Axel just published the 4th chapter of his ongoing Neocameral Future. In what can be described as the textual version of a YouTube reaction video, I’ve made commentary on his main propositions and thesis. Hopefully this will promote debate and thus strengthen his upcoming book.
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On materialism vs idealism (ideology/religion)
- Much as I agree with that “Humans are MEAT ROBOTS. Free will in an illusion“, it’s important to keep in mind that the reductions of social processes to biology are not simple and that we don’t know how to do most of them (just as we don’t know how to reduce a great many biological processes to physical processes). It’s important to restate that insofar as you keep receiving true feedback from reality (empiricism) it’s perfectly fine to postulate social mechanisms that explain certain events. Social constructivism, to the extent that it doesn’t deny other empirical findings and conform to its own facts, is also materialistic.
- “It is only when it is corrupted with cultish notions that it becomes evil” is a good assessment of reality, indeed. But religious (ideal/ideological) thought is a natural companion of abstract investigation (and hence intelligence). You can’t make it go away by mere wish (and if you do, you are being ideological yourself). Ideological/religious thinking has to be institutionalized and driven into producing realistic feedback. Empiricism didn’t arise from mere physicalist atheists, but physicalist atheists who believed it was possible to understand reality through abstract concepts. I.e., smart (rather than communist) physicalist atheists.
- “Stability is not actually a good argument for a political system” Indeed, if you understand “stability” to mean “remaining the same forever, no matter what”. A good argument is adaptability and it is hard to not see adaptability as stability, once you grasp the basic underlying cybernetics.
On objections to unified power
- “Demotism is Conserved.” Nope. Although mass communication (and, more to the point, the ever greater dissipation of mass lethal power) is an ongoing fact since the dawn of modernity, and one that is unlikely to go away (short of Peak Oil or something), there is ever less a need to control the mob’s minds. The trend set in motion with the internet is much more of cultural, social and (therefore) political fragmentation than of mass maneuver of opinion. The very costs of attempting something like that are ever greater.
So, from what I grasp of the political trends in the 21st century, demotism has its days numbered, T minus the time necessary to build safe exit options. Bit-nations contracting with luxury gated cities for free pass, and ever more nomadic elites wandering around the world. No need for mob control, except insofar as “heavier walls” is mob control.
- “Secure Power is an Illusion.” I’ve written three pieces on that. Spandrell probably gets most of the things. No disagreement here.
- “Monarchy is Lazy Design.” Laziest of the lazy. But also very natural to civilized humans. It builds (and wrecks down) naturally from male hierarchy, hence its commonality. Of course, it is never secure, nor absolutist (absolutism in fact is a rather characteristically French rationalist lunacy born in the early 18th century).
A further criticism is that monarchy depends on deep ties of loyalty and a stable male hierarchy, both profoundly disturbed by the uprooting and individualism needed to run a market economy. Given market economy’s clear superiority to traditional economy in output, it should be obvious no monarchy can survive under global market conditions (except as a rather romantic honorific to a cryptographically secure CEO – which is probably how Moldbug meant it).
- “Nukes are an Issue.” And so is its spread and ever further miniaturization. Of course, it makes it easier for city-states (and hence the Patchwork) to emerge. Which means it makes secession easier by providing leverage against centralized governments. Which in turn makes the collapse of The Cathedral inevitable rather than unrealistic. Accelerationism is simply the research program for pocket nukes.
- “NRx will be Made Obsolete.” Possibly one the most important points in the chapter. Puts the movement in perspective. 10 years ago Moldbug was creating an account on Blogspot and Nick Land was… Gnon knows what. Ten years from now the whole thing will probably have unfolded in crazier ways than expected.
That point made, the Cathedral – unless very unpredictable turns are taken – will die out fighting against gene editing, even if it’s for “good purposes”. Eugenics was extirpated from Progressivism 90 years ago, and it’s unlikely to get back on track before Progressivism goes away. Many progressives, on the other hand, may indeed make great use of genetic science for their purposes, while making Progress great again. It’s not hard to imagine lesbian couples producing high IQ design babies in HK in 20 years. But not in NY, that’s for sure.
