Mtraven posted an appreciation for Phil Agre. In addition to some techie stuff, he also wrote political tracts like What is Conservatism and What is Wrong With It? Mtraven had referenced that work before and I checked it out again to refresh my memory a tad. My verdict was not good. I wrote the following:
I couldn’t get past where he said conservatism was incompatible with civilization. He had just stated that the Egyptians and Romans were characterized by conservatism, and they’re prototypical civilizations. The thing about conservatism having to re-invent itself each generation makes sense in the current context, saying that it’s about aristocracy doesn’t.
Agre’s Conservatism essay does go a bit overboard in my opinion in projecting the current split between conservatives and democrats back through thousands of years of history. If I had to guess, when he said that conservatism is “incompatible with civilization” he meant that it’s incompatible with the sort we would like to have, one that is dynamic, innovative, at least somewhat rational.
When reading that (or anything outside your comfort zone) I suggest not getting hung up on individual assertions and trying to imagine the sort of world the author is trying to convey. That’s a trick I may have learned from Phil, now that I think about it.
Mencius Moldbug has quite an imagination and writing talent to convey it. His individual assertions are often contradictory or just false. That trait indicates to me a sort of performance art rather than dedication to truth. When Bryan Caplan argues that other famous philosophers were just as bad as Rand, I don’t take that to indicate that I should give Rand a chance. It tells me to discount the rest of them along with her.
I should have referenced the assertion from the calculation debate that “socialism/central planning is impossible”, where “impossible” was transformed by Boettke into meaning “won’t produce the prosperity sought by socialists”.
What does everyone else think?