What is a conservative?

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What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 12:03 am 

I used to know this. I used to be able to spot a conservative person in a roomful of merry-makers, a mallful of shoppers, in a park or restaurant, on the subway or street. It was the man in the grey suit and tie who didn't like to hire foreigners and closed the shop on Sunday; the woman who took her husband's last name at marriage and stayed at home if they could possibly afford it. They lived in a downtown high-rise or suburban house, drove one or two sedate sedans, named their children Robert and Linda and sent them to a nice school that didn't have any of the "element".

I used to know what a political conservative was, as well. They were the last to accept breaking away from the British Empire; opposed everything from income tax to women's rights, cut everything from postal service to unemployment insurance benefits. I used to have a pretty good idea, from about 1960 to 1980, what the Conservatives wanted, both provincially and federally. I disagreed with them on most of those issues, but I could make sense of them and respect their point of view.

But in the 1980's, everything started to change. The political landscape has become surreal. The Conservative party fractured, self-immolated, back-stabbed and morphed its way into something I could no longer recognize. I don't know who those people are. I still know who the party supporters are - approximately - but it seems to me they would more properly form three different political factions.
I no longer understand what they believe, what they want and how they imagine the future.

Other countries seem to have undergone similar changes.
What does "conservative" mean now?
How does a conservative individual behave?
What does a conservative party supporter believe and want?
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby someguy1 on January 20th, 2017, 1:06 am 

Then you must remember when the left wanted an end to the the cold war and not the start a new one. The left used to favor free speech, now the left is against it. This game goes both ways.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Scott Mayers on January 20th, 2017, 2:34 am 

"Conservative" opposes "Progressive", not "Liberal" (even though they relate in some ways)

Generally, in politics, the "conservative" prefers to SAVE POWER OF OWNERSHIP and CONTROL (of management/government) in private hands without limitations. A "progressive" believes in altering those POWERS in some form of management/government. The progressive believes the power of government needs to treat the controls of POWER collectively regardless of one's claims to INHERENT RIGHTS to land, property, etc. Progress is adaptive to the conditions in the environment. Conservatives demand their rights to maintain power they HAVE unless they personally and willfully volunteer to give it up.

I agree that it is hard to tell now because what is 'conservative' also can include select groups (not just individuals). When pluralities of people collectively demand "ownership" power based on their group in a unique and specific (special) way, there is a tendency for these groups to infiltrate what is 'progressive' because they are weaker plurality. But by agreeing with other 'conservative groups', they can appear to represent the normally "liberal" side of politics when the economy is down. So only the 'conservatives' on both sides get noticed as this last election in the U.S.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 10:22 am 

SAVE POWER OF OWNERSHIP and CONTROL (of management/government) in private hands without limitations.


Okay. That's point one.
Just 'private' rather than 'public', or does it matter which private hands?
One time, it was both class and nationality: British upper and middle class had the monopoly on both wealth and political power in Canada. That class, however, also had a strong sense of patriotic duty and social obligation. Pretty much the same in the US, too, from what i recall, though they inherited some French and Spanish local aristocracy with Louisiana and California.
How would that kind of conservatism translate to Asiatic countries?

What about the original meaning: resistance to change? The WASP's I grew up with (well, near by) were stuck in pre-WWII mode. Get up early, save your money in a bank, women wear skirts, children are seen and not heard, never hit a girl, avoid bad company, don't dwell on yourself, call your boss 'sir'. The eastern Europeans I knew (slightly) harked back to before WWI and had an even stricter hierarchy. In both cases Their social values were established by authoritarian Christian patriarchies with many rules and little room for individual self-expression.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Paul Anthony on January 20th, 2017, 3:37 pm 

Serpent » Fri Jan 20, 2017 7:22 am wrote:

What about the original meaning: resistance to change? The WASP's I grew up with (well, near by) were stuck in pre-WWII mode. Get up early, save your money in a bank, women wear skirts, children are seen and not heard, never hit a girl, avoid bad company, don't dwell on yourself, call your boss 'sir'.


Gee, I hate to confuse you further (well, maybe I enjoy it) but I'm only seen as a WASP by minorities. I was never accepted by WASPS. I'm white but not Anglo-Saxon or Protestant.

