132 Comments
Mar 11·edited Mar 11Liked by Richard Hanania

Agreed. I have spent a large part of my time in the last years in Saudi Arabia. Noticing that even there, the "hearts and minds" of the young were with liberalism, wealth and freedom put the nail in the coffin of social conservatism for me. If a popular absolute monarchy with sharia law in the heart of Islam cannot pull it off, who can? I think really the only way might be to go full Taliban, luring a backwards population into a state of paranoia and economic misery.

Also, the Middle East is full of prostitution, gambling, gay Filipino tea boys that provide a variety of services, etc. The Saudi youth goes to Bahrain to sniff coke, gamble and fuck Moroccan escorts. I think the actual bulwark against the acceptance of visiting prostitutes is feminism. In Northern Europe it's considered very low-class, women would condemn you and you would feel obliged to be honest and open to your future wife. In the Middle East your buddies applaud you, and you don't really concern yourself with the opinions of women, nor be honest to them.

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I have a complicated relationship with liberalism, too. On the one hand, the arguments of the likes of Richard Pipes on its inherent drive towards systems such as socialism, and the fundamental wrongness of its view that Man can be perfected, still strike me as unimpechable. On the other, the sheer boon and benefits in material abundance and human happiness that liberal society has developed cannot be dismissed either. Not just for personal comfort, but for the practical benefits of wealth and power leading to technological development and increased security and physical wellbeing.

It's hard managing this uncertainty, but such is the burden of life. If these were easy problems, they would've been solved by now.

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"On the other, the sheer boon and benefits in material abundance and human happiness that liberal society has developed cannot be dismissed either."

It has produceed material abundance, but not happiness. The Anglosphere countries come out as among the worst in measures of mental wellbeing, and some relatively poor countries like Tanzania come out far ahead.

"Altogether this suggests that greater wealth and economic development does not necessarily lead to greater mental wellbeing, but instead can lead to consumption patterns and a fraying of social bonds that are detrimental to our ability to thrive. This cautions strongly against purely focusing on economic metrics as measures of human progress and wellbeing. Rather attention must be paid to how wealth is created and used to drive a path of holistic prosperity that is aligned with human wellbeing."

https://sapienlabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/4th-Annual-Mental-State-of-the-World-Report.pdf

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There's too many other variables to consider. Namely, our ideological turn towards social-justice leftism, which encourages profound self-hatred among the majority of the populous, and an even deeper dissatisfaction among an even wider segment of society for our missalocation of human capital and the constant lies we insist must both be upheld as truth and used as models to re-organize our society around.

Granted, when I said "like socialism", social-justice leftism, or wokism, was the first example I was thinking of as an inevitable endproduct of liberalism. Pipes would not be surprised at this development, as he predicted the rise of the welfare state, though in many ways an inevitable byproduct of the rise in awareness of the prevelance of poverty and the conditions to which it's reached, has been absolutely crippling to the protection of property rights, and from big government.

I still don't see why measures can't or shouldn't be taken to alleviate poverty with a negative-income tax. Nor why we can't have both material abundance and strong human happiness. Though I'm open to looking further into it, and am not nearly as favorable towards liberalism as Richard; I'm by no means an aesthetic, and I certainly know I myself would rather have more than less.

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> and the fundamental wrongness of its view that Man can be perfected

Is this necessary for liberalism? The capitalist wing is betting on improved incentives that increasingly make perfection unnecessary. And that's the part of liberalism that has been the most beneficial to society so far, so I'm not sure why we let the Puritans speak for the whole concept.

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Liberalism, at least as it exists today, maintains ideals of "one person, one vote" and a broad swath of "inalienable rights" which apply equally to everyone just for existing. I think this gives people a sense that everyone is supposed to be the same, so when they see unequal outcomes, they perceive it as inherently unfair, instead of accepting the reality that some people are just better than others.

Acknowledging that innate differences exist and matter creates cognitive dissonance with the liberal tenets that everyone should have the same rights, the same vote, etc. Perhaps this is where the imperative to "perfect mankind" comes from--liberals often see things like poverty and racial disparities as problems that must be solved, rather than baked-in features of reality which are no more worthy of attention than the fact that the sky is blue every day.

