How to Fight for Liberty, Part Five – Conservatism


How to Fight for Liberty, Part Five – Conservatism

By Duncan Whitmore

In Part Four of this continuing series of Fighting for Liberty, we explored the nature of radicalism and its value for the fight for freedom. In this part, we will do the same for conservatism before concluding with some final remarks on reconciling conservatism with radicalism as part of a libertarian political strategy.

While a precise definition of conservatism is debatable, it seems reasonable enough to summarise it as a preference for traditional customs, conventions, cultures, and morality in addition to the institutions which uphold them. Contrary to the popular view of conservatism as rigid and uncompromising, it is not averse to change; the dedicated conservative is not trying to trap humanity in a time warp. He does, however, recognise that existing institutions – standing on the shoulders of centuries of human experience – must provide the starting point for any prospective change. In the words of Edward Feser, paraphrasing J L Austen: “[T]hough tradition […] might not always give us the last word, it must always give us the first word.”1 As such, change is likely to be relatively slow and undertaken within an evolutionary “arc of continuity”, with each new building block placed carefully upon one underneath instead of demolishing the entire foundation in revolutionary fervour. Another, more explicitly pro-freedom way of describing it, is a preference for “spontaneous” or “organic” order generated gradually by millions of individuals as opposed to consciously engineered order from the centre.

In the last part, we noted that libertarians – in contrast to Marxists and social engineers – simply do not have the option of demolition, of wiping the societal slate clean before merely “hoping” that liberty will prevail as the dust settles. Thus, adherence to conservatism in the manner described may assist the libertarian movement in two ways:

  • It can help to nourish the non-state institutions that would be necessary to support social co-operation in the absence of the state, sensitising us to the level of cultural diversity that a given society can sustain;
  • Given that liberty has flourished in the Western world more extensively than in any other, we should look to the specific cultural and institutional history of the West to determine why this is so.2

To at least some extent, therefore, we can see that libertarians need to adopt conservative attitudes.

However, it is abundantly clear that any efforts of modern conservatism to preserve freedom have been an abysmal failure, and if such conservatives today identify with freedom at all then it is either residual or in name only. In the UK, for instance, we are saddled with a governing Conservative Party that has not only implemented the greatest peacetime power grab in history as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, but is seemingly committed to vast state spending, the rampant greening of the economy, and the authoritarian policing of speech and censorship. While, therefore, such conservatism cannot be our model, it is useful to understand how it arrived at where it is so that libertarians can avoid its pitfalls if they are to adopt conservative attitudes as part of their strategy.

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Us and Them


By Neil Lock

This is the final essay of six in in a re-appraisal and re-working of my philosophical system. I am calling the new version of this system “Honest Common Sense 2.0.”

Today, it’s time (at last!) to offer some thoughts on how we might seek to move from where we are today towards a better world. Some of these ideas, I’ll warn in advance, may seem radical to many people. To some, even scary.

I’m going to try to make this essay as stand-alone as I can; so that even those who haven’t read the preceding five parts should be able to appreciate my points of view. To that end, I’ll begin with some brief summaries culled from the earlier essays.

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Review: “Say No to Racism: Tips and Advice on How to be Anti-Racist” by Rasha Barrage


Review: Say No to Racism: Tips and Advice on How to be Anti-Racist by Rasha Barrage1

By Duncan Whitmore

Note: Unless specified otherwise, numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers of the reviewed text.

Libertarians are likely to groan at the title of this short book by Rasha Barrage. Surely, we can surmise, this will just be the product of another race baiting shill reminding us of the uniquely evil and oppressive nature of predominantly white, Western civilisation? However, Say No to Racism (SNR) should not be dismissed quite so lightly; for although this reviewer cannot agree with the conceptual framework with which Barrage approaches questions of racism, her intellectual integrity together with her general approach towards achieving the resolution of a social problem is something from which all of those who seek social and political change (including libertarians) could learn a thing or two.

For one thing, the author is sincere in her attempt to achieve reconciliation resulting in peaceful co-existence and social harmony. In contrast to those whose aim is to exploit, rather than to resolve, alleged racial injustice, Barrage is not interested in stirring up hatred and antagonism, nor is there any hidden, cultural leftist agenda.

