Is Sailer able to defend his status-competition theory of white suicide?
ago I disputed Steve Sailer’s idea that the reason liberals adhere to suicidal liberalism is that such adherence increases their status relative to other whites (here
is my original article; here
is a follow-up discussion in which I explain and defend my position at length). Sailer had no response to my critique. Then, the other day, in a reply to a commenter, I repeated
my criticisms of Sailer’s theory. A reader at Sailer’s site has asked Sailer to reply
. Sailer remains silent.
One of my arguments is, if liberals believe what they believe, not because they think it’s true but because it gives them status, why wouldn’t the same apply to Steve Sailer himself? Is he made of different stuff than liberals? Has he evolved by a different method of human evolution?
Which may explain his silence. Trying to defend a weak theory from a serious challenge would not enhance his status. As I wrote in 2008:
Whence, then, comes the belief in these simplified materialist-reductionist theories which sound impressive yet are so bogus? Perhaps from the desire to have one, neat explanation for everything, the possession of which makes the possessor feel superior to other people who lack that all-purpose explanation. Talk about status competition.
- end of initial entry -
Mark P. writes:
The status-competition theory is not designed to explain the support of suicidal liberalism. It is designed to explain liberal hypocrisy, or why liberals do not apply the principles of their ideology to themselves (in your words, it is an explanation for the “unprincipled exception.”)
If liberals believed that liberalism was true, why do they not apply their own principles to their own lives? Liberals, for example, love diversity and multiculturalism … except in their own neighborhoods and schools. What explains this massive disjunction between rhetoric and reality? Staus-competition.
I don’t think you’re right on this. Sailer’s theory is not about liberal hypocrisy, but about liberal support for policies leading to white suicide.
What you’re saying doesn’t even make sense. How would being hypocritical in their liberalism, e.g., avoiding diversity in their own neighborhoods, enhance liberals’ status among their fellow liberals? It’s obviously not their personal avoidance of the consequences of the liberalism they espouse that would enhance their status as great liberals, but their espousal of it.
Doug S. writes:
” … if liberals believe what they believe, not because they think it’s true but because it gives them status, why wouldn’t the same apply to Steve Sailer himself?”
Because Sailer’s not a liberal. You are proceeding from incorrect premises.
The same can be said for any worldview at odds with reality. Why would any person living in the free world be a socialist, given that we’ve seen where socialist policies end up? Academic appointments, intellectual cachet, i.e., status, in an affluent society that can afford such indulgences.
The Left is capable of a great deal of cognitive dissonance. The intelligentsia heavily promote the Blank Slate theory of human intelligence. Sperm banks that service this same class will tell you they spend their dollars differently. Paul Krugman, for another example, makes a great living touting fiscal policies that he would never implement in his household or business. Publicly, everybody hails diversity. Privately, they practice assortive mating. I could go on at length in this vein.
It seems to me that you’re restating the problem, not addressing my point. If liberals believe what they believe because it gives them status, and not because they believe it’s true, why would that only be true of liberals? Why would it not be true of people in Nazi Germany who believed in Nazism because it gave them status? Why would it not be true of people in Christian society who believed in Christianity because it gave them status? And so on.
Sailer’s status theory of liberalism is not based on some factor unique to liberalism; it is based on a Darwinian-derived view of human evolution, in which behavior that enhances the power and status of people is “selected” because it helps the status-possessing individuals have more offspring, and so status-seeking behavior spreads through the populace. Therefore the status theory would apply to all human beings.
On another point, Sailer’s theory is typical of the way contemporary people think. One of the major intellectual fallacies of our time, shared by people across the political spectrum, is that people of other beliefs from oneself don’t “really” believe what they profess to believe. For example, Western intellectuals refuse to recognize that Muslims actually believe in Islam. They think that Muslims follow Islam for any number of reasons OTHER than that they actually believe in Islam, such as that they were “left behind” by the West, or that they are sexually frustrated, or that they intermarry with their cousins, or that they are suffering under despotism. (See my catalogue of “Non-Islam Theories of Islamic Extremism.”) Similarly, many liberals believe that conservatives are against crippling government spending, not because they are against crippling government spending, but because they hate Obama because of his race. Similarly, conservatives believe that liberals believe in liberalism for any number of bad-faith reasons other than that they actually believe in liberalism. No one wants to face the unpleasant reality that the people with whom we strongly disagree believe the things they believe because they believe that they are true.
