Rugged Individual Sociopaths

Imagine in a discussion about the sex abuse that goes on in Hollywood, someone said, regarding the victims of the abuse, “I guess I’m meant to cry tears of sympathy for all of these people who were molested. Somehow I just can’t muster a single tear. You made your choices. Nobody put a gun to your head.” That would no doubt elicit gasps and a good deal of the familiar point and sputter. If nothing else, people are expected to show a little empathy for the victims of predators, especially when it is kids or young adults.

Empathy is essential to a high-trust society. It allows people to cooperate, rather than spend their time defending themselves from others in society. Empathy allows people to engage with others, trusting that the other side is acting in good faith and not trying to cheat the other party. It makes it possible to engage in things like charity and social improvement. When you can put yourself in the mind of a person outside your kin-group, share their feelings about things, cooperative society is possible.

It’s why liars and cheaters can never be tolerated. Their actions put the trust of society into question, which means their lack of empathy costs everyone. In some respects, the lack of empathy is worse than the crime itself. A man who kills another man in a dispute, but feels remorse, can be rehabilitated. A man who steals from another man and is unable to understand why it is wrong or celebrates his act, can never be rehabilitated and can never be a part of society. He can never be trusted, because he lacks empathy.

This basic insight into the nature of society has been a central element of the Western Right since de Maistre. It was always the radical that imagined human society as based entirely on self-interest. Humans would either cooperate because it worked to their advantage or not cooperate because it was to their advantage. Humans were infinity selfish and altruism was just a consequence of society and culture. Therefore, set the conditions of society just right and people will cooperate with one another.

The Right has always rejected that, until recently. The quote at the start of this post is a variation of this tweet from Matt Walsh. He is, according to his handlers, “a writer, speaker, author, and one of the religious Right’s most influential young voices.” In addition to that, they claim “He is known for boldly tackling the tough subjects and speaking out on faith and culture in a way that connects with his generation and beyond.” In reality, he is reproducing official dogma for the Official Right, what remains of it.

What that tweet reveals is that Official Conservatism™ thinks it is perfectly fine for sophisticated parties to prey on unsophisticated parties. In his case, it suggests the religious Right would be OK with the strong preying on the weak, as in the example at the start of the post. After all, pederasty is by definition a crime because one party, the adult, is sophisticated, while the other party, the young person, is not. Therefore, it is assumed they cannot bargain in the sexual marketplace on fair and equal terms.

Now, there is nothing in the writing of Matt Walsh to suggest he is in favor of pederasty, but there is no reason to think he would oppose it. After all, if he is so utterly lacking in empathy that he cannot muster even a bit of sympathy for people saddled with egregious school debt, his fitness for society is in question. His brand of flamboyant sociopathy is what we would expect from a serial predator or maybe a banker. You have to wonder what is wrong with someone who is so proudly callous toward his fellow citizens.

This is exactly why Official Conservatism™ is headed for the dustbin of history. It no longer offers a philosophical alternative to radicalism. Instead, it embraces the same callous and materialist view of society as the radicals. It starts from the premise that we are just random strangers flung together by serendipity, ruthlessly trying to advance our self-interest. The only difference between the radical and the so-called conservative is the former still thinks this can be remedied, while the latter embraces it.

A civil society is one in which the individuals naturally balance their interests against the interests of the whole. Popular government assumes this to be true. The people will debate and persuade one another about the proper balance. A democratic society composed of sociopaths quickly descends into gang warfare, where ever-shifting alliances of individuals makes war upon one another in a zero-sum game, ruthlessly exploiting the available resources. That’s a prison yard, not a high-trust society.

That’s why people with a soul should look at the student debt problem with sympathy and horror. It’s not just that these kids are saddled with debt. It’s that they and their parents are being preyed upon by sophisticated parties, with the aid and protection of the state. It is a form of economic piracy, in which the crown is quietly supporting the pirates, at the expense of the people’s commerce. Conservatives have always rejected this. Christians have always rejected this. Today, the “religious right” embraces it.

This inability to comprehend the basic building blocks of Western society is also why they cannot understand how open borders are a disaster. For someone like Matt Walsh, people are interchangeable, not only with one another, but with other economic units. In the materialist world view, social capital matters only in that it can be exploited for economic gain. In the zero-trust, Hobbesian world of the modern conservative, the greater the diversity, the greater the openness, which makes exploitation easier.

Authentic conservatism has always understood that Western society is built on trust and trust comes naturally to the familiar. Our greatest natural empathy is toward our family and then our kin group. From there is extends, but weakens, to those who look and sound like our kin. It breaks down entirely when it reaches those who are alien in appearance, speech, and custom. Therefore, high-trust societies can only exist in societies with a shared heritage and a shared biology. Diversity and trust are mutually exclusive.

The Citizen In A Democratic Empire

When most people think of citizenship, they think of their nation’s constitution or the rights guaranteed to them in the law. They will think of their obligations to their country, like paying taxes, obeying the law and defending the nation. In the West, a citizen is pretty much as the dictionary defines it, “a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to protection from it.” It is a reciprocal set of obligations in the law, animated by a sense of duty by both the rulers and the ruled.

Additionally, at least in America, citizenship comes with a belief in equality between the people and the office holders. Every American grows up hearing that anyone can be President. The House of Representatives is known as the people’s house, because it was designed to not only represent the people, but be populated by representatives from the people. In other words, the citizens are ruled by their fellow citizens, not strangers or hired men paid by strangers. You can only be a citizen in your nation.

