Saturday, October 03, 2009

Announcing Eltham Traditionalists

For several years I've invited Australian readers to join an Australian traditionalist conservative network, the ATCN. It's had some success with about 40 people in Australia joining the network.

The limitation of a national network, though, is that it's difficult for people to get together. I've thought for some time of trying to organise something locally, something based on the actual community people live in.

So to test the prospects for such an enterprise I've set up a new site called Eltham Traditionalists.

The Australian network will still continue as before. However, if anyone on the network who lives in the north-east of Melbourne wishes to add their name to the Eltham group I'd encourage them to do so.

Similarly, I also invite readers from in and around Eltham to visit the new website and to consider getting in touch.

Eltham traditionalists might also interest other readers who are curious about my own home suburb here in Melbourne. It will feature a photo of the month as well as a feature article drawn from the archives of this site.

38 comments:

  1. I tried to post on the site that your link went to, but it didn't seem to work. Here's the post:

    A man who is connected to the more profound aspects of his own nature will almost inevitably express a stronger and more confident individuality, than someone whose existence revolves around mere lifestyle choices.

    And a man with a greater freedom to explore his own individuality will have more potential to explore and know the more profound aspects of his own nature. I'd say life would be less profound if you couldn't make your own choices in how to live it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Correction - it did work.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Michael, you're assuming that liberalism only gives - you ignore what it takes.

    If being a man is not allowed to matter - because it is something predetermined not self-determined - then liberalism is restricting my potential not adding to it.

    If a communal identity is not allowed to matter for the same reason, then again liberalism is subtracting from a possibility that is likely to be most important to me.

    If I'm only allowed to explore what fits within subjective, self-determined preference, then the range of possibilities narrows considerably.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Firslty, I agree that being a man is something you did not choose and has input into your character. However, it is not the overriding factor in defining who you are. It's subordinate to other more important faculties such as your ability to reason and exercise choice - the faculties that allow you to function as a civilised human being.

    Secondly, I think it's important to distinquish what you mean by liberalism, as that term refers to a broad church. Somewhat inaccurately, but probably accurate enough, let's consider left liberalism and right liberalism.

    Left liberalism is as you say. It functions according to loose concepts such as political correctness and social justice, and values an undefined ideal called 'equality'. This fellow has been the most honest lefty I've come across, and has admitted in this post that left liberalism is a sensibility as much as it is a definable political philosophy. It's about how you feel about things. And lots of it's followers seem to feel that men, especially white ones, need to be demonised in their pursuit of their left liberal ideal.

    Right liberalism is more closely aligned to Enlightenment thinkers John Stuart Mill and John Locke etc, who you don't seem to agree with. In my opinion their ideas have been distorted in the context of left liberalism. Most schools of right liberalism simply believe that people are happiest when they're controlling their own lives, that decisions should be based according to reason, and that civilised society affords people the right to live as they want so long as they're not hurting anyone else. Right liberalism doesn't pass any judgement on the virtue of being a man; it doesn't see the need to. The fact you are born a man, and how you go on to deal with it, is up to you.

    Plenty of right liberal people such as myself are keen to celebrate manhood, and probably live a life any traditionalist would like. We've just acknowledged that we chose this path because it works well for us and makes us happy. Part of that happiness stems from the fact that we had options but chose this one. Being a man matters to me, so I choose to associate in a community that likes values such as manhood. How other people feel about manhood, or how they want their community, is their business. And that's fine so long as they don't try to force their views on me.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Michael,

    The right liberalism of philosophers like John Stuart Mill was not neutral in its effects.

    Most of these early liberals identified men and masculinity with an autonomous life. Therefore they could not accept femininity in women.

    This was put most clearly by Mill's wife and close collaborator Harriet Taylor who wrote in 1851:

    "Those who are associated in their lives, tend to become assimilated in their character. In the present closeness of association between the sexes, men cannot retain manliness unless women acquire it."

    The assumption here is that there is no natural sex distinction, that femininity in women is an artificial and oppressive construct and that society should move toward a unisex model based on the traditional male role.

    Mary Wollstonecraft was an Englightenment thinker and an early feminist with much the same outlook. She wrote in 1792:

    "A wild wish has just flown from my heart to my head, and I will not stifle it, though it may excite a horse-laugh. I do earnestly wish to see the distinction of sex confounded in society ... For this distinction ... accounts for their [women] preferring the graceful before the heroic virtues."

    Mill himself thought it possible that there were no natural distinctions between men and women:

    "no one can safely pronounce that if women's nature were left to choose its direction as freely as men's, and if no artificial bent were attempted to be given to it except that required by the conditions of human society, and given to both sexes alike, there would be any material difference, or perhaps any difference at all, in the character and capacities which would unfold themselves."

