Guns and Protofascism
You keep your oligarchy, I'll keep my guns, and we both win.
I know exactly who you are. I can see you through your computer screen. You’re going to hate 90% of this article, and even the show stopping finale may not win you back. You might as well stop reading now. Tomorrow in the shower, you’re going to be thinking about this article, and wondering if I’m right, and it’s going to eat you up.
I believe in Darwinism. Genetic Darwinism, corporate Darwinism, social Darwinism, memetic Darwinism, religious Darwinism, political Darwinism. All The Darwinisms. Any time you have a system of competing, self-propagating, evolving things, that system is going to rub out the things that don’t work. The things that work best will subsume and dominate that system until the next better thing subsumes and dominates those.
I believe this happens with religion, with corporations, with societies, and with systems of government. I believe this is mathematical, and inevitable, and can be utilized as an analysis tool to describe almost any factor of our modern life if used sharply and with care. And when I apply this tool to analyze global geopolitical systems, I draw three conclusions. One, all human political systems are evolving towards different skins over same system of economic protofascist oligarchy. Two, this economic protofascist oligarchy is winning because it is better, because that’s how Darwinism works. Three, there is no way to control this economic protofascist oligarchy with votes and the only way to check the growth of its power is with ubiquitous firearm ownership.
Protofascist Oligarchy in a Bite Sized Strawman
Mussolini invented fascism in name, and we now associate fascism with dictatorial power, suppression of opposition, and an extremely tight link between corporate interests and the state. The state provides boons, benefits, and protections to corporate entities and in return the state surreptitiously exerts marginal to maximal control over those entities. Although we can certainly draw a lot of parallels between the Fascist concept and modern America, including nationalism, censorship, cancel culture, and literally everything the government did in the name of Covid-19, we’re going to focus on the economic layer. Let’s just grab some quotes from the Wikipedia article on the political economy of Fascist Italy to get started.
Specifically, during the first four years of the new regime under a multiparty coalition government (1922–1925) the Fascists had a generally laissez-faire economic policy under the Finance Minister Alberto De Stefani, a former stalwart leader in the Center Party. Free competition was encouraged and De Stefani initially also reduced taxes, regulations and trade restrictions on the whole. De Stefani reduced government expenditure and balanced the budget. Some previous legislation introduced by the Socialists, such as the inheritance tax, was repealed.
This was also a period when the Italian Fascist government undertook a large-scale privatization policy, which was among the first such policies in the modern world.
They began with classic Republican stuff before the Fascism kicked in.
Nevertheless, "once Mussolini acquired a firmer hold of power [...] laissez-faire was progressively abandoned in favour of government intervention, free trade was replaced by protection[ism] and economic objectives were increasingly couched in exhortations and military terminology". De Stefani was forced to resign in 1925 because his policy of free trade was opposed by many Italian business leaders, who favored protectionism and subsidies to insulate domestic business from international competition.
First the public institutions being privatized, then the government becomes beholden to assuring the bottom line of the private sector by government policy. The USA has been slowly moving through this same evolution most of this century in health care, housing, and banking.
In 1929, Italy was hit hard by the Great Depression. The Italian economy, having just emerged from a period of monetary stabilization, was not ready for this shock and prices fell and production slowed. Unemployment rose from 300,787 in 1929 to 1,018,953 in 1933. Trying to handle the crisis, the Fascist government nationalized the holdings of large banks which had accrued significant industrial securities. The government also issued new securities to provide a source of credit for the banks and began enlisting the help of various cartels (consorzi) that had been created by Italian business leaders since 1922.
The securitization of bad bank debt was a fixture of the 2008 bailout and was justified publicly for the same reasons.
This economic model based on a partnership between government and business was soon extended to the political sphere in what came to be known as corporatism. From 1934 onwards, believing that Italy could have avoided the Great Depression if it had not been linked to international markets, Mussolini insisted that autarky should be one of the primary goals of his government's economic policy. To this end, the Fascists began to impose significant tariffs and other trade barriers.
Mussolini also adopted a Keynesian policy of government spending on public works to stimulate the economy. Between 1929 and 1934, public works spending tripled to overtake defense spending as the largest item of government expenditure. At this time, Mussolini said about Keynes that "despite the latter's prominent position as a Liberal", his work may be considered a "useful introduction to fascist economics". Italian Fascists also expressed great interest in the works of neoclassical economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto had argued that democracy was an illusion and that a ruling class always emerged and enriched itself.
