You may wonder why anyone would identify themselves as a conservative. Our public conservatives seem to do nothing but preserve a few facets of the last generation against the next, and very few who are conservative seem to be able to articulate what it means.
Explanations require understanding the problem of humanity itself: public politicians of any stripe tend to shy away from difficult long-term realities and tend toward short-term symbolic issues; most humans are mostly inarticulate, and very few of them can explain what any belief system means.
This lays at our door the task of explaining conservatism and why those of us who are considered “radical” — or even extremist moderates such as your author — would want to be known as conservatives or conservative in outlook.
Conservatism, the belief system of conservatives, can be described as a philosophy but is more accurately portrayed as a folkway, customs, or way of life. It concerns how people think of their own actions and their place in the universe within the context of human civilization.
It proves a difficult sell because the default human behavior goes in the opposite direction toward what is most mentally and emotionally stimulating in the moment. Human intellect by its nature opposes realism, long-term thinking, and qualitative assessments, but these are essential to conservatism.
The root of “conservatism” and “conservative” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root word ser meaning “to protect”:
Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to protect.” It forms all or part of: conservation; conservative; conserve; hero; observance; observatory; observe; preserve; reservation; reserve; reservoir.
It also includes the prefix con meaning “together, together with, in combination” for a final definition of “protecting together.”
Protecting, preserving, and conserving require two things in common: first, a strong realism, or measurement of our actions by consequences in reality and not what people think about it; and second, a strong qualitative skill to see what provides the best long-term outcomes.
Realism seems unknown to most modern people, but the definition of realism shows us a straightforward measurement:
Realism, in philosophy, the viewpoint which accords to things which are known or perceived an existence or nature which is independent of whether anyone is thinking about or perceiving them.
In other words, reality exists whether we are paying attention to it or not, and therefore, results in reality matter more than our thoughts about them that are not reality-correspondent, or roughly matching the nature of reality itself.
As applied to political philosophy, realism mostly concerns the independence of reality from human opinion
There are two general aspects to realism, illustrated by looking at realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties. First, there is a claim about existence. Tables, rocks, the moon, and so on, all exist, as do the following facts: the table’s being square, the rock’s being made of granite, and the moon’s being spherical and yellow. The second aspect of realism about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties concerns independence. The fact that the moon exists and is spherical is independent of anything anyone happens to say or think about the matter. Likewise, although there is a clear sense in which the table’s being square is dependent on us (it was designed and constructed by human beings after all), this is not the type of dependence that the realist wishes to deny. The realist wishes to claim that apart from the mundane sort of empirical dependence of objects and their properties familiar to us from everyday life, there is no further (philosophically interesting) sense in which everyday objects and their properties can be said to be dependent on anyone’s linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, or whatever.
Realism in politics consists of a skepticism of moralizing in favor of hard power:
Realists consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states, which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their own national interests, and struggle for power. The negative side of the realists’ emphasis on power and self-interest is often their skepticism regarding the relevance of ethical norms to relations among states.
These theories come from a fundamental belief that human perceptions about reality — morality, emotions, social impulses, symbols, fears — have less importance than how things turn out in reality, including the responses by reality as a whole to our actions.
It may seem grim, but realism in politics accurately describes the world as seen through the whole of history:
Political realism is a theory of political philosophy that attempts to explain, model, and prescribe political relations. It takes as its assumption that power is (or ought to be) the primary end of political action, whether in the domestic or international arena. In the domestic arena, the theory asserts that politicians do, or should, strive to maximize their power, whilst on the international stage, nation states are seen as the primary agents that maximize, or ought to maximize, their power. The theory is therefore to be examined as either a prescription of what ought to be the case, that is, nations and politicians ought to pursue power or their own interests, or as a description of the ruling state of affairs-that nations and politicians only pursue (and perhaps only can pursue) power or self-interest.
Political realism in essence reduces to the political-ethical principle that might is right. The theory has a long history, being evident in Thucydides’ Pelopennesian War. It was expanded on by Machiavelli in The Prince, and others such as Thomas Hobbes, Spinoza, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau followed (the theory was given great dramatical portrayed in Shakespeare’s Richard III). In the late nineteenth century it underwent a new incarnation in the form of social darwinism, whose adherents explained social and hence political growth in terms of a struggle in which only the fittest (strongest) cultures or polities would survive. Political realism assumes that interests are to be maintained through the exercise of power, and that the world is characterised by competing power bases.
Some might see “might makes right” as a moral endorsement of might when in reality it merely describes events: whichever force has the greatest power will win. In the same way, natural selection reflects who managed to breed the most, more than who won any specific challenge; it does not award a moral significance to survival, only says that those who survive will define the future.
Realism in the conservative context means looking at the consequences in reality of our actions and measuring those against the likely consequences of all other actions, first to determine what is functional and second, so that we can extract from the comparison knowledge of what is “best.”
