The need for a traditionalist alternative to liberalism
This entry consisting of Larry G.’s comment was posted October 6. Since then many responses have come in, which I continue to post. They cover the traditionalist gamut, from race to religion to constitutionalism. There is also a comment by an atheist anti-liberal who brilliantly challenges the traditionalist way of fighting liberalism and suggests a different way. I’m changing the date of this entry to keep it at the top of the main page. As for an overall reply by me, that will take a while, as there is a lot to absorb and think about here. (Note: an abridged version of this entry has been posted.)
a continuation of the thread
, “Do liberals think they won’t be harmed by national suicide?”
Larry G. writes:
This has been a great thread. I think we all agree that a compelling, traditionalist vision needs to be articulated, along with its philosophical foundations. And yet I haven’t seen it, at least not in a form that I can point to. Where is the Magna Carta, the Constitution, the Ten Commandments of Traditionalism?
Therefore let us declare the Republic of Amnation, appoint you first temporary president, and assemble our greatest minds to set forth our Principles of Traditionalism. You and your readers will propose them, and let them be augmented, refined and distilled by argument.
It needs to be a coherent vision that would persuade a liberal to abandon his liberalism in favor of it, therefore it must address in some form or other the questions a liberal would pose, such as:
How would you treat racial minorities? Would segregation and discrimination be legal?
How would you treat immigrants, legal and illegal?
What about the rights of homosexuals?
What is the role of religion, and what happens to non-believers?
Would Islam be outlawed?
Would you outlaw abortion? Embryonic stem cell research? Cloning?
What about the “social safety net”? What happens to the poor?
How will you reduce inequality among men?
What is the role of women?
How do we treat “the Other”?
These are just a few that come to mind, but may have to be kept in mind when formulating the principles, because laws will be derived from those principles. But the most important thing is to state the principles and provide the philosophical foundations to support them.
I think this would be an interesting and useful exercise.
Ralph P. writes:
I second Larry G.’s suggestion for a Principles of Traditionalism charter. I too would like to see a clear mission statement spelled out in one document. We could carry it around in a pocket edition and give it out on street corners. But as a name Republic of Amnation doesn’t cut it.
Comments posted Sunday night
Mark J. writes:
Larry G. poses important questions that we need to be able to answer coherently. To do that, we need a simple, clear, compelling goal or vision upon which everything else is based, and it needs to answer the question: what are we trying to do?
I propose that our simple, fundamental premise is this: that we Western whites are a people and that we have a natural right to continue to exist as a people as we are—racially and culturally—and to take whatever actions are necessary to ensure our survival and prosperity, consistent with respecting the like rights of other peoples as well.
Finding the answers to Larry G.’s questions then is a matter of determining, based on accumulated human experience (traditionalism), what answers best meet this goal of ensuring the survival of our people.
Liberals deny we ARE a people, or argue that we must stop thinking like that if we are to achieve the liberals’ ultimate vision: universal equality. That’s what they’re after, and their answers to Larry G’s questions would all be oriented towards the answers that best work towards universal equality: open borders, no limits on homosexuality, and so on.
So I argue that what we begin with is posing the question to those we are hoping to sway: “Do you want our people to continue to survive? Because if you do, you must choose between liberalism and the survival of our people, because you cannot have both.” And when they see that they do want our people to survive, we can go on to explain how traditionalism supplies answers to the questions of how to organize a society so it survives and prospers.
But first they have to see that the question is between survival of our people and universal equality. They are mutually exclusive. Time and again your commenters have pointed out that they only woke up from their liberalism when they realized that the survival of our people was at stake. That is our most powerful argument.
Alan Roebuck writes:
Larry G. asks a series of important questions which liberals will ask us and which we therefore must be able to answer.
The problem is, people with a liberal worldview will generally be unable to accept the correct answers. So before we can hope to make our answers stick, we will have to do what the late Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer called “pre-evangelism.” A non-Christian will not even be able to hear the Gospel if he doesn’t believe in God, or if he doesn’t believe we can know anything about God, or if he has any other stumbling block caused by his false worldview. And therefore the Christian apologist needs to do a lot of listening in order to understand which false ideas will first have to be corrected before the unbeliever can really hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the same way, we will first have to establish some basic principles of reality before our traditionalist message will have a chance of being received. Here is one basic point that seems crucial:
We need to make it clear that if there is no God, then there is no reason why one ought to love anyone other than oneself. In other words (and since we’re referring to Western civilization), if the God of the Bible does not exist, then there is no reason why one ought to obey the traditional moral law, or to love one’s family, religion and nation enough to honor what they really are, or to make sacrifices in order to defend them.
Here is the way all liberals initially react to the above fundamental truth: “I don’t have to believe in God in order to be good, or do any of the other virtuous things you mentioned.” But this response entirely misses the point.
Of course, you can be virtuous if there is no God. You can do any doggone thing you want. But if there is no God, then there is no good reason why you should. [LA replies: I’ve never heard this argument before. That’s powerful. I’m not absolutely sure it’s correct, though.]
Many liberals still had a reasonably proper upbringing, and behave themselves reasonably because of this residual decency of their class. But as society in general increasingly comes to disbelieve in God, the logic of atheism will inevitably be worked out. If there is no reason why people ought to do something, eventually they won’t.
Therefore we need to say to the liberal: “It’s time to wake up and smell the nihilism!”
Charles G. writes:
I heartily agree with Larry G. We need to start somewhere. What better place than a simple manifesto of traditionalism? I’ll get the ball rolling by answering the question on immigration. Let’s scrap the 1965 Immigration “Reform” and go back to the one that was crafted in the 1920s to perpetuate the ethnic diversity as it stood then. This explicitly implies that the USA shall remain a European nation.
