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13 Sep 20:37

Technology, communism and the Brown Scare

by Mencius Moldbug
It's with mixed emotions that I see the Brown Scare starting to really rise up and kick ass in my own dear field of hackerdom.   "The enemy at last in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off..."

Brown Scare?  Or dare I say... #BrownScare?  But what else to name America's ginormous, never-ending, profoundly insane witch-hunt for fascists under the bed?

For there's nothing new here.  At the height of the lame, doomed "Red Scare," the Brown Scare was ten times bigger.  You may think it was difficult making a living as a communist screenwriter in 1954. It was a lot easier than being a fascist screenwriter.  Or even an anticommunist screenwriter.  (Same thing, right?)  And as any pathetic last shreds of real opposition shrink and die off, the Scare only grows.  That's how winners play it.  That's just how the permanent revolution rolls.

Not that valiant philosophical efforts haven't been made, such as this one, to distinguish between witch hunts and witch hunts.   Apparently Popehat, though he claims to be some sort of a legal scholar and definitely has strong and (more unusually) sincere opinions about free speech, has never heard of Red Channels or Faulk v. AWARE.  It's not clear whether he (a) thinks the Hollywood blacklist was a fine idea, (b) believes it was enforced by the FBI, or (c) considers it laudable to purge fascists but horrible to purge communists.

(Update: with eerie, beautiful historical fidelity, Anil Dash channels Red Channels:
There was also a pretty dogged pitch for his film, which will get all kinds of warm huzzahs from the intersection of atheists, pacifists, communists and Jews.  I was pretty amazed that he went for it. He flat out said that he wants his film to be funded and wasn't sure if it'd be possible after all of his, and I replied that it realistically wasn't going to happen without the say-so of someone like me, and I wasn't inclined to give some producer the nod on this. 
On reflection, I'll be explicit: If you're a producer, and you invest in Dalton Trumbo's film without a profound, meaningful and years-long demonstration of responsibility from Dalton beforehand, you're complicit in extending the film industry's awful track record of communism, and it's unacceptable.
It is also wonderful to see the enormous cognitive load which besets the liberal mind when asked to decide whether it's the overdog or the underdog.  All the CPUs max out, the fan goes crazy and the case could cook an egg.  The whole post is worth reading - in the author's own humble words, it's the very image of "positive, ambitious, thoughtful, inclusive, curious, empathetic and self-aware.")

Memo to Popehat: most of what we call "McCarthyism" was a matter of "social consequences."  Besides, the social consequences work for one and only one reason: there's an iron fist in the velvet glove. Being sued for disrespecting a privileged class - excuse me, a protected class - is not in any way a social consequence, but rather a political one.  Hey, while we're chatting, could you remind me exactly how Warren Court jurisprudence derived the "protected class" from "equal protection of law?"  I know the theory, actually - but it'd be fun to see you explain it.

Of course, ain't nothin' new here.  For quite some time in America it's been illegal to employ racists, sexists and fascists, and mandatory to employ a precisely calibrated percentage of women, workers and peasants.  Because America is a free country and that's what freedom means.

But "technology," defined broadly as anything new and cool that happens in California, has been in practice exempt from these restrictions.  The elite, especially a productive elite, always enjoys a special level of tolerance.  I once asked a Googler: which population, from his unscientific experience alone, does Google employ more of?  African-Americans, or Serbs?  "You must be joking," he said.

Google, of course, claims the fact that it would rather hire out of East Bosnia than East Palo Alto is a competitive trade secret.  Well, I suppose.  Curiously enough, Apple, Yahoo, and Oracle share the same secret.  Ha, ha!  Is it a secret to you?  It's not a secret to me!

You know, Goog, once you start lying, there's really no end to it.  For one thing, even if your enemies ignore lying, defensive evasion, and other telltale "beta" behaviors, they still own you.  They've just decided not to eat you just yet, maybe in the hopes that you're still getting fatter.

So in a way I actually like to see the #BrownScare getting big in Silicon Valley, because I think there's a lot of potential for opposing it here.  A lot of wasted potential.  Which will probably remain wasted, but why not try, eh?  Dear fellow geeks, there's no need to get purged.  Your predator, though powerful, is not complicated, and not that hard to hack if you're careful.  Indeed, properly organized, you may even be able to overcome him.

It's actually not hard to explain the Brown Scare.  Like all witch hunts, it's built on a conspiracy theory.  The Red Scare was based on a conspiracy theory too, but at least it was a real conspiracy with real witches - two of whom were my father's parents.  (The nicest people on earth, as people.  I like to think of them not as worshipping Stalin, but worshipping what they thought Stalin was.)  Moreover, the Red Scare was a largely demotic or peasant phenomenon to which America's governing intellectual classes were, for obvious reasons, immune.  Because power works and culture is downstream from politics - real politics, at least - the Red Scare soon faded into a joke.

As a mainstream conspiracy theory, fully in the institutional saddle, the Brown Scare is far greater and more terrifying.  Unfortunately no central statistics are kept, but I wouldn't be surprised if every day in America, more racists, fascists and sexists are detected, purged and destroyed, than all the screenwriters who had to prosper under pseudonyms in the '50s.  Indeed it's not an exaggeration to say that hundreds of thousands of Americans, perhaps even a million, are employed in one arm or another of this ideological apparatus.  Cleaning it up will require a genuine cultural revolution - or a cultural reaction, anyway.  Hey, Americans, I'm ready whenever you are.

The logic of the witch hunter is simple.  It has hardly changed since Matthew Hopkins' day.  The first requirement is to invert the reality of power.  Power at its most basic level is the power to harm or destroy other human beings.  The obvious reality is that witch hunters gang up and destroy witches. Whereas witches are never, ever seen to gang up and destroy witch hunters.  By this test alone, we can see that the conspiracy is imaginary (Brown Scare) rather than real (Red Scare).

Think about it.  Obviously, if the witches had any power whatsoever, they wouldn't waste their time gallivanting around on broomsticks, fellating Satan and cursing cows with sour milk.  They're getting burned right and left, for Christ's sake!  Priorities!  No, they'd turn the tables and lay some serious voodoo on the witch-hunters.  In a country where anyone who speaks out against the witches is soon found dangling by his heels from an oak at midnight with his head shrunk to the size of a baseball, we won't see a lot of witch-hunting and we know there's a serious witch problem.  In a country where witch-hunting is a stable and lucrative career, and also an amateur pastime enjoyed by millions of hobbyists on the weekend, we know there are no real witches worth a damn.

We do not see Pax Dickinson and Paul Graham ganging up to destroy Gawker.  We see them curling up into a fetal position and trying to survive.  An America in which hackers could purge journalists for communist deviation, rather than journalists purging hackers for fascist deviation, would be a very different America.  Ya think?

Whereas the real America, the America in which a journalist little more than an intern, with no discernible achievements but a sharp tongue, a Columbia degree and trouble using MySQL, can quite effectively bully one of the most accomplished hackers of his era, not to mention a way better writer - this is the remarkable America that we live in and need to explain.

This phenomenon of spoiled children systematically bullying their elders and betters reminds us, of course, of Mao.  But still more, of Plato.  Do they still read Plato at Columbia?  Ha, that's very funny.  Plato!  Gawker may not know Plato, but Plato knows Gawker:
Yes, he said; that is the way with him.
Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he-is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.

Yes, he replied, he is all liberty and equality.
Yes, I said; his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of the lives of many; --he answers to the State which we described as fair and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take him for their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example of manners is contained in him.

Just so.
Let him then be set over against democracy; he may truly be called the democratic man.

Let that be his place, he said.
Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man and State alike, tyranny and the tyrant; these we have now to consider.

Quite true, he said.
Say then, my friend, in what manner does tyranny arise? --that it has a democratic origin is evident.

Clearly.
And does not tyranny spring from democracy in the same manner as democracy from oligarchy --I mean, after a sort?

How?
The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and the means by which it was maintained was excess of wealth --am I not right?

Yes.
And the insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy?

True.
And democracy has her own good, of which the insatiable desire brings her to dissolution?

What good?
Freedom, I replied; which, as they tell you in a democracy, is the glory of the State --and that therefore in a democracy alone will the freeman of nature deign to dwell.

Yes; the saying is in everybody's mouth.
I was going to observe, that the insatiable desire of this and the neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy, which occasions a demand for tyranny.

How so?
When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cupbearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable and give a plentiful draught, she calls them to account and punishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs.

Yes, he replied, a very common occurrence.
Yes, I said; and loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her slaves who hug their chains and men of naught; she would have subjects who are like rulers, and rulers who are like subjects: these are men after her own heart, whom she praises and honours both in private and public. Now, in such a State, can liberty have any limit?

Certainly not.
By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses, and ends by getting among the animals and infecting them.

How do you mean?
I mean that the father grows accustomed to descend to the level of his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his father, he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this is his freedom, and the metic is equal with the citizen and the citizen with the metic, and the stranger is quite as good as either.

Yes, he said, that is the way.
And these are not the only evils, I said --there are several lesser ones: In such a state of society the master fears and flatters his scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors; young and old are all alike; and the young man is on a level with the old, and is ready to compete with him in word or deed; and old men condescend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaiety; they are loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore they adopt the manners of the young.

Why not, as Aeschylus says, utter the word which rises to our lips?
That is what I am doing, I replied; and I must add that no one who does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a democracy than in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the proverb says, are as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just ready to burst with liberty.

When I take a country walk, he said, I often experience what you describe. You and I have dreamed the same thing.

And above all, I said, and as the result of all, see how sensitive the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of authority and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them.

Yes, he said, I know it too well.
Such, my friend, I said, is the fair and glorious beginning out of which springs tyranny.

Glorious indeed, he said. But what is the next step?
The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy; the same disease magnified and intensified by liberty overmasters democracy --the truth being that the excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction; and this is the case not only in the seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all in forms of government.
Or so we can only hope.  I have a bad feeling Plato may be too optimistic here, however.

In any case, from Plato's dialogue we see how the witch-hunter can invert the reality of power and presents himself as the underdog, fighting back against the gigantic and all-encompassing conspiracy of witches.  This fantasy is expertly constructed and appears quite real to the casual observer.

The primary technique is to present the natural order of human society, which the revolution has in fact totally overthrown - an order in which the young respect the old, the inexperienced follow the accomplished, and dogs obey their owners - as the existing order.  The professional witch-hunter, who is in fact a petty bureaucrat, a tool of power and a bully for hire, appears to himself as a sort of daring rebel against the great conspiracy.  Moreover, because this natural order both used to exist, and is always striving to spring up against Horace's pitchfork, it can be portrayed as the ruling order with great fictional nuance and detail - even after a half-century plus of permanent revolution.

Furthermore, if you can present a natural force as a human force, it is possible to attribute almost infinite power to the witch conspiracy.  Jews, for example, cause droughts.  It's easy to see how strong the Jews are - it hasn't rained for a month!  Throw the Jews down the well!

In this particular case, it's an observation only slightly more obvious than that the sky is blue - especially for those of us who are grownups not born in the 1990s, with, like, wives and daughters and stuff - that (a) geeks are born not made, and (b) a Y chromosome is a major risk factor for geekiness.  In other words, we are not equalists.  We'd certainly love it if everyone was equal (hopefully leveling up, not leveling down).  But we're not insane and don't argue with reality.

For example, I'm a geek and I'd love it if my daughter was a geek too.  She isn't.  Not only is she more girly than me, she's more girly than her mother (who has an EE degree).  She's reading Lemony Snicket in kindergarten, but she's not a geek.  A friend of mine has a daughter, about the same age, about as smart, who is a geek.  I wish my daughter cared about numbers, planets and dinosaurs.  For all I know, my friend wishes his daughter was a walking Disney Princess encyclopedia whose dolls can improvise an hour-long soap opera.  We can wish all we want, but that's just not how it is.  If I tried to impose my ideal daughter on the real person who reality decided would be my daughter, I would be a bad person and a bad parent.  And that's why I'm a realist, not an equalist.

When the witchfinder can attribute the consequences of meteorology, biology, or any other department of reality to a human conspiracy, there is no limit to the proto-divine authority which the witch-cabal then assumes.  To rebel against it seems almost as daring and hopeless as a rebellion against God himself.  How romantic!  How empowering!  Smash the great conspiracy of differentness, without which we would all be gloriously the same!  Throw the Jews down the well!

A great technique.  But like all propaganda methods, it wears off.  Most people, most of the time, especially in an old worn-out post-democracy like our own, are extremely tired of politics, political philosophy, conspiracy theories, and the like.  It's not exactly that they disagree with the party line.  But it no longer excites them.  It still excites a ruling minority, of course, and quite vociferously indeed.  (The Gawker comment threads, like those of every other party-line board, are full of amateur bullies who derive great apparent pleasure, if not profit, from piling on.)

What the bully needs is to provoke mild approval, from the vast majority of ordinary, decent people who don't care about politics or power and are really not involved with the game at all.  It's this abuse of common decency that offends me most about the witch-hunting process.  The ordinary observer does not, really, believe in witches - or disbelieve in them, either.  Rhetoric about black cats, third nipples and secret meetings with Satan doesn't make much impression on her at all.

But what she knows is that Goody Hannah is a strange, mean old lady with no husband and a snippy tongue, who smells funny and sleeps way too late in the morning, and once yelled at her when she was a little girl.  Left to her own devices, our decent observer would never think of reasoning from this to the proposition that Goody Hannah needs to be drowned.  On the other hand, when the crowd (consisting mostly of decent observers) is about to drown Goody Hannah, she's not exactly about to speak up and stick out her neck.  For a strange, mean old lady with no husband and a snippy tongue?  That no one speaks up, of course, is no more and no less than the witchfinders need.

Clearly, everyone should be nice and no one should have a snippy tongue.  We often hear the word offensive.  What is an offensive person?  In a word, an asshole.  Everyone who hears this word (including Popehat - especially Popehat) should stop and think: is it illegal to be an asshole?  If so, why should it be illegal to be an asshole?  If not, why should it not be illegal to be an asshole?

Curiously, two thousand years before anyone had even heard of a "microaggression," a bunch of old white guys called "the Romans" considered this issue and concluded: de minimis non curat lex.  Literally: "the law does not concern itself with trifles."  Or metaphorically: no.  No, it is not, and should not be, illegal to be an asshole. 

Think about the logic of a world in which it's illegal to be an asshole.  Or at least, in which one is liable for being an asshole.  Anyone could sue anyone else, at any time, for being an asshole.  In this world, "you dick" isn't an insult.  It's a tort.  It's a factual claim that, if proven true by a court of law, pays damages.

Of course, we know the Romans were a bunch of ignorant heteronormative dicks.  The Greeks, too!  Plato, Socrates, Aristotle... morons!  Ah, how far we've come.  But really, why shouldn't Spicoli be able to sue Mr. Hand?  Who really was a dick, wasn't he?  Why should anyone be allowed to be a dick?  Why should that be okay, in our tolerant society?  To be a dick?

A legal system in which insolence is a tort has never, so far as I know, been tried.  In general, sages and jurists for all the world and time have agreed that, though it is not nice for people to be not nice to each other, the desirable goal of enforcing universal sweetness and niceness is simply not one within the reach of human jurisprudence.

For one thing, the courtroom process relies on witness testimony, and even with eyewitnesses it is often difficult to establish who hit whom.  Imagine a lawsuit between two people, each of whom accuses the other of being a dick, but who were the only people in the room.  It's preposterous.  No, clearly - the problem of giving dicks their just reward, which is neither jail time nor monetary damages, but simply social exclusion, is best left to Popehat's "social consequences."

Or so a bunch of dead old white dicks believed.  I mean, what the fuck, right?  Obviously, dead white dicks are going to believe it's okay to be a dick.  Duh.

But a legal system in which rudeness to certain people attracts the attention of the law... this system is by no means unusual in human history.  Nor is it universal.  But it's certainly the norm.  It's really the Enlightenment system of uniform legal protection that's unusual.

Here's an example of the normal historical approach - from a non-Eurocentric context:


In old Japan, it wasn't illegal to be an asshole.  It wasn't even illegal to be an asshole to a samurai.  But it was illegal to be an asshole to a samurai - if you weren't a samurai.  See how it works?  You might say the samurai were a sort of protected class.  A system not at all unique to old Japan.  Always and everywhere, "microaggressing" against the protected class is hazardous to your health.

There was even a word, dating back to those same Roman dicks who gave us this "de minimis" bullshit, for a system of law that assigned certain people special rights.  This set of rights varied - but in almost every case, the right not to be offended (by those outside the subset) was the first and most basic.  The word, in fact, was privilege.  Meaning, in Roman dick-speak, private law.

Type it into the searchbar.  Somehow, you still get:
A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis.
I don't think I need to mention what the America of 2013 has done to this word.

Hey, America - just to let you know - the language I speak, English, is actually older than you. (Not even counting the Roman bits.)  Hopefully it'll outlast you as well.  Maybe not.  But when you rape it, you rape my brain.  And you know - unlike some people, I guess - I really don't get off on that.  Just to let you know, America.

