The Insoluble Problem of Power

“But let us assume, as Yarvin supposes, that the Left manages to reveal the Right’s powerlessness on Dobbs, forcefully maneuvering around an apparently solid Supreme Court ruling . . . . Such actions by the Left would radicalize the other side [because they would see] that the system is, to quote a recent former President, rigged . . . . The specter of well-organized hobbits who no longer accept the legitimacy of the regime will strike fear into the heart of its defenders.”

Jeremy Carl, “Beyond Elves and Hobbits,” The American Mind (July 22, 2022)

The above was written in answer to Curtis Yarvin’s recent Substack essay throwing cold water on post-Dobbs euphoria.  Betraying an odd understanding of the Lord of the Rings, Yarvin argued that activism by ordinary people (“hobbits”) can never achieve permanent victory against the progressive elite (“elves”) because the progressive elite has the will, the power and the superhuman cunning to turn every hobbit victory into a hobbit defeat.  If there is any hope for the hobbits, Yarvin says it lies with “dark elves” like himself because “dark elves” are even more cunning than the “elves of misrule.”

There is much sound wisdom in Yarvin’s argument, although he does not seem to understand that Galadriel would not have thrown the ring into the furnace of Mount Doom because she was not free of the libido dominandi—the will to power.  Only a hobbit could do it (with some help from Gollum) because a hobbit has no will to power, but only wants to get back to grilling and working in his garden.  And this is why, in Yarvin’s opinion, the “hobbits” always lose.  So Yarvin is not really a “dark elf.”  Yarvin is a Boromir, or perhaps a Saruman.

But the fact remains that the “hobbits” of this world do always lose because they lack the libido dominandi, and therefore never secure their victory by truly seizing power and destroying their enemies.  Dobbs is thus a pyrrhic victory because, having won it, the “hobbits” just fire up the grill and get back to normal “hobbit” life. Meanwhile, the bruised “elves of misrule”, instinct with cunning and the will to power, wake the next morning and set to work turning the hobbit victory into a “hobbit” defeat.

The author of my epigraph believes the insidious machinations of the “elves of misrule” must backfire because they must ultimately disillusion the trusting “hobbits,” discredit the system by exposing the fact that it is “rigged,”  and thereby awaken the sleeping giant of “hobbit” outrage and indignation.  I have many times said that the “sleeping giant” is in fact a comatose giant, and one reason for this is that disillusioned “hobbits” who drop out of the system have less power than “hobbits” who trust and work within the system (if such a thing can be imagined).  Spreading cynicism secures elite power because dropouts are political nullities rather than political infinitesimals.

Here is what we can conclude from this discussion.   The problem of power is insoluble.  This is because: (1) in this world, the ring of power cannot be thrown into Mount Doom; (2) “hobbits” lack the will and intelligence to seize, hold and wield power; (3) “elves of misrule” possess not only the will and intelligence (cunning) to seize, hold and wield power, but also possess the great advantage of power itself; (4) the “dark elves” (Sarumans and Boromir’s), should their sly insurrection ever succeed, must become new “elves of misrule” because the libido dominandi that allows them to take power will always cause them to abuse the power they have taken.

What is a hobbit to do?  Grill, of course.  But also back the insurgents until they come to power, and then look for a new set of dark elves.

32 thoughts on “The Insoluble Problem of Power

  1. Yarvin mainly sounds annoyed that Roe v Wade was overturned. This is NOT a parade he wants to jump to the front of. “Guys, guys, this isn’t how we win!”

    • Yes, but he does have a point when he warns the “hobbits” against the punishment they must expect for their little victories. The little victories of “hobbits” are not only reversed, but are also used as the pretext to crack down on “hobbits.”

      • Even by taking absolute power, the hobbits cannot win—they would soon lose it. To win, hobbits have to do something harder than taking absolute power. They do need to take absolute power; but then, they need to give absolute power.

        The hobbits can only win by taking power from one group of elves, then giving it to another group of elves. Let’s call these groups the high elves and the dark elves. These dark elves are the allies hobbits need to get the quality of government they deserve.

