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NRx, Democracy, and Modernity

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"Should the facts of history, supported by the reasoning of political and social thought, show that hierarchical regimes are always, or nearly always, oppressive and deny human rights, the case for liberal democracy is made." -- John Rawls, The Law of Peoples

"I think, normatively . . . I absolutely believe [that Western liberal democracy represents the highest and best form of organizing society]." -- Francis Fukuyama

DCD and I agreed to have a discussion about democracy and modernity, and neo-reactionary (NRx) dissent from them (I also use "NRx" to refer to "neo-reaction", the political philosophy to which neo-reactionaries subscribe). The original plan was for DCD to write the OP; but it's been a while since then, and I know that he has the tendency to delay starting things like this (apparently because of his perfectionist tendencies). So, at the urging of some other TGL members, I've decided to get the show on the road, so to speak. DCD, if you've already started work on an OP, you can use the completed post as your first reply.

In the course of this thread, I aim to defend at least three views: (1) liberal-egalitarian democracy is the all-things-considered best form of sociopolitical organization that is available to us; (2) the multicultural project hasn't failed, and in fact has seen substantial success and growth in the West since its inception; (3) the benefits of modern sociocultural norms outweigh their harms, and such norms are preferable to traditionalist and other hierarchical alternatives.

Now, I don't know what points DCD will be advancing. I'm not even sure to what extent he identifies as an NRx (though I know that he's a reactionary of some kind). I'll spell out what appear to be the unifying commitments of NRx (across its three branches of "techno-commercialism", "traditionalism", and "ethno-racial separatism"), and leave it to DCD to specify his views in his posts and redress any misunderstandings of NRx reflected in this OP. There are, it seems, three beliefs that are basic to NRX: (1) authoritarian/hierarchical forms of sociopolitical organization are preferable to democratic/egalitarian ones; (2) broadly leftist movements--e.g. egalitarianism, multiculturalism, and feminism--have had disastrous consequences for the Western world and should be abandoned (these negative consequences are at least sometimes framed by neo-reactionaries as products of friction between leftist movements and "human nature"); (3) human racial categories are biologically valid and track important differences between the abilities and characteristics of racial groups.

I argue that there are excellent reasons to reject all three fundamental beliefs of NRx. But it would be foolish to attempt to provide each of these reasons in one post (moreover, I'm pressed for time). So I'll keep things fairly limited here. First, I'm going to explain what (I think) neo-reactionaries must do to make a convincing case. Second, I'll provide sketches of two simple but very powerful (and largely empirical) arguments in favor of democracy, following the work of Thomas Christiano and Dennis P. Quinn/John T. Woolley.

In light of the evident prosperity and stability of Western liberal democracies, most would think that NRx claims strain credulity. Generally speaking, such governments are the best in the international scene at delivering the "goods" to their citizens: domestic peace (as we shall see), stability, civil and political liberties, and prosperity (see Fukuyama's bit here: http://tvo.org/video...lashing-visions). This places a considerable argumentative burden on neo-reactionaries. At minimum, neo-reactionaries who argue that we should supplant democracy have to give excellent reasons to think the following: (1) a practicable authoritarian/hierarchical alternative to democracy is or will be open to the Western world (or, more narrowly (and at least), some particular Western country, should it be that neo-reactionaries are only interested in part of the Western world); (2) the preferred authoritarian/hierarchical alternative to democracy will be all-things-considered better than the extant democracy (or democracies) in question and all other practicable alternatives to this extant democracy (including other kinds of democracy); (3) the benefits of the authoritarian/hierarchical alternative must be shown to be sufficiently great so as to justify the costs of whatever form of political change is endorsed by neo-reactionaries (and, once these transition costs are accounted for, the authoritarian/hierarchical alternative must remain preferable to all other practicable alternatives, on condition that the costs of the latter are also established). I'm open to disagreement about whether the burden that neo-reactionaries face is this extensive. But it is difficult to see how they can avoid the demand to satisfy the three given conditions if they want to persuade rational persons.

