I loosely follow Mitchell Powel on FontWords.com. In a recent posting he commented on John Fensel’s ten Questions For Conservatives. He was having a bit of fun with it, and I”m trying to avoid finishing my chapter on Ideology, so I had a go at it.
Dear David. Here is a lengthy and detailed response to your Questionnaire for Conservatives.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD “CONSERVATIVE”
First, “Conservative” means simply “reaction to the status quo”. One must be conservative about something. In the case of americans, they are conservative about the anglo classical liberal institutions, the most important of which are rule of law that limits the actions of the state, and a division of labor and knowledge between the classes that are represented by two houses in an institutional arrangement that allows procedural exchange between groups (classes) with different interests (and abilities). They are conservative about the aristocratic manorial system (and therefore its modern instantiation in the corporation) because it is a meritocratic organizational structure. They are conservative about the nuclear family, since that is a unique institution that gives each man and woman leadership of the smallest tribe possible, and by dong so makes them visibly accountable for its success and failure. The nuclear family system with prohibition on near-breeding, is a bottom-up means of organizing society so that the fewest involuntary transfers are created, in an institution that trains people to be personally responsible due to the perfect transparency of the family. They are conservative with regard to human nature in that conservatism is first and foremost a warning against pervasive human hubris. They are conservative with regard to external threats, for which a hierarchy is necessary since it allows rapid response to threats and opportunities. They are conservative for good reason: they invented the one and only high trust society in the world with those traditions.
THE THREE TECHNOLOGIES OF COERCION NEEDED TO COMPOSE A SOCIAL ORDER
But even with that shared background, American conservatives fall into three camps, each of which favors using one of the three possible social forms of coercion:
1) Ostracization/inclusion at the cost of obeying norms: Social conservatives (The church, farmers and peasantry) give higher priority to the enforcement of the social order by way of norms which are indoctrinated by pedagogy and ritual under penalty of ostracization from the geography and the market.
2) The institution of property/honesty (law) under the threat of violence: Classical liberal conservatives (The Aristocracy and the military) prefer meritocratic rotation of a hierarchy whose membership is determined by demonstrated service of others in the market, where their only purpose is to maintain rules that apply equally to all, but where punishment rather than ostracization is the means of coercion.
3) Benefits from voluntary exchange under the treat of lost opportunity: Commercial conservatives (The bankers, small business owners and trade craftsmen) prefer anarchic market orders where commerce alone serves those according to their contribution.
ALLEGORICAL VS RATIO-EMPIRICAL LANGUAGE
The fact that conservatives speak in allegorical language rather than ratio-empirical language is immaterial other than the fact that it obscures the content and reasoning of their arguments. This unfortunately makes their arguments useless with liberals. And it is a convenient way of avoiding a meaningful conversation on the part of conservatives who themselves may not understand the content of their own traditions. (And who rarely do, actually.) Allegorical language is perfectly effective. It just isnt’ as useful in debate as it is in pedagogy. And it is demonstrably more effective in pedagogy than ratio-empirical language. So the test of any philosophy, regardless of its linguistic construct as either allegorical, ratio-empirical, is not its form – it’s the result of using it. It is pretty hard to argue against the European aristocratic achievement. Passing asian from far behind is pretty impressive.
THE CHURCH HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN ALLIED WITH PROGRESSIVES
The alliance between religious conservatives, and the martial and commercial conservatives has been highly effective, but it is uncommon. The church tended to err on the side of progressives. So there are two conservative traditions: the aristocratic martial classical liberal, and the common and religious groups. WHile it serves the left to cast conservaties as religious, it is simply an argumentative device for the left.
THE OTHER LINGUISTIC TRADITIONS – CONSERVATIVE HISTORICISM AND PHILOSOPHICAL LIBERTARIANISM
The other tradition is the pragmatic aristocratic. Aristocratic Conservatives failed to develop a language capable of moral argumentation with the left. They stayed with historical analogy as their main form of argument. The libertarians developed that language that the conservatives failed to, which is why the libertarians have taken over all of conservative thought leadership. It is that libertarian language I”m using to discuss these topics. So the three movements use three languages: religious mystical allegory, conservative historical reasoning, and libertarian analytical philosophy supported by ratio-empiricism. The problem for the entire right, is that the extremist anarchists have appropriated the libertarian movement so conservatives have not adopted the lines of reasoning. (That’s what I’m doing for them.) Now, back to aristocratic manorialism.
THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET OF THE ARISTOCRATIC MANORIAL MODEL
But there is a dirty little secret to the aristocratic model, that is not very tasteful. By requiring a man demonstrate his ability to perform in order to obtain a lease on the land from the landholder, where that lease was necessary to wed and support children, a natural eugenics program was put into place by delaying marriage and childbirth and preventing access to land to the lowest of the underclasses. There is a current argument that the nuclear family, prohibitions on inbreeding by the church, and property-manorialism is what created the higher IQ distribution among northern europeans that led to the enlightenment. There is a further argument that our IQ distribution has declined since 1850, taking europeans from parity with the ashkenazim, to a five point disadvantage. If this argument is true, and the dirty little secret is confirmed, there is even more to argue in support of the conservative model than we had thought. As distasteful as it may be to our current perceptions.
THE MANORIAL MODEL’S INABILITY TO PREDICT DARWIN AND THE IMPACT OF WOMEN
The other failure in conservatism has been the inability to predict the combination of the loss of the church as a separate entity responsible for norms, and the transfer of the management of norms to the state. As well as the unanticipated impact of women on the voting process and the consequential impact that women’s decidedly non-meritocratic preferences have had on those institutions, and the institution of property rights. Conservatives did not anticipate that the differences between female and male mating strategies, which was masked by the nuclear family, would be written large under democracy and the ability to legislatively and financially obligate males. As such, our political arguments are absurd, since the distribution of sentimental voting patterns between the genders guarantees that all decisions are merely reflections of gender participation in the voting process. Nothing more. Our arguments are tilting at demographic and biological windmills.
WE FUSS AND FUME BUT ITS JUST DIFFERENCES IN GENDER MATING STRATEGIES
Again, we would love it if all our political pontifications and justifications were of substance, but when aggregated by a process of voting they are no longer obscured by verbal artistry and are revealed as mere reflections of our primate past. And the difference in distribution between men and women — with men having wider and women having narrower distributions — and the difference between the majority male concept of creating a meritocratic tribe that can persist over time, and the majority desire of each woman to have her offspring persist regardless of merit to the tribe, are natural conflicts that our system does not account for. And perhaps cannot account for.
So with those definitions and contexts in mind, here are the answers to your questions articulated with greater granularity and precision than you will find among most conservatives. Which isn’t always a good thing. :)
THE TEN QUESTIONS FOR CONSERVATIVES
QUESTION 1. “Do first world societies have a moral obligation to help its poor, elderly, and disabled?”
This question like most moral puzzles is a fallacy of composition. Is unintentionally a trick question. I’ll try to fix that by answering it completely.
a) Institutional responsibility. First, caretaking is the responsibility of the church. Conservatives would prefer that caretaking were as separate from the legislature as is the judiciary or the army. THe conservative concept of society sees the purpose of the state as proviging a means for the resolution of disputes. Moving charity into the state opened it, and society to corruptoin. People are not invested in the society becausthey do not act in order to be invested in it. There are planty of modern options for breaking out caretaking services from the legislature, and putting it back into civic hands, so that we could recreate civic virtues. Even if service were compulsory. And conservatives would prefer it that way. (they use the word church but anything outside of politics would be fine with them.)
b) Moral Obligations. No. First world citizens have a moral obligation only to refrain from involuntarily harming the poor, elderly and disabled. “Do nothing unto others that you would not have done unto you”. Moral obligations cannot be positive only negative. But this statement is only true because of how the question was phrased.
So, if phrased differently, then conditionally Yes. If the INDIVIDUALS who are poor, elderly and disabled eschew fraud theft and violence, which is necessary to create the institution of property, then they have contributed to the society (market) by forgoing opportunities for self benefit by way of theft, fraud and violence, then it is an involuntary transfer (theft) from the poor, elderly and disabled, not to provide them with the food, healthcare and shelter necessary for survival, since they paid the minimum cost of entry for the social order that everyone else profits from.
