Why do They Reject Traditionalist Conservatism?

I’m convinced that non-conservatives have the following view of the basic message of conservatism. [Here, “conservative” denotes the largest tribe to which we traditionalists can with any validity be said to belong]:

The Basic Conservative Message, as seen by Non-Conservatives:

[Intoned in a solemn, menacing voice.]

“We are Conservatives!

You must obey our Rules!

If you do not obey, you are Sinners!

We are Conservatives!”

In other words, they think we’ll hate them unless they’re just like us.

So even if their intuition tells them that our critique of modernity has some merit, they think that accepting the validity of any criticism of modernity will mean that they will immediately have to change all of their beliefs and practices.

And since they don’t want to change everything immediately, they won’t want to accept that our criticism of modernity has any validity.


This is, of course, an exaggeration. But it’s an exaggeration of an important truth, and it’s often no exaggeration. They feel that if they give an inch, then they’ll have to give a mile.

And it’s understandable that they would feel this. They are feeling an intuition of God and his order, an order that they have trespassed and denied. And if they acknowledge God, there’s no telling where this acknowledgement will lead.


But what is meaning of the repentance from liberalism to which we call them? Repentance does not mean instantly to change everything. We’re not calling them to change immediately into one of us. We’re calling them to recognize that they are facing in the wrong direction, and they should begin turning. After all, even if you don’t know the right way, if you do know that your way is wrong then you must change direction.

And we call them to repentance not because we hate them, but because we love them. We know they are laboring under a deadly illusion that is killing them: intellectually, morally, socially and spiritually. We know the freedom from the slavery of modernism that can be had, and we want to share the good news.

That’s why the basic conservative message is more accurately:

We are Conservatives.

We understand your pain.

We can help you break free from the sin that’s destroying you.

Join us!

59 thoughts on “Why do They Reject Traditionalist Conservatism?

  1. Nobody, not even conservatives, wants to give up their preferred slices of modernity and liberalism.

    I’ve always had what is essentially a conservative ordering, which is why I accept that label and its implications in the modern era.

    It may not mean much, but defining my conservative nature in terms of conserving known goods of the past for future descendants has proved to be a way to broach conservative topics with left-liberals without the cognitive kill switches slamming down. As a bonus, this is a core element of conservative nature.

  2. “Obey our rules, or you are a sinner” is a basic message of Leftism. If they think that’s the message of conservatism, they are simply projecting. But a great many Leftist attitudes are explained by projection, i.e., the Left thinks their enemies are thinking and planning to do what the Left actually thinks and plans to do itself.

  3. What does Conservatism really offer anymore anyway? America-worship and capitalism? No wonder the ideology is collapsing.

    • It seems to me that Mr. Roebuck is not referring to modern “conservatism,” which is basically liberalism, but rather to the conservatism which he, Lawrence Auster, and others, have articulated at great length.

      • Auster and I do not advocate “America worship and capitalism,” as you accused. What in the post you linked would make you think that?

      • It seems I was wrong. Auster saw the problems inherent in “traditional America.”

        The problem is that celebration of the American Founding such as you advocate brings us back to the very errors in the Founding which led to our current predicament. The official documents of the Founding defined America in terms of universal equal freedom (the Declaration of Independence) and neutral government procedures (the Constitution). It did not define America as a religiously, culturally, and racially specific nation. Yes, such culturally specific definitions were a part of the Founding, but were not stated with the same force, explicitness and authority as the equalitarian, procedural aspects. Therefore the eventual takeover of America by pure right-liberalism, the belief in the universal equal rights of individuals, which in turn led automatically to the current take-over of America by left-liberalism, the belief in enforced group equality of outcome (see previous entry), was built into America from the start. Therefore we need to approach the Founding selectively, upholding and adopting the good parts and rejecting or modifying the bad parts. Therefore the Founding per se has ceased to be a helpful rallying point for conservatives. The American Nation—or the American Experiment, as neocons love to call it—has decisively failed. Somehow we must start over again.

      • Exactly. This insight of Larry’s has been of great value to me. Our Founding Documents define America as a liberal nation, but America at the time of the Founding was not liberal. Evidently the Founders thought that the essence of the nation would continue to exist without legally being defined, but what has happened is that the Left has used the Founding Documents, along with new, hyper-liberal interpretations of them, to redefine America.

