Tag: politics

Cultural Relativism: The Case of Pitcairn Island

By Jason Newman

In the middle of the vast emptiness that is the Pacific Ocean, there lies a small group of islands. Known as the Pitcairn Islands, these are the last of Britain’s colonial possessions in the Pacific; the second-largest, the only inhabited one, is called simply Pitcairn Island. This island, which measures just over two miles from East to West, is famous for two things.

Firstly, it served as the final destination for many of the mutineers who so famously wrenched their ship, the HMS Bounty, from the control of the supposedly tyrannical Captain Blythe. After having cast the captain into the Pacific, his right-hand man Fletcher Christian, along with nine crewmen, six Tahitian men, and eleven Tahitian women, set sail and landed at Pitcairn. Eventually violence broke out among the party members, and by the time they next communicated with the outside world only one man was alive. His name was John Adams, and he shared the island with nine remaining women and nineteen children. Much was made of the story, and it was sensationalised in the British press at the time. Even two centuries later, it served as the inspiration for three different films.

The second story that led to the island’s fame is just as salacious as the first. In 2004, six men, nearly one third of the island’s male population, were charged with various counts of sexual assault against girls as young as eight years old. The crimes came to light after an investigation was triggered when a teenage girl alerted a British police officer, who was visiting the island, that she had been raped.

The defence put forward by the men, and indeed many others on the island, was that this was simply part of island culture. When a girl reached the age of eleven or twelve, she was fit for “breaking in”. They argued that it had always been this way, and the practice had been carried out from as far back as the early descendants of the mutineers. These claims were ultimately rejected by the courts and the men were convicted, although they were given laughably lenient sentences.

One of the central questions that arises from the Pitcairn case concerns the legitimacy of pleading cultural relativism as a defence for such actions.

Cultural relativism, the favourite tool of the regressive left, states emphatically that actions can only be judged within the bounds of a particular culture. It is used to justify the wearing of the hijab as an act of liberation, and at its most insidious level it has been used to argue against the prevention of practices such as FGM (female genital mutilation) under the guise that it is a “cultural practice.”

In their quest to denigrate the freedoms achieved by Western society, the post-modernists and the regressive leftists claim that the reason we see such things as “barbaric” or “medieval” is our ethnocentrism. In other cultures these things are perfectly acceptable, and as a result this is enough to justify their legitimacy. To call into question the morality of these practices would be to impose our Western sensibilities upon different cultures, and would be an “act of oppression.”

According to this reasoning, the Westerner who mutilates his daughter is guilty of grievous bodily harm. However, the African or Muslim who does so is merely carrying out a cultural tradition, and thus should not be punished. Similarly, in the Pitcairn case, should a Western man have sex with a twelve-year-old girl he is guilty of rape, but if a native of the island should do so he is merely acting on a social tradition of his society. This system of thought proudly proclaims that there cannot be any objective truth or objective morality.

This system also states that no one culture can be prized above another: the cultures of certain tribes found in New Guinea who practice cannibalism are to be put on equal footing with cultures that prize free speech and individual freedom. Thus, the Western culture that the leftists are so opposed to—for its supposed “oppression”—can through this same thought process be dismissed as merely a cultural peculiarity, no better or worse than the rest.

Acceptance of the practices of different cultures, no matter how unpalatable their beliefs, has clearly become the virtue signal of the day. Should any dissent be expressed, the dissenting party is promptly accused of propagating cultural imperialism. Of course, this is ridiculous: society would become unsustainable should only one group of people be prosecuted for something like FGM, while others be allowed to proceed with the practice simply because they are part of a different cultural group.

The idea of tolerance as a virtue in and of itself, regardless of which policies one is accepting, is rather absurd; it is in fact a logical fallacy. If practices can only be judged within their cultural bounds, who is to say that tolerance is a virtue? It is only our ethnocentric culture that proclaims this, and as a result tolerance can be said to be only as good or as bad as intolerance, should another cultural group practice intolerance.

A society that would practice this insane level of “tolerance” (cultural relativism) would as a result rob itself of the ability to punish those who would harm other members of that society.

How does cultural relativism care for the Pitcairn girl who alerted the authorities? Despite her upbringing in the island’s culture, she still knew that what was happening to her was wrong. Indeed, the other thirty-two women who initially came forward and stated that they had been raped on the island, in cases dating back decades, obviously also knew that what was happening to them was wrong.

So then what should we say to these women? The relativist position, taken to its logical conclusion, would have us say, “You may not like this, but it is part of your culture. Therefore we are powerless to stop it, since we don’t want to impose our Western ideology on you. Sorry.” Some of the women who ended up protesting the case the loudest, saying the rapes were part of island culture, were the very women who initially were willing to testify against the men. This seems to imply that they had been intimidated by family members or neighbours. Even they originally did not feel the events that happened on the island were normal.

This suggests, much to the displeasure of relativists and racists alike, that humans are fundamentally similar at our basic level – that we all posses a certain universality when it comes to moral issues. If this is true then there are certain moral values that transcend culture, in which case there is indeed an objective standard of morality. If it is untrue then we are all, as members of our own cultural groups, fundamentally different from others who were raised in separate cultural groups. In this case, the danger is that that one cultural group can claim inherent superiority over the others and potentially obscure them.

The trouble lies in discovering which values will hold as an objective moral standard. Reason dictates it should be the system of values which has led to the most peaceable, prosperous and open society in the world. Much to the ire of those on the regressive left, that society is modern Western society.

