Posted by Tony Listi on January 1, 2011
Science is conservative in some respects:
- It generally changes incrementally and gradually as new evidence comes to mind.
- It tests everything against experience. Results matter, not just theories or intentions.
- It inherently looks to the past. Past occurences and observations are the foundation of science. Without faith in the past, science could not function.
- It sees the world as inherently orderly, functioning according to certain reliably consistent laws of nature.
But science is not conservative with respect to the fact that science is fallibilistic. The foundations can and have been uprooted several times. The notion of science as the slow, steady, and conservative accumulation of knowledge was destroyed by a series of revolutions at the biological, cosmic, and atomic levels. Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, and Heisenberg in partcular were instrumental in proving that science sometimes radically uproots the current paradigm of empirical/scientific knowledge. Strictly speaking, nothing is ever really “settled” in science.
True conservatism does not allow for epistemological revolutions in moral and political philosophy:
Conservatives do not deny the existence of undiscovered truths, but they make a critical assumption, which is that those truths that have already been apprehended are more important to cultivate than those undisclosed ones close to the liberal grasp only in the sense that the fruit was close to Tantalus…. Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgement that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before. (William F. Buckley Jr. in Up from Liberalism)
Marxists and libertarians of almost all varieties think that politics is a science. But it isn’t, strictly speaking.
Conservatism is a more humane political philosophy because it recognizes the reality of human nature and the influences upon it. People are not mere physical material, mere combinations of atoms and molecules, who react in the exact same way to certain external stimuli, whether economic or political. Sure, human nature in general doesn’t change, but culture and nurture mould the raw material human nature. Also, people are individuals and thus sometimes deviate from nature, culture, or nurture by willful choice. No nation is perfectly virtuous, but some nations are more virtuous than others in certain respects.
Thus, while there are certainly timeless political principles, their direct and pure application will not yield the same results for every single group of people under any and all circumstances. Prudence cannot be dispensed with, and thus politics should be considered an art ultimately. Of course, just because something is an art doesn’t mean that reason should be ignored. Orderly art requires reason, the faculty that creates order.
Moreover, it is actually the notion itself of politics as a science that has been so harmful to American politics. Science became largely about experimentation and knowledge for its own sake or for the sake of power, unhinged from moral considerations. Regressives applied hubristic, reckless, and immoral political experimentation in America, irrationally disregarding experience and time-tested experience (not to mention constitutional law). The consequences have been devastating.
Science in itself has no moral compass. To say that politics is a science is to introduce the element of amorality (or rather immorality) into politics.
Posted in Conservatism, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: conservatism, conservative, culture, economic, experience, intellectual, law, political, politics, reason, reasonable, science, scientific method | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Tony Listi on July 25, 2010
When I get tired of addressing the same misunderstandings over and over again, I decide to write a blog post about it that I can just send people to, rather than having to explain myself and common errors over and over again.
The “separation of church and state” is a common objection people of many political persuasions like to fling at conservatives, as if these objectors had any philosophical or historical understanding of the phrase and their interpretation of it.
There is a difference between the institutional separation of church and state vs. the philosophical separation between religion and politics. There is a difference between institutions and people vs. ideas and philosophy.
The former is possible, desirable, and necessary for the sake of both church and state. It is not good for priests, pastors, bishops, or popes to hold political offices outside of the Vatican. There have been times in the history of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, when religious leaders wielded formal political authority too. But more importantly, before Christianity and after the Protestant Revolution, the state assumed religious authority as well, dictating to its subjects what they shall believe and how they shall act, subjecting religious leaders to political authority. In the modern era, this usurpation has been accomplished through government-run education and a variety of laws premised on anti-Christian principles.
The Crown and Parliament of England in particular controlled the Church of England. This reality is what motivated the American founders to enact the 1st Amendment which prohibited the “establishment of religion” at the national level (it did not prohibit established churches at the state level and many states had and retained these established churches after the ratification of the Constitution). The 1st Amendment prevented the establishment of a Church of the USA, funded by tax-payer money, akin to the Church of England.
Both the life of the spirit and the public life of politics suffered (at least eventually) under such institutional arrangements. The institutions of church and state must be kept separate and independent. I am FOR the separation of church and state. And these arrangements are what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the phrase in his letter to the Danbury Baptists (the phrase is not in the Constitution).
