The Time Of The Golden Agers

Major social events are often a lot like moving furniture around the house. Moving the bookcase from one side of the room to the other is a mundane task. What you find behind it, however, can be quite interesting. Sometimes you find something you searched high and low for at some point. Other times you find something that you never knew was missing. Maybe just moving things around a bit gives you a new perspective on your living space that leads to other changes in your environment.

That’s how big social events feel sometimes. The event itself is not as important as what it reveals. Maybe you find out your neighbor is a bit of kook, who quietly has been stocking the basement with dried food and ammunition. Maybe we learn that the local government is more useless than anyone imagined possible. The Chinese pandemic is one of those events that will be more important for what it reveals than for the impact of the virus itself, unless you die from it, of course.

For example, we are getting a glimpse of what the great Baby Boomer retirement is going to look like in the coming decade. If we execute all of the people, who like debating the precise dates of generational divisions, we can agree that the cohort in question is roughly those who came of age in the late 1960’s and the late 1970’s. Two waves of the post-war baby boom. Right now, the number of elderly people grows by an average of 2.8 percent annually. It will peak at about 80 million.

For as long as anyone reading this has been alive, Baby Boomers have driven American politics. In the 80’s, they wanted to make money, so we financialized the economy and gave everyone a 401K. In the 1990’s, better schools were all the rage then better access to college. Health care became an issue, first because Boomer parents were getting old then when the Boomers themselves got old. Cheap health insurance was the most important political issue until now.

Notice that Bernie Sanders promising free health care got no senior support. The reason is seniors have Medicare. Blacks have Medicaid. The only people who care about health insurance premiums are younger white people and no one cares about them anymore. In fact, Bernie’s Medicare for all probably scared the crap out of older people, who rightly assumed it would mean longer lines for them. Worse yet, it could mean taxing their retirement to pay for it.

This brings us back to the Chinese Flu. Otherwise sensible people like Greg Cochran and Steve Sailer are clanging the bell, trying to get people to declare a war on the Covid19 virus. What they are suggesting, short of some miracle cure or a vaccine, would require rearranging American society. It would need rounds of universal testing, mass quarantines and testing of every human crossing the border. North America would have to become something like North Korea, in terms of travel restrictions.

Keep in mind that polio is still around, despite generations of eradication efforts. We have vaccines for a lot of nasty viruses. For the most part, these have been eradicated in the West, but they still exist in the world. If stop vaccinating people, those viruses will reemerge in the West, which is why we remain vigilant. We have no vaccine for the Chinese Flu and no one is sure we can get one. In other words, eradicating this virus, without vaccine, will require a massive reorganization of society.

What we’re seeing is the first glimpse of what democracy looks like when 20% of the population is elderly. Baby Boomers have always voted for stuff they want and soon, they will want to be insulated from the dangers of old age. If it requires us to turn America into a hermit kingdom in order to prevent a Boomer Pox from getting loose, then that’s the price the younger generation must pay. The salient political issue of this decade will be how best to guard the old coots from the Grim Reaper.

Now, this is the part where angry oldsters stop reading and post a comment about how not all Boomers are like that. This is true. In fact, it is plausible that no Boomers are willing to crater society to get a few extra days. This is a variation on the Simpson’s paradox. That is, this trend is uncommon in small groups or individuals, but appears when looking at the cohort as a whole. This turned up with education, abortion and health care. The data says Boomers collectively vote their interest.

Now, there is another angle to this. The sorts of collective action proposed by people like Steve Sailer and Greg Cochran can only happen in a cohesive, high-trust country with lots of social capital. The sorts of communities where people like Cochran and Sailer grew up had those qualities. Modern America, in contrast, is a multicultural amalgamation of low-trust clusters. The store of social capital has been burned up a long time ago in order to have cheap stuff.

This raises the question as to whether this cohort will suddenly have a come to Jesus moment over demographics. Most of those Trump voters in comfort fit slacks, carrying over-sized constitutions to the rally, think we can get back to the way things were when they were kids. If you dispute this, look at the comment section of Breitbart or Conservative Treehouse. For those people, it is always 1985.

What happens when they find out that ain’t happening? Will it make any difference if the oldsters finally see their interest are threatened by the great brown wave that is washing over America? We’ll soon find out. This panic, and that what we are seeing, will change things far more than the virus. We’re about to learn just how much social capital is left and the answer is probably not going to be encouraging.

The fact is, all the snarky comments about the Boomers and the irreverent mocking of the Zoomers is not changing the reality on the ground. America has operated like a young country for a long time. It still does in many ways. It is an old country now, a country run by old people just coming to terms with their mortality. The psychological revolution in American culture that is upon us will make the past decade seem like golden age. Instead, it will be the prelude to the time of the Golden Agers.


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Permanent Crisis

In the last century, radicals liked to talk about permanent revolution, a term popularized by Karl Marx in the 19th century. The concept involves a revolutionary class continuing to push for its interests despite the political dominance of the bourgeoisie. The working class has to maintain a militant outsider approach to politics, even after the revolution that brings down the capitalist system. Revolution was a process, rather than an event, which operated outside of conventional politics.

In practice, permanent revolution resulted in a death spiral for radicals, as it provided a reason to attack any attempt to maintain stability. The first wave radicals gained power and began to impose order, only to be met by a second wave demanding more radical changes and accusing the first wave of lacking authenticity. Since there is no limiting principle, no such thing as good enough, in radical politics, there is always someone ready with a more radical program than the most radical.

The funny thing about this concept is radicals have never grasped what it means about their program. Karl Marx may have grasped what he was saying, it is hard to know, but he came up with the idea by observing Napoleon’s rise to power. Marx saw that permanent war was what gave Napoleon legitimacy. France was in a permanent state of war with Europe. The alternative to granting him absolute authority to fight the war was the possibility of defeat or even the conquest of France by her enemies.

Therefore, what would give the proletariat legitimacy was a permanent revolution, by which he meant a permanent crisis. If a crisis of capitalism allowed the middle class to seize power, then fostering crisis would provide opportunities for the working class to press their interests. In a way, permanent revolution, at least initially, is permanent instability. Eventually, however, permanent instability is the only justification for radicalism. The crisis must never end or the revolution ends.

