Randoms of the day

– Dug up by Spandrell:

The strange thing is that none of these mid-century writers (except for Carlyle and Ruskin) seemed to notice that the triumph of rational philosophy had resulted in a new form of barbarism.

Information age conservatism

– J.K. Baltzersen digs up a Tolkien quote:

Give me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you care to call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers.

Thoughts from AMcGuinn

The Cathedral – Ivy League grads protesting the activities of other Ivy League grads

– A guy with a crazy foreign policy finished second to the establishment’s favorite candidate in Iowa

– Richard Spencer predicts more "Jonah Goldberg wars." He also predicts one will go awry. How dare he suggest that random wars have consequences?

From EKL (and wcsoto): "Rivarol has told us that a monarch might be a Marcus Aurelius or a Nero, a crowd can be collectively a Nero, but never Marcus Aurelius"

– DC had a school reformer, Michelle Rhee, who progressive elites loved but who progressive voters hated. Progressive elites loved her because she was trying to close The Gap, while progressive voters hated her because most of DC’s progressive voters are black (and Rhee is not black) or unionized (and reforming education requires taking on unions). Yglesias has a post suggesting that Rhee’s reforms will result in good teachers getting paid more. I’m willing to bet that it will also result in bad teachers getting paid more (my agency has performance based pay and everyone’s performance is above average). The bureaucracy always wins the long game.

– Bryan Caplan on greed and wealth. Shockingly, it appears that people who don’t value saving money don’t get wealthy!

– Nice when spreading democracy leads to spreading genocide.

– Spandrell tries to define reactionary. I’m not anti-Jewish or anti-banksta. Jews are, generally, just really progressive – I see no reason to create a separate category. Bankstas are just part of USG. Again, there’s no reason to create a separate category.

16 Responses to Randoms of the day

  1. thrasymachus33308 says:

    >>Jews are, generally, just really progressive<<

    Scandinavian (-Americans) are also really progressive, but Jews have far more impact on society. Irish-Americans are not quite as progressive as these two groups, but pretty progressive, have much more impact that Scandinavians but not as much as Jews.

  2. Samson J. says:

    Don’t miss the rest of the Tolkien quote:

    My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)…

    If we could go back to personal names, it would do a lot of good. Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so to refer to people…

    The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.

  3. Gian says:

    Caplan was not talking about saving but working hard with money as the goal.

    Saving alone does not make one wealthy.

  4. Phlebas says:

    I have a definition of “reactionary”…I apologise in advance for the length of this comment.

    I believe that a solid understanding of the problem of Universalism has to start with biological facts. We find that such a thing as a left/right continuum crops up all the time in our political debates, and leftism or rightism appears to be a fundamental personality trait. In other words, there is prior reason to believe that rightist or leftist political disposition is largely biological in origin.

    In the last decade, neurological studies have started to probe this question. Here is a page discussing many of these studies – be warned that the site authors are well-meaning pseudo-scientists, and the hemispheric theory that the writer is pushing has little to recommend it – and here is the much less detailed wikipedia page.

    What I gather is that the two most obvious biological differences between rightists and leftists are that leftists have a bigger anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and rightists have a bigger amygdala. The main role of the ACC appears to be in dealing with conflicting information – interestingly, self-identified leftists perform better on cognitive tests designed to test a human’s ability to respond to changes in a pattern of letters displayed on a monitor.

    The relevance of the amygdala is less immediately clear. However the neuropolitics page helpfully points out that, “the current neurophysiological evidence implicates a generally inhibitory relationship between the right DLPFC [dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex] and right amygdala”. And apparently, “The DLPFC has been implicated in a variety of key liberal attributes: inhibition of racist tendencies (Richeson, 2003); aversion to dominance (Grafman, 2006); and, aversion to inequality (Knoch, 2006).”

    So the beefed-up amygdala in rightists is working to inhibit the DLPFC, which enacts “leftist” objectives.

    As far as I can see, these differences – relatively big ACC and small amygdala, or relatively small ACC and big amygdala – tend to be found together. This suggests that for some reason there exists, at least in the ethnic groups that have been included in these studies, a population distribution of neurological types along a basic left-right continuum.