However, the latter, the separation of religion and politics, is intellectually impossible. Religion makes claims about the origin and nature of man, including his natural rights. Just because one is an atheist or agnostic doesn’t mean one doesn’t have religion. Everyone has religion because everyone has a view about the origin and nature of man and about his nautral rights. And natural rights are the basis of good, just, and moral politics. Natural rights are what the founders appealed to in the Declaration of Independence.
It is impossible for one to be for or against the separation of religion and politics. The fact is that they cannot be separated, as a matter of reason and contemplation about what each sphere entails. The political order rests upon the moral order and the moral order upon the religious order.
So the next time some preacher, pastor, priest, bishop, or pope starts talking politics, denouncing abortion and gay “marriage,” I don’t want to hear appeals to the “separation of church and state.” It is irrelevant.
What you are really saying is that you want a separation of the Christian religion from American political discourse, which is un-American historically and philosophically dangerous. You would rather substitute a leftist, collectivist, libertine, secularist pseudo-religion for Christianity as the basis of moral judgment, natural rights, and law. Such a substitution would be immoral, unjust, and terrible for the spiritual and material well being of all Americans.
Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, The Constitution, Written by Me | Tagged: Christianity, Church, establishment, legislate, moral, morality, political, politics, religion, Religious, separation, state | 2 Comments »
Posted by Tony Listi on July 17, 2010
I’m getting very tired of hearing libertarians (and others) say, “You shouldn’t legislate morality!” As if their philosophy and policy proposals were morally neutral!
Ironically, most Big Government statists have a sounder grasp of the general relationship between morality and politics than libertarians. The “Don’t Legislate Morality” objection against conservatives and statists alike is mere smoke and mirrors, a rhetorical flourish with no substance whatsoever. Rights are always a matter of morality, regardless of where one’s moral assumptions come from.
Libertarians wish to codify their morality of liberty into law. The most thoughtful and principled libertarians would support liberty even if it did lead to impoverishment, inefficiency, and misery. They see liberty as a moral issue; liberty in itself is not morally neutral. Violence against the life, liberty, or property of another person without just cause (self-defense or reparation for previous injury) is not merely bad for material prosperity but bad for people; it is immoral, a violation of human rights. Moral relativism or neutrality simply doesn’t exist in conscientious libertarianism (or any other political philosophy).
And yet there are many people in this country (socialists, leftists, regressives, liberals, etc.) who disagree with this libertarian morality of non-violence. They believe that it is very moral to enact laws that plunder some people in order to give to others or that make people act in certain ways. In fact, they believe libertarianism in itself to be immoral. So libertarians need to ask themselves: “are we trying to impose our morality of non-coercion on others?” That answer has to be YES. Libertarians oppose the (im)moral assumptions behind statism and statist laws. A law has no less moral or immoral content merely because it allows people to freely act in certain ways, for the allowance of that freedom is based on moral presuppositions.
The question is not whether we should legislate morality (for that is a given) but “what is moral?” and “what can the law prudently do to enforce that morality, if anything?” And conservatives and libertarians agree more on these questions in comparison with the statists, especially when it comes to economic issues. In the realm of economics, I’m about as libertarian and Austrian as they get. Of course, when it comes to issues of abortion and marriage/family, I part ways with libertarianism– for reasons that I can explain in even libertarian/scientific terms, phraseology, and paradigms, showing how libertarianism breaks down in these cases.
So if you’re a libertarian reading this now and happen to disagree with me on these social issues, please refrain from incoherent slogans about “legislating morality.” They’re irrational and self-contradictory. Realize that you and I are both making moral claims. Then we’ll understand each other better, find more common ground, and be better able to cooperate politically.
Posted in Abortion, Government and Politics, Libertarianism, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Written by Me | Tagged: Abortion, Bible, Christian, gay, government, immoral, immorality, law, legislate, legislating, libertarian, Libertarianism, liberty, marriage, moral, morality, political, politics, Religious | 4 Comments »
Posted by Tony Listi on February 28, 2010
Conservatives of all ages tend to be very short-sighted and ineffective when it comes to political warfare. They put all their energy into electoral and legislative battles but largely ignore the crucial Culture War that CampusReform.org fights daily.
When things get bad politically, conservatives volunteer and work for campaigns, for political parties, and for already elected officials. And when they win an election or legislative battle, they rejoice and go back to their normal lives…until the other side starts winning the elections and policy battles again.
But a battle here or there in itself is meaningless. Who is winning the war? The left is.
