stability and order vs dynamism and progress

There are many different axes which can be used to describe political positions. There’s free market vs central planning, libertarian vs authoritarian, globalist vs nationalist. The one that doesn’t get considered so much, but which seems to me to be the most important of all, is that I would call the stability/dynamism axis.

This is more than just a political alignment. Where a person falls on this axis has much to do with both personal psychology and cultural traditions.

Some cultures have always seen stability and order as being the most important objectives  of government. China for most of its history is an obvious example, Ancient Egypt being another. Other cultures have seen stability as a weakness. They have valued change, dynamism, expansion, growth and what they like to call progress.

Western society since the Reformation has been a spectacular example of a culture that has chosen dynamism at the expense of stability. Whether this is actually an inherent feature of western culture is debatable. Western Europe during the Middle Ages certainly seemed to put a fairly high value on stability.

Obviously some individuals are also psychologically more inclined to favour either stability or dynamism.

Overall though western culture has become so focused on the supposed advantages of progress that it is difficult to find any mainstream political party in any western country that genuinely stands for stability and order. Self-described conservative parties are in reality, almost without exception, liberal parties that fetishise growth and progress. One of the few institutions that truly stood on the side of stability was the Catholic Church. Since Vatican II even the Catholic Church has tended more and more to favour the liberal concept of progress. Christianity in general has become, if anything, a destabilising force in the West.

The fact that those countries that were formerly part of the communist bloc are now more socially conservative and less inclined to make a fetish of progress seems puzzling at first. The usual explanation offered is that the citizens of those nations were so horrified by their experience of communism that they reacted by becoming ardent conservatives. That’s probably partly true. It is however worth considering a curious fact about communism in practice. Once a communist revolution succeeds the revolutionaries themselves tend to become very suspicious of change. They start to focus on preserving the revolution. They start to put a very high value on stability and order.

It is of course difficult to reconcile stability and order with democracy. Democracies quickly become obsessed by the idea of change for the sake of change. Democratic governments want to to be seen as doing something and doing something invariably means changing things, and changing things invariably undermines stability and order.

I have to say that I’m basically a stability and order kind of guy. Society is a fragile thing. If you try to change society the odds are very high that you will end up changing it for the worse. It doesn’t matter how good your intentions are. Not only are changes more likely to be harmful than beneficial, they also tend to make society even more fragile, so the next time you try to change things the risks will be even greater.

Since I favour stability and order it’s not surprising that the one political ideology that really terrifies me is liberal democracy. It’s probably also not surprising that I take a jaundiced view of free markets. Liberal democracy combined with free markets seems to me to be a guaranteed recipe for long term chaos. My inclination is to support any political ideology that stands for stability and order. I guess I’m just a natural reactionary.

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healthy and unhealthy democracies

I’ve had an amusing discussion elsewhere on the subject of healthy democracies. Someone tried to argue that the fact that Vladimir Putin got 76% of the vote in the Russian presidential election is a sign that Russia is not a healthy democracy. Apparently a healthy democracy is one in which there is “competition” – sort of like the free market.

I find this bizarre. The election indicates that the Russian president governs with the overwhelming consent of the Russian people. How could that possibly be unhealthy?

Compare this to Britain, where Theresa May is Prime Minister even though her party got only 42% of the vote in the most recent election, or the U.S. where Donald Trump got 46% of the vote. It seems blindingly obvious that a society in which more than three-quarters of the population thinks the government is pretty OK is going to be a lot healthier (and a lot happier) than a society in which more than half the voters think the government is most definitely not OK.

I am mystified by the idea that we need competition in politics. I’m not even convinced that competition is all that great in the economic sphere. The free market has always seemed to me to be an unworkable utopian pipe-dream. I certainly don’t think free market thinking has any place in politics.

Obviously it is impossible to have a society which makes everyone happy or a government of which everyone approves. On the other hand a society in which roughly half (in some cases more than half) the population disapproves of the current government surely has major problems.

That’s the problem with democracy – even if it worked in practice the way it’s supposed to work in theory (in other words even if there were actual differences between the major parties) it’s still a recipe for trouble and it’s still a guarantee that most people will be dissatisfied.

But if we must have democracy I think I’d prefer to have a democracy in which most people are at least reasonably satisfied. At this point in time Russian democracy looks a lot healthier than democracy in most of the West.

revolutions and democracy

Rebellions were not uncommon during the Middle Ages. There were quite a few. They all had one thing in common. They all failed. Peasants with pitch-forks don’t do very well against well-armed disciplined soldiers (and even medieval soldiers were well disciplined compared to a mob of peasants with pitch-forks).