Of course, Orwell understood this. In Animal Farm and 1984 we see how the permanent crisis, the ever-present threat of annihilation, was the true source of power for the people in charge. Because of that threat, everything in society must be organized, without question, in defense against the threat. Therefore, questioning these efforts is anti-revolutionary and can never be tolerated. In fact, the hunt for enemies of the revolution becomes a part of the permanent crisis.

What this means is that socialism, at least revolutionary socialism, cannot function outside of a crisis. It is a last resort position a desperate people will tolerate in times of extreme duress. That’s the odd thing about the concept. It is an admission that the radical program cannot exist in easy times. It can only thrive when the people, or at least a large swath of them, are sure their existence is on the knife edge. It also means the revolution can never achieve its stated goals.

This contradiction within radicalism is important to keep in mind when looking at modern politics, broadly inclusive of current events. In America, we have been in some form of crisis since the turn of the century. Under Bush the Minor, it was Islamic terrorism that put us on permanent war footing. The ruling class stripped away most of our remaining rights in the name of fighting this existential threat. America now has political prisoners and a security state that spies on citizens.

In the Obama years, the permanent crisis over Islamic terrorism slowly gave way to a laundry list of left-wing bogeymen. Racism, antisemitism, various imaginary crimes against imaginary identity groups. The rape hoax on campus was a classic example of trying to maintain the permanent crisis. Coeds were supposed to act as if Chad and Biff were lurking around every corner, ready to rape them. Of course, this warranted preemptive strikes against Chad and Biff in self-defense.

The Trump years have been an exhausting series of crises that have formed into a miasma that hangs over society. First it was the Russians “attacking our democracy” then the various show trials and performances related to it. The nomination of a judge turned into a bizarre rape fantasy for the nation’s old hens. Now, of course, we are gripped by the invisible bogeyman called the Covid-19. No doubt, this insidious plague was dreamed up by Snowball and Goldstein.

What the last two decades have been, really starting after the Cold War, is the bourgeois version of permanent revolution. The managerial elite maintain a militant and independent approach to politics, seeing themselves outside of society. They are the revolutionary class that is driving progress by driving the revolution. When they shriek about threats to the democracy, they really mean a threat to the revolution, their revolution, the managerial revolution.

You see one way this is playing out in the inner party primary. The threat of Trump and his Russian allies requires extraordinary measures by the inner party. In such a crisis, the Sanders people cannot be tolerated. All that talk about practical policy and addressing public needs must wait until after the revolution is achieved. In the means time, the party must rally around a dementia patient, who often forgets his own name and shouts at people for no reason.

The old radicals understood something about the class war they promoted. Marxist intellectuals understood they lacked the stones to fight for their cause. These were soft men who lived soft lives. The working class, on the other hand, had lots of tough guys comfortable with violence. The bourgeois class was also full of soft men, comfortable living the liberal lifestyle. In a genuine class struggle, they would not stand a chance against the working class. They would not fight.

The managerial revolution, on the other hand, is led by radials, who make many of the same assumptions. The difference is there is no working class. They destroyed it by auctioning off the industrial base. Instead they will use their power over institutions, like the police, the security apparatus, finance and so on, to intimidate the middle-class into going along with the program. The permanent crisis legitimizes endless intrusions into daily life by the managerial state,

There are two problems facing the permanent managerial revolution. One is the people running it are increasingly incompetent. The fact that the inner party is reduced to using a husk of man as a shield against Trump, a guy detested by the outer party, speaks to the lack of competence in politics. Within living memory, Trump would not have won a single primary, because the party would not have allowed it. Biden would never have been allowed to run, much less be installed as the nominee.

The other problem faced by the managerial class is something all revolutions face at some point in their evolutionary cycle. That is, crisis is exhausting. For the radicals, part of the appeal is the endless interpersonal shenanigans. For normal people, the endless drama of politics is tiresome. The permanent crisis required to sustain radical politics, to keep the revolution going, is exhausting. Oddly, the reason Biden became the nominee is black people got tired of white people drama.

The thing is, the permanent crisis has another flaw. It channels the natural energies of a people away from industry and community. The permanent revolution becomes a bonfire onto which is thrown the social capital of a people. For the revolutionary, society is the sum of men, exclusive of their inner connections. They place no value on the social capital they burn for revolutionary fuel, because they see no purpose in it. To the managerial class, society is just kindling.

We are getting a glimpse of this with the Chinese Flu. The federal state is paralyzed by the growing incompetence of the managerial class. State and local responses have been incoherent, because the normal social capital that would animate such a response has been largely destroyed. You cannot have a community response when there are no natural communities of people. Clusters of strangers in temporary developments named after what was knocked down to build them are not communities.

This is something the paleocon theorists could not see. They understood the birth and development of the managerial class, but could not imagine its demise. It turns out that the end point of the managerial revolution is the same as all radical projects. It consumes what it needs to exist and is eventually overtaken by incompetence. Late empire America is now ruled by self-absorbed stupid people, incapable of performing the basic duties of their office. The end is inevitable.


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The Stupid Tax

The great conservative philosopher Joseph de Maistre said, “False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.” When it comes to the flow of information, the honestly naive can be a force multiplier, spreading a falsehood well beyond its intended audience. Like counterfeit money, the cost of falsehoods and bad ideas are socialized over the whole of the society.

The de Maistre quote assumes the initial falsehood is intentional. The person promoting a false opinion or shoddy expertise is doing so on purpose. Maybe they are just fleecing the public or maybe they are seeking attention. Regardless of the motivation, they are doing so intentionally and knowingly. The same results, however, occur when the false opinion or inaccurate statement of fact is made sincerely. The same price is paid by society, perhaps even a higher price than from malice.

Stupidity has a cost. Every society, even small ones, pay a stupid tax, a price for believing and repeating things that are false. Inevitably, all facts result in some action, so the falsehood, assumed to be fact, will lead to an action. That action, based in an untruth, will come with a price. Maybe the price will be small, like women wasting money on tarot card readers. Maybe it will be high, like putting women into positions of authority based on the lunacy of feminism.