      • I do have the impression that Auster’s opinion of the American Revolution and Founding evolved over the years. He ended up properly skeptical, and that’s the important thing.

  4. We can help you “break free from the sin” — ?

    This sounds like one more version of the old idea of salvation through doing the works of the Law.

    • Come on, it’s a slogan … one cannot be 100% precise in a slogan. The objective of a slogan is to be correct enough and guarantee a propaganda effect.

    • It’s a figure of speech, not justification by works. The point is, we traditionalists have become something like the preservers of the memory of the old order, and we can help people reconnect with the wisdom of the ages.

  5. At first, there’s no question of having to agree with us on everything. They must simply simply drop their a priori belief that liberalism is always true. Rejecting the Enlightenment is only the beginning of thought.

    • Yeah, but a frontal assault on the Enlightenment is going to fail, because almost everyone thinks of it as a completely wonderful historical development. Thanks to our indoctrination in grade school. Everyone is taught that civilization just guttered out and died in 400, and reappeared in Florence in 1500; that the Age of Faith was the Dark Ages. Light, darkness; powerful, powerful images.

      The way to proceed is to turn the acid of the Enlightenment on itself. And as long as our civilization continues prosperous, that’s going to be a sophisticated sale. It almost doesn’t matter how much absurd ridiculous news comes in over the transom, because the aversion to confronting the reductio honestly is immense. Liberals have an amazing ability to absorb brutal muggings by reality, without budging an inch on their basic commitments. Viz., all those parents of young white women murdered during missions of mercy overseas, who routinely come out with pleas for forgiveness, pledges of renewed and deepened commitment to the liberal program of self-immolation, and go on to found charitable organizations that can send more young women overseas into harm’s way. It’s like the sanctimonious grief of parents who immolated their children in the belly of Moloch, and patted themselves on the back.

      Muggings by reality, even when they result in death, don’t reliably work. So, the Socratic reductio can possibly work, but only with the most reflective, intelligent liberals. I.e., only very rarely. Something else is needed. Stripline may have a better shot, but only a bit better, as it’s really only a version of the reductio that prompts an unprincipled exception.

      How to turn the Enlightenment on the Enlightenment? That’s the trick.

      What’s the basic Enlightenment doctrine, the keystone of the arch? I would say that it is epistemological skepticism, which is the justification for relativism. The basic argument of the Enlightenment is that there are no absolute truths (that we can understand). Liberals all say that sooner or later, one way or another. It’s self-refuting. It can be demolished if we turn it upon itself. Someone says “there are no absolute truths,” we should retort, as quick as spit, “is that absolutely true?” There’s no escape from that, if we are relentless with it.

      • Someone says “there are no absolute truths,” we should retort, as quick as spit, “is that absolutely true?”

        How clever. No liberal ever thought of that before!

        Seriously, if you want to engage with liberalism or modernism you better have some more powerful ammunition than this freshman dorm room stuff (unless, of course, you are after converting freshmen). Start by seriously engaging with modern philosophers like James and Rorty and Nietzsche. You may find them wrong or misguided, but they aren’t idiots. What do you think they would say to your devastating demolition?

      • Contemporary liberalism is built on a foundation of doubt. Not just on the tendency to doubt, but the positive belief that doubt is the only correct approach to understanding the non-physical world, and that that doubt is the only moral approach to life, non-doubt being “intolerance,” “bigotry,” etc.

        Most liberals, not being sophisticated, simply imbibe liberal slogans without being aware that the thought that undergirds them is self-refuting and therefore false. You don’t need the formal study of the Big Thinkers to see that liberalism is feeding us a line. You just need to pay attention to the meanings of words.

      • A.morphous: none of the three thinkers you mention would have been such idiots as to suggest that there are no absolute truths, simpliciter. They would have responded to my rejoinder with hearty agreement; in logic, they could have had no alternative.