This arises from the nature of conservation, which recognizes that something which can be conserved is either in ascent or decline; to actually preserve it, one must preserve and nurture it, which means keeping it at peak state instead of a minimum.
In order to protect the best of human endeavor, conservatives must preserve the best aspects of the past in their best form, establishing continuity of their civilization from its origins to its future. This pursuit of the best requires an aesthetic ability to appreciate excellence or arete as a means of conserving the pursuit of excellence:
[I]mportant concept in Greek philosophy, “rank, nobility, moral virtue, excellence,” especially of manly qualities; literally “that which is good,” a word of uncertain origin.
From this we get notions such as “to conserve” which implies the preservation and continuity of something original, in this case civilization and humanity in its most advanced state. Conservatism necessarily implies a qualitative assessment of the results of our actions, and conserves the best of those, usually as enshrined in various “golden ages” of highly advanced civilization that degraded later into its modern form.
Conservatism (or the conservative philosophy) aims in a broader sense to conserve the best of human endeavor. It is not a utilitarian but an optimalist view, meaning that it aims for the best possible results for the least amount of effort even.
This occurs where those results are not pragmatic in the context of what other people want, compromise, or appearances. Utilitarian views, or those based on what most people consider to be good, tend to select for a lowest common denominator and work against conserving the best.
Utilitarianism has become so popular that it has fragmented into many sects, but its essence remains the notion of the greatest good for the greatest number of people:
Though there are many varieties of the view discussed, utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. There are many ways to spell out this general claim.
The Classical Utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, identified the good with pleasure, so, like Epicurus, were hedonists about value. They also held that we ought to maximize the good, that is, bring about ‘the greatest amount of good for the greatest number’.
Difficulties present themselves with this idea, notably that when one wants to assess the greatest good for the greatest number, there is no “objective” or “scientific” method except in narrow fields like economics or military power.
Instead, we fall back on that old Enlightenment™ trope: we ask them. This places utilitarianism in the same orbit as individualism, universalism, pacifism, democracy, and egalitarianism where the opinions of individuals are more important than consequences in reality; it is anti-realism.
Conservatism rejects utilitarianism and demotic ideas, or those based on whether a majority of people like something, because conservatism aims to conserve things — cultures, civilizations, tribes, customs, values, aesthetics, family, and faith — instead of make individual people claim they are “happier” on a poll.
Unlike standard human default behavior, conservatism challenges us to rise above our Simian impulses and to instead pay attention to our inner intuition, where we find knowledge of how reality works and how to adapt to it such that the best possible results are achieved.
In the conservative viewpoint, the purpose of life is pleasure, and this is found only through the “transcendentals” such as beauty, excellence, truth, goodness and national identity. Transient pleasures like fun, lust, drugs, etc., are distractions from actual long-term pleasure.
This produces an outlook which values that which history has rewarded as the best options instead of short-term pleasures that lead to bad results. Conservatism associates strongly with an organic philosophy of natural selection, keeping that which produces thriving people and rejecting that which individuals desire for short-term gain:
Conservatism is a preference for the historically inherited rather than the abstract and ideal. This preference has traditionally rested on an organic conception of society—that is, on the belief that society is not merely a loose collection of individuals but a living organism comprising closely connected, interdependent members. Conservatives thus favour institutions and practices that have evolved gradually and are manifestations of continuity and stability. Government’s responsibility is to be the servant, not the master, of existing ways of life, and politicians must therefore resist the temptation to transform society and politics.
This proves a perennially unpopular philosophy because big-brained humans wish to maximize our sense of of self-importance, or individualism:
The French aristocratic political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59) described individualism in terms of a kind of moderate selfishness that disposed humans to be concerned only with their own small circle of family and friends. Observing the workings of the American democratic tradition for Democracy in America (1835–40), Tocqueville wrote that by leading “each citizen to isolate himself from his fellows and to draw apart with his family and friends,” individualism sapped the “virtues of public life,” for which civic virtue and association were a suitable remedy.
In fact, Leftism (of which liberalism is a variety) reveals itself to be a philosophy of individualism applied to the group, with those involved forming a mob in order to demand that no person can be criticized, penalized, or excluded for short-term self-interest. Collectivized individualism defines the Left wing of politics:
Left: In politics, the portion of the political spectrum associated in general with egalitarianism and popular or state control of the major institutions of political and economic life. The term dates from the 1790s, when in the French revolutionary parliament the socialist representatives sat to the presiding officer’s left. Leftists tend to be hostile to the interests of traditional elites, including the wealthy and members of the aristocracy, and to favour the interests of the working class (see proletariat). They tend to regard social welfare as the most important goal of government. Socialism is the standard leftist ideology in most countries of the world; communism is a more radical leftist ideology.
