monopoly on all social authority to the liberal state, but then absurdly insist that utilitarian arguments should lead it to practice economic laissez-faire.) These things require very careful consideration before making any sweeping statements about the relation between capitalism and the left-right ideological axis.


    admin Reply:

    “… ‘fascism’ becomes essentially a synonym for modernity” … isn’t that an inevitable perspective effect of triumph? It has to seem as if the winner epitomized the pre-existing teleology of the system considered. (The Cathedral creates exactly the same effect.)
    How does Hong Kong and stateless offshore capitalism fit into your picture? That is the significant counter to the general fascist trend (to Leviathan expansive modernization).
    There is a tendency among many reactionaries to treat capitalism as if it were some questionable optional add-on to a program of quite another nature. I think this idea is very deeply erroneous, and practically calamitous. Political second-guessing of catallactic process is the Left in real application. Capitalism is a geomorphic force, not a set of superficial policy decisions. It concerns the evolution in profundity of the terrestrial crust, and then the solar system. It is a far, far bigger thing than the squabbles over deference within cantankerous primate groups, even if these latter are necessarily relevant to its development in the near term.

    Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Reply:

    “Of course, if capitalism isn’t the defining agenda of the right, none of these concerns matter much, but we are also doomed to irresolvable swirling confusion penetrated only be rhetoric and metaphor substituting for political theory”

    Capitalism (I assume you refer to the classical liberal doctrine of laissez-faire capitalism) is not the defining agenda of the right.

    We can say this with certainty because the Ancien Régime was mercantilist and … state capitalist.


    Louis XIV’s minister of finances, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Colbert started a mercantile system which used protectionism and state-sponsored manufacturing to promote the production of luxury goods over the rest of the economy. The state established new industries (the royal tapestry works at Beauvais, French quarries for marble), took over established industries (the Gobelins tapestry works), protected inventors, invited workmen from foreign countries (Venetian glass and Flemish cloth manufacturing), and prohibited French workmen from emigrating. To maintain the character of French goods in foreign markets, Colbert had the quality and measure of each article fixed by law, and severely punished breaches of the regulations. This massive investment in (and preoccupation with) luxury goods and court life (fashion, decoration, cuisine, urban improvements, etc.), and the mediatization (through such gazettes as the Mercure galant) of these products, elevated France to a role of arbiter of European taste.


    admin Reply:

    I think the logic here is less than compelling. Why are we under any obligation to defer to the ideas of the French Ancien Régime? That is not our tradition, so even sheer reactionary attraction does not take us there. The more important point, though, is that the Right / Left spectrum is a current intellectual tool for political orientation, so historical references of any kind need to be practically integrated, and not merely served up as data. If the past is being conceived as an archive of models, I would be far more persuaded by those of the 17th century Dutch Republic, or the England of the Glorious Revolution, both eminently ‘rightist’ by the standards that matter practically (today).

    Of course, I accept that the proposal of reactionary modernism (supportive of technological and commercial civilization) is no less contentious than the paleo-reactionary alternative. Both factions will inevitably attempt to make the right end of the ideological spectrum terminate in their own preferences. The provisional question as I see it is: Can we make this friction do any productive conceptual work?

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    The free market is not the core of the right. It is not even the core of neo-reaction.
    You know this yourself. Look at your own neo-reactionary triad. The religious types and the HBD types are legs on your stool. So is the free market. It is not the stool itself.
    One of the models of the right that has some truth to it is that the right is whatever the left has left behind. When we take counsel of our fears, we suspect that we are doomed to lose because there is nothing that unites us other than our enemy.
    These fears are overblown. Your neo-reactionary triad is the same thing in another register as the standard conservative triad of social conservatives, free-market conservatives, and national security conservatives. The intellectuals and leading lights of each faction try to quarrel with and talk down the others. But in practice, actual conservatives tend to be all three to greater or lesser degrees. In practice the factions hold.
    I am not exactly a neo-reactionary. Maybe the HUAC would call me a fellow traveler, when it finally gets around to purging the Enemies of Personkind. But though I disagree with some of your notions and emphases, I like associating with y’all. I have fellow feeling for you. You have something that I recognize in myself.
    I argue that in fact the Right has a transcendental basis for unity. That basis is a shared belief in submission to reality. Neoreaction calls it taking the red pill. Conservatives call it being mugged by reality, or the tragic vision, or refusing to immanentize the eschaton. But it is the same thing. And it is transcendental, because submission to something external is a religious impulse, because of the sense that you ought to accept reality, that your own well-being rightly understood depends on it. This submission comes in different flavors—ours is a triune God—because the red pill experience comes in different flavors. Reality is pretty darn big.


    Posted on September 20th, 2013 at 4:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    “You’re kinda repeating the old leftist trope about the soviets being state-capitalism and Not True Communism.” (Spandrell) — That’s right, because the alternative is to accept that “True Communism” can work, and that seems an obviously ridiculous path to set off down. There’s a difference, though, between saying it can’t work, and saying it has never been tried. It’s been tried to the point of total catastrophe in various places — mass cannibalism is always a good indication that people are giving it another go.


    spandrell Reply:

    Why are you attempting to appropriate “Rightist” as capitalism, i.e. that which you agree with? I thought we had established that there’s no real essence to the concept of “Right”, which historically has been whatever groups are opposed to leftism, i..e the leftists of yesterday.

    Nobody, right or left, has ever liked capitalism, and to the extent that there were groups such as Manchester liberals or modern libertarians that liked capitalism, there have never been part of the greater anti-leftist forces.

    Don’t try to cook up a greater narrative where the great Rightist movement has been pushing for intelligent optimization, only to be obstructed by the evil Left.


    admin Reply:

    An interesting angle of attack, but I’m not seeing where it leads … (Should the Right / Left polarity be abandoned? It seems worth scrapping over it first. And I’ve become utterly devoted to “the Outer Right” …)

    One tactical problem that I have to acknowledge is the fact that romantic reactionaries, who are clearly indifferent to capitalism (at best) have nowhere else to go. They simply have to describe themselves as “rightists” and will fight to the death over that.

