Prime Directive

By Patrick J. Deneen for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Over at “No Left Turns,” we see further evidence of the complete incoherence of the contemporary American Right. Here’s an interesting response to a story about the discovery of a number of indigenous tribes that have been completely untouched by the advances of modernity. Justin Paulette gives the following “conservative” response:

One cannot avoid the paternalistic role demanded of states within whose borders these people live. Well-intended activists wish to create a legal mandate that nations recognize and enforce these people’s isolation. But this seems, in itself, a somewhat egregious form of evolutionary control. It is a peculiar accident that these people have been excluded from the progress of the entire human species. Surely it is an authoritarian act to decide that they must remain in such a state until they sua sponte develop a social instinct to the contrary. One may suggest with equal validity that they should be contacted immediately with a reader’s digest update on what they’ve missed over the last several millenia or so. Who knows, they might like football, pizza and the Beatles.

Here we have a self-declared “conservative” asserting that an evolutionary imperative requires the State to actively correct the “peculiar accident” that has prevented such groups from enjoying the “progress of the entire human species,” particularly football, pizza and the Beatles. In effect, Paulette here echoes the imperialistic imperative that has always accompanied liberalism’s efforts to “improve” unprogressed people, expressed with particular force and clarity by that arch-liberal John Stuart Mill in his wildly mistitled book On Liberty, where he writes “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.”

Progressivism – a key tenet of liberalism, as Paulette here evinces (in spite of the now-standard “conservative” trope that it’s the Progressives who ruined America) – is inescapably and inherently paternalistic. As soon as one part of the population (domestically) or the globe (internationally) understands itself to be more advanced as a result of inevitable evolutionary developments, it becomes a moral imperative to promote the improvement of backwards people or races (e.g., those who may “cling to guns and religion”).

At the very least, a conservative should be circumspect about asserting “progress” as the grounds for seeking the transformation of a “backward” society so that it might join the modern consumptive binge. Evaluations like the one cited here reveal the fundamental liberal assumptions of most of today’s so-called “conservatives.”

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