    Why might there be this distribution? One possibility is a modified version of Robin Hanson’s farmer/forager idea. If we are clear that farmer/forager is a biological difference rather than a cultural tradition, and that tribal/civilised might be a better and more fundamental distinction than farmer/forager, then I think the idea that some humans are more adapted to a tribal (socialist) lifestyle whereas others are relatively adapted to a civilised (hierarchical) lifestyle is an elegant and parsimonious explanation of this right-left biological phenomenon, which does after all require an explanation.

    Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit” is the book that led me to realise that what leftists really seem to want is the fiercely egalitarian social structure of a primitive tribe. Harpending and Cochran have argued that ample human evolution has occurred in recent history, so why shouldn’t humans have (partially) adapted to thrive given the demands of high population density and a relatively sedentary lifestyle?

    One reason that there remains a distribution of a cognitive styles might be that, like left-handedness, there is generally an equilibrium distribution in which leftists are able to employ their natural advantages (i.e. they are essentially smarter and better at responding to novel circumstances, due to their bigger ACC) whilst still being suitably restrained by the social bonds of a hierarchical society.

    So to summarise, according to our best scientific knowledge as of 2012, the (relatively) leftist neurological type is egalitarian (dominant DLPFC) and responds effectively to conflicting information and changed circumstances (strong ACC), whereas the (relatively) rightist neurological type is discriminatory and inegalitarian (inhibited DLPFC) and hesistant to alter behaviour in response to changed circumstances or conflicting information (weakened ACC).

    Clearly, possession of a rightist neurological type facilitates the ability to obey abstract rules or laws indefinitely and to enter into a system of contracts and hierarchy, which happens to be necessary in order for a complex human society to thrive and in order for an individual to predictably thrive in a complex society (I do not believe that this hypothesis needs to invoke group selection). In fact it may be generally fair to say that on average, “conservatives are stupid; they have no ideas, just inherited prejudices”. But these prejudices, being an adaptation to thriving in a civilised setting, happen to favour the development of healthier complex societies than leftist prejudices do. Although leftists are more rational than rightists on average and do generate more ideas, leftists en masse have yet to prove capable of overcoming their own profoundly destructive antinomian biases.

    So I believe we are now in a position to define “reactionary”, “conservative” and other second-order political categories. A person who is a biological rightist might become either a reactionary or a conservative, and I believe that this largely depends on his socialisation. We can see that a biological rightist who is raised in a leftist society like ours is put in tension, pulled on the one hand by his disapproval of leftism, and on the other hand by his natural inclination to respect laws, hierarchy and authority – despite the fact that those in power are leftists. A conservative is someone who resolves this tension by supposing that the power structure of his society is basically legitimate, but is being disrupted and compromised by leftists. Conservatives thereby trade reduced cognitive dissonance for increased epistemic incompetence.

    A reactionary in today’s West is someone who either was socialised, or more likely at some point managed to socialise himself in a different social environment from the hegemonic leftist society in which he was born. By immersing himself in a society with a completely different set of laws and traditions, he can liberate himself from deep attachment to the authority of the society in which he physically lives and thereby resolve his tension by attaching himself to a set of (virtual) laws and traditions that belong to an era that wasn’t corrupted by rampant leftism. The internet has obviously been a massive boon in this respect (it would not surprise me if the likes of SOPA were to pave the way for eventual political censorship).

    On the other hand since leftists lack the rightist inclination to respect lawful authority, it is relatively easy and painless for them to adopt a sub specie aeternitatis perspective. Leftists at all times most desire nothing less than a tribal state of social organisation; this may be the reason why leftists appear to be magically co-ordinated, whereas rightists need a deliberate Schelling point before they can agree upon anything.

    This biological analysis also suggests a reason why the left has been advancing for so long: leftists are naturally better at adapting to changes, and more innovative. Since scientific and technological progress has been so rapid in recent centuries, leftists have always had the upper hand because they are simply much more naturally adept at responding to and thriving in changing circumstances than are rightists. A prolonged period of stagnation at any given technological level would, I believe, have allowed rightists to reassert themselves.

    • spandrell says:


      So what then. Lobotomy? ACC removal?

      • Phlebas says:

        >ACC removal?

        Haha. But the essential message here is that leftists are highly valuable as thinkers – reduction in ACC grey matter is basically a dumbing down of the human brain, but one that happens to be promote stable functioning societies (I suggest that this serves the evolutionary purpose of making people less inclined to question and disrupt laws and traditions – per Hayek, this is also a candidate for the origin of the propensity for religious belief).

