Tuesday, December 15, 2020
“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.”
“If farming were to be organised like the stock market, a farmer would sell his farm in the morning when it was raining, only to buy it back in the afternoon when the sun came out.”
“I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself is in many ways extremely objectionable.”
“Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians, the last of the Babylonians and Sumerians, the last great mind that looked out on the visible and intellectual world with the same eyes as those who began to build our intellectual inheritance rather less than 10,000 years ago.”
“The power to become habituated to his surroundings and therefore to no longer be grateful for what is good in it is a marked characteristic of mankind and needs to be fought against if a person is to be happy.”
“If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.”
“Everything is always decided for reasons other than the real merits of the case.”
Friday, December 4, 2020
Now first the disclaimers. Of course there are good books and bad books. There are great paintings and there are lousy paintings. There are movies that are complex and sophisticated and there are movies that are mindless entertainment. Some cultural products really are trashy. Some really are great (although it has to be said that these judgments are essentially subjective).
But cultural judgments are not just judgments about culture. They are judgments about people. Trash culture is a term that means culture that I personally dislike, but more especially it means culture that is liked by people whom I personally dislike, or disapprove of.
There is also a very large class content. The type of culture that you like is a powerful class marker. “High culture” is popular with intellectuals and people with college degrees and people who are wealthy so it doesn’t get called trash culture. Only the stuff that ordinary people enjoy (including people without college degrees and even, horror of horrors, poor people) gets labelled as trash culture.
The term “trash culture” is a weapon that is used to denigrate anything that the wrong sort of people enjoy.
In actual fact most “high culture” of the past century (poetry, painting, “serious” music, “literary fiction”) is much more worthless, degraded, infantile, offensive and incompetently executed than most pop culture of the past century. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that “high culture” is liked by the right sort of people. Pop culture is liked by the wrong sort of people. When pop culture is liked by people who are especially reprehensible (for example working-class people) it becomes trash culture.
There’s also increasingly a political dimension. Trash culture is often culture that is liked by people with unacceptable political or social beliefs.
It’s not really acceptable even today for people to consider themselves to be better than other people because they’re richer or more educated but rich highly educated people do think of themselves as being better. Cultural judgments are a convenient way to express that belief.
Saturday, November 28, 2020
The composition of the elites changes constantly. In the 19th century the old landed elites gave way to the new moneyed industrial elites. The 20th century saw the rise of the managerial/technocratic elites, and later the media/entertainment elites. More recently we’ve seen the meteoric rise of the IT elites.
In the mid-20th century the capitalist elites were still largely drawn from the ranks of industrial capitalism. Today they are much more likely to be drawn from the world of financial capitalism.
In the Anglosphere until the 1970s the elites were still predominantly WASP (with a large admixture of Jews in the US). Today that’s not so much the case. The elites of today are also a lot less heterosexual. The immense power of the LGBT lobby is a direct result of massive elite support. While the real capitalist elites (the people with really serious money and power) are still predominantly male the managerial/technocratic and media/entertainment elites are increasingly female.
As the nature and composition of the elite class changes the agenda of the elites changes as well. Or rather the agendas. While the main agenda (holding on to money and power) remains constant there are numerous secondary agendas (feminist, environmentalist, LGBT and Woke agendas). The secondary agendas are in many cases simply useful tools to maintain elite money and power but we should not assume that ideological agendas are not important to at least some elite factions.
Globalism might appear to be one unifying agenda of the elites but globalism means different things to different factions within the elites. Some of the ideologically driven elites might really believe in the internationalist ideals that they publicly espouse but for most of the bureaucratic and political elites in the US (and for the military-industrial complex) globalism just means global American hegemony. And for much of the media/entertainment elites globalism means global American cultural hegemony. For most of the elites (including virtually all of the industrial-financial elites) environmentalism means helping themselves to lots of taxpayers’ money, for some it means power and for some (particularly the the media/entertainment and IT elites) it’s a genuine ideological position.
The elites of today are quite different from the elites of the 1950s, or even the 1980s. And the nature and composition of the elites will continue to change, not necessarily in ways that we can easily predict. And the agendas of the elites will change as well.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
“Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.”
“If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.”
“I have noticed that nothing I never said ever did me any harm.”
“Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.”
“When people are bewildered they tend to become credulous.”
“It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.”
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
“There are two problems in my life. The political ones are insoluble and the economic ones are incomprehensible.”
“Oh God, if there be cricket in heaven, let there also be rain.”
"I'm not particularly attracted by confrontations of personality. If we aren't careful we'll get a sort of 'Top of the Pops' contest. I daresay I should win it. But at any rate, I'm not very much attracted by this because you'll then get the best actor as leader of the country, and the actor will be prompted by a scriptwriter. I'd rather have our old ways really and put our policies firmly in front of our people."
Sunday, November 1, 2020
If you look back at political battles in the West they were not always seen in these terms. A century or so ago there were passionate and sometimes bitter arguments in British politics on the issue of Free Trade vs Protectionism but neither side actually believed their opponents were evil. Today every political disagreement gets reduced to good vs evil terms. We have lost the ability to see that sometimes our political/ideological opponents simply disagree with us.
There are of course some ideological struggles in which one side’s views are so extreme, so destructive or so driven by hatred that if put into practice those views would lead to evil results. The point I’m making is that we need to avoid seeing every single political disagreement in those terms.
We also need to realise that our political opponents are not necessarily wrong about everything. We may feel that in general their views are mistaken, wrong-headed, misguided, foolish and likely to lead to very poor outcomes but we need to consider the possibility that on some issues they may have a point.
It is neither healthy nor helpful for people on the Left to see everyone on the Right as being an evil white supremacist fascist. It is also neither healthy nor helpful for people on the Right to see everyone on the Left as being an evil commie Bolshevik. (At this stage I’m not interesting in re-opening the argument that left and right no longer mean anything, I’m just using those terms as they are generally used).
Most ideologies are partially valid and partially invalid. Whatever the ideology might be (liberalism, libertarianism, feminism, social conservatism, communism, fascism, etc etc) its adherents are very rarely right about everything, and very rarely wrong about everything. Some ideologies might be wrong about most things (I think feminism falls into this category) but they’re unlikely to be wrong about absolutely everything.
Even environmentalists (whom I generally despise) have not been wrong about everything. They were correct when they claimed that air pollution was a major problem and when they forced auto manufacturers to make car engines cleaner and less polluting. We now have cleaner air than we had half a century ago and that has been a definite benefit.
The Right may have been correct back in the 60s in claiming that unions had too much power, but the Left was correct in maintaining that destroying the unions would be a seriously bad idea.
We also need to consider the possibility that even when our opponents hold beliefs that we might consider to be catastrophically and bizarrely mistaken they might not necessarily believe those things because they’re evil people. In some cases they might actually be evil people, but not always.
I’m not suggesting that all ideologies and all beliefs are equal. I’m just suggesting that seeing one’s political opponents as evil or completely stupid is not always helpful.
Friday, October 16, 2020
I would like to suggest that maybe the solution to such puzzles is that the elites do not represent a single well-defined entity with a clear-cut agenda and a clear-cut ideological position. Maybe the elites are not monolithic.
