Conservatives speak in emotionally loaded, allegorical, (and therefore archaic) language. That does not mean that the content of their beliefs or allegories is irrational, only that it is arational. But it does mean that they can’t articulate their ideas rationally. And worse, it means that their arguments, and their way of life are perpetually vulnerable to criticism.
It also means that conservatives cannot find practical solutions to problems that CAN be solved without violating the system of ethics and norms that creates the high trust society. They simply cannot understand their own ideas well enough to know where they apply, where they do not, and where alternative solutions can be found that accomplish a goal through preferred ends. This is the legitimate criticism of Conservatism: that conservative philosophers have, until we P came about, failed to find a solution to the problem of articulating conservatism.
People who follow my work know that this is precisely the problem I’m trying to solve: to articulate Conservatism (Anglo Aristocratic Egalitarianism) in rational terms. Which means Propertarian terms. Because only Propertarianism provides a rational means of discussing political systems and institutions. I have now spent a significant portion of my adult life on this problem and I finally understand how absolutely difficult that problem was to solve.
As an example, I’ll use Krugman’s Straw Man Of The Day to illustrate why its hard for conservatives to defend themselves, by attacking a simple, usual meaningless jibe – but one that conservatives can’t easily defend against.
Conservatives and Sewers
I see that some commenters on my traffic externalities post are speculating what Republicans would say about sewers if they didn’t already exist. Well, we don’t know about Republicans, but we do know what The Economist said, in 1848, about proposals for a London sewer system:
Suffering and evil are nature’s admonitions; they cannot be got rid of; and the impatient efforts of benevolence to banish them from the world by legislation, before benevolence has learned their object and their end, have always been more productive of evil than good.
Sewers are socialism!
It wasn’t until the Great Stink made the Houses of Parliament uninhabitable that the sewer system was created.
Now, we’re going to acknowledge that as usual, a conservative protestant Englishman doesn’t understand his own traditions well enough to articulate them. He can sense that something is wrong, with the circumstance, but not articulate what that is, nor how to find an alternative solution to the problem. And that’s understandable. I’m not sure without both Bastiat and Hayek, that we would understand them either. Without Rothbard and Hoppe, I wouldn’t know how to find solutions. However, that doesn’t mean that conservatives and libertarians can’t intuit that ‘something is wrong here’, even if they cannot articulate it.
So, aside from the fact that Dr Krugman is a political propagandist, lets look at his logic, and articulate the conservative criticism of it:
1) It doesn’t follow that a one-time expense, followed by fees for usage is the same as redistribution that creates dependencies. Fees require action and therefore ‘ownership’ in the management of the [glossary:commons], the redistribution does not require action. The free-rider problem is different from the progressive-fees problem. Free riding is a negative [glossary:signal] that says free riding is a ‘right’, while progressive fees illustrate that this is not a ‘right’, but a ‘charity’. This sends ‘truthful’ signals to both parties. And truthful signals are necessary to retain the universal cultural prohibition on [glossary:involuntary transfer]s.
2) It doesn’t follow that investment in a commons is the same as state-mandated redistribution. If that was true, there wouldn’t have been factories, universities, churches and roads without a state. But there are.
3) It doesn’t follow that investment in a universal commons (infrastructure) is contrary to conservative dogma. Only that to do so out of charity at a cost, with nothing in exchange, is different from doing so out of opportunity for profit, or out of necessity for the correction of harm. (It doesn’t)
4) it doesn’t follow that taxes must be levied other than fees. (They don’t need to be.)
5) It doesn’t follow that taxes should be put into a general pool and open to use OTHER than the purpose levied. (they shouldn’t – that’s involuntary transfer – and fraud.)
6) It doesn’t follow that the monopolistic state is more efficient than competitive private administration. (It’s not. Ever.) The advantage that government provides is its ability to prohibit privatization of investments in the commons, and therefore make a commons possible. It is not that commons cannot be created without government. It is that the range of commons that can be created without privatization of them is very limited, and therefore very expensive. Since privatization of a common investment is a form of theft. The left is a kelptocracy. It is theft rather than exchange. That is the difference between the left’s vision of society and the right’s vision of society. THe right requires exchange, the left takes by theft. If conservatives understood this one idea, they would use it all the time and win arguments most of the time. Seeking exchange means that solutions are possible. Conservatism without solutions is simply a blocking agent.
7) It doesn’t follow that funding the bureaucracy won’t produce externalities that are of intolerable cost. (it does – one of which is forcing us to spend time defending ourselves against other people’s political movements, as they seek to control the predatory state)
These criticisms are possible using Propertarian ethics. In fact, I often argue, that any ethical system OTHER than Propertarianism, is an attempt to obscure the transfers occurring in politics. And therefore arguing by means other than propertarianism (particularly using empathic appeals, and moral statements) is an act of fraud for the purpose of committing theft.
CONSERVATISM TRADES STATUS SIGNALS FOR REDISTRIBUTION
Conservatism is expressed in metaphorical language. And in that language, Conservatives have one ‘curse word’ with multiple meanings: “Socialism” – state control of property and production and b) “Democratic redistributive socialism” – state ownership of the proceeds from limited private control of property. This ‘curse word’ is a catch-all for ‘those people that use the state to destroy aristocratic individualism and the status signals that each of us gets from individualism regardless of our rank.
And this is important. Conservatives do not feel victims, because they obtain positive status signals from other conservatives regardless of their economic rank. This status obtainable in human societies only through religious conformity and it’s consequences, or economic conformity and its consequences. Conservatives do not object to investment in the commons. Conservatism places higher value on delaying gratification than immediate gratification – the formation of moral capital – which is an inarticulate expression meaning training human beings to enforce a prohibition on involuntary transfers of all kinds.
Conservatism includes the argument that we should not fund the expansionary bureaucratic state that out of deterministic necessity subverts our property rights and therefore our freedom, and therefore our ‘character’ – a euphemism for the prohibition on involuntary transfers of all kinds – because it is our universal prohibition on involuntary transfers both within our families and tribes and without, that is the source of western exceptionalism: the high trust society.
Our high trust society is unique because we CAN trust others to avoid involuntary transfers, because of the pervasive prohibition on involuntary transfer that we developed under Manorailism by demonstrating fitness needed to obtain land to rent. Partly as a rebellion against the Catholic Church, partly because the church forbid cousin marriage and granted women property rights, in order to break up the tribes and large land holding families. Partly as an ancient indo-european tradition of personal sovereignty in the nobility, which became a status signal, and, thankfully remains a status signal in conservatives.
Small homogenous polities are redistributive. Large heterogeneous polities are not. This is because trust DECLINES in heterogeneous polities. And trust DECLINES in heterogeneous polities because of the different signals used by different groups, and the fact that signals in-group are ‘cheaper’ (discounted) that signals across groups with differing signals. A strong state in a small homogenous polity that functions as an extended family and therefore with high redistribution, is entirely possible. But by creating a powerful state in a heterogeneous polity, it becomes necessary and useful for people to compete via extra-market means using the state by seeking redistributions and limited monopoly (legal) rights in order to advance their signaling strategy. (Which is what Dr. Krugman does, daily – advance an alternative strategy. A strategy that he does not recognize is from the Ghetto. And would cause a return to the low trust society. And **IS*** right now, causing a return to the low trust society.
Because the low trust society is natural to man. That’s why it exists everywhere but the aristocratic west.