NR on Mencius & Neo-Calhounism

As managing editor of National Review, a couple of recent posts by Jason Lee Steorts (one from yesterday; one from today) is a good indicator of how Conservatism, Inc is finally starting to take NRx and the Alt-Right more seriously.

In “Against Mencius Moldbug’s ‘Neoreaction’”, Steorts is curt and dismissive of NRx (itself really an offshoot of monarchism), and begins his piece with the obligatory snarkiness (which serves to signal his readers “Hey, this stuff isn’t serious, but I’m going to discuss it anyway…”):

A few years belatedly, I have spent several recent days binge-reading the famous discontinued blog of Mencius Moldbug, also known as “Curtis Yarvin,” a computer scientist and entrepreneur who as some kind of half-advertent side project founded with his writings the small but noisome new school of “neoreactionary” (not his term) political thought (Down with liberal democracy! Restore the Stuarts!)…

But whatever their merits as literature, as political philosophy Moldbug’s writings are completely daft. And it will be worth our while to spend a few minutes considering why, since it will give us occasion to think about the perennial trade-offs with which politics confronts us, and the perennial need for balance. A few minutes is really all it will take, because, on about your third day of reading Moldbug, by which time your inner Gertrude is positively shrieking “More matter, with less art,” it becomes pellucidly clear that this whole great outpouring, stripped of its gaudy costume and seen in the definite architecture of its skeleton, is a simple stick figure of an argument, standing, like most stick figures, on two legs. One leg is diagnostic, the other prescriptive. We proceed to chainsaw them off.

Alrighty then.

Steorts lengthy piece titled “Who Americans Are”, is a much more serious critique of the Alt Right, specifically the role of race in the latter’s general political philosophy:

In any case, what the alt-right’s intellectuals actually believe about race is worse. It is not merely that “culture is inseparable from race” and that cultural distinctiveness should be preserved, as if all cultures-cum-races were equally to be cherished. Rather, in a kind of updated Calhounism, prominent alt-right intellectuals such as Richard Spencer and Jared Taylor believe that some races and ethnicities are less socially desirable than others. In some cases, as in the alt-right’s conspiracy-minded anti-Semitism, this attitude represents a revival of familiar bigotries. But in other applications the prejudice comes with a sophistical patina of scientific pseudo-justification.

I really need to get around to reading Calhoun.

Steorts continues:

For instance, alt-righties routinely point to racial gaps in average IQ scores, posit biological explanations of them, and draw normative conclusions hostile to certain races. In a 2010 essay at the alt-right webzine Radix in which he attempted to explain “why an alternative right is necessary,” Richard Hoste wrote, “We’ve known for a while through neuroscience and cross-adoption studies — if common sense wasn’t enough — that individuals differ in their inherent capabilities. The races do, too, with whites and Asians on the top and blacks at the bottom.” Hoste also claimed that “low-IQ Mexican immigration is the greatest threat to America.” This kind of argument is often made in defense of such alt-right enthusiasms as restricting immigration to people of European and perhaps Asian descent or — in the words of Radix publisher Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right” — promoting “peaceful ethnic cleansing” and “white Zionism” to bring about “an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.”

There is no expert consensus such as to justify the empirical portion of Hoste’s reasoning. Some researchers have found a statistically significant correlation between racial ancestry and average IQ after trying to account for environmental factors; some have presented evidence casting doubt on the existence a causal relation between the two. Some expect partial genetic explanations of the “racial IQ gap” eventually to be found; some think the explanation will be fully environmental. If genetics does play a causal role, it is presumably a very complicated one depending on many genes whose expression may in turn depend on environmental factors, and it may not align neatly with broad racial categories such as “Caucasian” or “African” or “Asian.” Nobody knows how one inherits intelligence even from one’s parents, let alone from one’s ancestor group more broadly defined.

Steorts is just flat out wrong in his assertion: “There is no expert consensus such as to justify the empirical portion of Hoste’s reasoning.” The reasons are many, and too long to into here, but regular readers of HBD writers such as Sailer, HBD Chick, and others will know why.

Steorts also throws out whoppers like this:

And at least culture is the right sort of thing to shape a personality. It addresses the mind and character and calls forth their personal response. That I am white, by contrast, that I have a certain ethno-genetic ancestry — this means as little as that my eyes are blueish and my hair is brown. This has nothing to do with personality.

How can Steorts know, definitively, that his genetic ancestry (as encoded in his DNA) has “nothing to do” with his personality?

Is there nothing to be said about the ‘gloominess’ of Scandinavians? The seriousness of Germans? The care-free attitude of Italians? The ‘live for now’, deferred-gratification-challenged nature of blacks?

Is he not aware of R Selection vs. K selection, and the stratification of this collective behavior on the part of different races?

Or the different degrees of reciprocal altruism that likely has a genetic basis?

Hunter Wallace has more on Steorts’ piece here, in an excellent historical primer on the ‘Alt-South’ and Antebellum writings on race, the failings of democracy, and the objective nature of the South’s cultural legacy.

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