Can the West reverse course?

There is a big discussion at Gates of Vienna about my article of last week, “The extinction we are facing, if we do not radically change direction.” Thankfully, it’s a serious intellectual exchange, with no personal attacks on me such as ran riot at that site a year ago this week; and even the number one Auster-obsessive, Conservative Swede, is sticking with the issues. He thinks my analysis of the internal and external threats to the West is sound, and he agrees with my basic point that the West can only save itself if it fundamentally changes its belief system, an idea he even defends against critics. But he doesn’t like it that I still base myself on Christianity and America, which he sees as the two sources of the liberal belief system that I oppose, a truth to which he says that I am blind because of my identification with Christianity and America.

Such a substantive, interesting debate is a far cry from what was happening a year ago, when Conservative Swede said about me, among other things:

But in both cases the main achievements of Auster and [Charles] Johnson have been in the past. The unique value they once produced is rapidly becoming insignificant, since the world is changing around them. And in the process, their true egomaniac agendas has come up nakedly into the open, for everyone to see. So thank you fellows for our brave efforts in the past, but I don’t think we need either of you any more.

Given the current thread at GoV, it looks as though Conservative Swede no longer believes that I have passed into insignificance and irrelevance. If Conservative Swede can reverse course, can the West?

- end of initial entry -

Philip M. writes from England:

On the GoV blog Conservative Swede wrote-

“While Auster is more insightful than the most, he’s still stuck on mending the Western Christian civilization. For him Christianity is a constant that he is unable to reflect about. His blog is good for following the complete failure of American conservatism. And also for racial issues (i.e. the failure of the American way of dealing with racial issues). The rest is not very useful, and he believes in the strangest things, e.g. astrology…”

Lawrence Auster believes in astrology? I don’t, I cannot believe it! Where has he got this from?

LA replies:

I was deeply interested in astrology when I was in my twenties, living in Aspen, Colorado. I did it professionaly, drawing up people’s birth charts and interpreting them. Out of 13,000 entries at VFR, I’ve discussed astrology in one comment, where I explained how, despite containing important truths worth knowing, astrology also contains much potential for untruth, which was why I gave it up.

Jeff W. writes:

Things are rapidly changing, and I think I have some insight into what is going on.

To understand this, one should first assume that people always want to have a leader who will deliver prosperity. That assumption should be self-evident.

Now up until recently, elected leaders both in Europe and the U.S. have seemed to be succeeding in delivering prosperity; the economies of Europe and the U.S. were doing fairly well. But now an economic recession has come, and leaders who formerly appeared successful are now viewed as failures. Their philosophies and agendas are also discredited. Economic failure tends to bring both a change in leadership and a change in philosophy. To use a sports metaphor, people want a new coach with a different game plan.

Up until recently, elected leaders could say, “Immigration brings prosperity. It broadens the tax base. It helps service industries.” Such claims, when spoken by successful leaders, seemed plausible. But now such claims are discredited. Where’s the prosperity all this immigration is bringing?

Obama is a new coach, but his game plan is not working and most Americans now believe that it will never work. Americans also have never liked Communism. Europeans and Americans are smart enough to know that Communism won’t work, but they also don’t want laissez-faire capitalism where social atoms constantly struggle against each other in a loveless world. People want to live in a community.

So now is a time when traditional ideas will resonate. Those who can describe what a healthy community looks like will command attention. The point must be made emphatically that national communities work best, that communities of people of similar ethnicity and culture, of similar ideals, work habits, religious beliefs, and DNA work best. Inside a national community that works, people can build an economy that works.

There are few who can express that message with eloquence. But Europeans and Americans are desperate for solutions now, and many people are fairly smart, and people have a good deal of personal knowledge about policies that do not work. My belief is that they will recognize and support a winning game plan when they hear about it.

LA replies:

Very well stated. I would add that in addition to the cultural issues you mention, and complementing them, is economics. If there is to be a non-liberal (and non-libertarian) future for the West, there needs to be viable non-liberal economic theory that shows the drawbacks of the free-trade liberalism that has dominated Britain and America for so long, and that shows the way to a different economic organization compatible with national strength and national survival. There are people working on such economic approaches, and they are very exciting, though I’m not versed in them enough to speak about them intelligently.

M. Mason writes:

You wrote:

“Given the current thread at GoV, it looks as though Conservative Swede no longer believes that I have passed into insignificance and irrelevance.”

