Umlaut

It’s probably less true with each passing week that Neoreaction can be accurately described as a small, dispersed population of libertarians mugged by reality. Nevertheless, it is part of NRx heritage that such a characterization made considerable sense in the past. There should be no surprise that between libertarianism and NRx a significant zone of complex friction and interchange can be found. Right now, Umlaut is the media motor of such contact.

This is more than a little strange. Partly, it is odd because Umlaut‘s CATO institute parent is the principle representative of respectable libertarianism, feeding ideas into the political process (where they are of course completely ignored), while stressing a non-threatening strain of Statist harm reduction, rather than the rougher anti-state antagonism of the Mises Institute, or even the dope-head dissidence of Reason. Secondly, it seems an unlikely follow up to this.

Michael Anissimov, whose precious bodily fluids are free of all libertarian contamination, has put out a red flag post on the recent peculiar intimacy, taking the Kuznicki horror as representative of the genre. His post, which contains valuable information about the institutional structure and media presence of various libertarian organs, concludes that Umlaut is the “libertarians’ real, on-the-ground outlet for ideology.” (The original version also noted that the public outreach of CATO Unbound had peaked with Peter Thiel’s decisively important remark: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”)

This tweet is almost certainly relevant:

Handle has pursued a deeper engagement, specifically with (Umlaut‘s) Adam Gurri. (This blog has a limited, and schizoid, relationship with the magazine, from fear and loathing last October, to intrigued. Two further — excellent — Umlaut articles bridged the gap here from raised-hackles to friendly woofing.)

This development grates on a number of neuralgic NRx issues, which makes it enormously entertaining, intellectually stimulating, and strategically tangled. It plugs directly into the recent ‘entryism’ conversation, due to the libertarian connections of Patri Friedman (a focus of the J. Arthur Bloom piece.) Themes of exit, secession, and markets, among others, are all susceptible to inflammation from libertarian influences. Working out what NRx is, at its core, is inevitably complicated by ideological foreign entanglements, especially if the libertarian connection is mirrored — at the other extreme — by a no less tortuous negotiation over boundaries with the European New Right.

To underscore the latter point, NRx is reasonably analogized to a weak, fissile state, cross-cut by the machinations of superpowers (libertarianism and the ENR). Local ‘nationalists’ deploring all alien interference quickly find their positions undermined by the blatant dissymmetry of their concerns, driving them into polarization, conflict, collaboration, and counter-collaboration. Which Right is right? The potential tension is extraordinary. It cannot possibly be less than interesting.

ADDED: Correction:

ADDED: Michael Anissimov responds. Citing Moldbug (very adeptly), he remarks: “This is where myself and Nick Land part ways. I’m hooked on the Frederick the Great solution, he’s hooked on the Hong Kong solution. Both are equally valid interpretations in light of the founding texts of Moldbug.”
— Yes.

February 17, 2014admin 20 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Media , Neoreaction

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20 Responses to this entry

  • Alrenous Says:

    When steelmanned Mises’ anti-authority ideals, I found actually supports authority more than any other ideology, except with certain restrictions.

    Conventional authorities all force you to join, and history has in one sense been an endless churn of justifications for so forcing you. But in a Misesian situation, the contrary is true – nobody can force you to not join an authority. Blocking you from joining (SCOTUS objects strongly to independent courts) would itself constitute an illegitimate authority. Authorities will still exist, because a good authority is very worthwhile, even if they demand that the joiner gives up the choice of reversing it. (See: the Amish.) Authorities will still exist, because nobody will have the legitimate authority to snuff them out. But they won’t need exotic justifications. (Divine right, will of the people, vox populi, vox dei.) “It was your decision to join dude. You can’t blame us.”

    At present, more joining an authority is a reason for greater skepticism. E.g. when the mafia grows, it’s probably because they figured out a better way to pressure people. When the democrat party grows, they probably figured out better lies or are handing out more pork. When a Misesian authority grows, the evidence is opposite and actually even more intense.

    [Reply]

    Stirner Reply:

    The Amish example is a useful one. They don’t have de facto authority to prevent exit, but they do have very strong informal authority by punishing defectors by shunning them from the community. You are either in the community or out of it, and you don’t get to still enjoy your friend and family connections inside the community, if you want to live outside of its constraints. The Mormons are less formal about it, but if you are not a member of the LDS in good standing, much of your deep and dense social network will evaporate away.

