2016 April 23 Saturday
Ross Douthat On Neoreaction

The pessimists about human nature get some things right.

Reactionary assumptions about human nature the intractability of tribe and culture, the fragility of order, the evils that come in with capital-P Progress, the inevitable return of hierarchy, the ease of intellectual and aesthetic decline, the poverty of modern substitutes for family and patria and religion are not always vindicated. But sometimes? Yes, sometimes. Often? Maybe even often.

Agreed. Turn away from Panglossian rah rah for your faction and you can understand and do a better job of predicting. A quick Google search confirms that Ross is familiar with Philip Tetlock's research on superforecasters. Wondering if reactionaries are overrepresented in the ranks of superforecasters.

Yes, both factions have far too much optimism about how the spread of their beliefs could make the world a better place. I think libertarians are especially guilty of this. They have a hard time realizing just how unnatural libertarian thinking is to most people.

Both liberalism and conservatism can incorporate some of these insights. But both have an optimism that blinds them to inconvenient truths. The liberal sees that conservatives were foolish to imagine Iraq remade as a democracy;

Really? Before the Iraq invasion major liberal commentators were saying that tribal Iraq with high rates consanguineous marriage and splits between Sunni and Shia and Arab and Kurd was not fertile ground for liberal democracy? I missed that commentary. Where is it? Since President Wilson the progressives have argued that liberal democracy is suitable and inevitable for a gradually enlargening fraction of the human race. At this point Hillary Clinton is hardly alone on the Left in holding a belief that the purpose of US foreign policy is to overthrow more regimes and democratize more countries. This has led to liberal support for the Iraq invasion, intervention in Syria, and the overthrow of the Libyan Colonel with many last name spellings.

Even today, what tabula rasa liberal is going to admit out loud that Iraq can't become a liberal democracy? Global liberal manifest destiny seems to be a core belief of Democratic Party POTUS candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Perhaps Ross hears more skepticism from liberals who trust he won't publicly reveal their heretical beliefs about human nature.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2016 April 23 08:25 PM 

Dain said at April 24, 2016 3:43 PM:

Exactly. I recall ""no blood for oil" but scarcely anything that sounds like a warning against remaking society on the fly.

Black Death said at April 25, 2016 11:17 AM:

The NYT likes to pretend that Douthat is a "conservative," but I've always had my doubts. Aside from criticizing the neocons, in which most true conservatives would join, Douthat just brings up the usual lefty memes - Trump supporters are racists or anti-PC "provocateurs." You are right to point out his typically liberal attempt to rewrite history and thrust the truth about support for the Iraq war down the old memory hole, as Steve Sailer would say. Perhaps Ross would like to review the roll call of the Senate vote on the Iraq war resolution of 2002. The Democrats voted 29-21 in favor of the resolution, with Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voting with the majority.

Brett Bellmore said at April 26, 2016 4:27 AM:

How can they warn against remaking society on the fly, when they're committed to the idea that humanity is utterly malleable? And are remaking Western societies on the fly, with no parachute?

Audacious Epigone said at April 30, 2016 12:04 PM:

One of the reasons that opposition to the war in Iraq was so feeble at the time is precisely because the neocons harnessed all the liberal creationist fantasies to sell it. I found my way to Randall Parker and then the rest of the Steveosphere as a freshman in college reading up on the Iraq war the year it began. I was a typical partisan at the time and was looking for polemical arguments in favor of the invasion. Parapundit et al set me straight. The left didn't--all the arguments I came across from leftists had to do with war profiteering and the Bush family wanting to take revenge on Saddam. Those are both true but they're not that big of a deal in the scheme of things. The HBD, civilizational-incompatibilities issues are far more significant and consequential.

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