“Neoreaction” has been much discussed recently, but what is it?
Neoreaction defines itself more in in terms of what it is opposed to than in terms of what it is in favor of.
Fine. So what is neoreaction against?
Neoreaction is the political philosophy that says that democracy is not merely the well-meaning god that happened to fail, but that our current wreckage was predetermined, because democracy fatally intertwined with progressivism since its birth, that it is a tool of progressivism, and that therefore, for a society to accept democracy is for a society to accept its inevitable doom at the hands of progressivism.
What is democracy?
To modern American ears, the phrase “democracy sucks” is an insane statement. To be against democracy is to be against motherhood, apple pie, puppies, and breathing oxygen.
The fact that our reaction (heh) to hearing democracy spoken ill of is visceral, deep, and immediate, is, I suggest, cause to examine that reaction. We humans only react viscerally to things that are coded into our DNA (dangerous heights, smells of rotting — and therefore disease-causing — meat, and so forth) and to triggers that are beaten into us by culture (the idea of stepping into traffic, the bad dream of showing up at the office without pants, etc.).
We in the West have been told that Democracy is wonderful. But what is this democracy that we love?
It’s a little tricky to answer, because “democracy” is a motte-and-bailey term. The motte (the core defensible meaning of the term) is that democracy is a system of selecting leaders by casting ballots.
The bailey (the much larger extension of the term that is switched in invisibly by its proponents to win arguments) is that democracy is a late 20th century “mixed economy” phenomenon where, yes, leaders are selected by ballots, but also where the State has no well-defined limits to its authority, where there are vast bureaucracies that decide everything from how much water a toilet can use per flush to what factories should get built, and where one-third of the economy is under state control.
A typical conservative thinks that the problem with democracy is merely its excrescences, and wants to push democracy from the overly expansive bailey back to the “reasonable” motte.
A typical neoreactionary disagrees, and thinks that the problem with democracy is not in its excesses, but in its core nature. A neoreactionary does not want to reform democracy, but instead wants to rip it out wholesale.
Wait, what? Who could possibly be against democracy — especially the core of it, the voting part? And why?
Well, we’ve defined democracy, but now let us attempt to understand it — which is to say, let us attempt to understand the hold it has over the modern mind.
Those on the right, with their smaller conception of democracy, have a fairly pragmatic regard for the system — they think that it’s a better technology for selecting legislators than other contenders: “Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others,” in the famous and pithy words of Winston Churchill.
Those on the left not only have a different understanding of democracy, they have a different relationship with the idea. Leftists see it as simultaneously an expressive act, a ritual of community membership, and, like conservatives, as a tool to generate good outcomes.
They are wrong on all counts.
The “expressive act” argument is easy enough to dispatch. Well, not dispatch. The idea is correct, at some level. Voting is an expressive act; but then again, so is punching a stranger in the face. Anyone with a conception of human rights and individual autonomy would suggest that if you want to express yourself, it would be better to take up dance, or keep a journal, or throw clay pots on the wheel — any hobby that does not require that other citizens put their life, liberty, or property at risk merely because you want to bring the legislature into session to express your special snowflake nature.
Likewise, the idea that democracy is valid as a ritual of community membership: it’s true, obviously. We know this because progressives never shut up about it. But if you want to be part of a community, join a church — or failing that, a group of Unitarians — or form a chess club, or find new friends at meetup.com. Fellowship with one’s fellow human beings existed long before Athens and will exist long after Washington, and every instantiation of it in a non-governmental context is less destructive to the liberty of bystanders.
The remaining argument, the one that both liberals and conservatives endorse, is that democracy may be a flawed tool, but it is still the best available one for letting people coexist and pick public policy that affects everyone.
Anarcho-capitalists and neo-reactionaries (who overlap to a surprising degree, but that’s a different story) agree that this is bunk.
Let us formalize the very best argument in favor of democracy’s effectiveness (“steel manning” it), so that when we defeat it in the field of battle, none can say that it was not a fair fight.
Democracy is, properly understood — and properly cheerleaded for — a tool of social coordination that harnesses local knowledge and feedback loops to generate policy decisions. By harnessing local knowledge, it avoids the problems of top-down autocracies that issue orders saying “the people of province X must plant 1,000 acres and generate 100,000 bushels of corn,” ignorant of the fact that province X is experiencing a drought. By harnessing feedback loops (elections), it ensures that a defective leader is removed from power.
Was Churchill right? Is democracy a better tool than others? Undoubtedly. We need only look at the former Soviet Union or the (sadly) current North Korea to realize that one can do worse than democracy.
Why democracy works
Democracy works … at least better than some other solutions.
What does it get right?
Leftists, from the somewhat-reputable communist punk hanging out in front of local 7-11 and begging, all the way down to FDR, often spin schemes to control the prices of goods. There are multiple flaws in their schemes, but perhaps the least well understood one is that they are attempting to destroy information. Imagine a home heated by a furnace where the electrical line from the thermostat to the furnace is cut. How can the furnace possibly know what to do? It will heat the house either too much or too little. And so in the Soviet Union, where there were no prices to gather distributed information and direct it to those people who needed it, there was always too much or too little. Too many potatoes, or, if you prefer, too little labor to bring in the potato harvest.
Once you know to look for it, the phenomenon of muddied control appears in all sorts of places, and under various names. It’s the principal-agent problem when the taxpayer hires police, who then refuse to provide useful statistics to their theoretical masters, or when investors hire a CEO, who then spins the news to his advantage.
And thus we can see the salient benefit of democracy: it provides some feedback, no matter how meager and how infrequently, that tells the leaders what the populace thinks of their policies.
Some feedback is better than no feedback, and democracy is the only system yet invented that gives regular feedback to the government, thus correcting some of its errors.
Why democracy doesn’t work
In what ways does democracy fail?
First, as noted above, many people vote as an expressive act. The typical Obama voter knew nothing of his policies, but wanted to be “part” of “something”. There are all sorts of cultural and emotional connotations associated with Team Pepsi, and people want to affiliate themselves with those signals. Team Coke is no better: many Republican voters are in favor of a culture of God, Flag, and Apple Pie, and cast a vote for the GOP as an expressive act, without knowing or caring the actual positions of the candidates they vote for.
Second, we are rationally ignorant: even if every voter chose to vote based on policy, not emotions, our individual contribution to the outcome of an election is insanely close to zero, and — at some level — we all know this. Thus, almost none of us bothers to educate ourselves about the candidates and their positions. This is, individually, a smart choice.
