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Conservatism Isn’t Always Aristocratic, And Aristocracy Needn’t Be Conservative

American conservatives struggle with the fact that their political sensibilities consist of both the sentiments of conservatism and the remnants of aristocratic european philosophy – and that because they neither understand aristocratic philosophy, or understand conservatism, they cannot separate these two bodies of thought into their constituent parts. As constituent parts they can easily be defended against radical progressives who would continue to undermine the system of rule of law, and innovative individualism that we have inherited from our ancestors, and which is the source of our prosperity.

Conservatism is a sentiment and a philosophy. Aristocracy is a philosophy and a system of government. Conservatism has a skeptical view of man’s abilities. Aristocracy has an aspirational view of man’s abilities. But both conservatism and Aristocratic philosophy acknowledge the difference in ability between humans and that inequality is persistent, permanent, and obvious.

Both support the meritocratic rotation of elites, as long as that rotation is accomplished in the market or in defense of the realm – in the service of others. And both hold disdain for political ambitions that are not accomplished through the market or defense of the realm.

There is nothing inherently conservative about Aristocratic philosophy. But there is everything meritocratic about it.

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Conservatism Is Not An Ideology: Why The Tea Party Declines In Influence

Tyler Cowen, while at a Conference in Israel, posts : “The influence of the Tea Party seems on the decline.”

But that doesn’t mean what most people will take away from it.

I’m sure Tyler knows this, but other people may not: Movements need ideologies. All ideologies are progressive. Tea partiers are conservatives, and conservatives don’t use an ideology.

Conservatives NEED an ideology. They need a means of competing against creeping totalitarianism and socialism. They need a fully rational framework that proposes a fully rational system of government. WIthout that framework, they rely upon tradition, history and moral arguments. They rely upon the constitution, the founders, and law. And they have failed because of those forms of reliance. And they have lost by relying upon something that they appreciate, and value, but largely do not understand how to advocate through science, logic and reason.

Today, Conservatism is not an ideology. Conservatism is a sentiment at the very least, and a philosophy at the very most. But it is not an ideology. It prescribes no program. It simply sets hurdles by which changes should be implemented due to the limits of human reason.

PHILOSOPHY
Conservative philosophy consists of a very simple set of propositions:

1) Human reason is something to be skeptical of at all times. History and tradition are the tools by which we test our ideas and protect ourselves from hubris.

2) Because reason limited, change should be accomplished through merit in the market by people who conform to established moral codes, and are humble about their accomplishments.

3) People who attempt change by political means are charlatans who want to take from hard working people in order to glorify themselves.

SENTIMENTS
And Conservatism consists of a limited number of sentiments:

1) Long term group persistence: This is a primitive human sentiment that encourages some portion of the population to give very high regard to saving – concentrating all forms of capital. It is universal to all societies. Some authors express Group Persistence as “loyalty”, which attributes only arbitrary emotional meaning to what is an important evolutionary strategy.

2) Hierarchy as a form of natural order. Hierarchy is mistranslated as obeying someone, rather than what it really means to conservatives is that “People are very different in knowledge and ability. Even if they have similar abilities they have differences in knowledge, and upbringing that mean some people are better at some things than others.” Conservatives do not see ‘following a leader’ as anything other than a practical necessity driven by the differences in human beings.

There are three other universal human political sentiments:
3) Fairness ( Reciprocity and it’s corollary Fidelity / Sincerity)

4) Nurture / Training : Taking care of others and protecting them from harm, and the objective corollary “training” and “educating”.

5) Purity. Avoidance of unclean foods, habits, places and thoughts.

Conservatives place equal value on all five of the sentiments (See Jonathan Haidt.) Progressives give their entire moral and emotional weight to just two sentiments: Nurture and Fairness. Conservatives have a more complex problem, becuase they place equal weight on all five values.

SENTIMENTS VERSUS PHILOSOPHIES

Thomas Sowell, in his two works on political differences “A Conflict Of Visions ” and “The Vision of The Anointed”, states that the only substantial difference between conservative and progressive philosophies is in their assessment of the potential of human reason.

Progressives: The Unconstrained Vision
Or the “Utopian Vision”.
In Sowell’s opinion, the unconstrained vision relies heavily on sweepingly optimistic assumptions about human nature, distrust of decentralized processes like the free market, impatience with systemic processes that constrain human action. Sowell often refers to them as, “the self anointed” people with a progressive political view.

Conservatives: The Constrained Vision
Or, the “Tragic Vision”.
Sowell argues that the constrained vision relies heavily on a reduced view of the goodness of human nature, and prefers the systematic processes of the free market, and the systematic processes of the rule of law and constitutional government. It distrusts sweeping theories and grand assumptions in favor of heavy reliance on solid empirical evidence and on time-tested structures and processes.