Simon N. writes:
I think it’s very important to note that many of Larry G.’s questions are phrased in normative cultural-Marxist (“liberal”) terminology, and thus frame the debate along cultural Marxist lines. From a properly traditionalist perspective they are therefore NOT questions with which a traditionalist should engage in the way they are posed.
e.g. “What about the rights of homosexuals” presupposes a society based upon an ethos of individualistic “human rights,” each set against the other. “How will you reduce inequality among men” presupposes a liberal notion of “equality” as a goal. The same with “discrimination,” “minorities,” “outlaw,” “social safety net,” and (grotesquely) the Saidian “Other.”
I actually think such an exercise is potentially very harmful, and risks liberal capture of the moral high ground for the nascent traditionalist movement. Much better to do what other successful movements do, and set out a coherent platform based upon traditionalist premises, not upon the premises of the cultural Marxist enemy.
David G. writes:
Here’s a slightly different take on the issue. Excellent thread, by the way,
One of liberalism’s great achievements is to have reserved the term “minority” primarily for those politicized “people of color” who come to Western nations. So, a few million Muslims out of a world Muslim population of 1.3 billion comes to the U.S. and they are deemed minorities, as if they were an endangered species. What a distortion of our position as well as theirs.They are minorities here, but only here.
See The World Atlas, here and here.
In terms of population, landmass and number of nations, the West is in the minority in all three areas. And aren’t we all supposed to be thinking globally these days? So, as Trad-Cons, why don’t we? The Muslims, the Asians and the Africans have more people, more landmass and more countries under their domain than the entire Western world combined.
Regarding the world’s landmass (including the North and South Poles), Europe, North America and Australia/Oceania ( i.e., the Western world) make up less than 29 percent of the total.
And remember that “North America” includes Greenland, Mexico and Central America. [LA replies: Yes, North America includes Mexico, but isn’t Central America considered geographically distinct from North America?]
Only a part of Russia is considered European—the land west of the Ural Mountains.
So, the “true West,” less Mexico, Central America and the islands of Oceania is maybe 25 percent of the total world landmass. Yet, even though the West literally has a far smaller share of the world, to where does the refugee industry turn to relocate people? Why, Maine, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, California and New York.
Describing the Western world as a demographic, geographic and political minority is a start, a basic point of reference, toward the reawakening and preservation of Western sensibilities and their uniqueness. Instead of squandering our resources on the cultural and physical transference of Third World to our shores, we should realize that while said resources are extremely deep and strong, they are also limited. Currently, the concept of “minorities” applies only on the receiving end of things, that is, to the host Western nations.That must change.
Michael B. writes from Sweden:
The key would seem to hinge on maintaining a happy medium between constitutional freedoms and strong moral norms. Small scale vs. large scale, regionalism vs. federalism.
- Amoral, Hollywood-style gutter capitalism vs a responsible “traditional” market: How does the Austerian traditionalist society handle the dynamic between amoral, mind-in-the-gutter hyper capitalism vis-a-vis a “responsible” capitalism, without stifling constitutional rights? Is there such a thing as “responsible” capitalism? At what point do things start going off the rails? How does one convince the producers of today’s nasty gutter media to restrain themselves, without resorting to force measures?
- Political pluralism vs. fascism: How does the Austerian traditionalist society handle political pluralism? Openly hostile movements such as sharia-supporting orthodox Muslims aside, are there to be “reasonable” limits placed on political and/or moral movements, and if so, how does one prevent such restraints from turning society into fascism or theocracy?
The future as I see it, lies in a decentralized, state-based, U.S. version of Swiss-style direct democracy. Shifting political power into the hands of the American people could bypass the corporate lobby, special interest system. Traditionalism could then arise quite naturally, as citizens who get to decide the future of their own backyards usually tend to vote more conservative. Look at the Swiss. Those who are forced to face the consequences of their actions usually discard a healthy chunk of those liberal excesses. If those who actually suffer the effects of the Mexican invasion were given a chance to vote for their own cities and futures, that southern border would be up and running in no time.
This, of course, presents a huge challenge in a big business, two-party monopoly, continent-wide nation such as the US, where federal power and corporate lobbying is out of control. How to get from A to B is, obviously, another issue entirely.
The key to getting what you want is to find the minimum goal that will satisfy you, and aim for nothing less and nothing more.
As a non-liberal atheist, I wonder if traditionalists aren’t confusing two goals: (1) the victory of traditionalism, and (2) the defeat of liberalism.
Since the victory of traditionalism implies the defeat of liberalism, we know the defeat of liberalism is at least as easy as the victory of traditionalism—and maybe easier. Therefore, if your minimum goal is the defeat of liberalism, it may be a mistake to pursue the victory of traditionalism.
Suppose traditionalists’ minimum goal is the victory of traditionalism: achieving the level of dominance that liberals hold over traditionalists today. Liberals have to pay private-school tuition to keep their children from being educated as traditionalists. Ouch. Taste the pain, lefties.
My guess is that, considering the power liberals hold in the U.S., and the hate and intolerance they display toward “fundamentalists,” the only realistic path to the victory of traditionalism is a military coup. (I may be the only San Francisco atheist who would welcome a fundamentalist Christian coup.)
Frankly, I think expecting politically significant numbers of liberals voluntarily to convert to traditionalism is like expecting Catholics to become Protestants. It can be done with coercive sovereign power (cuius regio, eius religio), and not otherwise.
If the victory of traditionalism is your minimum goal and this assessment is accurate, traditionalist politics is useless. Or worse than useless, as it’s a great way to motivate liberals. Forget about democracy and figure out how to organize the military. (Luttwak’s Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook may help.)
