December 31, 2015

Even Those On The Side Of The Angels

who take too many shortcuts in pursuit of their goals often end up in a different place than they intended serving different ends than they hoped and may find that they have merely replaced the monsters they sought to vanquish.

Fallen Angel by Saburo's political, so below the fold it goes...
Neo-Neocon points out a piece by Sultan Knish that lays out the problem we're facing.

How do you uphold a liberal open system while fighting an illiberal left for control of it?

I strongly urge you to read the Knish piece in full.

He's talking about something that has had me worried for a while now. With the hard left in control of the press and given their near total dominance of the culture, the issue facing the conservatives is pretty stark. 

 As constitutionalists, and people who value institutions and traditions, our raison d'être is to see that the rules of society and, most importantly, the constitution are followed. The left seems unhindered by such considerations. 

 If the Republicans control the White House, the left proclaims that Congress is the true voice of the people and must be heeded while the guy in the White House is the next Hitler. If Democrats control the White House and Republicans control Congress, then we must all support "our president" and Congress is a bunch of obstructionist bigots fighting to bring back the Middle Ages.

If Democrats lose both, then the Supreme Court suddenly becomes the most legitimate institution. If they lose all three, then it's the heroic regulators, watchdogs and activist non-profits who matter.

The Senate was the House of the Lords, when it lacked a Democratic majority, but when Democrats held the Senate, but lost the House, suddenly the Senate was the voice of reason.

All of this amounts to the illiberal idea that an institution controlled by the left should be able to wield absolute power while institutions controlled by conservatives should not be allowed to wield any power at all. This illiberal contention is echoed by the entire opinion-shaping network of the left in the media and academia. And it is a shape-shifting tyranny in which the left is always in power.

Heads they win, tails we lose.

This is exacerbated by the fact that expressing support for leftist views can render one unimpeachable indeed the media and the powers that be are willing to look the other way regarding the most wicked behaviors by people in power until they stray from the narrative.   

There is an understandable urge on the right to throw out the rule book since it is only enforced against us, while our opponents are able to use the political equivalent of poison gas and Dum-Dum bullets


This is not irrational. However, the problem with this logic is that the rule book is the only thing that separates us from them. and the whole point of the exercise is to preserve those things that the Left is unhindered by. 

Of course the rebuttal to this idealism is that it may be a nice moral and ethical argument for the high road but it is in reality more appropriate to a faculty lounge (if a faculty lounge and a conservative were to somehow exist in the same time and place). The obvious counter argument is that a noble defeat is still a defeat, and defeat by totalitarians is often synonymous with oblivion.

However, this utilitarian line of reasoning is itself myopic. Leaving aside the "we must not become what we fight" argument, there is a strong practical reason not to do so. if we choose to disregard the constitution to facilitate the vanquishing of our foes then the constitution (and the rule of law it represents) is lost and the country descends into civil war with factions using any means necessary to bring down the other. Remember, Maximillian Robespierre started out as a libertarian and decided that to achieve true Libertarianism he needed to, well, adapt to the tactics of his opponents. That political tit for tat escalated quickly

The concepts that we on the right fight for are not matters of fashion. They are necessary to a free society and they and the societies they make possible are rare rays of sunshine in the dark corridors of history. Freedom of speech, Freedom of religion, the right not to have the government wield it'd regulatory power in the service of those it favors and against its political rivals. These would all have to tossed if we were to respond in kind.

There are other points of empirical evidence that going full Alinski is unwise as well as unethical. 

To the south of us are numerous nations that started out as republics very much like ours. At some point in their history most of them reached the point we are at and the factions vying for power threw out the rulebook in the name of expediency. The result is that with few exceptions those nations experienced or are experiencing death squads, juntas and most are, despite cosmetic trappings, governed like crime syndicates...this is non-conducive to a growing economy or physical safety and is why so many are fleeing here. That they know no other way of doing things is why our opponents are so anxious to get them on the voter rolls here. 