Here’s another problem with the reductive status theory. If liberals didn’t believe that liberalism was true and good, then adherence to liberalism would not give status. The status derived from espousing liberal beliefs depends on the belief that liberalism is true and good, no matter how mistaken and perverted that belief may be, and no matter how hypocritical liberals may be in their failure to apply liberalism in some aspects of their personal lives.
The Sailer Unified Status Theory is one of those ideas that Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn called “clear but false”—something that makes our world seemingly easier to understand by cutting out many of the complexities of our world (a.k.a. reductionism). I suspect that status is a very important thing to Sailer, and thus it’s fair to apply the Status Theory to him. I believe it’s why he only engages in higher-status competition (like Malcolm Gladwell), and won’t condescend to engage you or even the commenters on his own blog site (he does make a comment there on rare occasion, but there is no conversation). He can only gain status by dealing with Gladwell, and lose it by dealing with you.
I never even heard of Malcolm Gladwell, which shows how low-status I am.
Why would a person believe that human beings are motivated by status in all their beliefs, unless it was true of himself? For example, I believe in the good and the true, and therefore I tend to believe that other people are motivated by their belief in the good and the true, no matter how distorted their notions of the good may be in particular instances, e.g., Muslims who believe the good consists in killing infidels, or liberals who believe the good consists in the destruction of the white race. Why would a person believe that people’s beliefs are motivated primarily by power, or by sex, or by status competition, unless that was true of himself?
Mark P. writes:
Liberalism is a game of class-warfare among upper-class white people. Raising your status is not just an attempt to rise to a higher order. It is also an attempt to distinguish yourself from a lower order. A person who espouses liberal values is someone who shows that he is not affected by liberal policies. In contrast, a white person who does complain about liberal policies signals that he is a loser who faces loss from immigrants or blacks or taxes or poverty or any of these things. In other words, in the status-conscious world, being an anti-liberal signals that you are the wrong kind of person. [LA replies: You have utterly failed to respond to the argument I’ve made over and over in this entry and other entries on the same subject, which is that what you say about liberals and liberal society is true of all societies. In any society one can think of, espousing the dominant beliefs of the society will tend to enhance one’s status. So to say that liberals embrace liberalism for the purpose of status competition tells us nothing distinctive about liberals.]
Liberals see these policies as eliminating the wrong kind of white people so they do not attribute their positions as suicidal.
Liberal hypocrisy does not factor in at all in liberal thinking. It is an idea for others to introduce. It also complements nicely your moral piety theory of liberalism.
Thomas Bertonneau writes:
Two things might be true at the same time. (A) Liberals really believe in the policies that they profess and advocate; and (B) liberals seek, gain, and preserve status by constant demonstrations of their liberalism. Of the many things that liberalism is—one, certainly, is competitive self-righteousness, another way of describing (B).
James P. writes:
He doesn’t understand that people believe in goodness and truth and are motivated by that belief. He thinks people believe what they believe because it gives them status, a drive planted in them by random genetic accidents that occurred in their distant ancestors and were naturally selected, so that the current generation has an instinct to believe things that provide status. There is no independent drive for truth in the human being.
Consider the Soviet Union and Cold War Eastern Europe. Many people became cynical, especially in the last couple of decades before the collapse of Communism, because they could clearly see that Communist Party pronouncements were false and produced horrible results in the real world. Some nevertheless followed the Party line because this gave them status, or at least avoided a catastrophic loss of status, e.g., being fired, imprisoned, confined to a psychiatric hospital, or executed. Others, who were more strongly motivated by truth and goodness than status, became dissidents. The USSR collapsed when the benefits of following the Party line were insufficient to motivate the status seekers and when the penalties for deviation were insufficient to deter the truth-seekers.
This tension between the drive for truth and the drive for status is replicated to some degree in the West today. Many people see the falseness and dreadful practical consequences of liberalism, but remain silent either to advance their status or to avoid a loss of status. Others speak the truth, and in many cases suffer for it. We may hope that in time, the balance between status-seekers and truth-seekers alters here as it did in the USSR. When enough people stop believing, liberalism will die!
