Conservatism: Bending the River

A modern, scientific version of conservatism.

I hesitate to use the river analogy, but nothing better came to me while I took my walk in the woods. I’m sure it has been used many times before, but I hope to use the analogy to argue for conservatism in a new way. Lets begin.

Human society is like a river. Left unmolested, the strongest current bends the river by slowly eroding away the edges. Once through the bend however, the edges form anew. Over vast amounts of time, the eroding edges reforms the original, straight path; only to begin the process again.

The strongest current flows in accordance with human nature. Human nature, simply, is a collection of behaviors that have developed over the entirety of hominid existence and passed genetically and culturally. Instead of the terror of the Hobbesian state of nature, I posit we are currently (and always have) lived in humankind's state of nature. Since we cannot reproduce asexually, humans require mates. Having and maintaining mates and offspring takes some system of cooperation. Humans either live in this state of nature, which can manifest in as many ways as power and cooperation can be maintain, or die alone without progeny. This cooperation requires some suppression of animalistic stimulus/response of pure hedonism. The “selfish gene” argument holds that procreation requires a set of behaviors that suppress short term benefit for long term survival. This requires tradeoffs between individual well-being and group well-being. Deciding between tradeoffs requires a hierarchy of values. These values are created (or discovered) and passed through culture. Some value tradeoffs lead to greater success of the our primary function: propagation.

To return to our analogy, society puts boulders on the banks of the river. These boulders prevent the majority of erosion from that specific bank. Piling boulders in one area does prevent the erosion, but at the cost of redirecting the current. It does not fundamentally change the current only redirects. The physics of the current remain the same following the path of least resistance and gravity moving it downward.

The conservative believes the current is natural and only changeable through massive effort, that is often not even close to the cost due to its effects on propagation. It is better to use small steps to gently change course, if a change in course is necessary. Often, a course change is necessary due to environmental change (meaning technological change, not climate change). But that change must be viewed in reference to history and through the fundamental principles of human nature and natural law.

The conservative also does not think the current should flow unchecked. Society (and government) is necessary to prevent rapid, untested change whether that be through government action, through a madness of a mob, or the demagoguery of an individual.

The dominant belief among the left/far-left is that there is no natural current. Society via culture pumps all the moving water and can be stopped or controlled if only the right manager comes along and is given enough power. This is a view proffered by what Kirk calls “coffeehouse philosophers” and not science. (In the future I will address some of the limitations of these philosophers and particularly their overreliance on introspection.)

I will end by including a list of fundamental tenets of a scientific conservatism. This is a work in progress, but I am comfortable enough to show it.

Tenets of a Scientific Conservatism

  1. Nature exists independent of humanity.

2. Nature shaped humanity in specific and important ways, which created specific solutions to problems in nature.

3. These solutions are passed down genetically and through society.

4. These solutions have proved to be effective at fostering human growth and maintaining society.

5. Some of the solution to natural problems are pro-community or anti-community.

6. Through social bonds, humankind has found solutions to minimizing anti-community behaviors and encouraging pro-community behaviors.

7. At each level (individual, family, community, nation), there will always be conflict between pro-community and anti-community behaviors.

8. There are individual, community, and society level differences in specific solutions that evolved in response to local challenges.

9. Solutions should be compared against each other using the criteria:

· value of life

· respect for property

· community growth and propagation

· community cohesion and health

Let me know what you think. I would appreciate any feedback. Message me here or on twitter @theokamerican.

Ed Psych Phd student. USMC Reserve/IraqVet. I like wonky politics, but I also have feet on mid-western ground: literally and figuratively. Research: Motivation