Friday, November 08, 2013

The Failure of Conservatism.

An objective analysis of socio-political history would have to conclude that, in the battle between conservatism and liberalism, liberalism has been the winner. Even today's modern "conservatism" is not the conservatism of 1900. It, too, has been heavily influenced by liberal thought. The dividing line between the two ideologies seems more economic rather than social and on socially corrosive issues like divorce, promiscuity, multiculturalism and moral relativism  there appears to little in practice to separate the two mainstream political actors. From this vantage point in time one has to conclude that Conservatism in the 20th Century has failed. In fact, on every issue that Conservatism has taken a position liberalism has trumped it. Some might disagree and argue that conservatives won on economic issues, to which I reply, "Gold standard, anyone?"

The problem with Conservatism is that it has swallowed much of the liberal Kool-Aid and whilst there may be particular factions which espouse a particular truth quite forcefully, for nearly every faction that espouses one conservative truth it does it with an admixture of other liberal errors.  Modern American and British Conservatism seem to bee prime examples of this admixture. In fact, it's my opinion that American conservatism could quite easily slide into some form of South American (Not German) Fascism if it is not too careful, so bad is the mixture.

If God were not on our side then I would consider Conservatism a hopeless cause. Surveying the field I see liberalism triumphant in every corner, the persecution of Christians, it's final development, is begining and hard times are about to be on us. Still, God has matched us with this hour and, presumably, thought us up to task. Therefore, our duty is to get our arse into gear and start rebuilding the temple. The question is, where to begin?

I suppose the first task is to work out where we went wrong, where the movement failed, if for no other reason to stop making the same mistakes. An audit of Conservatism is in order.

It's my view that the Conservative movement has made several fundamental errors which are contributing to its destruction. Some of which are due to historical circumstances and some of which are due to poor thinking on core ideology, particularly, with regard to human nature. If I were to issue a Syllabus of modern Conservative Errors I suppose I would want to include the following in the list.

1) The embrace of universal democracy. i.e. One man, one vote. In principle, this is a noble ideal but in practice is toxic to good governance. The average man is a moron, albeit a good natured one who simply lacks the cognitive expertise (or inclination) to contribute meaningfully to good management of society. He is also the soft underbelly of society, whom the Cathedral relies on to implement it social policies.  The whole aim of Cathedral ops is to condition not convince Joe Average into acting in accordance with their wishes. Since the stupid and gullible outnumber the wise and prudent it's a no-brainer to see who will win this contest in a universal democracy.  When you make the world safe for universal democracy you're making the world safe for liberalism.

Note, this isn't an argument for or against monarchy or oligarchy. Political power should be invested into those who have skin in the game and into those who have the capacity to exercise it wisely.  The idea that every man is wise and prudent is a falsehood. T

2) Moral relativism. What this does is making Conservatism  a "value lite" form of political governance. The values being filled in by liberalism. Divorce, for instance, is not just a religious question but one with societal and therefore political consequences. A Conservatism which fails to make some value judgements is conservatism that cannot govern properly. It also opens the door to all sorts of other evils. How do you stop multiculturalism when emasculate yourself by refusing to assert the superiority of your own culture?

3) High Anglicanism. Modern conservatism is strongly influenced by English thought and habit. Front loaded into this cultural heritage is the concept of "niceness" or agreeableness. As people like Malcolm Muggeridge have noted, the High English custom is to prefer good mannered evil to coarse mannered good. Anglo-Conservatives tend to be extraordinarily nice people. The problem is that a man needs to be good before he is nice.  Sometimes you just have to offend.

4) Tradition. Tradition, in my mind has been both the blessing and bane of Conservatism. The mindless worshiping of it has stymied Conservatism's ability to deal with new realities and allowed the Left to outflank it when it comes to "solving" novel problems. The industrialisation of the West, which bought about brand new social realities,  blindsided the Conservative movement and enabled the liberal establishment to become established. Agrarianism, which seems to find a home in conservatism, is one such school of thought which seem to prefer that industrialism went away. The problem is, so do the  material conditions of modern life.  You need an industrial society to produce MRI machines.

Now tradition is good, insofar as it gives us an accurate understanding of reality. Where tradition is evil is where it proposes something that is contrary to reality.  The problem with traditionalists is that they can't make that distinction and this is a real problem, especially given the history of the conservative movement, where the traditionalists have been the ones who have done most of the heavy lifting.