Conservatism is not individualism or collectivism. Individualism demands “me first”; collectivism is a group demanding “me first” but willing to have a strong power of consensus administrate it so that no individual receives blame, social disapproval, or judgment of others for demanding “me first” despite the obvious unrealistic selfishness and immaturity of that act.
Generally, the Left focuses on the individual, as one would expect with a defensive ideal like “equality”: namely, no one can impose a rank or social order on these equal individuals. This means that the Left inherits individualism/collectivism, but as part of its mission to conserve the best of the past, the Right focuses on orders larger than the individual.
These are necessarily transcendental, or focused on ongoing qualitative and aesthetic ideals that can never be fully tangibly realized, instead of finite, material, social, or emotional. For this reason, the Right includes a focus on social order, including but not limited to hierarchy, values, standards, customs, cuisine, beliefs, wisdom, folklore, and the sentiment that “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
The roots of the notion of conservatism as a distinct philosophy are found in the French Revolution, where conservatism was formed because of a need to describe the philosophy of those of us who were not in favor of the the egalitarian philosophy — the notion all people are equal or should be made equal — of the Revolution, which was created to overthrow those who were seen as having natural leadership ability, the kings and aristocrats.
It is important to remember that the French Revolution led to an orgy of murder of men, women, and children followed by the collapse of the food system, internal chaos, and finally a series of conflicts that roiled all of Europe. This follows a pattern found in parallel among egalitarian revolutions from the ancients in Rome and Greece to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia.
Although modern people tend to call it an ideology, as a realist philosophy conservatism escapes the ideological orbit because it has no symbolic beliefs; it simply aims for what is actual in reality, and chooses the best quality option from that, with a focus on the long term. The former is demonstrated through its emphasis on, per Plato, “good to the good, and bad to the bad,” and the latter emerges from a pursuit of the transcendentals, or those notions which make the whole of life excellent (arete, again) such as “the good, the beautiful, and the true.”
Unlike an ideology, conservative demonstrates a way of life based on what has worked best in the past. That has two parts: (1) what has worked, and (2) the best of what has worked. It favors slow, gradual, and qualitative change over structural change, or quantitative change, in order to avoid making errors, since in its view, the problem with humanity is usually solipsism, or our tendency to have notions in our heads which do not correspond to reality whose root is in excessive self-importance (hubris).
Conservatism is the belief system (more like a philosophy or culture that explains our world than an ideology, or theory about how life “should” be) of conservatives. It holds that history is cyclic, and humans cycle between “golden ages” of tradition and the degradation of the same, which results in worse results. As a result, conservatives attempt to conserve the best of the past, meaning that they are not mindless reactionaries but those who assess qualitatively the outcomes of human actions and preserve those that worked better than others, which point toward those golden ages rather than degraded forms like modernity.
Contrary to what we are told by some modern sources, conservatism is an eternal order that does not vary between societies. It is not a preservation of recent traditions, but of timeless truths. Conservatism exists as a philosophy and way of life, but this is implemented in public form through corporations like conservative media, conservative book publishers, and of course, the GOP and other conservative parties.
Some have attempted to make a hybrid of Left and Right, notably the National Socialists, libertarians, Fascists, and neoconservatives. The latter refers to a group of “classical liberal” thinkers who endorse modern methods of government:
also neoconservative; used in the modern sense by 1979:
My Republican vote [in the 1972 presidential election] produced little shock waves in the New York intellectual community. It didn’t take long – a year or two – for the socialist writer Michael Harrington to come up with the term “neoconservative” to describe a renegade liberal like myself. To the chagrin of some of my friends, I decided to accept that term; there was no point calling myself a liberal when no one else did. [Irving Kristol, “Forty Good Years,” “The Public Interest,” Spring 2005]
The term is attested from 1960, but it originally often was applied to Russell Kirk and his followers, who would be philosophically opposed to the later neocons.
Neoconservatives are essentially classical liberals, or those who recognized that the new Leftist order was doomed and decided the best way to protect themselves against it was to insist on individual freedom, protected by economics. Plato details this response in Chapter VIII of The Republic:
The inevitable division: such a State is not one, but two States, the one of poor, the other of rich men; and they are living on the same spot and always conspiring against one another.
That, surely, is at least as bad.
Another discreditable feature is, that, for a like reason, they are incapable of carrying on any war. Either they arm the multitude, and then they are more afraid of them than of the enemy; or, if they do not call them out in the hour of battle, they are oligarchs indeed, few to fight as they are few to rule. And at the same time their fondness for money makes them unwilling to pay taxes.
…On the other hand, the men of business, stooping as they walk, and pretending not even to see those whom they have already ruined, insert their sting –that is, their money –into some one else who is not on his guard against them, and recover the parent sum many times over multiplied into a family of children: and so they make drone and pauper to abound in the State.
Yes, he said, there are plenty of them –that is certain.