    If ‘Right’ means “effective opposition to the Left” than I don’t see anyone giving up on it without a struggle. It does too much work.


    spandrell Reply:

    If “Right” means “effective opposition to the Left”, then fascism is the epitome of rightism. Capitalists today seem more comfortable enabling the Left’s agenda of enforcing egalitarianism than pushing for intelligence optimization.

    Posted on September 21st, 2013 at 2:25 am Reply | Quote
  • Chuck Says:

    “Of course, if capitalism isn’t the defining agenda of the right, none of these concerns matter much, but we are also doomed to irresolvable swirling confusion penetrated only be rhetoric and metaphor substituting for political theory (‘order’, ‘identity’, ‘peace’, and so on …)”

    This is nonsense. Both as used in political philosophy and in political psychology, “right-wing” implies an acceptance of human inequality and of human hierarchy (as in Ancien Régime)… Fascism was right-wing insofar as it embraced hierarchy in principle and insofar as it was a reaction against communism, with its principled left-wing political philosophy — where left-wing implies the converse of right-wing. Fascism, of course, was statist but being statist does not entail being egalitarian. Fascism was also decidedly nationalistic and therefore accidentally rightist…Capitalism, of course, is only accidentally “right-wing”; it is only insofar as it happens to lead to economic — and with it social — inequality. Because, of course, people are unequal. Were capitalism to lead to equality — which is to say, were everyone truly to be equal in ability — then it would be embraced by left-wingers. Because such is not the case, left-wingers tend to embrace socialism in the sense of left-wing managerialism…Like Capitalism, nationalism (or more generically particularism) is also accidentally “right-wing” — since the existence of exclusive groups inevitably leads to group social and economic inequality. For this reason, leftists of all stripes tend to oppose particularism and to champion “inclusiveness” or “internationalism”… So, no, capitalism is not a defining principle of the right. Rather, the acceptance of inequality is. Or rather, anti-capitalism and anti-particularism — and anti-anything the does not promote social, political, economic equality e.g., religious transcendentalism — is a defining agenda of the left. Managerialism and PC, of course, are the current instruments used to realize ends…


    admin Reply:

    Yes, this is indeed exactly the kind of thinking I meant to describe as “rhetoric and metaphor”. It has no practical implications whatsoever, but is sheer Tolkien. If you think that’s wrong, please give some indication of a program that would incorporate this “re-establishment of hierarchy” verbiage into political reality. (It doesn’t exist, because hierarchy is either inherited — out of anarchy — or automatically generated by a practical selective mechanism, i.e. capitalism. The rest is romantic day-dreaming.)


    Chuck Reply:

    Characterizing the “right-left” axis in terms of tolerance-intolerance for equality is reductionistic, direct, and concise. As such, it’s clarifying. It accounts for why and in what way e.g., monarchists, theocrats, fascists, capitalists, nationalists, traditionalists, and objectivists are (and are not) rightists. Doing so also makes sense of both the historical and contemporaneous and the academic and popular usages of the term. As such, it’s conceptually consilient.

    On the other hand, characterizing “fascism” as “an advanced communist ideology” is neither clarifying nor consilient. Doing so is an exemplar of your rhetorical and metaphorical thinking. Because communism and fascism are similar in that both “slave the private economy…” but are different in that … , “fascism is communism” is a metaphor. Is “fascism and capitalism are both right-wing economic-political ideologies” also a metaphor? No, it’s a fact when “right” is understood relative to a left that opposes both for being unequalist.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:

    Chuck, get a load of this link from the comments on Moldbug’s “Slow history” piece.

    This is Hitler’s speech declaring war on the US. Note his comments contrasting his own life with Roosevelt’s.

    “Franklin Roosevelt took power in the United States as the candidate of a thoroughly capitalistic party, which helps those who serve it.”

    If the words “left” and “right” have any meaning at all, it’s clear that Hitler is attacking Roosevelt from the left.

    Posted on September 21st, 2013 at 6:09 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    @ Spandrell — How is fascism engaging in “effective opposition to the Left”? I’ll definitely grant effective co-optation of the Left, but I think that’s best explained by the ‘fascism is practical socialism’ thesis.

    As for capitalism, the essential first principle is not to confuse it with capitalists. Capitalism is a system to control capitalists, just as science is a system to control scientists, and constitutions are systems to control politicians. Distrust of the principal agents is the point of departure in each case. When capitalism (competitive creative destruction) is inhibited and becomes dysfunctional, capitalists run amok.


    Posted on September 21st, 2013 at 12:44 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kgaard Says:

    @ Spandrell:

    “Something about the USA bureaucracy makes it be very ideological yet also more reactive to reality than other systems.”

    That’s a great point. Other countries have egregious problems that they don’t fix — but America generally does. Why is that? Hmm. A few thoughts:

    * The genetic stock of Americans is naturally ornery. People came here because they were pissed off and wanted to change things. That orneriness continues to manifest in the form of not putting up with retarded policies;

    * Here’s another example: In the US individuals can own sub-surface mineral rights. In most of the rest of the world the state owns them. That’s just good policy on the US’s part and has led to spectacular wealth creation in the middle of the country. It’s a good policy put in place back when the US was run by competent, ornery people. Nobody’s gonna get rid of it. So it remains.

    * Corruption generally is kept under control. Perhaps our semi-clean government is a a holdover from the noblesse oblige and Anglo Saxon principles of our first 150 years? As an example, we don’t have a phone monopoly like Mexico, which is just spectacular corruption. Ukraine is wracked with corruption. The mafia run it, and that didn’t happen here.

