Lazy Sunday LXXIX: Forgotten Posts, Volume III

Lazy Sunday is rolling on with some more “Forgotten Posts” (check out Volume I and Volume II).  Again, the criteria for selection is pretty loose—I scroll through my archives and find posts I don’t link to very often, or which I’ve largely forgotten that I wrote.  Even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

This week’s selections come from June 2019.  The summer is always a slow month for new; ergo, it’s a slow month for blogging.  But with a self-imposed daily post requirement, I’ve gotta come up with something.  Here’s a taste of those somethings:

There’s another Lazy Sunday in the books.  Speaking of books, I’ll be cracking them pretty hard this week, as school resumes this Thursday.  It’s going to be an interesting year.  Wish me luck.

In the meantime, enjoy your Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Populism Wins

A major lesson of the 2016 election was that the neoliberal consensus of the prior thirty years was not the panacea its advocates claimed.  Trump’s candidacy was premised on the notion that the national government should work for the interests of the nation’s people, not on behalf of globalist concerns and aloof cosmopolitan elites.  Government could be reformed to strengthen the nation, rather than operating as the piggy bank for and protector of internationalists.

It’s interesting to reflect how entrenched the assumptions of neoliberalism were prior to 2015-2016.  When Trump began his historic campaign, virtually no one on the Right was talking about tariffs, other than Pat Buchanan (and a long essay on the necessity of a trade war with China that Oren Cass wrote for National Review in 2014).  The outsourcing of jobs overseas was assumed to be a short-term sacrifice that would result in more efficiency (ergo, lower prices on consumer goods) and more skilled jobs here.  We were a “nation of immigrants,” so we’d better throw the doors wide open.

With Trump’s election, a long-dormant populist wing reemerged, consisting both of conservative Republicans and disgruntled Democrats.  Tariffs became an important foreign and domestic policy tool.  A trade war with China soon began, and the United States renegotiated the NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada.  Manufacturing jobs began returning to the United States, and immigration laws began to be enforced (so long as those Hawaiian judges didn’t get in the way).  The economy, rather than contracting as the free trade hardliners warned, grew exponentially, and even now is recovering at a remarkable clip after The Age of The Virus temporarily sidelined it.

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Phone it in Friday XII: Good Reads

It’s been awhile (3 April 2020) since I’ve written a Phone it in Friday, which means I’ve been doing my job and writing actual content on Friday, not just slapping together listicles of random thoughts (that link is not intended to diminish Audre Myers, a far more engaging random thinker than me).  That said, today seems like a good opportunity to phone it in—after a day of baby wrangling yesterday, and a fitful night’s sleep (thanks in part to some heavy, but delicious, meals).

I’m also planning on unveiling my 2020 Summer Reading List in tomorrow’s SubscribeStar Saturday post (subscribe for a buck to read it!).  Ergo, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to highlight some good Internet reads from the past couple of weeks.

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Thanksgiving Week!

It’s Thanksgiving Week!  November is flying by; Halloween Week (and Halloween!) seem like yesterday.  Yesterday was a crisp, autumnal day, a brief respite of warmth before cold weather returned to South Carolina this morning.

As a teacher, one of my favorite “weeks” of the school year is this one.  I put “weeks” in quotation marks because, from a teaching perspective, this isn’t truly a “week,” or even a “short week” (four days, such as the Labor Day holiday early in the academic year).  Instead, it’s two days of either cramming in tests and material, or of laconically drifting into the glorious Thanksgiving Break.

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TBT: More Never Trump Treachery

With all the impeachment talk swirling, I thought it would be worth it to look back at a piece I wrote in May, focusing on squishy Michigan Congressman Justin Amash, the so-called “libertarian Republican,” as an example of the kind of bitter Never Trumpery that is champing at the bit to see President Trump impeached.

At that time, Amash argued that President Trump’s conduct was impeachable—not any actual crimes he committed, just that the way he comports himself is impeachable.  This claim coming from a guy who allegedly supports the Constitution.

Acting like a boor is not an impeachable offense.  It falls well below the bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors” set by the Constitution.  Further, President Trump’s phone calls to the Ukraine and Australia certainly fall well below that bar; I don’t even think he did anything wrong.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Stakes of the Culture War

A special note:  today’s SubscribeStar Saturday is probably the most important essay I’ve written this year.  I encourage to read it with your subscription of $1/mo. or more.  If you’re unable to pitch in, send me a message and I’ll e-mail you a PDF.

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Over the past couple of weeks, the stakes of the culture war have really hit home for me.  As I wrote last weekend, the “misinformation gap” between regular voters and reality seems overwhelming.

