First Post

First Post

Welcome to my new blog. In this first post, I explain 13 major themes for the blog (#2 explains the name):

1) Tradition: Our cultural traditions represent the accumulated wisdom of our ancestors. They were fine-tuned over generations and lasted, usually, because they served a useful purpose. Rejecting tradition means turning our backs on the accumulated wisdom of our ancestors.

Lasting progress usually comes by making incremental improvement on what came before. When faced with new questions or challenges, it is wise and prudent to respond by making only small, incremental changes, if any at all.

Major changes to complex human social systems are likely to cause more harm than good, and often in ways that are difficult to predict or anticipate. Elites have forced major political, social, cultural, and institutional changes on society since the Great Depression.[1] We should reverse these revolutionary changes in favor of the longer-term traditions that preceded them.

Sometimes, when revolutionary change is forced on us, the only way to defeat it is through more revolutionary change in the opposite direction.

Even if we roll back the negative changes of the last 75 years, some reform of the basic structure of our government is needed to make sure the same problem doesn’t happen again. But where updates are needed (such as to our political and judicial systems), we should make them in an evolutionary way, trying to keep as much as we can of what came before, and with full transparency about what those changes are and that they are being made.

A major theme of my writings will be to propose a new form of government to fix some of problems under the current system. This new type of government, which I’ve named Folkraed (Old English for “people’s counsel”), is an evolution of our current system to 1) give much more direct power over government to voters; 2) impose greater requirements to qualify as a voter (including knowledge and competency tests, a required minimum number of children, military service, and continued unpaid part-time government service to replace most government workers); 3) use of sortition to select leaders and management positions in government; 4) reliance on unpaid voters to fill most rolls within the government bureaucracy; and 5) greater local control over most issues.

2) Western civilization: In light of the first point, for Europe and her descendent settler societies, our guiding traditions and values come from Western Civilization as it developed through Greco-Roman civilization, Christianity, and the scientific revolution, and for the United States specifically, through English culture and then as our own culture developed since the 1600s.

We should honor, defend, and build up the Western Civilization of our ancestors, a sentiment aptly put by Macaulay in his Lays on Ancient Rome, from which I take the blog’s name:

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his Gods.”

3) Religion: Religion is an inescapable part of human nature—it has been a part of all human cultures everywhere and at all times. Religion serves important functions by providing, among other things: 1) a way to make parts of our lives sacred and allow us to commune with God (or some higher power); 2) moral guidelines and answers to deep life questions; 3) ceremonies and rites marking major life events; 4) a sense of community and solidarity with our coreligionists; and 5) a signaling mechanism about one’s devotion and trustworthiness.

Religion brings tremendous individual and societal benefits. Religiosity and belief in God have been found, over and over, to be positively related to better physical and mental health, greater life satisfaction, longer lifespan, and pro-social behavior.[2]

Even people who reject organized religion or belief in God cannot escape their fundamental religious nature —they’re still human beings, after all. They usually end up unknowingly pouring their religiosity into other things that we don’t normally think of as being associated with organized religion, but that are still just as strongly religious: new kinds of superstitions and strange new modern secular orthodoxies lacking a basis in reality or tradition, and often with unanticipated harmful effects[3].

On the other hand, those who have given up on the old, established religions have a point. The major world religions are pre-modern creations with a lot of baggage that is difficult to accept in light of modern scientific understandings of the world around us (not to mention the textual and historical issues that cast significant doubt on the truthfulness of all the major religions). This is one of the main reasons why religious affiliation and participation is decreasing so significantly in the West.

Western Civilization needs traditional religion to survive, but traditional religion as it currently exists can’t thrive in the modern world and thus cannot serve its historical functions.

The other major theme of this blog will be to record my efforts to create a new kind of religious belief that retains as much of the traditions and wisdom of the past as possible, while being compatible with our modern understandings of cosmology and reality.

4) Morality: Our moral duties to others form concentric circles of obligation. At the heart of those circles is our family, to which we owe the greatest obligation. Our duties move outward from there, with progressively diminishing duties to friends, community, nation, and state, and then finally to the rest of mankind.[4]

5) Science: The scientific method has proved itself a powerful tool for better understanding reality. We should apply it liberally to questions of human knowledge.

6) Nature and nurture: The modern doctrine that all people are born equal in mental abilities and emotional and personality traits—that there is no nature, only nurture—is false. Nature and nurture jointly determine most outcomes; nature’s contribution is usually at least equal to nurture’s; often it is greater. For a variety of major life outcomes and characteristics, genetics determine more than how your parents raised you or on your school or teachers. We are not all born as equivalent, interchangeable blank slates. While each person is equally endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, each person’s intelligence, personality traits, level of grit, propensity to violence, and a host of other things are all significantly determined by genetics and innate biological factors.[5] Any sane public policy must take this fact into account.