    NR talks a lot about exit, but need to talk more about exile. It is proven strategy to protect and preserve alien ideologies from the affronts of modernity.

    As a recovering libertarian, I find the dividing lines between Rand and Reaction to be pretty clear cut. Libertarianism proposes equal opportunities, and allow markets to work their magic. Neoreaction puts a stake in the heart of the ideal of equal opportunities. The vast variations in genetic capital, social capital, financial capital, character capital, etc. means that is no such thing as equal opportunity. Progressives of course want to do the impossible and level the playing field (while preserving their high status). Neoreactionaries instead seek to find social and political structures that recognizes these inequalities, yet tries to minimize the negative consequences of their existence. Once you accept the truth of HBD, you can either recoil back in horror back to progressivism, remain a libertarian by being an explicit HBD denier, or push forwards into the abyss of the DE and Neoreaction.

    I find it interesting that to date we have no prominent Reactionaries that have publically ejected from the Reactosphere. I suspect that it is because there is a Reactionary Ratchet that only moves in one direction. Once you have internalized and accepted the key insights of the Dark Enlightenment, you can’t so easily unthink your crimethink.

    [Reply]

    Adam Reply:

    Funny you should mention the Amish: http://theumlaut.com/2013/03/11/why-we-need-the-amish/

    [Reply]

    Alrenous Reply:

    Well, not that funny.

    Adam Reply:

    Fair enough!

    Kevin C. Reply:

    @Stirner

    “NR talks a lot about exit, but need to talk more about exile. It is proven strategy to protect and preserve alien ideologies from the affronts of modernity.”

    It’s a proven strategy for certain kinds of people. (The analysis by HBDChick comes in handy here.) For more kin-oriented peoples, yes, exile, the loss of a “deep and dense social network” is a dire threat (one that is to some people worse than death, as the example of Socrates illustrates), which can help preserve the group and its nature. However, for outbred, WEIRD rootless moderns, many don’t have a “deep and dense social network”, and may be (genetically and psychologically) to individualistic to ever have one. To them, being cast out from kith and kin to dwell amongst strangers and their barbarous folkways is not a dire fate, but “exit”, a thing not to be feared, but even, under the right conditions, to be sought, as our host here illustrates.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Yes. It’s ironic that the Left is accusing the hardcore Old Whig libertarians of fascism, while Slavo-Monarchist NRx accuses them of anarchism. They have to have been doing something right.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 17th, 2014 at 6:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    Mainstream libertarianism of the Bryan Caplan/Jason Kuznicki kind is shit. As a libertarian and a regular reader of the Mises Institute I completely agree with that. But let’s not equate the two. A fine line needs to be drawn between Cato Institute and Mises Institute. There are vast differences between them. In fact on closer inspection it becomes clear that the two institutions disagree on almost everything.
    When someone is criticizing the Cato Institute he is criticizing the Cato Institute, not libertarianism in general. When someone is criticizing Bryan Caplan, he is criticizing Bryan Caplan, not libertarianism in general. It is alarming that some reactionaries are so quick to make misguided generalizations about and ideology they barely know.
    And as Alrenous pointed out criticism based on superficial readings of Mises does not cut it.

    @ Stirner
    First of all I haven’t read Rand. But I disagree that libertarianism supports equal opportunities. Some people have genetic advantages over others, some people have material and status advantages over others based on what their parents and ancestors have achieved. Libertarianism does not necessarily oppose the existence of such advantages. I consider myself a libertarian and to me such advantages are completely natural and in fact, I think, in a hypothethical anarcho-capitalist world such advantages would very much exist. Libertarianism is opposed not to natural advantage that has been earned or has its roots in genetics, but to superficial advantage which is merely claimed and demanded on some arbitrary basis not rooted in reality. Basically the moment you need to claim you deserve something in order to get it you no longer deserve to have it.
    You don’t need to be a HBD denier to be a libertarian. There is this alarming false dichotomy between “libertarian” and “neoreactionary”, when in fact it is entirely possible to be both at the same time. In fact I consider our host here to be an example of that. (I may of course be completely wrong on this assesment)

    [Reply]

    tryptophan Reply:

    A clear boundary between libertarians and Nrxs is the problem of whether you constrain the state. Libertarians want to force the state to indefinitely obey rules of their choosing, whereas Nrxs try to engineer a state with good incentives.