As for the actual reality of a two-tier legal system, I don't mind it that much.  Really, it's historically normal.  For an example, consider this now classic tweet:


Whom is it illegal to offend?  Well, for example, Pax (and his 50 re-tweeters - who should all also, of course, be investigated!  Any junior-league Matthew Hopkinses out there?  Gosh, Gawker has interns, don't it?) was satirizing Mel Gibson.

Were Mel Gibson King of America (not my ideal outcome - but perhaps still preferable to present conditions), this would constitute actionably offensive speech in the form of lese-majeste.  (Which is still a thing in Thailand, doncha know.)  Or, if America was a Christian country, this would be actionably offensive speech in the form of blasphemy, because Jesus is the Son of God and wouldn't just let Himself be ambushed from the rear like that.  Or...

But naturally our decent observer, pushing down again on the ducking stool as Goody Hannah struggles for air, cackling and shrieking exactly as a witch would, has no more conception of these power dynamics than a cat of tennis.  All she knows is that someone has said something offensive.  Which is true.  Since she's not interested in the political patterns of who does and doesn't have the right not to be offended, her decent, good-natured desire that everyone should be nice to everyone else gets captured by the strong and used as a weapon against the weak.

The world we live in is an awfully sick, cruel place, isn't it?  Well, we are all basically chimps.  You may not be interested in Power - but Power is interested in you.

But we're still missing something...

Because in any of these absurd hypotheticals, Pax is insulting the governing class - the king, clergy, etc.  It is always a crime to insult Power, and we can take it for granted that Power has been insulted here.  And yet - we know who, specifically, has been actionably disrespected.  It ain't Jesus and it ain't Mel Gibson. It's African-Americans and prostitutes.  Or worse, women who dress like prostitutes - sadly a much larger set.  Fine - African-Americans and women.

But it's really not possible to contend that African-Americans and/or women are American's governing class.  This simply does not compute.

Which leaves us, for all our historical wisdom, at a sort of dead end.  What we're seeing here has never been seen before.  The privilege of not being offended, the most basic and customary privilege of nobility, after centuries of desuetude has been reinvented and regranted.  But the grantees have no resemblance to any traditional noble class.  Not only are they not a ruling class, they don't even seem... especially... noble.

Fine.  We have to go deeper into the rabbit hole.  You know that hit of acid?  The one you've been saving?  For special emergencies?  Yo.  It's time.  Come back in an hour when your tongue gets big.  (Not that there's anything really new here, of course, for the hardened UR addict.)

While I really have no brief for the Wachowski siblings, and the sequels prove there really is such a thing as accidental genius, genius remains genius and The Matrix is its work.  You can't watch this scene too many times, especially if you're on acid:


Out here on the right edge of the sane world, not quite yet in the ocean of madness but close enough to hear its cold black surf, there's a lot of talk about this Red Pill.  We of course live in the Matrix, or rather the Cathedral - I'm glad to see this label catching on, though "Matrix" would do just as well.

But is there actually a Red Pill?  That will cure all this nonsense and explain everything, once and for all?  Acid is great, of course, but alas it does wear off.

I'd like to believe the Red Pill is UR itself.  (There are a lot of blogs that get 500,000 views; there are a lot of blogs that get updated.  There are not a lot of blogs that get 500,000 views while not getting updated.)  But one would have to admit that it's a pretty big pill.  Keanu is going to be here all day and he'll need more than one glass of water.

No. I think I've chosen my candidate for the Pill itself.  And I'm going to stick with it.  My Pill is:
America is a communist country.
What I like about this statement is that it's ambiguous.  Specifically, it's an Empsonian ambiguity of the second or perhaps third type (I've never quite understood the difference).  Embedded as it is in the mad tapestry of 20th-century history, AIACC can be interpreted in countless ways.

All of these interpretations - unless concocted as an intentional, obviously idiotic strawman - are absolutely true.  Sometimes they are obviously true, sometimes surprisingly true.  They are always true.  Because America is a communist country.  As we'll see...

Obviously, as a normal American, or at least a normal American intellectual, this Red Pill strikes you as hilariously and obviously ridiculous and wrong.  You cannot even begin to process it as a serious hypothesis.  It is simply too stupid.  Right?  Right?  Bueller?

I know two ways to answer this laugh: the fast way and the slow way.  The fast way: agree and amplify. "That's right.  America is a communist country.  For workers and peasants, read: blacks and Hispanics."

It may change to rage, fear, denial, whatever - but that laugh will suck itself right back down into the lungs.  That's what happens when you get punched.

You can follow this punch (only punch if you need to, of course) by explaining to your erstwhile mugger why he laughed.  More or less the rhetorical equivalent of kicking him when he's down.  As with the punch, only deliver the full treatment if it's really necessary.  Always be willing to accept surrender.  Ideally, you'll give your man a hand and he'll stand up and switch sides.  But of course, when it's time for the rhetorical ground-and-pound, it's time for the rhetorical ground-and-pound.

The laugh got emitted because one of the simplest ingredients in your standard Blue Pill is a trio of parallel antibodies that convert the Red Pill, in three different ways, into harmless idiotic strawmen.  Obviously, growing up in the Cathedral, we've all received an enormous lifetime dose of Blue Pill.  Before we capture and study these antibodies, we can go no further.

The first and most important antibody converts the RP into the perfect strawman:
America is a Communist country.
Note the capital C.  Generally, the majuscule proper noun implies not the general idea of communism, but the specific entity that was the CPSU - and its various satellite organs, such as the CPUSA.  Hence, today, we read:
America is secretly ruled from a secret Faraday cage under the White House by KGB Colonel-General Boris Borisov, who sometimes emerges in blackface to appear as "Barack Obama."
For example, Nazi Germany was a fascist country.  But Nazi Germany wasn't a Fascist country.  Nazi Germany was a fascist country because Hitler's political system was generally similar to Mussolini's.  But Nazi Germany wasn't a Fascist country - because Hitler wasn't a secret agent secretly working for Mussolini.  Get it?  Come on, of course you get it.

With the small 'f', our sign signifies a political system, ideology or movement, by its objective characteristics.  With the big 'F',  it signifies a political party, organization or regime, by its nominal identity.  You might find it hard to generalize this distinction to an earlier letter in the alphabet, if you are stupid, or haven't taken any semiotics classes.  Otherwise, it ought to be easy to see that though every Communist is a communist (adherent of the political system, ideology or movement), not every communist is a Communist (card-carrying disciple of MOSCOW!!!).  I mean, duh.

This narrative of international subversion is the most effective kind of propaganda strawman - a strawman that you can actually get your adversary to adopt.  An essentially nationalist, and utterly misguided, interpretation of the Communist Menace was the staple of the American right for the entire 20th century.  Indeed it still sells books.  Not bad books - but never perfect.

Historically, the subversion narrative of classical anticommunism is ridiculous as applied after 1989; generally wrong as applied after 1945; accurate in a sense between 1933 and 1945, but still generally misleading. (Alger Hiss is not Aldrich Ames; broadly speaking, the Americans involved with the Soviet security apparatus during the FDR period, including most likely FDR himself, saw themselves, correctly, as the senior rather than junior partners in the relationship - and considered their actions, though technically unlawful, unofficially authorized and the highest form of patriotism in spirit.)

The basic problem with the outside agitator Commie subversion narrative is that it's way too optimistic.  Were communism some exotic pest, it would be easy to eradicate.  Perhaps we could find some kind of microscopic wasp that kept it in check in its strange foreign homeland.  Indeed, the usual pattern with an invasive species is that resistance to it is strongest in its actual homeland.

For example, when we look at John Reed's short dramatic life, we see several epidemiological hypotheses - pick one:
  • The Russian and Mexican revolutions have no connection; similarities are coincidental.
  • There is one revolution, inherently Russian.  It spread, through America, to Mexico.
  • There is one revolution, inherently Mexican.  It spread, through America, to Russia.
  • The Russian and Mexican revolutions are connected via somewhere else - maybe Brazil?
  • Communism is as American as apple pie.
Of course, nationalist rhetoric - of a particularly virulent anti-American kind - was an essential ingredient in both the Russian and Mexican revolutions.  If the origin of these revolutions is essentially foreign to the countries they devastated, it makes perfect sense that the lady would have no alternative but to protest too much.

It's not foreign to ours, however, which explains why communism has only mildly devastated America.  No gulags here!  The home of the screwworm is also the home of the screwworm-eating wasp.  Unfortunately, one can't really rely on the wasp to eradicate the screwworm.  But it keeps the screwworms relatively sane, honest and under control, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.  It's a good thing because it's a good thing.  It's a bad thing because it makes it a lot easier for us to deny we have a communism problem.

When the story of the 20th century is told in its proper, reactionary light, international communism is anything but a grievance of which Americans may complain.  Rather, it's a crime for which we have yet to repent.  Since America is a communist country, the original communist country, and the most powerful and important of communist countries, the crimes of communism are our crimes.  You may not personally have supported these crimes.  Did you oppose them in any way?

The national guilt is especially strong, since our nation is anything but contrite.  Unlike our gelded pet Germans, we still believe in our national ideology of mass murder.  We ourselves are not murdering anyone right now, at least not a large scale.  But we did in the past, and we still believe the same beliefs that made us accessories, before and after the fact, to Soviet atrocities on an epic scale.

If the 20th century taught us anything, it taught us that it's not just the triggerman who's responsible for political murders.  The Schreibtischtäter has also his place in the dock - and behind him stands the howling mob.  And Mission to Moscow was not a flop.  Your grandparents watched it (mine did, anyway), and laughed and clapped.  Across the Atlantic they were laughing and clapping to Jud Süss.  Man is Caliban, everywhere.

Consider one of America's most revered 20th-century writers.  I mean, of course, Ezra Pound.  No I don't - I mean Ernest Hemingway.  According to George Plimpton, Hemingway liked to have a few daiquiris and then go watch Che mow down political prisoners with a machine gun.  Hem and Che both remain cult heroes worshipped by cool people everywhere.  Hey, what national guilt?  It's all cool, right?

Heck, if the Nazis had pulled it out, we'd wearing Reinhard Heydrich T-shirts instead.  Power, victorious power, is always and everywhere adored.  Its crimes?  Well, the winner always has some good excuse.  Who ever was prosecuted for Allied war crimes?  What war crimes?  Bueller?

Cured of that antibody yet?  There's actually a second one:
America is a communist country.
is trivially translated, certainly if you're a communist (and we're all communists), to (in communist jargon):
America has achieved communism.
Achieved!  Who said anything about achieved?  The Soviet Union was a communist country.  Right?  Did it achieve communism?  Did it even claim to have achieved communism?  Of course not.

Obviously, a communist believes that when communism is achieved, social, political and economic equality will be achieved.  In the Soviet Union, there were enormous social, political and economic inequalities.  In America, there are enormous social, political and economic inequalities.

Of these inequalities, a communist would say, with Boxer - we must work harder!  An anticommunist would say: of course you can't achieve these goals.  Communism creates enormous destruction while failing to advance at all toward its stated goals.  That's kind of why communism sucks so much.

Moreover, it would seem obvious that, by taking the stance not that the failure to achieve communism means that communism doesn't work, but the stance that the failure to achieve communism means we haven't worked hard enough to achieve communism - you may not have chosen the best counter-argument against an anticommunist who irrationally persists in calling you a communist.

Yes - America, original homeland and sole remaining capital of communism, is also the nation of hedge-fund billionaires in the Hamptons.  Actually, if you look closely, you'll see that for every libertarian billionaire there are ten "progressive" ones - with about twenty times as much money.  But hypocrisy, too, is as American as apple pie.

But probably the most sophisticated antibody to AIACC is the dualist interpretation of communism.  The dualist believes that there are two kinds of leftism in the 20th century: moderate liberalism, which is as meek and mild as a spring lamb and wants nothing more than to rectify "social injustice," and radical communism, a criminal deviation which sullies the name of the moderates by, you know, murdering hundreds of millions of people.

This antibody is easily recognized as the logician's friend, No True Scotsman.  No true Scotsman would massacre political prisoners.  If Scotsmen are found massacring political prisoners, they are found not to be true Scotsmen.  The fallacy is subtle - it is fallacious only because the distinction is manufactured as a consequence of the test.  For example, if we discovered that Highland Scots committed massacres and Lowland Scots did not, it would not be No True Scotsman, because the Highland/Lowland distinction exists objectively prior to the massacre/no-massacre distinction.

It's an interesting exercise to try to construct a meaningful and objective prior distinction between an American communist and an American liberal of the mid-to-late 20th-century.  For example, we could look for a partition of the social graph.  Perhaps liberals hate communism so much that they never invite communists to their parties?  Or fire them, for communist comments on Twitter?  We do see some partition between the moderate and extreme right - but if anything, it's the extreme left that tends to socially exclude the moderate left.  But not with enough consistency to make a good test.

What, for example, is a "progressive?"  If the anti-communist liberal (as opposed to the anti-Communist, ie anti-Soviet, liberal - a very real phenomenon) was a real phenomenon, and viewed communists the same way he viewed Nazis, for their remarkably similar human rights offenses, we'd expect him to avoid communist political terminology.  For much the same reason that, as cool as that glyph looks, you'll never ever see a swastika in an Apple ad.

Whereas actually, codewords like "progressive," "social justice," "change," etc, are shared across the Popular Front community for the entire 20th century.  They are just as likely to be used by a Cheka cheerleader from the '20s, as a Clinton voter from the '90s.

The dualist constructs his Scottish strawman as follows: Jimmy Carter is a vegetarian intellectual; Felix Dzerzhinsky was a cold-blooded killer.  Therefore, it is absurd to refer to both using the same label, for the same reason it is absurd to imagine Jimmy Carter snuffing out kulaks and reactionaries with a bullet in the nape of the neck.  Thus we create two categories of "progressive," the "nice progressive" (who sounds like NPR) and the "nasty progressive" (with a bad Slavic growl).  And thus, since "communist" means "nasty progressive," and there are no executions of dissidents and hence no nasty progressives in America... it is absurd to consider America as a communist country.

True.  On the other hand, it is also absurd to imagine Rudolf Hess (a rather Carter-like personality) shooting anything larger than a rabbit.  No doubt, if the Nazis had won the war, the whole Holocaust thing would be considered an unfortunate (but understandable) aberration of Himmler and Heydrich.  (Hitler never put it in writing, very much for this purpose.)  No true Nazi would do any such thing.

And indeed, most Nazis never hurt a single Jew.  And nonetheless it does not seem at all illogical to maintain a monist interpretation of both Nazism and fascism, which does not separate fascists or Nazis into "nice" and "nasty" and exculpate the former from the crimes of the latter.  Indeed, much good ink is shed over the guilt of the innocent gullible Hitler voter.  Who'd never even heard of Auschwitz, much less approved of it.  But guilty he remains, eh?

No one at Gawker is shooting anyone in the nape of the neck.  On the other hand, no one at Gawker has the option to shoot anyone in the nape of the neck.  So we can't really know whether they would or they wouldn't, can we?  There sure does seem to be quite a bit of hate out there, however.  My guess is that most wouldn't, but some would.  And isn't some all it takes?

So - now that we know what American communism isn't, let's look at what it is.  Then we'll see what it gets out of purging people.  Then we'll see how to dodge the purge.

Of course, communism is an ambiguous term and we can define it in any way.  One of the easiest ways to see why America is a communist country, for instance, is to define communism as a cultural tradition, essentially a religion, which is transmitted through early nurture like a language.  Although languages are not, of course, encoded in our genes, they have an evolutionary history like that of genetic traits.  Englishmen are related to Germans, English is related to German.

Language and dialect diversity hasn't done well in the 20th century, but political and cultural traditions have taken the biggest hit of all.  Both worldwide and in America, the set of belief systems is far narrower in 2013 than in 1913.  Broadcast technology kind of does that.  Political and military developments have, of course, played a role as well.

What this means is that if you look for Americans in 1913 who have the same basic worldview of an ordinary American college student in 2013, you can find them.  But you can't find a lot of them.  The cultural mainstream of 2013 is not descended from the cultural mainstream of 1913, most of whose traditions are entirely extinct.  Rather, it is descended from a very small cultural aristocracy in 1913, whose bizarre, shocking and decadent tropes and behaviors are confined almost entirely to exclusive upper-crust circles found only in places such as Harvard and Greenwich Village.

What were these people called?  By themselves and others?  Communists, generally.  Though when they wanted to confuse outsiders, they'd say "progressive" - and still do.  But poking at this paper-thin euphemism, or any of its friends - "radical," "activist," and a thousand like it - is "Red-baiting" and just not done.  You've got to respect the kayfabe.

For example, my favorite example of a culturally ancestral aristo-American is Thomas Wentworth Higginson.  Higginson is best known for discovering Emily Dickinson, which may have been the only good deed he did.  But as a young man, he made pioneering strides in terrorist finance as a member of the Secret Six.  (If you have to get your balls groped at the airport, it's because America isn't your country.  It's John Brown's country - you just live here.)  In the 1890s, he worked hard to promote revolution in Russia.  Some friends Russia had!  And as an old man, Higginson helped Jack London and Upton Sinclair start the Intercollegiate Socialist Society; which later became the awesomely named League for Industrial Democracy, which really should have been a band or at least a nightclub; which begat the SDS; which begat (shh!) B.H. Obama...

