There is no reason at all that a libertarian, such as myself, cannot favor martial law. I am free when my rights are defined and secured against all comers, regardless of official pretensions. Freedom implies law; law implies order; order implies peace; peace implies victory. As a libertarian, the greatest threat to my property is not Uncle Sam, but thieves and brigands. If Uncle Sam wakes up from his present sclerotic slumber and shows the brigands a strong hand, my liberty has been increased.
—Curtis Yarvin, An Open Letter to Open-Minded Progressives
If a typical reactionary is someone still trying to adjust to the French Revolution, one could say that Curtis Yarvin is an uber-reactionary—someone still bristling at the American Revolution. Even the downfall of the Stuart monarchy remains an open wound for this self-described “Jacobite.”
Lionel Trilling famously described reactionaries as expressing themselves in “irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas,” and this would be a fair description of most of Yarvin’s writing. Still, it’s easy to see how Yarvin—formerly known as Mencius Moldbug—became an idol of twenty-first-century elitist ressentiment. In the excellent recent compilation Key Thinkers of the Radical Right: Behind the New Threat to Liberal Democracy, Joshua Tait describes Yarvin as:
a new type of radical Right activist at odds with the conservative mainstream: young, coastal, anonymous, secular, male, and adept at manipulating digital technologies to advance an anti-progressive agenda. The Unqualified Reservations blog garnered Moldbug’s outsized influence for an anonymous blogger. He became the founding theorist of the “neoreactionary” movement, an online collection of writers determined to theorize a superior alternative to democracy.
While Yarvin has since shed his alias and retired Unqualified Reservations, he remains very active online. He has a new substack called Gray Mirror, and can be seen on YouTube debating issues such as whether the United States was in fact soft on Communism during much of the twentieth century.
Yarvin describes himself as an unlikely far-right commentator. He was born in 1973 to a secular, well-off Jewish family with radical-left roots. In some of his early blog posts, Yarvin muses about his family being baffled at his reactionary turn, noting that his Communist grandparents would have been deeply disappointed. Yarvin started a PhD in Computer Science at the University of California at Berkley, but dropped out to join a tech start-up. It was then that he became deeply immersed in the libertarian culture of Silicon Valley. Right-wing libertarians and Austrian economists like Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises were important early influences on his thinking. This lasted until Yarvin came across Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Thomas Carlyle. The effect of the latter was especially important for Yarvin, who, in a pamphlet titled Moldbug on Carlyle, wrote, “I am a Carlylean. I’m a Carlylean more or less the way a Marxist is a Marxist. My worship of Thomas Carlyle, the Victorian Jesus, is no adolescent passion—but the conscious choice of a mature adult. I will always be a Carlylean, just the way a Marxist will always be a Marxist.”