"Conservative democracy"

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
Interesting article I came across in National Post (I read it in the the actual paper version this morning lol Just found it online now); kinda long though, so I will just post some exerpts that especially caught my attention, you can read the rest yourselves:

The historian Arnold Toynbee warned that “civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.” He said they begin to disintegrate when they abandon moral law and yield to their impulses, which in turn brings about a state of passivity, a sense that there is no point in resisting incoming waves of foreigners driven by confidence and purpose.

Since Toynbee, other writers, notably James Burnham in his influential 1964 essay, Suicide of the West: An essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism, have picked up on the theme. In every case in which the word “suicide” features, the root cause comes down to the effects of a universalist liberal democracy over time. These observers are not trading in fear-mongering for its own sake. We must pay respectful attention to their warnings.

Liberal democracy is, broadly speaking, a political doctrine consecrated to the belief that reason, universally accessible and everywhere the same, can by itself create the conditions for enlightened progress in human affairs.

With social justice as the end and social transformation as the means, liberals are not perturbed by the erosion of Christianity, the traditional family and the cultural particularism such transformation requires. The instinct to jettison cultural babies in order to refresh our cultural bathwater is a feature, not a bug, of liberal democracy.

Conservatives, even those who don’t embrace social conservatism, view the crumbling of these building blocks of civilization with anxiety and fear. Their view is that reason alone, without spiritual ballast and deference to the traditions that created our civilization, can produce social instability and even violence. Nobody considered himself more reasonable than Vladimir Lenin. Nobody considers herself more reasonable than a minister of sport who conflates subjective gender identification with biological sex.

Conservatives’ fears are driving the nationalist/nativist counter-movement liberals view with disgust and anger. Conservatives find it difficult to get an unbiased hearing in the prevailing progressive zeitgeist. Liberals have been successful in linking nationalism with history’s most odious incarnations of racism and imperialism in the popular imagination, while ignoring the equally tragic history of internationalist movements, because Marxist utopianism casts a spell they find irresistible.

So in the matter of immigration, for example, liberals are not concerned by mass immigration from countries with different religious and cultural traditions, because they rely on the universal appeal of liberal principles to even out the initial wrinkles. Conservatives regard these different traditions as deeply entrenched and likely to be negatively transformative to our own culture. They are inclined to impose strictures that encourage integration into, along with recognition of, our own culture’s dominant status. Far from being racist, conservatives view this precaution as a hedge against the kind of inter-cultural tensions spilling over into expressed hatreds that are presently roiling Europe. But as we saw in the last election, even the mildest criticism of mass immigration is the kiss of death to a politician.


As an example of a successful conservative democracy, Hazony points to Israel. Israel’s pioneers were secularists, and many of them were Marxists, but the early Labour Zionists respected the laws of Kashrut and Shabbat and made study of the Bible in school a legal requirement — not to inculcate religious observance, but because the Bible tells the story of how the Jews became a nation. It is also the source of Jewish ethics.

Israel’s nation-state law, passed in July 2018, aroused intense controversy amongst liberals abroad, but is very popular amongst Israelis. The law declares and defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, listing a number of specific manifestations of what that means, including language, flag, anthem and immigration policy. It is both a law and a mission statement. One of its provisions is that the education system transmit Jewish “culture.” At least that was the word the secularists wanted. The haredim wanted the word “tradition.” They compromised with the word “heritage.” The big point is that Jewish culture is privileged over other cultures, a concept that is offensive to liberals, but makes eminent sense to conservatives.
Much more: Barbara Kay: Liberal democracy is struggling. Can conservative democracy thrive?

Personally, I would argue that every country is different, as is what can and cannot work there.

For instance, plenty ethnic Russian nationalists have, over the years, demanded same sort of privileges for their kind in Russia as Jews have in Israel.

But, for tunately, even Putin sees how unreasonable that would be, today, in a country with, like, 180 indigenous ethnic groups, all with own established cultures, languages, etc; who would not, in 2019, put up with being somehow subjugated and put under some sort of apartheid, on their own bloody land...

You can't, for example, simply declare Orthodox Christianity as an official state religion, in a country with also around 20 million, give or take, Muslim citizens; plus Buddhists, Jews, etc; which is why those four (Orthodox, Muslim, Buddhists, and Jews) enjoy EQUAL status, as Russia's four "Foundational Faiths", and their representatives sit together on a national Interreligious Council, which helps resolve people's questions and issues involving spiritual matters, as well as advises the Kremlin itself about such things

Similarly, I am not sure what culture the esteemed author wishes to prioritize here in Canada? Maybe she can actually define Canadian culture for me? Because, frankly, there are lots and lots of immigrants here too, and minorities, whose kids play hockey, and go Trick-or-Treating on Halloween, and wear Poppies on Remembrance Day, etc

Most of us who come here, assimmilate, precisely because we LIKE Canada, for being the open and tolerant and welcoming and kind society that it generally has been to all of us...

Trying to force any culture or ideology on people, OTOH, would only create resentment towards/against that culture/ideology. It certainly would NOT result in peace and harmony in our society...
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