Review #2

The big question now is whether the progressive system really has collapsed. Has the ‘enemies defeat’ really signaled such a huge change? If Grand historical narratives work well in the abstract, and they work well when you paint the future with a sweeping brush or massive projected change. I am unconvinced these predictions really do map to reality. Sure, Trump was the savior of Western civilization. The reality now is that he needs to figure out a country works. It’s one thing to take grand sweeping views on immigration or Russia, but actually handling the paperwork and managing the White House staff is different. I had bought into Scott Adams argument for a while that Trump was playing 11-dimensional space-backgammon. After the immigration fiasco it’s harder to reconcile. For a law and order candidate it doesn’t look good to have uncertainty in airports, randomly detained travelers, and mass protests.

If you read nothing else, read the comments in Scott Aaronson’s blog post on immigration. Mencious Moldbug (of Unqualified Reservations) debates Scott Aaronson for pages. It would take ages to read it all, but Moldbug’s comments (he’s posting as boldmug here) #153, #192, and #276 are particularly interesting. My favorite comment by ‘boldmug’:

I just think smart people should have a good practical grasp of actual historical reality as it actually happened. This (as I see it) is a little bit different from what you get in school these days, though less in concrete facts than interpretations. And it includes being able to solve a simple “ideological Turing Test” for any recent period. As Cicero said, those who fail to understand history will always remain children.

A good way to frame this test is to ask what the best minds of some other period would make of ours. Once you can pass this test for a period, I’d argue, you can feel comfortable about applying the lessons of that period to our present reality.

Until you feel you can pass this test, I think, try another period. Or try an argument that doesn’t need to use history as a weapon.

Historically, it’s in turbulent periods like this that understanding our enemies is the most important possible thing. I’m not trying to persuade anyone of anything. I’m just trying to give people some tools which I think solve the problem in a neat way.

And two, on “return to the past”: I would argue that what some historians call “presentism,” basically racism as applied to the past, is fundamentally a problem that can’t be worked around. It has to be solved. A presentist society is a suicidal society. Feel free to disagree with me on this.

Moldbug’s an interesting guy. His epistemic style is to understand the past, not the base facts or statistics, but be able to truly understand the political views of the time sufficiently well to have a conversation with anyone from that time, without appearing crazy. And to understand what aspects of your modern political views they would find crazy, and who is currently shaping our political views.

This is probably the invisible glue that binds the reactosphere, the rationalsphere, and methodology blogs together. The community behind all of these shares a strong distaste for the ‘scientific consensus’ of fields with high uncertainty (e.g. Political Science, or climate prediction). Whether it’s Marginal Revolution, Less Wrong, SSC, or more neoreactionary areas, none of can be basically right while also accepting the mainstream moral and scientific consensus of Harvard Law policy wonks being basically right.

This Popehat post is old, but pretty funny, covering a refugee scifi hypothetical. It also seems to be a self-evident pattern that refugee preferences are correlated with the economic tribe you’re in. While it’s important and probably useful to know the statistics or ‘economic studies’ on refugees and their interaction with the labor force, it’s also clearly irrelevant to the debate. The rotting parts of America see rich coastal cities full of people who appear more interested in helping ‘outsiders.’ They wouldn’t be wrong either. At this point a nontrivial subset of the greater left would find a more natural (political) ally in a Muslim immigrant than a redneck townie; which is bad news for social dynamics.

Lastly, I ordered a book by Charles Lindbergh. Interesting guy. I think if anyone, sincerely, wants to avoid having horrible views of the world, it’s important to read books by people who seem to be genuinely good people but, for some reason, came to a different conclusion on some question that seems self-evident today. Why did they come to a different conclusion? What was their evidence and reasoning based off of?

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