This essay is not an attack on the people who claim membership to a philosophical outlook, but an exposition on the inherent difficulties which exist in maintaining traditional systems.
Let us begin with the needful: term definition.
Conservatism as a political and social philosophy promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of the culture and civilization.
This is the definition found at Wikipedia and I find it to be a pretty good summation of the idea. Conservatives are those who hold the belief that there is value in the current institutions and that change will have negative effect on the systems of value that the previous generations have passed forward.
Tradition is the central artifact standing trial with the conservative attitude being its defender. Traditions are the cultural habits and values that are passed forward from generation to generation. They internally contain the characteristics and identity of the people who pass them forward. Not in form, but in essence.
Neoconservatism is a relatively new term and also did not come with a clear definition. In short this term describes a political label over those who are best described as aristocratically focused and would tend to be both fascist and progressive at the same time. I will dive a little deeper into that term at another time.
Paleoconservatism (sometimes shortened to paleocon) is a conservative political philosophy found primarily in the United States stressing tradition, limited government, civil society, anti-colonialism and anti-federalism, along with religious, regional, national and Western identity.
This also is a newer term, but is embedded with metadata concerning the context by which the term resolves. It asserts through its prefix that it is of ancient origin. Because most are incapable of looking back before the start of the country I suppose it will suffice to say that the American Revolution will pass as ancient for this essay.
Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty (which is especially stressed in classical liberalism) and equality (which is more evident in social liberalism). Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas such as free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free trade, and private property.
For the dualists out there I have brought in the scabby nemesis into the fray. Also taken from Wikipedia, this definition does alright in expressing how liberalism is sold to the public. I will leave this as it is for now and expand on what liberals are sold and what they tend to believe.
Progressivism is a broad philosophy based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition.
Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism).
Transhumanism (abbreviated as H+ or h+) is an international cultural and intellectual movement with an eventual goal of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.
Even though most leftish people think they are liberals, they are actually progressives who are branded by the humanist or post humanist methods of thinking. They intend to move forward by collectively working to remove those things which they believe stand in the way of their ultimate vision of life. Many conservatives are progressive. Most people in the west hold a humanist ethos.
Back to the premise.
One is either moving forward or backward but never standing still. - M0Z
To start off conservatives are already at a disadvantage. Humans do not normally think in the way that nature acts. We are not people who understand cycles and waves. We think linear. In our mind everything is drawn across a line of time, and that time is always moving forward. We mark every event on that time line: births, weddings, deaths, world events, natural events. They are all scored into a block of the calendar. This is a phenomenon that is only growing stronger for modern humans but did not exist for the first humans.
Because nearly all are incapable of seeing the world in any way other way than based on time we must set political systems on a timeline. They are created by humans and are imbedded with the same human traits.
- They are always changing.
- They are always dying.
- They are always imbued with imperfections and logical fallacies.
- They are emotional.
Humans are reflexive as opposed to instinctive. We are not capable of being instinctive the way animals are when decisions become more critical. When we are born we are helpless. As infants we are the most helpless animal by a massive margin. It takes massive amounts of care to keep a child alive. They don’t get up and hop around like a baby dear or swim away like a new tadpole. They must be taught how to live. The reward and punishment for choices comes in the form of physical and psychological reactions - pains and pleasures.
Pain and pleasure are time-based artifacts of the “human condition”. They are capsules of identity stored in memories: experience. They are happening in the present and do not exist in either the future or the past. It is their memory that will be used to make choices regarding our predictions of the future.
The stronger memories are the ones of past pains therefore most choices for the future will be made so that the effects of the past are not felt rather than to preserve the joys of previous situations. Of the greatest earthly pleasures, there are none nearly as extreme as the greatest human pains. All the joy of being stupid and young are easily traded after a single major accident. To add, humans have learned over time how to take the level of human suffering to impressive heights.
When regarding the future most are optimists, loss of promised pleasure is the dominant choice basis rather than the risk of pain (if we can just fix people). Even pessimists act like they are hopeful. When we see the future we see pleasure. Fear of this loss is the factor at hand and people will do whatever it takes to remove the risk to this promised pleasure state.
Among us there is a small minority which will accurately calculate risks based on past evidence. They understand that pain always happens, happens rarely, and is never as bad as we remember. They quantify it. This is why those smart people sell insurance to those masses of emotional people.
People are actively “insuring” their future pleasure. No one buys risk reduction on their health or property or they would just be told to stop doing as much. That is counter to a lifestyle choice. We commute to gain the pleasures money will buy and will actively take a riskier position if offered for more gain. Buckling up has to be forced by law, and not because we want people to live, but because it costs the system when they don’t which in turn effects social insurance. People don’t reduce threats by buckling up, they insure against the fear of the lost of the current state. People think of all the lost plans, being cut off too short, inability to work, losing the opportunity to spend time with family. I know it sounds like pain avoidance, but there is a fine distinction here. They feel imaginary pain when they mentally put themselves in that state, but it is entirely relative to the proposed pleasure they are thinking about losing. If someone has nothing to lose then they have nothing to fear.