It's got to be admitted that the traditionalists were the only ones keeping the "light on" during the very dark days of the conservative movement in the later half of the 20th Century. This has given them a certain amount of moral authority but the fact remains that the movement slid during their watch. Men like Kirk, Oakshott, Babbit and Buckly did the yeoman work of the time and need to be acknowledged but, ultimately, their strategy failed. The problem with ensconcing these individuals to quasi mythical status is that their take on conservatism becomes the offical line. When some new upstart with ideas proposes something contrary to their vision, their immediately labelled unconservative by being untraditional and categorically trown into the liberal camp. Cue Roissy.

But there does seem to be some flickering of life at least in that old bastion of reactionary conservatism, Catholicism. In a speech heavily critiqued by Anarchopapist, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez stated:
The Second Vatican Council was the main event in the Church in the 20th Century. In principle, it meant an end to the hostilities between the Church and modernism, which was condemned in the First Vatican Council. On the contrary: neither the world is the realm of evil and sin –these are conclusions clearly achieved in Vatican II—nor is the Church the sole refuge of good and virtue. Modernism was, most of the time, a reaction against injustices and abuses that disparaged the dignity and the rights of the person.
This is exactly the same line of thought as taken by the giant of American Conservatism in the 20th Century, Whittaker Chambers. He seemed to be the only one doing the deep thinking. The old world had serious problems, which were amped by industrialisation and which the conservative institutions of society were not able to provide any solutions to. The vacuum was filled by modernism which provided even worse solutions. This theme, of rigid old and stupid new, was picked up by another guy who gets a lot of heat from the Traditionalist Right, Pope Francis. (I wonder if he reads this blog)

In this meditation by Pope Francis, which did not get much press in the mainstream media he says;
There are two temptations to face at this moment in the Church’s history: drawing back[Ed:Traditionalism], because we are afraid of the freedom that comes from the law “enacted in the Holy Spirit”; and giving in to an “adolescent progressivism”, namely, the inclination to follow the most captivating values presented by prevailing culture.
That's Whittaker Chambers talking.

We have been so fixated by the overt assault by liberal modernism that we've not noticed the covert enemy within.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

You can't compete with a free lunch. That is, until someone has to pay the bill.

MarcusD said...

I suppose this quote from Chesterton is appropriate:

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob."

King Richard said...

With all respect:
Your analysis makes the common mistake of conflating 'current Anglosphere pop culture and national politics' with 'the world'. I am surprised to see an Australian making an error I usually associate with Americans. Perhaps my friend was correct when he stated that 'The heresy once called Americanism may need to be called Anglosphere-ism'.
But, to actually continue. Social issues are certainly not dead throughout the world; look at Russia, Poland, and Romania where there is active opposition to homosexuality, feminism, etc. and actual Conservative parties are strong and active in politics.
Also, do not confuse ';a handful of political parties' with actual Conservatives. As you correctly point out, Democracy is a terrible trap and an obviously unsustainable system on the edge of collapse. The moral relativism, cronyism, etc. are not separate issues, they are all part and parcel of Democracy. This includes 'High Anglicanism' which is part and parcel of secularizing Democracy.
This is also why you seem to misunderstand the role and purpose of Tradition. Tradition is not meant to 'adapt and react' to the newest manufactured crisis of a corrupt system, it is to preserve truth until corrupt systems collapse. Tradition has prevented Conservatives from adapting to Modernism, Americanism, Democracy, and Moral Relativism? Huzzah! Tradition has done its job!
This is why fewer and fewer individuals who identify as Conservative are actively participating in the Democratic process - they don't vote, they don't run for office, and they don't engage in other ways because they are realizing the system itself is inherently evil. Not inefficient, not inelegant, but evil. You see more and more young people rejecting the culture, rejecting the politics, and embracing Tradition and Conservatism, but quietly.
Which religious orders are growing fastest? Which parishes are full?
Who are the people having children? Who are the people keeping their children out of the public school system? They are often the same ones attending those Traditional parishes, sending money (and children) to those Traditional orders, and having nothing to do with political parties, elections, or pop culture.
When I look at the shocking advances in politics Liberal concepts made in the West in just two generations i certainly do *not* think that truth can no longer prevail, I conclude that the death of the Boomers may end the madness. Do you really think thousands of years can be annihilated in 100? Oh, America may go away, as may many another polity, but Conservatism? Hardly.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1614122024/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_4?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

http://www.amazon.com/Shall-Religious-Inherit-Earth-Twenty-First/dp/1846681448/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383923374&sr=1-1&keywords=shall+the+religious+inherit+the+earth

Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis

Ingemar said...