    Regarding Europe’s problem with the euro … I think they keep it not so much because they are not responsive to problems, but because it’s genuinely a judgment call whether to keep it or boot it. A lot of people like it, even in a place like Portugal. Marine Le Pen is spearheading the anti-Euro push. Will she get enough traction to boot it out in France? I don’t know. Maybe. But maybe not …

    The French are pretty good at self-governance. That’s why France is such a nice place to be. They know how to administer a country reasonably well.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:


    It was an accident. The Framers couldn’t agree on which religion to have as the state religion, so instead we got separation of church and state. This protected and strengthened religion, so American proles are slower than others to embrace idolatrous State-worshiping quasi-religions such as Progressivism. Laurence Iannaccone has a nice paper called “Deregulating Religion”.


    Posted on September 21st, 2013 at 12:46 pm Reply | Quote
  • Little Hans Says:

    How does someone become a fascist? In the case of most existent fascists, It’s nothing to do with an economic impulse. Fascism is a mircopolitics of alienation, a little machine for apportioning blame (all kinds of blame) to the other or the outside. The avatar of modern fascist impulses is Brevik, and his concern for economics was marginal.

    All applied fascism asks of an economy is that it stays in line with its ideological system. Sure, it expects capital to work towards it, but it doesn’t actively try and manage the day to day production.

    Communism on the other hand is a macro-politics of utopianism. It does expect the economy to end up in a certain future state of development (and because the political class medals with capital to get there, it never does). This explains the difference between the four year plans of both systems: the fascists producing volkish concepts like autarky; the communists going for raw metrics of production (steel tonnes, electricity etc.).

    (I guess the four year plan of Social Democracy is to produce another election win?)

    I grant that you can take a sufficiently Archimedian view of the two to say that they have similarities in application – particularly their fail modes – but seeing fascism as an evolution of communism misses the psychological insight that the characters of individuals who are/were/would be a member of these ideologies are totally different in axes of macro/micro politics and alienation/utopianism.


    Posted on September 21st, 2013 at 6:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Vladimir Says:


    Capitalism is a geomorphic force, not a set of superficial policy decisions. […] It is a far, far bigger thing than the squabbles over deference within cantankerous primate groups, even if these latter are necessarily relevant to its development in the near term.

    The problem is, capitalism requires a political and social framework to operate in. (Of course, limited pockets of capitalism will inexorably emerge even under the most determined suppression, like black markets in the U.S.S.R. — but I assume we’re talking about a real flourishing market economy here.)

    This point was explained ably by Schumpeter: bourgeoisie is organically incapable of being a ruling class. It is unable to defend and maintain its social position against either physical or ideological assault. Therefore, the buck can’t stop at just “capitalism,” even if we all agree on its desirability. The answers to the ultimate questions of ideology and social authority must be sought elsewhere. This is where we get to so many points of contention where a left versus right position can be very clearly discerned — and where an attempt to shoehorn the question into a simple “pro- versus anti-capitalist” pattern leads to the (often justified) stereotype of libertarianism as farcical and autistic.

    This is also why the bourgeois age of classical liberalism was for a while so spectacularly successful and accomplished, but then went on to self-destruct suddenly and unexpectedly in the 20th century orgy of madness. The bourgeoisie had displaced the old throne-and-altar social authority that, despite all their conflicts, was the ultimate guarantee of its security — but then, with its congenital incapacity for rule, it found itself in a Wile E. Coyote position, where it took some time for everyone to realize that it was floating in mid-air without support. Once this was widely understood, various ideological, conspiratorial, and military entrepreneurs easily swept it away from its brief dominant position.

    (It’s also no accident that the bourgeoisie mounted a strong defense and avoided complete ruin only in the Anglosphere and a few other places like Switzerland, in which, due to historical circumstances, the bourgeoisie adopted a certain degree of pre-modern feudal aristocratic mentality and institutions. This topic was explored in a fascinating way in Jouvenel’s “On Power.”)

    From this perspective, if we want to understand our current position, how we got there, and if there are maybe any chances to get out of it, it’s essentially an expression of resignation to declare simply that classical liberalism was followed by the age of “fascism,” with the latter as a general and all-encompassing term for all post-classical-liberal ideological currents. The key insight here is that despite their common anti-capitalism, they offer quite different answers to the fundamental questions of social order, and clear thinking about these is essential if we want even to begin answering them for ourselves.


    James Reply:

    Land seems to use “capitalism” and “fascism” in the sense that others might use “distributed order” (of which market exchange is one instance) and “principled interference of authorities in benign and flourishing distributed orders”. To castigate fascists, in the Landian sense, may be to suggest that spontaneous order in its totality is underrated as an end goal and necessity by almost every intellectual tradition. (I prefer to define fascism as palingenetic, populist ultranationalism–the type of identitarian herdism that falsely claims to represent tradition.)

    I don’t have a strong opinion about Land’s claim, if I expressed it correctly. However, I find your analysis that stresses caste conflict and inchoate attitudes surprising. To offer my $0.02, what changed during the 19th century is that the masses became more urban and literate, and transport, media and military technology facilitated centralisation. It became possible to undermine legal systems and established authorities by corralling elements of the deracinated and semi-educated masses. The Anglospheric countries fared best because their legal system is most countervailing, and therefore least susceptible to power grabs.


    Vladimir Reply:


    It’s certainly true that the social, economic, and technological changes in the 19th century facilitated centralization. However, this doesn’t explain why the established order of the late 19th century, while seemingly stable and flourishing, soon collapsed in such a horrible civilizational cataclysm. Both centralization in general, and the new means of mass propaganda in particular, are on the net stabilizing factors in a society whose elite is competent and self-confident: it’s much easier to hold power backed by centralized mass propaganda megaphones and police forces than to challenge that power or attempt to take it over. Therefore, clearly the elites of the classical liberal period lacked these basic attributes.

