Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

It’s Breeding Obvious

Steyn explains to the Australians why only the United States and Australia have a mediated enough understanding of rights to avoid self-destruction. He’s really good on connecting the end of "breeding" with other ndividualistic or isolating tendencies. The problem is that sociobiology just ain’t true for the species that discovered the truth about sociobiology.

Discussions - 28 Comments

Very interesting stuff...Interesting to see that Transhumanism was mentioned in the article...

What Mark Stein says is mostly true.

"None of these pillars of what we used to regard as conventional society is quite as sturdy as it was, and most of them have collapsed. Many mainstream Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian." True but this just means that the pillars have changed or that they do change...but they maintain the same name. In the same fashion France and the other countries of Europe will change...but keep the same name. The ancient greeks used to wonder if it was even possible to step into the same river twice...and some said it was impossible to step into the same river once. For some the problem was so inescapable that some even refrained from speaking at all and simply resorted to giving such considerations a knowing finger. But if this is such a deep philosophical truth...why does Mark Stein say that "No society can survive when it consciously unmoors itself from its own inheritance?" For if Mark Stein is correct about the degeneration of the pillars...if he is correct about the fact that Europe will survive in name only...then it remains for the people of Europe to unmoor themselves from this particular inheritance/fate. And notice that he admits that some of the brightest are doing comming here.

If Mark Stein and conservatives are correct about the problems facing Europe and America...then they must come to say something very different than "No society can survive when it consciously unmoors itself from its own inheritance." They should rather say: "No society can survive when it does not consciously unmoor itself from its inheritance." For if the fate of europe is bad it is bad because the inheritance is bad. And this happens naturally as every generation grows up and rebels from the fate of its parents...for if one does not want to be something one does not emulate it. Thus it was that America was born in the first place...unmoored from British rights and inheritance we sought a different route...and for the most part we achieved it. Likewise Australians contemptuous of penal colony status...unmoored itself from its inheritance. When we think of Australia do we think of thugs, rapists, and drunks? If we think of Rugby players we must admit that at least they aren’t usually rapists. But in all seriousness...American and Australia...what a single theme do they share if not: "No society can survive when it does not consciously unmoor itself from its inheritance."

And that is why the statue of liberty says: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempesttost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." These are folks who are more than happy to unmoor themselves from disastrous inheritance.

When the pillars are corrupt unmoor yourself! That is the true American and Australian lesson!

Peter, since I’ve read your piece on sociobiology (in the New Atlantis?), I know how you feel about that science. What I’m not clear on is how Steyn’s argument somehow slams sociobiology? Among primates, the status drive (and sex drive) clearly trumps the drive for raw reproduction (indeed, many sociobiologists argue that man does not have a reproduction drive per se). The current "birth dearth" really doesn’t contradict Darwinian’s just that modern economics (and birth control) allow us to delink status achievement, sex, and reproduction. It may be unwise in evolutionary terms, but it does not contradict the evolutionary model.

Oh, and Peter, you need to watch posting articles that would smack of Eurocentrism. Calling for greater fertility among white folks is just verboten on this’ll get slammed by the Ashland elite!

Quickly: Could sociobiology really account for behavior among healthy animals living in a favorable environment that would literally bring the species to an end? Or the death-haunted individual consciously voting for himself over his replacements? And as a Thomist, I like science! Very good comments...Thanks.

On the white folks, I would be thrilled if the European white folks would marry their immigrants of various colors and from various continents and have lots of babies with them--assimilating them all into their political and cultural way of life. And of course it would be wonderful if they started adopting the many desperate children in Africa. All this goes for the Americans and Australians too. Steyn isn’t talking about the perpetuation of the race, after all.

Thank you, Peter. I was starting to worry that I was the only one around here who was bothered by that "European DNA" remark.

Well, of course, that’s a legitimate worry, John. I can honestly say I don’t care about European DNA.