I hate getting up early.

I do believe in saving.

Most women look good in skirts, but I really don't care what they wear as long as they choose something that shows they respect themselves.

Children should be taught, not ignored.

I would never hit a girl. I also avoid hitting boys.

I never called my boss "sir" and mostly rebelled against authority, preferring to treat everyone as equals.

Oh, and I'm a conservative.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby someguy1 on January 20th, 2017, 3:56 pm 

ps -- OP is forgetting that even in the 1950's, there were mainstream conservatives and right wing nutballs, just like today.

Robert Welch, founder of the extremist right wing John Birch Society, called President Eisenhower a "conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy." And Ike was a war hero Republican!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_W._Welch_Jr.

You have to be careful when your memory plays tricks. What you remember about the old days is not actually how things were. And how things were back then is not all that different from how they are today.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Forest_Dump on January 20th, 2017, 4:56 pm 

Well the meanings of some of these words do get tricky because the oddest people like to brand themselves in so many different ways. For us Canadians, PC used to mean Progressive Conservatives not so long ago. But the right split between the PCs and the Reform Party (pretty radical), they disappeared from power which led to the Conservative Reform Alliance Party but they appeared not to like the acronym so they became the Conservatives without the Progressive part and mostly more radical with a lot of the real conservatives drifitng elsewhere.

Historically, politically conservative has been relative. In China, the hardline communists are the conservatives. Ditto for Russia. In Iran, the conservatives are now th fundamentalist Shi'ites. In broader English and North American culture (and probably more broadly European), in the past, conservatives were more loyal to the crown and the traditional upper class and related ideology. Liberals were those who wanted more freedom for the middle class and business as n more freedoms, etc., for the common folk. Of course, once that freedom was gained for middle class white males, then conservative ideals became those that privaleged them. But this just goes back through time - early Christianity was originally radical, revolutionary and even communist but as it was adopted by the ruling non-Jewish elite, well....

In Canada, of course, the political Conservatives are (ironically IMHO) increasingly radical and anything but conservative. I certainly don't think most of them can run a business (the loudest, at the moment, is more of a slash and burn corporate raider than any kind of captain of industry), they don't know how to balance the books and most seem only intent on enriching themselves by selling out Canada. So, despite (or because of) my more leftish leanings that include hard work (and I never go to a golf course), honesty, treating all people fairly, and avoiding the wanton destruction of older institutions just so I can enrich myself, I definitely consider myself a conservative. And I hate to say it Serpent but you might actually be a conserative too.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 6:38 pm 

Paul Anthony » January 20th, 2017, 2:37 pm wrote:Oh, and I'm a conservative.

So, you've told me that you are not a Canadian conservative of the 1950's and 60's. I didn't really think you were.
What you're not telling me is what you do believe, think and want.
- the character and face of modern conservatism
- socially
- politically
- in your culture
- in any other culture with which you may be familiar
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 6:54 pm 

someguy1 » January 20th, 2017, 2:56 pm wrote:ps -- OP is forgetting that even in the 1950's, there were mainstream conservatives and right wing nutballs, just like today.

My general examples were not intended to be comprehensive or show all shades of conservatism in all countries.
I was only marginally aware of the extremists at that time: in Canada, they operated mainly out west (where they are still strongest) and in the US they didn't tend to get so much media hype, nor were they as influential, as now.

... And how things were back then is not all that different from how they are today.

Interesting. It looks and sounds different.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 7:14 pm 

Forest_Dump » January 20th, 2017, 3:56 pm wrote: But the right split between the PCs and the Reform Party....

I recall that series of hit-and-runs, yes.

Historically, politically conservative has been relative. In China, the hardline communists are the conservatives. Ditto for Russia. In Iran, the conservatives are now th fundamentalist Shi'ites. In broader English and North American culture (and probably more broadly European), in the past, conservatives were more loyal to the crown and the traditional upper class and related ideology.

Yes! That's the kind of thing I was looking for.
What these respective faction believe in, enact when in power - what it is they're trying to protect, enshrine, preserve - conserve.

Of course, once that freedom was gained for middle class white males, then conservative ideals became those that privaleged them.

