The Four Pillars of Conservatism: it is not as Incoherent as it seems
by Bruce Webb
Family values/patriarchy; Property rights/inheritance; Public order/tradition; External defense/xenophobia.
Taken individually and in combination I think they serve to explain the essential unity of the various divides of modern conservatism into paleo-Cons, neo-cons, social values Cons, religious Cons, and perhaps most for my purposes the alignment of top level economic strata: bankers and factory owners with what are in economic terms their natural enemies: shopowners, small farmers, and even those factory workers. If we were all at heart Homo Oeconomicus, each seeking to maximize our our own self-interest, why would those groups accept an economic system openly rigged against them. (It is not like at any point in history or high or popular literature that bankers have been popular figures, instead they are Snidely Whiplash tying Sweet Nell to the tracks so as o get her property. http://carmenmillet.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/dorightcast.jpg
More below the fold.
First I don’t think that these four principles though perhaps are not exhaustive can be denied to be common among all conservative movements, although the stress falls at different levels. The question is whether there is a historical model that supplies an underlying unity here? I suggest there is, with the caution that it may only apply to the European and American models, though personally I see it as fairly explanatory in Asia as well.
This model was set out out by Fustel de Coulanges in his 1864 The Ancient City (1 MB). As a sourcebook for history it is not much consulted anymore, we know stupendously more about the religion of the classical and pre-classical era than we did in 1864, a date when when modern arcaheology and classical philology were still in their veritable infancies, and the discipline to which it actually best fell, that of Sociology, was not yet in formal existence as such. But examined with fresh eyes it offers a powerful key.
For Fustel the central unit of the society was the Household, the familia, the family, which was centered physically and spiritually around the hearth, the family fire. The hearth was not only the source of light and heat, it was the abode of the family spirits, in Latin the Lars and Penates, and it and them had to be propitiated by private family rites, to which the head of household was the Priest. Fustel meant this literally, that every family religion was in principal different, though of course the Family in the larger senses, the Kin, would naturally share most elements by inheritance from common ancestors.
Now it is a common feature of most world historical religions that they require precision in prayer and ritual, any error in recitation or performance potentially causing failure or worse, This is one reason why our oldest surviving languages are sacral in nature: Latin, Biblical Hebrew, Old Church Slavonic, Sanskript all survived in unchanged form among the priests and rabbis even as they spun off multiple modern descendants. For the Household change in these prayers and formulae were not just bad they were potentially disasterous, ‘new and shiny’ was fine for the children, ‘tried and true’ was the rule for the Householder.
But as crucially important as was the hearth, the center, equally important, and subject to its own set of religious and cultural practices were the household boundaries, first the threshold to the house, then the yard, typically marked by a wall or hedge. Each dileneated an area of special authority for the Householder, in Old English his ‘mund’ or ‘guardianship’, in origin related to I.E. ‘man-‘ hand.
These concepts are not obsolete today, we have a variety of sayings and concepts that incorporate them ‘hearth and home’ (in America mostly used to sell fireplaces, but a feature of British literature and poetry), ‘a man’s home is his castle’ and the age long rule that raising your fist to anyone in your host’s home is a direct insult to that host, he had extended the protection of the household over his guests, you can take your fighting off premises.
Anyway I could extend examples endlessly and will in comments, but I think this provides a pretty powerful explicatory model. Conservatives start with the principle of protecting the household. First and foremost that requires maintaining the traditions, particularly the religious ones, they are what provide continuity of the Family as a whole. Second that requires maintaining the authority of the Householder over the Family both as people and as fixed areas of building and land. Third while the obligation of obedience flows up, the Householder equally shares the obligation of maintance to all under his protection, and do what he can to secure that after he dies to at least enough family members to preserve the Family. Fourth the Householder is under obligation to defend the gate to his yard. But while a man may be king of his own castle, it is rarely an island, there are a lot more people outside the gate than inside.
The solution here is as age-old as the Family itself, it is the collective protection offered by the Tribe. And in Fustel’s model we have a simple replication. The Tribe will itself have its central hearth (just as each medieval village will have its smithy and bake oven), it will have it own set of religious practices, it will have its own yard whose terminus or limes will typically be marked by a wall which all householders are pledged to defend in time of need. And tribal leadership however constituted will extend its own mund over all that are withing those limes, just as the householder does over his guests, and woe to those who would violated either threshold, a ‘gate-crasher’ is not committing a innocent jest, instead that is a serious and even deadly crime.
Unflinching commitment to these four pillars; Primacy of Family/Property Rights/Tradition/External Defense can give rise to some outcomes that seem repugnant to those of a Social Democratic lean. In particular there are no natural obligations to any outside your Family or Household as defined by its Yard, simple humanity or the existence of a current surplus may lead you to feed the starving or cloth the freezing but not at expense of the Family, where that interest is decided and controlled by the Householder. On the other hand paying dues to the lord or taxes to the king is just the cost of paying them to organize the exterior defense of the town/tribe and/or not loot you directly, either way it serves to protect the integrity, physical and otherwise of the House and Family. Under this over-arching world-view the Other and the stranger are always a threat, at least potentially, to your House, and the borders of your Tribe or Village are literally sacrosanct, and marked by such at annual rituals.
Why would fairly low income conservatives oppose inheritance taxes even when they know they would never be exposed to them? Because they are a violation of pillar two Property Rights/Inheritance, each Householder has his own obligation which should not be impinged on externally. Why do conservatives loudly defend individual liberty in principle but endorse strict patriarchal control by the Householder? Because such liberty belongs to the Family and to family members outside the gates, once in the gate, and even more through the threshold and in the presence of the hearth, the Head of House takes control.
