François-René Rideau (fare) wrote,
François-René Rideau

Conservatism is to Socialism what Stupidity is to Evil

It's never as much fun bashing conservatives as it is bashing socialists (or their mini-me incarnations as social-democrats or liberals as they are called in the USA). Indeed, conservatives are rather openly irrational and anti-rational and have simpler absurdities, whereas socialists hide their irrationality under false claims of rationality, and build intricate network of lies to cover their absurdities. The battle of conservatives against socialists is really the battle of stupidity against evil. The zero against the negative: Whichever side wins, we lose - though admittedly not as much at once. And these two aspects of Statism feed each other.

Nevertheless, it is time for me to tackle the conservative argument, or lack thereof. I'll do my best to do it in the randian tradition of reduction to clarity. If my argument doesn't satisfy you, you can still peruse Hayek's classic Why I am not a Conservative.

I'm just arguing for the status quo, whereas you are arguing for a radical and untried restructuring of everything. Practically, that puts the burden of proof on you. I feel positively Burkean.

Such was the recent contention of a debater. It has the merit of making explicit what is usually left implicit. So the conservative claims that the current laws are good and shouldn't be changed, by principle. Now, which status quo is he talking about? Is it the status quo of today? Then when tomorrow the law changes, will our conservative suddenly turn into a reactionary, and demand to that the laws should be reverted to what they are today? And which "today" is that? Can our conservative state at which day, time and place he thinks the laws had reached perfection and should have been cast in stone? Or is our conservative going to remain a conservative and to change his mind as the law changes, and defend on principle whichever laws more radicals than them have enacted recently?

If it is a principle at all, Conservatism is certainly not a logical principle. Nor does it claim to be: it is plainly and simply the rejection of rational debate. Which works great if force is on your side. But not so great when force fluctuates, and you have nothing onto which to hold on when radicals of all kinds alternatively sway opinions and enact new laws. Various conservatives will stand by various dogmas; they sometimes make sense in an incoherent way; they most of the time fall prey to the parasitism of old superstitions; and since the dogmas they cling to are random and they deny rational arguments as a way to create agreement, they can't get to agree with each other except when one of them imposes his opinion by force. This essential weakness leaves them helpless when facing radicals, who have a systematic means to agree with each other through ideology. Thus all conservatives do is yield slowly to various radicals, mixing ever more radical ideas in their historic values. And socialists, whose ideology systematically seeks propagation through public schooling and the media establishment, are a main source of the slow drift of conservative ideas, that conservatives have no means to counter except increased stupidity.

One sure is certain: change. Conservatives as such have no argument, no compass, no criterion, as to which direction this change should be. Tomorrow will be different from today and from anything that existed in the past. Tomorrow is a utopia. The only question is to determine which. Refusing any explicit understanding of the world, conservatives can't even argue what is changed and what stays the same in a given proposal. They dismiss any explicit understanding of the world as ideology, as if the word was damning in itself. But as Daniel Dennett said, There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination. The political science of conservatives is just a hodge-podge made of pieces that are never examined, never discussed, never evaluated; conservatives are thus the willing victims and disseminators of whichever mental parasites are propagated in sources they blindly reproduce.

Often, conservatives try to justify their preferred existing institutions based on a one sided account of their selected successes, disrespective of the associated price and failures, and blind to the opportunity costs, in a typical accounting fallacy. They will challenge your proposals to solve some problems up to exacting standards, yet they never dare apply such standard to their beloved status quo; they silently assume that what they have is good, whereas it fails miserably, but they won't know it because they refuse to examine facts as much as they refuse and are incapable to examine alternatives: double standards and petition of principle. When their own lack of argument is amply demonstrated, they will call for the authority of some never made explicit, never examined higher principle, and of past authors who never actually discussed the argument at stake. As a last resort, they admit their own ignorance and the arbitrariness of their stance, and decree their dissenter as just as ignorant and arbitrary, without examining the dissenter's argument or arguing a principle why the given topic is unknowable.

It is OK to admit ignorance or to humbly recognize being unable to follow a debate. But then the conclusion should be "I don't know", not "let's keep the status quo". It's OK to delegate the argument to someone who knows better - but then that someone has to actually argue its case, not just close the debate with an argument of authority. It is OK to decline a debate - but not to take decisions in absence of a debate and require public force to enforce them, and even less to erect absence of debate into a political principle. Conservatives take the wrong conclusions out of their professed humility; instead of retreating to neutrality, they make random assertions out of professed stupidity.

In conclusion, there is often precious little to argue with a conservative as such, except for the identification of their claimed irrationality (if you need to discredit them), and the identification of their arbitrary basic values (if you need to make friends with them, or avoid making enemies out of them) -- with the catch that the fracture lines of such irrationality and values varies quite arbitrarily from conservative to conservative. Whatever rational argument is possible with a conservative relies on precisely those points where said person is more than a conservative as such -- all those positive (or negative) values that he is ready to argue rather than blindly accept.

Tags: argument, conservatism, debate, en, fallacies, irrationality, stupidity

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