Further, the stupidity of false notions is not universal. Dumb people believe in ghosts and magic, while smart people fall for things like libertarianism. Belief in ghosts may be silly, but it is generally harmless. Crackpot ideas like communism and libertarianism, on the other hand, are very dangerous. It turns out that who is passing around the counterfeit idea counts for as much as the idea itself. Smart people falling for dumb ideas is far more dangerous than dumb people being dumb.

Like money, there are at least two qualities popular nonsense. One is the volume of it in circulation and the other is its velocity. The volume seems pretty obvious. At the extreme, if everything people think is true is actually false, they will not be around very long before they act in such a way that ends their existence. An example would be the Xhosa cattle-killing movement and famine of 1856. There is an absolute limit to the amount of stupid any people can indulge.

The velocity is something new to this age. Not entirely new, as pamphleteers then newspapers industrialized word of mouth. By the 19th century, dumb ideas and false beliefs could move around a society far faster than ever before. Radio and then television further accelerated the velocity of stupid. Now, of course, that velocity has reach something close to light speed. A dumb idea can be around the world before the person coining it has even realized they coined it.

No one knows just how this velocity of stupid changes the nature of stupid. In the current panic, for example, there are people who spend their days flooding social media with falsehoods, which get repeated a billion times. Given how many people are intensely on-line, it stands to reason that even if the overall volume of stupid stuff is still low, the speed it travels makes it feel like the volume is much higher. That velocity of stupid is chasing out the prudent and skeptical ideas for most people.

One key to managing a crisis, regardless of the type of government, is to make sure the rulers can communicate clearly with the people. Even authoritarian societies have to rely in people making good decisions in the moment. If the instructions of the rulers are caught up in the blender of rumors, deliberately false ideas and malicious scare mongering, those instructions are worthless. They either fall into the bucket of things no one believes or they get lost in the whirlwind of nonsense.

In light of the last few days, censuring the internet starts to make some sense. If the flu numbers get much worse, it is possible the public starts to embrace the genuinely crazy ideas flying around the internet. A public panic would only serve to make the situation worse, despite what the scare mongers contest. Muzzling the sorts of people who preface every social media post with “Breaking” followed by a fake news story makes a lot of sense from the perspective of the people in charge.

On the other hand, the internet may be creating a “boy who cried wolf” environment where no one believes any warnings. The situation in Italy is pretty serious, but the authorities are struggling to get the public to be serious. After the nth time being told the world is about to end, people are no longer willing to believe it. Even public officials have grown tired of the atmosphere of permanent crisis that has come to define the internet age. The stupid tax makes everything seem stupid.

Logic says a society bombarded by a barrage of false ideas and crazy assertions is headed for a bad end. On the other hand, maybe having people in charge of public discourse is itself a dumb idea. The dumbest idea. The reason people are willing to put a dementia patient in the White House is that a babbling old man is no different than the other options. None of it matters, so why not put Joe Biden in charge? The internet has brought us to the Marching Morons point of civilization.


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Boom Times For Doomsday

Imagine a variant of the flu that is four or five times more lethal than the common flu and it is spreading quickly. The experts are not sure exactly how lethal this new flu variant will be, other than it will be considerably worse than the common flu that hits every fall and winter. Further, they are unsure of the origin or how to combat it with drugs and therapeutics. Before long, it is a serious problem. This new influenza is a pandemic spreading rapidly all over the world

Now, you don’t have to imagine it, because you lived through it. The Swine Flu pandemic of 2009 infected about a billion people worldwide, according to most estimates. As is always the case with these things, the number of infected is always a best guess, as many are infected but are never confirmed. The death toll is a little easier to grasp, as it is hard to ignore a corpse, but many flu deaths are classed as other things. It probably killed half a million people.

The salient thing about the Swine Flu epidemic is that no one remembers it, until someone mentions it. Even then, most people probably think it killed pigs. While it caused lots of disruption and killed up to half a million people, most people did not notice it. No one remembers the SARS outbreak, which was way back in the dark ages of 2002 or the MERS pandemic in 2012. Both of those were much more lethal than the current virus spreading around the globe.

This is a good thing to keep in mind when watching the panic ensue on-line and in the mass media. While these virus pandemics are serious, they are not uncommon and they don’t usher in the end times. Human society is actually quite resilient to these sorts of pestilences. Sure, it is very serious, but it not the plague. That was many times worse than the worst case scenario for the Covid-19 pandemic. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30% to 60% of Europe’s population.

The Covid-19 pandemic is serious, especially if you are very old or have respiratory issues or you smoke. Like the common flu, the most vulnerable are always those with the weakest immune systems. For everyone else, the risk drops considerably, as our immune systems can fight off the virus. As was true of SARS and MERS, the spread of these potent strains of flu tend to stall with public awareness. We don’t give ourselves any credit for reacting sensibly to these things.

A big difference this time, of course, is the political situation. In 2002, when SARS appeared, the Left was wrapped up in anti-war hysteria. When MERS appeared in 2012, the sainted Obama was on the throne. Now, the evil Orange Man and his Russian handlers are wrecking our democracy, so the Left is going all in on the Yellow Panic, hoping to make this his Katrina. This is magnifying the normal racket that comes from Doomsday Inc., whenever there is a scare like this.

Of course, this is a boom time for Doomsday Inc. There used to be an old joke about these guys in the financial world. The line was, “the bears have predicted 10 of the last two market crashes.” It is a variant on the old line about a stopped clock being right twice a day. For Doomsday Inc., all signs always point to the great calamity they are sure is right around the corner. Past performance, of course, is never an indication of future events. This time it is different.

It says something about modern times that a significant portion of the public thinks the whole thing will come crashing down at any moment. The evidence is strongly against that view. Just a decade ago the financial system faced the greatest threat since the 1929 market crash. The mortgage meltdown was supposed to be the big one, but it was not the big one after all. The Y2k scare was another boom time for the doomsday business, something similar to what we see now.

