An honest libertarian history of America

While not a large percentage of conservatives, the libertarian subset is nevertheless quite influential in shaping general patterns of conservative thought even when it does not seem to be powerful politically.  And while what follows oversimplifies dramatically, it is accurate in its essentials as a lens through which to view American history from an honest libertarian perspective.

If you take the libertarian focus on contract law as the sole arbiter of government rule, then it becomes very easy to categorize American history as the evolution away from even the pretense at honoring contracts.

The first century of America (1776-1876) can be seen as an era in which contracts were routinely violated, but during which residual senses of honor and noblesse oblige led the men violating these contracts to occasionally feel bad about doing so.  Their justifications thus attempted to be rigorous and ground themselves in the notion that they were enforcing other, higher-level contracts.  But they were justifications after all.

The second century of America (1876-1976) can be seen as the gradual loss of the fig leaves of high-flown justification.  Instead, there was a steady move towards continuing to rampantly violate contracts, while justifying the violations themselves as valid.  There was less and less sense that the rule of law governing those contracts needed to be taken seriously even when disregarded.  Needless to say, that brings us to the present day.

The current century of America (1976-2014) is unlikely to be an entire century, as at this point there is no concern for the rule of law as being important enough to justify violations of it in specific instances.  The idea of contracts as valid is dead and the idea that you’d need some fig leaves is thoroughly comical to the current governing figures.  There is no longer any pretense.  The behavior is similar, but the idea that it wasn’t necessarily right or proper to do it is missing.

This is, needless to say, not the contract-lens through which your average libertarian views American history.  They tend to distill it down into heavenly anarcho-topia of pure contract-honoring awesomeness before 1916 (income tax introduction) and nightmare of socialism and overregulation afterwards, particularly starting with the New Deal a generation after the income tax.  Some don’t know about the income tax introduction and move the time of glorious contract-bliss forward to right before the New Deal.

This is one of many reasons I am no longer libertarian.  Reading primary sources of American history, especially before 1900, rinses a lot of that gunk out of your brainpan in a hurry.  The reality is that even if you distill libertarian views down to contracts uber alles, American history is not a history of a nation that was awesome at honoring contracts to the extent often claimed.

This does not mean that there was no honor or just dealing, it simply means that the honor came paired with plenty of dishonorable action, sometimes from the same people during the same time period.


Double Consciousness for SAHMs

Double consciousness, it’s not just a black thing!  It is a classic housewife problem, coming from servant classes but marrying well enough to afford servants yourself and not knowing what to do with them.  Chalk it up to another way to feel bad and a failure as a woman.

I think it doesn’t get enough real discussion among conservatives, because they are very wedded to the classless America myth.  But one of the conflicts with the idea of a “traditional America” is that America was peopled by folks who rejected proper authority and their proper place in existing hierarchies.  It was peopled by servant classes and third sons of gentry, people who would have been very low on their relative totem poles in the home countries.  Combined with the low population density and the love of technology, there’s always been a big conflict in “traditional America” over whether to have servants at all.  This was an added layer to slavery debates, incidentally.

Among the white ethnic groups who came over with strong traditions of sharing the labor out instead of having servants, Americans forgot or ignored that those ethnic groups relied on massive shaming and social pressure to spread the work around.

And so by the time we get to the modern era, the white-ethnic traditions that provided voluntary, unpaid support for housewives are nearly extinct and other forms of support are unavailable due to a mix of factors, including tolerance of disordered and sociopathic personalities in housewife-heavy subcultures.

This is incidentally why so many white American people are quick to claim they and their ancestors didn’t own slaves or benefit from slavery.  It’s a way to forget that lots and lots and lots of white people really really really wanted to have the wealth and subject labor that slaves represented.  There wouldn’t have been an entire industry peopled by those servantless whites around kidnapping free black people and claiming they were slaves with “missing papers” if slave labor was such a horrible financial drain to have and keep going *for the people who had slaves*. Having serfs is particularly nice if you don’t have to worry about your children dropping that far down the ladder because the serfs are an entirely different race.

Likewise, a small but influential number of women dismiss the idea of servants or household help as important, needful or useful because they are disordered and the wacky individualist strain in American culture provides cover for their madness, at the expense of having to deal with the fact that you just might not be “middle class” in origins or background and narrowly missed being the maid or nanny or housekeeper yourself.  It also is why there is such a belief, most particularly among conservatives, that the private household administered by a housewife is utterly essential but that household help is utterly improper as a social expectation for housewives.  Without that deranged, Randian individualism, conservatives could not gaslight women into believing that they must carry the full burden of maintaining a household with nothing more than a prayer book, a vacuum cleaner and a dishwasher.

There’s also the dismissal of the idea that life in domestic service could be a career with advancement and wealth-building opportunities.  This was even the case to a surprising extent (as in, it happened at all) in American chattel slavery.  If simply being a servant is the worst possible thing that could happen to someone, then having servants cannot be a moral or worthwhile thing.  This is an ongoing theme in American culture, that class and status conflict playing out decade after decade. But yeah.  Black Americans aren’t the only ones who’ve had to struggle with double consciousness as an artifact of their place in society.

Why the working poor don’t just save up for a car while eating beans and rice

Conservatives are notorious, and rightly so, for generally dismissing the working poor as “low time-preference” or “unwilling to do what it takes to get out of poverty”.  This comes in the form of ridiculous statements very similar to the title of this post.  

The working poor can’t save up enough for a reliable car while taking very unreliable public transit, which is all that’s available in most parts of America.  A reliable car, in my experience in both high and low COL areas, costs about $2500 in cash.  That is the lowest reasonable amount to guarantee a low maintenance, sub 100k mile car that is reliable for someone with little mechanical knack.  Most working poor can save about $200 per month on paychecks from two part-time jobs totalling $1500-2000 per month.  This means it would take about a year to save up enough to get that reliable car.

Problem is, I just noted the public transit they have to use to get to work isn’t reliable.  So what happens is that many working poor hold multiple jobs concurrently, constantly swapping in a new part-time job to replace the one they lost not due to “bad attitude” or any of the other loving, Christian terms conservatives throw around, but due to being late one too many times when public transit is flaky.  They mostly can’t get full-time jobs for this reason, and part-time jobs vary in tolerating the episodic lateness of public transit, often kicking the worker to the curb after a few months.  Well, if you can’t even reliably make that $1500-2000 a month because you’re always hustling for a new second or third job, you can’t save the $200/month consistently either.

Further, because of the commute logistics, it’s very difficult to even manage crockpot cooking with the scheduling flux and transportation instability.  So the working poor eat a lot of quick food even when they have cooking skills because it’s safer and more consistent.

Conservatives should spend more time thinking through the situations people are actually in when making bootstrap arguments.  No, every working poor person is not some brave single mother of three working nine jobs.  But many are single adults working two or three jobs as often as they can take a bus to them and struggling to have more than a few hundred dollars put by because without saner transit solutions, it’s extremely difficult to get to a financial level that permits them to purchase a reliable enough car to get more stable part-time or be eligible for full-time jobs with better prospects.  And no, it’s not easier to lug 100 pounds of beans and rice home and crockpot them up.  That is a favorite of conservatives, the imaginary poor person who easily can carry a 50lb sack of beans and a 50lb sack of rice home via public transit.

A great many conservatives have a veil of sweet amnesia over the frankly better circumstances they had if they were once working poor and this leads them to create all sorts of bizarre and mean motives for the working poor remaining so when the reality is often quite ordinary.  Reality is biased, just not in a conservative or liberal direction.

The paper bag bargirls of the 1950s, or there were One Night Stands back then too.

This is just about the girls in the 1950s who went to bars with paper bags containing toiletries, looking for a guy to go home with.  This was a regular enough occurrence that one can find it described in popular literature of the era. The 1950s was not really a time of sexual continence, as conservatives frequently like to pretend (the major liberal lie of the 1950s is ignoring the massive amount of tax avoidance behavior that resulted from sky-high tax rates). There is in fact a grain of truth to the idea that the 1950s was about a facade of cleanliness hiding rot.

The 1950s was a strange time, as it was when atomicity started to become widespread and community ties started to openly degrade.  It’s also a time that due ironically to being the first mass media decade has managed to ensconce itself in conservative and liberal memetic memory as the perfect decade, for essentially similar reasons (that people were more willing to sacrifice temporal pleasure for the common good).  For liberals, this sacrifice is financial, while it is sexual and social for the conservatives.  It’s also totally imaginary in both cases, except by pure accident.

After all, it’s the children who were raised by people who were adults (and sometimes paper bag girls and men amenable to taking them home) during the 50s who are running most of our institutions into the ground right now.  If the adults were so much more moral, why are their children so venal?

The false choice between SAHM and Career Woman

If taken seriously, the housewife’s work is itself a “career” and should be accorded the necessary support as one would expect for any serious, decades-long work.  It’s further a false choice because having kids young can mean having an outside the home career in early middle age, as was an option among quite a few of the very women shoving their girls out of the home these days.

In older times, as well, the lower tiers of what is now thought of by Americans as upper-middle class or upper-class women often held ceremonial positions within royal households that were equivalent to careers even though they didn’t require working outside the household, because household management at all class tiers was taken much more seriously than is the case in the modern, supposedly classless American society.

This post further explores the idea that women working for money is not incompatible with a future life of housewifery.  This also goes back to traditional understandings of hierarchy and authority, and remembering that women are not supposed to submit to just any man anywhere because that is not itself a properly ordered understanding of the intersections of authority and hierarchy.

Men can be alpha widows according to Henry James

In the ongoing annals of actually reading literature written before the 1960s that wasn’t listed on Mencius Moldbug’s website, I’ve been idling a bit with Henry James and one of his little quirks is the tale of the male alpha widow.

In a number of his tales, a man essentially alpha widows himself by becoming obsessed with an idealized younger him, while dragging a friendzoned lady friend along for a lifelong ride, ending with him being real sad that he wasted her life but not quite as sad as he is at the self-image that got away.

It’s very amusing to me that this is not terribly different from the manosphere and increasingly mainstream right-wing idea of the female “alpha widow” who ruins a marriage pining for the younger version of herself that dated a hot dude once, but the concept is presented as some sort of uniquely female thing despite not being gender or sex-bound at all.

Maybe someday some of these “realists” will come up with, well, realistic ideas of sex, gender and race.  Probably not anytime soon though, since it would involve reading books beyond easily found online excerpts.

Vox Day is a Practical Conservative

Being a practical conservative means doing things that are useful and helpful to those who’d like to live normally.  One of those things is producing high-quality homeschool curricula.  While some conservatives dismiss the importance of developing such things, they are actually pretty darned important to the task of creating a parallel society of educated, conservatively reared children.  Homeschooling isn’t a cure-all, but it is certainly one tool in the tool box of practical, conservative, traditionally focused living.

Vox Day is being serious here, using his new publishing house venture to publish and develop high-level homeschool curricula.  This looks like useful stuff.  

I’m busy popping out babies left and right, so I’m years away from having to worry about schooling options, but it’s good to see more efforts to develop high-quality curricula among those who promote homeschooling.