Maybe the elites are actually divided into multiple factions all with different agendas, and are united only by their desire to maintain elite power and by their fear of losing that power.
There seem to be members of the elites who subscribe to doomsday environmentalist beliefs (OMG the planet will die unless we reduce world population by 90%!) but they’re just one small faction. The majority view within the elites seems to be that capitalism requires a continually increasing population. There are members of the elites who would like to see the UN become a world government, but there are others who want a global American Empire run entirely from Washington.
There are members of the elites who care about nothing but corporate profits. There are others who are ideologically motivated and want to socially engineer a perfect world. There are members of the elites who are True Believers in the LGBT and feminist agendas while there are others who see those ideologies merely as tools to maintain their power by divide-and-conquer tactics.
There are members of the elites who would like to see totally unfettered free markets, while there are others who favour rule by massive bureaucracies.
Maybe we’re not dealing with a single vast conspiracy but with half a dozen or more elite factions all pursuing their own goals.
Perhaps the elites never have been monolithic. To take the 19th century English elites as an example, they included some pretty nasty types but they also included do-gooders who had genuine concerns for the poor and they included cynics who recognised that it was advisable not to make the lives of the poor too miserable. Churchill is a good example. Winston Churchill was one of the most vicious, cynical, dishonest men who ever walked the Earth but he was a strong believer in social programs to help the poor because he believed that that was the only way to avoid a socialist revolution which would have ended with people like Winston Churchill hanging from lamp-posts.
I think it’s true of our modern elites as well. Some are psychotic monsters. Some are well-intentioned but misguided. Some genuinely believe their social engineering projects will make society better. Some are motivated by a desire to avoid getting lined up against a wall and shot.
The elites are a coalition of interest groups with widely varying agendas. Some of those agendas are pure evil (such as the neocon agenda), but some are paternalistic and in their own way well-meaning. Some of the elites are simply old-fashioned American imperialists. Some are sincere internationalists. Some are motivated by pure greed while others are ideologically motivated. Some are motivated by hate and some by fear. Some are egotists who want to be seen as saviours. Some are completely decadent (such as those pushing the LGBT agenda), some are idealists.
It’s just a theory of course.
Monday, October 12, 2020
An alternative explanation would be that the Cultural Revolution was largely a spontaneous phenomenon, possibly the inevitable result of things like the decline of Christianity, urbanisation, mass media, etc. The ruling class took the opportunity to profit from the Cultural Revolution but in this scenario they were not responsible for creating it.
There is a third possibility - that the ruling class unleashed the Cultural Revolution but then lost control of it. In this scenario they failed to anticipate that ideologies such as feminism and Gay Liberation were going to attract a sizeable number of highly unstable, and in many cases mentally ill, people. Such people are very difficult to control. The end result was that these ideologies rapidly became much more radical than the ruling class had expected (or hoped). These ideologies developed their own momentum and Woke Capital simply decided that the safest course of action was to go along with them.
The elites may no be smart as they think they are (or as we often think they are). They’re not Bond villains. They’re not criminal geniuses. They’re motivated by greed, fear and a desire for power. They’re often surprisingly mediocre people. You don’t necessarily gain power and wealth by being smart - you just need to be focused, ruthless and have no ethics.
There’s also the question of the motivation of the mainstream political parties. To what extent are politicians (on both the “left” and the “right”) True Believers in Social Justice and Wokeism and to what extent are they merely cynical and cowardly? You have to ask yourself whether the average politician has any actual principles at all. Are they merely whores?
This also applies to journalists, who are definitely whores. Are journalists Woke simply because that’s the best way to keep their jobs?
It is possible that nobody is actually controlling the Cultural Revolution. Maybe nobody ever was controlling it, or maybe certain groups were controlling it but they have hopelessly lost control.
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Before social conservatives start hailing this as a good thing they might want to reflect on the fact that it’s now effectively illegal to do anything indoors with someone who isn’t an established partner. So if you go on a date don’t even thinking about inviting the other person in for a cup of cocoa. Even if drinking cocoa is all you’re intending to do it’s still illegal. Which is going to make it difficult for people to do things that social conservatives approve of - things like meeting someone, falling in love and getting married.
Dating will have to be done outdoors. Just to be on the safe side it might be advisable to have a policeman on hand to make sure you’re not tempted to break any laws (by for example deciding to go indoors to get out of the rain).
These laws don’t go far enough for some people. The Terrence Higgins Trust advises people to avoid kissing or any face-to-face contact. Obviously you need to wear a mask when having sex. Apparently this organisation believes that the only real form of safe sex is with yourself.
So remember, if you suspect that someone is having indoors sex (or having indoors cups of cocoa) with a non-established partner you should call a policeman immediately.
Totalitarianism seems to be progressing quite nicely in Britain. All this is of course happening not under an evil communist Labour government but under a Tory government.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
So far pro-natalist policies have been abject failures so this seems to me to be a pretty valid question.
If they do continue to fail there would seem to be three options.
Since sub-Saharan Africa is just about the only place that still has high fertility rates option one would be for other countries to make up their population shortfalls by means of massive, sustained, almost certainly permanent, very high levels of immigration from that part of the world.
Option two would be to simply accept rapidly and drastically declining populations. This is already happening in the Baltic states. The population of Latvia has declined by 18% in the past twenty years. The other Baltic states are also disappearing nations. Emigration is a major factor but the rate of natural decrease is enough to doom these nations.
Can any nation survive such rapid population decline? Is it possible for any capitalist economy to adapt to a world of rapidly shrinking markets? We may be about to find out.
The third option is to get the Central London Hatchery up and running as quickly as possible. Millions of babies grown in artificial wombs and raised in state-run institutions. Or, even more horrifyingly, in privately-run for-profit child farms.
I said there were options. I didn’t say that any of those options would be attractive. As Huxley said, you pays your money and you takes your choice.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
“The press today is an army with carefully organized weapons, the journalists its officers, the readers its soldiers. The reader neither knows nor is supposed to know the purposes for which he is used and the role he is to play.” - Oswald Spengler
“Optimism is cowardice.” - Oswald Spengler
“One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be — though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain — because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone.” - Oswald Spengler
“When three liberals get together they form a new party; that is their idea of individualism. They never join a bowling club without introducing as part of the 'agenda' an 'amendment of the statutes.” - Oswald Spengler
“All world-improvers are Socialists. And consequently there are no Classical world-improvers.” - Oswald Spengler
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Starting in the late 60s the parties of the Left throughout the West abandoned left-wing politics. They embraced capitalism and they abandoned any thoughts of challenging capitalism. They adopted the economic policies of the Right. By the 90s the economic policies of the parties of the Left and the Right were effectively indistinguishable.
Politics came to an end. There have been no political debates for decades. Political debates used to be about things like whether certain industries should be nationalised, about how much protectionism was needed for industry, about the rôle of trade unions, about the degree of regulation of the banking sector that was needed and about whether government spending should be increased or decreased. Nobody debates such issues any more. Politics no longer exists.
This was a problem. If there’s no politics there’s no need for politicians. So a new kind of politics emerged. Politics was now about social issues which nobody in a sane society would regard as political issues.