But that care must be limited to food, health care, shelter and training (education), and cannot not extend to pleasure, entertainment status-signaling and the right of reproduction, since at that point, they deprive the productive without providing anything in exchange. That would be a theft, and dissolve the obligation for care taking. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
c) Religious obligations can be positive. Legal obligations can be positive. But moral obligations must be exchanges, even if that exchange is an act of charity for which our compensation is the improvement of our ‘soul’.
d) Preferences and Luxuries. We can provide for the poor, elderly and disabled if we are able to, and we prefer to. In that sense, like a charity, charity is a luxury good.
e) Behavioral practicalities. Human beings instinctually demonstrate social behaviors:
i. NURTURING. Care Taking and Nurturing. The difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals think ONLY in terms of harm and care. and conservatives think in terms of the long term competitiveness of the tribe in relation to other tribes. Again, this is just female versus male breeding strategies expressed large.
ii. ANTI-CHEATING. The two necessary sides of the coin of cooperative behavior: reciprocity, and punishment for cheating. The problem for conservatives is that it’s pretty hard to tell who is cheating. Or rather, the definition of cheating (poverty) is arguable, and therefor we are creating a malincentive. Conservative responses to immigration are driven by the same issue: it’s cheating. (Theft).
And human beings are much more active about cheating than they are about any other human behavior. THe difference between the left and right is that the right views transfers as cheating and the left views prohibition on transfers as cheating. WHich is just how men and women look at propagating their genes. Something which is also true for male ‘betas’. If we mix rent-seeking transfer-seeking women and beta males together we have a slight majority of the population (approx 47%) versus the conservatives (approx 37%) with the rest of the people ambivalent but slanting conservative because of established norms, and who vote their pocketbooks rather than sentiments.
Given these different actions, we have a limited moral obligation to protect the poor, elderly and disabled as long as our protection does not encourage others to cheat at being dependent citizens. WE have a RELIGIOUS obligation to do more than that. But practicaly speaking, all reasons above feed into our behavior, with the most important today being that the ‘poor’ can afford to breed, have an air conditioner, two televisions, a car, and their own apartment or home, and eat enough calories that the greatest threat to their health is obesity. Furthermore, we do not ask fair compensation from them: which is to refrain from childbearing until you are capable of doing so, rather than exporting your preferences and costs onto the middle class who must under-breed in order to pay for your luxury.
QUESTION 2. “Can all religious beliefs, including ones not shared by you, justifiably be used to influence public policy and law?”
This question is more challenging than the first because of its assumptions. Lets see if I can fix that.
a) It assumes that unanimity of belief is possible or desirable in a body politic. This is false on its face if only because we have evidence that unanimity of belief is possible, and we finally know why: beliefs are genetic in origin.
b) The inverse must be asked, “Can laws and policy be used to influence religious beliefs?” Essentially this nullifies the question as meaningless, and solved only by who possesses the greater violence with which to compel the others.
c) Religious beliefs are a form of law, coded in allegory, reproduced by repetition, under the threat of ostracization from the group, its security, and its opportunities. This process creates norms. The question is not whether the narratives are expressed in rational or empirical terms, but whether the economic and organizational content of those narratives when they are acted upon by human beings, produces a material outcome. Once reduced to economic an organizational principles, it is irrelevant which language is used to express them. The question then becomes the debate over the results produced by the content not the form. As such, arguments over allegorical thinking versus rational and empirical thinking is part and parcel either eristic or a process of deception or oppression.
d) The answer is, to the extent that any group can enact policy for any reason over the will of others, the reasoning for doing so is immaterial. The difference is that religion ostracizes because it is independent of geographic monopoly and law oppresses because it is defined by geographic monopoly. The profundity of that statement may not be readily apparent.
QUESTION 3. “How should people be taxed: in terms of dollar amount, percentage, or capability? Why?”
The question of taxation cannot be asked intelligently outside of a context for the method of government. In the sense conveyed by our democratic republican form of government, there is no known optimum system. However, there are two extremes. The first is that we do not tax at all, but simply ‘print’ the money needed to cover spending, thereby diluting everyones real wealth without the need to distort the economy with multiple perverse incentives. No country has had the courage to try this, but various forms are discussed by theorists under the heading “Modern Monetary Theory”. The second is to tax income as a five year rolling average against balance sheets, rather than straight income, combined with mandatory retirement savings, and healthcare accounts, and publicly register the contributions of individuals, so that there is a status associated with their paying for government. This model forces the government to think in terms of creating a competitive economy for all classes.