Our society, at its most basic level, is built on the standard of the individual’s right to be left unmolested by other individuals or groups, and has at its core the conviction that all men are created equal and therefore are all beholden to the same set of laws without consideration for creed, religion or race. It is the same society and culture that would (and did, as they were tried under British law) prosecute the men of Pitcairn for crimes that they themselves surely knew were morally abhorrent.

Cultural relativism sounds wonderful on paper; after all, who wouldn’t want to understand the world from a new perspective? But when tolerance for other cultures descends into tolerating the worst and most barbaric aspects of these cultures, the position quickly becomes untenable.


For more from Jason Newman check out his blog or follow him on Twitter @jasonnewman96.

Rusia hoy: ¿atacada por la nostalgia de un pasado glorioso?

Por Florcita Swartzman

El comunismo en Rusia ya es historia. Atrás quedaron las figuras de Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchov, Gorbachov y Brezhnev. O por lo menos eso creeríamos. Pero la verdad es que hay algo de su pasado que no quiere soltar a los rusos. Los rusos, esas fascinantes criaturas profundamente marcadas por los inviernos fríos y los errores políticos de sus gobernantes pasados y presentes. En el siglo XXI, en una era de globalización galopante durante la que Louis Vuitton intentó (fallando lastimosamente) hacerse un lugar junto a Lenin en la Plaza Roja, imaginaríamos que todos los ídolos del grandioso pasado Rojo estarían bien enterrados en el fondo de las mentes de los rusos para nunca jamás volver a emerger a la superficie. Pero como aprendí durante mi viaje de mes y medio desde Vladivostok hasta San Petersburgo, nada podría estar más lejos de la realidad.

Hay una estatua de Lenin en casi todas las ciudades y pueblos, especialmente en Siberia. Siempre va a haber por lo menos una que te recibirá en cualquier estación de tren a la que llegues: usualmente es la figura de Lenin con un brazo levantado en el aire en posición triunfante, señalando el camino hacia un futuro socialista lleno de bienestar que nunca va a llegar, con ese tono nostálgico que sólo el realismo soviético puede lograr. En la mayoría de las ciudades siberianas, las dos calles principales se llaman invariablemente ulitsa Karla Marxa y ulitsa Lenina. Otras calles secundarias pueden llevar los nombres de Gagarina, Komsomolskaya, Oktyabrskaya, Kommunisticheskaya y similares alias igualmente demagógicos.

Así que la verdad que no; los rusos no han olvidado su glorioso pasado militar. Al día de hoy algunas personas siguen llorando la muerte de Stalin, otros siguen llamando Biblioteka Lenina a la Biblioteca Nacional de Moscú (aunque el nombre fue oficialmente cambiado en 1992), Ekaterimburgo todavía se conoce como Sverdlovsk, y recientemente Vladimir Putin convirtió el Día de la Victoria, la fecha que conmemora la capitulación de la Alemania nazi ante la Unión Soviética en 1945, en su propio ritual y en el escenario desde donde declara al mundo la resurrección de Rusia como potencia militar. El Día de la Victoria es un evento de una carga emocional muy importante, y el Sr. Putin se asegura de no perderse ni una oportunidad de llegarle al pueblo como su amigo y salvador. El mensaje que busca enviar es, en cierta forma, que el Ejército Rojo todavía vive en los corazones de los rusos y que no existe circunstancia económica o geopolítica que los pueda disuadir de dar batalla. ¿Batalla a quién? Al enemigo sediento de poder de este lado de la Cortina de Hierro. Al mundo imperialista occidental. Al mundo.

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Pero las consecuencias de no enterrar a tiempo esos mecanismos de defensa obsoletos tarde o temprano llegan. La gente rusa ha aprendido a vivir con conceptos e ideas muy fuertes, incluso bárbaros a veces, sobre el significado del ejército y la disciplina. En plena luz del siglo XXI, los chicos de 18 años terminan sus períodos obligatorios de servicio militar hablando como autómatas sobre defender el país a cualquier costo y sobre “patria o muerte”: cosas que en la práctica les son completamente extrañas. Exactamente como si el pasado estuviera contando cuentos de batallas y honor a través de sus bocas. Y este sistema de creencias inoculado, como hemos visto con la reciente anexión rusa de Crimea, es extremadamente funcional a los intereses territoriales del gobierno.

La Unión Soviética hizo un trabajo excepcional canalizando las emociones de las masas con el fin de que los rusos estuvieran siempre listos para pelear contra el invasor cualquiera fuese la forma en que éste pudiera presentarse. Paradójicamente, ni siquiera los chicos de la era post-soviética se salvaron del adoctrinamiento. De esta forma nació una suerte de psicosis colectiva en relación a la defensa de las fronteras de la Patria que continúa, aunque con un poco menos de intensidad, hasta el día de hoy. Putin lo sabe y, por supuesto, pone a trabajar para su beneficio la añoranza que la gente siente por ese pasado imperial. Incluso ha mecionado en varias oportunidades que la caída de la Unión Soviética fue un error, palabras que calan muy hondo especialmente en las generaciones de veteranos rusos que todavía ven en Stalin la figura de un padre protector. La insistencia de Vladimir Putin en ideas como la soberanía nacional, la fraternidad y la importancia de la independencia económica también es uno de sus trucos políticos para mantener a la gente distraída de la fuerte crisis económica que viene manteniendo a millones de rusos por debajo de la línea de pobreza desde nada menos que el colapso de la URSS.