        I have not grappled with Rorty or Nietzsche as much as much as with James, but of the latter, I can say with confidence that his doctrine of truth did not at all rule out Absolute truths – which is to say, only, that it did not rule out truth. Indeed, the very passage you link says as much. James was concerned mostly to point out that if a notion cannot make a difference to our lives as lived, then it can have no meaning for us (indeed, he *defined* “meaning” as “consequences in experience”). If you can’t carry a proposition into practice somehow, if your inner life would not differ in case of its truth or falsity, then it is strictly meaningless.

        It is important to note that among the consequences of ideas are their relations to other ideas. If, e.g., we were to find that other truths implied the truth of a mathematical theorem that was impossible itself to apply to the practice of life in any way, even in principle, that would not alone make the theorem meaningless. On the contrary: its logical cohesion with other truths that can, indeed, be implemented in life would entail its truth; for that logical cohesion would have the result that, if the theorem in question were meaningless, so then would all the theorems to which it logically cohered be meaningless. Because the mathematical truths all cohere, if any of the mathematical truths are to be meaningful, they must all be meaningful.

        The same sort of reasoning pertains to the metaphysical truths. Thus even if it could be shown that the notion that God is eternal can make no possible difference to our lives one way or the other – a doubtful project, at best – that would not make the proposition meaningless, so far as James was concerned. For, God’s eternity coheres logically with the logical necessity of an uncaused cause who is First Mover. If there be no First Mover, there can be no Sufficient Reason for anything, or therefore any reason, meaning, or causal order – and, therefore, no “consequence in experience” of anything. So, if the eternality of God is entailed in the idea of the uncaused First Mover, and the uncaused First Mover is required for meaning in the first place, then the eternity of God is a meaningful notion.

      • The American Founders did believe in absolute truths, truths which they held were self evident. They were so confident in their beliefs that they were willing to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for them.

        And if you expect Americans to reject their founding by describing it as epistemological skepticism, that will be a very tough sell.

    • I think you may in fact have an easier time convincing certain strands of left-liberals on the evil on the Enlightenment. Right-liberals put religious faith in individualism, capitalism, the American founding and Lockean natural rights.

  6. In other words, they think we’ll hate them unless they’re just like us.

    Say, rather: they hate us because they think we’re just like them.

    • I think this is correct, Ilíon. They assume that we wish to force them to be like us because they wish to force us to be like them. They assume that conservatives are essentially like progressives, engaged in an ideological project to transform the world and institute a conservative utopia. I suppose that I lack charity, but I don’t really care if non-conservatives are in pain, or if they repent. I just want them to leave me alone.

      • Being a former semi-liberal, I’m sympathetic to the pain it causes. But even if you feel no sympathy, you should at least have some interest in decreasing the ranks of your enemies.

      • That’s where conservatism (*) starts — “To as great a degree as possible, consistent with morality, liberty and the life of my society/people, I wish individuals to be left free of coercion”.

        When conservatives do sign on to coercion, it is specific, limited, directed at observable behavior, and negative — “Do not do this thing”. None of this applies to “liberals”.

        (*) Which, were terms used properly — had not the Progressives successfully hijacked the term to apply to themselves — is what ‘liberalism’ means. The reason Soviet propaganda was forever banging on about their evil enemies, the ‘liberals’, is because they were still using the term correctly.

  7. I reject conservatism because the only thing it offers people who weren’t male trust fund babies is a life as an ignorant peasant. Women are supposed to be cowardly, dimwitted doormats, without education or merit at all. Education for anyone born outside of the tip of the upper class would be strictly vocational, without foreign or classical language, science, or literature. Upward social mobility wouldn’t exist. Since I don’t want to live as a prole in a smelly trailer, I don’t want to be conservative.

      • Ironic considering that the university has been reduced to a trade school. If you can find a speck of ideological difference between any Ivy League school and the typical state college, then your eyes are sharper than mine. And the poor student has to navigate a residual gauntlet of Political Correct nonsense (mostly by keeping his mouth shut and nodding) to get to content that actually bears on his career.

    • I come from “po’ white trash” (or “trailer trash” as you apparently would call my people) … which is precisely why I am conservative: I, or my family before me, have *lived* what “liberalism” and statism does to human beings.

