The Next Conservatism: New Urbanism

Some conservatives seem to think we can let cities die while their surrounding suburbs live on happily. That is not the case. If the city that functions as a region’s center dies, the region dies too.

The next conservatism wants America to have living, healthy cities that are good places to live and work. Fortunately, there is a national movement that knows how to bring that about. It is called the New Urbanism. We’re all for it.

Despite the fact that the architecture profession is dominated by leftists, at least in the architecture schools, New Urbanism is profoundly conservative. In our book The Next Conservatism Paul Weyrich, and I wrote,

The New Urbanism seeks to build new neighborhoods, villages, and towns similar to those we built through most of America’s history, up until World War II. It wants to revitalize our inner cities as well, again by returning them to the way they used to be. While New Urbanism does not always demand traditional architecture, it usually favors it. New Urbanism offers a Retroculture alternative to post-war sprawl suburbs, where everything looks the same and you cannot do anything without driving.

Traditional neighborhood design helps create something conservatives value highly, namely community. (Note that community and the Left’s value of “diversity” are in tension; the more diverse a place’s population, the less easy it is for community to  form.) We value community because people who live in communities care what their neighbors think of them. That in turn generates peer pressure, which is the most effective force upholding proper morals and manners. People behave well because if they don’t, they may find themselves excluded from the community. Conservatives favor peer pressure and, when necessary, exclusion, because they are both more effective and less dangerous than law and the power of the state in leading people to behave themselves.

I have been involved with New Urbanism almost from its beginning. I attended the third Congress on the New Urbanism and many thereafter. I know New Urbanism’s founder, Andres Duany; in fact, Andres, Paul Weyrich, and I co-authored a monograph, Conservatives and the New Urbanism: Do We Have Some Things in Common?, copies of which may still be available from CNU. As a conservative, I recognize that just as New Urbanism offers something conservatives should want, namely physical settings that help create community, so conservatism offers New Urbanism something important as well: a free market mechanism that can help New Urbanism spread.

Some libertarian critics of New Urbanism like to pretend that sprawl represents a free market choice. It does not. Sprawl was mandated by government in the building codes local governments adopted after World War II. For the first time in history, anywhere on earth, government mandated that where you live, where you work, and where you shop must be separated by distances too great to walk. Those codes remain in force today. Sprawl is a product of government regulation, not the free market.

Where New Urbanist developments have been allowed to compete with sprawl, they have done very well. The same floor space usually sells for a substantial premium over surrounding sprawl. The problem is, the codes make it very expensive for developers to offer traditional neighborhood design, where you can walk to school, to work, to shop, and to church. One developer told me that to build one small TND development, he had to obtain more that 120 variances, each of which cost him time and money.

So here’s a free market, conservative proposal: let’s adopt dual codes. Developers would be free to build under either the current sprawl code or a New Urbanist, TND code. That would create a level playing field for New Urbanism. Let it succeed, or fail, in the marketplace. Libertarians are supposed to be free marketeers. How about it, guys?

The New Urbanism represents the core of the next conservatism, Retroculture. In the design of the places we live as in so many other things, what we had was better than what we have now. We need to turn back to what worked. Our old towns and cities, where they survive, are often beautiful. No one ever called a strip mall that.


P.S. The future of the next conservatism, and so much else, depends on Donald Trump winning this election. Trump represents a possibility for change. Under the Establishment, no change is possible in anything. Make sure every Trump voter you know gets to the polls on election day, even if you have to take them there yourself.

The Election: How Trump Can Win–Or Lose

The Establishment now says that Trump has almost certainly lost the election. Its polls show Clinton with a widening lead. Its pundits, who discuss Trump and his supporters in terms that suggest Der Stürmer talking about Jews (Charles M. Blow’s op ed in the October 3 New York Times is titled, “Donald Trump: Terroristic Man-Toddler”), are increasingly confident Trump is doomed. Paul Krugman, the Times’ kept Keynesian, sums up the Establishment view at the outset of his column in the October 3 edition of the paper:

Donald Trump has just had an extraordinarily bad week, and Hillary Clinton an extraordinarily good one; betting markets now put Mrs. Clinton’s odds of winning almost as high as they were just after the Democratic convention.

The reason for Trump’s supposed loss of support is that he commits “gaffes”. In Establishment terminology, “gaffe” means committing truth, the worst possible sin for an Establishment politician. If the truth also involves breaking one of the rules laid down by “Political Correctness”, a.k.a. cultural Marxism, the politician is doomed. Even if he crawls and grovels before whichever of the PC “victims groups” he has offended, his career is probably over.

If this were a conventional election, the Establishment’s analysis might be right. But it is not a conventional election, and I think the Establishment is in for a surprise on election day. I think Trump can win in a landslide.

What Donald Trump says or does from here to November will have little if any impact on the election’s outcome. Millions of people are going to vote for Trump for one reason: doing so is a powerful way to thumb their noses at the whole Establishment–not just the political Establishment, but Wall Street (which owns Hillary), Third World immigrants, black leaders who blame all blacks’ problems on whites, big corporations that move good-paying jobs overseas, universities that tell their white students they are inherently evil because they are white, the whole greedy, rotten, culturally Marxist bunch.