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That’s not the point , social conservatives policies is to manage society not the individuals own personal ideas , degeneracy was a thing in 50s america yet gay marriage wasn’t , that’s a state saying this is what’s gonna be promoted nationwide. Northern Europe have all the feminist shit libs claim is needed yet the birth rates are in the gutter while Israel system is the opposite of a liberal democracy and the birth rates are good and Israel also doesn’t have gay marriage. A society passing conservatives policies is not gonna make everyone conservative but the worst aspects of liberalism is not being promoted at the state level. Saudi Arabia or Iran aren’t worried about trans hormones in kids , their main worried as u describe is prostitution or alcoholism or infedelity , I’m sure American cons would love to have those issues. So yes Iran , Saudi Arabia and Israel had successeded actually , their people don’t believe men can be women unlike many people in liberal countries. Everything u mention the Saudi youth does is not really something most conservatives actually care about , all of it existed in the 50s but they also didn’t have to see a pride flag every 5 seconds , saudis Arabia youth agent annoyed by it

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Iran performs tons of sex change surgeries. They think they can turn men into women to "cure" homosexuality.

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Of course Saudi Arabia is on the whole more conservative than the West. However, it’s moving to liberalism, with all its accompanying benefits and ills. I don’t think it will have a “trans issue” anytime soon, but birthrates are falling, hedonism is dominant, etc. It might end up where Singapore or Korea is right now in terms of mores. You could argue that’s better than the West, the question is whether it’s really worth the accompanying oppression, especially if it does not create any high birthrates.

And yeah, the oppression is real. Political dissidence and freedom of speech are ruthlessly shut down. Domestic violence is comparatively high. A lot of the fun and freedom that in the West provide a counterbalance to the 9-5 is absent. But yeah, they dont have trans..

Maybe social conservatives should ask themselves - are you actually willing to send the morality police to shut down the illegal techno party and arrest people for dancing? If not, are you willing to more broadly apply cost/benefit-analysis to your social conservatism.

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I think we can probably ban trans stuff without also banning dance parties. Seems like it should be manageable. I haven't met many social conservatives who want to ban dancing. And, would I be willing to send the police to shut things down? Some of this stuff, absolutely, such as "drag queen story hour." I'd be completely fine with the cops arresting those people. If we can't even get rid of something that egregious, then it really calls into question what is the point of engaging in politics at all.

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The problem for you guys is that all the people who organize dance parties end up being OK w/ the trans stuff or whatever general degeneracy you dislike in the long run, and this is true if you go back even to Weimar or whatever.

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I don't think that's true. People who go to dance parties mostly just want to dance. They aren't political enough to get all that upset about trans stuff one way or the other. Culture wars fought by activists are background noise for them, if even that.

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How can you use the extreme example of Saudi Arabia standing in for all social conservatism as the basis of all your criticisms of it? Saudi Arabia isn’t conservative as it is fanatical, austere and rigid. Why not mention Hungary or China?

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Yeah, countries that sexually repress are some of the weirdest. Japan is the height of sexual repression in public and those weirdos have vending machines for used underwear.

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Don't the Netherlands & Germany have legalized prostitution? I didn't think they were lacking in feminism.

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We do, but its not actually popular. The red light district is filled with tourists, mostly. Among normal Dutchmen, and especially the educated public, prostitution is a no go, and way less common or visible than in the Middle East.

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Heidi Fleiss and Elliott Spitzer type prostitution is more common among the educated elite in the Netherlands, Germany, and even more so in Switzerland. Even this though is heavily frowned upon in Sweden. Also a factor say in why Sweden and Switzerland have such different attitudes about prostitution is that Switzerland is a less egalitarian and less feminist country where its more more acceptable for well off males to simply be able to buy whatever they want(Switzerland BTW, has the highest per capita income in Europe).

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Mar 11·edited Mar 11

I largely agree with all your sentiments, but one thing I want to add is there is reason to be optimistic. Although liberal societies do allow all types of weirdos and liars to exist, once in a while you get someone exceptional like Elon Musk (save for his rightoid antics) and Taylor Swift who can inspire a generation.

Like consider Taylor - She is smart, beautiful, hard-working, intelligent, relatively normal- all the attributes you could want in a role model. If things keep going as they are currently, she may also end up being an exemplar for marriage and motherhood. And the beauty of the cultural-capital machine is that in a few years, we will probably have a new role model, so even if Taylor decides to go cuckoo like Kanye, it won't be the downfall of society. The liberal capitalist system is anti-fragile as well.