      • So do I, and conservatives told me that women were only good for scrubbing floors and having babies. More than one conservative flatly told me that intelligence was a bad thing in a woman and that I would never marry unless I learned to pretend to be stupid. Men found any expression of intellect intimidating.

      • Karen, I’m sorry to hear that people close to you spoke cruelly to you, and especially about something of such importance. If what they said was bad advice, then you should of course reject it.

        But there is a grain of truth in the cruel sayings you quoted. A woman has something of vital importance to contribute to society that no man could ever do: bear and raise children. Although there are women who ought not marry, and some women choose not to marry for honorable reasons, a woman who does marry well and raise children is a great blessing to her family, her nation, and herself.

        There is no direct contradiction between a woman being intelligent and accomplished and a woman raising children well, but at the time the children are young, they greatly need a mother at home most of the time to love them. Wouldn’t you agree? After this important phase in the lives of her children has passed, then a woman of ambition and intelligence can share her gifts with the wider world, but of course she ought never neglect her family (as her husband also ought never do.)

      • I don’t believe you, not for one minute, Karen.

        Let me be more direct — for, after all, I am a man, not an academic or a woman — I believe you are lying. Certainly, you may not be, but I believe that you are: *everything* you’ve written here reads exactly like the standard-issue leftist boiler-plate calumnies of conservatives.

        I’m not one of those (pseudo) Christians who sagely nods his head when a God-hater justified his God-hatred by how “mean” some presumed Christian allegedly was to him, or better yet, makes the excuse for him (even if he has enough honesty to not make it himself).

        Likewise, concerning the leftist (*) hatred of conservatives: I’m not going to accept your (plural) rationalizations to justify your refusal to open your eyes and rationally and critically examine leftism and conservatism. Leftism, in all its forms, is wicked: it is immoral, foolish, dishonest and destructive both to the individual and to the society.

        (*) Which, by the way, includes a number of self-proclaimed “traditionalists” on this site.

    • This doesn’t reflect traditional status of women in Christian patriarchies at all. It is the case for a few specific, very small in population American conservative subcultures which themselves create such a circumstance through unwittingly liberal suppositions and beliefs. It is a shame this is probably a hit and run troll comment, though.

      • Because you don’t support the only reliable method of upward mobility: free public schooling. Add in your belief that some races are inferior to others, that women shouldn’t be educated beyond the domestic sphere, objections to wage and hour laws, and there is no other conclusion but that conservatives believe in fixed social caste. Show me one example of a conservative policy designed to destroy a fixed caste system or to prevent the institution of one where it doesn’t exist?

      • > Because you don’t support the only reliable method of upward
        > mobility: free public schooling.

        False. Maybe some conservatives are against free public schooling, but I’m pretty sure that most aren’t against it. I’m not for one. Maybe you are confusing us with Libertarianism?

        > Add in your belief that some races are inferior to others,

        How else do you explain that a country looks like hell in the exact proportion of it’s black population? So you were never approached by aggressive black males who made you that nice proposal: Gimme your money or I’ll kill you? I’ve already received that proposal enough times. Anyway, I wish them all the best, just don’t want to live near them.

        > that women shouldn’t be educated beyond the domestic sphere,

        Citation needed. I don’t remember any conservative ever advocating this. Maybe you confused us with the Taliban?

        > objections to wage and hour laws,

        Not true, some conservatives are against, but I’m quite sure that most aren’t. Again you are confusing us with libertarianism?

        Economic issues are not at the heart of conservatism, except that we believe in private property. More particular details of how the economy should be run vary a lot between conservatism.

        > and there is no other conclusion but that conservatives believe in fixed social caste.

        Imposing/creating fixed social castes is not a part of conservatism, and as I already explained nearly all of your ideas of what conservatism is are wrong.

        > Show me one example of a conservative policy designed to destroy a fixed caste system
        > or to prevent the institution of one where it doesn’t exist?

        Fighting against existing social orders is not a part of conservatism.

        Anyway, this whole talk about castes smells like paranoia to me. Or do you think that we are in the process of creating a caste system already? Because if we are, then it cannot be possibly because of conservatism, since we are in power in very few western countries. Are if we aren’t, and conservatism doesn’t have as objective creating castes, then why would they appear under conservatism?