También hay otros talentos que el Sr. Presidente exhibe para mostrarse al pueblo como un héroe y figura paternal. Las fotos que circulan por internet nos lo han mostrado en su lado más audaz y masculino: montando a caballo a través de la helada tundra siberiana, esquiando, pescando, cazando, venciendo ferozmente a un medallista de judo en su propio deporte, nadando sin delfines, nadando con delfines, domando tigres salvajes, jugando jóckey sobre hielo y casi cualquier otra actividad masculina que nos podamos imaginar. Esta estrategia le funciona; la necesita para mantener su popularidad en alza. Según estadísticas publicadas por el VtsIOM, el Centro Ruso de Investigación de la Opinión Pública, el índice de aprobación de la figura de Vladimir Putin fue del 86% nada más que en el año 2016. Su imagen seduce tanto a mujeres como hombres porque hace lo posible por ser visto como el ejemplo del hombre ruso valiente, implacable, incorruptible. Esto es lo que significa la hombría es la afirmación silenciosa que irradian esas fotos donde aparece con el torso desnudo, luchando con osos polares.

¿Podrá Rusia alguna vez liberarse del yugo de la política emocional, los personalismos y los regímenes autoritarios? No hay ningún signo social que indique que este será el caso en el futuro próximo, pero ya se pueden ver pequeñas chispas de resistencia encendiéndose entre las generaciones más jóvenes en contra de Putin y los movimientos corruptos que lo ayudaron a trepar a su actual posición de poder absoluto. Rusia está cansada de la corrupción, pero hace la vista gorda por falta de opciones más sanas, de mejor calidad. Está cansada de la violencia, pero la sigue alimentando. Los rusos están cansados, por encima de todo, de los dictadores sangrientos, pero siguen adorándolos en sus pedestales inalcanzables y otorgándoles facultades casi divinas. Antes de octubre de 1917, Lenin una vez dijo: “si dejamos el asunto librado al pueblo, no tendremos la revolución ni en mil años”. La verdad es que, en Rusia, es muy difícil para la gente hacerse escuchar porque la burocracia es todopoderosa e insalvable en una forma verdaderamente kafkiana. Sin embargo, puede que no todo esté perdido: es un momento difícil para estar vivo en la ex capital soviética del mundo pero hoy, en esta época digital de híperconexión, ese pueblo al que Lenin alguna vez miró por sobre su hombro tiene la capacidad -por primera vez luego de décadas de vivir en una pesadilla- de despertar, organizarse y rebelarse. Ahora es su turno de levantarse y pelear por su propia independencia.

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Para más información sobre las experiencias de Flor visita su blog, o clickea acá para leer el resto de sus artículos en The Coolidge Review.

Russia Today: A Tale of Nostalgic Confusion

By Florcita Swartzman

Communism in Russia is over. Long forgotten are the figures of Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchov, Gorbachov and Brezhnev. Or so we’d think. But there is something about their past that will not let go of the Russians. The Russians, these fascinating creatures deeply marked by their cold winters and the miscalculations of their previous and present rulers. In the 21st century, a time of raging globalization in which Louis Vuitton tried (and failed) to get a spot next to Lenin in the Krasnaya ploshchad, we would imagine that all the idols of the grandiose Red past would be buried deep in the Russian psyche, never to float back up to the surface again. But as I learned during my month-and-a-half trip from Vladivostok to Saint Petersburg, nothing could be further from the truth.


There is a statue of Lenin in almost every Russian city and town, especially in Siberia. There will always be at least one such statue that’ll welcome you first thing when you set foot in any train station you’re arriving at: it’s usually the figure of Lenin with his hand triumphantly lifted up in the air, pointing the way to a glorious socialist future full of wealth that will never come, with that characteristic nostalgic tone that only Soviet realism can pull off. In most Siberian cities, the two main streets are monotonously named after Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Other secondary streets might be called Gagarina, Komsomolskaya, Oktyabrskaya, Kommunisticheskaya and other similar, demagogic names.


So the truth is: no, Russians have not forgotten their glorious military past. To this day some people continue to mourn Stalin’s death, the Moscow National Library is still called, by many, the Biblioteka Lenina (even though the name was changed in 1992), Yekaterinburg is also known as Sverdlovsk, and recently Vladimir Putin has made the Victory Day, the holiday that commemorates the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the USSR in 1945, into his very own ritual and the stage from which he showcases the revival of Russia as a military power to the world. The Victory Day is a very emotionally charged event, and Mr. Putin makes sure he doesn’t miss a chance to present himself as a friend and saviour to his folk. The message he looks to deliver is, in some way, that the spirit of the Red Army still burns in every Russian’s heart, so no economic or geopolitical circumstance should be an obstacle to fight back. To fight who? The power-thirsty enemy this side of the Iron Curtain. The imperialist Western world. The world.

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But there are consequences to not laying an outdated defense mechanism to rest. The Russian people have learned to live with very strong -sometimes barbaric- ideas and concepts about what the army and discipline mean to them. In plain daylight of the 21st century, 18-year-old kids now come out of their mandatory military service terms mindlessly speaking about defending the country at all costs, about “Motherland or death” and about things that are in practice completely alien to them, as if the past were reciting old tales of battle and honor through them. And this inoculated belief system, we’ve seen with the recent Russian annexation of Crimea, is extremely functional to the government’s territorial interests.