Doomsday Inc. seems to feed on a sense of detachment many feel toward modernity and its consequences for society. There’s fellowship in telling scary stories about the looming disaster. It feels good to be scared. In fact, one feels most alive when scared, so that’s part of the rush these people get from indulging in these fantasies. It’s like playing a live action video game. The doomsday enthusiast gets the exhilaration of being in real danger, without actually being in danger.

In fairness, the doomsday fan spawns an on-line adversary that gets a similar emotional rush from these events. The dismissive cynic relished these times, because he gets to pretend to be the cool, level-headed guy when everyone is panicking. These guys show up in comment sections and in response to twitter posts. They take pleasure in telling the doomsday types that they are a bunch of hysterical sissies. These are great times for the dismissive cynic. It’s their time to shine too.

There is third type that comes out at these times. This is the person, who is sure everyone is panicking except him and everyone they know. There’s an urban myth quality to him. “My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw people in hazmat suits down at Costco buying all the water.” He would never panic like that, but he is sure everyone else is ready to go bonkers.

What ties all of these types together is a sense that the current arrangements are simply too fragile to last much longer. Something is going to pull the wrong peg out of the pile. Like the kid’s game, the pile will collapse. Maybe it will be a collapse, maybe a panic that causes a collapse or maybe just a panic that unleashes the stupid on the rest of society, which in turns causes a crash. Somehow, someway, the stupidity of mankind will overrun the system and we reach the end times.

None of this panic, counter panic and so on should diminish the reality of this Covid-19 virus that is turning up all over the West. So far, it looks to be much more serious than Swine Flu, which killed a lot of people. Those in poor health or with pulmonary issues should exercise extreme caution. This is especially true if you have old and frail people in your life. You could have the virus and not know it, so assume you have the flu when around older people or people in poor health.

Part of that caution is avoiding the scare mongers, who relish these times. They can be quite convincing. What most people are going to experience from this is inconvenience, things like cancelled events or an extra hassle when traveling. There is a great swath of area between the scare mongers and the smugly indifferent. That is the zone of prudence, where sensible people take steps to deal with what is a serious issue. In these sorts of crises, the prudent shall inherit the earth.


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Middle-Man Conservatism

When most American think about Denmark, what comes to mind is blonde-haired children in traditional dress. Maybe it will be the image of Viking invaders, rushing off their long boats. The more worldly sorts will know it is one of the happiest countries on earth, according to regular surveys. It is also one of the safest, with a high standard of living and high quality of life. Those who have visited the country come away with a highly positive view of Danish society.

It turns out that Denmark is a blighted hellscape, a land full of tax slaves aching to be free of the welfare state. According to someone calling himself David Harsanyi at National Review, Denmark is exactly what you’ll get if Bernie Sanders gets his way. “In Bernie’s beloved Denmark, 24.5 percent of tax revenue as a percent of GDP came from personal income taxes and social-security contributions, compared with only 16 percent in the United States.” What monsters!

Further, “Denmark’s corporate tax rate is 22 percent, compared with a combined state and federal American corporate tax stands at 25.9 percent.” As we all know, the bedrock measure of societal happiness is the corporate tax rate. The only thing close on the human rights scale is how a people treat carried interest. Everyone knows that you judge a society by how well it treats its most vulnerable and massive global corporations are the most vulnerable in every society.

All joking aside, that short post by David Harsanyi is everything that has gone wrong with conservatism over the last many decades. He is, to quote Ben Shapiro of all people, acting on his middle-man mentality. The middle-man is not concerned with either side of the transaction. His interest lies only in the efficiency of the transaction, as that is where he extracts his profit. The middle-man is the tollbooth operator, who gets paid on commission, based on the number of cars that pass his booth.

From the perspective of the middle-man, the state is always a competitor, as it makes the transaction less efficient. Sometimes it is through regulation, intended to curb certain undesirable activity. In other cases, the state seeks to displace the middle-man, in order to collect taxes. This is why the middle-man not only opposes state involvement in economic activity, but does so on the grounds of efficiency. The raison d’être of the middle-man is to increase efficiency in order to increase his profit.

Citizens are not driven by efficiency. They have an interest, often a moral interest or a societal interest, in at least one side of the transaction. The citizen opposes drug dealing, for example, because it increases drug taking and makes popular the exploitation of citizens. It is not about halting drug dealing or drug taking, but about stigmatizing both activities. No one wants to live in a land where self-abuse and lethal exploitation is tolerated, much less celebrated.

This is why Denmark has the sorts of regulation on commerce that American conservatives find so abhorrent. The Danes wish to remain Danish, which means discouraging that which they don’t like and encouraging what they like. The Danes don’t think it very Danish to have a small number of people with massive wealth, while a large number live in squalor. The typical Dane looks at an American city, for example, and thinks Americans are monsters for tolerating it.

Therein lies the problem with American conservatism. Over the last many decades, conservatism moved from a discussion about “who we are what do we want to be” to debates about how to maximize efficiency in order to profit the middle-man. What passes for conservatism is just the self-interest of the middle-man, who has no social connections or moral duty to the whole of society. As far as David Harsanyi is concerned, the only thing that matters about Denmark is its tax rates.

A middle-man conservative like Harsanyi does not think about whether it is good for America that corporations now control so much of society. He’s indifferent to the abuses of the tech giants. Why should he care? The middle-man conservative is uninterested in the parties of any transaction. Just as the middle-man only cares about getting the deal done in order to extract his profit, the middle-man conservative just wants the deal open so the middle-men can do their thing and make it happen.

The irony of modern conservatism is that it has actually arrived at the exact opposite of what has always defined conservatism. For the conservative, society is defined by its people, their history and their customs. It is that identity as a people, around which all things must be organized, including economics. Modern conservatism is the complete rejection of that. The middle-man conservative rejects the very notion of identity in terms of society. There are only temporary parties to a transaction.

That’s what makes conservative opposition to Sanders so ridiculous. The Right used to oppose Sanders-style Utopian socialism on the grounds that it was bad for us, as in all of us in the society. Today, the so-called conservatives oppose it because it is bad for them and their paymasters. The rest of us are on our own. They oppose populism for the same reason. For middle-man conservatism, the interest of the people inevitably becomes an adversary, because it is bad for business.


