The New Burkeian

Reflections on the Revolution in Conservatism

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Objective vs. Subjective Science

In the beginning . . . of this journey by the New Burkeian, I once tackled objective/subjective morality. The pursuit of absolutes does not pre-suppose their discovery. In like fashion, the pursuit of absolute laws in science should not pre-suppose those very same laws. Limiting sciences, hard and soft, to a narrow, arbitrary focus should be a mistake, as well.

In a not so recent book "Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge", by Edward O. Wilson, a biologist with a focus on entomology (of all things) from Harvard, he tackles the idea that the hard and soft sciences should have more in common. He begins with the ideas of the Enlightenment and how they influenced the development of the hard sciences to our present date. With an excellent grasp of the sciences in general, Wilson links the various branches through the metaphor of Ariadne's Thread, the guide for Theseus through the Minotaur's labyrinth. From elementary particles to genes to culture, Wilson lays out a framework for the understanding of human nature put forth by the hard sciences. He does not stop there, though. From that framework he advances to sociobiology, primatology,anthropology, and then sociology. He suggests that these and other soft sciences can benefit from the hard science framework of natural history. An understanding of evolutionary biology (yes, I said evolution) can help a sociologist better understand the decisions a person makes within present-day society.

The soft sciences have turned their back on the hard sciences, though, as if we need no understanding of the development of the human mind to understand culture or economics. This is subjective science at its worst. As in anthropolgy's 'cultural relativism', the soft sciences live in a bubble of their own disciplines. No wonder economists have failed to produce a predictive model without an accurate understanding of human decision-making. Rational-choice models only go so far with humans who are decidely irrational at times. It is no wonder Communism and Freudism proved to be inaccurate descriptions of the human world, either.

This is just something to think about. I have often thought that the journey of the Actionary lies within the framework Wilson describes. Why does Democracy work so well, and why should it not work so well for others? Well Mr. Wilson, with a new-found interest in the hard sciences, the New Burkeian shall strive to better understand political theory within the framework of natural history.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Conservative, Not Republican

The New Burkeian is a representation of political ideas, not party ideologies. To be quite frank, if the Libertarian Party ever got their act together, and at least had some semblance of hawkishness, I might vote for them. But alas, the inate weirdness of the Libertarian hierarchy is dooming them to a footnote in American history (if even that).

John Fund, at Opinion Journal, recently lamented the current state of Congressional Republicans. Ever since the Dubai-Ports controversy, I have been skeptical of Congressional Republican intentions. Are these guys just trying to get re-elected? The grass-roots movement of the Republican Party is quickly losing steam. The only solution I foresee is an injection of small government, fiscal conservatives into Congress. Libertarian ideology would suggest that this party could be the answer, but at what expense?

At any rate, conservatives need a new crusade for a simplified tax code and a reduction of the bureaucracy. This is on the Conservative agenda, but is it on the Republican agenda? The centralization of federal power in Washington is clearly a problem. Perhaps, as my grandfather suggested, certain departments should be moved out of the capital. Why shoudn't the Department of Agriculture be centered in the MidWest or the Department of Commerce be centered in California? This could do much to dilute non-elective, bureaucratic power. Maybe the Treasury Department could be centered in New York. Perhaps an Education-Czar should replace the Department of Education. A single-voice for eductional policy could do much for lagging American public schools. And a renewal of debate over a flat-tax should begin. Maybe a consumption-tax would be better.

At any rate, these are questions the Republican Party is no longer seeking solutions for. Maybe a failure at the polls this year (in good old American Democratic fashion) would be good for the Conservative message. It cannot hurt to shake up the government every once in a while. These people do serve us, and not the other way around. And truthfully, without a unifying message, the Democrats could not hold onto power for long as simply an alternative to 'bad' Republicans. And so the New Burkeian proclaims that he is a Conservative (American Idealist Conservative), not a Republican.

If only the Libertarians were not headed by a bunch of loonies . . .

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Great Game

The New Burkeian recently researched the Anglo-Russian rivalry in 19th century Central Asia. A research paper that began as an examination of imperial pedagogy in late-Qing China emerged into a sweeping study of 'The Great Game'. This term applies to the diplomatic and often militaristic rivalry between Russia and Great Britain throughout the 19th century in Asia.

From Constantinople to Peking, Russian and British agents staked out empires. While Russian influence grew from Turkey to Persia the British worked on the defense of India from Persia to China. The 'great' gamesmen fought it out in Central Asia, though. Afghanistan and the Central Asian Khanates were the focus of much of this period. British concern for India and consequent aggression were the main reasons for escalation, but the Russians did little to assuage British fears. Russophobia prevailed in Great Britain with Russia's continuous advances into Central Asia.

As my research unfolded I became aware of the implications this rivalry had for recent history. The Great Game, to some extent, was a precursor of the US-Russian rivalry in the Cold War. The US emerged as the leader of the Anglosphere post-WWII, but the same misconceptions and mistakes drove this rivalry. The end of the Cold War brought this competition to an end for a decade.

Recent allegations against the Russia-Iraqi/Iran link suggest otherwise, though. It appears Russia is up to her old game in Asia. Under the auspices of the international rule of law, Russia appears to be undermining Anglosphere prestige in the region. The unilateral talks between Russia and Iran certainly appear to be a continuation of their relationship from the time of the Great Game.

Without succumbing to complete Russophobia, the New Burkeian is highly skeptical of Russian intentions in this new era. There were certainly glimpses of a great new partnership between Russia and the rest of the West in the beginning of the WoT. Old Russian fears of invaders at their extensive borders may reawaken the Bear, though. This certainly does not imply that Democracy is dead in Russia, but even a minor rivalry with the Anglosphere in Asia could undermine much of the WoT. Without sounding a call-to-arms, there is certainly a need for American players in Central Asia to peddle our influence and advantages. Democracy is the future of this world, and the Anglosphere must do whatever it can to advance that goal. Will the Actionaries stand up?