The Soviet Union did a great job channeling the emotions of the masses so that the Russian people would always be ready to fight the invaders in whichever form they would take. Paradoxically, not even post Soviet-era children were spared this indoctrination. In this way, a sort of a collective psychosis was born in regards to the defense of the Motherland’s borders that continues, even though less visibly, to this day. Putin knows this, of course, and acts upon the nostalgic yearning of his folk for the imperial past. He has mentioned quite a few times that the fall of the USSR was a mistake, and this resonates especially with the older generations of Russians that still see a protective father in the figure of Stalin. Vladimir Putin insisting so strongly on national sovereignty, fraternity and the importance of economic independence from the Western powers also means that one of his political goals is to distract the masses from the raging economic crisis that is keeping millions of Russians under or around the poverty line since the collapse of the Soviet Union.


There are also other talents that Mr. President displays in order to get the people to find a paternal friend and a hero in him. The internet has showed him to us in his most audacious, masculine side: riding a horse through the frozen Siberian tundra, skiing, fishing, hunting, fiercely beating a judo medallist in his own field, swimming without dolphins, swimming with dolphins, taming wild tigers, playing ice-hockey and almost any other manly activity we can think of. This strategy works for him, he needs it for his popularity to continue rising. According to the statistics published by the VtsIOM, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, Vladimir Putin’s overall approval rating was of 86% in 2016. His image appeals to men and women alike because he looks to be regarded as the ideal example of the brave, relentless, incorruptible Russian man. This is what manhood means is the voiceless statement being made through the photos of him bare-chested, wrestling with polar bears.
Will Russia ever be able to free herself from the yoke of personalism, authoritarian regimes and emotional politics? There are no clear social signs that this will be the case in the near future, but there are already little sparks of resistance burning among the younger generations against Putin and the corrupt moves that helped him climb to his current position of almost absolute rule. Russia is tired of corruption, but she turns a blind eye to it for lack of a better, healthier option. She is tired of violence, but keeps on feeding it. The Russians are tired, above all, of bloody dictators, but they keep on placing them on pedestals and investing them with god-like power. Before October 1917, Lenin once said: “if we leave the fight up to the people, we won’t have a revolution in hundreds of years”. The truth is that, in Russia, it is very difficult for the people to be heard in any matter related to politics. The bureaucracy is almighty and insurmountable in a very much Kafkaesque manner. But not all may be lost, though: it is a hard time to be alive in the ex-Soviet capital of the world but today, in this all-connected internet era of ours, those people that Lenin once looked down upon have the ability -for the first time after decades of living in a nightmare- to wake up, organise and revolt. Now it is their turn to stand up and fight back for their own independence.

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For more content from Florcita check out her portfolio for The Coolidge Review and follow her blog!

Confessions of an Educational Conservative

By Colin Black

I was once asked at a job interview to explain a comment made by one of my referees who had described me as an educational conservative. I replied somewhat glibly that, were I to be entrusted with the headmastership of the school, my task would be to identify its strengths and then work to the best of my capacity to make them even stronger.


That was three decades ago and, in my naivety, it did not occur to me then that I was voicing a controversial approach to educational leadership. The culture of repudiation of the past is widespread in society and not least in schools and universities. It has been an ingrained article of faith for over fifty years among the educational establishment that, however things were done before, all must now be swept away. Well educated and otherwise very sensible colleagues preened themselves self-righteously as they announced that they were not teachers but “change agents”, or devalued their calling by proudly claiming to be no longer “the sage on the stage” but “the guide by the side”.  Davos-like jamborees, the annual junkets of publicly funded professional associations with high-sounding names, strummed loudly the cacophonous leitmotif of educational iconoclasm. Some of us who attended such evangelical gatherings left with a sense of fashionable guilt that we had not passed muster, but also with a deep feeling of unease that, in rubbing shoulders with these educational Jacobins, we had been participating in something that was essentially bogus.


The authoritarian intolerance of the Left is much in evidence in the English-speaking world, especially for those who work in schools and universities. It has escalated rapidly in recent years but the first pernicious shoots were evident five decades ago. Even then discussions among colleagues about, e.g., the pedagogy of reading or whether children really benefited from being taught in mixed ability classes, were conducted at a heightened level of hectoring emotion rather than debated in a measured and rational way. During the last century the destruction of the old academically selective Grammar Schools in England was an act of wanton barbarism wrought by a politically minded and vindictive educational establishment and pursued with the zeal of one-eyed revolutionaries everywhere. Yet it was these age-old institutions, often established many generations previously by royalty, the churches and local philanthropists, and which at no cost to families were open to all who could demonstrate they had the capacity to benefit from the rigorous and traditional curriculum, that provided the ladder of upward social mobility and personal fulfilment for so many children from the lower echelons of society.

The education class gradually became infected by a tangled skein of woolly progressive ideology, neo-Marxist spite and envy, post-modern nihilism and sheer self-interest in its own advancement, and would brook no opposition to its world view. Schools were now to be places of liberation, not of liberal education. In them the young must be “liberated” – from the demands of an intellectually taxing and subject-centred traditional curriculum, from insensitive competition which threatens self-esteem, from authoritarian teachers bent upon their indoctrination and disempowerment, and most certainly from the shackles of the Western cultural heritage which was of course inherently rotten, socially unjust and quite irrelevant to their personal and political needs.        

Throughout my life I have always seen schools fundamentally as places where children go to meet teachers. In them the transmission of knowledge, values and dispositions takes place in an orderly environment designed and set aside from the rest of society for that purpose. Their most valuable resource is a “little platoon” of educated men and women who are committed to the initiation of the young into the riches of the culture into which they are privileged to have been born and of which each generation is the proud and watchful guardian. They approach this daunting task with the humility of the English school-master Hector in Alan Bennet’s play The History Boys:

“Pass the parcel. That’s sometimes all you can do. Take it, feel it, and pass it on. Not for me, not for you, but for someone, somewhere, one day. Pass it on, boys. That’s the game I want you to learn. Pass it on.”