But suppose your minimum goal is the defeat of liberalism? Suppose all you need is not the victory of traditionalism, but just the defeat of liberalism? That is, suppose traditionalists would consider it acceptable to live under a government which is neither liberal nor traditionalist, but which tolerates both and treats them equally?
In that case, rather than designing a traditionalist attack against liberalism, you can design an anti-liberal attack against liberalism. Your design freedom has increased.
A anti-liberal attack is any political ideology designed to defeat liberalism. Traditionalism is an undesirable ingredient in an effective anti-liberal attack, because an effective anti-liberal attack should be designed to convert liberals to the new ideology. Since liberals are trained to hate and fear traditionalists, you’re charging into the machine gun.
Liberals can be attacked effectively from an ideological position that seems, at least at first glance, hyper-liberal. For example, see this ultra-atheist attack on Richard Dawkins at my blog, Unqualified Reservations. Because liberalism is a perverted version of Christianity, it should be quite susceptible to Voltairean anticlericalism.
VFR often strikes me as Voltairean, with its deadly mix of reason and mockery. Unless (as obviously with VFR) they can pigeonhole the attack as “conservative,” liberals have no idea what to do when these weapons are turned against them. It forces them to think, and they don’t like that.
The most effective anti-liberal ideology, in my opinion, is just realism. Liberalism contradicts both Christianity and reality. To convert liberals, downplay the latter and emphasize the former. To deprogram them, downplay the former and emphasize the latter.
Your political goal in attacking liberalism is to destroy its institutions. For example, much of liberalism’s power comes from its control of the press and the educational system. “Separation of education and state” (cutting off tax funds to schools and universities) and “separation of journalism and state” (revoking all official privileges of journalists including “freedom of leak,” confiscation of free broadcast licenses, etc) are two political slogans I think anti-liberals could deploy effectively.
My overall view, which may be too extreme for some, is that the U.S. federal government is so contaminated with liberalism that it’s easier to abolish than reform. What’s needed is an orderly financial process in which Washington’s assets and liabilities are balanced and liquidated. What’s left should be a purely military entity whose only goal is to secure the perimeter of the 50 free states.
In other words, if the defeat of liberalism is an acceptable minimum goal, I think the political agenda traditionalists should be pursuing is not traditionalism, but decentralism. Decentralism can be motivated by an ideology of realism that deflates liberal pieties without reference to faith, attacking liberalism from behind with its own weapons.
I’m not saying it will be easy to liquidate DC through democratic means (or otherwise). But (a) if you can do it, it will stay done; (b) it is not obviously traditionalist, and stands a chance of converting liberals; (c) it would destroy the liberal New Deal state and all its institutions.
Jeff C. writes:
I think this is something that should have been done a long time ago. Actually, I’m surprised that you havn’t done it already Lawrence, considering how invested you are in finding truth, which you do with razor-sharp analysis constantly. Do you not know how important it is to have a “bible” of traditionalism that answers the threat of liberalism wholly instead of peacemeal?
Comments posted midday October 8
Regarding two of the commentators. Mark J writes: “we Western whites are a people and … we have a natural right to continue to exist as a people as we are.” I would seriously advise keeping the word “white” out of the mission statement. It may be true but the present realities are such that it SCREAMS racism and white supremacy to anyone who doesn’t already buy into it. The liberal media have done a great deal of effective brainwashing and a statement like this will shut down audiences before you can begin.
Alan Roebuck writes:
“We need to make it clear that if there is no God, then there is no reason why one ought to love anyone other than oneself. In other words (and since we’re referring to Western civilization), if the God of the Bible does not exist, then there is no reason why one ought to obey the traditional moral law, or to love one’s family, religion and nation enough to honor what they really are, or to make sacrifices in order to defend them.” I seriously disagree with this statement. While I am a major advocate for Christian Western Civilization, I don’t believe in organized religion (although I subscribe to the notion of a higher power) at all. I approach it from an entirely different angle:
Human progress (philosophy, morality, technology, governance, etc) has occurred primarily in the Western world, and these accomplishments are worth defending to secure what we have—as well as promote further progress in the future. Liberalism, even though it purports to further these things, is actually a virulently dangerous regression that will endanger everything that has come before.
Secondly, in terms of justice: a government can be morally legitimate and binding in the absence of unanimous, explicit consent only if it incorporates appropriate limitations on government to safeguard individual rights. Such a government in all the history of the world has only occurred once, here in America, and it drew from the wide history and culture of Western Civilization to create it. A government of any other civilization that replaces or modifies what we have here will be a major degradation or destruction of such justice, and our government is worth defending for this reason. [LA asks: Do we have such a government now?]
In a world increasingly secular, I would suggest that you broaden your arguments beyond what appeals only to devout Christians, even though it is they on whom Western Civilization rests.
Jeff C. writes:
LA asks: “Do we have such a government now?”
The foundations are still there but they’ve taken an incredibly heavy beating. Liberalism (Socialism and the radical redistribution of wealth, promotion of multiculturalism at the expense of traditional society, universalism and the neocons, suppression of dissent, the warping of the constitution through methods of interpretation not consistent with original meaning) is increasingly creating a society devoid of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and turning it instead into “life, governmental enforced equality and the pursuit of happiness, only insofar as it doesn’t affect such equality” (in other words, no liberty at all). Again, part of the blame can be attributed directly to the Founders, who failed to enshrine Western Christian society into the government as the basis for which the whole system rests.
Mark P. writes:
I think Mencius has it right when he suggests that the easier and do-able goal is anti-liberalism rather than traditionalism. Keep in mind that our current civilization is not absent any traditionalism. It is just that any such traditionalism is actively suppressed by a liberal institutional apparatus. Only in the realm of rational ideas does the traditionalist have to present a cohesive plan to “out-debate” the liberals somehow. In the real world, once the artificial liberal apparatus is removed, traditionalism will naturally arise.