In the post-national world, that old definition of citizen no longer works. In a world where foreign people can just move in, claim the benefits and protections from the government, citizenship loses all value. At the same time, the state is increasingly alien to the people over whom it rules. In the European Union, the people are no longer ruled by their national governments, as all of the big decision are made in Brussels. In America, political offices are increasingly being filled by exotic weirdos with no connection to the natives.

The question then is what does it mean to be a citizen in a democratic empire?

The most obvious thing about the new citizen in the new post-national world is that the relationship between the citizen and the state is transactional. The state looks at the people as assets and liabilities. Theirs is a custodial role. The people that serve the interests of the state are treated differently from the people who depend on the state for their existence. It is a corporate relationship, except that people cannot be fired, so the useless ones will be stashed away while the productive are put to work.

Similarly, the citizen looks at his government in terms of what it can provide to him. He owes the state no more than he owes the coffee shop. The rules promulgated by the state are to be navigated around, rather than respected. If the rules work for the citizen or his group, the law is supported by the citizen or his group. On the other hand, if the law is an obstacle, then the law is subverted or ignored. In a post-national world, respect to the spirit of the law makes no more sense than having loyalty to a country.

This means that patriotism has no role in the democratic empire. Loyalty to your country only works if you actually have a country. The residue of patriotism will last for a while, as people will still think of their neighbors and friends as their countrymen, but in time, as those people are replaced by strangers, patriotism will disappear. In a transactional world populated by stranglers, your primary loyalty cannot be to the state, as it is just as much a stranger to you as the new neighbors, who just moved in from over the horizon.

The sterile transactionalism is already evident. Consider the change in relationship between employers and their workers. Everywhere in America, employment is at-will, which means an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason. Further, local business is atrophying as global enterprise monopolizes the marketplace. It used to be local business was a part of every community, sponsoring little leagues and charity drives. You’ll never see your kid’s little league sponsored by Google or Amazon.

Of course, this will have unforeseen consequences. For example, the military will no longer be able to rely on patriotism for recruitment. Since no one is a citizen in the old sense, the military stops being a citizen military. Instead, it takes on the characteristics of a mercenary army. The decision to join is no different than the decision to take one job over another. This will also apply to the police. The cops will no longer be citizens protecting and serving their community. They become free range prison guards.

Humans are social animals so the loss of national and regional identity means something will replace it. In a transactional world where everyone is a civic stranger, the old fashioned loyalties will become more important. Family, community, and tribe will be the only identities that have meaning. Again, we see the beginnings of this with the administrative layer of the managerial class. Those FBI agents plotting to overturn the 2016 elections were motivated by the emerging new identity politics.

That’s the thing that gets overstated in discussion of identity politics. The old identities will surely play a role, like race, ethnicity, and religion. New tribes resulting from the post-national relationships will emerge. The managerial state will begin to fracture and balkanize, as the rival power centers begin to jockey for power. Again, this can be seen in the obstruction of the Trump agenda by career bureaucrats in the government. They have become their own tribe and they have become class aware.

This paradise comes with a cost. Nations hold together for the same reason communities hold together. The social capital, those invisible bonds between people, breathe life into the organizing structure. Patriotism and civic duty are what animate the republic. Duty to king and the people is what animates a monarchy. This social capital is what binds the rulers to the ruled. In a highly transactional world, where social capital has been monetized or pushed to the margins, something else must animate the system.

That something else must be force driven by the self-interest of the people occupying positions in the power centers. We see some of that with the censorship campaigns by the tech giants and banks. This will become more overt until everyone has a natural hostility to everyone outside their social group. The cost of maintaining order will increase, but the means for imposing order will increase the cost of imposing that order. The empire will have no choice but to become more ruthless in its dealings.

If one wants to a preview of the post-national world, look at Lebanon. Every hill and every valley is its own nation, so to speak. Groups of the same religious sect or political persuasion can form temporary alliances, but Lebanon is not a coherent country with a common purpose. It’s just a place on the map with meaning only to those completely removed from the realities of Lebanese life. The future citizens will highly local and covetous of the small benefits he and his group can extract from the whole.

The Fifth Columnists

Imagine you are an antiquarian who specializes in obscure books. You like the odd stuff that focuses on folktales and legends. After a while, you start to notice some similarities between legends that should not be connected. Maybe they came from different time periods are different parts of Europe. You get curious and after years of research you establish four main categories of this particular legend. There’s overlap between all of them, but none of them are exactly like any of the other three.

One possible explanation is that each set of authors borrowed from the previous authors, but added and removed material to fit their audience. On closer inspection, you can’t see how any of these authors had access to one another’s work. That and two were contemporaries, but separated from one another by a great distance. While it was possible they borrowed from one another, it is highly improbable. Instead, the most likely answer is they were working form a common source, some unknown body of work.

Those familiar with biblical scholarship will recognize where this is going. Most Bible scholars have come to believe that the solution to the question of the specific literary relationship among the three synoptic gospels is they relied upon an as yet undiscovered source or sources. They have constructed what that source would look like by careful comparison of the three Gospels, to catalog their similarities and differences. The term they use for the source is the Q Document, that may or may not have existed.

Discovery through inference is a useful skill for understanding the world, because we are usually presented with incomplete evidence. In the case of biblical scholars, their understanding the provenance of the Gospels would be simple if the writers had used end notes, hyperlinks and direct quotations. That’s not the case, so they have to “recreate” the missing data in the same way one figures out the shape of the missing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle. You fit everything else in place and examine the gaps.

