Thursday, February 13, 2014

Debate with Michael Anissimov


A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about "neoreaction", a new political ideology that is getting a fair amount of press. So I decided to have a debate with Michael Anissimov, a neoreactionary blogger. I agreed to represent the "Cathedral", i.e. the liberal orthodoxy, but ironically, Bloggingheads wouldn't allow us to have the debate on their site.

So we recorded it ourselves, which is harder than you would think, even with modern technology. As a result, the quality is not amazing, and there's an annoying watermark, and we had to keep switching back and forth between our faces. But I think it turned out OK. You can watch the debate here, or read a very good written summary here.

The four questions we covered were:

1. Which is better, traditional society better or modernity?

2. Are "all men created equal"?

3. Could monarchy work in this day and age?

4. Which is better, traditional gender roles or modern gender roles?

As you'll see, I took a basically libertarian perspective throughout the debate. Liberals and libertarians disagree on a lot of things, but the basic American founding ideas - equality under the law, civil liberties - are things we agree on. The connection froze just as we were getting into the most heated area of disagreement, gender roles. Too bad. But I still think the debate turned out pretty well.

25 comments:

  1. The "traditional gender roles" (a joke, since none of them are really traditional beyond the 19th century) should have been an easy one. Bring up Japan and other east Asian countries, where forcing women to make a choice between having kids and working tends to result in very low birth rates and unhappy women. Point out that in America, the stable families are actually among the middle-class and upper-middle class couples who are both educated, both often work, and share responsibilities rather than the traditional "wife as homemaker" bit. And also point out Sweden and Norway, where you get good outcomes despite the actual legal marriage rate being low.

    Not that I expect it would do much good. From the summary, it sounded like "traditional marriage" was just a Strong Prior he had, mixed in with some class condescension about how it was "too complicated" for the lower classes.

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  2. Anonymous6:45 PM

    Flebbeldenger

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  3. Bill Ellis7:39 PM

    "So economics. Very distraction from productive activity. Wow."

    Is this a grammar mistake...or am I just not hip ?

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    Replies
    1. You just ain't hip, doge.

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    2. Bill Ellis, a useful resource:

      http://www.dogeweather.com/

      Delete
  4. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Debate? More like a "Rekting" of that guy. Hold on, ROMANIA is here with that neo-monarchy! AND ARABS. Oh wait, we dont like their monarchy. BUT MY IMAGINARY MONARCHY IS AWESOME. And you built this guy up as a thought leader. Anissimov makes Ferguson look like DeLong.

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    1. +1, I am afraid.

      I just read the summary, rather than watch 1 hour of video but, if it's a fair summary, beyond the point that individualism can be taken too far and that, as social animals, we suffer from excesses of it, it's really a lot of BS.

      The only point where Noah is wrong is the 1700 BC = 1700 AD. Economists say that because of some stupid GDP per capita graph or somesuch. Yes, in both cases, 90% of the population was farming and at the mercy of a bad crop. But that's about the extent of the similarities. Amazing technological progress occurred between both dates. It just didn't benefit the masses...

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  5. Anonymous9:04 PM

    Random thoughts:

    1. Is income inequality inevitable in a free market? Is it bad? Does it lead to political inequality?

    2. Iron law of oligarchy - Can democracy scale?

    3. Women's liberation is the expansion of the division of labor into domestic work. Someone has to cook and raise the kids, but it doesn't have to be family that does it. In olden times the rich outsourced domestic work. Now the everyone does it to a certain extent.

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    1. Is income inequality inevitable in a free market? Is it bad? Does it lead to political inequality?

      Sure it's inevitable to some degree, sure it leads to some bad effects, the question is how much of it we can prevent before we start causing other bad effects.

      Women's liberation is the expansion of the division of labor into domestic work. Someone has to cook and raise the kids, but it doesn't have to be family that does it. In olden times the rich outsourced domestic work. Now the everyone does it to a certain extent.

      Yep, plus we have all those cool machines.

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  6. Anonymous7:37 AM

    "Rabenmutter" (raven mother) is not a slur specific for mothers who work and therefore cannot take care of their kids, but a slur for bad mothers in general.

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  7. I agree with some of the views of the 'dark enlightenment' except that trying to replace the government or adoption of Austrian economics isn't the best approach. The system we have now is actually pretty good at rewarding success and talent, especially compared to other countries; furthermore, we don't really live in a democracy, so there really isn't anything to replace. Steven Pinker refutes tabula rasa - that everyone is a blank slate, and uneven outcomes in life (winners vs losers) are the result of environmental factors (racism/discrimination), instead innate qualities such as genes. The modern liberal approach of forcing equal outcomes through welfare programs, taxation, interest rate hikes, and regulation are counterproductive in contrast to the classical liberal approach of equal opportunity in a meritocracy. The current for of monetary policy we have has created trillions in wealth and has made people rich the world over through speculation, real estate, web 2.0, etc. Champions of capitalism, wealth creation, and the free market should support the fed. Sometimes it's best to take the good with the bad instead of making everything worse-off just to make maybe one or two things better

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    1. Anonymous7:07 PM

      "The system we have now is actually pretty good at rewarding success and talent, especially compared to other countries"

      At least you think so. Is it really so? Well Chetty et al (1) found that social mobility in the US is lower than expected, lower than in lot of european wellfare-states. How do you explain it? Genetics? (One argument of Greg Mankiw).