On to the two brief arguments for democracy. The first is provided by Thomas Christiano in his 2011 paper, "An Instrumental Argument for a Human Right to Democracy" (which he argues provides the "case" for liberal democracy that Rawls, in the Law of the Peoples quote above, claimed would be definitive). As the title of Christiano's piece suggests, it has a much more ambitious goal than I do: it seeks to establish that there is a human right to democracy. I think that Christiano is probably right, but I have no interest in defending a human right to democracy here. Rather, I want to show that Christiano's work goes a long way in demonstrating that (egalitarian) democracy is superior to competing forms of sociopolitical organization. For according to Christiano, and the wealth of empirical studies that he cites, "[at least (I repress this qualification after this point)] minimally egalitarian democracy is a normally reliable method by which the least controversial of human rights are protected and . . . societies whose institutions are not minimally egalitarian are normally unreliable in this respect" (2011: p. 147). A minimally egalitarian democracy is "a democracy that has a formal or informal constitutional structure which ensures that persons are able to participate as equals in the collective decision making of their political society" (Christiano 2011: p. 146). Here is Christiano's precise specification of the nature of minimally egalitarian democracy: "(1) Persons have formally equal votes that are effective in the aggregate in determining who is in power, the normal result of which is a high level of participation of the populace in the electoral process. (2) Persons have equal opportunities to run for office, to determine the agenda of decision making, and to influence the processes of deliberation. Individuals are free to organize political parties and interest group associations without legal impediment or fear of serious violence, and they are free to abandon their previous political associations. They have freedom of expression at least regarding political matters. In such a society, there is normally robust competition among parties and a variety of political parties that have a significant presence in the legislature. (3) Such a society also acts in accordance with the rule of law and supports an independent judiciary that acts as a check on executive power. This cluster of rights can be characterized simply as a right to participate as an equal in the collective decision making of one’s political society, which I refer to as a right to democracy" (2011: p. 146).

What are "the least controversial of human rights" of which Christiano writes? They are the rights not to be tortured, murdered, disappeared, or arbitrarily imprisoned by the state. One need not believe in human rights to think that it is crucial that citizens of any nation are protected from being tortured, murdered, disappeared, or arbitrarily imprisoned by their government. Indeed, it is hard to see how anyone could be reasonably opposed to such protections. It turns out that even when other relevant factors (e.g. per capita GDP, population size, the presence of NGOs, civil war, and interstate war) are controlled for, minimally egalitarian democracy emerges as one of the most important factors in explaining the strong correlation between the presence of democracy and the protection of the urgent human rights just specified: “Per capita GDP has been associated with a small effect on the lessening of human rights violations. But it seems to play a significantly smaller role than minimally egalitarian democracy, according to the multiple regression analyses. And population size seems to have little effect on human rights violations. The presence of NGOs has some effect in diminishing human rights violations, but it must be remembered that the influence of these NGOs is generally through the domestic institutions of the societies and thus most often through democratic regimes. Interstate war appears not to have as large an impact as minimally egalitarian democracy on the violation of personal integrity rights. Civil war seems to be the most important factor of all in explaining human rights violations, even greater than minimally egalitarian democracy. But, while states tend to increase repressive activity and violations of personal integrity rights under these conditions, democratic societies tend to do so much less than other kinds of states. So even under the harshest of adverse circumstances, democracies have a significant effect in reducing state violations of personal integrity rights. The most important point is that when one controls for all of these different variables in multiple regression analyses, minimally egalitarian democracy emerges as the most important variable after previous repression and civil war” (Christiano 2011: p. 152-153). Further, the egalitarian elements of minimally egalitarian democracy have the most important role in explaining why minimally egalitarian democracies do better jobs than non-democracies and partial democracies of protecting the most significant human rights: "In multivariate analyses, the most important components in explaining the democratic protection of human rights to personal integrity [rights not to be tortured, etc.] are the egalitarian variables of participation and of free and fair multiparty competition, not judicial constraints on the executive" (Christiano 2011: p. 155).