Clearly, this is the authentic American tradition, unbroken and unchallenged.  Accept no substitutes!  And in fact, you can go to Google and read T.W.'s writing, and observe that for the most part it's fresh as a daisy and could be read on NPR tomorrow, without shocking or even surprising anyone.  In short - this is who we are.  Of course, we can go back to No True Scotsman, or any of our other fallacies, and argue that there's some sort of transcendental difference between a "socialist" and a "communist."
But really, why bother?  It's just obvious that we're all communists now.

But what is communism?  A tradition, sure - but what is in the tradition?  Why does it work?  Why does it rule?

In the terminology of the father of modern political science, Gaetano Mosca, communism is a political formula - a pattern of thinking that helps a subject support the organized minority that governs him.  Typically a modern political formula allows the subject to feel a sense of political power that convinces him that he is, in a sense, part of the ruling minority, whether he is or not (usually not).  Since humans, and in fact all great apes in the chimp lineage, are political animals evolved to succeed in hierarchically ruled tribes, feeling powerful is deeply satisfying.  Communism works because it solves this problem, more effectively than any other political formula in wide distribution today.

When it comes to the formal governance process proper, of course, few are actually in the loop.  Just as pornography can stimulate the human sex drive without providing any actual sex, democracy can stimulate the human power drive without providing any actual power.  But one of the problems with American democracy today is that it's far too constant.  It's like a single page ripped out of Playboy, pinned up in your prison cell.  Fifty years ago it was still enthralling, even though your forebrain may have known it was meaningless.  But eventually even your hindbrain figures out that it's just a piece of paper with some ink on it.  And it sure doesn't help that your forebrain knows the real lady in the picture, while real and actually female, is actually on Social Security by now.

Witch-hunting on a purely informal basis, Popehat's "social consequences," scratches the political perfectly, because of course here is actual power - the power to harm other human beings - being exercised by ordinary people who are not mysterious DC bureaucrats.  Never, ever understate how fun it is to just chimp out for a minute.  If you mock it, it's because you've never had a chance to be part of the mob.  You can condemn it as a vile, base passion, which of course it is - and a human passion as well.  We really all are Caliban.

But we have an angelic nature too, and our angelic forebrains need a cover story while the chimp hindbrain is busy biting off toes and testicles.  Pure sadism is enough for the id.  It's not enough for the ego.  This is why we need communism.

And what is communism?  As a political formula?  Perhaps we can define it, with a nice 20th-century social-science jargon edge, as nonempathic altruism.  Or for a sharper pejorative edge, callous altruism.

What is callous altruism?  Altruism itself is a piece of 20th-century jargon.  We could contrast it with the original word for the same thing, obviously too Christian to prosper in our age: charity.  When we say charity, of course, we think of empathic altruism.

When we think of charity, we think not just of helping others - but of helping others whom we know and love, for whom we feel a genuine, unforged emotional connection.  For whom we feel, in a word, empathy.  Understandably, these people tend to be those who are socially close to us.  If not people we already know, they are people we would easily befriend if we met them.

Dickens, no stranger to genuine empathy, had a term for nonempathic altruism.  He called it telescopic philanthropy.  Who is Peter Singer?  Mrs. Jellyby, with tenure.

So, for example, in classic Bolshevik communism, who is the revolution for?  The workers and peasants.  But... in classic Bolshevik communism... who actually makes the revolution?  Nobles (Lenin) and Jews (Trotsky), basically.  To wit, the groups in Russian society who are in fact most distant - emotionally, culturally, socially - from actual workers and peasants.

Similarly, the most passionate anti-racists in America are all to be found, in early September, at Burning Man.  Everyone at Burning Man, with hardly an exception, is highly altruistic toward African-Americans.  But, to within an epsilon, there are no African-Americans at Burning Man.
 
But wait, why is this wrong?  What's wrong with nonempathic altruism?  Why does it matter to the people being helped if the brains of their helpers genuinely light up in the love lobe, or not?  Loved or not, they're still helped - right?

Or are they?  How'd that whole Soviet thing work out for the workers and peasants?

Heck, for the last 50 years, one of the central purposes of American political life has been advancing the African-American community.   And over the last four decades, what has happened to the African-American community?  I'll tell you one thing - in every major city in America, there's a burnt-out feral ghetto which, 50-years ago, was a thriving black business district.  On the other hand, there's a street in that ghetto named for Dr. King.   So, there's that.  And since we mentioned Mrs. Jellyby, what exactly has a century of telescopic philanthropy done for Africa?

Are Gawker and its ilk genuinely interested in bringing women into technology?  Do they genuinely like either (a) (other) women, or (b) technology?  Because it would sure seem, to the uneducated observer, that the actual effect of their actual actions is to scare women away from programming careers - on the grounds that, if they so much as master MySQL, they will be instantly raped by a pack of Satan-worshipping "brogrammers."

Do you know what women who actually want to help other women learn programming look like?  They look like this.  Sexist, check.  Probably illegal, check.  Recognizing that women are different from men in more areas than the chest compartment, check.  ("Men's rights" activists, shut the fsck up!  If you were real men and not communist pussies, you'd know that no one has any rights, least of all you.  Only one thing makes right - that would be, of course, might - and whining that you're taking it in the tail, though taking it in the tail you are, is anything but a way to create that.)

(UC Berkeley when I was a grad student there had an excellent program, very similar, also (in practice) women-only, called the "CS Reentry Program."  I was ill-disposed to respect this program and the people in it, but reality quickly convinced me otherwise.  It was later done away with, for exactly this reason - communism has to pretend to be gender-neutral.  So it can't actually just help women by, you know, helping women.  That would involve appreciating women for what they are.  Which is obviously illegal in a communist country.  Similarly, once while decoding a Victorian book I told my daughter that in "the old days," many girls went to schools where there were no boys.  She looked at me as though I'd told her that in the old days, the whole world was made of chocolate.)

Can men be assholes to women?  Can women be assholes to men?  Well, actually, it's usually men who are assholes and women who are bitches - though not without exceptions.  But broadly speaking, can everyone be assholes to everyone else?  They can.  They are.  And if you're genuinely mentoring a younger person, with genuine empathy and a genuine interest in their genuine success, what you say in every case is: life is full of assholes.  When someone is an asshole (or a bitch) to you, ignore him and have as little to do with him as possible.)

Once you learn to recognize the distinction between empathic and nonempathic altruism, you'll see it everywhere.  Empathic altruism - charity - is simply good.  Nonempathic altruism - communism - is simply evil.  There's not a whole lot of gray area between good and evil.  Evil motivations can certainly, by coincidence, produce good results - but this is an accident, which has little or nothing to do with the supposed "good intentions."

Consider our late lamented "Arab Spring," a true "spring surprise" that is creeping closer and closer to having killed a million people.  As Stalin said, of course, a million people is just a statistic.  You need a visual.  I like to work with Olympic swimming pools full of blood.

And why did the Arab Spring happen?  It happened because our dear State Department incited revolutions across the Arab world.  And why did State do that?  They did it with the full-throated approval of the American people - all the American people, from left to right.  As far as I can recall, UR and David Goldman were the only two pundits condemning this enormous crime, which has produced exactly the results we expected.
 
And what were the American people thinking?  They were in a pure state of callous altruism.  They thought, we'll help our little brown Arab brothers by supporting them in their enlightened democratic revolution.  Mrs. Jellyby could not have expressed it better.

When you are motivated by genuine charity, and your charitable efforts backfire and actually harm the recipient of your help, you feel guilt and sorrow like nothing else.  You're a witness to a horrific motorcycle accident.  You run over to the man on the ground, pull his helmet off, hug him and give him CPR.  Unfortunately, he would have been fine, except that you just severed his spinal cord.  How do you feel?  Is your reaction: "oh well, at least I tried?"

How did the American people react when their Arab experiment didn't go so well?  I'll tell you exactly how they reacted.  "Oh well, at least we tried."  And then they changed the channel.  And that's what's wrong with callous altruism.

Of course, I'll be guilty of this same crime myself if I harp too much on the "women and minorities hardest hit" line.  What's really wrong with callous altruism?  It's a damned lie, that's what's wrong with it.  It steals charity's good name and makes Randroids condemn charity and communism in the same breath.  And all for stupid political power, with which it does nothing.  I'm a grownup and don't need political formulas.  Order me to respect the Party, I'll respect the Party.

I'll tell you what the real emotion behind the Arab Spring was.  Actually, Beavis can tell you better.  "Fire is cool," said Beavis.  Fire is indeed cool.  Americans were bored and needed some better CNN.  They wanted to see shit burn.  Shit indeed burned, and is still burning.  Which was cool.  So they got what they wanted.  Not too different from the crowd in the Colosseum, just less honest about how they satisfy their very simple chimp/human needs.

And it's not just sadism that motivates callous altruism.  Another source of venal satisfaction is that when you help people, or appear to help them, you become a patron.  You gain ownership over them.  When you help overthrow the dictator of Egypt, for example, you become in a sense the new government of Egypt.  The old dictator was a strongman - the new dictator is a weakman, because he owes his job to someone else.  That someone is you - the collective you, but you nonetheless.  If you decide you don't like your weakman, it's easy to find another weakman.

The fear that someone, somewhere, is exercising power over someone else, is one of the most basic cues of the callous-altruist mentality.  Let me kill the master and free the slave.  Out of altruism!   Not sadism or ambition, of course.  My hands are pure.

But slavery is simply dependence, and the default state of the newly "freed" slave is to be dependent on his new master - you, because you killed the old master.  So your sadism itch is scratched, because you get to kill; and your ambition itch is scratched, because you become a slavemaster.

(A slavemaster?  You may not tell your dependent what to do all day.  But if you pay him to do nothing, he is still your slave - you may not ask him to work today, but you could tomorrow.  He would have to obey your commands or starve.  In other words, he's a slave.  And of course, there's one thing you've surely bought - his vote.)

When Higginson and friends tried this experiment in the 1860s, roughly a fourth of the slaves died as a consequence of the operation.  Not to mention all the other people killed.  Naturally, since America is a communist country, this episode - which might under other regimes be viewed as an outbreak of mass criminal insanity - is considered one of the most glorious in our glorious history.

And this is why you don't want to be a part of the lynch mob.  Even if you think there aren't enough women programmers and there should be more.  It is not your forebrain that lusts for power.  It is your hindbrain.  Forebrain... must... control... hindbrain.

As for the mob's victims, who already understand this stuff - there's an easy way to not get purged.  Don't play the fool.  What is attacking you, though it seems like a frivolous phenomenon, is anything but.   This is an active volcano which has claimed hundreds of millions of lives.  Just firing you is a small, small thing for it.  Just destroying your life - very easy.  Don't mess with it.  If you can avoid a fight with it, do.

And if you can't, don't be defensive.  Attack.  If possible, attack in depth and preemptively.  (What do you think I'm doing here?)  One of the things that this evil machine is capable of, for example, is covering up hatefacts - realities that embarrass it or contradict its narrative.  Your goal in attacking it is to embarrass and contradict it, creating a counter-narrative that it cannot incorporate into its own entertainment product.  If you succeed, you will be covered up as well - which is exactly what you want.  So the purpose of your attack is not to draw attention, but to avoid attention.

And finally, I have one last message for Gawker itself:

At long last, bitch, have you no decency?
22 Sep 05:28

Empirical Claims of Neoreaction

by Michael Anissimov

Let’s set out some empirical claims. They’re not as empirical as claims in the physical sciences, but they will have to do.

There’s not enough space to define every term exhaustively here. Some people will understand what I mean, others will need to do independent background research for clarification. If the use of a term seems out of place or objectionable to you, try to model what you think I mean, rather than what you think the word should mean.

1.  The United States (and indeed, the entire West) has been moving further and further to the Left consistently since the French Revolution at least. We are leftist radicals by the standards of our forefathers. Our forefathers were radicals by the standards of their forefathers. Hard mode: America is a communist country. 

2. Britain has been on the Left for considerably longer than most of Continental Europe. This has led the Anglosphere to the idea that a parliamentarian system, rather than a monarchical one, is normal. In contrast, areas like Russia, the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Germany had monarchies until 1918, and so see authoritarian systems as considerably more normal. This is part of why leaders like Putin are so very popular in Russia. This also gives Americans an unusual bias against more authoritarian systems; rebellion for its own sake, rather than in service of any higher goal.

3.  Demotist systems, that is, systems ruled by the “People,” such as Democracy and Communism, are predictably less financially stable than aristocratic systems. On average, they undergo more recessions and hold more debt. They are more susceptible to market crashes. They waste more resources. Each dollar goes further towards improving standard of living for the average person in an aristocratic system than in a Democratic one.

4. The vast majority of the media, the universities, and the civil service agree on basic principles, like: democracy with universal suffrage is the best form of government, “politics” is ugly but democracy somehow isn’t, all men are equal, citizens are qualified to give input into government policy, big government is “the way of the world” and should be accepted, our country has the right and responsibility to be global policeman, etc. These principles, many of which would have been laughed at by educated men for thousands of years before the French Revolution (and many of them for a over a hundred years after it), are now seen as “obvious”. This is just due to memetic conquest, rather than the independent merit of the ideas.

5.  A core objective of Progressivism is to introduce “rights” and make them more and more encompassing. Introducing new initiatives as connected to “rights” rather than proposals with pros and cons shuts down cost-benefit analysis, framing certain entitlements as a moral issue and not up for discussion or debate. For instance, voting is a right, full stop. Even if it could be proven that society flourishes more without voting, the act of voting would need to be preserved because it is a “right”. “Civil rights” always trump “rights” of free association. The expansion of rights is connected to “rachet theory,” which argues that judicially recognized rights may be expanded, but never curtailed, creating a one-way dynamic.

6. The great bulk of what the government does, and the decisions it makes, are made by permanent and semi-permanent civil servants, not elected officials. If most decisions were made by elected officials, there would be chaos, since they would lack the experience to make good choices. Civil servants do nearly all the optimizing by narrowing down the infinity of possible options for any decision into 2-3 concise proposals, which are rigged in advance to accord with a narrow window of their preferences. These proposals may be presented to elected officials for decisions, but their actual decisions do not matter much, because most of the optimization pressure has already been exerted in advance.

7. Government and social policy is manufactured in universities, first and foremost at Harvard, followed by Princeton, then Yale (HYP), then the other Ivies, Berkeley, and Stanford. As far as politics is concerned, institutions outside of these are pretty much insignificant. Memetic propagation is one-way — it is formulated in the schools and pumped outwards. The universities are not significantly influenced by the outside. The civil servants that make government decisions are either borrowed from universities or almost totally influenced by them. The official mouthpiece of this ideological group is The New York Times, which is the most influential publication in the world outside of the Bible.

There is much more, but I’ll leave that here for now.

20 Sep 10:01

Insect Gear

by Alex Tabarrok

The only functional gears ever found in nature belong to a small insect. The gears lock the insect’s back legs together giving it a synchronized and powerful jump. The electron microscope picture of the gears is stunning:

The original paper is here and you can find a summary with more pictures of the gear in action here.

20 Sep 00:11

Neoreactionary Glossary

by Michael Anissimov
darkenlightenment

Map of Neoreaction by Scharlach

Aristocracy Evola: “Aristocracy” is an indeterminate concept. Literally speaking, “the best ones” is a relative term. ”Best” in terms of what, in view of what?” But also, “certain men have been followed, obeyed, and venerated for displaying a high degree of endurance, responsibility, lucidity, and a dangerous, open, and heroic life that others could not; it was decisive here to be able to recognize a special right and a special dignity in a free way. To depend on such leaders constituted not the subjugation, but rather the elevation of the person; this, however, makes no sense to the defenders of the “immortal principles” and to the supporters of “human dignity” because of their obtuseness.”

Aristocratic Republic — The original intent of the Founding Fathers of the United States was a Republic with a de facto “natural aristocracy,” which has since morphed into a Demotist system. The Roman Republic is an example of a successful aristocratic republic which eventually transformed into a monarchy. Some Reactionaries advocate the return of the United States to this form of government. Thomas Jefferson called natural aristocracy “the most precious gift of nature”.

The Cathedral — The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term coined by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers have enumerated the platform of Progressivism as women’s suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature of Progressivism is that “you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that’s left is to work out the details.” Reactionaries see Republicans as Progressives, just lagging 10-20 years behind Democrats in their adoption of Progressive norms.

Complementarity — The view that “men and women complement one another as separate parts that together make up a composite whole.” Also called complementarism. Related to the empirical view that men and women have different psychologies and are thus suited to different, complementary roles in society. Both men and women are seen as responsible for contributing “civilizing influence” to society as a whole, beginning with the atomic unit of society, the family. Among Reactionaries, most strains of feminism are seen as exacerbating male-female conflict and mortgaging long-term social vigor for the fleeting rewards of frivolity, hypergamy, and juvenilism. By the same token, misogyny, adultery, domestic abuse, fatherly irresponsibility, and the incessant whining of “men’s rights activists” are frowned upon as encouraging the same conflicts. Reactionaries acknowledge that securing the future depends on raising children in a stable and nurturing environment with a father and mother, and that the selfish desires of parents are secondary to this central goal. Without children, a culture simply self-terminates. Idolizing childlessness is a form of cultural suicide.