        Therefore, assuming my hypothesis is even true it is unfair to speak as though leftism is an evolutionary curse. Leftist neurological types are invaluable to scientific progress, innovation and art. They only cause problems when they exert an undue influence in politics – which they have done increasingly since the Reformation.

        In fact, if leftists en masse were ever to become genuinely rational there would be little problem. They would still have different basic values to rightists, but they would see that despite their yearning for equality their entire value-set in general is ultimately best served by accepting that a complex society simply cannot approximate tribalism, at least until the dawn of transhumanism/ the singularity if that should happen.

        This might be a reasonable definition of “idealism” – the belief that fate or the Universe is conspiring to help you satisfy your most cherished values directly, so that compromise is unnecessary. Racial idealists tolerate no blemish upon the quality of the Aryan race, and progressive idealists can’t accept that the laws of the Universe are such that (among other things) humans can have natural differences in intelligence, and human welfare is best served by inegalitarian private property systems.

        Anyway, the benefits of the hypothesis, if it is true, are two-fold. Firstly, it fleshes out our understanding of progressivism.

        For example, I believe that if true this hypothesis suggests that the most fundamental reason why we are currently suffering from a severe “Carlyle-deficiency” is because (at least in the first place) so much in the apolitical human environment has been changing so fast in recent centuries. Leftists are just much quicker on their toes in these circumstances, and the rise of science has placed their kind in a position of unusual preeminence. Accordingly, Universalism’s success as a memeplex may be regarded as having been conditional upon an environment that is particularly favourable to the leftist neurological type.

        Secondly, if true I think that this knowledge can be a powerful debiasing tool, and a means for leftists and rightists better to improve their mutual understanding and ability to co-operate. Much as women are less incomprehensible after graduating from the school of Roissy, leftists are easier to understand when one realises that their dispute with us is not merely factual, and that insofar as they are driven by idealism (always, as far as leftist movements are concerned) they seek to have us live according to the values of a tribesman.

      • spandrell says:

        I need a week (a month) to parse this through.

    • tbs.konkvistador@gmail.com says:

      This theory is the best brain candy I’ve had the opportunity to munch on in months.

      Please do more research and post this somewhere!

    • Reactionary_Konkvistador says:

      This theory is the best brain candy I’ve had the opportunity to munch on in months.

      Please do more research and post this somewhere!

    • Reactionary_Konkvistador says:

      If Peter Thiel is right on technological change slowing down… does that leave us with a dystopia of rightists imprinted to leftist thought enforcing the current order indefinitely or does it bode a resurgence of rightism?

      • Phlebas says:

        My intuition says the latter, with probability ~1. Defending that claim would be an interesting challenge, although in brief I’d point to the amount of effort that Universalism expends both in molding its subjects’ opinions and indeed in destroying their ability to think. This suggests that the memeplex wouldn’t have legs of its own if leftist intellectuals no longer had the power to shape our civilisation.

        One of my goals for this year is to build a version of MM’s “Uberfact” factional wiki concept, and that should provide an opportunity to expand on these ideas.

  5. P.A. says:

    So, our racist uncles were entirely correct in ascribing indolence and rapacity to Mediterraneans, but in conceiving Jews as being irreconcilably different (evan Ashkenazi are not Germanic regardless of whatever elements they may have absorbed from intermixture), subversive and poisonous, these same racist uncles were fools and bigots.

    Your position is one of rank disingenuity and cowardice.

  6. Not all Jews are progressive.

    Rather, when a Jew abandons Judaism, he is apt to convert to progressivism.

    Orthodox Jews are not progressive. By and large, Jews act as if progressivism was still a branch of Christianity.

    Progressive Jews have no great tendency to marry Jews, to socialize specifically with Jews. They hate Christmas because progressives have always hated Christmas even when progressives were nominally Christian, not because Jews are obligated to refrain from the rituals of competing religions Their children, to the extent that they have any, are unlikely to be aware of their Jewish identity.

    Progressive Jews are conversos, and are apt to exhibit the pathological characteristics of conversos of centuries past, hating both the community they abandon, the community they attempt to join, themselves, and Christianity.

  7. […] foseti’s link to my post on the etymology of ‘reactionary, Phlebas makes the following comment: I have a definition of “reactionary”…I apologise in advance for the length of this […]

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