Sunday, June 24, 2012

Joe Brewer — The REAL reason conservatives always win

Conservatives, you don't need to read this. You are already doing the right thing. Progressives ignore it at your peril.
Progressives are easily kept on the defensive through the age-old strategy of Divide and Conquer
A fantastic overview of group selection can be found in E.O. Wilson’s groundbreaking new book, The Social Conquest of Earth, which builds a powerful argument for how humanity’s social nature enabled us to dominate every ecosystem we have entered in our 2 million year history.*
The argument goes something like this:
1. Throughout history, a tiny number of species have developed a capability known as eusociality — advanced social organization comprised of large numbers of individuals with differentiated roles including members that span more than one generation.
2. Most eusocial species discovered in the fossil record are the social insects — ants, bees, termites, and wasps. Every one of these species has been so successful at thriving that their bodies contained more than half of the biomass in the ecosystems where they lived, meaning that they completely dominated the niches populated by them. This pattern continues up to the present.
3. Humans are the only eusocial species to have the additional properties of strong emotional bonds between group members and advanced cognitive abilities that enable us to form coherent gestalts of meaning — especially the capacity for shared cultural narratives and tribal identities — which have enabled us to out-compete and dominate less socially adept animals in every ecosystem we have entered.
4. The key strategy underlying this pattern is that well-organized groups, which elevate the needs of the whole over those of individuals, are more successful at acquiring resources and consolidating power than those individuals or groups that are less organized.
Sound familiar? In American politics, we see the top-down authoritarian worldview of Conservatives enabling them to fall in line and take marching orders. They form strong loyalty bonds through religious affiliation, old money networks, and various social clubs that give them an immense capacity for social cohesion.
And what about Progressives? We are divided into issue silos, unable to form lasting coalitions that bond us together under the same ideological flag, and easily kept on the defensive through the age-old strategy of Divide and Conquer.
Read it at Energy Bulletin
The REAL reason conservatives always win
by Joe Brewer


vimothy said...



On the one hand, I think that the conservative vision of Authority and morality is natural and immediate for most people. So I agree with that aspect of the post.

On the other hand, the way I see it, conservatives never win anything, and haven't for generations. They're been in continuous retreat all over the developed world, and are now more or less incapable of any positive showing because the terms of the debate have been shifted in such a way that makes even enunciating conservative philosophy, let alone policy, impossible. So I disagree with that aspect.

How do I resolve the two? I'm not sure. It's clear though that despite their natural hostility towards Authority, progressives make use of all the trappings and technologies of power and social organisation, it's just that they do so in the name of something novel and strange, and that they favour some institutions over others.

Matt Franko said...


What about Teddy Roosevelt being a Progressive and he is the one who said 'carry a big stick'?

That sounds very Authoritarian to me. And his aggression towards the business cartels also looks aggressive and authoritarian...

Then you have Lincoln who some look at as a Progressive (perhaps the first), and he took the country into a civil war where the quantities of casualties were never previously manifest in all of human history, and issued greenbacks directly to provision govt for this purpose.

Perhaps what you are pointing out is how Progressivism mixed with Libertarianism has not been that effective?

That 'political compass' thing has 4 quadrants...


vimothy said...


Conservatives have a particular vision of Authority and the hierarchical nature of existence. Progressives reject that vision in principle. That's what the quote in Tom's post is referring to.

I think you are right to note that in practice progressives have often had course to rely on coercion and domination to impose a particular order on the world.

But this is problematic for progressives, since progressive politics is supposed to be a principled rejection of arbitrary rule by force.

BTW, I'm not a fan of the "political compass". In my view, conservatism is authoritarian by definition.

Tom Hickey said...

vimothy, "conservative" and "progressive" are labels used differently, hence ambiguously as we have discussed. I think they are used confusingly here and I would have chosen different labels.

It seems to me that the axis lines of the political/moral compass in the US are 1) authoritarian/hierarchical/stratified v. libertarian/consensual/distributed and 2) left/traditional liberal v. right/traditional conservative.

BTW, In a Ju;ly 10, 1938 letter to Roy Harrod, J. M. Keynes called economics as a social science involving human value-laden behavior "a moral science" as opposed to a positive or natural science.

I also want to emphasise strongly the point about economics being a moral science. I mentioned before that it deals with introspection and with values. [3] I might have added that it deals with motives, expectations, psychological uncertainties. One has to be constantly on guard against treating the material as constant and homogeneous in the same way that the material of the other sciences, in spite of its complexity, is constant and homogeneous. It is as though the fall of the apple to the ground depended on the apple's motives, on whether it is worth while falling to the ground, and whether the ground wanted the apple to fall, and on mistaken calculations on the part of the apple as to how far it was from the centre of the earth.

vimothy said...


The chief reason that “conservative” is ambiguous is that conservatives have been beaten so conclusively and so frequently that the centre has shifted several thousand miles to the left. Conservatives don’t seem to have any principles any more. Nowadays they’re just right-liberals who try to moderate their liberalism slightly in various ad hoc ways. This is obviously inconsistent and so it makes them look like unprincipled asses. It also drives left-liberals up the wall.

That’s the nature of the debate, as I see it. Conservatives might win in a limited sense of winning some individual battles here and there, mostly because people naturally gravitate to conservative ways of organising society and this gives conservatives an edge in a democratic context. At the same time, society continues to become organised along ever more liberal lines, so conservatives lose the war completely and utterly.

Tom Hickey said...

As I said, the terms are ambiguous and confusing. Better to say what you mean, and here it is Republicans and New Democrats as "conservatives" and Progressive Democrats as "progressives."

The reason that Progressive Democrats are losing battles, even in their own party, is in the numbers. They are way in the minority. It's not just a matter of political strategy.