These millions of Americans are not telling anyone how they are going to vote. They are not contacted by pollsters. They are beneath the Establishment’s notice. In Hillary’s view, they are “deplorables”. But thanks to the secret ballot, on election day they can strike back at those who hold them in contempt. And they are going to do just that, by voting for Donald Trump.

Most of these millions do not usually vote. That is one reason why the Establishment’s analysis misses them. People who do not usually vote were behind Brexit’s win in Britain and the defeat suffered by Merkel’s party in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the German state she comes from. The same thing is going to happen here.

Or at least it can happen. I worked for more than twenty years with Paul Weyrich, who was one the the Right’s masters of political mechanics. One of the things I learned from him is that a candidate or an issue can have the votes to win but still lose because his supporters did not actually go to the polls and vote.

Winning requires what master mechanics like Paul call “voter ID and turnout”. Turning a potential win into a real one means identifying your supporters, making sure they are registered and then getting them to the polls on election day. You cannot rely on them to do this on their own. Many will not “get around to it”. You have to have an organization that hand-holds them all the way to the voting booth.

Does the Trump campaign have a voter ID and turnout operation in place? I have not seen one. They may be relying on the Republican Party to do that job. In many places it will, because its other candidates need it. But many Establishment Republicans are not happy with their party’s nominee. Will they do much for him? Maybe not.

If the Trump campaign does voter ID and turnout right, he will win and win big. The votes are there, angry votes by the folks out in flyover country. Without such an operation, it’s much more of a crap shoot. I hope someone at Trump campaign headquarters is not just starting to think about voter ID and turnout now. If Trump loses, the Establishment will rig the system so the American people never again get a chance to vote for an anti-Establishment candidate.

Barren Metal, a Book Review


Having read E. Michael Jones’ work Libido Dominandi, where he exposes how global elites have used sexual “liberation” as a tool for political enslavement, a brilliant book, I was looking forward to reading Barren Metal which is a history of usury.  Sadly I was disappointed. This work is inferior to Libido Dominandi. I will first discuss the positive elements I found in the book and conclude with where I thought it failed.

The basic premise of the Barren Metal is that usury is the extraction of surplus value from the laborer and that capitalism is state sponsored usury. Jones here is a bit confusing as he distinguishes between two kinds of capitalism (1) free-enterprise and entrepreneurship  and (2) state sponsored usury. When most people of think of capitalism, at least on the political right, they think of definition one. What he calls state sponsored usury I really don’t think is capitalism. Obviously we have state sponsored usury in the ancient world under Greece and Rome and yet nothing like the dynamic markets of modern capitalism was seen.

This over simplification mars the book. Jones has a penchant for reductionist thinking; capitalism is usury, Protestantism is a looting operation of the Catholic Church, etc.

Jones begins his work by challenging the Weberian thesis that capitalism arose not out of Protestantism, but out of Catholic Renaissance Italy. He then spends the better part of 1000 pages blaming Protestantism for capitalism and only at the end of the book does he return to his original position. This kind of confusing and contradictory view is a major weakness of the book.

Prior to the Reformation/Renassiance, the Catholic church in the Benedictine Order valued labor over alchemy/usury in producing wealth. Together with the civil arm of the Holy Roman Empire, the German-Catholic order of anti-usury pro-labor was maintained. From here on out the basic narrative of the book is that the rise of pagan thought in the renaissance in Catholic Italy coupled with the great Schism brought on by Protestantism destroyed the Church’s ‘policy power’ to enforce laws against usury. For Jones the Protestant looting of Church property in England, in order to get the initial startup capital for economic development, was the original sin of capitalism. He argues that the rise of liberalism and its grounding of morals in human sentiments was the perfect justification for the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist elite. This breach made by English capitalism and the Reformation was compounded by Napoleon and his emancipation of the Jews. The German rationalists were the one bright spot in this period. From Kant to Hegel the Germans developed a new economic outlook based on the national economy rather than pure individual interest. This view of economics he sees carried into the Catholic social teaching of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This German-Catholic fusion is his alternative to Jewish capitalism.  The Jews and the English Protestants conspired to spread capitalism, ergo usury, throughout the world. He ends his work by discussing the implications of usury in the great 2008 economic crisis.

Jone’s critique of Empiricism is decidedly excellent. His account of the Jews bears repeating. He argues that the Jews, a diasporic people, treated gentiles as aliens and that is why they extracted usury from them. When capitalism internalized this Jewish practice it made each individual an alien to the other, destroying social cohesion. He argues that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same Jewish coin. He argues that Marx rendered the working class as a rootless cosmopolitan force, just like the Jews. The Marxist solution of abolishing property was worse than the problem of usury.

Jones’ argument is hampered by his clear ignorance of the Reformation. He argues that the Anabaptists were Lutherans, and even states later in the work that they invaded churches and smashed images. With the noticeable exception of Munster the Anabaptists were pacifists and such a bizarre falsehood seriously damages Jones’ credibility on this issue. His monomania with Protestantism is also flawed since Protestant Scandinavia and Germany did not develop the radical individualistic capitalism he condemns, ergo something other than Protestantism was the driving cause, thereby discrediting his narrative.

