Jordan Peterson: 12 Principles for a 21st Century Conservatism

If you are not familiar with the videos of Dr. Jordan Peterson, you should acquaint yourself with them, and him, forthwith.

This one is a good introduction to the style and substance of the man.

Peterson starts talking about 18 minutes in, after a lengthy and rambling introduction which you should skip.

If two hours is too much here are shorter snippets:

The consequence of trying to build imaginary utopias out of real human beings.

Stop saying things that make you weak.

Proven differences between men and women.

Go out and make something of yourself.

The temptation of victim identity.

Clean your room.

Peterson on starting an online humanities university.

The twelve principles from the video are as follows:

1. The fundamental assumptions of Western civilization are valid.
2. Peaceful social being is preferable to isolation and to war. In consequence, it justly and rightly demands some sacrifice of individual impulse and idiosyncrasy.
3. Hierarchies of competence are desirable and should be promoted.
4. Borders are reasonable. Likewise, limits on immigration are reasonable. Furthermore, it should not be assumed that citizens of societies that have not evolved functional individual-rights predicated polities will hold values in keeping with such polities.
5. People should be paid so that they are able and willing to perform socially useful and desirable duties.
6. Citizens have the inalienable right to benefit from the result of their own honest labor.
7. It is more noble to teach young people about responsibilities than about rights.
8. It is better to do what everyone has always done, unless you have some extraordinarily valid reason to do otherwise.
9. Radical change should be viewed with suspicion, particularly in a time of radical change.
10. The government, local and distal, should leave people to their own devices as much as possible.
11. Intact heterosexual two-parent families constitute the necessary bedrock for a stable polity.
12. We should judge our political system in comparison to other actual political systems and not to hypothetical utopias.

19 thoughts on “Jordan Peterson: 12 Principles for a 21st Century Conservatism”

  1. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about Peterson, but cannot imagine watching a 2-hour talking-head video. Guess I’ll listen to the audio in my car.

    I wonder about the increasing prevalence of videos for just about everything….how many people would prefer something like this as a video vs as a podcast vs as text?

    Strongly age-related, I imagine.

  2. I’ll play videos as background noise, but 2hrs is a bit much (my upper limit is usually an hour).

    Good solid points; I’ve seen similar points under other names but they’re all based (shockingly) on common sense.

  3. Here Dearie, try this by our great conservative theorist Russell Kirk

    Cant and equivocation dismissed, it seems to me that there are three great bodies of principle and conviction that tie together what is called modern civilization.

    The first of these is the Christian faith: the theological and moral doctrines which inform us, either side of the Atlantic, of the nature of God and man, the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, human dignity, the rights and duties of human person, the nature of charity, and the meaning of hope and resignation.

    The second of these is the corpus of imaginative literature, humane letters, which is the essence of our high culture: humanism, which with the Christian faith, teaches us our powers and our limitations–the work of Plato, Virgil, Cicero, Dante, Shakespeare, and so many others.

    The third is a complex of social and political institutions which we may call the reign of law, or ordered liberty: prescription, precedent, impartial justice, private rights, private property, the character of genuine community, the claims of the family and of voluntary association.

    However much these three bodies of conviction have been injured by internecine disputes, nihilism, Benthamism, the cult of Rationalism, Marxism, and other modern afflictions, they remain the rocks upon which our civilization is built.

    For indirect evidence of the superiority, or at the very least healthiness, of these principles see the Lindy Effect

    So things that have been in existence for a long period of time can be considered more robust/antifragile (i.e., more likely to continue to survive) than new things that haven’t passed the test of time. Given this, the Lindy Effect can be used to distinguish random survivors from non-random survivors and gauge the fragility of a thing which provides information that can help with decision making. For example, companies that have been around the longest and are still relatively “healthy” will last the longest, and vice versa. Investors can use the Lindy effect to narrow down their choice of stocks to the most durable companies

  4. David, it’s worth it.

    Audio is good enough. If you listen to his Old Testament lectures, you want the video because he uses slides of some of the great works of art depicting the scenes, and it adds to the discussion.