Bolstering this is the fact that the book puts some of its own advice (72, 102) into practice directly through Barrage’s exclusion of both herself and her own experiences from her message, nor does she make any attempt to establish her own credentials as an activist. This is not unimportant because ‘fashionable’ social justice causes today seem to be something of a lucrative cottage industry in which thinkers can be paid multi-thousand dollar speaking fees, elevated to professorial fellowships at Cambridge, or attract the ear of large corporations – a far cry from a life of persecution, ostracism, isolation, bouts of imprisonment, or (at worst) assassination endured by, say, Martin Luther King Jr or Nelson Mandela. Not only does this circumstance undermine directly the narrative of under-privilege and injustice, but there is an obvious conflict of interest if continuing activism is needed to sustain one’s livelihood or status. By avoiding this, one can be confident that Barrage’s thoughts are firmly centred on ideas which she has considered rationally and, thus, deserve to be taken at their word. Moreover, although, as the title suggests, the book is a brief ‘digest’ intended for a lay audience rather than an academic shelf-bender, the author is clearly well informed on the theories that she summarises, and so I trust it is not out of place to scrutinise them at this higher level.

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The “We” Dimensions


By Neil Lock

This is the fifth essay in a six-part re-formulation of my philosophical ideas. It covers, at a similar level to the previous essay, the fourth and fifth dimensions in my system, which in classical philosophy correspond to Politics, and to Economics and Aesthetics, respectively. I call these two the “We” dimensions. For the questions, which must be answered in these dimensions, are phrased in the first person plural. “How should we organize ourselves for maximum benefit to all?” And “What are we here to do?”

Today, I’ll be looking to outline a new system of governance, to supersede the states and bad politics under which we all suffer today. I call it “just governance.” I will deliberately try not to map things out in too much Utopian detail. For I expect just governance to evolve organically, getting better as it goes. So, what I will try to do is merely lay down some guidelines, and give a flavour of how the system might work. This is also, I think, a good moment at which to issue a plea for feedback on my ideas; particularly from those who share my pro-freedom views, but have different expertises.

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The “I” Dimensions


By Neil Lock

This is the fourth part of a six-part re-formulation of my philosophical system. In this essay and the next, I aim to put a little more “flesh” on the five dimensions of my system.

Today, I’ll cover the first three dimensions, corresponding to Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics respectively in classical philosophy. I call these three the “I” dimensions. For the questions about humanity, which must be answered in these dimensions, are phrased in the first person singular. “What am I?” “How do I know what I know?” And “How should I behave?”

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Two World Systems


By Neil Lock

This is the third part of a six-part re-formulation of my philosophical ideas. Today, I’ll give an overview of my updated framework, which I am calling “Honest Common Sense 2.0.”

My title alludes to Galileo’s famous work, the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Now, he compared his heliocentric model of the universe to the prevailing geocentric model. But I shall instead compare my bottom-up model of humanity and human interactions with the top-down model, that prevails among the political classes, their hangers-on, and other enemies of humanity today. This top-down model I call Downerism, and its practitioners I dub Downers – short for “top-downers.”

Further, I’ll introduce and discuss three common-sense ethical and political principles, which I have built in to the foundations of my system. I call them: ethical equality, voluntary society, and common-sense justice. You may be surprised at how radical these simple, common-sense ideas turn out to be, when contrasted with today’s received wisdom!

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Finding the State’s Achilles’ Heel


Finding the State’s Achilles’ Heel

By Duncan Whitmore

One of the consequences of the state’s insidious corruption of truth and knowledge – and, thus, a stumbling block in our efforts to make sense of the world – is the failure to identify relevant causes.

Causation is a difficult subject in both the natural and social sciences. For any one event there are thousands of preceding events that could be labelled as possible causes. Take, for instance, the falling of an apple from a tree so that it hits the ground. This would not have occurred without the ripening of the apple, the onset of summer, the watering of the tree, the planting of the tree, nor without the fertility of the soil. Technically, the creation of the universe is a cause of absolutely everything that has ever happened. But which of these, if we wish to understand the event, should be regarded as the relevant cause, the one from which we could truly deduce the existence of a relationship of cause and effect? Such difficulty can be compounded when there are multiple relevant causes, as is often the case with transportation accidents such as plane and train crashes – an unthinkable, but lethal combination of circumstances that unite to produce a catastrophic effect.

For humans, our understanding of cause and effect is praxeological, i.e. is intimately connected to our role as actors. Whenever we investigate causation, our primary interest is in what we would want to do in order to divert the course of history towards either bringing about or preventing a given event, and how such actions would affect the satisfaction of all of our ends with available means. As such, the identity of a relevant cause is heavily tied to the costs and benefits of a given action.

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