    The libertarian plan sounds good but it doesn’t work, anything that can force the state to obey a certain set of rules (ie SCOTUS) has de facto control of the state and therefore is the state. That’s the point of “sovereignty is conserved”.

    Alrenous describes the libertarian position above “But in a Misesian situation, the contrary is true – nobody can force you to not join an authority.” But the Libertarian position relies on a “good” authority maintaining the rules, or an elaborate balance of power.

    Neoreactionaries want the state to have good incentives, not to be constrained by rules.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    “Libertarians want to force the state to indefinitely obey rules of their choosing, whereas Nrxs try to engineer a state with good incentives.” — This is a very useful formulation, but the distinction becomes increasingly complicated upon close examination. Serious libertarians (by which I mean descriptive An-Cap types) strongly emphasize the role of realistic incentive structures in matters of governance. Their problem tends to be that they still thing a system of internal regulation can be realized, without reference to a selective and controlling external environment (Patchwork).

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Reality doesn’t start or end with recognizing the fact of different genetic endowments. Libertarianism’s failure to engage with reality doesn’t start or end there either.

    Getting naked chimps to eschew violence except in the pursuit of some kind of fine moral calculus is folly.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 17th, 2014 at 10:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Ex-pat in Oz Says:

    @

    HBD to me seems THE existential magnetic north of NRx– I’m not suggesting it is the paramount issue (it isn’t to me, anyway)– but as you point out, once you’ve engaged with it, it is impossible to ever be pulled back by the progressive tide. It is the sine qua non of all discourse with regard to inequality.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    HBD is certainly the most important source of conceptual leverage relative to libertarianism, which renders itself ineffective — and even toxic — through its axiomatic (i.e. unexamined) universalism.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 17th, 2014 at 10:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • Stirner Says:

    By Libertarian I mean the political movement, not the small l libertarianism of free markets. I certainly think that the feedback mechanisms of the market work best much of the time, so we are quibbling about details.

    I would argue that Libertarianism promotes a moral order where the market and the free civil society can produce fair and meritocratic outcomes. Equal opportunity such that everyone are equal self-owners, in a society where exchange and contract are conducted on the basis of Law, not Pull, or Status, or Rank. Since we are all equally free to enter the market, financial inequalities, social inequalities, and even IQ inequalities work themselves out over time. After all, there are many very successful people with non IQ skills that have made them rich in our semi-free marketplace. Even Honey Boo Boo has a trust fund!

    But, Libertarianism is promoted as a Universalist type of ideology. It is after all, just a rebranding of 18th century Liberalism. In theory, it is rooted in human nature, and it should be applicable everywhere.

    That is where it conflicts with HBD, which puts Libertarianism in the context of high-trust Anglo-derived societies with a Common Law heritage. In that context, it can sort of work, like it did in the US, for 150 plus years. In other contexts, forget about it. Africa? Laissez faire devolves into warlordism. Asia? The Chinese have a tactical respect for the law, but it is an attitude that places personal relationships (ie guanxi) before legal niceties. Libertarian is blind to the sway of human ethnicities in global culture, primarily because Libertarianism came out of the Xenophilic anglo culture.

    In a high-trust, low-violence thede, you can have a night watchman state. In a low-trust, high-violence thede, even the local shopkeeper has to work behind bulletproof glass.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    (I should have read down to here before making my last comment. You make the same point far more elegantly than I do.)

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 17th, 2014 at 11:36 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    @ tryptophan

    Libertarianism does not rely on a “good” authority or on an elaborate balance of power. Rothbard for example realized that both of those are impossible to achieve and that is what led him to anarcho-capitalism. Now, his political ideas are not without their faults, but he clearly recognized that rules and restrictions don’t work on the state. Also, libertarians and Old Liberals such as Hayek and Mises have always been critical of the idea that you can have “the right people” in the government. The idea that you can have “good” people in government, the idea that you can have a state with “good incentives”, is typical progressive bullshit. It’s like unicorns. It has never existed and it will never exist. Now, I am quite aware of the problems in some libertarian political theory. But libertarian critique of the state does not end with forcing the state to obey a set of rules. Remember Hoppe’s stance on monarchy. For him monarchy was better than democracy not because the king was more inclined to follow certain rules, but because his interests more often aligned with the long-term interests of the population under his control. There is a good reason why his book has been read by almost all neoreactionaries.

