This is not a polite essay - a two-parter offering new (and some older) insights into a world oligarchic putsch that endangers us all... and no-less the self-deceiving oligarchs, themselves. But we'll start with some of the lunatic shills they have subsidized or hired to push obsolete, dangerous notions.
Wiser heads advise that I just ignore a particular cabal of erudite fools, spewing ingrate insanity like frothy scum across a polluted beach. Alas, the ‘neo-monarchists’ are back! Now attracting real support from would-be kings. And since few others appear to be confronting them head-on, it's up to me, alack.
== Know-Nothings get away with spewing nonsense ==
It should surprise no one that modern conservatism has migrated away from the ‘c-word’ that used to be one of their icons… competition… giving lip service to Adam Smith...
Alas, no liberal pundit or politician ever points out this hypocrisy, or that the U.S. Founders and the original Tea Party rebelled primarily against cheater oligarchy. Moreover, anyone who actually reads Adam Smith knows that - were he alive today – Smith would be a flaming Democrat.
That hypocrisy spans the entirety of today’s conservatism, with one exception, that I’m about to describe. Members of this extremum are no longer hypocrites!
That's because neo-monarchists openly despise Adam Smith. They espouse completing the antipodal migration of conservatism, from once-upon-a-time extolling competition, all the way to openly justifying its utter suppression.
From Smith, past Burke all the way to Louis XIV.
(Note that there are many (perhaps 1%) on the left who rage against 'The Enlightenment' and every concept that led to their own knowledge, comforts and freedoms. But I do not deem them anywhere near as smart or as dangerous as the traitors on the other side. And hence... another time.)
== It’s baaaack! Sycophancy for feudalism ==
I recall when ‘neo-monarchist’ jibberers like “Mencius Moldbug” – the nom-de-spume of a Mr. Curtis Yarvin – only flitted along the extreme right ankle of science fiction fandom, as mutated Ayn-Randian nuisances, bugging me and other sci fi authors on Internet fora.
Now, subsidized by the likes of Peter Thiel, they are subjects of big-time profiles, like this one on Tablet, that feigns faux ‘balance’ while implying that Moldbug offers some bona fide, red-pill style Truths. But don’t be fooled by any semblance of an evenhanded tone. This article, by Tablet essayist Jacob Siegel, pushes the incredible, oligarchy-subsidized notion of taking Moldbug and his ilk seriously.
“Whether you like it or not, Yarvin is the philosopher of, at the very least, our near future.”
Oh, what malarkey! In their denunciations of democracy, Moldbug/Yarvin and ilk rave assertions about human nature and history that are blatantly and diametrically opposite to fact. For example that:
“…all organizations, big or small, public or private, military or civilian, are managed best when managed by a single executive….”
…a stunningly counterfactual claim over which I have long offered wager stakes. An assertion-incantation that only breathes air because so many of our contemporary fellow citizens (e.g. Mr. Siegel) know next-to nothing about human history. (Tell it to the single-executive idiots who trashed Sears, Xerox and Kodak by enforcing their whims.)
Indeed, when confronted by how spectacularly more-successful America and the West have been, by any range of metrics, across the last 200 years - especially the last 80 - than all other human times and societies combined – success that transpired and accelerated in direct proportion to how much more democratic, inclusive and transparently accountable we became – Yarvin and cohorts are reduced to chanting:
“Yeah? Well, it won’t last. It can’t!”
And it may not. I’ve always held that the rare enlightenment experiments – less than a dozen across all human annals – always had steep odds stacked against them. Vastly more common, spanning all continents and 6,000+ years, were societies that - soon after achieving agriculture - became narrow pyramids of inherited privilege and raw male power.
(We’re all descended from the harems of such kings, lords and priests. Indeed, incel, harem-envy is revealed, the moment you scrape any of these neo-feudalists.)
Still, despite those harsh odds, a few oases of light have glimmered across the darkness. Periclean Athens, for example, was so vastly more creative, resilient, dynamic and fun – even in its crude, brutish form – that it terrified all surrounding kingdoms and oligarchies - (especially crude/vile/overrated Sparta) - who dropped all their bickering to join forces against the First Democracy, pouncing finally upon mistakes that we now know to have been inevitable.
Similar oligarch-swarms crushed da Vinci’s brilliant Florentine Republic and came within a hair’s breadth of doing so, again, to renaissance Amsterdam, the seed that survived, then blossomed into all we know. Still, plagues of harem-seeking parasites have tried to destabilize our 300 year experiment every generation, ever since.
As if conceding a valid point, Mr. Siegel slyly grants Yarvin/Moldbug credence he never earned:
“Philosophers and politicians like Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, to name only three among countless figures, including many on the left, have been outspoken in their warnings about democracy’s perils.”
Sure, a factually correct sentence. Except that Mr. Siegel portrays as a bug what’s actually a feature! All of those thinkers… plus Franklin and Thomas Paine and Lincoln and FDR and Marshall and many others, criticized democracy’s faults in order to keep doing it better! In the same fashion that, should the American Experiment survive today’s insane treason of Murdochian Trumpism, we may enact transparency reforms that stymie similar failure modes, in future. (Forcing reflexive oligarchy cabals to innovate new attacks, of course.)