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Isn’t she highly liberal.

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I don't see how Taylor has actually made a difference. There's a certain amount of mindshare, and she happens to have grabbed it, but I don't see evidence she causes her fans to behave differently than they would if she'd never become a star and someone else was taking her place.

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On the one hand, Richard makes some valid points. Social conservative politics as presently constituted have failed, and I say this as a Christian and social conservative, who still thinks abortion is evil. The unmodified political ideas of yesteryear won’t work any longer.

Social liberalism is more compelling to people everywhere. There was a technological shock to the system, and where social conservatism hasn’t yet been destroyed by it, it’s on life support and on the way out.

Of course, the seeds of social liberalism’s failure are also seen in its fruit: the collapse of the family and of fertility. Note that this is happening nearly everywhere, even in more conservative societies, because key sectors of the population (at minimum, young women) have been won over to it (Korea as Exhibit A).

At some point, it’s a mathematical certainty that fertility will return, and it may involve more heavy-handed means of promoting the family and suppressing libertinism than what the West is currently comfortable with. But it won’t look like the old, failed methods of doing so, and it will have much more elite support than social conservatism has today. It also may or may not be Christian in character.

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The issue is that social conservatism relies on having a society - a network of people who are related to and know each-other. Social liberalism relies on the individual. You can have social conservatism when everyone has 6 children and marries their cousins or people from the next village and never goes anywhere, because people always have several other people who can help solve their problems.

But when people have 2 or no children, and have them later when grandparents are elderly and frail and uncles and aunties have moved far away, and live in a big city, they have no network of family and village to rely on, so they naturally focus on themselves as individuals - they've got no-one else to rely on except the state.

You cannot have social conservatism in a single room apartment in a skyscraper building in a city of ten million.

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I've read some research that argues that it isn't liberalism or conservatism that lowers fertility, it is perfectionism. The key factor depressing fertility is the belief that you will irrevocably screw up your kids unless you expend a colossal amount of time and effort on raising them. Perfectionism is currently correlated with liberalism, but probably because both it and liberalism are associated with education, rather than it being inherently liberal.

Promoting the family will not work if the families being promoted think that they need to have fewer children in order to devote all their effort to getting them perfect. It doesn't matter whether their definition of "perfection" involves raising perfectly intersectional yuppies or making sure all their kids go to church and are virgins when they are married.

Suppressing libertinism may have actually worsened the fertility rate, a large amount of the fertility crash may have been caused by a reduction in unplanned pregnancy. This is probably a net good since unplanned pregnancies have other negative effects, but it's not clear that libertinism causes a lowering in fertility.

I think that in general, the way to deal with the fertility crisis is to declare war on perfectionism and to help people understand that their children will turn out fine if they just do the bare minimum. Fertility may return with social conservatism, but it's also possible that some kind of laid-back, hippie-style liberalism may be what restores it. Or perhaps both philosophies will emerge in the future, with the result that the archetypical liberals will be anti-materialistic flower children again instead of striving PMEs.

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I linked to Robin Hanson's "Recalibrating Respect" in another comment here, and one area where I disagreed was in pointing out that conservatives failed to conserve. Perhaps the usually over-flattering message that they were overly tolerant of their enemies is correct in their case, but they've already been defeated so they can't make use of that lesson. The ones who have a chance of succeeding are too unplugged to pay attention.

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I resonate deeply with this, and completely agree. Thanks for sharing.

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I would say there is straightforward evidence that "commodifying sexuality" (widely interpreted) in combination with the Internet is damaging the formation of long-term relationships in our society.

The writeup doesn't seem to address the most salient point: there's likely an evolutionary reason for socially conservative ideas that appear in broad swathes of the population or across cultures. The appeals to "higher-order" effects are just attempts to reverse engineer what it might be.

I think the burden of proof is on--or at least shared by--the person trying to overturn the instinct. Just because Holland has euthanasia doesn't mean we can do an analysis on Holland and immediately see the negative effects (if there are any). Beliefs have to be compatible not only with well-being in the present, but with the long-term survival of the believers. There are lots of examples where the "higher-order" (evolutionary) reason for the gut reaction is obvious... like not sending your women to fight in wars.