Dark Enlightenment — A new intellectual current made up of Reactionary components. The unifying factor of the Dark Enlightenment is a critique of Democracy, bluntly summarized by Peter Thiel when he wrote, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” The “Dark Enlightenment” is a term coined by British philosopher Nick Land, who explicated the concept in his Dark Enlightenment sequence. This sequence, along with the writings of Mencius Moldbug, make up the core literature of the movement. The Dark Enlightenment is a Reactionary project that rejects modernity, universalism, and Democracy in favor of Traditionalist, particularist, and aristocratic values. The term is sometimes used interchangeably with “neoreaction” or “neoreactionary”.

Demotism — Rule in the name of the People. The term has been recently popularized by Mencius Moldbug. Democracy and Communism are seen as two types of Demotism. Reactionaries view Demotism as a form of mob rule, where politicians pander to what they see as the popular will, rather than making their own decisions as independent leaders. A quote of unknown attribution, which first appears in print in 1951, sums up the Reactionary view on Demotism: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.” Reactionaries see the Reign of Terror and Stalin’s Purges as classic consequences of Demotism. Though monarchies have historically persecuted religious and ethnic minorities within their borders, none have shed blood on the scale of the French or Russian Revolutions and their subsequent purges. Quoting Erik von Keuhnelt-Leddihn: “The renaissance of democracy marked the beginning of the Age of the “G”—guillotines, genocide, gaols, gallows, gaschambers and Gulags.”

Julius Evola — Italian political philosopher and esotericist who wrote from 1920 until his death in 1969. Evola has been described as “aristocratic, masculine,  traditionalist,  heroic and defiantly reactionary.” An Italian scholar wrote, “Evola’s thought can be considered one of the most radically and consistently antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and antipopular systems in the twentieth century.” Evola’s political work revolves around the concept of the “Organic State,” a hierarchical and natural society that encourages a measure of human freedom, autonomy, and flourishing while integrating individual men and women into a larger coherent system that elevates them, gives their lives meaning, and makes them part of a purposeful whole. Like other Traditional systems, the Organic State is antidemocratic, delegating political decisions to an aristocratic elite. Evola emphasized higher “spiritual” (merely a term to refer to higher values, not to the supernatural) values like civic belonging and heroic accomplishment over exclusively material achievements. A good place to start reading Evola’s work is his book Men Among the Ruins. A compilation of short quotes from Evola may be found at the Traditionalist Notes blog.

Leftism — The Reactionary Right sees Leftism as an ideology that seeks to tear down exceptionalism and Traditional structures so that the lowest common denominator can satiate their feelings of envy and pathological altruism. A capitalist, leftist society primarily legitimizes accomplishment in only a couple domains — money and hedonism — at the expense of all higher values, including long-term societal stability. Instead of encouraging individual accomplishment, Leftism is driven by a “leveling dynamic” summarized by the pithy slogan “everyone gets a trophy”. Social “progress” is defined in terms of maximizing short-term individual hedonism at the expense of general societal health. Promoting an “anything goes” mentality, the end result is a cloud of largely indistinguishable, atomized individuals, rather than anything resembling social coherence or strength. “Culture” is seen as a fluid construct, to be thrown out casually and replaced with a new alternative at the slightest whim. Moral and cultural relativism reigns. No system can be seen as better than any other, lest the proponents of the inferior system take offense.

Mencius Moldbug — An influential blogger who breathed new life into the intellectual Far Right with his distinctive long-winded and mercurial monologues on politics and history, primarily written from 2007-2010. Moldbug is seen as the intellectual founder of the “neoreactionary” movement, a term coined by economist Arnold Kling in 2010. Moldbug’s most important sequences are his “Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives,” “A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations,” and “A Formalist Manifesto,” about a couple hundred pages in all. The near-complete Moldbug corpus is 4,470 pages long and is available as an ebook. Very few of Moldbug’s fans have read anywhere near his entire corpus; reading a couple hundred pages will give you the idea.

Monarchy — The favored form of government among reactionaries. For academic discussions of why monarchy is a good idea, see Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans Hermann-Hoppe and Liberty or Equality by Erik von Keuhnelt-Leddihn. Monarchies are relatively libertarian by current standards, in the sense that the government generally consumes 2-5% of GDP, unlike modern social democracies which consume 40-80% of GDP. Legally speaking, monarchies tend to have fewer laws, but enforce them more strictly, following Tacitus’ dictum: “The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.” In general, monarchies put more power into the hands of local government. A key argument in favor of monarchy is that leaders tend to have a lower time preference, meaning they have a greater personal stake in the long-term well being of the country, compared to career politicians oriented towards four-year election cycles. There is a debate in the reactionary community about succession rules, whether adoptive succession or hereditary succession is preferred.

Neoreaction — The novel reactionary movement that developed starting in 2007 around the writings of Mencius Moldbug, with the term itself coined by Arnold Kling in 2010. Neoreaction has a more analytical, abstract approach to Traditionalist Right thinking than historical Reaction. Neoreaction can be seen as a part of the Reaction in general, with which it has a complicated relationship. Ultimately, the goal of neoreaction is to provide a concrete body of political and administrative policy which can be used to form a new government.

Radical Traditionalism – The philosophical perspective and societal vision developed by Julius Evola.  The term is also used for a movement of Catholic conservatives. Among Catholics, the primary Radical Traditionalist organization is the Society for St. Pius X (SSPX). Since the term carries a double meaning, clarification may be needed. At More Right, the term is used to refer to Evola’s ideas unless otherwise noted.

Reactionary — It is important to recognize that the term “reactionary” was coined as an epithet, referring to French monarchists. When modern-day reactionaries use the term, they are not necessarily advocating literally returning to a status quo ante, but moving society in the direction of forms based on order, higher aesthetics, hierarchy, stability, peacefulness, aristocracy, tradition, cultural coherence, family, and the like. The steps in this direction have to be tailored to a specific time and place, based on perennial principles in harmony with human nature rather than literally turning back the clock. Rather than a chaotic “sandbox” of clashing cultures warring through democratic proxies, reactionaries aspire to an “oak” society that fosters strong interpersonal trust, monoculture, and a unified vision.

Reactionary authors — Notable reactionary authors and figures contributing materially to contemporary reactionary thought include Edmund BurkeNicolás Gómez Dávila, Joseph de MaistreJulius Evola, Klemens von Metternich, Oswald SpenglerWilliam Faulkner, Yukio Mishima, Mencius MoldbugErik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Evelyn Waugh, and Hans Herman-Hoppe, to name just a few.

Whig history — A form of historical revisionism that seeks to portray all of history as inevitably improving up until the present regime. A form of “history is written by the victors”. Obviously, the present system has every incentive to portray itself as superior to all past systems. Reactionaries point out this is not the case, and actually see present society in a state of severe decline, pointing to historically high levels of crime, suicide, government and household debt, increasing time preference, and low levels of civic participation and self-reported happiness as a few examples of a current cultural and historical crisis. The demographic crisis in First World countries is cited as another example of decline.

 

19 Sep 13:04

The elite consensus

by Mark Richardson
What matters in life? There seems to be a consensus amongst the social elite, whether on the right or left, when it comes to this question. It is assumed that the real aim of life is to make yourself in the market. What is considered important morally is that nobody be disadvantaged by factors outside their control, such as their class, race or sex, when it comes to workforce participation.

It's understandable that the elite would share this assumption about life. The kind of people who rise to positions of prominence are often ambitious people who are highly committed to their career and who move within circles in which career is associated with power, wealth, fame and achievement.

But the elite consensus is a problem. First, it is highly reductive and leaves out much of what traditionally anchored human life. Second, it is dissolving of important forms of human identity and connectedness.

Let's take family as an example. The elite consensus assumes that career is what matters most and that the key thing is that family roles and responsibilities don't impede job opportunities, or earnings or status. And so the emphasis is on career being the organising centre of life, including family life, rather than family being an independent institution with its own principles of organisation.

That's why there is hardly anybody in mainstream politics who can really be counted as pro-family, regardless of what political party they are in. The effort to keep the family distinct from the market has failed.

It's a similar story when it comes to a larger communal identity (whether of ethny or nation). If what matters is the individual making himself in the market, then the most heroic person is the one who is an economic migrant, i.e. the person who pitches himself from one country to another to improve their job opportunities or their material conditions of life. But the mass immigration this justifies undermines the historic communities linked by a common ethnicity, i.e. by ties of ancestry, history, culture, religion and language.

In theory, the counterweight to the elite consensus is supposed to come from the churches. But in general the churches have done a poor job in providing an alternative account of what a human life is for.

At times, the churches emphasise the idea that human life is about selfless service to others. This does seem to be set against the elite consensus as it is a non-market and non-materialistic ideal of life. But in some ways it misses the target. Yes, it's true that the elite consensus can lead some people toward material ambition (some feminists for example are very focused on the holding of power in society). But what seems to be really at stake here is not so much materialism, but ideas about human individuality (the unfolding of the human personality).

From the liberal perspective, what we do in the family or as members of a tribe is simply conventional and doesn't therefore express individuality. They prefer the idea of an existence in which there is no entity larger than ourselves, in which there is a purely personal identity (i.e. I identify with myself) and in which relationships are incidental to our true purposes. In other words, they identify individuality (the creative unfolding of ourselves as persons) with a kind of detached self-making.

So the problem isn't at its heart one of materialism or selfishness. Instead, it's a concept of individuality which detaches the individual from particular forms of identity, belonging and connectedness, and also from those goods embedded within our own nature and reality which guide our development in a particular direction.

If the churches are to challenge the elite consensus, then it doesn't help much to emphasise an abstract selflessness, or for that matter abstract moral concepts such as justice or equality. These, if anything, only further encourage the abstracted, detached concept of individuality that the liberal elite operates with.

To be an effective counterweight, the churches would have to emphasise the way that we fulfil our individuality as created beings, made for particular relationships within particular social entities. To be fair, it's possible to find instances of church leaders doing just this (I've got a fine example lined up for a future post), but the general trend runs the other way.
19 Sep 01:53

On Fractional Reserve Banking

by jim

Fractional Reserve Banking is not the problem.  Term Transformation is the problem. Australia and Singapore ban substantial term transformation, came through the recent financial crisis without problems. 

The banker borrows short term at 1%, lends long term at 4%. People deposit their money short term in case of rainy day. One day it rains on everyone, they all want to withdraw their money at the same time, problem.

The financiers run to the government and tell the government, quite truthfully, that they cannot fulfill the promises that they made, and unless the laws of economics are suspended in favor of corrupt and badly behaved bankers, the masses will be hurting.

The ensuing bank runs and financial panics cause widespread economic hardship, there is clamor for the government to ease the pain and prevent similar things from happening in the future, bingo, centrally planned finance. Capitalism continues as crony capitalism in which the favored financiers earn guaranteed profits dependent on government favor and regardless of competence or performance. Power and wealth slides into the hands of unproductive idiots selected for their political ideology.

Suppose, however, term transformation is forbidden. In that case, you cannot borrow long term at fixed interest rates, or if you do, you face exorbitant rates. So, when everyone wants to withdraw their money at the same time, interest rates soar.

This causes pain for borrowers, but since financial institutions remain solvent, we don’t get a self amplifying panic, we do not get runs. The masses suck it up, business as normal continues, and in due course, another crisis of capitalism passes with capitalism unchanged and continuing to work just fine.

In an anarchic society, if depositors monitored their financial institutions solvency and liquidity (liquidity of a financial institution being largely the extent of its term transformation) thus discouraging term transformation, crises would not get out of hand. In Singapore, the government just asks financial institutions to report on the extent of their term transformation, with the implication that anyone who goes out too far on a limb will be invited to jump, thus no one engages in excessive term transformation. If a financial institution were to have excessive term transformation, and the Singaporean government were to make it known it found this excessive and destabilizing, there would be a small run, analogous to firefighters lighting a small fire in the woods so that a big fire in the woods will not have fuel.

18 Sep 21:29

On the Syrian civil war

by Erik Mesoy

The Syrian rebels are wonderfully diverse, representing a medley of exotic cultural practice that are rarely seen in the modern West. Rebel commander Abu Sakkar, for instance, has no regrets about eating someone’s heart.  In his spare time he also eats lungs and livers.
Not funny? OK, how about this other rebel who’s an Al-Qaida member? (On the other hand, Hezbollah is siding with the Syrian government.)
Rebel number three has recently been on a student exchange trip to Egypt where he learned about the wonders of burning fifty-odd churches in a week.
Rebel number four is a rapist just out from Saudi Death Row who got his sentence commuted in exchange for signing up to fight the Syrian government.
Rebel number five is a hipster who was using chemical weapons months ago, before chemical weapons were cool.
Rebel number six is a grizzled veteran from the failed revolt of thirty years ago and still remembers the glory days of chanting “Alawites to the graveyard!

Suffice to say, it’s hard to find much that is good about the rebels other than their opposition to the murderously wicked dictator Bashar Al-Assad. (A brief digression for those late to the party: Syria’s government structure until the recent civil war has been a hereditary dictatorship originating in a military coup, where the dictator was confirmed at regular intervals by a 250-member parliament with strong membership restrictions.)

I am far from convinced that any of these rebels or their factions would be an improvement in power, and even a slightly better man overall would likely carry out “Alawites to the graveyard.” To make a facile analogy to a possibly more familiar historical situation, imagine that the victorious Allies in the Second World War had decided not to purge the National Socialist Party of Germany, merely depose it and put the Jews in charge. Then the Germans repeatedly revolted over the next few decades, and the Jewish regime violently put down everything that smelled of Nazism, enraging the majority of the German population. That may give you some idea of what Syria looks like now.

A more specific reason for my expectation of terrible consequences from a rebel victory is the inbreeding tendencies in Syria and the wider Middle East. The ethnic groups in Syria, of which the Alawites are one, have very strong internal blood ties between group members, and display many of the patterns of clans such as holding grudges and engaging in feuds. If you’re a Westerner, consider Scottish feuds such as the Campbells and MacDonalds, American ones such as Hatfields and McCoys, or fictional ones such as the Montagues and Capulets, only even more intense.

My second reason is the religious differentiation of the Alawites. To begin with, Alawites are a branch of Shia Islam, while most of Syria’s population is Sunni (about 2.6 million Alawites and 13 million Sunnis, specifically). Additionally, the Alawites believe in reincarnation, and may regard Ali as a deity. Thus it takes very little to regard the Alawites as heretics, with all that entails in terms of religious conflict in an already troubled region.

Thirdly, the Alawites were a persecuted minority two hundred years ago under the Ottoman Empire. A hundred years ago, with the creation of the French Mandate of Syria, the Alawites were heavily recruited by French governors in a common colonialist pattern of favoring minorities for local work. It was a win-win at the time: the Alawites got less persecution and more power, and the French got a grateful class of locals who were hardly in a position to betray them to the rest of the locals. Following the Second World War and independence, however, two things happened: One was that the Alawites took advantage of their position to go from being merely overrepresented in the power structure (particularly the military: Muhammad Umran, Salah Jadid and Hafez al-Assad were all Alawites) to becoming something more like a tribal dictatorship, and the other was that the powerful foreign patron departed, leaving the Alawites in the unenviable position of potentially being viewed as a small outgroup put in power by a foreign government.

Finally, a rebel victory at this point, after supplies of arms, funds and training from the West, could well be interpreted by many of the rebels as a Western-endorsed non-democratic violent victory. I don’t see this leading to anything good for the Alawites. Assad is not in a position to retire peacefully. Maybe if he’s lucky, he can appeal to his patron and go into exile to live out his life in Russia, but if he loses and stays in the country, hoping for even the death penalty would be optimistic. Getting stabbed and beaten to death, like Gaddafi, strikes me as more likely.

So I’ve said that Assad is a violent dictator and the rebels are terrible too. I oppose the current plan of arming the rebels and threatening Assad, and I’m not too keen on switching the subjects of these verbs. So, do I have a more constructive proposal than just getting the hell out and letting Syrians shoot one another? Yes:
Partition Syria. Use the model of dividing British India into India and Pakistan (later also Bangladesh) to carve out an Alawite state in western Syria, and hope that ethnic separation, with some initial Western enforcement of borders, can prevent Syria becoming yet another entry in the depressingly long list of ethnic cleansings.

17 Sep 06:46

Russian shot in quarrel over Kant’s philosophy

by Tyler Cowen

An argument in southern Russia over philosopher Immanuel Kant, the author of “Critique of Pure Reason,” devolved into pure mayhem when one debater shot the other.

A police spokeswoman in Rostov-on Don, Viktoria Safarova, said two men in their 20s were discussing Kant as they stood in line to buy beer at a small store on Sunday. The discussion deteriorated into a fistfight and one participant pulled out a small nonlethal pistol and fired repeatedly.

