NRx: Against Platonic Rationalism

I have been studying Curt Doolittle and his formulation of Propertarianism. Doolittle refers to the Misesian formulation (what we now call Libertarianism) as pseudoscientific, and refers to the 20th century as A Century of Mysticism. It is important for Neoreactionaries to understand why.

Nick Land recently asserted that Neoreaction is Neocameralism. Then Bryce Laliberte, who wrote a book entitled What is Neoreaction, noticed that his book does not even contain the word Neocameralism. That is a problem.

Laliberte writes:

However, I suspect that’s not where he’s coming from, and really does intend to specify, in some manner, that neoreaction begins and ends with neocameralism; the rest is but window dressing, essential theory to the end of developing this particular political philosophy.

And that’s why I find it so jarring, this identification. Given the particularism of neoreaction, at least as it has been articulated by everyone including Land up to this point, there’s no feasible way to make the identification of neoreaction with a single political philosophy, no matter how coherent it is of itself, without intending the scuttling of all the background ideological separation from modernism. But then, Land did tell me once he takes a difference over my use of modernism, so perhaps an elucidation that front may help. If Land is right here, that would require a serious recalibration of my efforts to articulate a coherent ideological worldview.

I believe that Land has the same intuition as CD. The difference between Land’s assertion and Laliberte’s view is functional. To say that Neoreaction is Neocameralism is to say that the project of Neoreaction is to build functional government. Laliberte is attempting to build a logically consistent political philosophy.

In my piece on Operational Property, I attempt to make what I perceive as CD’s case against Libertarianism (a political philosophy). The case is basically the Operationalist case against Platonic Rationalism. CD refers to the 20th century as a century of mysticism, because Marxism, Freudianism and Libertarianism are pseudosciences. They are pseudosciences because they rely on unproven, untestable self-evident axioms. This is the problem with all political philosophy. It is rationalist in nature:

In epistemology, rationalism is the view that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge”[1] or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”.[2] More formally, rationalism is defined as a methodology or a theoryin which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive“.[3]

When building a political philosophy, one reasons from axioms. Within this framework, something is true if it is logically consistent, when it is rational, when it can be shown to follow a line of reason. The problem occurs when the fundamental axioms themselves are divorced from reality. This is the operationalist criticism: if someone cannot provide an existence proof, then no-one really has any idea if that person is talking about something that is real, or something that is purely imaginary.

The Dark Enlightenment itself is founded in reality, in observable truth. Real science is founded on observable phenomenon (proven through repeatable experiments), while rationalist truth, though logically consistent, is pseudoscientific because it is divorced from observation and measurement. In the pseudosciences, there is no existence proof that we are talking about something real. In Platonic Rationalism, truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive.

Political philosophies are logically consistent walled gardens, in which the walls are formed by self-evident axioms. Basically, they are tautological. I use the image of a garden, though often I see political philosophies as prisons of words. As long as one is content to play within the walled garden, everything will be logically consistent and make sense. The problem is that Gnon demands proof. If the political philosophy does not yield real world benefits, then it will land in the ash-heap of history.

I believe that the Dark Enlightenment is the realization that we are currently governed by pseudosciences, which were created out of the Enlightenment exuberance for the human ability to reason (rationalize). What the children of the Enlightenment did not understand was the limits of human cognition and the laundry list of cognitive biases that humans have. As such, we cannot simply think our way forward, deducing from first principles… we have to actually measure and experiment. We have to measure our mental models against the real world. Today, the pseudosciences assume that they are correct because they are logically consistent, but when the real-world outcomes to not match their imaginary models, it is because of some witchcraft (some evil crimethinker), rather than the fact that the imaginary model is not founded on observable truth.


Which leads us back to Neocameralism. The idea here is functional government, scientific government. Perhaps Neocameralism is nothing more than one conception of how a functional government might function. In order for a system to be functional, we must understand the operation of its constituent components. This is what science is for, to discover how the universe functions and to manipulate it to our own ends. The important question about the universe is How does it operate? Functional systems must be based on human observation and operations.

Is the project of Neoreaction to build functional government? To build something that, you know, actually works? Or is the project of Neoreaction to build a logically consistent political philosophy? I believe that Land is asserting the former. Gnon demands results. I believe that many in Neoreaction think it is the latter, which is why so many pragmatists quickly get exasperated with NRx. Are we engaged in real science here, or not? I don’t think that we need to build another pseudoscience. Break down the prison of words. Neoreaction should be concerned with the real world.

I think that Doolittle is on the right track. If we want to actually create something functional, then we must base ourselves in observable truth, in Operationalism. I am currently attempting to understand and relay Doolittles work over at the Propertarian forum. To get a sense of the fundamental paradigm shift the Operationalist view offers Neoreaction, read Operational Property. I don’t know where this will lead. I am learning. Come learn with me. Let’s build something that works.

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On Property and Propertarianism

Hurlock recently posted on Property. I have made a few comments concerning Propertarianism on this blog, but it needs much more study, particularly in Neoreactionary circles. To put it simply, if you are talking about Property but are not versed in Propertarianism, then you are missing the latest and greatest in the theory of Property.