The ruling class wasn’t too worried. There was no real threat to the social order. They made sure they always had those well-armed disciplined soldiers on their side.

Then things started to change. In the late 18th century a peasant’s revolt actually succeeded. OK, the French Revolution was much more complicated than just a peasant’s revolt but the important thing is that the social order really was overturned. The ruling classes started to get nervous.

From then until the mid-19th century (1848 being the celebrated Year of Revolutions) there were more revolutions. They met with mixed success but the fact that any of them enjoyed any success at all was enough to send a chill up the spines of the ruling classes.

Some way needed to be found to nip this revolution business in the bud. The answer was democracy. Parliaments and congresses already existed but they were not the slightest bit democratic. Now they would be made democratic. Now the peasants wouldn’t be tempted to resort to pitch-forks. They would have a say in the government.

Of course it goes without saying that the ruling classes did not have the slightest intention of allowing those nasty smelly peasants (or those nasty smelly and increasingly numerous workers) to have an actual say in the government. It was all a game of make believe. Representative democracy was in fact a system set up to ensure that the people would never actually be asked for their opinions. The people would be passive observers but they would think they were active participants. Instead of manning the barricades and cutting off aristocrats’ heads they would vote. Their votes would be meaningless. That was the whole point of the exercise.

It worked very well indeed in countries like the US, Britain and Australia. The masses became docile and compliant. They believed the lies about democracy. They kept away from pitch-forks.

This has turned out to be very unfortunate. Sometimes the only way to persuade the ruling class that the people are seriously angry and discontented is to man the barricades. But we now have a population so drugged by the illusion of democracy that they will never man those barricades, even when their ruling class has declared war on them and intends to destroy them. Instead they dutifully show up at the polling booths, filled with the touching belief that if only they can throw out that nasty Mr Tweedledee and his Liberal Conservative Party (or his Democratic Republican Party) and vote in that nice Mr Tweedledum and his Conservative Liberal Party (or his Republican Democrat Party) then everything will be fine.

In the latter part of the 20th century the ruling class really did declare war on us. And we did not take to the streets. We did not man the barricades. We voted. We are now paying the price for our naïvete.

in praise of patriarchy

A commenter at The Knight and Drummer recently accused me of wanting to restore patriarchy. I have to say that I plead guilty as charged. I do indeed want to restore patriarchy.

Until western society decided to commit suicide all human societies had been patriarchal. I know that feminist scholars (and I always chuckle at the concept of feminist scholarship) make claims for certain societies in the dim dark past having being matriarchies, and for a handful of remote tribes being matriarchal until modern times. In virtually every case this is nothing but wishful thinking on the part of woolly-minded academics. Successful societies have always been patriarchies.

I define a patriarchy as a society which accept two things – that men and women are profoundly different and have different social roles to play, and that final authority must rest with men. It’s important to remember that you can’t have one without the other. If men surrender their authority traditional sex roles will be overturned. If traditional sex roles are not respected men’s authority will vanish. If either of those things happen then that society is doomed.

Very few people today are prepared to nail their colours to the mast and embrace patriarchy. Most self-defined conservatives (including most so-called social conservatives and traditionalists) have surrendered completely to feminism. All mainstream conservative parties have made the same surrender, as have all mainstream Christian churches (with the possible exception of the Orthodox churches). Some of these “conservatives” will bleat about feminism having gone too far but in fact they are happy to accept 90% of the feminist agenda. If you’re a conservative and you believe in “equality” or “fairness” or “justice” then you’re a feminist and you’re part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

The fact is that we have all been so thoroughly indoctrinated by feminism that we think that admitting to being a supporter of patriarchy is a bit like admitting to being a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This is of course arrant nonsense. Patriarchy is not only the only workable way to run a society, it is also the only system that is capable of making both men and women happy.

But what exactly are the ramifications of accepting patriarchy?

Obviously we need to ask what place, if any, women should have in political life. Female leaders have always been disastrous. Of course we also need to reconsider the whole question of representative democracy, a system that guarantees corrupt, vicious and inefficient government. It’s not a question of whether women should be allowed to vote. It’s a question of whether voting is a good idea, for anyone. Every time the franchise has been extended the system has become more unworkable and more corrupt.

Secondly, women should accept the authority of their fathers, and after marriage they should accept the authority of their husbands. This is what women actually want. Women despise men who allow themselves to be dominated by women. The thought of having sex with such men nauseates them. Women have always sought men who can protect them and that implies authority. It’s a matter of biological reality. Fairness doesn’t come into it. Biological reality isn’t interested in fairness. Reality isn’t interested in fairness. Reality just is.