The victim was hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening. Neither person was identified.

It was not clear which of Kant’s ideas may have triggered the violence.

The link is here, and for the pointer I thank Michael Rosenwald.

17 Sep 02:02

The Child Is the Father to the Man: 9 Foundational Habits Young Men Should Start Now to Raise Themselves Right

by Brett & Kate McKay

mirror

Awhile back I was driving through the place where I grew up – Edmond, Oklahoma – and happened to pass by my old high school. This wasn’t an unusual event; I now live just an hour and a half from Edmond and my parents still reside there, so I’m back fairly frequently and sometimes pass the school. But this time something was different. On past occasions, I would be hit with a rush of nostalgia and memories of my days there would vividly come back to me. This time, however, I felt…nothing. Cognitively I thought, “There’s my old high school,” but no emotional wires were tripped. It seemed like just another building – my feeling of strong personal connection to it had disappeared.

As I drove on and contemplated this change and the distance I realized I now felt towards my youth in general, a quote from Theodore Roosevelt I had read years earlier came back to me: “The child is father to the man.” When I first came across the quote, it had puzzled me. I couldn’t really grasp what it meant. But as I drove past the home of the Edmond North Huskies, I began to understand it.

Roosevelt, I learned, was not the originator of the quote – he was in fact referencing a poem by William Wordsworth:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

What Wordsworth had in mind with these lines is the idea that a man’s passions, interests, curiosity, and penchant for awe and wonderment are born in youth and run an unsevered thread into adulthood. While some adults forgot the childlike joy of their younger years, Wordsworth believed it was still within them waiting to be rediscovered.

This is a worthy idea, and one that few men embraced with the vigor of Theodore Roosevelt, who bounded through his entire life with an unflagging boyish enthusiasm. But when TR professed that the child is the father of the man, he had something much different in mind, as he writes in his autobiography:

“Looking back, a man really has a more objective feeling about himself as a child than he has about his father or mother. He feels as if that child were not the present he, individually, but an ancestor; just as much an ancestor as either of his parents.  The saying that the child is the father to the man may be taken in a sense almost the reverse of that usually given to it. The child is father to the man in the sense that his individuality is separate from the individuality of the grown-up into which he turns. This is perhaps one reason why a man can speak of his childhood and early youth with a sense of detachment.”

At a certain point in your life — if you’re like me, it will happen in your late twenties — you will begin to experience the phenomenon of which TR speaks. The person you were as a boy and a young man will begin to seem like another individual, rather separate from your grown-up self. It’s a strange thing to experience. It’s not that you lose memories of your past, or necessarily let go of the youthful ideals and traits that Wordsworth cherished, but simply that your boyhood self and your current self come to seem like two distinct individuals.

Why does this cleaving between youth and adulthood occur? Surely some of it can be chalked up to the simple passage of time; as you grow older, your memories, and thus the attachment you feel to your past, become hazier. But it is also likely has its roots in neurology. As we discussed in our post about twentysomethings, your brain does not finish “setting up” until around your mid-twenties, which is also — not coincidentally, I would argue — around the time that your youthful self will begin to seem more like a distinct entity. The brain of your youth is not the brain of your adulthood, and the latter can remember and view the former almost as an outside observer.

What Kind of Man Are You Going to Father?

oldman

All this may be interesting to ponder, but it also has two practical implications that are vital for young men to understand.

First, what your present self wants and desires probably isn’t going to be what your future self wants and desires. When we’re young, we’re typically more present-focused. We worry about what can give us pleasure NOW and not ten years from now. So we spend money instead of save it, eat like crap, and play video games all night long, instead of eating right, exercising, and seeking experiences that will grow our minds and character. Sure, pleasure-oriented pursuits feel good in the moment, but our future selves will probably prefer to have more money in the bank and less blubber around our mid-sections.

Second, at this very moment, you are creating or “fathering” the man you will be in five, ten, and twenty years. So you want to be a successful, financially secure, physically fit, and well-adjusted forty-year-old? What actions are you taking NOW as a twenty-year-old to father that man? Just like one day you’ll need to be intentional about fathering your biological children, right now you need to be intentional about fathering your future self. Will you be an absentee dad who leaves your 30-year-old self feeling lost and adrift? Or will you raise a man who is intelligent, virtuous, and able to tackle life with confidence and vigor? No one can control the kind of biological father they are born with. But every young man can strive to be the best possible father to his future self.

Doing this doesn’t mean taking life too seriously and eschewing the fun you should be having as a young adult. It simply means establishing a set of foundational habits that will serve you well now and that you will thank yourself for later.

As we explored in our series on your twenties, after your brain finishes developing, changing your habits, while still possible, becomes harder. For this reason, your youth is the best and easiest time to transform yourself into the man you want to become. The positive habits you create as a young man will become a solid foundation you can build on for the rest of your life. What’s more, research has found that simply imagining yourself as an old person can increase your chances of establishing positive habits, like saving money. 

Below are nine foundational habits that will help every young man raise himself right.

1. Save 20% of Your Money  

money

Many young men will say to themselves that when they finally start making “real” money then they’ll start saving. If only that were true. In a post on the financial regrets of college graduates, we mentioned that the majority of men coming out of school wish they had started saving sooner. It may seem hard when you don’t have much income, but like anything, starting small will increase your chances of future success exponentially.

Make it a habit right now, no matter what your paycheck is, to put 20% of your after-tax income into savings. The easy way to do it is to set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account the day after you get paid. That way, it comes right out of your account just like a bill, and you don’t even have to think about it. Don’t be among the 25% of Americans who don’t save at all. If you own a car or a home, you know how stressful it can be when things inevitably go awry – the air conditioner goes out, a tire gets punctured. There’s a great sense of relief (and even pride) when you have the cash to handle it instead of using credit.

2. Exercise Daily  

exercise

Regular exercise provides a boatload of benefits — from improving cardiovascular health, to fighting stress and depression, to increasing testosterone. Thus, there are few habits that will better ensure a lifetime of success and well-being than making a daily workout a non-negotiable part of your life. Instead of trying to get on the exercise wagon when you’re a tired, out-of-shape, middle-aged man with a lot of responsibilities and very little time, make it a habit now when you’re at the top of your game. Regular exercise is a tough routine to start, but once it becomes a solid habit, most people continue with it indefinitely. The physical and psychological benefits become almost impossible to give up.

3. Eat Healthy

eat

If you want to avoid becoming a pot-bellied man, you need to establish good eating habits today. Research has shown again and again that diet is the biggest factor in maintaining a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, many young men develop poor eating habits in high school and college. With all-you-can-eat cafeterias and vending machines all over campus, it’s easy for a poor diet to become the norm. You can often get away with subsisting on pop tarts and pizza for a while because of your scorching metabolism. But as you age and that metabolism slows down, the junk food diet catches up with you and the pounds start piling on. Develop healthy eating habits now, so you don’t have to struggle to do a one-eighty when you’re facing down your ten-year reunion with a 40-inch waist. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated; for a good place to start, check out Steve Kamb’s easy to follow guide to the paleo diet over on Nerd Fitness.

4. Plan Weekly and Daily

plan

If I were asked which habit has contributed most to my success and well-being as an adult, I’d have to say weekly and daily planning. The power of planning lies in the perspective and control it provides for your life; it gives you both a broad, birds-eye view of the maze that must be navigated to achieve your long-term goals, and the ability to manage the small, day-to-day tasks that are essential to reaching those aims. Without daily and weekly planning, you end up getting distracted, forgetting what you need to do, and ending each day with the restless anxiety born from knowing you pretty much wasted your daylight – again.

Take a look at our post on weekly and daily planning for tips and ideas on how to start this habit.

5. Read for Pleasure

read

Readers are leaders. If you talk to principals and teachers they often say that nothing predicts a student’s success as well as whether or not they read independently. This isn’t very surprising – reading expands your mind and vocabulary, increases your creativity and empathy, and boosts your critical thinking skills and attention span. As a young man you’ll have plenty of required reading assignments for school, but be sure to also always be reading something for pleasure as well.

Not sure what book to pick up first? Check out our recommended reading lists and join the AoM book club!

6. Brush and Floss

floss1

This may sound like a silly habit to mention, but think about it: you only get one set of teeth during your lifetime. It’s not like losing hair or getting wrinkles which are largely cosmetic problems; there are all kinds of negative correlations to poor oral heath, including an increased risk of cancer. The Mayo Clinic even says that your oral hygiene and health offers a window to your overall health. Unless you want to drop a small fortune on fixing your cavities and eventually replacing them with veneers or dentures, you need to take care of the teeth (and gums) nature gave you. So brush those pearly whites two times daily and floss every night. Your future self will thank you every time he eats an apple or corn on the cob with aplomb.

7. Meditate

meditate

There is probably no habit more important for a young man in the 21st century to establish than daily meditation. With the constant barrage of distractions we’re subject to in the modern age, if you don’t learn to discipline your mind now, you can easily find yourself lying on your death bed reviewing your life, and seeing only visions of BuzzFeed and your iPhone flash before your eyes. Not only does meditation increase your willpower, but it also fights stress, improves your mental and physical health, and boosts your resiliency. And here’s even more proof that meditation will help your future self: recent studies have shown that regular meditation can slow down the onset of dementia.

Read our primer on meditation. It doesn’t take much to get started. Start off with 5 minutes a day and work your way up to 20 minutes a day. Lately I’ve been using calm.com for some fantastic (and free!) guided meditations.

8. Journal

journal

When I did a book signing at the Tankfarm store back in May, an AoM reader and I chatted a bit about the importance of journaling. He made this rather rough, but astute analogy: “Your body takes a sh** to keep everything running smoothly. Every now and then your mind needs to take a dump, too. A journal is basically a toilet for the mind.”

Amen.

As I’ve admitted, I’m not the most regular journaler, but I always feel on top of my game when I’m consistent with it. There’s something cathartic about working out your problems with pen and paper. Whenever I’ve hit a wall in life, it’s often through journaling that I find the solution. Moreover, studies have shown that regular journaling improves your emotional and physical health.

Not only will your future self be grateful for the sense of well-being the journal habit will bring, he’ll also be thankful that he has a catalog of all the important events that have occurred in his life. I know from my own experience that I enjoy reading my journals from my high school and college days. It allows me to relive those important moments in my life, reminds me of the youthful ideals and goals I don’t want to lose sight of, and provides me with perspective on how much I’ve progressed as a man.

9. Serve

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I’m a big believer in the idea that service is the rent we pay for living on earth. In one way or another, we’ve all benefited from the work and sacrifice of generations before us and from the love and support of those around us. Give back by providing regular service.

The great thing about serving is that the more we give, the more we get. Service makes our lives more meaningful and is a potent antidote to the increasing narcissism in our culture.

What foundational habits do you think men should start when they’re young? If you’re an older man, what habits you formed when you were young served you best later in life?


    






12 Sep 23:53

Get Fit Like a Wild Man: A Primer on MovNat

by A Manly Guest Contributor

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from MovNat founder Erwan Le Corre.

“A pattern that had been familiar throughout history is that after a war is fought and won, the tendency is for society to relax, enjoy life, and exercise less. … It appears that as societies become too enamored with wealth, prosperity and self-entertainment, fitness levels drop. In addition, as technology has advanced with man, the levels of physical fitness have decreased.” –Lance C. Dalleck and Len Kravitz

In the late 19th century, Dudley Allen Sargent – virtually the founder of physical education in America – warned that without solid physical education programs, people would become fat, deformed, and clumsy. Sound familiar?

Fitness has become accessory to the life of the modern man. It is up to each of us to exercise or not. Most people don’t, and being out of shape has become both ubiquitous and commonly accepted. It has become okay to be a physically soft, inept grown-up. Superficial, cosmetic improvements in body shape remains the primary motivation to the few who exercise, and globo-gyms are filled with “mirror-athletes” — people obsessed with their own reflection.

But looking fit and being fit are not necessarily the same. Being fit is being capable of performing physically in the real world with effectiveness and efficiency, and especially when the situation and the environment are challenging.

Enter MovNat. MovNat (natural movement) is a physical education system and fitness method dedicated entirely to developing such capabilities.  A “movnatter” believes that there is more to building the body than just building muscles, and that there is more to building a man than just building his body. Traditional physical training once combined physical and mental strengthening into one integrated whole and emphasized the vital necessity of preparing for the practical demands of life. Today, MovNat perpetuates this mentality and philosophy. Natural human movement is not an option. It has always been, still is, and will always be a biological necessity. In a world crowded with an increasing number of disempowered men, the timeless endeavor of real-world preparedness is once again becoming a fundamental component of the art of manliness.

The History of Physical Training

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If you think that fitness started with aerobics and body-building, Jane Fonda and Arnold Schwarzenegger, think again. The history of physical training and education is made of a long line of ancient peoples, tracing back to the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Persians, and later on, the Greeks and Romans. Preparedness for battle was the principal purpose behind physical training. Following the Dark Ages of the medieval times, the Renaissance era prompted a renewed interest in the body, health, and physical education, especially in the work of Mercurialis.

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Starting with the Industrial Revolution and up until the early 20th century, a series of important pioneers of physical education — Johann Bernard Basedow, Guth Muths, Friedrich Jahn, Gustavus Hamilton, Archibald MacLaren, Francisco Amoros, Georges Hebert – built the foundation of physical training: gymnastics and calisthenics. And not the modern versions which focus on acrobatic moves or strength conditioning.

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Instead, early gymnastics and calisthenics prioritized practical skills, with effective applications to the real world: running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing, lifting and carrying, throwing and catching, swimming, boxing, wrestling, horse riding, stick fighting, and fencing. Below, you’ll find three examples of men who sought to retain natural body movements as a means of physical fitness:

  • In 1815 in Germany, Friedrich Jahn, the “Father of Gymnastics” developed exercise clubs called the Turnenvereins, which were outdoor exercise facilities with apparatuses designed for running, jumping, balancing, climbing, vaulting, etc.
  • In France in 1819, Francisco Amoros, a military man originally from Spain, organized the Normal Gymnastic Civil and Military School. He developed a system of gymnastics that also included work on apparatuses and calisthenics. In 1830 he published a book titled A Guide to Physical, Gymnastic, and Moral Education. His system became known as the “natural-applied” system.
  • In 1905, Georges Hebert created a similar system called “Physical, Virile and Moral Education by the Natural Method.” Similar to his predecessors, the whole method relied on the practice of natural and utility exercises such as walking, running, jumping, balancing, crawling, climbing, carrying, etc. He advocated a “reasoned return to nature” to be beneficial to the “weak and degenerated” civilized man.

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The main point is to realize that what we know as fitness or working out is quite a new thing. It’s become a large industry offering a confusing plethora of varied and diverging concepts and programs that everyone is free to pick from and is pervaded to the bone by marketing gimmicks. For many centuries, men have been using simple, no-nonsense methods. They have dedicated themselves to developing their body and mind by honing their natural movement skills. They have been keen to prepare themselves for the practical demands of the real world, by moving and performing physically in useful ways. It is a radically simple, yet highly effective approach.

Principles of MovNat Training

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While the MovNat methodology incorporates concepts of bio-mechanics, kinesiology, and exercise science, it is also the modern version of these ancient physical training methods.  Discover some of our essential guiding principles below.

Prioritize Practical Movement Skills

Natural human movement comprises locomotive skills such as walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, or swimming; manipulative skills such as lifting, carrying, throwing, and catching; and combative skills such as striking and grappling. In today’s comfortable world we are losing sight of the practicality of these skills, yet their value cannot be ignored whenever a life-threatening situation arises. You might have to run for your life, or climb, swim, fight, lift, etc. These abilities can save not only your own life, but that of strangers and loved ones as well. George Hebert said, “Be strong to be useful.” Do you want to be strong and useful? Then prioritize practical ways to move.

Get Real and Aim for Effectiveness

Our take on effectiveness is not limited to counting sets and reps. Effectiveness is the ability to get the job done within a variety of contexts, including a great range of environments and situations. Maybe you can do pull-ups, but have you ever tried climbing on top of a thick, rounded and elevated horizontal bar (or tree branch) from a deadhang? If you’ve never checked on your actual ability to be effective at something practical like this, then how can you possibly know if you can? Do you know the different ways it can be done? Don’t just assume your capability. You want to train your effectiveness in varied environments and situations and regularly put it to the test.

Develop Efficient Movement Skills

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Managing effectiveness is great, but physical competency for practical performance requires more than that. Let’s say you tried, and did manage to climb on top of the bar or tree branch. How many attempts did it take? How much time did it take? Were you hesitant, maybe afraid? How much energy did you expend, and how safe was it? Could you do it several times in a row without losing efficiency? Effectiveness is the ability to perform a task successfully regardless of the cost; efficiency is the ability to perform a task successfully at a high level at the lowest energy cost possible, and with the greatest level of safety possible. Anyone can run, jump, climb, etc., to some degree, but not everyone can do it skillfully. By emphasizing efficiency and developing specific physiological adaptations, you can acquire a level of mastery that goes beyond what is purely innate.

