Sitting aside history, shitting our pants

That’s the motto of Rich Lowry’s National Review according to Heartiste. I can’t improve upon that.

What follows is likely to be a long post with some assorted thoughts on the Derbyshire affair.

1 – The affair is most interesting for what it tells us about the mainstream right.

We already know that the mainstream right is – by nature – ineffectual. Allow me to indulge in a few Moldbug quotes. In the first one, feel free to substitute "National Review" for "Cato Institute" (I don’t believe anything is lost, especially if you substitute "The New Republic" for "Brookings Institute" and "Taki Mag" for "LvMI"):

The permanent civil service is much larger than it looks. It is best defined as everyone involved in setting and implementing USG’s policies. When we realize that this includes the press, the universities, and the NGOsphere (the brilliant Richard North of EU Referendum, one of the few bloggers who really understands how the modern state works and has not been psychically shattered by the awful truth, describes a typical rat’s nest of EU NGOs here), we start to realize why the battle plays out as it does.

An excellent way to describe any system is to outline its fringes. A fine example of an entity on the fringe of the Polygon, but still within it, is the Cato Institute. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that Cato accepts government funds, but in fact it does not – its main sponsor is, of course, billionaire Charles Koch. (I thank Will Wilkinson for the correction.) But when you compare Cato’s homepage to that of the liberal Brookings Institute, a classic Beltway bandit, I think you can see how I was confused. I think an alien who understood English could eventually figure out the substantive difference between Cato and Brookings. But it would have to be one pretty sharp alien.

When we look at the homepage of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which will be on the Orange Line just as soon as the Metro extends out to Alabama, we can see the difference. The purpose of LvMI is to propagate ideas. The purpose of Cato is to impact policy. Ie: to wield power. Power, of course, can be wielded for good as for ill. But Tolkien knew something about that.

I like Brookings’ motto: Quality, Independence, Impact. If anyone in Washington would sacrifice the third for the first two, ten others are ready to take his place. Impact is the true currency of DC. The social status of a Beltwayite corresponds directly to his impact. I suspect this is the real reason that LvMI is in Alabama: it has no impact, and hence no power. And its employees would constantly feel humiliated and scorned, like nerds at a jock party. This might not affect LvMI’s mission, but it would be distracting. Besides, Alabama is really cheap.

What Cato sacrifices for its impact is that the set of ideas it can propagate is, by any serious historical standard, enormously narrow. As we’ve seen in l’affaire Paul [and now l'affaire Derb], the great fear that haunts the Catonians at night is the fear of losing their legitimacy. Their impact would go with it. DC has no pity for cranks and crackpots. The result is a school of thought that can fairly be characterized as pro-government libertarianism [and pro-government conservatism].

Sadly, we have no reason to think that this Schlesingerian "vital center" has any correlation whatsoever with reality. The center defines itself in political terms, not intellectual terms. It is the belief of the average voter. Since the civil service invests most of its energy in managing public opinion, also known as manufacturing consent, the outcome is quite clear. As the center drifts inexorably leftward, fueled by nothing more than the raw personal ambition of a thousand thousand Brookingsites, the likes of a Cato [and National Review] must drift with it – or be excluded from the policymaking process. Cato has minimal cognitive independence, unless of course it confines itself to today’s goodthink.

This is why we see the level of raw hatred and arrogance that the Orange Line Mafia aims at its redneck rivals. Progressives can be debated with. Paleoconservatives are dangerous cranks who must be ostracized. Cato regularly features progressive essays on its Cato Unbound series. You will never see an LvMI paleo there – let alone a real live racist, like Jared Taylor – and if you did the progressives would vanish at once. As would the impact. The invisible procession, going by.

Whereas the cranks over at – and there is a lot of serious craziness and pure stupidity that appears there, on a daily basis – can think and say whatever the hell they want. Defend the Confederacy? Why not? Probably no one at Cato wants to defend the Confederacy. But in their hearts, they know that even if they wanted to, they couldn’t. And this has got to burn.

