Archives for category: Politics

Why is it not cool to be a conservative?

…as answered on Quora…

Two problematic, contestible words: cool and conservative.

The latter did not come into common use in America as much but a style-related pejorative until after World War II, with Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind (1953). There is no certain ideology behind the basic concept. Its core meaning suggests caution, opposition to radicalism and revolution, and respect for tradition, including, especially, the political traditions at the heart of the defense of one’s civilization or country or locality — from subversion and conquest. In America, an additional element, not so characteristic of European conservative strains, is the harking back to the origins of the federal union, which were, in historical context, what came to be known as liberal — a word that took on a political meaning on the European continent in the 1820s. American conservatism has vacillated between traditionalism as a modus operandi and traditionalism as the honoring of a liberal radical moment.

See how double-souled conservatism is? How ambiguous? This double character is especially the case, anyway, in America. But even in England, the conservative prophet Edmund Burke showed strong commitments to British liberalism, which was old before it was named. Since his day, the conservative Tory and liberal Whig parties have traded ideas and reversed positions at least once, if not twice.

The concept of cool is much abused in contemporary society, and it has been unmoored from its origins in the temperature metaphor. Alas.

Once upon a time, hot and cool were two distinct ideals in sexual selection, two very different stances: the hot was passion and rage and fiery temper; the cool was collected, unperturbed, resistant to emotional infection. The hot spread like fire, quickly; the cool was resistant but not cold. And neither were as attributed to the church of Laodicea in the Revelation, the last book of the Christian New Testament: lukewarm.

Warm culture is modern adult bourgeois culture: polite hugging, easy acceptance, reassurances everywhere; passionless but supportive. Hot culture is lust and anger and quickness of temper; when accepting, more ecstatic and celebratory than calm.

Cold culture is rigid, forbidding, exclusionary.

Warm cultures accept, lukewarm cultures are almost indifferent, but leaning towards acceptance.

There is a sense of anomie in the lukewarm. While in the cool, there is alienation — proud and dismissive, but not rudely so.

The cold rejects, the warm gently accepts (with the lukewarm unenthusiastic almost to the point of ambivalence), while the cool resists both as undue perturbations.

The cool man (and it was a predominantly male stance, at first) is calm under crisis, but perhaps curious. He appears strong because seemingly in control of his emotions. He is not given to fight or flight, rejection or acceptance. There is distance, but no great hate or resentment.

The cool thus became a signal of strength. And it quickly garnered an allure that the other stances could not match. And so it became a kind of ideal. And “the cool” in modern culture became a revival of honor culture.

Alas, so overused as a eulogistic word, it became synonymous with hot, in popular parlance. Just another trendy emphasis word, for The Good.

Now we can see why conservatives are not “cool.” The tendency to either cold or fiery rejection of the other — of the differently customed, the divergent of values or habits or beliefs — is a common conservative “virtue.” And the forms of acceptance amongst conservatives tend to the warm and the lukewarm.

Irony is cool; earnestness is not. Conservatives are not natural ironists.

Conservatives are fond of “that old-time religion”: cold adherence to dogma; hot defense of that dogma.

The center-left is warm to lukewarm; the far left is hot.

So where is the cool? Probably among the independents, though attributing any political position to the cool is difficult, because partisanship does not lend itself to cool attitudes.

The cool political position, in my opinion, would most likely be that of the informed non-voter.

Misattributions of coolness are common, of course, because young people tend to confuse hot and cool. Such attributions are not likely to remain true to the foundational metaphor . . . temperature.

But there is a reason why drug taking is “cool,” and sobriety is not: taking drugs, like the cool sexual stance, signals strength in a subtle way, as in “I can take it; I am not crushed nor do I panic.” All this show of strength signals to the eager female looking for a strong partner — for evolutionary reasons — a bracing, impressive latent ability to survive and protect.

The earnestly sober, cautious, and traditionally minded male, on the other hand, whether cold or warm, has to appeal to reason, primarily.

