A Note To Jonathan Haidt: An Explanation Of Elite Conservative Strategy Since Reagan
Jonathan Haidt first attacks republicans then rescinds it. I try to put conservative strategy in context. And in that context it’s quite simple. It’s an extension of the tactic used against world communism: “Resist until they go bankrupt.” If you understand this strategy everything the conservatives and Republicans do makes complete sense. Everything.
Very interesting post, and equally interesting comments.
One commenter above writes that you (Jonathan) should perhaps seek to understand conservative elite theory. (People like me.)
The conservative intellectuals succeeded in defeating world communism and socialism through a variety of military, political, economic, and intellectual tactics. But conservatives failed to come up with a strategy for defeating democratic redistributive socialism and the secular progressive attack on the meritocratic hierarchical conservative society. Due to this failure, the libertarians, who are explicitly economic in their strategy, took over leadership of the anti-collectivism, and whenever possible, the conservatives adopted the libertarian economic and political program.
But about the time of Reagan, conservative thought leaders looked at the demographic data and determined that the program of expanding statism would win out over time. So, the conservatives abandoned their belief that they could gain a majority and keep control of the state, or even defend themselves against it. And instead, they increased militarism, worked to increase home ownership, and tried to rekindle entrepreneurship rather than government as the central narrative behind western success. They then allied with the capitalist class to attempt to bankrupt the state before european style nanny state could develop. This was consistent with the approach to communism: “Just resist them and wear them out. They will eventually fail because their concept of an economy is unsustainable.” The conservative battle against the state is simply the conservative tactic against world communism replayed.
It is perhaps useful to note that the conservative argument against central planning, urban planning, welfare disincentives, laxity on crime and punishment, the social and economic impact of the dissolution of the institution of marriage, as well as the problem of the ponzi financing strategy of social programs (rather than the Singapore model of forced and subsidized savings) were all correct. The conservative vision of hubristic man and economic incentives is more accurate a world view than the liberal egalitarian ideal. And while it is not that we cannot use the ideas of both sides. It is that progressive desires must be accomplished through conservative means: retaining the relationship between cause, effect and incentives.
The USA, as a set of political institutions, faces the multicultural problem that faces all empires. It currently must cope with the combination of a)”The Demands Of Empire” that give the state greater scope than just the nation + b)”Nine Nations Of North America” which represent geographic differences in culture + c)”Racial Self-Preference in Association, and Differences In Ability” + d)”Gender Biases” + e) The class exaggerating effect of the extraordinary economic advantage of having an IQ greater than 105 in the information economy. All of these biases exist within a set of political institutions designed to resolve conflicts in priority between property owning males with homogenous norms. It is not possible to resolve conflicts over ends using decision making by majority rule. In the market we cooperate on means and are ignorant of one another’s ends. In majority rule government, there are winners and losers because we argue over ends. Majority rule must (as Federalist papers 10 stated) lead to extra-political resolution of conflict between groups with such mutually exclusive goals. Liberals slant toward the female reproductive strategy (the largest number of human births with the most equal experience) and the conservatives slant toward the male reproductive strategy (the most competitive tribe with the best people in charge of it.) This level of conflict over instinctual preference will not be resolved by the liberal desire to use our instituions of majority rule to suppress the instincts of the other side any more than conservatives would succeed in encouraging liberals to adopt conservative norms.
For this reason, something has to give. Either demographics have to play out (it’s possible), or the federal government has to devolve (unlikely without catastrophic military or economic causes) or we will have to develop new institutions that allow us to federate while pursuing opposing social ends (Just as unlikely). But it’s also just as likely that we will lose our high trust society as groups seek extra-political means of status seeking (like Mediterranean’s and Eastern Europeans, and Russians.) And if we lose that we will also lose our risk taking – which is why we’re a wealthy economy. Risk taking creates innovation.
But the USA is too big and too diverse ann empire to persist as we have known it. Classical liberalism is a means of governance for a small state or a small federation. Not an empire. And the USA is an empire. The Classical mutli-house model did not work for the british empire, and it will not work for the american empire.
So while I believe you have finally supplied the social sciences with the language by which to understand political conflcits I do not believe that the conflict is resolvable. People under Russian and Chinese socialism developed ‘black markets’ for everything. People under majority rule who have opposing interests will develop extra-political ‘black markets’ for power. They will circumvent the political institutions to achieve their desired ends. The state will attempt to preserve itself by increasing control, which will only expand the black markets. The liberals circumvented the constitution, and the conservatives circumvent the state apparatus.
There is no solution here without changes to our institutions. In government, big is bad and small is good. The city state and a mobile population allow the greatest diversity and freedom. So the problem we have is finding an institutional solution to that equilibrium: allowing federation of some things but not federation of norms.