Curtis Yarvin: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Except that every economy north of Somalia is planned. The question is how much planning. It is useless to discuss the matter in terms of binary caricatures, everyone east of Stalin knows perfectly well that the state cannot and should not attempt to make every economic decision – dunno, who is left on the planet who does not know it? Kim, perhaps? Conversely the TFM fundamentalists have never managed to produce a working instantiation of their church – the best we can do is Somalia, tho even they have resurrected a government.

Nuts, the commies at least tried their theories, the TFMers are content with pretending that their just-so stories would work in spite of the fact that every market that has ever been formed – again, above the level of Somalia – has immediately sought out regulation of itself. Markets form in the town, where the local lord provides a standardized coinage and protects you from being robbed outright by your ‘customers’. TFM is in fact bad for business. Every society since the first city states have understood this. The Romans made a science of it. The only real question is ‘how much regulation’.

That’s why centrists are always right, because we don’t have an answer. We are always looking for the sweet spot between too much and not enough and that spot is never found exactly – close is as good as it gets. The rational left will and should always say: ‘more!’ and the rational right will and should always say: ‘less!’ and we haggle over it and come up with something sensible.

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In fairness this is because there are vanishingly few people who could arguably be called Free Market Fundamentalists in the way you use the term. While there are rather a lot of communists comparatively.

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In my view, a regulatory structure is not a planned economy, and the two should not be confused.

In a planned economy the government decides what to produce, how much, who will produce it, and how much it will cost the consumer. The plans to do this are developed by bureaucrats and implemented and enforced by the State.

(In 1994 my wife and I travelled thru Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In a restaurant in Brno we were approached by the manager, who after confirming that we were Americans, showed us his menu and asked, “How much should I charge for the bread?” We and the two Brits at the next table had an absolutely wonderful conversation with the manager. He was not dumb, but had never had to think this thru before.)

Most of us who support free markets also accept the critical nature of government involvement, for example enforcing property rights, antitrust activities, to name a few areas.

Very few “TFMers”, as you call us, are purists. Very few.

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I’ve known of Curtis for a couple of years now; more as a proponent of “The Cathedral” aka “The Blue Church” amongst Game B game theorists.

The interview with Freddy Sayers was a class in how interviews should be: at numerous times Freddy pushed back on some of Yarvin’s assertions (quite correctly too in my view - Curtis is obviously intelligent but some of his takes aren’t quite accurate).

It’s good to see Curtis getting more attention; I suspect the sentiment of what he annunciates is familiar to the majority of the population, he eloquently gives it a name and he is truly an original thinker - we need more like him.

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You missed indoor plumbing and dentistry!

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I like to take Yarvin seriously, but not literally. You should too.

Monarchy? The point about having a CEO is to try to minimize politics, because, Yarvin has written: “there is no politics without an enemy.” And where does he get that? From Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt who wrote that the political is the distinction between friend and enemy. Nazi! OMG! Call the Woke Brigade!

Society. Yarvin has an interesting Three Layer idea of society, Gentry, Commoners, and Clients. The Gentry are the curates and prebendaries and bishops of the Cathedral just like in Trollope. I prefer my reductive Three Peoples theory of Creatvies, Responsibles, and Subordinates. But the idea is the same. Everybody who is anybody has a Three Level theory of society, even Wokies with their Allies, Oppressed Peoples and White Oppressors.

It’s cool that the writer has brought Spiral Dynamics into this. See also Ken Wilber. But I’d say that Yarvin is Tier Two, not Tier One. The fundamental characteristic of Tier Two is that they can understand people not at their level. Tier One people cannot understand people not like them: people lower down are idiots; people higher up are crazy.

Did you know that Yarvin has a Substack account? Gray Mirror: a lot of the content is free.

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Sure, but that could be because so few people believe that such a system could work. Apparently it was tried a few years ago in New Hampshire and the results were comical. Still the idea is seductive and I’d be very happy to be proven wrong.

Fair enough. I doubt that a clean line can be drawn between them in practice but the theoretical difference is important as you elucidate. As governments get bigger the regulatory mindset morphs into the planning mindset – I doubt we disagree.