Why? Because despite the Reagan Revolution and the consequent short-lived ascendance of the Republican Party, the overall trend in public policy has been toward more government control of the economy and more government-pushed erosion of traditional moral values.
How did this happen? Conservatives have allowed the left to largely dominate the key cultural institutions that shape and determine political outcomes: schools, arts & entertainment industry, churches, and the media.
Create a leftist electorate and leftists will get elected. Simple as that.
While conservatives thought they were turning the tide in the 80s, 90s, and first half of the 00s, leftists had a better long-term strategy, steadily increasing their control over American culture, especially youth culture. All of a sudden, young people helped Barack Obama get elected, not just with their votes but also with the favorable image and winning psychology they provided him.
But which cultural institutions should be a priority for conservatives? The leftist monopoly on the media has been broken. FOX News, talk radio, and the internet have seen to that. Conservatives still do better than leftists among the church-going crowd because of the pro-life and pro-marriage factions of the conservative movement that Reagan and George W. Bush brought on board. But the left has made some gains over time, deceiving many Christians into believing that government can be compassionate and charitable.
But neither the churches nor the media has as great an influence on young Americans as do our schools and the arts & entertainment industry. Teachers unions, liberal professors, Hollywood airheads, musical blowhards, and misguided entertainers promote Big Government and immoral lifestyles among the young.
We shouldn’t have to wait and hope for sincerely misguided young liberals to grow up to become conservatives. If we take these institutions seriously and meet the challenge of reclaiming them, there will be more cradle-to-grave conservatives and more effective, intense conservative activists generation after generation.
Why are young people crucial to long-term political success?
- It will take generations to undo what the left has inflicted on us over several generations.
- They are future candidates, campaign staffers, campaign donors, activists, teachers, professors, artists, actors, musicians, priests, pastors, pundits, and journalists.
- They can recruit and persuade their peers to join and be active in the conservative movement.
- The young today become the electorate that decides tomorrow’s elections.
- They will have children who eventually join the Culture War and the electorate that decides future elections.
Therefore, the most important policy endeavors conservatives can undertake lie in the realm of education, at both the primary and college level.
The left has understood this and is patient, fighting the daily battles always with the long-term cultural objective in mind. If conservatives want their principles to win, they will follow suit, giving priority of time and resources to supporting student activists!
Here’s what you can do to join the ranks in the broader war for the hearts and minds of American youth:
- Support the mission of CampusReform.org by getting active in or creating a conservative student group on your campus!
- Support CampusReform.org financially! Help fund political training for young conservatives!
- Tell all your like-minded friends about CampusReform.org! Spread the word about the crucial importance of youth politics!
- Make school choice for parents a top legislative priority in your state!
Posted in American Culture, American History, Art and Creativity, Culture War, Education, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Hollywood and the Film Industry, Political Activism, Student Activism, The Media, Old and New, Written by Me | Tagged: 2010, academia, activism, activists, arts, campaign, churches, cultural, culture, Culture War, Education, effective, election, electoral, entertainment, institution, leisure, media, November, parental choice, policy, political, politics, school choice, schools, student, success, victory, vouchers, young, youth | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Tony Listi on February 28, 2010
Students are notoriously apathetic. We Campus Services Coordinators experience this a lot and hear it often from student leaders who we assist. But a good leader knows how to inspire and motivate, how to create and develop new leaders.
There are many ways to recruit and motivate students to be more politically active and become future leaders for your group:
- Find their hot button issue! Like most Americans generally, most students are not political junkies with an opinion on everything or strictly philosophically consistent. But many have at least one particular issue that fires them up! Don’t be afraid to ask individual students questions about their background and beliefs. A person may have a hot button issue without even knowing it. Get to know the membership of your group, especially if it is a general conservative group. It’s easy to motivate people when you know what they care about and why. Just press the button and press it in the right way.
- Seize the moral high ground and show moral outrage! The left is very good at doing this. They create or find victims of real or perceived injustice and rally students to take action to supposedly set things right. Of course, we know that leftist policies do nothing but create even more victims. Make sure your members especially (as well as everyone else) know who these victims of leftist abuse, bias, and policy are. Challenge your fellow activists to fight on their behalf! As Morton says, ”Moral outrage is the most powerful motivating force in politics.” Students will react powerfully to what they perceive as unfair.