We therefore have empirical evidence that discarding our principles is unlikely to lead to anything good. However, history also shows that when the left gains total control then by definition the freedoms, institutions and legal principals of the enlightenment will be swept away. 

This means we have to do the difficult thing and win by persuasion...of an electorate that by design has not been taught civics. This will require iron spined devotion to principals and articulate explanation of why they are important.  
Knish again:
 Can you defeat that by winning elections and better messaging? Maybe. But so far Republicans haven't done it. They rarely even name the problem directly. And so it's unsurprising that they have lost the confidence of much of their own base. Or that confronting illiberalism with illiberalism is increasingly appealing to conservatives tired of empty promises and no results.

Thus we now have (as I type this) the Trumpen Proletariat.

Many are eager to point out that here is considerable overlap between some of Trump's supporters and those of people like Sarah Palin. Palin is the one most  mentioned because she gives the brahmin class hives in much the same way Trump does. However, Trump gives many conservatives hives for entirely different reasons. Despite the working class appeal which the left and establishment find so distasteful, there is a crucial difference between the two.. Palin's effort was about reform, fixing the system primarily by reigning in government overreach and fighting corruption. Given his proud declaration during the debate that he has given lots of money to politicians explicitly to grease the wheels of government in being more responsive to his needs, Trump's promise seems to be that he, being a competent, experienced and powerful member of the corrupt system, he will wield its power on behalf of his supporters rather than the other oligarchs it has heretofore been used in the service of. To the extent that there are Tea Party people and Palin supporters signing off on this, it indicates that a non trivial chunk of the electorate have given up hope that the system can be reformed. 

It seems more like the Republican nomination fight is between the anti-establishment Cruz and the anti-system Trump. In other words, Cruz believes our constitutional arrangements are basically sound but that the leadership class that manages those arrangements has got to go. Trump, on the other hand, seems to reject those arrangements altogether – Rich’s "post-constitutional” label, or even "post-republican” (small-r). Trump’s support comes from people who have given up on our existing "regime,” in the political science sense of the word. 
This is a grim omen for our civics. 

Note though, that there are some tenuous indications that Trump, despite his lead in the polls, may not do well in Iowa and New Hampshire so there is some hope that the right's standard bearer will not be a vindictive man whose only principal is power and who has a deep resentment of any legal restrictions on his using it improperly for his supporters and against his enemies...8 years of that have been quite enough. 

The question remains though that even if we can dodge the loose/loose proposition that is Trump VS Hilary, the civic structure of the nation must be rebuilt if we are to restore the republic. 

History, however, seems to indicate that the odds are not on our side.


Table from The Fate of Empires: The Search for Survival by Sir John Glubb Page 2. 

Most civilizations did not last much longer than ours and they tended to collapse when nobody expected it (except, occasionally, the cranks railing about the decadence and institutional deterioration). Ours, born of the enlightenment, is an aberration in the history of mankind. Only a handful of all of the civilizations that existed have gone down this most noble path. This stacks the deck against us further, but may offer a ray of hope as societies such as ours are outliers. Rome reinvented itself, albeit in a way we would not want to emulate and Venice lasted a thousand years until it fell to Jacobin fanaticism. So while current trends and history would seem to set far longer odds against or civilization's survival in the coming years than is widely supposed, those odds are not impossible, just long.

In the linked essay above, Sir John Glub points out that the most dynamic periods in history occur in those civilizations that have an exploration phase, so perhaps a holding action is all that's needed before today's pioneers open up new frontiers to either help Western civilization rejuvenate...or spark a beacon of freedom that will transcend us. 

In any event, despair is a sin, in part because it can lead to desperate people becoming the monsters they presume to slay.

So buck up...and don't sell out. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 06:58 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
Post contains 1704 words, total size 13 kb.