I mean, how long has Jeff Davis been dead? What sensible person could possibly care? How can you carry around an emotional attachment to a 150-year-old war? Talk about lunacy.

The really sad thing is that the Orange Liners can only feel like they have impact because DC, being utterly sclerotic and impossible to change, has defined impact down to levels derisory to anyone outside the bubble. On Cato’s impact page, they list precisely one success: school vouchers in Washington, DC. [as you can tell, this is a bit out of date, as this "impact" has since been undone]. Well, knock me over with a feather. But really, by Beltway standards, this is not bad for 30 years and 100 million dollars – especially when the product you have to push is an inherently nasty and pointless one, like small government. It’s hard to sign people up for abolishing their own jobs.

More analysis will follow, but it’s all basically just a footnote to this piece.

Like Cato, National Review wants power – it wants to impact policy. The official debate, however, is limited by terms laid out by progressives. Therefore, for National Review to retain some tiny morsel of power, National Review must essentially become leftist. Allow me one more quote:

The left is one vast alliance – proverbially, a leftist sees no enemies to the left, and no friends to the right. So doesn’t the rightist see no friends to the left, and no enemies to the right? The left has a party line. Doesn’t the right? The left is full of people who have obviously mortgaged their souls for power. But isn’t the right?

For example, it’s very easy to excuse the relationship between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama, when you realize that Dick Cheney is a longstanding personal friend of Klaus Barbie.

If you actually know anything about the American right, you realize that it is a tiny pimple on the ass of the American left [if this pimple had a name, it would rhyme with Lich Rowry]. For one thing, the right has no Rockefeller or Carnegie or Guggenheim. (It had a Pew and a Ford, but the money was stolen.) On the right, the most blatant acts of desperate corruption, extracting the most grudging of contributions from the most disreputable of sources, yield a tiny, sporadic creek of cash, like the dribble of an 85-year-old man.

Whereas on the left, heaven pisses money like an African bull elephant. You’ll see this pattern whenever you compare the two apples-to-apples – for example, compare the funding for anti-green research to the funding for pro-green research. Or compare the political affiliation of celebrities, a fine proxy for the feelings of the ultra-rich.

The official, mainstream conservative (I prefer the term court-conservative) is therefore an extension of the left. Rich Lowry does not operate by the same principles in reverse that Richard Just operates by, Rich Lowry operates by exactly the same principles that Richard Just operates by. This is a perfect recipe to ensure that Rich Lowry is permanently ineffective. If Lowry didn’t exist, Richard Just would have to invent him.

2 – Another fun exercise would be to take Moldbug’s questions for orange line libertarians and apply them to court conservatives. What’s the New York equivalent of the orange line? Anyway, here are the questions, it’s pretty easy to see how they apply to the present situation. I’ve edited them to apply in this case (my apologies to Moldbug for destroying his text). So, here are questions for Rich Lowry, whoever runs Breitbart, etc.:

1. Which is worse, racism or socialism? Why? [Do take a minute to read Wilkinson's response in Moldbug's comment section.  Apparently the comment is actually Wilkinson and not someone attempting to parody his own thought.  In short, he refuses to answer this question.]

2. Can you imagine living in a world in which socialism was politically incorrect? In other words, in which any comment which even hinted that socialism might be a good idea instantly reminded the listener of the Holodomor, and exposed the commenter to social ostracism, professional destruction, civil and perhaps criminal liability?

3. Define "crimethink." Do you find this concept useful? Do you believe that it should apply to racism, socialism, neither, or both?

4. Which government was worse: the Soviet Union under Stalin, or the Republic of South Africa under P.W. Botha? [Or Zimbabwe when it was Rhodesia and not starving] Why?

