Opposing the system has come to seem more and more pointless to me. I still want to figure out how it works; partly out of morbid curiousity and partly out of a vague hope that if understood, it can be opposed more successfully.
The only person I’m familiar with who has tried to do this is blogger Mencius Moldbug; critiques of the system are common by conservatives but they don’t step back far enough or they misdiagnose the problem, as with Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism.”
Moldbug is a very smart guy and has made an exhaustive historical study of the phenomenon usually called liberalism. His identification of its original source- the bourgeuois Calvinism of England- I believe is correct. I can’t agree with all his conclusions, or all his affinities. Carlyle was a horrible human being. If he was right that popular democracy would stir up a world of trouble, he was wrong that his way was better.
My biggest problem with Moldbug is that he describes Soviet communism as a subset of Anglo-American liberalism, as authorized and initially controlled by it. This is a stretch too far; the progressives of the time liked communism, and they thought it was the right system for low development countries like Russia, and in more recent times for the third world. They thought they could control it; they wanted to contain it, but not so much as to hinder its development in places they thought appropriate for it. Communists sneered at such patronizing attitudes, although they took advantage of them as much as they could.
Moldbug also attributes more power to the members of the bureaucracy than warrants, rather than the legislation and funding that support it. His parents both worked for the federal bureaucracy, so there is some family pride involved; but bureaucrats work in a legal environment and under budget priorities set by Congress (or its staff) and respond to initiatives set higher up- within their own organization, but influenced by other currents in the system. Judges are the real executives of the system; but they only do something when the issue has been decided elsewhere, partly in the “legal” community, partly in academia, and partly in the press. How this works exactly is one of my primary fascinations.
My shortcoming as an intellectual is impatience; I want distilled useful information now. Moldbug is good reading for somebody doing a life sentence. Of course for the kind of information I want, it’s distilled nowhere.
How, goddamnit, does the thing work? What is it doing now? How should a man hoping to maintain his sanity cope with it?
Are the people who run the system stupid? Obviously not. Why do they say things that are obviously untrue? They expect stupid people to believe, and less stupid people to go along. Do they know they’re lying? Partly. Why don’t they just admit what they are doing and how they are running things? It’s useful to lie sometimes, necessary to lie others.
Moldbug cover a lot of the why, but the how is pretty much all in Orwell as far as I can tell. There are three volumes containing all his essays published, but I only ever see the third in the bookstore; as cagey as I find Amazon I will have to get the set from them.