When politics changed to being all about social and cultural issues the inevitable end result was that absolutely everything, except economics, became a political issue. What are the burning political issues today? Obviously the weather. Any opinion on the weather is now a political opinion. Medicine is a political issue. How you respond to an outbreak of disease has nothing to do with medicine or science and everything to do with politics. Science is all about politics. Marriage is a key political issue. Sex is a key political issue. Food is a political issue - if you eat meat you’re committing a political act and if you don’t eat meat you’re committing a political act. Obesity is a political issue. Race is a political issue. Popular culture is a political issue. Beauty is a political issue - if you compliment a woman on her looks you’re committing a political act and if you fail to compliment her on her looks you’re committing a political act. Fashion is political. Religion is no longer about religion, it’s a political issue.
Of course if something is a political issue that means the government should do something about it. The government should pass laws, and those laws should be enforced. If every opinion is a political opinion then it is up to those in charge (which means governments and large corporations) to ensure that everybody holds the correct opinion. If you believe that men and women are different you are a political dissident and your mistaken opinion must be corrected.
No-one realised it at the time but the inevitable result of the political revolution was always going to be totalitarianism. If every opinion is a political opinion then people’s opinions are no longer their own business. They are everybody’s business. And it is the duty of every citizen to hold the correct opinions. It is only right and proper that people holding incorrect opinions should be punished. Views on how the punishments should be carried out vary. In Britain the solution is to put people with wrong opinions in prison. The British police are now the Thought Police. In the United States the First Amendment makes that difficult but a solution has been found - large corporations take on the rôle of the Thought Police and people with wrong opinions are not imprisoned, they merely have their livelihoods taken away from them and their lives destroyed.
All of this is the result of the death of the Old Politics and its replacement by the New Politics. The result has been very satisfactory indeed from the point of view of politicians and the corporate sector.
The young have embraced the New Politics with enthusiasm. Young people are only too happy to act as volunteer auxiliary thought police. Enforcing the correct opinions gives them a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Never underestimate the appeal to the young of self-righteousness.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
An idea that has become quite popular is that traditionalists should form small localised communities, largely self-sufficient and isolated from the rest of society. These would be like safe harbours in which traditionalists can pursue their lifestyle and practise their beefs sheltered from the storms of the outside world.
But as Mark points out, “Such communities won't survive the larger trends within society without clarity of principle, i.e. without firmly establishing an alternative ethos or ‘metanarrative’ that can be embedded within its culture.”
A point with which I heartily agree. My post today is largely an expanded version of a comment I left there.
One problem that is often overlooked is that that alternative ethos needs to be something that will attract genuine voluntary support from the members of such communities. The ethos has to be something that will engender genuine enthusiasm. It must capture people's imaginations. It cannot be imposed by force - this point cannot be emphasised too strongly. The members of those local communities have to want to embrace that ethos.
This applies particularly the young. If young people are not excited by it then they will abandon it. For a very long time young people have in fact done just that - they have voted with their feet and they have voted against traditional communities.
The Amish are a good example. They appear to be a success story but in fact a very large proportion of their children turn their backs on the Amish lifestyle, the Amish beliefs, the Amish ethos if you like. The only reason the Amish continue to increase in numbers is because they have such enormous numbers of children. You can afford to lose a third or even a half of each new generation if every couple has at least six kids. But how many traditionalist communities can sustain such birth rates in the long term?
And that alternative ethos also has to be something that enthuses women.
That's why liberalism has been so successful - it's something that is so very appealing to young people. To young people traditionalism seems boring and oppressive. To women traditionalism seems stifling. Somehow a way has to be found to change those perceptions.
The weakness of the "traditionalist local communities" concept is that I just do not think they will easily be able to offer a vision of society that is going to maintain the allegiance of the young, or the allegiance of women. And they will not be able to command the allegiance of the young and of women unless women and the young can be persuaded to offer that allegiance willingly and with enthusiasm.
All traditionalist societies in the modern world (including even Islamic communities) face this problem - a large proportion of their young people cannot wait to escape from such communities. They just cannot compete with the appeal of liberalism.
I think it needs to be accepted that you cannot recreate the past. You cannot go back to the way society was in the Middle Ages, or the 17th century, or the 19th century or even the 1950s. Too many irreversible changes have happened since those times. Urbanisation is an obvious example - traditionalism works for small rural communities but how is it going to work in an increasingly urbanised world? How is it going to adapt to the technological changes that we have seen? A traditionalist society that turns its back on technology is going to run into problems. How can traditionalism work in an age of mass education and mass media, and social media? Can traditionalism co-exist with capitalism? Or democracy?
There have also been social changes that are probably irreversible. Are people today, especially young people and women, going to accept a complete return to the Christian sexual morality of the past?
Traditional societies were and are heavily based on religion. Which means you need a religion that will command people’s enthusiasm. Is Christianity up to the job?
I’m not suggesting that traditionalists should give up. We can learn from the past and we can learn from traditional societies but we have to adapt traditionalist beliefs to a changed world. We have to take from traditionalism those things that will still work. And perhaps abandon those elements which clearly will not work.
It may sound perverse but perhaps we need a forward-looking traditionalism?
Sunday, August 23, 2020
The reason for this is simple. In a democracy everything eventually becomes political. Every opinion becomes a political opinion. Every aspect of life becomes a political issue. When something becomes a political issue people expect the government to do something about it. And governments doing something always ends up meaning governments passing more laws, introducing more regulations, establishing more statutory authorities, giving the police and the courts more powers. Our freedom to make our own decisions and to make up our own minds is further restricted.
There are plenty of examples. In the late 19th century many people, particularly in the U.S. and particularly Christians and feminists, were becoming more and more concerned about alcohol. Had it been merely a matter of people expressing their view that alcohol was a social problem and that maybe people should drink less it would have been no problem. But that’s not what happened. It became a political issue. The Progressives of the day latched onto it. There were demands that the government should do something about it. And the government did do something about it. The government introduced Prohibition. Whether you think alcohol is a good thing or a bad thing there’s no question that Prohibition was a disaster.
This was the first example of health becoming a political issue. There have been countless further examples since then. Today there are people who believe the government should ban sugar. There are people who see obesity as a political issue that the government should do something about. We are moving towards a situation in which people think it right and proper for governments to tell us what to eat, and how much we should eat. Democracy inevitably leads to a nanny state.
Sex became a political issue in the 19th century. This was another consequence of democracy. The Victorians may have been sexually repressed, they may have had severe views on the subject of sexual immorality, but at the beginning of the Victorian era there were surprisingly few actual laws dealing with sex. Sexual morality was seen as a matter that was best dealt with by churches, by communities, and by parents. As democracy advanced over the course of the 19th century sex became more and more a matter for government.
When motion pictures became popular the first thing governments did in democratic countries was to start censoring them. Even in the U.S. this happened. Despite the First Amendment numerous states established state censorship boards to censor movies. In a democracy censorship becomes a political issue and even when that country has a constitution that prevents censorship governments will find a way. In 1940 sixteen paintings by the famous Australian artist Norman Lindsay were seized and burnt by U.S. government officials.