Perhaps you might want to consider seeing an optometrist, for near the top of that very thread ConSwede lumps you together with other “anti-establishment people” in the same paragraph as those whom he considers demon-possessed. And your particular “demon” is the “huggy teddy bear” of Christianity that you supposedly have to be delivered from; a silly “myth” along with its ethics that you must let go of in order fully to embrace ConSwede’s glorious “New Paradigm”. Based on that alone (regardless of whatever other scrap of a back-handed compliment he may have doled out). I’d say his general attitude toward you has hardly changed. But then, you may be of the mind to take whatever you can get from him at this point. [LA replies: I’m not interested in getting anything from him. I was simply registering what I saw in the disscussion, a huge discussion which I had glanced through, not read. And what I saw was an engagement with the ideas in my article. At the same time, of course, Swede cannot agree with anything I say without simultaneously denigrating me. However, it seemed to me that the denigration quotient in this thread was significantly lower than in the past. It would be boorish of me not to take note of that.

[What is of concern is his denigration of Christianity, which you have pointed out. People can defend the West while criticizing Christianity, and they can defend the West without being Christians. But any self-described defender of the West who mocks and derides Christianity as such, as Swede seems to do in this discussion, is contradicting himself at the most profound level and is lost. It would be like a person insisting that he was a conservative, while sneering at the institution of private property. And who would take such a person seriously, other than people sharing the same delusion?]

Dymphna, to her credit, did manage to give the cheeky fellow the rhetorical equivalent of a “dope-slap” upside the head for his own unexamined conceits.

ConSwede is certainly bright, but I seriously doubt that he’s capable of going twelve rounds in sustained, intelligent debate with someone proficient in Christian apologetics. That would require him actually to understand the logical underpinnings of Christian theism, attend to the arguments that knowledgeable Christians make and respond to them in a substantive way. And up to the present time he has simply demonstrated no capacity for that. What he does seem to have a certain talent for is generating endless clouds of gassy, pretentious, neo-paganist drivel.

Apart from that, and the dearth of sound religious/philosophical argument that unfortunately tends to be typical of conversations at GoV, I agree that it was a useful discussion.

July 31

Andrew E. writes:

In this entry you mention the existence of some economic thinkers trying to work out a non-liberal economic order compatible with the West and I wondered if you could point me to those authors you had in mind. Economics is a subject I’ve spent a lot of time reading and thinking about the last few years and thus far I find myself in substantial agreement with the Austrian school of economics, the most famous of which being Ludwig von Mises. I don’t know how much you know about this school of thought but it’s basically right liberalism or classical liberalism and so I’ve been searching for some material that tries to incorporate, say, traditionalist immigration policy with free markets and private property (perhaps it’s just that easy, free markets and private property but with a traditionalist immigration policy overlay). Pat Buchanan writes about this sort of thing from time to time, for example the wisdom of protecting American industry, but he never expands on it enough in his writings to pull me to his side. As I see it right now, the major culprit in the de-industrialization of America is not free trade ideology but the enormous growth in government that has destroyed capital accumulation and thus worker productivity through excessive regulation, inflation, taxation and government borrowing (my specialty, as I work for an advisory firm in the area of municipal finance). If we were to return to a commodity monetary system free from the government, e.g. a gold standard, the government would be forced to downsize, inflation and the business cycle would end allowing the middle class to save once again without having to play the markets—which inevitably leads to their politicization—and capital accumulation would resume in full force. This would be sufficient to re-industrialize America without giving up the genuine benefits of the international division of labor. Nonetheless, I’d be very interested to read about the economics you’ve mentioned here.

Also, I’d recommend reading the first seven chapters or so of Mises’ opus, Human Action, which lays the necessary philosophical groundwork upon which a valid science of economics can be built. When reading it for the first time I was impressed with the enormous respect Mises had for the totality of the human person and his ability to act in the face of uncertainty. I didn’t get the sense that Mises saw individuals as atomized, purely economic agents but as fully formed rational and irrational persons with thoughts, feelings, desires, prejudices, material and spiritual needs. You can view the book online for free here:

LA replies:

I’ll have to get back to you on this because my main info comes from an unpublished manuscript. So I would need to get other names the author has referred to, and I’m not remembering them off-hand and at the moment I don’t know titles of specific books to recommend.

