The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom, by Robert Nisbet
From the back cover:
…as the traditional ties that bind fell away, the human impulse toward community led people to turn even more to the government itself, allowing statism—even totalitarianism—to flourish.
From the time that classical liberalism reached its zenith until totalitarianism achieved the same was a matter of a few short decades – from utmost respect for the individual to utmost devastation for all individuals. What happened?
Robert Nisbet examines this question, and I will examine Nisbet. I will begin with the Introduction to this current edition, offered by Ross Douthat. Recognizing, by the end of World War Two, that history could no longer be described as a long, unstoppable march from dark to light, conservative thinkers began to explore…what happened?
…the central thinkers of the emerging American Right labored to explain how “progress” and “enlightenment” had produced the gas chamber and the gulag.
Into this intellectual field stepped Nisbet; what he found was that individualism and collectivism were not enemies struggling for hegemony, but two philosophies that supported each other:
It seemed contradictory that the heroic age of nineteenth-century laissez faire, to which free men, free minds, and free markets were supposedly liberated from the chains imposed by throne and alter, had given way so easily to the tyrannies of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Mao.
But it was only so if one ignored the human desire for community. Where man once had guilds, churches, universities, villages and family, he was now free to be a separate, autonomous individual – freed from such inhumane and patriarchal chains. Absent any other acceptable possibilities for community and in place of separate and competing authority structures, he was left with nothing but the technocratic state:
Man is a social being, and his desire for community will not be denied. The liberated individual is just as likely to be the alienated individual, the paranoid individual, the lonely and desperately-seeking-community individual.
No longer finding community on a personal level, he finds community in the totalizing state.
Thus liberalism can beget totalitarianism.
It “can” beget totalitarianism, but it need not be so:
…it’s possible for both liberal government and liberal economics to flourish without descending into tyranny, so long as they allow, encourage, and depend on more natural forms of community, rather than trying to tear them up root and branch.
In this statement is the crux of the matter. Can it be so? Is it possible? It requires more than the defense of the individual against the state – as the individual, a creature that desires community, has had his other meaningful communities stripped or neutered:
It must be the defense of the individual and his group – his family, his church, his neighborhood, his civic organization, and his trade union. (Emphasis added.)
In my very early, dogmatic, years, I struggled with Gary North’s assertion that people will always ask “who’s in charge around here?” I do not struggle with this anymore. I have come to learn that there will always be somebody or something in charge – all that is left for those who desire liberty is to consider well our most libertarian master. I have offered culture and tradition – and the culture and tradition to be found in the best of Western Civilization seems to have best fit the bill in history.
Otherwise not choosing (or pretending that humans do not have a desire for community) is also a choice – and the fruits of not choosing are to be found in our current condition.
You know who takes charge when people are cut off from their cultural roots? Medical "ethicists" who defend not only late term abortion but infanticide, that's who. The Cult of Deracinated Reason lives!ReplyDelete
Interesting. I am almost finished listening to Will and Ariel Durant’s “The Lesson of History” which is only 5 1/2 hours and worth the time. He discusses the relationship between order and liberty as well more eloquently than I could but essentially as a yin/yan type concept.ReplyDelete
I think there is much to admire from Nisbet's work, though I am only beginning this journey myself (haphazardly).ReplyDelete
From "Conservatives and Libertarians: Uneasy Cousins":
"Conservatives, from Burke on, have tended to see the population much in the manner medieval legists and philosophical realists (in contrast to nominalists) saw it: as composed of, not individuals directly, but the natural groups within which individuals invariably live: family, locality, church, region, social class, nation, and so on. Individuals exist, of course, but they cannot be seen or comprehended save in terms of social identities which are inseparable from groups and associations. If modern conservatism came into existence essentially through such a work as Burke’s attack on the French Revolution, it is because the Revolution, so often in the name of the individual and his natural rights, destroyed or diminished the traditional groups–guild, aristocracy, patriarchal family, church, school, province, etc.–which Burke declared to be the irreducible and constitutive molecules of society."