Social Democracy takes its organizing principle along the lines of “We are all on this Earth together” to which the Conservative replies “The Hell we are, Family first”. And before Liberals and Social Democrats rise ourselves up in indignation, we might remember that rich kids in Sweden almost certainly have better ski trips and summer vacations in Spain than do poor kids, even in the best of Social Democratic societies the tradeoffs between Family and Society only go so far.
In reading the article as posted I might be inclined to reorder it into three pillars:
Public order/external defense
I don’t think it materially changes the overall argument though it does make it easier to put the Paleo, the Movement, and the Neo Cons into the right perspective, each putting their heaviest weight on those three in that order.
If I read this correctly, then only the ‘cons have any rights? That everyone else are serf’s? Who bequeath these so called ‘cons in the first place, that they are above everyone else?
No you are not reading it right. The only “rights” mentioned are those associated with property, this does not mean that either people who have no property have no legal rights, nor that people in the familia subject to the Householder have no rights against each other, or against people outside the familia, or indeed in some limited cases against the Householder.
And Cons would freely admit that property owners who don’t subscribe to their prescriptions don’t lose their rights. As to the derivation of those rights that would come in a package with the acquisition of the property whether that came in the form of inheritance, grant or purchase.
Now it is a fact that rights of political participation in ancient, medieval and early modern times were largely restricted to heads of households and so property owners or in the cities including certain lease-holders, but that does not mean that people excluded from that participation were ‘serfs’, which is a much abused and totally misunderstood term to begin with.
Stick around, you may learn something.
Nice work Bruce
Those are conservative ethical principles. The four pillars of conservative thought are ignorance, prejudice, false choice, and magical thinking. I got this from the first 35 pages of Russell Kirk’s THE CoNSERVATIVE MIND. The eager embrace of ignorance and prejudice is very straight-forward, essentially from the very first paragraph of Pg 1. The latter two re my interpretation, based on his repeatedly stated accusation that anything not conservative (i.e. any deviation from established order) is “radical”and his reverence for an ordered (i.e. static) society that is based on God’s will for man on earth.
I’ll add that allowing conservatives to co-opt “protection of the household” as one of their principles does a grave disservice to those of us on the left who respect genuine family values, and is also a far cry from the way corporatist/neocon/libertarian conservatives deal with issues involving the economic stability and integrity of the family unit.
Thanks for the scholarship. More please.
You leave two questions unanswered. The first is “why” the rigidity of ritual. That is a question about psychology, I think. And we see from many commenters that rigidity of thought is almost certainly a defense of the self at the very threshhold of being. Some of us think are more flexible than that, but I suspect that in most cases we are not so much flexible as rather inflexible after having aquired (I almost said chosen) a set of beliefs at odds with “conservative” values.
The second question is, to what extent are these conservative principles valid, in the sense of rather more likely to assure survival than their opposites? both “then” and today?
A related third question, is, to what extent can “liberals” learn to respect the values and psychology of the true conservatives in order to win the war against the con artists who manipulate the true conservatives?
Then I would mentioin that great liberal who taught that “the law” was “Love God with all your heart (whatever that means) and love your neighbor as yourself (whatever that means). When asked “who is my neighbor?” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Modern readers may not understand that Samaritans were the hated “other” to the Jews to whom Jesus told the story.
The principle of defending the family…. can, and must, be extended to include “the family of man.” But that is not a violation of conservative principles, it is the education of them.
One man’s ignorance and prejudice is another man’s faith in the authority of revealed thought and tradition. For conservatives thinking is historically literally dangerous and a good way to find you tied to the stake and burned for heresy.
This is why the Church did its best to keep the Bible out of the various vernacular languages for as long as it could. Once you allowed the laity to explore the contradictions or challenge the assumptions they understood there would be hell to pay. And they were right within a couple hundred years after the first translations of those Bibles the Universal Catholic Church was shattering, with its initially unitary Protestantism itself following immediately to shatter in turn.
I will point out that the root of ‘radical’ is precisely that ‘radix’, ‘root’. Self-described radicals of the 18th century quite consciously saw them as attacking not just the base of society but at the foundation underneath. Early demands for universal democracy, human rights, equal rights for women were understood on both sides to be inherently revolutionary, and in the case of the French totalizingly so, the French Revolutionaries thoroughly ejected the Church from much of its role in society, for example they removed its control over marriage, equally they changed the names of the weeks and the months, and instituted a totally new sets of weights and measures, which however logical still came as a huge shock to a peasant and provincial society that had gotten along with their own local systems for centuries.
The forces of Reaction were able to beat back those of Radicalism which never again was quite the same realized threat, instead working under the practical leadership of Liberalism. The mistake Hunt and others make is to confuse Radicalism and Liberalism, historically two quite different things although in some matters allies under the banner of Reform (as opposed to Revolution).
Thanks. There is a coherent structure that underlies “Get off my lawn!” And that coherency doesn’t vanish just because it gets infused with some bald expressions of xenophobia. The angry resistance to the Irish who flooded Liverpool and Manchester in England and Boston and New York in the 1820s and on was not driven by color, on balance the Irish are whiter than the ‘native’ English, instead it was driven by standard resentments: the Irish were too loud, had too many children, drank too much, and paradoxically were both lazy and the only ones that would perform the hardest and most dangerous work. That is they were the Mexicans of their day.
I believe the Nativist world view is terribly flawed, relatively few tea-partiers did not have not so distant ancestors that suffered from it, all too often the movement is plagued by those Caifornians who retire to Oregan or Idaho and immediately want to slam the gates shut under the slogan ‘Don’t Californicate Idaho”, there is not a lot of self reflection going on. But it is not just mindless jibbering fear.