      • “How else do you explain that a country looks like hell in the exact proportion of it’s black population?”

        Which is why North Korea, the Golden Triangle, and Moldova are paradises.

      • Felipe:… Economic issues are not at the heart of conservatism, except that we believe in private property. …

        Conservatives do, indeed, “believe in private property” — unlike most of the regulars on this site. They call themselves conservatives or traditionalists, but the only tradition they want to conserve is one form or another of socialism, of the slavery of all actual human beings to some conceptual collective … and to the armed bureaucracy that will enforce the will of the individual(s) who will “speak for” the collective.

        Just one example — that entire thread is one great display of the leftism of the regulars here, and especially of a number of the blog owners — but look at this comment, and the responses to it (and lack of responses to it): Shenpen:Factories are one thing, but is there any reason a taxi cab should be owned by anyone but the driver?

      • They call themselves conservatives or traditionalists, but the only tradition they want to conserve is one form or another of socialism, of the slavery of all actual human beings to some conceptual collective … and to the armed bureaucracy that will enforce the will of the individual(s) who will “speak for” the collective.

        See this is the type of stupid conservatism we need to distinguish ourselves from. You know the talk radio soundbites like this. I am glad though that Mr. Roebuck, and Mr. Auster both saw through fraud of movement conservatism.

        And no Ilion, you’re are at best a conservative liberal. You propose we fight the radical liberalism of today with the radical liberalism of yesterday. Time for new ideas.

  8. I have no problem with “free public schooling” in and of itself. Firstly, it’s not free–someone has to pay for it. I actually don’t have a problem with someone else paying for it as far as that goes. I do however support a system more in line with the European model (or at least what I think is the European model). Namely, that you can keep advancing in education as long as you demonstrate a capacity for the work and when you can’t, you stop and leave the limited resources for people who can. What we have here is colossal failure however due entirely to the liberal dogmas of human neurological uniformity and the silly idea that one can erase even natural inequalities by legislative fiat.

  9. @Ilion — you acknowledged that I might not be lying and immediately state that you are going to believe that I am regardless of evidence. You provide an excellent example of why anyone should reject traditional conservatism.

    • you provide an excellent example of why anyone should reject traditional conservatism.

      He is hardly indicative of the traditionalist conservatism of which you will for the most part find here, Traditionalists have historically been very much opposed to the libertarianism you rightly condemn.

    • Karen, I stated the logical possibility that you may not be lying that some conservative somewhere sometime said something “mean” to you. I also stated the absolute certainty that *everyone* has heard this bullshit before — it is bullshit because, even if some conservative somewhere sometime said something “mean” to you, you are using that as an illogical, anti-rational, rationalization for your refusal to come clean on the mindless leftism you espouse.

      You see, it doesn’t bother me in the least if you don’t like me. It doesn’t bother me in the least if you play the “I’m just a poor little girl and that mean ol’ meanie is picking on me” card. It doesn’t bother me in the least that the sort of pansy-ass socialist posing as a conservative who are so common on this site thinks I’m “rude”.

      I care about truth, not about being patted on the head by the people who want to enslave me.

      • In case that lasr post wasn’t clear enough, Karen said: “you acknowledged that I might not be lying and immediately state that you are going to believe that I am regardless of evidence. You provide an excellent example of why anyone should reject traditional conservatism.

        There is absolutely no evidence that she is telling the truth — it is possible that she is not lying.

        At the same time, one’s experience with leftists teaches one that it is more likely that she *is* lying — her accusation reads exactly like standard-issue boiler-plate leftist misrepresentation of conservatives. And, one’s experience with actual flesh-and-blood conservatives teaches one that it is more likely that she *is* lying, for the only “conservatives” one *ever* encounters who are even remotely like that are in leftist caracatures.

        And, furthermore, and far more importantly, even if she is not lying about some incident somewhere somewhen, she is being intellectually dishonest in her attempt to use that alleged incident to discount non-leftism.

        Intellectual dishonesty *is* lying, and it is morally worse that mere lying; for mere lying is lying about some fact or other, but intellectual dishonesty is lying about the very nature of truth and reason.