Of course Steyn is talking about the perpetuation of the race..."In a very short time, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries we regard as part of the western tradition will cease to exist in any meaningful sense. They don’t have a future because they’ve given up breeding." What else can that mean other than the fact that France, Belgium and the Netherlands will look different racially in terms of makeup?

As for sociobiology...I don’t know what it means. But here is my answer: "Could sociobiology really account for behavior among healthy animals living in a favorable environment that would literally bring the species to an end? Or the death-haunted individual consciously voting for himself over his replacements?"

Zoo’s take animals and in effect attempt to recreate the Epicurian ideal...they attempt to give them as much pleasure as possible and with good medicine and proper treatment the removal of as much pain as possible. If you disagree with me a zoo that lets a lion into the gazzelle doesn’t happen. But these healthy animals living in these favorable environments have a notoriously difficult time breeding.

It used to be that people like Malthus would argue that once the worker got his pay he would eat up and breed...eventually there would be too many people...a famine cycle would kick in and people would die. Maybe this is the case...but maybe it isn’t... Maybe if animals live in environments that are too favorable nature realizes this...realizes that it can’t last forever...and thus to prevent extreme famine (in which all would die) it has already selected for those who didn’t breed at an unatural rate during favorable circumstances(because those that did suffered from famine latter on)....perhaps?

Yea, you PC boys are fooling yourselves about Steyn. And Moser, of course you aren’t alone...the whole Left just loves your attitude! Anti-racism has become the "diversity religion," and the central premise is that, at the very least, white folks should take a back seat and, if the world is lucky, just die out. Congrats on joining their club (even if you have more moderate attitudes than that, your benign neglect and hostility to the countervailing attitude achieves all the same goals).

As for a healthy population allowing itself to die out...lots of examples. I’ll give you one...the Irish elk. Sexual selection by the female elks led to male racks of horns that were dysfunctional. Weakened the whole species, and they died off after the ice age ended...just as status-chasing may end us if we aren’t careful. The whole notion that every animal has a primary instinct to reproduce just isn’t true...nature finds the BEST way to perpetuate the species. Sometimes that the simple pursuit of sex and high status...and it worked until we changed our environment so much that the delinking between sex and reproduction occurred.

And John Lewis, your "thin" depiction of social dynamics just floors me. You really, really need to get a handle on path dependent history and how culture shapes the future. This libertarian faith you have in LIBERTY as the great emancipator (and solver of all problems) is just simple-minded. I’m sorry, I think it is.

John, I agree that that sentence could be misinterpreted. They’ve stopped thinking about their replacements--of who would carry on their politics, culture etc.--would be more accurate. The danger is not black Belgians--but Belgians who care nothing about the political and culture inheritance of Europe--including the various universalisms a particular continent gave the whole world.

"You really, really need to get a handle on path dependent history and how culture shapes the future. This libertarian faith you have in LIBERTY as the great emancipator (and solver of all problems) is just simple-minded. I’m sorry, I think it is."

To get a handle on such a thing supposes that it is possible to get a handle on such a thing. If such a thing where true it would not be possible to get a handle on such a thing...because one would be encompassed in it. Personally I think my simple minded view of liberty is in keeping with the culture that shaped such a view and as such does not offend by asking that as the first condition of believing that transcendence is impossible demands that I accomplish it.

Personally I think my simple minded view of liberty is in keeping with the culture that shaped such a view and as such does not offend by asking that as the first condition of believing that transcendence is impossible demands that I accomplish it.

How’s that again, John?

Moreover, the Western tradition of "liberty" is nuanced and multifaceted, not the libertarian drivel one reads on certain websites. Individualism is only half the is the other. This is the major difference between libertarians and conservatives.

Actually, please define what you mean by path dependency. In economics path dependency means that the first standard to market often times becomes entrenched accumulates a network effect and although inferior may persist. I may think that the Querty Keyboard is inferior...but it may not matter that much to me and so I may not want to shell out a lot of money or learn a whole new system..ext... Path dependency is supported by switching costs. The higher the switching costs relative to the imputed importance(of changing that dependency) the stronger the path dependency...the People who talk about our addiction to oil like to talk about path dependency...the combustion engine and the types of vehicles people wanted and or were built conspired to give us gas stations instead of Hydrogen. The fact that vehicles require refueling stations is a switching costs that complicates the matter of moving "beyond peutroleum."