    Moreover, saying that the Anglospheric legal system was “most countervailing, and therefore least susceptible to power grabs” is a truism, evident from the events in retrospect. But how did classical liberalism in the Anglosphere end up based on such a system — which provided it with a real backbone that has been hideously bent in the meantime but never really snapped — as opposed to the situation on the continent, where the period of classical liberalism was truly a civilizational Wile E. Coyote moment? I think the answer to this question requires us to go back all the way to the Middle Ages and trace the historical differences in the way bourgeois society evolved in England versus the continent.


    James Reply:

    The Anglosphere’s legal backbone has deep roots in the Middle Ages, and it is without doubt a fruitful area of research.

    Elite and bourgeoisie make for crude actors, because the important question is how different elements within these classes relate to one another. The problem faced by the 19th century intelligentsia was that the stable forms of the 20th century were to be inaesthetic, mass-propaganda administrative states. No system of norms or law deals with the transition from 19th century life to that type of state, nor is it palatable, nor did everyone predict such an outcome.

    It would have been desirable for every elite to have united in developing a large administrative bureaucracy, propaganda saturation and the arcane tools of the progessive state that we enjoy discussing before the turn of the century.* However, I don’t think an elite of any probable composition or norms would have done so. The reactionary Russian government responded very poorly to this challenge, balking the growth of an efficient bureaucracy and alienating the moderate liberals; but surely it is the least bourgeois administration one can imagine at the turn of the 20th century.

    So, although the end products of centralisation and modern technology are self-evidently stable, if not especially desirable, the process of transition and botched adjustment created huge internal disputes, brought territorial elites into conflict and disrupted the old system of law, politics and warfare that had allowed differences to be resolved sanely.

    Positive feedback–belief in the stability of a way of life makes it stable–is a parsimonious explanation for the suddenness of the cataclysm.

    *They could hardly have developed new countervailing legal forms, which I think is feasible and appropriate now.

    admin Reply:

    I don’t disagree at a fundamental level with any of this. In fact, I think the argument is micro-tactical, and almost entirely about the valence of the word ‘fascism’. My ideal outcome would be for ‘fascism’ to drift towards neutrality — shedding hysterical affect — so that cold analysis of its characteristics, variants, and potentials could be undertaken. The main reason this is important is that the present state of discussion, in which ‘fascism’ ends discussion in thoughtless abuse, makes any realistic comprehension of the New Deal and its living legacy almost completely impossible.

    The special appeal of Moldbug’s positive political thinking (for me), even those parts such as the Neocameral scheme which he seems to have shelved, is that it is so remarkably devoid of fascist elements (i.e. populist corporatism). If ‘fascism’ — used technically, and with an economistic bias — is seen as the general mode of enduring post-Classical liberal world politics, this is not due to an over-expansiveness of the concept, but to definite real features of global political development. The factual generality of these features is entirely consistent with arbitrariness (specificity) at the level of governing principles. In particular, the complicity of fascism with the assumption of democratic legitimacy — or ‘popular will’ — is absolutely crucial (as Moldbug rightly notes).


    Posted on September 21st, 2013 at 7:08 pm Reply | Quote
  • Puzzle Pirate (@PuzzlePirate) Says:

    With all of this talk of right and left, have neoractionaries really never looked at the Tragic Vision vs. Utopian Vision? This is pretty much the best explanation for the left / right divide I’ve ever seen. It was first laid out by Thomas Sowell, but I think Pinker does an excellent job as well in his book “The Blank Slate”.

    Q: What is the Tragic Vision vs. the Utopian Vision?

    A: They are the different visions of human nature that underlie left-wing and right-wing ideologies. The distinction comes from the economist Thomas Sowell in his wonderful book “A Conflict of Visions.” According to the Tragic Vision, humans are inherently limited in virtue, wisdom, and knowledge, and social arrangements must acknowledge those limits. According to the Utopian vision, these limits are “products” of our social arrangements, and we should strive to overcome them in a better society of the future. Out of this distinction come many right-left contrasts that would otherwise have no common denominator. Rightists tend to like tradition (because human nature does not change), small government (because no leader is wise enough to plan society), a strong police and military (because people will always be tempted by crime and conquest), and free markets (because they convert individual selfishness into collective wealth). Leftists believe that these positions are defeatist and cynical, because if we change parenting, education, the media, and social expectations, people could become wiser, nicer, and more peaceable and generous.

    Oh and guess what?

    The new sciences of human nature vindicate some version of the Tragic Vision and undermine the Utopian outlook.

    That money shot is from this longer piece here:

    AND ONTO THIS battlefield strode an innocent E. O. Wilson. The ideas from evolutionary biology and behavioral genetics that became public in the 1970s could not have been more of an insult to those with the Utopian Vision. That vision was, after all, based on the Blank Slate (no permanent human nature), the Noble Savage (no selfish or evil instincts), and the Ghost in the Machine (an unfettered we that can choose better social arrangements). And here were scientists talking about selfish genes! And saying that adaptations are not for the good of the species but for the good of individuals and their kin (as if to vindicate Thatcher’s claim that there is no such thing as society). That people scrimp on altruism because it is vulnerable to cheaters. That in pre-state societies men go to war even when they are well fed, because status and women are permanent Darwinian incentives. That the moral sense is riddled with biases, including a tendency to self-deception. And that conflicts of genetic interest are built in to social animals and leave us in a state of permanent tragedy. It looked as if the scientists were saying to proponents of the Tragic Vision: You’re right, they’re wrong.

    The Utopians, particularly those in the radical science movement, replied that current findings on human intelligence and motivation are irrelevant. They can tell us only about what we have achieved in today’s society, not what we might achieve in tomorrow’s. Since we know that social arrangements can change if we decide to change them, any scientist who speaks of constraints on human nature must want oppression and injustice to continue.

