While it's true that a top-down insistence on social conservatism is doomed to fail, that's not the same thing as saying social conservatism in the sense of The New Right as defined by Tyler Cowen is doomed to fail; the mechanism by which the Iranian government is attempting to enforce traditionalism is authoritarianism, which is emotionally unacceptable to everyone but the fanatics in charge.

Methodologically, the means by which you restore a modicum of traditionalism to a democracy is:

1. Institutional reform, starting with the legal system. Structural changes to the law and institutions done outside of defensible legal procedure are how we got into this mess. I'm in favor of equality, but there's a reason to do things by the book, and a lot of the changes insisted upon by progressives to protect the vulnerable, though well-intentioned, have been rushed through using various forms of emergency authority or otherwise nonstandard means. I'm not a lawyer, but I understand there's an argument for that having started with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

2. Reducing the authority of the medical system, particularly the American Psychological Association, which is the enforcement arm of feminism. Everyone's current bugaboo is COVID overreach, but how about the power of non-physicians to refer children, primarily boys, to be prescribed psychiatric medication for behaving like boys in school? The APA doesn't need enforcement power, especially given the fact that their holy book, the DSM, was written in order to give psychologists (who were seen as kind of a joke at the time) equal status to physicians by making their diagnostic criteria sound scientific. You want to reduce the power of female tears, reduce the power of psychologists and clinical social workers to medicalize masculinity, and that starts with the APA and it starts in schools. That will have a measurable downstream effect on leftism.

3. Educating boys and young men about social dynamics and emotional literacy. Women and leftists skew narcissistic. Men need to teach boys and young men appropriate masculine social and emotional skills, because knowing what's appropriate and how to deal with what's inappropriate is how you defend against narcissists. Team Blue uses narcissistic tactics to maintain power. Learn social dynamics and you can effectively defang that snake.

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Conservatives claim to be in a culture war but I still cannot find any conservative culture, anywhere. Fox News and Prager U aren’t culture, they’re whining and criticism masquerading as culture. Conservatives could win people over to traditional values if they bothered to make cultural products with the slightest bit of competency.

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What the Amish call Rumspringa, or what Hoppe calls Physical Removal is essential - The exodus of people who disagree with the regime, reinforcing the regime by evaporative cooling. The berlin wall etc probably hastened the fall of the USSR by keeping all the dissidents in the place where they can do the most damage. If Iran wants a stable regime it should assist the emigration of all of its dissidents. Then there's no need to oppress anybody -- people just vote with their feet and go live under whichever regime they want.

What successful traditionalist communities within modern societies seem to all have in common is a low barrier to exit. The people who don't like these communities are continually boiling off and the people who stay are increasingly genetically and culturally predisposed to like it. The people in these communities are mostly born and raised there, chose not to leave, and have the genetics of parents who also chose not to leave. This leads to strong community norms without forceful oppression and without needing to wait centuries for genetics to change.

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Oct 26, 2022Liked by Richard Hanania

I feel like there's an elephant in the room with both this essay and the one it uses as a starting point: if we're acknowledging that conservative values were built for a different world, and that technology has rendered these values at least partially obsolete, then what is the point of conservatism at all? I think a fair definition of social conservatism is just the belief that traditional behaviors and institutions have sustained our culture, and therefore they have some innate value and ought to be preserved absent some compelling reason to abandon them. But acknowledging that they are incompatible with a modern, urbanized environment seems like a compelling enough reason; it effectively abandons the notion that we somehow need conservative values to sustain us into the future.

Ultimately, I think this all comes down to aesthetics: conservatives just think that spending Sunday in church is better than spending it at drag time story hour, for completely subjective reasons. And that's fine, but this essay seems to acknowledge that the whole thing is a purely aesthetic debate.

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Great essay. But why no mention of Afghanistan? They had 20 years to adopt liberal democracy and all kinds of incentives to do it, but they didn't (well, their leaders do seem to be a little kinder to the women now so maybe...). Was it because we made things so terrible for them that they had nowhere else to turn but tradition and family?

I agree liberalism is the inevitable consequence of material wealth. It's like a drug that everyone wants and promotes even if it makes us sick (lower life satisfaction, lower fertility, increased suicide rates, increased depression...and all seemingly worse effects for women who, paradoxically, stand to "gain" the most from liberalism).

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Oct 25, 2022·edited Oct 25, 2022

Once again Richard demonstrates his incredible ignorance in geopolitics. Richard, your insights in American culture are good, but your understanding of global politics is very naive and clearly shaped by American propaganda media (you quoted NYT here).