I believe in path dependency...and I think BP is not necessarily embarassed of its buisiness(as Mark Steyn says) as much as it wants to hedge bets in this move that will involve huge switching costs.

In other words to recast what I said in terms of path dependence...Americans because they had less tradition than the french had fewer entrenched path dependencies and thus didn’t need to employ the guilotine to bring about an unmooring from European standards and declare the rights of man. Unfortunately due to the social makeup of the Union at the time slavery had entrenched itself as a path dependency that would require a bloody civil war(switching costs) to dislodge it.

In fact...come to think of it... I don’t know if economists who talk about path dependencies ever view these as good things...they almost always entail switching costs....

My point is...if the path dependencies are bad enough people are free to pay the switching costs...if they don’t think the path dependencies are all that bad they are free not to pay the switching costs.

Of course will say that an individual is powerless to pay the switching costs...and so if society doesn’t agree with him he must simply suffer what he considers a horrible path dependence. You are right...but be stoic about it. If the path dependence is beyond you and the switching costs you have at your disposal...convince people to take political action. Better yet...don’t allow yourself to center your hapiness in areas you can’t or aren’t willing to control directly.

Dain’s views give me the willies. The "Triumph of the Willies," you might say.


I hate to nitpick, but I think you may have misread Malthus. He rightly points out that reproduction is expotential, while food production is arthimetic (I believe that is the proper term) or linear. Malthus then has to explain why population hardly ever outpaces its food supplies.

You are correct that he says the famine cycle is the ultimate adjustor of population to resources, but famines hardly ever happen and he has to account for that. He accounts for it by sin and sexual pervsions.

Malthus believed that all forms of birth control were sinful (the traditional Catholic view--Malthus was a Church of England priest or whatever they are called) and any sexual practice that did not create a possibility of fertilization was a perversion and also sinful.

I think Malthus’ theory still stands up (even given technology), it is just that his book is not as grim as it once was because a large number of people consider condoms and the like as not sinful. They do not think it tragic that population must match resources through sexual practices that limit the possibility of fertilization.

You are right about Malthus, Steve...I was just pulling in threads not weaving a whole scene.

Lets just assume that a long time ago say in the B.C. periods even...periods of plenty gave us a population boom...a population boom increased population density and because sanitation was poor in turn made disease more likely(disease could answer Malthus for the lack of famine...but this is a digression.) In any case it seems that two factors limiting population growth early on where disease (from pop. density, and famine from pop. density(limited farmland) But famillies that grew the most during periods of plenty would feel these effects most acutely latter on. Famillies that grew less may have felt them less. Suppose that some diseases killed out entire famillies it is more likely to have killed out the famillies (that is those most intensely concentrated) that populated the most during boom times(in this case number of offspring could have been an evolutionary disadvantage.) So perhaps evolution did select against population growth in boom cycles a long time before the industrial age even...a long long time before modern Europe. Maybe Dain would know...but I think that even Darwinian Evolution is not immune from "path dependency". That is to say that evolution did not necessarily select for the contemporary conditions but rather for the entire chain of conditions that afflicted man over millions of years of becomming.

John...path dependency means that an event or set of events sets a trajectory for social change. A good example would be the Spanish settlement of the Americas -- once it’s done, it’s done. The Americas will never be "discovered" again, and the "switching costs" (reverting to forgotten native languages, destroying Euro-style cities and setting up Inca-style cities, etc, etc, just isn’t going to happen). Biological evolution is chock-full of such path dependencies.

Steve, Malthus was simply wrong. His is an animal model...but humans adapt to population pressure using technology (everything from spacing births to multiple cropping to using oil). He was wrong the way Marx was wrong...he underestimated human creativity.