As I have said previously on this subject, one of the major problems with Sailer’s theory is that if it were true, then there would be no way for liberalism to come to an end, other than by the destruction of liberal society. Leaving aside that extreme expedient, liberalism can only come to an end when people stop believing that it is true, as has actually happened, one person at a time, in the minds and souls of many ex-liberals. If people only believed in liberalism out of an instinct to acquire status, then they could never have the experience of thinking, “Liberalism is not true,” and so stop believing in it. If Sailer’s theory were correct, there would be absolutely no point in criticizing liberalism and exposing its fallacies, or in discussing politics or ideas at all. We’d all just be status-seeking apes wearing Izods. Yet Sailer goes on criticizing liberalism.
Darwinians and materialists such as Sailer espouse reductive theories that cancel out man’s conscious life, while they want to continue their own conscious life. That’s a hypocrisy far worse than any liberal hypocrisy.
Bruce B. writes:
Sailer is also under the delusion that all sorts of influential pundits and think tanks are influenced by his work. I’ve seen him repeatedly write that his such-and-such theory is gaining mainstream recognition as evidenced by the fact that this or that prominent pundit wrote something similar. This supports your assertion that he’s very status conscious.
Greg W. writes:
“Sailer’s status theory of liberalism is not based on some factor unique to liberalism; it is based on a Darwinian-derived view of human evolution, in which behavior that enhances the power and status of people is “selected” because it helps the status-possessing individuals have more offspring, and so status-seeking behavior spreads through the populace. Therefore the status theory would apply to all human beings.”
I’m not sure that Sailer’s assumption is based on evolution or natural selection. In my view he is stating that liberals are anti-evolution, being that they force themselves not to believe in human nature, as well as liberals being pro-nanny state which also makes them feel superior in that they are generous, benevolent and “helping” the folks. [LA replies: The assertion that Sailer’s theory about liberals is based on Darwinian evolution has nothing to do with whether liberals themselves believe in Darwinian evolution.] Being that liberals have to know that a country cannot survive being a welfare state, he may be stating that they tacitly, or maybe subconsciously accept suicide down the road because their beliefs make them feel good and superior right now.
Simply put, I think Sailer is stating that liberals publicly state their opposition to segregation (natural) and racial differences and personal responsibility because it makes them feel better than the “Neanderthal conservatives” like you and others in the HBD realm. Basically, political correctness trumps human nature and realism with liberals because it serves their status well. They like being seen as the savior, the humanist, only trying to better the lives of all, even at the demise of their country. Remember that with liberals, it is only the intention that matters, not the end result.
But, what do I know?
Sailer is stating that liberals publicly state their opposition to segregation (natural) and racial differences and personal responsibility because it makes them feel better than the ‘Neanderthal conservatives’ like you and others in the HBD realm.
Consider the stunning superficiality of Sailer’s idea: that the only reason liberals believe in liberalism, which just happens to be the dominant belief system of the modern world, is that it makes them feel superior to people like Steve Sailer!
Leonard D. writes:
Your refutation of Sailer’s supposed thesis relies on him asserting that status is the only thing that motivates people. I do not think that is true, though. I think it quite likely that Sailer would say that status is only one thing that motivates people, one thing among others. Certainly, that is that what I would say. For example, people are also motivated by money, love, the drive for justice. These things are independent of status. And yes: truth. Sailer, as least as far as I can see, is one of those oddballs like yourself who seek the truth regardless of its popularity. Humanity is always generating a few of these in every generation. [LA replies: Where is the evidence that Sailer has said what you say he has said?]
I agree with you that people believe that which they think is true. (This seems almost tautological to me.) But there’s a catch: most people do not work out for themselves what they think is true. Most people are not critics, nor do they even have a mental toolkit outside of the most rudimentary one for analyzing truth. Rather, they simply receive a worldview from their society, and believe it because everyone else believes it. (You and I discussed this at some length back in 2009, in the guise of “memes”.) [LA replies: That is true. But for those people, who constitute the majority, the truth they have received from their society is true. They believe it is true.]
As you point out, status-seeking cannot explain the content of ideology; it cannot explain which views are fashionable. What it is does do, is amplify the success of whatever views are fashionable. [LA replies: in which case, Sailer’s theory about liberalism tells us nothing distinctive about liberalism, as I have said before.] People who either don’t think much on their own, or who are on the make, will adopt fashionable views. It is this dynamic—the power of authority—that can explain why whole societies may be motivated by beliefs that are untrue. “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.”