Opinions have also become political issues. In the early 19th century when western countries such as Britain were most certainly not democratic there were lots of opinions that were not socially acceptable but nobody could prevent you from holding those opinions. Today, in our democratic world, holding the wrong opinions can destroy your life.
Ironically while democracies tend to become more and more totalitarian dictatorships seem to become progressively less oppressive over time. No matter what you think of communism it can’t be denied that the Soviet Union under Brezhnev was less oppressive that the Soviet Union under Lenin or Stalin. By the 1960s Francoist Spain was still authoritarian but it had become a relatively easy-going authoritarian state. It may be in the nature of dictatorships to become less totalitarian while it’s in the nature of democracies to become steadily more totalitarian.
Maybe you can have freedom or democracy but you can’t have both. Democracy may simply be incompatible with freedom.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
“You have to accept the fact that part of the sizzle of sex comes from the danger of sex. You can be overpowered.” - Camille Paglia
“Feminism has become a catch-all vegetable drawer where bunches of clingy sob sisters can store their moldy neuroses. - Camille Paglia
“Television is actually closer to reality than anything in books. The madness of TV is the madness of human life. - Camille Paglia
“Leaving sex to the feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist. - Camille Paglia
“Manhood coerced into sensitivity is no manhood at all. - Camille Paglia
“Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. None of their pain or achievement is registered in feminist rhetoric, which portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters. - Camille Paglia
“In the real world, very smart people fail and mediocre people rise. Part of what makes people fail or succeed are skills that have nothing to do with IQ. Also, the idea that intelligence can be gauged by an IQ test is erroneous. - Camille Paglia
“If someone offends you by speech, you must learn to defend yourself by speech. - Camille Paglia
Monday, August 10, 2020
Propaganda and outright lying are part and parcel of the modern world. There never was a golden age in which politicians didn’t lie. There never was a golden age in which journalists were courageous advocates for the truth. From the beginnings of democracy politicians have lied. Mass media always was propaganda. Newspapers in the 19th century were as politically biased as mass media outlets of today.
What has changed is that politics has expanded to encompass the whole of life. The weather is a political issue. If you remark that yesterday was warm for this time of year you are making a political statement. Sex is political. Sexual attraction is political. If you remarks that a young woman has a nice figure you’re making a political statement (and you’re oppressing women). Marriage is political. If you’re unwise enough to reassure a young woman that one day she’ll find the right man to marry you’re making a political statement (and you’re being a heteronormative oppressor). If, God forbid, you make a remark about women giving birth you’re making a political statement (men can give birth too, bigot). Biology is political. Science is political. Medicine is political. Religion is political. Everything is political.
Which means there is more propaganda than ever before.
Most people understand this but most people are extremely reluctant to admit that their own side engages in propaganda. Liberals are convinced that propaganda is something that conservatives do and conservatives obsess over what they see as liberal propaganda in the media while being unwilling to admit that their side uses propaganda as well.
The far right obsesses over propaganda in the mainstream media while being unwilling to admit that the right-wing alternative media is all propaganda as well.
As far as COVID-19 is concerned just about everything that both the pro-lockdown and anti-lockdown factions say is little more than propaganda but neither side will admit it. The same goes for climate change. And immigration.
If the subject is Russia or China then again both the pro and con cases are almost entirely propaganda. It’s also safe to say that if Islam or the Catholic Church is being discussed the discussion will in fact be nothing more than both sides presenting their own propaganda.
The most important thing you have to keep always in mind is that your own side is lying to you as well. Your political enemies are certainly indulging in propaganda, but so are your political allies. If there’s an election in the offing you can certainly assume that the candidate you dislike will be lying, but the candidate you favour will be lying as well.
Since everything is now political it naturally follows that every story in the media will be a mixture of lies, distortions, exaggerations and misinformation. It makes no difference whether it’s a right-wing or a left-wing media outlet or whether it’s the mainstream media or the alternative media.
It’s depressing, but all you can is to cultivate a healthy scepticism. Whatever is being said you have to ask yourself whether the person saying it has a political agenda (which is almost certainly the case) and if so what that agenda is.
Sunday, August 9, 2020
It’s an article of faith for the modern Right that class no longer matters. Curiously enough that view is mostly shared by the modern Left (or at the least the entity that today calls itself the Left). That the Right and the Left agree that there is no class struggle any more is not surprising since the modern Left and Right share almost identical views on economic matters.
The idea that society is divided into the exploiters and the exploited still persists on the Left, but they insist that this no longer has anything to do with class. We’re told that society is no longer divided along class lines but along racial and ethnic lines. Whites are the exploiters and non-whites are the exploited. Feminists on the other hand insist that men are the exploiters and women the exploited. There’s also the newly fashionable idea the the exploiters are those who cling to outdated gender binary ideas (such as the notion that people are divided into men and women).
Another curiosity of the modern world is that the far Right to a large extent shares these views, the only difference being that they think it’s whites and men who are the exploited.
The truth of course is that class warfare is still with us, but the old-fashioned Marxist view of class really is outdated.
Michael Lind has come up with some theories that are interesting attempts to grapple with the new realities. His blog post The Double Horseshoe Theory of Class Politics is pleasingly brief and clear and it’s worth a read.
Friday, July 31, 2020
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Friday, June 26, 2020
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
First off, I wasn’t talking about the Democratic Party (I’m sure they’d like to beat Trump or at least most of them would). I was talking abut the Cultural Left (or the Social Justice Left if you prefer) in a much broader sense, and in particular about the more extreme elements in the Cultural Left/Social Justice Left. The Social Justice Left really doesn’t care about elections and this is something that the Right (and social conservatives even more so) has persistently failed to understand.
The Social Justice Left sees elections as largely irrelevant. They do not believe in the power of the ballot box (which is something the Right clings to desperately). The Social Justice Left believes that if you change the culture, and control the culture, political power will eventually follow. But in the short to medium term it’s cultural power that is the big prize, not political power as such. They believe that politics is downstream from culture.
Their method has been to infiltrate cultural institutions (media, the universities, schools) to gain cultural power, and to apply pressure (by means other than the ballot box) on politicians, bureaucrats, businesses and cultural institutions in order to achieve their goals. In the United States they have also used the courts. They can do this because they have so much power in the universities that they can ensure that graduates of law schools are thoroughly steeped in their Social Justice ideology.
They can do these things regardless of which party is in office.
The Cultural Revolution began in the 1960s. At that stage the cutting edge of the Cultural Revolution was represented by Second Wave feminism, Gay Liberation, Black Power and the push to overturn censorship (whether government censorship or in the case of Hollywood industry censorship). These movements really established themselves during the Nixon and Ford Administrations. The fact that there was a Republican in the White House was a matter of no concern whatsoever. The election of the Conservative Party in Britain in 1970 was also a matter of no concern. In Australia the election of a conservative government in 1975 was similarly irrelevant to them.
As the Cultural Revolution continued to gather steam the elections of right-wing governments in Britain under Thatcher, in the U.S. under Reagan and (slightly later under John Howard in Australia) presented no obstacles. The power of the Social Justice Left grew steadily and inexorably. In the 21st century the Social Justice Left has actually made even more progress under right-wing governments.
