How good are conservatives at predicting the future?

Short answer:  not very, just like everyone else.

The track record is mixed.  On the one hand, de Maistre made some spectacularly wrong predictions about the inefficacy of secular governments:  that the city of Washington DC would never be constructed, that secular governments couldn’t succeed in creating new holidays.  On the other hand, Archbishop Lefebvre and others predicted that Vatican II would bring ruin to the Church, and this happened more quickly and completely than anyone could have thought.  Of course, what people mean when they ask about the conservative track record is how seriously anyone should take us when we say “if the liberals do X, it will result in ruin, RUIN!!!!”

Asking how well these predictions turn out is not as objective and value-free as it might first seem.  A liberal will often say things like, “You conservatives said that if we legalized divorce, the sky would fall.  But you were wrong–we’re richer and happier than ever!”  The conservative will of course respond that the sky did fall, that humanity has fallen into what any other generation would recognize as unimaginable depravity.  So we have not escaped value judgments at all.  Sometimes conservatives will try to bypass value-disagreements by predicting that liberal policies will have effects–complete social breakdown, or something like that–that even a liberal would recognize as worse than the effects of conservative policies.  If true, this would be a powerful argument against liberalism, which would be shown to be self-defeating.  I don’t think it’s true, though, and predictions that liberalism will cause effects that even liberals would regard as unacceptable usually prove false.  Liberal policies do promote liberal preferences, and there’s not point in denying it.  If one were to judge a society only by wealth, comfort, and personal liberties, it’s not clear that liberalism would come off so badly.

On the other hand, conservative predictions are usually quite good when we’re predicting how some liberal movement will progress into some other even more extreme liberal movement.  That’s because we’re not really talking about the future, but about how ideas relate to each other.  Feminism leads to gay-advocacy; liberal Catholicism leads to apostasy.  It’s not hard to guess that a movement that starts out with one of the former sets of goals will be led by the logic of their own premises to embrace the latter positions.  Unfortunately, these sorts of predictions do very little for conservatives rhetorically, simply because they are true.  A person who has embraced feminism isn’t going to recoil in horror when she is told that it will lead to her embracing homosexuality.  The androgynist premises of feminism have already cut off any basis for objecting to this conclusion.  Telling a liberal Catholic that “tolerance” and “inclusiveness” are incompatible with the historical Catholic faith will just make him hate the Church more and pursue his punitive “reforms” against her all the more mercilessly.

In the end, one can’t get around the question of what kind of society we want to exist.  If liberal society worked as perfectly as its partisans imagine it should, would that be where we’d want to live?  For most here, I think the answer is “no”, which shows how fundamental our disagreement with them is.

8 Responses

  1. Thanks for the post. It brought to mind an excellent essay by G. E. M. Anscombe entitled “Morality” collected in Faith in a Hard Ground. A relevant passage:

    “I remember getting into a discussion (just to remind you of how rapidly things have slid in the decades since [the ’50’s]) at a party in Oxford, about contraception, then already widely approved, and remarking that you would surely get it leading to abortion—I mean abortions being generally acceptable—and my colleagues, the Warnocks, philosophers, being absolutely outraged at this suggestion. It was a completely blackguardly suggestion, they said, that if you believed in contraception it would get you on to believing in abortion, or that people would make a slide towards abortion. Well, of course, the facts have now proved that I was right as to what would actually happen.”

  2. A very honest and perceptive post.

    The only point that I would make is there is an implicit assumption here is that conservative societies not only profess, but actually turn out to be, more moral than liberal ones.

    I obviously don’t believe that modern western society involves “unimaginable depravity” – you are perhaps using some rhetorical licence here. More seriously, I would contest the idea that traditional patriarchal societies do not entail their own large share of injustice, cruelty, and – in religious terms – sin. This can be seen not only from the history of our own societies, but from contemporary patriarchal monarchies like Saudi. The choice is not between an austere but moral (conservative) society or an immoral but comfortable (liberal) society. With respect, I believe that to frame the question in that way is to stack the deck.

  3. On a personal note, the first book that really brought this home to me, as a student, was Manzoni’s “The Betrothed” (I promessi sposi).