"Indeed, they [early conservatives like Burke and Tocqueville] argued, it is the pulverizing of society into a sandheap of individual particles, each claiming natural rights, that makes the arrival of collectivist nationalism inevitable."
The removal of the importance of traditional associations, stripping men of their natural relations between each other and with God, must have weighed heavy in the atomization of late 19th and early 20th century man that left them so vulnerable to fanatical nationalism and totalitarianism. Strip away the family and the state becomes your "family." Strip away God and the state becomes your "God."
Libertarians with Traditionalist leanings need to consider the ways in which capitalism is destructive of organic community.ReplyDelete
1) The way it incentives people to migrate from place to place preventing strong roots from forming or severing old roots, as well as the mass movement of foreign populations to be used as cheap labor.
2) "Jobs" over "Trades," Walmart over the Family Business
3) A culture of materialism and the worship of Mammon
Those are just three examples and I am not going to attempt the Sisyphean task of trying to convince libertarians to abandon their capitalist dogmatism, but I think they should at least understand that the Traditional European Right was hostile to capitalism for exactly these reasons (as well as its threat to the class structure and monarchy). From a philosophical point of view capitalism and communism have a lot more in common with each other than say Prussian Style Socialism. For further evidence of my point look at the most Tradionalist society in America- the Amish, they have been able to maintain their way of life by rejecting capitalism and the modern world. Just sayin.
Nisbet's book makes similar points; I will write about this in the coming days.Delete
I suspect, but cannot be certain: without so-called "free-trade" agreements, economies would be much more local. In other words, government-managed trade (most definitely not libertarian) has helped destroy our "community."
"without so-called "free-trade" agreements, economies would be much more local."Delete
I can tell you first hand as I've seen it in my business- unmoored fiat currency globally has destroyed pricing mechanisms around the world.
The US gov't complains that China manipulates it's currency while the US gov't itself does the very same.
The race to the bottom of currency value not only creates bubbles/distortion and impoverishes later receivers over time- but it makes it an almost impossibility to have "free trade" when the basis for exchange(money) is corrupted and not chosen freely.
There is no possibility for true "free trade" until people are allowed to choose their currency.(which cuts through the BS of monetization and takes away a major factor in bubbles/distortion)
@ UC 2.0
One of the thing I appreciate about you popping in here now and then is that you are unafraid to probe the "sacred" tenets of libertarianism and you make well considered points that provoke further thought.
Sometimes I feel like I'm in an echo chamber when visiting my circle of libertarian sites- I like to see things shaken up and you do that. The issue of "Free trade" seems to be one of those libertarian topics that are "verboten" to reasonably question. (although I'm questioning the definition of what is "Free" in my thoughts about it)
Capitalism is destructive of organic community? I think you have this exactly backwards. Capitalism is an outgrowth of organic and healthy community. I believe it is the concentration of political power, and the subsequent redistribution of capital, which is destructive to community.Delete
The Amish are members of a voluntary society, so any libertarian worth his salt should be, at the very least, ambivalent toward their "anti-capitalist" leanings. Besides, the Amish have not rejected capitalism. They have a reputation for crafting wonderful furniture and selling it into the market. They have not abandoned the utility of trade; they've just rejected taking part in technological advancement and the commodification of life. I think capitalism is often mistaken for materialism. It is simply a method of social organization based on recognizing private property and the voluntary exchange thereof. It isn't capitalism's fault what the moral degenerates of today spend their money on.
"From a philosophical point of view capitalism and communism have a lot more in common with each other than say Prussian Style Socialism"
In the sense they are both universalist systems of ethics, one being universal self-ownership and the other being universal equal-other-ownership, I agree that they have commonalities. But I think you can find commonalities among all the different variations of political organization. The moon appears to be the same size as the sun from our position on Earth. Should we then conclude they are of a common size? I would say that the practical application of "communism" (advanced state socialism) and Bismarkian/New Deal socialism are much more closely related than is capitalism to either.