Third, democracy has the principal-agent problem: we voters send politicians to Washington DC for — well, for whatever purposes we have. We hope that, once there, they will do our bidding…and we expect to motivate them to do that bidding by using the threat of our future votes and future campaign donations. But a lot is hidden in that “voters hope to motivate them”. Because voters don’t have time or inclination to monitor politicians, and because they tend to vote for expressive purposes rather than policy purposes (think of all the anti-war Democrats who support Obama and his various undeclared overseas wars), politicians need only do just enough to appear to serve the voters, while actually pursuing their own policies.
Fourth, we humans are hyperbolic discounters. Given the promise of one marshmallow now over two in five minutes, we choose the one now. Is it any surprise that we, en masse, repeatedly vote for the politicians who promise us bread and circuses today, and a bill that won’t come due for … a while?
Fifth, democracy has the public choice problem. There are many issues which affect each of us very little — ten cents per person in extra taxes for program X, or three dollars per person more in the price of a commodity because of trade barrier Y, or a slight bit of extra hassle in doing thing Z. These hassles, collectively, destroy a lot of value in our lives, but individually, harm us very little. However, these small barnacles did not randomly accrete on the body politic — each is placed there by the dedicated lobbying of some group that benefits quite a lot from the tax, regulation, or trade barrier. Ethanol in our gasoline harms all of us a little, but helps a small influential group quite a lot. The outrageous salaries of some tenured public school teachers harms all of us a little, but helps a small influential group quite a lot. As long as one small group benefits from a regulation, they will be motivated to secure an outsized influence on politicians. And they will succeed.
Sixth, democracy results in negative externalities and the tragedy of the commons. In a world with robust property rights, if I see that I can make a profit by mining gold and dumping the tailings on your property, my plan can only go forward if you and I come to an agreement on how much I’ll pay you for that right. The better tier of environmentalists are fond of noting that the market is a wonderful tool, but there are some unowned things (they’ll cite the carbon content of the atmosphere, or ocean fisheries) that are not owned, and therefore which do not factor into economic calculations. The result of something having a cost, but not actually showing up on the ledgers, is that it is over-consumed, or over-polluted. This is a coherent argument, but it applies to more than just the atmosphere and the oceans — it also applies to untitled, undocumented, unowned things like cultural capital, an educated populace, and low-crime neighborhoods. When politicians can create “profit” for themselves and for their campaign donors by taking from some other group, they face some minor resistance. When politicians can create “profit” for themselves and for their campaign donors by taking from an off-books account like “cultural capital”, they have no effective resistance at all.
Seventh, “democracies” (in the broad sense of the modern western state ) are run less by the politicians than by the permanent mandarin class. Despite the US Constitution enumerating the powers of the legislature, declaring that anything that wasn’t enumerated was forbidden, and failing to enumerate “may delegate powers to a bureaucracy,” the US legislature continually delegates its powers to unelected, unionized, unfireable civil servants. This is a bargain that delivers benefits for every important class of a modern democracy (i.e. the political class and the government employee class): politicians generate permanent voting blocs that know what side their bread is buttered on, and can use the bureaucracies to deliver policies to important constituencies (e.g. the Sierra Club, corn farmers, etc.) while also having plausible deniability when it comes to the ire of the voters (“there’s nothing I can do; the EPA did it!”).
Eighth, the government controls the schools (Head Start, kindergarten, elementary, high school, and — via funding with strings attached — colleges, graduate schools, and medical schools, including private ones), and so it controls what is taught. Which is to say, it controls both what students think and what the the Overton Window describing the limits of acceptable thought is.
Ninth, the government is just one party in an informal, emergent web of like-minded institutions (known in Nrx circles as ‘The Cathedral’). Citizens are educated by unionized ideologically monolithic teachers, watch movies produced by ideologically monolithic Hollywood, watch TV news and comedy-news produced by the same, use search engines that prune, derank, and purge unacceptable content, purchase books and games from e-tailers that do the same, are forced to obey regulations that are written by lifetime government bureaucrats and enforced by lifetime government praetorians, and have their disagreements with the government ruled on by yet more government employees. At no point during the day — from searching the web to buying a shirt to reading the news — does a citizen have an experience that is unmediated by the web of campaign donors, NGOs, bureaucrats, teachers, and culturally approved entertainers. Thus, even if democracy (in the sense of voting) worked, the choices, knowledge, and opinions that give rise to political choices are all so constrained by the operation of the government, that no real dissent or fresh thinking is possible. We will always vote for either Coke or Pepsi; the very idea of Sprite is dangerous to consider (and the suggestion “tomato juice,” being so far outside the consensus, elicits nothing but blank stares or nervous laughter as the silent alarm under the desk is pushed).
Why democracy is unreformable
Democracy pulls a very clever trick that previous authoritarian regimes were not smart enough to invent: it subverts dissent by channeling it into the democratic process. Every time a libertarian votes for Ron Paul or a conservative for Pat Buchanan, not only does God kill a kitten, but some actual anger and disgust that could have worked against the system is instead channeled into upholding the system.
Further, even if in some electoral spasm we did elect a government that a libertarian or conservative could abide, and/or one that Thomas Jefferson would recognize as being remotely American in character, we already know how it would end.
Computer Science and operations research use the concept of a “state machine”: a mathematical abstraction that shows how one state of a system can flow into another. The transitions are crisply delineated. Red lights turn green, green lights turn yellow, and yellow lights turn red … but yellow lights never, ever turn green.
We have two hundred years of data on how democracies (American and otherwise) transition over time. They start out with limited powers and limited budgets. They soon extend the franchise, then extend it again. Then they grow their budgets, grow their power, and grow more socialist…but they never go into reverse. Sometimes they are replaced by dictatorships (e.g. Weimar Germany, Chile), and those dictatorships are in turn replaced by lean democracies, but democracies themselves never shrink themselves.
Green lights turn yellow. Yellow lights turn red. Red lights turn green.
And yellow lights never, ever turn green.
What can replace democracy
Perhaps democracy is the best system that can be designed for our purposes, and we have to live with its flaws.
But perhaps not.
Because the origin of neoreaction (blog essays by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Curtis Yarvin and former University of Warwick philosopher Nick Land) focuses more on the problem of democracy than solutions, there are several schools of neoreactionary thought, ranging from the juvenile to the disreputable to the interesting.
Let’s imagine the characteristics of an ideal system that does not suffer democracy’s flaws:
- achieves good ends (better than democracy) with regard to respect for human rights, rational foreign policy, rational domestic policy, limited budgets, and/or limited power
- does not depend on the rationality of the citizens
- does not depend on the self-education of the citizens on esoteric political topics
- does not, in short, depend on the citizens at all
- does not suffer from the “state machine problem”: will not quickly degenerate into something worse (e.g. democracy)
Anarcho-capitalists such as myself suggest that a David Friedman-esque polycentric legal order, where there is no true government and all services — including legal services — are provided by free market competitors, achieves most of these goals.
