– You are should read this whole thing (HT: Isegoria).

– In a related post, Paleo Retiree says:

These days, I love tracking and exploring the Dark Enlightenment, and it’s great fun to steer a few people to provocative examples of it. There’s a buzz happenin’ there that reminds me of the buzz I felt from the old eco-fringe. I confess, though, that my own appreciation of the DE is partly aesthetic: “Wow,” I marvel, “is this part of the world ever fizzy with energy, insight, contributions and brains!” It’s heartening to see bright people throwing off the shackles of conventional thought and discover a larger world extending beyond what the newspapers, profs and elites want us to be aware of. And, opportunistically speaking, I know perfectly well that one of my strengths as a culture-observin’ blogger is simply being a radar screen: “Hey, come on over and take look at this! There’s something going on here!”


The first order of business will be to devise a more adequate periodization in which it is acknowledged that today’s U.S. constitutional arrangement has about as much to do with that of either 1785 or 1805 as the contemporary British constitutional arrangement has to do with its 18th-century “mixed constitution” ancestor. There have been at least four distinctive American republics, if not more, though, unlike the French, we don’t normally rip up our document and start over when we change constitutions.

Academic historians of American political thought should eschew hagiography and pay attention to what the participants actually say, why they say it, and how far what they say differs from the actual political and social reality of their time. Leave the hagiography to the journalists and focus on the historical meaning of various utterances and actions and the connection between such meanings and the self-conceptions (largely mythical) of Americans contemporary to the subjects of study.

– If dads just act like moms, is nothing really lost?

Nydwracu: “The concept of world citizenship leads naturally to the progressive antithesis of the Moldbuggian thesisto all voice, no exitin a word, to democracy. The world is that from which there is no exit.”

– You should probably read Chuck on the hysterical Oberlin business.  In theory, these people are supposed to be intelligent.

– If I had to hazard a guess, I’d go with the big tax increase that hit at that same exact time.

– Dude that works at National Review complains about others enforcing ideological uniformity.  Doesn’t get joke.


38 Responses to Randoms

  1. asdf says:

    The guy in your first link is such a tool. Why does he even bother? His goal is simply to remove the crimethink from his head (please, oh please send me rebuttals to this stuff, it makes so so terribly uncomfortable).

  2. Lex Corvus says:

    In the first link, it was hard to read much past this:

    I don’t want to dwell on the biological hypothesis too much, because it sort of creeps me out even in a “let me clearly explain a hypothesis I disagree with” way…

    But for now I’m just going to say let’s assume by fiat that the biologicalist hypothesis is false, because even with my Reactionary Hat on I find the culturalist hypothesis much more interesting.

    So, apparently, even when wearing a Reactionary Hat (can you buy those on Amazon?), it’s reasonable to reject a hypothesis because it “creeps you out” and because you find a (non-mutually-exclusive, mind you) alternate hypothesis “more interesting”. These are not the words of a truth-seeker. They are the words of a dissembling rationalizer.

    • Alrenous says:

      Truth seeking?

      You committed a truth sin. You tried to prove it was wrong, which any idiot can do. Instead, work out how it might be true or useful.

      When is it a good idea to avoid a hypothesis? When it makes you too uncomfortable to be dispassionate.

      When else? When it makes you so uncomfortable that, in practical terms, the only choice you can make are to avoid this section or avoid the field entirely.

      Since you didn’t bring these up, I’m forced to conclude you didn’t consider them. Should I conclude you’re not a truth-seeker?

      • Foseti says:

        Sorry, I just don’t follow

      • Alrenous says:

        You don’t follow the truth sin, the bit about Scott’s truth-seeking, the bit about Lex Corvus’ truth-seeking, the bit about the epistemic principle, or all of the above?

      • Lex Corvus says:

        It would be reasonable to say, “I’m too emotional about this subject to consider it dispassionately,” and then drop it. Although I see no indication that this is what’s going on in the present case, I concede that it could in principle be the author’s motive.

        My read is that the author wants to reject the nasty biological hypothesis while still considering the subject of race. My argument is that, if you want to talk about race at all, biology has to be on the table. When your view is that biology should be “assumed by fiat” not to be relevant, it would be better to avoid the subject altogether.

      • Alrenous says:

        People of goodwill make mistakes. Will he own up and admit it was a mistake, or will he defend it?

        For example,

        “I agree that the author shows promise, and I was perhaps overly harsh in my previous judgment.”

        Someone who says this seems to be able to revise their judgments. If you can revise your judgments, you can make mistakes all over the place without issue, because they’ll get fixed in due course.