The evil blazes up like a fire; and they will not extinguish it, either by restricting a man’s use of his own property, or by another remedy:
One which is the next best, and has the advantage of compelling the citizens to look to their characters: –Let there be a general rule that every one shall enter into voluntary contracts at his own risk, and there will be less of this scandalous money-making, and the evils of which we were speaking will be greatly lessened in the State.
…Then there is another class which is always being severed from the mass.
What is that?
They are the orderly class, which in a nation of traders sure to be the richest.
They are the most squeezable persons and yield the largest amount of honey to the drones.
Why, he said, there is little to be squeezed out of people who have little.
…What else can they do?
And then, although they may have no desire of change, the others charge them with plotting against the people and being friends of oligarchy? True.
And the end is that when they see the people, not of their own accord, but through ignorance, and because they are deceived by informers, seeking to do them wrong, then at last they are forced to become oligarchs in reality; they do not wish to be, but the sting of the drones torments them and breeds revolution in them.
Here, Plato establishes the path by which people become unwilling oligarchs, or those who rule by money and wish to pay no taxes, an analogue to our contemporary libertarians, classical liberals and neoconservatives. They dislike oligarchy, but when the state demands money to pay off the many impoverished and non-productive, they turn to oligarchy-within-democracy as a means of preserving their wealth.
This is the nature of the neoconservative, libertarian, and classical liberal: someone who rationalizes decay, and defends against it with excuses for keeping their personal wealth. While they may be hybrids of conservatives, or even a type of conservative, their definition of conservative is not the whole of conservatism, and therefore is not conservatism itself.
All of these hybrids avoid conservatism in favor of a conservative-flavored approach that seeks to legitimize individualism and defend it through strong State power. In this way, liberalism serves as a catch all for the anti-realist ideologies based in individualism:
Liberalism is derived from two related features of Western culture. The first is the West’s preoccupation with individuality, as compared to the emphasis in other civilizations on status, caste, and tradition. Throughout much of history, the individual has been submerged in and subordinate to his clan, tribe, ethnic group, or kingdom. Liberalism is the culmination of developments in Western society that produced a sense of the importance of human individuality, a liberation of the individual from complete subservience to the group, and a relaxation of the tight hold of custom, law, and authority. In this respect, liberalism stands for the emancipation of the individual. See also individualism.
Liberalism also derives from the practice of adversariality in European political and economic life, a process in which institutionalized competition—such as the competition between different political parties in electoral contests, between prosecution and defense in adversary procedure, or between different producers in a market economy (see monopoly and competition)—generates a dynamic social order. Adversarial systems have always been precarious, however, and it took a long time for the belief in adversariality to emerge from the more traditional view, traceable at least to Plato, that the state should be an organic structure, like a beehive, in which the different social classes cooperate by performing distinct yet complementary roles.
As one can see, individualism originates in property law, or the notion that individual property is more important than the goals of a civilization, including transcendental understanding. This inherently materialist view came from the rising middle classes who wanted zero restrictions on their ability to make money at their shops and mercantile businesses.
It naturally leads to more advanced Leftist systems like socialism because liberalism creates a natural inequality as some acquire more property than others, and so its first step at resolving this paradox universally consists of “wealth redistribution,” or taxing the prosperous to subsidize the less prosperous.
These hybrids — like national socialism and fascism — reflect an interpretation of conservatism adapted to a Leftist framework. National Socialism and Fascism simply came later, attempting to adopt the ultra-modernist methods of the Communist total state or Jacobin militarized empire to work for conservatism. This attempt misses out on what makes conservatism distinct, which is that it is a philosophy of how the order of nature operates, not an attempt to quantitatively change that order into something else.
“Liberals” originally referred to those who, around and after the French Revolution, embraced the Enlightenment-era ideal of individualism, which was that we needed no order higher than the individual, specifically aristocracy and the caste system.
Instead, they suggested a mixture of tolerance and Darwinism: everybody do whatever they want without those who know better criticizing them — barring what we might call the “simple social compact” of avoiding murder, theft, and assault — and the best will rise over time, maintaining a social order without aristocrats.
This presented a problem in that it left society headless, so it was rapidly assimilated into the democratic ideal, which held that not only should people be able to live in a state of near-anarchy, but that they would then be polled in a utilitarian manner to see what a plurality thought was a good idea on questions of leadership.
Democracy created another problem, in that in addition to no one paying attention to the task of maintaining civilization and culture, it encouraged great resentment as people asked, effectively, “If we are all equal, why am I impoverished, powerless, and socially insignificant?”
In response to this, liberalism fragmented. The former type became “classical liberals” who are today represented by libertarians, and the new type became infused with socialism, or the idea that society owed a duty to its citizens to subsidize them until they were “equal,” and the cost would be externalized or spread across the whole of society.
