National Smallness Conservatives

Dan McCarthy talks about The Return of the National Greatness Conservative.

But if [pro-gov, pro-war, pro-empire cons] are the national greatness/heroic/compassionate conservatives, what does that make the rest of us?

Maybe we could do worse than call ourselves “National Smallness Conservatives.” That gets at the ideas of anti-imperialism and decentralism and perhaps suggests something about the constitutional limits of federal power. It nicely echoes Chesterton, too.

I don't know about you guys but I love this label. For me the attractive parts of the mixed-bag of conservatism have always been epistemological modesty and the traditionalism, localism, and respect for diversity, community, and restraint that naturally follow from it.

Share this

Two related problems

First problem is that "smallness" is not the antonym of the relevant sense of "greatness". "Greatness" here means something like "importance" or "superiority". The appropriate antonym would then be something like:

"National irrelevance conservative"

or

"National inferiority conservative"

Neither term is especially attractive, and once people understand the intent of "smallness" (i.e. as opposite to "greatness") it will take on an overtone of inferiority and irrelevance.

Second problem is that it uses the term "national". The term "nation" often is used to refer to the people themselves, rather than specifically to their government. As used politically, the term "nation" often combines the people and the government, treating them as a single entity.

If the listener takes "national" in the "people" sense, then he will take the term "national smallness conservative" to suggest that the people, including himself, are inferior and irrelevant.

If the listener takes "national" in the combined sense of "people and government", then the term preserves the key, problematic notion that the people and the government are to be treated as a single entity.

In contrast, the term "small government conservative" distinguishes between the government and the people.

Go for humbleness then

Go for humbleness then

Egad

That's even worse. Are you joking? I'm not sure if your grasp of English is strong enough for me to see this as a joke.

No I was serious, what's

No I was serious, what's wrong with humility ?

Humble pie

As an explanation, I'll simply note that everyone knows, or should know, the expression, "to eat humble pie", which means:

Act submissively and apologetically, especially in admitting an error.

I doubt many a conservative would want to call himself a submissive and apologetic conservative.

To see the same point from another angle, the word "humility" is not that far from the word "humiliation".

That's eating humble pie,

That's eating humble pie, it's not humility or humbleness. Why do you point to a particular idiom and not the definition of the word ?

1: not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive
2: reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission
3 a: ranking low in a hierarchy or scale : insignificant , unpretentious b: not costly or luxurious

During his campaign Bush claimed he would pursue a "humble foreign policy" (which he did not). Do you think he meant submissive ?

If anything I think humility is a real virtue of true conservatism.

Expressions reveal word meanings

Expressions reveal the meanings and overtones of words for the same reason that sentences reveal the meanings and overtones of words. I picked an expression because it is an indisputable common use of the word. If I were to google examples of English speakers using the words I could show the same thing, but the difference is that then you would be free to dispute that the user was using the word correctly. In contrast, familiar expressions are not so easy to dismiss.

I gave you an etymological argument.

I can also argue directly from definitions. Here are some definitions:

To humble someone, gathered from a few dictionaries:

to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

cause to feel shame; hurt the pride of

To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.

To give a lower condition or station to; abase.

These are not the only definitions, but they are important ones, and the problem when you use terms, the various definitions and connotations have a tendency to bleed through, regardless of whether you had intended the word narrowly.

Your argument is essentially that if we consider only one narrow definition of "humble" and ignore the rest, then it works. But that's not how it would be heard. Listeners are not psychic and will not restrict themselves to just exactly what you intended.

And even if we were to restrict ourselves to exactly what you intended, simple reasoning would tend to bring forward these other meanings and connotations anyway, because a natural question that arises is why the person is not arrogant or assertive. Might it be that they are abashed, ashamed, brought low by the revelation of some past error or misdeed?

During his campaign Bush claimed he would pursue a "humble foreign policy" (which he did not). Do you think he meant submissive ?

When you use the word in a sentence which is part of a speech, you have much greater control over how the term is taken, because the context of the speech narrows the supportable meanings and connotations. We are not talking here about a long speech, but about a name for something. Furthermore, I have not read the speech, and it may indeed be that Bush intended for a connotation of apology or regret for past errors to bleed in, since one of the ways to assure an audience that you are not going to keep doing X is to apologize or express regret for X.

You are usually a brilliant

You are usually a brilliant debater, and I am more than willing to believe you on what the word humility conveys in the US, but I can't believe you're writing these arguments.

I gave you an etymological argument.

No you did not, you said "it looks like humiliation". I can provide plenty of roots with both good and bad derivatives.

To humble someone

There's a big difference between being humble and being made humble. Emphasis on made.

Your argument is essentially that if we consider only one narrow definition of "humble" and ignore the rest, then it works.

My argument is too look at the first freaking definition of the word in the Webster, which is supposed to be the most common use of the word! How is that "only one narrow definition" ?

because a natural question that arises is why the person is not arrogant or assertive.