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The Nitwits Of The ‘Narcissus’

It has long been known that certain types of jobs and professions attract certain personality types. The entertainment business attracts shallow people, who crave attention and adulation. Cops tend to be belligerent bullies. It does not mean all entertainers are shallow airheads or that all cops are jerks, just that these fields tend to attract those types. In fact, shallow airheads and belligerent bullies may have some advantages in these fields over average people.

Modern mass democracy seems to attract a certain personality type as well. The person we tend to see in politics and the associated media, large and small, is someone, who takes great pleasure in admiring himself. His vanity is not rooted in accomplishment or even proven skill, but rather in an idealized version of himself, which is often quite different from his actual self. The world of mass democracy, especially the media, is a world dominated by narcissistic nitwits.

Just look at some of the people that were in the Democratic primary field. Pete Buttigieg is a man of no accomplishments. In fact, given all the advantages he has had compared to most people, he has been a failure. Yet, he spent a year sashaying around the country, carrying on like he was doing the world a favor. Think about the level of self-regard it takes for a small-town mayor to think he can be President. You have to like yourself a whole lot to do what he did this last year.

The political media is where this is most obvious. David French is a great example of the narcissistic nitwit. The only reason to notice him at all is due his many idiotic things he has posted on-line over the last decade. Tucker Carlson called him a buffoon and “one of the least impressive people he has met.” Carlson is in showbiz now, which means he is around feckless airheads all day. That means he ranks French below the bubbly weather girls and the addle minded jocks he meets.

French is a pretty good example of what has come to dominate the world of non-profit conservatism over the last couple of decades. This is guy, who exaggerates his own trivial accomplishments and spends an enormous amount of time telling the world about his wonderfulness. He is a moral nullity that spends his time on line lecturing us about the moral failings of public figures. How is it possible for such a nothing person to have so much self-regard? It should be impossible.

Another good example of the narcissistic nitwit is Tom Nichols. That would be “Five Time Jeopardy Champion” Tom Nichols for you commoners. He is fond of telling everyone he meets that he is really good at remembering pointless trivia. He is also fond of being wrong about everything, but carrying on as if he is an expert on everything. He is, of course, always disappointed in the rest of us. So much so he writes long essays explaining why the world does not deserve Tom Nichols.

The thing is, guys like David French and Tom Nichols are not unusual. The political media is full of people posing in front of empty trophy cases, grinning like they are the champions of everything. Their careers are a mix of pointless credentials, timely obsequiousness and idiotic public pronouncements. Yet, they strut around as if they are doing the rest of us a favor by remaining on the planet. The gap between self-perception and reality is breath taking.

It is not just the mainstream either. Mass media, especially low-barrier to entry stuff like video streaming, has loaded minor politics with narcissists too. Look at the e-celebs that have become a staple of the dissident scene. Many are dumb girls, who flash their boobs on camera, but there are plenty of men that think they are Tom Nichols. Think about some of the fringe people, who have been born on third base, but ended up on first base, yet carry on as if they are world changing figures in history.

Again, it is not the self-regard. Lots of men are cocky, especially when young, thinking they are all that and a bag of chips. It’s a form of peacocking. Women, of course, naturally seek attention. The difference between normal vanity and what we see with these narcissistic nitwits is the massive gap between their self-perception and the reality of their resumes. They are so delusional that they may as well be imagining themselves to be entirely different people. Their life is a larp.

Now, the most likely explanation for this is mass media. Nowhere has mass media had a greater impact than politics. Turning it into a game of attention seeking, like the entertainment rackets, means it will attract the attention seekers. That’s certainly true, as politics at all levels has been turned into entertainment. Politics, especially fringe politics, is as much of a hobby as a real effort to change things. The general lack of seriousness means the un-serious can run wild.

That said, this seems to be a feature of modern democracy. Since the game is winning the crowd, at any cost, people willing to do anything, even humiliate themselves, to win the crowd become major figures. Two types of people are willing to humiliate themselves for the pleasure of others: those with no self-regard and those with infinite self-regard. The former has no pride and the latter has no shame. Shameless is the word that best describes people like David French.

There have been many technical explanations for why democracy is a system that eventually destroys itself. Those explanations are sound, but one reason seldom mentioned is that democracy selects for the worst people. You cannot run anything with feckless airheads and narcissistic nitwits. That’s democracy though. It elevates the vain and stupid into positions of authority. It elevates narcissism and boasting over prudence and caution. It makes the people reckless and stupid.

There is another aspect to this that helps explain the dominance of narcissistic nitwits in modern liberal democracy. Empathy and compassion are rooted in self-interest. When done so publicly, they become a form of status seeking. The narcissist is bets equipped to display what appears to be a heightened sensitivity to suffering of others. They are willing to rend their garments and sob in public on behalf of everyone. They put on a great show, that allows the public to vicariously empathize with the suffering of man.

Self-preservation is the natural limit on compassion. In a healthy society, this limit scales up to be the limit tolerable to maintain social order and continuity. Democracy not only unleashes the narcissistic nitwits; it crumbles the limits on compassion that these narcissists feed on like maggots. Democracy murders itself not just because of the low-quality people it attracts, but because it indulges in limitless compassion to the point where it can no longer defend itself.


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Dimensionality

Politics is often described as a dispute over a set of issues or maybe a dispute between groups with some stake in an issue. This is the simplest and crudest form of politics, the sort you get at the town meeting or a social club. In reality, political divides are much more complex, often tangential to the issues. Trump, for example, would love to spend a trillion dollars on roads and bridges. The Democrats have talked about it for years, but now they oppose it, because they hate Trump.

That’s one of the dimensions to politics. The opposition to Trump is entirely personal, often stemming from class identity. The more candid anti-Trump people come right out and admit that they oppose him because they don’t like his style. The personal dimension to politics plays a much larger role that it should, but democratic politics always attracts small-minded narcissists. The system itself rewards this sort of behavior, so even the more mature fall into the trap of personal politics.

This gets into another dimension of politics, one where you begin to see the divide between the camps. One side thinks people are the problem that politics must fix and the other side thinks the system is what needs fixing. Scott Alexander did a post on this a couple of years ago. One side sees politics as a war between groups, while the other side sees politics as a result of systemic failure. The left blames Trump or Putin for their woes, while the Right blames “the swamp” for everything.