On the contrary, original conservatism rejects reliance on methods-as-goals and effects-as-causes, the two cognitive errors behind the Left.
For a Leftist, goals consist of methods such as freedom, big government, equality, and wealth redistribution. These create a mental loop in the human mind, since the methods used to achieve the goal are simply portions of the goal, which means that there is no actual goal, only a demand for intensification of the favored methods.
Effects-as-causes refers to the tendency of the Left to see something it dislikes, such as poverty or varying degrees of competence, and to assume that this thing is the result of itself, namely that poverty causes people to be poor and inequality causes differences in competence. Such a “face value” take of reality treats it as symbolism instead of a functioning ecosystem which acts over time, and ignores the fact that one must find the cause of poverty in order to change the degree of poverty, something Leftists ignore because it will inevitably clash with egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism presents a philosophy of equality, which holds that the highest moral good for human consists of seeking greater degrees of equality. This rapidly expands into a looping theory:
- There was once a golden age when people were equal.
- Something — the rich, inequality, class, kings — intervened and made us unequal.
- Therefore, the only good consists of forcing equality upon us.
- If equality fails, the culprit is the intervening force, and the solution is to work toward more equality.
- Therefore, anything which is not pro-equality consists of the intervening force and must be destroyed.
Conservatism favors what works in the laboratory of history, where Leftists favor the theory of egalitarianism, which is conjectural and hypothetical, but like other theories such as anarchy of a lack of personal responsibility for the maintenance of civilization, eternally popular.
Conservatives refer to both groups of outsiders — classical liberals and socialist-infused liberals — as Leftists because the basis of their philosophy is egalitarian:
An egalitarian favors equality of some sort: People should get the same, or be treated the same, or be treated as equals, in some respect. An alternative view expands on this last-mentioned option: People should be treated as equals, should treat one another as equals, should relate as equals, or enjoy an equality of social status of some sort. Egalitarian doctrines tend to rest on a background idea that all human persons are equal in fundamental worth or moral status. So far as the Western European and Anglo-American philosophical tradition is concerned, one significant source of this thought is the Christian notion that God loves all human souls equally. Egalitarianism is a protean doctrine, because there are several different types of equality, or ways in which people might be treated the same, or might relate as equals, that might be thought desirable. In modern democratic societies, the term “egalitarian” is often used to refer to a position that favors, for any of a wide array of reasons, a greater degree of equality of income and wealth across persons than currently exists.
This naturally expands to a civil rights outlook (called “human rights” in an international context) which emphasizes an expanding curve from legal equality of individuals to absolute equal treatment of individuals, showing us egalitarianism in its raw form:
We differ in our abilities, resources, opportunities, preferences, and temperaments. The claim must be about something more specific. All persons have equal moral worth or equal standing. The United States Declaration of Independence famously states that “all men are created equal.” Jeremy Bentham’s dictum “each to count for one, none to count for more than one,” is another expression of the descriptive thesis. While the conditions in which people live, their wealth and income, their abilities, their satisfaction, and their life prospects may radically differ, they are all morally equal. In moral and political deliberation, each person deserves equal concern. All should have equal moral and legal standing.
If all persons are equal in this way, then some forms of unequal treatment must be unjust. The descriptive thesis, applied within a particular state, at least entails equal rights and equal standing…At least in terms of basic political rights, discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, and caste is prohibited. Many would also extend these to commerce and the wider public sphere: businesses should not be able to refuse service on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Egalitarianism aims for equilibrium, meaning that it takes excesses of success and redistributes them to excesses of failure, so that everyone can have a mediocre mean if possible. This usually requires “progressive” taxation which favors the poor:
Equality and efficiency need to be placed in a balanced relation. Often, pareto-optimality is demanded in this respect — for the most part by economists. A social condition is pareto-optimal or pareto-efficient when it is not possible to shift to another condition judged better by at least one person and worse by none (Sen 1970, chap. 2, 2*). A widely discussed alternative to the Pareto principle is the Kaldor-Hicks welfare criterion. This stipulates that a rise in social welfare is always present when the benefits accruing through the distribution of value in a society exceed the corresponding costs. A change thus becomes desirable when the winners in such a change could compensate the losers for their losses and still retain a substantial profit.
Again, we return to “judged better by at least one person,” or in other words, human symbolism, emotion, feelings, sentiment, and appearance.
Since egalitarianism relies on each individual being equally correct, it inherently legitimizes all viewpoints, which means that nothing is really “true,” but some things are more popular than others and these are treated as “true.”
