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Grand strategic ramblings

From a traditionalist conservative point of view, the modern world looks doomed. Its insistence on rooting out all social institutions not based on free-floating choice and formalized expertise---that's what "inclusiveness," its highest moral principle, is all about---leaves no place for the settled informal connections and understandings that make possible decent human relations or even ordinary rationality. So it seems headed for chaos, tyranny and neo-primitivism as institutions stop functioning in an orderly above-board fashion and rely instead on force, fraud, bribery and durable pre-rational connections like blood and tribal loyalties. From a trad standpoint, then, the future can look like post-Soviet Russia, only with less common culture and more numerous and varied Chechens.

All of which may seem on the gloomy side, but dum spiro spero (in the vernacular, "where there's life there's hope"). So where's the hope?

  1. Maybe the generic conservative view is correct that at bottom the world is OK but there are just a few particular items that have to be dealt with so things can get back to normal. That view is supported by the reflection that a great deal must be healthy for society to exist at all. On the whole though it seems improbable, since the Left has been advancing for a couple hundred years and normalcy has yet to return.
  2. The failure of socialism has meant that private property and the market are recognized as social necessities and so tolerated. Perhaps the failure of the welfare state, public education and what not else will lead to a recognition that the moralities, decencies and for that matter discriminations that order private life and enable it to function must be tolerated as well. The problem with that view though is that whatever may be true of private property and the market, moralities and decencies can't get by just being tolerated as necessities. They have to be viewed as positively good things or no one will feel much like living by them. (That's a common problem with the thought of intellectual conservatives who aspire to mainstream respectability, like Roger Scruton and Stanley Kurtz. Their thought of necessity is fundamentally liberal, and so can't really motivate antiliberal conclusions.)
  3. Maybe rightwing Chicken Little is just wrong. It hardly seems possible that the Mainstream Cultural Left is right that "diversity" as currently understood is invariably strength, or that "inclusiveness" is simply a matter of eliminating irrational discriminations with no legitimate function that make it harder for some people to contribute to society. It also seems unlikely that the formal public institutions now dominant will give up on the MCL point of view---why should they, when it puts all power in their hands and eliminates all possible competitors---or introduce a reliable element of common sense into their thinking, since common sense depends on the particular traditions that the MCL abhors and wants to eradicate. Still, it may be the technolibertarians are right. Ease of connectivity may overwhelm bureaucracy, and allow free development of social institutions that facilitate whatever is found necessary for the good life.
  4. Perhaps the best hope is that a combination of the above, together with various corruptions, inefficiencies, inconsistencies and so on, will keep things from going to extremes and allow the MCL that now absolutely dominates public life to die out as its deficiencies become more and more obvious and other things grow up.

A problem with a "maybe a bunch of things working together will save us" theory is that it makes it rather hard to come up with a definite strategy. Still, that means that each can push forward where he can on the issues that matter most to him, and in the end there's good reason to think it will come to something. So in a left/liberal setting even trad conservatism becomes left/liberal, with "free to be you and me" as its basic principle!

Comments

"So in a left/liberal setting even trad conservatism becomes left/liberal, with 'free to be you and me' as its basic principle!" (---from the log entry)

This is only obliquely related to the log entry but I thought I could mention it, the above quote from the entry making it seem somewhat à propos: Prolific blogger John Ray, who already has several blogs with a different emphasis for each, has started a blog about the Bible. He says he's an atheist. Politically, I'm not sure whether to call him a conservative or a libertarian. He considers himself a libertarian I believe, but if he is one he's one with a decidedly conservative bent. What he certainly is more than anything is anti-leftist, very much so.

"the Left has been advancing for a couple hundred years and normalcy has yet to return." (---from the entry)

I sort of wince when I read this thought expressed in tradcon venues: it makes me think, uh-oh, everything all the way back to the American Revolution was tainted---which I find a very uncomfortable feeling since I love American history and things American prior to the sudden leftist hegemony starting thirty-five years ago. The way I prefer to look at it is for a couple hundred years the potential foundation for what erupted at the end of the sixties was laid in various ways but hadn't significantly poisoned society until then, and wasn't necessarily bad in itself since it could have been modified or reined in at many stages along the way but for some reason wasn't in time. (Our generation is starting to now, of course.)
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"If a tree falls and an expert doesn't hear it, is there a sound?" Yes, the sweetest, most melodious sound in all creation: the sound of entropy being brought clanking, screeching, grinding to a halt.

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Actually I had the French Revolution in mind, and before that John Locke and then the French Enlightenment, and not the specific American situation. I do think that now that things have turned out as they have we have to look back at what we were missing early on that led to the fix we're in now. History is a mixture of things, our country can't be made a religion or reduced to a legal system or system of ideas, and some things don't look as good in hindsight as they once might have. It seems to me for example that our rhetoric and official theory have been overly liberal, leaving no public justification for the nonliberal aspects of American society, and that meant they couldn't defend themselves in the long run.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Another thought: in my comment I criticized American rhetoric and official theory as one-sidedly and destructively liberal, with the thought that we should be more concerned with the actual country and and its people, and the way they have managed to lead good lives, than with an idealized and mythic America that becomes a sort of religion. For an example of the pathology of America-as-a-religion, see David Gelernter's notorious piece in Commentary: America as a mojahed religion of global conquest, bringing the blessings of freedom, equality and democracy to the grateful masses of the as-yet-unAmerican Dar-ul-Harb.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.