When we first moved out to the San Fernando Valley, my Dad re-registered to vote in our new district via a voter signup booth being run by a local Republican group. When asked for his political affiliation, he told them, "Tory". When his voter registration arrived in the mail a few weeks later, it listed him as "Republican". Opinion was divided on whether the booth worker had known that the conservatives in Britain are called Tories and figured that Republican was the closest equivalent, or if she was simply trying to sign up as many Republicans as possible.
I grew up among a set of people who read a great deal, and so I was used to a wide range of sometimes quixotic political beliefs being expressed. The father of my best friend growing up proclaimed himself a monarchist. One of the set insisted he was a marxist -- though others sometimes appended the modifier "high-school" to that appellation. Others were known to give kind words to agrarianism, distributism, or the suggestion that little worthwhile had happened since 1500. All of this could make for a lot of interesting conversation, and occasionally encouraged people to talk about moving out to some sort of rural homeland, or make minor lifestyle changes like milling all their own flour from grain. Still, in general it was a congenial group, and people's intellectual eccentricities helped provide them with a healthy distance from their own place and time.
However, I'd always taken these sorts of beliefs to universally be, as they were in the set that I grew up around, more a set of intellectual affinities than beliefs which were, to use the business buzzword, actionable. What does it mean to be a monarchist in the modern US and to prefer a generally feudal civic order?
It seemed to me, personally and from early experience, that the answer was clearly that feudal convictions might form how one thought about family property, how one treated any employees, etc. There is, short of a complete societal breakdown and reconstruction, simply no way for the US or parts of it to become feudal. So however much one might think that feudalism represented a desirable set of civic relationships. Thus, I would expect to see a "feudalist" espousing certain solutions that were "feudal-ish" to societal or political problems, but not really expecting to see a feudal monarchy springing up here any time soon.
However, such calm reason is not universally found among those holding unusual political/economic beliefs. A while back, I read someone demand of his virtual audience, "What are you personally doing to bring an end to capitalism?"
Leaving aside any jokes about how the holder of such convictions is likely to be contributing towards his goal via under-employment and lack of possessions, what exactly does such a demand mean? Admittedly, there any man who believe outrage itself to be an action, and so perhaps feel that by railing against "capitalism" they are doing something to end it. The owning of property/capital by private institutions is something so vast (which developed so gradually) that I am unclear how exactly one works to end it.
Or to take something I actually have a certain, though limited, affinity for: One of the main things that I appreciate about medieval feudalism is that it developed organically, as a system of duties and privileges which, when it worked well, tied all members of society together in an interconnected net of obligation. And yet, precisely this quality means that one could not simply enact a feudal society. Enacting it would violate all the better aspects of its nature.
Similarly, one may recognize the sense of reality which comes with the direct connection between work and product in a craftsman or agricultural society, yet at the same time recognize that our modern culture and technology simply cannot be pushed into the mold of a society made of up farmers and craftsmen.
Perhaps it is in part due to my temperamental conservatism, but while I see great value in appreciating the good points of cultures and polities other than that of our current time and place, I have a great distrust of any suggestion that society or polity be suddenly and radically restructured. Not only do I find it unlikely to happen, but it seems to me that the attempt could be highly destructive in ways that no one could imagine before hand.
This often puts me in the odd position of distrusting figures who advocate doing things that I, in principle, support. For instance, I find Huckabee's suggestion that the IRS be abolished in favor of a national consumption tax a simpler and more egalitarian approach to taxation. And yet, I find his suggestion that this be done in one fell swoop a mark against him.
Oddities & Things I Don’t Understand: A Sampling
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