Eventually, egalitarianism swallows up every other discussion point in politics because it assumes a moral nature, implying that it is not merely a political choice but a humanistic imperative in a form known as moral egaliarianism:
Egalitarianism is the position that equality is central to justice. It is a prominent trend in social and political philosophy and has also become relevant in moral philosophy (moral egalitarianism) since the late twentieth century. In social and political philosophy, the main focus of the debate is on two different trends, the Equality-of-What trend and the Why-Equality trend. The authors of the older, first trend focused on the main question, what the goods of distribution are (resources, equality of opportunity for welfare, and so forth) and according to which standard one should distribute the goods. The question, in the late twentieth century is, whether equality is the most or one of the most important part(s) of justice or whether it has no or nearly no importance for the nature of justice at all. Egalitarians believe that justice and equality are closely connected; prioritarians, instead, emphasise that the two concepts are unrelated.
This creates a mandate of egalitarianism-versus-realism, where people believe that the “moral” supersedes the real, and that it should act against the tendencies of reality including ones like natural selection which have brought us this far.
In this transition, egalitarianism migrates from a political option to a moral philosophy to a replacement for culture, and takes legal and political form as civil rights or human rights. This philosophy not only ignores reality, but takes great delight in reality-denial, since it sees morality as a higher commitment than reality, as illustrated by the history of human rights:
Most students of human rights trace the origins of the concept of human rights to ancient Greece and Rome, where it was closely tied to the doctrines of the Stoics, who held that human conduct should be judged according to, and brought into harmony with, the law of nature. A classic example of this view is given in Sophocles’ play Antigone, in which the title character, upon being reproached by King Creon for defying his command not to bury her slain brother, asserted that she acted in accordance with the immutable laws of the gods.
In this way, the egalitarian sees himself as “above” reality and making a “higher choice,” even if the results of his actions turn out poorly. The cult-like, reality-denying nature of egalitarianism as mental programming originates in this tendency.
Moving back to reality, one has two choices: “good to the good, and bad to the bad,” which comports with natural selection and morality, or “good to the good, and good to the bad,” which makes everyone equal without imposing a hierarchy or ranking by how much good each person achieves.
When applied, egalitarianism always amounts to a denial of natural selection, namely taking from the strong (healthy, sane, intelligent, moral, transcendent) and giving to the bad (mutated, insane, dumber, amoral, materialist) so that both can be equal.
On a practical level, people choose egalitarianism in order to keep a group together. This is the “committee mentality” and it happens when people aim for what they think the group will approve, so that the individuals who choose this can later claim victory when the group approves it.
A search for popularity underlies all such systems, and their modern equivalents — consumerism, equality, democracy, and social popularity — which are collectively called demotism tend also to seek the lowest common denominator in order to achieve widespread approval.
Hierarchy on the other hand ranks people by their ability to achieve, produce, and create, and pays attention to what the most significant people do more than what the madding crowd wishes to believe is true (a phenomenon called “wishful thinking”). Hierarchy arises naturally in all human organizations, civilizations, and groups including egalitarian ones, although they attempt to suppress it through meritocracy, or the policy of running people through memorization and socialization tests to select those who are most compatible with the system.
The transition from tiered hierarchy to mass mobilized mob occurs through a psychological phenomenon known as Crowdism:
Societies tend to start out as strictly hierarchical, and then at their point of success, change to a utilitarian system because they have grown, especially in the lower-IQ working classes who reproduce at higher rates.
With the transition to utilitarianism, decay begins. Early civilization aims to beat back nature and disorganization and, once it succeeds, facilitates the existence of many who would otherwise be unable to survive. It suffers both a loss of a transcendent goal — be excellent (arete) enough to survive and thrive — and the gain of a huge population of Dunning-Kruger Effect lower-IQ people who now demand power, wealth, and status sharing because being lower-IQ, they are mentally disorganized, and so scapegoat their lack of external power for the problems caused by their lack of inner intelligence, morality, and organization.
In order to accommodate utilitarianism but retain the hierarchy necessary to function, societies first become “classical liberal” entities but later shift to meritocracy so that they can claim to be “fair” and therefore, avoid revolt by the masses.
Moving to meritocracy places these societies in what we might call “the egalitarian loop”:
- Meritocracy, or equality of opportunity, is adopted to prevent mass revolt by the lower classes (proles, serfs, helots, sudras, plebes). However, results turn out to be “unequal” because of the natural variation in human beings and the genetic advantages of natural winners, who have higher IQs, better health, greater beauty, and more mental and moral balance arising from naturally self-organizing intelligences.
- Since results are unequal, the egalitarians face a choice:
- Admit that egalitarianism has failed and is not based in reality, since inequality is required to avoid death by stagnation (heat-death).
- Scapegoat something for the failure of egalitarianism, and double down on the belief system.
Leftists, for whom equality is a near-religious belief, always choose the latter.
When presented with unequal results from egalitarian policies and programs, Leftists argue that either there was not enough egalitarianism applied, some evil inequality gremlin intervened, or both, and in all three cases, the correct solution is more egalitarianism. After all, method and goal are the same.