This post about high IQ people starting trends that are crippling to the below-average masses also stands out:

https://twitter.com/CEBKCEBKCEBK/status/1747298554765336870

Of course, not all socially conservative ideas have a useful function, and you can never prove that there isn't one you missed. But I think the people in charge ought to be thinking hard about all the changes they make to society, instead of just doing stuff, checking if the consequences will hurt them personally in the next 10 minutes, throwing some census data into Excel, and calling it a day.

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Mar 11·edited Mar 11Author

"The writeup doesn't seem to address the most salient point: there's likely an evolutionary reason for socially conservative ideas that appear in broad swathes of the population or across cultures."

And there's also a consistent finding that smart people move away from those instincts as their societies develop.

Evolution is often not a good guide to the modern world because things change.

My favorite example: anti-euthanasia made sense without modern medicine, when we didn't know who would recover from an illness and people in bad shape would die anyway. When modern medicine can bankrupt the state to keep you living through machines for decades with zero quality of life, anti-euthanasia becomes grotesque.

One could make a similar argument with prostitution, back when we couldn't stop unplanned pregnancies and venereal disease. Society had an interest in stopping promiscuity. Not so much anymore.

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"And there's also a consistent finding that smart people move away from those instincts as their societies develop."

So? Smart people merely adopt the views that they think other smart people hold. "Smart" people in the 1930's thought communism was the future and Stalin was going to transform the world for good.

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There are two instincts: the individual desire to do (or be free to do) a thing, and the collective check against it. Smart people often pick the former, but they seldom give reasons for overriding the latter. My argument is only that it must be addressed, which you did here, and which I hadn't seen you do in previous posts about euthanasia. Although I'm not sure this reason applies to the case of healthy people with psych issues.

People factor modern technology into their decisions, with high-IQ people coming out ahead. Unintended pregnancy is up among poor women, even though it is down among wealthy women.

The real "second order" consideration is that all feelings and motivations are still based on evolved instincts. We can prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease, but the human consequences of rape and infidelity remain. Not to get too Kaczynski about it, but much of human well-being just revolves around feeling well-adapted to a world we aren't living in. I agree changes to society can be justified in a wide range of cases, but the discourse often sounds like the change-pushers are impatiently trying to reason their way into a cookie jar.

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If states actually got bankrupted via medical spending, then cultural group selection would cause that belief to become uncommon. It hasn't quite happened yet, though the UK may be nearing it. But individuals moving toward liberalism seems to be an example of Scott Alexander's "Asymmetric Weapons Gone Bad". https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/06/asymmetric-weapons-gone-bad/

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The older I get the more dissappointed I am when I see 'us' in the West persist in casually strawmanning the beliefs of hundreds of millions of people with a few sample statements and a few choice quotes. I see this 'othering' as a universal blindspot and the most significant precondition for genocide across time and culture. More so than any particular ideology. It's not that I think you're acting in bad faith, you're not. You're making an attempt at understanding and that's worth your time and mine.

But what is it that causes the 'Western Liberal' mind set to consistently bundle conservatives and catholics and protestants and evangelicals and flyover baptists farmer in the same category? They don't reason the same way, not about abortion or euthanasia or politics. Neither do they act out their beliefs the same way or for the same reason. The question is why would smart people assume they do? And what sort of understanding do we think we will come to if we make these assumptions?

The reality is we can't steelman euthanasia or abortion without using Canada as the case study. Canada makes John Paul II arguments seem like an instruction manual. We are now arguing for assisted suicide for the drug addled child, while we distribute fentanyl to children, without parents' permission. We have only delayed our program to suicide the infirm, the slow, the homeless and the depressed - after we made living unaffordable and drugs free - for lack of doctors who want to participate. Two years ago we made the non-vaccinated shop from behind plexiglass cages as our leaders discussed 'what to do with these people' on daytime TV. The culture of death is abstract until it comes for your neighbor, as it has mine. The point is not to dig deeper into the facts and case studies, but to open your heart and use the opinions of large swaths of a population as a signal in these data - there just might be something underneath that is true. With that assumption we can order our questions around a hypothesis for this blaring signal. It will get us far closer to realities of life and death than conflating baptists, with catholics with Trump voters and I believe it just may save civilization in the West.

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Using Korea here is intellectual poison

- You might as well use it to argue that there is no negative correlation between being right wing and being a mask-wearing freak. No, it’s just that being Asian overrules all these things! Everything about the East Asian parenting and childhood experience is obsessive and neurotic so of course the second they can not have kids (ie modernity makes them wealthier), they stop having kids! It’s not rocket science.