Status seeking is a theory which explains part of liberalism’s power, but it is not the whole story. The root of things is as you say: liberalism is truth to many people. It has status now mainly because it had status last year. And so on. But this is not an infinite recursion—it is rooted in people who gained status in spite of their asserted liberal beliefs, which were not (then) fashionable. [LA replies: Yes, well put.]
James R. writes:
“Why would a person believe that human beings are motivated by status in all their beliefs, unless it was true of himself? For example, I believe in the good and the true, and therefore I tend to believe that other people are motivated by their belief in the good and the true, no matter how distorted their notions of the good may be in particular instances,”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you’re wondering why people don’t apply the same premises to themselves as they do to others. For example, you believe in the good and the true, therefore you give other people credit for seeking the good and the true.
However, one aspect of present thinking is precisely that a category of people often view “humanity” one way, while they themselves effectively operate outside that. Never explicitly, and perhaps not even consciously, they set themselves apart from and above the motivations of the rest of humanity. Thus one gets not only “false consciousness” theories but also academic theories of social construction/social determinism, leading then to theories of how to fix and improve humanity by changing the social environment or whatnot. But always begged is the question: if this is so, then what explains the theorists “piercing the veil” as it were? And why should we expect their manipulations to “fix” things rather than just be driven by their own environmentally (or status) driven beliefs which, if their own theories were correct, would be no more “good and true” than the ones they are critiquing.
So the question is, why would people hold these beliefs about humanity and yet essentially act as if they are critiquing humanity from the outside?
James R. continues:
I do think there’s something to the “status seeking,” for at least some (if not many) liberals. Just as there was in Germany when National Socialism was ascendant, and then afterwards in the East when Soviet Socialism was ascendant, and in the West where liberalism is fashionable. Many people will believe, or convince themselves to believe, or at least pretend to believe “fashionable nonsense” because they don’t want to lose status in the eyes of others. (See also Supreme Court Justices who “grow in office”).
It’s an insufficient critique of any movement, especially of the sincerity of its members, however. (Why does something become fashionable, and thus attracting status-seeking individuals who both curry its favor and simultaneously help maintain it’s status? If “rebellion” against faddish nonsense/fashionable ideas is a way of gaining status, why don’t more people “rebel” in a traditionalist direction, now that it is the most rebellious thing one can do? Why are there traditionalists at all, if everyone is status-seeking?) How does “they are status-seeking” explain suicidalism? Why would it be status-seeking to engage in suicidalism?
It’s best to give people credit for their sincerity and to note that, contrary to their self-image as plucky underdogs fighting “The Man”/”The Establishment,” liberals broadly are “The Man,” dominating the fashionable avant garde and establishment circles.
But “status-seeking,” while it is somewhat valid theory, and sometimes has some explanatory power, lacks ultimate explanatory power.
James R. writes:
“Darwinians and materialists such as Sailer espouse theories that cancel out man’s conscious life, while they … continue their own conscious life. ”
Yes to this. In his book “The Last Superstition,” Ed Feser covers several theories that eat themselves along these lines.
This is the internal contradiction / concealed fallacy I was trying to describe when I talked about theories that, by their nature, require those holding the theory to place themselves apart from and above the rest of us, because they are implicitly exempting themselves from the mental or behavioral patterns they ascribe to others.
I wish I could express this more clearly but I am failing.
I think you expressed it very well.:-)
Consider the stunning superficiality of Sailer’s idea: that the only reason liberals believe in liberalism, which just happens to be the dominant belief system of the modern world, is that it makes them feel superior to Steve Sailer and people like him!
We’re not far from life in the high school I attended, where status was big, and where I was in the low-status group. I and my nerdy friends would skip pep rallies and go to the library and talk history, and make jokes about being in the Apathy Club, and try to be witty. Were we low status because we didn’t care about status and preferred interesting intellectual activity, or did we pretend not to care about status because we were low status? I don’t know, that was a long time ago, but I can see some low status nerd feeling very keenly his low status, and never escaping the pattern set in high school, and carrying it the rest of his life. Surely when he is all grown up his native intelligence will lead to a well-correlated and well-deserved rise in status. I mean, Malcolm Gladwell is wrong. Steven Levitt (author of Freakonomics) is wrong. But they are in The New York Times, for crying out loud!