- Use the left as a foil! Tell your members what the other side is doing and what they are accomplishing. Tell them, ”We can’t let them get away with this. If we don’t provide opposition, no one will!” Another way to motivate members is to throw them to the wolves: arrange for them confront the opposition on their own. If they succeed, they will be proud, confident, and eager for the next battle. If they fail, then they will be motivated to learn how to be more effective and knowledgeable.
- Create a sense of urgency! You may have found a person’s hot button issue and stirred up moral outrage, but you’re competing with the student’s other responsibilities and interests (e.g. schoolwork, boyfriend/girlfriend, leisure, gym, etc.). If you let them, students will procrastinate doing the necessary legwork and preparation for activism to occur. Emphasize the natural urgency of your situation or create an artificial timetable that will create a sense of urgency. Let your body language and tone of voice communicate urgency!
- Teach and train them how! Your membership may be ready to take on the world without delay, but they may quickly become hesistant if they don’t know what to do exactly and how to do it. Provide a plan of action and teach them how to execute their part in it. People feel confident and motivated when they know what they’re doing. Organize and host Leadership Institute trainings on your campus!
- Show and tell them the benefits and success stories! Inspiration comes from others doing what was once thought impossible. You must develop a winning psychology among your fellow patriots, and inspiring them with the daring feats of other student activists, past and present, is the way to do it. The Reformer’s Blog and your Campus Services Coordinator are a treasure trove of success stories. Invite your membership to join CampusReform.org! Be sure to explain to your members the many benefits of activism for them and the group in general.
- Make your activities fun and creative! The thrill of a good fight for a worthy cause will hopefully be enough for your core membership. But some activism ideas are more entertaining than others (my advice: you can never go wrong with a costume). Satire is a powerful weapon that amuses your side, infuriates and disarms the left, and cuts sharply to the point for those in the mushy middle. Use it whenever possible! Turn more laborious tasks into a competition or host social events after the job is done.
- Say thank you! Gratitude and appreciation, both publicly and privately, go a long way to maintaining motivation. Always give credit where credit is due. Reward those who work hard with praise and other creative perks (e.g. dinner or face time with a speaker you are hosting).
- Appeal to their self-interest! When all else fails, appeal to students’ interest in fame, fortune, and future opportunities. Some students enjoy attention and being in the media spotlight; let them bask in it without hurting your cause. Some students like material rewards; give them those rewards if they perform and if your budget allows it. Some students need to know how activism will impact their future; tell them that activism leads to a good resume, networking, internships, summer jobs, and a job after college.
With these tips and insights, you should be able to attract a following and achieve great things on your campus!
Posted in Government and Politics, Political Activism, Student Activism, Written by Me | Tagged: action, active, activism, apathetic, apathy, campus, do things, getting, inspiration, inspiring, involved, involvement, leader, motivating, motivation, political, politically, politics, student | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Tony Listi on February 2, 2008
Some people think I am so mean sometimes because I have very strong opinions and am willing and able (I think) to argue for them. Yet I try my utmost to stick to the issue and not attack people personally. I don’t understand how so many people find wishy-washiness a virtue. People shouldn’t take critiques of their opinions so personally sometimes, especially when mutual criticism is the very purpose of the discussion!
In my humble opinion, you can often tell how open-minded people are by how personally they take criticism. If you take it personally, it’s likely you are closed-minded and won’t change your mind. Which is really ironic when I hear liberals tout how “open-minded” they are and yet how “personally” they feel about certain issues.
The fact is of the matter is that no one values wholesale and unlimited open-mindedness, especially not within our own faction. That is because it is self-contradictory: Open-mindedness apparently is not open-minded at all towards closed-mindedness. No, rather, we advocate open-mindedness for those who disagree with us! We all want a politician who is closed-minded in the direction of our opinions. Of what use to us is a politician whose views and actions we cannot predict? We elect someone on the basis of their current positions hoping they will not change. Indeed, Benedict Arnold was quite an “open-minded” fellow….
Therefore, liberal double-talk about open-mindedness is a hollow and spurious ploy to make conservatives feel guilty for having strong opinions. The tragedy is that this sophistry sometimes has an effect on people who don’t think critically. Now there may be something to be said about style and prudence with regard to how and when to argue. But it is ridiculous to criticize someone merely for holding fast to an opinion! Are liberals close-minded because they hold fast to their opinions?
Posted in American Culture, Political Psychoanalysis, Written by Me | Tagged: narrow-minded, narrow-mindedness, open-minded, open-mindedness, political, politics | 1 Comment »