Please back up your criticism. Ignorance (this is counter to fact. The more conservative the more accurate an understanding of economics – vast data on it.) , predudice (conformity. Conformity being ‘that set of forgone opportunities that pay for the institutions of property – ie, indirect taxes. Conservatives require that you pay high indirect taxes, low direct -monetary- taxes), false choice (you have no choice if you do not have resources to have choice. This is true. It says that you must have MERIT in the service to others in order to produce gains, and it is the family duty to concentrate capital necessary to produce gains made in the service of others. It says that your famly values are false if they do not result in prosperity), magical thinking (this needs definition. In general, conservatives see liberals as using magical thinking: humans have fixed properties that are immutable. Liberals think people are equal and universally adaptable. Conservatives do not. History shows that conservatives have the correct sentiments. Liberals are magical thinkers.)
Most importantly, conservatives understand that they make compromises, enforce discipline, and forgo opportunities in order to pay for the social order. They see people who do NOT forgo those opportunities as THIEVES. Cultures are collections of rules of forgone opportunity by which the habitual institutions of manners, ethics, morals and property are paid for.
What liberals want is simply NOT to pay for conformity because it would cause a restatement of their values. Their values come by redistributing the sacrifices AND earnings of those who make the sacrifices and DO the earning. And they want to accmplish it without requiring equal payments of conformity. This is simply theft and nothing more. Humans undesrtand theft. They also understand status. And status in our, and any society that is ‘non-magical’ (ie: material) is the result ether of trade (property freely exchanged) violence (appropriation of property) or fraud (magical thinking).
Religious conservatives use ‘traditional language’ (which is religious in nature) because they do not yet possess literacy of their own system’s scientific properties. But this is a matter of language, not of content. In the west, conservatism is a FRATERNITY of MARKET MAKERS. Cities are a joint-stock company made by soldiers. And this is the difference between western and other cultures. LIberals by contrast are using pseudo scientific language to promote unscientific and patently false economic principles.
Liberals have a shorter (higher) time preference, conservatives longer (lower). It is no secret why the anglo saxon model works: it is a system of capital accumulation.
Those of you on the left are simply relying on Haight’s limited ethics (harm/care) which is emotional (and magical) rather than conservatism’s broader set of ethical sentiments. In other words, you’re economically ignorant, pseudo-scientific, and ethically selective, as a means of justifying your theft from others. In other words, you’re not progressive, you are, like marx, luddites. You are the real conservatives. Trying to regress society from the market to the cave.
Conservatism is ‘saving for group persistence’, ‘acknowledgment of the immutable nature of man’, ‘Intergenerationally Status-and-Money Meritocratic’, ‘skeptical of human reason and it’s tendency for hubris’. Conservatism is not RESISTANT TO CHANGE. it is resistant to change not earned meritocratically, or done with hubris. After all, the point of conservatism as a movement was to defend themselves from ‘an innovative king’.
Or more simply, liberalism (Leftism) is the exaggeration of the mother’s incentive […]
Conservatism then, is the set of sentiments that protect the minority (the market makers) from the barbarians (you). 🙂
Dan if you read along this thread, note that JS-Kit blocked this comment for no apparent reason. Of course I unblocked it but can’t imagine what would have caught it in the filter to start. with.
As to why religious ritual has to be precise in every letter and detail, well that goes well back into pre-history and crosses many human cultures, perhaps across all of them. The Gods are jealous and demand their due in due form.
As to the survival question, I have never bought into the evolutionary biology explanations of culture, not everything is about propagating your line. For example if you examine either Roman history or Japanese (the latter of which i have done superficially) even the highest status families have been very open to using adoption as a method for preserving the family. Often the adopted one is a nephew or other agnate but it is not at all unusual to install an in-law, say your daughter’s husband as the new head.
On the third question it is not so much a question of ‘respect’ as ‘understand’. You don’t get too far telling an observant Jew that only a stupid fool would give up the pleasures of cheeseburgers, tex-mex tacos, pepperoni pizzas or lobster based on some passages in Leviticus. For a believer they are what they are. On the other hand it is reasonable to ask by what process the Observant Jew or Fundamentalist Christian uses to cherry-those parts of Leviticus to be obeyed and which to be ignored. Why is that guy’s GLBT parade an abomination in the light of God and your pig-roast benefit for the the firefighters just fine and dandy. One of my Grandmother’s was an Adventist, she didn’t eat pork and celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, because that is how her religious teachers clearly read the Gospel. And you know the text is pretty clear on these points.
As to the Good Samaritan, it is important to note that through most of history most people didn’t have unfiltered access to the Bible. I don’t know how much emphasis the story got or to what degree it was able to penetrate a traditional society based on a conservatism whose roots go far back before the 1st century.
And the ‘Family of Man’ is from conservative eyes just a piece of mushy metaphor. The family is not ultimately defined as a biological unit, that can be expanded without limit in time and space, instead the ‘family’ is ultimately defined by its limes, the borders which separate it from adjacent families, and then groups of families from other ones, the idea that all these literally sacral lines lose significance at some level of generality, is a thorough violation of conservative principles, suitable for St. Francis perhaps but not a guide to either life or belief.
“The more conservative the more accurate an understanding of economics – vast data on it.)”
The discipline we know as Economics grew up as an apology for Conservatism, its assumptions are built into its conclusions. It is rather hubristic for conservatives to blandly assert that its ‘Laws’ are inherently self-validating, In point of fact many liberals believe classical economics is built of a faulty psychological model and an even more faulty understanding of the actual historical process that brought that particular set of social and political relations in place. Your claim falls into the same category as that of Bryan Caplan in ‘Myth of the Rational Voter’ who would take away the vote from anyone who believed in the efficacy of drug safety testing prior to marketing.
The rest of your argument falls into the same lines and could be reduced to this:
Assume conservative principles are self-validating
Agree with them
Therefore you are right and liberals are guilty of magical thinking.