Which is not sexy except to the very bright. And as we know from IQ testing, there are more geniuses among men than women, so it pays more to impress the normally intelligent. Hot and cool stances have a more obvious, emotional allure.

Conservatives just cannot easily elicit such reactions. They are not cool. Even if they are right (as they often are, compared to the far left, anyway).

And the cool, understandably, dominated the permanent counter-culture in America: the public school student culture. This counter-culture was chiefly counter to established authority. Conservatism tries to bolster established, adult authority. So the two attitudes are on opposite sides in the forming experience of most Americans.

twv

An excellent book on the career of a concept.
Make a statue of THIS.

My changing attitude on iconoclasm, a timeline:

  1. 1991: When Russians pulled down Lenin statues, I cheered.
  2. 1993: When folks in Seattle’s Fremont District put up a Lenin statue, I snickered.
  3. 2003: When American forces, during the Conquest of Iraq, hit some major ancient Mesopotamian civilization sites, blowing them to smithereens, I was deeply irked.
  4. 2015: When ISIS began dismantling, destroying and selling off ancient statues from Assyria as “idols,” I was aghast that any modern would wish to treat as objects for either current reverence or irreverence millennia-old statuary.
  5. 2017: When SJWs turned against the statuary of the Civil War dead, I was more than a little irked that anyone would treat centuries-old and even decades-old memorials as objects for current reverence or irreverance — other than a reverance for history.
  6. 2017: Trump was a latecomer to my query about statues though: With the first protest against a Confederacy memorial, I wondered when the Millennial asshats would come for Jefferson and Washington. When the young demand that their country’s heroes’ statuary be dishonored, you know that they aim to set up some moralistic tyranny in which they are bound by no tradition or culture, and in which the rest of society is too morally weak to resist.
  7. 2019: I suggest setting up a few statues, plumbed for septic service, of open-mouthed Antifa goons and the stocky, homely chick screaming “No” upon the election of Trump, into which we may urinate. That is my current attitude towards the intersectionalist left today.

My attitude about the recent iconoclasm trend has been the same as regarding speech: the proper response to statuary one doesn’t like is not iconoclasm but more statuary. It is easy to destroy, not so easy to put up new monuments — they cost money. But destroying history, even ugly history, seems an awful lot like childishness. Adults should be able to look at a statue and not get sucked into its ideology.

I, for one — and like many others — am fascinated by ancient monuments, though I am quite certain I would not support the bulk of the policies of the ancient monument-builders were someone foolish enough to attempt to revive those policies.

I made peace with Lenin being in Seattle. Still . . . perhaps I should have feared the statue’s influence on Seattle politics? Could it have given succor to the socialism on Seattle’s current City Council?

The Fremont Lenin, via Josh Hallett, Flickr, some rights reserved.

Philosopher Jan Lester offers what he says is a new paradigm for libertarianism. Though old hands at the philosophy may raise an eyebrow at the daring of such a claim — and I am, by this time, one of those old hands — it is not as if libertarian social philosophy were all shipshape and Bristol fashion.

Looking at his essay “The Three Great Errors of Most Libertarians,” I found myself not at all shocked by his alleged novelty — though novelty there is. From a perspective of critical rationalism (via Popper, Lakatos, Bartlett, and others), Mr. Lester advances three alternatives to most libertarian ideology and rhetoric:

  • Instead of “justificationism” and the eternal search for the Foundations of Ethics and Politics, Lester insists that we stick to the more humble and honest task of offering conjectures about which we are open to debate.
  • Instead of characterizing our normative theories in terms of “deontological” or “consequentialist” terms, recognize that they are “more like two sides of the same coin.”
  • Instead of waffling and arguing in a circular fashion, develop an explicit, sufficient and necessary “theory of freedom.”

This last point points to the most obvious need, but it is not one that many libertarians recognize as an actual problem. There is an awful lot vagueness and hand-waving among libertarian theorists. And some concepts get jumbled together, like “self-ownership” and “negative freedom” and so forth. Hearkening back to classical liberal days, Lester focuses on non-interference — Henry Sidgwick would have understood this — and develops it as a prohibition of “proactive constraint.” I have not adequately confronted this understanding of liberty, so as I prepare to read his book, Escape from Leviathan: Libertarianism Without Justificationism, I will try to keep an open mind.