    If you can somehow align the interests of the state with your own – great. But do not mistake the ocassional common ground based on similar interests with the state having “good incentives”. The king keeps the taxes low not because he cares about his people, but because it is more profitable. Those are not “good” incentives. Those are selfish incentives.

    @Stirner
    Fair is not equal. That is an important difference. The libertarian idea is that you reap what you sow. The market only judges people based on merit. Based on numbers. It doesn’t care who you are, it only cares how productive you are. It only cares about the quality and quantity of what you produce. I don’t think that this is contradictory to neoreaction in any serious way.

    The universalism thing is very important. I completely agree, libertarian ideas don’t work for most of the world. And this is indeed a problem. Can libertarianism stop being a universalist idea? I would say it can. In fact, ignoring universalism, libertarianism is pretty much neoreaction (the capitalist branch of it). A major reason for the original framing of neoreactionaries being libertarians mugged by reality was pretty much that. Libertarians realizing that libertarianism doesn’t work always and everywhere. (Gasp!) I guess you could argue that if a libertarian stops being a universalists he is no longer a libertarian, but I would say it is a pretty arbitrary distinction.

    @Lesser Bull
    “Reality doesn’t start or end with recognizing the fact of different genetic endowments. ”
    Never claimed that it did.

    “Getting naked chimps to eschew violence except in the pursuit of some kind of fine moral calculus is folly.”
    Getting naked chimps to eschew violence except in the pursuit of some kind of fine moral calculus is pretty much the only type of political ideology. Oh wait, my bad, there is another type – naked chimps using violence in the pursuit of some kind of fine moral calculus.
    But libertarians don’t care about moral calculuses. We care about not getting our shit stolen. The libertarian moral calculus is based on preserving private property. You could say private property is a folly as well, but if you want to keep your civilization, you better believe the lie.

    [Reply]

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    Yeah, there is another type, and its the type that all governments everywhere have used, except when they didn’t bother with the pretense of a fine moral calculus.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 18th, 2014 at 12:28 am Reply | Quote
  • Stirner Says:

    @Hurlock
    “The libertarian idea is that you reap what you sow. The market only judges people based on merit. Based on numbers. It doesn’t care who you are, it only cares how productive you are. It only cares about the quality and quantity of what you produce. I don’t think that this is contradictory to neoreaction in any serious way.”

    Moldbug addressed this explicitly:
    http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2013/03/sam-altman-is-not-blithering-idiot.html
    http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-i-am-not-libertarian.html

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 18th, 2014 at 2:01 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    @Hurlock,

    What if the actual History of America and hence the West the last 50 years is: Elites turned from benevolent stewardship to a policy of Comprehensive Ruin, that is their actual policies are HARM and PROFIT from Harm proceeding from a motive of MALICE?

    Because that is the History of the last 50 years. Either HBD or Hate-Democracy can explain Detroit, it cannot explain the Rust Belt – that’s 11 states. Mostly White.

    Such people could be placed under any system and the results identical. Because you see the results have been identical under every single political and social system including the precious monarchies of Europe. All the systems that encountered Malice incarnate and their Viral Tools called Ideas succumbed. The mistake was identical and is duplicated here, they engaged them in debate.

    Whether you believe it was the Puritans or Protestants gone mad, or the blood vengeance of the Nihilists, the results were the same. The people and nations that escaped can be named – Spain via Franco, Chile via Pinochet, Finland via Mannerheim and Finnish Light Infantry, and so on. None of them debated, they crushed.

    You might as well argue the injustice of it with a plague Buboe that has appeared under your armpit. It doesn’t hear you or care about Justice, or your feelings, and your marvelous brains are merely more food.

    It’s usually not phrased as debating the Buboe, it’s usually the parable of the Turtle giving the snake the last ride over the River. “Why did you sting me, now we both die?”

    “You knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”

    [Reply]

    peppermint Reply:

    That’s great, the bad guys bad ideas are malice incarnate; they say the same thing about us because projection.

    Can you explain why othewise intelligent men accepted these ideas?

    Why is it that the doctrine that all men are created equal became popular about the same time as firearms? Perhaps NRx is a belated response to WMDs and drone warfare.

    Regardless, we will have democracy with us until the person who calls for a vote to decide a power struggle is looked at like he is retarded.

    [Reply]

    Posted on February 19th, 2014 at 12:21 pm Reply | Quote

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