  4. Hi Reggie,

    I think this is sort of the mirror image of the conservative attack that says “liberalism has worse affects even by liberal standards”. I suppose, as you suggest, a liberal could argue as follows: “You conservatives say you’re willing to sacrifice everything for morality, but it turns out that a liberal, nonmoralistic state has less immorality than an authoritarian, moralistic state. So conservatism fails even by its own standards.” So, for example, we sometimes hear that legalizing drugs will result in less drug usage, or that normalizing some sexual vice will make it more rare. I am skeptical of these claims myself–it seems unlikely that discouraging something could lead to more of that thing–but I suppose it’s possible. Even so, most conservatives would not admit defeat, since we’re generally more concerned about legislating public morality than private morality. It’s important to a conservative that the community collectively express its disapproval of drug abuse, prostitution, and so forth regardless of its effect on people’s private behavior. It’s about owning the public space.

    Another thing we must be careful about in comparing the present to the past is comparing the ideal of one era to the worst practices of another. Partisans of all eras have been guilty of this.

  5. I wonder if some of this isn’t so much a left/right or conservative/liberal divide as an idealist/pragmatist divide.

    For example, you mention the issues of drugs and prostitution. I don’t much care for these things, but they have been part of human society for aeons and I think there is a strong argument for regulating them rather than simply banning them.

    I’m not explaining this very well, but my point is that the willingness to legislate public morality is perhaps not so much an innately conservative impulse as an idealist-as-opposed-to-pragmatic impulse. This makes for some strange bedfellows. I seem to recall that the former Soviet Union, an explicitly idealistic society, expressed public disapproval of such things as porn and homosexuality (“bourgeois perversion”). Likewise, though divorce was easy, there was a social taboo on marital infidelity because it was seen as a failure of true socialist character.

  6. An intriguing thought. Perhaps, in an alternate universe, I would have made a good communist!

  7. “. I seem to recall that the former Soviet Union, an explicitly idealistic society, expressed public disapproval of such things as porn and homosexuality (“bourgeois perversion”). Likewise, though divorce was easy, there was a social taboo on marital infidelity because it was seen as a failure of true socialist character.”

    The Left started giving up on the Soviet-style garrison state socialism in the 60s-though I think it’s clear that they still have a taste for exterminationism, Why else would they become so agitated over the minor deviations of the Palins and the Becks? I think they must hate them for what they are rather than what they say.

  8. Your job as a future mother is to learn the god’s ways and to help your child understand despite the negative reinforcement and conditioning of today’s society. Without consciousous parents the child will have no hope, and may even exaserbate their disfavor by becoming corrupted in today’s environment.
    Your ultimate goal is to fix your relationship wiith the gods and move on. You don’t want to be comfortable here, and the changes in Western society in the last 100 years has achieved just that.
    1000 years with Jesus is the consolation prize. Don’t be deceived into thinking that is the goal.

    Much like the other prophets Mohhamed (polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny) and Jesus (forgiveness/savior), the gods use me for temptation as well. In today’s modern society they feel people are most weak for popular culture/sensationalism, and the clues date back to WorldWarII and Unit731:TSUSHOGO, the Chinese Holocaust. They used this Situation to bury Japanese atrocities.
    It has been discussed that, similar to the Matrix concept, the gods will offer a REAL “Second Coming of Christ”, while the “fake” Second Coming will come at the end and follow New Testiment scripture and their xtian positioning. I may be that real Second Coming.
    What I teach is the god’s true way. It is what is expected of people, and only those who follow this truth will be eligible to ascend into heaven as children in a future life. They offered this event because the masses have just enough time to work on and fix their relationship with the gods and ascend, to move and grow past Planet Earth, before the obligatory xtian “consolation prize” of “1000 years with Jesus on Earth” begins.