That’s a useful way of thinking about these waves of fake scandal stories that are becoming a feature of the Trump era. On the surface, they look like what we used to call tabloid news or what we now call fake news. The “reporters” take some information and frame in such a way it takes on a whole new sinister meaning or they salt some fantasy they are peddling with unrelated facts to make it seem plausible. The headline makes one claim, but the body of the report fails to deliver the goods.

There’s some truth to that, but there are facts that don’t fit that narrative. For example, the main organs of the media are often silent on these things until they run their course. For example, instead of running with the BuzzFeed story, the main stream sites showed a great deal of wariness. Even CNN was skeptical. Part of it had to do with the fact that the authors were, as Columbia Journalism Review out it, “serial fabulists.” Still, CNN has never been afraid to make up the news, so it was odd that they were skeptical.

Then there is something else. The NeverTrump loons dropped all of their other subversive activities in order to push this story on social media. Confirmed plagiarist Jonah Goldberg was still pushing it even after the Mueller people knocked it down. As far as Goldberg is concerned, the story is true, even if it is false. The odious carbuncle John Podhoretz was working his greasy little fingers raw pushing the story on Twitter. Of course, the pope of the neocon fifth columnists, Bill Kristol, is still pushing the story.

There’s also the ham-handed nature of this caper. Giving the story to a serial liar like Jason Leopold was bound to raise suspicion. Giving it to the tabloid like BuzzFeed is just asking for scrutiny as to the accuracy of the sourcing. If you’re trying to push a rumor, this is the wrong way to do it. The way to drop a story in the media is to find a low level reporters at the Washington Post or the New York Times and give them the scoop of the year. That’s how the professionals put a rumor into the system.

The one guy capable of being comically ham-handed when trying to undermine Trump is Bill Kristol. This is the guy with some sort of weird attraction to bald gentiles. He first pushed the mentally unstable David French as a primary opponent to Trump and then landed on Evan McMuffin, the guy with comically bulbous head. One has to assume that Mitt Romney is loading up on Gillette products so he can run as the bald alternative to Trump in the 2020 primary. Yes, Romney is that obsequious.

The point of this rambling post is that when you start to think about these endless waves of fake news about Trump, there seems to be a missing source. That is, the patterns suggest there is a piece of the puzzle missing. It’s just assumed the neocons all share the same thoughts about foreign policy for the obvious reason. Maybe what we are seeing is an active conspiracy. Maybe these guys are coordinating their efforts, while working at various news outlets and government posts.

It is certainly a cliché to call people like Bill Kristol a subversive, but clichés don’t spring from nothingness. They have some truth. We know he was involved in the fake dossier the FBI used to spy on the Trump campaign. How unrealistic is it to believe that this crew is the source of the endless waves of fake news about Trump? Further, how unrealistic is to think they are actively conspiring with one another? In other words, the missing piece to this puzzle is a wide ranging conspiracy of people with a shared interest.

The Post-Citizen World

Steve Sailer likes to promote an idea he calls citizenism, which is the general idea that a government should place the interests of its current citizens ahead of the interests of non-citizens or potential future citizens. It is pretty much what we call civic nationalism now, but a dozen years ago that meme did not exist, even though the concept has been with us since the founding of the country. The Founders certainly thought the point of government was to serve the interests of the current citizenry and their posterity.

Civic Nationalism is largely a reactionary idea today. Like various forms of socialism, it lacks a root system in the soil of the current culture. In a world in which people of European heritage are a tiny minority and increasingly minorities in their own lands, bourgeois notions of fair play and orderly debate are anachronism. We see that whenever a populist candidate or party wins power. The rules go out the window and the ruling elite goes to war with the rebels, using any means necessary to stop them.

An orderly debate about what is best for the citizens of a country is impossible because the people in the ruling elite of the West define themselves in opposition to the notion of citizenship. That’s what it means to be a post-nationalist Progressive. The whole point of it is to oppose those antiquated notions of citizenship. Those are exclusive and the new global person is open. Worse yet, citizenship is hierarchical, placing the interests of some over the interests of others. That’s probably racist.

You can get a sense of this in the response to Tulsi Gabbard’s decision to run for the Democrat nomination in 2020. Civic nationalists are programmed to think she is bad, because she makes unapproved noises about economics. They will no doubt says she is a socialist. That’s the result of being trapped in a forgotten era. None of that will matter to the people in charge, particularly those involved in Democrat politics. They see her as a threat to their conception of the new global citizen. Here’s an example.

“But Gabbard’s almost singular focus on the damage these wars inflict domestically, and her comparative lack of focus on the carnage they wreak in the countries under attack, is troubling. It is nationalism in antiwar garb, reinforcing instead of undercutting the toxic rhetoric that treats foreigners as less deserving of dignity than Americans.”

You’ll note two things that turn up in the Progressive criticism of Gabbard. One is her roots are inauthentic, as far as they are concerned. She does not have the appropriate struggle narrative. An essential element of the left-wing mindset is the assertion that only the oppressed have authenticity. Therefore, to assume a leadership position in the forever revolution of the oppressed, the leaders must have overcome oppression. Gabbard has lived the standard American middle-class life, so she can never be trusted.