        The hobbits can’t win, except when the scour the Shire.

        “I’m a dark elf. You can trust me I’m an ally!” GRIFT INCOMING

  2. I bet Yarvin only watched the LotR movies, so he doesn’t even know about the scouring of the Shire (it would scare him)

    • Oh… He KNOWS. In his bones. (((They))) sense it around every corner and behind every tree with a baked-in, enamelled-on Lamarckian Mark of Cain six hundred and sixty sixth sense. Which gives rise to the obvious Chicken/Egg speculations. Which ultimately don’t signify. They do what they must. We do what we must. And the beat goes on.

  3. All I can think of for this entire essay is Tolkien’s “cordial” dislike of allegory.

    Don’t call legacy Americans hobbits. They aren’t. Don’t call our current crop of self-referential, sociopathic status-maximizers who have captured the machinery of state and set about wrecking it elves. They definitely aren’t. And don’t let Yarvin, whose primary service to dissident thought was as a catastrophically unsuccessful rightward hedge and whose primary problem with the state of things as they are appears to be that he isn’t sociopathic enough to follow in the footsteps of his father, position himself as some kind of savior ‘dark’ elf. He isn’t.

    • Tolkien disliked allegory, but he very much liked myth. And he understood myths as archetypes, so allegory and myth have a good deal in common. I agree that it does not make sense to describe our elite as “elves,” but hobbits do in fact represent what used to be known as simple folk, and the Shire does in fact represent a world detached from high politics and sorcery. And this analogy does throw some light on the reason why populism can never succeed. If they had not had the leadership of higher beings like Gandalf, Tom Bombadil, and Elrond, and if Mordor had not been distracted by the men of Gondor and Rohan, the simple hobbits could not have destroyed the Ring. They would have been dead in a barrow before they reached Bree. One lesson of LOTR is that a good heart is necessary but not sufficient. I agree that Yarvin is in some respects an upscale Q-anon, but I also think he has done more for internet reaction than you allow.

      • He did quite a lot for internet reaction. The key word in my description of his efforts is ‘catastrophically’. In trying to repair the edifice, he led others to the gates, and they wrenched them down.

        Your analogy just proves the inapplicability of Tolkien’s mythic structure to the analogy at hand, methinks. Legacy Americans, insofar as they have an internet presence, are largely orcs, not hobbits. The ultimate reason populism can never succeed is because it destroys what it claims to save. Populism is just another form of liberalism with a different set of unprincipled exceptions to the core ideas of liberalism. To seek in populism for an antidote to the disease and salvation for the West is to try to wrest the ring from Sauron and use it yourself.

      • @JMS – “Tolkien disliked allegory”

        Broadly yes, but not without qualification: e.g. Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle is an allegory – a Roman Catholic allegory – with a pretty exact mapping of story onto theology. Niggle’s ‘journey’ is death, the ‘workhouse’ after death is purgatory, First Voice is God the Father and Second Voice Jesus Christ etc.

      • That’s right. I think what he really disliked was the arguably protestant allegory of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I think he was also trying to resist the efforts of Leftists to turn his LOTR into a tract against Nazis or the Atomic Bomb.

  4. It’s been disappointing to watch the Jewish conservatives throw temper tantrums over Dobbs. Wasn’t this supposed to be the whole motive for conservative Christians to throw in their lot with the Republican coalition? If abortion (and the rest of the sexual revolution, presumably) are permanently untouchable because the “elves” say so, what exactly is in it for us?

    What I find really perplexing about Yarvin’s allegory are the unstated identities of his “hobbits” and “elves”. I’m sure he doesn’t intend for me to think that he means “stupid Christians” and “their natural Jewish masters”, but what other meaning works? If being an “elf” just means having a college education and a high-status position in the government, journalism, or academia, then the conservative movement has always been and always will be ruled by elves–every ideology is formulated by the intellectual class and led by the leadership class. By these measures, Sam Alito is eminently an elf. For the last half-century, probably a third to half of the Right’s academic intellectuals have been Catholic natural law culture warriors–more if you only count those pulling the Right in a rightward rather than leftward direction–and although they’ve hardly been very successful, they’ve definitely got more in mind than grilling. So clearly that’s not what he means.

