Arnold Kling is Naive

by Frost on August 17, 2011

Note: Today’s post is a rare foray into the unpleasant world of contemporary politics. Skip it if that’s not your thing. Regularly scheduled programming will return shortly.

As is always the case when I dedicate a blog post to tearing down a single individual, I hope Mr. Kling takes my attacks as a sign of the high regard in which I hold him. The world is full of idiots, spouting idiocy. I don’t waste my breath on them.

Today, Kling quotes the execrable Brad Delong:

“America’s best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible.

Here we see the virus of Progressivism in it’s morbid final stage of reproduction. After centuries of using liberal ideals to lever the ancien regime from the thrones it once held, it is secure enough in its power to renounce the rhetorical tool of liberty, and consolidate its power. Democracy was a useful ideal when it was used to unseat the vestiges of aristocratic power in the western world. But now that progressive victory over the old guard is complete, we’re told by the likes of Brad Delong that Democracy’s time has passed.

The justification given is that the ideas advocated by right wing extremists (i.e, those calling for sound money, balanced budgets, and a temporary halt to a century of welfare state expansion) are so crazy, they are so dangerous, that we simply cannot tolerate them anymore. To do so would simply be irresponsible. The moderates among Delong’s commenters suggest that Democracy might be possible, if we were to disband the Republican party and re-create it in a saner mold. In other words, if we were to scour it of anyone advocating any sort of real opposition to Delong and his ilk.

Regarding Delong’s vitriol, Kling makes the analogy to the Stalinist Kulak purges and, playing the ultimate internet argument trump card, the Holocaust. Hyperbolic? Sure. But, no less than anyone warning of any of the 20th century’s multiple genocides, a decade or two before they came to fruition. “Stalin vill execute ze Kulaks in ten years? No Comrade, you are beink hyperbolic!”

It’s obvious to anyone who reads Delong, Krugman, the NYT editorial board, and even worse, their commenters: These people viciously hate Red State America. Their brazenness is increasing, and it will not stop of it’s own volition. The raw animosity necessary to disenfranchise and disinherit the Tea Partiers of their status as Americans, rob them of their wealth, and imprison any who complain, clearly exists. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is the fact that Americans are not yet so thoroughly cowed that they would go happily along with it.

Kling’s calling out of Delong for what he is makes him a rara avis among his peers, most of whom will no doubt continue to link amicably to Delong as long as doing so remains fashionable. It is to his great credit that he has the courage to write posts calling evil by its name, even though his liberaltarian chums will look down on him for his social faux pas of ignoring the cardinal rule of intellectual affiliation in the US today: Pas d’ennemis à gauche, Pas d’amis à droite.

But this is the limit of his wisdom and courage, so far as he lets on publicly. Here is Kling’s proposed solution to our problem, i.e. that the US is governed by a cult of of ideological nutcases who are beginning to speak more and more openly of the hatred they feel for tens of millions of Wal-Mart-shopping, minivan-driving, ATV-driving Americans:

“I think the solution is what in the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced I call Virtual Federalism. That is, we allow people to choose their virtual state, regardless of where they live. My neighbor could choose sane technocratic governance. I could choose minimal government. My neighbor and I would need to have a common defense policy and a common foreign policy, just as in the original federalism. But for many policies, my neighbor and I could have different government. For example, my neighbor’s government can try to make a Medicare Ponzi scheme last. My government would instead limit government support to vouchers for the very poor and the very sick.

To which I reply: Dr. Kling, what world do you live in?

Brad Delong is not interested in leaving you alone. He does not care whether you offer to do the same for him. On the contrary, he is very interested in seeing your lives become as intertwined as possible.

This is because Progressivism is a carnivorous beast. It must constantly feed to survive, tearing off chunks of wealth and power from the righteous, so that its clients may bathe in unearned rewards. Your proposal for virtual federalism is ridiculous on its face, as it would obviously and immediately lead to an exodus of the productive, responsible half of humanity to your preferred government, while letting the other half rot. Arnold, Brad will never leave you alone. You are his dinner.

I think you already know this, on some level, as do proponents of Seasteading and other such nonsense. I also think there is some value in the advocacy of Virtual Federalism, since it forces the unconvinced to confront the mainstream Left for the the predator it is. But the grim reality is that we will never escape the modern state, unless we defeat it. We cannot compromise with it, we cannot opt out of it, and we cannot roll it back by voting for this or that candidate.

Bravo to you sir, for recognizing the extent of the situation and having the courage to speak openly about it. But eventually, you’re going to have to start proposing real solutions, even if it costs you some friends.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Dain August 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm

So if virtual federalism (working within the system) is naive, and so is opting out, i.e seasteading, what is left? Changing the minds of Americans seems hopeless, which makes the seasteading thing more fruitful IMHO. They could care less for converting the boobs to their point of view.