The salient issue lies in that highlighted section. Gabbard’s opposition to fighting wars in the Middle East is pretty much the civic nationalist view. Those wars are not good for America or Americans. They may have some benefit to the ruling elite of the empire, but they have no benefit to Americans. Further, the people being sent to fight these wars are suffering for a cause that has no benefit to them. In other words, to sacrifice for your people is noble and heroic. To suffer for strangers is pointless.

To the ideological core of the ruling elite, this is an abnegation of who they are, which is why you will hear lots of “this is not who we are” in response to her over the coming months. Just as the Left refused to defend Sanders against attacks from the Buckley conservatives in 2016, the Left will stand silent as the warmongers of neoconservatism hint that Gabbard is an alt-right anti-semite. Her assumption that citizenship is a real thing implies that nations are real things and that’s unacceptable in a post-nationalist world.

This is why civic nationalism is a dead end movement. It’s trying to reanimate an Enlightenment concept that was killed off by the post-war cultural revolution of the last fifty years. Reviving the old notions of civic identity is about as promising as reviving the monarchy in Germany. Thinking about it is a nice escape for those struggling to face the reality of identity politics, but that’s all it is, a fantasy. The world created by the Left is a post-nationalist world and therefore a post-citizen world.

In fairness to the cosmopolitanism globalists, they are not wrong about citizenship having no place in the future West. It can continue on in the Visegrad countries that have escaped the migrant invasion, but even there it is more of a tribal response, an identity politics of an ethno-state, than civic nationalism. Otherwise, citizenship makes no sense in multicultural, multi-racial societies. Tribalism is not just part of the human condition, it is part of our biological reality, and therefore the future is some form of tribal politics.

Another glimpse of this will come from the alt-right, who will be enthusiastic supporters of Gabbard this year. They see her anti-war rhetoric as a sanitized version of their own opposition to Israel. In other words, there remains a great shallowness to the alt-right in these matters, but that shallowness is a glimpse of future politics. That is, who you are will be as much about who you oppose as who you support. Anyone familiar with the politics of Lebanon has a sense of what comes next for the multicultural democratic empire.

Enemy Of The People

There has never been a time when normal people did not know the media was biased and biased in a predictable direction. For every non-liberal in the media, there were at least ten liberals. The ratio was probably higher, but then, as now, some lefties liked to pretend they were independents or some third option. The media used to invest a lot of time denying they had a bias and an agenda, but the only people who believed them were on the Left, which had the odd effect of confirming they had a bias and an agenda.

The thing is though, the media seemed like it was biased in a predictable way. In the 1980’s, for example, the newspapers featured stories about the so-called homeless crisis on a weekly basis. That’s when we went from calling them bums to pretending their only problem was a lack of shelter. Once Clinton assumed power, the homeless stories disappeared. It was a running joke for a long time, because it was so obvious, but also because it was so predictable. Everyone got the joke, except Lefty.

As many have observed, the mask began to drop during the Clinton years when so many media members quit their jobs and went to work in the administration. It’s hard to maintain the illusion of independence when there is a revolving door between the media and left-wing political operations. That’s when CNN became known as the Clinton News Network, because they were so hilariously in the tank for them. Some tried to maintain the ruse, but any pretense of objectivity ended in the 1990’s.

Again, there was still a sense that it was just bias and that it was predictable and therefore you could adjust for it. Today, that does not appear to be the case. The mainstream media has become advocates, but not necessarily advocates for the Progressive base of the Democratic coalition. They seem to be serving the agendas of private parties operating off-stage. For example, sites like the Huffington Post and Daily Beast are about moral enforcement than news and current events.

The recent harassment of Alex McNabb by Antifa member Christopher Mathias is a great example of the phenomenon. The Huffington Post provides him with a cover identity as a reporter, but in reality someone else is paying his way. His job is as a witch hunter, looking for anyone in violation of the blasphemy laws. This is a strange new phenomenon that does not have a corollary in the past. Even Woodward and Bernstein were legitimate reporters, even if Woodward had deep connections to the intelligence community.

There’s an argument that this sort of religious advocacy is the natural result of the narrative journalism that evolved in the 1960’s and 1970’s. If you are going to report stories, the point is to inform. If you are going to spin tales, then the first goal is to entertain and there is nothing quite as a gripping as a morality tale. These doxing stories are just campfire tales for the hard thumping loons of the far Left. The point of them is to tell the reader that they must be vigilant, as heretics are everywhere.

That’s probably true, but what about stories like this one, where it is clear the New York Times now has a whole department involved in explicit political advocacy. That is a highly organized effort to alter public policy. More important, it is a long term project, going back to the Obama years. The New York Times posted a database of gun owners, with an accompanying map, in a campaign to terrorize gun owners. This goes well beyond bias and even past the morality tales spun by the Huffington Post.

It does not stop there. This story about the death of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi takes advocacy to another level. As an aside, the story is written by Lee Smith, who was fired from The Weekly Standard by Bill Kristol. His crime was having uncovered Kristol’s involvement in the fake dossier the FBI was using to subvert Trump. The story of Khashoggi’s life and death reads like a Hollywood spy thriller, but it was not a CIA caper. It was an operation apparently run by the the Washington Post.

We’ve come a long way from simple bias. The same media that can’t stop talking about Russian efforts to trick voters into voting the wrong way, was running a covert operation to trick the government into supporting Iran over Saudi Arabia. Unlike the Russians, the Washington Post actually killed someone or at least got someone killed. Unlike the Trump team, the Washington Post was actually working with a foreign country that is often viewed as hostile to American interests.