I am sympathetic to his general perspective, and, so far, seem to agree on quite a lot. I do have a different way of looking at freedom than many libertarians — and this has been one reason for my odd position in the libertarian movement: I am a member of no faction, and hail not from the School of Rand or School of Rothbard, but, instead, from the School of Nozick . . . without having ever been a Nozickian.

Odd man out, I.

So, before I lash out at Lester’s paradigm, or drop mine, I will put them to the test, which would also mean essaying to discover whether the two might be compatible.

As far as the deontic/consequentialist debate goes, anyway, we are on the same side. I found this “controversy” very interesting in my early 20s, since it was a major feature of libertarian intellectual discussion in the 1980s. I soon decided, however, that most discussions of this were hopelessly muddled or, at the very least, red herrings. My late boss R. W. Bradford, writing as Ethan O. Waters, did not exactly make the issue clearer, in the pages of Liberty magazine in its first year. I went a different direction, taking consequentialism chiefly as a meta-ethics.

Regarding Lester’s anti-justificationism, well, this strikes me as a terminological issue. He denies this. I am more in line with C. S. Peirce than Karl Popper, so I see all this “critical rationalist” talk as just another form of fallibilism, whereas he regards it (I think) as quite distinct. I may have read both Popper and Lakatos, I confess to having devoured their work only in small doses: this is not an area of anything but a passing familiarity for me. So, I should practice caution. Still, I will drop a hint: Jan Lester believes that philosophy is not about words, it is about the world. That is certainly a nifty slogan. It reminds me of Husserl’s “to the things themselves!” I think philosophy cannot help but be about words — and definitions, too — because words are our chief tool for engaging with concepts. He calls them theories and conjectures, and that is fine, except it seems a long way around to say something fairly obvious.

But I could be wrong. Indeed, all this jumps the gun of reading his book.

So, if I have not read this book, and the cited essay is brief, how do I know what Mr. Lester holds to? Well, a year-and-a-half ago a friend of mine and I interviewed Mr. Lester at length. And this week I finally turned the Skype session into a video, which is now up as a series on YouTube:

Where Libertarians Go Wrong:

  1. Introduction: Why “Critical Rationalism
  2. Error One: Seeking a foundation or justification
  3. Error Two: Taking sides between deontologism and consequentialism
  4. Error Three: Lacking an explicit, necessary & sufficient theory of freedom

By the way, I had intended to do this all last year. But the best laid plans of mice and men, the gang’s all here in the glee club, and all that.


Jan Lester’s Escape from Leviathan. And me.
Definition of a word most people are not familiar with, from the Century Dictionary.

It is not “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.” Not in politics.

On the left we find Useful Idiots.

On the right we find useless ones.

This explains the bizarre pushing of leftism by people in power.

One word: utility.

I don’t know about you, but I miss Pepe. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Is the alt-right a serious political entity or just teenagers poking fun at modern liberalism?

…as answered on Quora…

There are serious alt-righters, and there are shitlords who troll normies with “memes.” They are distinct.

Notice that I use the word “troll” as a verb. From what I can tell, many people think it bubbled up from the Lord of the Rings and Nordic myth, meaning a big, nasty, ugly mean creature, vaguely hominid. “A neckbeard.” That is the wrong etymology. It comes from a fishing technique. It is a way of getting people to flop around ridiculously, like wild fish on a line or a caught fish on the bottom of a skiff.

The paragraph above is not a diversion from my answer. It is important to get a few metaphors right to understand either the alt-right or the “trolls.”

Another metaphor to get right is “cuck.”

This does not primarily derive from the sexual fad of cuckoldry, wherein the male partner likes to watch his woman penetrated by another man. That is just a kink, a perversion.