        What I’ve seen most often in cases like these is that the cognitive dissonance is too much to keep the by-fiat response, but they retreat to an effectively equivalent position and then stubbornly cling to it. I’ll be pleased and impressed if Scott surprises me on this.

        So for example, the new position might be that it is impossible to prove it is biology and not culture. This position may even be true, except the implications for sane policy are the reverse of what is intended. If culture is equivalent to biology, then we can as easily consider culture like biology as consider biology like culture.

    • Foseti says:

      I strongly recommend reading the rest of it. It’s important to know how a (clearly) intelligent reacts to this stuff. We all started somewhere.

      • asdf says:

        Yes, there is some good stuff in there. But we haven’t gotten to his “rebuttal” yet. Which I imagine will destroy all sorts of good will.

        I do find it funny how his commentators are bashing him for being “pro reactionary” despite the fact that he spends a lot of it calling us racist backwards survivalists.

        I guess we can call it the Archie Bunker effect. The stuff he’s writing isn’t supposed to be pre reactionary, but those damn facts keep getting in the way.

      • Alrenous says:

        I never found Moldbug’s stuff emotionally difficult. The parts that I didn’t immediately accept (and don’t still un-accept) were simply ones that had deep roots and implications I had to fully vet before I could responsibly accept them.

        I actually don’t know what I’d do if I encountered a truth I found emotionally difficult, the way this Scott Alexander does. I’ve specifically looked for better evidence against my emotionally-entangled opinions, but I’ve yet to find one I can in good conscience attempt to change. (I can change my opinions by effort of will. Apparently this isn’t normal?)

        Indeed I’m still looking, for example I search hungrily for evidence that coercion* is ever necessary.

        *(Coercion is properly defined as forcing or pressuring someone to follow your goals instead of their own, except to prevent them from doing it to you.)

        And that’s an example of what I would hope Lex Corvus and people like them would have cited for the reason to not have hope for Scott. He looks eagerly for rebuttals to his opponents; I look eagerly for (new) rebuttals to myself.

        Incidentally, on truth-sins. If you’re so emotionally tied to a position that you can’t stand the idea of changing your mind, and you start strongly wanting to look for rebuttals to it to avoid having to, the correct response is to avoid the issue. Stop, drop, and roll, because you’re on fire. However, don’t, like Scott, pretend not to be avoiding the issue, just accept and admit out loud that you must, at least for the present.

        If Scott can’t find quality rebuttals, will he change his mind? Will he go, “Well shit, I guess I’m Reactionary now.” Or will he say, “Well shit, that didn’t work, I guess I have to use some different way to find the reason why I was right all along.” (My intuition on these questions tends to be incredibly accurate, by which I extrapolate yours is as well – just don’t pretend you can justify the intuition without serious work. The intuition commands something like 100 times the neurons the conscious mind does.)

        Thing is, if you’re not going to change your mind based on the argument, when why would you be worried about finding a rebuttal? It’s a waste of time. Just skip that step and go straight to not changing your mind. Wait until, ideally, your response to the position is not fear, but curiosity.

        That said, the fear is probably justified. As Aretae correctly likes to repeat, the main purpose of ideas is not to be logically believed, but to be socially espoused, for the purposes of unity. If you care more about unity and similar social goods, then you should be afraid of the more logical part of your mind that rationally weighs evidence, as it has the power to overrule the social-unity section under certain conditions.

        Ironically, accepting this results in social disunity. They can’t just say to themselves, “I’m believing this to get along better with my friends,” as that will trigger the exact condition where the rational involuntarily overrules the social. Which means those in need of this bit of strategy have to play silly buggers to use it – they cannot do it consciously.

        Alternatively, we could all agree to look at the evidence together, as it would activate the involuntary rationality simultaneously, and thus result in unifying on a new position.

        Huh. So this is why I like writing down my thoughts. Problem: social unity requires unity of thought, which means suppression of dissidents due to involuntary rationality. However, suppressing dissidents is not only dangerous, but morally wrong. Solution: quarantine dissidents to allow time to orchestrate a coordinated dissident hearing. Do so by explicitly promising the dissident a wide and respectful audience if they shut up until then.

        By their fruits shall ye know them. I, some random idiot on the internet, just worked out how thought leaders could avoid suppressing dissidents. How many years of such leaders have passed without them thinking of the something similar? Can we agree that it’s time to conclude their protestations of good will are falsehood and lies, and condemn them accordingly?

      • Anonymous says:

        I think I’ll wait to see his rebuttal before I call him clearly intelligent.

      • Federico says:

        >He spends a lot of it calling us racist backwards survivalists.