  5. @Grurray: he missed out far too much, did Mr Kirk. How can one omit the West’s technology and science, our maths, music, and medicine, our journeys of exploration, our Enlightenment? Or even our painters.

  6. In regards to pillars of Western civilization, I’ve seen various articles/blog posts talking about three or four, but most people seems to agree on two of them:

    Christianity and Greco-Roman civilization. The Enlightenment, etc. is a consequence of those two ingredients.

  7. @Freddie: Kirk talked of “great bodies of principle and conviction that tie together what is called modern civilization”, rather than pillars. So he’s using a different architectural metaphor. He’s plain wrong on the first: huge numbers of people who are wedded to, and contribute to, Western Civilisation want nothing much to do with Christianity. Its historical importance is undeniable, but a tier together? Not for many people. In fact, put aside the abstractions, look at the history of the churches: Christianity could be viewed as a splitter up. Consider the Roman Catholic flounce out from the old Catholic church, which severed the western part of Western Civilisation from the eastern, or the Thirty Years War, or the Albigensian Crusade, or a wealth of other examples.

    His third great body is essential, I’d have said. His second is debatable, perhaps just a matter of taste, but I’d incline to his side.

  8. Without the religious convictions of Puritans and Quakers, North America would look a lot different today. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, the wellspring of our social and political institutions, were all founded by churches and clergymen, as were most other universities before the mid to late 19th century.

    We need to add to Freddie’s description and call it Hebraic-Greco-Roman civilization. Historian Eric Nelson wrote a book a few years ago about the myth that the modern world came about by overcoming religion. Just the opposite, the Age of Enlightenment originated in the “Biblical Century” of the 1600s after the Hebrew bible was first translated. It was greatly influenced by interpreters such as philosopher and talmudist John Selden who devised theories of natural law and jurisprudence based on Jewish scriptures and rabbinical texts.

  9. I did see him on youtube interviewed by Joe Rogan a couple months ago and was impressed with his presentation. I haven’t listened to your video yet. I converted it to mp3, and I will listen to it, probably in increments, over the next few days. I can usually get some good podcast time in when I mow the lawn.

  10. Modern western civilization is the culmination and refinement of ideas that were introduced by the Jews and ancient Greeks and adopted by the Christians. If China impresses you, so should the modern West.

  11. Obviously Christianity is not a prerequisite for civilization, since there are highly civilized non-Christian countries. However, do you think it’s an accident that so many civilized countries are Christian or mainly Christian?

  12. Really. The west is a new thing. Chinese civilization was there over 1000 years before Christ.

    And Western Civilization surpassed Chinese civilization in the 18th century and has never let them catch up. If they ever surpass us again it will be caused by the western hating leftists inside our culture causing western civilization to commit suicide. Tradition Chinese medicine is mostly a pile of superstitious crap that does not work, which is why we do not think much of it.

  13. The metric is GDP per capita. This Great Divergence started around 1500 and took off during the Industrial Revolution. At the same time European civilizations, particularly around the North Sea, were expanding throughout the world, China and Japan were isolating themselves.

    I was able to listen to Peterson’s video over the weekend. I got to it all in one chunk while working on the lawn, as the crabgrass was overgrown after all the torrential rain we received.

    About half way through he was talking about inequality and mentioned Pareto. This is the Elite Recycling theory. Pareto was the one who came up with the so-called 80-20 rule. It’s actually sometimes 99-1 in extreme cases.

    The idea with the elite theory is social and political stratification is relatively stable. The only thing that changes is individuals occupying those levels.

    The elite level contains either foxes – cunning and compromising – or lions – conservative and unifying. I believe this concept originated with Machiavelli.

    Usually the circulation involves a group of lions who have overstayed their welcome. They are infiltrated by foxes who eventually overtake them. Then the foxes, while clever, lack the centralizing ability to hold onto power, so another group of lions usurps them. This goes on unless there is the rare case when lions and foxes work together at the top. The only way this can happen is with structures in place to rapidly recycle both groups. I suppose so they aren’t around long enough to kill each other.

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