Roundup recycled 20 years on

This is a roundup summary of an article by John O’Sullivan, ‘After Reaganism’, National Review, April 21, 1997. A prescient piece.

O’Sullivan takes conservatives to task for being too slow in matching the shifting positions of radicals who have nimbly moved on to map out new directions to Utopia. ‘The Left ought to be more confused than the Right by the ideological flux of the post-Cold War world [but] it is moving more quickly to redefine the ground rules of the new political game’. This game, as O’Sullivan calls it, is the disintegration of existing society and the replacement of traditional relations with bureaucratic management. He examines this process at work in three areas – the economy, social and moral issues, and the national question of cultural or political identity.

The economy is undermined in the interests of consumer protection, workplace safety and the environment. He notes some estimates of the opportunity cost of clean-air and clean-water regulation (6 per cent of GDP) and affirmative action (4 per cent of GDP). ‘A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money’. Beyond the dollar cost is the agenda of control, bringing industry under bureaucratic control without the responsibility of owning it, which might be called “socialism without tears”.

Concern for the environment has extended to indoctrination of school children with a quasireligious obligation to the earth or Gaia which is higher than the long-term interests of the human race. O’Sullivan points out that this gives the interventionist Left a whole host of silent constituents who cannot answer back, namely, the environment and the beasts. ‘Listening to Al Gore one wishes that the animals really could speak. If would be interesting to hear the candid opinion of the sloth on welfare, of wolves on foreign policy, and of the cuckoo on family values’.

In the moral domain the Left first discredits the values of traditional society (duty, fidelity and chastity) which help society to work without close bureaucratic supervision, then tries to resolve the resulting moral problems by law and regulation.

At the level of national identity, O’Sullivan finds the greatest threat of all in the multicultural agenda, apparently aimed at the disintegration of the
American people into a babble of contending interests. According to this agenda, the ancient symbol of failed communication, the Tower of Babel, becomes the Utopian dream.

From CIS Policy, Autumn 1997.

This entry was posted in American politics, Cultural Issues, Economics and economy, Economics on the left, Rafe, Rafe's Roundups. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Roundup recycled 20 years on

  1. Ant

    Fantastic contribution, Rafe. Thanks.

    I work in the design and construction industry and 3 important and largely avoidable drivers of inflated consultancy and construction costs has been the push for Environmentally Sustainable Design, Occupational/Work Health & Safety and Quality Management – in that order. The latter is relatively benign, until clients, especially government agencies, demand certification to ISO9001 because that is a joke when you come to realise how they themselves operate (and how the certification body operates, too!).

    All 3 are bottomless pits, because you can “never” make a building too environmentally friendly or too safe, and you can never assure too much quality.

    It’s been great for all the consultancies springing up everywhere, but costs have sky-rocketed accordingly.

    BTW, this is why hearing the political class’s “concern” over unaffordable housing is BS.

  2. Alexi

    Rafe, is it possible to get a copy of the entire article?

  3. iampeter

    With all due respect I think from reading this summary O’Sullivan is a good example of everything wrong with Conservatism and why it has so spectacularly failed to produce a distinct and coherent political ideology from that of the left.

    It all starts with:

    In the moral domain the Left first discredits the values of traditional society (duty, fidelity and chastity) which help society to work without close bureaucratic supervision

    This is a complete misunderstanding of the situation. Things like “duty” and “chastity” are not the source of Western Civilizations success. This idea comes from the misguided Conservative assertion that the Western Civilization owes it’s success to Judeao/Christian ideas. In reality though it owes it’s success to the ideas of the Enlightenment and a rejection of unthinking tradition/faith.

    Nor are the issues currently plaguing the West a result of a lack of “chastity”, but they are a result of a lack of support and understanding for individual rights, and the reality/reason based ethics system that supports it. Conservatives just like other collectivists (therefore leftists) have greatly contributed to this problem as well.

    So because he hasn’t understood the actual issue, he then goes ahead to push his own agenda which is not all that different to the collectivist ideas of the left. I.e. where the left would use government to violate your individual rights with policies like minimum wages, Conservatives would violate your individual rights with policies around banning same sex marriage. In the end if you allow the principle of individual rights to be violated you will have neither social nor economic freedoms.