Yes, the ascendant new class tends to aspire to the values and lifestyle of the aristocracy before them. As for white male privilege in European cultures and their American descendants, that has an extensive root system: I don't think it can be isolated in conservatism.

In Canada, of course, the political Conservatives are (ironically IMHO) increasingly radical and anything but conservative. I certainly don't think most of them can run a business (the loudest, at the moment, is more of a slash and burn corporate raider than any kind of captain of industry), they don't know how to balance the books and most seem only intent on enriching themselves by selling out Canada.

This is a valuable observation. Thanks.
How much of conservative politics today is driven by non-productive wealth-gathering? (I know the examples used are always industry and innovation, but most of the profit now seems to be in just moving money around.)

... I hate to say it Serpent but you might actually be a conserative too.

Oh yes, in many ways. There is much that I would wish to conserve - not least, a slightly outmoded English grammar. I'm not in the least flambouyant in daily life, nor confrontational, nor profligate.

But I would also like to see some social, legal and and economic changes that many people still consider radical - and at least one that actually is radical. I'm quite aware that I can't have my d'ruthers.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Paul Anthony on January 20th, 2017, 7:15 pm 

Serpent » Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:38 pm wrote:
So, you've told me that you are not a Canadian conservative of the 1950's and 60's. I didn't really think you were.
What you're not telling me is what you do believe, think and want.
- the character and face of modern conservatism
- socially
- politically
- in your culture
- in any other culture with which you may be familiar


It's a question with many answers, none of which would be true.

Like many labels, "conservative" does not describe anything. I am a fiscal conservative. I believe in individual responsibility and government responsibility to be frugal spenders of tax-payers money (or ex-money, since it's not ours after we give it to the government). I have pretty much nothing in common with social conservatives, so that makes me a conservative that opposes most of what the Religious Right stands for.

I don't think my quandary is unique. More people in the US are registered as Independent than as Democrat or Republican. It is possible to be a conservative in some areas and a liberal in others. Defining a conservative would likely be a disservice to more people than for whom it would be an accurate description.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 7:32 pm 

Paul Anthony » January 20th, 2017, 6:15 pm wrote: I am a fiscal conservative. I believe in individual responsibility and government responsibility to be frugal spenders of tax-payers money (or ex-money, since it's not ours after we give it to the government). I have pretty much nothing in common with social conservatives, so that makes me a conservative that opposes most of what the Religious Right stands for.

That's one of the things I'm curious about. How do you want the government structured, what of functions should it have, and what powers does it need, in order to achieve that fiscal responsibility?

I don't think my quandary is unique. More people in the US are registered as Independent than as Democrat or Republican.

And how do they get to exercise that independence? The electoral system looks hog-tied by the big fat parties nobody's happy with.

It is possible to be a conservative in some areas and a liberal in others.

Of course! That's why I suggested separate categories. There may be more.
I'm just interested in anyone's point of view.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby someguy1 on January 20th, 2017, 7:51 pm 

Serpent » January 20th, 2017, 4:54 pm wrote:
someguy1 » January 20th, 2017, 2:56 pm wrote:
... And how things were back then is not all that different from how they are today.

Interesting. It looks and sounds different.


You're right, I'll grant you that everyone's gotten louder. Maybe it's the Internet. Maybe the failure of the bipartisan Washington consensus has emboldened extremists on both sides. But I'll grant your point. Our politics seem far more polarized than they used to be.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Paul Anthony on January 20th, 2017, 8:13 pm 

Serpent » Fri Jan 20, 2017 4:32 pm wrote: How do you want the government structured, what of functions should it have, and what powers does it need, in order to achieve that fiscal responsibility?


It's pretty clearly spelled out in the Constitution - you know that antiquated document that nobody thinks is relevant anymore, if it ever was. :)

The federal government was designed to be a limited body established to give the states a unified defense against outside influence or outright attack. The Army and Navy were for defense, not offense, and prohibited from use against US citizens.

Another responsibility was to mint money to be accepted in all the states. But that responsibility was abandoned in 1913 when the Federal Reserve was formed. (It is neither federal nor does it constitute any sort of reserve).

And, the federal government would be responsible for inter-state matters, since no state could dictate rules for other states.

