Questions for the secular right

Over the break, I promised to respond to Bruce Charlton’s questions for the secular right. Dennis Mangan and B Lode beat me to it.

I agree with what both of them wrote, though I think I sympathize more with (what I take to be) Charlton’s point. I’m not sure how you bring about "what we want" without a mass movement. I’m also not sure how to have a mass movement without some religious basis (appealing to the masses is hard unless you have some religious basis). I also find that I prefer religious societies and religious people to "non-religious" societies and people.

1. What do you want? And what do you not want?

Is your list any more than a mere wish list? If so, what binds-together these core values and necessary exclusions?

I want order, justice and peace, which I take to be synonymous. I want to be able to visit any section of any city at any time of day without being robbed or attacked, for example. I want less chaos.

I don’t see this list as any more of a "wish list" than what religious conservatives want.

Civilization is the process of imposing order on chaos and disorder. I favor more civilization and therefore less chaos.

2. Having listed these requirements, is it possible to sustain a society which gives you what you want, and not what you do not want? What are the mechanisms by which your ideal society would be maintained? Are they plausible? Are they strong enough?

Sure. Take Singapore. It’s a lot closer to my ideal than the current American form of government. It exists – it’s therefore possible to get a whole lot better.

3. How would your ideal society stop itself recapitulating the course of all existing Western societies?

In other words, what is to prevent the re-emergence of radicalism, communism, socialism and political correctness? – in other words, what is to prevent the return of that suicidal embrace of active self-destruction which prevailed in all Western societies, at more or less the same time, apparently independently.

I don’t know. Nothing seems to be able to resist progressivism for long.

Christianity was paramount for a while and it lost – I take it to be a dead end.

4. In such a society as you conceive, what will motivate people? And are these motivations plausibly strong enough to resist relentless, implacable and dedicated foes who cannot be convinced of the virtues of your favoured society and who are prepared to sacrifice pleasure, experience pain, and even willingly to die to get what they want?

In my ideal society, orderliness will directly provide a financial benefit to wealth-producing citizens. The more order there is, the more the wealth-producing citizens will benefit. What could possibly motivate people more?


4 Responses to Questions for the secular right

  1. Isegoria says:

    I don’t think Bruce Charlton would argue that Singapore can’t exist, but rather than it can’t last — not in its present form.

    Certainly the United States didn’t retain its youthful constitution, even while its written Constitution remained largely unchanged.

    • Foseti says:

      I think that’s probably correct. However, when I was there, it was immediately apparent that people liked their country more than anywhere else I’ve visited. We’ll see if it lasts. I’m skeptical as well – the masses need their religion.

  2. Tschafer says:

    To paraphrase Blade Runner – “Too bad it won’t last; then again, what does?”

    I have a lot of respect for Charleton, but I’m not sure what he’s looking for. I mean, nothing secular lasts forever, not even his beloved Byzantine Empire, and there was a lot of change and turmoil in the various iterations of the Chinese Empire, Shogun Japan, Pharaonic Egypt, and a lot of other long-lasting, non-Western societies. The Persian Empire had a Communist Revolution (really!), China had a socialist Emperor named Wang Mang who tried to collectivise agriculture, with the expected results, and Byzantium was rocked by the Nike Riots, the Iconoclast Controversy, and a long series of theological disputed not much different from today’s political strife. It’s not just the West. Stasis simply does not exist in human affairs, and anyone looking for eternity on this plane of existance is bound to be disappointed. After all, the preservation of a society is always up to the people who live in it. As Carlyle said, “Government cannot be carried on by steam”.

  3. Bruce G Charlton says:

    Thanks for these thoughtful comments.

    I’d like to emphasize that this is not really a matter of what *I* want, but of what we will get. And that I am thinking on a timescale of human generations (c. 25 year units), not of the next few years.

    I was profoundly influenced by the analysis of Ernest Gellner who (in brief) divided all human societies into the 1. hunter-gatherer, 2. the agriculturally-based (dominated by warriors and priests, in various combinations), and 3. the post-industrial revolution modern societies – which depend on permanent growth (which means permanent increase in efficiency/ productivity – largely by increasing functional specialization and coordination).

    When (and not if) industrial civilization collapses (and this will happen sooner rather than later, not least because the politically correct ruling elites want to destroy The West and they are clearly succeeding); The West will (like it or not) revert to the agriculturally based societies run by combinations of warriors and priests which existed everywhere in the world (except among a handful of hunter gatherers) before the industrial revolution.

    Our choices are between different balances of warriors and priests, and between different types of priests. The current default world religion is (obviously) Islam, not Christianity – due to its demographic growth and sustained assertive self-confidence.

    It is on that basis that I prefer the Byzantine Christian Orthodox model.

    But – more importantly – since I regard Christianity as true, obviously I believe that society should *at its bottom line* be organized around the need for Christian salvation; and not around the desire for comfort (maximum pleasure and minimum pain).

    Anyway, thanks again for these helpful comments.

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