Let me give you an example from Hurlock’s post (emphasis mine):

It is important to realize that all property is private. That is, a specific unit of a good, or more generally a single specific object can only be de facto owned or controlled by a single person. For example, you can’t actually have two agents owning the same orange as a whole singular object together. The two agents might own different parts of the object but they can’t both have sovereign control over the same singular unit simultaneously. Obviously a conflict would arise. And in the end only one of them would end up a de factoowner of the singular object. Sovereignty is conserved.

 Now, look at the Propertarian glossary, and go to ‘Property’, here is a subsection:

    DEMONSTRATED PROPERTY
    Types of property based upon observations of what people actually consider to be their property:

      I. PERSONAL PROPERTY
      Personal property: “Things an individual has a Monopoly Of Control over the use of.”
      a) Physical Body
      b) Actions and Time
      c) Memories, Concepts and Identities: tools that enable us to plan and act. In the consumer economy this includes brands.
      d) Several Property: Those things external to our bodies that we claim a monopoly of control over.
      II. INTERPERSONAL PROPERTY
      Cooperative Property: “relationships with others and tools of relationships upon which we reciprocally depend.”
      a) Mates (access to sex/reproduction)
      b) Children (genetics)
      c) Familial Relations (security)
      d) Non-Familial Relations (utility)
      e) Consanguineous property (tribal and family ties)
      g) Racial property (racial ties)
      g) Organizational ties (work)
      h) Knowledge ties (skills, crafts)
      i) Status and Class (reputation)
      III. SHAREHOLDER PROPERTY
      a) Recorded And Quantified Shareholder Property (physical shares in a tradable asset)
      b) ARTIFICIAL PROPERTY: (property created by fiat agreement) Intellectual Property.
      c) FORMAL INSTITUTIONAL PROPERTY : Formal (Procedural) Institutions: Our institutions: Religion (including the secular religion), Government, Laws.
      d) INFORMAL INSTITUTIONAL PROPERTY: Informal (Normative) Institutions: Our norms: manners, ethics, morals, myths, and rituals that consist of our social portfolio and which make our social order possible.
      “Those properties in which we have invested our forgone opportunities, our efforts, or our material assets, in order to aggregate capital from multiple individuals for mutual gain.”

From this small section, we see that ‘Personal Property’ is only one-third of the types of property defined, with the other two being property that is not private. Contrary to the opening assertion, all property is not private. In fact, much property is interpersonal or shared, and it is the shared property that is the most difficult to manage under our current pseudoscientific definitions of and ideas around property. It is immediately obvious that ‘children’ are ‘objects’ which are in fact owned by two people, the mother and the father. Thinking of singular ownership only allows us to simplify how we consider property – it lets us off the hook with regard to the really tough problems. This is why Libertarians come to the wrong conclusions about so many things which reactionaries intuit correctly. What Reactionaries need is a scientific, economic language that we can use to express ownership of property such as consanguineous property, racial property, status and class, among others.

Let’s look at a normative commons as an example, which in Propertarian thought is defined as ‘informal institutional property’. Currently, there is a normative commons which is maligned through the pejorative ‘White privilege’.  Critics claim that this privilege is unearned, and thus is unfair. It is not unfair and it is not unearned because ‘White privilege’ is simply the recognition that Whites have created a normative commons, this commons is a shared property, and it is bought and paid for by bearing opportunity costs. To clarify: every time White privilege is extended to me, I have the opportunity to abuse it. Every time I go into a store, and the store owner allows me the privilege of walking about the store to peruse the wares without an armed guard following me, I then have the opportunity to steal. I could quietly sneak something into my pocket and exit without paying. When I do not steal, I have in effect paid something, because I am bearing an opportunity cost and forgoing the ‘free’ item. Why do I pay this cost? Because it creates a normative commons of trust, by not stealing I am maintaining that commons for myself and others like me to enjoy.

On the other hand, if you and those like you (your co-ethnics) take the White privilege that is extended to you and abuse it, then you destroy the commons. For example, if you live in a ‘diverse’ big city then you are familiar with convenience stores with bullet-proof teller windows where no-one is allowed to enter. The common area, the shopping area, has been physically expunged from the store. If you live in a White-topia such as rural New Hampshire, then you are familiar with homey little stores where you can walk in and peruse freely and engage in some pleasant conversation with a perfectly agreeable White person.

For one group of ethnics to demand ‘White privilege’ and then be unwilling to bear the opportunity costs necessary to create that normative commons, is for that group to demand something that is unearned. That group has demonstrated unwillingness to pay for their privileges. They demand that others take a risk for their benefit, a risk which has been shown to not be worth the cost of taking.

White privilege is a normative commons that has been payed for by paying opportunity cost. It is ‘owned’ by the group of people who pay for it. It is ‘informal institutional property’.

Property is a slippery and essential thing for us to understand, because it is not merely ‘private property’. The Libertarian views of property tend to reduce and simplify it and are unable to grasp it in its full complexity and therefore produce logical, rational, economic arguments for intangible property such as normative commons.

I hope that this one small example on the topic of ‘informal institutional property’ will encourage more Neoreactionaries to study the work that Curt Doolittle is doing over at Propertarianism.com. You will find it instructive. At least I certainly have, otherwise I never would be able to articulate ‘White privilege’ in economic terms.