Pathologies of this nature define the ideological approach. Ideologies consist of symbols used for external control of a group; the point is to achieve the symbol, by applying the symbol, in defiance of observable reality.
Cult-like tendencies observed among people bearing this pathology arise from the symbolic control method. The symbol is good; everything else, unless it can be used to achieve the symbol, is bad and must be replaced with that which advances the symbol.
An addictive cycle results. The egalitarian feels good when he is applying egalitarianism, but it never works, and so the “high” is short-lived and soon he needs more. Over time, the thrills fade, and he consumes everything around him trying to feel more of that symbolic goodness.
In contrast, conservatives reject symbolic reality entirely — despite its shiny, chrome- and plastic-like uniformity, abstraction, and fungibility, all things which make it appealing to the human mind — in favor of the messy nature of reality, which we accept as imperfect and therefore both non-Utopian and impossible to symbolize:
Conservatism at its heart is about seeing the world as it actually exists, and working within those confines. We do not have to like reality, but unlike progressives, we do not see it as clay to be shaped in our image.
Control, or the use of external symbolism to induce obedient conformity in a group, comes to us in history from the Asiatic tyrants, who rejected the idea of improving the quality of their population in favor of increasing quantity and mobilization, realizing that an attacking mass in unison would win most contests.
William S. Burroughs revealed the nature of Control as symbolic:
[W]ords are still the principal instruments of control. Suggestions are words. Persuasions are words. Orders are words. No control machine so far devised can operate without words, and any control machine which attempts to do so relying entirely on external force or entirely on physical control of the mind will soon encounter the limits of control.
…When there is no more opposition, control becomes a meaningless proposition. It is highly questionable whether a human organism could survive complete control. There would be nothing there. No persons there. Life is will (motivation) and the workers would no longer be alive, perhaps literally. The concept of suggestion as a complete technique presupposes that control is partial and not complete. You do not have to give suggestions to your tape recorder nor subject it to pain and coercion or persuasion.
In other words, control results from the lack of a transcendent goal, and a turning instead toward keeping the group acting in unison, much like the committee mentality, compromise, and socializing, where deferring to the inadequacies of others makes the group happy.
Conservatives reject symbolism, equality, and ideology as variants of individualism and materialism, both of which prioritize the immediate and tangible over an organized mind, a vision of life as logical, and a believe in long term excellence, beauty, goodness, or realism.
Few modern public conservatives will admit it, but conservatism rejects equality entirely:
These holdouts have never accepted equality as a “conservative” principle; they continue to believe in traditional gender distinctions and are not especially bothered by the hierarchies that existed in pre-modern communities. They also make faces when they hear the vague platitude “human rights”—what Richard Weaver called a “god term”—thrown into a conversation. Although paleos believe in universally applicable moral standards, they insist that rights are historic and attached to particular societies with their own histories. Paleoconservatives also believe the U.S. was founded as a “constitutional republic,” not as a “liberal democracy.” Perhaps most controversially, they stress lines of continuity extending from the civil rights and immigration legislation of the 1960s to the cultural and political transformation of our country that is now going on. Often attacked as racists or xenophobes, the Cassandra-like paleos are neither. They have boldly pointed out developmental connections that others choose to ignore.
It prefers the opposite principle, which is the view of life as an organic ecosystem, and correspondingly, that human societies should be organic structures which adapt to reality including the reality of innate human inequality. This view predated liberalism:
Adversarial systems have always been precarious, however, and it took a long time for the belief in adversariality to emerge from the more traditional view, traceable at least to Plato, that the state should be an organic structure, like a beehive, in which the different social classes cooperate by performing distinct yet complementary roles.
While the above source suggests that Plato argues that the “state” should be an organic structure, it is worth noting that Plato spoke of civilizations instead. In theory, the state is a political guardian for the civilization, although it usually ends up dominating that civilization and using it for the ends of those in power, a condition known as tyranny.
Paul Woodruff identifies tyranny as an extension of hubris, or malignant individualism, where the tyrant naturally becomes anti-realist:
When people are powerful, they tend to fall into habits of acting as if they were divine. The cliché, of course, is power corrupts. But what the Greeks are noticing is that it corrupts in a very particular way. You think that you can’t go wrong. You think that you can’t be mistaken. You think that because you are not likely to be mistaken, you don’t have to listen to other people. And those are all signs of tyranny and they’re all signs of hubris.
The Asiatic tyrant, perhaps not as bright as the noble king, sees a vast mass of people and decides that they are idiots and he is supremely intelligent, therefore they must serve his whims; the noble king sees a varied mass and decides to improve it, pointing it and himself toward a transcendent goal.