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why is conservatism so focussed on the nature of relationship between the sexes?

    There are women who are better being men and vice-versa. A work colleague of my wife is a lesbian of the bull-dyke variety. I started talking to her at a function thinking this isn't going to go far as I really don't relate well to, what I thought would be, a man-hating left-winger. The moment she spoke the feel of the conversation was completely different to what I expected. I was talking to a man. She wasn't contrived or forcing her natural self in any way. She was a man who just had a woman's body and we talked like two blokes at a barbecue over a beer.

    I'm one of the lucky ones that don't have to deal with these issues. Evolution made me a man, and I'm able to use that to get a free ride to a happy life as it were. You should use whatever you're blessed with to pursue happiness. But none of this forms the basis for a political view, or if it does, it suggests that politics has no business detailing relationships between the sexes. That goes for both conservatism and left-liberalism.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Why is conservatism so focused on the nature of relationships between the sexes?

    I often focus on it, partly because it draws out the logic of liberal politics so clearly and partly because it is so critical to our personal lives, our self-identity and to the prospects of our society.

    Michael, let's say that unlike other right-liberals you really do have a laissez-faire attitude to these issues. How are you then going to counteract the influence of the dominant interventionist liberalism?

    Back in the mid-1800s John Stuart Mill declared that what was most important for women and for women's dignity was an independent life.

    By the 1990s, this principle had been logically extended to the idea that young women should focus on careers and an independent single girl lifestyle rather than family life. Family was indefinitely postponed till some vague, unspecified time in a woman's 30s.

    If you were a young man looking to get married and have a family what would you then do? Your principle of a purely individual pursuit of happiness wouldn't work - because what many men were in pursuit of (family life) was no longer on offer.

    How would you encourage women to change their minds? You couldn't use the liberal principle of autonomy or independence - because that was the principle that young women were already following. They were already acting in obedience to John Stuart Mill.

    You would have to go against the liberal idea of autonomy as the supreme good. You would have to argue that independence was not always the overriding good in life, and that it had to be balanced with other important goods, including marital love and motherhood and fatherhood.

    Michael, one further point. If we care for our own tradition and want to perpetuate it, then we can't just ask the question of how we can take advantage of our own circumstances to pursue our own individual profit or happiness. We have to consider what is required for the larger tradition we are a part of and identify with.

    ReplyDelete
  8. How are you then going to counteract the influence of the dominant interventionist liberalism?

    Right liberals should work together with conservatives to counter left-liberalism, that's how. We've had some nice synergies going in the past, especially in the US, but we seem to have lost them. Together we would wield significant political power, and have traditionally done so when we've got our act together.

    If you were a young man looking to get married and have a family what would you then do?

    I don't know, how about court a young lady who wanted the same things and ask her to marry me?

    Your principle of a purely individual pursuit of happiness wouldn't work - because what many men were in pursuit of (family life) was no longer on offer.

    How would you encourage women to change their minds? You couldn't use the liberal principle of autonomy or independence - because that was the principle that young women were already following.


    Mark, women don't (and for the most part, never have) got married as a selfless service to the community. They've got married to have a better life for themselves regardless of what some bitter old femnazis might say. Admittedly, prior to say the 1950s, survival was a bigger part of that decision as marriage offered a level of security they couldn't get otherwise. Now we've advanced women don't need to get married for that security, which is a good thing - they can now get married solely on the basis that they want to. The way to encourage a woman to marry you is to make it obvious to her that your lives together would better than your lives apart.

    As you're keen to point out, we are the products of evolution and we have certain characteristics such as a desire to seek a mate (you religious types might say God did this). The majority of women are red blooded heteros who have been programmed to seek out men. Some women don't have this urge, some women will try to fight this urge, but most see this a ticket to their own happiness. They consciously decide to live as woman qua woman, and seek a man to marry, probably want kids etc. Just because they don't agree with nature that they should start at 20 doesn't mean they don't want these things. Science will deal with this in time and they will be able to start at 30 with minimal risk to being able to conceive.

    What right liberals say is that women (or anyone) or swallows the left liberal Kool Aid, or whatever have you, and decides that they want to live without marrying, then decides later that they will marry, then can't find a man they like or can't conceive children, then wind up bitter, twisted and unsatisfied, only have themselves to blame. As individualists, we stand and live by our own decisions, and take responsibility for our own lives. Society doesn't owe you anything, and you have no right to request anyone else does anything differently, because you made the wrong decision and wound up unhappy.

    And anyway, why would you want a woman to marry you who didn't want to do so simply because she loved you and that's how she was choosing to live her life?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Michael, I want to focus on just one of your points:

    "What right liberals say is that women (or anyone) who swallows the left liberal Kool Aid, or whatever have you, and decides that they want to live without marrying, then decides later that they will marry, then can't find a man they like or can't conceive children, then wind up bitter, twisted and unsatisfied, only have themselves to blame. As individualists, we stand and live by our own decisions, and take responsibility for our own lives. Society doesn't owe you anything, and you have no right to request anyone else does anything differently, because you made the wrong decision and wound up unhappy."

