Conquest's Laws of Politics

Everyone is conservative about what he knows best. Any organization that isn't explicitly right-wing eventually becomes left-wing

Conquest's Laws of Politics


Robert Conquest’s 3 Laws of Politics SHORT - YouTube
Conquest's Laws And The Myth Of Neutral Institutions - YouTube

Executive Summary

Robert Conquest's Laws of Politics

  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its own enemies

More dialectics -> More politics More politics -> More progress (social migration to the left) Communism is the universal implication

Steel-Manning the Idea

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.

  • People tend to be cautious and resistant to change when it comes to areas they are familiar with and have expertise in.

2. Any organization that is not explicitly right-wing will eventually become left-wing

(AKA the Myth of Neutral Institutions)

  • There cannot be neutral institutions
  • When any core value of a civilization goes up for debate, it will always and inevitably shift to the left
  • The only way to prevent this is to continually and activity defend against this drift. Putting up barriers. Gate-keeping.
  • There will always be growth, building, collapse and rebirth are all natural parts of the cycle
  • For this reason, you cannot have "neutral institutions" because only those actively defending against moving to the left (by moving to the right against culture) could stay put. Otherwise they always lean to the left and/or decay

3. The best explanation of a bureaucratic organization's behavior is to assume it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies

  • Rule by committee - when things get too big to be run by a single person/entity, they start being run by committees and that leads to bureaucracy
  • Over time bureaucracies develop interests of their own (outside interest)
  • Anytime there is disagreement within the bureaucracy, there is a chance to "win"
  • This is an opportunity for a bureaucrat to gain power in the institution
  • This naturally forces all of the 'crats to be drawn to those issues (to maximize their power and influence inside the organization)
  • This forces focus on those issues, wedging them wide open and creating cracks
  • Decisions stop being made solely in the interest of the organization and instead are made based on what will create more power for the bureaucrat (or his faction)
  • In the end, these decisions will end up cannibalizing the organization that it runs due to the lack of organization
  • This makes it look like it is run by a cabal of it's enemies as the decisions that are made are completely out of line with the interests of the organization
  • This tears it apart from the inside

4. Any revolutionary or radical movement eventually becomes an oligarchy or bureaucracy

  • Even movements that start with revolutionary or radical ideals aimed at dismantling existing power structures often end up forming their own hierarchies and bureaucracies.
  • This ties back to the very nature of organizing and implementing change - it always tends to lead to the concentration of power in a few hands.


So there are only 2 types of institutions:

  1. Those which are actively and explicitly fighting to protect and maintain their values and purpose
  2. Those which are in inevitable decay

Straw-Manning the Idea

Critics have raised several points of contention and criticisms regarding Robert Conquest's Laws of Politics. Here are some of the main criticisms:

Lack of empirical evidence: Critics argue that Conquest's laws lack robust empirical evidence to support their validity. While Conquest was a respected historian, his laws are more anecdotal observations rather than rigorously tested hypotheses.

Overgeneralization: Conquest's laws tend to make broad generalizations about political behavior, which critics argue oversimplify complex and diverse situations.

Political bias: Some critics argue that Conquest's laws reflect his own conservative political views and biases. His second law, in particular, which suggests that organizations inevitably drift toward the left, reflects a conservative perspective.

Lack of predictive power: Critics assert that Conquest's laws do not possess significant predictive power. They argue that while the laws may offer some retrospective analysis or explanations, they are limited in their ability to predict future political developments accurately.

Major Thinkers and Works

  • Robert Carlyle

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Tags: #politics #political #nrx