View From The Right

Nick Steves has posted this week’s reactionary roundup. He gave ‘Best of the Week’ to this essay by Mark Christensen, and it seems a good choice.

In the essay, Mr. Christensen quotes Mencius Moldbug:

All schools of libertarianism, whether Rothbardian or Randian or (nearly-stillborn) Nozickian, rest on the idea of limited government. Note the intrinsic absurdity of this concept. If some government is limited by its own volition, it can abandon these limits at any time. (Historical experience suggests that the “sacred-document” trick is of extremely limited utility in preventing it from doing so.) If the government is limited by some external power, it is not a government in the usual sense of the word, and we should direct our attention to the limiting power.

It is at this point that the libertarian typically reveals his inner democrat, and suggests that the sovereign power of the People will preserve liberty. First, this hasn’t exactly worked in practice. Second, true sovereignty demands actual military superiority, which may have existed in 1787 but has certainly gone missing since then. If the military of any modern country faced off against the rest of its population, each side being united, the former would win every time. And third, the State can escape this check quite easily, because it can indoctrinate its subjects to despise rebellion and love its motherly care.

Mr. Christensen continues:

The conclusion is simple: the nature of the state is that sovereignty is conserved. Due to its role as the central sovereign power, the state – or rather, the people who make it up – must develop a common set of normative values in order to operate. Because the state cannot brook opposition to its legitimacy to rule, it must therefore promote and inculcate these values in the population. Liberalism’s distinguishing feature – that it imposes no common good on its citizens – is revealed as a sham.

These are central reactionary ideas:

‣   That sovereignty always exists somewhere, and is conserved;

‣   That popular government, by slicing sovereignty into infinitesimals, makes possible its covert aggregation (by what Sir Henry Sumner Maine called “wire-pullers“) while creating a fiction, for the enfranchised multitudes, of owning a meaningful share of equably distributed sovereignty;

‣   That power is not, at bottom, physical in any way, but is rather a matter only of belief;

‣   That therefore politics, and power, are downstream, as Gramsci and the Frankfurt school understood all too well, from “metapolitics” — the laborious seeding of the culture with methodically inculcated values, and, where necessary, the uprooting of existing values to prepare the soil. (It is no coincidence, after all, that “cultivation”, “culture”, and “cult” all share the same Latin root cultus, which has, among its more familiar meanings, “worship” and “reverence”.)

Read Nick’s digest here.

Related content from Sphere

42 Comments

  1. This leads me to conclude that you can’t fight city hall.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    This leads me to conclude that you can’t fight city hall.

    You can, but not in the way City Hall would like you to think you can.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  3. You can, but …

    Duly noted. But if the armed forces protect city hall, by what means in light of, “If the military of any modern country faced off against the rest of its population, each side being united, the former would win every time”?

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    A-ha! The key point there is: “…each side being united”.

    And that’s why metapolitics is upstream from power. Power depends on belief.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    Also, if there is any modern nation in which “the former would win every time” might not be true, it would be this one. Look at how effective an armed insurgency has been in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are more guns in America than people, and a tradition of orneriness.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  6. John says

    So if we take cultural marxism as the metapolitics of the left, how exactly does a reactionary metapolitics look?

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    John,

    Are you asking about tactics, or content?

    Tactically, it begins with refusing to be silenced by shaming and accusations of heresy. Then there must be resistance, and reclaiming of territory, in the cultural institutions — both by word and example. There must be nuclei around which such resistance can form, and once the groundwork has begun, this requires charismatic leadership.

    As for content, there’s plenty out there you could be reading, including the weekly digest linked above. Read Evola. Read Kuehnelt-Lehddin. Read Jonathan Bowden. Read Mencius Moldbug, and follow his many links. Read Burke. Read Maine. Read this little book.

    The “red pills” are all around us — and happily they are, for now at least, available over-the-counter.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  8. A-ha! The key point there is: “…each side being united”.

    So, as my premise being that “the armed forces protect city hall” (i.e., city and forces are united), it matters not whether the rest of the population is or isn’t united — it doesn’t stand a chance?