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I agree. And you can compare Korea to other East Asian countries and see it’s both more trad and less fertile, which proves the point.

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Touché, I guess It might've implied that. On the same theme I was about to cite the working hours disparity between Japan (1,626 hours) and South Korea (1904 hours) as a far more parsimonious explanation but then realized that the Taiwanese work even more (2028 hours) and still have a higher fertility rate.

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No it doesn't, anymore than pointing to the rosters of D1 Women's basketball teams proves that men are no taller than women.

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Edit needed: “If I *was* [were] convinced that there were laws that could predictably lead to these outcomes that didn’t involve totalitarian methods, I could perhaps be talked into supporting them.”

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Everyone switches that 'were' to 'was' in modern syntax, sadly.

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It begs the question why they could care less.

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fewer

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Lol this is the wittiest comment I've seen on the internet in a long time

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A losing battle I guess. 😃

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Interesting piece. I believe that in politics today, most policy positions are appeals to raw emotion, feelings, and ideology, not rooted in logic or reason.

I think we see this in the contradictions that you highlight here.

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"I believe that in politics today, most policy positions are appeals to raw emotion, feelings, and ideology, not rooted in logic or reason."

There's been an age in wich it was different?

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Maybe not!

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Another person who thinks human beings are 100% rational 100% of the time.

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Mar 12·edited Mar 14

I’m reminded of a recent post I saw about most people aren’t libertarians, something to the effect of how most people, whether they are on the left or the right, want and expect the law to serve the function of affirming moral values, declaring them to be the values of the society.

I think it’s a fair point that many, maybe even most, policies fail to achieve their stated aims, and often do more harm than good.

OTOH…despite my liberal temperament and liberal background, I’ve more and more come to see the wisdom of socially conservative instincts…

Actually I’m a little confused what you’re saying on this point… You agree with social conservative preferences, but don’t believe there are rational consequentialist justifications for them? Or you agree they have better personal/social outcomes, but don’t think legislation is usually effective at promoting them?

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I think he refers to the last one.

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I'm not sure you explicitly point this out, but one way of looking at it is that the Pope can be right about creating a culture of life through laws on abortion and euthanasia, but the effect size may be so small that it's almost irrelevant. So for instance, if having euthanasia laws perhaps make a society 0.3% more militaristic but a society being more liberal makes it 22% less militaristic, capitalism makes it 12% less militaristic, etc. In such a situation, the Pope can be technically correct but it's such a small difference that it's not even worth worrying about.

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This is where I veer away from social conservatives. I have 0 problems with euthanasia as long as a person isn't being pressured and I don't think it's anyone's business. On abortion, I think it should be legal up to 16 weeks. At 17 weeks, the fetus can feel pain so I don't think we should be allowed to inflict pain. The part of social conservatism I wholeheartedly agree with has to do with family-orientation. Over and over again, kids with the best outcomes come from 2 parent households. That's where the focus should be, creating a culture of marriage and family and rewarding those people, not the other way around. I also agree with you on haircuts.

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"On abortion, I think it should be legal up to 16 weeks. At 17 weeks, the fetus can feel pain so I don't think we should be allowed to inflict pain."

If we go up to an infant and shoot it in the head with a large-caliber rifle, the infant will surely feel no pain, dying instantaneously. Why is it then wrong to do this? Since, as you say, it inflicts no pain.

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I don't agree with that. It will feel pain, no matter how brief.

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We could certainly argue that point, as the death will occur in a briefer timespan than the human mind is capable of perceiving. But if you really want to go down this route of deflection, suppose that we dose baby's bottle with a bit of morphine, just enough to put him to sleep. Then we dose him with a lot of morphine, enough that he doesn't wake up. No pain! Voila! I assume you would accept this as a moral means by which to dispose of unwanted infants?

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I am not trying to deflect. I just have limited time for arguments. It's not personal. I'm assuming you are pro-life from the moment of conception? I respect your position. I used to have the same one. It's not that I advocate abortion. I am more in line with President Clinton in that there should be few and they should be rare. However, I know that sometimes people get raped, family members molest, 13 year olds get pregnant, women who will do drugs the entire time get pregnant, people who can't take care of themselves (including the mentally disabled) get pregnant. Even more than that, I think the government should be as small as possible. They really shouldn't be weighing in on people's personal lives, period. It is between that person and their maker, and thankfully I have not been assigned their judge. And, just for good measure, trying to make an argument that a fully born infant, breathing on their own, crying on their own, with needs and feelings is somehow the same thing as a fetus not fully formed at 16 weeks or less is just a complete breakdown of equivalents.