Of course one of the reasons for all this is that right-wing governments have been so obsessed with economic issues that the Social Justice Left can rely on them to offer little or no opposition to their social and cultural agendas. This has allowed the Social Justice Left to prosper under such governments.
The Social Justice Left wants us to think that they passionately hate people like Trump but having someone to hate is too valuable a commodity to give up.
Monday, June 22, 2020
Sunday, June 21, 2020
Sunday, June 14, 2020
"We see things as we are, not as they are." - Leo Rosten
“If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.” - Genghis Khan
“If you're afraid - don't do it, - if you're doing it - don't be afraid!” - Genghis Khan
“Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.” - Genghis Khan
Friday, June 12, 2020
Personally I don’t think it’s any of those things. Most of the conspiracy theory explanation don’t make any sense. The protests are if anything harming globalism. They’re too half-assed and disorganised to be any kind of revolution. The protests are being backed by big business so there’s certainly no communist plot. And they will hurt Biden’s chances rather than Trump’s. In fact I can’t really think of any sinister shadowy conspiratorial group that is likely to be benefit. Even the neocons, who really do organise revolutions, won’t benefit - the protests are a distraction from their plans for war with Iran, war with Russia, war with China or war with anyone else with who happens to be their current Existential Enemy of the Week.
My feeling is that they’re partly a result of the trend towards emotionalism and hysteria that has been happening in the West since 1945, and especially in the United States (a trend which is probably an inevitable result of mass media, democracy and too much education in nonsense disciplines and pseudoscience).
And, more particularly, they’re about the exercise of power and the expression of hatred. The Woke (or the Cultural Left if you like) have got beyond waging a Culture War. They won the Culture War twenty years ago. They are now at the stage, as Genghis Khan is reputed to have put it, of crushing their enemies, seeing them fall at their feet, taking their horses and goods and hearing the lamentation of their women. This is all about humiliating a defeated enemy.
It’s not about politics. The young whites (including the antifa loons) taking to the streets are not actually political at all. They have no desire for political change. The Cultural Left is financed by big business and big business does not want a political revolution. They talk about hating fascism but fascism is just a generic term for anyone they dislike. They talk about hating whites but they don’t. They love rich whites (who provide them with money) and they love upper middle class whites (because they’re either upper middle class whites themselves for they’re lower middle class whites hoping to join the upper middle class). The whites that they hate are working-class whites, poor whites and rural whites and they hate them because they’re working-class, poor or rural. So it’s not about race.
It’s an irrational hatred. They hate older people (basically they hate anyone over 35) and they hate anyone who doesn’t share their hysterical emotion-driven entire irrational faith in Wokeness.
It may also be that, as Anatoly Karlin has suggested, we’re witnessing a generational coup within liberalism with old-school liberals being purged and replaced by young Woke liberals.
It’s all about the politics of pure power and the politics of humiliation. And much of the Woke hatred is being directed at older liberals (J.K. Rowling being their latest target).
Sunday, June 7, 2020
Whether charismatic political leaders are a good thing is another matter. We’ve had our share in Australia. Whitlam, Hawke and Keating come to mind. They’re leaders who have their admirers but on balance as leaders they were mixed blessings to say the least.
In Britain Wilson, Thatcher, Tony Blair and Boris Johnson seem like obvious examples. Again in practice they’ve been leaders whose legacies have been a mixed bag (of course we don’t yet know what Boris Johnson’s political legacy will be). In the US JFK, Reagan, Bill Clinton, Obama and Trump have had plenty of charisma.
A side-effect of all this is that you’re likely to get leaders who either see themselves or are seen by others as Men of Destiny. Charismatic leaders and Men of Destiny are not necessarily one and the same thing (I don’t think anyone would describe Bill Clinton as a Man of Destiny) but there is a substantial overlap.
Looking at the track record of Men of Destiny over the past hundred years I’m not at all sure that I want any more of that particular breed. I think there’s a lot to be said for having quietly competent leaders although I must admit I can’t think of too many examples of recent western political leaders who could be described as competent, quiet or otherwise.
Democracy produces leaders who are good at getting elected rather than being good at governing.
Maybe the 21st century will produce a bumper crop of both charismatic leaders and Men of Destiny. I certainly hope not, but I fear that it will be so.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Even worse they mistake the political internet, which is only a small subset of the online world, for reality.
The political internet attracts people with extreme views. Views that they cannot express anywhere else. In the pre-internet days anyone who argued for some of the extreme positions that are commonplace on the political internet would have found himself shunned by decent society. But now people with often hair-raising beliefs can find others online who share those beliefs. So they start believing that their extremist views are socially acceptable.
What they don't realise is that the handful of like-minded they find online are often the only people in society who share their beliefs. Normal people just don't think that way.
The internet is not the real world. And the political internet is definitely not the real world. But it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it is. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that online political sites represent a sampling of the real world. They don't. Such sites are hang-outs for misfits (and I freely admit to being a misfit) and unstable people and for people consumed by irrational fears and hatreds. It's a magnet for people with marginal political and social views - marginal political and social views on both the left and the right.
It’s a particular problem for anyone who rejects political correctness. Any sane person should reject political correctness. In real life it’s increasingly difficult to do so openly. So people go online and gravitate toward far right forums. But what they often find there are not moderate reasoned rejections of the dominant ideology of political correctness but extreme and often completely unrealistic opposing views.
The end result is the perception that the political middle ground no longer exists, that most people are either extreme Social Justice Warriors or alt-righters.
But is the political middle ground really vanishing? Political extremists make a lot of noise (especially on the internet) but how many people actually support extremist positions? The extreme Social Justice Warriors and the alt-right are actually small minorities. I suspect that in reality most people support far more moderate positions. Most people do not want extreme solutions. On balance they’re probably correct to be suspicious of extreme solutions. The problem is that moderates generally do not bother with the political internet, so while most people are moderates they’re effectively invisible on the political internet.
As a result the perception that society is bitterly divided politically gains ground. Society is divided politically and those divisions can get bitter but it’s important to avoid exaggerating the extent of the divide.
Sunday, May 24, 2020
The 19th century was as far as sex is concerned a battleground between what he describes as pro-sensualists and anti-sensualists. Mason tries his best to be as impartial as possible, describing the motivations of both camps and the ways in which their positions evolved. Obviously this was a culture war in which religion played a major rôle (although secular forces were much more heavily involved than one might think
On the whole, according to Mason, medical opinion tended to favour the pro-sensualist position. Victorian doctors were in fact surprisingly realistic about sex and were very sceptical of the chances that either male or female sexuality could be suppressed.
Mason does not deny that hostility towards sexual pleasure (the anti-sensual tendency) was immensely powerful and influential. He does however make it clear that things were more complicated than one might suppose. There were for example a great many Christians in the anti-sensualist movement but there were also very many Christians who embraced the pro-sensualist position and saw sexual pleasure as a gift from God and therefore as a very good thing. And modern readers might well be surprised to learn just how heavily dominated the anti-sensualist camp was by political progressives, socialists and feminists (it’s easy to forget just how rabidly anti-sex 19th century feminism was).
