Are the Japanese conservative?

In 2002, a reader of this blog, Derk Lupinek, who was living in Japan, sent me an email questioning my definition of conservatism.  He said that my definition seemed irrelevant to Japanese politics.  Here is what he wrote:

"I live in Japan, and when I first moved here I found myself trying to decide whether the Japanese were deeply conservative, as I had been led to believe, or whether they were actually quite liberal, especially given their attitudes toward sex.

They clearly do not value individual liberty, which would mean they are not conservative by your definition, but they seek to preserve their culture down to the most excruciating details, leaving me with the feeling that they are in fact deeply conservative, at least in the sense that Philosoblog intends.

So, while I do agree with your definition as it relates to conservatism in the West, it certainly doesn't account for deeply conservative individuals in other cultures, and those individuals are indeed trying to "conserve" something.

In other words, you seem to be using the term "conservative" to refer to a political movement that has occurred in the West, and Philosoblog is just using the term more generally to refer to a psychological mindset. Am I mistaken?"

I think I can now give a fuller reply than I did in 2002: I agree that "conservative" has come to have the lexical meaning of "opposed to change".  And that is fine.  I have no desire to re-write the dictionary.

But to understand what is going on we have to look at WHY conservatives oppose some changes. My point is that those individuals usually labelled "conservative" in the Anglosphere are motivated primarily by a love of liberty and that their opposition to what the Left want stems not from an opposition to change in general but from skepticism about the wisdom and  benefit of Leftist policies, which are invariably authoritarian.  Leftists want to stop us doing things we normally do and make us do things that we would not normally do, which is the irreducible core of authoritarianism

So, yes, the Japanese are conservative but they have different reasons for that -- reasons that I know little about.

So it is OK to characterize all conservatives, including Western conservatives, as being opposed to change -- as long as we do not take big mental leaps to say WHY they oppose some changes.

The claim that conservatives oppose ALL change is patently absurd Leftist propaganda.  Notable conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Donald J. Trump are clearly energetic agents of change. Mr Trump seems to do just about everything differently. So by and large it is only the poorly thought-out  ideas of the Left that conservatives rapidly reject. They have no attitude to change as such.  They just don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The people who DO have a particular attitude to change are the Left. Change is their entire message.  They basically want to change everything -- out of an arrogant and ignorant assumption that they know how to create a new Eden.  The Soviets even thought that they could create a "New Soviet man".

Currently, the "Green New Deal" championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplifies just how sweeping in scope and just how empty-headed Leftism can be.  In good Leftist style, AOC wants to change just about everything in America. Sadly for America her ideas are hugely popular among American Leftists.  She would create huge destruction given her way

The "New Deal" that the "Green New Deal" refers to was a series of economic initiatives in the 1930s by Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that was modelled on the policies of Fascist Italy.  Hillary Clinton's slogan in the last presidential election -- "Better together" -- was also the central idea of Italian Fascism.

And there is always the unapologetic authoritarianism of "Bernie" Sanders:

He really has defended government bread rationing and he really does pledge that he will "transform the country"

In such circumstance politics is largely a contest between the self-righteous and impetuous dreamers who want to tear down our existing society in order to move us towards a new Eden and those who stand in the way of that folly. As Bill Buckley famously said: "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ’Stop!’"  Bill was a very polite man so he said "history" where I would have said "Leftist folly".

1 comment:

  1. Conservatism in Norway seems to be about protecting what works from the impact of change with unknown consequences. US conservatism seems to be about limiting government from becoming too big which will result in less individual liberty. Japanese conservatism, God knows, but Japan seems to protect itself well from outside noodling. This makes miso happy. It is how they roll, choose dumplings over roses.


All comments containing Chinese characters will not be published as I do not understand them