    My own view is that the new sciences of human nature really do vindicate some version of the Tragic Vision and undermine the Utopian outlook that until recently dominated large segments of intellectual life. The sciences say nothing, of course, about differences in values that are associated with particular right-wing and left-wing positions (such as in the tradeoffs between {294} unemployment and environmental protection, diversity and economic efficiency, or individual freedom and community cohesion). Nor do they speak directly to policies that are based on a complex mixture of assumptions about the world. But they do speak to the parts of the visions that are general claims about how the mind works. Those claims may be evaluated against the facts, just like any empirical hypothesis. The Utopian vision that human nature might radically change in some imagined society of the remote future is, of course, literally unfalsifiable, but I think that many of the discoveries recounted in preceding chapters make it unlikely. Among them I would include the following:

    � The primacy of family ties in all human societies and the consequent appeal of nepotism and inheritance.20
    � The limited scope of communal sharing in human groups, the more common ethos of reciprocity, and the resulting phenomena of social loafing and the collapse of contributions to public goods when reciprocity cannot be implemented.21
    � The universality of dominance and violence across human societies (including supposedly peaceable hunter-gatherers) and the existence of genetic and neurological mechanisms that underlie it.22
    � The universality of ethnocentrism and other forms of group-against-group hostility across societies, and the ease with which such hostility can be aroused in people within our own society.23
    � The partial heritability of intelligence, conscientiousness, and antisocial tendencies, implying that some degree of inequality will arise even in perfectly fair economic systems; and that we therefore face an inherent tradeoff between equality and freedom.24
    � The prevalence of defense mechanisms, self-serving biases, and cognitive dissonance reduction, by which people deceive themselves about their autonomy, wisdom, and integrity.25
    � The biases of the human moral sense, including a preference for kin and friends, a susceptibility to a taboo mentality, and a tendency to confuse morality with conformity, rank, cleanliness, and beauty.

    It is not just conventional scientific data that tell us the mind is not infinitely malleable. I think it is no coincidence that beliefs that were common among intellectuals in the 1960s that democracies are obsolete, revolution is desirable, the police and armed forces dispensable, and society designable from the top down are now rarer. The Tragic Vision and the Utopian Vision inspired historical events whose interpretations are much clearer than they were just a few decades ago. Those events can serve as additional data to test the visions claims about human psychology. {295}

    The visions contrast most sharply in the political revolutions they spawned. The first revolution with a Utopian Vision was the French Revolution recall Wordsworth’s description of the times, with human nature seeming born again. The revolution overthrew the ancien regime and sought to begin from scratch with the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity and a belief that salvation would come from vesting authority in a morally superior breed of leaders. The revolution, of course, sent one leader after another to the guillotine as each failed to measure up to usurpers who felt they had a stronger claim to wisdom and virtue. No political structure survived the turnover of personnel, leaving a vacuum that would be filled by Napoleon. The Russian Revolution was also animated by the Utopian Vision, and it also burned through a succession of leaders before settling into the personality cult of Stalin. The Chinese Revolution, too, put its faith in the benevolence and wisdom of a man who displayed, if anything, a particularly strong dose of human foibles like dominance, lust, and self-deception. The perennial limitations of human nature prove the futility of political revolutions based only on the moral aspirations of the revolutionaries. In the words of the song about revolution by The Who: Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

    Sowell points out that Marxism is a hybrid of the two visions.27 It invokes the Tragic Vision to interpret the past, when earlier modes of production left no choice but the forms of social organization known as feudalism and capitalism. But it invokes a Utopian Vision for the future, in which we can shape our nature in dialectical interaction with the material and social environment. In that new world, people will be motivated by self-actualization rather than self-interest, allowing us to realize the ideal, From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.� Marx wrote that a communist society would be

    the genuine resolution of the antagonism between man and nature and between man and man; it is the true resolution of the conflict between existence and essence, objectification and self-affirmation, freedom and necessity, individual and species. It is the riddle of history solved.

    It doesn’t get any less tragic or more Utopian than that. Marx dismissed the worry that selfishness and dominance would corrupt those carrying out the general will. For example, he waved off the anarchist Mikhail Bakunin’s fear that the workers in charge would become despotic: If Mr. Bakunin were familiar just with the position of a manager in a workers cooperative, he could send all his nightmares about authority to the devil.

    In the heyday of radical science, any proposal about human nature that conflicted with the Marxist vision was dismissed as self-evidently wrong. But history is a kind of experiment, albeit an imperfectly controlled one, and its {296} data suggest that it was the radical assessment that got it wrong. Marxism is now almost universally recognized as an experiment that failed, at least in its worldly implementations.30 The nations that adopted it either collapsed, gave it up, or languish in backward dictatorships. As we saw in earlier chapters, the ambition to remake human nature turned its leaders into totalitarian despots and mass murderers. And the assumption that central planners were morally disinterested and cognitively competent enough to direct an entire economy led to comical inefficiencies with serious consequences. Even the more humane forms of European socialism have been watered down to the point where so-called Communist Parties have platforms that not long ago would have been called reactionary. Wilson, the world’s expert on ants, may have had the last laugh in his verdict on Marxism: Wonderful theory. Wrong species.,

    Moar here:


    Chuck Reply:

    “The distinction comes from the economist Thomas Sowell in his wonderful book “A Conflict of Visions.” According to the Tragic Vision, humans are inherently limited in virtue, wisdom, and knowledge, and social arrangements must acknowledge those limits. According to the Utopian vision, these limits are “products” of our social arrangements, and we should strive to overcome them in a better society of the future. Out of this distinction come many right-left contrasts that would otherwise have no common denominator. ”