Pretty much everything else the feds are into is unconstitutional - and damned expensive.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 8:24 pm 

Would the states do it better? Is the federal mandate holding them back from taking care of government business as it should properly be done? Are they all equally capable? Should/do they each have a different philosophical basis for their legal systems and social services?

What should a more local (state or regional) government look like in the event the union breaks up?
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Paul Anthony on January 20th, 2017, 8:41 pm 

Serpent » Fri Jan 20, 2017 5:24 pm wrote:Would the states do it better? Is the federal mandate holding them back from taking care of government business as it should properly be done? Are they all equally capable? Should/do they each have a different philosophical basis for their legal systems and social services?

What should a more local (state or regional) government look like in the event the union breaks up?


Would the states govern better? Who knows, but they would likely be more attuned to the people they serve. That means red states would likely be very different from blue states, but even trying to label them red or blue doesn't allow for the differences that might emerge.

Each state, left to its own initiative, would prove to be an interesting proving ground for different ideas. Those ideas that work might be copied by other states, while failures would at least be geographically limited. We see this to some extent now. People and businesses move from one state to another, often for economic reasons.

While we're at it, we ought to split California into several smaller states. Its size results in a similar problem to the federal government. Sacramento really doesn't resemble most of the state it governs. Although it's not as bad as Washington, DC which doesn't resemble any city in the real world. :)
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Serpent on January 20th, 2017, 10:33 pm 

The red/blue state labels are from federal voting patterns, and because there are only the two parties. So that doesn't mean very much.

One problem I see with smaller, local governance is what I think of as the duchy syndrome.
Some industry dominates the economy of a region: the biggest, most aggressive corporation in that industry eats up all the smaller, younger ones, becomes the major, or only, employer and pretty soon owns the government and courts. Then it - or the guy at the head of it - can push everybody around, take all the regulations off his own business activities while hobbling all competitors; becomes a virtual king.
That's harder to do on the federal scale.

Another problem with regionalism is that some land has more natural resources and is easier to exploit, so there are bound to be have and have-not states. If there are no federal subsidies, infrastructure projects, social safety net or transfer payments, some areas are doomed to be poor while others are rich. That will mean population migrations, which entails a whole slew of unforeseen complications.

It's a point of interest, since I foresee a breakup of the union in the not too distant future.
But this is probably the wrong place to be speculating on the particulars.
Be a good subject on its own, though.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Scott Mayers on January 22nd, 2017, 1:51 pm 

Forest_Dump » January 20th, 2017, 3:56 pm wrote:Well the meanings of some of these words do get tricky because the oddest people like to brand themselves in so many different ways. For us Canadians, PC used to mean Progressive Conservatives not so long ago. But the right split between the PCs and the Reform Party (pretty radical), they disappeared from power which led to the Conservative Reform Alliance Party but they appeared not to like the acronym so they became the Conservatives without the Progressive part and mostly more radical with a lot of the real conservatives drifitng elsewhere.

Historically, politically conservative has been relative. ...

"Progressive Conservatives" were intended to reference Protestant Western Canadian conservatives as opposed to the Catholic [both Roman AND the 'Anglican' forms, where 'catholic' refers to a clergy of authority to the whole].

The 'progress' part was only to alter the British Imperial form. But Conservative in the Eastern provinces is the faction of the Liberal Party that demands we respect the 'foundational' peoples (mainly Anglican/Ontario and French Catholic/Quebec with a 'token' support for 'First Nations Peoples').

To me, Canada is way more 'conservative' in many respects than the U.S.. Even our 'Social Democrat' party is conservative....they just tend to favor the collective non-traditional 'conservatives' that represent European decent.

I'm completely disgusted with politics because I think everyone everywhere doesn't seem to get that when you fight for injustice, you don't POSIT favor for 'equality of X', where X is assumed to be some minority based on ethnicity (The link of one's genetic roots to some cultural one). The reality of injustice are non-culturally originating, most specifically of economy, but BECOME ethnic when people treat solutions by favoring X or (often implicitly) disfavoring some such non-X.