The core idea of “cuck” comes from the cuckoo, a bird, which destroys the egg of a bird of another feather (species) and then lays its egg where the destroyed egg had been, to be incubated until hatching, and the hatchling to be nurtured into maturity not by the cuckoo but by the cuckolded mated pair, who expend time and energy on what they have been fooled to think of as their own progeny.

Of course, that is where “cuckold” comes from. But the traditional word is there as a pejorative not just because the husband of an adultress is a contemptible, dishonored man. It has its condemnatory power because it makes the cuckold a slave of the alien male, doing work but not doing it for himself. The cuckold is a chump, and destroys his own interests. Lowest of the low, in a sense. That is why “cuck” is so effective a term of disparagement, for it applies not only to men who serve feminist women who possess no loyalty or gratitude. It also applies to whole societies that allow foreigners to come in, leech off of their welfare state programs (public schools, SNAP, Medicaid) and strain the resources of police, courts and prisons . . . all at the hosts’ (citizens’) tax expense. The term “cuck” applies to anyone who valorizes or shame-facedly accepts subsidized mass immigration as a government policy and social norm. It applies not only to the progressive left but also to the “conservative” right. Hence “cuckservative.”

This is a serious critique.

I agree with it, though I do not go with the alt-righters in their favorite policy direction, that of an ethnostate. Sure, I think a policy of subsidized immigration is insane because suicidal. I think it entirely apt to scorn the cucks, left, right or libertarian. But I am not an alt-righter. The alt-right want to cut off immigration. “Build the Wall.” I want to make immigrants ineligible for welfare benefits — and then work to get rid of the welfare state entirely. It has been a disaster. It has created several generations of serviles and wimps and snowflakes and . . . cucks. And it is breeding race hatred, threatening to eradicate the last vestiges of liberal order.

Meanwhile, the lolsters and trolls and shitlords float their “memes” — and chortle. They understand enough of the alt-right critique to freak out progressives. And it is indeed fun to watch progressives freak out — “RACISM!” they cry. “Sexism!” “Trans-phobia!” “Islamophobia!” And the trolls chuckle, moving on as progressives dance to shitlord tunes, flipping and flapping to trollers’ (proper word, but not used) lure.

Oh, and here is my modest troll: there is no “liberalism” on the left anymore. They are so thoroughly cucked that the “progressives” cannot conceive of freedom, meaning the word “liberal” must not be allowed to them. They just want more and more handouts. And safe spaces — a term of art meaning

Subsidized Sectarian Commiseration Center for the Easily Offended and Emotionally Unstable

— normal people’s “safe” areas being bedrooms, homes, churches, and clubs, and are privately paid for, not subsidized.

twv

One of the great public relations coups of all time has been to identify “the left” with goodness and “the right” with “wrong.”

This is especially droll, since, in olden times, “the left” was identified with “sinister.”

Defining “sinister”. . .

Further, and especially before the introduction of toilet paper, the left hand was not a hand you offered in public, especially in handshake or salute. Why? Because in private it was the hand one used to wipe one’s anus after defecation. The idea that “the left,” today, would be synonymous with good intentions and moral goodness and all other things pure and holy is almost hilarious.

But it is just the kind of thing you should expect to happen when the State comes to dominate society.

twv

There is a sort of progress to be identified in civilization, an incline that can be seen in the graded, increasing limits on the demands the state may be allowed to place upon us. It goes something like this:

  • Death
  • Slavery
  • Corvée labor
  • Property confiscation
  • Taxation

Generally, civilized societies emphasize taxation as preferable to confiscation — but naked confiscation exists in America: just look at the practice of civil asset forfeiture.

America’s founding fathers placed an important limit upon confiscatory practices: the Takings Clause of the Bill of Rights. Their idea was that there be allowed no confiscation of property without a valid public use, and not without “just compensation,” either. Unfortunately, state functionaries are not the only ones with designs on others property, and both limits have been repeatedly undermined over the years, indeed flouted. The Keto case being only the most famous. And we now must endure a president who has used the “public takings” procedures of “eminent domain” for his own quite private ends. Who knows where this limit upon state power will go because of Donald Trump?