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Henry,

    Here in America even a government that still had its military under the spell of power would be sorely pressed by a full-scale civilian insurgency.

    But that is the weak point: given the makeup of the military, it would be very difficult for it to sustain that spell. Imagine the defection rate if the White House sent the U.S. military out to slaughter the American people.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  10. Whitewall says

    To fight “city hall” it will come down to commitment, and tactics. Constant harassing fire and frequent disruption of the “city hall” is quite effective. A committed one third of the population can pull this off. An organized armed military in defense of “city hall”, would not be so committed to fire upon their own “family members”. Unlawful orders doctrine. The military members are drawn from this “ornery society”. “Orneriness” is a magnificent word.

    “how exactly does a reactionary metapolitics look? Question…without threat of cultural Marxism, would a reactionary metapolitics even form?

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  11. John says

    Malcolm,

    Interesting.

    It seems that a lot of this activity is already taking place, and that a good deal of philosophical firepower already exists.

    So possibly, as bad as things are in certain ways, there is cause for hope that a balancing force has begun to set roots.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says

    Robert,

    Question…without threat of cultural Marxism, would a reactionary metapolitics even form?

    Without the decades-long predations of cultural Marxism, there would certainly be a lot less to react against.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    John,

    It seems that a lot of this activity is already taking place…

    Hearteningly, yes.

    …and that a good deal of philosophical firepower already exists.

    It has existed, almost universally, for a very, very long time. That it seems in any way novel now is only a horrifying sign of the extent of our civilization’s recent, wasting disease.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  14. In American history, by which I mean to include the history of the predecessor British Colonies, there have been two major insurgencies — the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. As opposed to minor insurgencies, such as the Whiskey Rebellion (easily suppressed by George Washington’s troops) and the Bonus Army Conflict (easily suppressed by Douglas MacArthur’s troops), the Revolution (which succeeded) and the Civil War (which did not) both led to massive defections. Both of these major conflicts, however, lasted for years and both incurred large numbers of casualties, especially in the Civil War, in which the number of American deaths (about 620,000) almost equaled the totals of all other American wars combined (about 644,000).

    It would seem that a successful insurgency would require not only a large number of defections but also the unmatched leadership of another George Washington. There are those who might feel that Robert E. Lee, in his magnificent military leadership of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, matched or exceeded Washington’s in the Revolution. Nevertheless, Lee’s career ended at Appomattox.

    So based on such considerations, my intuition is that a successful insurgency would require a combination of circumstances that are not very likely to occur anytime soon.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink
  15. And for an entertaining defense of Western Civilization. there’s always my novella: The Bottomless Bottle of Beer!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 4:46 pm | Permalink
  16. Malcolm says

    Defection in the Revolutionary War was less than it might have been, for the obvious reason that the troops were on the wrong side of the ocean, thousands of miles from home. Even so, one of the main reasons the rebels won the war was the ideological defection of General Howe — whose sympathies, quite evidently, were with the Americans. (See Sydney George Fisher’s 1902 book The True History of the American Revolution for details you won’t get in today’s version of the story.)

    The Civil War was much more a conventional war between nations than a civilian insurgency, though of course there was plenty of ‘asymmetrical’ combat.

    But yes, a revolt against the United States Government, pitting the military against the people, would be a horrifying thing, and I hope it never comes to that. (I’m certainly not advocating anything of the sort!) I expect something very different: the best case would be a cultural revolution, followed by a political one.

    I would not be surprised, however, if the U.S. begins to come apart at the seams over the next decade or two. At this point it is hardly one nation any longer, but rather two nations with their tails tied together.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink
  17. Malcolm says

    Jeffery,

    Of course. How could I have left that out?

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink
  18. Malcolm,

    The defections in the Revolutionary War comprised the allegiances of those Colonists who supported the Declaration of Independence from Britain. And George Washington himself was the principal “defector” (and arguably the only indispensable man for the American cause) as viewed by the British Government.