    Education might be a necessary condition for being an elf (although they’re not so highbrow as to turn up their noses at Lord of the Rings references, even though the cultured class has always despised Professor Tolkien, so far as I can tell), but it is not sufficient. Cultural refinement is needed, but it must be of the right sort. Professor Anthony Esolen has translated The Divine Comedy, but that doesn’t cut it. I’m about to say “one must be at least culturally Jewish”, yet I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say. But what am I supposed to say?

    Yarvin won’t say what these dark elves will do for us; he only hints that it will be something great. However, if elvish cultural preferences are untouchable (not only must they be law; they must be affirmed consequences of the Constitution), what can they offer us?

    • Yes, that is a serious limitation. The average IQ of Christians may be somewhat low, but we are still numerous enough to field our own intellectuals. And the employment of alien intellectuals always turns out to be a bad bargain, since the “hobbits” always end up sacrificing more than the “elves.” To put this in uncoded language, there are things we must conserve that no Jewish conservative is going to conserve. It is like hiring an army of crack mercenaries who will fight anywhere other than where you need them to fight.

      • Hobbits are corrupted, that’s it. Elves have always been corrupted but they couldn’t go too far because Hobbits did not let them.

        Hobbits used to want something more than grill and chill. They wanted to give their life for their faith and their nation. If an Elf tried to do something like enacting laws that perverted children, he knew his head was going to be separated from his neck quite soon. This was “the Holy Fear of the Hobbit’s Sword”. I don’t like Jefferson but he has some good lines about that.

        Back in the time, Elves had their own neighborhood (called “the ghetto) and their own set of laws. Laws for Elves and laws for Hobbits. Is it crazy? Japanese people did the same with foreigners and Muslim people with Christians and Jews. Different people need different laws and different neighborhoods if they have to live in the same country. But separation in different countries is better.

        Elves knew that this system was hard to crack. So they applied the strategy of the island of Pinocchio. Corrupted the Hobbits to dominate them. They told them to abandon their duties toward nation and faith (because of freedom and equality) and enjoy life (grilling, chilling, sex, shopping). The Hobbits were enthusiastic. Destroyed all the rules that protected them because they were a hassle to enjoy life. After that, they were at the mercy of Elves.

        Please watch in Youtube the 2 minutes of the Disney Pinocchio movie where Pinocchio goes into that island (I don’t remember its name). This 2 minutes summarize the last 200 years and our times the way no history book has done

    • It’s been disappointing to watch the Jewish conservatives throw temper tantrums over Dobbs. …

      I haven’t paid enough attention to notice if specifically Jewish conservatives have thrown temper tantrums over Dobbs (though I don’t doubt it), but what I have noticed is the secular ‘dissident’ right throwing temper tantrums over Dobbs. Go over to Sailer’s site and read some of the commentariat on the topic (Sailer himself is not throwing temper tantrums over it). Or head over to Counter Currents. If there were still any doubt, the Dobbs decision has decisively exposed the secular right as a bunch of utilitarian sexual degenerates who evidently think that murdering black babies is the reason we can have nice things.

      It’s things like this that make me realize that I still have more in common with mainstream Christian ‘cucks’ that I do with the alternative secular right.

      • The secular right is unhappy with Dobbs for eugenic reasons. Saying that they are wrong on moral grounds does not, however, erase the problem that they foresee. Eugenics may be morally wrong, but I cannot see that it is biologically wrong. Dobbs will change the mix of heritable traits in future generations, and will probably cause those generations to be somewhat less intelligent and more impulsive. It is not moral to ignore the practical consequences of moral decisions.

      • I don’t know if eugenics is morally wrong, but murder is.

        That’s the starting point. Once we agree on that, we can haggle over the practical consequences.