1 Couple of thoughts:

First, the thing about the hard left is that while they will form a circle and defend themselves from outside attacks no matter the truth of them, they will form a circular firing squad if they see dissent within the ranks.  If you can prod them in the right direction, the fireworks can be spectacular.

That's why they haven't ever managed to completely take over; they are all too ready to eat their own.

Second, those dates for the rise and fall of empires are, basically, garbage.  The Roman Entity lasted from 509 BC (the founding of the Republic) to 1453 AD (the last days of the Byzantine Empire).  That's nearly two thousand years.  Things were rather a mess after the Fourth Crusade in 1204, but even if we discount the Byzantine successor states and the re-establishment (and entirely ignoring the Holy Roman Empire and modern Italy) that's still 1700 years, not ~200.

For Greece he's only chosen the Hellenistic period, ignoring both the Classical and Roman periods (which three periods were culturally a single continuous civilization) and the whole Byzantine period, as well as the earlier Mycenaean and Minoan cultures (fair enough in that case; they essentially disappeared in the Bronze Age Collapse), and also the Archaic period, which presaged Classical Greece, and was a not inconsiderable, if rather loosely-organised, state.  The Archaic period ended with the Persian invasion - but the Greeks won that war, so that's hardly a reason to ignore it.

For Britain, he chooses the dates of 1700 to 1950.  But while the Acts of Union were passed in 1707, the kingdoms were united under a common monarch since 1603, and a unified England goes back to 1042 - albeit with one or two (or three) hiccups over the centuries.  Picking the dates for the rise and fall of Britain and ignoring both Elizabeths seems problematic.

I'm no expert on the Ottoman Empire, but given that it was one of the Central Powers in WWI, while it was certainly in decline by then (and had been for quite some time) I think an expiration date of 1570 is stretching the truth a little.

I think the predictive power of his model is limited at best.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sun Jan 3 09:49:09 2016 (PiXy!)

2 I've been arguing with a Bernie Sanders supporter for four days.  It really brings home how a person with no grounding in civics, physics, or logic would vote.  Not that I'm saying all Bernie supporters are like that.  I'm sure some of him actually like his record, or maybe just look at the rest of the field and say "what the hell."  But this is a kool-aid drinker.  This guy is one of the ones who thought Obama was Jesus, and now thinks it may actually be Bernie.

It's an incredibly superficial discussion compared to the content of this blog post, which was fascinating and thoughtful.

Oh, and I was going to post something similar to what Pixy did, although I think the discussion of when one would say Britain became truly representative in nature is debatable.  Interesting and worth the discussion, of course.

Posted by: Ben at Sun Jan 3 13:53:47 2016 (DRaH+)

3 Pixy, you are in Australia. You're looking at the chart upside down.
The chart and some made from it has been cropping up lately (usually unattributed) and has been referenced occasionally with the chants of "DOOM!" and "Lets cast aside the rules and go down fighting".
I think the possibility of a general collapse is greater than many suppose and more worrisome since the sort of enlightenment we grew out of is rare.  However I specifically wanted to use the pre-and post Rubicon Rome (and the omission of Venice) to debunk the notion that the 200-250 year lifespan is inevitable. 
On the other hand, all your points are valid Pixy. These are all specific political arraignments more akin to nation states than civilization itself. I swear I had one or two sentences  in there quibbling with Spain (which was bankrupt and virtually a spent force after the Armada but did not loose meaningful territory until the 1800s) and the UK, for which we probably should start the clock after the Fall of Cromwell though I've heard other places refer to "About 1700" for the start of the Empire...and I'd really draw the curtain just a bit later (at the Suez Crisis) for the point where keeping it up truly became impossible. 
The point you make regarding Eastern Rome is well taken and a lot of people agree with it. Although Byzantium was a distinct entity it was arguably only a bit more so than the Republic/Empire divide for Rome. On the other hand, as I point out, Rome reinvented itself and was certainly Rome before and after the Rubicon. 
With the exception of the Western Roman Empire none of those ended with the sort of calamitous dark age we associate with civilizational collapse (and even the chaos of the post Roman period is overblown) so civilizational collapse does not mean to him what it does to most people. 
The Mamelukes he mentions (as opposed to three other Mamelukes) were a sort of predecessor to the Ottomans trying to rebuild the Caliphate and based in Cairo...they were succeeded by what we call the Ottomans, though that is a western term and it refers to several dynasties. They were kind of like Spain in that they pretty much were a zombie empire after a debt crisis and military reversal, though I'd put the date at or around the siege of Vienna for their decline.
Persia should not be on the list at all. 
Sir Glub makes some good points, but that chart, while probably intended to be a conversation starter is counterproductive.  Using the criteria he does you could (with a few exceptions like the Yuan) be talking about Chinese dynasties but that wouldn't fit neatly into the time span Glub has chosen. On the other hand, using numbers that are not very close to the current age of the U.S.A. ie: 100-300 years would involve a TL;DR of a list.
No nation lasts forever but predestination is not a meaningful influence upon history unless a citizenry chooses to believe in it and give up.

