The Senate and People of Ukia

After the 2019 British General Election produced a large conservative majority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, I wrote a “projection” / fantasy of how Britain could progress to a one-party state.

A one-party state on the Chinese model isn’t my ideal form of government. I would prefer an absolute hereditary monarchy such as the one I described in 2012. (Next year we will pass the half-way point of the 25 years between when I wrote it and when I set it, so I will review that then). But I never put forward a mechanism for getting to the absolute monarchy, only vaguely having in mind some serious political collapse and recovery. One-party states do exist today and some of them are governed much better than multi-party democracies. They are equally oligarchic, but the oligarchies are more rational, effective, and marginally less embroiled in infighting.

The central point of neoreactionary theory is that the root problem of our society is its structure of government. The most obvious problem is the people in charge, and if you look a bit deeper you see bad and harmful ideologies, but the theory is that the ideologies are the expected product of internal competition within an oligarchy, and that the people are the product of the structure and the ideologies.

If that is accepted, then the critical step is to change the system. Changing the system will in time change the ideologies and the people. So movement away from a system of oligarchic competition is a benefit, whether the one party is Labour or Conservative. It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat.

Admittedly, when I imagined Borisland, it was very much as a monarchical form with a Supreme Leader. I have heard suggestions that Xi is effectively sovereign over the PRC, but I don’t know and if I were to guess I would think it unlikely. Is Starmer a man who can dissolve ministerial responsibility? Or maybe there is a more ambitious successor waiting in the wings? Either could work. Every Prime Minister who is not universally pilloried as baffled and ineffectual (and some who are) is accused of introducing presidential government; it does not appear to be an impossibility.

Again, I would prefer not to be dragging even the pretence of democratic legitimacy behind the monarch, but, after all, the Roman Empire managed it.

What does the incoming Starmer administration have going for it? Quite a bit:

  1. Weak parliamentary opposition
  2. A prominent internal opposition
  3. A large majority to enable it to combat the internal opposition
  4. A leader who intimately understands the permanent government
  5. A leader young enough to last a couple of decades
  6. The support of the permanent government and the press (at least to start with)

The weak conservative opposition means that the government will not initially be too pressed to compete with it for popularity. My expectation will be that the government’s biggest fights for the first year will be against the left of the Labour party, and particularly the Islamic / pro-Palestine elements, plus the independent MPs that were elected specifically on that platform. Starmer’s pragmatic programme, coupled with his Jewish family, mean he will never be able to satisfy that wing, and would be unwise to try. Losing the Labour party’s traditional support from that population will be initially affordable given the huge parliamentary majority, and in the medium term will gain him much more support from the wider population.

In the modern democratic and media environment, the best way to advance a programme is to have unpopular people oppose it, and the worst way is to have unpopular people support it. If Reform are wise, they will keep a low profile for the next few years, take the money and quietly build an organisation. The government is much more likely to take action on immigration because George Galloway is against it than because Nigel Farage is in favour of it.

The knowledge of the permanent government is very important. In my lifetime, only two Prime Ministers have shown any real evidence of being in charge. Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair were both lawyers. They both had allies in the civil service (which was much more conservative 40 years ago than it is now). Kier Starmer and Harriet Harman are coming into government with an agenda that we can assume is very much in line with that of the permanent government. But they now have their own role and their own personal goals, and if, over time, they find they need to act against the wishes of that permanent government — they know where the bodies are buried. They know how the system functions, where its strong points and weak points are.

Again, the neoreactionary theory is that if they want to exercise power they will inevitably come into conflict with the permanent government. They want results that look good in the press. The most obvious reason that the Conservatives were useless is that they were just incompetent. The next most obvious reason is that they were traitors to conservatism. The deeper reason is that actually achieving any conservative goals was impossible, so many of them adopted more liberal positions because only by doing so could they avoid being ridiculous failures.

(For people my age, the most vivid examples are Michael Portillo and John Redwood; the two Conservatives seen as the ideological heirs of Thatcher, and the thorns in the right side of the moderate John Major, both of whom over time moved steadily more and more left decade by decade, finishing well to the left of Blair)

Achieving conservative goals was impossible for the Conservatives because the permanent government was united against them, and could obstruct them with legal and administrative bullshit to the point that anything they did achieve would cost them politically far more than it was worth (the two years of failure of the Uganda scheme is of course the prime example, but the pattern was everywhere). If I am right about the advantages that Starmer’s past experience gives him, he might not find things so impossible.

I do expect these conflicts to happen. Starmer will not want to deport illegal immigrants in order to get Sun front pages that will impress Essex Man — but he may find he wants to deport illegal immigrants in order to get the crime rate down and the welfare bill down, and to prevent his own children being blown up in their synagogue. He will want it to just happen, quietly. Can he do that? That’s the question.