This is economic protofascism. All nations in the world are moving towards a similar economic model: Keynesian corporatist trade protectionist states with global trade deals between other Keynesian corporatist trade protectionist states. But unlike Fascist Italy, which was a blatant top-down autocracy, the power structures that glue modern protofascist states together are networked oligarchies of power which hide behind the veil.
Sound, peer reviewed science shows us that the United States is an oligarchy. We’ve known this definitively since at least 2014. The Trump Regime was the first administration since 1979 that didn’t have a Bush or a Clinton as at least Secretary of State. The two modern political groups who seem to see this truth the most clearly are ironically the Antifa-Left and the Alt-Right, which brings us to an increasingly popular off kilter blogger named Curtis Yarvin.
Reactionary Philosophy in a Bite Sized Strawman
Vanity Fair recently did a piece on Yarvin that was surprisingly only a marginal hit job instead of a vicious one.
He considers himself a reactionary, not just a conservative—he thinks it is impossible for an Ivy League–educated person to really be a conservative. He has consistently argued that conservatives waste their time and political energy on fights over issues like gay marriage or critical race theory, because liberal ideology holds sway in the important institutions of prestige media and academia—an intertwined nexus he calls “the Cathedral.” He developed a theory to explain the fact that America has lost its so-called state capacity, his explanation for why it so often seems that it is not actually capable of governing anymore: The power of the executive branch has slowly devolved to an oligarchy of the educated who care more about competing for status within the system than they do about America’s national interest.
No one directs this system, and hardly anyone who participates in it believes that it’s a system at all. […] But within the Cathedral, the best way for me to get big assignments and win attention is to identify and attack what seem like threats against the established order, which includes nationalists, antigovernment types, or people who refuse to obey the opinions of the Cathedral’s experts on issues like vaccine mandates, in as alarming a way as I possibly can. This cycle becomes self-reinforcing and has been sent into hyperdrive by Twitter and Facebook, because the stuff that compels people to click on articles or share clips of a professor tends to affirm their worldview, or frighten them, or both at the same time. The more attention you gain in the Cathedral system, the more you can influence opinion and government policy. Journalists and academics and thinkers of any kind now live in a desperate race for attention—and in Yarvin’s view, this is all really a never-ending bid for influence, serving the interests of our oligarchical regime. […]
To truly be red-pilled, you have to understand the workings of the Cathedral. And the way conservatives can actually win in America, he has argued, is for a Caesar-like figure to take power back from this devolved oligarchy and replace it with a monarchical regime run like a start-up.
What we needed, Yarvin thought, was a “national CEO, [or] what’s called a dictator.”
We can best understand Yarvin’s position with an image made by Zero HP Lovecraft, an amazing modern fiction author whose chief public hobby is shitposting alt-right stuff on Twitter. We’ve featured this chart before on HWFO:
Yarvin goes deep on every box in this chart at one point or another in his publication. While this model isn’t necessarily perfect, it’s certainly useful, and the most useful part is the fat black vertical line in the image. Your votes don’t matter. You’re electing figureheads, who are purely actors and potential future scapegoats. Every element of modern “politics” is a distraction. It’s a reality TV show of no more importance than The Bachelor.
This shocking realization propagates through the Antifa-left and leads to direct action such as arson. It propagates through the Alt-Right and leads Yarvin to call for a dictator. It shocks them both for the same reason: they’ve been lied to in their formative years about the nature of self-governance. And both groups fail at the finish line because they don’t take the time to consider that maybe self-governance is suboptimal, Darwinistically speaking.
If protofascism is bad, why are all the countries of the world evolving towards it? We’re doing it. China’s doing it. Russia’s doing it. It must have some game theoretical value. If all the world’s major powers claim to be democracies, while running a protofascist oligarchy engine under the hood, what’s the true value of democracy? What even makes a political system “good” or “bad?”
My father spoke to an old Franco supporter in Spain in the 1970s and asked him why he supported a man who took his freedoms away. The man replied, “Franco gave me the freedom to walk the streets at night.” Good systems provide safe places to make babies and make their people wealthier by making more stuff. Bad systems fail to make stuff, fail to provide safe places to make babies, or both. The root of the original pro-fascist arguments from Mussolini’s day were about this dynamic. The fascist economic system in theory makes more stuff and makes the streets safe. And the anti-fascist argument is that it leads to violent revolution because of lack of fairness and representation. If fascists could plug that violent revolution hole without a perpetual violent police state, they’d be gold.