King Richard,

>Who are the people having children?

Look at any list of statistics of countries by total fertility; now consider the Anglosphere's porous immigration policies.

Conservatives have been relying on the tired "we'll outbreed them" flavor of wishful thinking for two generations now, maybe three. It hasn't worked.

Globalization means that the liberals can outsource whatever labour they can, import human capital for the labour they can't, and technology increasingly means that human input is necessary.

Slumlord,
>The problem is, so do the material conditions of modern life. You need an industrial society to produce MRI machines.

If I were a forward (backward?) thinking revolutionary, I'd train my followers to get used to famine, disease, lean times and the necessity of living by one's hands. Then I would coordinate a simultaneous attack on major power plants.

Electricity is the Achilles Heel of modern society. Imagine a fragile body politic that no longer has the social media panem et circenses.

King Richard said...

Ingemar,
1) population momentum - it takes a few generations for such shifts to be felt on a large scale but when the momentum shifts it takes many more generations to do anything about it. For example, if every female under 35 in Japan started having 5 kids *right now* Japan would still face population decline for another 2-3 generations. Saying 'it hasn't worked yet' is to admit you don't understand how it works.
2) Where are these workers going to come from? North Africa has had below-replacement fertility longer than Europe! The continent of Asia has been below replacement fertility for decades; South America is below replacement. All that is left are parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and that is only parts of it, they tend to be the bad parts where skilled workers aren't coming from, and the death rate is so high it is a wash.
Sorry, but world population has effectively peaked *now*. After a few years of plateau population momentum will swing the other way, and hard. By 210 world human population could well be below 2 billion, maybe (maybe) under 1 billion. This is a reduction in human population unlike anything ever seen before - global and without natural disaster or plague.
With that being the case, trust me - populations that maintain above replacement fertility will have a very outsized impact on the next few centuries.
And we haven't even talked about political socialization!

The Social Pathologist said...

@Marcus.

I've used the quote before as well. Chesterton was way ahead of the curve.

King Richard

Your analysis makes the common mistake of conflating 'current Anglosphere pop culture and national politics' with 'the world'

No, what I said that modern conservatism is heavily "Anglo laced" and this has implications. Particularly the Anglo error of conflating Good and "nice". This tends to be less of a problem, particularly amongst the Germans and Central Europeans,who tend to swing towards the opposite dimension and are frequently accused of boorishness.

Perhaps my friend was correct when he stated that 'The heresy once called Americanism may need to be called Anglosphere-ism'.

No, Americanism is another Heresy.

I am surprised to see an Australian making an error I usually associate with Americans

Because of the peculiarities of my circumstances, I effectively grew up in a pre-60's European refuge. That gave me the unique advantage of growing up in an Anglosphere and Middle European culture. I could see the pro's and con's of both. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of very good things in Anglo culture, but it does have some weaknesses, and when I critique it, I do it as a friend, not an enemy.

Still, it is the dominant culture of the world and even countries like Russia and Poland are yielding to its power. Not through deliberate imposition, but because the liberalism inherent in it makes it easy for the average man to take it up uncritically. Thus the culture advances through movies, songs, dress and so on.

Tradition is not meant to 'adapt and react' to the newest manufactured crisis of a corrupt system, it is to preserve truth until corrupt systems collapse.

The problem is that new realities arise. Industrial life bought new realities which tradition had never had to deal with before, "scaling" up did not work. The other problem is that when tradition conflicts with the truth, who get's priority?

See, the problem with the traditionalists is they they view each new discovery as an "innovation" or "novelty" and therefore oppose it instinctively.This was Chesterton's point.

A tradition should be valued if it is true and discarded if it is false. The traditionalists are quite prepared to live in error and then wonder why they lose all the time. In Boyd's OODA, accurate situational awareness is the foundation upon which proper decisions can be made.

The Social Pathologist said...

Ingemar

Then I would coordinate a simultaneous attack on major power plants.

Not my approach.

All the ammo and destruction wrought onto the Vietnamese by the Americans did not not win the war for them and that strategy has not done so well in Afghanistan. The gooks were able to win in Vietnam because they had won the culture war.

Ingemar said...