If in five years’ time the economy is a bit better (and there is a ton of scope to achieve that by removing obstacles), the immigration situation is no worse, and the Conservatives are still in disarray (the huge error I made five years ago was in thinking that Labour would today still be largely engaged in fighting off Corbynist holdouts, so that’s a big open question), then he could carry as big a majority into the next decade. Technology today is very favourable to absolutism. A leader who is seen as legitimate will have many mechanisms available to him to cement his position.

I’m not going to try to imagine details. Armies under the absolute control of an Emperor carried the standard of the Senate and People of Rome, a Britain that has become “UK” (the latest constitutional proposals apparently include a Senate), perhaps without even being any longer an official kingdom, could also be directed by a single hand.

Elite Misinformation

I kind of like Matthew Yglesias. He comes out with some wild things occasionally, but mostly he’s careful and reasonable, even though I don’t share his values.

Now I understand him a bit better, including some of the wild stuff. His main problem is that he is spectacularly naive.

His recent piece, “Elite misinformation is an underrated problem” is, in itself, a good piece. He notes that “misinformation” research is embarrasingly one-sided, and draws attention to a couple of claims that have been widely circulated in mainstream elite media, which are somewhere between misleading and outright lies.

Good stuff. But then he says, “There’s lots of this going around”.

No! There’s not “lots”. This is absolutely fucking everything you read. All of it. From all sides. All the time. He’s still describing them as if they’re the exception. Everything is exaggerated, nobody is honest. Except him. And me. Sometimes.

It’s the universality of exaggeration and misleading information that makes it impossible to hold anyone responsible.

If what you say is 80% false, because everything you read is misinformation, or if what you say is 85% false, because everything you read is misinformation plus you exaggerated a bit yourself, what’s the difference? Can anyone really blame you?

If someone hears something deliberately misleading, and repeats it in such a way that it is factually false because they believe the thing that was deliberately implied but carefully not said outright, is that their fault? This is the real damage of the situation that we’re in. It’s not that “we” are being consistently lied to by “them” — it’s that everyone including “them” believes a ton of stuff that isn’t true.

I write on the morning after the first 2024 presidential debate. Everyone I read in my ideological bubble, including a few outsiders like Yglesias, are saying that Biden did disastrously badly. I didn’t watch it and am not going to. But many people are saying “they must have known he was like this.” But most of them probably didn’t. They know their opponents lie and exaggerate (they do!). Their friends were telling them it was OK.

I’m inclined to suspect it was always like this, but there are clues that it might not have been. In Britain, before my time, it was spoken of as a rule that a Minister would resign if it was shown he had “misled the house” even once. Something like that, applied not only to politicians but media too, is the only way to be different, since it’s impossible for holding anyone accountable for telling untruths while swimming in an ocean of untruth. And there isn’t a way to get there from here. (Actually my guess is that the rules were always applied selectively, but as I say it was before my time).

The ocean of untruth is what makes it impossible to change, too. You can appear wise and balanced, like Yglesias, by picking one or two things that your side is promoting and pointing out the weaknesses. But if you go through every single thing said, and rule out a third as simply false, and identify the misleading implications and exaggerations of the other two, you are massively harming your side, and your opponents will just pile in gleefully while repeating all their own lies and half-truths.

(Possibly Yglesias knows this, and that is why he is pretending to be naive. My interpretation is that he’s serious, though).

Decline of Conspiracy

It’s widely accepted that politics over the past 5–10 years has taken a turn to the crazy. The political debate has moved significantly from questions of economic interest to questions of identity. Unconventional figures are succeeding in elections: Donald Trump is president of the USA, Boris Johnson is joint favourite to be next Prime Minister of Britain.

The chief mechanism of this shift has been the destruction or bypassing of the old centres of power. The institutions and informal hierarchies that used to be important to politics no longer are. Obama was said to have bypassed the Democratic establishment with an internet and grass-roots campaign (though is that really true?) Trump undoubtedly ran against the Republican establishment and won, and his ad-hoc campaign seriously outperformed the institutional support behind the Clinton campaign. 1

Money is still important, in US politics, but the fund-raising establishments that mediated it are much less so. A candidate can appeal to donors directly, whether rich donors in person or large numbers of small donors via the internet. The money isn’t flowing through kingmaker fund-raisers who could influence the direction of a party with other people’s money.

From the other side, donors can get influence through big-name candidates, or through pressure groups that set the media agenda, better than through party institutions.

In the UK it’s access to media rather than money that gave the party establishments real power, but that power has declined in the same way: the old gatekeepers can be bypassed.