They are not swayed from their lofty calling by leaping upon the latest educational bandwagon which so often turns out to be a tumbrel. They know that teaching is both an art and a craft, and not a science. Teachers, well-read and well-educated people themselves, should be left to function according to their instinctual and inherited understanding of what works. The Austrian economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek argued that because the factors influencing human behaviour are myriad, beyond formulation and forever outside our understanding, central planning of the economy is unlikely to succeed and it is better left to the market to determine in its lumbering but responsive way the costs of goods and services. Similarly the “facts” of teaching are contained in countless transactions between generations past and present, wherever and whenever any well-intentioned person has sought to transmit information, ideas, and skills to young people for their betterment. It is beyond our capacity to codify in some theory of teaching the distillation of educational wisdom and experience inherent in all of these interactions, and so pedagogical theory and educational dogma are largely in vain, just as command economies invariably fail.

The responsibility of the leader of a school is to create the conditions under which teaching can take place, to enable teachers to be the best they can possibly be, for schools, by their very nature, are places of teaching first and learning second, and the link between the two is contingent, not conceptual. Young people learn from all sorts of agencies, their peers, their milieu, the media or the technological toys to which they are tethered much of their waking hours. But schools, in eschewing “relevance”, are their fall-out shelters from the tawdry, the distracting, the ephemeral and the parochial. It follows that places of education for the young must be deliberately artificial environments where good order and predictability prevail, and they must certainly not be slaves to the vicissitudes of popular culture. The judicious use of ritual and formality, in the dress code of staff and students, tastefully managed assemblies, respectful modes of interaction between teachers and pupils, underlines for all those involved that education is a most serious business even if some are as yet not mature enough to realise this. A complementary programme of co-curricular activities, and the involvement where possible of parents and former students, will help to create a genuine feeling of community and belonging, a first intimation perhaps of what the German philosopher Edmund Husserl called the lebenswelt, which gives meaning to our lives together and bestows on us a sense of home.

Teaching the young can be a most rewarding but desperately difficult calling. It is uphill even at the best of times. We cannot nor should we delude ourselves that we are engaged in some messianic quest to change the world. Most would be well pleased with the epitaph that George Eliot wrote for her heroine Dorothea at the end of Middlemarch:

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

For more content from Colin check out his portfolio for The Coolidge Review.

Thomas Sowell, the Alt-Right, and an Understandable Aversion to Labels

By Van Parkman

Thomas Sowell, one of the greatest conservative minds to gain prominence in the last half of the 20th century, recently said in a radio interview with Larry Elder that he did not think of himself as a conservative or a libertarian, or as belonging to any other particular political category. Instead, he asserted that he would rather reserve the freedom to call things as he sees them. I personally believe that existing under a conservative or a liberal heading does not exclude one from forming independent opinions; either a great or a horrible umpire, by reputation, may still make the claim, “I call ‘um as I see ‘um.” Being a liberal or a conservative is not about agreeing without question or qualification to every single policy or opinion that falls from the sacrosanct tree of knowledge of good and evil for the respective political category you fall into. Outside of religion there should be no such magical trees.

In point of fact, conservatism is both criticised for and partly defined by the great number of internal policy disputes. More conversation than ideology, conservatism is dynamic by nature. Prompting criticism from its opponents, conservatism is also deliberative and at times quite stubborn, as is known all too well by those of various temperaments dwelling under its banner. Political parties and affiliations by interest allow for the political relevance of priorities agreed upon by the greatest number of people through compromise on lesser priorities. Ideally these priorities find their source in opinion, research, circumstance, culture, religion, history, experience, and tradition on the right. By contrast, the left tends to entertain a few thoughts at a time, as their radar of abstract idealism grants immediate priority to the most emotionally evocative stories. Although they do not always have time to think about the stories in relation to a wider array of issues, they always have time to react. In practice this means that leftism is influenced more by popular culture, incensed rhetoric, Twitter, and Tumblr than the right has been in recent memory. This last election cycle has shown, however, that the left is losing its monopoly on reactionary politics. There are now incensed right-wing reactions to the perpetually incensed left-wing culture of reaction. There are now rigid reactions piled upon rigid reactions and those stacks of reactions are tipping over and shattering again and again, the fragmented pieces finding their way into every nook and cranny of American society.

Conversely, one might say that conservatism is the ideological equivalent to the legal checks and balances of the government itself. This analogy is built on the diversity of conservatism. Due to its hesitancy to play political games that divide society along lines of race and orientation, it doesn’t always appear diverse. But don’t judge a book by its cover: conservatism has many different voices and ideas within, and it often listens to those voices and ideas rather than using the people behind those voices as mere means to political ends. Some of these voices speak from the grave through religion or culture, having proved the relevance of their opinions over time. Because its ideas and wisdom transcend the anxiety of the now, there is no need for the clamour which accompanies the apparent diversity of the left. True diversity does not require a culturally, ethnically, or ideologically heterogeneous family in order to be heard quarreling by the neighbours each night; the only requirement for that is adolescent intolerance.

