Against NRx

Western thought created the Enlightenment with the refutation of monarchism. The old feudal system was bad because it failed to recognize the ability to reason innate in (most) all human beings. It valued stability at the cost of dignity, and forced both liberty and progress into a position subordinate to theology. The theology of monarchy, indeed, is rooted in the notion of divine right. Yet, as Locke showed, divine right is self-defeating, because the divine right to rule should not be able to be challenged by an outside force. Further, divine right monarchy was costly in terms of warfare expenses, taxes, and the economy’s development. It is from the monarchist attempt to centralize the profits of individuals that we get things like mercantilism and bullionism. Monarchism, more than anything else, is an arbitrary form of government with no system by which change can be enforced for the better; a republic, in the long-run, has a failsafe.

Now, my broad arguments against Neoreaction fall into four categories: Burkean, Hayekian, Social-Liberal, and Pragmatist.

From a Burkean perspective, one can find plenty of reasons to reject NRx thinking. For starters, Burke himself was a conservative who cherished the British crown; yet, at the same time, he acknowledged that the American Revolutionaries were in the right. This alone might be considered damning evidence against neoreaction, for Burke was a man of the old order who accepted the terms and progress of the new one. Further, though, Burke’s wisdom is present when one considers how the success of the past is tantamount to its value as a body of knowledge. When one examines the progress of old monarchy, it did very little in the way of economics. Liberalism, on the other hand, has withstood fascism, communism, and everything in between, for the last 400 years. Liberalism has been the single most successful ideology in terms of its creation of peace, human dignity, standard of life, and knowledge. To attempt to throw out that order would require a gargantuan amount of evidence, not only to prove that liberalism has failed in toto, but also to prove that neoreactionary solutions would work better in toto. Liberalism, as a framework for conducting political action and for understanding human action, is the single greatest success story we have known. It would be the ultimate Burkean sin—to dispose of a rule because there might need to be an exception—to advocate for the downfall of liberalism.

From a Hayekian perspective, the ideas of the NRx crowd seem paradoxical and odd. Hayek was a firm believer in the economic liberty of mankind, and thought that economic and social freedom must go together because the rule of law only functions when it is directed by the freely thinking individuals that it claims to protect. From his mentor Mises’ great work “Liberalism” to his book “The Constitution of Liberty,” it is clear that a firm rejection of blood-and-soil political philosophy is necessary to entrust individuals with their lives. Indeed, the name “techno-capitalism” (applied to Neoreactionary market arguments) is damning evidence that capital must be relegated to conditional economic sectors, and regulated to spaces that do not threaten the established regime. It seems, at some point, that their embrace of capitalism reflects a political virtue signal more than anything else.

Thirdly, the Social-Liberal argument attacks the central claim of Neoreaction: that Liberalism has led to moral degeneracy. While I do not at all deny that the societal acceptance of morally repugnant behaviors has increased, I think that the neoreactionary arguments rest on the externalization of morality from the individual to society itself. Indeed, during the Feudal Monarchies and the New Monarchies, peasants and tradesmen were too uneducated to genuinely understand their morality. Instead, social and political structures forced upon them Christian values. Virtue not freely chosen is not virtuous, and thus I take issue with the idea that top-down moral engineering can actually lead to more moral individuals. At some point, society becomes irrelevant to the true philosophical moral questions of any one given man. Looking at the morality of educated nobles of the era, they seem no different (internally) from people today. Popes were lustful and self-aggrandizing, clergy were rife with political gamesmanship, and nobility was little more than a black market for sex, title, and money. At least it is true that today we are able to understand our moral decisions, and morality will find individuals when they realize their individual mistakes independent of society.

My final argument against neoreaction is one of pragmatism. This is not a philosophical argument, but a purely political one. I will work this through the following thought experiment: first, imagine that you’re a leftist. You believe in the democratic control of capital and production, economic equality based on merit, and you hate the bourgeois morality implicit and explicit in the U.S. Constitution. You especially hate the fact that modern economic theories and constitutional law alike side with the political right. Now, you’ve trolled through National Review and Ricochet, and find few things that can truly damn the right. Then, however, you find yourself the neoreactionary community: one of crypto-fascistic, monarchists, intolerant, racist, illiberal right-wingers. This would be the ultimate political win for you, and Salon gives you a 10-page spot in their next issue.

This metaphor illustrates how the neoreactionary movement is a ticking time-bomb for the right writ large. Its origins are too clouded and its goals are too mystical to be defensible. In all, it is not only based on questionable moral foundations, but acted upon with a poorly conceived political strategy. It is my opinion that neoreactionaries should bring themselves back to reality, and (like leftist Sid Blumenthal or libertarian Milton Friedman) act both with and within the systems of political power.

2 thoughts on “Against NRx

  1. “Then, however, you find yourself the neoreactionary community: one of crypto-fascistic, monarchists, intolerant, racist, illiberal right-wingers. This would be the ultimate political win for you, and Salon gives you a 10-page spot in their next issue.”

    You could have saved me the essay and got to the point, lol.


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