Trump started calling the media the “enemy of the American people” but he seems to have dropped it for some reason. Maybe the media threatened him. Given what we are seeing, how long before Washington Post reporters are planting car bombs and spiking drinks with polonium? Whether or not they see Americans as the enemy is hard to know, but they certainly don’t see themselves as on the same team as Americans. While they may not be the enemies of the people, they are a short bus ride to that position.

The End Of Nothing

Something that was quite clear at the end of the Cold War was that the Republican Party, without the Soviets as an enemy, was just a collection of unrelated groups. What held the GOP together, was a general opposition to communism. It was, at the simplest form, the party of patriotism, the weak form of nationalism that used to be the core of the American creed. That patriotism was, in large part, kept alive by the Cold War. The Soviet menace was a daily reminder that we had to stick together to defend our liberty.

What kept the GOP together, to a much greater degree, is what gave coherence to the Buckley Right. The thing that fused the various tribes on the Right together was external to all of them. They feared Soviet communism. To traditionalists and social conservatives, the godless materialism of communism was monstrous. To the libertarian capitalists, it was communist central planning. To the internationalists and expansionists, Soviet domination was the great menace they feared.

Once the Cold War ended, it was no longer obvious as to why the Republicans or conservatives should hang together, other than habit. The GOP first tried to recast itself as technocratic reformers, promising to make government more efficient. That was the general thrust of Gingrich-style politics. It was just a green eye-shade version of what came from the Democratic Leadership Council. Instead of pitching themselves as “new democrats” they would pitch themselves as “new republicans.”

This had an appeal to certain parts of the Buckley coalition as well. The libertarian wing was loaded with technocrats eager to try their hand at social planning. The Jack Kemp wing was sure that some tinkering in the tax and regulatory code would bring an era of boundless prosperity. Second generation neocons were eager to apply this same logic to international affairs. The Freedom Agenda was, when you think about, urban planning applied to the Middle East in order to save Israel.

All of this technocratic obscurantism concealed a fundamental truth about American conservatism, at least as far as the Buckley version. It was never a movement based in a core philosophy. It was just a buffet of rhetoric and policy positions borrowed from movements rejected by the Left. For example, if the Left had retained its Christian roots and enforced that morality, Evangelicals would be on the Left. Most are indifferent to economics. Their interest in foreign policy begins and ends with Israel.

No doubt, Christian readers would take exception to this, because they have been conditioned to believe Christianity is a right-wing phenomenon. That’s a carryover from the Cold War where the Left was identified with godless materialism. In America, the Left has its roots in Christianity. The 19th century reformers were all explicitly Christian and working from Christian morality. Go back and read the writings of abolitionists and it is clear they saw their movement as a Christian movement.

Similarly, the neocons have no obvious fit on the Right. Their worldview is the philosophy of Athens, while paleo-conservationism is the philosophy of Sparta. Conquering the world in order to make it safe for democracy was always on the American Left. It is what motivated the Wilsonian reformers and the New Deal radicals. It is what led Kennedy and Johnson to commit to a land war in Asia. The neocons were always a liberal tribe looking for a political home, not a philosophical one.

This reality of the American Right, that it is just a collection of misfit toys, was made plain in the reaction to Tucker Carlson great speech. If what he said was truly at odds with the core philosophy of the Right, the response would have reflected that. Instead, it was a grab bag of policy complaints (examples: here, here, here and here) The carrying on about Carlson questioning the sanctity of global capitalism strongly suggests these people don’t know why they believe what they believe. They’re just repeating lines from a hymnal.

Of course, this is not a revelation. It was obvious for a long time, but, again, it was papered over by the technocratic obscurantism of the libertarian wing and the Jewish liberation theology of the neocons. The Mitt Romney campaign of 2012 was like watching a robot read the lines of a rule book. No one could think of a reason why Mitt Romney should be president or why his party even existed. His campaign was a collection of slogans recycled from old copies of National Review.

That’s the reality of Buckley conservatism. It was always just a catechism of convenience that gave disparate groups a set of rules so they could work in concert. Over time, it became a racket and repeating those lines correctly became the secret handshake of those working in Conservative Inc.. As an organizing philosophy, it offers nothing, because it promises to do nothing. It’s just a list of reasons why a group of strangers with nothing in common should vote for more of the same.

The Active Citizens

Recently, I have been getting hammered with spam calls on my mobile phone. These are robo calls for various scams. One that comes daily is for some green energy scheme that promises to save me 50% off my electric bill. Another is a call from “your credit card company” that starts with “Don’t hang up.” I always hang up. The frequency of calls has reached the point where I no longer bothering answering my cell. I’ve turned the volume down to zero and check the log once in a while to see if anyone I know called.

This is a recent issue. I’ve had the same number for a long time that I registered with the do not call registry. I have no idea if that works, but the lack of spam calls had me thinking it must have worked until recent. Out of curiosity I went to the site for the FTC to see if maybe that service had been discontinued. It turns out that it still exists, but the web site is down, supposedly because of the government shutdown. That’s not a joke. Here’s the link and they posted the notice in Spanish, for the convenience of Mexican users.

Now, it would surprise no one to learn that a government website is really just a facade and that web requests are being handled by a person, who types the response to each query. You can just imagine an army of Winston Smith’s typing web responses and noting unapproved activity. That’s certainly not the case here. The bureaucrats in the FTC thought this was a bold statement. In reality it is just the petty nonsense that goes on with the administrative state. They put that up to spite the public.