Violent revolution is a regular topic around here. HWFO began as a gun statistics publication doing silly mathematical experiments like predicting the likelihood of nationwide violent civil war using floodplain stochastics, which leads us to this conclusion. The most important feature of democracy is not that the winners of “The Show” represent the people. The most important feature is that the people think they do. The illusion of choice in governance is a feature not a bug. It suppresses violent revolution, and violent revolutions destroy an incredible number of lives and a huge amount of stuff. Democracy is the most important gaslighting operation in modern history, because it insulates the protofascist regime and allows it to keep making stuff while we keep making babies. It’s the last piece of the puzzle Mussolini needed to make his thing work. He’d be so proud of us.
Checks and Balances
What holds this beast in check? You can’t beat the protofascist oligarchy with votes because they control the ballot box and the people you elect have no power anyway. The lobbyists write the laws. You can’t beat the protofascist oligarchy with money because they’re the central moneymaking nexus. You can only beat them with bullets. So why aren’t we revolting right now?
Because currently, today, revolting would be tremendously stupid, and if you’re reading this article thinking about revolting you should spend some time reflecting on your own stupidity. Because currently, today, life really isn’t that bad for most people. Because currently, today, the protofascist oligarchy is sharing the Government Cheese with the proletariat working class. Certainly not all the cheese. Perhaps not most. But it is objectively true that the median US income puts you in the top 5% of the globe, and probably in the top 99.9% of the history of the human population.
That’s why nobody’s revolting. Nobody’s revolting because it’s way easier to get into bloodless Twitter fights and vote harder in four years, while we watch on-demand Netflix and eat pre-packaged meals because even the poorest of us are overfed global 10%ers.
Will it always be this way? Not necessarily.
If the transhumanist faction of the protofascist oligarchy invents “immortality for the rich,” they may decide they don’t need the poor and start wasting them. If the protofascist oligarchy converts the Army entirely into flying death robots, it may make wasting the poor push-button easy. The protofascist oligarchy may get all sorts of awful ideas, like making us eat bugs, or take vaccines that don’t actually do anything, or mandatory organ donation. The more the job automation bar moves, the more people will become professionally disenfranchised until robots do all the work and nobody makes any money to buy the stuff the robots make. The protofascist oligarchy has many potential future failure modes.
And in each of those modes, the check against its power is fear. They control the votes, they control the money, but they currently do not control the guns, and the guns are their only weakness. They know this.
The actual check against oligarchical power is firearm proliferation. You do more to ensure a bugfood-free-future by buying another thousand rounds of ammo to go with your semi-automatic rifle than you do by voting as hard as you could ever possibly vote. The right to self defense is secondary. The Constitution is not important. All that matters is to distribute as many semiautomatic rifles across the country (or the world) as possible in a way the protofascist oligarchy can’t track. Provided we have that, the check against power remains in place. Afghanistan was the test case. Even with 24/7 flying death robot top cover and night vision DEVGRU spec ops black helicopters, a bunch of illiterates who wipe their asses with rocks beat the protofascist oligarchy. They only needed rifles, IEDs, and time.
This is the path to a lasting peace:
You can stage your show elections. I will ignore them. You can keep your oligarchy. I will keep my guns. And I will not consider giving them back until you willfully dismantle your oligarchy so I don’t have to shoot you one day. Your fear will guide your actions to ensure things never get so bad as to provoke a revolt, and we all live peacefully and happily ever after.
Absolutely go buy your guns and your extra ammunition. I am a big 2nd amendment proponent. However, the moment anybody tries to rise up in a revolution to overthrow the government I will be right there with my guns fighting to stop them, and so will most everyone else.
Here is the flaw in your theory. You say that self government is a myth, except it is not, because the government we have is exactly the government the vast majority of people want. You and I may not want to take vaccines that don't work but over 80% of the public does, so they get what they want. We will never eat bugs because the vast majority of people are never going to give up their Big Macs and large fries.
If you go and look at the major cultural battles over the last 100 years you will see that they all trend toward more personal freedom, not less. Civil rights, abortion, gay marriage, transgender bathroom access, marijuana, and on and on. In all of these cases our government and our courts has given people an official stamp to do what they want with their lives. I may disagree with abortion and gay marriage, etc., and I may think that official government approval of more and more deviant behavior is the wrong way to go, but my position has been losing because the other side has done a much better job of marketing. Besides, it is far easier to tell everyone to let their freak flag fly than to convince someone they need to actually behave and be responsible adults.
The same can be said of gun ownership. Try as hard as they might, the liberal elite will never be able to outlaw private gun ownership because there are just too many people that own guns, and the people won't stand for it. The best they can do is nibble around the edges.