That’s good. I still think back to the cabal of fundamentalists we used to have at QC. But when it comes to finding the balance point, as I said, the left and the right can and should argue endlessly and the rightie viewpoint is just as valid as the other. But all fundamentalists are dangerous.

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I dunno. I have a sneaking suspicion that we humans might represent a metaphysical hybridisation of the physical and the ideal. Have you ever heard of the distinction between the gros bon ange and the ti bon ange? It bears some similarities to ancient belief systems which characterised humans as being divided into distinct component parts, including the immortal soul. Despite our modern technological supremacy in many areas, it’s worth noting that we are still incapable of building the more advanced pyramids. It may well be the case that they developed a deeper understanding in other areas as well…

So we might be both animals and something else as well.

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I think a lot of arguments die down pretty quickly once the participants agree on terminology and definitions. That can be difficult, as most terms used to describe political hot-button issues come pre-loaded with meanings that are wildly different between honest people of differing views.

Take “Socialism”, for example. Many argue that Socialism can work, it works in Nordic countries. Others would argue, correctly in my view, that those economies are not in fact Socialist, in that those governments do not own the means of production, nor do they have a planned economy. Those countries are in fact simply high-tax, highly-regulated market economies with lots of government services.

(And don’t get me started on the misuse of the term Fascism. Like “racism”, it’s simply now used as a club to beat your opponents with so as to feel morally superior.)

Perhaps my feelings on this derive from what I do for a living. My job is to mine my organization’s various database applications in an effort to answer critical business and clinical questions. Agreeing on definitions up front is crucial.

For a simple example, I can show you (literally) six different ways to measure patient length of stay. Which definition to use is contingent on the question being addressed.

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Yup, it’s a huge problem. Half of the time we’d do better just waving our hands in the air (flippers in my case). And that’s between honest people. Then you have the deliberate twisting of words that Orwell warned us of, and that political bad actors use all the time. Seems to me that a great deal of slack has to be cut, at least until a discussion matures to the point that definitions really are agreed.

Good example. There’s always the tension between dictionary thumpers such as myself, and the plain fact that words mean what we use them to mean and that meaning changes. When folks like me refer to the Nordics as ‘socialist’ we know what we mean and we are understood. That’s our word for “high-tax, highly-regulated market economies with lots of government services” the planned economy people are the commies. Words jostle for position, sometimes it might be better to invent a new one but in the mean time, we steal old ones.

Heck yes. The new definition is ‘unwoke’ and I’m sticking to the dictionary on that one. Ditto ‘man’ and ‘woman’.

Interesting job! Indeed, you’d have some reason to be precise.

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Interesting read. I’ve never heard of Yarvin, but as the article notes, it seems the mantra of finding a “CEO” to run a country falls down at the first acknowledgement that countries are not merely companies.

@DataDriven I’d note that “socialism” is also used as a cudgel and a slur, much like those other -isms you mentioned.

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That’s the helicopter problem. The CEO only sees only the bird’s eye view of things. I used to joke that I was the guy on the cliff with a telescope. At one point we got the complaint that I was eating up too much of the entire companies IT resources. I was effectively banned from raising more IT requests. It didn’t stop the problem. IT was still routinely contacting me. I had at least two years worth of stored up problems I had raised as matters of concern. The ‘new’ requests the directors and senior managers were raising were ones for which I had already written summary documents.

Apparently, the IT guys preferred my concise and direct way of summing up a problem, almost as though I had become a translator. In one instance we had an issue relating to accounting and cost centring. The sticking point was that any changes would effect existing MI reporting. I said just add a prefix code- that way it will only effect the new reports they wanted produced. It was quite an effective tool in zeroing in on specific costs, and was quickly applied in other areas of budgeting. The only real difference was a minor change in the cost centre managers order pads and the codes their admins had to input onto the ordering system.

Another time, I had a call related to a previous request I had made. It was to reduce cut lengths on a type of conservatory profile to be reduced from 6.1m to 5.1m, because- bizarrely, the optimisation program worked better with the reduced length. I was a bit pissed off that natural conservatism in changing things won out over innovation. It was only a couple of £200K annual cost-saving- but it would have been credited to me.