For this reason, conservatives tend to focus on nationalism, or the unity of those with a shared ethnic, cultural, and religious group. The name comes from those “born together” as occurs in a tribe:
The kinship of all Greeks in blood and speech, and the shrines of gods and the sacrifices that we have in common, and the likeness of our way of life. – Herodotus, Histories, 8.144.2
When translated into politics, nationalism means that each civilization is built around a single ethnic group only and excludes others, so that this group has ethnic self-determination and the ability to set, maintain, and nurture its own standards. Nationalism means ethnic isolation:
Nationalism, translated into world politics, implies the identification of the state or nation with the people — or at least the desirability of determining the extent of the state according to ethnographic principles. In the age of nationalism, but only in the age of nationalism, the principle was generally recognized that each nationality should form a state—its state—and that the state should include all members of that nationality. Formerly states, or territories under one administration, were not delineated by nationality.
An opposite to centralization and mass mobilization, this principle recognizes the role of quality of population, and its encoding within the genetics of individuals, and therefore the need for the group to separate itself from others, much in the same way that conservatives emphasize the family unit and competitive reward-after-performance systems like morality and capitalism, since these allow the good to rise above the rest and inform them, but also, not be dragged down by them through Crowdism.
Consequently, conservatives endorse a taboo “hatefact” that invalidates the entire notion of class warfare, which always consists of lower classes trying to overthrow the naturally talented people higher in the hierarchy: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes.
The exact size of the measured IQ difference varies according to the precision of definitions of social class – but in all studies I have seen, the measured social class IQ difference is substantial and of significance and relevance to the issue of university admissions.
Higher castes and social classes are innately more intelligent than lower classes:
The existence of substantial class differences in average IQ seems to be uncontroversial and widely accepted for many decades among those who have studied the scientific literature. And IQ is highly predictive of a wide range of positive outcomes in terms of educational duration and attainment, attained income levels, and social status (see Deary – Intelligence, 2001)
This difference has been extensively affirmed by science over the years, despite being taboo, and shows the IQ differential between classes to be genetic:
As long ago as 1922, Professor Sir Godfrey Thomson and Professor Sir James Fitzjames Duff performed IQ tests on more than 13000 Northumbrian children aged 11-12, and found that the children of professionals had an average IQ of 112 compared with an average of 96 for unskilled labourers. These differences in IQ were predictive of future educational attainment.
Dozens of similar results have been reported since; indeed I am not aware of a single study which contradicts this finding. Social Class differences in intelligence are described in the authoritative textbook: IQ and Human Intelligence by N.J Mackintosh who is a Professor of Psychology at Cambridge University. And described in the 1996 American Psychological Association consensus statement Intelligence: knowns and unknowns.
Not surprisingly, the children of the higher castes inherit their abilities for the most part, and so tend to score higher than those of lower castes:
Respondents who came from households with an income of less than $40,000 a year on average had lower overall best SAT scores—about 2189 on average—than those who came from more affluent backgrounds. Respondents whose parents make $500,000 or more each year reported a best overall SAT score of 2239 on average.
Surveyed members of the Class of 2019 who identified as legacies reported higher best overall SAT scores—2269 on average—than their non-legacy peers, who reported SAT scores of 2221 on average.
Recognition of the fact of hierarchy and social class makes one anti-egalitarian, which historically defines the conservative: we refuse to join in the egalitarian trend and mass fascination that began with the Peasant Revolts, Magna Carta, Enlightenment,™ and French Revolution.
Much of the value of conservatives comes from their tendency to say NO. They recognize that we have a working model for humanity and any changes to it reflect the egotism and neurosis of people who have no idea what they are doing. Rejecting all but a few changes is common sense.
Even more, we recognize that civilization must be a canvas upon which to paint, not a sculpture which one contorts to express oneself. The society which changes least places the greatest amount of focus on internal order to each human being such as self-actualization, morality, self-discipline, maturity, wisdom, and the inner silence which allows us to perceive the transcendent.
Rationalism took Europe by storm, and conservatives opposed it because they saw it as rationalization. Instead of perceiving an order of the whole, an “eternal golden braid” or natural order, people were assuming from the perspective of a human an anthropocentric continuity, and rationalizing against its philosophies of universal acceptance and equality, instead of paying attention to reality.
Such a movement inevitably drives a civilization not only away from reality, but to oppose it entirely, guaranteeing the failure of that civilization because reality is more powerful than even human technology. Its patterns prevail over time and unrealistic humans lose.
On the other hand, humans with their big brains receive stronger signals from those big brains: fear, lust, resentment, and anger. Individualism conveys to individuals the perceived legitimacy of pursuing those mental sensations instead of the quieter, more cerebral process of perceiving reality.
The opposite of individualism is a belief in human differences and individuality, which is separate from individualism in that individualism believes that the needs, judgments, feelings, and desires of the individual come first before all else, but conservatives believe in the need for hierarchy, family, culture, heritage, and social structure, all of which are orders larger than the individual, where the individualist believes that the largest social unit in civilization should be the individual.
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Author: Brett Stevens