Saturday, June 29, 2013

A conversation with a non-academic well-versed in the western canon, though less so anything contemporary, at least in terms of academic political theory. I tried to explain ongoing arguments about liberalism and conservatism. He kept stopping me to say he didn't know what those words meant without more explanation. "The meanings have changed so much over the past 200 years." I said that's the problem I was having, since the people I argued with seemingly had no knowledge that the old aristocratic right was anti-capitalist, being based on land not business. The old model of conservatism accepted self-interest as a given but nonetheless saw nobility, humility and self-sacrifice as an ideal.  Modern conservatives are merely aping the mannerisms of those they'd defeated, and liberals are similarly individualistic. "That's what all the French are on about".  He looked at me with the expression of someone pleasantly surprised to know I understood the obvious, but he didn't want to take my word regarding the opinions of anyone he hadn't met or read. Finally in frustration I blurted out that if I make the point that the supposed mystery of the Cambridge spies can be explained by seeing them as monarchists striking back against the barbarism that destroyed the world they knew or claimed to know, the response from erstwhile liberal academics almost always is not even disagreement or amusement but incomprehension.  He shrugged. He understood.
He's a Priest.
Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development.
"If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right."
repeat, since Holbo's back at it.
Modern liberalism begins in universalism, treating various people's interests as equal or equivalent. But the global view of individuals as actors has given us an asocial model of morality:

"If her interests have the same value as his, then my interests must have the same value as yours."
In a short conversation with a libertarian a few months ago, I said my disgust begins with their opposition to democracy, since democracy is founded on individual responsibility, not individual freedom.  He agreed that libertarians don't  like democracy,  but said he was impressed that I would argue against freedom. "Most liberals aren't so honest" I said they can't face their contradictions, and that I'm not a liberal.

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