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Each year, the Independence Day prompts optimistic, if rather forced, renditions of developments in the increasingly democratic American polity. This optimism, it seems, may be misplaced, as both sides in our ever-more polarized society are locked into self-destructive courses.

By the very name that they assign themselves, progressives betray their fundamental faith in teleological development of humanity from a base form toward some future ideal. In historical context, however, progressivism is merely a recent incarnation of the ever-present centripetal mechanism that appears to be inherent in all civilizations. It is as if progressivism, and it antecedents — such as devolution of citizen military service in the Roman empire, repeated reversion to the soil of the various Byzantine warrior estates, the over-reliance on slave soldiers in the successive Islamic polities, the ever-recurring introversion of Confucianist governance in China, and so on — are a disease in the organism of the civilization which does not kill its host outright but, even as it rejoices in its victories, makes it too weak to resist the predators who are always nearby, awaiting their chance to pounce and dismember it.

Conservatism, conversely, can be compared to the immune system — always fighting rearguard actions and, despite sometimes winning battles, ever falling back onto the new normal created by the previous advances of the illness. By its very nature, conservatism never ultimately wins the war, because of necessity, as the new normal changes, it harkens back to an increasingly remote and legendary past ideal. This is why there have been no successful conservative revolutions — even those that purported to roll back past innovations, such as the Glorious, the Nazi, and even the French Restoration, had introduced all sorts of novelty under the guise of revival of ancient virtue and ultimately took their nations in entirely new directions.

Now, it would be fair to say that it is not only excess progressivism that leads to ruin; no less so does excess conservatism, albeit more slowly. Very conservative societies — particularly when well defended by barriers, distance, or merely their neighbors’ weakness — had displayed remarkable longevity, as witnessed by the Egyptian, Islamic and Chinese civilizations. When faced with vigorous adversary, though, they found themselves leapfrogged.