Because they are humble, they do not assert because they'd rather have the prudence of acknowledging ignorance than be overconfident.

Furthermore, I have not read the speech, and it may indeed be that Bush intended for a connotation of apology or regret for past errors to bleed in, since one of the ways to assure an audience that you are not going to keep doing X is to apologize or express regret for X.

Are you serious ?

Hey you may be 100% right, maybe in the US people put a very bad connotation on the word "humility" and I'll believe you on that.

I'm pointing out your arguments are bad. Proof : each one of them apply equally well to the French language where the word "humility" has a very strong positive connotation. Hence you may be right but your justification is flawed.

No I didn't

No you did not, you said "it looks like humiliation"

You put quotes on that. But it's not what I wrote. If you paraphrase me, you should not put quotes around it. Your paraphrase, in any case, is wrong. I am not talking about resemblance, I am talking about the etymological relationship between the words - they share a common etymology.

You are usually a brilliant debater

That's nice. Anyway, I think I made my point. I could answer the rest of your comment same as I've answered your previous comments, but I want to put a stop to this. The subject matter is too trivial.

they share a common

they share a common etymology

Which I pointed out is irrelevant. No you haven't made any point. Once again it may be that in the US the word has negative connotations, but the arguments that you gave do not justify it. At this point it's merely a matter of statistics. I'll ask around me.

Giving you the last word

You're not making it easy. But I'm still giving you the last word on the topic.

That's historical.

That's historical.

Isn't giving someone

Isn't giving someone the last word "social positioning" or something?

You have a problem with it?

Would you rather I kept on arguing ad infinitum? Would you rather I stopped arguing but left Arthur expecting that I was going to reply?

You can't seriously expect

You can't seriously expect me to be as resilient to lengthy threads as you are :)

Just a question, could you

Just a question, could you provide an actual quote using of the word humbleness carrying a negative connotation ? I've Googled for it and so far I've only found it used in a strongly positive fashion, as a virtue.

I can sort of see where

I can sort of see where Constant is coming from, but overall I agree with Arthur: humility may be an unpopular concept among some people, but so much the worse for those people. Humility remains an essential virtue, and the world needs more of it, not less. There is no reason to be ashamed of humility; those who cannot understand its value are the ones who deserve shame.

I've seldom heard the word

I've seldom heard the word with a negative connotation -- I can't think of anytime I've heard it with a negative connotation, actually, save in idiomatic usage, or ironically. I'd consider it just being a Christian thing, but Micha agrees.

Though humbleness is an unwieldy word. National Humility Conservative has a pleasant ring to it.

I'd consider it just being a

I'd consider it just being a Christian thing, but Micha agrees.

It's also a pretty big virtue in Judaism, though often for the wrong reasons: in recognition of the superiority of God rather than the fundamental equality of humans, or as a prerequisite of peace through the reduction of social conflict. (This is similar to problems with the concept of submission in Islam - it is one thing to avoid pretentiousness; it is quite another to enslave oneself, one's children and one's neighbors to the will of an unseen God.)

See, for example, this:

It may thus be seen that the Jewish conception of humility is based on a proper estimate of the world and of the worth of man. Abraham, Moses, Gideon (who refused a crown), Saul, and David are set up as types of humility and meekness. [...]

But, while Judaism highly praises humility and meekness, it wisely limits and restricts this virtue, which, carried to the extreme, would be cowardice. Humility must not be practised at the expense of manhood. "The disciple of the wise," the Rabbis say, "should have sufficient pride to stand in defense of the Law he represents" (Soṭah 5a).

Contrition

Contrition is also a virtue, but I doubt many conservatives would want to call themselves Contrite Conservatives. Contrition is a key virtue of Christianity. Humility is a key virtue of Christianity. In Christianity:

Humility is defined as, "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake."

Humility is the virtuous attitude taken in light of and in awareness of one's own defects.

I said I had given Arthur the last word, not you. But you know what, I'm going to give you the last word too now, if you feel like taking it.

Sure, I'll take it

Call it a scientific investigation.

Humility is the virtuous attitude taken in light of and in awareness of one's own defects.

We, as Humble Conservatives, use "humble" or "humility" in its widespread everyday usage, not with an exclusively Christian slant (we are legion, and cross all religious lines). But we are also more than willing to work with the Christian definition: our defects are, by those lights, our ability to govern other peoples' lives. We are defective in this ability, admit to it (if only others would do the same!), and so are happy to be humble.

National Humility Conservatives -- Eatin' Pie since 1776

I see a long and memorable

I see a long and memorable post brewing, Scott. Please oblige!

Same article

Same article

1. submission to God and legitimate authority;
2. recognition of the virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those which surpass one's own, and giving due honor and, when required, obeisance;
3. recognition of the limits of one's talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for that which is beyond one's grasp.

This is surely a quality I would like governments to have, especially now. To be, humility is the guiding principle of conservatism. It's not the ultimate political principle, but it's intrinsic to true conservatism, and in my opinion what is being perverted.