Cultivate Adaptability

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We’ve mentioned the pull-up, which is a practical movement as well as just an upper body strength conditioning drill. It is actually a discrete component of an upward climbing motion; it requires strength and limited motor control. Now this is the bad news: your effectiveness and efficiency at any given climbing action are absolutely NOT guaranteed by just training pull-ups. This is called the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. By only doing pull-ups on the same regular pull-up bar, you become adapted to this specific demand, but not adaptable to other climbing patterns or environments. In short, pulling up is climbing, but climbing is not just pulling up.

Let’s say you can do regular pull-ups (prone grip, chin to bar, no kipping), hanging from a regular pull-up bar. Now find a thicker (say, 4 inches wide), smoother bar, like some of the metal structures used for swings at the playground (like Brett has already shown us!). Can you do as many pull-ups as you normally can do at the gym or at home? It is likely you will do significantly less reps because of a lack of grip strength. Say that as part of your regular workout program you can jump 50 times on a two-foot high plyobox. Today, you have to jump only once…but over a 12-foot-wide and 12-foot-deep gap, with a 3-4 step run-up, and you must land on a narrow surface with barely enough space for both your feet. Could you do it?

Apply the same reasoning to other types of movements and contexts. How much of your fitness training transfers to a variety of practical challenges? How adaptable are you to different environments? No amount of extra strength conditioning will compensate for a lack of specific strength conditioning or motor control.

Train Mindfully

The mind of today’s man is constantly distracted by various sensory stimuli. While using exercise machinery at the gym, it is likely you will listen to music, watch TV, and think of something else. Your body is in one place and your mind in another, trying to escape the boredom of the fitness chore.

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MovNat is different for three reasons. It is based on real movements, not muscle-isolation. Second, the practical nature of what you are doing is obvious: “I’m jumping over this obstacle, I’m climbing on top of this bar.” Finally, the movement is adaptable. If you jump, you may have to accurately land on a restricted surface, in a stable way. Your mind cannot wander, because there is a practical task at hand within an environment that can’t be ignored and that you must adapt to. Both your mind and body have to be in the same place, at the same time. This is mindfulness; pure presence in the moment, where you are, doing what you’re doing. In today’s hectic life, mindfulness has become a rare skill, and a priceless experience.

Awareness, alertness, focus, and responsiveness are all part of the art of mindfulness, and no physical competency is possible without it. Mindful practice is your opportunity to simplify and reconnect the mind to the body, to the environment, and to the moment.

Ensure Progressions and Safety

It is common to see people, after years of neglecting their body, trying to reverse the negative physiological effects of decades of physical abandon by brutalizing their body back to fitness in a matter of weeks. This culture of immediacy and instant gratification deserves a severe backlash.

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This is why progressions and programming are an essential part of the MovNat system. You will practice the “side swing traverse” before you practice the “elbow swing-up,” and the “tuck pop-up” before the “muscle-up.” You will train simple balancing walks on a 2×4 board at floor level and maybe someday end up safely walking across a fallen tree above a deep canyon. You will build skills, strength, conditioning, and mental toughness gradually. Practice mindfully, progressively, and safely.

Spend Time in Nature

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Modern man, just like his ancient ancestors, needs to regularly spend time in nature if he wants to be optimally healthy. Nature is the original habitat where he was able to emerge as one the most successful species on Earth. Indoor, controlled environments are very useful to get people started moving naturally in a safe and scalable manner. But the revitalizing effect of nature has been repeatedly proven by science. Moving naturally in nature is extremely beneficial to physical and mental health. Try it!

How to Get Started

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Re-explore

A simple way to get started with MovNat is to re-explore your potential for natural movement. If you think about the different ways you move each day, you’ll realize they are not very varied and stick to a fairly rigid pattern. Get out and find or create opportunities to move naturally (running, jumping, crawling, balancing, climbing, carrying, etc.).

This approach is simple and effective, but keep in mind the essential difference between natural as done spontaneously but not necessarily effectively, efficiently, or safely, and natural and done effectively, efficiently, and safely. Without guidance, you may not even be able to feel the difference between good technique and bad form, and take risks you are not prepared for. Knowledge, technique, mindful practice of efficient movement, and the respect of progressions (volume, intensity, and environmental complexity) are the keys for a successful transition from the innate but inefficient, to efficiency and competency.

Learn

Since we’ve used the example of pull-ups vs. practical climbing, as an example of the learning process, how about trying the easiest way to climb on top of a horizontal bar (or large tree branch) from the deadhang position (also known as the “sliding swing-up”). “Easiest” doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy, and it can be quite challenging to the beginner. This simple test might show you that what is spontaneous is not always effective, and what is effective is not always efficient. Use the guidance below to boost both your effectiveness and efficiency!

  • Find a horizontal bar or tree branch about 6 to 8 feet above the ground that is strong enough to support your weight and not move. The thickness should ideally be between 2 and 4 inches. Make sure the surface underneath is clear of any obstacle you could stumble or fall on. You may ask a friend to spot you for additional safety.
  • Start from the split deadhang (arms apart, hanging like a limp noodle), the body perpendicular to the bar. Secure a firm grip with both hands, hanging still, and keeping both arms fully lengthened.
  • Without pushing off the ground with your feet, generate a forward swinging motion by lifting both bent legs up and to the front, then down and to the back.
  • When you’ve gained enough momentum, swiftly lift both legs up as you’re swinging forward and pinch the bar between the feet. The foot pinch requires accuracy; look up and focus on making sure you will effectively secure the “foot grip.” If you lack abdominal strength and lifting your feet at bar level is too difficult, you can try assisting by pulling up with your arms.
  • From this “sloth” position, pull from the feet and hook one leg over the bar. The leg is strongly supported by placing the hollow at the back of your knee (“popliteal space”) on top of the bar, not the calf.
  • Release the inside hand (left hand if your left leg is hooked) and bring the crease of the elbow (“antecubital space”) over the bar, or the forearm directly.
  • Pull the outside arm up and place the forearm on top of the bar. From there, slide the armpit of the inside arm forward on support on the bar, then place the other armpit in the same position. At this point, your bodyweight is securely supported by 3 points of support, the back of the knee and both armpits. The opposite leg is relaxed hanging down in the void.
  • Pull the free leg all the way up (fully extended or slightly bent) and swiftly swing it down to generate momentum (“bodyweight transfer”). The swift motion of the leg will elevate your center of gravity by lifting your bottom up. Keep the lats and hooked leg tight to maintain a secure position.
  • As your body is being elevated, both armpits move up over the bar, arms sliding forward, allowing you to pull from the inside of the upper arms.
  • As you start pulling from the arms, immediately lean sideways and forcefully push off the back of the knee of the opposite leg, allowing the body to fully extend in length across the top of the bar.
  • End up stable on top of the bar, bodyweight supported by the flank and the inside of the opposite leg. Reposition your body, for instance in a straddle stance.

Below is a video to help you better understand these movements (the foot pinch/sloth position is skipped here):


We hope you were able to be effective and manage to climb successfully!  We also hope that you were able to increase your efficiency by rehearsing the movement several times and improving motor control. If you’ve had issues performing the movement, the reason could be a lack of technique, a lack of strength or mobility, or a combination of those. Training firsthand at a MovNat affiliate gym or with a certified trainer will certainly help you understand what and how you need to train to make progress. Once you have acquired this particular technique, bear in mind that there are six other ways to climb a horizontal bar. If you are interested in developing this kind of physical competence, join our community and come train with us, or why not become a certified MovNat trainer yourself? This could be great way to bring MovNat back to your community and help it become more physically capable! Plus, practicing with others is just more fun!

Do you want to look fit, or to be fit?

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If your current fitness program does not challenge and increase your practical and adaptable physical competence and practical performance in the real world, then I encourage you to modify your approach. Isn’t it time to reclaim a nature that has been domesticated by modern life, re-discover your boyhood desire to explore, and find your inner wild man?

Becoming and staying physically capable is not a mere option among the many different individual pursuits available to us in the civilized world, but an evolutionary necessity, a biological duty, and a practical reality.

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Natural Movement, as a fitness concept, started with Erwan Le Corre exploring the forests of the world. You can read more about Erwan here & here. Before founding MovNat, Erwan spent a lifetime pursuing a true fitness. From France to Brazil, Jujitsu to Georges Hebert, he studied and synthesized ancient fitness methodologies into what is now known as Natural Movement Fitness. MovNat is the result.


    






11 Sep 00:37

The Etiology of Ridiculous Black Names

by Laura Wood
  AT Big Truth, William Irons writes on the bizarre neologisms that black Americans use to name their children: The sad fact is that the way black people in America name their children reflects an abandonment of culture, and abandonment of history. However optimistically disingenuous white liberals …. spin it, the reality is that their names have [...]
10 Sep 19:57

How to Make a Sheath for a Knife (Or Anything Else)

by Darren Bush

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Sometimes you want an item close at hand: not in a pocket, but right there where you need it. A pocket watch, compass, knife, cell phone, or any other item you don’t want to dig for are all great candidates for a leather sheath. You might want to make something to hold a multi-tool or any specialized tool you may want to keep handy at all times. If you’re a widget lover and can’t find a case for your widget, just substitute widget wherever it says knife.

This article is useful for the knife you (might have) made, but also teaches the method of wet-shaping leather. When saturated, leather can be stretched and molded to fit different objects.

Materials and Tools

  • Leather, medium weight (5 to 6 ounces)
  • Rotary cutter or X-Acto knife
  • Pencil
  • Cardboard from file folder
  • Rowel wheel
  • Fid
  • Groover tool
  • Waxed artificial sinew or thread
  • Leather-stitching needles
  • Pie pan of water
  • Spring clips
  • Saran wrap
  • Tape
  • Dishtowel

How to Make a Leather Sheath

Step 1: Draw Your Pattern

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Lay the knife out on your piece of cardboard and roughly trace around the blade and as much of the handle as you want to cover with your sheath. The pattern is not symmetrical, as the back of the sheath has an extension that ultimately will be folded down and stitched in place to make a loop through which your belt will be threaded. Again, this doesn’t have to be perfect, and better too large than too small.

Step 2: Cut Out and Assemble Your Pattern

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Using a pair of scissors, do a rough cut to see how your pattern looks when the knife is laid out.

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If you’re happy with it, fold the pattern in half along the line that will make the back of the blade part of the sheath and trim the overlap so the pattern is symmetrical. Push the paper against the blade to see where it lies within the pattern. You can see in the photo a slight crease in the cardboard, which shows plenty of clearance between the edge of the cardboard and the blade.

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Next, use a little bit of adhesive tape to actually make the pattern the same three-dimensional shape as your leather will be. This allows you to make adjustments now while it’s easier.

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You can see that I have trimmed back the pattern to even it out and give the handle a little more exposure. A little more trimming and we’ll be ready to cut out the actual sheath leather. Cut the tape holding your pattern together, and flatten it out.

Step 3: Trace and Cut Your Piece of Leather

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Trace your pattern onto the wrong side of the leather (the fuzzy suede part). This is because a) it’s easier and b) it sets up the belt loop so the right side is facing forward. I tend to ignore the belt loop section of the pattern and use it just as a guide to trace a long piece using a ruler to make sure it’s long enough and straight.
Cut out your leather using a rotary cutter, but do not cut into the inside corners where the blade part of the sheath meets the belt loop, as you will over-cut and make unsightly nicks. Stop short of those spots and use an X-Acto or sharp knife to finish the cuts.

Step 4: Start Forming the Leather

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Wrap whatever your item is in plastic wrap, using plenty of it, and tape to tuck everything in nicely.

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Assemble your dishtowel, item to be sheathed, a pan of hot tap water, and your spring clips. Place the sheath part of your leather in the hot water. It will change color and bubble a little as the water seeps into the leather. Just a few minutes is plenty.

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Place your leather on the dishtowel and fold the towel over on the leather and push down to pat it dry and squeeze out the excess water. Place the knife on your leather and fold it over, forming it over the handle as you go. Using spring clips, clamp the leather in place and work the leather so it forms naturally around the blade and handle. You can form the leather with your fingers so it hugs the handle. Set it aside to dry, but I usually check it every five minutes for the first half hour to make sure the leather is moulding the way I want it to.

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You can work with your leather again after several hours (depending on the heat and humidity) or leave it overnight. When the leather is dry, remove the spring clips and you’ll be left with a sheath “husk.”

Step 5: Trim the Sheath and Prepare to Stitch the Seam

Using the rotary cutter, trim the sheath to size by taking off the rough edges and following the contour of the blade and handle. You’re cutting through two layers of leather that has been water-hardened so it’ll take a little more pressure. Go slow and don’t cut yourself.

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Using a leather gouge, cut a shallow groove into the leather following the edge of the sheath seam. You can do this freehand or use a gouge with a built-in guide.

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Mark your stitches in the groove using a rowel tool. Six holes per inch is fine. If you don’t have a rowel tool, you can do it freehand and go slow and careful-like.

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Place your sheath on a plastic cutting board and using your fid, create holes in the indentations you made with your rowel tool. Use a small mallet and tap your fid lightly. Once you have poked all your holes, lift the top layer of the sheath and do the same thing on the bottom, as your fid will have started holes on the bottom layer too. Make sure they line up or your stitching will not be fun. If you do not have a fid, you can use an ice pick or other pointy thing. Fids work a little better because they make a small slit, not a hole.

Step 6: Sew the Belt Loop in Place

It’s much easier to sew the belt loop now before stitching up the sheath. Fold your belt flap over to the front and adjust it so it’s the size you want, and trim it to size. It should fasten just below the top of the sheath. Any deeper and you may run into problems with the handle not seating well in the sheath.

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Using your four-prong punch, make a row of holes in both the end of the belt loop and the top of the sheath as shown. If you don’t have a leather punch, you can use a fid or ice pick or anything sharp and pointy. Trim excess leather, if any, off the end of the strap. Using your needle and artificial sinew, stitch the loop, going in and out until you have three stitches showing. Tie off your thread and cut your sinew close to the knot.

Step 7: Sew the Seam

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Using a single needle and sinew, start sewing from the bottom of the piece near the top of the sheath. Stitch the side going up through the leather and down through the next hole. You could use a double needle technique here, but for such a short seam, a single needle technique is fine.

Once you reach the tip of your sheath, turn around and go up from the bottom, doing the opposite of what you just did. The effect is to create a stitch that will not unravel, and with the groove in the leather, the thread is protected and sits flush or below the surface of the leather. Tie off your knots, then thread your needle in and out the end holes a few times, finishing by threading the needle through one layer of leather and then pull tight. Cut the lacing flush with the seam and it will be hidden.

Using the wooden end of your fid, burnish the seam of your sheath to even out the stitching and push the stitches down into the sheath.

Step 8: Insert Knife or Other Object

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Insert your knife. It should be just a bit snug — it will loosen just a little bit over time. Put it on your belt. Revel in the knowledge you made something cool.

 


    






10 Sep 02:46

Don’t Blame the Mice.

by Stanislav

Your kitchen is alive with vermin! Who is to blame? The cruel forces of nature? Or, might it be you – the fellow who scattered delicious crumbs everywhere; spilled honey a thousand times without picking up a mop once; and kept a mountain of old newspapers around for rodents to chew into nest liner? Your friends come over for tea, and turn out to be less-than-pleased to meet the roaches floating therein. Feel free to explain that your home is a year-round restaurant for vermin because you live under a curse. Blame the pests, blame the devil – anybody but yourself.

Now perhaps your kitchen is cleaner than an operating room. Yet the above applies to you just the same, unless you are reading these words in a museum, on a resurrected Lisp Machine. Or on a lowly Soviet BK-0010 microcomputer, wired to the Net through some eldritch wizardry. Or some other rara avis which gives the operator a useful window into the real-time doings of the CPU.

Every once in a while, journalists, activists, and political busybodies of all stripes descend into a self-pitying whining orgy about the electronic escapades of spy agencies. Those dirty crooks, we are told, have the audacity to break codes, spread malware, and – as luck would have it – sabotage security products, open1 and closed-source alike.

The kind of shenanigans we’ve been hearing about lately2 aren’t the least bit new. Crypto AG supplied the entire planet with diddled cipher machines for decades – and continues to do brisk business! Microsoft’s crock of shit masquerading as an operating system was ham-handedly back-doored in the ’90s.3People whose money, freedom, or even lives appear to depend on keeping snoops and snitches at bay continue to run Windows. If they don’t care, why should anyone else? Nations openly hostile to the United States eagerly run their defense industry (and, by some accounts, even weapons systems) on Microsoft’s turdware. They purchase silicon designed by American engineers, route their packets – often without bothering with crypto of any kind whatsoever – over American networks. They almost literally beg to be pwned. They demand, plead, wheedle: “Please, please intercept our email and telephone conversations! Please supply us with Trojaned operating systems and network hardware! Please sabotage our nuclear fuel refineries!” These words are not spoken out loud, but they are certainly heard – by the “walls that have ears.” And dollars speak louder than words in any case. They speak very loudly indeed.

