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What the Heck is a Paleoconservative and Why You Should Care
Intellectual Conservative ^ | December 8, 2006 | Dan Phillips

Posted on 12/10/2006 3:34:41 PM PST by Luis Gonzalez

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To: Luis Gonzalez
I'm not scolding anyone, but if you discuss an article it would be nice to let the author know if they have a public e-mail.

I will deal with two issues that have come up. The relationship of paleos with social conservatives, and Lockean contract theory.

Most paleo leaders (as opposed to the rank-and-file who would be hard to characterize) are religiously orthodox and many are very devout. Many are Catholics but some are Orthodox, Conservative Lutherans, Conservative Calvinists, etc. There are relatively few evangelicals among the leadership. Even the ones who may be skeptics recognize the importance of Christianity to America and the West and accept our Christian tradition as a good, healthy, essential thing. There are probably no crusading atheists among the ranks.

They have always had a distant relationship with the religious right, even though they are all almost by definition social conservatives. There are a few reasons for this. First, they think the religious right has been too beholden to the GOP and too quick to support less than good conservative candidates such as Bush. Because they are for nonintervention, they do not support the War in Iraq. They think many Christian leaders(Falwell, Robertson, etc.) and the rank-and-file evangelicals have too easily supported a War that is hard to square with the Christian Just War tradition. Many see this as partially related to the majority Evangelical belief in dispensational pre-millienialism. Since they are mostly old school Christians, they don't embrace this doctrine, and they feel it is a big reason why many evangelical Christians, esp. the leadership, is overly supportive of Israel in matters of foreign policy. They also do not like the praise music, seeker sensitivity, etc. of much of modern evangelicalism.

In one area where you would think that Christians would have a big stake, halting Muslim immigration into America and Europe, they see the religious right as being completely absent from the fight. (I agree.) A growing number of Christian leaders are making nice on immigration, Brownback and Huckabee for example. They would view this as not necessitated by Scripture and suicidally ignorant. The cultural dissolution that massive immigration is likely to bring about will totally take their issues and the GOP off the table within the next 50 years.

Also, paleos favor regionalism and decentralization, radical decentralization really. They see the RR's focus on the federal government as counterproductive. Instead of trying to get a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, which is very unlikely to happen, they would support State action like SD did. That doesn't mean they are pro-choice. They just see local action as more likely to save more lives.

I am a Baptist and consider myself an evangelical, although I am a very traditional one and despise praise music and the like. But I came to paleoconservatism via the religious right. Therefore I have a more sympathetic view of the RR than do most paleos. I think the hostility is counterproductive.

Whoever said that the RR is a relatively recent phenomenon is exactly right. Issues such as gay marriage and the attacks on Christmas are fairly new issues. There used to be a very broad cultural consensus on such issues. Just 30 years ago the idea of gay marriage would have been unthinkable, for example. So the RR arose in response to cultural drift away from the historic consensus. This is why I believe the RR and paleos should/can work together. Despite the happy talk of some Christian conservatives like Brownback, the RR is not fundamentally a progressive movement. It is a reaction to cultural drift. So is paleoconservatism. The RR has resisted/is resiting a modernist drift to the left on theology and morals, but they have embraced modernism in many other ways. The Paleos can be viewed as resisting modernity in general. So I see both as part of any future counter-revolution against the leftward slide.

But the above illustrates a good point. Paleos are not libertarians on social issues, but they see restoring the cultural consensus that made gay marriage a laughable idea just a few years ago as more important than a law against it. Does that make sense?

Many paloes, esp. the leadership, are very skeptical that any political solution is possible. So they focus on culture and local action. Home schooling is a very paleo activity for example. Also, boycotting the local contractor who is building the abortion clinic is a more important activity than electing a "pro-life" Republican who isn't going to do anything about abortion anyway. Make sense?

This is long so I will post on Locke separately.
61 posted on 12/12/2006 12:26:09 PM PST by Dan Phillips (I wrote the article)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
On Locke. Locke conceptualized a bunch of free individuals coming together and consenting to be mutually governed in a way that is beneficial to all. Thus the "social contract" theory.

Locke had a high view of man. He did not see man as inherently corrupt. For him man is able to be improved if not "perfected." Paleos and Christians in general would see this as a fundamentally un-Christian conception (and unsupported by observation) since Christians see man as inherently corrupted by original sin. The Founders generally had a low view of man which was likely highly influenced by their Christianity.

Locke also believed in the blank slate or tabula rasa. That man was not born with a certain nature, but his nature was largely imposed on him by his environment. Change the environment, change the man. This too goes against all observation as well as the Christian belief that the natural order generally squares with the Divinely ordained order. So paloes would see the family, the primacy of the mother child bond, socialization, patriarchy, hierarchy, etc. as part of a Divine/natural order. Viewed at this level you can see that Locke's conception was fundamentally liberal. But if you follow the logic you can also see why the paleo conception is in many ways more conservative than most modern "conservatives" will tolerate. Conservative have no problem appealing to a natural/Divine order when it comes to lesbians not adopting babies, but how many would reject the liberal egalitarianism that says for example that being a "Mister Mom" is perfectly OK. See what I mean? Paleos resist appeals to the theoretical, in this case gender roles are imposed by society and mom and dad are really interchangeable, and appeal to tradition, history, revelation, nature, etc.