QUESTION 4. “Would Jesus want to spend federal income on programs for the poor, healthcare, or military?”
Jesus was a rebel using the allegorical language of the Persians by way of Abraham to criticize his local group for their surrender to the romans. Paul did most of the work. Jesus doesn’t appear to have said very much other than that the common people should take care of one another as a means of resisting corruption on all levels. So I have no idea what he would say. If you read greek text from that era it borders on incomprehensible because ideas from that era were pervasive with violence, poverty, ignorance and mysticism. So I do not know. Later writers altered his ideas sufficiently, and later philosophers augmented it. But it remains a personal religion of rebellion. And that is how christians use it today: as a means of rebellion against the modern ‘Rome’.
QUESTION 5. “Was Reagan justified in raising taxes on wealthy Americans multiple times? Why or why not?”
The question is meaningless outside of the context. The way it is asked, implies the thinking of the left — a narrowness of thinking that is alien to conservatives who tend to be broad and historical in their thinking. Reagan was attempting to correct the mistakes of the Johnson thru Carter era which had proven the failure of the idea of the great society and it’s incorrect concept of human nature. He wanted to put an end to the world communist movement outside the country, and he wanted to direct money away from the state and to private industry within the country so that he could reverse the collectivism that had impoverished the country and its culture. In that sense, his actions were pragmatic not ‘just’.
QUESTION 6. “Should the existence of poverty be a moral concern for first world societies?”
WHy isn’t this a repeat of the first question? It is, isn’t it? That said, it is not a moral concern, it is a practical concern.
QUESTION 7. “In what way does homosexual marriage infringe upon your rights, or the rights of anyone else?”
This question is predicated on a false premise. For a conservative rights are not involved, only a leftist would consider this topic a question of rights. Instead, the question is why do you oppose homosexual marriage? The answer is that conservatives oppose all threats to the nuclear family, and treat the nuclear family as a ‘sacred’ institution that society grants special privileges, and which solves very complicated problems. Secondly, it is an assault on traditional gender roles and the ‘peace’ that has been made between the genders by traditional gender roles. Thirdly, it produces unknown affects upon children, which takes a person’s preference and transfers the cost of that preference to children who do not have a choice whether they do so.
Until recently, and throughout all of history, it was believed that homosexuality was a choice — a form of selfishness that could corrupt the young and ruin their chances at a successful (nuclear family) life. We now are fairly certain that it is the byproduct of an in-utero process, possible related to an immune reaction (and therefore at some point preventable) but it is not voluntary. So the fourth argument has been eliminated by science. But it is unlikely that the damage to the nuclear family will be disproven. We seem to be reverting to our ancestral relationships: serial monogamy and migratory males.
QUESTION 8. “If society is left with only two options: let uninsured patients who need life-saving surgery die, or pay for their surgeries through taxpayer money, which would you choose?”
False dichotomy. The question is whether we mutually insure people for catastrophic illness outside of the last year of life, and ask them to pay for their own prescriptions and maintenance like canada does. This is the solution that we need to adopt. Framing the question otherwise is argumentative deception.
QUESTION 9. “Should tax cuts only be accompanied by equal spending cuts?”
This question only makes sense in current context. The republican argument is that they want ‘dangerous’ political institutions dismantled in excahgne for tax increaes and they see this as an opportunity that rarely arises to transfer power back to the states by eliminating the DOE, Energy, and HUD organizations that are the remnants of the great society.
QUESTION “10. Ultimately, how do you judge the “success” of a society? Ie, what indicator is the best way to judge the progress of a developed society (possible answers: gdp, happiness of its citizens, freedom, rights)?”
That it persists in relation to other societies by developing technology that allows a minority to resist conquest by a larger majority. That is the essence of conservatism. The manorial west was a poor and backward minority that through discipline and technology held back the superior numbers of the autocratic east.
In other words, as a hierarchy:
—-Innovation in all things including the arts.
Notice that equality is not in that list, because conservatism is conversationally allegorical, but procedurally scientific: humans are unequal in ability and survival of the group depends upon competitive excelence.