And that brings us to why we have a nation of self government that appears to be an oligarchy. Just as we have started offloading certain thought processes to our phones, the vast majority of people offloaded their civic thought processes to political parties and government experts a long time ago. Most people are more interested in watching sports, or seeing who wins American Idol than they are in who runs the country. Most people couldn't even pass a basic civics test on how our government works.
When it comes to local government they don't even have any idea what those positions are or what they do, much less have an inclination to go vote for them. But for a country and a government to function, someone has to actually do the work to make that happen which is where you get your "experts." The result is that people have come along and told the masses, "Don't worry. We've got this. You just relax and vote for the people we tell you to and we will keep things rolling. Do you want a refill on those fries?"
So everyone is happy. The people who want to run things are happy because they get up, work their a-- off and get into positions of power. The masses are happy because they live in a country where they get to do what they want, eat what they want, sleep with what they want, and enjoy all the entertainment the world has to offer without worrying about who's minding the store. As depressing as that sounds, the system has worked pretty good so far. We are the richest, most powerful country in the world with the strongest military ever created, and we don't even use it to create an American empire. Okay, we're not the smartest folks in the world anymore and our population may be headed towards Idiocracy, but life is pretty good.
The only ones that don't like it are the cranks. The ones on the far left and far right who don't like people that either don't look like them or do things they don't like. These are the ones that are the most likely to revolt, and I would fight either of them to the death, because that is where your fascist oligarchy comes from. The spectrum of political belief from left to right is not a straight line. It is an arc where the two extreme ends meet in support of dictatorship. Both extreme ends want to have total control of your life, they just want it for slightly different reasons.
If you want to change the course of America you have to persuade the masses to go along with you, but persuasion is hard and it takes a long time, and like I said before, if you are a conservative it is even harder to persuade people to be responsible. It is incredibly easy to persuade someone to be selfish and vote for their own personal interest, so liberals have been winning the persuasion game. Guys like Yarvin don't have either the inclination or patience to do it. That's why he wants to go the dictator route. Why do the long, hard, messy work of trying to convince someone to agree with you when you can hire a strong man to take over and force everyone to do what you want?
And that is why I would be fighting any revolt that comes up. I may not like the direction our culture is going, but at least the direction leads to more personal freedom, not less. It may be depressing to see so many people offload their civic responsibility to people who are mainly looking out for their own self interest, but quite frankly our system of government is better than any other country out there. If it ever bothers me enough I will start working with people who agree with me to try and persuade more people to my way of thinking and try to make a difference.
Until then I have work to do so I can feed my family.
My initial reaction is that you attribute way more agency to the 'oligarchy' than exists in real life, except I know that neither you nor Yarvin do so. The various branches of this 'oligarchy' are mostly traditions, vibes, and conformity instead of any kind of rational actor. They're a stupid machine that burns a lot of resources justifying their own delusions. Why I am reiterating this if I think you already agree with it? Well, I think the latter half of the article isn't consistent with this view.
> If the transhumanist faction of the protofascist oligarchy invents “immortality for the rich,” they may decide they don’t need the poor and start wasting them. If the protofascist oligarchy converts the Army entirely into flying death robots, it may make wasting the poor push-button easy. The protofascist oligarchy may get all sorts of awful ideas, like making us eat bugs, or take vaccines that don’t actually do anything, or mandatory organ donation. The more the job automation bar moves, the more people will become professionally disenfranchised until robots do all the work and nobody makes any money to buy the stuff the robots make. The protofascist oligarchy has many potential future failure modes.
The problem is that the utility of people actually isn't a very large factor in propaganda/bureaucracy circles. Otherwise blank-slatism would be eviscerated, the difference in talent selection gained would be enormous for any structure that cared about utility. Even post-immortality the neurotic status-quo bias of bureaucratic institutions will persist, since that's what they select for in the first place.
I think there's a leap of faith happening here where disenfranchisement inevitably equals dystopia, and I think that's been false for some (though not all) political systems. There's a very sad truth that is both white and black pilling, which is that actually institutions are very permeable and fragile, but also that they're entropic in a way. Neo-racism (wokeness) isn't winning because of a grand strategy, but because scapegoating the successful group has been a winning political strategy in every country. Safetyism and scapegoating the unvaxxed is deployed because its a tried and true justification for power. And those strategies work not because we live in a dystopia because most people fall for it, and that's just human nature.
This is obviously incomplete, I'll add it to my article queue, but hopefully that at least makes the main lines of my reaction clear.