      • We can’t haggle over the consequences because the consequences will be determined by the natural laws of copulation and inheritance. Richard Cocks has often written about the fallacy of consequentialist ethics. He is right, but the fact that we must not do evil to prevent evil condemns us to the grim reality of refraining from one evil and thereby permitting another.

      • The consequences will be shaped also by laws and societal norms.

        Abortion was outlawed not so long ago. Society was not a dystopian, dysgenic hellhole yet.

      • As Bruce Charlton and others have demonstrated, the dysgenic trend began with the decrease of infant mortality among the poor around 1800. The evidence suggests that the average IQ of our population is dropping about one point per decade. This is masked by the quality of our engineering, but will be apparent to anyone who compares the prose in old and new newspapers. It’s a long way to dystopian hellhole, but there will be a growing, dysfunctional underclass for which the economy has no use. I oppose abortion, but eliminating that evil will permit other evils.

      • “As Bruce Charlton and others have demonstrated, the dysgenic trend began with the decrease of infant mortality among the poor around 1800. The evidence suggests that the average IQ of our population is dropping about one point per decade. ”

        Yes, this is a grossly neglected fact. Among the poorest (a large proportion), mortality of newborns, infants and young children probably dropped from about 60% *or more* up to c1800; down to about 1% in recent decades – an astonishing difference (i.e. about fifty-fold more children of, on average, the lowest functional genetic quality – from this cause alone).

        Nowadays we should add the effect of rapid global and national demographic change; where the world population continue to grow rapidly, but the fertility of native populations in developed countries is less than half the minimum replacement level… and still falling.(It is only about 1/4 of minimum replacement level among the most educated, intelligent and conscientious women – e.g. about 1/3 – and rising – of women college graduates have zero children.)

        In other words, the West has chosen self-extinction amidst (what has been) unprecedented material prosperity and security; and exacerbated it by enabling unprecedented population growth in the poorest (lowest intelligence) parts of the world; and among the poorest and least intelligent recent migrants to developed nations.

        This a chosen and consented-to decades-long strategy of self-annihilation on the part of the atheist/ materialist/ leftist West.

        Eugenics (i.e. improvement of genetic quality aimed-at by top-down reproductive engineering by government) is a Christian sin and I reject it for that plus other reasons. But even if eugenics was not an evil, it is *overwhelmingly* unwanted and rejected by the developed/ wealthy/ powerful nations – and the opposite is desired (i.e. by revealed preferences/ reproductive choices).

        I have often said that the *real* reason that the modern Western elites hate ‘eugenics’ so vehemently is *obviously* nothing to do with their stated objection about the wickedness of reducing reproduction among the ‘genetically unfit’; but almost the opposite – that eugenics might compel the ruling classes (and most educated/ intelligent/ wealthy women) to have more children.

      • The demographic effect of abortion restrictions in some states will probably be quite small. There are still some dry counties here in Texas, and the only effect I see is to force drunks to think a few hours ahead. If we take Eugenics as you define it, it is certainly evil, but the only alternative to eugenics more broadly defined is dysgenic devolution. Desirable traits are either becoming less or more common in the herd. And, of course, changes in the environment are constantly making traits more or less desirable. Dysgenic breeding and the robot revolution are on a collision course and there is very little serious thought about how to deal with this. The current policy seems to subject the low end of the population to the Darwinian pressures of drugs, violence and despair, and just see who makes it through. This resembles the fake compassion of our universities, which admit students who cannot succeed, create bogus programs in which these students will for a short time appear to succeed, and then graduate these students with a mound of debt but no useful qualifications. It is the usual compassionate mask concealing the Darwinian face.

  5. After reading Yarvin’s original post, there’s a lot that can be said, but I’ll content myself with three things.

    Like other commenters here have said, the elf and hobbit analogy is just dumb. Those whom Yarvin calls elves bear no resemblence whatsoever to Tolkien’s elves, while those who he calls hobbits only bear a slight resemblance to hobbits.

