For various reasons, I’ve been less engaged in the NRx scene than I would like. When I finally fired up my RSS reader and started working through my backlog, I was surprised to see that Scott Alexander at Slate Star Codex, a NRx skeptic/interlocutor, had, by his own admission, found himself moving to be more conservative. However, he felt conflicted about it. Five paragraphs stand out to me as worth documenting here, because they perfectly express something I have not yet got around to writing myself:
This isn’t the type of conservativism where I agree with any conservative policies, mind you. Those still seem totally wrong-headed to me. It’s the sort of conservativism where, even though conservatives seem to be wrong about everything, often in horrible or hateful ways, they seem like probably mostly decent people deep down, whereas I have to physically restrain myself from going on Glenn Beck style rants about how much I hate leftists and how much they are ruining everything. Even though I mostly agree with the leftists whenever they say something…
In particular I worry about the neoreactionary assumption that leftism always increases with time, and that today’s leftism confined to a few fringe idiots whom nobody really supports today becomes tomorrow’s mainstream left and the day after tomorrow’s “you will be fired if you disagree with them”. Without me ever really evaluating its truth-value it has wormed its way into my brain and started haunting my nightmares.
Certain versions of it are certainly plausible. In 1960, only a handful of low status people were arguing that “sodomy laws” should be repealed, and they were all insisting that c’mon, obviously it would never go as far as gay marriage, we’re just saying you shouldn’t be put in jail for it. Meanwhile, fifty years later people are enforcing a rule that if you’re not on board with gay marriage, you shouldn’t be allowed to hold a high-status job…
So now every time I read an article about horrible conservatives – like that South Carolina mayor – I can dismiss it as a couple of people doing dumb things and probably the system will take care of it. If it doesn’t take care of it by punishing him personally, it’ll take care of it by making people like him obsolete and judged poorly by posterity.
But every time I read an article about horrible leftists – like the one with the debate club – part of me freaks out and thinks – in twenty years, those are the people who are going to be getting me fired for disagreeing with them.
And every time I want to talk about it, I freak out and worry that soon they’ll start firing people for disagreeing with the idea that you should be able to fire people for disagreeing with ideas. Like, this could go uncomfortably far.
This was such a great find for me, because it describes my own stance perfectly. I don’t worry about the random backwoods racists of the world, because they are isolated individuals who won’t amount to anything. On the other hand, the extremist liberals of the world actually run things. The racism of Bubba and Jim Bob makes for awkward and offensive bar conversation; the racism of judges, college admissions officers, congressmen, etc, have real, systemic impacts which carry the force of law and the support of the governmental apparatus. Clearly, one is much more dangerous than the other. Clearly, one has a much greater potential to escalate.