The antagonisms between traditionalists and libertarians are largely unfounded (unless of course the traditionalists are prescribing an aggressive political order and the libertarians are against traditional culture). When I read criticisms of each from the other perspective I find they are largely talking past each other. One is speaking of culture and one is speaking of politics. One defines capitalism one way and the other another way. Precision of language is so important!
I'm with Hoppe in that I think we won't achieve liberty until conservatives learn from libertarians on economics and political ethics and libertarians learn from conservatives on social mores and culture.
Wish I knew what you mean. I still equate capitalism with the free market, but the word "capitalism" can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, so I rather not use it. Banksterism, cronyism, mercantilism, "free trade" intergovernmentalism, monopolistic predatory pricing, FTO, Big oil, corporatism, or just "greed". All capitalism.
More often than not, the capitalism under question appears to stand for something completely alien to the free market. Almost always, criticism of "capitalism" is shared and elaborated upon by leading Austrian economists.
Btw, can you name one typical exponent of the "Traditional European Right". Tradition has always meant different things across various European nations, so I'm curious.
>I believe it is the concentration of political power, and the subsequent redistribution of capital, which is destructive to community.
Then why are former eastern bloc communist countries healthier from a cultural/spirtitual perspective than Western Europe and America? And why could organic community flourish more under Monarchy than Liberal Democracy?
I am not going to deny that the American State has been destructive of community (the destruction of white ethnic urban centers through "dem programs"/forced integration is chief among them) but you can't deny the deleterious effects of capitalist sponsored:
1)Sexual Revolution/Birth Control (Rockefeller Foundation sponsored)
2) Hollywood degeneracy
3) Feminism/women in the work force (also Foundation sponsored)
4) Promotion of opiates and other harmful drugs
>precision of language is important
I agree with this. One of those left-libertarians (I think Carson) likes to say something to the tune of "markets not capitalism," tbh I don't know how he defines capitalism but I can tell you how I do. Capitalism is a political system that means rule by Oligarchs/Plutocrats, or a system in which the political is decided by the interests of money power (who to go to war with, what kind of culture to promote to the masses, what immigration/trade policy should be etc). In antiquity merchants were beneath warriors and priests in the social hierarchy. Capitalism is when the merchants find themselves on top.
Happy to do it. I have never really tried to persuade libertarians to adopt my ideological orientation as much present as best I can the reasons I reject theirs. The most crucial point I think I can make is that the current State is not our only enemy. The enemy is an international clique of moneyed interests that use different States and ideologies to forward their ends of a raceless, cultureless, mass of slaves- Babel Inc. Capitalist dogmatism is a major obstacle to reckoning with this.
Libertarians like to argue that absent the State moneyed interests wouldn't have political control but I find this absurd. Political control is achieved by weakening the spirit, culture, and cohesion of a people. In my reply to ATL I listed several ways that has been achieved without the use of the State. From my perspective a strong aristocratic state representing the best of a people is the best defense against Tyranny and the most conduscive to Liberty (the actualizing of human potential). You need a State that can't be bought and where the merchants are put in their place (below warriors and priests)- this is the true meaning of Fascism, a struggle to recreate as best we can the old forms of civilization in the modern world.
From a big picture historical perspective capitalism is best defined as the political being organized by and for the merchant class. There are obviously various forms this comes in but those forms are determined by what suits the money power at the time. Sometimes they promote free trade, sometimes protectionism, sometimes deregulation sometimes regulation etc.
As for examples of thinkers from the traditional right:
1) Joseph de Maistre
2) Julius Evola
3) Ernst Junger (and other representatives of the Conservative Revolution)
4) The European New Right (de Benoist, Guillame Faye, or my current avatar the late Dominique Venner)
American examples would be William S Lind and E Michael Jones.