Anyway, I got my cost-saving in the end, due to request from the retail branches. It turns out that the longer length wouldn’t fit on their vans! They were having to cut the lengths to fit, producing even more waste…

Most savings are made at the detail level. IMHO too much resource is given to MI when arming ground-level people with the right real-time info is a far more effective strategy for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

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After spending 20 years as a clinician I now do deep dives into clinical / operational data. One foot in the clinical world, one foot in the technical world. Expertise across both areas is where the big value is.

When hiring, ideally I find individuals with clinical or healthcare operations experience who I can then train as data people, but I’ll accept the converse if need be. Either way, the job requires both, and your term “translator” is right on.

I think of those as “tactical” cost savings, and I agree totally - upper management should step out of the way. Where upper management earns their money is when they can find “strategic” cost savings, i.e. dumping a money-losing program or firing an inefficient producer.

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That’s funny, I used to use exactly the same language with my bosses. Probably because I am somewhat of an amateur military historian. I used to deal with the tactical problems so that they could focus on the strategic. I was mainly ‘hard’ problems rather than ‘soft’ but I did pair up with one manager to completely change the dynamics of the progress chasing team. I learned a lot. He was of the ‘break them down and build them’ variety, and one of the better man-managers I’ve known.

He was one of only three people who listened to me, back in 2006 and 2007- he probably saved over £100K in simply waiting a few months to buy a house. The other guy came up to and thanked me at his engagement party. He was only a young lad. I noted with interest that commencement on new builds for single family homes in the US is down 30% according to one article I strayed across the other day, trying to find proof of finances increasing role in US housing.

Buying a house is probably a good way to escape inflation in the US, but I would be very careful about entering finance deals and even more careful about location. One wouldn’t want to be stuck in one of the outer zones of appreciating value- usually value drops off a cliff until prices start to recover…

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I just helped a nephew and his wife as they bought their first home (in Phoenix, AZ). Their rent had been skyrocketing, and, although they pay more now, at least they know what their ceiling is.

Most gratifying was a call I got this past weekend from the nephew - he and his wife are reveling in the “pride of ownership” thing. They’ve got big plans for tweaks and improvements.

So cool!

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Perhaps the best one, is splitting large rooms into individuals bedrooms. Their was a huge sector here in the UK, for splitting a three bedroom house into four. Apart from value, also ideal if they are thinking about having kids as well- especially with the teenage years and the freedom from arbitrary limitations (you never know when a woman will go earthmother!)

Good on you- most people think of the benefit of experience is somewhat moral- don’t make the mistakes that I did, even though the real value of experience is that pain and setbacks can be a teacher. So much better to offer real, practical advice which has major positive impacts on the future.

Not to rain on your parade, but I hope you made sure they got the best mortgage deal available, especially in terms of future rate changes. Tell them that on tweaks and improvements the best investments are magnolia paint and the strategic use of mirrors to create the illusion of added space. I kid you not, with the mirrors- it really does change the feel of the place, possibly because it amplifies lighting, especially in pokey hallway areas. The other good one is a garage conversion, or installing a mezzanine in a large garage with a high ceiling. The best advice is to have a rainy day savings account- it’s been my recent experience that when one thing goes wrong, everything else goes wrong at the same time- as though the guys who supplied the kit for the last major improvement round bought from a supplier who made things with an internal timer!

Also make sure they check the regs with the local planning rules- they are draconian, regardless of which country you live in! Congrats though, mate- in the final analysis its the way we change the parts of our lives which are the least penetrable to careerist obsessions which seem to have the greatest impacts. Well done!

Also buy spare light fixtures, fittings and bulbs if they are thinking about sunken overhead light fittings. It’s a real pain when you’ve installed a complete set, and then find out they’ve discontinued the range. Same with porcelain and crockery sets. I always buy 2 sets now.

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We might be, but let’s take Occam’s Razor seriously.

We could be godly beings with influence from outer space or beyond. Or we could just be the smartest apes on the planet right now.

I prefer humility.

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So do Christians. At the moment no part of the whole creation is performing less up to spec than humans. They have a great deal to be humble about, origin stories notwithstanding.

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