7) Evolution: Human evolution did not stop 50,000 years ago. It continues even now.[6]

8) Human nature is good and bad: Human nature includes much that is beautiful and ennobling, but also much that is devious and evil, such as our tendency toward hypocrisy, for seeking wealth and power through immoral means, and to pursue our self-interest at the expense of others and our community. Public policy should always take into account the negative aspects of human nature and build in corresponding safeguards, limitations on power, and checks and balances.

9) Anti-utopian practicality: Because of human nature and because worthy goals are often mutually exclusive, it is unwise to believe that big changes will bring a utopia. Good public policy is about making tradeoffs between competing goals and interests. A more realistic focus should be to incrementally make things better. If a human utopia is ever to come about, it will come gradually through incremental improvements, not through some new wholesale change to everything.

In the rare circumstance when revolutionary change becomes necessary, it should never be seen as a panacea. At best, it may solve the problem of the day, but at the cost of much pain along the way (and often also creating incipient problems that will develop and need future solutions). At worst, it brings chaos and destruction with no corresponding benefit. Revolutionary change should be a last resort. It generally will only succeed if led by reasonable, honorable, and good men (for example, compare the American and French revolutions).

10) Nationalism: A nation is “[a] historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity and/or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.”[7] We humans are a communal and tribal species. We naturally sort ourselves into groups, and we do best when we live amongst our own. Each nation has an obligation to coexist peacefully with its neighbors, but also the right of self-determination and of self-defense against outsiders trying to control its destiny or enter or take over its homeland.

11) Unity and assimilation: Self-appointed pundits and public intellectuals look to our motto on the Great Seal of the United States, “E pluribus unum”–out of many, one–and say that diversity is our strength. But they misunderstand. Our strength comes not from diversity. It comes from forging unity. It comes from assimilation. It comes from the unifying strength of our institutions and culture that sprouted from English roots and have since grown and developed independently through Americans’ shared experience over the more than 400 years since our forebears first settled the continent.

Even today, for the majority of Americans, those colonial forebears are our actual ancestors—60 percent of Americans have ancestors who were living in the 13 colonies at the time of the Revolution (in fact, about 10 percent of Americans can trace ancestry just to the 135 colonists who came over on the Mayflower).[8] For the other 40 percent, the colonial settlers are their spiritual forebears, responsible for laying the foundations of the culture and institutions of their homeland. Or at least current citizens without roots back to the Founding should deeply revere them as their spiritual ancestors. The fact that many don’t is a symptom of one of our country’s greatest national problems.

Our strength as a country comes from traditions, institutions, and culture built over more than 400 years. Unity, not diversity, is where our strength comes from.

A significant body of academic research confirms that countries and communities with higher levels of ethnic and linguistic diversity have worse outcomes on a variety of measures, such as political stability, violence, strength of democracy, levels of trust between citizens, and civic participation.[9] It will be to our great long term benefit to focus on ensuring that those who live in the United States are strongly and solely assimilated into American culture and identity and that we only allow into the country those who are easily assimilable. It may already be too late to do so. Let’s hope not, because the academic research indicates that the other possible alternatives will not end well.

12) Localism: Better and more legitimate policy is usually made when done as locally as possible.

13) Truth: Truth reigns supreme. It doesn’t care what you want or what makes you happy or feel good. Finding truth is important, even if what you discover is not what you wanted or makes you feel bad. Whether you like it or not, the truth is the truth. Ignoring it won’t change that. And sooner or later it will catch up to you. It’s better to understand as much as you can as soon as you can, and be prepared to face reality, than to live on in blissful ignorance until the truth blindsides you and destroys your world.

[1] Such as the bloated adminstrative state; extreme expansion of the numbers of federal statutes and regulations; expanding control of the federal government over local affairs; activist courts; incorporaton of the Bill of Rights; militarized police forces; the normalization and promotion of sexually irresponsible behavior; ever-more debased and vulgar popular culture; the promotion of nontraditional family structures leading to increased divorce and single parent families and more children not being raised by their biological parents; entitlement programs that encourage single motherhood; policies that benefit the very wealthy at everyone else’s expense; a winner-take-all economy; crony capitlaism; monopolistic/oligopolistic capitalism; and, most recently, new norms opposed to free speech and freedom of association.

