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why moldbug matters

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Sep 9th, 2013
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  1. TL;DR - start here: http://moldbuggery.blogspot.com/
  2.  
  3. Who is Mencius Moldbug? Is he good or evil? Is he man or Cthulhu? Democrat or Republican?
  4.  
  5. The Moldbuggian corpus is difficult to approach due to its sheer magnitude, but the journey is ultimately rewarding. Dive in, and I assure you that all of your questions will not be answered, and in fact more questions will inevitably sprout up. Much like climbing to the top of a mountain after having grown up in a tiny village lying in its shadow, new vistas will be opened up to you. This is not a project that promotes contentment but burning curiosity. And for many who make the journey, the mind recoils at the strange new viewpoint and rejects it, returning forever to the world below.
  6.  
  7. Moldbug is a first-rate political intellect born and bred of the internet. You are now on the cutting edge of political technology. This pill has not been approved by the FDA and it is not guaranteed to promote sanity or safety. Consider Moldbug's blog the bitcoin of internet politics and you wouldn't be too far off.
  8.  
  9. Moldbug started writing on a blog called Unqualified Reservations in 2007 and mostly burned out by the end of 2010. It is unusual to reference anything so old on the internet, but so far the influence of his work is enduring - it continues to grow due to its novelty and genius. I would like to see him move on to more permanent media, such as books. I know that I would be first in line to preorder a hardcover of "A Royalist History of the United States".
  10.  
  11. The genius of Moldbug is notable in part because it is multidimensional. It begins with a novel method of historical analysis dubbed slow history[1]. It proceeds to a compelling analysis of the flow of power in modern Democracies - the Cathedral hypothesis. And it finishes with neat speculative political ideas informed by the rest of the corpus, sort of a science fiction of politics.
  12.  
  13. Moldbug's politics is the bastard child of Victorian England and techno-libertarianism. This strange flavor combination comes from the technology enabled dive into the pre-modern mind that is slow history[1]. It began with Google Books, a Google project to digitize all the books in the world and put them online for free if they are out of copyright. Moldbug took advantage of this information windfall to analyze history through the words of the participants.
  14.  
  15. Slow history may sound less revolutionary than it is. After all, I read several old works in my high school history class. But while I read Thomas Jefferson's <i>Declaration of Independence</i>, I had never heard of the royalist rebuttal - Thomas Hutchinson's Strictures Upon the Declaration of Independence[2]. Why is that?
  16.  
  17. There is truth in the adage that history is written by the victors, and the modern order is the descendant of the winning side of every existential political conflict in recent history. History from the modern vantage point is therefore triumphalist history, history as a narrative of good guys winning over bad guys. Every winning team has the urge and the power to narrate history as a series of steps leading up to the best possible rulers: themselves.
  18.  
  19. But Moldbug's work escapes from the claustrophobic confines of subjectivist modernism. It examines each historical conflict *on its own terms* before the guns came out settle the argument. We read Ally propaganda about how the Nazis are evil spawn of Satan, but we also read Nazi propaganda about the righteousness of their cause and the evil of the Allies. We repeat the process for each historical conflict and we find, to our horror, that history is not a story where the good guy always wins.
  20.  
  21. My readers and Moldbug's can rest assured that the Nazis are one of the correctly identified bad guys of history. But the official narrative gets plenty wrong. For example, Thomas Jefferson was clearly full of it. The Declaration of Independence is either propaganda, delusion, or both.
  22.  
  23. Since Moldbug's history disagrees with mainstream history, his work can be classified as revisionist history. I joke that Moldbug is the Howard Zinn of the right-wing. But Moldbug is a more serious scholar than Zinn.
  24.  
  25. It is strange and exhilarating to read history without filtering everything through the lens of the modern eye. Like a young child leaving the ground behind to stand on our own two legs we see farther but not without discomfort. We wobble, uncertain without our accustomed support and are sometimes tempted to return to it. But repeat attempts yield the strength to think clearly with the minds of all mankind our allies, rather than voluntarily imprisoning ourselves in the mental fashions of the last few decades.
  26.  
  27. Instead of judging political actors by how closely they fit modern ideals, Moldbug judges based on how much they promote safety, thriving, and fidelity to the truth. There is a whiff of Aristotle and Nietzsche about Unqualified Reservations, though Moldbug claims neither as influence. Rather, the most cited figure in UR is Thomas Carlyle, and if you dive in you will be regaled with excerpts from The Latter Day Pamphlets. I don't enjoy Carlyle's style, but at least the first two pamphlets are full of witty insights if you can slug through the Victorian language conventions.
  28.  
  29. There is value in imitating the slow history method yourself. Having escaped mainstream indoctrination, do not place your mind at the mercy of Moldbug's interpretation of the world. Can he be trusted? He has an unsavory look about him. He speaks too fast (and writes too fast!). It's worthwhile to check his results.
  30.  
  31. This is as good of a place as any to conclude with a long list of links into the corpus. Moldbug's style is breezy and witty, if overly long and in need of an editor. You may hate it or find it addictive, but a reaction in-between is not uncommon. For the reader with limited time, you are to be pitied. But I suggest to start with the gentle introduction[3] series unless something else catches your eye.
  32.  
  33. *********Links*********
  34.  
  35. The indispensable index. The historical authors referred to in each piece are listed next to the title:
  36. http://moldbuggery.blogspot.com/
  37.  
  38. A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations
  39. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/04/open-letter-to-open-minded-progressives.html
  40. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified_15.html
  41. ...use moldbuggery to follow the rest
  42.  
  43. Moldbug's first post - A formalist Manifesto
  44. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/04/formalist-manifesto-originally-posted.html
  45.  
  46. Why I am not a libertarian
  47. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-i-am-not-libertarian.html
  48.  
  49. On the religions of atheists
  50.  
  51. Why do atheists believe in religion?
  52. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/04/why-do-atheists-believe-in-religion.html
  53.  
  54. Idealism is not great
  55. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/05/idealism-is-not-great.html
  56.  
  57. Our planet is infested with Pseudo-atheists
  58. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/05/our-planet-is-infested-with-
  59.  
  60.  
  61. Miscalaneous:
  62. Why, when, and how to abolish the United States
  63. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/07/why-when-and-how-to-abolish-united.html
  64.  
  65. How I stopped believing in Democracy
  66. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-i-stopped-believing-in-democracy.html
  67.  
  68. An Open Letter to an Open Minded progressive
  69. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/04/open-letter-to-open-minded-progressives.html
  70. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2008/04/open-letter-pt-2-more-historical.html
  71. ... and ditto
  72.  
  73.  
  74. [1] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2010/09/slow-history-and-mysterious-20th.html
  75. [2] http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1130&Itemid=264
  76. [3] http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified.html
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