Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Imagine better ideas

I was revisiting this earlier post paraphrasing Evan Sayet's dissection of the Modern Liberal's mind: "We look over history and see that cultures have established their own religions, philosophies and practices, and each culture in turn has believed their own religion, philosophies and practices to be true and right. 'Others' are barbarians. The Modern Left targets this 'bigotry of belief' as the cause of conflict with other cultures of different religions and practises. These conflicts become the wars and injustices that have always been evident in history, up to and including the present. It is therefore the attempt by people to be right, to find 'the one true way', which is the cause of conflict with others, and hence it is this attempt to be right which is the cause of humanity's problems."

OK, so the left's solution to this 'conflict caused by different ideas' is to give up on ideas: The John Lennon Imagine solution in action.

So what is the right's solution? Let ideas compete. We find truth - the 'one true way' - through the competition of ideas.

A clear example comes from the world of science. The essential feature behind the success of science is not 'the scientific method', it is rather that science is a veritable Thunder-dome for ideas. Science is a particular example of the debating forum invented by the Athenians of Ancient Greece. The debating techniques of science typically involve a lot of mathematics and experimental data, but in essence the idea is to convince the forum that one's idea conforms more closely to reality than do the competing ideas. (The debating technique called 'mathematical proof' is particularly powerful; a mathematical proof is unanswerable. Another good one is the repeatable experiment).

Cultural ideas/religions/practices are less susceptible to intellectual debate, but they do compete in less abstract ways, as anyone who has had fried chicken at "Dickos", the KFC knock-off in Mainland China, can attest.


Sitting in a garden in an Australian summer, the old saw that the natural world is full of probing, investigating, exploiting and competing little creatures is brought to "life", so to speak. You don't have to be David Attenborough in an Amazonian rainforest to get a sense of the clamouring competition that rewards the pushy and destroys the weak.

The funny thing is that although the world of business is essentially the same as nature in this respect, 'greenies' express hatred of business and love for nature, while 'conservatives' express love for the former and sometimes want to concrete over the later. Greenies have a romantic ("Disney-fied") view of nature and conservatives have a romantic ("Rand-ified") view of business.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Conservatism is about looking to history for clues: Clues as to what works and clues as to what doesn't. Conservatism is pragmatic; it doesn't have an all-encompassing theoretical framework from which it derives policy positions. What accidental framework there may be in conservative thought comes from the current (perhaps temporary) consensus about what works.

A key feature of conservatism is that there is no 'ego identification' with an idea or set of ideas. Reality is allowed to be the ultimate arbiter.