The prostitute rescue craze is one of the odder and more interesting features of the 19th century, one to which Mason gives a great deal of attention. It has to be said that the more one learns about about this craze the more unattractive it seems. Hysteria about prostitution was on the rise and on the face of it the idea of high-minded (mostly but not exclusively Christian) missionaries attempting to save unfortunate young women from such a lifestyle sounds well-intentioned and philanthropic (if possibly naïve). In practice however the intentions of the prostitute rescuers was almost always either partially or entirely to punish the women.
Having been “rescued” the prostitutes were forcibly confined in institutions which were more often than not little better than prisons, often subject to brutal treatment. If they were lucky enough not to be physically “disciplined” they were subjected to what really does sound like a program of ritual humiliation. Prostitute rescue was particularly popular among Evangelicals (with women apparently being especially keen on the punitive aspects). There were a few attempts to undertake more purely secular efforts at prostitute rescue with Charles Dickens being heavily involved in one of the better known examples, Urania Cottage. Ironically the girls at Urania Cottage were treated no better, and perhaps worse, than those unlucky enough to end up in one of the religious penitentiaries (which was what many of them were actually called).
Even sadder is that many of the women who ended up in these penitentiaries were not even prostitutes, merely women who had had pre-marital sex. But any kind of fallen woman was apparently still in need of the strict discipline offered by these institutions. The prostitute rescuers come across as a mixture of well-meaning do-gooders, pious humbugs and those who took an almost sadistic pleasure in the humiliation of these unfortunate women. Prostitute rescue was the result of what we would today describe as a moral panic, and moral panics do not bring out the best in people. And prostitute rescue was widely regarded at the time with scepticism, scorn and even outright hostility.
What’s also interesting is that while the anti-sensualists grudgingly admitted that a variety of factors could cause a woman to become a prostitute they held an obsessive belief that a very significant proportion of the girls took up their trade because they enjoyed sex. Whether there was any truth to this is irrelevant. What matters is that those engaged in prostitute rescue believed it. That seems to have been the driving force behind the moral panic and the thought that many of these girls might actually be enjoying their work presumably accounts for the desire to punish them rather than offering them economic assistance to find other employment.
Mason also has a good deal to say about the Owenites, probably the most well-known and most significant of pre-marxist socialists. The Owenites were all over the map when it came to sexuality but they certainly had a definite pro-sensualist tinge, which earned them a great deal of hostility from other socialists.
Mason tries to be even-handed although it’s obvious that he has considerable sympathy for the anti-sensualist position (I suspect that like most academics in the ’90s he was a bit too much under the influence of feminism).
The value of this book is that the author tries to do more than present us with a series of anecdotes (which is what you get in many other books purporting to explore this subject). While admitting that the evidence is incomplete and often ambiguous he really does try to amass as much hard data as he can, and to give us both sides of the story. In doing so he provides the reader with some remarkable and often surprising insights into a truly fascinating epoch, and a truly fascinating subject. Recommended.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
For the most part people accept social responsibilities only when they see a direct benefit to themselves. People don’t like paying taxes but they pay them anyway because they can see that they themselves are very likely to one day benefit from the things the taxes pay for - roads, schools, refuse collection, major infrastructure, police, firefighting services and the welfare state are all things that the average person can easily imagine deriving some personal benefit from.
People dislike rules and regulations but they will accept them if they see that they personally might benefit. When the wearing of seat belts and later the wearing of motorcycle helmets became mandatory people accepted this infringement on their personal freedom because they figured that the life that might be saved might be their own life, or their son’s life or their husband’s life.
People don’t like lining up for customs inspections at the airport but they believe that the importation of contraband might impact their own lives. People accept the existence of laws and police because it could be their house that gets burgled or their daughter that gets raped.
But it’s much harder to persuade people to accept limitations on their freedom if they don’t see any personal benefit. That’s largely why censorship collapsed back in the 60s. People might not have liked girlie magazines and sex films but they could not see how it would have any effect on them personally if other people wanted to buy such things. The Sexual Revolution happened not because people necessarily wanted to be promiscuous themselves but they could not see how it would affect them if other people wanted to be promiscuous.
I want to make it clear that I am not arguing that there’s no such thing as social good (or the public good if you like). I am merely arguing that any social policy that relies solely on such arguments is going to be a hard sell. A very hard sell. It’s too abstract, too long-term and people cannot see how it will impact their own lives.
Which brings us back to birth rates. It might well be a very good thing indeed for society in the long term if people had more children. But can you actually provide a convincing argument that for a couple to have more children will provide a real concrete benefit to that couple? In fact at best most couples might believe that there would be no benefit at all for them. At worst most couples might very well believe that it would make their own lives worse.
In such cases appealing to people’s public spirit, persuading them that society might benefit in the long term, is just not going to work. If you provide lavish financial incentives for having lots of kids those incentives will have to be paid for. The money will come out of the pockets of people who do not want more kids. They are, understandably, going to resent that a great deal. And obviously any drastic measures to increase birth rates (such as restricting the availability of contraception) will cause extreme resentment and even anger.
The problem is that when people make decisions based on their own personal interests they are behaving rationally. You might not like their decisions but they are rational. And, from an individual perspective, doing things for society’s long-term benefit is irrational. It might be necessary for the good of society to persuade people to have more children but persuading them to do so when they are convinced that it will be to their own detriment is going to be very very hard. Maybe even impossible.
Again I stress that I’m not arguing in favour of putting personal interests ahead of society’s, but that is a perfectly natural thing for people to do.
Friday, May 8, 2020
When major social or political changes occur we therefore like to assume that they could not possibly have just happened. Someone must have planned them.
This way of looking at social change seems to be very popular on the far right. Since most of the social changes that have occurred since 1945 are changes that the far right does not approve of (and I must admit that they have valid reasons for disapproving of many of those changes) they must have a sinister explanation. Somewhere there were men in smoke-filled rooms plotting these changes.
In reality what appear to be vast organised conspiracies are often simply the result of individuals acting out of what they perceive to be their own self-interest. In many cases even these individuals are not behaving in any kind of planned way but simply behaving opportunistically.
Take immigration. Why is it so difficult for immigration restrictionists to make any real headway? Surely the answer must be that immigration is part of an organised conspiracy to destroy the West, or to genocide white people, or to usher in an international Communist dictatorship? In fact to a large extent the explanation is that a large number of individuals and corporations and small businesses (and particularly in the US farmers) have all concluded that immigration is in their interests. They are all pulling in the same direction on this issue because they all think they will personally benefit, not because they are part of a sinister organised plot.
Or take the current COVID-19 crisis. There’s a popular view on the far right that there’s an organised globalist conspiracy to use the crisis as an excuse to further the globalist agenda (there are even some who think the crisis was entirely cooked up by evil globalists). In fact this seems very unlikely. What seems more likely is that some large corporations have seen the opportunity to advance their own interests by supporting lockdowns in order to destroy unwanted competition. Other have seen it as a chance to collect handouts from government. It’s mostly been pure opportunism. It’s difficult to see how the lockdowns are good for globalists in general. Quite the reverse. It seems likely to be a setback for globalism. But if a particular corporation sees an opportunity to benefit from the overall economic carnage they will of course take advantage of it.