@Slumlord

>Not my approach.

All the ammo and destruction wrought onto the Vietnamese by the Americans did not not win the war for them and that strategy has not done so well in Afghanistan. The gooks were able to win in Vietnam because they had won the culture war.


You misunderstand me. Vietnam and Afghanistan was a war by the top against the bottom. My scenario is more horizontal than vertical.

You also missed my part about training "my followers" (the new generation is probably a better term) to live with hardship, lean times and little food. Another advantage that the Vietnamese and Afghans had over the Americans was that they were used to death and hardship in a way American's weren't.

Talk about MRI's all you want but regarding death and illness as normal makes the poor more sober in a way First Worlders never could be.

Asher said...

Moral relativism isn't the problem. The problem is when you have different moral universes crammed into the same body politic. "morality" is a human invention and it is only tangentially related to God's Word. The bible isn't a book that establishes morality.

Morality isn't transcendental, but mundane. It's just a system of rules and norms that allow the like-minded to work together without stepping on each other's toes. But when you follow God's Word you adhere to something that transcends morality.

Asher Jacobson said...

Nazism was just another moral system. Not my moral system, but one nonetheless.

Carnivore said...

Perhaps related to #2, is the very annoying (to me, at least) habit of Conservatives adopting changes 'ex cathedra' once Washington has spoken, the law has been passed or the vote taken. Using baby steps of change, Conservatives can be manipulated into any desired direction.

The recent discussions of putting women in combat roles is a good example. The Conservatives will fall over each other defending the current role of women in the military. Or they will defend the "equal opportunity" of women in the police, all the while forgetting that 20 years ago Conservatives railed against expanding the role of women in the military (to the current level) and 40 years ago Conservatives railed against women becoming police.

Brandon said...

So we've sold our souls (and our social order) for the privilege of having MRIs?

A Faustian bargain, that.

Johnny Caustic said...

Which Whittaker Chambers book should I read if I want to see this deep conservative thinking and only have time to read one book?

The Social Pathologist said...

@ Johnny Caustic

Cold Friday.

Brandon

So we've sold our souls (and our social order) for the privilege of having MRIs?

And penicillin.

Asher

Moral relativism isn't the problem.

Yes it is. Sustainable civilisation with sustained technical advancement seems only possible with narrow moral limits. Ignore those limits and the system collapses, as we are about to see.

Asher said...

Sustainable civilisation with sustained technical advancement seems only possible with narrow moral limits

This is a relativistic notion, itself. IF you want sustainable, modern civilization THEN there is a limited set of norms available to achieve that goal. Just saying this sentence makes you a moral relativist.

Moral non-relativism is that there is only one universal and timeless standard that is suitable for human beings in this life.

The upside of moral relativism is that morality is based on mutual reciprocity, and you owe no moral considerations to one who does not owe them to you, in kind.

Asher said...

oops

Moral non-relativism is that there is only one universal and timeless standard that is suitable for human beings in this life.

Should read

Moral non-relativism is the positioon that there is only one universal and timeless standard that is suitable for human beings in this life.

The Social Pathologist said...

This is a relativistic notion, itself. IF you want sustainable, modern civilization THEN there is a limited set of norms available to achieve that goal. Just saying this sentence makes you a moral relativist.

In order to analyse morals you've got to get beyond them and look at them from a meta level. Self referential systems can judge their own truth, it's basic Godel.

The upside of moral relativism is that morality is based on mutual reciprocity, and you owe no moral considerations to one who does not owe them to you, in kind.

That assumes;

1)that both players have the intellectual capacity to formulate a stable system.

2) that both players want to engage in reciprocity, either willingly or unwillingly.

Fine in theory, fails in practice.

Asher said...

1)that both players have the intellectual capacity to formulate a stable system.

That groups of human beings throughout history have adopted norms of behavior indicates that it is a basic instinct, not predicated on will or intellect.

2) that both players want to engage in reciprocity, either willingly or unwillingly.

If human morality is based on instinct, not on will or autonomous intellect, then the question isn't "what is right" but "who is in my corner". Morality just *happens*, and we just have to figure out who is on our side and who is not.

Note, I am talking about human morality, not God's Law.

sunshinemary said...

A Conservatism which fails to make some value judgements is conservatism that cannot govern properly

How do we get back to a Conservatism that makes value judgements and then actual sticks to them rather than being "manipulated in any direction," as Carnivore noted?