These are material causes, but there are also social causes. The political parties were once socially important — politicians believed in the party as a force in society, and as a kind of class consciousness. Politicians in a party were insiders, everyone else was an outsider, and insiders knew what was going on in a way that outsiders didn’t. The important people in the party were those who could organise and persuade in private2. That has faded: the parties have become more diverse in every sense, and there is much less in the way of solidarity and social ties to political institutions. 3

That’s the first element: the loss of power of political institutions. That certainly goes back more than the timescale of 5–10 years that I referred to. But its effects are still playing out. The new, open, meritocratic political mechanisms have given rise to a new style in politics.

When politics was carried out within powerful institutions with social and organisational coherence, political factions could keep secrets. They could plan to carry out actions, and to present arguments, without publicly announcing what they were going to do. Today that is not the case. Because political factions are open and meritocratic, collective decisions can only be reached in public.

The effects go further: because all communication within a faction is essentially public, the only way to advance within the faction is through public statements. If you can plan privately and then act, you can be responsible for the consequences of your actions. If you can only contribute to a public debate, then you are responsible for nothing but your public statements. The loss of institutional power has led, through the loss of secrecy, to a loss of responsibility.

The other significant effect of the loss of secrecy is a catastrophic decline in dishonesty in politics. It’s no longer possible to pretend to adopt a political position but to secretly work against it. It’s not possible to express a claim confidently as a bargaining position, and yet negotiate to minimise the risks. If you have publicly expressed confidence, you have to publicly act in line with that expressed confidence. And you can only act publicly.4

“It is a feature of any large movement that pretending to believe something is effectively the same as believing it.”5 — though size of movement isn’t the whole point, the lack of selection into the movement is as important.

Because there is no longer a line between political insiders and outsiders, a majority of your faction are people who haven’t been selected by anyone and who aren’t necessarily in a position to understand compromise or complexity. Your public statements — and therefore your actual actions — have to be simple, clear and extreme.

The failed coup against Trump is a good example of the phenomenon: If there was an actual conspiracy it was tiny, and most of the work of making the Russia frame stick on Trump was done by people who genuinely believed it was real, and therefore adopted the wrong tactics. At a stretch, it’s possible there was no real conspiracy at all: Hillary and her team were making up excuses for their failure, and some intel people were just nuts (an occupational hazard) or were showing off to their friends. It’s important to understand that the publicly claimed positions get internalised. Even if they start as cynical lies, in the absence of private meetings where everyone agrees, “yes we said that, but it’s not really true”, people end up really believing what they pretend to believe.6

What this means is that the purity spirals that characterise the Cathedral have now migrated directly into party politics itself. In the old model, the “Modern Structure“, the political agenda is ultimately driven by the Cathedral, meaning elite academia and the prestige media. They set the common understandings of the electorate and society, which in turn compel politicians to follow. But as politics shifts from private compromises to public debate, the distinction between media and politics dissolves. Every politician is a pundit, and not really anything more. This development has been going for years 7, but only reaches its full effect when the politicians become conscious of it, or have carried on their whole careers under these conditions.

So that ultimately is the cause of the insanity: The old political class which followed the ideological line produced from the Cathedral but with a delay and a practical, moderating influence, has been dissolved into the Cathedral itself.

The civil service is still—for now—out of this: it can still form policy in quiet and carry it on. It is now the last remaining holdout against true popular democracy. It used to be able to make deals with the political class in private, though. The exposing to the public of all political decision-making has taken that mechanism away from it—the question of “what is the official advice” is now part of the public debate on every major issue. It’s also worth noting that it has always been more directly influenced by the Cathedral proper than the old political class was.

Revisiting the Program

Alrenous has played the Thesis 11 card:

Alrenous @Alrenous  2h2 hours ago
 Finally, if you’re really confident in your philosophy, it should move you action. Or why bother?
You moved to China. Good work.

Edit: I totally misread Alrenous here: he’s not saying “Change the world”, he’s saying “change your own life/environment”. So the below, while still, in my view, true and important, is not particularly relevant to his point. Oh well.

He makes a valid point that good knowledge cannot be achieved without trying things:

Alrenous @Alrenous  3h3 hours ago
 Have to be willing to fail to do something new. Something new is patently necessary. NRx isn’t willing to fail. That’s embarrassing.

The problem with this is that neoreaction is the science of sovereignty. Like, say, the science of black holes, it is not really possible for the researcher with modest resources to proceed by experiment, valuable though that would be.

We have ideas on how to use and retain sovereignty, but less to say about how to achieve it. There is a great deal of prior art on how to gain power via elections, guerrilla warfare, coup d’état, infiltration; we don’t really have much of relevance to add to it.

We could do experiments in this area, by forming a political party or a guerrilla army or whatever, but that’s a long way from our core expertise, and though we would like to experiment with sovereignty, attempting to get sovereignty over the United States to enable our experiments is possibly over-ambitious. We could hope to gain some small share of power, but we believe that a share of power is no good unless it can be consolidated into sovereignty.