      • She’s using leftist rhetoric, but we should wait to determine whether she’s a real enemy before badmouthing her to her face.

      • The only people who use leftist rhetoric are people who subscribe to leftist presuppositions.

        Speaking the truth is not “badmouthing”. It may be unwelcome — it almost always is unwelcome — but it is not badmouthing.

      • Not everyone who mouths leftist rhetoric is a real enemy, that is, one who has taken a stand against us. Some of them are lost souls who are lashing out at those they believe to be their enemies, but who may yet change their mind.

      • That’s true, and I have never denied it.

        Yet, how will they — and *why* would they — changes their minds if no one ever tells them the blunt truth?

    • Karen, I have experience with many conservative subcultures and you are slightly correct (and apparently not a hit/run single comment) that some of those subcultures are anti-intellectual and advocate female subjection rather than female submission.

      However, to extrapolate from there that this is ‘traditional’ is historically inaccurate. Many American conservatives, especially the dysfunctional subcultures you are alluding to, are not terribly grounded in what tradition *is*. They don’t appear to know what went on in the domestic sphere, they aren’t aware that there are multiple Christian patriarchal traditions that informed American immigrant populations through 1965. They, like you, don’t know what their ancestors did or how they went about doing it.

      Traditional, historically accurate conservative understanding has ample place for women to have complexity and nuance in their gender and social role(s). What you are talking about is a broken, non-conservative sort of liberalism-for-men combined with anti-intellectualism and materialism.

  10. @Karen: I believe you are confusing the putative messengers of traditionalist conservatism with the actual message of traditionalist conservatism [hereafter simply “conservatism”]. Conservatism does not view women as child producing, floor scrubbing robots that are to be kept in ignorance, but rather as invaluable members of mankind. They are invaluable, not just because of their ability to bear children, but because of their warmth, affection, and kindness. They bring soul and life to a world that, without them, would be much, much colder. These virtues are a huge reason why mothers need to be home to take care of their children. Children need the warmth and tender love of their mothers, but they can’t get it if she is working. Thus we end up with many kids that appear somewhat cold and detached. They appear this way because they’ve never really felt the kindness and warm affection that they needed.

    • You are aware that you’re espousing an essentially modern view with this comment, right? It dates roughly from the Victorian era.

      Specialization, including of childcare, is traditional. Women were valuable in traditional society not just for their ‘softness and kindness’, but for the work they did and the service they performed for the community in addition to bearing children and tending the hearth.

      • My reply was not intended to be comprehensive. I was sketching only a portion of what was in my mind. The reference to child care was merely an example, not a comprehensive program of all the roles and duties of woman. I was going to go into more details along the lines that you reference, but I felt that would be moving beyond the point of my reply to Karen, which was to demonstrate that conservatism does not regard women in the manner she suggests it does. The actual point of my comment exists only in its first half; the latter half was meant to explain, by means of an example, the real need that exists for the unique capabilities of woman.

    • Leftist talking points summed up. Wife of Husband is doormat because she is in submission to him.

      Therefore if we take the definition of submission to its logical conclusion every Authority is automatically a tyranny and every person under authority is a doormat.

  11. Speaking to Karen’s comments on upward mobility, free public schooling isn’t the means. Property and business ownership opportunity for the lower and working classes is. What’s also essential is economic freedom for women. By this I mean an adult woman being able to maintain social status without being married. There is some very interesting cultural variation in how this played out in the West, but a typical form was to settle physical assets like jewelry on daughters even fairly low down the class hierarchy so they always had some degree of economic safety margin.

    Industrialization slowly eroded a lot of traditional protections for women and the ways in which this was dealt with as technology intersected with tradition and social norms are themselves a great starting point for serious traditionalists to work through.

    • In addition, the phrase “free public education” or “free public schooling” is mendacious. It would be honest to refer to “grossly overpriced public schooling” or “greedily tax-consuming public education.” Not only that, but “public education,” that is, the state monopoly over education, doesn’t even succeed in educating. Twenty years ago when I wrote Declining Standards at Michigan Public Universities, the foremost complaint of Michigan employers who hired from the ranks of public-university college graduates was that they couldn’t read or write worth a damn and had to be remedially educated at the expense of the employers.


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