      "The modern liberal approach of forcing equal outcomes through welfare programs, taxation, interest rate hikes, and regulation are counterproductive in contrast to the classical liberal approach of equal opportunity in a meritocracy."

      In case of financial market imperfections, the two could well go hand-in-hand: inequality => less equality of opportunity (how do yoy finance for example education?). And there are lot of arguments like this one. The point was made for example by Duflo & Banerjee in their book "Poor economics".

      "The current form of monetary policy we have has created trillions in wealth and has made people rich the world over through speculation, real estate, web 2.0, etc"

      What do you mean by this? The point of monetary policy is not to create wealth, basically monteray policy does not create wealth. As stated by Friedman, the point of monetary policy is... well to prevent monetary policy from destroying wealth.

      (1) Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Patrick Kline & Emmanuel Saez, 2014. "Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States,"

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    2. Anonymous7:12 PM

      Re-reading, I think you could have been ironical... or?

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    3. Anonymous9:01 PM

      It may seem like irony, but he seems to have a non-ironic website. Institute seems to be merely an example of unintentional comedy.

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  8. I literally can't believe this debate is being had.

    There are certain notions we should all agree are not up for debate. We do not need to debate whether rape is wrong etc.

    These neoreactionary morons should not be given the oxygen of publicity.

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    1. Anonymous10:21 AM

      I totally agree. Sadly even intelligent liberals like Noah take a Habermasian position and think that talking about ideological axioms can be fruitful just because it is communication.
      The only proper attitude, as you pointed out, is a Jacobin one: ignore or crush folks who do not even hide that they wanna undo the advances we made since the Enlightenment.

      I live in a country where centrist liberals thought in the thirties precisely like Noah does: "don't worry, we can talk with deal and contain those reactionary folks". Then they came to power and caused the death of tens of millions.

      Given that climate change cannot be slowed down, given that the world population will explode or worldwide industrialization slows down population growth but heats up the planet even more and leads to resource shortages of all kind this century will probably be more violent than the last one the chance that civilization as we know it descents into barbarity is already large enough without liberals leading a "civil discussion" with reactionary anti-enlightenment scum.
      Liberals who do not wanna entertain this zero level of violence of democracy, i.e. some positions like torture or monarchy must not be talked about, are unwilling aiding the enemy.

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    2. R. Jones12:29 PM

      I appreciate your honesty. It's quite revealing.

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  9. Anonymous3:35 PM

    I wish I had not seem this video. You look so dumb. This will affect my future readings of your posts.

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    1. You had never seem the picture of me at the bottom right of the blog??

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  10. Funnily enough watching people who aren't sociologists jerkily debate sociological issues isn't that interesting. What is, sociologically, is the notion of why Americans actually give people who consider debating modernity in such a fashion the time of day. I mean fer chrissakes, the US is the most technologically advanced country in the world and yet hunners of Americans still have issues about coming to terms with the enlightenment. That's the issue, like why? Huh? How you manage to think that given your actual reality, not what such muppets may or may not think about this or that.

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    1. I like muppets, and I wish the term wasn't used as an insult. :(

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  11. On the issue of aristocracy v. meritocracy, I would direct everyone to Michael Youngs great 2001 article:

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/jun/29/comment

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  12. Anonymous5:17 PM

    We should ignore some people, like Ed Proscott and Michael Anissimov. I just got dumber.

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  13. Anonymous5:54 PM

    Debate is a terrible way to get at reality because it's inherently adversarial. It's used if you have a situation that is already adversarial (skin in the game) like in a courtroom, and only then with strict rules. And still it's pretty much garbage-in, garbage-out. What you had was a speculative discussion.

    But why bother? No one is going to put this Anissimov character in dictatorial charge of society. Why give disproportionate weight to ideas from a random guy on the internet? Is he academically vetted or significant in his real-world accomplishments? Does he do anything?

    It's interesting to remember dynastic politics, but you've got all of literature if you're interested in that social order. And everyone who could, did away with the aristocratic order as soon as they got the chance. As a child, I grew up around people who fled the falling Hohenzollern and Habsburg empires. Those societies were brutal and hellish. Americans cannot possibly imagine. You didn't speak to people outside your social class. Never mind the religious and ethnic segregation. WWII was no surprise, I'll tell you.

    And that's the problem with speculating. You're dealing with a complicated system like the human social order, and instead of being empirical you've got some plausible sounding arguments. But you've got to look at what actually happened. What has been tested? What has worked? What was it actually like? How much do we really know right now anyway?

    For all its current flaws, Americans and the English-speaking peoples in general have a remarkable model of civilization. I don't think there's anything currently wrong that can't be corrected from within the existing system. I wouldn't mind a little more social cohesion, but civilizations go on for generations, and the troubles of today are not guaranteed to be with us forever.

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  14. Michael Anussimov just comes across as a complete idiot.

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