Jones acts as if the Catholic church would have had an alternative to Capitalism; he is quite favorable of the Jesuit Experiment in Quebec and Paraguay. Yet he never demonstrates that there was a viable Catholic alternative. The Catholic kingdoms of Portugal, Spain, France, and Austria were all as debt and usury ridden as the England he so condemns. The fact is that usury ran apace in Catholic as well as Protestant nations.

His anti-Protestant monomania is further compound by his monomaniacal fixation on Henry VIII’s nationalization of the monasteries. This, for Jones, is the original sin of capitalism; the confiscation of a thousand years of accumulated value and his justification for reducing the Reformation to merely a looting scheme. This of course is absurd. I could just as easily say the Reformation was the Roman Catholic chickens coming home to roost. During the 4th century the Catholics running the Roman Empire destroyed Pagan images and confiscated pagan temples, not unlike what Henry VIII would do 1100 years later. Given that the Catholic church was built on the accumulation of a 1000 years of classical labor it was nothing more than a looting operation. This double standard is further highlighted when he complains that English pirates, such as Sir Francis Drake, were raiding Spanish galleons, without even so much as a mention of the massive looting of Mexico and Peru, probably one of the greatest looting operations in history and far grander than Henry VIII’s. We see that in the 4th and 16th centuries the Catholic church was built on loot and plunder of an unimaginable scale, but it would be absurd to conclude from that the Catholic Church was merely a looting operation of pagan goods, as Jones implies with the Reformation.

In short Barren Metal is a deeply flawed though expansive work that leaves much to be desired.

The View From Olympus: Syria Again

The pathetic performance of the U.S. State Department with regard to Syria makes America appear an international naif. Secretary Kerry bleats about starving women and children, Russia agrees to another ceasefire, and events go on as before. So disconnected from reality is the American Establishment that it seems to have lost even the most basic understanding of how wars are fought. The front page of the September 26 New York Times offers an example. It began a story on Syria saying,

Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours.

That sounds to me like a normal description of how sieges work. But the Times is horrified. We have become the equivalent of the sort of stringy-haired, horse-faced, post-menopausal woman who goes to peace marches.

A realistic policy on Syria would begin with the understanding that cease-fires and the like only work when all the participants in a war are exhausted. We seem to be a long way from that point in Syria. Instead we are in the early stages of the Middle East’s Thirty Years’ War, with Syria playing the role of Bohemia.

There is one difference, and it is an important one: whereas the Thirty Years’ War began as a war of religion and ended up a war between states, the Middle East’s Thirty Years’ War began as a war between states and has turned into a war of religion. That in turn is part of the decline of the state and the rise of competing non-state primary loyalties.

Were the United States to do as Donald Trump has suggested and regard Russia as an ally instead of a competitor, we might be able to lower the temperature of the Syrian War. More is not possible; the decline of the state in the Middle East and the consequences flowing from it will continue. Local, partial success is the farthest reachable goal.

The key to that goal is an agreement among the Powers, exactly the thing Bismarck would have sought. One such agreement would see the U.S. join Russia in realizing that the best chance of re-establishing a Syrian state is to back what remains of that state, in the form of the Syrian government. With all the Powers supporting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, western Syria, where most of the population lives, could probably be united and pacified. In time, the government’s control could spread eastwards, although I think reuniting all of Syria is unlikely.

Were we to further ask ourselves that all important foreign policy question, “What would Bismarck do?”, a larger and potentially more stable solution might be possible, with the Powers acting together. Recognizing that the Sunnis in both Syria and Iraq are unlikely to accept Shiite rule, we would make a deal with the real ISIS to establish an independent Sunnistan carved out of eastern Syria and western Iraq.

The real ISIS? What is that? The Baath. The religious crazies do not run ISIS. They provide the front men and the cannon fodder. ISIS is actually controlled and enabled to function by senior Iraqi Baathists, formerly members of Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq. They know how to make things work. The religious fanatics do not.

The Baath is secular and rational. You can make deals with it. The deal would be, they get a Baathist Sunnistan and in return they cut the throats of the Islamist fanatics. That is, after all, what Saddam’s Iraq did. The Baathists and the jihadis despise each other. Theirs is entirely an alliance of necessity, brought about by George W. Bush’s insane and disastrous invasion of Iraq. Give the Baathists what they want and they will be happy once again to become our useful allies. With Hillary running for President as a “foreign policy expert”, it is useful to remember that when Saddam offered us an alliance against al Qaeda and the like during the Clinton administration, the White House refused to even consider it. Bright move, “experts”. When W. overthrew Saddam, al Qaeda applauded.

The reason many Americans, myself included, are supporting Donald Trump for president is that he offers at least a chance of a return to reality as a basis for policy at home and abroad. With Hillary and the rest of the Establishment (of both parties), that chance is zero.

Donald Trump, Peace Candidate

In what may seem an odd role-reversal, in this election the Democrat is the war hawk and the Republican is the peace candidate. Donald Trump has laid out his vision for a non-interventionist foreign policy, while Hillary Clinton believes in “humanitarian intervention”, i.e., making war for peace. Trump has rightly called George W. Bush’s Iraq war a disaster, while Clinton still defends the intervention in Libya that destroyed the Libyan state.