I don’t think that Mencius’ goal of realism is the only way. The problem with realism is that people have unequal means of isolating themselves from reality. Therefore, an anti-liberal approach must use liberalism against liberalism.
Anything else, and traditionalism will fail just as assuredly as “Originalism” became judicial activism defined as “New Originalism.”
Terry Morris writes:
“Of course, you can be virtuous if there is no God. You can do any doggone thing you want. But if there is no God, then there is no good reason why you should. [LA replies: I’ve never heard this argument before. That’s powerful. I’m not absolutely sure it’s correct, though.]”
I believe it is incorrect.
I agree with Alan that people need a reason to be good, and the best reason is God. There are many reasons to be good, but only one perfect reason. But outside the existence of pure goodness (God) it is not possible to be good. Liberals can be good while disbelieving in God’s existence, but only because God exists irrespective of what they believe. God is a necessary being, and therefore has to exist.
Though they often get it backwards, that liberals have a sense of the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, should be enough to convince them of the existence of God. For, how could mere mortals know the difference between good and evil if we had no sense of what pure goodness is? The answer is we couldn’t; we couldn’t know the difference unless something purely good exists (God). This is because evil is nothing but a privation of something, good.
It cannot be reiterated enough that God is being, we merely have being. Likewise, God is goodness with no potentiality for the deprivation thereof in himself, we merely have goodness with every potentiality for such deprivation.
Jeff C. writes:
Saw a comment Mencius made about you at his site, and thought you’d find it interesting.
Laura W. writes:
I agree with Mencius that the key is regionalism and an attack against liberal principles on their own turf. Laying out a Christian platform would be stirring to us believers, but ineffective. Efforts to convert by institutional fiat does such damage to Christianity, which is best passed mind-to-mind.
Mencius mentioned two areas of challenge, state control of the schools and the power of the liberal press, which both violate some of liberal’s own sacred tenets. There are others, particularly agrarian reform, a break-up of corporate control of retail markets, the revival of American manufacturing and anti-sprawl measures. Liberals are moved by all movements to protect the land and abhor the Wal-martization of America. They sympathize with the underdog struggling against corporate giants. They could be more easily convinced of their insensitivity to the laid-off factory worker or stressed small-time farmer than to the conservative Christian. The loss of community identity that has altered city, suburb and countryside alike and the rise of the corporate conglomerate is the traditionalist’s enemy as well.
Many become liberals because they fail to identify with any particular place or any particular people. They feel a nameless nostalgia for these things and find a lost community in utopian ideas. When we speak of the white race or Western culture, we all mean very specific things. There is no such thing as a traditionalist who is simply attached to these as grand abstractions. Find the liberal a home, a specific place and a people to whom he can belong, and he will become a traditionalist and very likely a Christian as well.
David G. writes:
In answer to your query posted on VFR today:
North America, the 3rd largest continent includes Canada, Greenland, Mexico, the United States, all the countries of Central America and the island countries and dependencies of the Caribbean. The continent’s (highest point) is Mt McKinley, in Alaska, at 20,322ft (6,194m), while the (loWest point) is Death Valley in California, at 282 ft (86m) below sea level
Mark J. writes:
Jeff C. has valid concerns that using the word “white” to describe our people’s identity will be off-putting to people. That’s true, but at the same time our race is a fundamental part of our identity and what we want to preserve. One of your commenters in an earlier thread wrote that he began to abandon liberalism the day he saw that his newborn baby was the only white baby in the nursery. Race and religious tradition are perhaps the two critical non-negotiable elements of our identity. If we run away from, or try to obfuscate the fact that our racial identity is the major part of the peoplehood that we want to preserve, we won’t be fooling anyone and will only be attacked as “racists” anyway by liberals who understand that our squeamishness about race is where we are most vulnerable.
We can soften it without avoiding it when we discuss this with someone by pointing out that every people on earth has a right to survive and maintain its identity, and begin by listing minority groups that liberals do not deny this right of racial identity to: Somalis, Hmong, Amazonian jungle tribes, Australian Aborigines, Japanese, and so on. And then segue into the argument that we Western whites are a people as well, or several groups of closely related peoples, and we have a right to maintain our identity as well. In this way we use ju-jitsu on liberals, by appealing to their highest value—equality—to undercut their objections. Don’t we have an equal right to survive just as they grant to these other ethnic groups? How is it “racist” or “supremacist” to want to survive?
I know firsthand that this works because I was discussing these matters with a very sharp, very liberal young woman graduate of a university political science program and I asked her if those remote tribes in the Amazon have a right to maintain their ethnic identity. I didn’t have to say anything else—she immediately said ” … and you’re asking then if we have a right to our ethnic identity as well.” She smiled that slightly self-conscious smile you get when you realize there’s a big hole in your argument and said “hmmm I will have to think about that.” She was stopped in her tracks. I was not surprised that in four years of studying political science the idea had never been presented to her before.
James N. writes:
Absolutely fantastic comment by Mencius on the National Suicide thread. It crystallizes some of my thoughts about presidential politics, among other things. His point that a direct traditionalist assault by forces which are too weak to prevail has the potential to make things worse, rather than better, is in perfect accord with my own view.
On a slightly different note, I had the chance to break bread with two old colleagues whilst traveling this week. Each is younger than I, each has a young son. Each boasts with pride about living in a “diverse” neighborhood or town.
Each has had their boy child robbed and threatened with a weapon in the past week, in two wonderfully diverse neighborhoods, a thousand miles apart from each other but very closely related in many ways.
Now, what seems like a normal reaction to me, given this circumstance, is to get one’s family out of this potential killing zone as fast as possible. In another time or place, one might hunt down and kill the assailant, before one’s family could be further harmed.
