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That is a very superficial critique, lacking in actual arguments and references. While I generally don't agree with the guy, he makes sense. His articles are coherent and insightful, if sometimes unpleasant and generally long-winded.

If anyone's interested, here's a summary of his writing[1] with links to most important articles. His posts are also a goldmine of one-liners[2].

BTW He used to have an account here[3] but was banned, unfortunately.

[1] http://moldbuggery.blogspot.com/

[2] https://twitter.com/moldbuggery

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=moldbug

Interestingly, this is another way in which MM's verbosity is a defense mechanism: It's virtually impossible to make a detailed critique without engaging him at equal length.

I'll mention one specific critique, which is what originally twigged me that something was off: MM constantly introduces special definitions that are close, but not quite, what's commonly meant, and then proceeds to use those definitions for 5 or 10,000 words. This is a form of rhetorical sleight of hand that's suspicious in an of itself, and MM demonstrates this in the linked essay:

"But here at UR, we are operating under our own special theory of money, which I have modestly dubbed MoMT (Moldbug Monetary Theory). If you know and believe MoMT, the leap is obvious. In the conventional wisdom, it's not obvious at all."

He does this sort of thing constantly. Besides investing a lot of time in reading even one of his essays, you must spend a lot of mental energy tracking all his off-by-one definitions of slightly uncommon terms. Again, you have to buy into Moldbugism to even start judging it, which is part of the trap.

Edit 1: I've upvoted you because I think yours is a fair response to my attack, while Tav's cry of "ad hominem" below is mistaken.

Edit 2: Moldbug's comment history here is interesting, in part because it demonstrates that he's very capable of making a concise point. Why was he banned? His karma looked okay.

At least he defines his terms. Words like "government" can mean a multitude of things and these meaning change over time.

In general I have found that arguments are often not really about the points of an essay but about the definitions used, ie one person uses definition 1 and the other uses definition 2 and they just argue past each other.

For example if I say "Bitcoin is money", I don't think that statement is meaningful without defining what I mean by "money" and perhaps "bitcoin".

I don't think understanding the linked essay really depends on knowing what he means by "MoMT", he defines it just fine for us.

"Basically, MoMT tells us that money has anomalous value only because economic agents rationally speculate in it, whereas conventional thought (whether Austrian or orthodox) holds that money's price is explained primarily by its use in trade."

To me that's an interesting idea. Why not debate that? Instead all of the comments here are about a bunch of superficial bullshit (yours excluded).

I agree that much arguing is really about definitions, and that a clear definition at the start is worthwhile. However, definitions can also be used to covertly get the reader to agree to something. Back when I actually read up on his "neo-cameralism", I remember stopping and thinking "I didn't agree with that", and realizing that his argument depended on a definition that was pages and pages ago, and that I now had to take a thousand steps back and re-read, keeping in mind my disagreement with a small facet of something he specially defined. That's pretty much when I gave up.

Edit 1: "That's an interesting idea. Why not debate it?" Because MM doesn't offer bon mots like this for debate, he piles a hundreds bricks made out of these special definitions and then offers a controversial thesis on top of it. If you stopped to debate all these interesting facets, you'd never get to the meat of the essay--so you just accept them and move on. Again, a rhetorical technique to get you to covertly agree to premises that let him define the battlefield.

OK yeah I can see where you're coming from. Man... that is tricky.

That's actually where I stopped reading and switched over to these comments. It seems obvious to me that according to "conventional thought" without the exchanges bitcoins would lose all value. Without the exchanges, you can only use bitcoins for a few things, mostly drugs and online services (hosting, usenet, vpn, etc). The thing is, these services will stop accepting bitcoins, because the operators will no longer be able to convert them into USD. Until you can buy food and gas and pay your bills with bitcoins, their value will rely on the existence of some kind of btc/"real currency" exchange.

I don't know anything about MM, but one runs across such people all too often on the mailing lists of public projects.

They write at great length, and seem... superficially reasonable... but there's always something vaguely wrong about their conclusions. However because of the huge length of everything they write, and their willingness to write much more in response (nothing they write is short), it's both hard to follow their arguments, and completely exhausting to argue with them; many reasonable people simply give up pretty quickly.

If you can just ignore them, that's fine, but this can end up being a real problem in loose communities that try to do things by consensus, because these people come in and essentially disrupt the mechanism through sheer volume...

[There's a wide spectrum of actual insight/ability, of course; some people are more or less reasonable, others are just completely nuts. Unfortunately the style of interaction that binds them both hides such differences, and is itself corrosive to normal discourse.]

Sorry, his articles are not coherent. They are rambling and full of passages calibrated to cause unease and uncertainty. Encountering one, you then read on in an effort to have the latest outrageous statement substantiated, but usually in vain.

The riddle or puzzle aspect of his writing kind of engages my intellect, but it's a time sink. Because of his self-regard and unconventional intellectual reference frame, you think there is something there, but there is not. (Unless you agree with him politically, which seems impossible, because he takes pride in being to the right of everyone.)

Yep. Another point of comparison is the character Naphta from Thomas Mann's 1924 novel The Magic Mountain:


For example, "Naphta was [...] revolutionary in a reactionary sense: [...] fighting against the ideals of left-wing socialism, liberalism and enlightenment, but also detesting the lost Empire’s dull conservatism of the petty bourgeoisie and the aristocracy. [...] somewhat elusive, flirting with every radicalism against established views."

The subhed to his blog, of course, is "Reactionary Enlightenment."

In this scheme, the innocent HN reader plays Hans Castorp, the young German engineer, and the day you spend puzzling over the abstruse and impenetrable arguments within the sanitarium of the blog will pass by in what seems like an instant.

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