In fact, this represents a return to historic patterns. There is an old saying, forgotten in recent decades, that goes, “Vote for a Republican and you get a depression, vote for a Democrat and you get a war.” America’s worst president ever, the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, won re-election in 1916 with the slogan, “He kept us out of war,” then took us into World War I within a month of his second inauguration. He thereby gave the world the Versailles Diktat, Hitler, Stalin, and World War II.

After that war began in September, 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt, another Democrat, was desperate to get the U.S. involved. Whether he facilitated the Pearl Harbor attack is uncertain, but he welcomed it, along with Hitler’s subsequent stupid declaration of war on the United States.

Democrat Harry Truman gave us the Korean War; Republican Dwight Eisenhower ended it. The sainted JFK gave us the Vietnam War, Democrat Lyndon Johnson kept it going, and Republican Richard Nixon ended it. Ronal Reagan undertook a few minor military actions in places such as Lebanon and Grenada, but was careful not to threaten Russia as Communism there fell. Republicans did not become the war party until the incompetent Bush dynasty came to power and brought the neo-cons with them under W.

It is no surprise that the leading neo-con and war criminal (one charge against the German generals at Nuremberg was “planning aggressive war”) Paul Wolfowitz recently endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. The neo-cons are nothing if not flexible where party and ideology are concerned. Whoever will give them an opportunity to pursue their Trotskyite “world revolution” is their friend, and that is not Donald Trump. Trump grasps the reality that American power has its limits. Hillary lives in a dream world where we can dictate to everyone else.

So disconnected are the neo-cons from reality that their latest plot is to push the U.S. into war with Russia. Some of them have publicly called for such a war. The same geniuses who though we would be welcomed with flowers in Iraq now think we can defeat Russia in a war in her own backyard, in central and eastern Europe. To put such a war in perspective, in World War II the eastern front took about 300 German divisions and 5o0 Russian. At the most, we could send a force of…two divisions? Putin could just call the police and have them arrested.

And have the neo-cons and the Democrats forgotten why both the United States and the Soviet Union were careful not to engage each other’s armed forces directly throughout the decades of the Cold War? Nuclear weapons made doing so too dangerous. Whichever country found itself losing conventionally would face a tremendous temptation to escalate to the nuclear level. Russia still has most of the Soviet Union’s arsenal. She can reduce the U.S. to a pile of ashes in half an hour, at the expense of suffering the same fate herself. Russia made a choice almost as suicidal in 1914. Can Paul Wolfowitz guarantee she will not do so again?

Donald Trump, to his credit, has said he will work to improve our relations with Russia. He knows we have a common interest in defeating Islamic 4GW organizations that threaten both countries. Hopefully, he will go on from there to work for the alliance of all states we need to face the rise of non-state entities that can fight and defeat states.

Hillary remains trapped in an outdated paradigm where we must see other states as our enemies. Nothing could be of more benefit to ISIS, al Qaeda, and the rest of the Fourth Generation. She, and the idiot neo-cons she will probably invite back to the White House, are 4GW’s best friends. Her vaunted foreign policy expertise is just one more lie.

So give the peace sign if you want as you enter the voting booth to cast a ballot for Donald Trump. As was true through most of the 20th century, the Republican is the peace candidate. And only damn fools and neo-cons want war.

The Next Conservatism: Stuff and Nonsense

Some people think conservatism is just about stuff: materialism and consumerism. Whoever dies with the most toys wins.

That is not the conservatism of Russell Kirk, nor is it the next conservatism. Conservatives have seldom admired the “lifestyle” of the nouveau riche. It is understandable that the generation which grew up in the Great Depression of the 1930s was focused on accumulation. But the younger generations of today, who grew up in perhaps too much abundance, are not attracted to materialism. Neither are we.

In our book, The Next Conservatism, Paul Weyrich and I suggest conservatives adopt an intensive rather than extensive valuation of material things, i.e., that they put quality over quantity. A small number of beautiful things, made by hand by craftsmen and passed generation to generation, have meaning that cheap store-bought stuff (often made overseas) intended to wear out quickly and be thrown away can never have.

Does this conflict with the present notion of basing our economy on consumerism? Yes. Conservatives value saving over spending. We believe it wise for families to accumulate wealth over generations (which is why we oppose inheritance taxes). Often, “old money” fortunes built that way yield dividends to society as a whole, in beautiful buildings, patronage of art and music, and philanthropy. One need only think of the libraries Andrew Carnegie built all over America to see what wealth can do.

This leads the next conservatism to embrace author and writer for The American Conservative magazine Rod Dreher’s “Crunchy Cons Manifesto”. Some of its main points are:

  • Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff.
  • Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
  • Culture is more important than politics and economics.
  • Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
  • Beauty is more important than efficiency. (We would add that efficiency has never been a conservative virtue.)
  • The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our sense to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
  • We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

The next conservatism amplifies Dreher’s warning about popular culture. It is now so destructive of everything true, everything good, and everything beautiful that it may have become the greatest threat to our civilization. It succeeds commercially by pandering to the worst human instincts in a downward spiral that must accelerate to retain its market. Violence, pervese sex, and human degradation in every form are its staples. It rivals and in some ways surpasses the horrors of the Roman arena.