5. Who knows more about human genetics? You, or Francis Crick? Discuss.

6. Do you believe that intellectuals, such as yourself, should write and debate under the theory that American public opinion [I'm taking American public opinion to mean official public opinion] is generally right until proven wrong? How do you reconcile this with the fact that American public opinion generally sees [conservatives], such as yourselves, as a bunch of freaks, cranks and nutcases? Do you consider changing this perception the primary objective of your efforts? Does this ever conflict with just saying what you think? And if so, which wins?

7. Do you find the term "[court conservative]" at all pejorative? If so, with what term would you prefer to describe yourselves? Would "responsible [conservative]" do? If so, do you find anything odd in the fact that so many responsible [conservatives] work for the US government or institutions it sponsors?

8. Do you agree or disagree with this quote from Georgi Arbatov?

I pay tribute to the courage and fearlessness of those who, like Andrei Sakharov, risked taking an uncompromising stand… These people were heroes, even martyrs. And if they had not done what they did, I think the changes in our country would not have gone forward so quickly. But had it not been for the many hundreds and thousands who worked inside the system, fought routine skirmishes, tried to stop the pressure of Stalinist conservatism, and defended and promoted the ideas of democracy and peaceful economic reform, the process of revitalization would not have been possible at all.

9. Do you expect that, if the present American system of government is ever defeated by a [conservative] movement, you will find yourself, like Arbatov, perceived as a "spokesman at best and toady at worst for the regime"? Or do you expect to be praised and feted for your work inside the system?

10. Do you [write all your columns from the suburbs]?

3 – Another fun exercise would be to troll the interwebz for posts that are functionally equivalent to the one that Derbyshire wrote but that didn’t cause hysterics on the left. I’d start with this one.

4 – Conservatives like to mock speech codes at universities. However, it’s now pretty clear that mainstream conservatives operate by speech codes. It’d be a useful exercise for someone to write down the speech code of court-conservatism. At least progressives at universities have the balls to explicitly state the ways in which their thought processes are limited – court conservatives should do the same.

5 – Ariston asks, "Would any paper today hire an H.L. Mencken, despite a Mencken–like mastery of the English language, if his views were just as divergent from the norm as Mencken’s were in his time?" The implicit – and correct – answer is "no."

6 – I’m not enough of a dick to be a progressive.

I disagree with the vast majority – well over 99% – of things written on the internet. I think much of it makes the world a worse place, as most of it is designed to limit serious discussion or signal the status of the writer (or both). Despite this, it’s never crossed my mind to wish that the writers of such drivel were fired and barred from practicing their trade. As has been said elsewhere, "it used to be that if someone expressed an opinion you didn’t like, the proper response was to endeavor to refute it." I guess in this area, as in so many others, I’m hopelessly behind the times.

When I read Nineteen Eighty-Four, I thought the discussion of thoughtcrime was creepy. Apparently most people thought, "that’s a good strategy."

7 – I should write less about race

In my daily interactions with people, I have a certain amount of immunity on racial issues. People who spend long periods of time in traffic to cross multiple natural barriers to leave the city can’t really call me out on racial issues since I live in a very diverse neighborhood. Very politically correct people will often say that they couldn’t live where I live because of the crime (apparently their internal translators don’t work like mine). My kid has a black nanny who’s basically a member of our family at this point. I work with lots of black people every day. We have family friends that are in mixed marriages, etc.

Unlike many race realists, I do not believe that the only solution to racial strife is separation of the races. I think we can, indeed, all get along. It’s just not going to happen in the leftist-fantasy-land sort of way. It’s only going to happen when we all accept the basic realities of the situation, which would require a transition to a much more judgmental and hierarchical society.

Anyway, my immunity doesn’t necessarily transfer to online writing. If people wanted to believe retarded stuff, I don’t really care. People have believed retarded things for a long time and nothing I say will ever change that. Derbyshire has been awesomely unwilling to back down, but I have no desire to martyr myself for truth. Mencken was right when he said: "The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel." The more I think about it, the more I can’t come up with a good reason not to just lie like everyone else – at least outwardly.