What about hierarchical/authoritarian governments? China, one of the most economically prosperous developing nations, which has made staggering progress in lifting its population out of poverty, received the worst possible rating on the Political Terror Scale in 1989, as its government was responsible for expanding "murders" and "disappearances" (a "common part of life" in countries ranking second-to-worst on the PTS) to its country's "whole population" (Christiano 2011: p. 150n14). In general, hierarchical/authoritarian governments, e.g. hereditary monarchies and consultation hierarchies, cannot be expected to protect the most basic rights of their citizens: “There is no conceptual or metaphysical impossibility here. A decent consultation hierarchy is not impossible; it is just very unlikely. The normal operation of a consultation hierarchy is incompatible with the protection of the basic human rights involved with decency. Oman is sometimes mentioned as a regime of this sort, though its political system is closer to an absolute monarchy. Its sultan has over the last forty years been relatively light on political repression and violence and has attempted to open up some avenues for broad participation in the society. But this seems to depend on the will of the sultan; his father was an arbitrary and repressive ruler for an equally long time. And it is alone among hereditary monarchies to have such a good record” (Christiano 2011: p. 157). Thus concludes the sketch of the first argument in support democracy.

The second pro-democracy argument appeals to the economic stability that democracy promotes. Since this post is already running a bit long, I'll just list the central findings of Dennis P. Quinn and John T. Woolley's 2001 study, "Democracy and National Economic Performance: The Preference for Stability": (1) democracies produce stable, as opposed to "high" or "low", national income growth, unlike autocracies, which are economically volatile; (2) this stability that democracies provide reflects the risk-aversion of voters, in that voters "penalize incumbents when economic volatility increases"; (3) when growth and volatility are considered together, it is found that the economic performance of democracy is "highly favorable" (p. 634).

I hope to defend multiculturalism in my next post.

Edited by PeculiarPhilosopher
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A few preliminary points/questions (not that I expect a debate will actually ensue).

1. What, exactly, do we mean by "liberal/egalitarian democracy?" Because I sure have no idea. :noidea: Is the United States supposed to be an exemplar of this? It might be useful to recall that the United States was not conceived as a Democracy. It was conceived as a Republic. They are different. And we remain a Republic, not a Democracy. To be clear: I absolutely deny that the U.S. is a "liberal/egalitarian democracy"; and, in addition to that, I would suggest that the term "liberal/egalitarian democracy" is actually meaningless. It could be meaningful, however, if we redefine those terms in ways that I don't recognize, and that I suggest are not ordinarily or historically accepted.

2. In the U.S., does my vote make a difference? Does yours? Who holds the cards in American politics, really? And why?

3. Does democracy/republicanism, however you may wish to define these (distinct) terms, really equate with, or promote, material well-being, as opposed to other systems? It does not, but even if it does, we might ask: Is, or should, mere material well-being, be the teleos of a political system? Most people would probably say Yes. I say No. (I'm not saying, PP, that you are suggesting this; but you did draw the link between prosperity and "democracy" and I wish to challenge that, and even to challenge the idea that "prosperity" is what we should be aiming at.)

4. In antebellum America, the Democratic Party was known as The Democracy: among the claims of The Democracy, as cited in Alexander Stephens' famous Cornerstone Speech during the secession winter of 1860-61, was that the common welfare of the people required a recognition that blacks must be enslaved. It was as much for their good, Stephens held, as for the good of whites. Stephens specifically repudiated the "all men are created equal" doctrine of the Founders. "Negro" slavery, Stephens held, was the "cornerstone" of the 1860s version of the Great Society. Stephens, of course, was an early neo-reactionary. He was a neo-reactionary against the very government that the Founders had founded, a government which heretofore the Southern secessionists had claimed to support. In his Cornerstone Speech, Stephens finally dropped that pretense, a pretense that Lincoln had identified as early as 1858 in his famous debates with Stephen A. Douglas. At least Stephens was honest (finally) in 1861, about the true aims and political doctrines of the wealthy, corrupt, and degenerate white supremacist Planter Class of the South. Stephens would be a good NRx blogger if he were alive today. He would be proud of the movement.

5. I admit of your characterizations of NRx. Their claims are so laughably stupid and hideous that it feels like a waste of the precious moments of one's fleeting life to even bother rebutting such trashy inanities, such cheap, facile cardboard caricatures of reality. But if you want to do so, :pp: , then have at it. :thumb: I'll watch :popcorn: and may now and then even contribute something more, perhaps a scathing parody.

Edited by davidm

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I'm committed to avoiding hostility in this thread; so I won't be responding to points 4 or 5.

I think I'd prefer if these points you raise were taken up in a separate thread, perhaps about the state of democracy in the U.S., because their relevance to what's at issue is at least unclear to me. DCD has to get his word in first before it's even apparent what needs to be responded to, or how an NRx would square up to what I've so far presented. Also, I may have failed to accurately represent NRx. A further reason why another thread would be preferable is that the basis of your worries is entirely obscure. For instance, I didn't refer to the U.S. in my post, but concerns about the U.S. seem to be central to your reply. As an additional example, you say that the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" is meaningless. That is certainly a dramatic claim since liberal-egalitarian democracy is the favored political system among a lot of leading political philosophers (Rawls' ToJ effectively has the goal of vindicating liberal-egalitarian democracy). But you don't give any argument for that view; you write that you'd argue for the claim and say that "liberal-egalitarian democracy" might make sense if we redefine "liberalism" and "egalitarianism" (and "democracy"?), without explaining what those redefinitions might be or why they're warranted. Given these ambiguities, and the other stuff I've pointed to, we'd be getting on a long and possibly irrelevant tangent in this thread were we to try to handle the issues you bring up. So another thread on what you've posted (minus points 4 and 5, which are obviously directly to do with NRx) is, it seems to me, the best idea. I'd be happy to participate in that.

Edited by PeculiarPhilosopher

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As an additional example, you say that the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" is meaningless. That is certainly a dramatic claim since liberal-egalitarian democracy is the favored political system among a lot of leading political philosophers (Rawls' ToJ effectively has the goal of vindicating liberal-egalitarian democracy).

LOL, I don't care what Rawls or any other philosopher writes. I stand by what I wrote. Arguments to authority cut no ice with me. :whatever:

But you don't give any argument for that view...

Sure, I did.

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I'm committed to avoiding hostility in this thread; so I won't be responding to points 4 or 5.

Too bad, because Point 4 is an example of Democracy.

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As an additional example, you say that the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" is meaningless. That is certainly a dramatic claim since liberal-egalitarian democracy is the favored political system among a lot of leading political philosophers (Rawls' ToJ effectively has the goal of vindicating liberal-egalitarian democracy).

LOL, I don't care what Rawls or any other philosopher writes. I stand by what I wrote. Arguments to authority cut no ice with me. :whatever:

But you don't give any argument for that view...

Sure, I did.

I wasn't making an argument to this effect: "Rawls said it, therefore he's right." What I'm saying is that in light of the wide use of the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" among experts, and (more commonly) "liberal egalitarianism", it seems that, absent further considerations, a good argument needs to be made for the meaninglessness of the term (that is not equivalent to saying, simply, they are right because they're experts). Your post, it seems, was an effort to briefly get across some concerns that you have with what I wrote. I'm saying that your points should be spelled out in more detail and are best given their own thread if they're to be properly addressed. It is not clear to me where your argument for the meaninglessness of the term "liberal-egalitarian democracy" is. Nearly everything that precedes the claim that the term is meaningless deals specifically with the U.S. But I never said that the U.S. is a liberal-egalitarian democracy. As I pointed out in my last reply, I didn't even mention the U.S. in my OP. Where I refer to the Western world generally in my OP, I was careful to speak only of its "liberal democracies", and did not suggest that all (or even any) Western nations are liberal-egalitarian democracies. Christiano uses "egalitarian" to refer to a certain sort of equality (note that, when it comes to the role of votes, he says only that they must be formally equal, because he is aware of issues related to money in politics) in decision-making where he writes of "minimally egalitarian democracies". On the other hand, and roughly, "liberal-egalitarian democracy" refers to a democratic system of governance that affords its citizens robust civil and political liberties (the "liberal" part) and also strives to at least limit economic inequality (the "egalitarian" part). I'll try to be clear about this distinction in relevant future posts, because I failed to be sufficiently explicit about the distinction between these dual senses of the term "egalitarian" in my OP. As a general rule, I'm using both "liberal" and "egalitarian" in the European, not North American, sense, because I was introduced to political philosophy with that jargon.

Edited by PeculiarPhilosopher

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Just briefly: It's true you did not specifically mention the U.S.; but the NRx debate, as I've seen it, is usually framed at least with the U.S. in mind, but also of course other Western "democracies."

I object to the term "liberal egalitarian democracy" for any society, because I think the term is an empty generalization, even if it may be state of the art in academic circles. To evaluate the kind of government a nation/state actually has, one must take into account a number of variables, including its history, culture, ethnocentric makeup (is it homogenous or heterogenous?), its religion, its perceived national self-interest (which is an offshoot of its history and culture) and what role money plays in society, and who has the money and what they do with it. My estimate is that each nation/state in the world may require its own specific characterization, though of course there may be generalizations that could apply to a number of nations.

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Is democracy in global decline?

For an obvious reason, I've been thinking and reading about democracy a lot lately. It's worth noting that NRx writing on democracy, and on the world generally, is suffused with apocalyptic presentiment: the end of democracy (and the world?) is imminent. Interestingly (but probably not coincidentally), a lot of academics think that democracy is starting to die (though I'm unaware of any claiming that we're on the precipice of catastrophic political upheaval). In their 2015 paper, "The Myth of Democratic Decline", Steven Levitsky (professor of government at Harvard) and Lucan Way (professor of political science at the University of Toronto) begin an analysis of dour perspectives on democracy with the following: "A near consensus has emerged that the world has fallen into a 'democratic recession'" (p. 45). But it would seem that this virtual consensus is inaccurate: "A look at the empirical record suggests little or no evidence of a democratic recession. We compared the scores of four prominent global democracy indices . . . . All four indices' mean democracy scores remained the same or increased during the period [of 2000-2013]" (Levitsky and Way 2015: p. 46). What about the number of democracies in the world? "If we examine the overall number of democracies in the world, the data similarly suggest stability rather than decline . . . . Only if we look at the 2005-2013 period do we see any decline, and that decline is very modest. Freedom House shows a drop-off of one democracy between 2005 and 2013. The pattern is similar with respect to the percentage of democracies in the world: Both Freedom House and Polity show a decline of one percentage point between 2005 and 2013" (Levitsky and Way 2015: p. 46). Some more telling information: "Whereas 23 countries experienced a significant improvement in their Freedom House score between 1999 and 2013, only eight experienced a significant decline. Even between 2005 and 2013, the number of significantly improved cases (10) exceeded the number of significant decliners (8). Moreover, most of the significant declines occurred not in democracies but in regimes that were already authoritarian . . . Indeed, what is most striking about the 2000-2013 period is how few democracies actually broke down" (Levitsky and Way 2015: p. 47). So why the pessimism about democracy's global future? According to Levitsky and Way, "Perceptions of a democratic recession, we argue, are rooted in a flawed understanding of the events of the early 1990s. The excessive optimism and voluntarism that pervaded analyses of early post-Cold War transitions generated unrealistic expectations that, when not realized, gave rise to exaggerated pessimism and gloom. In fact, despite increasingly unfavorable global conditions in recent years, new democracies remain strikingly robust" (2015: p. 45-46). Since it seems that beliefs about the rapid decline and and general failure of global democracy are significant to the NRx case, because demonstrative of the untenability of the democratic project, the data presented by Levitsky and Way seem fairly devastating with respect to the legitimacy of the NRx stance on democracy.

Edited by PeculiarPhilosopher
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Clearing up Confusions about Fertility, Development, Population Growth, and Diversity

Much of the writing that I see from neo-reactionaries suggests that they, by and large, have seriously misunderstood the demographic facts key to making sense of population change in the contemporary world. On the neo-reactionary view, developing nations are seeing significant population growth because their peoples are breeding like rabbits, while growth in the Western world is stagnating because a kind of cultural weakness of will is killing fertility rates. In certain respects, this analysis is flatly wrong; in others, it masks important nuances of the current demographic picture. I'll try to give a more accurate assessment below.

One of the key facts that neo-reactionaries miss is that fertility rates are falling more or less the world over, with some important exceptions, like sub-Saharan Africa (I'll be focusing on SSA later in this post). Consider this chart:

http://gyazo.com/627...dda0853137d3a69

Let's get more specific. In the 2012 edition of Population, the demographer John Weeks has this to say about fertility rates in Northern Africa and Western Asia (Egypt is focused on because it is the most populous country in Northern Africa/Western Asia):

“As mortality declined, fertility remained almost intransigently high in Egypt until the 1980s, save for brief dips during World War II and again during the wars with Israel in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For as long as statistics had been kept, Egyptian women had been bearing an average of six children, until the late 1970s. Massive family planning efforts were initiated in the 1970s under President Sadat and then reinvigorated in the 1980s under President Mubarak. These programs, especially in combination with increasing levels of education among women (Fargues 1997, 2000), have had an effect, and the estimated fertility level is now an average of 3.0 children per woman, much lower than it used to be but still well above replacement level. Because of the high fertility, a very high proportion (33 percent) of the population is under age 15” (p. 56).

It is population momentum, the effect of previously high fertility on current population growth, together with precipitously falling mortality since WWII that explains the population growth seen in Northern Africa and Western Asia. Per one of the most well-established patterns in demography, the demographic transition, as countries modernize, mortality rates fall and then fertility rates fall (in the case of the developing world, their entry into the demographic transition was significantly different from the developed world's, because the developing world imported medicine from the developed world after WWII; for this reason, mortality rates dropped much more sharply in the developing world than they did in the developed world, where the initial drop in mortality rates for the latter resulted from improvements in sanitation necessitated by urbanization). The lag between the drop in mortality and the drop in fertility (when fertility is still high but mortality is low) causes substantial population growth. But note what this means down the line: even if fertility rates rapidly decline, the large number of young persons with reproductive capacity added to the population from previous high fertility and low mortality typically leads to continued absolute population growth. A population that has 10 women and a fertility rate of 1.0 will obviously produce a smaller absolute number of new persons than a population that has 1 million women reproducing at the same rate. Population momentum can thus entail absolute population growth even with a fertility rate that is below the "replacement level" (which is typically 2.1, because a woman has to produce 2 children to replace herself and the man with whom she reproduced; the replacement level isn't usually 2.0, in that some children die young).

What about sub-Saharan Africa? There has been notable decline in sub-Saharan Africa's fertility rate since 1950:

http://gyazo.com/127...e396974c856e5ab

But recent findings suggest that the decline in fertility has stagnated. Two major reasons for this have been given: "a failure to meet the need for contraception and a continued preference for large families. 'The unmet need for contraception - at 25% of women - has not changed for 20 years' . . . . The preference for large families is linked to lack of female education which limits women’s life choices . . . . In Nigeria, 28% of girls still do not complete primary education" (see the following: http://www.theguardi...study-11bn-2100).

Why population growth in the developing world is concerning isn't especially clear. I suspect that there are two worries from the NRx camp: (1) population growth has the potential to deepen the global environmental crisis; (2) population growth in the developing world alongside population stagnation and decline in the developed world increases the demand for immigration in the developed world, and immigration threatens ethnic and cultural "homogeneity", which neo-reactionaries seem to think is bad because diversity is inimical to social capital; neo-reactionaries also tend to fear the "dysgenic" effects of immigration. Both of these worries are best dismissed. In the case of the former, the developing world, especially sub-Saharan Africa, poses a far smaller danger to the environment than the developed world and the mild population growth that parts of it are seeing -- for consumption patterns in the developed world are far worse than in the developing world (the typical Westerner's ecological "footprint" is vastly more damaging than the typical sub-Saharan African's because the former uses up many more resources in the course of his/her life: http://www.developmenteducation.ie/de-in-action/ecological-footprinting/do-we-all.html).

In the case of the latter, the concern seems to have its basis in the research of political scientist/sociologist Robert Putnam, which appeared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. But to take the concern seriously, one would have to ignore the subsequent research on diversity and social capital that has been conducted, including Putnam's own work. It is only in the short run that the inverse relationship between degree of diversity and social capital is found, according to Putnam's 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture: "In the long run immigration and diversity are likely to have important cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits. In the short run, however, immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital" (p. 137). And Putnam's writing is by no means the only scholarship on this matter worthy of our attention. In their 2008 paper, "Ethnic Diversity and Social Capital in Europe: Tests of Putnam's Thesis in European Countries", social scientists Maurice Gesthuizen, Tom van der Meer, and Peer Scheepers report the following: "The general question is: To what extent do national-level characteristics like ethnic diversity, next to other national characteristics, actually affect dimensions of social capital of individual citizens in European countries? The authors set out to answer this question by testing hypotheses on cross-national data from 28 European countries. These data contain valid measurements of a number of dimensions of social capital. The individual-level data are enriched with contextual- (i.e. national-) level characteristics to be included in more advanced multilevel analyses. The main finding is that Putnam’s hypothesis on ethnic diversity must be refuted in European societies. Instead, it is found that economic inequality and the national history of continuous democracy in European societies turn out to be more important for explaining cross-national differences in social capital in Europe" (p. 121). Further, Will Kymlicka, a political philosopher and probably the best contemporary scholar of multiculturalism, has given reason to think that Putnam's short run findings don't tap into some fundamental truths about racial identity and inevitable inter-racial hostility, but instead merely reveal effects of contingent sociohistorical facts: "Whereas Robert Putnam has found that social capital declines as ethnic and racial diversity increases in the United States, the same pattern has not been observed in Canada, particularly among the younger generations who were raised under the multiculturalism policy. For them, diversity has been normalized" ("Multiculturalism: Success, Failure, and the Future" 2012: p. 12). This, from the same piece, is also illuminating: "Studies show that in the absence of multiculturalism, national identity is more likely to lead to intolerance and xenophobia" (Kymlicka 2012: p. 11-12).

What about "dysgenic effects", which in this context refers to declining intelligence of a population due to changes in its relevant genetic makeup? James R. Flynn, an eminent philosopher who studies psychometrics and is famous for having discovered the "Flynn effect", has much to say about dysgenics in his 2013 monograph, Intelligence and Human Progress: "If you want to abolish dysgenic reproduction, advanced nations should follow Sweden and Norway: abolish poverty so the lower classes will have middle class aspirations and knowledge of contraception. Even where this is not done, as in the United States and United Kingdom, the rate among the native population is slow enough to tolerate for a century, particularly if the Flynn Effect persists. . . . Immigration is a long-term problem only if you believe that black and Hispanic genes limit their potential" (which Flynn does not -- see the following: http://people.virgin...2groupdiffs.pdf) (p. 56-57).

Finally, I'd like to touch on the reasons for low fertility in the West. It is bizarre to suggest that low fertility in the West signals civilizational death or decline. If anything, it's the opposite. As I said before, as countries modernize, they experience what's called the "demographic transition", which is a particular pattern of falling mortality and fertility rates. At the bottom of the demographic transition, fertility and mortality rates are low, and roughly matched. This means that, at best, population growth from fertility will be small (once the effects of population momentum die out). Why do fertility rates fall as part of modernization? Because modernization tends to attach advantages to smaller families (due to economic changes and urbanization), afford individuals, rather than groups, control over fertility, and provide knowledge of family planning (and access to contraception and other modes of support to help control family size). These are all consequences of development, not decline. Now, some neo-reactionaries might argue that all of the foregoing is bad, in that modernization is bad (though not all neo-reactionaries are opposed to modernization). But that would require impugning the goodness of the very developments that allowed humans to drop mortality rates and dramatically extend life expectancy (progress that is hard to extricate from the larger modernization process). And that is a hard sell.

Edited by PeculiarPhilosopher
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From my reading (admittedly not too extensive) of NRx texts, its seems the overriding theme is not that democracy is in decline, but rather that democracy is decadent; i.e., it is indicted for its very successes. There's nothing new here. (I think the "neo" in "neo-reaction" can only apply to a limited subset of ideas that could only exist in the present time; for example, the idea broached by some that the world should be run by high-tech entrepreneurs.) The same sorts of taunts were directed against democracy, broadly speaking, by the Fascists and the Communists starting in the 1920s. Before that, democracy, broadly speaking, was repudiated by the Confederacy, which substituted in its place the notion of a hierarchy, a patriarchal society dominated by rich white planters, with women and poor whites and working, unpropertied whites down the ladder and blacks at the bottom, serving their appropriate God-given role as slaves. A reading of Alexander Stephens' Cornerstone Speech of 1861 offers, in my view, a sneak preview of 20th century totalitarianism that lead to such widespread war and misery.

I say democracy "broadly speaking" because we still don't have a good definition of democracy here, and I doubt there can be one. It's a fluid concept, a generalization, and a moving target. As pointed out, the U.S. is not, technically speaking, a democracy; rather it is a republic. There is overlap between the two categories, but they are crucially different in several important respects. Lincoln was a republican, not just a Republican (name of party). Stephen A. Douglas was a democrat, not just a Democrat (name of party). These distinctions were at the heart of their epochal debate, the reading of which I strongly recommend (the complete texts are online).

Like any ideology, NRxism is not amenable to rational discourse or empirical evidence. It is a world view, an exemplar of promoting how the world should be, or should be thought of, rather than how it actually is. In this particular ideology, it's bad that women, blacks, and other minorities; those of fluid gender identity or those who are not heterosexual, should have their rights advanced. In this particular ideology, such rights advancements represent a zero-sum game: Such advances always come at the expense of heterosexual white males, who, under this ideology, should be running things (an unevidenced and blatantly unsupportable assertion if ever there was one.) Thus NRx has much in common with Alex Stephens' Ideology of the Cornerstone, and really isn't new at all, except for the modern bits alluded to above. Insofar as NRx really is apocalyptic, then its ideological soul mates include ISIS and Alexander Dugin, as both advocate an "end-times" war.

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Those are the folks to whom Levitsky and Way are responding.

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Those are the folks to whom Levitsky and Way are responding.

I realize that, but I thought I'd post the relevant material for others to read, if they are interested.

In the intro to the Journal of Democracy article, the writer notes the ambiguity of defining "democracy" in the first place, which was my point. One thing I think is clearly true, empirically, is that nations that don't conform, in some sense, to what we call "democracy" are significantly worse off than those that do. Think of the Middle East mess (with autocrats, dictators and monarchs running the show), the kleptocracy of the vile Putin in Russia, and so on. OTOH we have the example of China, authoritarian to the core, and yet which seems to get certain important things done, unlike in the U.S., where our Republic/Democracy has produced gridlock and deterioration. Yet this fact, I think, is mostly irrelevant to our political system, which is why I pointed out earlier that each country must be evaluated on its own terms, regardless of its ostensible politics. The problem in the U.S. is that, fundamentally, since our inception, we have been two different nations/cultures, and the whole history of the U.S. is largely about riveting those two disparate societies together, with varying degrees of success. In the Civil War the two nations were riveted together by force, at a staggering cost of human life. One wonders whether it was worth it.

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