Isn't capitalism the private ownership of the means of production?Delete
Free markets do not play a part in it IIRC.
Capitalism + free markets = Anarcho Capitalism.
Capitalism + Democracy = (leads to) Crony Capitalism
"present as best I can the reasons I reject theirs."Delete
Yes, I think it's helpful you do that because then we all have to take a step back and re-examine our views and be able to cogently explain them to ourselves and others.
Don't get me wrong, I have no interest in fascism and I think you're mistaken in many of your viewpoints surrounding it(just as you feel the same about me/us) but there are also times I agree with some of what you're saying. You are honest in your viewpoints and civil in discussion and that's admirable; there's value in the role you play here.
"You need a State that can't be bought..."Delete
This seems impossible to me, at least insofar as modern superstates like the US, EU, China, Russia, et al. I consider myself a libertarian on account of said impossibility, but perhaps I'm not imaginative enough. At this point in time, how might the US achieve a State that can't be bought?
"...where the merchants are put in their place (below warriors and priests)..."
I encountered this historical hierarchy of authority only recently, when reading Herr Professor Doktor N. N. Taleb's Skin in the Game. I continue to experience cognitive dissonance as a result. The "old and good", or "robust to time" as the Herr Professor Doktor would say, is apparently militaristic first and foremost. Those with the most skin in the game, i.e. warriors who might lose their lives on behalf of their group, were the leaders of the group.
In the "struggle to recreate as best we can the old forms of civilization in the modern world", I can't help but think that a return to old hierarchy is downright dangerous. It is a hard pill to swallow--I've not done so--considering the current state of western armed forces.
" In antiquity merchants were beneath warriors and priests in the social hierarchy. Capitalism is when the merchants find themselves on top."
Clearly this is not how libertarians define capitalism. Libertarians do not advocate a system where merchants run the state. I don't think it's self evident that warriors and priests cannot be merchants of their crafts, that is to say that they cannot offer their services in exchange for voluntary remuneration. This is precisely what libertarianism offers.
"Libertarians like to argue that absent the State moneyed interests wouldn't have political control but I find this absurd."
Moneyed interests would certainly have authority in a libertarian society, but this is true of any society that has ever existed. The crucial point is how did authority get the money? The libertarian holds that all authority must obtain its resources without aggression (initiated violence).
A State like that is an ideal to shoot for. One thing it can't be is democratic at the top. Hoppe demonstrated very clearly the perverse incentives to loot social capital under a democratic system and showed that Monarchy/Dictatorship is largely free of those problems. Iran is a good example of a State that has said no to the money and cultural poison of the West. It's no coincidence the Islamic Republic is modeled after Plato's Republic. We need a Guardian class.
I also just finished SITG, huge fan of Taleb, great book. Dictators/monarchcs have far more skin in the game than democratic politicians.
>Warriors and Priests can be merchants of their craftDelete
Sure, they are called mercenaries and snake-oil salesmen.
Look I just don't accept the idea of a purely voluntary society. I think even if the purely voluntary Hoppean community is set up aspects of it would become institutionalized and it would turn into a quasi feudal order. You would end up with one military/police force, one court system, and one family with the most money and property holding becoming the defacto monarch etc (a State). In other words you would find you aren't exempt from History and there is nothing new under the sun, nothing will work that hasn't been proven to work from History. To me it makes more sense to look to previously established forms of civilization than roll the dice on basing a society off Rothbard.
>moneyed interests have always had authority, how did they get the money?
Well they have always had influence, but they haven't always had authority. Nor do they even have formal authority now because formal authority makes them uncomfortable and puts skin in the game. When was the last Rothschild press conference?
