Conservatism, Elections, and the Kantian Chasm
October 27, 2012 § 19 Comments
The conservative disposition is to not rock the boat: things could be worse, and often enough efforts to make things better actually backfire and make things worse. In general this is a pretty wise and commonsense disposition to have.
Beyond simple incomprehension and outright refusal to grant manifest premises, the most common objection I get to my voting arguments is that if enough people did as I do the bad guys would win. Sure, the abstract Kantian idea that you should act as you think everyone should act is nice in theory. But the reality is that things can get worse, and we will never get to the point where everyone refuses to endorse evil. If we manage to achieve relevance at all, we’ll just get to the point where the moral “idealists” become a large enough body of conscientious objectors that the bad guys will take over completely. We’ll fall into the Kantian chasm:
There are several problems with this view.
In the first place, as I’ve argued before, reality is not linear. The idea that if enough people did as I do, all else equal, things would get worse, contains a bad premise. That “all else equal” works reasonably well in a very narrow range of engineering problems does not imply that it is a useful model of human society. “All else equal” is one of those assumptions that will turn on you and eat you alive once things start to get even marginally complex.
In the second place, reality is not static. In case you haven’t noticed, for anyone defending traditional morality things aren’t getting better, they are getting worse. It makes no sense to defend the hill you are standing on when it is sinking into an ocean of nihilistic hedonism, aided and abetted by the very people whose team you support. The hill we are standing on is one where our society has committed mass murder of the innocent on a literally unprecedented scale. The Nazis and the Communists have nothing on us when it comes to raw body count, and we’ve explored areas of depravity that it never occurred to them to explore. It isn’t the conscientious objector who refuses to endorse the lesser evil and the liberal consensus that forces it upon us who is admitting defeat and surrendering. That modern conservatives have decided to live under their own Treaty of Versailles is an admission of abject surrender, dhimmitude under the nihilist-hedonist caliphate.
In the third place, another aspect of the conservative disposition is realism: to face reality as it is actually given to us, and to defend what is good in it without becoming enslaved to some theoretical ideology. It is this third tendency that makes it worth the bother to even talk to conservatives. But I think the biggest problem is that, ironically, conservatives have failed to face the full extent of our political reality. Adopting a semi-Kantian idea that despite our individual lack of influence we should idealistically act as pragmatists is not rational.
The cloak of prosperity has hidden the bodies far enough out of sight that we don’t have to really face them, and the band plays on.