But to shrug one’s shoulders and to continue to praise the diversity which brought the blade to your only son’s throat?
That is deeply, seriously abnormal. People who can do this need careful handling, to help them see the suicidal nature of their “beliefs.” The need to clutch tightly such false, disordered beliefs is a form of mental illness, impervious to rhetoric and argument.
This is the brilliance of Mencius’ “The most effective anti-liberal ideology, in my opinion, is just realism. Liberalism contradicts both Christianity and reality. To convert liberals, downplay the latter and emphasize the former. To deprogram them, downplay the former and emphasize the latter.”
Alan Roebuck writes:
The discussion at “The need for a traditionalist alternative to liberalism” may be the most important thing ever posted at VFR.
Mencius’s main point is largely in agreement with my basic position: we need to discredit liberalism first in order to make room for traditionalism. And his observation that we don’t need to defend Christianity is, in many instances, basically sound: many liberals don’t know that their worldview depends on atheism in order to be valid. These people (some of them) can be “de-liberalized” without an overt appeal to Christianity, by appealing to reality and the contradictions within liberalism.
And we are mainly attempting to persuade people of traditionalism, not Christianity. An overt appeal to Christianity will occasionally be necessary, but need not be the main thrust of our campaign.
But thinking people will require a theoretical justification of their worldview, and many of these will not abandon liberalism until they are convinced of Christianity.
Furthermore, we need to think long term. Christianity is our heritage. Certainly a majority of committed and knowledgeable liberals will never become Christians, but they will die one day, which is why we need to make a major effort to appeal to the young. This is a natural if you think of the campaign as mainly one of persuasion rather than attempting to seize political power. As I have said before, no conservative coup will work until the climate of ideas changes.
We do, of course, need a positive program. Here’s a proposal for the basic appeal we make to people: Traditionalism: to know, love and defend your American nation.
I propose this as an analogy with Christian evangelism: Christian evangelists don’t lead with the entire biblical worldview, which is abstract, dry and intimidating. They don’t tell people they first need to accept the doctrines of the trinity, original sin, substitutionary atonement, and so on. They lead with Jesus, who is for many people an attractive person. Let’s lead with something all Americans claim to honor: America.
Jeff C. seriously disagrees with me when I say that without God, there is no reason to be virtuous. He doesn’t believe in organized religion. He then goes on to discuss human progress and legitimate government.
But how does Jeff think the knowledge of God and the corrective discipline required to behave virtuously arise? If there were no organized religions, would man spontaneously become virtuous? It is clear that churches need to be organized in order to propagate the knowledge and way of life taught in the Bible. Similarly, traditionalists need to organize in order to propagate their doctrine.
Finally, you said you are not sure you agree with my assertion that without God there is no reason to be virtuous. Could you clarify your reasons for disagreeing so that I might have a chance to convince you? The disagreements posted by others at VFR seem vague and unfocused to me, so I don’t know how to respond.
Mr. Roebuck writes: “Traditionalism: to know, love and defend your American nation. I propose this as an analogy with Christian evangelism: Christian evangelists don’t lead with the entire biblical worldview….. They don’t tell people they first need to accept the doctrines of the trinity, original sin, substitutionary atonement, and so on. They lead with Jesus…”
That’s a beautiful and true thought. Just as patriotism consists, in the first instance, of a love of the concrete American nation, and Western traditionalism consists, in the first instance, of an instinctive love of European man (as I have said many times), Christianity consists, in the first instance, of the concrete experience of the truth and divinity of Jesus Christ. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God,” Peter blurted out when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was. And Jesus answered that Peter’s direct experience of the divine reality of Jesus was the rock on which the Church was founded.
Christianity is founded on the transcendent truth of concrete particulars. So is traditionalism.
(I’ll try to reply to Mr. Roebuck’s other question later.)
Dimitri K. writes:
It is a wonderful thread, and there are many with whom I agree and some with whom I disagree. But the most important issue to my mind is Mencius’ suggestion that we fight liberalism without actually suggesting any alternative. He claims that it would be easier. That’s true, but the result of such a victory may be completely disastrous. As he correctly pointed out, liberalism is the perversion of Christianity. The result of such a fight probably will be the complete rejection of Christianity. One example we all know of is Conservative Swede. Another example has been recently described in Gates of Vienna. It is about the leader of Finnish Islamic party, who started as a Communist, then became a Nazi (abandoned his liberalism) and then converted into Islam. Islam is on the rise, and it is likely that many ex-liberals will find themselves in the camp of Islam. As I already wrote you once, and you agreed, Islam in many respects is conservatism without the belief in Higher Reason. I am afraid that many liberals after being disillusioned by liberalism will start to praise Islam, as D’Souza did.
My point is that we must not forget and must not fail to remind others what is our final aim—a non-liberal society based on Judeo-Christian values. If we don’t want to repel non-believers, we may call it “cultural Christianity,” which does not require a deep faith from everybody, but requires some respect to the fact that our culture is Christian. Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, said: “I am not a religious man and I don’t go to the synagogue on Saturdays. But I know the synagogue to which I don’t go.” In other words, it means: “I am a sinner, but I know the way to salvation and I don’t challenge that way.” But traditionalism without naming the specific tradition which it promotes, may be even worse than liberalism.
I won’t be able for the next couple of days to put together an overall reply to this thread and particularly my thoughts on a traditionalist “manifesto.”
Gintas J. writes:
Is this credo an internal one, something around which traditionalists can rally? Or is it an attack document, to go after liberalism?
Mencius Moldbug strikes me as a goofy techno-geek libertarian. That is, he does have a very high native intelligence, but it’s not been well-disciplined by superior intellect / character / tradition. In other words, he really sounds nutty (think Christoper Lloyd in Back to the Future), but is not lovably nutty. This is based on looking at his blog.