Many of the Oligarchs/Plutocrats got their money in ways libertarians approve of. After establishing their fortunes they would do things using the State libertarians don't approve of BUT that begs the question, how would a "voluntary capitalist society" be immune to manipulation by the super-rich? (Especially super-rich who don't share the culture, religion, and ethnic background of the majority). The political question is who will rule/ who is sovereign. If your position is everything should be up for sale then the richest man/family will be sovereign. I find it very strange how libertarians like Rothbard are really good at explaining the ways hidden money power manipulates society but then turn around and say a stateless society would be free of this. Who is going to enforce the absence of a State? Why wouldn't the most powerful just build one?
It is interesting that these initial remarks of yours, i.e. "capitalism" as a destroyer of traditional family virtues - show a remarkable similarity to those of two other yet unmentioned European social conservatives: Marx & Engels.
From: The Lost Literature of Socialism, by George Watson.
"In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels had represented the bourgeoisie as crudely and dangerously radical; by building factories and railroads and debasing human relations to a sordid cash-nexus, it had 'stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe' and 'torn away from the family its sentimental veil' [..]"
>"without so-called "free-trade" agreements, economies would be much more local."Delete
Economies would also be much more local if countries were to adopt gold standard. Then economies wouldn't be so much export based. Basically, we have a neomercantilist economic system.
Definition of capitalism is "private ownership of the means of production" so every conceivable system is capitalism, even communism. The only difference between various systems is in distribution in the means of production. In communism glorious leader owns everything (and everyone) and so communism is an extreme example of monopoly. Distributism, for example, is the opposite of communism, but is not a free market system -- in distributism the State forces as wide as possible distribution of the means of production. Etc. etc.
“…nothing will work that hasn't been proven to work from History.”
When it comes to man’s social relationships with man (which I believe is the context in which you write), I agree. Whether one believes man’s character is shaped from millions of years of evolution or is a spirit created by God, it pretty much is what it is. To pretend it can be changed into something else is the dream of utopians of all stripes and the nightmare for the rest of humanity.
“…how would a "voluntary capitalist society" be immune to manipulation by the super-rich? (Especially super-rich who don't share the culture, religion, and ethnic background of the majority).”
It will not be immune to this and most certainly not to the super-rich who don’t share all three of the culture, religion, and ethnic background of the majority – and even these three characteristics are no guarantee; these must be lived experiences of both the rich and the common man.
Not sure what you're commenting on. I know the "definition" of capitalism (derived from Marx). It is as unhelpful as UC's "definition", so thank you for reminding me why it is that I prefer not to use the C-word ;)
Like I said, "capitalism" can mean a lot of things to a lot of people.
"In order to discuss the "future of capitalism," we must first decide what the meaning of the term "capitalism" really is. Unfortunately, the term "capitalism" was coined by its greatest and most famous enemy, Karl Marx. We really can’t rely upon him for correct and subtle usage. And, in fact, what Marx and later writers have done is to lump together two extremely different and even contradictory concepts and actions under the same portmanteau term."
From: A Future of Peace and Capitalism
"If your position is everything should be up for sale then the richest man/family will be sovereign. I find it very strange how libertarians like Rothbard are really good at explaining the ways hidden money power manipulates society but then turn around and say a stateless society would be free of this. Who is going to enforce the absence of a State? Why wouldn't the most powerful just build one?"Delete
Can libertarian law providers be bought by corrupt money? Sure, but so can any state. I would argue it is much easier and cheaper to commandeer a state. Look at the effect of Israel on the US government.
Who is going to enforce statelessness (the law)? Good question. Private law associations and the people who patronize them. Who is going to make sure the state abides the law? In both cases, the only answer is the people. The difference is that in a libertarian order, if a law provider began breaking the law, its customers could withdraw funds and approach other providers, which could provide an effective deterrent to bloodshed, whereas in a state, you pretty much need a bloody armed revolution to reign in a rogue state.
"Sure, they are called mercenaries and snake-oil salesmen."
Many upstanding religious institutions survive just fine off of voluntary donations, and mercenaries have a bad name precisely because they are paid and authorized by (and run by former agents of) sovereign states.