The core problem with anarcho-capitalism is the state machine: there’s no reason to believe that even if the US Government disappeared today and were replaced by competing service providers tomorrow, that it would stay gone.
The forces that subverted the absolutely minimal US government organized under the Articles of Confederation and replaced it with a larger government under the Constitution in 1789 (wealthy bondholders looking to get paid) would still exist.
The forces that subverted the pre-Civil War US government and turned it into a centralized ruler of states, not merely a collection of them (evangelical Massachusetts progressives) would still exist.
The forces that subverted the early 20th century US government and turned it into a regulatory state (again, evangelical New England progressives) would still exist.
No, as much as it pains me to say it, my dream of an anarcho-capitalist order in America is unrealistic.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and a United States without a government is a power vacuum.
Something will fill it; the trick is to engineer a system that occupies the space, fills the ecological niche, refuses the high ground to the enemy … and yet does minimal harm, and does not grow.
The proposals are many, and center around, variously, Singaporean or Chilean style light-touch autocracy, a dissolution of the US into a “patchwork” of small countries covering the map (each just strong enough to defend itself from its neighbors), corporate ownership of the state apparatus (which incentivizes the owners to reduce waste and maximize utility), and others.
In line with Bastiat’s “seen and the unseen,” or Robin Hanson’s “near mode and far mode,” it’s much easier for us to see both the benefits and the flaws in democracy than it is to see the flaws in systems that don’t yet exist.
Neoreaction may be an intellectual circle-jerk, or it may be the early rumblings of something new and exciting.
… or perhaps it’s both.
Regardless, in an era where neither right nor left have anything useful or serious to contribute to the debate and merely argue about what epicycles and what flavor of soda syrup should be mixed with water, I find it a refreshing political ferment.
If it’s sometimes too raucous and way too distasteful, forgive it; it’s young.
This was, no kidding, quite an excellent article. Well done indeed.
That said, I hope that it will not be taken amiss if I offer a few suggestions that could make it more suitable for publication in an esteemed online journal like The Federalist. Namely, I couldn’t help but notice that you failed to mention:
> The installation of hereditary absolute Catholic monarchy
> Personal wealth caps
> Jews (but I repeat myself)
> “Holocaust” revisionism
> Control of female sexuality
I have no doubt that in remedying these omissions you will strike all the closer to TRUE neoreaction, as it is today understood. Thanks!
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Is this a troll post? You’re completely missing the point.
As you’re an SSC-er I’ll have mercy. It’s a heads-up. Multiple neoreactionaries have described how their views have developed on the above topics. I consider that so-called development a failure, one which many might avoid by turning a clear eye upon the results. As Clark has written perhaps the most accessible introduction to neoreaction yet, it would be absolutely remiss of me not to provide a (very gentle) warning.
Now, if I really wanted to troll, I’d recommend jim’s blog as the next step…
I am referring to changes in the views of people who already considered themselves neoreactionaries. It is true that core, or early, neoreaction has little to say about these things.
everything on that list is more vanilla #Rx then #NRx.
Worse – it reads like shit-tier WN prole crap.
Prole WNs are all atheists, protestants or neopagans, so the trad cat monarchy stuff doesn’t quite fit .
Neoreaction is ultimately about the truth (not respectability, obviously enough), and so we pursue the truth wherever it may lead us.
If you want to steelman democracy, you shouldn’t gloss over how providing every citizen the option to participate gives it a legitimacy afforded to few other systems.
I do not think that political legitimacy is a thing.
I’m halfway willing to accept “the mandate of Heaven”, though.
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Moldbug covered this by pointing out that democracy gives voters the feeling of power without providing any actual power, analogous to the way pornography provides the feeling of sex without providing any actual sex.
Legitimacy, sure – but it’s a sham: it provides a veneer of legitimacy without providing…
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What are you 12?
Porn is also about fantasy and exploring. You people literally are the MS Word Clippy.
Or like how the lottery makes people feel rich.
In my experience, the businesses that are big and insulated from competition get horribly corrupt and inefficient.
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Perhaps ‘horribly’ should be left out. But I keep hearing about crooked and wasteful spending on IT in a bank that’s really a small operation (3000 employees)
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States have to compete with other states for residents. There’s your competition.
Not if they shake hands.
>Anarcho-capitalists such as myself suggest that a David Friedman-esque polycentric legal order, where there is no true government and all services — including legal services — are provided by free market competitors, achieves most of these goals.
>The core problem with anarcho-capitalism is the state machine: there’s no reason to believe that even if the US Government disappeared today and were replaced by competing service providers tomorrow, that it would stay gone.
I thought David Friedman spent time arguing that market forces would tend towards keeping private providers of law and defense in an economically efficient libertarian-ish equilibrium, rather than governments’ tendency to bloat. In fact, I would say that is Friedman’s key innovative contribution to anarcho-capitalist thought.
You don’t have to accept David Friedman’s arguments as slam dunks (and he reasonably puts in his own caveats), but “no reason to believe” from an ancap who explicitly suggests a Friedman-esque system? I’m confused. Is this hyperbole?
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What, no crab pictures?
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Where can one read about a tangible path from here to there?
None exists. Iceberg dead head. After the current ship of state sinks, we’ll see what’s left and go from there.
Neoreactionaries would probably advocate for passivism:
The idea is to first build institutions that are worthy of holding the power. Whether this is doable or being done is unknown at this time though.
So, what about Futarchy? (Roughly, government by prediction market.) I’m still kind of surprised it hasn’t caught on more in neoreactionary circles.
Like the terrorism prediction market?
Stop trying to be clever, Beavis. It doesn’t work.
> “Stop trying to be clever, Beavis. It doesn’t work.”
We’re talking about automated systems here. A cross-eyed hamster could come up with something better than Hayden’s “bomb anyone who shuts off their phone” strategy.
I always describe neoreaction as what happens when libertarian transhumanists switch from Mises to Marinetti.
Great post. I think the content here successfully summarizes at least a dozen or so winding Moldbug essays.
While you thoroughly described in detail the drawbacks of leftist populism (hyperbolic discounting, etc.), I would add one point to the critique: in it’s crusade to diffuse and separate authority, democracy in practice merely transfers immense power to those with the ability to organize large blocks of the voting population. This might be called the ‘Hitler principle’.
Of course, our mandarin civil service system has mostly alleviated that particular security hole.
