Among American political thinkers, there’s a tendency to try to restrict politics to intellectualism — to the realm of ideas rather than the more complete realms like life, aesthetics, behavior, religion, and morality. The general idea goes that if your side can win the ‘battle of ideas,’ then your favored political order will triumph — that all else is downstream from the intellectual, rather than the more holistic philosophical point of view that takes into account more influences on the masses of political animals.
The Misean liberal view is actually rather broadly shared outside just the Miseans, in part because it also won over Hayek, and thereby won over the Reagan and Thatcher ‘revolutionaries’ of the 1980s:
When liberal ideas began to spread to central and eastern Europe from their homeland in western Europe, the traditional powers—the monarchy, the nobility, and the clergy—trusting in the instruments of repression that were at their disposal, felt completely safe. They did not consider it necessary to combat liberalism and the mentality of the Enlightenment with intellectual weapons. Suppression, persecution, and imprisonment of the malcontents seemed to them to be more serviceable. They boasted of the violent and coercive machinery of the army and the police. Too late they realized with horror that the new ideology snatched these weapons from their hands by conquering the minds of officials and soldiers. It took the defeat suffered by the old regime in the battle against liberalism to teach its adherents the truth that there is nothing in the world more powerful than ideologies and ideologists and that only with ideas can one fight against ideas. They realized that it is foolish to rely on arms, since one can deploy armed men only if they are prepared to obey, and that the basis of all power and dominion is, in the last analysis, ideological.
In this way, there’s sometimes a sense — especially in the capitols of power, finance, and influence — that you can have unusual ideas while simultaneously looking like and assimilating into the culture of the people who disagree with you in profound ways.
This is ultimately a disappointing way of life, sometimes interrupted with moments of good humor and connection among the people around you — the last vestiges of the short-lived Anglo-American tradition of toleration — but one that leaves the odd person out feeling isolated, perhaps slightly deranged, because one needs to smile and laugh, even pretend to believe certain things, even when one would wish not to.
What Mises missed in at least some of his writing and his approach to promulgating theory is that ideology isn’t everything. What people do with their lives, how they behave, how they comport themselves, what they believe is beautiful, how they worship Gods or demons — all of these things matter, and not all of them can be encompassed within ideology, especially because many of these things have been encoded into our bodies in a way that we can’t shake.
The test of this strategy is whether or not it succeeded.
The conservatives who lead the temporary counter-attack against the failures of the 1970s almost entirely succeeded on the intellectual level. They then proceeded to achieve none of the rest of their goals, and were out-classed by intellectually inferior opponents, who have proceeded to engulf, neutralize, suppress, and even pervert their opponents. When the USSR collapsed, it almost looked like leftism was in collapse, and pragmatic, sane, even quasi-responsible liberal governance was returning to the land, which would produce something like Utopia soon enough, maintained by a precision bombing here and there.
It wasn’t fated to be, and the gods seemed to have found the hubris of that time more than a little funny, and in need of a comic series of political corrections.
In political fundraising, the cool line to use now is… “are you with me…?” — ‘me’ being the celebrity-idea of the politician.
And so are most of the meaningless articles and hot social issues of today. You’re either with Team Tranny and Team Young Boys Kissing or you’re with the evil ones on the other team. In conflict, reaction time matters, and more than most other things. The time for evaluation shrinks to milliseconds. Can you be identified correctly in the time between cognition and a reflex action?
“How do you feel about an 11 year old boy slipping some tongue to his classmate after the soccer game?”
That’s a test. A quiz, even.
The answer is either that it’s a beautiful, higher expression of love — or sickening. The ‘correct’ answer is that it’s a glorious herald of the rainbow future. If you’re not willing to conform to that, then you’ll at least be intimidated into silence and withdrawal from your local society.
Plenty of people are caught in the middle — they may have different ideas inside, and some misgivings or a lack of faith in the new symbols — but they also have trouble going over to the other side, which is perhaps just as foreign if not more so.
In war, the failed state of politics, no one gives a shit about how you feel on the inside.
If you look like you’re on the other side, you’ll be treated as a member of the other side, because in conflict, people have no time to do a background check on the person that they’re shooting at. If you look like you’re on the other team, they’re going to treat you like you are. If you live in the same state or city as the other team, they’re going to assume that you’re part of the opposition, and are otherwise going to be suspicious of you (and rightly so).
Life’s not fair, and what’s typical is for people to have no freedom of conscience. America’s just regressing to the human mean: especially as it brings in more foreigners who have no tradition whatsoever of tolerance, and works to integrate them into positions of power more aggressively.
Unfortunately, the option for those caught in the middle may not be whether or not to be silent — it’ll be the usual, which is “on your feet, or on your knees” — the choice being less in the whether, but the how, you want it to go.