This small little incident I’m describing is a microcosm of what’s wrong in the country. The FTC website should not exist. There’s no need for a do-not-call registry. The government could simply make the telephone companies responsible for the abuse that goes on with telemarketers. The phone companies would then demand the government pass laws that discourage these scams. The phone system operators would then aggressively police their networks and turn the scammers over to the state.

That does not happen, of course. The idea of the government doing things to make daily life easier on the citizens is so alien to us now, that the very suggestion of it is met with howls of protest. That is, after all, what happened when Tucker Carlson suggested the people in charge start worrying about the happiness of the public. The shrieking and gasping at such blasphemy around the Imperial Capital was deafening. No one in the ruling class, or their attendants, thinks the government owes us anything.

The paleocon formulation for this is anarcho-tyranny. This is when the state is no longer able to do the basics of government, like going after phone scammers. That’s the anarchy part. On the other hand, the state is more than happy to hassle citizens over petty rules and regulations. That’s the tyranny. It’s true in a lot of ways and certainly applies to local government. That’s not all of it though. There’s a growing hostility to the idea of people expecting their government to be responsive to the public.

That’s the core of the immigration debate, when you examine it. One side still thinks it is the duty of government to protect the borders and enforce the immigration laws. More important, they expect the government to put the general welfare of the American people ahead of the interests of foreigners. Sure, some immigration is fine, as long as they assimilate and become an asset. In other words, immigration is just another public policy and the right policy is the one that serves the interests of the citizens.

The other side thinks the only reason anyone wants to limit immigration is to protect losers who can’t compete with the newcomers. After all, only losers want the government to protect them from competition. David French calls it victim-politics. In other words, if you think the people in charge are not doing their duty to look out for the interests of their fellow citizens, you’re a crybaby and loser. It’s amazing, but a guy who has spent his life on the government teat thinks his class owes you nothing.

In other words, we have gone past the old anarcho-tyranny formulation into a new phase where the ruling class can’t be bothered to do anything. In fact, they are offended by the very suggestion that they have a duty to the rest of us. Carlson is going through an advertiser boycott because he had the temerity to suggest that maybe the people in charge are not doing their duty. All the beautiful people are rushing to social media to defend billion dollar global corporations against a guy who says stuff on TV.

Of course, the pettiness of the administrative state and the hostility to the idea of responsive government have the same root cause. The ruling class no longer see the rest of us as being citizens in the way they are citizens. We know have active citizens and passive citizens. The former is for members of the managerial class and the latter is for the rest of us. Active citizens get to talk about what kind of country they want and how the government will achieve it. Passive citizens just sit quietly in the cheap seats.

That’s why they are so offended by Trump and the surge in populism. They see it as a something like a slave revolt. It’s not the material inconvenience. It is the moral effrontery of the hoi polloi daring to question them. That’s the reason the FTC site is down. The people who did that think they are doing us a favor. They are offended and probably bewildered as to why this is happening. They are so divorced from the rest of us, we may as well be space aliens or wild creatures living in the forest.

This is why reform is hopeless. It’s not that “the deep state” is secretly gaming the system to their advantage. There’s nothing secret here. The sorts of reform needed would have no material impact on our rulers. The reason reform is hopeless is they now define themselves in opposition to the rest of us. They no longer see themselves as our fellow citizens. Rather, they see us as a threat to their status as active citizens. Anything that blurs the lines between us and them, must be opposed, on principle.

The NeoCon Persuasion

The late Irving Kristol, considered the godfather of neoconservatism, said his project was “to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy.” Kristol further went on to describe his vision as uniquely America, despite the fact it had no roots in American history. The implication was that neoconservatism would be the new Right of the new America ruled by the new ruling class.

It was a rare example of honesty from a collection of intellectuals and advocates seemingly incapable of candor. In recent times, people like Bill Kristol argued in private that the wars in the Middle East were for the benefit of Israel, while in public he claimed it was a vital American Interest. At the same time, neocons pushed for the importation of Muslims, many from lands bombed in neocon wars. The predictable consequences were then offered as an excuse for more wars.

Going abroad to find monsters to slay and then inviting their orphans into America looks like madness, rather than a new ruling ideology. The inability to grasp this obvious problem suggests the neocon persuasion is built on a foundation of self-deception and decorated with a perfidy of convenience. The former is the natural affliction, while the latter is the effort to remedy it. That or what it takes to be a neoconservative is an endless well of shameless disregard for how others judge your integrity.

While it is possible that neoconservatism is a cult that attracted high-functioning sociopaths, the more plausible answer is these people have a long developed lack of self-awareness. The inability to make an honest appraisal of themselves and their coevals creates a massive blind spot in which they are always standing. In righteous indignation they accuse others of crimes the neocons have fully embraced. A good recent example of this is the latest post from Jonah Goldberg.

The tag line of his post, under a picture of President Trump, is “The problem conservatism faces these days is that many of the loudest voices have decided to embrace the meanness while throwing away the facts.” The obvious point he is making is that Trump and his supporters are a bunch of unthinking meanies. This is a popular refrain from the neocons, who fashion themselves as intellectuals, despite working from a small inventory of talents. Their critics are just stupid meanies.