    I'd be inclined to agree with you if our culture made the situation clear to young women. In other words, if women were given the message that marriage and family should be taken seriously and not left too late, but this was then ignored or not taken note of, then, yes, women who ended up bitter really would have themselves to blame.

    The problem is that the opposite is true. Women get the message from a very early age that motherhood is an inferior outcome and that they are letting down the sisterhood if they don't aggressively pursue some other role.

    It's worst for conscientious middle-class girls, who get the message drilled into them at school, at home, at university and in the culture which surrounds them.

    It's not easy for young people to make a mature judgement about these matters. Most of us don't really start thinking in a truly independent way about these things until later in our 20s. Young women are particularly impressionable.

    Therefore, I can't just say to these women "You made the decision, you deal with the consequences."

    First, decisions regarding family formation happen when we are still young (20s) and still in need of a wise influence from parents or from the surrounding culture.

    Second, these women thought they were acting morally - they were doing what society and their own culture told them they should be doing.

    Third, the negative consequences of tens of thousands of bright, conscientious middle-class girls not partnering and not having children does not only affect them as individuals. It also affects the men who might have been their husbands, and the absence of children also has ramifications for the wider community.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Mark, women have no duty to marry so men can be husbands or have babies because the community 'needs' them. Just as men have no duty to forgo any of their own lives so women can have relationships. People should have relationships because, and only because, they feel it lets them live happier, more satisfying lives.

    Furthermore, you can't make someone do something for their own good, because they'll always find a way around it. In short, it's impossible to save anyone from their own stupidity or laziness. You can't force women who can't see the clock is ticking, or that they've left their run too late, to do anything different. If you do (and you don't have a right to anyway), they'll begrudge it and the situation or relationship will fail. The only way to a successful society is when people make their own choices as to what works for them. If women are being fed bad information and they choose to believe it because it's the easy option, or it appeals to their fantasies or they don't investigate in themselves what they really want, then they deserve the bad outcomes. Men who want relationships shouldn't look to these women as they can't deliver what the men want anyway.

    This is the problem with collectivist though - we shouldn't just accept what society and culture tell us. We should try to think for ourselves and decide what we want, and how we should live to get it while not affecting others. Living morally means we should all rationally justify our decisions. Women who just want to believe that they can 'have it all' because that's what they see on mid-evening Hollywood TV shows, and haven't worked out how they're going to get it all in the real world, deserve what they get. And there is really nothing anyone can do about this, other than point out the sad cases who fail, and say 'if you go down that path you'll end up like that'.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Michael, I think you underestimate the extent to which people do act for moral purposes. Therefore, it's important to sort out what in society is thought to be moral.

    As I wrote earlier, young women are impressionable. If a "good girl", the type who wants to please and to be praised, is told that it is her duty to compete with men in the corporate world, then many will do so in a punishingly, highly motivated way.

    You write too:

    "we shouldn't just accept what society and culture tell us. We should try to think for ourselves and decide what we want, and how we should live to get it while not affecting others. Living morally means we should all rationally justify our decisions."

    But how many people really do come to their own rationally determined set of life principles?

    Even you yourself have followed a liberalism handed to you from previous generations. I don't say this to knock you in particular - it's almost the mark of a Western intellectual to follow some kind of intellectual trend.

    This point is magnified a hundredfold when you talk about young people. I know that I wasn't able to really think about my life decisions with much confidence in my teens and early 20s. I really did need guidance from someone with more life experience. And yet the decisions we take at this stage of life are often critical ones.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It depends what you define as a moral purpose. I'd define doing something that advances your lot in life and adds to the overall quality of your existence as a moral good. Of course, it's important to sort out what is morally correct in life. Your existence and your happiness depend on it.

    The desire to please and be praised isn't unique to 'good girl' types. Certain personality types are susceptible to this and if it's not managed it can make these people very unhappy. You shouldn't try to live through other people's eyes.

    Everyone determines their own moral system to some extent. Humans exist by moral choices. It's the matter of degree and level of rationality that differs. But humans cannot lead good happy lives if they haven't sorted themselves out in this area.

    I came to classical liberalism quite late in life, and even though I follow the work of other thinkers, I came to it by my own volition. The moral systems that I inherited were the christian religion and labour movement type of left politics. It was through my own thinking that I decided that these were incomplete and weren't satisfactory for an enlightened human state. Young people do have to make these decisions, but that's just a fact of life we all face. Most people probably haven't sorted themselves out morally until they're around 30. Personally I think not having yourself sorted out would contribute to failed relationships, which is maybe part of the reason why people are waiting longer before marrying.