So the problem with Locke is that his conception is really a purely mental exercise. No society has ever formed itself in that way. America, as a colonial country that broke away from the motherland, is about as close as you can get. But it is extremely naive to believe that even America came about as a result of this fanciful social contract. American's already had an organic society before the Founders signed the Declaration or the Constitution and that society is much more than its government. We were primarily British Islanders, we were Western, we were Christian (mostly Protestant) etc. which defines us as a society more than any document could.

Americans, due to the colonial nature of our country are uniquely vulnerable to this "contract theory" conceit. Compare the US to a country in Europe or the East for example. Did Poland become a country because all the Polish people got together and theoretically consented to some contract, or did Poland precede the modern nation? The nation is not a contractual agreement among individuals, but is more like an extension of the tribe. Family, tribe, community, extended tribe, nation. Of course those who extend this thinking understand why the paleos are particularly concerned about immigration. Again, the underlying theory or conception leads to views that many modern "conservatives" are unwilling to endorse.

Paleos see the liberal modern Enlightenment focus on the atomistic individual as harmful. Man is by nature a social animal. He can not be properly conceived of outside of his social roll - family, community, etc. They see much of modern conservatism, focused as it is on the individual and rights, as actually a brand of liberalism.

Economic libertarianism is thus the flip side of the coin of socialism. Both are theoretical constructs that rely on abstract philosophizing and a general acceptance of Enlightenment views. But they are not anchored by tradition, history, family, common bond, etc. and are thus dangerous and destructive of the traditional society. This does not mean that paleos can't and don't accept free-market capitalism as the most efficient economic system. (On paper, since Paleos are less likely to embrace a mercenary political pragmatism, they actually are much closer to libertarians on the government programs they would shut down than is a pragmatic conservative who embraces the free-market but doesn't’t think shutting down large, established government programs is feasible. Their reasoning is just somewhat different.) They just reject economic reductionism, materialism, acquisitiveness, etc. on the basis that family, society, etc. are greater goods than efficiency, and there are more important things in life than stuff.

Someone mentioned the Founders and how influenced they were by the Enlightenment. Great question. (In fact that may well be the most essential question.) Paleos are not agreed on this. There were clearly liberal and conservative elements of the Founding. We were rebelling against the King in favor of some measure of popular consent, so there was definitely a liberal element. But there were conservative elements as well that primarily resided in the people as a whole, the remarkably by most standards religious orthodoxy of Americans for example. Many paleos believe that despite the liberal Lockean idiom of the Declaration, the Founding was basically conservative. Others see the Founding as inherently corrupted by liberalism, hence many of our problems today.

What ever view they take on the Founding, paleos generally agree that the American conservative tradition has been most fundamentally manifested in the South, and the progressive impulse has been most fundamentally evidenced in the North.

Well I just basically wrote my paleo philosophy article that I promised.

Try not to react viscerally that conservatism means a certain set of policies such as foreign intervention and free-trade. Look at the basic assumptions, and I think it will be hard to dispute that paleoconservatism is really a more ancient or authentic form of conservatism. Whether modern conservatives are willing to go there is another matter. But what needs to be conceded is that much of modern conservatism is really a light form of liberalism. Those who embrace the designation of "classical liberalism" are conceding this.
62 posted on 12/12/2006 1:58:05 PM PST by Dan Phillips (I wrote the article)
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To: Dan Phillips
"I'm not scolding anyone, but if you discuss an article it would be nice to let the author know if they have a public e-mail."

OK, I checked, you do have one.

~~~rim shot~~~

All kidding aside, I'm glad you're here, I posted your article because I found it to be informative, well-written, and interesting. We post many articles and most authors would rather sue us than take the time to discuss them with us.

I do have some comments on your comments...

"The cultural dissolution that massive immigration is likely to bring about will totally take their issues and the GOP off the table within the next 50 years."

If you're talking about Muslim immigration into Europe, I agree, if you're talking about mass immigration of Muslims into America, I don't see that or anytime in the near future.

Before I proceed, I'd like to define a term; immigrant means immigrant (I am one), not illegal alien.

Europe needs to repopulate, and their primary source of available immigrants are Muslim countries, so yes, Europe has a huge problem. America repopulates from Christian countries south of our borders.

63 posted on 12/12/2006 1:59:07 PM PST by Luis Gonzalez (Some people see the world as they would want it to be, effective people see the world as it is.)
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To: CaliGirl-R

I am proud almost beyond words to report that the President I am most like was Ronald Reagan--96.88%. About 77% of those taking the test are to the left of me.

64 posted on 12/27/2006 1:28:04 PM PST by Mr. Silverback (The people walking in darkness have seen a great light...Merry Christmas!)
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