Rollory August 22, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Boobs are points of sucking, not points of view.

Unless you want a different point from which to view the boobs.

… ok I’ll stop now

Frost August 23, 2011 at 10:36 am

I think talking about VF and seasteading are worthwhile projects, if for no other reason than they plant the idea of an alternative to the status quo in people’s minds. As an added benefit, seasteading will force the US government to very obviously reveal its predatory nature, if or when it tries to shut Thiel down. I think that that changing the minds of the smarter 1/4 of Americans will get progressively easier, as the material rewards of jumping on the progressive bandwagon decrease. As the host is sucked dry, parasitism becomes a less and less viable strategy.

btw, are you tggp?

Library Desk Graffiti August 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Progressivism is a carnivorous parasitic beast.


Frost August 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

Agree. Although it’s also a parasite that encourages it’s host to attack other healthy organisms, so that it can gain strength and suckle the parasites for a while longer…

Noo Wei September 14, 2011 at 3:43 am

Your white collar, ‘Murkan lifestyle lifestyle is a form of parasitism depending on stuff like Indonesian Copper miners making only $1.50 a day. Glass house.

Rollory August 22, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Democracy, oligarchy, or monarchy. Those are the choices. Each has its failure modes.

The problem with monarchy isn’t necessarily with the first monarch, establishing a monarchy in the first place probably means you have somebody capable involved. It’s selecting and training the next one in the context of a smoothly running system that is hard. The Romans – especially in the West – never got this right – I believe there was only one case of the imperial throne going father-son-grandson, and it was at least as common for it to get passed on by assassination as by inheritance. (In the East they did establish some dynasties that lasted a while, but that was after the 400 years of chaotic power transfers of the unified empire). A big part of the problem was that whenever a son would inherit, he’d be utterly unfit – spoiled rotten. Trust fund baby. In the same time period however, the Persians – they of “Ride, shoot straight, and speak the truth” – had a much more stable set of dynasties. Raising an heir to power such that he will wield it appropriately is a very delicate problem.

The European monarchies of the Middle Ages did much better. The French monarchy for example suffered only a few serious dynastic breaks and in each case (except at the end) it was resolved in a fashion generally acceptable to all involved, such that the royal legitimacy was preserved and still visibly part of a line stretching back to Clovis. The English kings also – every single English monarch that has ever held the throne could trace their ancestry back to Cerdic of Wessex, for example (according to the Rudmin theory, Cerdic was the historical figure that gave rise to the King Arthur stories).

Frost August 23, 2011 at 10:40 am

Hopefully our next experiment with monarchy irons out what kinks remain. Most importantly, the hereditary principle has to go.

Rollory August 24, 2011 at 6:43 am

Eh? I would’ve said exactly the opposite – it’s the most important aspect of it. Anybody interested in heredity should see this side of it – you can breed for good leadership the saem as any other trait. The trick is to avoid breeding for insanity and similar character flaws at the same time.

Frost August 24, 2011 at 9:28 am

Here are my two problems with hereditary monarchy, both of which, I think, have been confirmed as problems by history:

1) Inbreeding. Charles II snuffed out the Hapsburg line mostly because he was an inbred ruh-tard. Under hereditary monarchy, the ruling caste has a financial incentive to marry off their heirs to other blue bloods. Since the dating pool of children of monarchs is quite shallow, the eventual result is weak monarchs.

2) Splintering of power. Monarchs function effectively when they are absolute monarchs. According to the rules of succession, this singularity of authority is preserved, but in practice, the parental instinct is to endow each child with a decent slice of the family treasure. Hereditary succession also leads to family members having direct incentives for regicide, and the ambiguity of authority that necessarily results.

Have you ever read Mencius Moldbug’s neocameralism theory? I can’t say I’m ready to sign on in toto, but it’s the starting point from which I compare all alternative proposals for the post-democratic western world.

Rollory August 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I have read that, yes. If it’s the piece I’m thinking of – countries as joint stock corporations – my main problem with it is that it utterly ignores the ethnic/familial/relatedness ties and the effect they have on human behavior. Classical European kingdoms and nation-states benefited from this; formal identity and genetic relatedness largely overlapped. When you make government be just about the money and Ricardian comparative advantage (and I don’t remember seeing anything in what he wrote that would rule that out) you end up with just a miniature version of the modern USA, importing Mexicans because it’s good for the temporary bottom line, outsourcing all manufacturing because it smells bad, and neglecting to account for the impact on the old-stock citizens and the long-term identity and viability of the country. What’s the point of having a country if the government doesn’t make it its business to protect its citizens from such things, to prioritize them over others even if the others are more efficient workers? Who would have the least bit of loyalty to a government that didn’t do this? There’s ALWAYS someone in the world who is better at whatever you do than you.