You can be paid for something and believe it to be a worthy cause. The introduction of taxation as a means of funding or aggressive monopoly privilege doesn't make a profession hallowed or honorable. It does the reverse.
As far as I know, Amish furniture isn't a style; its furniture build by Amish people and exported by Amish communities to buyers the world over. Amish folk reject consumerism, but they apparently do not reject free market capitalism.
More to your point (I think), toxic consumerism does seem to be a byproduct of capitalism.
Just because they make chairs and hammocks or whatever does not make them capitalists. Would you call a feudal era carpenter a "capitalist?" The Amish absolutely do reject capitalism, try selling them a car.ReplyDelete
Consumer sovereignty is the essence of *free-enterprise* capitalism. You're free to reject any of the marketplace's goods or services for any reason. An auto executive may refuse to purchase an Amish chair or hammock; an Amish may opt for a horse-and-buggy over a car.ReplyDelete
If they bought the car they could no longer live as Amish. By your definition voluntarily abstaining from the rest of industrial society is an essentially capitalist act. You might as well go full Jeff Tucker and say capitalism is life itself.Delete
Choosing to trade or not trade, to practice one faith or another, to associate with or disassociate from a group of people--these are all essential exercises in freedom. Whether the society is industrial or agricultural or something else is beside the point.Delete
The Amish are free to remain Amish and not buy the car. They're free to cease practicing Amishism and buy the car. They're free even to launch a heretical Amish sect that condones car-driving while maintain all their other quaint and folksy ways.
What's the alternative? Someone (who?!) should compel the Amish to remain Amish and bar their purchase of the car? And this advances traditionalism how?
Odd that you should drag Jeff Tucker into the discussion. He argues for precisely that kind of thick libertarianism. "Yeah, it's true that libertarians defend freedom of disassociation--but racists are really mean! Yeah, it's true that libertarians defend mass marketing--but coaxing the Amish to drive cars is really crass!"
Theologically speaking, this is the way it should be. We are reminded constantly that this world is not our home. We are pilgrims. Pilgrims are not nomads. The nomad returns again and again to some earlier location. He has no home, but he has familiar places in his circular pattern of life. The nomad is not the model for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Why not? Because it is not linear. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are marked by their concept of linear history. Each has a concept of a beginning, progress, and an end. This makes these three religions different from pagan polytheistic religions, including Eastern religions. The societies that have developed as a result of these three religions are different from the societies that are built on concepts of circular history.ReplyDelete
It is a good thing we cannot go home again, because our home is not here. The time we spend here is supposed to be devoted to improving the world in which we find ourselves. This includes the concept of economic growth. This idea was unique to Western civilization -- no earlier than 1600. The fact that we cannot go home again is supposed to remind us that this is not our home. It is to remind us that we have an obligation to change the world in which we live, in order to improve that world, and then leave a better legacy.
This means that the concept of community must be tied to the concept of linear progress. Any concept of community that is based on unchanging tradition in a geographical area is based on an error. Community has to be marked by change, and this change has to be progressive. This is the idea of progress, and it is unique to the religions that are based on the biblical account of creation, history, and final judgment.
Technology will be harnessed by individuals to create more and more communities. So, while we have seen the decline of geographical community, meaning neighborhoods, we have simultaneously seen the increase of digital communities, which are confessional communities. Confession is more important than geography.
The concern of sociologists regarding the decline of community has never been widely shared by economists. Röpke was an exception, but most economists have been far more concerned about economic growth and the loss of community. On the whole, I think the economists are correct. The development of Facebook is indicative of the possibilities for creating highly profitable, highly efficient, and highly segregated communities. Birds of a feather flock together. This is the rule of community, and it surely manifests itself in the operation of Facebook.
