The progressive reaction?

May 31, 2013

Rod Dreher:

as Alasdair MacIntyre has observed, all parties in American politics are devoted to Progression. It’s simply a matter of whether you are a “conservative” progressive, a progressive progressive, or a radical progressive.

Or, it appears, a reactionary progressive.

There a lot of talk of winning and what to do next around these parts lately (I believe it started here). Some of this talk makes clear that there’s a contingency within the self-identified reactionary community that is definitely reactionary progressive.

Maybe I read too many primary sources from the ’40s and ’50s, but as I read these threads it gets difficult – at times – to distinguish the “reactionary” from the communist. A fair number of us seem to believe that we need to win, and to do so all we need to do is get the proles to rise up and overthrow the bourgeoisie.

No thanks.

When Moldbug wrote about the reboot, step one was getting the elites on our side. Anything else is destructive of order, and better left to some branch of progressivism. A surprising number of “reactionaries” seem to have missed this basic point. (The elites shouldn’t actually be all that hard to convert, since they generally act like reactionaries in their personal lives).

(Incidentally, if you’re really trying to figure out how to reorient USG, you should probably pay more attention to the Communists. After all, they were last ones who did it successfully. They had certain advantages that we don’t have, but still, they did it).

I consider myself the (perhaps wannabe) intellectual heir of a line of thought that has been around forever, that generally loses, and that’s always proved right (alas, no one pays attention). In other words, if you’re here for the short-term winning, you’re in the wrong place.

At a minimum, it would be nice to be clear that the goal is the restoration of functional government and the preservation of order, not the toppling of what’s left of it. If you’re here for the revolution, you’re not a reactionary.

It’s awesome when you’re struggling with a thought and then somebody puts it better than you could:

Modern politics became psychotic when agitated scribblers convinced themselves that they had the tools, the right, and even the duty to re-order the world in accordance with their pamphlets. This is a Left tradition that few have yet derided enough.

Count me among those unfinished with the deriding.

Here as well:

What exactly is the difference between a Moldbug and a Carlyle, a Land and an Evola, a Sailer and a Mencken, and Auster and a Davila? Innumerable differences to be sure, both of belief, style and quality.

And yet. Are they not fulfilling similar roles? Are they not serving as our teachers? Were the canonical authors not Sages themselves in their own time? Should the Sages of the Neoreaction all perish, their thought would live on in their writing, and continue to inspire, just as the Sages of times past continue to do so.

That may have to be good enough. It’s not small feat.

Anomaly UK adds some optimism:

Take one example: at some point in our lifetime, it will become obvious to everyone that the great Global Warming scare was false. When that happens, the debates that happened, the books that were written, will still be around in memories and on bookshelves. This is a new thing — by the time that the failures of, say, female suffrage or decolonisation had become obvious, the accurate predictions made in advance had become obscure and mostly forgotten. After twenty years, the argument over AGW is still current, and in twenty years time, the scientific establishment will be completely discredited by it.

Alas, I’m not so sure. It’s still fashionable to oppose colonialism. AGW can always be right around the corner . . . just wait 20 more years.

All this is not to say that I think we have no chance of success. There does indeed seem to be something in the air around these parts. I certainly think we’re on to something.

The hardest problem we’ll have to overcome is our tendency to be progressive – after all, we were all raised that way, we know nothing else. These recent discussions nicely illustrate just how difficult this will be.


Randoms

May 28, 2013

Heartiste on the Cathedral:

The hamster is the errand-rodent of the ego, the most powerful source of energy in the universe. The hamster spins as ruthlessly for believers in universal human biological equality (which in the present cultural milieu necessitates a belief in white male nefariousness) as it spins for girls with a reputation in mind who want their romantic surrender minus the messiness of personal agency.

It is no less incomprehensible to those who have been around the block more than a few times that an ideologically ego-invested Bryan Caplan will live in an all-white collar white bubble while clamoring for open borders than it is that a nice girl will sleep with a taciturn, tattooed bike messenger while claiming she wants a niceguy who’s sensitive to her needs and loves poetry.