Given that we do not have special knowledge of achieving power, it seems reasonable that we should produce theory of how power should be used, and someone better-placed to get power and turn it into sovereignty should run their military coup or whatever, and then take our advice. That’s what we care about, even if cool uniforms would be better for getting chicks.

I put this forward as a goal in 2012. 

This is an ambitious project, but I think it is genuinely a feasible route to implementing our principles. Marxism’s successes in the 20th Century didn’t come because its theories were overwhelmingly persuasive; they came because Marxism had theories and nobody else did.

Since then, we have seen Steve Bannon, who apparently has at least read about and understood Moldbug, in a position of significant power in the Trump administration. We have seen Peter Thiel also with some kind of influence, also with at least sympathies towards NRx. These are not achievements in the sense that in themselves they make anything better. But they are experimental validations of the strategy of building a body of theory and waiting for others to consume it.

I have for the last few days been suggesting that Mark Zuckerberg could win the presidency as a moderate technocrat who will save the country from Trump and the Alt-Right Nazis, consolidate power beyond constitutional limits, as FDR did, and reorganise FedGov along the lines of Facebook Inc. This outcome is, frankly, not highly probable, but I insist that it is not absurd. One of the things that controls the possibility of this sort of outcome is whether people in positions of influence think it would be a good thing or a bad thing. If, with our current level of intellectual product we can get to the point of 2017 Bannon, is it not plausible that with much more product, of higher quality, much more widely known and somewhat more respectable, the environment in DC (or London or Paris) could be suitable for this sort of historically unremarkable development to be allowed to happen?

This, presumably, is the strategy the Hestia guys are pursuing with Social Matter and Jacobite, and I think it is the right one. We are at a very early stage, and we have a long way to go before a smooth takeover of the United States would be likely, though in the event of some exceptional crisis or collapse, even our immature ideas might have their day. But we do have experimental feedback of the spread of our ideas to people of intelligence and influence: if we had ten Ross Douthats, and ten Ed Wests, and ten Peter Thiels, discussing the same ideas and putting them into the mainstream, we would have visible progress towards achieving our goals.

President Trump

I have long ago observed that, whatever its effect on government, democracy has great entertainment value. We are certainly being entertained by the last couple of days, and that looks like going on for a while.

From one point of view, the election is a setback for neoreaction. The overreach of progressivism, particularly in immigration, was in danger of toppling the entire system, and that threat is reduced if Trump can restrain the demographic replacement of whites.

On the other hand, truth always has value, and the election result has been an eye-opener all round. White American proles have voted as a block and won. The worst of the millennial snowflakes have learned for the first time that their side isn’t always bound to win elections, and have noticed many flaws of the democratic process that possibly weren’t as visible to them when they were winning. Peter Thiel’s claims that democracy is incompatible with freedom will look a bit less like grumblings of a bad loser once Thiel is in the cabinet. Secession is being talked about, the New York Times has published an opinion column calling for Monarchy. One might hope that Lee Kuan Yew’s observations on the nature of democracy in multi-racial states might get some currency over the next few months or years.

So, yes, President Trump may save the system for another two or three decades (first by softening its self-destructive activities, and later by being blamed for every problem that remains). But Anomaly UK is neutral on accelerationism; if the system is going to fail, there is insufficient evidence to say whether it is better it fail sooner or later. If later, it can do more damage to the people before it fails, but on the other hand, maybe we will be better prepared to guide the transition to responsible effective government.

We will soon be reminded that we don’t have responsible effective government. Enjoyable as fantasies of “God Emperor Trump” have been, of course the man is just an ordinary centre-left pragmatist, and beyond immigration policy and foreign policy becoming a bit more sane, there is no reason to expect any significant change at all. The fact that some people were surprised by the conciliatory tone of his victory speech is only evidence that they were believing their own propaganda. He is not of the Alt-Right, and the intelligent of the Alt-Right never imagined that he was.

For the Alt-Right, if he merely holds back the positive attacks on white culture, he will have done what they elected him to do. Progressives can argue that there can be no such thing as anti-white racism, and that whites cannot be allowed the same freedoms as minority groups since their historical privilege will thereby be sustained. But even if one accepts that argument, it doesn’t mean that those who reject it are White Nationalists. Blurring the two concepts might make for useful propaganda, but it will not help to understand what is happening.

My assessment of what is happening is the same as it was in March: I expect real significant change in US immigration policy, and pretty much no other changes at all. I expect that Trump will be allowed to make those changes. It is an indication of the way that progressive US opinion dominates world media that people in, say, Britain, are shocked by the “far-right” Americans electing a president who wants to make America’s immigration law more like Britain’s–all while a large majority in Britain want to make Britain’s immigration law tougher than it is.

