Luck be a Lady…

One of the more underrated “life hacks” (as the kids call them these days) is the tactical assumption, a belief that, even if it isn’t quite correct, nonetheless benefits you if you hold it. “If I eat dessert, I will get fat” isn’t necessarily true, but you’ll still be healthier and better off if you abide by it.

Neoreaction argues that religion is a necessary factor for promoting societal cohesion and stability. Whether a certain religion is true or not is not necessarily relevant. If it promotes a healthy society, it is a good thing. In this way, religion can be argued for on grounds of it being a tactical assumption.

Most traditional dictates tend to function as tactical assumptions of one sort or another. The formation of inaccurate or otherwise irrational beliefs that nonetheless promote order and stability and thus have healthy consequences is in itself a societal Schelling Point. Societies with the best tactical assumptions will out-compete and outlast those with those assumptions that do less to promote functional, effective society.

At this point, it should be fairly clear what happens when post-modernism comes along and begins questioning all the societal tactical assumptions that have accumulated up unto that point. The more one deconstructs and proposes alternative systems, the more one loses the tactical benefits that have been accrued. Cue the horrible, unforeseen consequences.

When a surgeon cuts open a patient, he does not begin poking things that look colorful and yanking out bits that look useless, because it is almost inevitable that he will accidentally kill the person he is operating upon. When an academic begins examining society however, this approach is practically mandated. It is any wonder that a society run by academic fiat is guaranteed to die?

This is not to say that deconstruction and “going meta” are bad things in and of themselves, but that, like almost all human activities, there is a certain level of risk commensurate with engaging in them, the same as with shooting guns or cooking dinner. The greater one’s capacity for prudent foresight and self-reflective critical thinking, the more capacity one has to engage in deconstruction and the like without doing something horrendously stupid. That said, there is a limit to how much prudence can protect you from this, not to mention that the smarter you are, the more colossal your potential fuck-ups can be.

It seems safe to say that most people shouldn’t be engaging in heavy critical thinking. Religion, patriarchy, and other tenets of traditional civilization are like guardrails, protecting people from the worst of their mistakes and enabling everyone to live a good life in a functional society (consider how the sorry state of American blacks could not have been brought about without the destruction of the black family and black community).

The progressive argument against this point of view is that established and successful forms of societal organization are less like guardrails and more like prison bars. Like most progressive critiques, it is not wrong in spirit, just in scope and scale. There will always arise circumstances in which one must alter societal functioning in order to be better suited for current context.

Of course, we can’t just let anybody critique social norms and propose new ones. It is then logical to propose that we restrict this right to an exclusive group of individuals. This could be anything from a small committee to an entire caste. They would be the innovators, keeping a firm eye on social currents and making the tweaks to society to adjust to new circumstances.

Now there’s one huge problem with this. Such a class would inevitably be tempted not to put the good of society as a whole first, but the good of themselves as class first. The power to tweak social norms would be used to put themselves first, and engineer a society in which they rule at the expense of everybody else (but most especially whatever other class they have decided they dislike the most). Sound a bit like the current Brahmin class?

Even without having to postulate such thought experiments though, it ought to be intuitively obvious that centrally planned social norms will be just as destructive to society as centrally planned economies. You can’t dictate emergent phenomenon. Besides, the capacity of humans to accurately foresee the future and enact the most prudent course of action is incredibly limited, while the human capacity to fuck things up and do something stupid is near-infinite.

When it comes to ordering society, you can’t put faith in humans. That’s a recipe that will make a very sour cake. What is needed are robust systems that are populated by good quality human capital (defined here loosely as 100+ IQ citizens with low time-preference, though this an incomplete definition in several regards). All else that we can consider a mark of a good society (i.e. high-trust, low crime, efficient public services…etc) arises out of the combination of these two factors.

It’s easy to imagine that one can build a society in which the societal institutions and the human capital reinforce each other and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. However, how much of the development process can (and furthermore, should) be under human control? To what degree can you consciously engineer a functioning human society, and to what degree is is a matter of contextual factors, human capital, and convenient strokes of luck? I generally think the entire shenanigan is not only possible, but also plausible, but I can’t deny that some of the hurdles seem to require almost superhuman capacity to overcome, and that a fair amount of the time historically, it seems luck played a key role in the development of functional society.

How much control do mere humans have over the development of functional society? A portion of Neoreactionary credibility rides on the answer to this question.

SPQR

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4 thoughts on “Luck be a Lady…

  1. nickbsteves 08/28/2014 / 6:29 PM

    Even without having to postulate such thought experiments though, it ought to be intuitively obvious that centrally planned social norms will be just as destructive to society as centrally planned economies. You can’t dictate emergent phenomenon.

    You must have been reading Butch Legolas latest, in which he impales classical liberalism on this very horn. Whether or no, it is an excellent Menciist Meme.

    How much control do mere humans have over the development of functional society?

    It is, I think, self-evident that they do. Which mere humans is the only question.

    • Legionnaire 08/28/2014 / 6:57 PM

      Funnily enough, I read that post before finishing this one, but after I’d outlined my talking points. Great minds and all that I suppose haha.

  2. georgesdelatour 08/29/2014 / 12:06 AM

    So your basic thesis is, Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor was right.

    I understand that a functioning society may need a civic religion. As Edward Gibbon said about pre-Christian Rome, “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.”

    I think this is what Elizabeth I was getting at when she said she didn’t want to make “windows into men’s souls”. She could never tell what they really believed. But she was content if they agreed to dissimulate in public. Social cohesion mattered more than ideological purity and the rooting out of heresy.

    It’s still a tricky balancing act. As ISIS shows, passionate religious enthusiasm can destabilise a society far more than jaded unbelief. Heretics are not secularists saying “don’t be fooled. There’s no God. It’s just that man behind the curtain”. They’re people who want society to be more intensely religious than it is now.

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