Popular culture also injects messages into its victims, those who allow it into their lives. The most powerful is instant gratification. It could be argued that delayed gratification is the first requirement of civilization, which suggests instant gratification is civilization’s worst enemy. We need only look at the black inner city to see what a culture of instant gratification does to communities. The white lower class is now following the same road, as the death rates from heroin and other dangerous drugs show.

The next conservatism’s answer to all this is simple: return to the old ways. The old ways worked, the new ways that emerged from the 1960s do not work. Teach and practice delayed gratification. Spend less than you earn. Value the old and handmade over the new and mass produced. Want only what you have.

Previous generations knew these things and lived by them. The challenge of our time is to recover them, teach them to our children, and re-create the good world we had and have lost.

Should Sweden Join NATO? No.

The Swedish government is currently trying to convince Swedes to abandon their historic neutrality–a policy dating to 1814–and join NATO. Is this a good idea? No.

On the surface, the proposal seems to make sense. Sweden’s historic enemy is Russia (Denmark too, but that’s forgotten). Sweden and Russia fought numerous wars in the 17th and 18th centuries. Sweden almost joined both world wars on the German side because Germany was fighting Russia. Sweden gave covert support to Finland when Russia invaded that country in 1939. Now, with President Putin’s Russia resuming its long-standing role as a Great Power, Sweden is nervous. NATO appears to offer security against any future Russian threat.

In reality, Russia is unlikely to offer any serious threat to Sweden, and indeed is unable to do so, unless it were to use nuclear weapons. Russia is focused on re-establishing her position in her “near abroad”, countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. Sweden was not.

The Russian government is made up of realists, and realists know that any Russian aggression against Sweden would be counter-productive. It would mean Russia had gone from behaving like a normal Great Power, seeking the same sort of position in her periphery that the United States maintains in the Caribbean, and had become an aggressive Power. That would push the rest of the world into an alliance against Russia, something Moscow does not want.

Nor can the Russian military easily defeat Sweden. The Swedish armed forces are large for a country of Sweden’s size, well-equipped and highly competent. Russia’s armed forces are small compared to those of the Soviet Union, and only a fraction of the forces Russia still possesses are sufficiently well trained to take on the Swedes. At most, Russia could engage Sweden in the air and at sea, and even there the Swedes would probably win. A land threat is almost impossible given the geography and the fact that most of the Russian army is still made up of conscripts who are not well enough trained to fight Swedes.

On the other hand, by joining NATO Sweden would create a danger for itself that it currently does not face. That danger is getting dragged into a war with Russia started by an idiot in the White House.

I’m not talking about Donald Trump, but Hillary Clinton. Trump wants to make a deal with Putin, which would benefit both the U.S. and Russia. Hillary, in contrast, is a wild-eyed interventionist who believes every other country in the world must bend to whatever America desires. She is backed against Mr. Trump by the neo-cons, the morons who created the war with Iraq and who now call openly in some cases for war with Russia. Knowing nothing militarily, they think they can send an American armored brigade or division into Ukraine and then dictate to Moscow. Relatively weak though they are, the Russian armed forces are still strong enough to win a contest in eastern Europe. Any U.S. force sent into Ukraine would quickly find itself encircled. Unlike the U.S. Army, the Russian army does understand operational art.

Anyone who thinks this impossible does not know the Clintons. They are ignorant adventurers, as Bill Clinton showed in the Balkans and Hillary in Libya. They think they have a right to whatever they want, and they live for getting back at anyone they consider an enemy. President Putin is on that list.

More fundamentally, in a world where the threat to states from non-state entities such as ISIS is growing, including both in Russia and in Sweden, alliances by one group of states against another state are obsolete. They perpetuate state vs. state conflict, where the big winners will usually be non-state elements. If the state system itself is to survive the 21st century, we need an alliance of all states against non-state entities that wage armed conflict.

If Sweden wants to assure her security in the world we now face, rather than joining NATO against Russia she would seek to bring Russia into an alliance of all states. NATO is an artifact from another era.

If the Swedish government feels it must designate another state as Sweden’s enemy, there’s always Denmark.

The Next Conservatism: Applying Retroculture

The Next Conservatism, the book Paul Weyrich and I published in 2009, argues that the only way conservatives can win the culture war is through Retroculture: deliberately returning to past ways of thinking and of living. In terms of culture and morals, America from the Victorian age up through the 1950s was a far better place than America is today.

What does that mean in terms of national policy? One place to begin answering that question is environmental policy. Conservatives are not environmentalists. We do not believe the world would be a paradise if mankind could be wiped out. But we are conservationists.

Just as conservatives want to conserve our historic culture, so we also want to conserve our land, our water, and our air. We do not like waste. Nor was over-consumption ever a conservative virtue. We want to pass the physical world around us on to our children and grandchildren in as good or better condition than we received it. That is good stewardship, and good stewardship is a duty to God.

But our conservation goes beyond things. We also want to conserve local life. Local is real, and because conservatism is rooted in reality, not ideology, we prefer the local to globalism. We value the variation in local life that occurs naturally; we find abhorrent the efforts of the federal government to make life in Massachusetts and South Carolina the same.