(N.B. you don't have to answer this, this is a message for the general information of the readers).

Labeling yourself humble isn't humble

Shows quite a bit of arrogance actually. ;)

I actually don't think the US attitude is humility. We're actually indoctrinated with the idea that we invented freedom, you foreigners lack it, and are usually too spineless to defend it, and that's why we're great, and you mostly suck.

Could take it another way

Just as the National Greatness Conservatives could be taken as advocating that the nation be great - i.e., advocating activities that (purportedly) produce national greatness (such as foreign interventions), so National Humility Conservatives might be taken as advocating that the nation be humble, rather than asserting that it already is humble, let alone asserting that they personally are, or ought to be, humble.

National Humility Conservative

Arrogant Bastard ;)

Whereas you see humility in this sign, I see it as arrogance. Humility is in regards to your own mistakes and not those you believe others to have made.

The above picture has about as much humility as the statement, "Sorry world, we tried to convince one percent of america not to be for illegal immigration."

1) It makes the quite arrogant assumption that I am not mistaken.
2) It assumes that there is a group of people who all share my opinion even though in important ways I'm pretty much on my own. For instance in the way I justify my belief. The guy in the picture might just be a hyper pacifist who would have opposed getting involved in WWII.
3) It apologies for others actions which is pretty valueless. An apology is only of value when made by a person who committed a harm to a person who is the victim of that harm. Not everyone is harmed by open borders.
4) It assumes that everyone who opposes the position are in the same camp.

Now I'm sure the guy in the photo is suffering from lots of other poor assumptions but they aren't explicit in his sign, so I'm not going to specifically address them.

Actually I agree with you

Actually, that photograph was illustrating my statement:

National Humility Conservatives might be taken as advocating that the nation be humble, rather than asserting that it already is humble, let alone asserting that they personally are, or ought to be, humble.

So, among other things, the guy in the photo is an example of someone who is not communicating that he personally is or ought to be humble.

Ok, I've been humbled on that point.

Ok, I've been humbled on that point.

Being Conservative is Already About Humility

The word conservative already includes the concept of humility. As in, being conservative in ones actions. Which implies that you are not being rash in assuming that you are doing the right thing. Isn't it redundant?

(You know I hate the way my fingers work when communicating via typing. There is some kind of flaw in the wiring somewhere. Especially when someone does something that distracts me like walking into the room and saying, "Morning". I touch type and look at the words as I'm typing them but I just read what I wrote and it was "It's it redundant it redundant?" before I fixed it.

Certainly, invading Iraq in order to try to set up a democracy top down on a culture that never evolved democracy on it's own is about recklessness and not about being conservative.

The word conservative

The word conservative already includes the concept of humility. ... Isn't it redundant?

Apparently many conservatives forgot about that aspect of conservativism, which was the original point of this discussion. It might be necessary to remind them.

Your objection rests on your other objection

You just got done arguing that one should use labels that could be taken another way and now you objecting to my comment on that basis. I know that they could be advocating humility, but it also sounds arrogant.

The National Humility Conservatives triggers the arrogant interpretation for me much more strongly precisely because conservatives, despite their labels, have acted less than humble. Furthermore typical conservative positions are in fact based on a lack of humility.

Fundamentalist conservatives, for instance. It shows an enormous lack of humility to assert that the bible is the infallible product of a god. Especially when it is quite clear that anybody who makes such an assertion hasn't read the book and if they did then didn't comprehend it.

Besides what's the word "National" doing in there, and why "humility" instead of "humble"? It makes is sound like they are for humility of the other, and not the self. If it's about humility it should be about self, not others. In which case it should be "The Humble Conservatives". Which immediately draws my mind to the correct association. It says, "We're a subset of the conservatives. The humble kind." Why use the word "humility" instead of "humble".

Someone being for "national humility" isn't humble if they hate the country they live in. There are plenty of communists out there who hate America specifically because of their economic ideology, and their pro-national humility stance (with regard to the US only) is actually offensive. Why should I be humble about my right to free markets? Why should only the US need to be humble when the same standard is not applied to other countries?

Huh?

You just got done arguing that one should use labels that could be taken another way and now you objecting to my comment on that basis. I know that they could be advocating humility, but it also sounds arrogant.

What are you referring to? Are you referring to the comment where I say I agree with you? Or are you appending a third comment to the comment that I was referring to - that is, the comment that I was explaining with the words "I agree with you"? I don't understand, because I don't see how what I said elicits your response.

In any case, I think I substantially agree with your last two paragraphs.

Why should only the US need

Why should only the US need to be humble when the same standard is not applied to other countries?

Because it's the right thing to do? Virtues don't stop being virtues just because other actors fail to live up to them. If other countries place tariffs on US products, it isn't necessarily wise or justified for the US to place tariffs on their products in retaliation. Same with immigration restrictions, and same with the exercise of humble policy.