I haven’t been a very regular reader of Gurri & the Umlaut, but from what I have read it would be hard to think of a blogger better suited to write this. I vaguely recall seeing myself listed on the periphery of neoreaction, which is fair enough if Robin Hanson & Razib Khan are as well. I am of the right in part because I’m so far toward the latter end of Jacob Levy’s rationalism vs pluralism axis that he would not consider me included in the big liberal* tent (although I certainly have rationalist impulses). So it’s to be expected that I agree with Gurri’s critique of these neoreactionaries as being rationalist constructionists.
*As in “classical liberal”.
It has been said by some that the fundamental difference between left and right is their attitude toward inequality, with the latter regarding it to some extent as inevitable or desirable in certain respects. That’s what can provide a commonality between libertarians (excluding left-libertarians, but not necessarily liberaltarians/neoliberals) and neoreaction. But I’d hope any self-respecting rightist would include some respect for our inheritance, particularly since (if I may wax particularlist) our Anglo-American inheritance is so much better than some Rawlsian spectre behind a nationality-agnostic veil might expect. The presence of degeneracy, liberalism/progressivism and their nexus is going to be salient to reactionaries living inside it, but have some perspective. I’m going to name-drop Kuran, Berman, North/Wallis/Weingast* etc because they’re all worth reading and relevant. Reading them has given me more appreciation of our pre-liberal (and yes, reformist liberal) heritage which we still have with us, and on top of which modernity is something of a veneer. The desire to throw it away because of some relatively piddling bullshit (and if you haven’t left the country, I think it’s safe to call it that), when that has been such a disaster in different times and places, just seems deranged.
*I refused to believe I hadn’t written a post on “Violence and Social Orders”, but failed to find one if I ever did.
Despite all the above about how lucky we have it with our status quo, I share a significant amount of the neoreactionaries’ pessimism, and some idle radical hopes in seasteading (which would be more attractive & likely to be tried to the degree bullshit is no longer piddling). I can reconcile that with my distrust of radicalism by noting that at small scales failure-prone experimentation is a virtue. Gurri didn’t mention seasteading, but he links to Jason Kuznicki who did. Kuznicki cites Hirschmann on Exit vs Voice (libertarians are not much given to Loyalty), and tries to enlist Patri Friedman as an advocate of Exit supplementing Voice. I don’t know why a system with sufficient Exit would require democracy at all. I will give some due to democracy in that it at least has a feedback mechanism, but the mechanism is so crude one should rely on it as sparingly as possible. The ignorance of the public should be well known to those interested, and certain systematic biases familiar to TED-watchers been highlighted as holes in democratic idealism. But the matter is not simply that there are a few corner-cases in which our heuristics fall short and give rise to one-offs like optical illusions. The necessity to reason abstractly about “far” matters was simply less pressing in our evolutionary history than the ability to argue* even when our position has little basis. Our capacity for such reason is underdeveloped as a general matter, whereas numerous species with tinier brains than ours are capable enough empiricists to avoid a negative stimulus after they’ve been burned once. We’re lucky enough to have some recognition of our limits when we bear the consequences, rely on that same self-doubt on the part of voters and expect to be disappointed.
*Mercier thinks that supports the theorists of deliberative democracy, like Mark Pennington I think the opposite.
UPDATE: There’s a video debate between Noah Smith and Michael Anissimov, which I don’t think will be quite as good as if Adam Gurri were involved. I have not watched it yet. UPDATE 2: I was surprised by the degree to which they agreed, and that much of Anissimov’s critique of the status quo could be shared by a lefty sociologist, while pretty much all of Smith’s defense sounded like libertarianism.