Because we are good stewards who value local life, we want many of the things we need and buy to be made or grown locally. We therefore support organic farming and sustainable agriculture. Both focus on preserving and restoring our single most important resource, our farmland. If we use that resource up, we all starve.

Unlike environmentalists, our conservation does not stop at the physical level. As cultural conservatives, we are agrarians.

Earlier generations of conservatives, especially in the South, understood that agriculture is a culture, a way of life. They realized that way of life was good for children and families, far better in many ways than city life. In our time, very few people get to enjoy farm life. We want to open that option up to many more people. How? By making the family farm viable again.

The agribusiness types who preach “get big or get out” will say that is impossible. They are wrong. In many parts of our country, we have people who earn good livings and live good lives from successful family farms. Who are they? The Amish.

Our nation, if it wants to eat, needs a new generation of farmers. The next conservatism would create programs to help young people learn farming and acquire farmland. The Amish could help teach them. A country of lots of small farmers, many following sustainable agriculture and organic practices, would enable Americans to keep eating when disasters from genetic engineering wipe out monoculture farms, as they will.

As Paul and I wrote in our book, “The next conservatism should look toward a world where, as Tolkien put it, there is less noise and more green.” If that sounds like something that would appeal to many Bernie Sanders supporters, I hope it does. They, too, are anti-establishment, and if we find we have some things in common, so much the better for repairing the damage establishment policies have done to our country.

For conservatives who want to learn more about how to recover traditional farm life and culture, I recommend Farming magazine, a quarterly. The editor is an Amish friend of mine, David Kline. His beautiful farm in Holmes County, Ohio, shows that traditional family farming can work in today’s world. It provides him a good income, and more importantly, a good life.

The Election: The Left’s Secret Weapon

When the Frankfurt School created cultural Marxism, a.k.a. “political correctness”, it did so by crossing Marx with Freud. From psychology it took the tool it relies on to promote its ideology, psychological conditioning. By repeating something over and over, conditioning works it into the public’s minds in a way that bypasses reason. Often even people who intellectually disagree with the Left feel they must parrot its words or feel uncomfortable. They have been conditioned.

The political Establishment, both its Democratic and its Republican wings, is now using psychological conditioning in its efforts to defeat Donald Trump. In part, it does so by playing the cultural Marxists’ usual game of crying “the horror, the horror” whenever Trump says something politically incorrect. Many people have already been conditioned to see themselves as “another Hitler” if they dare defy the rules cultural Marxism has laid down. Now, the conditioning mechanisms tell them that if they vote for Trump, the next morning they will look in the mirror and see the Fuhrer looking back.

For a few weeks after the conventions, Republican media tried to play the psychological conditioning game on Mr. Trump himself, with the goal of getting him to resign the nomination and get out of the race. Though it visibly impacted Trump’s morale, he did not drop out.

Now, the game has shifted again. Conditioning is aimed at convincing voters Trump is doomed to an overwhelming defeat. The means is endless news stories, poll results, columns by electoral “experts”, etc. all repeating the same theme: a vote for Trump is useless because he cannot possibly win. Voters who favor Trump are being conditioned to give up, not donate to his campaign, not volunteer for him, and just stay home on election day.

The Trump campaign would be unwise to underestimate the power of the Left’s (and the Establishment’s) conditioning mechanisms, which include almost all the mainstream media. The best way to counter conditioning is to stoke voters’ anger, anger that has been created by the Establishment’s failed policies. Anger is a powerful emotion, powerful enough to overcome psychological conditioning.

In concrete terms, that means Trump needs an agenda of five issues, all of them able to remind voters why they are angry:

  1. End the “free trade” that has allowed mercantilist countries to plunder our industry, destroying middle-class jobs.
  2. End illegal immigration, greatly reduce legal immigration, and demand immigrants to adopt our culture.
  3. Destroy “Political Correctness” by revealing it for what it is, a variant of Marxism.
  4. Promise we will not fight any more avoidable wars.
  5. Give the interests of Whites the same level of support from the federal government that blacks, Mestizos, and other Third World immigrants receive.

With regard to the last point, what I would advise Mr. Trump to say is, “I will represent all Americans, including White Americans.” He need not add that Hillary is the black candidate; everyone already knows it. Had it not been for massive black support of Hillary in the primaries, Bernie Sanders would be the Democratic nominee.

The Establishment will howl if Trump uses these issues to stoke voters’ anger, but it will do so because it knows anger can overcome its secret weapon, psychological conditioning. Most American voters, I think, have more respect for a punch in the nose than for a stab in the back.

Resistance is Feudal

It’s apparent to all discerning observers that the present state of affairs in the United States, as well as other Western nations, will not be able to continue for much longer.  As our “leaders” continue to grow more and more out of touch and disconnected from increasingly large majorities within their respective citizenries, the prospect of collapse, or at least some pretty severe dislocations, in Western societies grows increasingly likely.  Honestly, if the American and other Western governments stay on the path they are currently on, I don’t see how they can avoid facing severe fourth generation warfare (4GW) challenges from their own people, much less from the various foreign elements which they are busy importing.  Western governments are busy delegitimizing themselves in the eyes of the core elements which make up the backbones of their nations, and they won’t be able to stand a full-on loss of legitimacy for very long.