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"I am not trying to deflect. I just have limited time for arguments."

Don't you think you should try and at least have an argument that sort of makes sense and doesn't instantly collapse when lightly poked, though? Or you could just say "my position isn't based on logic or reason, it's just how I feel, shrug." That's honest, it's a lot better in my opinion than trying to lean on hyper-flimsy copes. Like this one:

"Even more than that, I think the government should be as small as possible."

But surely you think the government has a role in policing the murder of children, at the very least?

"And, just for good measure, trying to make an argument that a fully born infant, breathing on their own, crying on their own, with needs and feelings is somehow the same thing as a fetus not fully formed at 16 weeks or less is just a complete breakdown of equivalents."

An infant and a fully independent adult are also extremely different. If I take the position that it's okay to kill infants, and you ask me why, would you find it convincing if I replied with "trying to make an argument that a fully independent adult, living on their own, working on their own, with responsibilities and obligations is somehow the same thing as an infant not fully grown at 16 months or less is just a complete breakdown of equivalents?"

Again, if your belief is based on feelings and you admit that you don't have time for arguments, that's okay, to a certain extent. Just say that. Don't embarrass yourself with really really bad attempts at arguments.

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I was under the impression I was speaking to someone with common sense. That's my mistake.

To strawman is to argue against a position that is not actually your opponent’s position, without acknowledging the manoeuvre. For example, I might say, “I think transgender status and sex should be protected separately under anti-discrimination law,” and my opponent might respond, “This person thinks transgender people don’t deserve anti-discrimination protections, and she’s wrong because…” When you strawman a person’s argument, you’re creating a caricatured version of it that you can more easily refute. This is an intellectually dishonest tactic that prevents any real conversation from taking place.

You don't seem to understand actual debate. Nor do you want an answer. You are using childishly manipulated arguments by arguing that fully formed human beings are the same as unformed fetuses.

If you're gonna quote me, stop taking little pieces out.

I stand by everything I said. I meant it. I still mean it. I'm just done wasting time with you. Please feel free to continue to scream into the void. I won't be here.

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" I have 0 problems with euthanasia as long as a person isn't being pressured and I don't think it's anyone's business."

Ah yes, let's just let a bunch of depressed people off themselves because of "muh liberty." Same for the human refuse lining our urban areas drugging themselves to death.

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The human refuse is actually a problem because they are affecting the lives of citizens. I don't care what other people do if it doesn't affect them or the people in their household. And, none of it should be done in public. As for depressed people, there should probably be an age around 30 before permitted just because the brain isn't fully developed until mids 20's unless their health prognosis is such that it is painful for them to live a few more years or months. I come to this decision based on a couple of things: 1. It's not the job of the State to keep us alive if we don't want to be alive. Many attempt suicide and live with horrendous consequences. But, more than that, I'll tell you about a specific instance. My nephew's head was caught in childbirth in such a way that he was deprived of oxygen for too long. He had enough brain cells left to allow breathing. Not eating, not swallowing, not thinking, but he could still grow. He had seizures everyday for 14 years. He grew and had to have surgeries on his spine because the spine grew faster than his head and limbs. He was in a crooked, extremely painful position. He had to be showered and rotated every other day, even when he was so heavy (he couldn't help) that my sister couldn't lift him alone. He moaned, he couldn't cry, but he laid there day in and day out and he moaned. We wonderful "humans" wouldn't allow a pet to suffer that way. We would do the humane thing and end their misery. But, no. We can't do that to people, so he spent 14 long years in immeasurable pain and suffering. Why? Because it's illegal to euthanize. My heart is breaking as I write this, even.

2. I live daily with chronic pain. Nothing like the above example, but I do. It is exhausting and with the crackdown on opioids, I get no relief. So, I get to live a longer life without as much quality. Now, I love my life. I have kids and a husband that I love more than myself or my comfort. And, I live a pretty good existence. However, if I were to grow older, become a burden (my worst nightmare), and still be in pain (probably worse over the years), I would like the option available to exit gracefully on my own terms. Maybe with my soul mate, my husband. There is no reason whatsoever I can think of to force people to withstand pain, loss of function, loss of intellect, loss of autonomy, etc. for the sake of? Easing the public conscience? No. Not me.