There are even conspiracy theories to explain declining white birth rates. Apparently it’s all part of an evil plot for white genocide. The problem with these conspiracy theories is that they don’t explain why birth rates for many non-white populations have declined even more sharply than white birth rates. In reality it’s likely that declining birth rates are the result of a number of long-term social, technological and economic changes which were in themselves ideologically and morally neutral - urbanisation and improvements in contraceptive technology being quite possibly the biggest single factors (although quite a few other factors have doubtless contributed). The conspiracy theories are not just unnecessary, they don’t fit with the facts on the ground.
In most cases self-interest and opportunism are better explanations than conspiracies. But they don’t appeal to people who want ideological explanations.
Friday, May 1, 2020
The Cold War had nothing to do with ideology. Americans did not hate the Russians for being godless commies. The proof of that is that today the Russians are hated for being Christian capitalists. The Chinese were also not hated for being godless commies. Today the Chinese are godless capitalists but they’re more hated than ever.
The Russians were hated and feared for daring to be a geopolitical rival. They were hated for not accepting the US as global hegemon. That’s mostly all there was to it.
The Chinese were hated and feared during the Cold War because they seemed to be a potential geopolitical rival. Today they’re hated and feared for daring to be an economic rival.
In the case of the Chinese there’s also unquestionably an element of good old-fashioned racism. It’s not socially acceptable to be openly racist any more but you can get away with it if you can make it look like it’s not really racism.
If the Soviet Union had embraced capitalism back in the 1950s it would have made no difference. They would still have been a geopolitical rival and would still have been hated.
Of course to be fair all great powers hate and fear rivals if those rivals seem to be growing in strength. There was hysteria in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century when Germany dared to construct a strong navy. And the British hated and feared Tsarist Russia throughout the 19th century because they saw Russia as a rival imperialist power.
Of course there’s a complication. Democracies don’t like to be seen to be engaging in cynical power struggles with rival powers. They have to turn everything into a moral crusade. So the Cold War was made into a moral crusade.
That’s my theory anyway.
I think it is true that what are usually thought of as victimless crimes are not necessarily really victimless. It depends a lot on what victimless crimes you’re talking about. He’s certainly correct that adultery is not exactly a victimless crime.
My view is that it’s necessary to consider carefully the exact nature of the possible harm done. I would divide the harm into three categories - actual physical harm, psychological harm and social harm. Actual physical harm can be regarded as something objective. With psychological harm and social harm we’re generally veering into the realms of the subjective which to me is a real problem.
Psychological harm is obviously immensely difficult to quantify. It can also be deceptive because you cannot always be sure you’re correctly distinguishing between results and causes. Take marijuana. There seems to be an association between marijuana and schizophrenia, but does that mean that marijuana causes schizophrenia or does it mean that schizophrenics are more likely to become marijuana users? Or if it doesn't cause schizophrenia maybe it exacerbates it (which is what I’m inclined to believe). And I’ve had a lesbian say to me that the problem is not that lesbianism causes mental illness but rather that women with mental health issues are more likely to become lesbians. It is also of course possible that the lesbian lifestyle exacerbates those issues (a position my lesbian friend is inclined to accept).
What about social harm? That’s even more subjective and entirely impossible to quantify. In fact if you agree with Margaret Thatcher that there’s no such thing as society you’d have to argue that there’s no such thing as a crime that does social harm. Even if you don’t agree with Thatcher (and I certainly don’t) the concept of social harm is rather nebulous.
So let’s look at some victimless crimes. Take adultery. There’s no physical harm done to any party. It’s pretty obvious there’s the potential for psychological harm to the non-adulterous spouse. But the extent of that psychological harm no doubt varies enormously. Some spouses seem to just shrug the matter off. Others are devastated. The difficulty is that it’s still rather subjective. It’s obviously real, but difficult to quantify. Does adultery do social harm? My view is that it would be a challenge to prove such a view.
What about fornication? Obviously there’s no question of physical harm. Psychological harm? I’m sceptical. Social harm? Again I’m very sceptical. What if it’s taken to the extreme of promiscuity? I think it’s possible that promiscuity is very bad for some people, but then it is also possible that it’s good for some people. For some people it might fulfil a deep psychological need. It’s also possible that some people might cause more social problems if deprived of the opportunity to be promiscuous (they might for example commit sexual assaults).
What about homosexuality? For me the key here is sodomy, since it is well established that sodomy can and does do actual direct physical harm as well as enormously increasing the chances of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. But what’s important to bear in mind here is that heterosexual sodomy carries exactly the same risks. A very strong argument could be made that it’s a practice that should be discouraged. Lesbianism on the other hand involves zero risk of physical harm. As for social harm, it seems self-evident that spreading homosexual propaganda to children or encouraging others to adopt a homosexual lifestyle does extreme social harm. But the social harm in these cases comes from associated social behaviours rather than the sexual behaviour itself. You could argue that when homosexuals practised their lifestyle discreetly and in private the social harm done was minimal or even non-existent.
With drugs the risks of physical harm are obvious in some cases, not so obvious in others. The psychological harm is difficult to assess since the evidence seems to be all over the place. As for social harm, I’d argue that the drug culture has done devastating damage. But again when such habits were practised discreetly and in private the social harm was clearly very much less.
Of course even when you can establish that harm is being done the question of what to do about it remains. Do you criminalise the behaviour? Encourage people to seek therapy? Make the behaviour legal but strongly discourage it? The example of Prohibition suggests that legal bans can be risky and can be a two-edged sword.
The fact that something might be considered unwise or unhealthy or morally repugnant or recklessly dangerous does not necessarily imply that we should apply legal sanctions against it. I think mountain-climbing is recklessly dangerous but I don’t want to ban it. I think that drinking a bottle of Scotch a day is a very very bad idea but I don’t want to ban Scotch Whisky. On the other hand I don’t want people to be encouraged to drink a bottle of Scotch a day and I can see an argument that people should be strongly discouraged from doing so.
With most “victimless crimes” it’s difficult to make a strong case for prohibition but in some cases it is possible to mount a very strong argument for vigorous action to prohibit any attempt to encourage such activities.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Of course no-one would take such an idea seriously. But quite a few people on this forum did take it seriously and enthusiastically agreed.
The reasons it’s ludicrous are pretty obvious. For one thing it would be entirely unenforceable. How would you prove such a charge in court, given that it’s almost certain that neither partner would have the slightest intention of coöperating with the prosecution? Would you force the woman to undergo a medical examination? Would you subject a woman (who might well be innocent) to such a humiliation? I suppose the police could keep the homes of suspected fornicators under surveillance, but does anyone really want cops peering into people’s bedroom windows to find out if they’re having non government approved sex? Does anyone want a police Chastity Squad kicking in people’s doors? All this quite apart from the fact that it amounts to the kind of social control one associates with 17th century Puritans.
It’s a silly proposal but it is a symptom of something I’ve noticed recently - that the dissident right seems to be moving towards more and more extreme positions. And that the right seems increasingly willing to embrace draconian statist solutions to social problems. Of course what we’re seeing at the moment is actually both the cultural left and the cultural right becoming more extreme. It’s the cultural left that has the monopoly of power at the moment but it’s sobering to think that many on the cultural right would be willing to be just as oppressive if they were given the chance.
