Mencius Moldbug, Lawrence Auster and the futility of conservatism

Moldbug and Auster have been engaged in a discussion here. The full discussion is well worth your time.

I believe the discussion perfectly illustrates Moldbug’s contention that conservatism is incapable of defeating progressivism. Since conservatism is progressivisms only enemy, we have ourselves a problem.

(Those of you who are familiar with Mr Auster’s positions will find the discussion particularly entertaining. For example, Mr Auster – who condemns John Derbyshire and Dennis Mangan as being insufficiently traditionalist – believes in using democratic means to defeat progressivism. If Messrs Derbyshire and Mangan are not traditional enough for Mr Auster, it’s unclear how he ever expects to gain the support of the majority of Americans).

Before I get to the part of the exchange that illuminates the failure of conservatism, you must indulge me a little. Moldbug’s initial comment is too good not to excerpt:

Therefore, my program is to find the truth first and the power later. This means that counting heads–one, ten, a thousand, a million–is for the present entirely superfluous and irrelevant. Counting heads is building democratic power–which is, essentially, military power. I would rather have ten people, all in possession of the same absolute truth, than ten million tea partiers who agree on nothing but glittering lies and myths. For my ten is a viable government in exile–if they somehow gained power, they would keep it–whereas your ten million have no real collective identity at all. Even if they grow to a hundred million and elect all the politicians in Washington, actual power will elude them, the bureaucrats will wrap them around their fingers, and they will evaporate, disappear, and become jokes, like all 20th-century American conservative movements.

When you have a viable program for ruling and a government in exile (ie, a real political party–every real political party is a government in exile), you have a structure which, unlike the tea parties, exudes *potential* power. It is off–completely out of power–but if you turned it on, it would work. This is naturally attractive to human beings, who all lust for power. Power is always fashionable. Fashion is always powerful. As a recent Rasmussen poll revealed, only 23% of Americans believe their government enjoys their consent–so why does it remain? Because there is no alternative. Create a viable alternative, and power will flow to it as water runs downhill.

To pursue in any such program, of course, you have to completely abandon your liberalism. You have to stop believing in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Flag, and all that crap–the entire American political pantheon. This is not to be replaced with nihilism, of course, but with an understanding of the deeper, older European tradition. . . .

The best way to uphold the Constitution is to burn it, for it has long since become a mockery of itself; its authors would tolerate no such fate. Your enemies believe in naked power. When they croak the Constitution at you, answer them with a gun butt to the jaw. It is their own secret language, which they understand perfectly.

I couldn’t resist quoting that, even though I want to focus on another part of the discussion. How can I resist, "When they croak the Constitution at you, answer them with a gun butt to the jaw." I cannot.

The discussion turns to Mr Auster’s contention that Obamacare is the death knell of American. Moldbug claims that the death bell (if you’ll forgive the analogy) has long since rung.

Here’s Moldbug:

The statist takeover of America? The statist takeover of America (ie, the transition from limited to unlimited government) happened in 1933. It’s impossible to resist it, because it already happened. As Garet Garrett wrote in 1938, "the revolution was." You might as well resist the fall of Rome. . . .

The Old Republic no longer exists. It’s impossible to resist its destruction. It was destroyed long before either of us was born. Those who destroyed it, just like those who destroyed the Roman Republic, preserved its forms. This was the best way to make sure it stayed destroyed. Because it ensured a steady supply of amnesic conservatives who would waste all their energies doing the impossible–trying to revive a corpse.

What does this mean, concretely? It means that America is no longer a democracy based on popular sovereignty, because real power belongs to permanent bureaucracies of Progressive design, in both judicial and executive branches, which are insulated by law from the popular will. Moreover, the controlling legal authority in America is "constitutional law," a body of precedent which has diverged completely and irreparably from the actual written Constitution. Thus, Republicans can win every election until doomsday, and gain no real power at all. Look at what happens in Arizona–the people make a feeble, symbolic attempt to exercise a basic political function, and some random judge bitch-slaps them. . . .

By participating–and encouraging others to participate–in this charade, you’re simply endorsing it. By opposing Obamacare through the ballot box, you may do a little bit to slow the advance of the glacier, but you’re doing a lot to prop up its legitimacy. If even a right-wing extremist like Larry Auster says that Washington, DC is the real, Constitutional, democratic government of America, it must be true.

Here’s Mr Auster:

When he says that the statist takeover of America took place in 1933, he displays, in the manner of a European intellectual, a frozen conceptualism that separates itself from reality, that refuses to look at reality. It is not true that the statist takeover of America took place in 1933. The statist takeover of America has been an ongoing process. Obamacare would turn America into a statist society in a sense infinitely worse than any statism we’ve had before this. But because, in his frozen, vain conceptualism, he believes that the statism is already fully in place, he devotes his mental energies to mocking those who are seeking to repeal Obamacare.

So, we’re to believe that socializing healthcare for (ever-expanding definition of) poor people and elderly is not a statist takeover, but extending socialized to some additional "poor" people is a takeover from which we will not recover? Mr Auster displays the futility of his own positions.

Albert Jay Nock and John T. Flynn opposed FDR’s reforms in the manner that Mr Auster proposes to oppose Obamacare. There’s a reason you’ve never heard of Messrs Nock and Flynn. They lost.