The general thrust of the Goldberg post is strangely similar to what we have always heard from the left side of the Progressive orthodoxy. That is, their side is dealing in facts and reason, doing so in a sober minded fashion. The other side, in contrast, is dumb and enraging in the worst sorts of behavior. Goldberg is doing this while he calls the writer Chris Buskirk stupid and dishonest for the crime of pointing out that neoconservatism is headed to the dustbin of history.

Of course, what vexes Goldberg about the critics of neoconservatism is not their tone or their handling of facts. It is the personal insult. Neoconservatism is more like a tribe at this point, where the lines between individual identity and group identity are blurred. Goldberg is lashing out at Buskirk, because he sees his observations about his tribe as a personal insult. Again, this has been a feature of the left side of the Progressive orthodoxy since before Gettysburg. Politics is always personal.

There’s also the fact that Goldberg has been an egregious smear merchant for a long time. He invested a lot of time talking about Trump and the KKK during the 2016 primaries, hoping the implication would stick. He has worked hard to associate the critics of neoconservatism with neo-Nazis and white supremacists, mostly as a distraction in order to avoid addressing the dreadful consequences of neoconservatism. Goldberg is the neoconservative version of David Brock.

A sleazy dimwit like Goldberg accusing anyone of being mean spirited or stupid reveals a breathtaking lack of self-awareness. That is the very essence of the neoconservative, when you look at the shabby cast of characters flying the flag. Bill Kristol has been wrong about everything for decades, yet he shamelessly waddles around lecturing everyone, as if he is brilliant wise man. A normal man, possessing even a shred of decency, would be in hiding now if he had the record of Bill Kristol.

This strange lack of self-awareness revealed in the words of Irving Kristol when he wrote, “Neoconservatism is the first variant of American conservatism in the past century that is in the “American grain.” It is hopeful, not lugubrious; forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not grim or dyspeptic.” Nothing about that is true in the least, but even now, in the bitter twilight of their final days, they continue to claim they are the happy warriors in the political fight.

In reality, the neocon persuasion was always a bitter reaction to having lost the struggle with their more radical coevals on the Left. Neoconservatism is a great example of the “elaborate, plausible, and intellectually very challenging systems that do not, in fact, have any truth content.” At its heart was always an irrationality born out of frustration at having been shut out of the Progressive elite. If the paleocons were the beautiful losers, as Sam Francis put it, then the neocons were the ugly losers.

American Cicero

In an apocryphal exchange between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Fitzgerald said, “The rich are different from you and me.” To this Hemingway replied, “Yes, they have more money.” This gets repeated a lot, because it tickles the egalitarian sensibilities of most Americans. A big part of what has kept America together since the Civil War is the myth that ours is a classless society. Some people have more money and power than others, but that’s entirely due to merit, not class and connections.

Like the exchange itself, this belief is completely false. Every society has an elite and that elite uses its influence and connections to perpetuate itself. The daughters of rich guys marry the sons of influential guys. Their children are groomed to take up positions in the elite, mostly due to their family connections in the elite. Just as important, a floor is placed under members of the elite, protecting them from reversion to the mean. It’s how the Kennedy family has been in politics for four generations, despite their deficiencies.

What used to be unique about the American elite is they had a strong connection to the rest of America. This is a big, continent sized country, composed of man nations. That regional diversity, which is driven by biological diversity, made for a national elite that was really just a collection of local elites. This greatly reduced the distance between the elites and those over whom they ruled. Therefore, the American elite tended to be less elite, relative the Europe, and much more connected to the people.

In this interview on C-Span, Tucker Carlson explains some of the themes in his book and how he had this epiphany about what is happening in America. It’s an amazingly frank interview about how he and his fellow elites know pretty much nothing about the country over which they rule. At around the seven minute mark, he makes the point that he and his neighbors don’t know things like how much gasoline costs. The reason is, they have lots of money and the price of staples is simply unimportant.

Carlson is in many respects, a throwback. He’s what the WASP elite used to be like in previous generations. That is, he grew up in privilege, but had plenty of exposure to the common people and developed some common habits. In that same interview, he mentions that Claiborne Pell drove a beat up old car, despite being from old money. It was partially an affectation, but it was also a sensibility. American elites not only did not want to look like elites, they wanted to make sure they were a responsible elite.

That’s the interesting thing about Carlson’s book. It’s being bought and read by the hoi polloi, but it is aimed at his neighbors in Georgetown. It is a warning to them that they better start paying attention to what’s happening on the other side of the great cultural wall that separates us and them. What’s even more interesting is the people who should be reading it, are not reading his book. Instead they are attacking Carlson for it. They want his severed hands to be put on display in the Capitol rotunda.

The fact is, the Trump phenomenon is showing that the time for reform has passed and whatever comes next is unavoidable. That’s a truth about all reform efforts. Once a reform effort gets going, it is almost always too late for reform to work. The entrenched interests are too strong to overcome. Democracy moves quickly from a point where corruption is too minor to be of any concern to a place where corruption is too rampant for the system to confront it. Systemic failure is the core code of democracy.

You see this in late empire America. The ruling elite is composed of many parts, none of which has a reason to care about public welfare. The so-called deep-state is thoroughly beholden to global interests, many of whom are foreign. The semi-permanent administrative state is composed of people who hold the rest of us in contempt and people happy to not be subjected to the vagaries of the dreaded private sector. The mass media is a collection of propagandists and court jesters, mostly stupid rich kids.

