Sunday, October 30, 2005

"...thousands of years of trial, error, and modest correction..."

A couple of things that caught my eye yesterday, in an interesting juxtaposition:

  • Jonah Goldberg, in the Corner, posted a passage from a column that he wrote several years ago. Jonah is someone who is very well educated and steeped in the fundamental philosophical underpinnings of conservatism, and this was a wonderful snippet.
    ...Burke — like Hayek, Chesterton, and others — put his faith in tradition. Tradition is not merely "the way we've always done it." Tradition is the distillation of thousands of years of trial, error, and modest correction. Tradition contains volumes of unexpressed knowledge that has been passed from one generation to another. We do not know why we do everything we do, because we are not omniscient historians. We are not conscious of all the painful trial and error that went into our habit of cooking food, but that doesn't mean it's a totally arbitrary practice. Knowledge isn't just in books and journal articles, it is in our architecture and our language and a million habits and traditions we — until recently — accepted without much questioning. Think about how much accumulated wisdom is represented in our use of currency, and yet that practice predates the written arguments for currency by thousands of years. As Friedrich Hayek (a thoroughly Burkean libertarian) wrote, "more 'intelligence' is incorporated in the system of rules of conduct than in man's thoughts and surroundings." So when Burke says, "Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other," he's saying that tradition is a recognition of what works over what some "expert" thinks will work without benefit of precedent...Thus, we should revere old institutions because they are the storehouses of ancient wisdom and the thousands of conscious and unconscious decisions of our ancestors.

  • Births to Unmarried U.S. Women Set Record
    Nearly 1.5 million babies, a record, were born to unmarried women in the United States last year, the government reported Friday. And it isn't just teenagers any more. "People have the impression that teens and unmarried mothers are synonymous," said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics. But last year teens accounted for just 24 percent of unwed births, down from 50 percent in 1970, she commented. The increases in unmarried births have been among women in their 20s, she said, particularly those 25 to 29. Many of the women in that age group are living with partners but still count as unmarried mothers if they haven't formally married, Ventura noted.


  • Does anyone think that the world is a better place when we "throw off the shackles" of traditional marriage and families?

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