Cultural Phase Changes are Mediated by Preference Cascades

I’ve written for years about the coming Phase Change, such as the one that overtook the Warsaw Pact. Such social phase changes are mediated by preference cascades. According to Kevin Baker writing at Quora:

The concept of the Preference Cascade is credited to Turkish economist Timur Kuran. Glenn Reynolds described the idea in a 2002 op-ed, Patriotism and Preferences. In short, average people behave the way they think they ought to, even though that behavior might not reflect their own personal feelings. Given a sufficient “A-HA!” moment when they discover that their personal feelings are shared by a large portion of the population their behavior may change dramatically.

The boy who cried that the Emperor was naked triggered a preference cascade. The Fall of Late Classical Civilization (in Persia, the Levant, Africa, and Iberia) to Islam might have been due to a preference cascade. Ditto for the Bronze Age Collapse. Many collapses are due to preference cascades, including – obviously – financial panics. When the morale of a great army or of a whole nation suddenly vanishes all at once, it is due to a preference cascade. Great Awakenings and mass conversions are mediated by preference cascades.

The American Revolution happened because of a preference cascade. So did the French, and the Soviet, and the Glorious. All the great epochs began and ended with preference cascades.

Numerous commentators are interpreting the recent Brexit vote, the sudden rise of the European reactionary Right, and the Trump phenomenon as evidence of a radical rightward preference cascade.

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Some Thoughts Concerning Brexit

Brexit

First Thought: I remark with some astonishment that this is the first time since Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory that an electoral majority has roundly repudiated the liberal establishment.  Astonishment is not a thought; it’s an emotional reaction.  My generally grim view of democracy predisposes me to assume the worst of voting majorities.  When a majority votes rationally, the obvious must be – to them, at last – hyper-obvious.  Thus my astonishment.  The two hyper-obvious stimuli of Brexit’s passage are (1) loss of sovereignty, the obverse of which is the rise of a remote bureaucratic dictatorship; and (2) Muslim immigration.  (Whenever “immigration” is mentioned in current British political discourse, it means, of course, Muslim immigration.)

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The Subscendence of Politics

Politics – the abstract discourse upon how best to order the City – can proceed only within the City itself, and among its citizens: men who have taken personal responsibility for its welfare and defense, pledging their lives thereto, and thus in extremis to each other. It can proceed then only when there is a City in the first place: when the City itself is coherent; when, in other words, essentially all the citizens have the same basic ideas about what is fair and right, so that the matter of political discourse is concerned with how best to achieve it. Its foreconditions are widespread adherence to a common cult – i.e., to a common understanding of what is good and proper and just – and a common native tongue, the moral terms of which, as shared from the cradle, are therefore transparently clear to everyone, so that conversation can proceed.

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An Open Letter to Pope Francis

A guest post by Mark Citadel:

Your Holiness:

I write to you as an outsider. A sincere Roman Catholic might not write such a letter out of his admirable respect for the Papacy, and a letter written by a non-Christian might mean little to you. And so it falls to me to say what must be said. I want to start by saying that we of the Eastern Orthodox tradition consider ourselves to practice our faith in the character of the earliest Christians, and though it might seem arrogant, we hold that through tired eyes Orthodoxy has witnessed many great tragedies; the Diocletian Persecutions, the fall of Constantinople, the abduction of thousands of Serb boys and Greek girls to serve as Janissaries and courtesans, and of course the scourge of Bolshevism that cloaked the entire East in poverty and despair for almost a century. Though you consider us schismatics, I would hope that you do not think us fools, and your cordial relations with His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I, as well as your historic meeting with His Beatitude Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Rus, leaves me with hope that you will consider this carefully.

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The Stupefying Boredom of Latter Day Public Life in the West

So it’s election season again in the US, and the press is all abuzz over the recent declarations of candidacy. Last time around, I still cared a bit, mostly out of habit I suppose. I liked Romney, who I think is a fundamentally decent man, and I was disappointed to see such a talented, intelligent and enterprising fellow rejected in favor of an inept fool like Obama. So I was interested to that extent. 

But Christian reaction had by then so permeated my being that I knew the only difference the election might possibly make is that of a few percentage points in my federal tax rate. Not that those percentages are unimportant, for they are, and the welfare of millions hangs upon them; but thanks to the mind-boggling deficits of the first four Obama years, they are upward bound, for the foreseeable future, almost no matter what. Obama spent so much money that no future administration is going to be able to cut taxes. Obama has eliminated all room for such maneuvers. It’s a genius move, albeit not the move of a genius. 

Evil is fundamentally stupid. You can be ingeniously evil, but to be evil in the first place is stupid. E.g., you can devise a brilliant plan to rob a bank, but robbing a bank is an essentially stupid thing to do. 

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An Orthogonal Turn at First Things

From its founding, First Things has been the premier journal of high Christian engagement with the public square in the West. The basic proposition of the journal has been that American liberal democracy could be domesticated to Christ by a concerted ecumenical effort of philosophical evangelism. First Things intended to provide a forum for that discourse, and a rally point. Much good has come of this project. But with the recent spate of stunning reversals on sexual policy, and with Christianity ever more clearly in the crosshairs of our secular overlords, the writers of First Things seem to be recoiling from the profane culture of the West and its liberal cult of Moloch. They begin to see that their project has failed, and that perhaps it was doomed to fail from the start. More and more, they seem to realize that rapprochement with liberalism is in any case a pact with the devil.