I’ve long held that building individual relationships can change lives, and can undo a great deal of brainwashing, and I have anecdotal proof:  through patient dialogue and loving guidance (and prayer), I helped guide a former student away from progressive extremism and bisexuality (it was a male student, so it’s impossible for him to be truly bisexual, anyway).  He’s now a girl-loving populist and, while he’s not totally on the Trump Train, he’s longer a Bernie Bro.

But that kind of patient, incremental relationship-building, while critical, is too slow for our present crisis.  It’s also incredibly wearying because it’s so labor-intensive, and because of the immensity of the project:  there’s a lot of brainwashing to undo, and most of what needs to be unwashed is quite subtle.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Paul Joseph Watson’s Case for Social Conservatism

The Portly Politico is striving towards self-sufficiency.  If you would like to support my work, consider subscribing to my SubscribeStar page.  Your subscription of $1/month or more gains you access to exclusive content every Saturday, including annual #MAGAWeek posts.  If you’ve received any value from my scribblings, I would very much appreciate your support.

I’ve written before that social conservatism is the red-headed stepchild of modern conservatism.  Buckleyite fusionism threw a sop to the social conservatives, but largely in the context of the Cold War:  being a devout Christian was a middle-finger to those godless Commies in the Soviet Union, and so social conservatism represented another front in that conflict.

Since the end of the Cold War, when the battle against Marxism became more subtly a cultural one, social conservatives have been ejected in favor of economic conservatives and national security conservatives.  It’s square to insist that Americans should strive to live lives of chaste self-sufficiency and virtue, and self-restraint is bad for the bottom line.  Instead, let’s encourage all manner of degeneracy, so long as it helps GDP.

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Trade War with China is Worth It

There’s a lot of disingenuous scuttlebutt flying around about a looming recession, the inverted yield curve, and the costs of the trade war with China.  I can’t help but think such doom and gloom reporting is part of an effort to undermine President Trump.  Investor and consumer confidence are emotional, fickle things, based as much on feeling as they are on hard economic data.

As such, I suspect that major media outlets are attempting a bank-shot:  scare investors and consumers enough, and they panic into a recession.  President Trump’s greatest strength at present is the booming economy and low unemployment rate; take that away, and loopy, socialist Democrats have a much better shot in the 2020 elections.  With Leftists like Bill Maher actually hoping for a recession to unseat President Trump, that’s not a far-fetched speculation at all.

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TBT: Reality Breeds Conservatism

Yesterday’s post, “Conservative Inheritance,” explored the deep grounding of conservatism in hard-won experience.  Rather than existing as an ideology–a framework built upon abstract principles derived in a rationalistic vacuum—per se, conservatism is the product of concrete, empirical observation.

As I’m teaching my summer course, The History of Conservative Thought, I’m delving deeper into this understanding of conservatism.  Last week I wrote about the Russell Kirk’s six characteristics of conservatism, which my students and I discussed (and which they’re writing about for today).  While preparing that lesson, I was struck by the assertion that conservatism is not an ideology.

For so long, I’d been conditioned to think of it that way—and to think of our cultural and political battles as fundamentally ideological.  I still think there is a great deal of truth to that, as the modern Right battles against a progressivism imbued with a Cultural Marxist teleology (apologies, philosophy majors, if I’m misusing that word).  But conservatives must be aware that, by playing by the Left’s rules, we’re implicitly accepting the Left’s frame.

Regardless, all of these ideas and debates were circulating in my mind as I considered this week’s #TBT feature.  I landed, finally, on a piece entitled “Reality Breeds Conservatism” from last June.  The piece is not so much about ideological battles, but about a study (linked below) that argued that fewer risks made people more “liberal”—more willing to take risks—while greater risks made people more “conservative”—less willing to take risks.

Great insights there, Washington Post.  Yeesh.

Anyway, here is June 2018’s “Reality Breeds Conservatism“:

There’s a piece in the Washington Post about how progressives (“liberals,” as the article puts it) and conservatives think differently.  Like many such pieces, it essentially reduces conservatives to being more fearful, and touts that, in the absence of fear, conservatives become liberal.

I don’t entirely disagree with the basic findings of the Yale researchers; beloved Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson makes similar claims.  Peterson argues that progressives are risk-takers, the ones who explore over the mountain or innovate new businesses, while conservatives are the managers (and conservators) of the new institutions that arise from innovation.