The question which naturally arises is, “What will replace these governments once they fall?”

Many observers fear that the current “democratic” governments (which are essentially transitional in nature) will be replaced by heavy handed totalitarian regimes.  This may be a defensible notion for many of the Western European nations which have largely been successful in disarming their own citizens.  For the United States, I find this less likely to be the case, though the last grasping elements of the current politico-financial cabal may attempt to go that route.  However, and in spite all of the various federal police forces and any help from UN “peacekeepers”, it is doubtful that FedGov would have the personnel resources to sustain the sort of attrition it would face for very long.  This is doubly so considering that it is not altogether assured that the remaining non-homosexualized, non-transgenderified, non-mercenaried portion of the US military would go along with FedGov attempts to establish a totalitarian state, especially if it means suppressing their fathers, brothers, and cousins back home in flyover country.  Besides, forcing grown men to parade around in ruby red high heels so as to satisfy the revenge fantasies of fat lesbian desk generals is not the best way to assure their loyalty to you when you find yourself in the lurch.

So it’s not likely that a breakdown of federal legitimacy and power in the US will lead to a successful imposition of the total state by force.

However, we should also understand that those folks out there who think that such a collapse would inevitably lead to a “reset” back to the constitutional republic of Ted Cruz’s fantasies are labouring under a strong delusion.  Collapse and dislocation won’t lead to a restoration of the pure constitutional republic of yore as founded in 1789.  It’s increasingly apparent that it shouldn’t either.

While embodying many good ideas and serving as a worthwhile effort at self-government, the fact is that the Constitution suffers from some severe ideological defects that made its eventual negation practically inevitable.  Though designed as an instrument for dividing power and restraining government, its “Enlightenment” origins meant that it would rest on a foundation which was inimical to these goals.  The philosophical background from which the Constitution arose was one that assumed two essentially unproven and unprovable hypotheses: the inherent goodness of man and the primacy of reason in man’s intuitions.  These fundamental bases always placed pure devotion to the Constitution in a somewhat precarious state vis-á-vis the concurrent claims to the Christian origins and foundation of the United States.  These two currents – the Christian element arising from the Puritan foundation of New England followed by the spreading of evangelical, “enthusiastic” Christianity throughout the eastern seaboard by the Great Awakenings on one hand, and the Enlightenment, essentially rationalistic and deistic ideas underlying many of the assumptions made in the Constitution on the other hand – have always stood apart, even though many Americans have refused to recognize this and have tried to tie the two together intimately.

The problem with the Constitution, from a purely organizational standpoint, is that it lends itself far too easily to democratization.  This democratization is a function of the inherent assumption that the people, from whom all power derives, according to Enlightenment theory, will act both nobly and reasonably.  Yet, as American history has shown time and time again, neither of these have ever truly been substantiated.  Indeed, American constitutional history since 1865 has been a tale of the steady march of democracy, with the attendant ability of the people to vote themselves largesse from the public treasury despite the detrimental financial, moral, and social effects this will always have.

Democracy is an inherently unworkable system of government.  Many historians and political scientists make a fetish out of democracy, and laud the original Athenian democracy as an undiluted good in world history.  This ignores, however, the serious issues which the Athenians’ contemporaries had with the democratic system of that polis and others like it; dissent which cannot merely be chalked up to envy or a lust for tyranny on the part of Athens’ enemies.  Indeed, democracy’s classical critics tended to oppose that system of government specifically because it was dangerous and prone to abuse, instability, and unpredictable swings in behavior caused by the momentary passions of the ochloi, the masses.  Let us not forget that it was the vaunted Athenian democracy which waged wars of aggression against its neighbors (including other democratic states like Syracuse), which murdered and enslaved nearly the entire population of Melos for refusing to pay a relatively small sum in tribute, and who eventually put to death Socrates, the father of classical-era philosophy, in a fit of childish pique from the masses.

Classical writers both Greek and Roman tended to divide the various types of government into three overall types of systems: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.  Depending on the particular writer, these types could be further subdivided in variants and mixed-mode systems.  The intervening centuries have brought little substantial innovation to this system of classification, so it is the one I will use going forward.

Back to our question at hand – what is likely to happen should the United States collapse – we can see that democracy will most likely cease to be a going concern.  Indeed, democracy is largely what created the problems that have led us to the point that we’re at.  So the choice will be between one of the two other forms – monarchy or aristocracy.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t have strong forms of both of these existing in a polity at the same time.  It has long been noted that the enemy of monarchy is a strong aristocracy.  After all, the king cannot exercise plenary authority when a bunch of little kings are running around dispensing justice and maintaining private armies within their own domains.  Either aristocrats are strong and the monarchy is weak (perhaps an elective or constitutionally limited form), or the monarch is strong and aristocrats are reduced to being courtiers, to ornaments at the king’s court.  The most typical examples of this would be the gradual reduction of aristocratic independence in European states such as France and Spain which was necessary before absolute monarchies could exist.

It necessarily follows from this that aristocracy is what we can consider to be the “traditional” form of government, while strong, centralised monarchy is the innovation.