Because these communities are more social than geographical, they have not been equally visible. They have not received the same degree of attention as the neighborhood communities have. We worry about bowling alone, because a Harvard sociologist told us we ought to. The fact is this: a lot of people do not like to bowl. Bowling has been an activity of the lower middle class, meaning blue-collar workers. As the number of blue-collar workers has declined, the number of bowling alleys has declined. Community declined because because people got richer. If given the chance to go back in time, few people would do it. Remember P. J. O'Rourke's line: "When you think of the good old days, think one word: dentistry." I'll take the novacaine. You can keep the community.
“The time we spend here is supposed to be devoted to improving the world in which we find ourselves. This includes the concept of economic growth.”Delete
It may “include” the concept of economic growth, but unfortunately too many – including many libertarians and Gary North, it seems – limit it to this. Freedom is not limited solely to enhancements in economic life, albeit these are of value. One could argue that we have all sold our souls to this economic growth.
“Any concept of community that is based on unchanging tradition in a geographical area is based on an error.”
Good thing few people here believe this error.
“The concern of sociologists regarding the decline of community has never been widely shared by economists. On the whole, I think the economists are correct.”
Yes, maybe this is why economists are not qualified to be sociologists.
“The development of Facebook is indicative of the possibilities for creating highly profitable, highly efficient, and highly segregated communities.”
I think we lose something important in this exchange. I think the idea held by some libertarians – and, it seems, Gary North – is that the government and those who control it will simply wither away as our online lives make the state less relevant.
I don’t believe it is Facebook that will bring us salvation from the evil that is the modern state.
Mr. Bionic my post was not intended as criticism of you post but as replay to some of your followers comment.Delete
Some of them blame capitalism/free market/laissez-faire for all problems that are present in europe and north america ( by the way that problems are nothing as problems of middle east, asia or africa ). today.
some of them think that hitler /mussolini/stalin economics was better.
or maybe we should adopt some policies of central and south america where some intelligent whites ( mexico,brazil, colombia.. ) running show.
Max, fair enough. But my thoughts about North's comments stand.Delete
>Then why are former eastern bloc communist countries healthier from a cultural/spirtitual perspective than Western Europe and America?ReplyDelete
I am from the Eastern Europe and let me tell you this myth of 'trad' Eastern Europeans that some in the West have is laughable. By every considerable measure Eastern Europeans (and the Chinese) are far more degenerate than the Westerners. It just so happens to be that we don't have State-mandated degeneracy (that is, we have less of it) like the West, so there's an appearance of normality. But, if you look at the statistics (corruption rates, abortion rates, alcoholism rates, addiction rates, STD rates, etc.), you'll find them horrid, horrid, horrid.
>More to your point (I think), toxic consumerism does seem to be a byproduct of capitalism.
Consumerism is a direct consequence of having an inflationary currency (note that I did not say fiat, because fiat money is not necessarily, at least in theory, inflationary). Inflationary money cumulatively increases the time preference of all, which is a process of decivilization leading to all kinds of horrible things, one among which is creating consumerist culture.
> By your definition voluntarily abstaining from the rest of industrial society is an essentially capitalist act.
As it currently stands, markets are so distorted by governmental regulations and currency manipulations that I don't think anyone can even begin to imagine what "free market system" would look like. There are even those who claim that people would be less enterprising and industrious if left free (indeed, there is a good case that left to themselves, as libertarians recommend, the people might just revert to small farming and shopkeeping model -- because people value many things more than they do material wealth), that it was inefficiencies of mercantilist system in Europe that forced people to invent machinery, and that it was Imperial China's wu-wei (laissez-faire is a translation to French of Chinese wu-wei) policies that made them technologically backward (because they had sufficiently efficient trade, they had no need for machinery).
"By every considerable measure Eastern Europeans (and the Chinese) are far more degenerate than the Westerners."
Let's consider one fairly important measure of cultural degeneracy: submission to US-imported Multiculturalism & Diversity.
Polish, Hungarian, Czech people far more degenerate?
I don't know, but they don't seem to be minding multiculturalism much when they move West in swarms.Delete