    Anyhow, besides all this, what do you propose as a way forward to further the human condition?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Michael Sutcliffe said: "Most people probably haven't sorted themselves out morally until they're around 30."

    This is a true but very worrying phenomenon. This means that we spend a significant portion of our lives, our prime in fact, making mistakes. What sort of society does this promote?

    You are right to point out that "you can't make someone do something for their own good" but our society - any society, really - goes far beyond this through its socially-acceptable norms. I spoke with a young woman not so long ago who was troubled by the expectations that she pursue a career. She felt her purpose in life was to marry and raise a family, but she was worried that if she continued in her field that she might be so busy and focussed on her career that she might miss opportunities to meet the right man or be oblivious to when he came along. Not many women can see this quandary nowadays, and most rush headlong on a path of career and ambition as dictated by our society. It is not socially acceptable for a clever young woman to marry and start a family in her late teens or early twenties, let alone live under her father's roof devoting herself to the domestic arts and waiting for a husband. We need to recognise that the inability to grow up before one's thirties is the product of our liberal society and that there is no good reason why we shouldn't take on moral responsibility and family life ten or so years earlier.

    Even if a society somehow manages to create complete freedom for men and women, to choose their roles and so forth (and I don't think it does or should), it creates a mass of confusion, so many options that one is quite paralysed by choice. This is a problem for men as well as women, making them dissatisfied with their lot because they have been indoctrinated to believe that anything is possible. But it's a lie. Not everyone can be a highly-paid and successful professional; someone has to do the less glamorous lower-paid jobs. And not anyone can be an astronaut or neurosurgeon; only a few are born with the capability for such things. So, the roles of men and women are important because of what our biological differences generally dictate. Liberalism wastes so much potential by creating an illusion of possibility where none exists. It sends us off on a quest to find ourselves when we're not actually lost. It diminishes the beauty and joy of life by making us seek fulfilment elsewhere that is already within our grasp.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "There are women who are better being men and vice-versa. A work colleague of my wife is a lesbian of the bull-dyke variety. I started talking to her at a function thinking this isn't going to go far as I really don't relate well to, what I thought would be, a man-hating left-winger. The moment she spoke the feel of the conversation was completely different to what I expected. I was talking to a man. She wasn't contrived or forcing her natural self in any way. She was a man who just had a woman's body and we talked like two blokes at a barbecue over a beer."

    OK, the argument here seems to be that right liberalism is a bio-realist philosophy, which takes account of natural human variation, while left liberalism and traditionalism try to force people into mainstream boxes (left liberalism unnaturally suppresses males and traditionalism suppresses women and gays).

    While this sounds like a reasonable philosophy - just let nature takes it course, right liberals haven't done a very good job of defending their position against the liberal left.

    Take for example, the male roll in the family. How many times to you here a right-liberal saying something like: "while a minority of men may accept taking over the domestic roll in a family, the vast majority have a natural desire to be the main provider - trying to pressure men into taking on a roll they aren't suited too just isn't going to work."

    - you don't, the only serious cultural criticisms of left liberalism come from traditionalists.

    When push comes to shove, right liberals almost always seem to retreat from the cultural battles with the liberal left and try and hid behind economics, and hope that market forces will contain the excesses of the liberal left (eg, if welfare spending and taxes are reduced, there will be less single parent families and things like whiteness studies on university campuses will have to be cut through lack of funding)

    Unfortunately, this anti-leftism through neoliberalism is very unpopular with the vast majority of voters, and is easily defeated at the ballot box by the liberal left, who claim it is cynical, elitist and hurts ordinary people (and possibly, as Mark points out, anti-women).

    Despite its numerous flaws, left liberalism does have one edge at the ballot box, and that is its veneer of social responsibility, something which right liberalism, being focused purely on individualism, doesn't have.

    This is why the only people who vote for libertarian parties are, lets face it, middle class male introverts, who are by natural dispostion, the least social members of society.

    Of course, you could say that alternative right wing positions like traditionalism have also failed to sway the masses, but traditionalism has been shut outside of mainstream discourse since the late 1960s, so at least it has a viable excuse.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Here's R.L. Dabney on "Northern Conservatism", which is the same as today's Washington-New York axis of Neo-Connery.