It also raises a key problem for social conservatives and those who espouse traditional moral values (and I have a great deal of sympathy for traditional moral values). Is it justifiable to impose such moral values by means of legal sanctions? The person who made the suggestion alluded to above is a Christian who at other times has expressed the view that morality should be enforced by the state. Clearly there are some areas of sexual morality which should be a matter for the police (rape and offences involving children are obvious examples where a civilised society’s duty to protect children and women overrides all other considerations). You can certainly argue that abortion, given that it involves actual killing, is another such case (and I’d agree).
It does seem to me however that even suggesting the idea of legally enforcing sexual morality beyond such cases would be not only doomed to failure but seriously counter-productive. And I think it would be wrong. Whether we like it or not we live in a world in which there is no possibility of achieving universal agreement on sexual morality. No matter how strongly we might believe in certain moral values it is highly questionable whether we could ever justify imposing those values on those who disagree with us. We can certainly argue the case for our values, we can try to persuade others of the utility of our values and we can strongly resist efforts by the SJWs to impose their values on us. We can resist efforts by SJWs to propagandise schoolchildren with their values.
I don’t think we can go further than that.
Social conservatives are often accused of wanting to turn back the clock, and in some ways it’s true that we’d like to do that. However I don’t really think any sane person wants to use the Puritan societies of the 17th century as a model. But apparently some do indeed want that.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Everyone agrees that fertility rates have plummeted and everyone has a theory as to why this has happened. Maybe it’s a conspiracy theory by malevolent groups seeking to destroy Western Civilisation, maybe people aren’t having children because they can’t afford them, maybe it’s because of the materialism and emptiness of modern society, maybe it’s the fault of feminism, maybe it’s because of the decline of Christianity, maybe it’s because of modern popular culture.
None of these theories stands up to close examination. The problem with all of them is that the sharp decline in birth rates was already evident in the 1870s. The second quarter of the nineteenth century was a watershed moment in western demographic history. Birth rates fell sharply in western Europe and they have never recovered. None of the popular theories can possibly explain this.
My theory is that birth rates have fallen because women just aren’t that much into having children. And that if they are able to have very few children they will in fact choose to have very few children. If they are able to choose the number of children they will have then the overwhelming majority will choose one or two, most likely one. Many will choose none.
What happened in the 1870s is that suddenly women could choose how many children to have. Modern effective inexpensive methods of contraception were widely available by this time, and equally importantly information on how to use these methods successfully was widely available. Prior to this time birth control existed but it was extremely inconvenient, only moderately effective and drastically reduced sexual pleasure. Such artificial methods as existed (such as condoms) were expensive and not widely available. Information on birth control techniques was for most people unobtainable. All that changed in the 1860s and 1870s. Suddenly the technology for easy birth control was available, and people took advantage of it with enthusiasm.
Another major technological change happened in the early 1960s. The contraceptive pill was even simpler, even more convenient, even more effective and it had zero effect on sexual pleasure. Perhaps even more crucially, the contraceptive pill was something over which a woman had complete control. Earlier methods were either impossible or difficult to practise without the knowledge of the male partner. But a woman could, if she chose, use the contraceptive pill without needing to let her partner know anything about it.
Suddenly it became even easier for women to choose to have even fewer children, and they readily took advantage of the new technology.
What all this means is that there is one overwhelmingly dominant reason for low birth rates - women in general want very few children. Most women still like kids and they still want the joys of motherhood but one child or at most two is sufficient to satisfy those longings.
What this also means is that any efforts to reverse the decline in birth rates are certainly doomed to failure. Economic incentives may have a very small but insignificant effect. Making family formation more affordable by making housing more affordable may have a very small but insignificant effect. Propaganda campaigns to encourage child-bearing may have a very small but insignificant effect. But all these efforts will come up against the intractable problem that women are having very few children because they want very few children.
Does this mean that we really are doomed? Maybe, maybe not. In the very long term other factors may balance out the low birth rates. Factors such as radical life extension. Assuming such a thing is possible - at the moment it’s pure science fiction but in a century or so who knows? Perhaps artificial wombs will provide an answer. Maybe Huxley’s Central London Hatchery will become a reality.
Incidentally my arguments about the momentous demographic revolution of the second quarter of the 19th century are based on Michael Mason’s superb and magisterial 1994 book The Making of Victorian Sexuality, which I highly recommend.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
While materialism has come to dominate the West it has always had its critics. Christians and mystics have of course opposed it. Another interesting example of an anti-materialist, or at least anti-consumerist, revolt was the counter-culture (this post is an expansion of a comment I left on a recent post at Oz Conservative).
It is crucial to remember that the counter-culture had nothing to do with the Baby Boomers. The counter-culture was created by a sector of the previous generation, and especially the 1935-45 birth cohort. While we usually think of the counter-culture as a phenomenon of the 60s its roots were very much in the late 50s. The counter-culture began with the beatniks, not the hippies.
The generation that actively participated in the Second World War (roughly those born from around 1910 up to the late 1920s) eagerly embraced a materialistic lifestyle after the war. To them suburbia and stores full of consumer goods seemed like Heaven on Earth after the sufferings and deprivations of the war.
But to a significant sector of the transitional generation who were just too young to participate in the war or to have vivid memories of it (roughly those born from about 1930 up to 1945) the postwar world was something to be regarded with a touch of cynicism. Idealism seemed to have vanished from the world. There was prosperity but there was something missing. The more intellectually inclined among this transitional generation saw the society of the 1950s as shallow, conformist and empty. They formed the initial audience for the Beat writers. They saw Jack Kerouac as a prophet. This marked the beginning of the counter-culture.
And it was definitely in part a reaction against the cult of consumerism which had become a replacement for meaning in life. The early exponents of the counter-culture, in the late 50s and early 60s (when the Baby Boomers were still playing with dolls and toy fire engines) were repelled by the consumerism which blossomed after the war. The consumerism was very much a side-effect of the technocratic worldview that came to dominate government and bureaucracy in the 40s, with its obsession with economic growth to the exclusion of everything else.
The counter-culture of the late 50s was not so much a political revolt as an aesthetic revolt and a moral revolt (the main difference between the photo-counter culture of the 50s and the counter-culture of the 60s was that the latter took on a more explicitly political outlook). It was a revolt against suburbia. The world of suburbia was comfortable and pleasant and even civilised in its own way but it was conformist, it could be stifling, it was complacent and it was prudish. The counter-culture was a misguided revolt but an understandable one.
To an extent even the counter-culture's revolt against marriage and traditional sexual morality was understandable (if also misguided). They felt that marriage in the 50s was mostly about filling a house with consumer goods - married bliss meant having new wall-to-wall carpets and a new lounge suite and a radiogram and a TV set. This was partly accurate and partly unfair.
It was all largely a reaction against the idea that economic growth could give people a reason to live.
Why did the counter-culture become so destructive, fail so completely and leave behind such a sorry legacy? I think the answer is that mostly it was the drugs. As a movement it became more and more incoherent and more and more chaotic, and most disastrously of all it become supremely self-indulgent. Perhaps it was doomed to failure anyway, being mostly a negative rather than a piscine movement, but drugs made its failure a certainty.