Even Thomas Sowell’s objection to being labelled is indicative of a conservative alignment. It shows that he is not dogmatically aligned with any particular ideology that promises enlightenment through adherence to universal abstractions. Clearly, Sowell does not get a self-righteous buzz from belonging to a particular group. Nor does it seem the case that he gets his kicks from being seen as the sole constituent of an elitist category beyond all other categories. His demeanor and disposition are not nearly so melodramatic. In fact, most of what Sowell believes and advocates for falls on what is broadly understood as the conservative side of political opinion. The label of “conservatism” does not describe an abstract ideology to which people subscribe after a relatively short period of indoctrination or enlightenment. The idea of conservatism stems from groups of people who became labelled as “conservative” only after centuries of approaching problems with at least a few shared cultural and political expectations and outlooks; they carried similar values, principles, and priorities rooted in a shared disposition which in turn was forged through shared cultural, political, and religious experiences.

That said, Sowell has the right to be a tad rebellious and reject labels if he so desires. As the most prominent black conservative in America, with a history of transcending labels and statuses, (which leftists, for the sake of the consistency of their narrative, need him to adhere to) his aversion to playing a game so characteristic of the far left is understandable. And perhaps there is wisdom in his aversion to being labelled. If conservatism becomes a label that is too easy to identify with or be identified by, a banner too easy to carry, or a set of dogmas too easy to adhere to, conservatism risks becoming an ideology for giddy gnostics. It ought to be, instead, based solidly within reality and on the wealth of experience which keeps cultures and minds independent of dogmatic ideology and of conveniently simplistic labels. As a substantive collection of people in the present who are in conversation with the past and future, conservatives live by a number of ideas. These ideas have slowly developed to maturity,  permeate society, and give character to a particular culture at a particular point in time. Yet now conservatism risks becoming a culture defined by the label attached to it by enemies within and without. Conservatism can be manipulated by its centralised leaders, its loudest advocates, or even its enemies who rejoice in labeling and defining it further. Driven by and easily defined by labels, it would become a conservatism flipped on its head; conservatives would be manufactured through ideological programing, rather than being born to a particular time, place, and attachments. Therefore, becoming too at ease with the label, rather than the complex combination of past events and ordered thought which led to the necessity of the category in the first place, creates the danger of transforming conservatism into a top-down leftist ideology such as Nazism or Stalinism (You’re likely thinking that Nazism is right-wing. You’re about 25% correct.). Conservatism properly understood is the opposite of that defined-by-creed-and-decree nonsense.

The alt-right learned everything he knows about his long absent and idealised father, Western civilisation, from the incensed derogatory labels overheard while living under the single-parent roof of leftism, Western civ’s noisy ex-wife. She was busy as always, repudiating her ex for being a white, patriarchal, oppressive racist. In reactionary rebellion against his mother, the alt-right proudly adorned himself in the labels worn by his impression of the estranged father. Never truly knowing his father, he wore those labels with adolescent pride and vitriol. Now the alt-right, having adopted the speech patterns of his mother, is obsessed with race, labels, and the systematic prioritisation of such superficial categories. The alt-right, like the left, reduces Western civilisation to a few superficial labels with neither side understanding the true importance of any civilisation. The alt-right is not conservative for the same fundamental reason that progressivism is not conservative; the alt-right is too easily defined by a simple set of beliefs and dogmas. It claims to have broadened the right’s base and to have made it relevant again. Such a broadening seems too convenient to be legitimate, and too easily achieved considering that it is gnostic and propositional in nature, with no apparent need to listen to a diverse array of voices nor any method by which to do so. The result is an idol made in the image of conservatism, whose deficiencies are blamed upon conservatism itself. The worshippers of this idol have prophets who conveniently interpret its will with fiery passion in no uncertain terms. The result is vulgarity, impropriety, and haste.

The far left, likewise, is quite dogmatic and as a result is also hypersensitive and noisy. The deplorable element within conservatism, though often headline material and a convenient political deflect, are quite a small percentage of the right-wing electoral base. Conversely, the essence of the mainstream left is constituted by the anatomical defects which produce their corresponding kin on the political right. Common emotions and sentiments are expressed as dogmas when translated into the self-righteous apathy of political abstraction so often mistaken for empathy. These dogmas are expressed in simplistic tried-and-failed policies under new names, the past futilities of which go unrecognised due to the left’s inability to detect anything beneath labels. This deficiency is shared by the alt-right. Labels are the only means by which shallow people can make sense of the world. Similarly, the alt-right grows the “conservative” base by feeding off of common emotions and circumstantial reactions. This behavior leads to immovable doctrines and policies, which stand in opposition to the traditional values, principles, and institutions of Western civilisation that conservatism is attempting to preserve. Instead of apathy through self-righteous abstraction in the guise of empathy, when the common sentiments of the alt-right are politicised they result in apathy through self-righteous abstraction in the guise of circumstantially justified fury. Both are blind “ends justify the means” approaches to political action: action which nevertheless affects human life in an objective world. This objective world is one that such shallow idealogues only observe through goggles of passive or aggressive disengagement. The former is obsessed with being or defending the victim and making the oppressors pay; the latter  is also obsessed with being or defending the victim and making the oppressors pay.  Especially where the alt-right is concerned, this new propositional, rather than dispositional, approach may be easily manipulated and magnified in the future by simply substituting one dogma or priority for another and sanctifying it with the blessing of a charismatic Führer. The alt-right relies too heavily on emotion, defends with pride the labels bequeathed to it by its opponents, and rejects the more gentile conservatism along with its self-vindicating stubbornness and cautionary elements that both the alt-right and progressives despise. If the gnostics have their way, all that will be left in America is knowledge versus knowledge and sets of dogmatic beliefs versus sets of dogmatic beliefs. That is to say, the pure subjective emotion of one perspective will be pitted against the pure subjective emotion of another perspective: but the minds of all involved are controlled and hijacked by Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil which lurks like a fungus within the best of us. Is it any wonder we are so politically divided?