The fact that US and world markets are up is a clue that much of the horror expressed at Trump’s candidacy was for show, at least among those with real influence.

The polls were way off again. The problem with polling is that it is impossible. You simply can’t measure how people are going to vote. The proxies that are used–who people say they support, what they say they are going to do–don’t carry enough information, and no amount of analysis will supply the lacking information. The polling analysis output is based on assumptions about the difference between what they say and what they will do–the largest variable being whether they will actually go and vote at all. (So while this analyst did a better job and got this one right, the fundamental problems remain)

In a very homogeneous society, polling may be easier, because there’s less correlation between what candidate a person supports and how they behave. But the more voting is driven by demographics, the less likely the errors are to cancel out.

If arbitrary assumptions have to be made, then the biases of the analysts come into play. But that doesn’t mean the polls were wrong because they were biased–it just means they were wrong because they weren’t biased right.

On to the election itself, obviously the vital factor in the Republican victory was race. Hillary lost because she’s white. Trump got pretty much the same votes Romney did; Hillary got the white votes that Obama did in 2012, but she didn’t get the black votes because she isn’t black, so she lost.

So what of the much-talked-of emergence of white identity politics? The thing is, that really happened, but it happened in 2012 and before. It was nothing to do with Trump. The Republican party has been the party of the white working class for decades. Obama took a lot of those votes in 2008, on his image as a radical and a uniter, but that was exceptional, and he didn’t keep them in 2012.

The exit polls show Trump “doing better” among black people than Romney or McCain, but that probably doesn’t mean they like him more: it’s an artifact of the lower turnout. The republican minority of black voters voted in 2016 mostly as before, but the crowds who came out to vote for their man in 2008 and 2012 stayed home, so the percentage of black voters voting Republican went up.

The big increase in Trump’s support over Romney from Hispanics is probably not explainable the same way. A pet theory (unsupported by evidence) is that they’ve been watching Trump on TV for years and years and they like him.

The lesson of all this is that, since 2000, the Democratic party cannot win a presidential election with a white candidate. There’s a reason they’re already talking about running Michelle Obama. They’ve lost the white working class, and the only way to beat those votes is by getting black voters out to vote for a black candidate. While we’re talking about precedents, note that the last time a Democrat won a presidential election without either being the incumbent or running from outside the party establishment was 1960.

Update: taking Nate Silver’s point about the closeness of the result, my statements about what’s impossible are probably overconfident: Hillary might have squeaked a win without the Obama black vote bonus, maybe if her FBI troubles had been less. Nevertheless, I think if the Democrats ever nominate a white candidate again, they’ll be leaving votes on the table unnecessarily.

Bureaucracy and Power

In my previous post discussing the tension between Bureaucracy and Aristocracy, I was not actually describing two forms of government, but three.

The ‘tension’ is between bureaucratic centralism, where a central authority rules through appointed officials, and aristocracy, where offices belong to a noble class who have some guaranteed degree of independence from the central power.

What we actually have today is neither one nor the other, but a self-perpetuating and largely unaccountable bureaucracy. It is not quite yet a true aristocracy, though it is well on the way, but it is
nearly immune from “political influence”, to the degree it is sometimes openly demanding such immunity.

So when Spandrell comments that there is no alternative to rule by bureaucracy, I am not quite sure what he means. Certainly we have had no aristocratic rule in a modern country for a couple of centuries; the dominant ideology has been set against it. However, it does not seem impossible to have a bureaucracy under genuine central control. I get the impression that prior to World War II, the governments of Britain and the USA were mostly in control of their bureaucracies: they could fire officials and dictate policy.

Moldbug’s interpretation of US history is that the FDR Government was entirely in sympathy with the bureaucracy, and effectively did not end as later governments were not able to divert the Civil Service from the path that FDR set it on.

In Britain, the Civil Service seems to have gained power over approximately the same period, due to a combination of the destruction of the old ruling class in the Great War, and the arrival of Labour politicians, outsiders to the government system, who the Civil Servants were both willing and able to defy.

My answer, therefore, is that it is possible for a government to rule through a bureaucracy, rather than being ruled by it, and that this was the normal situation prior to 1918, and to a lesser degree even up to 1945. If the government were no longer subject to elections and media opinion, it would be in a much stronger position to impose its will on the bureaucrats.

As for aristocratic rule: if the existing civil servants were to mainly hire their own children, we would be there — it is conceivable that we could have a de facto aristocracy within a decade or
two. Replacing the existing bureaucracy with a different aristocracy, such as the old titled families of Britain, is more far-fetched; but given (somehow) the total ideological sea change that it would require, there are no practical obstacles to it functioning.