Nations are at root extended family relationships. People die for family. People don’t die for the quarterly earnings report; they quit and get a better job elsewhere. The point of a hereditary monarch is that he is effectively the patriarch of that extended family; he’s going to feel some obligation to take care of his people because they ARE his people, his own kind, not because they put extra cash in his pocket.

I’m as libertarian as anybody when it comes to economic transactions between otherwise generic individuals, but the fact is that relatedness is a very powerful force between human beings, and should not be ignored.

James A Donald August 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Democracy was always the left’s idea. If they don’t want democracy any more, then democracy will end.

There will be war.

Suppose we win the war, what then. Kling’s proposal seems a good one.

Frost August 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

Now that the left is in power, Democracy has struck them as not so fabulous an idea, as tea party yokels have started using it as a tool to threaten to roll back the worst excesses of a century+ of progressive rule. See also under: Free markets.

In the event that the the current power structure is overturned, Kling’s proposal is fine by me. I suspect that city states based on congruous territories will prove more viable than the standard anarcho-cpaitalist model of overlapping protection agencies, but that’s a quibble.

sth_txs August 20, 2011 at 9:12 am

It would not bother me a whole lot to round up ‘progressives’ and have them eliminated. These people, though with college degrees, are hopelessly naive and stupid and destructive to any society they touch.

The uni-party system does little for me and the warfare state is just as bad as the welfare state.

AC August 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Strong post.

My personal bias is that it’s mostly not worthwhile trying to personally change big-picture political trends – they’re infinitely larger than you and it’s easy to get suckered into feeling like you’re doing something when it’s a drop in the bucket. Nevertheless, I’m curious what a reactionary like you prescribe when you say “defeat the state.” What does that translate to in practice, especially for non-Beltway people?

Frost August 18, 2011 at 11:45 am

Partially agree. Can one man change the world? Probably not.

But I also seem to be in the process of learning that man cannot live on hedonism alone. At some point, we need to pick a purpose, and dedicate our lives to it. I won’t be writing many posts like these until I’m a bit older and wiser, but my link roll and desire to dip my toes in topics like this betrays the apathy I often try to cultivate.

Defeating the state would entail a complete discontinuity between the current governments of the USA and her satellites, and whatever comes next. I’m not ready to jump into the grown up reactionary blogosphere yet, but if Freedom Twenty-Five helps popularize the nascent alt-right counter-coulture, and helps those who embrace it become better people, I’ll consider my part done, for now.



Noo Wei September 14, 2011 at 3:38 am

You think you want a discontinuity– and you have a nice corporate job with chances of promotion, free time to blog, ability to get hot chicks– man, you don’t know what you’re asking for. Do a sanity check on what you’re thinking with someone who lived through WW2, the Khmer Rouge, the Cultural Revolution– or even some Vietnam vets whose empire didn’t even fall while their lives were ruined.

Frost September 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

If I thought what w e had was sustainable, I would be all for it. The problem is it’s not. I don’t WANT discontinuity, I accept that discontinuity is necessary, and I think that the sooner the current paradigm collapses, the less messy it will be. I admit that my life right now is awesome, but I’m running away from it is that I know it can’t last. And I think that the current american generation isn’t living off the backs of indonesians or whoever – we’re living off the capital left to us by earlier generations of europeans/americans. We’re parasites, sure, but our hosts are the people who built the world we’re destroying.

J.W. Black August 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm


You’ve cranked up the volume on your posts lately, I can tell you’re ‘putting in work’. Nice job.

JW Black

Frost August 18, 2011 at 11:39 am


Frost August 25, 2011 at 10:54 am

Good points, and I agree with you on most points.

What I suspect though is that in a world of profit-seeking governments, most people would self-segregate themselves into what you call nations, ie extended families, on their own. People gravitate towards others who are similar to them, although my suspicion is that in a world of peaceful, anarcho-capitalist mini states, qualities other than ethnicity would take precedence for many people when they self-segregate.

As for the economics of how a profit-seeking monarch would manage his state, I think you fail to realize to what extend production isn’t a zero-sum game. Just because someone’s a slightly better worker than you, somewhere, doesn’t mean you can’t both have jobs doing the same thing. And mass immigration would only be profitable if it increased average property values. The sort of immigration the western world is currently indulging hasn’t delivered on that front, to put it mildly.

I highly recommend Democracy: The God that Failed by Hans Hermann Hoppe, if you’re interested in a well-presented argument for anarcho-capitalism. From there, it’s a small step to realize the naivety of overlapping security agencies, and the necessity of some form of monarchism.



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