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alt.revolution.counter FAQ

For several years the following text was distributed monthly on the usenet newsgroup alt.revolution.counter. Distribution was abandoned at some point in 2001, when it seemed that discussions had altogether petered out. So here it is, for old time’s sake:



Ramblings about patriotism in bad times

At bottom, conservatism is simply attachment to a specific society. It is therefore a disposition to maintain the features of the society that make it what it is: the particular people who make it up, the beliefs, commitments and institutions that order it, and the concrete features that define its character and distinguish it from other societies.


Liberalism and deceit

Liberalism governs by pretending not to govern, and claims to do the opposite of what in fact it does. An example touched on in recent discussions is multiculturalism, which claims to celebrate all cultures—that is, all informal and inherited ways— but in fact empowers each of them to deprive the others of all significant influence.


Yet again: why multiculturalism?

I thought I’d post a recent to-and-fro from rec.arts.books. (I still look at the discussion groups on USENET now and then, and occasionally post something). It’s the answer I always give to a question people ask repeatedly. I’m not sure whether that makes it a golden oldie or a snooze, but it’s my weblog and all I can do is say the sorts of things I say.

Anyway, some puzzled soul asked


How radically orthodox?

Here’s a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) podcast on Radical Orthodoxy that includes extended soundbites from John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock. What they say sounds sensible enough to me, although they’re academics so it’s all quite theoretical and respectable-sounding, and Milbank at any rate has an ingrained attachment to socialism.


Should the United States be broken up?

I’ve noted that an implicit motivation for promoting mass third-world immigration is divide et impera: as Federalist 10 makes clear, the more people, and the more diverse they are, the higher the position of those on top and the less likely those down below will be able to get together and cause problems for their rulers.


What, ho--Euthyphro!

A recent philosophy grad asks about the Euthyphro Dilemma (so called from the Platonic dialogue), and whether it shows that religion and morality are unrelated:


American liberalism and the prospects for American reconstruction

Here’s a talk I gave on June 2, 2007 as a member of a panel at the annual meeting of the Academy of Philosophy and Letters (a new organization for conservative scholars):

We’ve all been talking today about where we are and what to do about it. I’ve been asked to sketch those issues with an emphasis on American liberalism.

American liberalism

It’s hard to discuss liberalism in America because we’re in the middle of it and because liberalism takes so many different forms.


Another straw in the wind

Immigration is is not the only issue that suggests rather strongly that the claim we live in a democracy is mostly propagandistic. To my mind it seems obvious that our government is more technocratic than democratic. It’s a complicated world today, with a complex and largely hierarchical organization, and in such a setting the views (and therefore the collective interests) of those who run our national life quite generally win in the end over popular concerns, which tend to be ill-informed and only sporadically active.


Shards from the smashup

Several items that touch on the current effort to turn the whole world into a unitary rationalized industrial scheme:

  • John Taylor Gatto says schools are psychopathic. He’s a former award-winning teacher who’s spent the last 15 years denouncing the schools from a more-or-less libertarian perspective. The basic function of the public schools, he says, is to take children out of any natural, family and community setting and turn them into manufactured products useful as cogs in a machine.

Now you see it now you don't?

A few years ago then-Cardinal Ratzinger took part in a public dialogue, later expanded into a book, with neo-Frankfurt School hot dog Juergen Habermas. In the course of the discussion Habermas was asked “how should believing and unbelieving citizens treat one another?” His answer was quite interesting in its way:


Another retrospective on conservatism

I hadn’t thought about Jeffrey Hart since as an undergraduate I used to see him walking around the Dartmouth campus looking irascible. While paging momentarily through my alumni magazine before tossing it out recently though I ran into a profile of the man by former student James Panero (now of The New Criterion). The profile made it much clearer to me why I had never been interested in him.


When critics need criticism

Talking about what people should and shouldn’t do is a sticky business. Pascal was obviously right when he said that it’s difficult to speak humbly of humility or chastely of chastity, and it’s conventional to accuse obtrusively pious and moral people of hypocrisy. During my unfortunate stay in the Episcopal Church I noticed that people who talk about openness and community are mostly self-willed tyrants, and those who tell stories about their own honesty shouldn’t be trusted.


Going with the social flow

I just finished reading Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority.


Lords, chancellors, and lofty moral imperatives

The Blair government is issuing regulations implementing a statutory prohibition against discrimination in the provision of “services.” The regulations say you can’t discriminate against homosexuals, no exceptions.


What's it to you?

A standard jibe from proponents of “gay marriage” is that marriages don’t eat each other up, so John and Mary’s can’t be affected by Ron and Barry’s. As one blogger puts it, “I can’t help but feel sorry for people whose families are so fragile as to be destroyed by someone else’s decision to make a long-term commitment to another person.”

The jibe fits very nicely with current understandings of human conduct, which tell us that we are (and should be) independent individuals making up our own minds how we will act based on personal goals and the incentives and disincentives our environment offers. On that understanding, which people consider a matter of simple rationality, the jibe seems unanswerable.


More wrestling with Roepke

Wilhelm Roepke’s book A Humane Economy is intended to lay out the conditions for the existence and well-being of a free economy and indeed a free society. Those conditions are rather demanding. Here are some quotations:

The market economy, and with it social and political freedom, can thrive only as a part and under the protection of a bourgeois system. This implies the existence of a society in which certain fundamentals are respected and color the whole network of social relationships: individual effort and responsibility, absolute norms and values, independence based on ownership, prudence and daring, calculating and saving, responsibility for planning one’s own life, proper coherence with the community, family feeling, a sense of tradition and the succession generations combined with an open-minded view of the present and the future, proper tension between individual and community, firm moral discipline, respect for the value of money, the courage to grapple on one’s own with life and its uncertainties, a sense of the natural order of things, and a firm scale of values. 98.


The end of a cycle

I just finished reading The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, by George H. Nash. It’s out now in a new 30th anniversary edition, although the text hasn’t changed much if at all since 1976 except for the addition of an epilogue.

The book covers the familiar ground. The postwar conservative movement was initially an alliance among traditionalists concerned with restraint and culture, libertarians concerned with freedom and economics, and anti-communists whose views gave all such concerns a sense of apocalyptic urgency. The whole thing held together reasonably well, at least at the policy level, because in America tradition has always had a big place for freedom and freedom for tradition, and besides, there were the commies to worry about.


Late modernity and humane economies

I’ve been reading the first couple of chapters of Wilhelm Roepke’s A Humane Economy, and they call up mixed feelings.

The book is generally a good one. It’s an attempt to place free-market economics in a civilizational setting. That setting is classical bourgeois society, especially as it existed in European villages and small towns before 1914. The author is in effect a distributist: he believes in roots, localism, and widely dispersed property. On the whole he’s liberal as to economic self-organization but conservative on ultimate matters. In particular, he believes in “natural law, tradition, corps intermediataires, federalism, and other defenses against the flood of modern mass democracy.” 8.


Universal Will

Something minor can sum up a situation. An example is a recent comment by George Will (referenced by Lawrence Auster) to the effect that America is founded on John Locke, not Jesus Christ, so America is not a Christian country and it’s illegitimate to disfavor Muslim immigration.

There we have the whole of what passes for educated conservatism today: America is a “proposition nation,” with the proposition something John Locke is thought to have said. It follows that America is not a particular complex society made up of particular peoples with their own histories, beliefs, loyalties and relationships, the well-being of which would require taking such concrete realities into account and fostering what benefits them, but a legal structure set up in 1787, based on universal principles of liberty, equality and property, and dedicated to the exclusive triumph of the principles upon which it is founded.



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