Mencius Moldbug is having a bit of a moment lately. Or he was, until a moment ago. He kept popping up on YouTube this summer, very openly panhandling. After a riveting half-podcast the word-count smoke seemed to dissipate, and I remembered what a one-trick pony he is. He never gets to the point. He just leads you around by the nose.
What I liked about Moldbug was the very thorough way he diagnosed liberalism as an aggressive anti-social disorder, using primary sources—I don’t entirely agree with this notion, but the way he presented it was entertaining. What I disliked about him was his dismissal (by turns high-handed and skittish) of conspiracy theory. Ironically, given his fondness for Carlyle, Moldbuggery turns out to be the opposite of Great Man theory—it’s all de-personified trends and tendencies and undercurrents. Which is fine, except that that isn’t mutually exclusive of “names and addresses” acting in secret (and not so secret) concert. In any case, no honest reader can claim that Moldbug’s attempt to draw a straight-line between Calvinism and NWA is not a great deal more circuitous and fluff-inference laden than Loose Change is.
Precisely nothing in Moldbug is original. It’s all been said before by any number of tenebrously self-conscious would-be criminals fishing their whole lives for excuses why they’re aren’t half the man granddaddy was. The fact that decadence is a human universal found like trace elements in varying degrees of latency or metastasis is a thin straw for such capacious lamentations to be grasping at. Better to think of decadence the way Hemingway described the process of going broke—at first gradual, then all at once. The alternative is to believe, with Moldbug, that George Washington is the ideological progenitor of Ibrahim X. Kendi.
Indeed, Moldbug’s most black-pilling feat by far is his critique of the American Revolution. His case that the Founders were rabble-rousing charlatans, and that King George did nothing wrong, is based on a small and cherry-picked selection of primary sources. Even if he’s right—so what? You don’t have to tell me things are bad, but I’m armed to the teeth here in America. Land is cheap—for the time being, anyway—and I can’t be prosecuted for what I write on Twitter. Contrast this with life under the British monarchy, where the government can literally murder your kid.
So I fail to see the need for this huge blackpill. “The spider is curtain-bearer in the palace of Chosros/The Owl sounds relief in the palace of Afrasiab.” The problem with America is not form, but function. Personnel is policy. In the last installment of his “Gentle Introduction,” Moldbug essentially says that a worthy alternative only needs to exist, and when America implodes, this alternative will fill the vacuum, because people will just roll over and accept it. How very inspirational. Call me cuckoo for conspiracy puffs, but that’s exactly what Klaus Schwab thinks.
In The Republic, Socrates used the allegory of the ship’s captain to suggest that only the wise should rule. But the unwise (both the shrewd and the misguidedly fervent) are fully capable of overthrowing the wise. Might I suggest the alternative criterion of virtue? Only those who have a real investment in the future have the right to decide the future course of state, and determining who they are is far easier than determining who is wise. Obviously, they are people with biological children, who have treated their investment (their kids) with the consideration and care it deserves, i.e., by maintaining a functional marriage to the other biological parent.
Of course, I’m just sticking wishful gum to the wall here: America is undead, and limiting the franchise, or getting corporate money out of politics or whatever one might think the big cathartic reform is going to be, is never going to happen. (At least Ozymandias wasn’t crawling with maggots.) But where does that leave Moldbug? Forgive my simplicity, but a joint stock corporation is exactly what we have now. At least Andrew Yang spoke in sound bites. But if history teaches us anything, it’s that a yeoman’s republic of limited powers, with a limited franchise, a free-holding citizenry and a Bill of Rights was the only desirable system the world has ever seen.