Democracy affects the tension between the centre and the bureaucracy in two major ways: as above, the precarious position of elected politicians weakens them vis-a-vis their permanent officials (Moldbug’s “rotor/stator” point). Second, the employment of very large numbers of low-ranking officials becomes one of the main forms of vote-buying. The junior officials do not have direct power over policy in the sense that senior civil servants do, but they have democratic power over questions relating to their continued employment and working conditions. In Britain particularly, the Labour party is now overwhelmingly the party of state employees. Without votes, the block power of junior state employees would be vastly diminished.

Admin note: anonymous commenting is now enabled for the blog

The Modern Structure

Moldbug’s coining “The Cathedral” has caught on and been the subject of much debate, but his other term “The Modern Structure” less so, which is a shame.
The Modern Structure is the constitution of the United States of America, in the sense that that term was originally used — a description of how the government of that country operates. Other Western Democracies have very similar constitutions.
The centre of the Modern Structure is the Civil Service. They actually carry out the business of government.
In theory, they are under the control of Politicians, but in reality the politicians are at most peers of the civil service, and in many cases completely subservient.
In theory again, the Politicians are controlled by the Electorate. However, the influence of the Electorate is slight: enough to tip the balance occasionally when the issue is close, but not to dictate anything. Further, on any issue, the majority of the electorate are completely ignorant, and depend on the media for information about the issue and how they should vote.
Meanwhile, business has at least as much influence on the politicians, and additionally has direct influence on the civil service (through lobbying and other forms of corruption).
In terms of power over government policy, then, the map of influences look something like this:

That is less than half the story, however. In the long run, what matters is not how the noisy controversies of the moment get resolved, but rather what is or is not controversial in the first place. That is the matter of the dominant ideology — what all the people in this network believe about what is and what should be.
The ideology is not fixed: it has changed enormously over mere decades. Who has influence over ideology?
The high status of the organs of the modern structure make them significant, but there are other important influences, and other directions of influence within the network.
This diagram shows the flows of ideological influence. For this purpose I have broken out of “Education” the most crucial organ of ideological influence — “Elite Academia”. This is where ideology comes from.

It is true that, in a sense, everything influences everything else. However, a fully-connected undirected graph has little information content, so the diagram only shows what I think are the biggest influences on what people believe.
I have left out business from the ideology diagram. My view is that while business and lobbyists are able to significantly affect policy, they has very little influence on what people believe. They perhaps have the capability of causing such influence, but in practice businesses are primarily in competition with each other, and it is much more profitable for each player to spend his influence on favouring his own narrow interests rather than on promoting a general business-oriented ideology. To the extent that a business-oriented ideology exists, it is developed by enthusiasts, and funded more by a few eccentrics such as the Kochs rather than by moneyed interests as a whole.
However, this is a disputed point, so here’s the diagram with them added back in, and with the Conservative media broken out from the respectable media.

With or without business interests, it is in the network of ideological influence that we see “The Cathedral” — Elite Academia and Respectable Media — at the core. Ideology flows out from them.
It should go without saying, that this is not intended to be the last word: it is my interpretation of what is mostly general knowledge, and there is a lot of room for refinement, correction and expansion.

Noah’s Castle

I suspect my impression of what a collapse of society looks like is heavily influenced by the 1970s TV series Noah’s Castle, which I saw when I was a child.
As I recall, the plot was that this chap saw that things were all going wrong, and moved out to the country and stocked his cellar up with food. The point of the story was the moral dilemma of whether he would keep his stores for his own whiny ungrateful kids or open them up to the hungry mob at his gates.
The purported dilemma seemed almost as inane to me thirty-odd years ago as it does today, but the image of the wild horde begging for the tinned spam in the basement stuck with me.
That’s my excuse, anyway, because looking at the idea now, it’s not all that convincing. Firstly, whether you feel like giving away your hoard is a minor question compared to whether you can hang onto
it. Second, if it really did get to the stage where the existing food distribution mechanisms broke down, or food became too expensive for the masses, we would be looking at a minimum of hundreds of thousands
starving. Third, drastic changes in government would happen before that, so reactionaries who waited for actual anarchy before acting as I recommended recently would be leaving it too late.
So the question is, what are the stages of the collapse of the state?
At what point can a reactionary leader claim to be restoring order rather than opposing order?
I plan to write a few posts looking at the likeliest possibilities, but first there are a couple of other lines to rule out.
Simple state bankruptcy is not the answer. States can and do run out of money, without losing control. As we have seen in Cyprus, the state can simply confiscate what it needs taxation no longer suffices.
Running out of money could very well contribute to a failure of the state, but in itself it does not constitute a failure.
A foreign invasion obviously is a failure, but that’s not a likely scenario for Britain, so that can be ruled out.
My current theory is that democracy probably goes first. Once the progressives have abandoned or bypassed democracy, even as a temporary expedient, it becomes possible for reactionaries to claim that since
the rulers’ position is no longer justified democratically, there is no reason for the people who caused the crisis to remain in power.
I will expand on this later.