    Also, the whole tone of the piece and the badness of the analogy suggests that Yarvin just used those words because he knows many conservative anti-modernists like the LOTR. He thinks he’s “speaking their language” and doesn’t even realize that it’s not close. It’s a good example of so-called elves not being so smart as they think and not being able to imitate the speech of their supposed inferiors. Rather like a self-declared super genius who says he’s going to learn French in a week and comes out with some sort of weird pidgin that only sounds like French to people who don’t know any French.

    The second is that he patiently describes the inevitable way that the free market will get around the abortion problem because that’s just the way the world works, don’t you know? And yet, if I recall correctly, about two years ago he was supporting stuff that came out of nowhere and before that only occurred in dystopian movies. So, if the world works according to the the way he says it does then how come things that he never could have predicted happened and he was fooled by them? It makes me rather skeptical of how much understanding he really has.

    It’s one thing for someone who is surprised to admit it and say that things are weird and they don’t fully understand why. But when people try to pretend that they knew it all along when they clearly didn’t, that’s another issue.

    Third, hobbits *can* win a culture war provided that they really are hobbits, i.e., a real group, with real cohesion. Let’s see the “elves” try ruling a group of medieval people. And we don’t even have to go back that far, back in the 19th century, there were some things people just wouldn’t do. And if someone tried to make them do it, then everyone around would help out. You weren’t dealing with a bunch of atomized individuals who checked the same box every four years, but a real cohesive people. That’s the real issue. (Though I have to admit I don’t know how cohesion could come back).

    • Of course the group Yarvin calls elves Tolkien calls dwarves. Dwarves are interested in gold and technology. I think you are right to doubt whether “hobbits” are any longer capable of stubborn solidarity. Some may talk tough, but that changes after they have been hosed with propaganda and decimated by exemplary firings.

  6. The insoluble problem of power is rooted in the individual’s denial, explicitly or implicitly, of his desire for “supremacy.”

    And with that, the good-hearted always lose, but the wretched-minded never really win.

    • I should have said that one part of the problem is that the individual acknowledges his desire for supremacy, and also acknowledges his utter inability to satisfy that desire.

      • This may be true for the “hobbit” because shame, honesty, humility, modesty and humbleness with the “problem” of always losing, yet, remaining spiritually aligned. But this is not so true for the “dark elf” whose public denial of said desire for supremacy is born of deception, cunning and avarice such that the whole question of his material satiation is moot.

        When one desires power yet publicly pronounces his abhorrence for desiring said power, he cannot but chop himself off at the legs and slit his own throat when push comes to shove.

        Does Yarvin believe in the Reality of objective Supremacy?

        If not, he’s in no place, psychologically, to lead things on a civilization front.

        To desire supremacy while denying Supremacy is the kind of acutely terminable double-mindedness assuredly dooming “our” “default elite” to the dust bin of history.

  7. I had the honor of being quoted in Carl’s piece:
    “The way you win a religious war is by smashing the enemy’s idols, daring the enemy deity to do something about it, and coming out unscathed. The left understands this, it’s why the alphabet freak show is so important to them. Curtis also understands it, he wrote a piece about it not too long ago in the context of the freak show.
    So far, the right has suffered nothing at all for this. No cities burned, no terror campaign against churches, it doesn’t even look like it’ll have an impact in November. It’s a pure victory for the right and Curtis is chaffed at seeing his ‘never fight back’ advice belied.”
    Yarvin’s social liberalism is certainly at play as well, though I think he’s mainly upset about mainstream conservatism securing a major win without any obvious drawbacks.

  8. I might share your confidence if we were either intelligently preparing for the counterattack, or were organizing to smash another idol. The Right always mistakes a battle for the war.

    • So far there hasn’t really been a counterattack. I suppose it’s possible they’re planning something in secret, but the left’s most complete victories seem to occur when they whip their followers into a frenzy, which has to be done in public and generally immediately after the motive cause.

      It’s true that the right could easily fail to learn any useful lessons from this, but even so I’m not seeing how we’ll be worse off than before Roe was reversed.

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