    In the end Conservatism becomes just a tradition/faith based collectivist political ideology as opposed to the secular collectivist ideology of the more traditional left. Two sides of the same left wing coin.

    What’s needed is a proper individual rights derived political ideology – a proper right-wing approach – and this would mean rejecting Conservatism as it has failed to provide this.

    Those with a coherent right wing ideology only care about the protection of individual rights as this is the basic requirement for mans life and prosperity on earth. We don’t care where you come from, what language you speak, whether you mix with the other ethnic groups or choose to just stick to your own, what your sexual preferences are, how you choose to run your business/affairs, whether you are a bigot or not. The ONLY thing that matters to a right-winger is that you respect individual rights. In all other matters we can agree to disagree and live our separate lives. In the even we can’t and one initiates force against the other, then the government would step in to resolve the situation. Prevention of the initiation of force been the only moral reason for a government to exist.

    So in short, I argue that Conservatism is just a religion derived left-wing ideology, does not support nor make coherent arguments for limited government or capitalism because it doesn’t support individual rights as a matter of principle. What we need is an individual rights, reason derived political ideology. Or what is generally called “Classic Liberal” nowadays.

  4. stackja

    Alexi
    #2171778, posted on October 13, 2016 at 9:24 am
    Rafe, is it possible to get a copy of the entire article?

    Try this linky

  5. Alexi

    stackja you are a champ!

  6. stackja

    Alexi
    #2171802, posted on October 13, 2016 at 9:51 am
    stackja you are a champ!

    Thank you! And thank Google!

  7. Muddy

    As I’ve written a few times now, power and authority can be claimed by professing to have the answers to problems. If such ‘problems’ do not exist, they must be created, either by subtly and indirectly destroying something (a social or cultural value, for example) completely or partially, or by exaggerating an existing, relatively minor, issue. Causing something to be razed, while time-consuming, allows a greater leverage when rebuilding from scratch, compared to patching up the cracks in a damaged but still functional ‘problem.’
    In other words, to create, something often must be destroyed (in this ideology, I mean). There must be a need for a messiah before a messiah is called for and then welcomed.

  8. Roger

    This idea comes from the misguided Conservative assertion that the Western Civilization owes it’s success to Judeao/Christian ideas. In reality though it owes it’s success to the ideas of the Enlightenment and a rejection of unthinking tradition/faith.

    If you’re prepared to be disabused of your beliefs, Peter, I recommend Larry Siedentop’s ‘Inventing the Individual’.

  9. Roger

    Scruton on Zizek is a primer on how the Marxists re-invented their cause after 1989.

  10. Muddy

    iampeter.
    Some interesting thoughts there. I don’t think I’m theoretically sharp enough to respond, but you have given me some food for thought. Previously I’ve stated that I think Conservatism as a brand is a lifeless carcass; the brand, not the ideology.

  11. struth

    Iampeter.
    Explain why the worsening situation in the west corresponds to the gradual disgarding of Christianity.

    The enlightenment came out of Christianity.
    I am not sure there is a god, but I believe in Christian values.
    Big difference.
    Christianity, unlike Islam, promotes the idea that you have your own free will and will be judged on how you behaved in life after death.

    Only men given free will, can produce a western style civilisation.
    It cannot come from the likes of other religions (and hasn’t) because they do not allow that free will.
    Islam (meaning submission) certainly does not.
    Granted, there are many other factors, Greeks and democracy etc, but like the typical lefty you want to dismiss Christianity and its ability to create wealth and improve life be means of a free people.
    Duty and chastity and integrity and virtue in a society mean you need minimal government control.
    Go on, admit it, that’s why Christianity gets your back up.

  12. struth

    Let me put it more simply.
    Many of the anti Christian “scientific ” learning of the enlightenment, had to first be undertaken before the church could scream blue murder.
    The church is full of men, a bureaucracy of religion.
    The Christian values of the bible, minus the bureaucracy, should be appreciated for the freedom it gives man.
    It doesn’t need man to be controlled from the top down.
    Ultimately, that is why it is dying now.
    But that is the whole point.