Even in ancient Greece, one of the first things that tyrants did when they usurped control over a polis was to drive out or otherwise destroy the prominent aristocratic families in the city.  There is always the example of Periander, the tyrant of Corinth, who sent his servant to Miletus to find out the formula for success from that city’s tyrant, Thrasybulos.  As Thrasybulos and the servant walked through a field of wheat, the tyrant said nothing, but would reach out and snap off the heads of wheat which stood out above the rest of the plants.  The servant soon got the point – to be a successful monarchical ruler, you needed to cut down anybody else who stood out above the masses of the common people.

Now, many neoreactionaries support a return to a monarchy.  I would tend to disagree with them, instead favoring a return to some form of oligarchic republicanism, which I believe provides the best mix of a rule of law system and the division of power among several competing members who balance out each other’s ambitions.  What I would have in mind would be a division of power similar to the old pre-reform Roman republic, or perhaps what was seen in the Dutch or Venetian republics – a small group of oligarchs whose interests are bound up with the success of the nation and the common people as a whole (unlike today’s “aristocracy” in the West, whose interests are largely inimical to the people constituting the nations in which they exist).  In such a system, these oligarchs guide the ship of state in such a way that the nation prospers, which necessarily placates the common people, without hazarding the nation to the vicissitudes of democracy.  The state is subject neither to the whims of one unaccountable man, nor to the whims of millions of morons who are just smart enough to figure out which circle to push the pin through so as to vote themselves more welfare and other largesse.

All of this is important because whenever an empire (such as, say, the United States of America) falls apart, it almost always devolves into a patchwork of statelets which originated because of the efforts of local notables to restore order and to regain a measure of the legitimacy formerly enjoyed by the now-defunct empire.  This pretty much means that an aristocratic system will arise.

History records numerous cases of this, only a few of which follow:

  • The collapse of major Egyptian dynasties would often lead to the restoration of independence to the various nomes up and down the Nile, which would have to then be reconquered before a new strong dynasty could be established.
  • The fall of various Mesopotamian empires would result in a new city becoming the centre of power, while the peripheral areas would fall away and regain independence, again requiring reconquest if a new empire was to be built.
  • When Alexander died, not only were large parts of his empire divided among the Diadochi, but many portions regained independence under native rulers or as free city-states with their own aristocratic rulers.
  • The fall of the Western Roman Empire saw statelets formed by various Germanic chieftains who occupied formerly Roman land, some of which eventually became the states of early medieval Western Europe.  Notably, many native Roman notables also seized the opportunity to establish their own domains, especially in Brittany and wherever the Bagaudae were strong.
  • The fall of major Chinese dynasties would result in the rise of smaller, petty warring states vying for supremacy.  Confucius lived in one such time, during the fall of the decrepit Zhou dynasty and the reassertion of the various Chinese dukedoms.

So how does this apply to our current situation once America (and perhaps the rest of the West) collapses?

The first thing we need to understand is that, within the successor states to the United States, we will not likely see monarchy arise.  Instead, we’ll see the country break up into component regions of various size and stability (some perhaps comprising multiples of the current states), under local aristocratic control.  In Red areas, some pre-collapse legitimacy will remain because these states and localities were more successfully and legitimately governed.  However, in most Blue areas, the trend toward their becoming complete basket cases – already quite evident – will continue and will contribute to their complete collapse and reorganisation, barring any outside interference.

Culture is enduring and America’s culture is and always has been republican. As a result, it is likely that following an initial bout of local strongmanship in the less successful areas which will be put down by the better organised successors, the aristocracies that arise will not take the form of quasi-kings exercising absolute rule over smallish statelets.  Rather, the aristocracies that arise will likely be highly-restrictive republican oligarchies, with the franchise being restricted to white males who meet some sort of stringent property qualification.  Our culture will not allow for absolute rulers to exist for long; hopefully it will also not allow for the foolishness of democracy to replant itself either.

While there will be many who want to restore the old constitutional forms, in the event of a collapse, it will likely be very apparent to most of the survivors that the US Constitution of 1789 cannot be reinstated, at least not without heavy redaction.  For instance, unlimited religious liberty, with its penchant for being used to defend those who abuse its protections so as to destroy us, will be one of the first things on the block.  In its place, we’ll see Christianity –  probably without preference for a specific denomination – become the de facto state religion, with tolerance being extended to minority religions who don’t actively seek to kill us.  The judicial branch – long the font of injustice and arbitrary political gamesmanship at the behest of the SJWs and other left-wing groups – will likely also find itself so thoroughly reformed that it would no longer be recognisable as the Article III institution of the old Constitution.

Obviously, I am not claiming to be a prophet, to see the future before it happens.  What I’ve written here are merely speculations, ones which I readily admit are tinctured with my own personal preferences of what I think ought to be (but which, as a result, I do think would be the most likely).  One thing that I do think is pretty clear is that the current course of the West cannot hold forever, and that when it does fall apart, the product will not be the neoliberal “end of history,” it will not be more democracy and secularism and equalitarianism and all the rest.  Rather, the future will be less democratic and more authoritarian.  And this will perhaps correct many of the errors into which the West allowed itself to be led these recent decades.