“History shows that conservatives have the correct sentiments.”
At best that is a tautology. Define those sentiments consistent with conservatism as ‘correct’. Adopt that set of largely pre-accepted sentiments formally And boom you are a genius and I am a jibbering idiot.
Sorry you will have to do a little better than that.
Thanks for this provocative and interesting post. I think if more progressive/liberal/social democratic commentors spent more time trying to think hard about the core rationales, attractions and satisfactions of conservatism, as you do here, and less time indulging a tribal taste for easy ridicule, we would all be much better off. In that spirit, let me raise a couple of objections to your interpretation:
1) The deployment of Coulanges intriguing but I’m as much struck by the differences it suggests as by the analogies. Coulanges’ ancient city was itself a sacred space, full of places to which collective memory and reverence had attached overwhelming significance. American conservatism (at least) is stirking for its lack of this kind of reverence for the polis. I mean this in the literal sense that our cities and public spaces appear, by and large, as features in conservative demonology, when they are thought of at all. If it’s true (and I think you are right about this) that hearth and family have some of the ancient significance for our modern conservatives, that reverence does not extend to the material and spatial manifestation of the shared public/political world.
2. Related to this, I think that there is an absolutely central (modern, American) conservative principle missing from your story, and that is individualism. Here our teacher will not be Coulanges but Louis Hartz, or (to go to one of the sources of that view) Tocqueville. This becomes important particularly when we are talking about economic matters. In more traditionally conservative world views, property and inheritance do indeed go together in something like the way you describe (e.g., in Burke’s concept of ‘entail’) but this is explicitly not an individualistic notion of property as utterly at the disposal of its present owner (what’s mine is mine). On the contrary, it is more nearly a concept of property as tenancy, or stewardship, which carries obligations (of preservation) as much as rights. When modern conservatives talk about property rights (including the inheritance tax) they are *fully liberal* (in the classical sense) in their conception: such rights are indeed trumps against the community (Dworkin). This is very far from the traditional conservative notion of property as entail.
I’d sum these objections up by saying that I think you underestimate the extent to which modern American conservatism (at least) has been infused with (classical) liberal/individualist concepts, and thus the extent to which it is very much in the American grain. This not to say that the more traditionalist elements you cite are not important–they surely are. But there has been a kind of synthesis here that bears investigation.
There is truly one aspect or side of the Jeffersonian inheritance that is very much more at home on the right, than on the left. It is, I mean, a divided inheritance.
One last thought: I think that the persistance in America of the four conceptions of liberty (ordered, reciprocal, hegemonic and natural) limned by David Hacket Fisher in his wonderful ‘Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America’ have something to contribute to this analysis as well.
Are both of your arms in casts right now?? You spent so much time patting your own back you must have dislocated your elbows. I cant believe I actually read the whole thing. I guess I had a morbid curiousity to find out how far you were going to take your specious arguments.
Immutable nature of man?
This was particularly amusing …. “Most importantly, conservatives understand that they make compromises,(unless of course they are in the US Congress the most important legislative body in our society) enforce discipline, and forgo opportunities ( Yes there sure is a lot of forgoing going on with our conservative brethren…… they want OTHERS to forgo) in order to pay for the social order. They see people who do NOT forgo those opportunities as THIEVES (Unless these people are republicans). Cultures are collections of rules of forgone opportunity by which the habitual institutions of manners, ethics, morals and property are paid for (interesting definition of culture) “
What a moron.
Bruce–Excellent post. Clear, concise, and helpful in understanding what has always seemed to me a hopeless muddle of politics and religion in conservative thinking here in the US.
Nice post Bruce
This does point to one truth that I hear from conservatives but once again they take the truth and run in the wrong direction with it. That truth is that most people are conservative, that we are a center right country. Family/tradition are important to most everyone. Property rights (a man made invention for sure) and the sense that you receive something from your predecessors (inheritance) are not disputed by many. Finally have you met anyone that admits to preferring social chaos to order or doesnt admit to wanting some sort of outside help with defense? Not many want to spend the bulk of their time patrolling their own property lines or paying friends to do so.
Knowing the principles is the easy part, knowing how to interpret what they mean in the context of living amongst 300,000,000 people who are also defending the same principles is another thing entirely.
American conservatives are not conservative. They are radicals. Curt can make a statement like this
…………………..”Conservatism is not RESISTANT TO CHANGE. it is resistant to change not earned meritocratically, or done with hubris”………….
with a straight face.
Here’s my take on what “good” can be distilled from conservatism:
1. Respect existing structures and institutions on the basis that they are the result of historical processes that have ferreted out structures and institutions that do not work in the real world and left us with those that do work.
2. Realize that the world is complex and that our attempts to improve it may not succeed in bringing about the results we want and may also bring about unintended negative consequences.
Pretty much everything else is bunk, and yes, I have read Kirk’s Conservative Mind, Nash’s Conservative Intellectual Movement Since 1945, as well as Burke himself.
Even the two “good” propositions above are far from airtight. Regarding #1, it may be that the institutions and traditions we have are not reflective of a natural selection process resulting in “what works” (or Hayek’s sponateous order) but rather a reflection of which groups in society historically had the power to impose their will on everyone else. Regarding #2, this is really just an argument for proceeding cautiously, rather than for not proceeding at all.
Thank you for the invitation to stick around to learn something. Always a pleasure to learn of things others have in mind. A belated “Good Post” by the way.
Yes, I can say it with a straight face. Especially when one’s critics counter with sentiments, rather than arguments. And it is easy to spot a rhetorical fallacy as well when it appeals to an assumed, and false, consensus, as if that consensus were an appeal to authority.
