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Political theory

The tyranny of pluralism

Here’s Hollywood’s take on the meaning of the Battle of the Bulge in 1949, four years after the shooting stopped:


No horizontal way out

In his comments on my discussion of alternate modernities, Paul Gottfried observes that in our present situation there’s no educational program, system of alliances, or political and cultural strategy that seems likely to get us out of the hole we’re in.


PC and modern polarities

Bruce Charlton has been churning out post after post on political correctness. (See his weblog entries posted November 1 through November 3.)

One of his themes is the relation between “old left” bureaucratism and “new left” hedonism. The former runs the show, the latter makes things a bit more fun for those who run it.

To my mind the two imply each other. Neutral bureaucracy needs something to promote, and subjective preferences are as good a goal as any. And subjective preferences can’t be the guide to life unless there’s a structure to take care of things so we can pursue them. Bureaucracy provides that structure.


Canonical questions

A discussion group I’m part of (The H. L. Mencken Club) is thinking of putting on a conference on the “conservative canon”—books that have been, or should be, central to conservatism in America.

The thought seems to be that the old booklists have become stale. Time has passed, conditions have changed, and books that seemed just the thing in 1970 no longer hit the spot. They didn’t keep us from losing badly, and people don’t pay much attention to them anyway, so why not step back and rethink?


PC: The Cultural Antichrist

Here’s a talk I gave yesterday at the annual conference of the H. L. Mencken Club.

The title of my talk is PC: The Cultural Antichrist.

It’s an odd title, but political correctness is an odd tendency. It’s a bit uncanny. It doesn’t fit in with how we normally think about things. That’s why we don’t know what to make of it. People try to laugh it off, but it doesn’t laugh off.


More PC contradictions

Bruce Charlton notes one oddity of PC, its denial of culture as well as genes as a serious influence on human behavior. Everybody’s inevitably the same as everybody else, as a little effort would make clear. Or such is the dogma.

The dogma, of course, is batty, and people insist on it only because it makes problems go away. But why do our rulers take wishful thinking to such an extreme? It might be nice if we didn’t have to deal with differences, but life isn’t like that.


PC: conspiracy or illusion?

I had a discussion with a reader, in connection with a post on political correctness at Bruce Charlton’s blog, about whether our rulers actually believe what they say they believe. He was inclined to say that the whole current system is based on the denial of objective goods and essences, so it’s clear nothing can really better than anything else, and there must be some sort of clear-headed elite within the elite who recognize this whole PC liberalism thing as pure fiction inculcated as a sort of noble lie.

Here is my response (somewhat edited and rearranged):


More traddish chatter

Gornahoor, apparently an Integral Traditionalist site, had some complaints about my recent post on tradition (which I crossposted to Alternative Right).

I’m Catholic rather than Integral Traditionalist, so the complaints probably reflect a difference in point of view. Nonetheless, most of them can probably be allayed by an explanation of the point of the piece.


What is it to accept tradition?

In an age of checklists, decision trees, and zero tolerance, it’s a puzzling notion.

People think it means giving up on reason. Or doing what’s been done no matter what. Or accepting an external authority that has nothing to do with the situation we’re actually dealing with.

What else could it mean, when each of us has his own thoughts and goals, reason is a matter of studies and statistics, and social authority is either following rules we’ve agreed to for our own purposes, or getting someone else’s demands shoved down our throat?


Tradition and truth

A blogger who combines the practice of medicine with Catholicism and Austrian economics comments on my views and repeats some of the mistakes people make when they think about tradition. They’re common mistakes, so a response seems in order even though no doubt it’s all been said before.

He seems to think that saying “tradition has authority” is the same as saying “existing practice should never be changed.” That’s obviously not what’s meant. What’s the point of talking about authority if whatever people actually do is always presumed correct?


In the court of tyrants

I’ve been reading Moral Mazes, an account of life in the corporate management suite by sociologist Robert Jackall. At bottom, it’s a description of life at court. The desires of the powerful are what matter, responsibility exists to be shifted, an Act of God (recession, change in management, public relations issue, whatever) might change everything overnight, and whatever happens has to be presented as part of a rational and controlled system in which one was right all along and nothing could ever interfere with the steady increase in earnings quarter to quarter.


Warum gibt es keinen Traditionalismus in den USA?

Tradition makes us what we are. The institutions that are dominant today want to make us more manageable as human resources, so they destroy all traditions but those of consumerist careerism. The latter, of course, include pluralism and inclusiveness.

People usually don’t like it when things that are close to them are attacked for someone else’s benefit. So why doesn’t everyone join the traditionalists and overthrow the technocrats?


Hipster Liberalism: Evolved or Designed?

Paul Gottfried has some comments on my post on shrinks and hipster liberalism that raise several interesting points: is the social outlook found among the modish half-educated young an organic development or an intentional construction? Can we can do something about it and the broader stream of advanced liberalism of which it is part? And if something can be done, what’s the key?


The alternative right goes ultramontane?

My comments on what an “alternative right” might be have provoked enough comment at Alternative Right to call for continuing the discussion.

Jack Donovan has called for a rag-tag alliance of right-wingers, Richard Spencer for a coalition against bad things. Both can serve a function, and I agree with the project. Still, the direction of events has been against us for a long time so something more is needed.


The One, the Many, and the alternative right

The respectable right is respectable because it accepts the principles of liberalism and can’t offer serious resistance to liberal conclusions.

That’s why a less respectable “alternative right” is needed. But what is the alternative that would do better? People have been looking for a good way to resist liberalism for a long time, and judging by results they haven’t gotten very far.


Corrosive objections from the Rust Belt

Something I wrote, an analysis of liberalism, libertarianism, and conservatism, was enough to provoke a libertarian blogger (“larryniven”) to murder fantasies. I decided to address his concerns, but our exchange went nowhere. So I decided to reconstruct it, along with a short side exchange with a mainstream social liberal from Australia, into the following dialogue. Somebody might find the discussion relevant to something, so here it is:


Rulers of the world unite!

A friend sent me something he was writing on the political prospects for protectionist legislation. I sent him the following response, which I’ve edited a bit and relates to much more than protectionism:

In general, your discussion follows the interest-group, competing political party, voter sovereignty model of political life in a modern democracy.

I sometimes think another view explains more, a sort of quasi-neomarxist view in which the state is a committee acting on behalf of the governing classes.


Ignatian interview

There’s a longish interview with me at Ignatius Insight, the website of Ignatius Press.


A Global EU? International Affairs and Contemporary Liberalism

I’ve attached the text of a talk I gave at the H. L. Mencken Club conference.

Yet another review

Yet another review, this one by Carl Olson in Catholic World Report. It’s longer than average (two three-column pages) and quite favorable:



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