The naïveté of bean-counters and bureaucrats may be excusable; that of seasoned academics and engineers isn’t. Mr. Torvalds eagerly hitched the security of the Linux kernel to Intel’s Trojaned wagon. And now the fun which can be had with diddled random number generators is finally getting some press, but the underlying idiocy of the Unix architecture (and all other conceptual foundations underlying today’s computing systems) – to no great surprise on my part – isn’t. And won’t. Educated persons who read Ken Thompson’s “Reflections on Trusting Trust” throw up their hands in stoic resignation, as if they were confronted with some grim and immutable law of nature. But where is the law of physics which tells us that any computation must be broken up into millions of human-unintelligible instructions before a machine can execute it? Not only is it possible to build a CPU which understands a high-level programming language directly, but such devices were in fact created – many years ago – and certainly could be produced again, if some great prince wished it. It is also eminently possible to build a computer which can be halted by pressing a switch, and made to reveal – in a manner comprehensible to an educated operator – exactly what it is doing and why it is doing it. Can you buy such a computer at your local electronics store? Of course not. The Market, that implacable Baal, Has Spoken! – it demands idiot boxes. And idiot boxes are what it will get.

We are told that spies are reading SSL-encrypted messages at their leisure. We are also told that saboteurs have infiltrated international standards committees for the purpose of weakening crypto systems. This gives you indigestion? Don’t rely on security systems designed by committees! PKI is – and has always been – a sham. A cheap sham, at that. Consider the fact that Bitcoin, for all of its faults, gets by perfectly well without anything resembling PKI. Loudmouth activists, who put up such a ferocious fight against outright key escrow in the ’90s, ended up buying the very same wine in a different bottle with SSL and every other PKI-based faux-security system currently in use – where you are stuck with relying on a handful of con artists not to cough up the master keys to whomever they please.

Let’s go back to your kitchen. It is squeaky-clean, you say, because nowhere in your house do you make use of Microsoft’s miserable imitation of an operating system. Guess what, the mounds of garbage are still there, stinking brazenly; the mice leap, they play without fear, because virtually all of your cryptographic needs are serviced by some variant of OpenSSL. What a monstrous turd of a library! Have you read and understood it – any of it? Do you personally know a single living soul who has done so? Dare to contemplate the very idea of plowing through these megabytes of gnarly crapola. But let’s examine the reason for the bulk. The idiot ‘C Machines,’ and the few operating systems commonly used therein, are, one could almost say, criminally negligent in failing to provide any real support for most of the basic building blocks of modern computing: from bignum arithmetic to garbage collection. Authors of libraries like OpenSSL are to be applauded for their feat of creating something useful on top of this obscene Babel. But the result is always and inevitably a pile of garbage – comprehensible4 by no one, with plenty of hidey-holes for creepy crawlers of every species. Get the conceptual foundations right, and the vermin scurry away.

I for one am greatly surprised to see respectable men of science like Bruce Schneier calling for lawsuits and parliamentary hearings to rein in the snoops. The very notion of limiting the authority of a secret police agency via laws and regulations is laughable. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who is going to bring down the law upon these fellows? You? Your neighbor? Mr. Schneier? The Pope? The Grand Inquisitor? 5

On top of it all, I fail to grasp the public’s anger at our cloak-and-dagger friends. It is much like hating the Public Executioner for chopping heads. It’s what he’s paid for! If you don’t care to be separated from your head, take some measures. Said measures could be political (bow in eternal fealty to your beloved Führer) or technological6. The one measure which is guaranteed not to work is whining.

Civilized society traditionally privileged certain professions – medicine, law, the priesthood – in return for certain obligations. A priest takes an oath not betray the seal of confession, and in return he is trusted with the most damning secrets. The doctor swears not to harm his patient, even when the latter has committed terrible crimes. The lawyer tries to defend miscreants he knows to be guilty. One clever soul suggested applying this doctrine to yet a fourth profession, creating a kind of “programmer priest.”

Perhaps one day there will indeed be someone you can trust to pronounce – truthfully and competently – that a crypto-system is strong, that a protocol has not been diddled, that your computer serves only a single master. But don’t hold your breath; today’s digital shaman will not help you; he is on the king’s payroll, and will speak the words he was ordered to speak by his liege-lord. And no seal of confession seals his lips. So if you want security, you will have to achieve it on your own: by using systems which you actually understand. All the way down to the silicon. These do not presently exist, but could be made to exist.

Bringing the comprehensible computer into existence is no easy task – but it is surely a considerably-easier (and ultimately more rewarding) task than trying to persuade the headsman to put down his ax and leave your head on its shoulders merely from the kindness of his heart (or because a piece of parchment, written long ago, proclaims that your head ought to stay attached.) Clean up the kitchen – banish the vermin. While you still can. Or learn to live with the squeaks, the ruined food, the dung.


  1. How does one sabotage the security of an open-source product? Let the good doctor S. Craver teach you exactly how
  2. Mr. S could very easily turn out to be a skilled and courageous disinformation agent, all of whose “leaks” were lovingly scripted by a handful of talented fellows in grey suits – who are now laughing all the way to the bank. If I ran a national intelligence agency, and the latter did not possess an effective pill against modern crypto, I would certainly order just this kind of ‘PR’ campaign – to undermine public confidence in popular security tools. But for the purposes of this discussion, let’s stipulate that the leaked documents are genuine. 
  3. But it probably isn’t today, at least not in the usual sense – unless you consider “Windows Update” to be a remote back-door (which it most certainly is!) “Accidental” bugs, of which there is a seemingly-inexhaustible supply, make for just as effective – and, more importantly, deniable back-doors. 
  4. The notion that a useful and modern computing system understandable to an educated user cannot be built is a deliberate lie promoted by crapware vendors. Don’t take my word for it; ask Charles H. Moore – of FORTH fame – who will be happy to show you a working counter-example. Don’t listen to me, listen to Moore’s working VLSI CAD systems that fit in 500 lines. A useful and complete computing system doesn’t have to be a shanty town of kludge upon kludge. It can in fact consist of a small number of “moving parts,” each with a perfectly-clear purpose – like a Kalashnikov
  5. If we possessed the secret of time travel, I would dearly love to watch these poor misguided souls try to sue the KGB. Or perhaps call upon the Politburo to send an inquisitor against it. 
  6. Let me know when they start gassing people for using one time pads. A $50 hard disk can hold a year’s worth of one-time pad for telephone conversations. If the King’s men really want to listen to your table talk, let them do it the old-fashioned way

Edit: I am not the only one who noticed that OpenSSL is a turd.
09 Sep 14:06

Fr. Blake on the “trouble with the poor”

by Proph

About a month ago, Fr. Ray Blake, a Catholic parish priest in the UK, posted some candid reflections on the difficulties of helping the poor — the truly poor. Far from being saints-in-the-making or happy-go-lucky Dickensian tramps, the truly poor are often as much a wretched bunch of sinners as anyone else. In working with them, one must often deal with lies (endless, shameless, obviously implausible lies), mess, disruption, crudity, theft, and other evils. I can attest to this personally, having occasionally found myself in the situation of trying to give money freely to someone who was trying to cheat me out of that same money. Fr. Blake notes especially the disruption caused to the Mass by one notorious local homeless man who, according to one of Father’s parishioners, was banned from another church after setting himself on fire there.

As Fr. Blake goes on to note, helping the poor is nevertheless obligatory, and we cannot explain our own lack of generosity at Judgment by claiming that the poor were not worthy of our help. Giving, he explains, enlarges our understanding of our own dependence on divine generosity, a dependence which continues to furnish gifts and blessings for us who are no worthier of them. Helping the poor serves also to confound our pride, jar us from our spiritual complacency, and remind us of the poverty of our own spiritual state.

All pretty mundanely Christian things. In response, of course, Fr. Blake got the usual treatment from the British media (e.g., here and here) who portrayed him simply as pointlessly libeling the poor rather than advancing an actual, spiritually relevant point, and who no doubt do in a year what Fr. Blake does in a week for the benefit of the poor. Fr. Blake responded here, for whatever good it’s done; the poor man has since had some Church of England schmuck piling on (see the tail end of the first article), supposedly his bishop has taken to publicly apologizing for his pastoral insensitivity (or whatever), and he is now considering abandoning blogging altogether. Take a moment, if you would, to pray for him, and for all those who have committed themselves to service of the poor at the price of extraordinary personal stress, with no help from armchair socialists whose much-vaunted compassion finds its only expression in their decision to spite God by sleeping in on Sunday.


09 Sep 12:00

Leftist larvae

by Zippy

Libertarianism is a political philosophy for children living off of a patrimony they don’t understand, the existence of which they simply take for granted. Libertarians actually seem to think it is possible to enforce property rights without “initiating force”, and this “live and let live” pseudo-passivity becomes the central moral justification for everything in their politics.

A leftist is just a libertarian who realizes that property is a form of traditional patriarchal lordship or authority (perhaps after reading a little Marx: the Marxist critique that classical liberalism is no true liberalism is quite trenchant). The relation between libertarian and leftist is similar to (and likely a modality of) the relation between modern and postmodern.  In each case the idealogue realizes a fundamental problem with his philosophy.  But rather than abandoning his philosophy as false he “maintains frame,” ups the ante, and embraces the incoherence.

Conservatism is just liberalism with a sea-anchor attached to keep it from moving too quickly in any given direction.  This helps conserve liberalism by preventing it from dashing itself on the rocks of mother nature.

This would all be rather academic and amusing if liberal modernity had not murdered orders of magnitude more innocent human beings than all previous political philosophies combined.


09 Sep 09:53

A terrific review

by Mark Richardson
I'd like to recommend that you read the intelligent and sympathetic review of Jim Kalb's new book that you'll find here.

It's best to read it in its entirety, but there are a few bits that particularly appealed to me. Here, for instance, is Kalb explaining why the liberal understanding of inclusiveness harms real community:
In fact inclusiveness destroys community by reducing the importance of personal ties, making us interchangeable with others and making our goals as much a matter of individual choice as possible.  There is nothing special to distinguish shoppers at a shopping mall from each other, so there are no divisions among them.  They do not constitute a community, however, because there is nothing that brings them together other than a common interest in acquiring consumer goods.  Each has come for his own purposes.  They have very few positive duties toward each other and they could just as easily be somewhere else, if they found some minor advantage in doing so.

But perhaps the most important part has to do with these papal quotes:
Pius XII, for instance, tells us that “[t]here exists an order, established by God, which requires a more intense love and a preferential good done to those people that are joined to us by special ties,” while Bl. John Paul II speaks of spiritual gifts we receive via our history, our culture, and “the national community to which we belong.”

Kalb concludes that:
If particular cultures and national communities have such importance for the way we become human and connect to God, then an understanding of diversity and inclusion that abolishes legitimate boundaries between them and so makes them nonfunctional cannot be acceptable, and multiculturalism, which deprives every culture of any setting of its own in which it can function as authoritative, must be wrong.

The part that I've italicised is critical, I think, for the argument that religious traditionalists ought to develop.

09 Sep 03:41

A train experiment

by Mark Richardson
Anthony Burrow, an assistant professor at Cornell University, has conducted an interesting experiment on Chicago trains.

He had a group of 110 volunteers ride on the trains and record their moods during the journey. The result was that psychological distress increased when people became a minority within the carriage regardless of what race the volunteer was.

In other words, people of all races felt discomfort being a minority:
Participants' negative mood heightened as the ratio of people from different ethnic backgrounds aboard the train increased, regardless of their own race and after controlling for various factors, such as an individual's personality, familiarity with metro trains and perceived safety of the surrounding neighborhoods.

This suggests that it is kinder and wiser to allow people to continue to live within their own ethnic groups. It is evidence as well that the "white privilege" theory of ethnic solidarity is false, as members of all ethnic groups, and not just whites, feel more comfortable when they are part of an ethnic majority.

06 Sep 09:47

We're breaking the mould

by Mark Richardson
I had a go at completing a political compass that supposedly tells you where you fit on the political spectrum. As I suspected the compass could not cope with someone who does not belong within the current left-liberal vs right-liberal political framework.

I ended up close to the very centre of the compass:


03 Sep 05:51

My Yąnomamö Mama

by Steve Sailer
Yarima, formerly Mrs. Kenneth Good,
and her son David Good.
The Yanomami of the South American rain forest are one of the most famous tribes in the history of anthropology. One of the numerous controversies involving anthropologists and the Yanomami is the story of Dr. Kenneth Good, who over the course of 12 years studying the forest dwellers, married one, Yarima, and took her back to New Jersey. They had three children, but Yarima found suburban living lonely:
"I live in a place where I do not gather wood and no-one hunts. The women do not call me to go kill fish. Sometimes I get tired of being in the house, so I get angry with my husband. I go to the stores and look at clothing."

Wearing clothes for decoration might seem like a concept that would be foreign to her, but shopping for clothes had been the outside world idea that she had grasped fastest of all.
"It isn't like in the jungle. People are separate and alone. It must be that they do not like their mothers."

So, she went back to the Amazon, leaving Professor Good to raise their three children in New Jersey.

The couple's oldest son, David, now 25, recently visited his mother for the first time in a couple of decades or so:
Return to the rainforest: A son's search for his Amazonian mother

There's nothing too exciting in the story, but it's interesting to follow up on these individuals who got dragged into the history of anthropology. And it's nice to know that the son found his mother healthy and happy.
Crouching David is 5'5." The village elder kept offering him the
two girls on the right as his brides. 
One interesting fact is that Yanomami men don't go bald -- everybody, male and female, has these haircuts like Moe of the Three Stooges, with black hair that looks permanently nailed in. So, when the son set up a Skype connection with his father back in America, the tribespeople were freaked out by their old buddy's bald head.

01 Sep 02:04

Burnout

by nydwracu

To conquer the stars, mankind must become a race of conquerors.

We who have for sixty years been threatened with the technological future stand at the dawn of history; more precisely, we stand at a fork, between the future of humanity and the eternal present of the human, an eternal present that leads inevitably backwards. The world-stage victory of liberalism has turned us toward the latter. The time-preference curve cuts off to zero. Historical stillbirth.

There is no longer a positive vision of the future; there is only eternal masturbation in the Garden of Eden, under the shade of the ever-static civilization tree. Measures to secure the future against the orcish hordes of the present are deemed intrinsically vile. Utilitarianism is protected against the eugenic conclusion only by the cutoff of the time-preference curve: zero care for the yet unborn. The rot has set in so deeply that antinatalism is no longer taken as a reductio ad absurdum: there are people who really believe that there are logical arguments against reproducing and that they ought to be spread, and somehow these people have not all been silenced or shot. Antinatalism without active, forceful pressure toward human extinction can never succeed, for the simple reason that some people are either too stupid to follow logical arguments or too impulsive to care; but for the same reason, if it is not completely and utterly ineffective, it is necessarily dysgenic.

The death of history is not a leftist conclusion. It is strictly a liberal one.

The reason for that east-western difference is the fact that the GDR had an “educated mother scheme” and actively tried to encourage first births among the more educated. It did so by propagandizing the opinion that every educated woman should “present at least one child to socialism” and also by financially rewarding its more educated citizen to become parents. The government especially tried to persuade students to become parents while still in college and it was quite successful in doing so. In 1986 38% of all women, who were about to graduate from college, were mothers of at least one child and additional 14% were pregnant and 43% of all men, who were about to graduate from college, were fathers of at least one child. There was a sharp decline in the birth rate and especially in the birth rate of the educated after the fall of the Berlin wall. Nowadays only 5% of those about to graduate from college are parents. …

A study done in the western German State of Nordrhein-Westfalen by the HDZ revealed that childlessness was especially widespread among scientists. It showed that 78% of the female scientists and 71% of the male scientists working in that State were childless.

Intelligence, like most things, is about 50% heritable. If education correlates to any non-negligible degree with intelligence, the GDR was completely right. To value the future, as communism apparently did and as liberalism emphatically does not, leads necessarily to the eugenic conclusion.

Intelligence forms and is amplified by the Old Law of Gnon:

The penalty for stupidity is death.

Gregory Clark is among those few to have grasped [this law] clearly. Any eugenic trend within history is expressed by continuous downward mobility. For any given level of intelligence, a steady deterioration in life-prospects lies ahead, culling the least able, and replacing them with the more able, who inherit their wretched socio-economic situation, until they too are pushed off the Malthusian cliff. Relative comfort belongs only to the sports and freaks of cognitive advance. For everyone else, history slopes downwards into impoverishment, hopelessness, and eventual genetic extinction. That is how intelligence is made. Short of Technological Singularity, it is the only way. Who wants a piece of that?

No one does, or almost no one. … Monkeys … are able to revolt, once they finesse their nasty little opposable thumbs. They don’t like the Old Law, which has crafted them through countless aeons of ruthless culling, so they make history instead. If they get everything ‘right’, they even sleaze their way into epochs of upward social mobility, and with this great innovation, semi-sustainable dysgenics gets started. In its fundamentals it is hideously simple: social progress destroys the brain.