Rhona N. writes:
A liberal believes in an ideal that he cannot live by. It is suicidal. It transcends truth and reality. However, it is life affirming to the holder of the ideal. It is life affirming because it denies what is ‘ugly’ in life and affirms only the ‘beauty.” One only has to read the lyrics to “imagine” to understand the liberal conception of beauty; but the adoption of such ideas would be suicidal and antithetical to life itself.
As Nietzsche says in “Genealogy of Morals”: In ancient times, the good were the noble, the powerful, the high-stationed, the high-minded and the bad were the common, the low-minded, the plebeian.
Now things have been turned on their head. What the liberal believes in is an inversion of values that places the poor, the weak, the sick, the criminal as the highest value. The liberal has perverted the concept of what is admirable. He has transcended the essence of life by substituting an ideal—but an ideal that is untrue and anti-life.
In essence if you take all of these complications, all of the liberals’ ideals in life, all of their hypocrisy, phoniness, wasted energy, masks and lies, it ends up being:
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
That’s all it is.
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Philip M. writes:
One of my arguments is, if liberals believe what they believe, not because they think it’s true but because it gives them status, why wouldn’t the same apply to Steve Sailer himself? Is he made of different stuff than liberals? Has he evolved by a different method of human evolution?
He has not evolved from a different strand of human evolution, rather all humans are slightly differently evolved strands of human evolution, all competing with each other. [LA replies: in that case, Sailer along with every other human being is just as controlled by status seeking as the liberals, and therefore, for the nth time, the analysis of liberalism as status seeking tells us nothing distinctive or useful about liberalism.]
As I understand it, modern science is showing more and more that the kind of decisions we think we “make” were in fact “made” before we consciously decided to act. The same may be true of the opinions and values we hold. [LA replies: Uh oh.]
Our societies are always in a constant state of flux because our genes are. You yourself Lawrence can already see aspects of this that liberals miss—American society in the future will have a lower IQ because more blacks are having children, feminism means fewer university-educated women are having children, and so on. All these things are having an effect on the shape of society, they are effectively state-induced evolutionary pressures that once nature solely provided. Who is to say our values are also not a part of this flux? Could a war, for example, reduce the amount of people in the next generation of a patriotic persuasion because such people were more likely to be killed in a war?
Why should nature not also create variations in the type of personality or character as another aspect of fitness? Perhaps Steve is part of such a strand. Perhaps such variations are part of the long-term rise and fall of civilisations.
Yes, yes, I’m a terrible reductionist. “You’ve reduced us all to random bags of protons and electrons, Philip.” I know. What can I say? This is England, we all have the personalities of autistic Koreans, we’re all dead inside. It makes sense over here. :)
Assuming that Philip is not joking, I am worried for his sake.
Sailer makes the mistake of making a downstream effect the primary cause of behavior.
Yes, people do toe the liberal line because it gives them status in society.
But believing in liberalism gives people status in society because it is generally believed that liberalism is true.
If people did not believe in the truth of liberalism, then liberalism would not provide improved status.
James N. writes:
Without defending a reductionist view of liberal status seeking, I think there is something to the concept.
It may be as simple as those who flattered the naked monarch in the child’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Do you think it fair to describe their collusion in the lie that the Emperor had beautiful garments as “status seeking”?
If you do, then I think you will accept that the common liberal use of conversational and social cues to determine peer status (i.e., is their interlocutor “in” or “out”) constitutes status seeking.
In Newton, Massachusetts, where I used to live, some people said “Barack you” after a sneeze in late 2008 and early 2009. I always understood this to be nothing other than (trivial) status seeking behavior.
A rental ad for an apartment in Fort Lauderdale that says, “Republican tolerant, no teabaggers” serves no purpose other than status seeking.