    As for the Civil War being “more a conventional war between nations than a civilian insurgency” I don’t doubt that. Nevertheless, it began with the secession of the Confederate States, which constituted an insurgency on a grand scale.

    In any case, it is undoubtedly true that the only insurgency/war in American history that ended successfully for the insurgents was the Revolution itself. And it took an amazing confluence of fortunate circumstances for that to happen.

    The events that were initiated on July 4, 1776 were unique in the history of the United States.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 7:48 pm | Permalink
  19. Whitewall says

    Henry, I saw another way to fight “city hall” over on Instapundit…”Irish Democracy”. It seems to be defeating Obamacare.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  20. Robert,

    I am by no means suggesting we should give up whatever fighting options are available to us. I am simply facing up to the improbability of turning the tide anytime soon. Our National history of 240 years seems to argue against success.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 8:56 pm | Permalink
  21. Whitewall says

    Henry it will take a while. The Good are always coming from behind. This stuff in Europe and especially Germany has made my blood boil and I can’t afford too much of that sort of thing. I dropped a couple of posts here in the last couple days that I feared might have gone too far and said too much. If you Googled “Irish Democracy”, it is still available for us in the US.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 9:11 pm | Permalink
  22. The Good are always coming from behind.

    I’ll check it out, Robert. As I said, I am willing to continue any reasonable effort, but I will keep any high expectations in check. I too am not keen on having my blood boiled by disappointment.

    BTW, isn’t it 0bama who leads from his behind?

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  23. Whitewall says

    “BTW, isn’t it 0bama who leads from his behind?” Yeah it is…but he isn’t Good like us:)

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  24. On that note of agreement between us, I bid you a good evening. Peaches be with you, bro.

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  25. Whitewall says

    copy that

    Posted March 9, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Permalink
  26. Epicaric says

    Anarcho Libertarians resolve the apparent contradiction of who limits limited government with calls for no government: free association of atomistic individuals applying the Golden Rule, while engaging in free association at will, with equal freedom to exit.
    But, like their Progressive step-sisters, they look to a future, ideal state that does not well accomodate those that do not share their vision. Their vision may not accept the imposition of sovereignty – to squeels of property rights violated! – but sovereignty will be imposed. The Libertarian model cannot accomodate the rougher, more Hobbesian nature to which most of our fellow men historically descend. Paradoxically, the ideal Libertarian anarchy is more dependent on the inculcation of select values than any other model of human social organization.
    Failed states abound in the modern world. From their ashes we have yet to see the Libertarian Phoenix arise. What we have seen, however, is pesky sovereignty rising to impose itself by those most capable and willing to exercise force of arms.
    Perhaps, then, to maximize the freedom of man and individual rights, we should seek limited government not at the mercy of a sacred document, but in the practice of a multiplicity of small sovereignties. Perhaps we in the plural and many United States had approximated such a thing at one time.

    Posted March 10, 2016 at 9:14 pm | Permalink
  27. Epicaric says

    Yeah, I know. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record with my hagiography to States’ Rights now long since expired. You never know what you had until you have lost it. But I’m not the only one to suffer such nostalgia of late. From Porter:

    It’s a great system…except for human nature. For it presumes a live and let live inclination that is not often demonstrated. People who feel disdain for Missouri don’t simply move to New Hampshire, they petition it to attack. Social Justice Warrior may be a novel term, but it is an old phenomenon. Whatever its sufferers passionately embrace on Tuesday creates a conquer/submit mentality toward those who differ. It’s flight or fight for the retards. And it makes federalism unworkable other than as a means of administration: states exist as separate units enforcing a unitary command. So what could have been relative harmony in 50 unique polities becomes a savage national scrum for control of the only one with power.

    – Kakistocracy https://kakistocracyblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/keep-the-ends-close-to-the-middle-and-keep-your-faith-away-from-paper/

    Posted March 10, 2016 at 9:25 pm | Permalink
  28. Malcolm says

    Agreed all round, E.

    Hillary Clinton’s slogan is “Make America Whole Again”. But it was never meant to be a whole.