  13. struth

    The ONLY thing that matters to a right-winger is that you respect individual rights. In all other matters we can agree to disagree and live our separate lives. In the even we can’t and one initiates force against the other, then the government would step in to resolve the situation.

    We can’t.
    All those other individuals aren’t thinking like you are.
    You are thinking like a western Christian.
    So you will get government intervention.
    It’s not a maybe, (especially with mussies), so your whole theory takes us back to multiculti Australia with government control.
    How’s that “government will step in and resolve the situation” looking for you now.
    You are a lefty at heart.

  14. Tel

    I can’t read the Climate Science chapter 3.

    Not sure if it’s my browser but other pages load OK.

  15. Roger

    Previously I’ve stated that I think Conservatism as a brand is a lifeless carcass; the brand, not the ideology.

    Mussy, disregard the notions that conservatism is either “a brand” or “an ideology”.

    Rather, it’s an attitude that reflects a state of mind that rests upon deeply settled convictions that have proven themselves over centuries.

    One foundational conviction is that man is not perfectible and therefore neither is society.

    Another is that family and local community are primary, not secondary or tertiary behind the state.

    A third is that what is tried and true is generally preferrable over what is new and untested, therefore political revolutions seldom, if ever, lead to improvement of the common lot of mankind.

    And so on…

  16. Muddy

    Roger.
    What you wrote makes perfect sense to me, but I have been leaning in this direction for some time. What concerns me is not the message itself, but how that message is being communicated. Our ideological enemies have identified what in human psychology needs to be fulfilled, and have tailored their messages to appeal to those needs. How well is our ‘sales pitch’ going?

  17. Muddy

    Actually, change that. My concern is both the message AND how it is being communicated. Just look at how change, any change, has been redefined to become a necessity, and how conservatism has been defined as a resistance to change, therefore a negative. And given the forms of media we have now, virtually everything is a brand.

  18. iampeter

    Hey Struth, I know exactly what you’re saying, it’s a common enough position a lot of my Conservative friends hold and I get where you are coming from.

    Things are not declining today because religion is declining, it’s not about really been secular vs religious. The real struggle is between reason and mysticism. Reason leads to individual rights, which in turn leads to human prosperity. Mysticism leads to collectivism, which in turn leads to death and ruin.

    There are many religious people who put more weight on reason and are great thinkers and doers. And at the same time there are plenty of atheists who are batshit crazy – look at the environmentalist movement for example. My point was only that Christianity is not the source of the West’s success – the use of reason is.

    I think that a lot of the ideas of Christianity been behind the Enlightenment are more from revisionist Christian historians than reality though. Christianity gave us the Dark Ages and it was the rediscovery of Greek philosophy, specifically Aristotle, via the Muslims that were coming up through Spain that kick started Europe again. Christianity fought tooth and nail against the ideas of the Enlightenment, it doesn’t get to take credit for it. Islam by contrast fought and won against the ideas of the Enlightenment and you can see the state of that part of the world as a result.

    As to the difference between Christianity and Islam, I would argue that the key characteristic of religion is the belief that knowledge is possible through means other than your senses (e.g. through scripture, revelation or other supernatural means). In this sense all religion is the same. It’s the approach to thinking that matters, not the specific day-to-day practices of this or that sect. So the only real difference between today’s Muslims and Christians is that more and more Muslims take religion very seriously and the result is groups like Al Quaida and ISIS. Christians on the other hand don’t really take religion all that seriously, submit to secular, objective law and generally treat it as just another lifestyle choice. It’s like joining Cross-Fit or choosing to be a Vegan. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s not the source of any values or ideas. And it has left Conservatism intellectually disarmed against the far more coherent, collectivist leftists.

    We can see evidence of this all across the West where tradition/faith based Conservative movements have either completely failed to stop the growth of Government or in most cases have actively contributed to it. To borrow a phrase: it’s the ideology, stupid.

