Last week, Mr Dreher noted an essay by Mr Coates a progressive blogger for the New Atlantic. Mr Coates offers his reasons “why I’m a liberal,” which Mr Dreher disputes. This weekend this came up in conversation and a friend offered “why he’s a conservative”, and offered a point on which I agree. In brief:
I’m a conservative because our civilization is fragile.
Liberal/progressives don’t believe that to be the case. Unlike Mr Dreher, who says:
I am not a liberal because I do not share the same view of human nature that most liberals do, and because I think that in my culture and country, our traditions and institutions, broadly speaking, are a wise guide to our life in common. And I believe liberals have such an unrealistic view of human nature that they typically run off to tear down fences without any regard for why the fences were erected, so to speak.
Not that I disagree strongly with that viewpoint, but that the more important thing is the fragility of the order in which we live. They believe they can whack away, merging politics and science strongly regarding climate, futz with marriage, redefine sexual mores and roles, bludgeon our healthcare establishment, and so on. That the structures that drive and which serve as the foundation of our civilization is fundamentally fragile. Our very progressive President has grand plans to restructure society. Progressives forget the disasters they reap. For example it was the progressive movement which brought us Prohibition and the twin progressive reforms of the 60s easing divorce and of welfare which annihilated the inner city family structure so effectively. And don’t examine Europe … the 20th century history is a wrecking yard of progressive ideas which foundered on reality.
How is that they don’t realize that their progressive failures are disappointing failures and disasters most of the time? They use a few mechanisms and repeat as needed. The primary mechanism is to forget that the failures were progressive innovations … they pretend that they were innovations pressed on society by the conservative faction … even though that very idea should resound with cognitive dissonance. The other mechanism is ignorance. For example, Black slavery in the New World was a progressive innovation introduced by a Spanish nobleman in order to allay and ease maltreatment of native central American peoples by the conquering Spanish peoples. And yes, it wasn’t his plan that the evils of the triangle trade might arise … but that’s always how it goes … and this is the third mechanism. Because the “plan didn’t work out” … the massive suffering that entails the enterprise is exonerated. Throughout the 20th century, Western European and American liberal establishment was enthralled with Marxism and the communist bloc. They ignored the suffering and pain because that wasn’t in the plan. It wasn’t intended.
Take science for example, Mr Polanyi notes in Personal Knowledge that the transmission from master to apprentice is the primary way in which our scientific methodologies are transmitted. He notes that University culture has been transplanted into a variety of cultures and settings and the results by and large have not been as successful as would be expected, in many places it hasn’t worked at all to this point. The key here is that the culture on which our scientific progress depends is fragile. It is hard to construct. It took centuries to arise and … didn’t arise in many other places which were more literate, wealthier, and had more time. Likewise our social customs and practices fit together to form our society … are very fragile. They took centuries, millenia to build up in a way in which they fit. It is a progressive conceit that they have “new ways” of social arrangement untried and unconsidered by anyone in the previous 5000 years. They believe that their scientific knowledge will protect them from error at the same time at which is retreating rapidly from the notions that it has anything to offer in moral and social arenas. Odd that.
I’m conservative because I’m aware our track record at intentional innovations in engineering and fixing our society is very very poor. I’m conservative because the effort to make decent human society was bought at great price. 500 years ago the “Emily Post” etiquette manuals of behavior had to instruct individuals to eschew public defecation in dining areas at mealtime. Our manners, our culture, and the institutions which bind us together took great effort to erect. They are fragile. The first impulse should not be to whack them indiscriminately as they are planning and doing right now.