    A great many disasters, when analyzed, turn out to be the result of too-tight “coupling”. The Framers seem intuitively to have understood this. You’ll never have to apologize for supporting states’ rights with me.

    The more I come to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the Constitution, the more I admire its wisdom — and the more I grieve for what we’ve thrown away.

    Posted March 10, 2016 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  29. The more I come to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the Constitution, the more I admire its wisdom — and the more I grieve for what we’ve thrown away.

    That, Malcolm, is an expression of a feeling with which I agree 100% (I would have said 110% if it wasn’t for the mathematical absurdity of that hackneyed hyperbole).

    The Constitution of the United States is, IMHO, a document on par with the Bible, albeit much more accessible for modern secular man. It has served as the guiding kernel for what is arguably the most successful nation-state in history and it has done so for almost two and a half centuries.

    To have striven mightily, as have its ignorant disparagers here and abroad, to nullify its efficacy is not only grievous; it is downright felonious.

    Posted March 10, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
  30. Epicaric says

    Indeed, two nations with their tails tied together. Ironically, it was the Northeastern Progressive, and their prairie cousins, with their atavistic distaste for anything that smelled of the Working Class, of Hillbilly and Redneck, that tied the tails together. I sometimes wonder if the current denizens of the rural South and Appalachia could be convinced to wear only loose dungarees and cotton smocks, and were to be photographed only in monochrome, whether the Progressives of today would rush again to embrace them as victims of circumstance. How NPR loves the cartoon authenticity of banjo-pickin’ Blue Grass! It seems that polyester and polychrome drains the modern Progressive of all empathy for their rural and Working Class brethren, preferring in their stead the forlorn campesino of Guatemala. At least until the Campesino moves on to polychrome and pickups. But, hey, he votes right. They’ve found a prettier girl and want nothing more to do with you, but draw you ever closer, despising you ever more.
    We spent a lot less time at each other’s throats when we weren’t forced to live under one roof, much less have our tails tied together.

    Posted March 10, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Permalink
  31. @Epicaric:

    This article may be of interest to you:

    Why I learned the word ‘epicaricacy’

    Posted March 10, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink
  32. Whitewall says

    Epicaric… “whether the Progressives of today would rush again to embrace them as victims of circumstance. How NPR loves the cartoon authenticity of banjo-pickin’ Blue Grass!” Funny you mention that. I remember the late Sargeant Shriver, with the Rev. Billy Graham in tow, coming to rural N.C. to inform the hillbillies and rednecks that they were poverty stricken. Help was on the way of course, meaning according to Shriver, that manna from heaven-DC-was soon to come. It did. Hillbillies and rednecks came to know a different kind of poverty.

    To try and unbind ourselves will be to give up the manna from DC. That seems to be the common ingredient that acts as a limit on too much self reliance and determination.

    Posted March 11, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  33. Epicaric says

    The Big Henry
    Epicaricacy or schadenfreude, for me it is the bitter sweet horror someone well rooted in human history feels as the waves of unintended consequences eat away at the sea wall. We can only sit back and watch as the bulwark crumbles, and brace ourselves for the earth to collapse into the sea. It is the inevitable outcome of constructing policy on a poor understanding of human nature. The results are predictable, so much so that for many it is now difficult to believe that the unintended consequences were unintended at all.

    Posted March 11, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  34. “It is the inevitable outcome of constructing policy on a poor understanding of human nature.”

    Epicaric,

    I completely agree (along with others who may have read Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions” with an open mind) that the Left’s faith-based belief in the perfectibility of human nature is at the root of all fatal social engineering. For me, a late-comer to the study of human history (after retiring from a career in nuclear physics research), which modifier of the Left’s “understanding” (be it “poor”, “mis-“, “refusal of”, etc.) best explains their fanatic clinging to their myopic vision is only an irritating puzzle. Clearly, the consequences are what threaten our demise. I hasten to add, however, that the “irritating puzzle” threatens the boiling of my blood, as Robert Whitewall has mentioned above.