It is terribly easy to know what “those principles” mean whether they are expressed in the midst of 300, 300K, 300M, or 300B: ‘Property is the means of cooperation within the extended order of perpetually anonymous individuals that both provides us the prosperity from the division of labor, the means of coordinating that division of labor, providing the incentives to each and every person to serve others as the only means of serving himself, and the concentration of capital that allows for redistribution to the less productive’. In fact, the more people in a population, the more important are the principles, because the less ability exists for the formation of consensus on means and ends.
Political science is either a rationally articulated science born of observation, or it is a collection of semi-mystical sentiments, or pseudo-logical utopianisms. Any conservative position (or left position) can be articulated using economic expression. That is, unless one fears the consequences of doing so, or is unable to do so.
The problem conservatives have is in articulating their method – historical and sentimental language is pointless for rational debate, despite its economically useful structure. The problem for liberals (leftists) is if their philosophy were rationally articulated people would run from them screaming. (Re: Hayek) Because leftism is the road to slavery
RE “I’d sum these objections up by saying that I think you underestimate the extent to which modern American conservatism (at least) has been infused with (classical) liberal/individualist concepts, “
Conservatism as a political movement, is an outgrowth of classical liberalism, and a reaction to the french revolution. Conservatism as a sentiment (the sentiment of group persistence and inter-temporal capital accumulation) is ancient. The conservative sentiments of hubris and the consistency of man are at least medieval if not ancient. But to the degree that contemporary american conservatism contains classical liberalism’s values is simply stating the obvious: having hard won rights in hte english civli war, and now having to fight amongst themselves, instead of against a king, classical iiberals needed a philosophy of some sort in order to create an abstract set of rules.
The christianized language combined with the rhetorical structurer of the englightement’s greek foundations simply was an appeal to grandeur, for the purpose of political convenience.
Or, better stated, the american founders saw themselves as fighintg for ‘their rights as englishmen’ against an ‘innovative king’. Just as today’s conservatives are fighting against an innovative bureaucracy. When ‘innovative’ simply means ‘concentrating political power’.
Amileoj thank you so much.
My goal is to open discussion, to throw out some hooks. Rarely do I catch such a well informed thoughtful fish. Please come back by.
Actually, it is the other way around. You are the Barbarians and the “elite” are trying to will themselves back into the elite to “revive” civilization.
It is what social democrats simply REFUSE to figure out and what the Nazi’s did figure out. It is why they are rediculed by both the “conservatives” and “socialists”.
On point one it assumes that Conservatism in the past went through some sorting process that actually discarded the bad and kept the good,the tried and the true. Instead it seems that the working assumption has always been “Old good, new bad”. At what point in history do you actually place this empirical sort?
I like the idea but it needs more fill-in
Curt and Bruce well done! Nice to see an articulate discussion for a change.
Conservatism as an intellectual movement had it’s origins in Burke and it’s first real political organization with the amalgamation of Tories and Old Whigs in the wake of the legal madness of George III in the years after 1750 which transformed Britain into a Ministerial rather than a true Royal government. That is the goalposts of Conservatism were set by North and the Elder and Younger Pitt and solidified with the post Napoleanic War governments led by the arch reactionary Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington which is tonsay before 1840. In contrast Manchester school Economics was mostly a creation to the post 1848 period. It is certainly not the source of the fundamental divide between Reaction and Revolution that ended up shaping 20th century economic and political theory, your time line is about 100 years off.
Which means it is not conservative at all. Whather you are peleo or neo, it doesn’t matter. To me, both Lew Rockwell and Dick Cheney are radical liberals taught by the theories of illumanti.
American “conservatives” absolutely worship the merchant caste. I mean WORSHIP IT. While the Social Democrats look at the basic castes(Priests,Warriors,Merchants,Slaves) as as the whole picture. Trying to balance the power of the castes, hence, American “conservatives” call them “socialist” for trying to reign the merchant caste’s pull over the globe. But the real truth and what scares the Lew Rockwell’s and Dick Cheney’s of the world which they will never mention: what happens if the “guilty white liberal” loses the guilt? We saw it with Nazism.
1.Hitler and boys were the Priests
2.SS and the military were the warriors
3.Merchants were the shopkeepers AND laborers(which were NOT the slaves in classical society).
4.Slaves were the non-whites(which was not completely true in classical society, but non-whites made up most of the slaves)
Considering that paleo-conservative have a HEAVY dose of Jewish philosophy(as all illumanti teaching does, including Jesus’s) they have a thin line they can cross. They appeal to the lowest caste of “whites”, the merchants because of it.
Lets also remember, the “laboring class” is also considered part of the merchant caste and thus the tool social democrats use to restore balance in the castes, which “conservatives” mistakenly call “socialism”.
Socialism is the destruction of all power and classes.
So when the guilt flees the “white liberal”. Instead of fighting for social justice, racial equality(via the state) he instead intends to rule in a more honest way: heirarchy and castes with the white people at the top. This division of power into the vertical, angers Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell. The merchant they worshipped for classical liberalism is just a piece in the organic body, not the ruler.
I could also get into “religious conservatives” but that is a battle for another time. Once again, they are the socialists in this question and nobody understands why.