– Frost has some good thoughts on the reaction.  I’d add that we should have a sense of humor, remember just how intractable progressivism is (cars are on fire in Sweden, their government is doing nothing about it, and the vast majority of Swedes seem totally cool with it), maintain a relatively low level of specialization (where else can you converse with people on so many unrelated subjects at the same time?), and write mostly for ourselves.  (Related discussion in the comments here).

An apology for crony capitalism.  If it’s any consolation, most legislation I’m aware of is written in part by the bureaucracy, the professoriate, and the firms to be regulated, in addition to lobbyists (I don’t know of anyone who thinks Congressmen or Executive Branch officials actually write laws).

– Yes, they’re electing a new people.  Also, in the 21st Century, we should expect a certain (positive) number of soldiers in the most civilized countries to get their heads cut off.  Such is life, apparently.

We know the IRS targeted groups that wanted “to make America a better place to live.”  Perhaps by doing so, they were just targeting racists, which would presumably make it ok.

Teaching Spanish is now racist.  Thank God for small blessings.

– Government can be surprisingly good when it’s actually trying.

Divorce killed marriage.


Randoms

May 26, 2013

– The sociology of reaction (and a Moldbug ebook). Note, if you read nothing else, read the questions at the end.

Paleo retiree:

In case you were in any doubt about what our state religion now is: A too-big-to-fail bank has just ordered me, a random ATM user, to “unite behind diversity.” If I’ve got this right, I’m not being urged by a fellow citizen to stand up to the Powers That Be in order to demand our rights. Instead, I’ve been commanded by a top-down soul-crushing part of the Plutocracy to stand WITH the Powers That Be in order to stifle dissent and impose a trendy and unrealistic ideal.

Anomoly UK:

It is better that reactionary views are completely driven out of mainstream politics, as that preserves the distance between reactionaries and politicians. There can be no victory through gradual change: adoption of any reactionary ideas must be accompanied by total rejection of the old formula. If reactionary views are banned, that is better still, since it draws that clear line between the present body of thought and the next.

– Just when I think Radish can’t do anything cooler, it totally outdoes itself.

Spandrell: “If the past is a foreign country, reactionaries are patriots of that country.” That’s pretty good for a one sentence description.

Heh.


The fourth branch

May 26, 2013

From Professor Turley:

The growing dominance of the federal government over the states has obscured more fundamental changes within the federal government itself: It is not just bigger, it is dangerously off kilter. Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency.

. . .

This exponential growth has led to increasing power and independence for agencies. The shift of authority has been staggering. The fourth branch now has a larger practical impact on the lives of citizens than all the other branches combined.

The rise of the fourth branch has been at the expense of Congress’s lawmaking authority. In fact, the vast majority of “laws” governing the United States are not passed by Congress but are issued as regulations, crafted largely by thousands of unnamed, unreachable bureaucrats. One study found that in 2007, Congress enacted 138 public laws, while federal agencies finalized 2,926 rules, including 61 major regulations.

. . .

The autonomy was magnified when the Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that agencies are entitled to heavy deference in their interpretations of laws. The court went even further this past week, ruling that agencies should get the same heavy deference in determining their own jurisdictions — a power that was previously believed to rest with Congress.

. . .

The judiciary, too, has seen its authority diminished by the rise of the fourth branch. Under Article III of the Constitution, citizens facing charges and fines are entitled to due process in our court system. As the number of federal regulations increased, however, Congress decided to relieve the judiciary of most regulatory cases and create administrative courts tied to individual agencies. The result is that a citizen is 10 times more likely to be tried by an agency than by an actual court.

. . .

Of course, federal agencies officially report to the White House under the umbrella of the executive branch. But in practice, the agencies have evolved into largely independent entities over which the president has very limited control. Only 1 percent of federal positions are filled by political appointees, as opposed to career officials, and on average appointees serve only two years. At an individual level, career officials are insulated from political pressure by civil service rules. There are also entire agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — that are protected from White House interference.

Nothing new to my readers, but worth sharing.


FDR’s foreign policy

May 26, 2013

Apparently, he gets an “A” for foreign policy.

FDR’s foreign policy is basically synonymous with US WWII aims. What were his policies with respect to ending WWII?

As best I can determine, FDR went into the war with basically no war aims. After a while, he seems to have settled on two:

1) Totally destroying Germany and Japan (he was the first to public state the demand for unconditional surrender). I’ve read that he seems to have even considered breaking Germany back up into principalities.

