Curtis Yarvin

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Curtis Yarvin
Born
Curtis Guy Yarvin

(1973-06-25) June 25, 1973 (age 48)[1]
Education
Spouse(s)Jennifer Kollmer (died 2021)
Children2

Curtis Guy Yarvin (born 1973), also known by the pen name Mencius Moldbug, is an American political theorist, blogger,[4] and software developer.[5] Yarvin has been described as a neoreactionary[6] and "neo-monarchist".[7][8] In his blog Unqualified Reservations, which he wrote from 2007 to 2014, and on his more recent Substack page called Gray Mirror,[9] which he started in 2020, he argues that American democracy is a failed experiment[10] which should be replaced by monarchy or corporate governance.[11] He is known, along with fellow theorist Nick Land, for developing the anti-egalitarian and anti-democratic ideas behind the Dark Enlightenment.

In 2002, Yarvin founded the Urbit computer platform.[8] In 2013, he co-founded Tlon to manage and develop Urbit, and helped lead it until 2019.[5]

Biography[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Curtis Yarvin was born in 1973 to a highly educated, liberal, secular family.[12][13] He has two children with his late wife, Jennifer Kollmer (1971–2021), who died in San Francisco in April 2021 as a result of complications caused by hereditary cardiomyopathy.[14] Yarvin spent part of his childhood abroad, mainly on the island of Cyprus. In 1985, he returned to the US and entered Johns Hopkins' longitudinal Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth. He graduated from Brown University in 1992, then was a graduate student of Computer Science at UC Berkeley, where he conducted research on operating system network primitives and compiler optimization.[15][non-primary source needed] Yarvin left graduate school without graduating.[1]

In the 1980–1990s, Yarvin was influenced by the libertarian tech culture of the Silicon Valley.[1] Yarvin read right-wing and American conservative works. The libertarian University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds introduced him to libertarianism, especially Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. The rejection of empiricism by Mises and the Austrian School, who favored instead deduction from first principles, influenced Yarvin's mind-set.[16]

Urbit[edit]

In 2013 he co-founded Tlon to build out Urbit further and released the code under an open source license.[17]

In 2015, Yarvin's invitation to speak at the Strange Loop programming conference about Urbit was rescinded after other attendees complained due to his political writing and views.[18][19] In 2016, he was invited to present on the functional programming aspects of Urbit at LambdaConf 2016,[17] which resulted in the withdrawal of five speakers, two sub-conferences, and several sponsors.[20][21]

Yarvin worked with and helped lead Urbit development at Tlon before stepping down in January 2019.[5]

Neo-reactionary blogging[edit]

Yarvin's reading of Thomas Carlyle convinced him that libertarianism was a doomed project without the inclusion of authoritarianism, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe's 2001 book Democracy: The God That Failed marked Yarvin's first break with democracy. Another of his influences was James Burnham, who thought that real politics occurred through the actions and power manipulation of the elites, beneath what he called apparent democratic or socialist rhetoric.[22] In the 2000s, the failures of US-led nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan strengthened Yarvin's anti-democratic views, the federal response to the 2008 financial crisis strengthened his libertarian convictions, and Barack Obama's election as US president reinforced his belief that history inevitably progresses toward left-leaning societies.[23]

In 2007, Yarvin began the blog Unqualified Reservations to promote his political vision.[24] He largely stopped updating his blog in 2013, when he began to focus on Urbit, and in April 2016 he announced that Unqualified Reservations had "completed its mission".[25]

Views[edit]

Dark Enlightenment[edit]

Yarvin says that real political power in the United States is held by something he calls "the Cathedral", an amalgam of universities and the mainstream press.[26] According to him, a so-called "Brahmin" social class dominates American society, preaching progressive values to the masses. Yarvin and the Dark Enlightenment movement assert that the cathedral's commitment to equality and justice erodes social order.[27] Yarvin's ideas have been influential among right-libertarians and paleolibertarians, and the public discourses of prominent investors like Peter Thiel have echoed Yarvin's project of seceding from the US to establish tech-CEO dictatorships.[28][29] Political strategist Steve Bannon has read and admired his work.[30]

Yarvin argues for a "neo-cameralist" philosophy based on Frederick the Great of Prussia's cameralism.[31] In Yarvin's view, democratic governments are inefficient and wasteful and should be replaced with sovereign joint-stock corporations whose "shareholders" (large owners) elect an executive with total power, but who must serve at their pleasure.[32] The executive, unencumbered by liberal-democratic procedures, could rule efficiently much like a CEO-monarch.[32] Yarvin admires Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping for his pragmatic and market-oriented authoritarianism, and the city-state of Singapore as an example of a successful authoritarian regime. He sees the US as soft on crime, dominated by economic and democratic delusions.[27]