I just saw a disgusting staged mockery on "Market Place" that had some guys sell T-shirts of a few varieties: One was "Make Canada Great Again". Another was "White Pride". But the most implicit one that was linking all of these was to "White Power", thrown in as though these all meant the same things. It was 'testing' whether people would buy them then chase them down to ask them why they did so. Most had not. But the apparent set up was phony and misleading. If they had instead printed "Gay Pride" or "Aboriginal Pride", these would be considered honorable and non-racist. The addition of the "White Power" options were clearly to feign that anyone who was angry at the hypocrisy to even buy the "Make Canada Great Again" slogan that reminds us of Trump's campaign slogan was clearly and unequivocally racist.

THIS is why we have problems in this world today. The 'conservative' and most specifically "Nationalistic" air has taken over the traditional 'progressive' party MORE then usual. While many may intend progress to be simply change, it doesn't mean a change to avenge the last conservative groups in power by stereotyping what appears to represent the 'ethnic white and male-dominating' culture. Those who DO represent those stereotypes aren't the ones who 'suffer' regardless of change. Rather, the those simply fitting in with the phenotypes of the WASPs on the economic bottom are the scapegoated victims, often who have zero 'WASP' affiliations or are MIXED.

I think its a losing battle to the Nationalists of all 'groups' who have some (a) ethnic belief in their culture/genetic association and (b) think that 'favoring' equality of their own in-group is not 'disfavoring' of some out-group.

The largest trend lately has been of the 'feminist' groups as an Ethnic Nationalism. That is, the rise of strong feminists who feign fighting for 'equality' but are actually acting with severe discrimination and indifference towards non-feminists who disagree with the specific claims of inequality but are penalized by the actions of such. When one asserts that some specific ethnic group is simply asserting 'equality', you don't propose solution by enhancing their power uniquely at the expense of the out-groups. Rather, you generalize to the classification of the whole that creates the problems, like "poverty" or "domestic abuse". You don't simply fight for "poverty of ethnic group X" or "domestic abuse of ethnic group Y" because it implicitly accuses the non-X or non-Y of having some genetic quality to abuse and presumes carte blanche no responsibility (or trivial ones) to the X's and Y's. It also often takes the form of simply ADVANCING POSITIVE stereotypes of the victim group as though these are not equally at fault for framing what is NEGATIVE??? You stop STEREOTYPING for positive as well as negative ones for ALL people. It's cheating to say that positive stereotypes are alright simply because they make one feel good. If you have only enough food to feed one of two people on an island, 'favoring one' still implicitly means 'disfavoring the other' by default.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Ben Cain on May 21st, 2017, 11:43 am 

I think a definition of “conservative” that clarifies the views of current conservatives has to take into account certain ironies. First, we must distinguish what conservatives say about themselves from what their principles and policies entail. As others have said here, the conservative’s primary opponent is the radical or progressive, especially the revolutionary who wants to subvert the social establishment.

However, this isn’t sufficient since a conservative may wish to thwart a liberal establishment such as a socialist government that hands out money to the poor or that recognizes the rights of minorities, including gays and the mentally ill. So the question becomes: Which social order does the conservative wants to protect? There is only one that predates any progressive establishment and can thus never be credited to radical political effort.

This primordial, utopian social order is the natural dominance hierarchy which organizes large groups in most animal species. You have the alpha dominators at the top, who control the resources and the right to procreate with the best females; you have the beta followers in the middle, who generally submit to their masters; and then you have the omegas at the bottom of the power hierarchy. (There are also gammas, deltas, and so on, but these can be ignored for simplicity.) That is the state of nature for most social creatures, and every form of resistance against the inertia that would pull us back to that default social structure is radical and progressive for being artificial rather than natural. The natural social order is instinctive and genetic, whereas forms of society that aren’t focused on the evolutionary imperative to conserve the species at the expense of most individual members derive from reason, faith, or the imagination.

This explains why monarchies and aristocracies are conservative: they approximate the golden ideal of the dominance hierarchy that predates the radical departures of human sagacity. You have the top one percent of power elites who control most of the resources and who have access to the biologically-premium females, you have the peasant class of worker bees as well as the outcasts who live on the fringes of society (the heretics, the diseased, etc).