2) Ending European colonialism as quickly as possible.

Both of these aims were, retrospectively, terrible.

The first served to make the Soviets the (by far) most dominant power in Europe and Asia. It left the US alone to provide any meaningful resistance in both theaters.

The second enticed the Soviets to further expand into the third world and has led to disastrous results which continue into modern times (Egypt, for example, is still struggling for stability and has rarely if ever been a better place to live following the end of colonialism – the list of course is much longer – think of all the subsequent bloodshed in the Middle East or India and Pakistan).

Is this really the best we got?

Or maybe he just gets an A since he was so effective in implementing the policies that his advisors (many of whom were Soviet agents or suspected Soviet agents) developed.


IRS

May 25, 2013

I previously predicted that no one at the IRS would (or could) be fired over the recent scandal and that the most noteworthy offenders would probably get punished with mandatory paid vacation.

Those predictions seem to have been correct.

Having gotten the easy ones right, I’d like to venture a couple less certain ones: 1) I think that no one in the permanent bureaucracy at the IRS violated a law or regulation; and 2) I think that had the permanent bureaucrats at the IRS targeted progressive groups, the same actions would in fact have been a violation of law and regulation.

Prediction 1: no violations

I’ve run across three suggestions regarding the law or regulation that the permanent bureaucrats at the IRS might have violated. If you don’t want the details, in all cases it’s possible to contort language to argue that permanent bureaucrats violated the law or regulation, but in all cases it’s a stretch and unlikely to hold up in court give wide deference that’s typically given to agencies and bureaucrats.

John Boehner said the following about what laws were broken:

Section 7214 of the title 26 of the U.S. code states very clearly, “any officer or employee of the united states acting in connection with any revenue law of the united states who is guilty of extortion or willful oppression under the color of law shall be dismissed from office and if convicted be fined up to 10,000 dollars and spend five years in jail”.

There’s no evidence of extortion, so we’re left only with “willful oppression under the color of law.”

I have no idea what this means, but I put my legal team on it (the team can identify himself in the comments if he wishes, though he may be too embarrassed by the exorbitant rates he charged to do so). The team referred me here. The gist is the term is meant to prohibit IRS agents from turning into “shady collection agents” (to borrow the description from my legal team).

The legal team did come up with an alternative regulation that may have been violated, specifically,18 USC 242.

The part is generally used against law enforcement officials run amok, but it’s not necessarily limited to such officials. The key bit of code is, “… the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution …”

It’s possible to argue that extra auditing violated free speech rights or due process rights, but it’s a stretch. The IRS has wide discretion to conduct audits, and all such groups know that they face the prospect of an audit.

There is one final contender, Section 1203 of the Internal Revenue Code. The relevant portion reads:

(a) In General.–Subject to subsection (c), the Commissioner of Internal Revenue shall terminate the employment of any employee of the Internal Revenue Service if there is a final administrative or judicial determination that such employee committed any act or omission described under subsection (b) in the performance of the employee’s official duties. Such termination shall be a removal for cause on charges of misconduct.

(b) Acts or Omissions.–The acts or omissions referred to under subsection (a) are–
. . .
(2) providing a false statement under oath with respect to a material matter involving a taxpayer or taxpayer representative;
(3) with respect to a taxpayer, taxpayer representative, or other employee of the Internal Revenue Service, the violation of–
(A) any right under the Constitution of the United States; or
(B) any civil right established under–
(i) title VI or VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
(ii) title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972;
(iii) the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967;
(iv) the Age Discrimination Act of 1975;
(v) section 501 or 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; or
(vi) title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;
. . .
(7) willful misuse of the provisions of section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 for the purpose of concealing information from a congressional inquiry;

Parts (b)(2) and (b)(7) may be a problem for some appointed officials that testified before Congress, but to create a problem for the permanent bureaucrats, you’re back to needing to demonstrate that Constitutional rights were violated by increased audit frequency – a tough sell.

In sum, while it’s possible to stretch some terms in the laws and regulations to argue that permanent bureaucrats at the IRS broke them, it’s an uphill battle. It’s also worth noting that the courts (and Congress and the President) have been highly deferential (see here for a recent and illuminating example) to agencies and bureaucrats. It’s unlikely that they’d change their tune now.