Yarvin supports authoritarianism on right-libertarian grounds, claiming that the division of political sovereignty expands the scope of the state, whereas strong governments with clear hierarchies remain minimal and narrowly focused.[27] According to scholar Joshua Tait, "Moldbug imagines a radical libertarian utopia with maximum freedom in all things except politics."[33] He has favored same-sex marriage, freedom of religion, private use of drugs, and written against race- or gender-based discriminatory laws, although, according to Tait, "he self-consciously proposed private welfare and prison reforms that resembled slavery".[32] Tait describes Yarvin's writing as contradictory, saying "He advocates hierarchy, yet deeply resents cultural elites. His political vision is futuristic and libertarian, yet expressed in the language of monarchy and reaction. He is irreligious and socially liberal on many issues but angrily anti-progressive. He presents himself as a thinker in search of truth but admits to lying to his readers, saturating his arguments with jokes and irony. These tensions indicate broader fissures among the online Right."[1]

Drawing on computer metaphors, Yarvin contends that society needs a "hard reset" or a "rebooting", not a series of gradual political reforms.[32] Instead of activism, he advocates passivism, claiming that progressivism would fail without right-wing opposition.[34] Yarvin originally called his concept of aligning property rights with political power "formalism", the formal recognition of realities of power,[33]. The label "neo-reactionary" was applied to Yarvin's ideas by Arnold Kling in 2010 and adopted by Yarvin's followers;[35]. His ideas have also been described by Dylan Matthews of Vox as "neo-monarchist".[7]

Under his Moldbug pseudonym, Yarvin gave a talk about "rebooting" the American government at the 2012 BIL Conference. He used it to advocate the acronym "RAGE", which he defined as "Retire All Government Employees". Acting as a provocateur, he described what he felt were flaws in the accepted "World War II mythology" alluding to the idea that Hitler's invasions were acts of self-defense. He argued these discrepancies were pushed by America's "ruling communists", who invented political correctness as an "extremely elaborate mechanism for persecuting racists and fascists". "If Americans want to change their government," he said, "they're going to have to get over their dictator phobia."[36]

Alt-right[edit]

Yarvin has been described as part of the alt-right by journalists and commentators.[31][37][8] Journalist Mike Wendling has called Yarvin "the alt-right's favorite philosophy instructor".[38][31] Tait describes Unqualified Reservations as a "'highbrow' predecessor and later companion to the transgressive anti-'politically correct' metapolitics of nebulous online communities like 4chan and /pol/."[28] Yarvin has publicly distanced himself from the alt-right. In a private message, Yarvin counseled Milo Yiannopoulos, then a reporter at Breitbart News, to deal with neo-Nazis "the way some perfectly tailored high-communist NYT reporter handles a herd of greasy anarchist hippies. Patronizing contempt. Your heart is in the right place, young lady, now get a shower and shave those pits."[37]

Yarvin came to public attention in February 2017 when Politico magazine reported that Steve Bannon, who served as White House Chief Strategist under U.S. President Donald Trump, read Yarvin's blog and that Yarvin "has reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary."[39] The story was picked up by other magazines and newspapers, including The Atlantic, The Independent, and Mother Jones.[31][40][41] Yarvin denied to Vox that he was in contact with Bannon in any way,[7] though he jokingly told The Atlantic that his White House contact was the Twitter user Bronze Age Pervert.[31] Yarvin later gave a copy of Bronze Age Pervert's book Bronze Age Mindset to Michael Anton, a former senior national security official in the Trump administration.[42][43]

Views on race[edit]

Yarvin has endorsed the pseudoscientific belief that whites have higher IQs than blacks for genetic reasons, and has been described as a modern-day supporter of slavery.[19][20] He has claimed that some races are more suited to slavery than others.[20] In a post that linked approvingly to Steve Sailer, Jared Taylor, and other scientific racists, he wrote "[i]t should be obvious that, although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff."[31][44] In 2009, he wrote that since US civil rights programs were "applied to populations with recent hunter-gatherer ancestry and no great reputation for sturdy moral fiber", the result was "absolute human garbage."[45]