8 – One of the more serious refutations of Derbyshire’s piece was this post from Noah Millman. First, he argues with Derb’s stats:

To be a good application of statistical common sense, it’s not enough to know that, for example, crime rates (on average) are higher in majority-black neighborhoods. You’d need to know that the disparity was large enough, and the variance around the average small enough, so that following such a rule would actually be a decent heuristic; not to mention that there were no more finely-grained heuristics available and that the cost of applying such a sweeping heuristic in terms of the loss of experience of life and its manifold pleasures was not prohibitive.

I think Derb linked to data that would allow you analyze variance, etc. I wonder why Millman didn’t bother . . .

There’s a housing project in my neighborhood (it’s 100% black as best I can tell). A few years back, they put bars on the outside of the project. The bars are designed to keep people out. In order to get in, you have to go to one of two gates. Crime dropped dramatically after they put up the bars and clearance rates went way up. After a crime is committed, cops no longer bother to chase suspects, they just go to the two gates and wait. Almost all the time, the criminal(s) eventually shows up. Millman’s welcome to walk by the project a few times to see how long it takes for him to get hassled, if he wants to test his theory though.

Millman also notes that he doesn’t live in a majority-black neighborhood (see below). If he really believed that criminality in black-neighborhoods wasn’t worse, why wouldn’t he live in a majority-black neighborhood? They’re cheaper and in lots of cities they’re centrally located. Generally, these neighborhoods are cheaper "because of the crime." If Millman has spotted a market inefficiency, it’s sort of odd that he didn’t try to capitalize on it, no?

Still, it’s pointless to debate these theories. If Millman’s right, these maps wouldn’t the way they actually look. If Derbyshire is right, they’d look exactly the way they’d look.

Later Millman says:

I live in Brooklyn. I love living in Brooklyn. Do I live in a majority-black neighborhood? No. But there’s a large, majority black neighborhood right across the park from me. We share the park. Derbyshire’s advice to me and to my son is, effectively: don’t go to the park. Or, alternatively, don’t live in Brooklyn. But why? Does Derbyshire know what the crime statistics are like in my part of Brooklyn these days? Is he really that fearful?

His characterization of Derbyshire’s advice is wrong (his actual advice is to leave the park if the park is filled with an unusually large number of blacks that Millman doesn’t know – I’m willing to bet Millman would follow such advice).

I do live in a (slightly) majority-black neighborhood. Millman should have the decency here to admit that our neighborhoods (which are similar) aren’t normal by any standards. If the average house, for example, costs more than half a million dollars you’re not exactly in a normal black neighborhood. My kid plays with black kids in the park all the time, but if you look at the statistics, the sort of black kid who walks across the street from his $650,000 house to play with his biological father in the park isn’t exactly representative of statistical averages.

9 – Read the interviews of Derb here and here

10 – One thing that most everybody (other than perhaps here) has missed is that it’s possible that only a foreigner would be surprised by the reaction to the article, as Derb apparently was. Americans are uniquely squirmy about race. I hang out with Europeans regularly, and it never takes long for a racist comment or two to be slipped into the conversation. No other Europeans flinch. Americans react like Rich Lowry.


17 Responses to Sitting aside history, shitting our pants

  1. Will S. says:

    “Americans are uniquely squirmy about race.”

    That’s this foreigner’s opinion, indeed.

  2. Steve Johnson says:

    “Millman’s welcome to walk by the project a few times to see how long it takes for him to get hassled, if he wants to test his theory though.”

    He doesn’t need to do that to test his theory.

    He went to high school one block from Tracey Towers.

    Everyone who went to that school was smart enough to know exactly who to avoid.

  3. vishmehr24 says:

    Socialism shares the same Enlightenment roots as Libertarianism.
    In fact, socialism is merely a more logical libertarianism.

    A socialist is one who has realized what Dostoevsky did in Demons:

    “Starting from absolute liberty, I conclude in absolute despotism”.

