Moldbug’s insistence that ‘Sovereignty is conserved’ surely counts as one of the most significant assertions in the history of political thought. It is arguably the fundamental axiom of his ‘system’, and its implications are almost inestimably profound.
Sovereignty is conserved says that anything that appears to bind sovereignty is itself in reality true sovereignty, binding something else, and something less. It is therefore a negative answer to the Odysseus Problem: Can Sovereignty bind itself? If Moldbug’s assertion is accepted, constitutional government is impossible, except as a futile aspiration, a ‘noble lie’, or a cynical joke.
In addition to Moldbug’s powerful arguments, we know from the work of Kurt Gödel that the Odysseus Problem is at least partially insoluble, since it is logically impossible for there to be a perfect knot. However well constructed a constitution might be, it cannot, in principle, seal itself reliably against the possibility of a surreptitious undoing. In a sufficiently complex (self-referential) constitutional order, there will always be permissible procedures whose consequences have not been completely anticipated, and whose consistency with the continuation of the system cannot be ensured in advance.
Yet it would be obviously misleading to assume that such concerns were not already active during the formulation of the American Constitution. It is precisely because some quite lucid comprehension of the Odysseus Problem was at work, that the founders envisaged the grounding principle of republican constitutionalism as a division of powers, whereby the component units of a disintegrated sovereignty bound each other. The animating system of incentives was not to rest upon a naive expectation of altruism or voluntary restraint, but upon a systematically integrated network of suspicion, formally installing the anti-monarchical impulse as an enduring, distributed function. If the republic was to work, it would be because the fear of power in other hands permanently over-rode the greed for power in one’s own.
The American Constitution was, of course, destroyed, in successive waves. After Lincoln, and FDR, only a pitiful and derided shell remains. USG has unified itself, and the principle of sovereign power has been thoroughly re-legitimated in the court of popular opinion. Democracy rose as the republic fell, exposing yet again the essential political bond of the tyrant with the mob, Leviathan with the people.
Does this ruin refute the constitutional conjecture? Is there really nothing further to be said in defense of imperfect (but perhaps improvable) knots? This one came horribly undone. Might there be other, better ones? Outside in remains obstinately interested in the problem …
ADDED: Many relevant speculations and insights are to be found in this article on the practicalities of secession (especially section XI J, XII, XIII, and XIV). “Since it is important that the AFR [or proposed American Federal Republic] function as a constitutional republic, one of the first things it should do is to hold a constitutional convention. We anticipate that the resulting document will be similar to the present American constitution, but not identical.” It includes some (very modest) recommendations to curtail democracy.
The Hoover Hog interviews HBD* Chick.
“Coolidge made virtue of inaction” writes Amity Shlaes, on The ‘Scrooge’ Who Begat Plenty:
It is hard for modern students of economics to know what to make of a government that treated economic weakness by raising interest rates 300 basis points, cutting tax rates, and halving the federal government — so much at odds is that prescription with the antidotes to recession our own experts tend to recommend. It is harder still for modern economists to concede that that recipe, the policy recipe for the early 1920s advocated by Coolidge and Harding, yielded growth on a scale to which we can aspire today.
ADDED: Derbyshire’s take.
This is an argument I’m really not grasping:
Libertarians are unrealistic because the world was once vastly freer than it is today, and then progressively rolled down the populist hill into the present social democratic latrine trench, so “Why would we expect different results on the second go?” [OK, still following so far] … thus we need Kings back, because … [we need to catch the rising tide, after all, the world hasn’t ever been more monarchist than now? Prussian Neocameralism outlasted Manchester Liberalism? Royalist institutions have demonstrated their inherent immunity to the forces of decay? …]
How can reactionaries criticize free republics for falling apart? Everything reactionaries have ever respected fell apart. Nobody would be a reactionary if their favored configuration of the world hadn’t fallen apart.
Republics are extremely fragile. All the more reason to take devoted care of them (first of all, by protecting them from democracy).
ADDED: Epic response from Nydwracu .
What greater calamity can a neologism inherit than a techno-hippy paternity? Such a fate, apparently, induces even other techno-hippies to skirt around it (whilst repeating it almost exactly). But it needs to be said, whether through gritted teeth or not, that ‘extropy’ is a great word, and close to an indispensable one.
Extropy, or local entropy reduction, is — quite simply — what it is for something to work. The entire techno-science of entropy, on its practical (cybernetic) side, is nothing but extropy generation. There is no rigorous conception of functionality that really bypasses it. The closest approximation to objective value that will ever be found already has a name, and ‘extropy’ is it.
The importance of this term to the investigation of time is brought into focus by the work of Sean Carroll (although, of course, he never uses it). If the directionality or ‘arrow’ of time is understood as Eddington proposed, through rising global entropy (or disorder), as anticipated by the second law of thermodynamics, local extropy poses an intriguing question.