What is the emotional/pain argument against tradition then? We had so much pain in the past which the previous systems failed to avert. We have a promise of this new level of pleasure in the future if the past system will die off and cease its restrictions. The glue of the present is that of a multitude of examples of pleasure in instant gratification.
The emotional inclinations against tradition are overwhelming. As we edge away from analysis and tend toward reflex we will abandon previous systems unless they specifically are designed to preserve themselves inside this fear based emotion cloud.
So where are we going with this? Once you know how to control the emotion based decisions of the population, you can control their decision making process. They are going to want to change to pay for the pains of the past and they want change so they can enjoy the future pleasures that the past never offered them. Ambitious people will use this characteristic of society to get ahead. In order to succeed they must upset the system and promote volatility and then move themselves up in the openings. Maintenance of the system is a maintenance of order. Chaos is opportunity.
Most are materialists. Most see the world in terms of numbers. Nothing is real that is not quantifiable. Skeptics will not accept dogma simply because people believe it. Modern people want more things and are going to fight each other for it. Just because…
Returning to the ratio of insurance seller to the risk seller; the analytical are always in the minority which is why aristocracies, monarchies, republics, and dictatorships try to keep order in the system by reducing the decision making process to the few. Empires, democracies and collectivist systems tend use mass emotion to power chaotic change by which an even smaller number of men can move themselves up to the tops of ultimate power. The mob will not suffer a quiet aristocracy but will indulge a charismatic demagogue.
In chaos the recipe for political success is simple. In order to power emotional change simply highlight the pains of the past and talk about the glories future. If you look at the marketing campaigns of the various political systems you can start to see what ideologies they represent. If change is coming there is usually only a few major players behind it and they are ambitious.
Systems are like people and machines. They do not keep running without constant effort. It is easy to feed the ambitious man power. It is easy to sit and watch things break down. The maintenance of responsibility is the preservation of power. When a man abdicates his responsibility he transfers his power to those who are born with an ambition and a hunger for material improvement.
Maintenance is an activity. It is not a state. Even if a vehicle is never driven it must actively be maintained or it will very quickly be taken back by nature. Humans build a material world like themselves: born to decay. There is nothing that humans build with their hands that will be around forever. Nuclear waste will certainly be here for the next few billion years but even that has a half-life.
An inherent disadvantage conservatism has is it is a system without context built into its fabric. Simply put conservatism simply conserves. It conserves what? And even less obvious is ‘why’. As listed above the paleoconservative tries to elude to original or classic US Judeo/Christian tradition. The reason and history behind a tradition is rarely built into the tradition itself. It is an activity or institution that lives isolated from the human meta-narrative that wove it into the fabric of the culture. The older the tradition the more complex the history and the more difficult the task of maintain the reason for the tradition.
Traditions are either living and growing or corrupting and dying. Like sunshine to plants, context is the essential sustaining ingredient for tradition. You can’t see sunshine, but you know when it’s missing because you can’t see anything else.
It is important for the progressive to draw pain and pleasure elements isolation. The story of the civil rights violation or the repression of a future illegitimate sexual encounter. Once isolated they can be seen in a raw form that is and must be purely emotional. This is trivial, but effective. Context is something that forces the mind to stage the emotion as a byproduct of many series of choices. The further back one goes the closer they get to the truth of the situation.
It requires removing context for liberals to have any chance at showcasing egalitarianism. Equality is a logical fallacy first off. It does not exist in nature and is entirely a human construct. It exists only in math and philosophy. Liberals believe that they can force it however. That means placing everyone into context-free individual abstract identities unrelated to time or place. Each must be identical because they are all different in the exact same way. It is a self-defeating system, but it appeals to those who have an existential view of the world.
Progressive Humanists – PH+
They always said to be Ph balanced. Are PhD students deficient? Ok enough.
Liberals simply opened the door for progressivism and humanism. Once free to choose their future, people chose to surpass their limited confines, throwing off authority and bonds of tradition. The reasoning became that since we were capable of improving ourselves this far with the help of science and reason that we will be capable of improving indefinitely. If we keep improving eventually we will surpass humanity and in the true voice of Nietzsche we will birth the superman. Free of guilt and open to pleasure. Limitless. Babylonian.
The tool of the humanist is scientific discovery. The default view is skepticism of systems past and optimism in systems future. The phrase “new research has shown that…” is a calling of hope for all of those who internally disliked something of the previous “research”. Scientific discovery finds new ways of doing things, and by its critical nature, will naturally destroy (older) systems in favor of more efficient systems. It removes the unnecessary by chipping away context-poor bricks in traditions’ wall of protection. By keeping a critical nature to all they provide just the thinnest filter against all arguments while they build their own cases of argumentum ad populum, verbosium, hominem, nauseam.
The offensive stance that the progressive takes against the defensive traditionalist is a formidable one. Scientism simply has to show its achievements and ask what forms of pleasure the tradition will offer. It rarely does have any comfort to offer and instead will talk about fallen man. It goes against nearly all of the visible evidence when taken at first glimpse.
To the humanist the early humans were ape-like. We are obviously beyond that. To the Christians the early humans were simply what they are today but without clothes. Many Christians are Darwinian. Most have very little if any capacity for scientific dialog. The church leaders bicker about minutiae and can’t get their PR campaigns straight.