      • Lex Corvus says:

        OK, I read the rest of it. I agree that the author shows promise, and I was perhaps overly harsh in my previous judgment. I especially enjoyed this moment of clarity:

        You know who had a Government Czar? Imperial Russia. For short, they just called him “Czar”.

        I hope you’ll link to his rebuttal when it arrives.

  3. joetexx says:

    So Mike Blowhard morphed into Paleo Retiree!

    I’m glad I followed that link.

  4. vishmehr24 says:

    The American constitution assumed American population. It was devised for a homogeneous population. Its extrapolation to present inhomogenities would have been problematic in any case, without ascribing any malice to the perverters of the Constitution.

    In other words, the originlist interpretation of the constitution is only possible to someone that retains a certain sympathy to pre-Civil War America.

  5. vishmehr24 says:

    The Moldbuggerian thesis–no voice, all exit is equally destructive of the civil order.
    For men retain loyalties that Moldbugs of the world wish to wish away
    For their is the world of Imagine-no heaven, no hell and no nation either.-the world of Moldbugs I mean.

    • RS says:

      I thought that was more like the Alrenous proposal, but I guess Mencius has proposed it too in a way, particularly in his patchwork period.

  6. Anonymous says:

    RE First link:

    I got an SAT score well above that of the average Harvard student today (I still didn’t get into Harvard, because I was a slacker in high school)

    Haha, you mean, because you’re a non-connected white male goyim

    • josh says:

      but you *also* need above a 4.0 in H.S.
      schools give an extra 1.0 for AP courses and .5 for honors courses, so 1/3 of the graduating class of an affluent public school will have above a 4.0. Getting a few Bs or not taking enough APs will disqualify a smart jew or even a moderately connected crony.

  7. Handle says:

    I’m not sure where to begin with Scott Alexander’s essay. There’s some good stuff in there, some insights about the technological dividend, some encouraging breaking through a few of the shorter mental walls of reality resistance. I think he’s trying to be fair and open minded, more or less. I’d probably enjoy having a discussion over a drink with him.

    But overall it seems to have a tone that says, “dismissible.” Don’t worry about these guys or what they have to say. Not the best “marketing.”

    If I were to try to identify the micro-credo of the contemporary reactionary, it would be: “Your entire system of government is incurably insane.”. This would be the judgment of our ancestors; it is our judgment; it will be the judgment of our descendents – may God have mercy upon them.

    In my own personal experience I’ve found that most people who aren’t dedicated ultra-progressives have their particular “hook”. There’s that thing about our world that frustrates them a great deal, or that most nagging mystery, and through a little guided dialogue, it usually easily traces to one of the red pills – which themselves all trace back to Universalism, Egalitarian Utopianism, and, naturally, Democracy. “Emotionally troubling” indeed. Maybe one of the the ways the current system works is to make the red pills as “emotionally troubling” to as many potential opponents as possible. Self-censorship is the most effective kind.

    For instance, there’s that medium-sized business owner who never did anything wrong to anyone his own life, and who maybe even considers himself a good liberal and loyal Democrat, but he scratches his head and shakes his fist when some bureaucrat from his own government informs him that he had better not reject criminals as new hires if they are from particular ethnic groups. He may be equally surprised to discover that no one he voted for had any part in recently appending that rule “guidance” to a fifty year old law, and which the government itself does not follow, because, come on, man, that would be idiotic. He rages, “WTF?”

    We are those who keep the torch aflame at the end of the road that begins with all the WTFs.

    • Foseti says:

      “But overall it seems to have a tone that says, “dismissible.” Don’t worry about these guys or what they have to say. Not the best “marketing.””

      Yeah, it’s hard to say. He clearly spent a huge amount of time on the readings and the writing. That’s hardly worth doing if it’s obviously dismissible. That said, I was obviously frustrated by a lot of specific sentences. I’m curious to read the rebuttal.

      • Handle says:

        “I’m curious to read the rebuttal.”

        I suspect it’s going to go along awfully predictable lines given the hints he’s dropped:

        1. Racists!
        2. Things aren’t actually that bad. Some things have gotten worse, but a lot of things have gotten remarkably better under the stewardship of the status quo system. Reactionaries are exaggerating their pet concerns in their own version of “first world problems.” Some things they claim are “getting worse all the time” like crime rates, have, in fact, hit their inflection points or high-water marks and have been improving for a while. This is hard to explain if the current system hasn’t found a way to get these issues under control.
        3. If USG is so incompetent, corrupt, crazy, and evil then the modern triumph of the American system requires a better explanation than Reactionaries have offered. There are alternatives out there, but none of them of comparable scale have proven competitive. Is it without significance that Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, IBM, and most of the worlds’ best innovative companies are American?
        4. Sure Democracy has its obvious problems, but it could be made to work better if only we …
        5. Or, In the alternative, “Ok, Democracy is an irreparably lousy way of making decisions and picking leaders, but it is important in modern times for the adult population to feel they have some form of input and connection to power, because otherwise … pitchforks … tar and feathers …
        6. Ok, the government doesn’t really work at all like the high school civics version, and yeah, the Supreme Court is really sovereign and makes a lot of crap up – but you know, all societies have their mythologies, their founding narratives, their little white noble lies, big deal.
        7. Yeah, PC is really annoying. But really, we still have the first amendment, everyone is allowed to put whatever they want on the internet (albeit anonymously) and it’s not official censorship just because you can be socially ostracized and lose your job for embarrassing your peers or employer. It’s unreasonable to insist that everyone should get to say whatever they want, no matter how crazy or hateful or mendacious, without suffering at least some social consequences. Every society has their “structure of taboos”, and their polite rules of etiquette which control what people say and how they say it to avoid disharmony. It’s called respect and civility.
        8. A lot of people who claim to be Reactionaries really are just some hateful paranoid cranks. Yes, official history has often falsely tarred some innocent people with valid ideas by calling them hateful paranoid cranks, but sometimes the shoe fits. Reactionaries should make extra efforts to distance themselves from these losers, but often show them suspect levels of tolerance.
        9. All that old stuff is just obsolete. We live in a day and age so utterly different and almost unrecognizable from that of our predecessors that it’s simply illegitimate to presume that what worked for them then will work for us now.
        10. We don’t even have a good handle on what “left” and “right” are politically anymore. A lot of the time, left is seen as “new, improved, progress, reform, improvement, and positive change.” and right is “keep things as they are”. Inevitably, something comes up for debate, and the right always makes the same argument, “this will screw everything up horribly.” But then, when the change is made, well, yes, lots of other things change too, but the sky hardly falls. People and institutions are flexible and adaptable – they adjust and find new equilibria. There are always winners and losers, but note how infrequently people in general see the results of the change and beg to go back to the way things were.

        That’s just my guess. All of those are easily refutable of course, but I think they have a certain appeal if you don’t penetrate the surface of the claims. We’ll have to wait and see which direction he decides to take.

      • Federico says:

        Handle, that is superb criticism.

        I shall post a response to Scott, and to you, at the weekend.

      • Handle says:


        Sir, it is this which is superb.

  8. SkepticalCynical says:

    Scott Alexander may write a doubleplusgood rebuttal free from any taint of crimethink. But he nevertheless has swallowed most of the red pills (even the “biological” one – you declare an argument out of bounds not when you believe it is easily shown to be false, but when you know in your heart that it is true). They will do their work in time.

    • Piglet says:

      Indeed. Once you allow yourself to think “hmm, these reactionary guys raise a few valid and interesting points” the slide down the rabbit hole happens pretty quickly if you are committed to rationality. You start seeing it play out everywhere. Of course, my guess is that Mr. Alexander is too smart to let on if that happens. It is not worth losing status signalling games over because nothing can be done anyway.

  9. Allan says:

    Please forgive me for the following negative but realistic comments:

    1. Who the heck is Scott Alexander?
    2. Who cares?
    3. Who cares what he thinks?
    4.The percentage of the population
    that is genuinely libertarian is about 5%
    (at most)
    5.The percentage of the population
    that is genuinely reactionary
    (in the Foseti sense)
    is about 5% of 5%
    (at most)
    6.Nonetheless it is all good fun reading this stuff
    even though it’s not going to change anything
    or even slow down our descent into Hell.

    • Foseti says:

      If we don’t pay attention to how intelligent people react to these ideas and how the ideas begin to permeate their thoughts, what should we pay attention to?

    • Federico says:

      Scott is one of, if not the most popular user on LessWrong forum (“Yvain”). A nice chap and able to provide useful feedback.

      • josh says:

        Allan is right. Do you people actually think we are going to *win* or something?

      • Federico says:

        I like to win more accurate beliefs, by engaging in non-mindkilled discussion.

        I don’t care so much to win Brownie points by defeating someone in argument, let alone insulting and stonewalling them.

  10. Firepower says:

    There is nothing new anyplace, especially complaints about others enforcing ideological uniformity.

    Even my observation on that, isn’t new.

  11. Karl says:

    The comment thread veered off into a I-Learned-So-Much-at-My-Magnet-HS boastoff. Aspergery. Is it like that on lesswrong? Because that’s not less wrong, it’s assoverteakettle wrongwrong.

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