Impossibility of Impartiality

From: Decline of the West explained

The impossibility of neutrality

Supposing that it really is impossible that a society can be neutral with respect to anything important – that it must either tend to support or suppress it – then this explains why things can move so swiftly from being forbidden to being compulsory.

If neutrality really is impossible, then to argue that something should not be subject to stigma is – in the long run – precisely equivalent to saying that it is desirable.

If neutrality really is impossible, to argue that ‘x’ is not evil, is the same as arguing that ‘x’ is good.

If neutrality really is impossible, then to argue that people should no longer be punished or suffer for doing ‘y’ is de facto to argue that they should be rewarded and feel good about doing ‘y’.

If neutrality really is impossible, then when society ceases to persecute a group, it will always begin to privilege that group.


Of course, one might argue that it is not necessarily true that neutrality is impossible; one might argue that theoretically it is possible and desirable that society might maintain an attitude of impartiality with respect to important matters.

But looking back over the past fifty years, what does it look like to you?

To me it seems blazingly obvious that when society ceases to sanction a thing it always, always, always starts to honour that thing.


The ideal of neutrality serves a radical agenda

Neutrality is a lynch pin of elite political thought. Much of modern quasi-scientific social research is dedicated to demonstrating that some modern social system (law, education, the military) is not behaving neutrally. All that is required of such research is to show that people of different sex, ethnicity or whatever are treated differently, and points are scored, the system is discredited and demonstrated as being ripe for radical reform.

(Actually, it is worse than this, because any research which fails to find differences between sexes or whatever is suppressed or ignored – while even clearly erroneous or made-up research showing differences – e.g. radically-motivated research which is actually based on pre-selected anecdotes or fails to control for major confounders like age may be given tremendous publicity.)

However, if it is impossible for an individual, an organization or a culture to be neutral – then this debate takes on a different complexion altogether; because if impartiality is unattainable, then the debate would not *really* be about failure to attain the ideal of neutrality, but *actually* a debate over *who* should be favoured.

The ideal of impartiality in social systems probably derived from the ideal of Roman law, in which (as I understand it) the same system is applied to everyone – everyone goes through the same basic process.

The same idea applies to bureaucracies, as described by Max Weber, in which administrators are required to devise and apply procedures impartially, treating sufficiently-similar cases as operationally-identical.

But in the real world there are major differences in the application of the law and the application of bureaucratic procedures – differences such as: who gets investigated, who gets prosecuted, the type of sentence they receive, who has regulations enforced on them – and so on.


One classic political scenario nowadays involves someone (a radical) attacking a procedural system (such as the legal process, employment practice or educational evaluations) as being biased, while another person (a libertarian or conservative) defends the system as being impartial-enough for the purposes.

The radical pretends to argue that impartiality is attainable but requires change, while actually seeking privileges for a particular group. The libertarian/ conservative always gives ground in the direction the radical is pushing, because any actually existing system is indeed partial – if you look hard enough.

Hence the evaluation system is overturned. That group which used to be privileged is now suppressed, and vice versa. This can most clearly be seen in employment policy relating to gender.

A reactionary perspective, by contrast, would accept the radical’s assertion that one group or another must in reality be privileged, and would challenge the radical on the grounds of which group ought to be privileged. The focus of debate changes.

For example, if it is accepted that neutrality is impossible, then employment policy must favour either men or women – the proper question then becomes which is it best for employment policy to favour?

For example, the organization of the military or care for young children will inevitably favour either men or women – the proper question to ask is: which is the most functionally-appropriate favoured group in each specific case? (Clue: the answer is different for each of these two examples…)

One big advantage of acknowledging the inevitability of partiality is that this is what most people believe anyway and always have believed – in fact it is only a minority of the intellectual elite (libertarians and conservatives) who really believe in impartiality as a desirable and attainable goal of social systems.

But radicals, socialists, liberals and corrupt politicians are simply exploiting the failure to attain impartiality as a justification for imposing a revolutionary inversion of values.

Hence a belief in the ideal of neutrality unwittingly serves a radical and nihilistically-destructive agenda, since it actually leads to partiality in the opposite direction from that which is socially functional.

Charlton BG. (2010). Decline of the West explained. [9-7-2011]

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2 Responses to Impossibility of Impartiality

  1. nikcrit says:

    “The libertarian/ conservative always gives ground in the direction the radical is pushing, because any actually existing system is indeed partial – if you look hard enough.”

    True in theory. But the libertarian/conservative responses to radical charges often uses reactionary arguments and reasoning, no?

  2. statsquatch says:

    It would be easier if we could admit that treating every one the same, by Bayes theorem, is inefficient. Favoring men to be day care providers will lead to more pedos and favoring women to be pilots will lead to more crashes. I would settle for being able to make this argument with data to support it of course.

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