Burke and Adam Smith: early to mid 18th c
Age of Revolution: late mid to late 18th century
Age of Reaction: early to mid 19th c
Development of mathematical economics: mid late to late 19th c
the notion that Conservatism tout court came out of that last period flys in the face of Conservatism as defined. History did not start with Hayek’s rejection of Keynes.
well, i see there is work to do.
i wasn’t talking genetic survival, i was talking personal, family, cultural, national…not trying to come up with a psychogenetic theory here. just trying to understand what looks like common sense to the man in the street… and may in fact turn out to be his best bet.
similarly, i know the parable of the good samaritan is largely ignored by people who call themselves christian. nevertheless, it is the core of Christianity, according to the man who is said to have invented it.
and i am not so interested in arguing the tradionalists out of their traditions as finding a way not to threaten them so that they don’t provide ground troops to the common Enemy. do not imagine for a moment that Peters shares any “conservative” values…. though he may be operating out of a neurotic extension of some of them.
nor do i need to sell “family of man ™” to the conservative. i might try to gently remind those of them who are susceptible that the idea is pretty basic to every religion that has any force on the imagination of any peoples in the world… except for the ones who go craxy trying to
“enforce god’s will” on everyone else.
some of those crazyies would deny they were believers in any kind of god. but they act just like the worst religious fanatics, only their religion is something like… well, “the family of man ™.”
we can only hope you will do little.
you have a charming way of reasoning in circles.
that kind of conservative is pretty obvious: i got mine under the existing rules so of course i don’t want to change. the “liberal” this is someone who at least idendifies with those who don’t get “theirs” under the existing rules.
I agree, and that was sorta the point of my last paragraph – yes the institutions we have today have stood the test of time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better than any other ones, particularly since they may just be reflective of the desires of those with the power to enforce them.
I also think that conservative intellectuals tend to focus too much on Burke and his prudent conservatism while ignoring the influence of de Maistre and his darker conservatism. IMO, the influence of de Maistre’s authoritarian conservatism can readily be seen in much of today’s conservatism.
The problem is that neither side has sufficient expertise and arguing anything other than sentiments and allegories. My experience is that it is possible to find innovative solutions that conservatives will agree with.
But thank you.
??? where are we disagreeing? The classical liberal tradition is a result of the ‘glorious revolution’. The conservative movement, as in the political movement as a school of thought, begins with Burke. Burke’s ‘Reflections on the Revolution In France’. This is the point where the conservative branch of the classical liberal tradition begins to question its ‘glasnost’. It fears a revolution in england like that of france. It’s all well and good to disempower the king. But not if it ends up as a bloodbath as in france. As a movement, it is the first emergence of ‘conservatism’. If I don’t disagree with any of the dates you’re choosing, then you’re assuming a line of causality that I can’t see from what you’re representing. Or applying terms differently from the canon. So I’m missing something.
Where are earth are you getting this from? How is it that you are reading that from what I wrote? We are clearly talking past each other. I’m going to bring this down to causal history to get away from one of the myths I suspect that you’re embracing:
What is the cause and origin of classical liberalism: the transfer of control from the king to the parliament as a result of the english civil war. What is the source of the body of thought in the classical liberal tradition? The debate among the peerage over the use of their newfound power now that argument was against each other rather than against the crown. What is the source of conservatism? The fear of destabilization and revolution. What is the source of the american classical liberal tradition? The desire to retain the traditional rights of englishmen against an innovative king. (by merchant coastal populations, very similar to the chinese problem). What is the source of the post 1870’s problem in europe? The Louisiana purchase and the emergence of american goods causing the recessionary period – the first ‘great re-pricing – great depression’. What is the source of the intellectual movement? The attempt to apply the principles of calculus (relative independent motion) to the problems of economics. What is the source of the 20th century movement? multi-dimensional, but most simply, to prevent the ‘degeneracy’ of europe, in particular Communism and Fascism from spreading to the anglo civilization. What is the purpose of conservative sentiments across all of these changes? Group persistence.
Writers didn’t ’cause’ change. Writers ‘reacted to change’. They tried to produce ideas to help provide solutions to the problems of the day. Politicians popularized and made use of the ideas. But in general, the agrarian and industrial revolutions caused wealth transfers FASTER than the primitive monarchical states could regulate. Or better said, as the market expands only a combination of the market and a republican government can handle the volume of challenges.
The ‘rise of the west’ is largely profiteering from the sale of a newly discovered continent, and the shift in trade from the Mediterranean to the atlantic. And only a republican government seems capable of rapidly exploting that kind of opportunity, because of the division of labor possible in the forum.
I don’t know why the labels you’re using:’Ages’ are relative. They are cute labels. They are meaningless abstractions so that people can feel they understand history as a democratic movement (which it wasn’t), using historical religious contextual language. But history is not a democratic problem. It never is. History is the catalog of whatever elites are in power. The iron law of oligarchy mandates that elites will always be in power. And the problem of coordination, calculation and incentive guarantees that only market systems will produce prosperity in large populations. And only democracy, or rather, rotation of the political elites so that they cannot concentrate enough power to abuse the market too much, seems to be the produce political stability. I contest this last statement, because as far as history would illustrate, democracies fracture until the elect dictators. (Bonepartism.) They must. They must because decisions become impossible. This is what hayek was telling us, as well as Sorrel, and Michels, as well as Pareto.
The left has a cognitive bias toward an illusion of consensus. Consensus is not possible. There is no evidence to the contrary. This is a problem of practical decision making, just as the market is a problem of practical decision making, just as the need for a republican government is problem of practical decision making, just as our […]
Of course your political sequence is correct: trace classical liberalism back and you find in it a common root for both Burkean conservatism and the radical egalitarianism of, say, Paine. And of course you are right as well that the sentiment of conservatism is indeed much older than the political ideology, in any of its forms.
Let me then tidy up my remark a bit by leaving ‘classical liberalism’ out of it and simply saying that Bruce’s post, in my view, underestimated the extent to which modern American conservatism is liberal-individualist in character. We needn’t pin that on, say, Locke. Jefferson will do.
The more conservative the more accurate an understanding of economics – vast data on it
Next to this:
Please back up your criticism.