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I agree to an extent that a lot of online right wingers are angry and want to yell about something, so they over-focus on certain things that are easy for them to yell about.

The correct argument on abortion doesn't rely on anything to do with "second order effects." I think it wouldn't be too difficult to do the same with prostitution, if one were to make the effort. I feel pretty sure that if you look into rates of drug abuse, suicide, mental health issues, etc., among "sex workers," it doesn't paint a pretty picture. The easiest anti-prostitution argument might be that it's simply bad for the women that do it, in a similar way that abusing drugs is bad for drug addicts.

This is possibly a different argument from whether the government should ban it or not. Maybe we can sit here and say that the government banning the activity is more trouble than it's worth. At the same time, I think any sane parent, if given the choice, would prefer that their daughter not engage in prostitution, just the same as any parent, if given the choice, would prefer that their child never does heroin. If my kid does go on OnlyFans or shoot up dope, maybe they will be okay in spite of that, but maybe they won't be. And I know for sure that they'll be okay without those things. That's the conservative intuition.

"Second, I’m not totally unsympathetic to all aspects of social conservatism as a cultural project. I think most people should have monogamous marriages at an early age, create a lot of children, refrain from getting tattoos, have hairstyles appropriate for their sex, and not go to Aella’s gang bangs."

I think the ways in which prostitution interferes with getting married early and having lots of kids are not that hard to figure out. What I wonder is, whether there are any societies out there where this is the norm (early marriage, lots of kids) *and* prostitution is legal and de-stigmatized. I think online social conservatives are correctly identifying a correlation there, but then perhaps making too much of a causal leap. A proper family-focused culture is likely to have both lots of marriage and not a lot of prostitution, but you can't take an anti-family culture and reverse it by just banning prostitution. Mormons come to mind as a possible real-life case study.

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Mar 11·edited Mar 11

"The easiest anti-prostitution argument might be that it's simply bad for the women that do it, in a similar way that abusing drugs is bad for drug addicts."

Yes, my understanding is that a lot of anti-prostitution arguments of the 19th and early 20th centuries relied on these sorts of arguments. Trying to get women out of the prostitution racket and into respectable society. I'm sure there were many evils associated with being a prostitute, but the historical consensus seems to be that they were exaggerated in the public consciousness at the time: "white slavery" and so on.

"A proper family-focused culture is likely to have both lots of marriage and not a lot of prostitution, but you can't take an anti-family culture and reverse it by just banning prostitution."

Yeah, this is about where I come down. A lot of social conservatism, as practiced, is a sort of cargo cult of just doing one thing to bring back the 1950s that conservative-minded Boomers are nostalgic for. Which doesn't mean that social conservative policies can't reinforce broadly popular conservative social norms. But they have a much tougher time overturning broadly popular liberal social norms.

I think the ultimate cargo cult SoCon idea is prayer in public schools. Which again I say as a man who prays with his children multiple times per day. But I remember even my Boomer father -- who never prayed with me! -- thinking in the 1990s that perhaps we could reverse all the social decay of the previous 40 years if we just brought back prayer in public schools. And all I can think is that if we did, the prayer would surely be the most anodyne prayer imaginable, akin to singing "God Bless America" before a baseball game. That started after 9/11 -- has it stemmed the tide in the past 20 years?

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Ultimately elites have to change their minds about things. As long as elites are mostly liberal, no amount of doing anything else will matter very much. If elite opinion were to somehow shift into favoring right-wing views, doing anything else would seem unnecessary, as all the institutions would then shift in turn.

I don't know if there is anything that can or should be done to change elite opinion, but I do find it encouraging that now we are allowed to talk about race and IQ on Twitter. That's at least a step in the right direction of popping the liberal bubble. Ideally, just the removal of the left-wing censorship regime will end up being enough.

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"If elite opinion were to somehow shift into favoring right-wing views, doing anything else would seem unnecessary, as all the institutions would then shift in turn."

Well, the law can help enforce the elite consensus among the lower classes, who are further removed from the elite status games. If the elites were to decide that marriage is very important and that we need to start encouraging it, you'd immediately see things like favorable depictions in media, which would go some way to influence the lower classes -- but maybe less than in the recent past, as media consumption is increasingly decentralized. Perhaps companies would start encouraging employees to become married. Schools would promote it.