It’s not just that the editors saw fit to publish an article by our own Jim Kalb back in December. In the February issue, First Things took a decided turn toward orthogony to secular political discourse, as if they all with one mind awoke to a realization that dawned on most traditionalists several years ago: America is too far gone to be saved. As Lawrence Auster then began to say, “It’s their country now.” Likewise also for the West in general.

First Things seems now to have reached the same conclusion.

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ISIS versus Charlie Hebdo

Many reactionaries and right liberals have remarked that the grand strategy of left liberalism with respect to Islam is to use it (along with mass immigration from other dysfunctional cultures) to sap the culture and morale of the West, and then turn and deprave the immigrants and Moslems with porn, consumerism, nihilism, atheism, scientism, libertinism, and so forth – i.e., to turn them into cynical liberals like themselves.

The right has also pointed out that once Sharia is imposed upon the West, liberals will be the first to feel its lash. As with the liberal campaign for abortion rights that cuts deepest into the biological reproduction of liberals themselves, the strategy is suicidal.

With the attack on Charlie Hebdo, Islam has made it crystal clear that the right is correct in this assessment. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is a frontal assault on the Cathedral of Moloch. It is a massacre of high-ranking prelates of that religion. Unlike 9/11, it cannot be quite characterized as an attack against capitalism or global finance. Nor can it be characterized as contra the military power of the West, or against Christianity, or colonialism, or imperialism, or any of the other bugbears of the left. No. It is an attack against the chattering classes themselves, specifically and only them – in Hollywood, the academy, and journalism.

And they cannot but know this, deep down.

It has to be a sobering moment for our rulers: they are naked, as they well know, and indeed prefer; and now they must see that the knives are out against their tender, unprotected flesh.

This will not, of course, prevent them from arguing publicly that the attack may be blamed on the nativist, reactionary right. Many of them, no doubt, will persist in their delusions at all costs. But quite a few, at the margins, must now be wondering whether they might not have got things dreadfully backward – whether they themselves are not after all the useful idiots.

Talk, talk, talk

Courtesy of the USCCB:

The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions and Muslims in particular in a statement developed between October 2013 and its release August 19. The committee, which is chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, listed tensions between Christians in Muslims in different parts of the world as a primary reason for reaffirming the need for dialogue.

“We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,” the bishops wrote. “Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment—acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten to disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition, and friendship.”

And that harmony, the fruit of 20 years of interreligious dialogue which must not be disrupted no matter what, has given us (they claim with wonder) “documents on education, marriage and revelation” — documents which no one outside the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has read (I’d certainly never even heard of them until just now) and which in no way impact the lives of ordinary Catholics or Muslims. It’s theological realpolitik, but worse than that, it’s talk talk talk, talk as an end in itself, talk with no visible fruits, talk in the interests of which the speaking of actual truths (including the charitable correction of errors and forceful denunciation of outrageous abuses) is far too often made to defer. It’s mere chatter and noise to fill the silence and desolation created by the modernist’s much-vaunted doubt. One begins to wonder if this isn’t all just a makework scheme to enrich otherwise-unemployable Georgetown graduates.

Oh, and then there was this:

The bishops expressed sadness over “deliberate rejection” of the call to engage in dialogue with Muslims by some Christians, Catholic and not. They noted that the call to respect and dialogue comes from the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) and has been reaffirmed by subsequent popes.

Why are people still talking about Vatican II? Who cares what it had to say? The ecumenical dynamic which it inaugurated was a product of the facile optimism of the 1960’s, hardly applicable or relevant to the brutal and dark postmodern world of 2014.

Get with the times, guys!

The Enemy Speaks His Mind

Sometimes our Adversary hurls his mask on the ground and dances on it screaming with rage. In the video below you may see embodied the term toward which we ultimately tend, as things now stand, and so long as our current ideological tyrants continue to have their way. He’s Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, responding to the risible hashtag campaign against his gang’s kidnapping of 276 Christian girls.

To clear up any confusion about his plan, our Enemy makes it clear at 0.24 on the video: Kill Christians.

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Perspective

The Supreme Court hates women! Back-alley abortion coat hangars and so on!

Oops, wait:

(1) The Court assumes that the interest in guaranteeing cost-free  access to the four challenged contraceptive methods is compelling within the meaning of RFRA. …

(2) The Government has failed to satisfy RFRA’s least restrictive-means standard. HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. That accommodation does not impinge on the plaintiffs’ religious beliefs that providing insurance coverage for the contraceptives at issue here violates their religion and it still serves HHS’s stated interests.

So, in other words, the court agrees with the left that contraceptives (in this case, really, abortifacients) really really need to be given to women free of charge, it just disagrees prudentially that forcing Hobby Lobby et al. to do it is the best means of getting there.

So, the left is angry not that women won’t get free morning-after pills — because they will, one way or another — but that their enemies don’t yet get to be subjected to the indignity and humiliation of paying for it over their own objections. Such a big fuss over such a small scrap to have fallen from Caesar’s table.