    A right-wing Schlaraffenlanden is no logical contradiction, so equating utopian with egalitarian (left) and tragic with inegalitarian (right) is misleading. Arcadias come from both directions. I was just watching Gummy Bears and Castle Dunwyn would be one were it not for Duke Igthorn — so the impression is left, despite the vast social, political, and economic disparity. But maybe there is an implied tragic vision here? I always thought, though, that tragedy was characterized by a sense of great loss. What else makes Antigone, Faust (via Gretchen’s suicide), the Bacchae, and my sandwich falling on the floor all tragic? But I don’t see the great loss in a right-wing Arcadia — except as viewed from a left wing perspective. But whence the egalitarian bias? I have never understood this “communism is wonderful in theory” bit. Utopias and Arcadias are tautologically wonderful theories. There is nothing extra wonderful about the left-wing version — but this is what I keep hearing. So people must be biased towards egalitarianism in principle.


    admin Reply:

    I concur with your high estimation of Sowell’s account. The major limitation, though, is that whilst intellectually legitimating conservative resistance to utopian transformation, it doesn’t offer much guidance when it comes to extrication from an ongoing degenerative ratchet. Even if straightforward ‘roll-back’ is impractical, or inadequately conceived, something functionally analogous is needed for utopian ‘advance’ to be countered (rather than merely — and entirely reasonably — denounced).


    Posted on September 22nd, 2013 at 1:26 am Reply | Quote
  • Chuck Says:


    Peter Taylor, the full quote was:

    “Two different paths in life! Franklin Roosevelt took power in the United States as the candidate of a thoroughly capitalistic party, which helps those who serve it. When I became the Chancellor of the German Reich, I was the leader of a popular national movement, which I had created myself. The powers that supported Mr. Roosevelt were the same powers I fought against, out of concern for the fate of my people, and out of deepest inner conviction. The “brain trust” that served the new American president was made up of members of the same national group that we fought against in Germany as a parasitical expression of humanity, and which we began to remove from public life.”

    Was Hitler a leftist for hating usurers = (in his mind) Jews?

    National socialism (NS), in being pro-private property (for nationals) and pro-class, was clearly rightist (as classically defined) relative to communism. As with fascism, it emphasized national solidarity to de-emphasize class conflict. In that way, it engaged in “effective opposition to the Left”, given the mood of the time. More generally, it justified intra-national inequality (class and private property) in terms of the greater good of the nation, which was largely understood in terms of inter-national inequality i.e., “our versus their”. That seems very rightist = in-egalitarian tolerant to me. To the extent it undermined intra-national inequality — and was leftist or socialist — it did so for the sake of the national good, which was, again, situated in a political philosophy of group = national inequality. I wouldn’t know how to compare the magnitude of the overall rightism of capitalism to that of NS/fascism. They realize inequality somewhat differently. The former results in hyper individual inequality; the latter moderates this and translates it into group or inter-national inequality. Both though, are clearly more left, as I am defining the right-left axis — I think justifiably so — than communism. You can criticize fascism/NS for not being rightist enough relative to the individual’s interest, just as you can criticize capitalism (realized as global capitalism) for undermining group level inequality (and therefore being leftist). Another way of putting this is that egalitarianism can align against both capitalism and nationism, in which case we call it communism or international socialism. Or, it can align itself with one against the other. What we have now in the post-West is a seemingly paradoxical alliance between leftists and capitalism (as the global capitalism of the left libertarians); there is no true paradox here, of course, because both work together — and have since the 40s — to dissolve group level inequality, for good and for bad. Getting back to the point, arguing that fascism/NS is leff for opposing unconstrained capitalism is akin to arguing that feudalism is left on the same account. The absurdity slaps me in the face, twice. Whatever the case, we can make the argument because we have a clearer conceptualization of the right-left axis. Moreover we can discuss the merits of different realizations to rightism.


    admin Reply:

    I think the difference that matters here is between extreme tolerance for inequality (capitalism) and formal imposition of inequality (paleo-reaction). Neither is remotely egalitarian, but the capitalists don’t trust the state — any state — to make the call correctly.


    Peter A. Taylor Reply:


    National Socialism was pro-private property? No, it was what Sheldon Richman said: socialism with a capitalist veneer. At most it was intermediate between Communism and classical Liberalism. Here’s Bryan Caplan:

    “The main difference between the German Social Democrats and the Communists was primarily what are you going to do with agriculture? The Social Democrats and the Nazis decided they weren’t going to take the peasants’ land away from them because it didn’t work out very well when Lenin tried it and then when Stalin went ahead and actually did it because there was a tremendous decline in productivity. In terms of industry, not a total takeover, but the Nazis expanded it further. Defense industry; new government industries built up. The way often described–may be apocryphal–interview with Herman Rauschning, book on Hitler Speaks, conversations with Hitler and wrote them up: We don’t need to take your cow so long as we own you. Who cares about whether we actually own the firm in name? So long as we have complete control over the people running it, that’s good enough.”

    As Hayek said, the essence of ownership is control. Separated from control, “ownership” is meaningless.


    Posted on September 22nd, 2013 at 3:33 am Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:

    [Reply]admin Reply:September 22nd, 2013 at 7:51 amI think the logic here is less than compelling. Why are we under any obligation to defer to the ideas of the French Ancien Régime?

    No obligation. But it illustrates the revisionism involved in defining the Right as that which defends capitalism. The original Rightists were not concerned about capitalism, they were concerned about defending hierarchy, tradition and clericalism, issues that are still, to some extent, features of the right today.

    There is nothing preventing us from declaring that the Ancien Régime (and thus the Ultraroyalists who wanted to restore it) were actually part of the center left, because they nationalized the Gobelins tapestry works and because of their protectionist trade policies Laissez-faire actually originates in opposition to the Ancien Régime’s policy of interference in trade, so the Ancien Régime was pretty left wing by this method of classification. You can claim that figures traditionally associated with liberalism like Adam Smith were actually the first real Rightists, if you want to.