    If we destroy the notion of City as an organic whole, and replace with
    a collection of autonomous individuals that have
    “right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
    then the City collapses, and to avoid that there must be managerial despotism.

    It comes from basic Enlightenment falsehoods that a reactionary must reject. We need to restore two classical ideas
    1) Man is a political animal
    2) City is Prior to the Individual and the Family.

    From (2) it follows that following the self-interest, however enlightened it may be, is not commendable.
    What is commendable is to intend the good of the City.
    Thus the entire of modern economics is swept out.

  4. PA says:

    As to your point 1, Moldbug’s description of the relationship between the Left and the court-conservatives: at no point in his, correct iny opinion, writings about the Cathedral does he essentilize Left and Right. Well, he sort of does; the left means rule by intellectuals, the left is … socialist?

    That may well be so — but being an intellectual or a socialist does not mean, by definition, that you have to also be dysgenic or regressive. A hundred years ago, the left was eugenics and progressive. As Derb said, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the left does a 180 on race.

    My takeaway on Moldbug’s left and right

  5. PA says:

    My takeaway on Moldbug’s left and right is that both are cliques, with the former having near-absolute power and the latter hanging on power’s fringes. Ideology is secondary and a matter of utility to them, not a defining essence.

    • spandrell says:

      Parts of the leftist elite were for eugenics before 1940, but not all of it. Christians always hated it, and still do.
      Modern AA is the logical conclusion of the civil rights movement, which is the logical conclusion of abolitionism. Race realism is antithetical to any serious reading of western theological tradition. It will never be mainstream until the shit hits the fan. And when it does, it won’t be nice.

    • formerly no name says:


      Huey Long’s economics were to the left of FDR and I haven’t heard of any evidence that he was much of a racist-at least not any more than FDR was. But the CPUSA was already comfortably affixed to the New Deal and Fr. Coughlin and Gerald L.K. Smith were on Long’s campaign team for the 1936 campaign that was never to be.

      Of course the CPUSA and the fellow travelers would have denounced Long as a “fascist” even if Coughlin and Long had never come near the doomed campaign,.Was it simply because they had no need to switch horses, or, even more, they knew that Long was not “their kind of guy.”

      • formerly no name says:

        “even if Coughlin and Long had never come near the doomed campaign”

        Should be Coughlin and Smith.

  6. Fake Herzog says:


    Other than my own idiosyncratic contribution to the Derb affair, your piece is the best I’ve read. Keep up the excellent work.

    Millman is a real disappointment. He used to be a sharp conservative writer but by his own admission, he’s become a liberal squish (although I have to admit his recent post on the Book of Job and A Simple Man and Tree of Life was one of his best.

    When I get older and have more money to give to charity (my wife and I give some now, but we save a lot for the girls to go to college), I plan on contributing as much as possible to memorials for the victims of communism (like this organization). Quite frankly, I think Americans have had enough of Holocaust studies/memorials — time for them to study some other monsters of the 20th Century.

    • Matt says:

      I give Millman credit for going about as far as a liberal squish can on this one. His message, when you read between the lines, was that the uproar was incredibly stupid and mindless and everyone should be embarrassed about it. In general, regardless of his politics, he seems like someone who is wary of the mob mentality, which puts him a notch above the average American or National Review editor.

  7. Matthew says:

    Americans are uniquely squirmy about race.

    Only the elites and would-be elites (I forget Moldbug’s caste terminology). Where I’ve lived in Texas, any white with a twang can be relied on to give a (surprised) laugh at honest racial jibes.

    Scratch a little deeper and you’ll find disgust and frustration at the political and legal preference for non-whites. I was chatting up the wife of the owner of an auto shop, and she told a story about how she had been in an accident where the other driver was at fault, had no insurance, but the cop refused to write a ticket.

    “Let me guess: they were both Mexicans?” I said. She allowed as how that was true, and seemed pleasantly surprised that someone who looked like a SWPL would be willing to talk about it.

