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The authoritarian guru


If Peter Thiel is the money behind the new wave of semi-fascist Republican Senate candidates, Curtis Yarvin is the brains, such as they are:

In September 2021, J.D. Vance, a GOP candidate for Senate in Ohio, appeared on a conservative podcast to discuss what is to be done with the United States, and his proposals were dramatic. He urged Donald Trump, should he win another term, to “seize the institutions of the left,” fire “every single midlevel bureaucrat” in the US government, “replace them with our people,” and defy the Supreme Court if it tries to stop him.

To the uninitiated, all that might seem stunning. But Vance acknowledged he had an intellectual inspiration. “So there’s this guy, Curtis Yarvin, who has written about some of these things…”

Nearly a decade earlier, a Stanford law student named Blake Masters, asked by a friend for reading recommendations for a book club, emailed a link to a set of blog posts. These posts made an argument that was quite unusual in the American context, asserting that the democratically elected US government should be abolished and replaced with a monarchy. Its author, then writing pseudonymously, was Yarvin.

Masters is now the GOP Senate nominee in Arizona. At a campaign event last year, according to Vanity Fair’s James Pogue, he was asked how he’d actually drain the swamp in Washington. “One of my friends has this acronym he calls RAGE — Retire All Government Employees,” Masters answered. You’ve probably guessed who the friend is.

In many thousand words’ worth of blog posts over the past 15 years, computer programmer and tech startup founder Curtis Yarvin has laid out a critique of American democracy: arguing that it’s liberals in elite academic institutions, media outlets, and the permanent bureaucracy who hold true power in this declining country, while the US executive branch has become weak, incompetent, and captured.

But he stands out among right-wing commentators for being probably the single person who’s spent the most time gaming out how, exactly, the US government could be toppled and replaced — “rebooted” or “reset,” as he likes to say — with a monarch, CEO, or dictator at the helm. Yarvin argues that a creative and visionary leader — a “startup guy,” like, he says, Napoleon or Lenin was — should seize absolute power, dismantle the old regime, and build something new in its place.

The Republican Party’s increasing hostility to liberal democracy is far, far beyond Trump, who as ever is more symptom than cause.

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