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sun Jan 3 14:13:37 2016 (AaBUm)

4 The Tokugawa Shogunate began in 1603 and ended in 1868, 265 years.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Sun Jan 3 16:06:52 2016 (+rSRq)

5 China is a good counter-example - dynasties changed, but there's been a recognisable Chinese political entity for 4000 years.  Egypt is another counter example - 2800 years of self-rule across 31 dynasties (with a couple of Persian incursions and a mild case of Sea Peoples), and nearly 1000 years of Greco-Roman rule.

France in the late 18th and 19th centuries is an example in the other direction - the government was overthrown from without or within 9 to 12 times (depending on what you count) but at the end of it all, it was still France.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, though....  226 years.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sun Jan 3 18:28:47 2016 (PiXy!)

6 Anyway, I'd argue that Western civilisation is a single entity; and it's been continuously flourishing at least since 1543 despite the best efforts of various categories of barbarian along the way.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Sun Jan 3 18:39:19 2016 (PiXy!)

7 Although Russia cannot hold a handle to China in this regard, it existed as a nation since 988 A.D. or so, and continues to exist today. Although the Romanov dynasty only lasted for 234 years, the preceding dynasty, Ryuriks, lasted for 736 years (through the Mongol occupation, natch), and the Communist rule lasted for 74 years. So there is quite a range of numbers to pick.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Tue Jan 5 00:10:20 2016 (XOPVE)


That's only really true if you're taking the Duchy of Moscow to be "Russia". Russia in that era was like Germany, a lot of independent city-states who spoke the same language.

A lot of those city-states were annihilated by the Mongols and that left a power vacuum which the Duchy of Moscow capitalized (heh) on, but modern Russia as we know it doesn't go back that far AFAIK. I'd put the start at Peter the Great, myself.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Tue Jan 5 07:06:44 2016 (+rSRq)

9 Yep, which goes back to how arbitrary it becomes.  Except in cases like the fall of Rome or the Bronze Age Collapse, you have a lot of leeway about where you draw your lines, and your conclusions are only as good as your justifications for those lines.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wed Jan 6 05:52:21 2016 (PiXy!)

10 Jaques Barzun explicitly argued in From Dawn to Decadence that European or "Western" culture terminated with the long world war, and that we're in the early stages of a post-Western cultural moment.  That's a very Eurocentric point of view - he clearly didn't consider Americans to be part of "Western civilization" - but that list of "civilizations" or even "nations" is pretty dubious.  There was a Persia of some sort intermittently for two thousand years, a Rome of some sort for about as long, and Russia existed before the Romanovs and continued under communist bastards after the Romanovs were exterminated.  Culture is upstream from politics and all that.
And Japan's been in cultural existence forever and aye - the Tokugawa were a regime, not the nation.

Posted by: Mitch H. at Thu Jan 7 16:01:36 2016 (jwKxK)

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