Reactionary Unity

Spandrell talks of three groups among the reactionary movement: capitalist, religious/traditionalist, and ethnic/nationalists. He and Nick Land both consider the degree to which the three groups will be able to work together.

The answer, for me, depends entirely on what the work is that is to be done. That depends again on what the path is for getting to a reactionary state, which I am long overdue to pay more attention to.

It has to depend on local circumstances. For Britain, the path that looks most plausible to me is the restoration of the existing monarchy to power. America needs to take some other path: possibly a seccession, possibly a military takeover. The future reactionary ruler could get there by commanding an army or militia, by being stonkingly rich, or a TV personality, or even a prophet.

In any case, what I see as the future goal is not a ruling politburo of reactionary philosophers, whether neoreactionary, othodox, ethno-nationalist or any combination thereof. What seems more likely is someone who gets power by a more practical method, in a crisis, then points at all the reactionary theory and explains that he’s not going form a transitional administration with the goal of free elections in X months because that would be repeating the mistakes of the past. Rather, he is going to continue to govern according to these fine guiding principles which these clever people have worked out, and will rule in a reactionary manner.

The supporters of this regime will overwhelmingly not be neoreactionaries, they will not be ethnonationalists, they will be ordinary people whose reasoning is “Fuck it, maybe this will work, nothing else has”. That’s the key constituency.

For this to happen, some ideas will have to be widespread: that the solution to the problems of democracy is not more democracy, that the obsessions of the lefter-than-thou pharisees of progressivism are insane, that stable government is so much preferable to anarchy that unpleasant policies should be tolerated for the sake of peace.

However, though distrust of democracy and progressive purity are spreading and might easily become widespread over the next decade or so, true apathy — the belief that, like it or dislike it, government policy is not your responsibility — is a much tougher goal. Stirring up apathy, in Lord Whitelaw’s immortal words, is very difficult. That’s why I believe the wheel has to go full circle — we will have to experience anarchy before we can have the reaction. If we are lucky the anarchy may be brief and not too destructive.

Without anarchy, there will still be a progressive party. If a reactionary movement defeats it, it will remain as an opposition and have to be fought at every turn, and the process of fighting it will nullify most of the advantages that reaction brings. The government will have to actively court popularity in order to weaken the progressive opposition, and that dependence on public opinion politicises what should be the non-political aspects of government.

Progressivism needs to be so discredited that the population will view it with revulsion without the state needing to bargain with them to reject it.

Because I do not see a “reactionary party” as forming any part in the process, the question of cooperation between the wings of the reactionary movement does not really arise. The work we have to do is to get the theory done, and prepare the ground. We will do that between us, and whether in overt cooperation or in rivalrous competition doesn’t really matter. If the first ruler is there because he wins a race war, then the contribution to theory of the ethnonationalists will be important. If he has raised an army of religious crusaders, the orthodox will be more important. If he has carved a peaceful oasis out of the anarchy by hiring mercenaries with the profits from his data haven business, he’s going to be paying attention to the futurists. The initial political formula doesn’t matter too much, provided that it’s not demotist. The political formula that will stick is, “this is what gives us peace and order”.

You cannot claim that formula if you start out by attacking the peace and order that exists already. That is why reaction has to wait. It has to restore order from anarchy. The standard to initially rally around will not be reactionary theory per se. It will be something that can restore order — flag, crown, cross, or something else. I don’t think it is likely that there will be multiple reactionary choices at this stage. Whatever has the best chance of producing order will attract the support. The reason I emphasise royalty and call myself a royalist is because, in Britain, the Crown looks like the most likely candidate. Religion frankly isn’t at all plausible here — several football clubs have a better chance of concentrating sufficient power than any church does. Ethno-nationalists are also a possibility (the distinction between nationalist groups and football supporters’ groups is a blurry one anyway). Is Tesco in the running too? I doubt it, but who knows?

The old order will fall when parallel power structures start to form outside its control. This could happen first in some localities or it could happen all at once (if the state is no longer able to pay its employees, for example). When it is no longer a case of trying to take over the existing state, but rather to create a new one, it becomes possible for reactionaries to act.