My view is that progressives get a discount on intellectual labor by artificially simplifying the problem of social orders, and that they justify their simplification by taking emotional pleasure from the fact that involuntary transfers are forced between producers and non-producers.

Conservatives simply account for more variables, and therefore are more pessimistic in the face of complexity. Furthermore, conservatives see involuntary transfers as failing to train people, not taking care of people.

HERITAGE
Because english heritage is european, and european heritage is Aristocratic, conservatism favors the aristocratic system of politics. Aristocratic politics is fundamentally military and hierarchical in it’s view of the world. Aristocracy can be loosely translated as “a system of order for controlling and holding a body of land.”

The first principle of aristocracy is the Fraternalism. That is, the idea that each of us has his home or farm or Manor (plantation), and that we gather together to create a market, and a city around that market, and defend it together. But that we do not, under any circumstances, surrender our sovereignty over ourselves or our land. This is what makes the west unique: cities are the result of fraternal cooperation by land owning warriors who are required to supply their own arms, equipment and soldiers. In other words, cities were joint stock companies.

Aristocracy is not limited to a social or economic class. There are plenty of people, males in particular, in the middle and and upper proletariat classes, that are intuitively practitioners of aristocratic sentiments. Freedom, as it is used in libertarian circles is the remnant of aristocratic philosophy.

As such, the sentiment of conservatism has been confused with the philosophy of aristocracy, and the political system of classical liberalism. Sentiments, Philosophies and Political Systems are three different things.

RIGHT AND WRONG CONSERVATISM
There are good conservative ideas and bad conservative ideas. Southern conservatism over the elimination of slavery was obviously a self-interested bias masquerading as conservatism. Anti-communism and anti-socialism was clearly the correct proposition given the hundred million people it murdered, and the prosperity that the world has achieved by adopting consumer capitalism. Even McCarthy turned out to be right about quite a few things, after all. Conservative concerns over immigration will very likely play out as correct – the nation will divide either gracefully or violently at some point in the next century. Conservative preferences in health care are only that if it’s to be done at all, it should be done without expanding the government bureaucracy. And conservatives are right on that issue as well.

SUMMARY
Conservatism is not an ideology. It is a skeptical philosophy that has biological, historical, and rational philosophical origins. The Tea Party, as a conservative movement, does not seek power. It seeks to prevent radical changes to the social order that are conducted in hubris, and where the consequences are dire.

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Fear and The Rise of China Post 2: A Lesson In US Military and Geopolitical Pragmatism

In my Time Magazine reply to “Why do westerner’s fear the rise of China”, someone challenged me with:

You make the westerner seem as if he actually walks around Afghanistan and iraq folding hands and asking people to be quiet and china being the only country forcing power on others.

I don’t make that assertion at all. I (correctly) list the reasons why westerners fear a rise in China.

You make the error of treating geopolitical strategy as if we’re dividing up a loaf of bread for dinner. One can criticize individual actions of nations, or one can create an full accounting of the accomplishments and failures, and then to discern the motivations for those actions. Americans have had very simplistic objectives for the past century. 1) take over the collapsed british empires’ navy and trade routes. 2) take over the collapsed british pound 3) defeat communism and spread market democracy, 4) protect the oil fields in the old ottoman empire from being used as economic warfare against developing nations until those nations are ready to mature into market societies.

Sinic civilization, or rather the Chinese empire of north china, south china, the interior, Mongolia and Tibet, has a strong central state and a long standing bureaucratic tradition. After it’s devastating failure with communism, and the most expansive destruction of human life in history, Chinese intellectuals decided to give up on Communism and instead adopt authoritarian capitalism. Their efforts at doing so, despite being dependent entirely upon imported technology, has resulted in a vast movement of people from abject poverty to the consumer lifestyle. It is a difficult climb. But they are making progress.

Islamic civilization, which is more correctly viewed as the collapsed remnants of the Ottoman Empire, is still institutionally and culturally primitive, remains incapable of resolving the entho-tribal geographic conflicts, or even educating it’s people above sub-saharan african levels. Islamic civilization lacks a core state – a core state which holds other states in their civilization accountable in the international community – and therefore makes external intervention unnecessary.

