America is the Jedi nation, and it’s natural that we fear the ancient peril of the Sith.
– Mencius Moldbug
Soon there developed in Western Europe two great political ideologies, centered around this new revolutionary phenomenon: the one was Liberalism, the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity; the other was Conservatism, the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the old order.
– Murray N. Rothbard, Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty
Mencius Moldbug would have us believe he is one of the Lords of Light, a Jedi Prince of the Right, a prophet of the new doom that hangs over America like some deadly Death Star. Yet, as we take a closer look we discover the error of our ways, if we look into the dark pupils we begin to notice another light, a darker light, the visible darkness of a Sith Lord. Yes, my friends, this is no naïve Jedi Master, this a veritable prince of darkness. One of the first lessons he teaches us on his now infamous blog is that “its goal is to cure your brain“. I kid you not. As he says in his first ‘general introduction’ there isn’t anything difficult about his message, in fact its as simple as realizing that Mencius Moldbug is the direct opposite of Noam Chomsky. “As a broad generalization, UR’s stance in any controversy will be the opposite of Chomsky’s.” Why Chomsky? Why not Badiou or Zizek, much more prominent and respected intellectuals in the philosophical world? Is it because Chomsky is American? Because he is a part of the American Elite Academia? Because he represent the old guard of the libertarian socialist traditions?
Well, as we know Noam Chomsky is a libertarian socialist which he describes against the backdrop of classical liberalism:
Ideologically, they are in agreement that the functions of the state are repressive and that state action must be limited. The libertarian socialist goes on to insist that state power must be eliminated in favor of democratic organization of industrial society, with direct popular control over all institutions by those who participate in-as well as those who are directly affected by-the workings of these institutions. So one might imagine a system of workers’ councils, consumers’ councils, commune assemblies, regional federations, and so on, with the kind of representation that’s direct and revocable, in the sense that representatives are directly answerable to and return directly to the well-defined and integrated social group for which they speak in some higher order organization-something obviously very different than our system of representation.1
What do we really have here? As we study the above two things become obvious: 1) The State is the Enemy; and, 2) Power belongs to the Producers, the Workers, the People not the State. Other than that he seems to bandy about for some kind of organizational framework within which to allow for a free and open society of workers to govern themselves through democratic processes. What that may entail has been blueprinted by a score of previous thinkers in both the classical liberal and socialist anarchistic traditions. He seems to be non-committal about the specifics and details of such a system almost as if it were a grey zone, a sort of zero-point beyond which thought cannot go.
Now if this is libertarian socialism and Chomsky’s vision then what is it that Mencius Moldbug all hot about? Why does he feel it necessary to oppose Chomsky’s libertarian socialism. If one could define it in just two words, those words would be ‘property rights’. Along with the State the libertarian socialist would do away with private property. But never fear there is on the opposite end of the anarchistic tradition another theory: libertarian capitalism. As one of its latter day proponents Hans-Hermann Hoppe tells us that “private property is an inescapable institution in a world of scarcity”, and draws on the work of contemporary European philosophy – the Austrian School of Economics and their progeny – to make his claims more robust than any of his intellectual predecessors did.2 Hoppe stands with a long line of anarchist thinkers who see the state as playing a purely destructive role in society. But unlike the main line of thinkers in this tradition, Hoppe’s thinking is not encumbered by utopian illusions about society without the state. He follows Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard in placing private property as a central element in social organization. Hoppe in a recent interview tells us:
…there are rich people, mostly from the class of political leaders in control of the state-apparatus and from the state-connected elites of banking and big business, who are rich, because they have been directly engaged in, or indirectly benefitted from, confiscation, theft, trickery and fraud. Such people should not be left alone, but instead be condemned and despised as gangsters. The same applies to poor people. There are poor people, who are honest people, and therefore should be left alone. They may not be heroes, but they deserve our respect.(ibid.)
Moldbug points us toward Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s Three New Deals as the place for us to start understanding the great divide in American Society. In this book we get a picture of FDR and the New Deal along side the National Socialist and Communist agendas. It was during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure as President that American became the first postliberal State. Economists and sociologists of that era used to say that neither socialism nor Fascism could take hold in the United States because Americans had no class consciousness. ( TND 187) Yet, in 1973 John A. Garraty, a newcomer to the topics of both the New Deal and Nazism, published an article in comparing Roosevelt’s programs and certain aspects of American political culture during his administration with those of the Third Reich. The affinities Garraty suggested were these: a strong leader; an ideology stressing the nation, the people, and the land; state control of economic and social affairs; and, finally, the quality and quantity of government propaganda. Garraty was careful to stress the obvious: that to compare is not the same as to equate. America during Roosevelt’s New Deal did not become a one-party state; it had no secret police, the Constitution remained in force, and there were no concentrations camps; the New Deal preserved the institutions of the liberal-democratic system that National Socialism abolished.(TND 10-11)
Following this line of thought Moldbug informs us that “the basic premise of UR is that all the competing 20th-century systems of government, including the Western democracies which came out on top and which rule us to this day, are best classified as Orwellian. They maintain their legitimacy by shaping public opinion. They shape public opinion by sculpting the information presented to the public.” (ibid.) Why Orwell? In his book Nineteen Eighty-Four Orwell describes a society in which everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly through TV screens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase “Big Brother is watching you”, which is the core “truth” of the propaganda system in this state. Orwell in uncovering the hidden roots of ideological slavery once said:
…the left-wing opinions of the average ‘intellectual’ are mainly spurious. From pure imitativeness he jeers at things which in fact he believes in. As one example out of many, take the public-school code of honor, with its ‘team spirit’ and ‘Don’t hit a man when he’s down’, and all the rest of that familiar bunkum. Who has not laughed at it? Who, calling himself an ‘intellectual’, would dare not to laugh at it? But it is a bit different when you meet somebody who laughs at it from the outside; just as we spend our lives in abusing England but grow very angry when we hear a foreigner saying exactly the same things. /…/ It is only when you meet someone of a different culture from yourself that you begin to realize what your own beliefs really are. (George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937))
As Slavoj Zizek reminds us in a pertinent essay, Tolerance as an Ideological Category, there is nothing “inner” in this true ideological identity of mine – my innermost beliefs are all “out there,” embodied in practices which reach up to the immediate materiality of my body – “my notions-notions of good and evil, of pleasant and unpleasant, of funny and serious, of ugly and beautiful – are essentially middle-class notions; my taste in books and food and clothes, my sense of honor, my table manners, my turns of speech, my accent, even the characteristic movements of my body”…
We all live in bubbles of illusion, zones of irreality, caught between adverts on the TV or Internet, surrounded by the noise of gadgets (iPhones, iPads, Xbox, etc.). The hyperrealist market economy enfolds us in an electronic blanket of ideological neuraltransponders that infiltrate our brains like short-circuit memes, viral agents of and endless economy of process: consumption as pure play. We are imprisoned in this ideological matrix. And, Moldbug as Jedi master of the Matrix tells us:
Thus the red pill: any stimulus or stimulant, pharmaceutical or literary, that fundamentally compromises said system of deception. That sounds very medical, but let’s be clear: you are not taking our pill as a public service. At least with our present crude packaging, the remedy is not accessible to any politically significant percentage of citizens. Rather, you are dosing up because you’d rather be high. Despite the agony of ingestion, it’s just too much fun to see your old reality from the outside. This, rather than “society,” is why you will return to UR again and again.
Like some postmodern immunologist Moldbug offers neither entertainment nor some boring lesson, he teaches us instead an engineering vision: “Seen from outside, the Western democracies are particularly elegant examples of Orwellian engineering.” Only an engineer could disambiguate, dissolve, reverse engineer, or discompose the dark machine of this Orwellian machine. Moldbug tells us that as good citizens of America we should believe in the separation of church and state. He remarks on this: “I too am an American, and it so happens that I too believe in separation of church and state. Although one might argue that my interpretation of the formula is a little different than yours.” Why so? What makes Moldbug decide that he is so different? Isn’t this in itself a little bit bad boy talk, almost elitist in itself, as if the rest of us were not in the know as he is? Why does he think he holds some magic key to knowledge? An understanding of the intricacies of the Orwellian machine that the rest of us lesser beings or apprentices of the Sith Master will have to work long to attain?
At this point he begins a long analysis of state, separation, and church in the context of that statement: separation of church and state. He tells us there are three interpretations of why separation of church and state is such a good idea:
- our definition of church might include the stipulation that a church is an organization that distributes misinformation – ie, lies, unfalsifiable hypotheses, and other bogus truths.
- we might say that whether they teach the truth or not, churches are just a bad idea, period.
- we might believe that a government should not tell its subjects what to think.
Of course he goes into the details for each of the above, but I’ll leave that for the curious and attentive reader to pursue. At the end of this first lesson in why its a good idea to have a separation of church and state in any regime he tells us simply:
Without separation of church and state, it is easy be for a democracy to indulge itself in arbitrarily irresponsible misgovernment, simply by telling its bishops to inform their congregations that black is white and white is black. Thus misdirected, they are easily persuaded to support counterproductive policies which they wrongly consider productive.
Union of church and state can foster stable iatrogenic (Nassim Taleb) misgovernment as follows. First, the church fosters and maintains a popular misconception that the problem exists, and the solution solves it. Secondly, the state responds by extruding an arm, agency, or other pseudopod in order to apply the solution. Agency and church are thus cooperating in the creation of unproductive or counterproductive jobs, as “doctors.” Presumably they can find a way to split the take.
The root problem with a state church in a democratic state is that, to believe in democracy, one must believe that the levers of power terminate with the voters. But if your democracy has an effective state church, the actual levers of power pass through the voters, and go back to the church. The church teaches the voters what to think; the voters tell the politicians what to do. Naturally, it is easy for the politicians to short-circuit this process and just listen to the bishops.
Thus the government has a closed power loop. With the church at its apex, of course. Which is exactly what we were hoping to avoid when we decided to make our state democratic, rather than authoritarian – an independent and unaccountable authority, which is in charge of everything else. In this case our authority is, of course, the church itself. Oops! We have engineered ourselves a big bucket of FAIL.
In other words, our so-called democracy is dependent not on the wisdom of the people, but on the internal power politics of the official church. If these politics produce a political platform which translates to responsible and effective actions, the government will be good. If they don’t, it will suck. Either way, we have consigned the state to an unaccountable conclave of bishops. Why this is an improvement on monarchy, or any other form of autocracy, is unclear.
This is a part of the lesson on what he will later term The Cathedral. With this we finish our short lesson from the Sith Lord. As he tells us himself: “Our goal is not to criticize these people. … We can laugh at the Jedi mind tricks for a moment, but we are here to understand them.”
more lessons to come…
As usual I’ll lay out the system and let people decide for themselves what to do with it: thumbs up, thumbs down…. all up to you. Even on the Left one should learn to take off one’s ideological blinkers and see what the other camp is up too, to understand them rather than bury them.
1. Noam Chomsky. Government in the Future (Kindle Locations 159-163). Kindle Edition.
2. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann (2012-09-24). The Great Fiction: Property, Economy, Society, and the Politics of Decline (LFB) (Kindle Location 47). Laissez Faire Books. Kindle Edition.