For example, he suggests in his comment to you,
“My overall view, which may be too extreme for some, is that the U.S. federal government is so contaminated with liberalism that it’s easier to abolish than reform. What’s needed is an orderly financial process in which Washington’s assets and liabilities are balanced and liquidated. What’s left should be a purely military entity whose only goal is to secure the perimeter of the 50 free states.”
Is simultaneously entertaining the ideas “abolish rather than reform” and “an orderly financial process” crazy enough?
I agree that someone who argues that our position is too extreme to appeal to people while he himself advocates that the functions of the U.S. government be reduced to nothing but military defense—i.e., a position vastly more libertarian than even the original 1787 Constitution—does not seem to be showing much self-awareness.
Mencius sent a 2,100 long comment, apparently in the belief that this thread is a collection of expansive essays rather than a discussion
. I cut it down to 700 words, preserving his main points.
As I said, it’s important to pick a minimum goal which is as achievable as possible. Also, if you have multiple goals which can be achieved sequentially rather than in parallel, it’s important to recognize this, sequence the objectives, and attempt them in the right order.
For example, Dimitri K. says his real goal is not just to defeat liberalism, but to replace it with a restored Christian society—and that separating these goals is potentially dangerous.
I have a couple of answers for Dimitri K., which I hope he’ll consider.
First, if your goal is both to defeat liberalism and to build a Christian society, the question is whether these projects can be accomplished in sequence rather than in parallel. You have two problems to solve. Do you have to solve them both in a single step? Or can you solve them one by one? If the latter, which one should you solve first? In this case, I think the answers are pretty obvious.
Second, while it has suffered many injuries at the hands of its rulers, traditionalist American Christianity is still the belief system of at least a quarter of Americans. Who tend to feel pretty strongly about it. Why is it almost impossible for an American family to live in the same kind of society that the vast majority of Americans enjoyed even just 50 years ago? It can only be because Washington despises them and their beliefs.
The idea that, if you remove this huge boot from red-state America’s neck, the result will be anything but a great flowering and restoration of traditionalist Christian culture, strikes me as implausible. Whether you like it or not. (Middle America is almost a foreign country to me—my father was a Jewish philosophy professor and Foreign Service officer. I am not even particularly fond of traditional American culture. The reason I find myself at VFR is just that I can’t quite sign up for the proposition that the traditional American culture is evil and deserves to be crushed.)
If this assessment is accurate, the second half of Dimitri K.’s goal is self-achieving, and we are left again with the task of merely defeating liberalism.
Third, if the goal is just to defeat liberalism, that greatly simplifies your task. To defeat liberalism is to disestablish it, to eject it from power, to dissolve its institutions and render its temporal power no greater than that of, say, Mormonism. In fact, the disestablishment of the Mormon Church in Utah is an fine example of this kind of “reboot.” Under considerable military duress, ecclesiastical government in Utah was abolished and civil government was installed. No Mormons were harmed in this making of this film. Mormons and the LDS Church survive and remain prosperous and influential in modern Utah. They are not, however, in control of the state government, and nor do they conspire against it. Perhaps this is because they know who’s in charge.
Like Mormons, liberals are perfectly fine people. There is nothing wrong with liberals or liberalism. They should have a right to live in a society organized according to their own principles, and instruct their own children in their own beliefs without prejudice or penalty. All I object to is an atheistic theocracy in which liberalism is the hegemonic state religion. [LA replies: But this is what I’ve said many times: my goal is to end modern liberalism as our ruling ideology, not to extirpate all liberalism and liberal thinking.]
North America is a big place. And, contrary to popular belief, it is not milk and it doesn’t have to be homogenized. San Francisco will probably always be a liberal city. The views of San Franciscans should simply not matter in Kansas, and vice versa. There’s probably even room for a black separatist community, although I suspect that in this case, strong fences would make good neighbors.
I hope this answers Dimitri K.’s question.
Let me also clarify my motivations for suggesting purely negative goals, dissolving liberal institutions rather than trying to reform them to be conservative or even just non-liberal.
The nice thing about negative goals—separationism is another good example—is that they are much easier to build coalitions around. They are not susceptible to division and compromise. They offer coherent objectives which, once achieved, will stay achieved. Either you are in favor of separationism, or you aren’t.
A reader writes:
His name, Mencius Moldbug, sounds like something out of The Screwtape Letters.
Terry Morris writes:
Interesting comments by Mencius. Isn’t the way to defeat liberalism, or to end its dominance in America, a return to balanced constitutional government?
In other words, a return to balanced constitutional government would relegate liberalism to small spheres of operation where (1) its destructiveness would be more clearly exposed for what it is due to its closeness to individual Americans, and (2) it would have no power to organize itself into a dominant national force. This is what I meant once before when I said we should “isolate” it. We don’t have to destroy it. It’ll destroy itself, for all intents and purposes, if we can relegate it to small isolated (and self-isolating) spheres.
Laura W. writes:
Mencius does indeed make absurd arguments in his blog. His contentions that liberalism (or “ultra-Calvinism”) is a Christian sect, rather than a perversion of Christianity, and that Richard Dawkins is actually a Christian evangelist are kooky and illogical. Hillaire Belloc made similar arguments regarding Calvinism and rightfully ranked it, along with Islam, among the great Christian heresies. Mencius doesn’t allow that heresies actually spring from the religion itself. His worldview can’t sustain anything but a few holier-than-thou atheists. Still, I agree with him about adopting workable goals.
Jacob M. writes:
I agree with Mark J. when he says we shouldn’t shy away from the word “white.” Liberals love to accuse us conservatives of using euphemistic terms like “Western Civilization” in order to obscure our true racial meaning, because in their minds deep down we are all racists but won’t admit it because we know racism is not acceptable. If we come out and say “white,” at least we’re showing them that we won’t be verbally intimidated. Of course, one must be judicious in deciding how far to take this; in our society, there are many settings where speaking this way could cost a man his job.