What is happening in Iran is a CIA orchestrated color revolution in an attempt to change the Iran regime. The same thing has happened in many countries since the end of WWII (think Ukraine, Haiti, Chile, Iran in the 50s, etc. There are over 70 such examples). The spark was a woman who was allegedly killed by police, however later released video footage confirmed she died of a heart attack. Meanwhile dozens of protests at universities as well as separatist groups not at universities all miraculously animated at once and began demanding and end to the regime. The media ignores this remarkable coincidence as well as the CIA's history in employing such tactics to undermine opponents of the US, and the counter protests (which are larger). These protests therefore have nothing to do with "secularism vs conservatism" and everything to do with US foreign meddling. Your omission of this is critical and invalidates your naive argument.

However as you mention the cultural divide of universities vs rural conservatism is relevant in Iran as it is anywhere else. Of course the latter group is always larger and therfore matters more. In 2019 Lukashenko won the elections in Belarus with 80% of the vote meaning the secular university vote was only 20%. Similar to this Iran situation, the US called the elections illegitimate without any evidence and funded anti Lukashenko protests at the Universities to once again attempt a color revolution against a US adversary. Thankfully it failed, but this example illustrates how unpopular secularism really is nationally.

Another example: China and Russia are both very socially conservative governments with huge popular support and are growing much faster than the US.

Richard, literally every single part of your argument is wrong and you should strongly consider removing this post and refrain from addressing geopolitics in the future. If this continues I will unsubscribe.

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Richard, I agree with you a lot but you are off track.

History is filled with examples of cyclical social liberalism (ironically intertwined with period of decadence) followed by periods of social conservativism.

Augustus himself made the Lex Iulia criminalizing adultery and incest. His daughter, Iulia, was notoriously a slut.

Sticking to Roman history, how could we forget the 14 years old Emperor Elagabalus, who liked to dress up like a woman, and spend his time in debauchery, known for provoking the breaking of sexual taboos and disrespecting Roman traditions, while power was held by his mother, aunt and sister, a literal matriarchy. He ended up being physically removed by the Praetorian Guard.

My point is simple: the upper class has at times regularly been tempted by sexual depravity, while in other times focused on restoring norms as society was collapsing. This is nothing new and Francis Fukuyama is still a charlatan.

To focus on Iran, the sole idea that this is about headscarves or social liberalism quite frankly should be laughed at. This has nothing to do with traditions and everything to do with geopolitics. As we all know, the psychotic regime in Washington is hell bent on trying to remove Putin, install a puppet in Moscow and dismantle the Russian nation, to loot its natural resources and devastate its culture.

To do this, they thought that opening a second front in Armenia, where Russia is the peacekeeper between Armenia and Azeris, would provide for a useful distraction as NATO wages war in Ukraine. Hence they pushed Azerbaijan to attack Armenia, which the Azeris are more than happy to do.

Iran, in turn, threatened to attack Baku (and recently massed troops at the border) if they kept attacking Armenia, which made Azerbaijan back off. As Iran sees an opportunity to thwart the plans of the most evil country in the world, they also provided those annoying drones to Russia, which NATO's super advanced technology has in so far failed to stop.

Hence, Washington retaliated, by doing what they have been doing since the Arab Spring: social media riots. This are as effective as social media are influential in a country. In Belarus for instance, they failed. It is not a secret that the head of the agitators for Iran lives in the US and is paid by the FBI. If a bunch of idiots in Iran want to throw away their lives for the Great Satan, the Revolutionmary Guard of Iran will take care of them.

Every country has deranged liberals. Even Russia does. It is up to institutions to deal with them. Just like liberals deal with conservatives when they capture institutions.

Sorry, but Fukuyama is still wrong. From Elagabalus to Weimar, liberals corrupted societies before and run them into the ground, just for conservatives to rebuild them.

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1. Perhaps the way in which the right-wing government behaves has a lot to do with how things play out. The protests in Iran were apparently sparked because the police murdered a young woman for failing to wear her hijab properly. As awful and evil as the regime here is, it hasn't stooped so low as to outright murder someone for misgendering a trans person, or some such. And people here already really really hate the current regime. So imagine how much stronger that backlash could become if a comparable incident occurred in our own nation.

Enforcement of values, as we have observed from our own rulers, does not require violence of this sort. People here stay in line out of fear that they will be canceled socially, not because a goon squad might literally murder them. This situation occurs because the ruling class and its associates--media, academia, education, government, etc.--have all adopted the same leftist ideology. If these people could somehow be replaced by conservatives, one has to wonder if we might see something different in our culture.

2. Perhaps the rest of the world matters. The United States and its "Western" cousins exert tremendous cultural influence on the rest of the globe. I think it would not be unreasonable to posit that we are the world's top exporter of culture, especially in terms of political ideas and movements, always trying to make the rest of the world "democratic" like we are. This might matter for young people in places like Iran, who absorb those ideas and wish for a better "democratic" future in their own country. I believe Yarvin has written quite well about the regime's soft power and its influence abroad, though I can't find the article off the top of my head.

3. I can think of a couple counter-examples. What about Hungary? This nation's regime seems quite firm in its power, with no mass protests or killing of improper hijab wearers, and last I checked they were busy banning gender studies and the like. Likewise, what of Afghanistan? The Taliban also seems quite comfortable in its power there, although the nation may be much more miserable as a result. Perhaps the fact that the United States tried to impose its agenda on that nation by force (as opposed to letting soft power subvert it from within) matters.

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1. Yarvin isn't a social conservative so it's far easier for him to keep the elites in check.

2. Why Conservatism Failed blatantly plagiarizes the Unabomber manifesto so the author is not a very insightful or bright individual but a plagiarist and thus should be ignored. The ideas are relevant but you need to source Uncle Ted instead.

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The title is a little misleading. Social conservatism as a top end down, government imposed set of policies appears not to be viable, and the Iranian case seems to be illustrative of that. But you close with the correct case that socially conservative communities seem to be viable, and certainly outbreed the competition! Socially conservative, particularly religiously Conservative, communities may win the long game. Modern and post modern cultural values do not make people happy, and they seem to prevent people from reproducing, not a prescription for long-term success. Also, focusing on bottom up cultural change is the way to go anyway. Opposing specific policies at the government level that are hostile to these communities and these cultural and religious norms is the way to go. But don’t expect too much from government. Good article.

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Richard Hanania is definitely moving up the charts on my mental list of interesting writers. Here he is suggesting that cultural evolution follows a path that ultimately is not controllable by deliberate government policy. But it took me a while to understand this, because he starts with "secularization and cultural liberalism are inevitable" in the subtitle, which he contradicts when he ends with "in the long run, it will be secular elites who find it impossible to mold human nature to their preferred specifications."

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Oct 26, 2022·edited Oct 26, 2022

Some kind of tradition based order will eventually reassert itself if liberal societies don't figure out two things 1) how to perpetually deliver reliable & affordable consumerism to their citizens and 2) how to reproduce themselves.

If the engine of economic dynamism ever rapidly slows for long enough (or dies), and the problem is not something you can fix with structural changes (because of hard technological barriers or whatever), people will revert to scarcity mindset. Scarcity mindset is inherently conservative.

A society that remains below replacement birthrate forever (and converts all the high birthrate people into low birthrate people by virtue of poaching their kids for workers), better get really good at creating robot custodians of old people at a bare minimum if it hopes to carry on.

*Edit* One reason I'm a philosophical communitarian but a functional libertarian. Carry on with your decadence, liberals. Just leave the people who might be able to build something in the ashes if you run it off the rails alone to form functioning families and communities. Maybe you are right and the good times will continue forever. Maybe you aren't.

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I don't think Iran is a great example because it's 'outside in the cold' of the US order and has not been thriving in the last few years, and is at the extreme end of social conservatism. Therefore its socially conservative order is seen as failing, and it's preventing urban elites from living how they want to live.

India is a more representative example of the rising non-Western world, when it comes to nationalism and ethno-religious identity the government is very conservative and incredibly popular. Sure it has become somewhat more 'liberal' in some ways e.g. dropping birthrates, but the fundamental 'national ethos' is something that hasn't been seen in the West since WW2 - and it is thriving.

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Activism is needed but has to be well-placed, focused, and considerate of multiple variables. Think about the decline of horse-drawn carriages and beasts or burden: it wasn't due to the efforts of animal rights activists of the 1880s but rather the innovation of automobiles right around the chronological corner. Therefore, traditionalists should embrace non-traditional technologies and systems (e.g., remote/hybrid work) to be one step ahead in terms of incentives and influence.

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I can’t speak for every (any) social conservative, but besides legal protection for those who uphold traditional religious values, I only want what can be supported by electoral majority. I still don’t believe the majority of Americans support promoting “queerness” in any way, shape or form.

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It calls to mind for me what Yarvin once said about “Provincial strongmen” and how they must govern with an iron fist since the relevant institutions are out of their reach.

Such as how Orban can ban Soros from Hungary but he can’t shut down the OSF (or at least strip it of any power).

My big takeaway was that for social conservatism to work it has to reach the metropole, i.e the US and W.Europe, so the best people are attracted to those institutions.

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