    But it’s going to look a bit revisionist (and dare I say, silly) to those who are operating under the old fashioned definition of Rightism, based on tradition, acceptance of hierarchy and possibly something to do with religion. It’s going to make communication with groups operating under the traditional definition more difficult and it’s going to make people wonder… if you’re kicking the Ancien Régime out of the Right, who else is being kicked out?

    Other definitions seem to have less trouble making sense of the history of Left v.s. Right. Just because we’re reactionaries, it doesn’t mean we’re obliged to be as reactionary as the Ultraroyalists.


    Posted on September 22nd, 2013 at 9:55 am Reply | Quote
  • admin Says:

    If either the Royalists or the Radical Capitalists were in a position to kick anybody out of anything bigger than a poker game we would all be in a very different place. Despite the real differences at stake here — which only dynamic geography can really resolve — there’s some common ground to work with. Royalists aren’t fascists, so there’s no reason for them to dig in their heels against a systematic criticism of populist corporatism, it’s probably mostly a question of formulating the issue in a way that’s acceptable as generically reactionary. We should even be able to concur that fascists are crypto-democratic progs. If both ‘sides’ persist in thinking they’re more truly rightist than the other, that seems a tolerable situation (especially if we don’t have to end up sharing a state).


    Posted on September 22nd, 2013 at 1:43 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    All this talk of the precise definition is academic. And also moot [not the same thing]. Action is what’s important. Talk is only useful as a predicate for deeds.

    I find myself in agreement with Taleb on this score, practice and practioners are who get things done. Was Stalin for instance an academic or a practicing politician?
    Glad I abandoned theory sophmore year. I think NL may be the first one in decades I listen to [Lure of the Void did it].

    Since you’re unlikely in your lifetimes to earn a living dissecting a living frog that’s eating the world, isn’t it more important to agree on some rules of thumb and tactics then MOVE? Your opponents aren’t brave, and your allies aren’t few. Yes they’re a bit rough around the edges, but so is the guy who fixes your car. If you want things done do you go to a tradesman or the Dean of Other Peoples work at Uyghurslvania College in Rhode Island?

    For instace the rule of thumb: “Holier than Thou status seeking” will work, it sells, everyone gets what you’re saying.

    Another one: “NO”. This is current practice in American Conservatism on the question of guns. NO. NO is spreading BTW – if you realize that the person you’re talking to is completely full of shit and wants what she wants. NO. MOLON LABE. The more that practice spreads – and it is – the more ground is taken back.

    Here’s another one: “Manipulating Procedural Outcomes” of “Process Liberalism”.
    The person who’s attempting to disarm you and relieve you of yet more money and rights is a functional pyschopath.

    Rules of Thumb built the pyramids, the acqueducts, Notre Dame, everything. They’re good for “some disassembly required”.

    [I still don’t like Taleb, he made his money over the corpse of the Rust Belt and the midwest, the western world in general. Then denounces academia for making him a doctor. These jailhouse conversions are becoming boring. If you must endure prison then the only productive use of the time is learning the criminal arts, not Jesus.].


    admin Reply:

    Serious question: Is “action” something that can be done on a blog?


    VXXC Reply:

    @ admin –

    Serious answer: rules of thumb can.

    Predicates for action* can.

    My people lack leaders, and that is all. They lack a coherent vision [I’m telling you it’s atavism and restoration], the leaders are stay at home moms applying for tax exempt status from the IRS and wondering how they got derailed. That is exactly the Tea Party Profile, no it’s not Koch astroturf. Their leaders are: Moms. They looked at the finances, TARP and Obamacare, shrieked and organized the Tea Party around conference calls on their calling cards from the kitchen tables, followed by email and [when men showed up] social media.

    They don’t need an agonizing debate over how communist we are or not, they need rules of thumb for action*. For men . Currently the leaders such as they are have a primary job title of MOM. Mommy don’t do barricades.

    You don’t win with that, but it’s the progress made. I would estimate quite effectively stalled. Certainly since the IRS and the Alphabet soup mix gang bang after 2010 worked it will be repeated. That’s it, done.

    What you have here is a proto-mass. It gets plenty of stimulus and a rich growth material [outrage] from the Progs, but then founders.

    * I did not say activism


    admin Reply:

    Neoreaction is made of nerds (I say that with great affection). The way it articulates with your requirements is bound to be indirect. I suspect some helpful slogan polishing and web-era pamphleteering is going to be the most you’ll get. In saying that, I’m not looking to shut down the discussion — there’s a nerd investment in ‘action’ as an intellectual topic that should mean there’s always room for more talk, and even if talk gets annoying, it’s not nothing. (1776 was proceeded by a lot of ‘talk’.)

    Posted on September 22nd, 2013 at 1:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:


    “Royalists aren’t fascists, so there’s no reason for them to dig in their heels against a systematic criticism of populist corporatism, it’s probably mostly a question of formulating the issue in a way that’s acceptable as generically reactionary. We should even be able to concur that fascists are crypto-democratic progs. If both ‘sides’ persist in thinking they’re more truly rightist than the other, that seems a tolerable situation (especially if we don’t have to end up sharing a state).”

    A systematic criticism of fascism is definitely one of the more interesting (and relevant) topics available to us.

    If we use the classic definition of the Right, then the real reaction is Ultraroyalism or something to the right of Ultraroyalism.

    But in a modern, industrial, irreligious mass society with no existing aristocracy, Ultraroyalism is not a position that can be credibly maintained as a realistic program for action.

    We can’t be real reactionaries, so we’re ALL crypto-progs of one kind or another. Techno-commercialism is by no means immune to the crypto-prog label.

    Certainly some crypto-progs are too proggy but before we kick fascism as a whole out of the Right, we have to ask ourselves: What DOES a realistic program for the restoration of key elements of hierarchy, tradition and clericalism look like in a modern, industrial, irreligious mass society with no existing aristocracy?