The common misconception of democracy is that if you vote, you are supporting the state and responsible for the results. People like to stroke their egos with moral pronouncements as if tying a bunch of becauses and therefores together with a bit of yelling they can both be pro-democracy or anti-democracy, depending on their bent. Anyone past the age of thirty-five understands a system that does not follow the will of the people is by definition a gamble not an expressive act. Therefore (aha!), there can be no moral association with voting, if it’s a gamble. A moral claim requires that the action have a significantly predictable, specific, reliable, or implied result. No vote has ever had that quality.
I support democracy not because it’s the best of the worst, but because I despise efficiency disguised, however thinly, as effectiveness. This shit takes work. Or to put it another way:
If you don’t take care of the poor yourself, you are supporting the state by leaving that vacuum open and are responsible for the results.
Obviously the real world is a bit more subtle than this, but I’d rather show than tell, so I’d rather be busy coding than blogging about what I should code. Responsibility is a global phenomenon, whereas duty is individual. You have a choice to take responsibility and roll up your sleeves because there are no guarantees. You are required to fulfill duties which you contracted to receive some benefit for. But the crazy thing is: responsibility is in reality’s context, duty is in an occupational context. Reality trumps contracts.
I have not seen any program in the reactionary space that mobilizes people to solve problems, to share successes and admit failures. Democracy, real democracy does not seek perfection, it seeks participation. The fact that people associate democracy with voting is not a slam against democracy. It’s the result of that Camelot view of government, which government promotes. I can vote with the ballot every 1461 days. I can vote with my hands, my wallet, my voice the other 1460.
Effectiveness requires commitment. Efficiency requires cleverness and a book tour.
You talk about feedback loops. Loops have a time scale and an effect delay. What determines the time scale and the delay is what we do in those 1460 days.
We vote only because government is far away and the nature of mass society is that it’s necessary to have boundaries to preserve advances against fetishes and fads. But the heartbeat of society and the activation and delivery of what the vote represents comes from our daily actions.
Saying that voting is expressive or ignorant 1) ignores those who vote consciously and on principle, and 2) completely ignores those who ACT consciously and on principle and accomplish far more than the vote.
Voting is tying your shoelaces. You can run barefoot if you like. Let me know how that works out.
What you write is interesting, So in your opinion, the main issue with a democratic society is the culture?(I’m sorry if I misread you, English isn’t my native language)
That sounds like the average argument of “people get the government they deserve”.
The United States is not and was never supposed to be a democracy. A democratic form of government yes. A REPUBLIC of SOVEREIGN STATES. With a federal government severely limited to enumerated powers. And states and cities and counties are easier to control, being closer to the voters. But two presidents and 8 congresses ruined all that. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The two worst presidents the United States has ever had. Worse by far than Nixon or Carter. Nixon and Carter were pikers. Lincoln and Roosevelt and compliant Congresses and USSC allowed the bright shining promise to fail. And today we are paying the price for their failures.
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Yawn. Is anyone else thoroughly sick and tired of that cuckservative talking point about being a republic not a democracy?
First, we’ve already heard it a billion times. No-one cares. If the magic incantation was going to work, it would have worked by now. Second, it’s a false dilemma (it’s entirely possible for a country to be both). Third, the US was always conceived as a democracy: it’s always had elections, ergo, it’s always been a democracy in the common apprehension of the term, with the only change over time being the extent of the franchise.
The re-reactionary position is that democracy:
1. implies big givernment
2. is mob rule where 51% get to abuse the other 49%
It’s pointless either way since it means they are couch voters trying for the clever plan.
Meanwhile others do all the work.
Jim, your wrong, Tim McD is correct. The difference is in who votes not the voting itself. Go back and read Aristotle on the types of government. Democracy is the worst. But a Republic has a chance. If the voters again become corrupt though then it also fails.
Democracy permits removal of bad government and bad leaders without violence, as Karl Popper pointed out.
Popper was wrong. (How did you get to your current age and not figure that out?)
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Opens the door, but no one’s going through it because y’all are voting from the couch.
Re-reaction is not statesmanship. It is couchmanship.
Except it doesn’t.
Unless you look at:
– South American democracies
– Middle Eastern democracies
– ancient Athens
I would be very curious to find out what percentage of democratic regimes ended violently vs. peacefully? But I suspect that the ones with peaceful transitions maintain that peace by having “meta-regimes” whose rule persists across multiple election cycles. This can be achieved through:
1. Having a one-party state (i.e. an oligarchy, see China).
2. Having a multi-party state with a tight reign on the Overton Window (i.e. a multi-cameral oligarchy, see European states)
3. Having strong non-democratic institutions (i.e. an oligarchy, see British House of Lords).
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Um, how did you manage to write an entire post about NRx without mentioning Moldbug?
1. this is a post explaining an idea without distracting from the concepts by involving the obscure details of its originators
2. what you’re doing right now:
I’d just like to interject for moment. What you’re refering to as Linux, is in fact, GNU/Linux, or as I’ve recently taken to calling it, GNU plus Linux. Linux is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX.
Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called Linux, and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project.
There really is a Linux, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. Linux is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine’s resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Linux is normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU with Linux added, or GNU/Linux. All the so-called Linux distributions are really distributions of GNU/Linux!
He did mention Moldbug. “Curtis Yarvin.” Right there in black and white when he introduces the concept of neoreaction.
Largest missing piece from my PoV: Neocameralism. Notable because that is the positive alternative to democratic rule proposed by NRx. (It’s neither a ‘monarchy’ nor ‘feudalism’ — at least as commonly conceived.)
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“achieves good ends (better than democracy) with regard to respect for human rights, rational foreign policy, rational domestic policy, limited budgets, and/or limited power”
What is rational depends on your priors. Unfortunately, a lot of people in this country have as one of their priors that the Union must be preserved, and if that means bringing the right-wing nutjobs to heel, then so be it.
Which is why I like to describe myself as a voluntaryist. Live and let live. If you want 300m people to live together, you’re going to have to boil the legal system down to the lowest common denominator.
But, people can’t leave other people alone. And this is how you get woodchippers.
There’s steelmanning, and then there’s false advertising. This is a gross overstatement. Democracy is the only system yet invented that gives regular feedback to the government in such manner such that each feederbacker’s feedback is counted equally (and which is therefore obviously stupid), thus almost surely never correcting some of its errors.
There is absolutely no requirement that anyone’s feedback be taken completely seriously in democracy, only that it be counted and when ignored explained as to why.
Democracy isn’t about influence. It’s about creating a paper trail.
Reactionary cleverness has no paper trail.
Votes *are* counted equally, and we have an army of at least 100k sunday school teachers to make sure of that.
Democracy is absolutely about cleverness: He who best manufactures consent wins.
“Reactionary cleverness has no paper trail.” -Said like it’s a bad thing?