The interesting thing about this is the two sides will flip when it comes to specific topics like crime or regulation. The Left thinks crime is the result of defects in society like racism, while the Right pins the blame on criminals or maybe judges, who allow criminals to walk free. This conflict versus mistake dimension of politics has a situational dimension to it as well. When it is convenient to blame the system, both types will blame the system. The same is true with personalizing issues.

Of course, on this side of the great divide, people tend to look at politics as war and focus on specific people as the trouble. That’s the nature of outsider politics, as it by definition opposes the system and the people in it. There’s also the fact that dissident politics is immature at this time. There’s not a lot of theory to hold it all together or even a common set of definitions. People call themselves dissidents, in some cases, because they think it sounds cool.

This gets into another set of dimensions that Greg Johnson has covered. Politics involves ideas, events, and people. Small-minded people focus on the people, while average minded people focus on events. The higher minded will talk about ideas, but at the top, all three are part of the political discussion. The cable chat shows are not going to spend time discussion theory, for example. Instead they cover the events of the day and the people involved in those events.

This is another reason why dissident politics remains focused on people. It is not that dissidents are stupid or ignorant. The issue at this stage is that most dissidents are politically immature. For generations, Americans have been conditioned to operate within that very narrow space of official politics. One side wants tyranny by government, while the other side wants a tyranny of corporate power centers. You get to choose who rules over you, but not how they rule over you.

One sign that dissident politics is beginning to grow up is the appearance of books and articles looking at events and ideas from outside the system. Chris Caldwell’s recent book, for example, is a serious treatment of the forces unleashed by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. Caldwell is not a dissident, although he could probably feel at home on this side, but he is clearly aware of what’s happening on this side. When intellectuals take dissidents seriously, the movement is maturing.

That’s another dimension to politics. There is a lifecycle to all political movements, whether they are driven by events or ideas. We live in an age in which the ideas of the Enlightenment have largely run their course. We are also at a point where the American Empire is coming to an end. Then there is the political order within America that co-evolved with the empire. The current turmoil is due to the confluence of several cycles coming to an end at the same time and place.

That’s why dissident politics remains immature. The start of the new must wait for the old to reach a stage when it can no longer retrain its replacement. For several decades now, the old system could keep dissident politics bottled up, but the cracks in the walls are obvious to everyone now. Like a landslide waiting to happen, there is a lot of energy stored up in the status quo. What will cause that energy to be released cannot be known, but it is just a matter of time.

That may be the most important dimension to politics. Time is not a constant in the political world. Often events move quickly and uncontrollably, while at other periods, time feels like it stops. Right now, we are in an interregnum, where stuff happens, but not much has changed. We are in the period between when the old falls away and the new rushes into replace it. Time stands still, but at some point, it is going to take off like rocket and things will change quickly.


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The Outsiders

For the longest time, the official definition of politics in America, was liberalism on one side and conservatism on the other. The one side viewed the state as the primary tool to perpetuate change, by obliterating organic institutions and habits, replacing them with the latest social fads. The other side opposed the state, seeing it as a rival to corporate interests, which sought to obliterate organic institutions and habits. Both sides opposed majoritiarian interests as immoral on their face.

They did not sell it that way, of course, but that was the how politics in America were framed since the mid-20th century. To be a liberal was to support the state in whatever it was trying to propose, without thinking too much about the goal. State power was the goal of politics. Similarly, the conservative championed the individual, which conveniently included corporations and their shared power. If it was good for business, it was good for individuals, no matter the results.

This is, of course, two wolves and a lamb arguing over what’s for dinner. American society became something like a Japanese monster movie. One monster represented the Left and the other the Right. It was Mothra versus Godzilla. The people played bit parts, thinking they were helping one side or the other, but in reality they were just a nuisance to the monsters. For their part, the monsters did not care that they were destroying the city while they were fighting.

To continue the analogy just a bit further, the two monsters now find themselves in a quandary, as the people are now joining up to attack both of them. On the Right, a nascent white populism is emerging to challenge the corporate spokesman that still laughably call themselves conservatives. On the Left, a nostalgic form of popular socialism is emerging to challenge the Progressive establishment. The people have had enough of the monsters wrecking their communities.

As an aside, anyone familiar with their history understands that the what Bernie is selling is a form of fascism. His embrace of communism was always a pose, a way to set himself apart on the Left. In reality he wants the state to hold the whip hand and direct capitalism on behalf of the people. His program is corporatism, not socialism or communism. You’ll note that Sanders does not directly attack corporations or corporate power, instead preferring to attack “millionaires and billionaires.”

Of course, the underlying reality of American politics is that both sides were just the two faces the power elite wanted to show the public. Left and Right represented the same narrow interests that see themselves as a visitors, like a colonizing army of space aliens, sent to earth to extract resources. They divided the natives by convincing some to support one of their tentacles, the state, while convincing others to support another tentacle, corporate power, which they also controlled.

The pitchmen hired to defend and promote this arrangement now find themselves in a quandary, as their audience is no longer buying the old lines. They are left to argue that the people have no natural interests. In fact, for the people to think they have collective interest is un-American and immoral. That is the gist of this David Brooks column about Bernie Sanders. The exact same vibe comes from his shadow, Kevin Williamson. Both agree that the people have no proper role in politics.

The thing that gives the game away in this call and echo session between Brooks and Williamson is this line that Williamson highlighted, “This is how populists of left and right are ruling all over the world, and it is exactly what our founders feared most and tried hard to prevent.” The Founders were certainly against mob rule, but they were just as opposed to minorityism, as well. In fact, they risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to oppose it.

As an another aside, the amusing bit of this is how Williamson remains the striving flunky, desperate to carry water for his betters. You would think his ejection from the Atlantic after one week would have opened his eyes a bit. Instead, he continues to toady up to people, who think he should use the servant’s entrance. His is the mentality of the house slave, convinced he is morally superior to the field hands, simply because the master treats him as well as he treats his favorite dog.