Yarvin believes in the existence of racial hierarchies but disputes that he is racist. He has described the use of IQ tests to determine superiority as "creepy".[20] He also disputes being an "advocate for slavery".[19] Per Tait, "Moldbug's racial comments suggest a broader trend: the anonymity of the internet allows him and others who have followed in his wake to revel in taboo language, ideas, and activities. Violating social norms is a kind of liberation for Moldbug: entertaining these ideas is to break from the Cathedral."[46]

Right libertarianism[edit]

According to Tait, "Moldbug's relationship with the investor-entrepreneur Thiel is his most important connection." Peter Thiel was an investor in Yarvin's startup Tlon and gave $100,000 to Tlon's co-founder John Burnham in 2011.[28][29] In 2016, Yarvin privately asserted that he had been "coaching Thiel."[28]

Thiel and investor Balaji Srinivasan have echoed Yarvin's ideas of techno-corporate cameralism. Thiel wrote in a 2009 essay that he "no longer believe[d] that freedom and democracy are compatible... Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women—two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians—have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron," and Srinivasan advocated in a 2013 speech a "society run by Silicon Valley (...) an opt-in society, ultimately outside the US, run by technology."[47]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Tait 2019, p. 189.
  2. ^ Stanley; et al. (September 1, 1988). "SMPY College Freshmen". Precollege Newsletter. Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth at Johns Hopkins University (10): 2. Archived from the original on December 15, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Yarvin, Curtis; Bukowski, Richard; Anderson, Thomas (June 1993). "Anonymous RPC: Low-Latency Protection in a 64-Bit Address Space" (PDF). Proceedings of the USENIX Summer 1993 Technical Conference. USENIX: 175–186. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 18, 2016. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Kirchick, Jamie (May 16, 2016). "Trump's Terrifying Online Brigades". Commentary Magazine. Archived from the original on March 23, 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020. As far-right traditionalists, Yarvin and Land claim...
  5. ^ a b c "A Founder's Farewell". Urbit.org. January 14, 2019. Archived from the original on November 14, 2019. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  6. ^ Tait, Joshua (March 28, 2019). "Mencius Moldbug and Neoreaction". Key Thinkers of the Radical Right: 187–203. doi:10.1093/oso/9780190877583.003.0012. ISBN 978-0-19-087758-3.
  7. ^ a b c Matthews, Dylan (February 7, 2017). "Neo-monarchist blogger denies he's chatting with Steve Bannon". Vox. Archived from the original on May 20, 2020. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c Lecher, Colin (February 21, 2017). "Alt-right darling Mencius Moldbug wanted to destroy democracy. Now he wants to sell you web services". The Verge. Archived from the original on June 13, 2019. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  9. ^ graymirror.substack.com
  10. ^ Matthews, Dylan (April 18, 2016). "The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It's that, but way way weirder". Vox. Archived from the original on August 31, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  11. ^ Hawley, George (2017). Making sense of the alt-right. Columbia University Press. pp. 43–45. ISBN 9780231185127.
  12. ^ Tait 2019, pp. 189–190.
  13. ^ Marantz, Andrew (2020). Antisocial: How Online Extremists Broke America. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9781509882502. Archived from the original on May 10, 2021. Retrieved October 2, 2020.
  14. ^ Yarvin, Curtis (April 7, 2021). "Jennifer Kollmer, 1971-2021". Gray Mirror. Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  15. ^ Yarvin, Curtis; Bukowski, Richard; Anderson, Thomas (June 21, 1993). "Anonymous RPC: low-latency protection in a 64-bit address space". Proceedings of the USENIX Summer 1993 Technical Conference on Summer Technical Conference - Volume 1. Usenix-STC'93: 1–12. Archived from the original on October 15, 2021. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  16. ^ Tait 2019, p. 190.
  17. ^ a b "Curtis Yarvin: Urbit- A Clean Slate Functional Operating Stack - λC 2016". September 28, 2016. Archived from the original on May 30, 2021. Retrieved September 9, 2021 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ Auerbach, David (June 10, 2015). "The Curious Case of Mencius Moldbug". Slate. Archived from the original on August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 20, 2015.