This also explains the conservatism of the Reagan/ Thatcher and Trump eras: the goal is to adapt to postindustrial opportunities to revert to a modern form of the natural dominance hierarchy, one run by economic chicanery rather than theological propaganda. So now we have plutocrats who appeal to economic pseudoscience rather than to the convenient fictions of the priest class, such as the just war theory or the divine right of kings; then there are the middleclass betas who follow the conventions that serve the power elites (the predatorial dominators at the apex of the power structure), and the powerless outsiders in the lower class, including the American whites left behind by neoliberal globalization who are busy drugging themselves to death and trying to take down the rest of America with them, by voting in Trump, the chaos agent.

The key point is that, as we can see from Marx and Debord, the ideological superstructure or “spectacle” supporting the “base” realities of how power and other natural resources are distributed shouldn’t be taken at face value in understanding the retrogressive function of conservatives. Theocrats and postindustrial plutocrats are one and the same, regardless of their vastly different noble lies (myths or other mass fictions, as Yuval Harari would put it): both are conservative in that their “philosophy” effectively opposes any systematic attempt to improve on the default way of maintaining social stability, the latter being the one that empowers the strongest members to dominate the majority, and that signals each member’s power status to avoid constant challenges that would threaten a retreat of the species.

Every innovation that prevents the power elites from dominating the majority with impunity is theoretically radical and progressive and thus subject to conservative backlash. The rule of law, for example, which equates the plutocrat with a homeless person, is at odds with the authoritarian exceptionalism you see in the likes of Nixon or Trump and in most other wealthy individuals who see themselves as being above the law because of their godlike power.

As for social conservatism, this is well-explained by Jonathan Haidt’s account of social intuitions. Haidt shows that liberals and conservatives differ in that while conservatives equally value care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity, liberals favour care, fairness, and liberty, but are indifferent to the others. Notice that loyalty, authority, and sanctity are the more primitive values that would be instrumental in cementing a genetic power hierarchy, whereas the liberal values of care, fairness, and liberty are radical in their egalitarian consequences.

So if we’re wondering why, for example, today’s conservative is opposed to gay rights or women’s reproductive rights, we should look at the matter through this prism. Gays and women are supposed to be subservient to the alpha male masters, according to the jungle norms. In the natural order of things, gays would be omega outcasts (since they violate the “sanctity” of the evolutionary imperative to procreate) and women would be unable to usurp the alpha male’s control over procreation. Regardless of the conservative’s rhetoric or limited self-understanding, the truly conservative views are those that would degrade civilization so that it more closely resembles a bestial power hierarchy, such as the pure forms you find in dictatorships, theocracies, religious cults, and the like.

The irony is that while conservatism is alleged to be preoccupied with lofty matters of theology, conservatives are effectively materialistic social Darwinians, and while liberalism is supposed to be godless, according to the culture war noise and confusion, the notion that some artificiality should be counted as progressive, for breaking away from a natural norm, requires the greatest leap of faith.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Ben Cain on May 21st, 2017, 12:10 pm 

SCOTT MAYERS: "Progressive Conservatives" were intended to reference Protestant Western Canadian conservatives as opposed to the Catholic [both Roman AND the 'Anglican' forms, where 'catholic' refers to a clergy of authority to the whole].

The 'progress' part was only to alter the British Imperial form.


Whatever the origin of "progressive conservative," that name functioned as Orwellian gibberish that encouraged the cynic's take on Canadian politics as being fit only for the micro-targeting of constituents. The idea is that Canadians have no culture or zeitgeist to motivate massive reforms of the neoliberal, technocratic status quo. Moreover, there's not enough money to be made in Canadian politics, because the Canadian system isn't sufficiently corrupt, so the talent goes elsewhere and Canada is left with politicians who couldn't apply large-scale mandates even if they were widely demanded. Therefore, philosophy and ideology are irrelevant in Canada, and this anti-intellectualism happened to be symbolized by the nothingness of "progressive conservative."