The Toronto couple raising a genderless baby (and cross dressing their little boys) would not be doing it without the approbation of an audience of fellow liberal victims of liberal mental illness. [LA replies: That couple is doing that sick thing because they think it’s the right thing to do, not because they seek status from doing it. Will they also get status from their fellow sick liberals for having done it? Of course. But it’s in the nature of things that the performance of noble and praiseworthy acts (or acts seen as such by one’s society) raises a person’s status. So you are engaging in very type of reductive analysis you rejected at the beginning of your comment. Did King Jan Sobieski drive the Moslems from the gates of Vienna because it would raise his status? Did Beethoven write his Third Symphony because it would raise his status? Did George Washington accept the command of the Continental Army because it would raise his status? Did John Roebling design and build the Brooklyn bridge because it would raise his status? Did Ronald Reagan lead the fight against Communism because it would raise his status? Praiseworthy acts naturally raise the status of the actor. But they are not the primary motive of those acts. ]
I don’t know that this behavior is unique to liberals, but it IS remarkable how persistent and how perdurable the behavior has become for them. “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
Paul T. writes:
I’ve merely skimmed this thread, and so I should probably keep my mouth shut, but anyway:
Maybe Sailer is a Darwinist, but I don’t think you have to be a Darwinist to see the great importance of status-competition. [LA replies: I said that my critique of Sailer’s theory does not depend on Darwinism.] La Rochefoucauld saw it very clearly 300 years ago, and he also wrote memorably about the human capacity for self-deception. [LA replies: I adore La Rochefoucauld, and there is much truth in what he says; but the problem with him is that he sees human behavior as motivated only by self-love, a terribly distorted and reductive view.] Isn’t it likely that many people arrange the furniture of their minds in such a way that their ideas of the good, the true and the beautiful are deeply influenced by self-interest? by their perceptions that holding a particular set of beliefs—Nazism if you’re living in Germany in 1933, liberalism if you live in North America after (say) 1960—will enhance their status? If I understand you correctly, the fact that this mental tendency tells us ‘nothing distinctive about liberals’ means that it isn’t a true statement about them. Couldn’t you put it the other way ‘round? The more societies it’s true of, the more likely it is to be true of liberal society as well. [LA replies: you’re missing the point that Sailer is offering his theory as an explanation of the unique liberal behavior of supporting the suicide of one’s own society and race. If status competition controls all societies in the same way, what is left of Sailer’s status-competition theory of liberal suicide?] Holding to the belief system of the dominant class is generally the high road to success and status; it would be idiosyncratic if this were NOT true of liberal society, in just the way that it’s true of Communist or Nazi or Roman imperial or medieval Christian society or any other society you can think of. And of course, if you can persuade yourself that the dominant ideology is true, you’ll probably enjoy a competitive advantage over those who embrace it merely opportunistically. I suppose that still leaves unexplained, or still to be explained, how liberalism became the dominant class’s ideology in the first place, fair enough. But I would begin from the observed fact that holding and vocalising liberal ideas DOES enhance one’s status, and holding non-liberal ideas generally DOES lower one’s status. I see it again and again, in both professional and social life. And it does seem very unlikely that in mid-20th-century European and North American society, people just happened to arrive en masse at the disinterested philosophical conclusion that liberalism was true, and that the status-benefits of embracing liberalism all flowed from that. (I hope I am not caricaturing your position, that’s certainly not my intention).
“Assuming that Philip is not joking, I am worried for his sake.”
He’s promoting what David Stove called “Genetic Calvinism,” which is Chapter 7 of his book Darwinian Fairytales. In a nutshell, “the devil made me do it” and “my genes made me do it” are the same thing:
One of the pioneers of genetics, William Bateson, was fond of repeating a remark which a Scotch soldier made to him during the 1914-18 war, after listening to one of his lectures: that genetics is “scientific Calvinism.” Well, what Dawkins did in The Selfish Gene was in effect to embrace this old joke, or three-quarters joke, as being no joke at all, but the sober truth. Genes are to him what demons were to Calvinist theologians in the 16th century, or what “Zurich gnomes” used to be to socialist demonologists of our own century. That is, they are beings which are hidden, immoral, and invested with immense power over us: power so great, indeed, that we are merely their helpless puppets, except insofar as God, or History, or some equally extraordinary causal agent comes in to assist us.
Calvinist theology, in its strict form, denies that any created thing has any causal powers at all. God is supposed to be the one and only cause of anything and everything in the universe. All created things are mere epiphenomena: effects, not causes. But, as might have been foreseen, Calvinists were never able to adhere to this position consistently. The reason was, that they considered themselves charged with a most momentous mission: to enlist their fellow men on God’s side, in the cosmic war against Satan and all the other fallen angels. That is, against devils.