Dear off, trollboy. DNA is just chemically-imprinted information. To say that whites (or Asians, etc.) have accumulated nothing valuable in their DNA is an ignorant opinion. Science proves nurture-radicals WRONG every day.

Dain, I believe in path dependency then. I am a lot more receptive to your DNA argument in that sense. I have no problem saying that Asians and Jews are by and large more intelligent on IQ tests and that has something to do with nature. Caucasians like us are also pretty intelligent. But unfortunately I don’t know that we know enough about prehistory to really look into path dependency very deeply. I also am not all that clear on measures of g. As far as the extentions of the "path dependency" thesis goes I really like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Steel and Germs. But in Guns, Steel and Germs, Jared Diamond does a somewhat tolerable job talking about how race(DNA) wasn’t really the deciding factor in why some groups ended up with all the toys.

Actually, John, I try to take an agnostic attitude about the whole race/IQ question. Seems to generate a lot of heat but not much light, and even if a genetic differential could be proved, how would it influence the way we live? Moreover, suggesting that different racial/ethnic groups are different is not the same as saying that some hierarchy exists. There may be no hierarchy at all, and still these groups would be valuable culturally AND genetically.

My point about DNA is more subtle. No group that I know of has completely embraced the culture of another group. Some have come close, like the ancient Gauls emulating the Romans. Other more contemporary groups like the Japanese have copied some aspects of a "more successful" culture, but they always hold onto things that are the most distinctive.

What to infer from this? Well, if you like the richness/variety of Western Culture (and I do), you have to concur that "replacement" of European populations with other groups of people simply won’t preserve what’s distinctive. So, for me, the decline of the racial group is a pretty serious threat to the cultural group. True, new "amalgams" emerging from "replacement" might be interesting and valuable, but that wouldn’t make them preferable to the old culture/group.


I think you are wrong concerning Malthus’ wrongness. He was not wrong. Population growth is exponential (do we agree on that?). Food production can be expotential-like for certain periods of time, (say given new technology that allows greater crop yields per acre) but once the technolgy is established diminishing returns have to set in. Resources are arthimetic because there is finite land (even if we could farm on every planet in existence, there is only so much land-like matter) and finite oil, etc.

Furthermore, you are not considering the fact that technology takes time to develop, and from an individual’s perspective, time is finite. Even supposing some miracle machine could be invented that would make food production expontential, if it took a 1000 year to develop it, it would not help us today.

Malthus does not underestimate human creativity, he merely labels all creative sexual activity as sin, which is what I said in my first post. If Malthus were to admit birth control were not sinful he would have had a short essay.

Obviously Steve population growth is not always exponential for all groups or else this thread wouldn’t really exist. Overall human population growth appears exponential...but overall crop yields also appear exponential. In my opinion both population growth and growth due to technology is "arthemic" in the very very long run due to the finite nature of the Universe itself. You can many farms can you fit into a Yugo just as easily as you can ask the question for people.