    The Prince of Darkness, battling the gods over the souls of the Damned.
    It is the gods who have created this environment and led people into Damnation with temptation. The god’s positioning proves they work to prevent people’s understanding.
    How often is xtian dogma wrong? Expect it is about the Lucifer issue as well.
    The fallen god, fighting for justice for the disfavored, banished to Earth as the fallen angel?
    I believe much as the Noah’s Flood event, the end of the world will be initiated by revelry among the people. It will be positioned to be sanctioned by the gods and led for “1000 years with Jesus on Earth”.
    In light of modern developments this can entail many pleasures:::Medicine “cures” aging, the “manufacture” of incredible beauty via cloning as sex slaves, free (synthetic) cocaine, etc.
    Somewhere during the 1000 years the party will start to “die off”, literally. Only those who maintain chaste, pure lifestyles, resisting these temptations, will survive the 1000 years. Condemned to experience another epoch of planet’s history for their ignorant pursuit of xtianity, they will be the candidates used to (re)colonize (the next) Planet Earth, condemned to relive the misery experienced by the peasantry during history due to their failure to ascend into heaven before the Apocalypse.
    Never forget:::It is not a house of Jesus.
    If this concept of Lucifer is true another role of this individual may be to initiate disfavor and temptation among this new poulation, the proverbial “apple” of this Garden of Eden. A crucial figure in the history of any planet, he begins the process of deterioration and decay that leads civilizations to where Planet Earth remains today.
    Which one is it?:
    One transitions into the other, allowing the gods to wash their hands of obligation to their Chosen One. My personal “consolation prize”.
    And since the gods never committed despite tens of billions in mass media, product development and natural disasters/tragedy they will employ the freedom they positioned into the Situation and CHEAT me out of everything.
    Unfortunate for me, the gods can claim they never intended this, despite being control freaks who guide everything specifically and have the power to force it with AI, and now they are free to fuck my brains out, just as they did throughout my childhood.
    The gods were pimping me when I was a 3 year-old boy, only to exploit me and cash in decades later.
    Pre-pubescent prostitution is rampant in black communities. Now we see where it comes from.

    Consistant with “reverse positioning” understand the REAL Second Coming would equate with The Matrix’s Anti-Christ, the fake battle of good and evil which will come at the end.
    Understanding how they use the political encviornment to redefine people’s value system, realize anyone who speaks of the old world and its ways will envoke hatred. So when/if the Anti-Christ comes along speaking of reverting back to what liberalism would consider regressive and unfair, it may be the only hope to salvage the god’s favor and keep moving forward rather than begin the 1000 year clock. The fake Second Coming will feed into this political enviornment.
    Also consistant with “reverse positioning” recognize the gods will offer a REAL Anti-Christ, also known as The Beast. I have addressed these issues in years past::::
    The gods will offer clues throughout every dynaic of life. Geographical features onthe world map is yet another.
    The Beast is not a person, as the xtian Bible would suggest. It is a place:::The San Francisco Bay Area. And it refers to the socio-political poison the region exuded in the latter 20th century which promoted indecent behavior among the people whose favor was rapidly deteriorating. This decay spread to other states and countries, fulfilling the region’s role as The Beast of the Apocalypse.
    Another feature which the Gods offer as a clue is very foreboading. Mt. Zion is a mountain to the north of the eye of The Beast Diablo and one which has a working quarry at its base. Consistant with the decay we experience in society, Mt. Zion is being eaten away, slowly stripped of its resources, until one day paradise will be gone forever.

    10:47a
    So many theme oriented movies lately. Pills that make you smarter, now a movie focussed on time, immortality. The gods are taking steps in preparation for the Apocaplypse, 1000 years with Jesus on Earth.
    The gods are preying on the people, ramping up temptation and compelling them to engage in behavior which will ultimately cost them.
    What I teach is the truth:::The gods extensively use clone hosts and manage Earth through them, people who ultimately are reincarnated into lesser life forms because of their fatal decision.
    You’re all falling prey to the god’s royal scam.
    Any enviornment/perception can be created with their power. Never fail to recognize the power they have at their disposal. There is NOTHING it can not do.
    They still sell “going up” to the reals and their clone hosts, for living on Earth doesn’t sound so appealing to them, nor preditors like my family. But the gods are creating an enviornment which will fulfill their promise made in the Bible to stupid white people and the fools who fell for xtianity.

    Navy SEALS helpcopter crash of 8.6.11 was revenge for Osama bin Laden.
    One day default will bring insolvency, while the wealthy your bailed out with multi-trillion dollar stimulous package leaves you behind in the ruins.
    You fell for it. And now you will pay dearly. The United States is the empire of evil.

    Even with all the corruption this wasn’t going to happen on W’s watch because the conservatives are the good ones. It is the social decay which was the trademark of The Beast, and what has destroyed our favor with the gods, filthy sodomites.

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