    It may be inferred again that the present movement for women's rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth, and has no idea of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom. It always when about to enter a protest very blandly informs the wild beast whose path it essays to stop, that its "bark is worse than its bite," and that it only means to save its manners by enacting its decent role of resistance: The only practical purpose which it now subserves in American politics is to give enough exercise to Radicalism to keep it "in wind," and to prevent its becoming pursy and lazy, from having nothing to whip. No doubt, after a few years, when women's suffrage shall have become an accomplished fact, conservatism will tacitly admit it into its creed, and thenceforward plume itself upon its wise firmness in opposing with similar weapons the extreme of baby suffrage; and when that too shall have been won, it will be heard declaring that the integrity of the American Constitution requires at least the refusal of suffrage to asses. There it will assume, with great dignity, it, final position.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Despite its numerous flaws, left liberalism does have one edge at the ballot box, and that is its veneer of social responsibility, something which right liberalism, being focused purely on individualism, doesn't have.

    Left liberalism has a veneer, and right liberalism has results; like being responsible for the majority of wealth in the world today, and in doing so the negation of the most poverty, and the majority of scientific progress, which probably adds up to post-Enlightenment right liberalism being the single greatest contributor to human progress at this point in human history. Certainly the single greatest contributor to human progress in the last 1000 years.

    This is why the only people who vote for libertarian parties are, lets face it, middle class male introverts, who are by natural dispostion, the least social members of society.

    This is the standard line from people such as yourself, but I don't see it. Most people with a libertarian bent that I know are people like myself: happily married, often with kids, university educated, salaried professionals, usually involved with sport or outdoor pursuits, and often with a large involvement in some form of community, military or accademic service. We're the succesful ones because we take responsibility for ourselves. What are you? It's people like yourself who seem to be constantly complaining (on sites like this) about your problems with women, and how the world doesn't work for you.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Firstly I agree that there are great synergies to be had with right liberalism. Also that right liberals are generally the majority in the engine rooms of the economy and they obviously contribute colossally to society.

    A few points.

    "Most people with a libertarian bent that I know are people like myself: happily married, often with kids, university educated, salaried professionals, usually involved with sport or outdoor pursuits, and often with a large involvement in some form of community, military or academic service."

    You mentioned that you came from a left liberal and Christian background. I think there may well have been strong undercurrents of traditionalism in your life that you could take for granted. Not everyone has that, its still something that has to be acknowledged or fostered.

    "It's people like yourself who seem to be constantly complaining (on sites like this) about your problems with women, and how the world doesn't work for you."

    Ok. imagine you were fired from your workplace, (wouldn't happen I take precautions, take care of myself). Well not everything in life is under our control. (Ok I'd go out and get another job, right liberalism leads to economic progress so there will be more jobs overall for me to take). Well what if you couldn't get one. Perhaps what if instead of just losing your job you were sick. Perhaps in a way that you couldn't take precautions against. Maybe your wife wouldn't want to stick with you. She could do better elsewhere, maybe looking after you would be a drag. I don't see any obvious reason why under right liberalism she shouldn't skedaddle. Or at least under right liberalism it would be viewed as an unfortunate situation rather than scandalous or wrong (But she loves me) Ok but maybe she also liked the lifestyle or whatever, looking after people isn‘t easy. Isn’t it then your duty to say, Oh well I should really do the right thing and let my wife look elsewhere, off to the home for me?

    Liberalism seems to be based in large part on everything going well. Choose, shop, explore, maximise.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Perhaps what if instead of just losing your job you were sick. Perhaps in a way that you couldn't take precautions against. Maybe your wife wouldn't want to stick with you. She could do better elsewhere, maybe looking after you would be a drag. I don't see any obvious reason why under right liberalism she shouldn't skedaddle.

    The reason she shouldn't just skedaddle is that she has entered into a contract. You have agreed to enter into a relationship with certain terms and conditions, and she should honour those. It's the same reason you shouldn't be unfaithful even if you think you could get away with it. Right liberalism holds contracts as an essential part of civil society.

    Isn’t it then your duty to say, Oh well I should really do the right thing and let my wife look elsewhere, off to the home for me?

    Now, I'd like to think we could have an arrangement that carried us through and we could both be happy. But if we couldn't, if looking after you meant that her life would have to be sacrificed as well as yours, wouldn't you offer her the chance to go? As a man, who loved that woman, wouldn't you want her to have every chance to pursue happiness? Who's being selfish here; the conservative or the right liberal?

    Liberalism seems to be based in large part on everything going well. Choose, shop, explore, maximise.

    Well it is based on 'maximise' - maximising the quality of human life. Right liberalists believe that's a moral thing to do.

    No matter what legislation you pass, you can never stop people losing their jobs or getting sick or any of the other unfortunate events that befall people. But you can set up a system that provides people with the maximum opportunity to overcome these events - that's what right liberalists try to do. All too often conservatives and socialists try to enforce a new reality through legislation, which is impossible. You can't legislate to make people be polite to each other or to eliminate poverty. But you can legislate to create a solid basis for strong civil society or to create more wealth and opportunity, so individuals can build a polite society or work their way out of poverty.