    That question also gets into the differences between fascism and the Cathedral that I mentioned before.


    admin Reply:

    On the last point, the Cathedral is arguably ‘post-fascist’ in an evolutionary sense, having largely completed the absorption of the commanding heights of culture into the state — or ‘state church’ — far more comprehensively than classical (1930s) fascism was able to. The financial system is now largely run out of the academic-media complex, which forces ‘economistic’ counter-analysis to sophisticate itself. Keynesianism today is less what the government does than an overwhelming pre-emptive apologetics for what the government does.

    Despite the advances of fascism in the direction of propaganda and ‘intellectual hegemony’, it seems improbable that its opponents thought their central problem was that they’d ‘lost the culture’ — the secret police were more of a concern. It’s equally improbable that there’s anyone on the far right today (however that is defined) who does not think their central problem is exactly this (compared to which the secret police is a joke).


    VXXC Reply:

    Which is why other than nailing the denunctiations to the Cathedral door attempting to reform High culture is a joke. There’s money and power involved. And functional pyschopaths. There’s no “Reform” of the Culture. They took power and trashed it, they keep their dominance with the likes of Anil Dash [not exactly Beria].

    Look at Luther, now what did he do? DO. And who did it? DID. IT.

    Is THEDEN which are apparently young men who want a future high culture? The Antigones and other sparks and flames of resistance in Europe? Resistance in the US?

    Yale and Harvard are going to stop being Hedge Funds with PC seminaries attached?

    They can’t. They’re quite trapped in their own doomed logic and imperatives. For instance the Bernanke attempted a modest tailoring of QE to $70 Billion a month. That got stopped quick. Don’t ignore they’re in the inflationary trap now.


    Posted on September 22nd, 2013 at 2:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:


    @ admin – Agree


    Posted on September 23rd, 2013 at 11:33 am Reply | Quote
  • Saddam Hussein's Whirling Aluminium Tubes Says:

    America is not a fascist country for the reasons I described above. America is a managerialist country democracy. The various forms of managerialism tend to converge and resemble each other, at least superficially. So America has some of the characteristics of fascism, but ultimately fails to even come close to meeting the poly sci (rather than pejorative) definition.

    It is more correct to think of fascism as the previous, failed generation of neo-reaction.

    Progressives want to go forward. Reactionaries want to abandon modernity and return to the glorious, partially imaginary past.

    Neo-reactionaries want to marry modernity and reaction. Fascists also wanted to marry modernity and reaction. They attempted to do so, but things didn’t work out so well for them.

    The stakes are high gentlemen, don’t screw this up.


    Posted on January 3rd, 2014 at 7:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • Tom Says:

    That’s interesting. You don’t understand communism nor fascism. You also have this blog filled with thousands upon thousands of words that, upon cursory reading, only state the definitions and condone the viewpoints of the modern mainstream right and left – adhering to purposefully misconstrued definitions and propaganda. Examples: conservatism=individualism, progressivism=collectivism, nazis=communists (a particularly funny and embarrassing lie that I thought was only relegated to the most desperate and low IQ of the mainstream right blogosphere).

    Of course, you emit a glimmer of hope for yourself when you wrote that human self organization is what matters and not right and left semantics. Of course, this revelation is so 1917 (and again 1932).

    You were wrong when you stated that communism is a path to fascism. Fascism depends on the organization of the middle class to support it. Communism, which we will look at as it actually exists and as it will only exist – with a totalitarian aristocracy at its helm, only exists when that support is eradicated. The eradication is accomplished through cultural eradication. Fascism is accomplished through cultural promotion. These two paths lead to widely differing social structure, no matter how many individualists are prone to pointing out superficial, meaningless coincidences in government policy. The social structure is what matters, and is what defines the government. This is because, whether or not the government is forced into place ahead of the structure, the structure is ultimately what keeps it in place or forces its ousting. The nation defines the nation, not the government nor even economic policy (communist countries can be capitalist and fascist countries can be socialist). Fascism and communism, while sharing some superficial qualities such as authoritarianism (which exists in all governments), are not only antipodal but are also mutually antidotal. It’s amusing when individual bloggers think that they’re brighter than the sum of fascist thinkers from the early twentieth century to the present. Your ‘revelation’ that communism is a path to fascism is ridiculous in its lack of awareness of its idiosyncratic existence. However, I’ll repeal my appeal to authority for the sake of the argument.

    Fascism is collectivism based in shared culture. Communism is individualism based in perceived economic interest (or whatever other cultural surrogate is used in the future to replace the weakening of deep cultural ties). All individualist philosophies, from Christianity down the line, exist only to convince people not to exert power through co-operation either in self-defense of group interest. In other words, they exist to weaken cultural ties to the end of weakening political power. The end result is the communist state, which can take many forms as long as the aforementioned social conditions are met. Once they are met, overt individualism can be reigned in and replaced with the false culture of the class war. Communism depends on breaking societies down and building them up again using easily manipulated shared interests such as economics. Communism is literally the process of turning a slavery resistant nation into a nation of slaves. It happens 100% in the social sphere. All incidental economic propaganda is secondary to the end social goal, and can be manipulated as necessary across the gamut of economic policy. There is no political power and resultant resistance to strong, politically coherent groups without community collective interest. An individual can never and will never defeat an army.

    I’ll look forward to more cogent, fact supported assertions as to why you think the new right will destroy Europe in the comment section of your more recent post. As it stands, I only read hyperbolic assertions. No offense. I’d like to believe that this blog actually has a point of view other than serving as a logic trap for conservatives wandering too far to the right. Right now, it seems to only be ushering them back into pre-revolutionary traditionalism (and the associated individualism and universalism) that, as we saw, inevitably leads to where we are.


    Posted on June 10th, 2014 at 7:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • (N) G. Eiríksson Says:

    >> I argue that in fact the Right has a ‘transcendental’ basis for unity. That basis is a shared belief in submission to reality.



    Posted on August 18th, 2016 at 9:15 pm Reply | Quote

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