  8. Percyval says:

    Hi Foseti,

    This was interesting. It’s always good to go back and read those old Moldbug posts. At the moment, everything I see makes me think, “Damn, Moldy was really onto something”. It’s not a particularly nice feeling.

    I had some thoughts about Millman’s post here:

    I won’t reprise them in your comments, but one thing that does occur to me is that I don’t know how well Millman deals with the statistical evidence. (That said, I didn’t think that Derbyshire’s article really delved into stats much. I mean, it was ostensibly a talk for his kids.)

    It seems more like he does a bit of blustering and whataboutery (why should I care about the variance per se?), with the ultimate purpose of bashing Derbyshire over the head for saying something taboo.

  9. Phlebas says:

    Even so the clouds of my melancholy were broken up. I saw the clear sky, and regained the power to recognise the face of my physician. Accordingly, when I had lifted my eyes and fixed my gaze upon her, I beheld my nurse, Philosophy, whose halls I had frequented from my youth up.

    ‘Ah! why,’ I cried, ‘mistress of all excellence, hast thou come down from on high, and entered the solitude of this my exile? Is it that thou, too, even as I, mayst be persecuted with false accusations?’

    ‘Could I desert thee, child,’ said she, ‘and not lighten the burden which thou hast taken upon thee through the hatred of my name, by sharing this trouble? Even forgetting that it were not lawful for Philosophy to leave companionless the way of the innocent, should I, thinkest thou, fear to incur reproach, or shrink from it, as though some strange new thing had befallen? Thinkest thou that now, for the first time in an evil age, Wisdom hath been assailed by peril? Did I not often in days of old, before my servant Plato lived, wage stern warfare with the rashness of folly? In his lifetime, too, Socrates, his master, won with my aid the victory of an unjust death. And when, one after the other, the Epicurean herd, the Stoic, and the rest, each of them as far as in them lay, went about to seize the heritage he left, and were dragging me off protesting and resisting, as their booty, they tore in pieces the garment which I had woven with my own hands, and, clutching the torn pieces, went off, believing that the whole of me had passed into their possession. And some of them, because some traces of my vesture were seen upon them, were destroyed through the mistake of the lewd multitude, who falsely deemed them to be my disciples. It may be thou knowest not of the banishment of Anaxagoras, of the poison draught of Socrates, nor of Zeno’s torturing, because these things happened in a distant country; yet mightest thou have learnt the fate of Arrius, of Seneca, of Soranus, whose stories are neither old nor unknown to fame. These men were brought to destruction for no other reason than that, settled as they were in my principles, their lives were a manifest contrast to the ways of the wicked. So there is nothing thou shouldst wonder at, if on the seas of this life we are tossed by storm-blasts, seeing that we have made it our chiefest aim to refuse compliance with evil-doers. And though, maybe, the host of the wicked is many in number, yet is it contemptible, since it is under no leadership, but is hurried hither and thither at the blind driving of mad error. And if at times and seasons they set in array against us, and fall on in overwhelming strength, our leader draws off her forces into the citadel while they are busy plundering the useless baggage. But we from our vantage ground, safe from all this wild work, laugh to see them making prize of the most valueless of things, protected by a bulwark which aggressive folly may not aspire to reach.’

  10. anonymous says:

    “It’s only going to happen when we all accept the basic realities of the situation, which would require a transition to a much more judgmental and hierarchical society.”

    Society is already hierarchical. It always has been, regardless of official ideology. Perhaps your issue is that ideology doesn’t match practice? I’m not sure it ever has, although I agree that a number of specific fictions are becoming too costly to maintain.

  11. […] I’ve written elsewhere, with mainstream status comes a politically-correct muzzle. There are simply certain things you […]

  12. […] Sitting aside history, shitting our pants « FosetiApr 11, 2012 … Sitting aside history, shitting our pants. That’s the motto of Rich Lowry’s National Review according to Heartiste. I can’t improve upon that. […]

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