The Glory And Sadness Of Jordan Peterson
On the Right, Jordan Peterson proves contentious. He came from the same generation of what we might call "Alt Lite Plus" figures who argue for expanded classical liberalism, meaning that we should tolerate non-Leftist opinion as well as politically correct ones.
This proved enough to set the Regime on the defensive, since his approach mirrors the one they used to force their way into all the institutions of the West: he says that, if the Left are in favor of freedom and equality, they should be perfectly happy allowing conservative lives to matter, too.
An effective gambit in an early stage of an argument, Peterson's theory basically says, "Hey, we all agree on equality. Since you agree, you will allow us to be conservative and talk about it in public, too?"
He is attacking that zone of ambiguity caused by the fact that freedom and equality require one another. For people to have freedom, we have to believe in equality or admit that the lower half of society will abuse that freedom regularly. For people to have equality, we have to believe that them exercising their freedom will somehow result in good things instead of the usual mass trends, panics, fads, and reality-denying conformity.
In this way, his argument first defeats the Left and then defeats itself. When you argue for equality, you argue against a purpose to civilization. Without that, you cannot have moral standards, social order, hierarchy, or even heritage. You have become ideological zombies like Communists, dedicated to the individual at the expense of the civilization and its future.
It is important to remember here that civilization does not mean "all those people out there." It means something more than the sum of its parts, or a goal and purpose to which these people dedicate themselves to unite past and future. That way, their great^n grandchildren will have a story about where they came from, what their purpose is, and what their future will be, and this will keep them on track in a world otherwise submerged in human personal chaos.
Libertarianism, or classical liberalism, seems great because it offers a way out from the cloying groupthink of Leftism reinforced by the echo chamber of media, academia, and peer pressure. However, it also offers a way back in to that mentality, and this is where Peterson falls short. We cannot fight Sauron with the Ring because the Ring always leads back to Sauron. Despite this, Peterson makes some good points.
Take a look at Jordan Peterson as a cultural libertarian and what he actually wants to do away with:
“In Mr. Peterson’s world, order is masculine. Chaos is feminine. And if an overdose of femininity is our new poison, Mr. Peterson knows the cure. Hence his new book’s subtitle: ‘An Antidote to Chaos,’” the author writes. “The messages he delivers range from hoary self-help empowerment talk (clean your room, stand up straight) to the more retrograde and political (a society run as a patriarchy makes sense and stems mostly from men’s competence; the notion of white privilege is a farce). He is the stately looking, pedigreed voice for a group of culture warriors who are working diligently to undermine mainstream and liberal efforts to promote equality.”
Mr. Peterson, however, staunchly supports equality of opportunity. What he opposes are efforts by government bodies to ensure equality of outcomes.
“All outcomes cannot be equalized,” he writes in his latest book. “First, outcomes must be measured. Comparing the salaries of people who occupy the same position is relatively straightforward (although complicated significantly by such things as date of hire, given the difference in demand for workers, for example, at different periods). But there are other dimensions of comparison that are arguably equally relevant, such as tenure, promotion rate, and social influence. The introduction of the ‘equal pay for equal work’ argument immediately complicates even salary comparison beyond practicality, for one simple reason: who decides what work is equal? It’s not possible. That’s why the marketplace exists.”
“Here is the fundamental problem: group identity can be fractionated right down to the level of the individual. … Every person is unique — and not just in a trivial manner: importantly, significantly, meaningfully unique. Group membership cannot capture that variability. Period.”
His first argument in the above consists of an attack on disparate impact, a legal doctrine that says that if a minority group has different socioeconomic status than the majority, we must assume that racism is to blame and compensate for it by artificially transferring wealth and power to the minority group. If he succeeds with this, it will be a major victory; the downfall of affirmative action -- which relies on disparate impact -- will signal the end of diversity.
Most people do not understand much of what he is saying and instead bleat out the catch-phrase "equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome." They forget that they are now arguing for a Leftist idea, equality, and that when you dedicate yourself to equality, you will find yourself using it as both a method and a goal. When equality fails, the only answer will be more equality, which leads us right back to disparate impact.
In addition, meritocracy inherently punishes the naturally competent. In order to keep up the facade of equality, people must jump through hoops to prove their worthiness. The blindness of the law to position in society gives the criminal the same rights as the person who has never done anything wrong. Eventually, being unsuccessful becomes perceived as a type of merit in itself, and we enter the same anti-Darwinian spiral that we are in now.
Peterson does a great many good things, but this fatal flaw of insisting on equality makes him defend individualism. He attacks group membership, which denies our need for social order and a shared purpose. We can only find those things with identity because this is the only form that binds us to a shared goal and principles. Classical liberals do not see this, but realists and Old Right conservatives do.