The rivals will be the democrats, the hard left, and Islam. The old hard left has pretty much dissolved into the establishment, and does not look like much of an independent threat. Islam doesn’t have the numbers, even in Luton, though it will probably organise effectively earlier than anyone else. Assuming the actual state institutions are not functioning, the democrats will be fighting on equal terms with the others, but with the aim of restoring democracy. At that point, it becomes OK to fight them, though it would be preferable to ignore them. Immediate tactical necessity is likely to dominate strategy at this stage — that’s why the strategic propaganda work has to already have been done, the narrative that says that democracy and progressivism brought on the breakdown, that it was predictable and expected, and that only those who truly value order can now achieve it, has to already be in place. The failure has to be seen as the failure of the system, not of one party or faction. That will reduce the support that politicians get during the anarchy, compared to other authority figures. Even the authority figures who are gathering forces at that point will not be talking theory, they will be asking for support to create local, short-term order. If the ground has been prepared properly, the traditional conservatives, the Christians, the ethno-nationalists and the neoreactionaries will all support the same quasi-state.

That said, some political formulæ will cause more difficulties than others. The problem with religion is that people will disagree about it, and claim it justifies them in fighting the (new) state. For that reason, I don’t think a reactionary state that fundamentally justifies itself on religious grounds will be successful for long. However, a state that justifies itself on the grounds of protecting Christianity from outside enemies (progressivism, Islam, etc.) should be able to earn the loyalty of the faithful without getting tied up in the theological disputes among them. The arms-length relationship between church and state that we have in Britain seems about right* — the ruler is Defender of the Faith, but not Priest-King.

The facts that we have to spread among the public ahead of time are much less than full reaction. They are just the context in which reaction can take its place:

  • There is such a thing as progressivism, and there are non-progressive ideas, not just more and less progressive ideas
  • There are otherwise sane people who hold non-progressive ideas
  • That some aspects of government are the result of the democratic system, and not of the particular politicians who have been elected
  • That a more peaceful and ordered society is possible, and that even the peace and order we still have are at risk

If those ideas are widespread, then reality will do the rest when the time comes.

* bit of a fishy coincidence there, but I can’t see a hole in it. It   would make sense to back off a little from “Head of the Church”.

Introduction to the Neoreaction

Generally, when I’m asked to explain “What is a neoreactionary?” (perhaps using alternative terms such as nu-reaction or the Dark Enlightenment), my response is to point elsewhere, at Moldbug or at Nick Land, or even at Scott Alexander’s outsider’s view.

However, good sources though they are, they’re not always appropriate. They’re all extremely verbose. Moldbug and Alexander are really writing for very politically aware progressives, and Land is even more abstruse. Moldbug is the Jeremy Clarkson of political philosophy: while I find his style of presentation highly enjoyable, there’s no doubt that many others find it unbearable.

So maybe we need a more concise introduction.

The Concise Introduction

For five hundred years, there have been attempt to reorder human society on the basis that hereditary privilege, and many other kinds of inequality between humans, are unjust. Reformers have attempted to alter systems of government and other institutions of society with the goal of reducing or eliminating these injustices.

These reformers have consistently underestimated the difficulty of getting people to cooperate in a society. The intellectual techniques of science and engineering that produced miracles in terms of manipulating the natural world, have, time after time, failed catastrophically to improve the lives of humans through changing government and society.

There are a number of reasons for this: For one thing, humans are much more complex than any of the parts and tools with which engineers have made machines. They will not fit in where they are put. Attempts to persuade or compel them to fit into the machine have to be built into the machine themselves, and end up changing the functioning of the machine so much that it no longer achieves its intended goal.

Most importantly, humans have evolved to compete for influence and power, by violence and by deceit. Any reform which attempts to limit or remove the power of the holders of power creates a competition for that power, which will lead to spectacular efforts by everybody else to win it. The innovations that will be produced by such high-stakes competition are impossible to predict or plan for.

Meanwhile, developments in technology have improved people’s lives so much that the calamitous decline in quality of government has been disguised. All mainstream political factions are intellectual descendants of the original reformers, and none have any interest in fairly comparing present-day government with traditional government. Those that are called “conservatives” are only reformers who oppose the most recently enacted or proposed reforms: none of them question the principle or the intellectual basis of progressivism.

Most neoreactionary writing consists of detailed criticism of particular progressive reforms, with particular emphasis on the flaws in one specific idea — democracy.

Ultimately, however, if after all these centuries of trying to improve society based on abstract ideas of justice have only made life worse than it would have been under pre-Enlightenment social systems, the time has come to simply give up the whole project and revert to traditional forms whose basis we might not be able to establish rationally, but which have the evidence of history to support them.

Neoreaction for Reactionaries

Some of the inquiries I spoke of at the beginning have come from old-fashioned reactionaries. The short answer for them is that it doesn’t matter. Neoreaction is not a new, better form of reaction that you should be upgrading to — rather, you’ve found a short-cut past what for us has generally been a long and laborious journey, one that has mostly passed through libertarianism or other forms of liberalism. A lot of our discussion will seem wrong-headed to you, and your theology is mostly irrelevant to us, but when the subject is more immediately practical, we are likely to be closer together.