    And, or course, left liberals just seem to want to legislate according to some fairy world that exists only in their heads.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Firstly I agree that there are great synergies to be had with right liberalism.

    Actually, Jesse, this is what I came here to do. Perhaps all the bickering proves why it's so hard to achieve those synergies.

    I'm happy for some religion as a moral basis. I'll take my kids to church even though I'm an atheist. I don't think it should be universally harder to get divorced, but I support the protection of the family, perhaps through more effective marriage contracts. I think we could both agree that welfare should be centred on a hand up rather than a hand out. And despite liberal theory, there's plenty of right liberals that believe there are damaging effects to open immigration despite the economic benefits. And I love western culture and heritage and want to bring my children up in that fine tradition.

    Surely we could find some common ground in all that and put it to practical political use.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "The reason she shouldn't just skedaddle is that she has entered into a contract."

    I have to say this made me laugh. Nothing is sacred but contracts.

    "You can't legislate to make people be polite to each other or to eliminate poverty."

    I think that's the point tradition doesn't need law to force it its what people think and respect. Its the temper, common sense and inheritance of the society. Personally I think, as you say, that its the left who love law making.

    I agree that the creation of wealth is a social good and that it helps solve many of the problems of society. But I don't think the morals of the merchant class truely serve as a good basis for the rest of society. They're far too materialistic.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I have to say this made me laugh. Nothing is sacred but contracts.

    Being a man of your word makes you laugh? Saying 'I do' and meaning it makes you laugh? Living up to your end of a bargain makes you laugh? Making sure you don't mislead others makes you laugh? You conservatives sure are a strange lot!

    But I don't think the morals of the merchant class truely serve as a good basis for the rest of society. They're far too materialistic.

    I support your right to view materialism in any way you choose. I just don't think you should force your views on materialism on to other people who feel differently to you.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "I support your right to view materialism in any way you choose. I just don't think you should force your views on materialism on to other people who feel differently to you."

    Michael we just aren't the majority. We're not enforcing anything. Historically liberalism was a movement against. Marxism was a movement against. But you guys have won, traditional notions don't dominate. They're mostly just a distant echo today.

    "Being a man of your word makes you laugh? Saying 'I do' and meaning it makes you laugh? Living up to your end of a bargain makes you laugh? Making sure you don't mislead others makes you laugh? You conservatives sure are a strange lot!"

    Well maybe I can't speak for all conservatives but I find the earnestness with which financial notions, such as contracts, are believed in slightly funny. I think its such a narrow basis for morality. That marriage should be just a contract ...

    ReplyDelete
  23. Being a man of your word makes you laugh? Saying 'I do' and meaning it makes you laugh?

    So to make contracts work there has to be something that reaches beyond contracts - something like a sense of honour.

    But where does this come from? If you live in a society which says that it's all about freely choosing what you do and maximising your own pleasure and happiness, then what does honour have to do with anything?

    Honour actually violates the liberal principle. It provides a ground that limits a free choice in what we do and which leads people to act against what would maximise their pleasure or benefit.

    That, presumably, is why qualities like honour and duty are no longer spoken of much.

    It also explains why, when people now argue for marriage, they instinctively do so not in terms of duty or honour but in "therapeutic" terms: marriage makes you live longer; saves you money; leads to more socially functional outcomes for children and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  24. What I was getting at is that all human relationships have a contractual element, it's just another way of saying you should live up to your obligations. Right liberalists believe you should live up you your obligations despite embracing the concept of individualism. I think we both agree marriage is more than a contract, it just has a serious contractual element that all too often is not treated as serious or binding.

    But you guys have won, traditional notions don't dominate. They're mostly just a distant echo today.

    Sure, right liberalism won post Enlightenment and had a couple of hundred years of dominance - hence the rise of the West. But left-wing notions crept in like a disease and are now undermining the benefits of all right wing politics, conservative or right liberal. The success of the Western world was due to right wing philosophy and we're now seeing it's decline. People on the right should be working together to stop these socialist and left liberal diseases, rather than trying to undermine each other. Lets identify the common ground, there's more of it than you might think.

    ReplyDelete
  25. So to make contracts work there has to be something that reaches beyond contracts - something like a sense of honour.

    Call it honour if you like. If you enter into a contract voluntarily you should honour it. It's an essential aspect to the voluntary cooperation in civil society, and right liberalists have never claimed otherwise, even when they are espousing individualism.

    But where does this come from? If you live in a society which says that it's all about freely choosing what you do and maximising your own pleasure and happiness, then what does honour have to do with anything?