Actually there is. The presence of redistribution creates an incentive to regard all parasites as equals to each other and their hosts. That creates a culture of mendacity where the lie of equality is touted. Mendacity, just like your self-deception when you say, “There is absolutely no requirement that anyone’s feedback be taken completely seriously in democracy, only that it be counted and when ignored explained as to why.”
“but also where the State has no well-defined limits to its authority…”
Patently false. Federal and state constitutions specify limits as to the tasks it is and it is not able to perform. Federal and state laws are constructed to provide strict guidelines, yet be flexible enough within those guidelines to make decisions that take into account a myriad of factors.
“where there are vast bureaucracies that decide everything from how much water a toilet can use per flush to what factories should get built, and where one-third of the economy is under state control.”
Those vast bureaucracies have been given the authority by the people to create rules and regulations they deem important.
“A neoreactionary does not want to reform democracy, but instead wants to rip it out wholesale.”
Now why in the world would citizens want to be controlled by a different elite, one predicated upon either an aristocracy or by a monarchy, as proposed by some neo-reactionaries, who are assumed to be more “moral”? Who composes of this aristocracy/monarchy? What are their qualifications? How does one propose to rip democracy from its roots? How will dissension among anti-neo-reactionaries be dealt with by the newly installed ruling class should they gain power?
Neoreactionary sounds all wonderful in theory, but putting into practice brings all together a host of foreseen and unforeseen problems. In essence, it’s an intellectual’s wet dream.
“Well, we’ve defined democracy…”
You have defined democracy based on your on confirmation biases and projections which, in turn, justifies your own approach to governance.
“Let us formalize the very best argument in favor of democracy’s effectiveness (“steel manning” it), so that when we defeat it in the field of battle, none can say that it was not a fair fight.”
Assuming that you are being completely objective in developing the most sound position of democracy.
“Democracy is, properly understood — and properly cheerleaded for — a tool of social coordination that harnesses local knowledge and feedback loops to generate policy decisions.”
Democracy also incorporates the explicit conviction that citizens, living in a defined area, agree through a social contract to develop regulations and rules by majority rule for the general welfare of society, with checks and balances put in place to enable minority opinions to be taken into serious account. Furthermore, citizens who live in a democracy fully comprehend that decisions made through this step by step process will inevitably lead to a group of people not fully satisfied with those decisions, and that their grievances will be able to be aired in the public square, with opportunities within that system to address those concerns.
Conveniently leaving out these important elements does not constitute one’s “very best argument in favor of democracy’s effectiveness”.
“It’s the principal-agent problem when the taxpayer hires police, who then refuse to provide useful statistics to their theoretical masters, or when investors hire a CEO, who then spins the news to his advantage.”
Neo-reactionaries are no different when it comes to propaganda and damage control.
“Leftists, from the somewhat-reputable communist punk hanging out in front of local 7-11 and begging, all the way down to FDR, often spin schemes to control the prices of goods.”
In a word, no. Business owners, seeking to maximize profits and minimize costs, design ways to control the wages and prices of goods through the democratic process to cater to their interests, as does every other group.
“The typical Obama voter knew nothing of his policies, but wanted to be “part” of “something””
Do you have any specific evidence to back up your generalization? You assume this statement to be factual, then proceed to argue using that position that has not been properly vetted.
Who is the “typical Obama voter”? What proof is there to thoroughly demonstrate they know “nothing of his policies”?
“Thus, almost none of us bothers to educate ourselves about the candidates and their positions.”
Again, how do YOU, compared to other people, definitively believe this trend is factual in nature?
“Because voters don’t have time or inclination to monitor politicians, and because they tend to vote for expressive purposes rather than policy purposes.”
Tripling down on statements without substance ain’t no way to engage in discourse.
“Given the promise of one marshmallow now over two in five minutes, we choose the one now…”
In what specific context? Under what circumstances?
The rest of your diatribe follows the same cut and paste arguments proffered by other neb-reactionaries without the requisite intellectual reasoning. It’s merely a list of ingredients without giving the cook exactly what recipe they will create.
“Eighth, the government controls the schools…”
What will neoreactionary governments control? Will they enable the people to decide what they want to teach and learn even if those principles run counter to neoreactionary principles? What will happen if little boys and girls chose not abide by the policies instilled by their neoreactionary masters? Will they be brainwashed or be given the freedom to think for themselves?
“Citizens are educated by unionized ideologically monolithic teachers, watch movies produced by ideologically monolithic Hollywood, watch TV news and comedy-news produced by the same, use search engines that prune, derank, and purge unacceptable content, purchase books and games from e-tailers that do the same…”
Will such things be prohibited by those who espouse neo-reactionary lines of thinking? How will neo-reactionaries disseminate information? How will neo-reactionaries sanction entertainment?
“Anarcho-capitalists such as myself suggest that a David Friedman-esque polycentric legal order, where there is no true government and all services — including legal services — are provided by free market competitors, achieves most of these goals.”
ASSUMES it achieves most of these goals.
“The proposals are many, and center around, variously, Singaporean or Chilean style light-touch autocracy, a dissolution of the US into a “patchwork” of small countries covering the map (each just strong enough to defend itself from its neighbors), corporate ownership of the state apparatus (which incentivizes the owners to reduce waste and maximize utility), and others.”
In other words, even neo-reactionaries are also at odds as to how to fix the problem, so should Americans political system miraculously fall tomorrow, there would be no viable alternative to be put in place.
Say, what ever happened to neo-reactioanary wunderkind Bryce Laliberte?
No political structure transcends the character of the polity that consents to it.
All I read are proposals to endlessly square this circle, and thus are nothing but sophistry.
The only hope for a period of improvement is smaller polities. Some may evolve to be less sanguinary, that’s all. Otherwise, until humans evolve to be something different, the sine wave curve will continue. In fact, since every living thing (and aggregate thereof) changes, a stable, static political ideal is silly. No such thing could ever exist. Success by definition sows the seeds of failure, and vice versa.
Sit back and enjoy the ride, or the spectacle of the Clowns’ Parade as it passes. There is no alternative in the real, living world.
The purpose of revolutionary and reactionary logic is to domesticate the population. The elephant in the room is: Who will pull the levers and drive the forklifts that give life to all these designs?
At the end of the day it’s people who sink their teeth into the tasks at hand and exert influence through their expertise and commitment to goals, patience and solidarity with those who suffer. The rest are jesters entertaining wannabe jesters.
“ Those vast bureaucracies have been given the authority by the people to create rules and regulations they deem important.”
I remember well the day I decided the IRS, EPA, etc., needed to create some important rules and regulations. It’s why I voted for them.