- “ It is Not a Single Monolithic Thing.” Good point. But the whole point of coining “demotism” was probably to pin down one specific kind of democracy: 1848-like universal-suffrage democracy. Decentralization is not a problem (rather it is the purported solution), bureaucratic institutions are not a problem (probably it what kept the boat from sinking so far), and even very limited voice (as in corporative boards) is fine, as long as it’s accompanied by the correlative costs. The problem is simply: universal, unqualified, “free” voice – literally mass tyranny. This is as monolithic a thing as it gets, and has been described over and over in political philosophy ever since Aristotle as a degeneration of the greatest idea: constitutions. De-enfranchise people and whatever else is left of democracy is probably OK.
- “Reforming the cathedral is not impossible” I would phrase it as “Making the Cathedral go away without much noise is not impossible”. But I’ll be back to this when I finish the other chapters.
On the causes of Cathedral
- “The actual cause of the Cathedral is compromise in an unsecure power structure, not the nature of unsecure power itself. COMPROMISE, not imperium in imperio, is the actual cause of left-wing power.” Another very central point of the chapter. The refusal of dialectics – living humiliated under the rule of the enemy – is not likely to be widely accepted as a central tenet of right-wing thought. Much of the reactionaries around are damn certain they don’t just want to flee to better lands, but to purge their enemies, enslave them, chain them or, at least, make them live under the “right” government. The average type on both blue and red tribes just want to vanquish the other, kill their men, rape their women and enslave their children. Monkey business at its prime.
- On matters of division of power – imperium in imperio – I guess I made my points on the neocameralism and constitutions series (1, 2, 3). In sum: stable (adaptive) systems are those with nodes no more controlling than controlled. Much on that to come in the next months, but what is essential to the argument under consideration here is that the Cathedral thrived (at least partially) because, and not in spite, of divided powers. It was when such division was abandoned that the degenerative ratchet finally got a grip on history. Odysseus could tie himself, but only for so long. Getting him sober from siren vocal poison and making him tie himself again and better is probably the aim of any proposed new kind of republicanism. ” It is true that unsecure power tends to breed compromise as a result of a majoritarian system” is the main hint of what exactly went wrong with the US Constitution.
On Multi-Part Elections
- “Formalism ends violence by making the outcome of a dispute known. Another way of saying this is that a process is formalized when violence is eliminated through a rule based mechanism that turns it into a game or contract of sorts.” It’s important to keep in mind that one needs an unambiguous unbreakable rule for this to work – enforcement matters. I’m saying this to make clear that the criteria for Multi-Part Elections to work is that it provides not only unambiguous rules for conflicts, but also an enforcement mechanism.
- “People will separate themselves based on ideological lines. The separation will reinforce itself. It is precisely this separation that actually leads to stability.” Until it grows far too much. Not to get all Marxist about a market of little governments, but some will definitely get more guns than others, and once that is in play, the talk must shift to military technology systems and what they imply in terms of political organization. We didn’t get to the nation state model arbitrarily, and we won’t get out of it arbitrarily. The question is: how do you effectively defend something, without breaking the whole system? Which leads us to…
- “Power creates ideology.” This is unconvincing, if only because ideology is itself a source of power. You seem to admit it straight away: “any different system will seem immoral to you, because you, having been indoctrinated by the current system, share its morals“. To distinguish between power and the idea of power will demand something more than mere affirmation.
The following discussion, based on this distinction, is not so wrong as it reverses the true complication: “The ideology becomes whatever is necessary to justify the power system. In the System of systems, aka, the exitocracy, a form of “live and let live” becomes the standard. The federal government is forced to take a culturally relativist position in order to maintain military control over its territory.” Can the federal government maintain that position and have military control? What does the military believe? What is the ideology of those with military capability? Power is this ideology, what will make them pull the trigger.
- “[T]he federal government which does ONLY military, intelligence, and security matters.” Only? If the federal government holds sway of sovereign (primary) property, what about the outside? If it’s Fnargl, what will make it turn from Cathedral usual business to “a box for every monkey”?
Maybe I’m jumping ahead right here, but these are the main questions – that remain so far largely unanswered within NRx. The whole mechanics (the rules of the system) seems very neat, but the enforcement mechanism is still vague, at best. If the counties default to Fedgov’s authority for solving their (inevitable) quibbles, what makes the Fedgov accept this whole scheme in the first place? And what about what is outside of it (because internal trade barriers will certainly hamper the Federation’s industrial ability, as the Federalist Papers already had in mind)?