Calvinists were therefore obliged, from the very start, to admit that there is one class of created things which do possess causal powers, and appallingly great causal powers at that: namely devils. This, however, was plainly inconsistent with the strict letter of their theory. They therefore had to go in for a great deal of unsightly squirming. The squirmings of Calvin himself, for example, are positively painful to watch. He tells us that devils are an inexpressible danger to every human soul, but also tells us that no devil can ever win. He says that devils are God’s enemies, and are most potent causes of evil, but also says that they can do nothing except by God’s permission and appointment. And so on.
Dawkins in The Selfish Gene is not, of course, engaged on any mission of cosmic warfare or of moral reformation. But just as Calvin divides created things into potent demons and causally impotent everything else, so Dawkins divides the organic world into potent genes and causally impotent everything else. According to Calvinism, we are pawns in a game, in which the only real players are the demons and God. According to The Selfish Gene, we are pawns in a game in which the only real players are genes. You, your dog, and the plants in your garden, are casually null, according to Dawkins, or at any rate negligible: only some throwaway envelopes, of a fleshy or fibrous composition, which it suits certain genes to make brief use of, as they go irresistibly about their everlasting business of making still more copies of themselves. Organisms are merely “fronts” for the genes which sit inconspicuously inside them, just as Capone staff used to sit inconspicuously in Chicago betting shops and “dance parlours,” or as well disguised Politburo staff used to sit in the ruling bodies of Western “peace” movements.
Mark A. writes:
As I have said previously on this subject, one of the major problems with Sailer’s theory is that if it were true, then there would be no way for liberalism to come to an end, other than by the destruction of liberal society.
Mr. Auster, please look around you. Liberalism is destroying liberal society. It is all around you. Why does private school tuition go up 20 percent per year? Why are NYC elite kindergartens harder and harder to get into with each passing year? Why does real estate in all white enclaves continues to increase in price despite the worst real estate market since the Great Depression? These things are happening because the liberal white elite, who are the ones paying for elite kindergartens, private school, and all-white enclaves, are searching for fewer and fewer lifeboats to escape the madness that they have created. Liberalism, in all of its forms, is destroying the base of white American society, including the liberal base. Heck, sharia law will soon be imposed in Michigan at this rate. As that base shrinks, more and more liberal whites fight for a place within that white/liberal base. In order to find room, they cut the throats of their fellow whites. It is a perverse feed-back loop if you will. In the same manner that abdominal fat sends out hormones to make the obese person want to eat more and get fatter, liberalism destroys society (Section 8 housing, pornography, crime), and then results in a need for more liberalism which is required so that the liberal white elite can use their liberal tools to cut the throats of their true competition: other whites.
By questioning why Sailer would assert his theory when it contradicts his own quest for status, you miss the point of what Sailer is doing: he is pointing out that the white liberal elite are not members of the traditionalist American tribe (or team, if you will). A traditional society looks upon itself as a group. You yourself have mentioned this many, many times. You have helped clarify my views on pornography through your cogent analysis of the wishes of the individual (lustful men) vs. the needs of the group (a safe place for families and children). This same analysis applies here and you’re missing it completely. Sailer is attacking the white liberal elite as they are asserting the needs of themselves, the individuals, in the most grotesque way possible: by destroying society in order to satisfy their hatred for traditional, white America.
Why do the liberal white elite want to destroy American? In part, because liberalism is about hating your parents. You really must spend more time with the liberal elite. I cannot disclose my profession (sadly), but I have spent years working with the liberal elite. There is nothing in this world that they hold more in contempt than (a) at least one of their parents and (b) the average blue-collar white person whom they view as the archetypal racist American from … say … the 1950s. I rarely met a member of the liberal elite who loved his parents. Most of them spent at least one day per week in psychotherapy dealing with their childhood issues.
I have respected your frequent criticisms of Sailer’s sometimes overly reductive views, but I think you’re being too hard on him here. The Great White Status Struggle has been playing for some time now.