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“Patently false. Federal and state constitutions specify limits as to the tasks it is and it is not able to perform. Federal and state laws are constructed to provide strict guidelines, yet be flexible enough within those guidelines to make decisions that take into account a myriad of factors.”
Many of those state and federal laws, including the vast bureaucracies you adore, would have been considered unambiguously unconstitutional in 1916. And the laws and regulations in 1916 would have been considered illegal in 1816. Hence, no well defined limits to authority.
“Those vast bureaucracies have been given the authority by the people to create rules and regulations they deem important.”
Incredible. You just mirrored the motte-and-bailey which Clark describes in his post. (“Democracy gives vast powers to an unelected bureaucracy, which somehow has increased the scope of its constitutional limits inexorably over time. But it’s just the the will of the people you guys!!!)
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You know very well that’s not how democracy works.
You people don’t even know how to be proper neoreactionaries! A true neoreactionary would not try to absurdly argue against popular representation on the grounds that it doesn’t represent the popular will. A true neoreactionary would scorn the people, believe that the masses are stupid, and therefore argue that rule by the enlightened few is desirable precisely because it does not represent the popular will, and that violent suppression of the popular will, of the sort favoured by Carlyle in Jamaica, is not just necessary but desirable.
The spectacle of libertarians cross dressing as neoreactionaries, or vice-versa, while simultaneously pretending to be the true defenders of the popular will, is too absurd for words.
Or in other words: An Algorithm. Clark, you’re a constitutionalist to the bitter end. There is no (earthly) law above the judgement of the sovereign. What law can prevent the growth of the sovereign? The laws of physics. Or, at least, the laws of economics.
What prevents AAPL from gobbling up the entire universe? Antitrust law–the power of the government from preventing it getting any larger?!! Surely not. AAPL is only as big as it because it benefits from its cozy relationship with the sovereign, who being a good buddy builds many barriers to competition on behalf of AAPL.
In Ancapistan, AAPL would not be a tenth as big as it is. Why not? Because it would not be profitable to be that large. And by the exact same laws of physics (or economics), neither would the behemoth state. States that provide, safe, sane, and secure government can be operated profitably. States that decide to get into the lending biz, car building biz, and the toilet-tank flushing capacity biz cannot be.
Actually, it would be equally large. A ruling class is a ruling class, regardless of left or right trappings. Only idiots are motivated by short term profit. The market is a circle jerk between bottom feeders. Competition is limited to the cattle on the chessboard. The rest have a long view in mind. In Ancapistan, the idiots would sniff chase each others’ butts and chase each others’ tails, while those truly in charge would form lobbies at the local tavern instead of Congress. The damn thing would look the same. As long as couchies keep designing there’s no one actually doing anything with the designs.
Anti-democracy is like anti-prostitution. Idiots prefer the appearance of government being gone, than to see it out in the open.
What simpleton would even have a clue as to researching invisible tavern lobbies?
We already have Ancapistan. It’s called Nonprofit Dark Money.
You can’t be seriously suggesting that less than 80 cents of every federal dollar spent is not to buy votes to keep in in power? Governments bloat to buy legitimacy. You don’t even need democracy to do it. Cf. Louis XIV-XVI. But democracy is the best–i.e., most expensive–way.
Everyone wants a political system made up of clones (of themselves.) Every proposal boils down to how to change teams, even the market-ordered one (because half the populace is below ave. IQ and certainly would prefer not to rely solely on the aptitudes with which they were born.)
Utopian fantasies are pandemic across the entire political spectrum. Only the dead are static; no stable political system is possible, and while one can posit many that would be improvements to our current swamp, it is equally silly to imagine that any future system will be consciously and rationally adopted.
Democracy is the central religious tenet in modern dogma. Sub-tenets include blank-slate anti-racist equalitarianism, misandrist feminism and magic dirt multiculturalism. NRx/DE insights are obvious in this regard. Diagnosis is nice, but politics is not pathology, it’s a genetic vice of humanity. It yields predicaments, not problems, and the former differs from the latter in not being subject to solutions, only cycles.
This is why “how do we get there (anywhere) from here?” is always a silly question. The Path ahead will arise spontaneously and no conditions will last. History & change won’t end until the last man on Earth dies, after which no one will give a rat’s ass.
Typical couch ranting.
Ability doesn’t matter when the only ones who dare to contribute are the amateurs everyone derides.
Fuck meritocracy. It’s just another way to take credit for the silent work (LIFE EXPERIENCE) of millions.
Keep deluding yourself. NRx and DE are very useful in seeing the assholes behind the curtain; those who fancy themselves smart enough to guide human society to Utopia are, however, the same assholes. Cultivate your own garden, Watner wrote, because otherwise you’re neglecting your own in favor of telling your neighbor how to cultivate his.
I will continue to take care of my own, recognizing that my personal OODA loop is what matters to me, not debating how to turn my town, state or nation-state into the Garden of Eden. And if you truly wish to fuck meritocracy, please be sure to do it anally because by definition you just stated you care not for quality and we don’t need your genes propagated. By all means volunteer for the special mention category of the Darwin Awards named after David Ruenzel.
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Quality is for the paranoid. Experience is the prize, not quality.
I really don’t think the issue is the political system. It’s the character of those who live within the policital system. If we are slaves to our passions, we will make a mess of any social structure. The market is awesome and anarcho capitalism would work great for saints but so would democracy. They might fail for slightly different reasons for sinners but they will still fail. The question is what social structure has the most pliability to allow for the variety of saints and sinners. To me, for now, it’s about decentralizing everything – political power, entertainment, economic power (in the form of the Fed). If we are many but reasonably strong in each place, then we can resist the forces that have destroyed this country at our own pace.
Or as Hoppe put it Europe composed of “ten thousand Lichtenstein is preferable to the EU” and the best way to limit the government is via having “the ability to move away.”
Until Persia comes in, or Rome, or the Huns.
Well, duh. Nothing lasts forever. However I’ll gladly take a few hundred years of order and stability over perpetual low-level civil war.
It might be worth mentioning that as far as replacing the current system goes, conservatives want to go back to the 1950s, or the 1850s, or the 1780s, neoreactionaries just want to go back a bit further. Like using an older version of software for stability issues. Exactly like using an older version of software for stability issues. There’s plenty of legitimately great old software manuels for those systems too, so it’s not completely outrageous.
Also probably worth mentioning are Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Thomas Carlyle, for the libertarian to ancap to NRx connection.
Stability? What, like how in England Catholics would ascend the throne and oppress Protestants, and then later a Protestant would ascend the throne and oppress Catholics? Literally a no-win situation for Christians. And that’s partly why the pilgrims left to found America in the first place.