But what this emerging school of economic thought is about is the rejection of the school that is the unquestionable orthodoxy in the Anglo-American world, the David Ricardo doctrine of comparative advantage and free trade. Free trade doesn’t look out for the health of one’s own country, it only looks to the total health of the whole world. Whichever country does the best job of producing airplanes or clothing ought to do it. But the result is that the country practicing this doctrine undermines its own manufacturing base and becomes progressively weaker. The manuscript I read shows how this is the case. It shows for example how England started to lose its pre-eminence in 19th century after it adopted free trade. This is an extremely interesting subject and forms the economic equivalent of traditionalist arguments on nationhood and immigration.

August 1

M. Mason writes:

You wrote:

“But any self-described defender of the West who mocks and derides Christianity as such, as Swede seems to do in this discussion, is contradicting himself at the most profound level and is lost.”

Yes, as an old-time Christian pastor I knew used to say about such people: “He’s as lost as a goose in a snowstorm.”

And he’s not “reversing course”; in fact, if you read what CS is actually pushing now, you will see that he’s plunged headlong into ideological disaster of the sort that would surely, if it ever came to pass on a continental scale, usher in a new Dark Age. However, if you don’t have the time to go through that long thread, here are a few excerpts:

“And thus we are speaking of the deepest level of a paradigm change here. Our very concepts of good and bad, our moral grammar, has to be transformed.

“In sort of perspective, even the apparent moral tautology “We should strive for what is good, and fight against what is bad” no longer holds true.”

And this:

“A universalist religion of goodness is replaced with the original national gods, when faced with a threat of existential magnitude. Furthermore, we are speaking of the same sort of time frame. The dominance of Buddhism had been around for as long as the Western Christian civilization, i.e. a millennium and a bit more. Up here in the north it’s less than a millennium.

“This counters the idea of the impossibility for us to reach back to our old Nordic gods.”

And this:

“Leaving Christian ethics has nothing to do with becoming secular (as I explained above). To the contrary, it makes it worse! What is needed is to introduce another great mythological narrative into the minds of the Germanic people. This is the only way to replace the moral grammar of Christianity. Something with roots in our long history. This must done by political means, by a regime with such a focus. But given that focus, it’s not such a big thing to achieve. There are numerous historical examples of how to do it. And it only takes a generation to make the change (even less). And in a dire situation, after a major trauma, it will be even easier.”

And this:

“Even if there would be only 100 millions left of us, we are the best people in the history of mankind. As Huntington pointed out, we have always been superior in the ability to apply organized violence. As soon as the will power is there, we can achieve anything we please. We can rule any continent where we choose to live.”

This isn’t the CS of two years ago, who appeared to be primarily animated by his disillusionment with Christianity, erratically bouncing around like a marble in an ideological pinball machine and escaping into black culture and music. He wasn’t content to drift forever. He felt he needed to move toward some kind of ideological “center,” but, interestingly, not a secular one, despite his rejection of Christianity.

Two years ago at VFR I said:

“An overview of his writings reveals that Conservative Swede is indeed critical of many things: Christianity, Judaism, Islam—and even “moral relativism,” which at first glance might lead one to think that he believes in the existence of objective truth outside of himself by which he can make those assessments. But as you’ve said, such is not the case, unless he’s prepared now to declare himself as either a true believer in pagan Norse mythology or a pantheist.”

Which appears to be exactly what he’s done. He probably read the longer argument I made in that post above and may have concluded from it that he couldn’t logically ground objective morality in himself. So he now imagines that he’s found “a new, great mythological narrative” in the heady, intoxicating brew of belief in the old Nordic gods, mixed with tribalism and pure “will to power” Nietzscheanism.

Around the same time a couple years back I also said:

“The moment that CS implacably set his will against Christianity and the God of the Bible, the downward spiral of ideological disintegration began, the effects of which have now intensified to this sorry state.”

The fall is now complete. “Conservative Swede” with his muddled Weltanschauung grounded in debased pagan Norse and Germanic myths seems to be a perfect fit. He might as well just drop his current internet moniker at this point and call himself “The Mighty Thor” or “The Long, Swift Sword of Siegfried” and be done with it.

August 4

LA writes:

In a new entry, M. Mason continues his discussion of Germanic neo-Paganism.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 29, 2009 06:13 PM | Send

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