That said, I wonder how effective Mark’s “survival of an ethnic identity” argument will really be with liberals. Of course liberals believe that Amazonian jungle tribes have a right to preserve their ethnic identity, and in the name of fairness, they may be persuaded to concede that people of European ancestry have that right as well. The problem is that they don’t think preservation of an ethnic identity requires having one’s own country, or even state or city. Therefore, in response to the assertion that multiculturalism interferes with whites’ right to ethnic survival, I think many liberals would say “We’re not advocating taking away whites’ right to marry each other and produce white children, to buy houses next to other white families, to operate businesses where only English is spoken or restaurants serving traditional European cuisine. Whites’ becoming a minority doesn’t prevent them from doing that.” I wonder whether Mark’s young political science interlocutor said anything more, and if she did, whether it was along those lines.
Of course, if present trends continue, whites’ ability to maintain our ethnic identity will be compromised. But that’s not obvious to liberals yet. So I think that while the ethnic survival argument is a good one, it’s going to require much more development to show liberals not just that their position is contradictory now, but that it will eventually lead to what they revile most: the disappearance of a unique race and culture.
I have always opposed the approach to defending whites as though they were just another oppressed minority group seeking its recognition and rights. To take that position is to accept complete defeat. This is not about preserving whites as a little ethnic group here and there, but about preserving white America, white Western civilization, and the white race. Meaning, in practical terms, that whites must remain the dominant ethnocultural majority of America and the West.
Terry Morris writes:
Here are seven leading principles of Traditional Conservatism:
1. The Principle of Individuality;
2. The Principle of Self-Government;
3. The Historical Character of Americans as our heritage;
4. The property of conscience (meaning a man has a property in his conscience);
5. The original form of our Government;
6. Local self-government;
7. The Principle of American Political Union.
Dimitri K. writes:
Answer to Mencius.
“All the world of injustice we will ruin to the ground
And then we will build our own brand new world”
This is my own translation of two lines from the “International,” the anthem of the Communist movement. History teaches us that all thoroughly-engineered attempts to improve the world usually resulted in a much worse world. I believe the reason is that the world is a very complicated system which the attempted engineers don’t understand completely. The analogies can be also found in other fields of knowledge. For example, not so long ago the stomach ulcer was treated by surgeons by cutting away a part of the stomach. Only recently we learned that it was caused by bacteria and can be treated by antibiotics. Being a computer programmer, I also know that if you try to radically improve a complicated system without the complete knowledge of how it works, the only possible result will be the failure of the system.
The main goal in all improvements must be not to make it worse and not to ruin whatever good is still remaining. What is the guarantee that after completely ruining the present order we will get anything better? What if the designer made a mistake in his calculations? That’s why I am skeptical about simple sequential proposals of the sort: “first we get power and then start improvements.” The only safe mode is to start improvements with simultaneously keeping the current system working. If the improvements appear to be working and really good, there is usually no problem integrating them into the system.
The liberalism means the society based on freedom. Freedom is not a complete evil, the perversion starts when freedom is put above everything else. My plan is to show to the people how good is the part which was thrown away by liberals, and maybe taking some antibiotics against the germs which cause the ulcer in our society. What treatment it should be specifically is a matter of the current discussion. But don’t start with cutting away the part of our society only because it is misfunctioning.
To Gintas J:
Extremism is one thing and traditionalism is another.
Liberals are allergic to traditionalism. They are especially allergic to traditionalist extremism. But they are not allergic to all extremism everywhere. That would be physically impossible, because at least by traditionalist standards, they are extremist themselves. Many of them even admit it, although they will use a different word.
If any nonliberal brand of extremism becomes associated with traditionalism, liberalism will inevitably become allergic to it. But this takes time. An effective strategy shouldn’t give the enemy time to sit down, plan and think.
As for an orderly financial process, it’s very easy to shut down and sell off chunks of government. It just hasn’t happened much lately. It is also not impossible to restructure an entirely broken financial system. In fact, it is imperative. You seem to have a negative attitude toward libertarianism, and I find it hard to blame any conservative for this, but if you can stand reading some Austrian economics (try the original, Mises, who was certainly no libertarian), you might be surprised at what you learn.
To Terry Morris:
The problem with a return to balanced constitutional government is that there’s no reason to believe that this design works. After all, balanced constitutional government evolved into what we have today. Against the wishes of a great many wise and powerful men, none of whose shoes any post-1945 politician was fit to lick.
To Laura W:
As a non-Christian, I’m afraid I will simply never be able to distinguish between a “perversion of Christianity” and a “sect of Christianity.” Surely any serious sect considers any sect with a contradicting interpretation of Christianity, at least in some way, perverse? And if not, how can the two describe themselves as different sects? At least in my small and unenlightened mind, Belloc and I are saying the same thing. (BTW: Belloc rocks.)
Mark J. writes:
In response to Jacob M.: I agree that liberals would argue that whites don’t need a separate nation in order to survive. Then it is our job to make the argument that there has to be some kind of separationism for a people to survive. Since most of the wars in the world are between different peoples competing for control of a shared nation, it isn’t hard to find examples that demonstrate that whites cannot survive by sharing a country with non-whites. We can’t even share a neighborhood with blacks for long before we are driven out.