Liberalism is thus quite literally a cancer: a memeplex that, on entering metastasis, threatens civilization itself. Civilization is taken for granted; it is believed to grow on trees; no measures for preserving it are necessary, and measures for enhancing it are reminiscent of the high modernism, the biological Nietzscheanism, that led man to believe that he could conquer first his own condition and then his living-conditions, and that was defeated in the war that ended the West.

The Second World War, in the American mythological reading, was a war between the rights of the present and the promises of the future. This reading is not entirely accurate, since, as we have seen, the Soviets opted to search for a balance between the two rather than adopt the liberal solution of utterly abandoning the latter and accelerating the former into dysgenic burnout leading inexorably to a collapse that is no longer taken to matter. But the American mythological reading is more relevant than the historical fact of the matter, since it is the founding myth of the postmodern liberal religion, and the postmodern liberal religion is preached today from San Francisco to Samarkand.

Our popular culture reflects the liberal view of history: the technological future is dystopian, evil and oppressive, reminiscent of the Nazis or the hyper-Reaganism of Snow Crash. If the future has any merit, any promise, it is fundamentally moral in nature: civilization will remain at its current technological level, not moving an inch in either direction, but its ethics will advance, advance toward the singularity of total dissolution, total atomization, every thede dissolved into its component parts, united only by the no-thede, the all-thede, the recognition of the simple and objective moral truth that has gone unrecognized by literally every other civilization on the planet only because they were on the wrong side of history. If technology is to advance at all, it must be solely for the purpose of solving the inherent immorality of the human condition.

While popular culture looks forward to a more moral future, aesthetically it can only look backward. Folk music and Whole Foods. Craft beer and organic artisanal soap. Technology must stop looking technological: it has to be friendly, it has to look like a kitchen appliance or a bar of soap, made of soft curves and pastel-colored plastic. No wires, no rectangles, no beige. IBM is right out.

Marinetti’s call to flood the cellars of the museums has been reversed. Science fiction gives way to fantasy; space programs give way to social justice. There is no longer a USSR for the liberal regime to assert itself against in the propaganda of technological achievement. Oh well, the space program was undemocratic anyway.

The single most important error of liberalism is that it either has forgotten or actively desires to avoid knowing that there are prerequisites to civilization, and that these prerequisites, like most traits, are most likely about 50% genetic.

If there is room within liberalism for the other 50% to be worked on, it must be worked on. If there is a non-negligible gap between potential and actual intelligence, due to childhood malnutrition or lead poisoning or whatever, this gap must be closed. But it is of paramount importance that the cancer be treated. It took untold hundreds of years for the West to develop civilization and the prerequisites thereof; if these things are lost, with them goes one path toward the future, one bridge between ape and overman.

Get married and have children, all of you.


31 Aug 20:47

In defense of Allison Benedikt

by Steve Sailer
A couple of days ago I suggested that Allison Benedikt's much-denounced manifesto "If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person" was tendentious but understandable. In many gentrifying neighborhoods, the public schools would become a lot better if, say, the lower half of private school families in wealth all switched to public schools, which would benefit the upper layer of current public school families by providing their children with better classmates. And would it be so bad for the more hard-up private school families (who could use the free tuition)? The more who make the jump with them, the better.

But, organizing collective action is always a struggle.

Here's a previous article by Benedikt that lays out her family and financial situations.
Is Waiting to Have Kids a Big Mistake? 
With a third kid on the way and a 1,100 square foot, one-bathroom Brooklyn apartment, my husband and I talk a lot about when we’ll be able to afford a home to comfortably fit our family. I’m 35, he’s almost 40, and neither of us thinks we can even begin to contemplate shelling out for a mortgage or higher rent for another five years. In the fall of 2018, all of our kids will finally be in public school, and we will have the $5,000 we pay in child care every month back in our bank account. I will be 41, my husband will be 46, and perhaps then we can start to consider a second toilet. 
Not all of that $5K will go toward a family home—to pay for preschool, we stopped contributing to our 401K years ago. So 2018 will also be the year we start paying into it again—not that we will ever be able to retire—and, hey, let’s put some away for college, shall we? 
Let me just stop you mid-eye-roll to confirm that yes: We are, by the standards of most Americans, rich. My husband and I both have steady jobs, make good salaries, and are lucky enough to be able to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world simply because we want to. As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan wrote earlier this year, we can’t cry poor just because we don’t have a lot of money left after we’ve spent it all.

Here is the couple's New York Times wedding announcement from 2003. I would guess they just barely made the cut for making the NYT.

Having multiple children is a lot more affordable if you can find public schools with tolerable demographics, so it's perfectly understandable to try to induce other desirable demographics into public schools.

But, why the white v. white shaming language instead of the language of mutual self-interest?

It's not uncommon in Southern California to see Chinese get together and pick out a small school district to take over and remake to meet their needs. Arcadia, east of Pasadena, where my cousins went to school, is an example: a nice but nondescript suburb where the high school is now 69% Asian. Asians hate paying for private schools when they could instead take over a public school by concentrating their forces to avoid being diluted. I've never read the inside story on how the Chinese coordinate this process -- why Arcadia rather than all the similar suburbs? -- but a fly on the wall would probably hear some frank statements about whites, blacks, and Mexicans.

In contrast, white people are more likely to run than to work together the way the Chinese do. To get white people to work together, they need some kind of ideological cover story, like ... uh ... diversity! We should all agree to stop paying private school tuition and send our kids to public school in the name of diversity! (If we all say that, then we can make the honors classes at the neighborhood public school less diverse.)

Moreover, while Asian people can work together to take over Arcadia out of conscious racial self-interest, white people can only be publicly motivated to work together out of stated animus toward other white people. For example, disarming urban blacks and Latinos can be justified only as a byproduct of the War of Liberal Self-Defense Against Armed Racist Rednecks, and so forth.

Similarly, the upper level of whites with children in public schools very much want whites with children in private schools to join forces with them, but ... blunt Chinese-like statements like "We need to team up to keep our kids from being overwhelmed by all the Mexicans" are nonstarters.

Thus, among whites, everybody denounces everybody else all the time.

31 Aug 12:57

North Korea Fact of the Day

by Alex Tabarrok

North Korea is the only country in the world where it is legal to use, sell, transport and cultivate marijuana.

30 Aug 20:17

Israeli Jewish total fertility rates

by Steve Sailer
Fertility rates in Israel are interesting not just for their relevance to Middle Eastern affairs, but for their relevance to America. Not surprisingly, the Israelis pay close attention to such matters, but Americans traditionally don't pay attention to Israeli population policy debates for the insights they can offer into American population policy. So, it takes some looking for Americans to find Israeli data.

Thanks to commenter Douglas Knight, here's a graph from Israel: Demography 2012-2030: On the Way to a Religious State by Bystrov and Soffer. This shows total fertility rates (expected babies per lifetime) from 1980 to 2008 for different classes of Jewish Israeli women. The top line is Ultra-Orthodox, who were down to 6.6 from a high of around 7.7. 

At the bottom are Secular at around 2.05, which is the replacement rate. That's a pretty high TFR for secular women in a crowded, advanced country. (Israel's not that different in terms of climate, terrain, population density, and real estate prices from Southern California.) How does Israel achieve replacement level fertility among its least likely category?

30 Aug 10:06

Immigration and wages

by Alex Tabarrok

Matt Yglesias has a good post covering new research on immigration and wages:

… [a] new study of immigration to Denmak by Mette Foget and Giovanni Peri is one of the most detailed examinations of the issue that we’ve seen and it finds that Danish workers benefit from an inflow of complementary immigrants:

Using a database that includes the universe of individuals and establishments in Denmark over the period 1991-2008 we analyze the effect of a large inflow of non-European (EU) immigrants on Danish workers. We first identify a sharp and sustained supply-driven increase in the inflow of non-EU immigrants in Denmark, beginning in 1995 and driven by a sequence of international events such as the Bosnian, Somalian and Iraqi crises. We then look at the response of occupational complexity, job upgrading and downgrading, wage and employment of natives in the short and long run. We find that the increased supply of non-EU low skilled immigrants pushed native workers to pursue more complex occupations. This reallocation happened mainly through movement across firms. Immigration increased mobility of natives across firms and across municipalities but it did not increase their probability of unemployment. We also observe a significant shift in the native labor force towards complex service industries in locations receiving more immigrants. Those mechanisms protected individual wages from immigrants competition and enhanced their wage outcomes. While the highly educated experienced wage gains already in the short-run, the gains of the less educated built up over time as they moved towards jobs that were complementary to those held by the non-EU immigrants.

Tada! A lot of people have twisted themselves into a position where this kind of result strikes them as contrarian or counterintuitive. But if you think about population dynamics in a non-immigration context you’ll see that this is the conventional wisdom. If a deadly virus killed five percent of the population of Chicago, incomes would fall not rise. Chicago isn’t populated by subsistence farmers imperiled by land scarcity. Its residents participate in a 21st century service economy where they benefit from complex complementarities and an elaborate division of labor. That’s why big cities are engines of opportunity.

Ygelsias’s analogy to cities is a good one. Bryan Caplan has another way of explaining the point, “In a society of Einsteins, Einsteins take out the garbage, scrub floors, and wash dishes.” Thus, low-skilled immigration can increase wages by allocating talent to higher productivity jobs.

30 Aug 01:47

"If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person"

by Steve Sailer
In Slate, Alison Benedikt writes:
If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person
I went K–12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn’t offer AP classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn’t even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either. You know all those important novels that everyone’s read? I haven’t. I know nothing about poetry, very little about art, and please don’t quiz me on the dates of the Civil War. I’m not proud of my ignorance. But guess what the horrible result is? I’m doing fine. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that I got a lame education. I’m saying that I survived it, and so will your child, who must endure having no AP calculus so that in 25 years there will be AP calculus for all. 
By the way: My parents didn’t send me to this shoddy school because they believed in public ed. They sent me there because that’s where we lived, and they weren’t too worried about it. (Can you imagine?) Take two things from this on your quest to become a better person: 1) Your child will probably do just fine without “the best,” so don’t freak out too much, but 2) do freak out a little more than my parents did—enough to get involved. 
Also remember that there’s more to education than what’s taught. As rotten as my school’s English, history, science, social studies, math, art, music, and language programs were, going to school with poor kids and rich kids, black kids and brown kids, smart kids and not-so-smart ones, kids with superconservative Christian parents and other upper-middle-class Jews like me was its own education and life preparation. Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me. In fact it’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about public schools.

While in 2013 this just sounds like Slate clickbait, this ideology was, I recall, the common view among middle and upper-middle Jewish parents in the San Fernando Valley in 1968. And this wasn't hypocrisy. As a parochial school student, my Jewish friends made clear that their parents considered Catholics attending Catholic school to be slightly un-American.

And guess what? Public school worked fine for them. The public schools in the Valley then were full of smart Jewish kids. 

I was talking to my dentist about his upbringing. He's nice Jewish guy the same age as me from Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley, and I realized that his parents never paid a dime of tuition for his education: Millikan Junior High, Grant H.S., Valley J.C., Cal State Northridge, and UCLA Dental School.

This pro-public school ideology worked well until busing from South-Central to the Valley was imposed in the late 1970s. The political resistance to busing in the Valley was led by Jewish moms like Bobbie Fiedler and Roberta Weintraub, and Jewish dads like Alan Robbins. They eventually had some success, but the tradition that Jews send their children to public schools was broken, and then the Hispanic influx overwhelmed LAUSD.

Nowadays in contrast, Jewish parents in Sherman Oaks almost always send their kids to private schools (there are vastly more private Jewish schools in the Valley today than when I was a kid) at least from sixth grade onward, move to the Las Virgenes school district, or figure out a way to get their children into magnet programs.

But, does it have to be this way? What if all upper middle class parents sweet-talked or badgered each other into sending their children to public school?

It's starting to happen in Lower Manhattan. Brooklyn is following.

The nirvana of gentrification is Good Public Schools.

Benedikt repeats the usual talking points about how public schools will be great if parents just demanded More Resources. Of course, the most valuable resource is Good Students. And, indeed, parents can play a big role in that. For example, when my wife finally figured out how to get our son into Millikan Middle School's fine elite programs, she talked the parents of my son's two best friends into transferring with him from the Lutheran school they were attending. (One of the pair is now at the U. of Chicago.)

29 Aug 00:34

Links for August

by Samo Burja

Lots of interesting things to think about this summer so much as we did for May here we share things we’ve been reading.

  • HBD chick has built a strong case for her theory that the observed variation in clannishness between cultures may be partially explained by recent human evolution in response to different rules for who you can and can not marry.
  • Why you should care about clannishness in  the first place? And how does marrying cousins impact it? Many examples of this playing out in modern societies and history can be found on her blog but St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas explain it pretty well. Populations that don’t inbreed much seem to have an easier time making institutions that require reasonable cooperation between unrelated people work. Things like markets or a civil service with little corruption.
  • Aquinas also warns on the side effects of too much outbreeding. “Afterwards, however, towards these latter times the prohibition of the Church has been restricted to the fourth degree, because it became useless and dangerous to extend the prohibition to more remote degrees of consanguinity. Useless, because charity waxed cold in many hearts so that they had scarcely a greater bond of friendship with their more remote kindred than with strangers..
  • The time approaches for a Sulla or a Monck “In a tranquil and orderly society a bunch of high status males work things out between themselves by means far short of actual violence, hence are “gentlemen”.  These gentlemen then present a unified and extremely violent front against outsiders.  Over time, their arrangement is apt to break down… As they become less violent to outsiders, they find that increasingly those who have intruded among them are more violent to each other… Elite politics then becomes progressively rougher… Moldbug is correct to argue that the weakness of the ruler is a problem, wrong to think it is soluble.  Stationary bandits are always apt to mutate into mobile bandits due to institutional decay.”
  • Multidimensional Political Spectrum Identification and Analysis “In this work, we show the importance of multidimensional opinion representation in the political context combining domain knowledge and results from principal component analysis. We discuss the differences of feature selection between political spectrum analysis and normal opinion mining tasks. We build regression models on each opinion dimension for scoring and placing new opinion entities, e.g. personal blogs or politicians, onto the political opinion spectrum. We apply our methods on the floor statement records of the United States Senate and evaluate it against the uni-dimensional representation of political opinion space. The experimental results show the effectiveness of the proposed model in explaining the voting records of the Senate.”
  • Clausewitz, Lenin, Robin Dunbar “We being monkeys, we aren’t really fascinated with power, in abstract. After all it’s quite hard to even define what ‘power’ is. What does it really mean to have power? What does power do? How does it work? One of the first signs a word/concept is too vague is that it doesn’t translate well. In Chinese ‘power’ generally translates as 力量, but political power is translated as 權力.  It doesn’t help that 權 generally translates as ‘right’. As in 人權, human rights. And that’s a recent coining, borrowed from Western political science jargon. You’d think Chinese would have their own ideas about power after 2300 years of centralized empire, but they don’t have a clue.So most people don’t have a good understanding of what power is. What we do know is powerful people. Those are everywhere, and God are we obsessed with them. Fascinated. They’re everywhere, and everybody’s talking about them. We are fascinated with the powerful. How did they get it? What do they want it for? And how do they use it?”
  • Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be. The article cites a paper appropriately titled The End of History Illusion. According to it people seem to have a surprisingly accurate assessment of how much they have changed in the past, but systematically underestimate how much they will change in the future. I don’t think this only happens when we make predictions about our future selves, but also when we think about the future of organizations and groups we are members of or identify with strongly. I’d give you examples but I’m sure the NYT would not approve.
28 Aug 20:50

Man doing his job

by Steve Sailer
AbuDhabi

Guy's awesome.

Evan Longoria, All-Star third-baseman for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, is being interviewed in foul territory in short right field, when ...
27 Aug 15:42

Why does it cost so much to raise kids?

by Lion of the Blogosphere
AbuDhabi

On raising kids.

Jayman pointed me to an Atlantic article comparing the cost of raising kids in 1960 to 2011.

My interpretation is that children are actually quite inexpensive to raise if you just account for food and clothing for them. This assumes that there’s a woman at home who wouldn’t otherwise be working, you send them to public schools, you don’t spend money on summer camp, expensive after-school activities. And you already have the space in the house for them.

Healthcare has gone up in price a lot, but according to the pie chart, it has only gone up from 4% to 8% of the cost of raising a child.

Raising a child becomes extremely expensive if you have to pay for childcare, live in an expensive city like New York where space is at a huge premium, or if you believe that you need to send them to private school or expensive after-school activities and summer camp.

This explains why prole whites living in white parts of the country can afford to churn out big families. Space is cheap out there, they have public schools, and they aren’t in a status competition to send their kids to the most expensive activities. They can buy their kids clothes from Walmart because all of their kids’ peers also are wearing Walmart clothes.


26 Aug 15:45

Do Not Mock the Freshmen

by Alex Tabarrok

Here from a 1495 Leipzig University Statute is some good advice for the first day of classes:

Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen.

Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.

Hat tip: Jason Kuznicki.

25 Aug 16:23

Assorted links

by Tyler Cowen
AbuDhabi

The shit?