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If this is an accurate summary of what the #NRx crowd really thinks, then I don’t see what makes it any different from what countless economists and political theorists have been pointing out for decades already.
Voters are ignorant and irrational. Dispersed costs and concentrated benefits lead to democracy caving in to special interests. Democracy as a whole is literally a sledgehammer for stupidity.
So now my question is this: What makes Neoreaction so special?
All I see coming out of the #NRx tag on Twitter is people hijacking research on human differences for their own nefarious causes. Or am I confusing them with Alt-right? Or are those two groups the same?
Or am I missing something here I need to know before I criticize this area of thought?
This was a good article but it is missing a few things and thus your questions are fair.
What makes Nrx special is its philosophy of history and theory of politics – look for Patron Theory of Politics. Secondly, as Nick Land pointed out, neocameralism is the positive system.
To me, this kind of objection (things can change) could apply to almost any political viewpoint. You want a Swedish social democracy? What if it changes over time? You want Monarchy? What if people change their minds and kill the royal family? But it is a possibility that anarcho-capitalists should take into account.
David Friedman dealt with this objection in chapter 39 of “The Machinery of Freedom” (The Right Side of the Public Goods Trap) where he points out that the same incentives that cause government to grow right now (dispersed costs and concentrated benefits) would invert if someone wanted to reintroduce a true government under an anarcho-capitalist setting.
He argues that reintroducing a new government would be a case of dispersed benefits (if there *were* any at all) and concentrated costs put on the person(s) that wanted to take on such an endeavor.
How well do you think Friedman’s argument fares? It sounds like what you’re referring to is the same argument Robert Nozick used to say private law would lead to a government without violating any rights in the process.
Hahaha. There are still people in 2016 who fantasize about Free Market and pretend like it works? 😀
Troll article 10/10
Relative to plausible alternatives.
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This article was neither well written nor well thought out. It was another example of Clark’s endless word salads of straw men, uneducated claims and simply false ideas. As usual, his dedication to tedium ensures pedantic excess, making it unproductive to bother a point by point rebuttal, but here’s a few highlights.
First we have Mr. “I’m not a conservative except when I say I am a conservative,” building the right wing straw man. “A better, pragmatic technology.” This of course in no way reflects the modern USA right wing view on Democracy, something we can see right now as they declare that the current officer elected to nominate supreme court justices should be blocked from doing so, should in fact not do his job and let them elect someone else they like better, but what’s important is that Clark is straw manning. He applies a false ideology in a blanket generalization, declares it wrong and uses that to try and set himself up for what’s supposedly “right.” Because he said so.
He does the same with the left, although is far more egregious in his error. He essentially claims the left sees Democracy as a popularity contest, despite social liberals being among the loudest voices to contest that form of voting. He makes claims about “typical” Obama voters, but Clark of course knows nothing about typical Obama voters. His generalization is invented, it has no informed, real world counterpart. He could not reference a study that supported it or even convincing hyperbole. And again we can see a clear error in this notion in the debates, where substance is non-existent at the lunatic Trump rallies, very much a popularity spectacle if there ever was one. And of course the straw man, by virtue of its nature is declared “wrong” again.
So then it turns to Clarkfenitions, where Clark pulls apparently arbitrary “facts” from word definitions to world history out of his hat, making up a world only loosely associated with reality.
“It’s a little tricky to answer, because “democracy” is a motte-and-bailey term. The motte (the core defensible meaning of the term) is that democracy is a system of selecting leaders by casting ballots.”
What in god’s name? A less precise definition could hardly have been drafted. Who cast the ballots? People, elected representatives? So if ten senators cast ballots, is that a democracy? Not by any sane or informed English definition, no. Hell, the leaders part doesn’t even hold water. The USA couldn’t “cast ballots” to select a president until people had voted to define just what a president did. Clark is simply wrong here, and he’s simply wrong because, as always he just makes shit up out of a mixture of what he’s decided emotionally to be true and what he’s loosely inferred from spending too much time on the internet. His “bailey” definition and his proposed straw men for what people dislike about it continue this trend.
“Leftists, from the somewhat-reputable communist punk hanging out in front of local 7-11 and begging, all the way down to FDR, often spin schemes to control the prices of goods. There are multiple flaws in their schemes, but perhaps the least well understood one is that they are attempting to destroy information. ”
This is at best drooling gibberish, at worst a flat out lie and as is typical, Clark goes scuttling off to the Soviet Union to try and demonstrate why it’s true, which pretty much ensures he’s lying and not just insane. Controlling a price, a value, does not eliminate information any more than using a fire department to control a fire eliminates information. And indeed all forms of government engage in this manipulation, from fire control to cost control to trying to control the core value of their currencies. Each and every form of government engages in this. It’s not key or core to democracy in any way save in Clark’s completely distracted imagination. This argument is pure claptrap of the lowest variety.
“Second, we are rationally ignorant: even if every voter chose to vote based on policy, not emotions, our individual contribution to the outcome of an election is insanely close to zero, and — at some level — we all know this. ”
I always wince at this, as it’s a clear indicator of someone with very, very little actual involvement in politics or voting, save only to mouth off. It comes from a popular attitude in the US where the only elections that one pays attention to are the ones the media forces into your homes, essentially national elections. By saying this Clark pretty much proves that he doesn’t bother himself with local elections, where participation, even simply voting, can have a profound impact. So Clark is, again, flat out wrong but in this instance it demonstrates a basic ignorance born of laziness and indifference.
Like I said, it goes on like this and it’s just sad to watch. Worse, like so many of his essays, he has almost nothing to say about the actual topic, neoreaction. He spends most of his time slandering other groups and presenting opinions laughably ridiculous.
It culminates in an undemonstrated declaration of the largely unexplored topic,
“Neoreaction may be an intellectual circle-jerk, or it may be the early rumblings of something new and exciting… or perhaps it’s both.”
Except that it’s demonstrably neither. First of all, there’s nothing intellectual about the latest whining white flight from the course of reality. It’s simply more confused, unhappy idiots on the internet of the MGTOW variety, people most will likely never ever even hear about unless they dedicate a fair amount of time to wallowing in net culture.
Secondly, it’s not new at all. As expressed over at Rational Wiki, where topics like this actually get coverage both comprehensive and at least coherently written, they make this very, very good point about the movement.
“”What I want is a good, strong monarchy with a tasteful and decent king who has some knowledge of theology and geometry and to cultivate a Rich Inner Life.
Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist of the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, fully anticipated the modern neoreactionary blogger by fifty years. Down to the fondness for Boethius.[wp] Sometimes, history starts as farce. It’s a fantastic novel that fully lives up to the hype. Neoreactionaries don’t find it funny at all. You’ll enjoy it.”