Mark P. writes:
You have utterly failed to respond to the argument I’ve made over and over in this entry and other entries on the same subject, which is that what you say about liberals and liberal society is true of all societies. In any society one can think of, espousing the dominant beliefs of the society will tend to enhance one’s status. So to say that liberals embrace liberalism for the purpose of status competition tells us nothing distinctive about liberals.
Here is how it starts. People believe things because they think those things are true, whether it is religion, politics, culture, etc. So, yes, liberals believe in liberalism because they think it is true. This was the case in the beginning of the liberal movement. Lawrence, you are right, then, to assert that people seek goodness and truth and that liberalism provided to many that goodness and truth.
The question is, when do people stop believing in something because it is good and true and simply continue believing in it because it is useful? The last 50 years of liberalism has pretty much been a total disaster according to the publicly stated goals and principles of the liberal movement. What liberals believe in is demonstrably false, yet liberals continue to believe in it. That is because they found it useful publicly to espouse the existing zeitgeist in order to control the society around them, while privately ignoring that zeitgeist and structuring their own lives in entirely different ways. The people in the best position to do this are people with money and power, so the behavior of the well-to-do is taken as a model. Liberals behave as they do because they aspire to the upper-classes.
But let’s take this deeper. Why does this dynamic occur? It occurs because liberalism is itself a materially-reductionist ideology. Material-reductionism is very useful at tearing down any social system. The problem is, all material-reductionist arguments are susceptible to attack from other material-reductionist arguments.
Consider the question of how early man established a relationship with the transcendent through observation and reasoning by analogy. Early man observed that he brought objects into the world that did not exist in nature. Whether he fashioned a spear, made clothing out of animal skins, or built shelters where there had been none, each one of these acts represents his agency upon the world. So he asks himself: “If I bring forth that which does not exist in nature, then what brings forth that which does exist in nature?” He may then conclude that a being greater than himself made those objects around him. Or, he may have posed that same question to his friends and his friends drew that same conclusion. So, here I’ve demonstrated the beginnings of the natural, bottom-up organic growth of our relationship with the transcendent that began over 100,000 years ago.
The material reductionist does not see this the same way. He insists that religion is about trying to find “answers” or “comfort” or to “gain power” over others. To material reductionists, the surface appearances are merely invention hiding the real agenda. The material reductionists would absurdly assert that my hypothetical early man went to his friends and said: “You know, we need to invent an explanation for the world around us that will make us feel good and make us rule over others. We know it isn’t true , but it is useful, so let’s do this God thing.” Somehow, man over thousands of years built entire civilizations on a conscious invention known to be false, whose falsehood is hidden because it is useful.
To the material-reductionist liberals, then, their truth and their goodness is the idea that all societies are conceived in bad faith. But if all societies are conceived in bad faith, then that obviously includes the liberal one. Steve Sailer is just coming along and hoisting the liberal on his own petard. Not only is Sailer asserting that the liberal does not believe what the liberal claims to believe, but he is able to demonstrate that the liberal behaves differently from his very own beliefs. He then labels it as something crass, like “status-seeking.” It is true that Sailer is using a material-reductionist argument, but liberalism itself is an material-reductionist ideology, so using its own weapons against it is perfectly reasonable.
Still refining this, but I hope it helps.
D. in Seattle writes:
Bruce B. said: “Sailer is also under the delusion that all sorts of influential pundits and think tanks are influenced by his work. I’ve seen him repeatedly write that his such-and-such theory is gaining mainstream recognition as evidenced by the fact that this or that prominent pundit wrote something similar. This supports your assertion that he’s very status conscious.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 24, 2011 01:17 PM | Send
That’s a cheap shot at Sailer. Sailer of course makes mistakes from time to time but he also writes intelligently about many subjects that more mainstream pundits won’t touch, because the explanations don’t fit the liberal dogma, or that mainstream pundits don’t know enough to write about, especially when it comes to using math and statistics to analyze social phenomena.
As far as originating ideas that later gain mainstream recognition, that’s easy to verify in this age when everything posted online is indexed daily by search engines and a simple keyword search of a particular phrase can tell you how many times it appears on the web, and where. Sailer has been writing opinion journalism for over a decade and is widely read, and he has done a good job documenting how his ideas are later picked up by mainstream pundits. So Sailer’s ideas being picked up by others raises Sailer’s status, but is not delusional. Bruce is of course free to disprove my point.