For his part, Brooks is shedding his skin and revealing his nature. He once passed himself off as a gentry conservative, the sort who opposed the Left on aesthetic grounds, rather than ideological ones. That was the gag he used to oppose Trump, along with the rest of the Saturday-off crowd. Now, he opposes Sanders, because he sees him as a threat to the system. Sanders legitimizes populism, which can only end one way for the outsider class currently in charge.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the outsider aesthetic is an important part of how the old framework was maintained. Brooks is not a conservative or a liberal in the way in which most Americans would think of it. He does not operate on the same scale, because he is does not see himself as an American. He is a Zionist, who places the interest of his people ahead of all else. His son served in the IDF, rather than the American military, something he surely learned at home.

This outsider aesthetic is an important part of the ruling class outlook. These people see themselves as apart from the rest of us. That separation from the grubby Dirt People is an important part of what defines a Cloud Person. Ridiculous toadies like Kevin Williamson lack the ability to pull it off, so they ape it with libertarianism and a smug, misplaced sense of superiority. It is a reactionary elitism that has no basis in merit, because it is the product of deception.

Reality is that thing that never goes away when you stop believing in it. The reality of human existence is that a society’s ruling class has one primary duty. That is, it must always protect the interests of their people. For a long time, this ruling elite was able to baffle the people with that old framing of politics. Like a Ponzi scheme that runs out of suckers, the current order is running out of people willing to sacrifice their interests so that Kevin Williamson can fetch the slippers of David Brooks.


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AFPAC Report

The first stop on my journey the America First gathering in Washington was the National Harbor, a pod-people colony just outside the capital. I pulled into the designated garage and found a spot on the designated floor. At the stated time the lights of a car not far from where I parked started to flash. I walked over, got in and found the directions to where I was to meet my interlocutor. The keys were in it so, I drove it to the address listed on the envelope.

Driving around the National Harbor, I could not help but think this place is the American equivalent of the house on the embankment. It is a colony of about 4,000 people, all of whom are there because they work in the imperial bureaucracy in some capacity. Some are “private sector” while others are government employees. They are not high up in the system but some could climb the party ranks. Others will spend forever as imperial functionaries until the revolution comes for them…

The AFPAC event was held outside the capital at a secret location in Virginia. I arrived as everyone else arrived and I could not help but notice that the average age of the event was looking to be high 20’s. The median age was not far from it. I was going to be the geezer in the room. This is something that is unavoidable, at least until the state commits me to a rest home. These rooms seem to get younger, but in reality I’m just getting older. The rooms don’t change all that much.

What does change though is the energy in the room. I’ve been in rooms full of young dissidents and it feels like a funeral. This room was jumping. It was also the sort of high quality people dissident politics needs to attract. These were young men who were comfortable in a jacket and tie. Based on my conversations, I would assume the typical attendee was middle to upper middle-class and a college grad. In other words, they had other options, but chose dissident politics.

A sign that something has traction is when famous people show up just to be in the audience for the event. Having a famous person speak is one thing. Getting them to sit with the hoi polloi in the audience is another thing. Gavin McInnes was there, socializing with everyone. Various internet personalities were there like Baked Alaska, Roosh the Little Red Elephants guy and the Ralph Retort guy. Like everyone else, they were there because they wanted to be part of the scene…

One of the positive things about this scene is the young guys really do seem to get that politics is not about being right, but about being persuasive. What killed the alt-right, one thing among many, is they had the political sophistication of teenagers. You still see it with the remnant of the alt-right. They hate on a kid like Fuentes, because he does not go hard on their issue. They can’t see past their own feelings and appreciate that Fuentes and his following are doing useful work.

That’s something I picked up talking with attendees. My guess is most are to the right of Fuentes and Malkin, but they appreciate that the two of them are a useful face to the public they are trying to persuade. There was no one in the room thinking they were living in Weimar Germany. Many, despite their youth, knew they were picking up from the Buchanan movement which came and went before most of them were born, much less politically aware. They know their history.

That is, however, the one thing that kept coming to mind as I chatted with the attendees and listened to the speeches. It felt like a room during the Buchanan campaign or how it felt during the Reagan years. Those rooms were bigger and had all the same energy, but the result was failure. The reason was what Sam Francis noted forty years ago about what he then called the New Right. As soon as you engage with the system, you agree to play by its rules. The house never loses.

Maybe that is a favor the Left is doing for dissidents. More than a few people said to me something along the lines that we cannot vote our way out of this. I don’t think these guys see conventional politics as an end in itself, but just one of the many tools to be used in the larger project of building an alternative orthodoxy. They don’t have a lot of answers on that front, but at least they get it. That puts them a big step ahead of the Buchanan people and the paleocons a generation ago…

Michelle Malkin is a good example of why civic nationalism must inevitably lead to someone like Ben Shapiro lecturing you about the creedal nation. Her speech was pretty much what Ben Shapiro says, except she strongly opposes immigration and what she calls globalism. For obvious reasons, Malkin must argue on ideological grounds, rather than from nature. Her brand of dissident politics must be open to everyone, who accepts the ideological points of her program.

It’s one of those things that sounds good in theory, but in reality it is impossible to police ideological borders. The Left has been trying to solve that puzzle since the French Revolution and it always ends in disaster. The right-wing effort at it led to Buckley conservatism and eventually David French. For now, ideology and argument are the tools required to win people to our side, but ultimately the goal must be boundaries that do not require constant maintenance…

Listening to Fuentes speak, I was thinking about how this spasm of white identity politics has mirrored previous iterations. The alt-right split in two. One group is seeking to operate above ground and gain legitimacy. The other group retreated into a self-imposed ghetto. The TRS crowd is really just a younger version of the old Stormfront community that formed up after the Buchanan movement. Go back further and it is a replay of the Bircher-Buckley split.