    Posted March 11, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  35. Whitewall says

    Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer dead at 71. Something is clearly going on this year.

    Posted March 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  36. Epicaric says

    Whitewall,
    We may be quite a choir, but if it leads to clarity of thought, and from this conviction, then it is not time lost. The manna from DC, and its deleterious effect on self reliance was an inevitable consequence of the aberration of State’s rights, and the growth of the Federal government. How does a State government reimpose its proper role when this means the loss of Federal funding, funding received from the residents of the concerned State itself? Clearly ratification of the 16th Amendment in 1913 had consequences that were far beyond the scale of anything its authors could have foreseen. This, I suppose, would be yet another example of the futility that so many Libertarians see in “sacred documents.” And so we come full circle, for nothing that can be assembled by free individuals in the Libertarian model of social organization will innoculate it from the inevitable imposition of sovreignty, by someone’s hand, with or without the consent of those ultimately to be ruled. This is the nexus of the Libertarian and the Leftist, or Progressive: the failure to accept an imperfect model that accepts human nature, for the promise of the perfect model that denies this nature. There will be sovereignty; the ruled; and their rulers.
    Ultimately, Libertarians are political Shakers, destined to slowly extinguish themselves. We can only hope that they do not bring us with them in their suicidal purity. Cowen may see beans in our future but something tells me that not everyone will passively accept their place in this impoverished future. There are many who will not go so gently into the night.

    Posted March 11, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink
  37. Something is clearly going on this year.

    It’s same old same old, Robert — death and taxes.

    Posted March 11, 2016 at 6:26 pm | Permalink
  38. Whitewall says

    Epicaric
    From your pen to God’s ear. Be it the 16th Amendment or something as “harmless” as Title IX, all seem to be planted seeds to raise a crop of useful unintended consequences. It seems these avenues of Leftist treachery have no end in a better world, just an end in madness and dysfunction. Witness the recent college campus “uprisings” like they and their latest “approved speech” are something new. Or the brown shirts on the streets of Chicago last night reveling in their “fascist veto” of a Trump rally. These people and their rule by force are just recycled. It isn’t new, just new to them. I believe with the use of instant news and exposure, these types of people can turn off more people than they can recruit and keep. Meantime we who will not-should not go “gently into the night”. With constant pressure applied in the right places at the right time, these Lefty totalitarians will get themselves twisted into knots of rage and then jailed or shot by law enforcement, or even better-turn on each other in the name of “ideological purity”. That idea gets more of them killed off than anything.

    Posted March 12, 2016 at 9:05 am | Permalink
  39. Whitewall says

    Well Henry, it now appears Emerson committed suicide. Sad but he is still a product of our times. Not only were we of that generation “special”, we were supposed to be immortal I thought. I guess not. Now when members of the Moody Blues start dropping…well, I’m going to protest!

    Posted March 12, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink
  40. Robert,

    Thank you for including me (“our times”) but I am, in fact, a half-generation or so your senior (I was born during WWII not after it). I did, however, in my youth think I was immortal because I had survived some close encounters with the Grim Reaper (not the least being the Nazi occupiers in Poland where I was born). But as I continue to enjoy my “golden years” I am aware that the list of my former high-school classmates who have passed away is growing longer.

    I did make a half-hearted protest when Glenn Frey passed. Needless to say …

    Posted March 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink
  41. Whitewall says

    Henry, I always considered you younger–one of us. You will know you are old when you bend down to tie your shoe lace and while down there, you look to see what else you can do.

    Posted March 12, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  42. “You will know you are old when you bend down to tie your shoelace and while down there, you look to see what else you can do.”

    Robert,

    Been there; done that. And the reason we tend to do that is because we haven’t yet figured out how we will get back up — so we might as well make good use of our time (our most precious commodity) while we’re down there.

    Word to the wise boomer approaching seniority: begin to cling to two important concepts — tradition and efficiency. They will help you compensate for, among other things, diminishing freedom-of-motion and hearing. Pardon? Did you just say something?

    Posted March 12, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink