What changes, what remains the same
Posted by aogSaturday, 06 December 2003 at 15:54 TrackBack Ping URL

To avoid becoming USS Clueless I’ll talk about an idea which is related to but distinct from the previous post.

A standard way to cast the major faultlines of society today is Postrel’s dynamicist vs. stasist point of view. This postulates that the “dynamicists” are comfortable with change while the “stasists” want everything to stay the same. It’s frequently presumed that Americans are basically dynamistis and Europeans are stasists. But what changes and what stays the same?

In my opinion, one of the reasons for the recent resurgence of conservatism in the US is that conservatives have learned to become dynamicists in the ephemeral while staying stasist on the fundamentals. This isn’t to say that conservatives now embrace any cultural change that emerges, but their critiques are now more about the merits of the change rather than simply that it’s different and therefore bad.

In contrast, the liberal side (particularly in Europe) have become ephemeral stasists and fundamental dynamicists, sacrificing any ideological coherence to maintain a rigid stasis of current government policies.

One mark of what Andrew Sullivan calls “eagles” (but I think are better called “coots”, because otherwise you’re falling in to the “bright” trap of propagandizing via a putatively neutral term) is respect for the fundamental of thrift while not worrying so much about quotidian details of life. The coots are now a big factor in the rising political dominance of the conservatives.

In contrast, the liberals (and again, the Europeans and patricularly the EUlite) seem to be willing to adopt any basic ideology as long as the quotidian details (long vacations, welfare payments, government jobs) stay the same. If that means switching from supporting human rights to funding brutal tyrants then so be it.

Personally, I’m a coot because knowing that there are eternal verities makes local experimentation less scary. If there are no fundamental truths, if all is flux, by what standards can anything be judged? How can we, as a society, learn anything if everything can change?

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