Many of us yearn for a return to one golden age or another. But there’s a community of bloggers taking the idea to an extreme: they want to turn the dial way back to the days before the French Revolution.
Neoreactionaries believe that while technology and capitalism have advanced humanity over the past couple centuries, democracy has actually done more harm than good. They propose a return to old-fashioned gender roles, social order and monarchy.
You may have seen them crop-up on tech hangouts like Hacker News and Less Wrong, having cryptic conversations about “Moldbug” and “the Cathedral.” And though neoreactionaries aren’t exactly rampant in the tech industry, PayPal founder Peter Thiel has voiced similar ideas, and Pax Dickinson, the former CTO of Business Insider, says he’s been influenced by neoreactionary thought. It may be a small, minority world view, but it’s one that I think shines some light on the psyche of contemporary tech culture.
How can a libertarian want a king? Seems contradictory.
That’s because there are two types of libertarians. One type fits the way many of us feel. The other type are generally the sorts of sociopaths I’ve called bandits. Here they are called neo-reactionaries. David Brin nails them and the danger they present to the future.
I’ve written several times about our coming battle between those who support rule by authority and those who support rule by the people. This is the same battle we fought in the American Revolution, in the Civil War and in WWII.
The authoritarian left wants rule by a central committee of elites. The authoritarian right want rule by some sort of dictator, either a monarch or a tyrant.
Now, one would think that libertarians – who put the individual above all else – would also be against authoritarian rule. But there are two types of libertarian – the civil (wo is against having a king) and the economic(who think a king is the best way to go).
The civil libertarian does believe that individual civil liberties are more important than any authoritarian rule. This is where most Americans would place themselves. Civil libertarians are neither left nor right because the civil liberties fight is not a left or right battle.
The rise of everything that makes our world great has come from the fostering of civil liberties since the Age of Enlightenment. America was created in the crucible of that fight. America was founded on the ideal of civil liberties.
But, there ae also economic libertarians. They want economic liberty to do whatever they want. They know that totalitarian rule by a monarch is the easiest route to the economic freedom they hope to have.
To them, economic freedom comes before all else. Democracy hampers this economic freedom.
Thus the term neo-reactionary – the original reactionaries were those who opposed the toppling of the French monarchy in the French Revolution.
These libertarians want a monarch so they can become wealthier. They are not interested in a middle class or in democracy.
Now many economic libertarians make sure they drop the first part so they can hide in the general pool of libertarian thought focussed on personal freedom and protection from authoritarian rule. “I’m a libertarian, too” they can say.
But they are not interested in civil liberties. They want a government that allows them to continue to be bandits. Only a monarchy works for them.
These are all who believe in the spark that is America need to fight, whether we are liberal or conservative.
We fought the Revolution because people were hurt due to things that were good for business (Tea tax anyone?). Same with the Civil War (obviously slavery) and WWII (“Mussolini made the trains run on time”, even if he didn’t). The authoritarian right made millions pay with their lives.
I wonder what this war will be called when we are done with it? Because neo-reactionaries are the enemy of the democratic principles America was founded upon. They must be beaten.
An attractor that is yanking hard on us now, as would-be lords deliberately instigate a fresh phase of Civil War to cripple American pragmatism and institutions, throwing into imbalance all four of those great, positive-sum accountability arenas upon which our Great Experiment relies.
But it won’t work.
They do not get to call themselves rebels! We and our Enlightenment are the revolutionaries, still, beating down the repeated, clawing assaults of oligarchists from all sides, some of whom called themselves “communists,” but always prescribing the same, boring pyramid of power.
This is the battle we are in the midst of and, for the first time in my life, is important enough to die for. Unfortunately, I expect many will as mankind has never settled this battle peacefully in the past.