Indicates at the very least you have either no sense of irony, or perhaps way too much. Conservative believe the tenets of Austrian/Chicago/Glibertarian economics – which I posit is an example of their magical thinking. I don’t have time for a detailed response now – maybe this evening. For the nonce, go read the first 35 pgs of Kirk’s massive valentine to Edmung Burke.
A reverence for ignorance and prejudice is manafest from Pg 1. You know — t saves all that tedious mucking around with actual thinking. You can see it in action today with a bufoon like Rand Paul and a vacuuous know-nothing like Sara Palin becomming the darlings of the tea party movement.
I would rather;
Values/servility; Property rights/hoarding; Public order/serfdom; External defense/militarism.
values: listen to the man or starve as outlaw.
Property rights: A few can watch the rest moil and toil and even starve, while the few eat cake.
Public order: Wage slavery. Fuedalism, serfs to the corporation. Abolition is so limp wristed libru
External defense/Militarism: Need some form of cover for pillaging the social contract. Wrap the thieves in the flag and call anyone objecting to the order “unpatriotic”.
Spend the excess value of the earth and labor and cover it with an arcane and duplicitous list of “liberties” only very few take them liberties, the rest pay.
Goebbels was so 13th century (21st in US’ case)
I am a fan of Thomas Paine.
If God(s) want me to stand on one foot and make strange pronouncements, then why don’t He/they tell me straight and not go through some prophet.
And no, as I told a couple of missionaries in a conversation on the commmon (great tales to tell on economics of commons) of a small New England town ‘I will not cross the street to hear some prophet tell me what I need to hear from God’!
Did the “Age of Reason” end with the trashing of the French revolution?
you seem to know a lot and have some ideas not far from mine… but your haste to “conservatism good liberalism bad” turns everything you say into a kind or religious rant, from which it is impossible for either of us to learn anything.
“english civil war”: What does this have to do with conservatism and liberalism? This civil war turned uncivil and I can relate the suffering of my Irsih ancestors to the dominance of Cromwell and the desire to ruin free Irish.
“innovative king” or catholic king?
“combination of the market and a republican government can handle the volume of challenges” vis ‘a vis royals versus parliaments?
Let’s see the robber barons cared only about the effete neglect of the republics and the ability to birbe the elected and control the masses with recessions and depressions.
“Transfer of wealth” or accumulation of the right to take from the weak and sell them back their labor.
“The ‘rise of the west’ is largely profiteering from the sale of a newly discovered continent,” You mean Africa and China I suppose. The western hemisphere proved too unrulable to abet the “rise of the west”, except for US support in Europe’s two 20th century fratricides.
“The left has a cognitive bias toward an illusion of consensus.” Certainly concensus among the masses is threatening to the robber barons seeking to keep the serf under their rein of economic terror. While the left may support consensu, the few owners are sowing contempt for debate and reason through Fox and related conservative outlets of venom. It is not the illusion of consensus rather the fear of consensus driving the differecne between serf and liberal.
“The more diverse the culture, the less redistributive it will be.” the remainder of the parsagraph is no support.
” They just don’t”. On changing people we have common ground. My first wife failed at changing me in any meaningful, satisfactory way (in her mind).
You are obviously intelligent and well read. Then you say something like this:
. Liberals think people are equal and universally adaptable. Conservatives do not. History shows that conservatives have the correct sentiments. Liberals are magical thinkers.)
Right enough, until you get to the word “history.” Then you lapse into right wing demagoguery.
If you think that Paine, for example, was prone to magical thinking, while the the idea that the stratification of society into nobles and commoners, haves and have nots, or in a more modern context, gated communities and ghettos is a just and necessary component of a stable, ordered society, for no better real reason than that’s how things are, then I’ll suggest that you are the one diplaying sentimentalism rather than logic.
That is not an argument. (it’s an distraction and an ad hominem) And it is not the position I am taking.
Yes, I have a great deal of knowledge of both sides. Yes I know how to achieve redistribution, and to prove the necessity of redistribution under capitalism.
So your haste, and the common liberal haste, is simply to fall back on a devolutionary religious rant because there is no equally articulate counter argument. Liberals walk away. They practice faith and sentiment. But what they practice are not rational arguments. It is possible to articulate a liberal position rationally and for a liberal and conservative competitive dialog to result in differences in preferences. But those preferences will be between the short and long term. Period. They only way to learn that this statement is true, like anything else, is to debate until you learn enough to acknowledge that this is the only possible rational outcome. And then, as a liberal, to accept it. And in doing so, say “I choose to solve today’s problems today and worry about tomorrow when you get there. And I understand that conservatives think just the opposite, and that we cannot come to terms because a difference in preferences is a difference in tastes.”
I can articulate both spectrums as well as the best of them. Perhaps better. Its like anything else. There are only fifteen hundred ideas perhaps in the human conceptual lexicon. But there are a lot of books containing a lot of words. That’s because the permutations of errors are vastly, if not infinitely greater than the “necessary, sufficient, non-controvertible truths.”
So bow out if you want to, with a hat tip to form. But it is just an attempt to protect your ignorance. I know it. Any rhetorician will know it. Heck, a first year philosophy student will know it.
And as to posture, I learned from Friedman and Hayek. Friedman fought mercilessly until the very end. Hayek had pleasant manners and did not refute Keynes, or correct Mises because he thought it was simply obvious. And we got stuck with sixty years of disastrous policy because of it.
RE: “english civil war”: What does this have to do with conservatism and liberalism?”
Ok. So, do you know the first thing about this subject matter? The answer is no. Clearly no. Try wikipedia at least. At least, learn to respect the other side’s position. Both sides have ideas with merit.
RE: “the remainder of the paragraph is no support”.