    Civil society is where people voluntarily interact. In doing this they are free to seek their own benefit and improve their own lot in life and this shouldn't be considered a bad thing. To achieve these benefits of this interaction contracts need to be upheld, for example, it's a good thing that people lend money, but if the lendee doesn't uphold their end of the contract and repay it on the agreed terms then this good will disappear. Hence, it is morally right to uphold contracts, and a moral citizen will do this by their own choosing. If you don't intend to uphold a contract then don't enter into it - no one is forcing you. You conservatives call this honour (and I agree this is honourable behaviour).

    Honour actually violates the liberal principle. It provides a ground that limits a free choice in what we do and which leads people to act against what would maximise their pleasure or benefit.

    You don't have to enter into any contract. No one is forcing you. You may continue living your life exactly as you were living previously to being presented with the option of the contract. If you choose the path of entering into a contract then you should honour it. You can't really define that as limiting free choice as a civilised person. The only choices that are limited are those of acting as a thug or thief, and no one is upholding those as a rational basis for a society. (Right liberalists agree with conservatives that with due process, people who are unable to act as a civilised person have no place in society and we should have the courage to deal with them appropriately.)

    It also explains why, when people now argue for marriage, they instinctively do so not in terms of duty or honour but in "therapeutic" terms:

    There's nothing wrong with arguing for marriage in terms of its benefits. They're real benefits and evolution (or in your case, God) made the sexes as naturally complementary so we should be taking advantage of this fact and getting these benefits.

    ReplyDelete
  26. "Sure, right liberalism won post Enlightenment and had a couple of hundred years of dominance - hence the rise of the West. But left-wing notions crept in like a disease and are now undermining the benefits of all right wing politics, conservative or right liberal."

    I think that's a bit harsh. I also think the left wing rise is an inevitable consequence of the rise of utilitarian or right liberalism.

    The utilitarian maxim, maximum amount of happiness, comes down to letting the majority decide the rightness of every issue or else determining what will maximise the economy and prosperity. There is no morality in this equation except that its moral to grow wealth or consult the people.

    The idea that there is nothing really except the maximisation of (economic) happiness or the promotion of freedoms is a reductive material one. The idea of morality is not simply about economics or freedoms. It has stronger and deeper ties.

    Socialism didn't sneak in late in the process it was there from the start. Starting with French radical republicans and morphing to Marxism. Socialism uses the same social calculus as the right liberals, maximise the economy, empower the people (or the party on behalf of the people) and merely puts utilitarianism to a different goal of communitarian revolution on behalf of the working class.

    "If you live in a society which says that it's all about freely choosing what you do and maximising your own pleasure and happiness, then what does honour have to do with anything?"

    When enlightened self interest takes the place of every ancient piety and institution society is fragile and without strong foundations. We need greater truths than individual desires or economic interests to really live well together. We've seen what happens in the 20th century when societies abandon injunctions and morality

    If you’re asking what’s better, socialism or right liberalism, indeed most would agree right liberalism is better. But there are substantial differences between right liberalism and traditionalism or conservatism which are important.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "We've seen what happens in the 20th century when societies abandon injunctions and morality".

    I'm reffereing to Nazism and Communism here.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I think that's a bit harsh. I also think the left wing rise is an inevitable consequence of the rise of utilitarian or right liberalism.

    The rise of the left comes from two things, someone generates some wealth, success or freedom, and the mob decide they want some of it because they have a majority.

    The utilitarian maxim, maximum amount of happiness, comes down to letting the majority decide the rightness of every issue or else determining what will maximise the economy and prosperity.

    This is not what right liberalism says. In fact, right liberalists consider this mob rule. Right liberalism claims the 'rightness' is determined through reason, and that may in fact mean limiting what the majority can influence over the individual.

    Socialism uses the same social calculus as the right liberals, maximise the economy,.......

    Socialism has other values that socialists usually can't define, called 'equality' and 'social justice' among others. Right liberals believe in justice in the traditional sense.

    When enlightened self interest takes the place of every ancient piety and institution society is fragile and without strong foundations.

    We've seen what happens in the 20th century when societies abandon injunctions and morality.


    You refer to this morality, but just as left liberals can't really define 'equality' and 'social justice', you don't define your version of morality either. So the quality of individual human life isn't key to morality? Without defering to a faith based concept like religion, give me an example of something that exhibits a higher morality but actually reduces individual quality of life.

    ReplyDelete
  29. "Most people with a libertarian bent that I know are people like myself: happily married, often with kids, university educated, salaried professionals, usually involved with sport or outdoor pursuits, and often with a large involvement in some form of community, military or academic service."

    You misinterpret my description of libertarians. I'm not suggesting they aren't successful (the word introvert wasn't intended as an insult) just the opposite, they are usually intelligent, relatively successful, highly rational and self-contained types who don't need a lot of help from other people.

    The problem is they convince themselves (particularly the left libertarians) that just because a highly individualistic philosophy can work for them, it can work for society as a whole, and that it should be exported around the world.