Fundamentally, these splits are over presentation. The “optics” side cannot fathom why the hardcore cannot understand the need to make a good presentation. The hardcore cannot understand why the optics guys don’t see the dangers of compromise. Both sides are right, but both sides have always failed. The hardcore ends up in something similar to a cult and the optics guys get gobbled up by the system. There really needs to be a different approach to this in order to avoid a repeat of the past…

After the event, all of us retired to the Trump International for drinks. It was packed, so everyone ended up at another bar. Word must have got out that a 100-plus dissidents were loose in the city, as many of the CPAC people started to turn up. Mike Cernovich arrived to little fanfare. My old friend Mindy Robinson was there. She was disappointed that the bar did not have a pole for her to swing on, so she picked a fight with another women and was escorted out by police…

Spend time in the Capital and you quickly understand why these people are so divorced from our reality. It is a company town. We are not ruled by a class of people so much as by a village of aliens. Everything about their lives is in the Imperial Capital and the surrounding suburbs. They work, socialize, mate and reproduce all in the insulated world of Washington. Not only that, it is a great life. The nightlife is fun. The work pays well and demands very little. It’s like a fantasy world.

That’s the trouble though. I was telling some people about when I was walking around Saint Petersburg and suddenly grasped why people rise up and smash their rulers in a bloody revolution. It’s not because they are cruel or they have so much and the people have so little. That is a part of it, for sure, but the real spark is the indifference. The people in Washington, living off the imperial system, simply don’t care about what goes on outside the imperial capital. We don’t matter…

On final note. Patrick Casey is proving to be a very effective organizer. He’s not flashy and he has no illusions about what he is doing. He put together a first class event that came off without a hitch. The jury is still out on Fuentes, but he is young and he is smart to partner with Casey. They make a very good team. I’ll also note that Scott Greer was a great addition to the show. His speech was a great lead-in to Fuentes and Malkin. He’s an example of the high quality people we need to attract.


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Never Forget

This month was the 40th anniversary of the United States Olympic hockey team beating the Soviets and winning the gold medal. The sports channels have done some segments on it, bringing back some of the young men, who are now old men, to talk about their experiences. Some of the players have shown up with Trump out on the campaign trail. The movie Miracle on Ice, a “fact-based” depiction of what happened with that team is getting replayed on the various services.

The win over the Soviets is one of the greatest upsets in sports history. That’s not an overstatement based in nostalgia or latent patriotism. The Russians were the best hockey team on the planet and it was not close. They had won everything for twenty years and had not lost to the Americans since 1960. They had done a barnstorming tour of the NHL the year before and beat several NHL teams handily. Any team beating them in that Olympics was going to need a miracle.

The Americans, in contrast, were college kids assembled for the tournament. Younger people cannot appreciate this, but at the time there was some national pride in the fact that America relied on amateurs in the Olympics. “The only reason the Russians do so well is they are using professionals” was a common refrain. It had the added benefit of being true. The Soviet bloc countries used full-time athletes, who did nothing other than train for their sport. They were professionals.

To put it in perspective, imagine a college team today beating a team of NHL all-stars or an amateur golfer winning a major tournament. Think of some implausible combination of events in your favorite sport and you have an approximation of the enormity of this upset of the Russians. The American team averaged twenty-two years old. They had played together for a couple of months. The average Russian player had been on the team ten years. It was literally men against boys.

Of course, the reason it still resonates with Americans old enough to remember the event is the cultural and political impact. Carter was still president and the country was in a deep spiritual depression. The nation’s leaders regularly talked about how the good times were over and it was all downhill for America. We were just going to have to get used to be losers. After the disastrous 1960’s and 1970’s, that really did not strike most people as wrong. America had killed itself.

More importantly, there was a sense, promulgated by the Left at the time, that the Soviets were on the winning side of history. Communism was on the advance, while capitalism was on the defense. The number of countries falling under the spell of communism was increasing. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan and the Iranians had made a mockery of American power. It is hard to believe it in hindsight, but serious people really did think it was over for America.

I was a boy in that time and I recall my grandfather telling me that I’d surely live long enough to see communism in America. He’d talk about the number of countries that had gone over to that side. He’d point out the nature of the American Left and how it was mostly focused on destroying the white middle-class. He would say, “Communism is a war on the middle, waged by those at the top using us at the bottom.” His opinion was not out of the ordinary for the time.

The Americans beating the Russians and then beating Finland to capture the gold was a transformative event. All of a sudden. everyone had a reason to be proud and more important, be proud in public. It was a great example of the cascading effect. Everyone suddenly realized that lots of other people harbored the same thoughts as they did about the state of things. Those chants of “U-S-A” still bring chills to anyone old enough to have watched that Olympics. It was amazing.

Young people today get mad at old people for hanging onto the old civic nationalism, thinking they are just deliberately obtuse. There is some of that, for sure, but the real magnetic power of civic nationalism is patriotism. The feeling people had in the days following that win over the Russians was the best thing most American had ever experienced as Americans. Everyone was talking about it. “Can you believe we beat the Russians” was said over and over in joyous disbelief.

Those old enough to remember that time and what it was like to feel genuine love of country, should be forgiven for not wanting to close the door on it. There are few things that rival the bliss that comes from genuine national pride. Not only wanting that feeling for yourself, but for your descendants is not unreasonable. Preferring to look back to when such a thing was plausible, rather to a future of angry caterwauling by ungrateful browns, is perfectly understandable.

Old people should not be so quick to condemn the young people for mocking Baby Boomers or criticizing civic nationalism. At the root of that mockery is a bitterness at knowing they can never experience what their ancestors experienced. There will be no miracle on ice for the young. The social capital that made such a thing possible was converted into money and traded away by global capitalism. They have a right to be bitter over what their ancestors bequeathed them.

For those of us young at the time, this anniversary is a reminder of the strange divide in our timelines. One side of the timeline is the before times, when being a patriotic America was exhilarating. Then there is the after times, the now times, when such feelings seem absurd. Looking back over that great divide to this particular event is a strange feeling, because it’s like remembering yourself as a foreigner, living in a strange and foreign land. Your past is now alien to you.

That is the duty of those who have made the journey over the great divide to dissident politics, but still remember when the other side had promise. The America that made possible the miracle on ice had promise. It could have been a great nation. Instead, the people in charge chose to leverage our patriotism, monetize our social capital, so a handful of alien money-changers could turn themselves into potentates. They can never be forgiven for what they have taken from us. Never forget.


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