But then, unlike Clark, rationalwiki has contributors who actually tend to do research and write objectively.
“But then, unlike Clark, rationalwiki has contributors who actually tend to do research and write objectively.”
If that your post was meant to be satirical, please say so now. The quote above is making me wonder.
ENDLESS WORD SALADS
Methinks your critique is but thinly veiled fear of inequality. Remove the sputtering attacks, and there might be a sentence or two in there worth considering.
RationalWiki is rational… compared to the average person. Most if not all worship slavishly at the feet of Western Enlightenment thought.
I see you still haven’t come up with any practical solutions to the dilemmas you see, Clark.
Once you come up with an actual plan – or even just a vague guideline – of how you’d like current things replaced, be sure to let me know.
That sort of drivel was also spouted by people who thought that economies would collapse if slavery were to be abolished – or thaty demons would stalk the land if mandatory religion was abolished.
Autrement dit: every advance of individual liberty has been met with numbskull conformists who believed the tropes promulgated by the powerful (who stood to lose power if the advance of liberty was realised).
C’est a dire que I’m pretty sure you have never bothered to familiarise yourself with the copious (non-Utopian) literature on voluntaryism. Instead, you require, for some reason, that voluntaryists furnish a ‘blue-sky’ Utopian vision of the future.
Not so: all that is required is to point out that (1) coercion is wrong; and (2) the ‘public goods’ arguments for the State are an easily-disproved set of lies. From there, is follwos a fortiori that the State should be abolished, even if it results in a reduciton in per-capita income. (These are the same arguments as were propounded for the abolition of slavery: even if per capita income declined, abolishing slavery was the right thing to do).
And that’s before we get to the operational meat… that les pires gouverneront.
I write as someone who has admired you since the Popehat days, but who sadly takes the considered view that Via Angus is better informed about the problem of the front-eyes.
Nowhere in your impassioned piece (notice I didn’t say ‘screed’) did you mention three key refutations of the idiotic (religious) idea that democracy results in ‘representativeness’.
I am speaking – for those cursed with numeracy – of my ‘# Core Agruments Against Democracy’. Viz.:
Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem: that the aggregation of individual ordinal preferences will result in a ‘bad’ social preference map, even if the individual preferences are well-formed. Arrow (1950), “A Arrow, K.J. (1950). “A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare” (PDF). Journal of Political Economy 58 (4): 328–346. doi:10.1086/256963;
The Gibbard-SattherThwaite Theorem: that there is no mechanism for counting votes that is not either dictatorial or corruptible (through tactical voting – whereby a rational individual will falsify his preferences in order to further his interests); and (somewhat tangentially)
The Holmström’s Theorem: that there is no incentive system for a team of agents that lies on a stable budget mabifold that is (a) Pareto-Opitmal, and (b) a Nash (or Bayes-Nash) equilibrium
Those three things – taken together – are the stake through the heart of those who try to pretend that democracy has any representativeness.
If I didn’t have a natural disdain for primitive spooky stories, I would actually go further: if democracy is the vampire, then those three are a stake through its heart; a decapitation of its corpse; the stuffing of the head’s mouth with garlic; and the re-interment of the entire corpse-plus-head in fresh, flowing water (e.g., a river).
Yours in (theoretical, numerate, considered) anarchy…
I have some difficulty seeing the trouble in Arrow and Gibbard-Satterthwaite. They both seem to use the word “dictatorial” as an emotionally loaded argument when another word for the person in the same position might be “tiebreaker”: whatever the tiebreaker says, goes. Is it so important that a voting system not possibly result in one individual functioning as tiebreaker? I think not.
The problem with both Arrow and Gibbard-Satterthwaite (in terms of ‘dictatorial-ness’) is that when the number of alternatives is reasonably large (say, 5 or 6) it depends critically on where you start counting, and in what order you aggregate.
But leaving those aside, it’s absolutely not a ‘tie-break’ situation – ‘tie-break’ is just the ‘50% plus one’ criterion, reconfigured for a situation in which the winner accumulates less than 50% of the vote.
‘Dictatorial-ness’ is a situation in which the preferences of a single individual are always determinative: it’s the same voter, is the point.
“Median voter” maps are an attempt to skeeve past this problem – but ask yourself: Who is the ‘median’?
Think about a world where there are 3 groups – e.g., ‘Democrat’,’Republican’, ‘Abstain’ – of roughly equal size. If you start with ‘democrat’ then ‘abstain’ then ‘republican’, you end up with median preferences for ‘nobody’.
If you start with ‘abstain’ first, then the median preference is whoever you pick next. And so it goes.
The fact that median voter notions are critically dependent on the order of aggregation, means that they are nonsense (as far as conferring ‘legitimacy’ on the winner is concerned).
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Would Moldbug approve of the European Union and oppose a democratic uprising like the Brexit? The EU has all the advantages of anti-democratic rule by learned elites in a faraway city, and the UK has a good chance of making itself worse off (at least economically) by instituting dumb mercantilist/welfare-state policies voted on by its dumb masses.
I hope you read this comment even though you aren’t blogging lately. Twitter sucks, you might have noticed, so I’ve been trying to exchange ideas with people in a slightly more intelligent, or at least verbose, way.
A good summary, but I note that you’ve left out one of the main arguments for democracy made by SSC (and the one most persuasive to me), or at least reduced it to a strawman. The point of the ‘expressiveness’ argument is that people (at least most people) want to have some influence on government, or at least to be able to fight against it when it does something they don’t like. In a democracy, people who don’t like what the government is doing will try to organize a campaign to change the laws or replace the leaders, and since the government must have been elected, the current system must have the support of much of the population, so that for most people this will be enough. Compare this to monarchy or dictatorship, where the only way to oppose the current ruler is to attempt a coup or start a civil war, and if the ruler goes too far from what the people are willing to live with (which is more likely than in a system where at least 50% of the politically active population must have supported the rulers), either they will try to overthrow the ruler, or the ruler will try to avert this by oppressive policies to make resistance — or, in extreme cases, even dissent — impossible. (Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China are good examples of the latter case; see https://abandonedfootnotes.blogspot.com/2012/10/ten-thousand-melodies-cannot-express.html for details). Thus, whatever the deficiencies of democracy, it is superior to other forms of government in the important quality of reducing the risk of civil wars or the sorts of oppression used to avert coups.
Note, however, that this is also true of partial democracies where elected leaders have only partial control of the government, such as Britain for much of its history (where the House of Commons was elected, the House of Lords was controlled by the aristocracy, and the monarch still had significant power) or modern Iran (where candidates for elected office must be approved by the conservative religious leaders that control the other part of the government).