    They also forget their success depends on good genetics and the cooperation of other members of society - both of which libertarians ironically endanger with their liberal attitudes to immigration, and perhaps trade.

    The fact is most people aren't very successful and aren't very independently minded, so they're not really keen on a philosophy which is primarily focused on maximising freedom for society's most successful.

    Again, my opposition to libertarianism is based on two key points:

    A. despite having had both money and intellectual talent, after half a century libertarians have failed to check the progress of left liberalism, especially in the cultural sphere.

    B. I don't think libertarianism can work for society as a whole, and neither does most of society.

    This is not to suggest that there aren't aspects of right liberalism which are worth preserving, or that traditionalism doesn't have its problems either, but just that right liberalism in its pure form is a destructive and impractical ideology.

    ReplyDelete
  30. "give me an example of something that exhibits a higher morality but actually reduces individual quality of life."

    Just as a simple example, what about something like duty? The concept that you're part of something more than yourself and you have a duty to contribute to it. What about "doing the right thing", this is something that we generally know and isn't necessarily the fun thing to do. Aren't these things important and moral? How do they fit into right liberalism? They come with obligations so they might reduce individual quality of life on your calculus.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Mr Richardson, I was wondering whether you are concerned at all that by calling yourself Traditionalists - people might confuse you with the Traditionalists of the Rene Guenon and Julius Evola school such as Cordelia for Lear (http://cordeliaforlear.blogspot.com/) or The Traditionalists (http://traditionalistblog.blogspot.com/)?

    ReplyDelete
  32. Mild Colonial Boy, I hadn't thought of that.

    I doubt if it will cause confusion to most Australians, who wouldn't have heard of Evola.

    I suppose it's one problem with the term traditionalist (not the only one), but there are problems with the term conservative as well. I'm not aware of any problem free alternative.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hello Mark,

    I looked briefly at Cordelia For Lear and didn't notice anything off the wall. Did I miss something? If you have time, would you mind summarizing your differences? Thanks. And thank you for your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  34. OK, I read a bit more on the website, and I think I'm beginning to understand MCB's point.

    I would still appreciate a point by point contrast, though, if you wouldn't mind.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Bartholomew,

    I don't know a great deal about the Traditionalists that MCB refers to, so I can't give you a point by point comparison.

    I've read a little about Evola (but nothing by him). I have to say that it doesn't appeal to me - he was into the occult, and wrote speculative material about Atlantis, primordial celestial Hyperboreans and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Bartholomew,

    Let me attempt a different answer, based admittedly on my limited reading of Evola.

    The tradition that I seek to conserve is a specific, identifiable one. It is the historic Western tradition, but without the dominance of a corrosive liberal politics.

    The tradition that Evola apparently wanted to revive is not as specific. It seems to involve bits of Eastern religion, bits of Nietzsche, bits of Renaisance occultism, bits of highly speculative thought about polar race origins, bits of caste theory and so on.

    It therefore strikes you on reading about it as idiosyncratic. I don't think it's a grounded basis for launching an intellectual challenge to liberalism.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Mark,

    Understood. Thank you very much for your kind reply.

    If I might also add, I greatly appreciate your willingness to reply personally to the comments left on your site.

    ReplyDelete
  38. old hat writes:

    "Liberalism ... sends us off on a quest to find ourselves when we're not actually lost."

    I think this is very true, and is one of the keys to the success of liberalism. It feeds on an increasingly conspicuous trait of Westerners, that it is only the next hot upcoming thing that will bring us happiness, whether material or conceptual.

    Regarding right-liberalism vs. conservatism, it sounds as though the former prides itself on being a replicable model for post-modern societies, whereas traditionalism is more often expressed as unique communities and local or national heritage. It stresses the perennial nature of ethnic and cultural history and addresses the problems created when these are disturbed by natural upsets or competing systems.

    Perhaps this is a reason liberals (of all stripes) tend to be forward-looking while conservatives tend to reach back to their principles.

    Obviously there is an historic periodicity to all of this and I suspect liberalism, or much of its main framework, will give way to more traditional ways of life in the future. In the meantime there is not much to be gained from the isolation and diminution that "real" conservatives suffer nowadays. As Mr Sutcliffe suggests, there are some clear areas of philosophic overlap between the two right wing segments.

    It seems to me the unmovable difference between traditionalism and right-liberalism is the source of, and transmissible understanding of, a moral convention. I do not believe any "personal morality" will stand to support any society in the long run, no matter how upstanding a majority exists in the subject society.

    A standard of truth whose source is a realm outside men is needed, even if it grates against all of our collective intellectual "enlightenment". It is not about feeling good in our beliefs but where we seek truth as a unified society.

    Thanks to Mark and M. Sutcliffe and others for such an enlightening thread.

    leadpb

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.