[2] See, e.g., Richard Sosis and Candace Alcorta, “Signaling, solidarity, and the sacred: the evolution of religious behavior,” Evolutionary Anthropology, Vol. 12, No. 6, Nov. 2003, pp. 264–274, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002%2Fevan.10120, http://www.anth.uconn.edu/faculty/sosis/publications/sosisandalcortaEA.pdf; David G. Myers, “Religion and human flourishing,” in Michael Eid and Randy J. Larsen (eds.), The Science of Subjective Well-Being, 2008, pp. 323-46, 330-32; Jesse Preston and Ryan S. Ritter, “Different effects of Religion and God on prosociality with the ingroup and outgroup,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 39, No. 9, September 2013, http://psp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/21/0146167213499937.long, http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/pramlab/Papers/Preston_Ritter_PSPB.pdf;  Peter C. Hill and Kenneth I. Pargament, “Advances in the Conceptualization and Measurement of Religion and Spirituality: Implications for Physical and Mental Health Research,” American Psychologist, Vol. 58, No. 1, January 2003, pp. 64-74 at 66, http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/58/1/64/, http://www.uic.edu/classes/psych/Health/Readings/Hill,%20Conceptualization%20of%2 0spirituality,%20AmPsy,%202003.pdf; Robert A. Hummer, Richard G. Rogers, Charles B. Nam, and Christopher G. Ellison, “Religious involvement and U.S. adult mortality,” Demography, Vol. 36, No. 2, 1999, pp. 273-285, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10332617.

[3] Such as transplanting Calvinist notions of original sin and predestination to modern conceptions of race, or transplanting religious notions about ritual purity to environmentalism and modern food fads.

[4] Steve Sailer, “The Self-Righteous Hive Mind,”  Taki’s Magazine, April 11, 2012, http://takimag.com/article/the_self_righteous_hive_mind_steve_sailer/.

[5] Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., “Genetic Influence on Human Psychological Traits: A Survey,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, Vol. 13, No. 4, August 2004, pp. 148-51, http://cdp.sagepub.com /content/13/4/148, http://www18.homepage.villanova.edu/diego.fernandezduque/Teaching/PhysiologicalPsychology/zCurrDir4200/CurrDirGeneticsTraits.pdf; G. Davies et. al., “Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic,” Molecular Psychiatry, Vol. 16, No. 10, October 2011, pp. 996-1005, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3182557/, http://www.behavioralneuroscience.org/neurogenetics_files/Davies%20et%20al.%20-%202011%20-%20Unknown.pdf; John C. Loehlin, Joseph M. Horn, Jody L. Ernst, “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Adult Life Outcomes: Evidence from the Texas Adoption Project,” Behavioral Genetics, Vol. 37, No. 3, May 2007, pp. 463-76, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17354066, http://www.researchgate.net/profile/John_Loehlin/publicati on/6453178_Genetic_and_environmental_influences_on_adult_life_outcomes_evidence_from_the_Texas_Adoption_Project/links/0deec5214e7cbe61ea000000.pdf; Peter J. Loewen, Christopher T. Dawes, Nina Mazar, Magnus Johannesson, Philipp Koellinger, Patrik K.E. Magnusson, “The heritability of moral standards for everyday dishonesty,” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Vol. 93, September 2013, pp. 363–366, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/aip/01 672681, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2271350.

[6] Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion, 2009.

[7] “Nation,” http://en.Wiktionary.org​/wiki/Nation

[8] http://ancestry.org/mayflower-ancestors/; http://corporate.ancestry.com/press/press-releases/2010/06/ancestry.com-helps-americans-discover-their-patriotic-roots-with-launch-of-new-collection-of-revolutionary-war-records/

[9] Robert D. Putnam, “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century: The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture,” Scandinavian Political Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2, June 2007, pp. 137–174, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9477.2007.00176.x/pdf; Christopher Clague, Suzanne Gleason, and Stephen Knack. “Determinants of Lasting Democracy in Poor Countries: Culture, Development, and Institutions.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences,Vol. 573, No. 1, pp. 17-41, January 2001, http://ann.sagepub.com/content/573/1/16.abstract, http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/28048/1/lasting_democracy.pdf; Curtis Thompson. “Political Stability and Minority Groups in Burma,” Geographical Review, Vol. 85, No. 3, July 1995, pp. 269-285, http://www.amergeog.org/gr/abstract/july95-thomson.html; James Rogers, Honors Thesis: The Importance of the Middle Class in Political Stability and the Strength of Democracies, Brigham Young University, 2005.


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