It is a mark of civilization that intermittant required labor (corvée) is preferable to outright slavery . . . but note that military conscription is a form of corvée labor that looks an awful lot like slavery, and one that often leads to death.

The State often brings back that initial demand upon subjects: the cessation of their very lives.

It is also the case that taxation is yet another form of slavery, just removed from personal control to more alienable commandeering of property. And remember the tale of Genghis Khan, who wanted to raze Manchuria (in the process slaughtering all of the conquered Manchurians) to . . . raise horses. An advisor, the story goes, mentioned to him the principle of the Laffer Curve — though not of course by name — saying that a living population could provide wealth to the Khanate via taxation, while as The Dead they could provide nothing. So, the Great Khan allowed the Manchurians to live, taxing them, thereby enabling his Golden Horde to further spread death and slavery throughout the world, into Persia and the Arab world, through Russia and even as far as Vienna.

Who says government doesn’t work!

Yet I prefer to push back on all forms of conscript service — all the way back to taxation. And then cut taxes. The love of taxation, often expressed these days, is sometimes said to express “caring” for the less well off. I just think of Manchuria. And its people, seen by their Mongol rulers as a mere one small step up from the equine beast.

twv

From PJP’s most famous book.
This first one in this afternoon’s binge is probably the best, no?
Morning Oregonian, 1901

As proof of the degradation of literacy and journalism in America, compare any recent paper — or news website, for that matter — with these three articles from page six of a newspaper near me 118 years ago:



I share these not to argue with them. I could. No problem. But note the quality. Does journalism anything like this exist in America today?

I have not seen it.

twv

This just in my library — recently purchased.

I have in my hand a book about an important political figure I had either not heard of before, or had completely forgotten . . . that is, before I laid hand on this book.

Adolf A. Berle, Jr., was, apparently, a major figure in the “liberalism” in the epoch of FDR and JFK. According to the preface, which is all I have read so far, he was quite influential. Why had I not remembered his name, then? Well, it is not a period I have studied, so I am sure I can be forgiven for my ignorance or forgetfulness. But his was a time I am more than familiar with — my father’s time, so to speak, the time in which my father came of age and grew to maturity and, in fact, a time into which I was born, at the very end — one of my earliest memories is of the live TV coverage in the aftermath of the JFK assassination.

I have dozens of other books to read in my library before this, so I will probably just take away from this book acquisition, for now, my conjecture as to why Adolf Berle is not more often spoken about: it is that name, Adolf.

Hitler’s dark presence eclipsed Berle’s fame, and threatened him with infamy he almost certainly did not deserve. Why the man did not, in the 1940s, adapt to his time by styling himself as “A. Augustus Berle” I know not. Maybe Jordan A. Schwarz, the author of this biography, will explain.

But I can imagine rationales for not trying to solve the problem. Perhaps Berle preferred to stay somewhat behind the scenes. Maybe he hankered a bit for lathe biosas — to the extent anyone who aspired to be “the Marx of the shareholding class” and a “Machiavelli,” too, could manage that — and he simply accepted his fate.

Be that as it may, Berle helped architect the corporatist order of our age, designing and implementing a more durable analog of “national socialism,” slinging a new form of imperialism:

Liberal: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era, p. viii
Liberal: Adolf A. Berle and the Vision of an American Era, p. ix

It is worth thinking about this man, for the political party he devoted himself to is now forsaking his mission, replacing it with an insane, moralistic form of statism, a frank socialism or at least quasi-socialism. Berle’s beloved “New Deal” vision is being replaced with an incoherent “Green New Deal,” as concocted by people who are both unlearned and confident, a bad combo, but all-too-familiar in this Trumpian Moment.

It seems apparent to me that Berle’s “American Era” is drawing to a close. I do not know if it will end with a bang or a whimper. I suspect both, in quick succession. Right now is just the time for whining.

My chief wonder, in this regard, is whether the end will come before I make time to read this book.

twv