Monday, July 29, 2013

Out of the Antiworld: right and left

For most of the 1900s, political debate in the Anglosphere countries was limited to arguments between right and left liberals.

James Kalb has described the differing outlooks of right and left liberals in his recent essay Out of the Antiworld. He argues that both kinds of liberals want to make individual preference the supreme good in society. Right-liberals tend to be those who like action and who therefore see the satisfaction of individual preference in terms of "the unlimited pursuit of career, power and money in a sort of competitive free-for-all". This right-liberal "party of action" focuses on "markets, entrepreneurs and minimal regulation."

The left-liberals want to maximise individual preference differently. This party consists of:
experts, officials, and explainers, who are enormously influential in a complex, bureaucratic, technological, and media-ridden society like our own. Such people are less interested in action and acquisition than in the creation of a scheme of total control through exact knowledge. The ideal they strive for is a sort of EU writ large, a universal system of social management run by expert functionaries that secures and fine-tunes maximum equal preference satisfaction for everyone everywhere. Such a system requires uniformity, centralization, and strict limits on disturbing factors like enterprise and competition.

In 1965 the Federal President of the Australian Liberal Party (our right-liberal party), Philip McBride, made this comment:
...We are not to be held back, nor do we want to see Australia held back, by the belief that our national destiny is to be found in a bureaucratic State where theorists are paramount

You can see that in 1965 right-liberals were focused on the debate with left-liberals, not with traditionalists. McBride saw his opposition as being the left-liberal party of "experts, officials and explainers".

But if the debate is limited to an argument between right and left liberals can we really be surprised if society drifts ever further in a liberal direction? James Kalb has made an excellent contribution with his essay to opening up debate, by criticising liberalism as an "operating system" rather than just opposing this or that liberal policy.

14 comments:

  1. The best part of the essay is the part you have focused on - the distinction between left and right liberals.

    I particularly liked this comment on the similarity between the two -

    Left liberals claim to be disinterested egalitarians, but they are as much concerned as others with making their way in the world. Right liberals talk about economic freedom, but like their leftist colleagues they are mostly managers and experts who are happiest with a controlled overall system.

    We live in a complicated world and any overall analysis of it must be incomplete in some way. So I don't agree with all Kalb has to say, or rather I think he leaves some things out. But it is a good analysis, and certainly clarified my thoughts on a few things.

    However the conclusion is very disappointing.

    The way to escape an antiworld is by making the real world the standard. Making truth the standard alarms people today because we are affected by liberalism and view truth as intolerant.

    The essay feels very lopsided. He makes a very long analysis of the status quo and then ends with words to the effect of 'The antiworld is so out of step with reality that it will fall apart of its own accord. We just need to keep banging the truth gong until it does.'

    It won't be that easy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Podsnap, thanks for the comment.

    I thought the actual sentence you quoted was quite insightful:

    Making truth the standard alarms people today because we are affected by liberalism and view truth as intolerant.

    However, you might well be right about the "it won't be easy" part. Something can be false and yet still dominate.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "
    Making truth the standard alarms people today because we are affected by liberalism and view truth as intolerant."

    Most of the Western populations have lost the capacity for analytic thought and so will inevitably be disturbed by the truth. They are enslaved by false consciousness.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mark

    I think it is a fact universally acknowledged on the alt right that we have truth on our side. Hatefacts etc.

    As a tool for ridiculing and satirising the stupid left, truth is a very handy tool for us. However as the bedrock of a coherent conservative world view (which is what Kalb specifically wants to achieve) truth is difficult.

    For a start what is truth (so said Pilate)? There is no objective truth in a number of areas. Life is too complex. I can't prove to you that immigration has destroyed social bonds in Sydney even though I vehemently believe it. Of course I could produce all sorts of 'Bowling Alone' studies which purport to show this. But an equal number of studies can be produced to show the opposite (or at least a null result). In fact much more than an equal number will be produced in contradiction of this hatefact as the left controls the production of studies and all other tools of intellectual justification for the status quo.

    Truth nowadays has become linked with rationality. And rationality has become the province of the left. The left has linked social progress with scientific progress via the Whig view of history and they have attached themselves to that process.

    Think of Christianity. As I would understand it Kalb (and you) are Christians. I imagine that you both believe it is integral to any coherent conservative world view. I have the greatest of sympathy and respect for Christianity - however do you really believe that you would be able to convince an uncommitted neutral bystander on the desirability of a conservative/Christian worldview on a 'truth' basis ? Not a chance. I can imagine you winning them over on some sort of 'tradition is good' argument but not on 'truth'.

    Traditionalism (which is my basic ethos) also has problems with 'truth'. My problem with policy decisions made by the elite is that tradition, or say the status quo, does not come into the equation. In other words the fact that we have done something one way for hundreds of years simply does not come into the utilitarian equation that the elite uses in making the decision. For example - in deciding if we should have gay marriage, the fact that marriage has not included gays for hundreds of years simply doesn't come into the reckoning. Rather the elite acts as though the world began this morning, and logically why shouldn't gays be allowed to marry ? They're people aren't they ? They live together in 'families'. They love each other. Etc etc etc

    But it is hard for us to argue against this on a 'truth' basis. In this situation there is no 'truth' - truth is really subsumed by 'rationality' and rationally or logically it is not that easy to dismiss gay marriage.

    It's been tried - hasn't it ?

    "Gays don't have kids..and marriage is all about kids".

    And pat comes the smug rejoinder "Neither do some straights - so do we annul their marriages ?".