  19. .

    Another is that family and local community are primary, not secondary or tertiary behind the state.

    I said that on this forum and was accused of being a Muslim, a terrorist and a traitor.

  20. .

    My point was only that Christianity is not the source of the West’s success – the use of reason is.

    I said the same thing and was decried as a historical revisionist, a Muslim and ignorant.

  21. Menai Pete

    The environmental text books of the 1980s and earlier hardly made any reference to global warming or climate change. After Reagan destroyed the USSR and won the cold war global warming suddenly became a threat. I still maintain that it was invented by the cold war losers as revenge on the West

  22. Boambee John

    iampeter,

    Your autocorrect converts “being” to “been” pretty much every time, it is quite distracting!

  23. struth

    If you lump all religions together as mysticism, then you did not read my last comment.
    All religions are not the same.
    Far from it.
    That is precisely why “The church” as opposed to Christianity, lost out to the enlightenment.
    And why Islam didn’t , as you rightly say.
    Again I am not religious but I understand the benefit of Christian values and the freedom that it has given the western world.
    Dismissing all religion as the same is , well, ridiculous.
    Not getting that a virtuous society would need less big government control means all your other theories can be built up on what is blatantly impossible.
    It would be nice to believe your world view but societies need a set of values , not instilled by top down governance, and Christianity is by far the best, some other religions close.
    Everything else leads to totalitarian control, as you openly admitted it would, with your first comment.
    All I am saying is do not dismiss Christianity in it’s positive influence on the western world and it’s constitutions.
    Easy and trendy to do nowadays.
    John Lennon was a drug fucked musician.
    “Imagine” isn’t possible.

  24. .

    Everything else leads to totalitarian control

    Oh god.

    John Lennon was a drug fucked musician.

    He was brilliant and often sober.

  25. struth

    So the only real difference between today’s Muslims and Christians is that more and more Muslims take religion very seriously and the result is groups like Al Quaida and ISIS. Christians on the other hand don’t really take religion all that seriously, submit to secular, objective law and generally treat it as just another lifestyle choice.

    Yep.
    When Christians take their religion seriously they become Monks and Nuns.
    When a muslim does it, he becomes a murdering misogynist.
    Christianity is like the English language.
    It can adapt.
    All religions are not the same and only the intensity of devotion different.
    I think you know that is crap.
    But the main point in this discussion is that Christianity believes that man has free will.
    And of course the religious bureaucrats of the church in the dark ages had other ideas.
    Bureaucrats are ruining a great system of government right now.
    Bureaucratic men ruin everything.
    It doesn’t necessarily mean the idea is flawed.

  26. struth

    Oh god.

    Our father , or the holy ghost.

    either one.

    That’s telling me.

  27. struth

    He was brilliant and often sober.

    Paul McCartney was the musical brains and gifted song writer.
    IMHO.

  28. struth

    I must go and put an alternator in a car.

    God I hate doing that shit.

  29. .

    Lennon was better than Mc Cartney – but they should have stuck together.

  30. iampeter

    So if you think about what religion is for a second: it’s another approach to thinking.

    While reason is the non-contradictory integration of information provided by your senses, religion is the belief in things in the absence of any evidence (i.e. faith). All religion is about faith, so all religions are essentially the same. The different sects people might choose to belong to and their specific practices are just semantics.

    In terms of values, I couldn’t agree more that mankind needs them. But I disagree that religion is the source of them.

    This is a huge topic in itself but in a nutshell: in order for man to live on this earth he has to work to gain and keep values. The primary value, that makes all others possible, is life. So anything man does that improves his standard of living is the good and anything that he does that reduces his standard of living is the evil.

    This is the basic root of where our value system comes from, it can be determined by using our brains, not because we are given a commandment that we must obey on pain of eternal suffering, but because we choose to live on this earth the best lives we can and have to use our brains to do so.

    Christianity on the other hand expects you to obey commands from a God. Why? Because God says so.

    This is not a source of values, ethics or any kind of decision making for life on this earth and people who try to take this seriously ultimately fly planes into skyscrapers.