The political class is always the main focus of reform, which is why many Americans are flirting with the sort of radicalism circulating in dissident politics. These well trained actors run for office on well-designed appeals to bourgeois sensibilities, then immediately begin speaking in tongues when they get to Washington. To follow modern politics, as a normal person, is to see the movie They Live over and over, thinking there can be a different ending, that the aliens will come around to our side.

The reason for this is the political class is just a collection of hired men. The plutocrats, who control both parties and the administrative state, have found that it is a lot easier to hire actors to stand in for them in office. That means every election, the choice is between two actors hired by the same people, playing different carefully scripted roles. When they get to Washington, they are given a different script. It is why so many of them are quite dumb. Stupid people don’t ask too many tough questions.

The defining feature of our modern elites is that a big part of who they are, their sense of identity, comes from not being us. The cultivated contempt from FBI functionaries like Peter Strzok and Lisa Page is part of the dress code of these people. In the same way a rich guy will sport an understated, but expensive watch or article of clothing, the people who rule over us wear a contempt for Americans, especially white Americans. The dying white middle-class is especially despised by the administrative state.

This is why reform is impossible. We see this with Trump and we would have seen it if Bernie Sanders had scored the upset. It’s not about the old ideological framework. It is about the new cultural framework. The people who rule over us see themselves as different from us, at war with us. They are defined by that sense. While it is amusing to see Carlson play the jocular Cicero role, it is important to remember the fate of Cicero as Rome succumbed to authoritarianism. No one should buy him gloves for Christmas.

The Coming Crisis

In a crisis, people either turn to their institutions or they turn to their leaders to provide a path forward through the emergency. This is especially true when the path forward is waiting out the emergency. People respect action, so they have to have faith in their leaders if the right course is patience. Alternatively, if the leaders and institutions are not up to the task, then the people turn on each other.The French Revolution is the perfect example of what happens when leaders and institutions fail in a crisis.

It has been a long time since American faced a real crisis. The closest we came to anything major was the financial crisis a decade ago. For people foolish enough to take on the crazy mortgages, it was a very real emergency, but for most people it was more of an abstraction than a real crisis. Unemployment ticked up and the stock market took a header, but it was not the Great Depression. There was a concern, for sure, that the wheels were about to come off the cart, but it never materialized.

Of course, one could say that the leaders and institutions stepped in and guided the country through the crisis. People tend not to think of the Federal Reserve as an essential institution, but it is probably the most important part of government now. The head of the central bank is every bit as important as the President. In fact, he may be more important, as we saw with Greenspan and George Bush. An overly tight monetary policy led to a slight downturn in the economy at just the right time to sink the Bush election bid.

In 2008, the world was lucky to have a Fed chairman, who had prepared his whole life for such an event, and a very weak political class. Bush was near the end of his reign and no one thought much of him anyway. Congress has not had much credibility in decades, so they could not cause too much trouble. Bernake was given the room to do what had to be done to stabilize the financial system. People can argue about the solution and various alternatives, but the Fed did provide a peaceful path forward.

The world was lucky in another way. The public was still confident in the system, even though they may not have liked many of the people in it. George Bush was down in the polls, because of the Iraq war, but people still trusted he was a good guy. The restoration of public trust during the Reagan years still cast a shadow over the Bush years. Even though Clinton had been a degenerate and Bush was an incompetent, people still thought the system was fine. They could trust the system.

That brings us to the present. Half the country voted for Trump and increasingly blames the system for blocking his efforts. The other half voted against him and increasingly suspects he is punishment for a broken system. The political class is at war with itself, as it grapples with the fact it no longer commands respect. Then there is the hidden war between the semi-permanent administrative state and the reformers in the White House and Congress. Right now, the people and institutions are not very stable.

That’s what makes the rumblings from the financial system ominous. Wall Street is not Main Street, so a year long bear market should not be overstated. The old line about the markets being predictive is nonsense. If people could see the future, there would be no stock market. The US markets went on a crazy upward run and may simply be going through a correction. Still, the housing market is heading into a recession and the economy is showing signs of a slow down, if not a recession.

None of this is cause for alarm, but what if the long prophesied collapse of the credit system is a lot closer than we know? A lot of smart people said that 2008 was one of those tremors that precedes a major earthquake. Maybe what we have been experiencing is something like the Long Depression, which ran in fits and starts for two decades. The last few years have simply been a respite and we’re about to have another serious downturn or even a panic. Will the leaders and institutions hold up?

In other words, the economic pendulum swings back and forth. That is the lesson of economic history. The salient question is whether or not the political institutions and the leaders are able to hold up as the pendulum swings. In the 19th century, Europe was convulsed with civil unrest and war as the Industrial revolution blasted through traditional institutions. In the US, the post Civil War period was relatively calm, even though the same forces were at work. The institutions and leaders held up.

Again, we really don’t know if the current system and the people in it could hold up under a real crisis. Maybe the 2008 crisis can be read as proof that the system is better than the people in it. Maybe the lessons learned from it have made the system even stronger. On the other hand, maybe the system held up up because of residual stability that has now dissipated. That’s increasingly obvious with regards to public trust. It is much lower today than it was a decade ago. Maybe the same is true of the internal stability.

The thing is though, there are a lot of signs that the people at the very top of the global system are slowly rearranging the board. For a long time, America could count on the dollar as the world reserve currency and, more important, a hungry market for US Treasuries. The system built by the American empire relies on credit to operate and the reserve credit of the world is US debt. If there is even a hint of that changing, the great crisis will be upon us. Will those institutions and people hold up?