  19. ^ a b c Byars, Mitchell (April 6, 2016). "Speaker Curtis Yarvin's racial views bring controversy to Boulder conference". Daily Camera: Boulder News. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved June 30, 2016. A programming conference in Boulder this May has become surrounded by controversy after organizers decided to let Curtis Yarvin — a programmer who has blogged under the pseudonym Mencius Moldbug about his views that white people are genetically smarter than black people — remain a speaker at the event. ... But Yarvin's views, which some have alleged are racist and endorse the institution of slavery, already have led to him being kicked out of a conference in 2015, and there has been pressure on LambdaConf to do the same. ... 'I am not an "outspoken advocate for slavery," a racist, a sexist or a fascist,' he wrote. 'I don't equate anatomical traits (whether sprinting speed or problem-solving efficiency) with moral superiority. ... '{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  20. ^ a b c d Townsend, Tess (March 31, 2016). "Controversy Rages Over 'Pro-Slavery' Tech Speaker Curtis Yarvin". Inc.com. Archived from the original on April 1, 2016. Retrieved March 31, 2016. Yarvin's online writings, many under his pseudonym Mencius Moldbug, convey blatantly racist views. He expresses the belief that white people are genetically endowed with higher IQs than black people. He has suggested race may determine whether individuals are better suited for slavery, and his writing has been interpreted as supportive of the institution of slavery. ... Yarvin disputes that he agrees with the institution of slavery, but many interpret his writings as screeds supportive of bondage of black people. He writes in an email to Inc., 'I don't know if we can say *biologically* that part of the genius of the African-American people is the talent they showed in enduring slavery. But this is certainly true in a cultural and literary sense. In any case, it is easiest to admire a talent when one lacks it, as I do.' ... In Yarvin's Medium blog post, he wrote that while he disagrees with the concept that 'all races are equally smart,' he is not racist because he rejects what he refers to as 'IQism.'
  21. ^ Townsend, Tess (April 5, 2016). "Citing 'Open Society,' Racist Programmer's Allies Raise $20K on Indiegogo". Inc.com. Archived from the original on July 13, 2016. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
  22. ^ Tait 2019, p. 191.
  23. ^ Tait 2019, p. 192.
  24. ^ Tait 2019, p. 187.
  25. ^ Tait 2019, p. 198.
  26. ^ Sullivan, Andrew (April 2017). "The Reactionary Temptation". New York. Archived from the original on November 20, 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  27. ^ a b c Tait 2019, p. 195.
  28. ^ a b c d Tait 2019, p. 200.
  29. ^ a b Pein, Corey (May 19, 2014). "Mouthbreathing Machiavellis Dream of a Silicon Reich". The Baffler. Archived from the original on June 2, 2020. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  30. ^ Tait 2019, p. 199.
  31. ^ a b c d e f Gray, Rosie (February 10, 2017). "Behind the Internet's Anti-Democracy Movement". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on February 10, 2017. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  32. ^ a b c d Tait 2019, p. 197.
  33. ^ a b Tait 2019, p. 196.
  34. ^ Tait 2019, pp. 197–198.
  35. ^ Finley, Klint (November 22, 2013). "Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
  36. ^ Pein, Corey (2017). Live Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley. Metropolitan Books: Henry Holt and Co. pp. 216–217. ISBN 9781627794855. quoting:
    "BIL2012 - Mencius Moldbug: How to Reboot the US Government". YouTube. October 20, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2022.
  37. ^ a b Tait 2019, p. 199; quoting Bernstein 2017 Archived January 25, 2021, at the Wayback Machine.
  38. ^ Wendling, Mike (2018). Alt Right: From 4chan to the White House. Pluto Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9780745337951.
  39. ^ Johnson, Eliana; Stokols, Eli (February 2017). "What Steve Bannon Wants You to Read". Politico. Archived from the original on April 23, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  40. ^ Revesz, Rachael (February 27, 2017). "Steve Bannon 'connects network of white nationalists' at the White House". The Independent. Archived from the original on April 18, 2017. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  41. ^ Levy, Pema (March 26, 2017). "Stephen Bannon Is a Fan of a French Philosopher...Who Was an Anti-Semite and a Nazi Supporter". Mother Jones. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  42. ^ Anton, Michael (August 14, 2019). "Are the Kids Al(t)right?". Claremont Review of Books. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  43. ^ Schreckinger, Ben (August 23, 2019). "The alt-right manifesto that has Trumpworld talking". Politico. Archived from the original on August 26, 2019. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  44. ^ Marantz, Andrew (2019). Antisocial: online extremists, techno-utopians, and the hijacking of the American conversation. Penguin. p. 156. ISBN 9780525522263.
  45. ^ Tait 2019, p. 194; quoting Moldbug, 2009 Archived May 18, 2020, at the Wayback Machine.
  46. ^ Tait 2019, p. 194.
  47. ^ Tait 2019, p. 200; quoting Thiel 2009 Archived April 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. See also Pein 2014 Archived June 2, 2020, at the Wayback Machine on the relationship between Yarvin, Thiel and Srinivasan.

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]