Instead of debating big ideas and challenges, Canadian politicians focus on policy details to win over key constituencies. This is the well-known sense in which Canadian politics is altogether boring, although the childish outbursts that are commonplace in Canada's House of Commons Question Period betray the conceit that Canada is indeed governed by dispassionate neoliberal technocrats.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Braininvat on May 21st, 2017, 12:40 pm 

Ben,

I believe it's important to look at the science that questions the existence of alphas in our species. This Guardian article (the second part, in particular) looks at the popular myth....

https://www.theguardian.com/science/brain-flapping/2016/oct/10/do-alpha-males-even-exist-donald-trump

Actual humans may not fit so neatly into the categories that your essay sets up. For example, not all conservatives are religious in the U.S., nor do all of them oppose gay rights or other social conservative agendas. Some choose a conservative ideology out of belief in economic freedom, e.g. less tax burden and paperwork for the small business or entrepreneur. Others are fearful of cultural invasions that they see as a threat to community safety. Others fear encroachments on land use rights. The politics of fear is often more powerful than the politics of social dominance. And quite varied in its focus, depending on who you talk to.

Nor do all liberals show indifference to sanctity. Jimmy Carter's compassionate Christian liberalism was distinctly different from that of your average Ivy League professor's liberalism. Most people, being more complex than baboons, are a blend of ideologies that may land in different places in the political spectrum.
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Re: What is a conservative?

Postby Ben Cain on May 21st, 2017, 1:51 pm 

Braininvat,

I agree that the human form of a dominance hierarchy would differ from the kind we see across the animal kingdom. That’s because the human brain can’t help but progress, thanks to its relative autonomy and lack of instinctive guidance. But I think the quasi-law of Oligarchy is instructive. Groups that attempt to maintain social equality tend to implode or to revert into organizations that centralize their power for the sake of easier management (e.g. the Soviet Union, communist China, religious cults). That centralized power naturally corrupts the leaders so that they come to resemble the animal alpha dominators. Those who can’t give up on their conscience and so who aren’t fit to rule a system with concentrated power tend to be content with their beta status, and so on.

What I mean, then, is that while language, reason, and human creativity do indeed make us anomalies, or “people” rather than animals, we still feel the inertia, as it were, that pulls us toward the social default in which our groups resemble the animal dominance hierarchies. Whether human alphas are exactly like the wolves who dominate their packs is neither here nor there. Only if the ethological alpha-beta-omega model were counterproductive in an explanation of human social dynamics would those differences be decisive. I believe, though, there’s a bounty of evidence to support the view that societies are formed largely by considerations of dominance. The brain, after all, is divided into the more rational, emotional, and reactionary parts, given its evolutionary origin.

Regarding the conservatives’ beliefs, as I said, I’d distinguish between what they say or claim to believe and what their statements and actions entail. For example, some may say they’re opposed to homosexuality for biblical reasons. To me, that means only that these conservatives are caught in the inertia towards animalism and lack self-awareness. They don’t understand that their religion is a fiction that was inspired by the revolutionary spiritualism of certain Jewish omegas (marginalized have-nots), but that came ironically to serve the very Roman Empire that the crazed omegas believed had oppressed them.

The myths of economic freedom or libertarianism likewise are caught in that inertia, since they lead inevitably to vast economic inequality, which once again corrupts the wealthy, turning them into predatory dominators who self-destructively hoard wealth and thus beg to be challenged for the sake of social stability. The philosophical justifications of libertarianism I take to be mere rationalizations. What matters is only the overall pattern: both theocratic and libertarian forms of conservatism tend to be anti-human (given that “Homo sapiens” has progressive connotations) in that they would have us behave more like the other animals instead of trusting in our anomalous creativity.

Whether it’s fear or authoritarianism that is the mechanism by which the conservative is caught by the inertia of reverting to our approximation of the default social order is likewise neither here nor there. Again, Haidt identified several intuitions which could serve just as well: loyalty, sanctity, etc. For example, animal tribes will be territorial to protect their power hierarchy; thus, they’ll be aggressive towards outsiders. Human xenophobia fits perfectly well into that animal pattern. Perhaps it’s more than xenophobia, though, because the outsiders really are inferior and they threaten our way of life. But that sort of basis for anti-immigration policy wouldn’t be particularly conservative, since a liberal could just as well subscribe to it on those empirical grounds. No, the conservative form of anti-immigration thrives on demonization, which shows that conservatism is regressive in the way I’ve outlined.

Regarding whether liberals can be religious, I haven’t given my full view of liberalism here (because the discussion is about conservatism). No doubt, Haidt could fudge and say liberals care less about certain values than do conservatives, not that they’re wholly indifferent to them. In any case, I don’t follow Haidt. I just think his model is useful in this context.
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