Carroll’s discussion is directed towards his sense of the ultimate temporal and cosmological problem: the low entropy state of the early universe (assumed but not explained by prevailing cosmo-physics). Given this intellectual momentum, the problem of local negative-entropy production (extropy) is little more than a distraction, or a spurious objection to the conceptual scaffolding he presents. He comments:
The Second Law doesn’t forbid decreases in entropy in open systems — by putting in the work, you are able to tidy up your room, decreasing its entropy but still increasing the entropy of the whole universe (you make noise, burn calories, etc.). Nor is it in any way incompatible with evolution or complexity or any such thing.
The perplexing question, however, is this: If entropy defines the direction of time, with increasing disorder determining the difference of the future from the past, doesn’t (local) extropy — through which all complex cybernetic beings, such as lifeforms, exist — describe a negative temporality, or time-reversal? Is it not in fact more likely, given the inevitable embeddedness of intelligence in ‘inverted’ time, that it is the cosmological or general conception of time that is reversed (from any possible naturally-constructed perspective)?
Whatever the conclusion, it is clear that entropy and extropy have opposing time-signatures, so that time-reversal is a relatively banal cosmological fact. ‘We’ inhabit a bubble of backwards time (whoever we are), whilst immersed in a cosmic environment which runs overwhelmingly in the opposite direction. If reality is harsh and strange, that’s why.
Caught in the slipstream of tentacled abomination, as we are, the question is an involving one. Is the spiral into a “holocaust of freedom and ecstasy” a leftist maelstrom? That seems plausible, even unavoidable, if the right defines itself in opposition to chaotic evil. But if poly-tendrilled monstrosities from the Outside aren’t our natural allies, what the hell are we doing among these squares? It’s simply fate and allegiance from where we’re slithering: If it’s a squid-shaped horror out of deep time, with an IQ in four digits or more, and unspeakable plans for mankind, then it’s one of ours, and — more to the point — we’re its.
Whether considered within the registers of
physics, physiology, or politics, ‘reaction’ is a time-structured notion. It follows an action or stimulus, which it reaches back through, in order to annul or counteract a disequilibrium or disturbance. Whilst subsequent to an action, it operates in alignment with what came before: the track, or legacy, that defines the path of reversal, or the target of restoration. It therefore envelops the present, to contest it from all sides. The Outside of the dominant moment is its space.
Reaction forges, or excavates, an occult pact between the future and the past, setting both against the present, in concert, and thus differentiating itself from progressivism (which unites the present and future against the past), and conservatism (which unites past and present against the future). Its bond with time as outsideness carries it ever further beyond the moment and its decay, into a twin horizon of anterior and posterior remoteness. It is a Shadow Out of Time.
There is a far more immediately practical reason for reaction to involve itself in the exploration of time, however: to take steps to avoid what it could scarcely otherwise avoid becoming — a sterile orgy of disgruntlement. Finding nothing in the present except deteriorated hints of other things, reaction soon slides into what it most detests: an impotent micro-culture of vocal, repetitive protest. This isn’t right, this isn’t right, this isn’t right quickly becomes white noise, or worse (intelligible whining). Even when it escapes the ceaseless, mechanical reiteration of a critical diagnosis (whose tedium is commensurate to the narrowed times it damns), its schemes of restoration fall prey to a more extended repetition, which calls only — and uselessly — for what has been to be once more.
If the New Reaction is not to bore itself into a coma, it has to learn to run innovation and tradition together as Siamese twins, and for that it needs to think time, into distant conclusions, in its ‘own’ way. That can be done, seriously. Of course, a demonstration is called for …
[Note: ‘physics’ deleted from the first line to pre-emptively evade a righteous spanking from enraged Newtonians insisting upon the strict simultaneity of actions and reactions within classical mechanics]
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction , Templexity
TAGGED WITH :Reaction , Time
Once it is accepted that the right can never agree about anything, the opportunity arises to luxuriate in the delights of diversity. Libertarianism already rivaled Trotskyism as a source of almost incomprehensibly compact dissensus, but the New Reaction looks set to take internecine micro-factionalism into previously unimagined territories. We might as well enjoy it.
From crypto-fascists, theonomists, and romantic royalists, to jaded classical liberals and hard-core constitutionalists, the reaction contains an entire ideological cosmos within itself. Hostility to coercive egalitarianism and a sense that Western civilization is going to hell will probably suffice to get you into the club. Agreeing on anything much beyond that? Forget it.
There’s one dimension of reactionary diversity that strikes Outside in as particularly consequential (insofar as anything out here in the frozen wastes has consequences): the articulation of reaction and politics. Specifically: is the reaction an alternative politics, or a lucid (= cynically realistic) anti-politics? Is democracy bad politics, or simply politics, elaborated towards the limit of its inherently poisonous potential?
Outside in sides emphatically with the anti-political ‘camp’. Our cause is depoliticization (or catallaxy, negatively apprehended). The tradition of spontaneous order is our heritage. The New Reaction warns that the tide is against us. Intelligence will be required, in abundance, if we are to swim the other way, and we agree with the theonomists at least in this: if it is drawn from non-human sources, so much the better. Markets, machines, and monsters might inspire us. Rulers of any kind? Not so much.
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction , Uncategorized
TAGGED WITH :Catallaxy , Politics , Reaction
An expedition into (and through) time-travel begins at Urban Future.
Comments welcomed here.