In light of this, it would seem that the centuries-old leftist stratagem of drying out the mortar which stabilises our civilisation is finally coming to fruition, now raising its head in the extreme corners of politics. Progressives and alt-righters alike want the privilege of easily defining what old-hat conservatives are or should be. However, as long as we have people like Thomas Sowell with his understandable aversion to labels, we will always have a dynamic conservatism whose constituents are defined by their similar underlying dispositions rather than by labels born from shallow, predictable, and circumstantial outbursts of indignation derivative of uniform adherence to simplistic sets of dogmas.

No Country for Conservative Men

By Neil Molaison

With the very best of intentions the brave, free men of these United States have ceded a star spangled Vision for the very systems of the countries that those early pioneers and pilgrims left behind. In the figure of Mr. Coolidge stands the last vestige of a passing era, nearly forgotten in the pages of history. He stands quiet and resolute before the turning of the times, before the deal was new, before the society was great, and before health insurance was a human right.

Conservative principles, e.g. limited government, separation of powers, and sound monetary policy have each had their turn at being chipped away. There are a legion of reasons for this slow decline, and each passing generation has come with a new cause to champion, another compromise to bring ‘progress’ to our system.

The citizens need jobs, why not fund projects?  The security of the American worker is at risk, what will happen when they retire? Do we not care about your future, don’t we want a social security to rely on when we are old? And what of our health? Surely we will want to stay healthy! Our children are in need of education, why not form a federal bureaucracy to oversee this? The banks and moneyed interests are failing, and the lobbyists are demanding a solution. Is bailing out these companies not in the public’s best interest? We cannot leave any children behind, and these institutions and companies are far too big to just let them flounder in an unregulated market!

Don’t we care about the old, the poor, the children, the worker, the student, or the immigrant? If the government can provide a solution what kind of misanthropic miser must one be to withhold one’s wholehearted support or vote?

Compassion is indeed a powerful motivator, and if the charitable giving figures of the U.S. are any indication there is much to be said about the generosity of the average American. Conservatives have always seemed to struggle with one particular clarification when arguing their case: that though there may be a true need in society, it is not necessarily the place of the State to oversee the meeting of that need. Mr. Coolidge, through his marked lack of interference, seemed to understand this even if later conservative figures have not.

Particularly in this most recent election cycle, the true conservative is left without many champions for the cause. Senator Paul of Kentucky has most recently been assuming that mantle in regards to budget reform, living out a recommendation of Mr. Coolidge himself, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” Only time will tell if there is yet room in the American political landscape for true conservative principles.

The Budget That Could Have Repealed Obamacare

By Brewer Arnoult

In the days leading up to the Senate’s decision to repeal Obamacare, Republicans and the media told us that a 10-year budget plan was the best “vehicle” to repeal Obamacare. Were they right? Yes.

Like it or not, Senators are legally prohibited from filibustering budget “reconciliations” under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Thus, no filibuster–and therefore 60-vote requirement–could have blocked Obamacare repeal or a fiscally conservative budget. With a 52-member majority, this route was truly the “fast track”, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell coined it, to repealing Obamacare and saving our country from sky-high insurance premiums. Also, these 52 Republicans could save our country from a debt crisis by writing in whatever numbers they want. We should celebrate first.

What a beautiful and diabolical way to kick off the new anti-establishment conservative era: Republicans can get rid of Obamacare and balance the budget, and here is a grand slam bill that only required support from 51 of 52 Republicans. Blissfully, we remind Democrats that after all, Obamacare was first imposed on our country via a budget reconciliation; it is only fitting to get rid of it the same way. Conservatives chuckle.

Conservatives held every ounce of the power. With nothing else to do, Democrat leadership held a solemn “Make America Sick Again” cry rally  to lament over the likely loss of Medicaid expansion, the individual mandate, and (at least Bernie’s honest here) the planned transition to socialist healthcare. They also know that Republicans have sole control of the budget, and Republicans will set the tone for the next 10 years of spending. No one can stop the Republicans from balancing the budget besides themselves.

To repeat, Senators: no one can stop the Republicans from bringing the deficit from $500 billion per year to $0 per year. Better yet, Republicans can start creating budget surpluses by cutting entitlements, all while paying less interest on the debt and creating room in the budget for Trump’s much-needed tax plan. With a responsible budget, we can give back billions in stolen money to American businesses and workers, saving thousands of jobs and allowing the economy to grow again. This Republican-owned budget can be the capitalist springboard for the slowly-recovering American economy.

Thankfully, difficult math or difficult logistics and implementation isn’t stopping them either. It is simply “just numbers”, as Senator Rand Paul parroted Republican leadership in his protest speech against Senate Concurrent Resolution 3, which sets the standard for federal spending and taxing from 2017 to 2026. The majority of S. Con. Res. 3’s text consists of lists outlining “appropriate” spending and taxing levels, and here is what the conservative majority came up with:

“(4) DEFICITS.—For purposes of the enforcement of this resolution, the amounts of the deficits are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $582,574,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $541,560,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $673,600,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $728,659,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $785,164,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $897,085,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $892,854,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: $863,233,000,000. Fiscal year 2025: $946,057,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: $1,008,577,000,000.”

“(5) PUBLIC DEBT.—Pursuant to section 301(a)(5) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 632(a)(5)), the appropriate levels of the public debt are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $20,034,788,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $20,784,183,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $21,625,729,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $22,504,763,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $23,440,271,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $24,509,421,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $25,605,527,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: $26,701,273,000,000. Fiscal year 2025: $27,869,175,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: $29,126,158,000,000.”