Regarding Larry’s comment, I too want us to remain the dominant ethnocultural group of the West. My point was not that we should accept being just another protected minority in our own lands, but that we have a right to our own lands, our own nations, just as other peoples do around the world. My point was that we can use liberals’ love of “equality” as an argument that we have an equal right to our own nations, not just an equal right to survive. We need the nations in order to survive. Either that or we go back to the days of apartheid-like separation and unequal voting rights. If non-whites have the same voting rights as we do, and they reproduce faster, it is a mathematical certainty that they will eventually take our countries away from us. Either we have a separate country or we don’t give them equal voting rights. Since no one, liberals or conservatives, wants to live in a country where some people are lesser citizens without the right to vote, the only remaining option if whites are to control their own destiny is separate nations. And the nations of the West were created by whites and they belong to us and we have every moral right to continue to claim and hold them for ourselves.
As an aside, I don’t think there is a real “right for a people to survive.” A nation belongs to whomever is strong enough to hold it. But when making these arguments in a way that speaks to liberals, I think it is useful to undercut their objections by using the language of equality.
Jacob M. writes:
To respond to the further point you posted, it’s true, an argument that “we have the same rights as other minorities” smacks a little too much of the frequent approach of turning liberalism against liberals, or trying to use liberalism to achieve conservative goals, that has served conservatives so poorly in recent decades. Perhaps that makes it a worthless argument, because it can only take us as far as the legitimacy of white enclaves in a multicultural society, and not of a basically white country as a whole. But do you think it has any validity as merely a way of getting our foot in the door, as long as we then move on to explaining why we really can’t maintain our existence as a people without our own entire countries, or would you say it should be jettisoned entirely because the potential for it to lead us down the path of liberalism is too great?
Also, my initially wholly positive reaction to that argument might be a good illustration of how difficult it is to remain consistently conservative in a society where one is constantly bombarded with liberal messages.
If a group of whites in some local situation, say a school, is already under the power of a hostile multicultural regime which denies whites rights that it gives to other groups, then the whites must demand their rights. But even there, I would, to the extent practicable, not use multicultural language in making my demands. I would put it in terms of general fairness, justice, equal treatment.
One thing that needs to be a part of a traditonalist alternative to liberalism is a renewed, positive vision of American history. At present, the whole of American history is nothing more than a target for the left to attack (the latest is Ken Burns’s “World War II”), while the “right” has nothing to offer on the subject except our victory over fascism in WWII, our immigration history, and our race-blindness. The actual, historical country, even the standard history of America that was still being taught in public schools as late of the 1960s, is not represented or defended by anyone. So one of the things that traditionalists need to do is restore the substantive, normative history of America, but from a traditionalist angle. We can think further about what this would mean.
You posted a comment of his, directed to me:
“You seem to have a negative attitude toward libertarianism, and I find it hard to blame any conservative for this, but if you can stand to read some Austrian economics (try the original, Mises, who was certainly no libertarian), you might be surprised at what you learn.”
Your site doesn’t really explore economics all that much, and I am glad of it. There are plenty of other outlets for condescending utilitarians.
Jeff C. writes (10/13/07):
In 2002, Jim Kalb posted the following: “There’s a deep connection between PC liberalism and Nazism. A single movement of thought, the abolition of the transcendent, leads to them as its two ultimate possibilities.” Without God in the picture, with man at the mercy of his own devices, ultimately either God becomes man (a Stalin or a Hitler, or even end-game liberalism’s unelected magistrates) or man becomes God (the cult of individualism and personal pleasure, ignoring and destroying man’s ties to each other until society implodes). When the choice is boiled down to this, for a thinking man the answer is an easy one. Christianity must be saved. Christianity may be helpful in reaching this conclusion, but it is not necessary. Rather, respect for and association with Western Civilization (which includes Christianity), and knowledge of the dangers posed by the alternatives are the fundamental requirements.
For the record, I define Western Civilization as Samuel Huntington does: Classical legacy (Greek philosophy and rationalism, Roman law, Latin), Catholocisim and Protestantism, European languages, separation of spiritual and temporal authority, rule of law, social pluralism, representative bodies and individualism. It is these traits that have allowed the West to take the lead in everything from technological innovation to culture (music, art, architecture, etc) to philosophy.
The difficulty lies, of course, in reaching this point, especially in today’s environment where education and the media are controlled by liberalism. Many of VFR’s posters argue for a push to return to traditional Christianity, which has been consistently losing to liberalism for a hundred years or more. It is doubtful that this is possible. Mensius is dead-on when he states: “Traditionalism is an undesirable ingredient in an effective anti-liberal attack, because an effective anti-liberal attack should be designed to convert liberals to the new ideology.” Instead, attack liberalism’s weak point, liberal rationality, as it claims sole ownership to reason yet is itself irrational.
The best way to convert liberals, then, is to appeal to reason. First identify Islam—as Islam—as a fundamental threat to our values that can’t be reasoned or argued with. Then spell out the end-game of liberalism, which is tyrannical dictatorship in the name of the people. Then argue that the only way to survive and keep our values intact is to embrace Christianity’s fundamental role in creating the greatness of our civilization.
Finally, remember that success ultimately depends in numbers. As I state over and over:
In a world increasingly secular, I would suggest that you broaden your arguments beyond what appeals only to devout Christians, even though it is they on whom Western Civilization ultimately rests.
Terry Morris writes:
I think I agree with Jeff C.’s overall strategy for converting liberals to traditionalism. I’ve argued many times that we need to show liberals where the ideology of liberalism is irrational. But it’s important to keep in mind that Jeff is offering us a strategy and not a goal. The title of this entry is “The need for a tradtionalist alternative to liberalism,” not “The need for a traditionalist strategy for converting liberals.” I thought we were trying, in this thread, to lay down some tradionalist principles as an alternative for liberals once liberalism began to fail them and/or once they became aware of the irrationality, illogic, and the destructiveness of their liberalism.
Thanks to Terry for that reminder and keeping the discussion on course.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 09, 2007 11:55 PM | Send