I am quite sure it is humiliating for members of Islamic nations to hold to a personal religion and political doctrine of superiority, while faced with the daily evidence of the inferiority of the civilization and it’s people in the world arena. I am sure that it is frustrating that the west has maintained a policy of containment on the post-ottoman islamic nations, in the hope that they will skip the communist phase of evolution and directly join the modern market economy. I am sure that it is exasperating that the west has propped up dictators as a means of preventing yet another series of marxist states that will even further repress and regress their citizens. I am sure it is frustrating to have the west, yet again, for the fifth or sixth time in human history, hold the middle eastern people’s at bay in order to prevent the spread of ‘magical’ society, and it’s endemic pervasive ignorance. I am sure that it is frustrating that the west is split between those people who think islamic nations are insufficiently mature for democracy, and those who evangelically spread the idea of democracy without understanding that democracy is a government for a mercantile and commercial society – which is alien to islamic nations. I am sure all of these things are frustrating.

Do muslims actually think the average American wants to pay for maintaining the pattern of world commerce and trade? Do they think that American citizens like losing money and the lives of soldiers to contain Marxism, now Islam – Radical Islam is just another iteration of Marxism. Don’t they think we wouldn’t rather spend our lives and money on other things?

Most of us just wish muslims would just grow up and take care of their own house, so that we don’t have to act like their parents any longer. The question is then, what can they do so that it is unnecessary for others to interfere in their affairs.

Westerners fear the rise of China for the same reason they fear the Islamist movement: because they are both regressive social orders that are only rising out of ignorance and poverty due to western technology, western medicine, western ideas, western education, western institutions, and the emphasis on universal trade that the west exports.

And most of us look at China as either one of our great successes in transformation of a primitive society, despite their corrupt and kleptocratic political system and the fact that we Americans are paying for the transformation with our jobs, or we look at china as a systematically corrupt society that will simply disturb and destroy the system of world trade that we have developed over the past five hundred years, and return us to a world of physical rather than economic conflict.

The question is, which will it be?

The US would like to withdraw it’s military efforts around the world in order to account for our relative decrease in world economic dominance. It is simply too expensive to let other countries save military expenditures and force us to pay them. particularly the western europeans that treat us with distain on a daily basis all while they live entirely under our support and protection. The problem is that the average american is dependent upon the world system of trade, and in particular the market for oil. Americans do not want the rest of the Israelis to end up inside the USA, so they want a stable settlement of an israeli state, and for muslims to understand that israel does not breed enough people to hold that small nation for more than another century. Lastly, that rapid changes in military power create power vacuums that create expansive wars. And we cannot in good conscience allow that to happen when the world can no longer let people return to farm life. There are too many of us, and billions would starve if there were another series of world wars.

There is nothing more to American geopolitical strategy than that one paragraph.

So I’ll stick with my explanation of why Americans fear the rise of China. And radical islam. Primitive societies are a threat to the modern commercial order.

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Why Do Westerners Fear A Rising China?

Why? Why do westerners fear a rising China? Lets look at the reasons:

1) Their history with communism, and enduring love of authoritarianism
2) Systemic Human rights violations, not only in the conquered territories, but between the political north and the entrepreneurial south.
3) Endemic Corruption at all levels of society and perpetual intransigence
4) Pervasive intellectual property theft, and institutional kleptocracy
5) Rapidly expanding military capability and posture despite their geographic isolation
6) The threat of exporting their authoritarianism, corruption, and human rights abuses.
7) Their willingness to use economic warfare in commodities like specialty metals and rare earths.
8) Their threats of using our debt as a weapon of economic warfare.
9) The notorious chip on their collective shoulders at the evident failure of their social order in the face of the post-agrarian era, when competing with younger more dynamic civilizations.
10) Support for authoritarian regimes, and consistent blocking of western political initiatives a the UN.
11) The obvious translation of ‘the middle kingdom’ as ‘the center of the universe’.
12) Their obvious and consistent racism.
13) Their state supported cyber attacks on our internet, our public and private sector.
14) Their systemic use of spies to steal our technology in computer, and both naval and missile technology.

If we acted like the Chinese, the Supreme Court would still be populated by protestants, blacks wouldn’t have the vote, the 60’s would have concluded with a lot of dead college students, and we would call the muslims our ‘friends’ and occupy their territory, and convert them to christianity, english, and say that their oil is ours, rather than demand that they act responsibly as market participants.

So, is our fear based upon racism? It’s not racism. It’s just experience with China.

China as it currently functions is a threat to our 500 year effort to drag humanity out of agrarian ignorance and subsistence poverty. What evidence do we have that the magic traits of Competition, Consumerism, Individualism, Fraternal Enfranchisement, and Rule of Law are adopted along with our technology? Our century and a half of class warfare has made us apologetic for our successes, exaggerating of our failures, and without appreciating the uniqueness and benefit we have given to humanity.