Yes, you read that right. It never plans to balance, fully intending to keep us on the unsustainable path of fiscal irresponsibility and add more than $9 trillion to the debt. What is worse, however, and mentioned less often: this fully plans to increase taxes, rather than cut them and fulfill every Senate Republican’s campaign promise.

“(A) The recommended levels of Federal revenues are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $2,682,088,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $2,787,834,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $2,884,637,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $3,012,645,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $3,131,369,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $3,262,718,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $3,402,888,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: $3,556,097,000,000.

Fiscal year 2025: $3,727,756,000,000.
Fiscal year 2026: $3,903,628,000,000.”
Thus, smelling the hypocrisy of a Republican majority raising taxes and spending, Republican Senator Rand Paul proposed a replacement which simply listed lower numbers, outlining a plan to balance before 2026:
“(4) Deficits.–For purposes of the enforcement of this resolution, the amounts of the deficits are as follows: Fiscal year 2017: $582,570,000,000.
Fiscal year 2018: $477,050,000,000.
Fiscal year 2019: $409,980,000,000.

Fiscal year 2020: $314,540,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $232,080,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $140,670,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $41,860,000,000. Fiscal year 2024: -$68,390,000,000. Fiscal year 2025: -$191,380,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: -$314,150,000,000.”

Sen. Paul’s plan, S. Amdt. 1 to S. Con. Res. 3, still waits for 8 years to balance the budget, slightly decreasing spending at slow rate of around $100 billion per year until arriving at a small budget surplus in 2024. Frankly, this is a weak plan from a conservative’s standpoint, especially considering that no Democrat votes are required to pass this budget. A moderate plan at best, this bill still adds more than $7 trillion to the debt:
“(5) Public debt.–Pursuant to section 301(a)(5) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (2 U.S.C. 632(a)(5)), the appropriate levels of the public debt are as follows:

Fiscal year 2017: $20,034,790,000,000. Fiscal year 2018: $20,719,451,000,000. Fiscal year 2019: $21,326,280,000,000. Fiscal year 2020: $22,018,470,000,000. Fiscal year 2021: $22,775,170,000,000. Fiscal year 2022: $23,596,110,000,000. Fiscal year 2023: $24,553,462,050,000. Fiscal year 2024: $25,523,091,900,000. Fiscal year 2025: $26,431,371,000,000. Fiscal year 2026: $27,445,091,000,000.”

Nonetheless, this was an improvement. Did it also plan to “raise revenues”, or increase taxes? Yes, and at the exact same rate as the first bill. Sen. Paul’s amendment was simply to show that a balanced budget can be done. Also, no one could fear that grandmas would be thrown off of cliffs, or that the military would run out of bombs, for Paul’s amendment didn’t even touch Social Security, Medicare, or military spending.

Now, we know that all Republican Senators, besides Sen. Paul, agreed to pass the spending bill to repeal Obamacare and intentionally not balance the budget, with a 51-48  vote. But who agreed to the moderate conservative proposal to repeal Obamacare and balance the budget?

“YEAs —14
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Daines (R-MT)
Flake (R-AZ)
Kennedy (R-LA)
Lankford (R-OK)
Lee (R-UT)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sasse (R-NE)
Scott (R-SC)
Toomey (R-PA)”

Both bills planned to repeal Obamacare. However, only 14 Republican Senators prefer a fiscally conservative budget over a liberal one. We need a conservative majority.

For more information on Brewer and his work, check out his portfolio for The Coolidge Review.

Protestors Too Loud to See Themselves

By Jerry Molaison

Watching the ascent of Donald Trump to the presidency is amusing on several fronts. Foremost is Donald Trump calling out his fellow billionaire class for the frauds most of them are, the Fabian crowd who mouth free market platitudes but are petty socialists at heart.
Then we see the true believers, those who are protesting and marching for LGBT rights, women’s rights, and human rights but really have no concept of what exactly is meant by rights, which is admittedly an abstract concept, but at least you would think they could comprehend the term choice.
Historically, Susan B. Anthony and other prim and proper ladies marched for the right to vote. They also marched in favor of temperance and prohibition, but that didn’t work out too well. From that moral high mark in the 20th century, the concept of women’s rights seems to have devolved into the worship of unlimited abortion and the call for ‘free’ contraception, which is more a rejection of motherhood and responsibility than an assertion of independence.
All their slogans and chanting about Trump being a fascist and Hitler amount to what is called, psychologically, a projection. The Nazis killed innocent lives. The abortionists do the same with unborn children. The marchers all support Obamacare. Socialized health care and compulsory insurance began under Imperial Germany and were expanded to become major parts of the National Socialist regime. In essence, the Planned Parenthood brown shirts and those others who “felt the Bern” are scapegoating President Trump with their own un-American philosophical premises. Their ignorance and duplicity are as palpable as a paper mill.
We forget that, for 150 years, freedom in the United States meant a rejection of the concepts of income taxation, welfare, economic regulation, and Social Security. With the adoption of Obamacare in the 21st century, the United States became exactly like Castro’s Cuba, sharing in the ‘blessings’ of income taxation, welfare, economic regulation, social security, and socialized medicine. It is no wonder Obama opened diplomatic relations.
Trump called out the socialists and interventionists. Maybe we can remember what rights and freedom truly are and the corollaries that follow from their correctly defined premises. Restoring Liberty to its rightful understanding would definitely make America great again.