But if there were also increased tax incentives towards marriage, for example, that would also help enforce the consensus and reach some people who don't respond to the messaging.

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The political establishment in Japan has spent years and years trying to encourage marriage and procreation through both incentives and messaging, yet it has been a failure. I see no reason why it would be any different in America. This seems like a problem that will ultimately have to self-correct if it's even the big problem it's made out to be.

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How much cultural power does the Japanese political establishment really have? I don't think it's comparable to the US cultural elites, which have the most cultural power of any elites on Earth, and it's only growing (as seen by the fact that George Floyd's death sparked mass protests in Europe while Rodney King's did not).

To be clear, we're not talking about Republicans passing a bill to support marriage. We're talking about the same forces that elevated Black Lives Matter and climate change and LGBT instead one day deciding that family formation is what's really important.

To some degree I think Richard's entire discussion here underplays how important US cultural elites are in establishing what are high-status beliefs for the entire Western world. Europe just follows their lead; Poland and Holland only differ in terms of how hip the average person is to US-generated high-status beliefs, but hip people in both places believe basically the same things.

In NE Asia, where English-language skills are worse, I think the impact of US cultural elites is more muted but not exactly nonexistent. I'm not sure what exactly takes their place, but I wasn't thinking it was old and gray LDP politicians. Japan's reputation is that people are relatively detached from politics as far as democracies go.

Maybe it would help if corporate Japan encouraged its salarymen to spend more time at home and to have larger families.

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For what it's worth, prostitution may not be legal in South Korea, but it's everywhere--which in a way is even more trad, sorta like the senior apparatchiks in Handmaid's Tale indulging at Jezebel's.

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Agreed with this piece. Of course the same goes for the social constructivism of the progressive side of the political spectrum.

"“Allowing abortion at less than 8 weeks can lead to allowing abortion at 16 weeks” is a valid argument, if you think abortion at 16 weeks is a bad thing, but “allowing abortion at 8 weeks gets us closer to Nazi-style extermination campaigns” isn’t."

Also true. And similarly, "somewhat limiting immigration might lead to even more restrictive measures on immigration in the future" is a valid argument. "Anyone who wants to limit immigration in any way is literally Hitler" isn't.

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As long as you're bringing up South Korea's TFR, every other country with a below-replacement TFR (basically all of them except Israel) is convincingly damned by social conservative standards. The cultures spared by such damnation are ones characterized by very insular religious groups.

https://www.overcomingbias.com/p/recalibrating-respect

Policy can affect culture in precisely the ways this post is concerned with. Joseph Henrich's "The WEIRDest People in the World" is about how the Catholic Church's rules on marriage created what we think of as western culture.

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This reads like a nearly-incoherent attempt to suggest certain things are mutually exclusive when they are absolutely not. Why would it be impossible to find clear and measurable negative effects of *any* public policy? Every public policy has trade-offs, regardless of whether it has an ideological bias, so why are we suggesting there's no evidence of liberal public policy resulting in negative outcomes? Is the point of this article to dunk on what you perceive as the idiotic majority, who believe decisions have positive and negative outcomes?

I've subscribed, unsubscribed, and resubscribed to your newsletter now because you are so inconsistent with your logic that it beggars belief. Sometimes you have a really novel and thoughtful take on a complex issue that reflects deep insight and analysis and sometimes you sound like you forgot your morning coffee before you started typing. 😆🤦‍♂️

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Let me guess. The articles with good arguments are the ones you agree with, and the bad ones are the ones you don’t?

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I’m not banning you for the criticism of me, but for the implications that I’m dishonest, in which you case you should go somewhere else.

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I am not implying you are dishonest, Jesus

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You got that in before the ban. Anyway it’s only a week.

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No. It doesn't seem to have any pattern at all. That's what makes it so bizarre.

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Because beliefs should be based on evidence rather than the other way around. When we fail to find evidence for something we believe in we should consider the possibility that our belief may be incorrect.

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I've just written an article responding: "No, Richard Hanania. Social Conservatism Is Not 4D Chess." I argue that Richard is mistaking conservative arguments about the moral character of certain acts for predictions about the causal consequences of permitting those acts. https://open.substack.com/pub/joelcarini/p/no-richard-hanania-social-conservatism?r=k9yk0&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

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