Oh, this cult is predictable and has historical odds in its favor, as well as Darwinian drivers like male reproductive drives and fantasies. But if you truly want to wallow in justifications for betraying our renaissance and democracy, you can do much better than these fools. The case for rulership by inherently superior demigods is made far more entertainingly and unctuously in the sly, slow-poison dramas penned by a bona fide genius (and traitor to everything that was ever good to him) named Orson Scott Card. But Scott's treacherously brilliant, anti-democracy propaganda is not today’s topic.
So yes, do give Mr. Siegel’s article a look, if only to see how far fellows like Peter Thiel are now willing to go, subsidizing this lunacy in order to sabotage the great Enlightenment Experiment that made them, and resume instead history’s dismally unsapient calamity called feudalism.
While there, have a look at the art-illustration, portraying Yarvin/Moldbug as Machiavelli! Like depicting the denizen of a padded cell as actual Napoleon. Uh huh. You wish.
When you’re done, come back here for a very simple and devastating refutation. Go on. I’ll wait.
While you’re at it, see also a fawning profile of Thiel’s eagerly dyspeptic (and trivially refuted) incantations that ‘liberalism has failed,’ while wallowing in its protection and myriad benefits. I so hope the author of this piece misinterprets almost everything, in almost every paragraph because… wow, the mighty sure can fall a long way. There are meme-poisons that burn away IQ.
Oh, and here's a late note that I'll come back to, another time: see this actual Swiss company that exemplifies and self-satirizes the desperate denialism of human males with unaccountable power and way too much money -- offering palatially opulent underground bunker systems for the uber-oligarch sociopaths in the aristo-prepper movement! Would-be lords who - rather than help the civilization that was good to them - are flocking to masturbatory fantasies about world domination after everything crashes down in "The Event."
(Never pondering that the 100 million nerds on this globe - against whom they wage open war - are the very folks who know cyber, bio, nano, nuclear stuff... and thousands know the exact location and schematics of every bunker.)
I've consulted - along with Douglas Rushkoff - with a few of these folks and oh! Their smug delusions aren't even bad sci fi. But more on that in Part 2.
== The core and absolutely devastating reason oligarchy sucks ==
Back already? Well, okay. Where were we? Oh yes.
Normally, when refuting vile lies, you’d build a series of increasingly cogent points, arriving at the best and most decisive one last. In this case, I lack time or interest in spending more’n an hour on morons. Anyway, I’ve dissected neo-monarchism before, here… and here.
Hence, I’ll both start and finish with just one most-devastating rebuttal, based on the core essential fact about human nature.
We are all inherently delusional.
The more intensely you believe something, the more willingly you should check it out, now and then. Hence we know the only truly effective antidote to delusion that has ever been discovered is...
The criticism of others.
Criticism even—especially— by your enemies.
Oh, that’s not to say you’re doomed always to be wrong! For one thing, science has provided many self-check tools that reduce rates and levels of delusion, applying experimental and experiential honesty to enhance the central catechism that made science so successful. A pair of simple sentences spoken not just by scientists, but by any person with an ounce of decency or maturity.
“I might be wrong. Let’s find out.”
That wisdom was excruciatingly hard to come by! Especially since human beings hate criticism. In fact, your reflex, when criticized, is likely the very same as your enemy’s. You’ll try to shut your critic down. Evasion, distraction, shouting, logical fallacies, backstabbing gossip… all the way to threats and lawsuits…. To varying degrees, we’ve all wriggled and squirmed to evade searing reproach of our illusions.
Only now imagine you are a king. One with the power to order death to critics, at a whim?
Look at what I just did. I explained nearly all of human history! That horrible, wretched litany of delusions and mistakes spanning nearly all continents and at least a sixty centuries, during which every king, autocrat, high priest, paramount chief, baron, or lord could declare his favorite delusions to be Truth. Law. Policy. Many of them insane notions, or dumb, or calamitous…
…or even good ideas that might have been muchly improved, if poked-at by discomforting critical commentary.
The nearly universal result? Wretched generations of calamity-stricken human beings paid the price of kingly hallucination and critic-suppression. Until, at last, something better came along…
…the constitutional/democratic equivalent of “anybody might be wrong.”
Freedom of speech.
Freedom for the many – in autonomy and confidence – to criticize the mistakes of even the mighty… though at a price!
The price of being criticized, yourself.
And that’s it. That is the foremost answer (among many) to these jabbering neo-monarchists. Not only are the rare, underdog enlightenments vastly more successful by every metric of human accomplishment, compared to all other societies combined.
They achieve all that by unleashing competitive reciprocal accountability, which is the very opposite of rule-by-single-executive.
Inarguably better results, achieved by an unassailably better (much less lobotomized) method. A method that only works under conditions of general transparency. When light flows, even upon those at the top.
Especially upon them.
Alas, there is a price. Only, it is not the one they jabber about.
... and I'll get to it in Part 2.