    I know it’ll piss off Christian readers, but I’m not against anyone believing what they like, provided they adhere to secular law. I just don’t understand the point of it.
    And my bigger point was that trying to derive a political ideology on these shoddy foundations has failed as evidenced by today’s Conservatives.

  31. Rafe

    Christians were told to render unto Caesar that which is Caesars and unto God that which is Gods. Separation of responsibilities.

  32. slow&easy

    .

    I said the same thing and was decried as a historical revisionist, a Muslim and ignorant.

    You mean you are not?

  33. calli

    Christianity gave us the Dark Ages

    How so, iampeter?

  34. calli

    Christianity on the other hand expects you to obey commands from a God.

    It demands no such thing from you iampeter. Christianity only demands obedience from Christians.

    You can do as you please.

  35. calli

    And you haven’t annoyed, just given lots of food for thought on a dreary, rainy Barcelona evening.

  36. Mark A

    I think the problem with most progressives is that they confuse organised church/religion with basic christianity. They are nothing of the same.

  37. Snoopy

    Dotty, please provide some links to these heinous slurs.

  38. Mark A

    Evening Snoopy, how’s things?

  39. iampeter

    How so, iampeter?

    There’s a lot of history that goes into that but at a high level, prior to Christianity taking over we had the Greek and copy-cat Roman pagan religions. Like all religions they were irrational and not good for life if taken seriously but they were not all consuming like Christianity. Greeks/Romans viewed gods and titans as a separate species that humans descended from. They weren’t all knowing or all powerful, they were more like folk stories.

    As such these pagan beliefs weren’t all consuming and left them to focus their energies primarily on their life on this earth. And we see the evidence of this in what they left behind. Ideas of Democracy and Republic Government, life affirming art, sexual liberation of every stripe and color, beautiful architecture, sculptures, literature and philosophy itself. Everything they did glorified man and his life on this earth.
    In short they were incredibly primitive compared to us but they did their damn best with the knowledge they had and even created many concepts that we still use today (e.g. the scientific method, hat-tip Aristotle).

    Then came Christianity and it all went downhill. Christianity (especially in those days when it was taken MUCH more seriously than today) depicted a supernatural, all knowing all powerful dictatorship that dictated all aspects of your life and whose purpose was to prepare you for the next one. This religion decried more and more earthly concerns to be sins and slowly but surely shifted mankind’s focus from living life on this earth to preparing for the afterlife.

    This had predictable results, stifling man’s freedoms to think and act, killed all creativity and inventiveness, corrupted ethics, politics, sexuality and as a result chipped away at the very ideas that made Western Civilization so successful at the time – reason and individualism. The rest is history. The period after the fall of Rome we went from a civilization that had actual running water and spa’s to stone age poverty where savages would come to chip bits of marble from remains of Roman buildings to shore up their mud huts.

    Also much like the ideas and culture of the pagan/reason based Greeks and Romans was left for us to find in their art and literature the same can be seen in Christianity. Christian architecture is dark and gothic, images of demons and horror abounds in their buildings, literature and art work as is a loathing of sex and the human form.

    In this way the all consuming, collectivist ideas of Christianity that when practiced seriously destroyed the successful Western Civilization of the time. Too be clear, before I get e-stoned by Christian readers, it’s not Christianity itself that is the issue – it’s taking it seriously, been a proper irrational Mystic – that is the cause.

    We see a lot of parallels in today’s world as the reason based Western Civilization that we have rebuilt from the Enlightenment is being chipped away at from all sides by secular irrational Mystics like Environmentalists and irrational religions Mystics like members of ISIS.

    So back to the original point of the first post itself, Conservatives think Christianity gave us successful Western Civilization but that is a misreading of history – it was reason and a respect for individualism that did that. Christianity was just along for the ride and gave us lots of speed bumps along the way. Until Conservative can base their ideology in reason and individualism, they are not going to be able to put forward a coherent right-wing, alternative political ideology to the left. They are just religious collectivists.

  40. .

    Snoopy – please be an honest, decent human being.

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