Why do I need to support something that has so much overwhelming data, so many papers, so much support, that it’s been discussed in detail by the Nobel committee? Again. You are arguing myths and sentiments. If you want to skip all of the debate and say “I just want stuff given to me” then just say that and don’t pretend that you have an argument. Just say you don’t care.
vis-a-vis: What “reign of economic terror”? Back it up. Support it. What you really mean, most likely, is that you are stuck at a lower social status and have poorer access to mates and are unhappier about it than a conservative with the same resources. Thats what you mean.
RE: Robber barons. Lets see. What were the reasons we saw robber barons? How did they come to pass and why? For what purpose? How was that achieved here? Do you knw the answer?
I’ll educate you all day long if you want. But pick one of your arguments and we’ll run with it a bit. Those you’ve listed are all errors. (Except the catholic king, which, as an objection, makes no sense from a liberal who is supposedly rational. Are you arguing that church influence is something that should have been reapplied to government?)
I am sorry I attempted to suggest a way for you to communicate with human beings. You are not nearly as smart, or knowlegeable, as you say you are. You are, in fact, a bit of a jerk. Now you can feel better, because that was a feeling, ad hominem. Very very hard to talk reasonably to a neurotic.
In what way did the Glorious Revolution of 1688 launch any kind of Liberal Movement, particularly considerering the Test Acts that kept Catholics out of the electorate, all public offices. And how exactly did that interact with Burkes Reflections on the Revolution which were in reference to a series of acts commencing a hundred years later in 1789? And WTF does any of that have to do with ‘glasnost’?
You are throwing some half remembered pieces of history up and hoping they stick. Sorry dude I may be a piss poor economist but I was six years into a PhD in English history before I left a top two program.
Tighten your argument up and make it match to a real timeline.
Jefferson a conservative? Why then did the Texas Board of Education seek to get him ejected from their history curriculuum?
Curt your idea that the English Civil Wars marked the transfer of government contro from King to Parliament and the further claim that it left that control in the hands of competing groups of Peers is so cartoonish as to beg belief.
The claims of the Stuart Kings to absolutism on the advent of James I of England after the death of his Cousin Elizabeth I were an attempt to roll back powers of Parliament whether expressed in terms of Lords or Commons that had been a matter of dispute but more or less settled law since the Magna Carta (of which you may have heard) of 1215. The history of England from 1215 to 1660 and for that matter before and after was marked by a lot more constitutinal struggle than your cartoon version allows.
Read stuff, if only Wiki articles, and stop embarassing yourself.
Curt you know nothing of British history except some talking points laundered through the Austrians.
Like most people of the Austrian School you prefer to play King of the Mountain from the depths of the Reality Well. But it serves to fool the uneducated. For a while.
“what is the source ot the 1870s probem in Europe, the Louisiana Purchase”
which happened in 1804. Ya think ya might need to fill the histortical gaps Curt? I am not saying it can’t be done, but it ain’t no throw in line.
“poorer access to mates”
Well Curt I guess it is nice of you to take time off servicingthose lionesses and cougars to educate us all. But watch out for the PUMAs. Because they are not friendly to us libs. What they would do to a juicy glib is not even pretty.
Curt. Long on words short on coherence.
English Civil War: Cromwell, new model army, military history is my thing.
“You are arguing myths and sentiments.” Your supports are dissatifying, too.
“What “reign of economic terror”? ” See the past few years where main st is pillaged by Wall St and the war machine. Not much better than everything since the industrialization and transition of the US form agrarian to industrial economy.
As to my economic and social status: I am quite wealthy, better I am rich in that I want for nothing.
“I’ll educate you all day long if you want.”
Yes, please do and be a bit more instructive and support your assertions.
Please fill in your answers:
“RE: Robber barons. Lets see. What were the reasons we saw robber barons? How did they come to pass and why? For what purpose? How was that achieved here? Do you knw the answer?”
I can even answer your questions.
I have a couple of short word answers:
Lastly: Amoral Neglect
I find this discussion terribly Anglo centric and it ignores the much more important politics of the Renaissance Italy and shifts in European power from Venice into England. Most of the ideas of liberalism which usually credited to John Locke are found in the writings of Paolo Sarpi.
First off, I’m a conservative and Curt isn’t because he does everything his power conserve the most destructive elements of the oligarchy mainly that anti-human idea that men governed by men and not by man’s reason for elite’s don’t rule, their ideas do but only for a time.
The first great myth of both Conservatism and Liberalism is that the Old Order was universal and uniform.
One can be a conservative in the sense of conserving the tradition of the Aristotelian oligarchial order which is actually destructive or one can be in the tradition in the of Plato’s city builders.
Both tendencies are ancient and both have a long tradition behind them but between the Renaissance (Platonic) and the Enlightenment (Liberal) something changed as the old Aristotelian order was destroyed.
Sarpi changed philosophy of the Oligarchy from Aristotle to Liberalism in order to deal with problem of Platonic science and he did this in a truly amazing way.
He replaced the Aristotelian universe of fixed objects and castes with the idea of total randomness which meant that he seemly rejected both the Aristotelian idea of fixity of nature and Plato’s notion of imperfectly knowable and harmonic change. While randomness seems like idea of no change it is in fact the opposite because equilibrium is nothing but a maximum randomness where no more change is possible i.e. Chaos ad Ordo. He was a very clever man as he mostly replaced both Plato and Aristotle.
So where does that leave us? We now find ourselves in a position where leftist are fighting rightist because rightist are leftist, leftist and rightist and Plato and Solon has left the building.
Watching this lecture for a better development of the argument. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2LWc5DIQrc)
Throw in the Tao, Confusius and the Buddha. As well as the 5000 year old Yama Yoga. Kai Zen.
St Francis of Assisi.
Do no harm and truth……………………
In the end all are one.
See Kipling’s Song of Kabir.