    The best argument for me against gay marriage is just that it goes against tradition. If someone wants the rationale behind that then it is simply that 'if you chip away at your traditions one by one then pretty soon there will be nothing left, and if you have no traditions then you are nothing at all...'.

    Herodotus is very quotable here in describing with distaste the strange customs of the Persian Magi -

    The Magi, on the contrary, kill animals of all kinds with their own hands, excepting dogs and men. They even seem to take a delight in the employment, and kill, as readily as
    they do other animals, ants and snakes, and such like flying or creeping things.

    However, since this has always been their custom, let them keep to it.


    Anyway it's been a very long, rambling comment. I suppose what I am saying is that 'truth' is a good whip to flay the left with but we also have to rely on a bit of 'blood and soil'.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "The best argument for me against gay marriage is just that it goes against tradition."

    It goes against not just tradition but Christianity and natural law. It is illegal in most countries of the world and sinful in most religions. It is incompatible with the preservation of the social order and legitimises sexual perversion.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It goes against not just tradition but Christianity and natural law. It is illegal in most countries of the world and sinful in most religions. It is incompatible with the preservation of the social order and legitimises sexual perversion.

    And which of those arguments do you think will be most effective in convincing a neutral voter ?

    ReplyDelete
  7. The most convincing arguments are based upon Natural Law and Christianity on which Western Civilisation, previously termed Christendom is founded. Without Christian tradition and morality, the West is a barbarous wasteland.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I agree with you that without Christianity the west would be nothing.

    Natural law is in the end simply a fancy word for tradition.

    As the neutral voter is presumably an atheist I wish you luck with your program.

    If you wish to win policy arguments solely by reference to Christianity then you need to convert a majority of the population to a very conservative version of Christianity. Other than importing more third-world Christians than we already have I'm not sure how you will accomplish that.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The neutral voter is unlikely to be atheist.Atheists are more likely to be supportive of gay rights and marriage. The neutral voter is typically a confused agnostic who does not understand the theological or sociological arguments against homosexual marriage and accordingly does not understand the implications both sociological and legal of allowing it to pass into law.

    Natural Law is a system of Law determined by Nature and is universal. Tradition is man made and particular to ethnic groups.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Podsnap, again thank you for your interesting comments.

    However, I mostly disagree with you. I do believe that traditionalism has to be oriented to the truth and that we insist that the truth is something that we can have knowledge of - though not necessarily of the absolute kind as a scientistic view would like.

    ReplyDelete
  11. No problem Mark. I'm sure we agree a great deal on the broad concepts - but perhaps not so much on the fine details.

    Anonymous - a couple of questions.

    How does nature 'determine' a law ?

    If natural law is universal then why have different communities come up with radically different laws ? And why have the same communities come up with radically different laws over time ?

    And if most undecided voters are confused agnostics then how do you hope to convince them by way of ex-cathedra statements ?

    ReplyDelete
  12. "I do believe that traditionalism has to be oriented to the truth and that we insist that the truth is something that we can have knowledge of - though not necessarily of the absolute kind as a scientistic view would like."

    Traditionalism is based, in the West, on Christian revelation and transcendence. In the East tradition is based upon the philosophic teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism and of the apparent revelations of Muhammad. Therefore tradition in various civilisations is based upon different perceptions of truth.

    Therefore Western civilisation is founded upon the Christian truth and not on the perceived truths of other religions. In order to remain the West and retain its particular culture and civilisation, the West must remain Christian and exclude other cultures and religions from the public sphere.



    ReplyDelete
  13. How does nature 'determine' a law ?

    The answer to this is obvious - have you never hear of the Laws of Physics and the basic principles which are common to all cultures? Natural Law is inherent in particular matter. Regarding human behaviors all cultures consider theft of another's property to be wrong.



    ,If natural law is universal then why have different communities come up with radically different laws ? And why have the same communities come up with radically different laws over time ?.

    Communities make man made laws which are based upon a combination of Natural Law and their particular religions and traditions. This explains their differences over places and times.


    ReplyDelete
  14. "There is no objective truth in a number of areas."

    Wrong.

    The existence of "studies" whose purpose is to obfuscate objective truth hardly proves there is no such thing as objective truth.

    "Truth nowadays has become linked with rationality. And rationality has become the province of the left."

    Absolute nonsense. The Left cannot stand facts, logic, and rationality, for all that they pretend they do. The Left wants all decisions made on the basis of "correct" feelings, not rationality.

    "do you really believe that you would be able to convince an uncommitted neutral bystander on the desirability of a conservative/Christian worldview on a 'truth' basis"

    No such bystander exists, so the question is moot.

    "the fact that we have done something one way for hundreds of years simply does not come into the utilitarian equation that the elite uses in making the decision."

    The elite does not make decisions on a utilitarian basis (still less on the basis of truth or rationality).

    "But it is hard for us to argue against this on a 'truth' basis."

    Rubbish. It is TRUE that we have not defined marriage that way for thousands of years. The reason it is "hard" to argue against it is not because this is true, but because the Left has all the political power and controls academia and the media (and therefore, truth is irrelevant and automatically excluded from the conversation).

    "rationally or logically it is not that easy to dismiss gay marriage."

    Of course it is. But the Left does not care about rationality or logic.

    "which of those arguments do you think will be most effective in convincing a neutral voter ?"

    There is NO neutral voter.

    The whole point of Leftist control of education and the media is to ensure that no such person exists. And the Left has succeeded!

    ReplyDelete

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