Prediction 2: turning the tables

If you read the list under (b) in Section 1203 again, you’ll notice that certain specific groups are protected from discrimination. By sheer coincidence, these protected groups tend to be overwhelmingly progressive.

It seems to me that permanent bureaucrats would be getting the boot if they’d targeted progressive groups. Instead, they’ll get paid vacations for a while and then they’ll resume their jobs as if nothing happened.

Closing thoughts

Conservatives have been working hard to connect the scandal to the administration. They should stop. It’s a much bigger problem if this all happened without direction, which it almost certainly did.

(People always assume that bureaucrats’ jobs change when a new administration comes in. This is a silly assumption. My job has not changed at all when the administration has changed. I still work on the same projects, take the same views, and perform the same tasks regardless of who is campaigning and giving interviews. Indeed, the only way an administration could actually change this is by meddling with bureaucrats – we value our “independence” from sordid politics too much. My guess is that if the administration asked the IRS to do this, the permanent bureaucrats in the IRS would have done less of this than they did).

Conservatives have succeeded in demonstrating that some higher level permanent bureaucrats knew what was going on and that they later told certain officials in the administration, but who cares? The point is that the abuses happened at the lower levels first.

Permanent employees with wide discretion, with no consequences associated with their actions, with no oversight, with nothing to lose will, and all beholden to the same ideology will behave this way – such is their incentive structure.

Our modern government is wide discretion to the permanent bureaucracy. In that system, they did nothing wrong (other than getting caught – maybe someone just wanted some extra time off).


Comparative advantages

May 25, 2013

In Sweden, only dark explanations can explain the burning cars.

I’ve written before about the particular inability of progressive societies to assimilate outsiders. In short, if you can’t judge, criticize or punish, by what mechanism do you expect to assimilate anyone?

One possible answer is by being really nice. What better place to test this answer than Sweden? Oops.

This is sad to see since the Nordic countries have been stable places to live with good government (this doesn’t mean I like all their policies, but the results have been generally good – how quickly they become anarcho-tyrannical!). These parts of the internet have long been predicting that the days of peace and stability are numbered thanks to their immigration policies. Alas, it appears we were right.

Your cars may be on fire, but at least the chapulas will be cheap, plentiful, and oh so tasty.

It’s fashionable to blame lack of jobs for failed assimilation (though one wonders why the US would begin increasing immigration during a recession if this is the new official answer to why immigration fails). Indeed, it’s basically impossible to seriously believe that lots of welfare in combination with lots of unemployment and lots of diversity is a recipe for anything other than war and chaos.

Mass immigration coupled with declining job prospects for low-skilled workers is scary:

There are really two choices before us as we think about the future of jobs in an age of information. Either most human beings are about to become economically obsolete, or the information economy can find a use for their talent and hard work. Much depends on which of these two pictures turns out to be the best description of the future.

If we believe in the first alternative, we are going to start planning for the mother of all welfare states. There will be a period of transition, but something like 80 percent or more of the population is going become superfluous to the economy. There will be no jobs where the work of this group could command a living wage; the state must somehow make provision for them or wait for them to fall into poverty and risk the social explosion that will probably follow.

If that happens, you don’t want to be near the diversity.

The jobs argument for Sweden is anyway sketchy:

This attitude is particuarly disturbing because Sweden has invested more energy and money to integrating immigrants than any other European country. It’s also reliably prosperous: there’s no mass unemployment, as in France or Spain. What’s happening around Stockholm, then, can’t be explained away as a reaction to official neglect or poverty. Rather, it’s a predictable consequence of mass immigration from the Third World into a small, ethnically and culturally homogeneous society.

Indeed. With so many first world countries experimenting with mass third world immigration for several decades now, you’d expect at least one of them to have succeeded at some point, if only by accident. Instead, cars are aflame and heads are literally rolling in the streets.

One must, of course, blame the perpetrators of these crimes. Nevertheless some people have designed, argued for, and implemented these policies on grand scales despite totally predictable results. Alas, it appears they’ll be more than enough blood to stain the hands of the perpetrators and their enablers.