Funding for research and development from any religious institution is relatively nonexistent so they have little to contribute as a body to a society that places so much value on the improvement of the species and its capabilities. Most scientists are atheistic or agnostic therefore the sheer amount of rhetoric that can be produced is staggering.
Why are we showing science against religion again? Because it is progress versus tradition. The conservatives who are proponents of unbridled development and research are in the same category as the liberal transhumanists. They simply pick different fields: war, oil, machinery, monolithic business. Faster, bigger, louder. There really isn’t much difference in the actions and habits of conservatives and other groups of people.
The topic of money and the different philosophies seems to be begging to be made. It is beyond the scope of this document however. What this paragraph will do is simply provide some interesting misconceptions about the groups. This is less about the conservative philosophical attributes and more about the people who attribute themselves to it.
Conservatives and the political right wing groups are not the big money people in the US national and state elections. The heavy hitters are on the left. They overwhelmingly dominate the political funding. The right is very poor at managing this obvious PR failure. It also illuminates a serious flaw in the ability for the conservative to care about anything but their own personal well-being. Most of the well funded progressive groups are designed to further the progressive agenda. They fund workers unions, political action groups, educational groups. The right just fund their consumeristic enablers: big business.
Big business is not intrinsically anything but pragmatic. The liberals are more sophisticated shoppers while the conservatives simply tend to be price shoppers. Therefore lower quality items go to the conservative and over time render them weaker due to poor short term investments. Conservatives generally identify with Wal-Mart, Budweiser, and Exxon. Cultural strip mining.
Liberals are heavily vested in the system. They tend to have a better outlook on the social systems of course. They save less for retirement and put more money towards education for their and their children. Conservatives are inverse of this. It isn’t a huge gap, but it makes sense. This is an intrinsic condition of the system that helps to dictate people’s habits.
The American Dream is probably the least beneficial condition the conservative American holds. Some idealistic picture of how the world can be because they saw it purportedly based on a Norman Rockwell painting with the words “Work hard and you will succeed” painted over the door of their brand new baby blue bungalow. It is naive considering that both political parties financed themselves out past their great grandchildren to the tune of about $100T as of last guess. The fiscal intelligence of all but the smartest of either groups is laughable.
Conservatives tend to align with some Austrian systems while liberals align with Keynesian. In this case conservatism has an advantage. They are allowing money to be set up for the thing it is designed to do: encourage commerce. It is strange that they aren’t better at using it.
Remember, every dollar spent is a vote. If conservatives chose to sponsor liberals by buying their products they will continue to transfer funds to a competitive political group. You will eventually lose. This purchasing habit is probably the most important factor in the loss of power.
Industrial War Machine
I wanted to include a military topic, but I cannot say why the military is intrinsically for or against conservatism. It is definitely their baby. One that will grow to leave them.
What Machiavelli clearly shows in his works holds true. The early military will be of the high citizen class. Land owners. Influential people. As time goes on it will gradually be filled with lower class people. Non-citizens will be allowed, then brigands, then foreign-born soldiers, then foreign armies. Eventually it will be a mercenary force. What are the implications of our military’s state. Most men are tattooed up like pagan scallywags. This is new. Sexual deviants are the norm rather than exception. Feminists fill the middle ranks. Many of the soldiers are foreigners. A conservative military protects the culture and as such protects its tradition and way of life. A staing military in a collectivist system will be used against the citizenry. Politicians will use concepts such as the declaration of war on an abstract idea or material object. The people who are representative of that idea are the enemy. The war on drugs, terror, pollution, hunger. Someone would put in a nut house if they declared war on any inanimate object, but if the government does it people go along as if it makes sense. “Today we declare war on swimming pools. The adults who harbor pools and endanger their neighbors’ children will be put to death. If we simply kill enough pool owners there wont be any more drowned children.” A standing army is antagonist to progress.
Cato is seen (by me) as the grandfather of modern conservatism. It seems as though the romance of the republic is enough to draw out the glory of the greatest men in her protection. As in all things a plastic rose is not as beautiful as the real thing. Budding. Growing to bloom. Radiating for a time. Withering. Then casting its pedals to the ground. But behind that flower is the seed of the innumerable new blooms. They will have to be brought forward and planted. Either by nature, insect, animal or man.
Conservatism is only an outlook. A backward facing one. It must be illuminated with the history that bore it and there must be strong men who are tasked with its defense. The identity of the society depends on the forward propagation of the institutions that protect the philosophies of a culture. It is imperative that no veil be placed over the truth of these things. True and complete knowledge with an aggressive active defense is the only thing that will keep history. Not in myth, but in form. Drawn forward in an ark. Sealed for the next great breed of men to collect in a small basilica and discuss fascinating works about the human spirit and contemplate the implementation of principles spoken thousands of years ago.
Like Athens, Carthage, Rome, and all the greats before us we are at the end of the Republic. The seed is there however. Brilliant men have come before us and shown us what may be grown if given the proper philosophy. For now the statues of the old republic will sit cooled under the shadow of the new empire.