Freedom and Tolerance

Zipppy and Franklin have been having it out in the discussion thread here.

Representative quote from Franklin:

 Zippy, I support your right to live without freedom if that is what you prefer. I support the right of people to live under whatever kind of culture they want. If you want a king, fine. If you want communism, fine. Just don’t impose your culture on me. The real difference between traditionalism and liberalism is that there are many different traditions and real traditionalism recognizes this and respects the rights of people to organize themselves around their own traditions.


Representative quote from Zippy:

It isn’t just my theoretical understanding of liberalism that makes “live and let live” classical liberalism (which you oddly label “traditionalism”) seem utopian and counterfactual. The actual track record of liberalism in the real world suggests otherwise too.

My response:

The modern condition is uncanny, and therefore accurate comparisons with the past can be difficult to make. In the past, man was less free in many ways, and more free in many ways. The modern man is—with certain glaring exceptions noted—more free in the non-physical realm, where he can generally choose his own epistemology, his own ethics and even his own metaphysics without lifting any eyebrows, but he cannot choose to install incandescent lightbulbs, to develop his land, or to hire whomever he wants. And, most importantly, he is not free to live well on account of living in a properly-ordered society.

Liberalism offers freedom, and it delivers a lot of it, but it fails to deliver what man needs most: order.

I side more with Zippy than with Franklin. A great nation needs a great purpose, not just a “live and let live” spirit. Moreover, tradition is to be valued because it connects us with truth, not just because it is our way.

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You need to be a Traditionalist Conservative

Introduction for the Orthosphere

I’ve been trying to perfect our basic recruitment poster. On the one hand, it’s hopelessly gauche to tell people that they ought to believe water is wet and pain hurts. On the other hand, the Rulers of the Modern World tell everybody that water is dry and that pain feels good, so somebody has to make a sales pitch for truth.

The other basic problem is that the Rulers lie about almost everything important, so it is tedious actually to correct all their lies. To keep the appeal brief enough to be appealing, I must speak in generalities.

Regular readers know that I tend to be verbose, especially on this subject. This post contains fewer than two thousand words, including these.

You need to be a Traditionalist Conservative

The modern world, the world in which you and I live, doesn’t work. It’s fundamentally broken.

To be sure, there is also much good in the world. Enough good that the world’s brokenness is often masked. But we cannot just ignore the bad. Indeed, the good serves to highlight the bad, and to serve as a hint of how we can oppose the bad.

You can sense the fundamental disorder of the world even if you cannot say in words just what is wrong. This is especially true if, like me, you are old enough to know how the world used to be ordered. Our ancestors lived under much better social orders, even though there has always been much wrong with mankind. In recent decades, though, Western Civilization has begun to unravel in a fundamental way not seen at least since the fall of the Roman Empire, and in many ways the unravelling is unprecedented. This unravelling is largely self-caused, as modern man has deliberately chosen to reject truth, goodness and beauty. Continue reading

Gene / Culture Devolution

Culture – memetic variation and selection – is the medium of Lamarckian evolution. Culture is the way that humans pass along acquired characteristics – learned ideas – to their fellows and heirs. And ideas have consequences. Our ideas shape how we live, and thus where, when, and how long we live, how many children we have and how we raise them, or not, how we coordinate our activities, and so forth. The structure of social coordination evolves.

As factors of prosperity and reproductive success, ideas have genetic consequences. And those genetic consequences feed back into the selection of cultural memes.

So there is coevolution of genes and culture. Men prosper in cultures to which they are physiologically well fitted, and cultures prosper among men who are physiologically equipped to enact their memes. Their physiological equipment includes the structure and organization of their nervous systems.

Men and women of a given thede, then, are likely to be better adapted physiologically to the cultural forms historically predominant in that thede. This is why Swedes do better than the Ik at Social Democracy.

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Literary Criticism without Literature

My title has two meanings. The first is that, since the 1980s at least, what calls itself literary criticism has consisted largely of abstract theory, most often concerned primarily with itself. An enterprise both gnostic and narcissistic, such criticism reduces ultimately to ideological formulas which, once pried free from the encrustation of verbiage, reveal themselves as the hoariest of political clichés, never out of daily use since 1848, which function mainly as group-identity noises. All contemporary critics are smarter than Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Dostoyevsky, but no one is smarter than le grand Jacques, Noam Chomsky, or Naomi Wolf. Although exiled to the periphery, actual criticism has continued to exist, but it is the tendentious type of discourse that has come to dominate the English and other literature departments over the last thirty years. The second meaning, the one that interests me in what follows, relates closely to the first.

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Paul Gottfried on the Contemporary Academy

Over at the website of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, the redoubtable Paul Gottfried provides commentary on the squishy totalitarianism of the contemporary academy and on the bland and careerist mentality that sustains it.  Gottfried writes:

As a student, I noticed that most of my teachers were immersed in books and ideas. They were genuinely in love with their disciplines and would spend their evenings and vacations pursuing their studies full-time. In college I majored with one professor who was a multilingual scholar in intellectual history. One of his books, which my mentor was too modest to discuss, was a study of the effects of Impressionist art on the prose style of Marcel Proust.

By contrast:

Some professors [today] strike me as men or women simply holding down ‘jobs’ without a deep commitment to learning as practice (in the Aristotelian sense). Others seemed to be not quite fully grown-up adults burdened with personal and emotional issues—people who didn’t fit into a bourgeois moral world and who were looking for an environment that they could mold to their proclivities.