Thirdly, we need to carefully consider whether higher education for women is really a good idea. Of course we also need to think about higher education in general – we need to slash the number of university students overall by at least 80%. We need doctors and engineers. We don’t need gender studies majors or film studies majors or any similar nonsense. We also don’t need the absurd number of lawyers being churned out by our universities.

And unfortunately it’s the nonsensical courses to which women are attracted, and all these courses do is to make women angry and confused. If you have any doubts about this, try having a conversation with a female student doing one of these courses – they are incapable of doing anything other than getting angry and mouthing slogans that they don’t even understand. Their ignorance is exceeded only by their arrogance.

Of course by now all true conservatives are wringing their hands in horror that anyone would dare to express such wicked forbidden sentiments. But as I tried to point out to the commenter mentioned earlier, patriarchy is coming whether we like it or not. Within a few decades western Europe will be Islamic and it will be patriarchal. There aren’t going to be any gender studies courses taught. There isn’t going to be any feminism.

The irony of course is that women, and feminists in particular, have created the situation that is going to lead inevitably to the resurgence of patriarchy, of one form or another. Feminists have weakened our civilisation  to the point where invaders can simply walk in and take over. Which is exactly what they are going to do. Feminists can celebrate their triumph over Christian patriarchy but their celebrations are likely to be short-lived. Patriarchy will reassert itself one way or another because there is no viable alternative.

democracy, morality, war and totalitarianism

One of the problems with democracy is that it tends to make everything everybody’s business. And if everything is everybody’s business then everything is the state’s business. As a result there is a slow but inexorable drift towards soft totalitarianism.

Democracy inevitably extends the range of things with which government is concerned. Everything becomes a political issue (today even marriage and the weather are political issues) and if something is a political issue then the government is supposed to do something about it.

Democracies also make everything into moral issues. The government is not only supposed to do something about everything, they’re supposed to do something which will make us all feel more virtuous.

Before democracy it was considered desirable that governments should govern wisely but nobody really expected the government to be a force for morality. Morality was the province of churches, and of the family. Morality was mostly enforced by social pressure. If you ran off with another man’s wife you could expect a great deal of social disapproval but you didn’t expect the government to have you arrested. Governments did enforce some moral rules but it was not really regarded as a core function of government.

Today’s morality is political correctness and there is a terrifying acceptance of the idea that governments have not merely a right but a duty to enforce that morality. But it’s not just political correctness – increasingly we accept the idea that the government should regulate every area of our lives, even down to what we eat.

Bizarrely, today even foreign policy is supposed to be moral. If you had suggested back in the 18th century that foreign policy should be conducted on moral lines people would have thought you were a lunatic. Even war is now supposed to be moral. Wars have to be moral crusades. Of course if a war is a moral crusade then any methods are acceptable (since the enemy is regarded as being evil), which is why democracies tend to be quite brutal when waging war.

This comes about because foreign policy and war are now everybody’s business. That’s the democratic way. Therefore the objective must be to make us feel virtuous. In fact of course there is no way that foreign policy can be both effective and moral. And in the course of human history very very few wars have ever been waged for moral purposes. Unfortunately when you turn wars into moral crusades you end up with more wars, and more vicious wars.

One of the reasons I tend to prefer monarch (real monarchy not silly pretend constitutional monarchy nonsense) is that kings have never been overly worried about imposing morality. As long as his subjects pay their taxes and obey the law he’s not usually interested in prying into their lives.

I’m no libertarian but there is something to be said for governments that concentrate on sensible policy rather than moral policy.

a return to the 50s – an impossible dream?

