There is a huge inflection running through “conservative” thought. Even if you define “conservative” as small government and therefore get rid of the distinctions between social conservatives and libertarians, law and order and minarchists, strong-defense and isolationists.
In fact, all these distinctions are meaningless in the face of the one big distinction.
What big distinction? Well… How do you feel about the following William F. Buckley quote about National Review?
“It stands athwart history, yelling Stop.”
If you’re nodding your head, chances are you’re older than I, probably by ten years. If you’re wrinkling your brow and going “say what?” chances are you’re younger than I by at least ten years.
These things are not written in stone. Generations are permeable. For instance the current president is my age, just about, but he is technically of my older son’s generation, the echo-boom – the child of boomers who imbibed the ideology of the sixties in their mother’s milk and regurgitate it unexamined. My parents OTOH were born during WWII and were the youngest of their family and therefore technically belonged to the prior generation.
However, in general, conservatives of any stripe who came of age before the seventies have the built in assumption that history is against their beliefs and they’re doomed to eventually lose. They react to this in many different ways. A lot of what you call RINOs are in fact conservatives of this stripe. They think that they’re doomed to lose anyway – or rather, don’t think, just feel it, since it’s at the back of all their political beliefs – and therefore doing a little trade on the way to make things easier seems wise. There are other types, like VDH who mourn the failing of the light and believe it is their duty to chronicle our journey into the dark, to warn some future rekindling of civilization (even though it’s understood he thinks they too are pre-doomed.) Then there are the ones, like the Vikings of old who stand and make them fight for every inch they take, even though knowing that in the end evil and darkness win.
All of these from the “go down easy” to the admirable warriors have more in common with each other than with me. You see, they don’t believe we can win.
Me? I’m neither naïve nor stupid. Yes, I’ve read the same historical texts they have. Yes, I know the danger is grave. Yes, I’m fully aware that forces of darkness are closing in on all sides. They’ve been closing in on all sides forever, and the dawn of the industrial age made it worse.
BUT how could I not believe we can win? In my lifetime, I’ve seen communist countries fall. Even if they reconstituted again in some form, we found out one thing: no communist dictatorship can continue unchanged or unsoftened for over seventy years. How CAN they be the future if they can’t even feed their own people longer than that. Even strong men in benighted Latin countries do better than the dictatorship of the proletariat to which the future was supposed to belong.
How can I not believe we can win, when I’ve seen the growth of the new media, challenging the sclerotic orthodoxy of the mass-production age?
How can I not believe we can win when almost all new tech is geared towards giving individuals greater freedom and greater tech?
How can I not believe we can win when it is the “progressives” who are fighting the future so hard they’re willing to take us back to the thirties and permanent stagnation to stop history?
Look – I know where the older conservatives got this idea. Each generation was going to be larger than the last, creating a sort of tyranny of indoctrinated youth and a sort of permanent dependence on the welfare state. On the international front, larger and larger states would face each other across nuclear arsenals. The almost mass-producing of people would create soulless societies where everyone was taught to think/act/dress alike.
Like Marx they made the mistake of looking at a point in history and thinking this goes on forever. It’s a human thing. (Unlike Marx, at least they didn’t rub their hands with glee and view it as a way to enshrine envy and vengeance as virtues.)
But their assumptions were wrong: their population assumptions, their assumptions on the longevity of industrial totalitarian states, and yes, their assumptions on technology.
What’s more the assumptions on tech and on economics were wrong in a spectacular way.
So, those of us who came of age after the seventies, those of us who took to the net like a fish to water, those of us who live in the stream of information, who are happy warriors in the battle for the future, can’t avoid but think there is not only a good chance we win – but our victory is almost assured. Almost. They have one weapon that destroys us, though it destroys them too.
Let’s start with some basics – can’t cover them all. Again, the rule of science fiction applies – from which you can extrapolate the rest. Let’s take the fact that you can now live in Podunk Kansas, or Santa Maria, Brazil and work in New York City. If you’re thinking that’s just convenient, you didn’t think things through.
The industrial nation-state depends on territorial control for its power. Their power to tax you, force you, coerce you, censor you hinges on your living in their territory. What is the good of giving incentives to one industry and taxing the other to oblivion if it just means that it changes “offices” on paper, while not moving a single piece of paper.
We’re not quite there yet, but as better automated manufacture (and 3-d printers) come on line, the productive class becomes a will-o’-the-wisp thing that they can’t pin down and tax to buy the favor and votes of the moocher class.
Their troubles are only starting.
Yes, I know right now, the main stream media still shaped the narrative. Or did they? Note that Obama’s vote records fell way more from 08 than those of the Republican. Yeah, the hatred campaign worked… for now.
But over the next four years, how many more people acquire tablets and computers? How many more turn off the news?
Look, guys, the left was infiltrated by communists in the thirties and since then they’ve been preparing their beautifully detailed snare. It was easy in a way. Keep out of media, education and entertainment anyone who doesn’t think as they do. Anyone who isn’t one of the “good guys.”
It worked. It worked wonderfully. They knew it would. It worked everywhere else, too. The entire Western World speaks with a unified media voice somewhere to the left of Lenin. They don’t care if the people tune them out, something still sticks.
Those of us who came of age before blogs, came of age to feeling like we were insane. EVERYTHING and everyone from newspapers, to our teachers to our favorite novelists/film makers told us a centralized economy was better and to think otherwise was heresy.
Okay, so the fall of the USSR made us think all of those authorities were full of it. But it was still hard. Now? Now you can find a million people who think like you with very little effort – more importantly, you can find views that accord with your ‘lying eyes’.
They are holding on to the old way of doing things. They conquered it the hard way over three generations. They don’t want to let go.
What would you do if you threw a long march through the institutions, and in the end you found the institutions irrelevant?
Look at the talk show hosts. That’s flop sweat on their brow. Look at the merger of Random Penguin, because, in the face of all evidence, bigger must be better, they must stop these pesky indie people, they must OVERCOME. They were told come the revolution they won, and yet now their victory is running between their fingers like sand.
They don’t know what to do. All they can scream about is “taxing the rich” and taking us back to the good ol’ class war days of the 1930s. They’re hoping by collapsing the economy they stop the clock of progress and cut off our route of escape.
Can it work?
Sure it can. For a time. If they collapse the economy completely, if they take us back to pre-history, it might work for a few hundred years. BUT if they continue the course they’re in and only semi-collapse it?
Uh uh. No way guys. Yeah they “win” for a few decades. But even China can’t stop the internet, and China has a FAR more conformist culture than anywhere in the west, even Portugal. If they collapse the economy, we have to find new ways of surviving. Things we can make/trade/sell the leviathan can’t trace. Ways to be like the companies and move around to where they can’t force us. In other words, if they continue in this course, they’ll only accelerate the progress of the technologies that will defeat them.
Doesn’t mean it’s not important to fight them. When I say a few decades it could be as many as seven decades of untold misery. The human life is brief. Seventy years wipes me out and pretty much everyone I care about in this world. I’m fighting for the near future. I’m fighting to avoid pain for my children and grandchildren. I’m fighting to keep the lights blazing bright.
BUT make no mistake – in the end, one way or another, we win. Things can get ugly. We might lose a few cities. Things can get a lot more painful than they should.
But in the end it is the progressives standing athwart history yelling “stop.” And that thing bearing down on them? It’s an express train. It stops for no one.