Paul’s article is well worth reading.

H. G. Wells and Education: How Students Respond to Big Ideas

Wells 02

Posterity remembers Herbert George Wells (1866 – 1946) primarily as a novelist.  He came into public acclaim around the turn of the century on the basis of his “scientific romances” such as The War of the Worlds (1897), The First Men in the Moon (1901), and The War in the Air (1906), but he soon turned his attention to the social novel, demonstrating a talent similar to that of Charles Dickens in Kipps (1905), Tono-Bungay (1906), and The Undying Fire (1919).  Wells was one of the original public intellectuals of the mediated age, his voice familiar to listeners of the BBC, his visage familiar from newsreels.  He believed in the social efficacy of science and technology, called himself a socialist, adding that his vision of socialism was so far ahead of Marxism and Leninism that compared to him their adherents were living in the Stone Age.  In the monumental Experiment in Autobiography (1934), perhaps surprisingly, Wells tends to characterize almost all his activities under the heading of education – and he makes it clear that he thought of himself, no matter to what he put his hand, as above all an educator.  He wrote any number of explicitly pedagogical books.  The Outline of History (1919), A Short History of the World (1923), and The Work, Health, and Happiness of Mankind (1932) come to mind, the first two still useful today.  Wells’s first idea of a career, in his early twenties, was a school mastership.  He persevered through normal training and migrated through a number of appointments until the poverty of it irked him and he turned to writing.

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Advice to the Single Young Man


I argue here that most men should attempt to marry, for several basic reasons. First, marriage is necessary for the survival of a people. Second, men (and women) need to be a part of a good order if they are to live well and a good social order includes marriage. And three, men were designed for leadership, as they are more attuned to the practical application of truth and justice, and are more able to impose their will on a situation, than women are.

This essay does not refer much to Christianity. Of course, all men and women should be Christians. But that is a subject for other essays.


Throughout our Western Civilization there is a crisis of marriage. Not enough marriages occur. Homosexual pseudo-marriage is causing (and reflecting) extreme moral confusion and devaluing real marriage. Many people marry later in life than is healthy for them and for their children. Many fewer babies are born per woman (married or not) than is healthy for our nation. And many children are no longer raised properly, that is, with a father to provide masculine order and authority and a mother at home most of the time to supervise the children.

So what can be done to make things better? And who’s at fault?

The basic answer to the less important question, the second question, is this. In the immediate sense, and with exceptions acknowledged, it’s more the fault of women than of men. Men, by nature, are always seeking relationships with women, but women do not always seek relationships with men. Therefore womankind is always the ultimate factor determining whether relationship occurs.

But in a broader sense, marriage is in crisis because our entire society is in crisis. America is not a basically healthy nation in which, for some mysterious reason, marriage is failing. No, American society is fundamentally and radically disordered, and one manifestation of this disorder is that marriage is generally no longer done correctly, or even adequately. The proper way to do marriage is rarely taught, and when it is, the teaching is often rejected. Continue reading

Dow 16K: Fake or Real?

Speaking as an investment professional of three decades - not, NB, as a prognosticator (we ought all to heed the OT condemnations of sorcery and divination) – the 16K DJI does not seem to me to be quite wholly a case of irrational exuberance, in that I can see a reasonable argument for it. As Proph recently wrote to me:

So maybe the best we could say is that the [financial markets are] completely rational given the complete irrationality of the prejudices of the age?

Yes. Included in the information processing system of the species – of which the financial markets are an important organ – are all the defects thereof.

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Repost: What to Say to the Leftist Gestapo

[Continuing my occasional series of reposts of articles published at the old Intellectual Conservative, which fell victim to evil leftist hackers.]


Western Civilization is under the rule of the Left, and persons formally accused of “intolerance” (impiety towards liberalism) face serious persecution if convicted. Indeed, even the accusation can bring significant hardship. What can we do to defend ourselves against the Leftist Gestapo?

By way of illustration, consider the following scenario:

Liberal Commissar (LC) We have a complaint from a person who shall remain anonymous that, in his or her presence, you said things intolerant of [insert one of the following: homosexuals, “undocumented” persons, nonwhites, women, non-Christians, et al.]

Non-Liberal Person  (NLP) Did I?

LC: You must take these proceedings seriously!  It is alleged that you said [insert nonliberal, “intolerant” expression.]  Did you say that?

NLP: I may have said something like that. Continue reading

Why all the Self-Esteem Talk?

My area of the country has an FM music station that advertises itself as “family-friendly.” It plays nothing but the latest Christian rock songs and although it has no commercials, it intersperses the music with vaguely Christianoid happy talk. Apparently it is sponsored by a consortium of Evangelical churches. The rest of my family enjoys it to a certain extent, so I have no choice but to listen from time to time.

One day, I heard one of their station breaks say approximately the following:

Children love it when their parents tell them how great they are! Call us and record an affirmation of your child that we can broadcast, and don’t forget to build up your child today by telling him how great he is!

Certainly it is good to commend your child for a job well done. And parents should generally be positive toward their children. But there is no mention here of waiting for the child to do something praiseworthy. Just tell them they’re great, out of the blue.

Typical postmodern drivel, but it caused me to consider why self-esteem has caught on as one of the important concepts of our age. I think one reason is that modern life is officially nihilistic—albeit nihilism with a happy face painted on it—and naturally children respond with despair, at least when they grow old enough to notice the nihilism. Continue reading