Anyone who believes in traditionalism has to face the reality that the prospects for traditionalism are not good. The fact that there are large numbers of people who identify as “conservatives” is no help at all given that the overwhelming majority of these people are simply right-wing liberals. They accept the liberal program pretty much in its entirety. The fact that there are still reasonable numbers of people who identify as Christians is no help either since most modern Christians accept the liberal program to a horrifyingly large degree.
Of course there is always the chance that a major crisis will trigger a collapse of the current order but given that traditionalists have no established support base from which to work there’s no guarantee that even a collapse of the existing order will usher in a traditionalist revival.
So what do we do if a full-scale traditionalist revival proves to be impossible? Is any compromise possible?
We’ve learnt from bitter experience that compromise with liberals is dangerous. It’s a concept that liberals generally speaking do not believe in. Any attempt by traditionalists to compromise with liberals would have to be made from a position of strength, and traditionalists would need to display an implacable determination to stake out positions of principle and defend them.
What kind of compromise could be possible anyway? If you’re a full-blown traditionalist you realise that the rot set in in the 18th century with the Enlightenment. A return to a pre-Enlightenment society seems like a very remote possibility. What about a return to the 1950s? that would be OK wouldn’t it? 
The 50s weren’t too bad. Christian churches were still Christian. The congregations were mostly actual Christians and there were even actual Christians to be found in the hierarchies. Marriage was still fairly healthy. Most people got married and most people made a real effort to make their marriages work. There was plenty of pre-marital sex but that’s to a large extent exactly what it was – couples who were intending to get married jumping the gun. Lamentable but not disastrous. Divorce was still fairly unusual. Mothers actually raised their children. And those children were still being raised in a moderately satisfactory way. Schools were not vehicles for homosexual propaganda. Traditional sex roles still existed after a fashion. A woman could admit to being a housewife without being sneered at. Multiculturalism had not been invented. Homosexuals enjoyed a fair degree of de facto toleration as long as they were discreet, and as long as they refrained from proselytising and kept away from children. Children in the 50s had not been sexualised. Crime rates were low. People still believed they could trust the police, and even more surprisingly in most cases they could.
The trouble with a restoration of the 50s is that under the surface there were forces eating away the foundations of society. The process of weeding out believes in believers in traditional values had already begun in the universities, the media and the entertainment industries and anti-traditionalist were slowly gaining a foothold in the churches. There were two further dangerous anti-traditionalist forces – democracy and capitalism. Democracy isn’t something that has suddenly become broken. It was a bad idea from the outset and representative democracy was never workable. Voters make bad decisions and the whole process is largely a sham anyway. 
Capitalism is another problem. I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that capitalism should be destroyed. I think it should be controlled. Rigidly controlled. Difficult, but not necessarily impossible.
So the 50s could never be restored in their entirety because the society of the 50s was a society already programmed for self-destruction. A society with many of the good features of that decade might be possible but mechanisms would need to be found to prevent cultural infiltration, democracy and capitalism from doing their work of destruction.
It’s probably not a likely scenario but perhaps it does no harm to toss ideas around.

the crisis of Late Democracy

You will often hear people talk about the age of Late Capitalism. These people are almost always those who identify as being on the left but they do have a point. Capitalism has mutated. The capitalism of today bears little resemblance to the capitalism of the age of Henry Ford.
What has been less noticed is that we now live in the age of Late Democracy. Democracy of course was always a sham. The purpose of democratic institutions is to thwart the will of the people. What has changed, and it has changed dramatically over the past twenty years,  is that the mask has been dropped. In the past great effort was put into maintaining the pretense that democracy expressed the will of the people. This is no longer felt to be necessary.
Political leaders like Tony Blair, David Cameron, Barack Obama, François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull do not even pretend to care about what the voters want or think. 
The media no longer makes any attempt to hide the fact that it manipulates elections. Members of the real elite, the international finance elite, openly buy and sell politicians. Bureaucrats and judges openly despise ordinary people and openly defy the will of the people.
The contempt for ordinary people is palpable. And it is venomous. And it is openly expressed.
The question is whether this is sustainable in the long term. Governments have always felt the need for some sort of legitimacy. This was true even in the days when kings ruled rather than serving as figureheads. A king would think twice before taking any action that he knew would be repugnant to his people. A king reigned by the Grace of God but it was clearly understood that he was in a real sense the servant of his people. If he lost the confidence of the people he could be, and often was, deposed. Such a king no longer had any legitimacy and thus could no longer claim to rule by the Grace of God.
Even dictators usually only survive for as long as they serve the interests of the nation and the people. Like kings they can be, and often are, deposed.
We now have a new situation in which we are ruled by an elite whose claim to legitimacy is increasingly sketchy. Rule by a class which openly expresses its contempt for the people is also new.
Of course our current elites have much greater power in their hands than any king or dictator. Their control over the media is total and the power of the media is unprecedented in history. They control education. They control the police and the military. They control the “intelligence communities” which are now quite blatantly employed for the purpose of social control. They also control the economy. If you oppose them they can destroy your livelihood. They can destroy your family. They can also simply have you locked up and they are increasingly willing to do so.
In spite of all this power held by the elites the situation is inherently unstable. It can only continue as long as the elites remain united, and history shows that there is no guarantee that this will continue indefinitely. There are always groups that are on the margins of the elite and they would be happy to be on the inside, and in order to achieve this they will quite cheerfully displace existing members of the elites. New groups arise that want their share of the action and again they’re happy to take the place of existing elite groups.
The continuance of this situation also depends on the ability of the elites to navigate crises, and crises are by their nature impossible to predict.
Ruling classes also become, in time, decadent.
A ruling class without legitimacy is in a poor position to weather such storms, both internal and external. Whether or not our current ruling class can do so remains to be seen.