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Neoreactionism: A history


In Viewpoint magazine, Shuja Haider provides a detailed history of neoreactionism and its emergence into the political mainstream with the election of Donal Trump. The piece uncovers strange and disturbing connections between Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, “alt-right” bloggers, and liberal publications like The Atlantic and The New Republic. Haider makes clear that neoreactionism is a central element of the Republican Party rather than a marginal tendency. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Neoreactionaries don’t advocate any kind of central social organization. Land envisions a “gov-corp,” a society run like a company, ruled by a CEO. Instead of petitioning a government for redress of grievances, unsatisfied customers are free to take their business elsewhere. If this sounds medieval, neoreactionaries don’t deny it — Yarvin sometimes describes himself as a “royalist,” or a “monarchist,” or even a “Jacobite,” in reference to 17th-century opponents of parliamentary influence in British government.

The question is, where do you go after exiting? NRxers don’t dismiss the idea of competing gov-corps on the same land mass, an idea anticipated by NRx intellectual forefather Hans Herman-Hoppe, an extreme libertarian political scientist, who advocates for a system that he admits is essentially feudalism. On a more abstract level, the neoreactionary fascination with bitcoin imagines the escape to an alternate economy unencumbered by federal regulation. Even Yarvin’s startup, Urbit, seems to be oriented towards exit: it promises an alternative internet inaccessible to outside users.

But the most utopian (dystopian?) wing of NRx literally aims to build Lovecraftian cities in the sea. This project, called Seasteading, is championed by Yarvin’s former business partner Patri Friedman, whose grandfather Milton Friedman happens to be the economist responsible for the most extreme free market policies in the modern world. Peter Thiel was once Seasteading’s principal backer, as well as an investor in Urbit.

It’s not hard to see why floating sovereign states, out of any existing nation’s jurisdiction, would appeal to the super-rich. At their most innocuous, they might serve as an extension of an offshore bank, allowing for evasion of any type of redistributive tax policy. They also bring to mind the activities of wealthy men like Jeffrey Epstein, who used his private Caribbean island to throw bacchanalian parties for his millionaire and billionaire friends, allegedly revolving around the sexual assault of minors.

The path of exit doesn’t end at the water’s edge. Though you won’t hear him promoting NRx rhetoric, Elon Musk is committed to the idea in his own way, keeping one eye on Mars and one underground.

Image: Siena Cathedral as seen through Google’s neural network. Via Viewpoint.