I agree with Dain on the preservation of the richness/variety of Western Culture...or at least partially. I think that preservation is largely overblown. In the great scheme of things some ideas/cultures will win some will lose. When you take the idea of path dependency too seriously then there is no real justice to the means by which cultures win and lose...there is only great tragedy. But there is another sense in which a culture may no longer deserves to countinue existing. For me there is something ironic in wanting to preserve something that is decaying, for the sake of what it once represented. To me the greatest contradiction in conservatism is that it doesn’t actually seek to preserve what currently exists. It seeks to preserve what once existed, throught institutions that don’t contain the qualities in question. I don’t see how one could ever quote Nietzche about the state of modern man’s relation to God and then seek to preserve that relation. In my way of thinking we are creating "path dependencies" by doing so...because by preserving what shouldn’t exist we are selecting for what shouldn’t exist, we are creating our own tragedies. Nature doesn’t do this. Nature does what Emmerson says it does. I believe in unvarnished truth...I believe in the bible stories that talk of pruning. I believe that the irrational ways of doing things may have hidden rationalities...but just because something seems irrational is not proof itself of rationality. Some ideas must eventually be commited to the flames. In fact without the act of pruning no fruit will ever be produced. I don’t see Burke as a person who wished to preserve so much as a person who wished to do the opposite to the present situation in france...and in supporting the colonies do the opposite to the status quo on british colonies. We are all trapped in the the here and now, we don’t and can’t seek to simply accept our inheritance blindly we must unmoor if it is corrupt. That is it makes no sense to talk of mediated rights...mediated rights are simply the rights of the present...inheritance is simply what has survived into the definition it cannot be what used to exist but no longer does. You have to actively make the future. America and Australia are good examples of countries whose people understood this. If Burke could honestly say that the only thing required for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing then one cannot class him with those who have a firm faith in inheritance. One must class him with those who believe in pruning. On the other hand I don’t think Europe will die, unless it refuses to adapt... I think Europe will adapt, because it must...I think Europe is adapting. And I think the strength of its currency is a partial rebutal to the doom and gloom. In this sense I am being quite melodramatic. I think Europe is simply pruning itself. But perhaps it is prunning the wrong things...perhaps it is cutting off the healthy branches and leaving the dead ones...but if this is the case then it is simply reaping what it sows...and if it is ever allowed to reap what it sows it will quickly correct itself. But of course the problem is will never be quick enough for everyone, and the sins of the father will almost invariably fall to the sons. But this is historically inevitable...and in what sense is Europe today not reaping the seeds of the Great Wars and still trying to respond to them? What a messy inheritance that cut the Europeans some slack...they certainly rebounded pretty well all things considered. Europe will never be the same...but perhaps Europe has never been the same.

Steve, your points are interesting, but population is actually the "fountainhead" of technology. Necessity is the mother of groups grow in size they create problems for themselves, which forces them to become creative. That’s been the history of the world. True, there have been just a very few "Malthusian" incidents (e.g., Easter Island), but overall more people have equalled more development (e.g., China, Europe, India, Egypt)...all densely populated, and all hotbeds of technological development.

One would have thought that Irish born and Swedish livin’ Brian Coughlan would have commented by now. Whut gives? But then I fergot that it ’tis August and Europa’s chillin’ go on vacation to da beach and leave ol mama and papa to make it on their own in their overheated apartments and flats.

Oh, well there will a bein’ more room by Sept. 1.

Yes, John, we have established that you are a true child of the Enlightenment. From the prospect of radical individualists I suppose it might appear that conservatives are trying to preserve dead institutions. We don’t see it that way...we know change is inevitable, but we resist in order to preserve the tried-and-true of human social life. I guess that might appear to be "fear of change" from your perspective...dunno. I don’t think I "fear" change so much as just know better.

That was a little bit off the wall...what I am saying...and this applies to the here and now, to the america of today is that conservatives desire change more than or at least just as much as liberals do. This is why liberals argue that it is conservative judges who are "activist judges".

"we know change is inevitable, but we resist in order to preserve the tried-and-true of human social life." Exactly but what are you resisting if not the "present"? You aren’t resisting "change" that is are resisting the present. You are resisting elements of our particular present inheritance, and you are making an appeal to reason in order to do so. This is Burkean.

What I would say is that a chief difference between being American and being European involves the belief that one can appeal to reason...and not simply that one is the victim of a billion and one path dependencies and historical tragedies that require appeasement and reconcilliation. Europe is conservative in a bad way. America is liberal in a good way. Europe is more haunted by its history, America less so. Europe considers capitalism a farce...america considers it an opportunity. Why did the french revolution fail so completly while the American one worked?(assuming as I do that both were Utopian...and that america is a Utopia) Does the american say "Que Sera Sera"?

John, you are assuming that all innovations/changes spring from our traditions. Not so...some innovations are the logical by-products of some of our institutions (civil rights > gay marriage), but that doesn’t mean that those innovations will be faithful to the core of our belief system. Of course we resist aspects of "the present" -- only the tests of the past "select" for the good and winnow out the bad. Our job as conservatives is to try to prevent the dumbest of these’s better to put down mulch than to have to weed later.

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