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 lewrockwell.com – 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.
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.