Obviously, this basic analysis is a generalization, a reduction that makes it a little easier to understand the world around us.  As such, there are broad exceptions:  we all know conservatives who fight hard in the culture wars, who build new businesses, and who support new ideas or techniques—many at great personal, financial, and political risk.

Meanwhile, progressives politically are still clinging to the same failed ideas that have motivated their policy proscriptions for decades—increasing the minimum wage, expanding the welfare state, pushing identity politics.

That said, the article linked above—which chillingly says “we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals” in the title—points to the fear factor as the key to determining conservative vs. progressive viewpoints.  In doing so, it points to said experiment, which is deeply flawed at its core.

To wit:  researchers conducted an online poll (a bit iffy) of 300 U.S. residents, only 30% of whom were Republicans.  Two-thirds of the survey-takers were women, and 75% were white, with an average age of 35.  This collection isn’t exactly heavy on conservatives to begin with, and it’s unclear who was offered the opportunity to take the survey, which itself has a verysmall sample size.  I’m picturing a group of undergraduate psychology chicks posting a link to a SurveyMonkey survey on Facebook, which is about the amount of rigor I would expect from the “academic” social sciences these days.

Besides the small sample size and lack of diversity, the core flaw is the methodology.  Those surveyed were asked to imagine a scenario in which they were given one of two superpowers:  half were granted the power to fly, the other half granted the power “to be completely safe, invulnerable to any harm.”  The participants then completed the aforementioned survey.

What they found was not all that surprising, although the researchers feign as such:  it turns out that, in the absence of physical harm, conservatives become much more progressive, which—in the context of this study—basically means that they’re more open to people or situations that are different from them, and therefore inherently riskier.

Well, duh—in the absence of objective reality—to be free of any risk of physical harm, broadly-defined—I would partake in all sorts of risky activities that I would be reluctant to attempt when the threat is real.  That’s because I wouldn’t bear the costs of any of those risky actions (and as someone who broke a wrist falling from a ladder last fall, I can say that those costs are very high).

The late Kenneth Minogue wrote an essay in 2001 entitled “The New Epicureans,” in which he pointed out that, historically, only the very wealthy—the aristocratic elites of society—could afford to partake in risky behaviors, things like casual sex, drug abuse, and the like—while the rest of us plebes had to adopt a more Stoical approach to life—avoiding undue risk, living life cleanly and simply, dutifully serving our families and communities.

With broadly-spread wealth and widely-available contraceptives, however, modern chumps can mitigate the risks of a “live fast, die young” lifestyle in the same way ancient elites could—to an extent. What used to be the self-indulgent indolence of a very small group (the hated 1%!) has now become the self-destruction of a majority of modern Westerners.  And, of course, it doesn’t work out well, as most folks don’t have the means to pay for their immoral-but-convenient choices.

While we might be able to avoid more of the consequences of our actions—and, therefore, participate more eagerly in the temptations of a hedonic existence—there are still consequences, often dire ones.  I’ll write about some of these in my upcoming eBook, Values Have Consequences:  Why the West Needs Social Conservatism, but take one lethal example:  abortion.

What could more self-destructive, for more selfish ends, than to snuff out a human life?  Looking at this in the most dispassionately, economic way possible, it boils down to a calculation:  do I buckle down and adopt the Stoic lifestyle necessary to provide for this new life, thereby sacrificing my own personal enjoyment, or do I get rid of this “clump of cells” and avoid the huge costs and time-commitments of childrearing?  The major legal hurdles being removed via the disastrous Roe v. Wade ruling—and in the absence of a deep-rooted moral framework—many women, sadly, have opted for the latter option (which many, sadly, come to regret).

So, yes, if you strip away external costs and the threat of pain, people of any political or temperamental persuasion will indulge in more risk-tasking, for good and for ill, and might be more welcoming of strangers or alternative lifestyles.

But a healthy dose of Stoic skepticism about life is not detrimental.  We should not live our lives in fear, but we should govern sensibly—for example, by enforcing our national borders.  In short, conservatism is rooted profoundly in reality—it responds to real threats, prepares for real dangers, and seeks to build a life that, rather than relying on vague abstractions, grows organically from the nature of things as they are.

***

One final note:  the study found that, when witnessing acts of physical violence or hearing about one group or another causing trouble, liberals will become more conservative, even if temporarily.  This was true of the original “neocons” in the 1960s and 1970s, who were “mugged by reality.”

I believe it also holds true for those soft-liberals and centrists who saw the electoral chicanery, cultural division, racialized politics, and violent tactics of the Left in the 2016 election; having been “mugged” once again, they voted for a safety and reform.

Thank God Trump is a risk-taker.