13 Responses to Mencius Moldbug, Lawrence Auster and the futility of conservatism

  1. ScottS says:

    Thanks for the link. I stopped reading Auster quite awhile ago, as he’s got far more arrogance than truth.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kalim Kassam, Brendan Ross. Brendan Ross said: RT @kalimkassam: Mencius Moldbug, Lawrence Auster and the futility of conservatism […]

  3. sconzey says:

    This was painful to read for me too… In fairness to Auster, Moldbug wasn’t going easy on him. Hosing someone down with 200-proof moldbuggery is no way to convince someone, however open their mind is.

    It annoys me that Auster fails to see that the idea of Christianity as a historically-successful kernel is entirely compatible with Christianity being true, and entirely compatible with “free will”.

    It’s as if he has a number of ‘game over’ buttons which completely turn him off an argument, however convincing. Moldbug, intentionally or otherwise, presses all of them.

  4. aretae says:

    I continue to insist that it was the reforms of 1913 that sealed the deal. 1933 was a necessary consequence of the 16th, 17th amendments to the constitution. In 1912, the US had a structurally weak federal government, and strong states. In 1914, the US had structurally weak states and a strong federal government. Once that happened, Moldbug’s inevitability rolls.

  5. Steve Johnson says:

    “In 1912, the US had a structurally weak federal government, and strong states.”

    How strong could the states relative to the federal government really be given that it was less than 50 years after the end of the Civil War? That war put paid to the idea of state sovereignty. The changes that happened later were codification of the fact that the states were powerless.

    BTW, great humiliation of Auster in his own (carefully managed) comment section. Great reading.

    • Foseti says:

      I agree. If you’re going back, you’ve got to go all the way and blame Lincoln. That takes you close to Constitution-burning territory by itself.

  6. Mike says:

    The fact that Auster has no plan whatsoever for a conservative takeover is disturbing.

    Part of the difficulty is that progressive liberals are free to use state power and obnoxious activism to strengthen their position while the American right must adhere to the libertarian principle that using coercive power is bad. However, as Moldbug points out, using the power of government is essential in establishing a new order. Those who always sacrifice the ends in favour of the means will get nowhere.

    Think of liberalism and traditionalism as two children playing together. The liberal child is bashing the conservative child with a wooden hammer. The conservative child responds by snatching the hammer off the liberal child and throwing it in some near-by bushes. However, every time the conservative child does this the liberal child retrieves the hammer and starts bashing the conservative child again. However, since the conservative child is opposed to cooercive intervention, he can never seize the hammer and start bashing the liberal child. Thus the liberal child never learns of the negative side of cooercive power only its subversive joys.

    There’s also the fact that the bulk of traditionalists largely ignore or even alienate the disgruntled youth that we should be attracting.

    Intellectuals and political activitists, generally aren’t respectable middle class professionals with three kids. These people have neither the time or motivation to overthrow an order.

    Possibly the most important right wing activist today is Kevin DeAnna. He has identified the propoganda centre of the liberal establishment – the universities – and is actively recruiting inside universities and among disgruntled/underemployed university graduates.

    I personally would go even further, I’d say to these people, join us, campaign for us, we realise you are victims of a system that has lied to you. Even though are overall goal is to reduce state power, when get into power we’ll pay off your student loans and you’ll get you a job in the new order.

    Mutual aid is the cornerstone of every successful political movement, and every movement needs its alienated brownshirts. I’d draw the line at using thugs and criminals, to distinguish ourselves from the genuine far right, but misfits and losers should be most welcome.

  7. B Lode says:

    Well, aratae hasn’t defined “structurally weak”. I would have used “militarily”, myself. The Civil War nearly destroyed the Federal government. To the degree that people in 1912 (a great degree? or a small one? I don’t know) considered the Union victory a contingency, the Civil War outcome didn’t guarantee that DC could do whatever it wanted. Half its legislature was elected by the states, after all.

    I’d say the Civil War broke the power of the states, but that result didn’t become apparent for a few generations. Early income taxes were stricken down by the courts, certain New Deal programs were stricken down by the courts, etc. It’s a pity the framers didn’t limit the size of the Supreme Court, or limit the size increase to a single member per presidential term or something.

  8. Jehu says:

    Direct election of senators in 1913 WAS a big deal, and undoing that amendment would go a long ways towards restoring the 10th amendment to something meaningful. The incentives of a senator appointed by his legislature are vastly different from one elected directly. And an awful lot has to get through the senate, including the Justices that make—oh, I mean…interpret…the law.

  9. GW says:

    Auster got PWNED. But this is not surprising, considering he was tangling with Moldbug.

  10. Tanstaafl says:

    Come now. The way to make sense of Auster is to face the fact that he isn’t a conservative, traditionalist, champion of America or the white race, or even a very good Christian. It’s entirely fair to say that more than anything else he’s an overbearing anti-“anti-semitic” jew, moved as he is to to write so often and so passionately in defense of jews and Israel, while aiming his swiftest condemnation in the most extreme terms at those he sees as “anti-semites”.

  11. Tribe of Ice says:

    I used to read Auster but got irritated over a few threads where multiple people said stupid things and quit. Now – he seems to have declined in the interim. I felt embarrassed for him.

  12. […] States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This probably justified a legal military coup in 1933, and certainly could justify one […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: