We could use a catechism of liberalism and conservatism (i.e., anti-liberalism.) Young people won’t know about reality unless someone teaches them. They may sense it, but they won’t know it unless someone teaches them.
Part I: Introduction
Liberalism begins with the deliberate violation of the laws of God, the laws of nature, and human tradition. If this blasphemy excites you, you’re prone to become a liberal. If you’re a normal person, it disgusts you, and you will not become a liberal unless it disguises itself as something good.
Everybody knows something’s wrong with the world. This series is written from the standpoint of traditional Christianity, and as Christians, we know that the ultimate malady is sin. But sin manifests itself in countless ways. We need a more tangible and organized explanation.
A big part of the current problem is liberalism. It’s everywhere, it’s dominant, and it’s perverted. So we all need to defend ourselves against it.
That word “liberalism” is the usual name for the way of thinking that now rules Western civilization, America included. It’s more than just fashionable opinion; liberalism is an organized system. Its ideas are mostly consistent with one another, so they work together like a well-trained sports team. And there are countless organizations which teach liberalism and enforce its morality. Liberalism rules the West, so the people mostly believe it. And even if they don’t believe it, they usually go along with it.
Some intellectuals want another name for what I’ve called liberalism. Or they say that it’s really many separate movements which should not be grouped together under one name. There is some truth to that. But there is one well-defined system of thought that now rules America. And its most common name is “liberalism.”
There is no need here to give a precise definition of liberalism. Like the famous quip about pornography, we know it when we see it. In a sense, everyone knows what it is. Liberalism is legitimizing deviant sex. It’s confiscating guns. It’s exalting nonwhites over whites. It’s rebelling against authority. It’s denying traditional religion. And so on. Everyone (in the Western world, at any rate) has an intuitive sense of the phenomena generally labelled “liberalism.” We also know liberalism because its message is everywhere. Liberalism is what our most honored authorities say you’re supposed to believe. And there is no agreement about the exact definition or essence of liberalism. It’s far easier to prove the falsity of specific liberal beliefs than to identify its essence and then debunk that essence.
A precise definition is also not necessary because this is just Part I. We will have more to say about the essence of liberalism later.
Understand also that liberalism is a collection of doctrines, but liberals are people who affirm these doctrines for the most part. Every liberal has some non-liberal beliefs, so we cannot understand liberalism by looking only at liberals: they, like all mankind, hold contradictory beliefs. Christian beliefs, for example, can coexist in the same person with liberal beliefs, beliefs that are ultimately based on the rejection of the God of the Bible. This does not mean that the acceptance or rejection of Christianity is irrelevant to liberalism, only that people are inconsistent.
Liberalism is the official message of the current age. Therefore you might think it’s is true. Not necessarily. When the Communists ruled Russia the Russians heard the Communist message everywhere. But it wasn’t true. When the Nazis ruled Germany the Germans heard the Nazi message everywhere. But it wasn’t true. Sometimes leaders don’t tell the truth.
Liberalism leads to conservatism, the political meaning of which is: any opposition to liberalism. Since it’s defined by what it isn’t, conservatism is much less unified than liberalism. Libertarians, Bible-believing Christians, Nazis, monarchists, and the atheistic followers of Ayn Rand, among others, are all likely to be called “conservatives.”
Notice that not all conservatism (anti-liberalism) is good. We must become the right kind of conservatives.
The word “conservative” was applied because the first conservatives wanted to conserve. They noticed that the traditional way of life of their people was under attack by liberals and their natural—and honorable—response was to defend what was under attack. They wanted to conserve what was good in the traditions of their people.
But that was the past. Liberalism is now victorious. According to our leaders, we’re all supposed to be liberals. Opposition to liberalism still exists but it has unofficial status. Officially we’re all supposed to celebrate diversity, tolerance, compassion, multiculturalism, and so on. Not only that, but these are taken to be the fundamental social goods, before which all other social goods must give way. Thus we are to honor sexual perversion, give away our places to nonwhites, welcome all the Moslems who want to immigrate, and so on.
No doubt diversity, tolerance, compassion and multiculturalism can all be goods in some circumstances, and if they are understood rightly. But the liberal makes the liberal versions of them absolute, and therefore the liberal imperative to honor them becomes a form of tyranny.
The conservatives have failed to conserve the good. Therefore many honorable anti-liberals have contempt for conservatism.
But despite this undeniable fact, “conservatism” is still the generally-accepted word for anti-liberalism. And since anti-liberalism is good, we stick to the traditional terminology. We speak of liberalism versus conservatism.
There’s a lot of finger-pointing on the Right. Some conservatives accuse some supposedly-conservative groups of actually supporting liberalism. Yes, we’re all tainted with liberalism to a certain extent, and guarding against it is an important and never-ending activity. But this author holds that anyone who has awakened to the menace of liberalism is at least a minimal ally. Conservatives should be encouraged to continue to repent more than they should be scolded for their remaining sins.
What’s wrong with liberalism?
It promises good things but it mostly delivers bad things. And the good it delivers is mostly pleasant distractions that occur before the evil that is liberalism’s real consequence develops fully.
For example, the diversity that liberals love results in, among other things, mass immigration by non-white peoples whose ways of life are radically incompatible with our traditional American way of life. The immediate results include lots of ethnic food and music, which are pleasant diversions for many people. But the long-term result is hostility and conflict, as incompatible people fight over resources and how society should be organized and governed.
Liberals imagine a beautiful future when war, poverty, racism and similar evils have been abolished. But to abolish these evils they try to remake mankind, at gunpoint if necessary. The ideal world they imagine never occurs, so liberals must continue to persecute people in a futile attempt to make the human race behave as liberalism says it should.
For example, liberalism says that nobody should be a racist. Racists are to be harassed out of existence, for then mankind will finally be happy. But the harassment of racists is only carried out against white racists. Nonwhite racists are excused because (so they say) they are only responding to centuries of oppression by white people and therefore it’s not really their fault. And whites are punished not just when they’re mean to nonwhite people, but even when they just act like normal people everywhere have always behaved until approximately the middle of the Twentieth Century: Preferring to associate mostly with their own kind and wishing that their nation would not be transformed into a radically multicultural pseudo-empire.
Since it’s poisonous and false, liberalism must be supported by endless propaganda. Therefore the man in the street generally goes along with liberalism. He doesn’t imagine that there could be another way and, like most people in the West, the average American is materially well-off. So why would he want to rock the boat? Our leaders must know what they’re doing, right?
Not necessarily. Under a democratic system our leaders must be popular even if it means maintaining popular lies. If there were something fundamentally wrong with the system of thought that rules our nation, democracy would be unable to correct the problem. Politicians who rely on the votes of the people to stay in power cannot afford to deliver that sort of bad news.
So why does liberalism fail to deliver the good it promises?
Because liberalism rejects the God of the Bible, a rejection which always leads to a false understanding of how reality operates. Since God is the Supreme Being and the ultimate Author of all that exists, rejecting God causes man fundamentally to misunderstand all of reality.
Although some liberals don’t acknowledge it, liberalism denies the God of the Bible, the traditional God of our people and the one true and living God. Although there is no Bible or Pope of liberalism to make official pronouncements of what is and is not liberal belief, the tenets of contemporary liberalism must deny that God exists as He is described in the Bible, traditionally interpreted. That’s because traditional Christianity denies most of the basic tenets of liberalism. Therefore liberalism must deny God’s existence or His knowability. Or perhaps it must portray God as the Great Liberal in the Sky, weeping over racist police and global warming, and pleading with us to be more tolerant and inclusive. Redefining God can be just as effective as outright denial.
With God denied or demoted, man becomes the de facto Supreme Being. That is, under liberalism in its current form, basic laws of ethics and social order originate from man rather than from a divine source. And the basic laws of nature, including metaphysical laws, must be discovered by man rather than received from God’s Word. Much of nature can be known without explicit reference to God, but the most basic truths, such as that the world has a regular order because it is the product of an orderly divine Mind, become unknowable.
This does not immediately lead to disaster, though. Atheistic man (anyone who sees man as the measure of all things is de facto atheistic) can still be skilled in science and technology. He can still have a basically accurate understanding of the physical world. But without acknowledging God, atheistic man cannot know the true purposes of things, nor can he know their ultimate causes. He cannot know, for example why the human race is divided into man and woman, or the correct way for men and women to relate to one another.
True purposes and ultimate causes cannot be known by scientific investigation because they are non-physical, and science can only study the physical. Under atheism, true purposes and ultimate causes cannot be known because science for the liberal is the only source of certain knowledge. Therefore liberalism regards proper purposes and ultimate causes as opinions rather than facts.
And if they are opinions then they constantly change. That’s why liberals are always fighting to change the way we live: No-fault divorce. Same-sex marriage. Transgender rights. Open borders. Reducing our carbon footprint. What was the right way to do things yesterday is not necessarily the right way today, and who knows what it will be tomorrow?
Under liberalism, there is no such thing as a social order that is relatively stable because the people are in agreement about the basic nature of things. Social orders do change over time, but in the present age the change is speeded up by orders of magnitude. Not just that, but according to liberalism social change becomes one of the basic goods of society. “Change agent” is a liberal title of respect. The natural result is perpetual chaos.
But a human society can only work if the people are in basic agreement about the true purposes and the ultimate causes of things, and about how society ought to be ordered. That way they can trust one another and believe that life makes sense. Stripped of this trust and belief, liberal society eventually and inevitably descends into conflict and chaos. And in contemporary America we have the added pressure of mass immigration which is Balkanizing us into mutually hostile tribes.
Let us therefore oppose liberalism and understand the world as it really is. That is the purpose of this series of posts.
About comments: Time is precious so incoherent comments will not be posted or, if they get through moderation, will summarily be deleted. I also subscribe to Bonald’s maxim that friend/enemy is a basic social distinction. Therefore comments which seem indicate you’re an enemy will suffer the same fate. If you want to be heard, be clear and don’t come across as an enemy.
If you comment on a hostile or incoherent comment, be aware that your comment will lose its context when its subject is deleted.
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Maybe I’m nitpicking when I don’t mean to nitpick. But the definition of liberalism confuses me because it’s full of abstract nouns, “violation,” say. Sure, a liberal might violate God’s law, but I would need to distinguish between violating it and the “ism” that got him to violate it. Dou mean to say that a liberal is someone who violates God’s law, laws of nature, and human tradition? What does the phrase “laws of nature” signify in context when I don’t see, for example, anything liberal about breaking the law of gravity. Is the phrase “laws of nature” about natural moral law?
The present work is not intended to speak with great precision, but to instruct with suggestive language.
Liberalism is based on the belief that the violation I listed are good because they are actually liberation from tyranny. By “laws of nature” I meant the moral and spiritual order that man can know by intuition, such as that male and female are different and complementary.
Maybe I should have said that a liberal is someone who deliberately violates, God’s laws, the laws of nature, or human tradition. One definition of “liberalism” I’ve read says that a liberal is someone who rejects the 13th-century Catholic order. By that definition, some 21st-century Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox, and Messianic Jews would be liberals. It seems to me that doctrinally, Messianic Judaism is Protestant.
I’m not looking for a “sectarian” definition of liberalism, except that I assume the reader is a Christian of one of the legitimate Christian orders.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4:8
I think you are correct to use the general dichotomy of liberal and conservative, given the audience you’re aiming at. In the boiler room of the internet alt-right, “conservative” has taken on a narrow and pejorative meaning, but it is still the word most Americans use to describe non-liberals in general. Likewise, a modern American liberal is not exactly the same as a communist, but there is nothing wrong with lumping them together when writing for a general audience.
I also think you are right to push beyond the meaning these terms had a hundred, or even fifty years ago. Some men who respect American traditions of personal liberty continue to call themselves “liberals,” but this only confuses the political map today. The Liberal project was only concerned with personal liberty in its early, critical phase, when it insisted on liberation from the traditional social order. Once it assumed power, it became authoritarian. Pedantic arguments over etymology obscure the reality that “Liberalism” is today an authoritarian ideology, and “Conservatism” is a radical, or dissident, ideology.
Would you be willing to define Liberalism as rejection of the Word of God, or in other words as rejection of the Son, or logos, who first brought order out of chaos? This is what I was trying to get at in one of my recent posts when I said that the ultimate aim of the Left was return to the tohu va bohu of primordial indifference.
Liberalism as the rejection of the Word of God (in both senses: Scripture and God’s Son)? Yes, although that’s not a precise definition. But it expresses the most important part of contemporary liberalism, especially for my target audience: Christians and those sympathetic to it.
As I said above, I think you are right to paint the picture with bold strokes.
One thing I worry about with such definitions is that liberals themselves would probably not agree with them, and neutral onlookers might conclude that they’re not fair descriptions, any more than a liberal definition of a conservative as someone who hates women, blacks, gays, etc. should strike a non-liberal as fair. In general, one should start from a neutral or even positive-sounding definition (one that its object might even accept) and then argue that this thing is in fact bad. Bruce Charlton’s writings on Leftism are even more egregious in this sense, basically reducing Leftism to hostility toward the Good itself. Now, it’s actually true that Leftists are in rebellion against God and the Good, so your and Bruce’s writings have value to those of us who know this, but it is a conclusion rather than a premiss. In other words, I think what you’re giving us is actually Part II.
On the other hand, it’s not like Orthosphere writers haven’t already done what I’m requesting many times. I’ve defined liberalism lots of times as personal autonomy ensured by public neutrality; Mark Richardson defines it as maximizing autonomy by removing non-chosen encumbrances; Jim Kalb usually defines it in terms of preferring formal, technocratic organization and delegitimizing its rivals. So we certainly know what to say to anyone who objects to your definition.
On the one hand, your concern is basically correct. Liberals probably wouldn’t agree, at least the garden-variety, non-elite liberals.
On the other hand, this series is aimed at the person who senses there’s something rotten in Denmark. It’s not for everyone. And someone who does not at least sense that all is not well would probably not be open to instruction.
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Overall the point is rather accurate. However, there’s this:
“But the long-term result is hostility and conflict, as incompatible people fight over resources and how society should be organized and governed.”
Here is a conflation of “society” and “government”. They are not one and the same entity. Society predates government; the actions of governors cannot arbitrarily alter society by fiat. Society organizes itself.
The fight over “how society should be organized and governed”, therefore, is a fight only because all contenders are attempting to “remake mankind, at gunpoint if necessary.” This is an inevitable result of conflating society and government.
By selling the concept that society and government are one and the same thing, the liberals are empowered. If they buy into it, even conservatives fall under liberal influence as you’ve noted.
A minimalist government, which does not attempt to alter society per se but rather prevents people from harming each other, would not be amenable to such a fight.
Without the power to coerce and be coerced, incompatible people could indeed co-exist. They need only stick to what is theirs and not interfere with other people’s stuff and lives. They could trade with the incompatibles if they desired and otherwise leave them alone.
True, there would be those attempting to go beyond the minimal mandate, expanding government’s authority. A conservative in this hypothetical regime would seek to prevent such augmentation of government’s power. He’d recognize that once new powers are granted they could be used by liberals as well as by conservatives. That would bode ill for the conservatives.
But that’s not what is suggested. Rather, the thrust seems to be that conservatives must implement “how society should be organized and governed”, by gunpoint if necessary.
Was this not what was intended?
I don’t think I conflated society and government, because it says “society, and how it is governed.” A distinction is made.
On the other hand, somebody has to enforce (or impose) order, especially when the organic order that used to provide most of the day-to-day cohesion has been eroded by liberalism.
I agree with you that government is an ineffective instrument for imposing order. Order works best when it is for the most part not dictated by the highest authority, but is imposed by lower authorities. That way, one size does not fit all.
Sorry, Alan, but I don’t see where you’ve differentiated between government and society. Rather, you’ve declared government to be the arbiter of society, in your words “organizing and governing” it. If one accepts this, then when they win elections liberals are entitled to organize and govern society as they see fit. After all, the electoral result would make them the government.
Though it is but one point in your well considered piece, it is a momentous assumption, and a widely held one. Either society is under the tutelage of government or it’s not.
The Constitution said not. The national government was limited to a few specific tasks, none of which was organizing and governing society. That was left to states and people. That is, the document advises subsidiarity. (Not that anyone in power pays any attention to that document these days…)
I harp on this because it is that assumption — that society is under the tutelage of government — that gives liberals the power to do what they have done, and causes faux conservatives to go along with it.
The topic you bring up is valid, but the post was not painting the picture that finely. It was not making the assumption you say it was.
“The topic you bring up is valid, but the post was not painting the picture that finely.”
Fair enough, Alan. My concern is that if we promote false assumptions, even inadvertently, the result is likely to be false solutions.
Dave, have you read this?:
I had not, Terry, but I agree with the thrust.
The document is nevertheless the foundation of the US government and the rationale by which government officials exercise power. To the extent that they ignore it they undercut and de-legitimize their own exercise of power. They are then ruling as blatant and unapologetic usurpers.
Nondiscrimination (Austerean definition of “liberalism”) + self-creation (Richardson’s “autonomy theory” as “liberalism”) = “liberalism” as perpetuating self-annihilation (a real unreality).
Thesis/antithesis –> synthesis.
In the perpetuating self-annihilation that is ideological “liberalism” is the attempted realization of “radical autonomy.”
Nondiscrimination + tolerance = all-accepting indiscriminancy.
Self-creation is particularly static and therefore no longer autonomous.
Ergo, “liberalism” necessitates a perpetuating self-annihilation to satifiy both ideas of constant change and an “equality” of constant change.
Under “liberalism,” we are all perpetuating self-annihilators.
Mr. T has his own vocabulary, but the the basic thrust here seems to be valid: Modern liberalism means nondiscrimination, which means means (among other things) not discriminating between good and bad. It leads to destruction.
If you want a more scientific understanding of liberalism and conservativism, read “The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics” by Anonymous Conservative
NO ENEMIES TO THE RIGHT!!!
Unless what they do is clearly evil.
What is to be made of “secular conservatives” and non-religious anti-lefists? Also, what is to be made of those on the “spiritual left” who reject scientific materialism and affirm a telos immanent in the universe? Are they all “liberals”?
These can be conservatives of a sort, but not our sort of conservatives. We’re Christians.
Liberalism is first and foremost a political doctrine: an (incoherent) view about legitimate exercise of authority. It is true that it ‘leaks’ into everything else, but characterizing liberalism as a grand religious or anti-religious view rather than a political doctrine is a mistake: a mistake which is easily rejected by liberals as a caricature.
In order to resist your enemy you have to understand him; and if liberalism is not understood as primarily a political doctrine it cannot be adequately resisted.
Before was political, liberalism was pre-political yearnings of the heart. Then it became also a political movement, and now it’s the Grand Metanarrative of Our Age. In that sense it’s primarily religious.
As to your point that liberals will reject my characterization: probably so. But the present essay is catechesis, not apologetics. In apologetics we need to appeal to unbelievers but in catechesis we appeal to those already sympathetic. Only those already sympathetic have a chance of learning what they need to learn.
With all due respect, it looks to me like you are going down the same old path which invariably seduces right liberals / conservatives.
Every. Single. Time.
By defining liberal commitments as more grandiose and religious than they are in fact, as something greater or more transcendent than specifically political commitments, we can avoid unequivocally rejecting freedom and equality as political principles (principles of authority in action). This gives liberalism a ‘motte’ into which to retreat whenever its own excesses would otherwise lead to self destruction.
Good catechesis – sound teaching – must first insure that natural conservatives don’t continue to act as enablers and preservers of liberalism itself.
Liberalism always starts as specifically political commitments, just as AIDS always starts out as a tiny invisible virus. We can rage against the snot running down the nose of the AIDS patient all we want, but if we hope to actually prevent AIDS we have to adequately grasp what causes it in the first place.
Maybe I’m not that smart, but I don’t get your objection. You said:
The present work never said it was not a political doctrine. Obviously it is, and the present post is just Part I. But the political program only succeeds because enough people believe the ideas.
Then you said
What path are you referring to?
Did my post endorse freedom and equality? I wasn’t trying to.
On a totally unrelated point: Why the handle “Zippy?” The only other Zippy I know is Zippy the Pinhead, and it couldn’t come from that.
The more I think about it, the stranger your post seems. It purports to describe liberalism (“liberalism is …”) and yet not once do you use the terms liberty, freedom, equality, equal rights, or any cognate of those terms. “Authority” doesn’t appear, and “politics” only occurs to describe conservatism as opposed to liberalism.
Whatever it is you are talking about in the OP, it isn’t liberalism. For someone who grasps what liberalism actually is in reality, the OP reads like an attempt to talk about viral infections while avoiding all mention of viruses.
Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing liberty is what justifies the exercise of political authority. All sorts of things follow from that, but if you aren’t talking about political liberty you aren’t talking about liberalism.
As for my pseudonym, it has been with me since about 2004 and I won’t digress by describing its history, which I’ve done any number of times. Before then you may have known me as “Matt” at VFR (example comment thread from 2002 here). Before then I participated in various now defunct websites, and before the web even existed I “met” Jim Kalb on Usenet News during the early nineties. (I later met both Jim and Larry Auster in person, probably around 2000 or so).
“Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing liberty is what justifies the exercise of political authority. All sorts of things follow from that, but if you aren’t talking about political liberty you aren’t talking about liberalism.”
This would apply to classical liberalism; it is not apropros to the progressivism that has in the US been commonly called “liberalism”. Progressives are the antithesis of classical liberals.
Modern liberalism or progressivism is just classical liberalism all grown up. Classical and modern liberals may hate each other, but their rivalry is intramural.
See here: https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2015/11/23/we-are-cthulu/
Ah, so you were one of us “vile sycophants.” That speaks well of you.
To return to the present point, I disagree with your contention that liberalism is that sharply defined. It just doesn’t seem that way to me when I consider all the evidence.
Liberalism is rationally incoherent — logically self contradictory. At first glance that may seem to make it trivial, but when situated in actual reality it has counterintuitive implications. It is difficult to come to grips with the implications of large numbers of real people with strong loyalties to a self-contradictory doctrine, and I can’t possibly do that justice in a few comments (or even in a whole blog, for that matter, though I’ve given it a whirl over the past decade or so).
This post is a kind of starting place on the specific implications of dropping a self contradictory doctrine into reality, I suppose. Where you would think that a self contradictory doctrine implies weakness in a doctrine, in fact what it does is produce the triumph of the will.
I have to step away from the computer for several hours, but I’ll check it out as soon as I can.
By the way, here’s my theory, in a nutshell. Liberalism originates in the rejection of all gods, including the True God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. With no gods before him, man becomes the de facto god. That could be mankind (socialism) or man the individual (modern liberalism.)
With no fear of God, it is impossible to predict which way mankind will go. Right now, in the West, mankind has chosen liberty and equality and all that. But who knows where it will go next.
I’m sure Zippy will get around to answering you when he gets the time but since I largely agree with his critique of your piece I’ll try my best to alleviate your confusion.
Liberalism is not a religion. It parallels religion in certain interesting ways, but it is not a religion. Nor is liberalism a rejection of religion. That’s a byproduct of liberalism, sure, but that’s not what liberalism is. Liberalism is a political doctrine. More specifically, it’s the political doctrine that securing individual freedom (liberty) is the primary and legitimate purpose of government. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Anyone that believes the political doctrine above is a liberal, whether he admits it or not. Thus, nearly every group you listed as conservative – libertarians, Bible-believing Christians, Nazis, followers of Ayn Rand – are all (with very, very little exception) liberal. The difference is that they interpret the liberal political doctrine differently, and insist on different sets of unprincipled exceptions when it comes to how best to achieve “true” liberty.
So-called “conservatives”, liberals who wrongly consider themselves to be in opposition to liberalism, don’t actually want to repudiate liberalism. All they want is to repudiate whatever they perceive as liberalism’s worst excesses. But just about no one wants to say what needs to said, that securing individual freedom is NOT the primary and legitimate purpose of government. The primary and legitimate purpose of government is to accept God’s laws, obey, codify and revere them as the central axis of the state and human society.
Individual liberty be damned.
I don’t share your (and Zippy’s) confidence in sharply defining the essence of liberalism. Liberalism seems to me to be an uncanny thing which can be grasped to a large extent by identifying its symptoms, but which is also constantly changing. I also agree, in general, with Bruce Charlton’s notion that leftism is demonic.
So if you identify, for example, “political liberty and equality” as the essence of liberalism, you are discounting many phenomena which are at least strongly correlated with what the man in the street calls liberalism.
Yes, Liberalism is a political doctrine of securing freedom and equality. But it’s more.
My blog is chock full of posts (under the “liberalism” category) describing the various emergent phenomena of liberalism and connecting those phenomena back to the essence of liberalism.
I don’t have time to read a zillion posts. Could you perhaps summarize a theory of how the political drive for liberty and equality leads to the various apparently-unrelated phenomena we see?
Does the desire for Liberty/Equality, for example, somehow necessitate the demonization of whites and the importation of a new people?
If you really don’t have time to understand, you won’t understand. All I (or anyone) can provide is an entry, the beginning of an understanding. But we are cross posting now, so maybe the post I linked upthread will be helpful.
Or maybe this one will be more helpful:
Zippy, I’ve considered what you say, Here’s my response so far:
And you faulted me for failing to give the correct definition of liberalism. You also said that by failing to identify the political drive for freedom and equality as the essence of liberalism I’m helping to preserve them as the controlling political values of modernity and, more generally, I’m hindering people from adequately opposing liberalism.
I agree that the political drive for freedom and equality is a big part of liberalism. But you’re saying that liberalism is nothing but the political drive for liberty and equality, or perhaps that it’s the most important part. This claim is not self-evident. It needs an argument, and I’ve not seen you give one
[And for all you know, I might have been preparing to give your definition in later posts. After all, my post was called “Part I.”]
My starting point regarding liberalism is that all people have an intuitive sense of it because it’s now ubiquitous and all-powerful. [“Intuitive” does not necessarily mean “mostly correct.”] Therefore a precise definition is unnecessary at the beginning of the discussion. Later, once we’ve started thinking about it, we can give liberalism a definition. And when we do that, your formulation, even if it’s a tad too reductionist, would be useful.
In a first discussion of liberalism, a precise definition is not necessary. What’s needed most is examples to point the reader in the right direction and to arouse his anger at the evil and the insanity of liberalism.
Of course, we need some indication of just what liberalism is. Thus I identified it as originating in rebellion against God and human tradition. That’s a good first move toward a definition.
But if the reader is to be brought to oppose liberalism, he must first feel its menace. If we’re calling him to oppose the status quo, to be alienated from most of his acquaintances and family, and possibly to be in danger from the liberal Gestapo, we must help him find a motivation to reject conventional wisdom. This is not just correcting an epistemological error. It’s a call to repentance for participating in a false and wicked system which he understands (imperfectly, of course) intuitively already. For that to begin, precise definitions are not necessary.
Contemporary liberalism is a vast phenomenon which cannot easily be simplified into an essence or a fundamental cause. Your characterization of liberalism looks to me more like a definition than a theorem (so to speak.) You’re drawing a circle around certain phenomena and calling them “liberalism,” and making other phenomena “non-liberalism” by definition. And if it’s not just a definition, it needs proof.
Also, we need to know the specific errors taught by liberalism and how to correct them. Yes, the political drive for equality and freedom is a root of the evil, but the errors take on lives of their own independent of their origins. They become self-sustaining institutions, such as “gay rights” or “diversity,” which must be opposed individually. These errors are legion, and require a series (one which might never end; we live in a target-rich environment), not just one post.
It is much worse than that. In the very beginning of the post you introduce liberalism like this:
“Liberalism is the deliberate violation of the laws of God,
the laws of nature,and human tradition. If this blasphemy excites you, you’re a liberal. If it disgusts you, you’re a normal person.”
The way this reads to me is along the lines of “If you are an SJW leftist Satanist into blasphemy and Spirit Cooking, you are a liberal. If you find those things disgusting, you aren’t a liberal.”
That may not be what you intend, but it is how I interpreted the post when I read it. In actual fact almost everyone is a liberal in our society, including basically all of the ‘normal people’. Anyone who starts to grasp what liberalism actually is, is going to start seeing it in many of the people around him, including a great many people whom he loves and respects. In framing things the way you have, you tell your conservative normal well adjusted readers not to worry about their own complicity, or the complicity of the normies in their lives, with liberalism.
In my understanding all of the spirit cooking SJW satanists and the Richard Dawkins atheists could disappear tomorrow, and we would just start creating new ones to replace the ones who disappeared. Any struggle against liberalism requires resistance against liberalism specifically, not merely its extreme manifestations; and characterizing liberalism only by its extreme manifestations is counterproductive (to put it mildly).
AR: [To reduce repetition of text, I’m responding in the text.] OK, I see your point. That’s a useful criticism. But I was trying to be poetic, not precise. A possible revision of the intro might be
More or less, yes, protection of liberty as justification of political authority is central to and the primary causal factor in liberalism, in the same sense that the HIV virus is central to and the causal factor for AIDS. This doesn’t make either AIDS or liberalism reducible to nothing but those things, but there are many modern people who are, when it comes to liberalism, “HIV positive but not (yet) suffering from full blown AIDS”. (For the record, I consider the distinction between ‘HIV positive’ and ‘AIDS’ to be almost, but not quite, entirely obfuscatory sophistry).
AR: I’m actually inclined by nature to agree with your contention that this is primary to liberalism. But I’m also intellectually cautious, and don’t want to give full assent to a position that appears too reductionist. Let’s say I’m sympathetic but not entirely convinced.
I’ve spent years explaining and supporting this on my blog and elsewhere. But your resistance to it does explain some of the impedance mismatch here.
Part of liberalism’s menace is the fact that virtually everyone considers it – considers securing freedom as a central purpose of politics – to be self-evidently moral. Language about normal people being immune to liberalism, about liberalism being confined to spirit cooking satanist SJW’s and communist atheist materialists, doesn’t make it seem menacing: it makes it seem far easier to resist than it is in fact, like something confined to a few freaks, anarchists, and communist nutcases. The reality is plenty scary on its own and doesn’t need to be enhanced for the benefit of readers, in my view. It is a
AR: It’s a rhetorical tactic. To jump in by naming liberalism as a menace at the outset. Yes, some who might otherwise be persuaded by a more moderate beginning will be turned off at the start and go elsewhere. But some who have sensed the menace and the fundamental wrongheadedness of liberalism will be intrigued by having their intuitions confirmed.
Yes, fleshing it out from its essence is nontrivial. That is why I have an entire blog with hundreds of posts over more than a decade, with thousands of comments in hundreds of threads, which address liberalism and related subjects.
Here is an old VFR thread, just for fun:
Agreed. The danger there though is that this most often involves trading one basket of unprincipled exceptions for another, without ever calling liberalism itself into question.
So sure, fight the branches. But never lose sight of the root.
And here is a previous essay of mine describing liberalism. A couple of germane quotes:
I wouldn’t want to exaggerate the differences between our views, since we are obviously not terribly far apart, but I think the citation here also overstates what liberalism is in fact. And the problem with that, again, is that liberalism cannot be resisted unless it is properly recognized: otherwise it takes root in ‘conservatism’ and perverts the natural instinct to conserve into conserving liberalism itself.
Concretely, you wrote:
But liberalism – precisely because it is first and foremost a political doctrine – says no such thing. Liberalism allows that the transcendent realm may exist; and the great majority of liberals have, again, been Christians. What liberalism requires is that any authority exercised, any laws. courts, jails, and armies with teeth, must be mediated through the equal freedom of individuals. If the majority agrees that X is an important transcendent value then X should be authoritative, as long as making it so does not violate the equal liberties of minorities and individuals.
This is of course all very incoherent. But if you treat denial of the transcendent as primary to liberalism (rather than a consequence of it — a consequence which many actual liberals do not intend and indeed will deny is a consequence) — if you treat denial of the transcendent as primary you will fail to catch liberalism in your net. Not-transcendent-denying liberalism will remain under the conservation dome, protected by conservatives, metastasizing and undoing any victories against liberalism which conservatives believe themselves to have won. If you don’t follow the abstract reasoning, just look at how liberalism has always consistently trampled conservatism: how every conservative victory is provisional, while every liberal victory is permanent; how the question is repeated until the desired answer comes forth from attrition.
So again, we cannot adequately resist liberalism without grasping that it is, first and foremost, a political doctrine: a belief about the nature of politics, of the legitimate exercise of authority. Specifically, liberalism is the doctrine (right there in its name) that protecting liberty is what justifies the exercise of authority. All the rest follows from that.
Zippy: “Not-transcendent-denying liberalism will remain under the conservation dome, protected by conservatives, metastasizing and undoing any victories against liberalism which conservatives believe themselves to have won.”
An example of this might be neo-conservatism. Upon Reagan’s victory many former Democrats jumped on the bandwagon, gaining power within the government. They aligned with George Bush and the Rockefeller wing of the GOP. They torpedoed what they could of what Reagan attempted to accomplish. Today most of the GOP is in the neo-con wing.
Winners inevitably attract people who want to ride the bandwagon into power. Since winners like having the majority, they have a hard time policing their own ranks.
Yes, neoconservatism is the obvious tip of the iceberg. But that is just the first layer of a very tall cake, and the number of people in the US of A who grasp what liberalism is and unequivocally repudiate it could probably all ride on a modestly sized cruise ship together.
Does liberalism deny the transcendent? Contemporary liberals deny any transcendent that’s worth its (transcendent) salt.
For example the liberal Christian: He talks about God, but his god is not the real Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He keeps the transcendent-talk but empties it of meaning. Or, if he really believes in a transcendent realm, he believes that it conforms to his liberal beliefs: his god does not demand holiness or send unforgiven sinners to hell.
The thinks he affirms the transcendent, but his transcendent is pretty lame. It might as well not exist.
I can agree with your primary point in this way: What gives liberalism its teeth is the political aspect. Without that teeth liberalism is just a way of thinking that some people choose follow but which constitutes no threat. It only becomes a threat when it’s imposed by force using a political process.
And if we observe that a lot of supposed conservatives covertly accept two of the most sacred principles of liberalism then it makes sense to make equality and freedom the main points to be opposed.
Your emphasis is on correctly understanding the essence of liberalism so that it won’t sneak in undetected. That’s obviously very important. But the specific positions liberalism takes and fights for can be known to be false without having certainty about its essence.
And your position has a danger too: that someone who has a different theory of the origin or essence of liberalism will not be persuaded by your analysis and consequently remain in his liberalism.
There are still lots of Christian liberals, especially right-liberals, who are perfectly sincere in their basic beliefs qua Christian. Blogospheric example: John Wright of recent cap doffing controversy, who is obviously and firmly committed to both liberal principles and Christianity. I think folks like to imagine that it is impossible to make such a gross political error and yet be a sincere Christian; but reality begs to differ.
And sure, as far as disagreeing with me goes folks can take a number and get in line. I think the truth is better at marketing itself than any propaganda scheme I might come up with; so I prefer to just say it like I see it.
But liberalism, as opposed to liberals, is anti-transcendent, because the transcendent threatens its man-is-the-measure-of-all-things nature.
Individuals have a greater standard deviation than the ideologies they pick up.
Another thing: The evil nature of liberalism is becoming more apparent these days. Eventually it’s enough to call the emperor naked without having to begin by patiently trying prove it.
Of course, you probably hold that we haven’t reached that point.
Liberalism doesn’t – foundationally and necessarily – treat man as the transcendent measure of all things though. Again its assertion is specifically political: it isn’t that Bob’s view cannot be objectively superior to Harry’s, it is just that Bob doesn’t have the authority to impose his views on Harry.
Ultimately liberalism runs away with itself and dominates everything, of course. But liberals do not view themselves as rejecting the transcendent. (I know this for a fact, as a long ago recovered right liberal myself).
If, according to liberalism, man is not the measure of all things, then who, according to liberalism, is the measure of all things?
The correct answer cannot be “nobody and nothing” because any system as large as liberalism must supply an answer to this question. Man cannot live without an answer and therefore any socially-dominant system must supply one.
One reason why I object (in a limited way) to your formulation is that political activity only succeeds if a large number of people believe the ideas that the leaders of the political action are trying to impose. Liberalism would be nothing but a small band of weirdos if not for the widespread belief (albeit at a shallow level) in what it teaches. The ideas of liberalism are ultimately incoherent, but this is not immediately obvious to the man in the street. Liberalism tells a story that seems true at first sight to many people, and that story is more fundamental to liberalism than the political agitation.
Liberalism believes that politics can be metaphysically neutral. You are correct that in reality politics cannot be metaphysically neutral (separation of Church and state is a sham, more colloquially). But liberalism itself is committed (incoherently) to metaphysical neutrality in the domain of politics: where the metal meets the meat in the exercise of authority. (As always the difficulties in taking incoherent doctrines seriously have to be kept in mind, without making the mistake of thinking it is impossible to understand and characterize incoherent doctrines.)
And we agree that liberalism seems superficially plausible to most people, despite its objective incoherence. Part of the reason though is because liberalism is primarily a political doctrine: it doesn’t start with “there is no God”, it starts with “Bob has no right to use violence to force his religious views on Harry”.
Liberals generally act as if the metaphysical is irrelevant or nonexistent. So in a sense (a very important sense) you’re right. But the intellectual leaders of liberalism do produce a metaphysical product for those who want to consume it; think of the professors of queer studies, John Rawls, et al.
And it appears to me that the elite liberal metaphysicians have a major effect on the politics of liberalism. Why, for example, did the left suddenly start pushing for the normalization of most forms of sexual perversion? It may have been a pure whim, but I prefer to think that it also follows from the philosophical foundation of the left, which sees man as the determiner of right and wrong, one result of which is that if some people enjoy deviant sex, who are you to judge?
Not all forms of liberalism are or have been sexually permissive though. And we have to be careful not to refuse to grasp liberalism’s essence just because there are some liberalisms with which we have greater sympathy than others.
That seems true. Human beings are philosophically and spiritually mixed. But liberalism does. It has to, for otherwise there is Something that trumps it.
Liberalism views the transcendent as outside of the domain of politics: not as nonexistent, but as having contact with the exercise of authority only through the free choices of equals among the emancipated new man. Liberalism views itself as neutral referee between different religious views in the domain of politics, and expects all of the religious to play along as good liberals when it comes to the exercise of authority. When it appears that some are not playing along – that they are violating the rights of people who do not share their religious views – is when liberalism cracks down in the (mythological, but liberals believe in it sincerely) neutral public square of politics.
I don’t necessarily disagree about liberalism being demonic. Yet just because something is demonic doesn’t mean we can’t understand its essence. The worship of the Devil is demonic but at least we can understand what that is in its essence.
The reason why you find liberalism to be uncanny and constantly changing is because it is incoherent. The political doctrine that is its essence does not make sense and cannot be realized. When you make individual liberty your political priority, you set yourself against reality. You no longer work toward a state of affairs that is objectively good, instead you work towards creating a state of affairs that corresponds with the desires of individuals, and those change constantly. You will never have a perfect state of affairs where what people wish to choose corresponds to what they are actually able to choose all the time. This fact of reality is what creates liberal instability, and requires liberalism to constantly push for more changes in the name of liberty. Zippy’s wrote a post about this here.
Liberalism’s instability and need for constant progress in the name of liberty results in it oftentimes over-reaching, and getting smacked in the face by reality. Right-liberals (often called conservatives), who want to retain individual liberty as the primary political priority, will argue and fight with the left-liberals that certain unprincipled exceptions to liberty and/or equality need to made in order to prevent liberal society from crashing to the ground. Right-liberals think they are fighting liberalism, when really they are just fighting the excesses, keeping the instability contained. Presently, the current excesses of 2016 liberalism include mass-influx of third world immigrants, PC speech censorship, safe spaces, etc. The left-liberals are pushing hard for all these things in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity, while the right-liberals are arguing that these things are harmful and dangerous and need to be prevented. If the right-liberals succeed, they will keep liberal society from cannibalizing itself. But they will not stop liberal society from being unstable and constantly pushing for more change, more progress, and more self-cannibalization.
Stability can only be returned when people stop putting their individual liberty first, and put the laws of God first.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24
“Stability can only be returned when people stop putting their individual liberty first, and put the laws of God first.
“’Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ Matthew 16:24”
Scary stuff, Donnie, that you’d conflate God and politics. I’m pretty sure Matthew didn’t have the GOP chairman in mind.
As I discussed with Alan, either society is under the tutelage of government or it isn’t. Government is a jealous god; it will not long permit religion to gainsay it. If the church is to influence society, it shall not be through the auspices of government.
If liberalism is incoherent then we cannot know that it is defined as the political drive for equality and freedom, as Zippy says. It might have some other essence.
Again, I’m doubting that Zippy has correctly identified the essence of liberalism.
You are making a basic epistemic error here. The principle of explosion tells us that when we contradict ourselves we are making an incoherent assertion: that simultaneously asserting A and not-A implies everything and its opposite all at once.
However, when we determine that ‘fried ice’ is incoherent it does not follow that we don’t know what ‘fried’ and ‘ice’ mean. Quite the opposite: if we did not know what they mean, we would not be able to say that ‘fried ice’ is incoherent.
Liberalism is liberty as justification of political action; and we know it is incoherent precisely because we know what liberty (as something other than the tautological ‘authority ought to permit you to do what you ought to be permitted to do’ motte) means and what political action – exercise of authority to resolve controvertible cases – means.
“Does the desire for Liberty/Equality, for example, somehow necessitate the demonization of whites and the importation of a new people?”
Alan, I think the answer to that question is an unqualified yes.
As long as *unrestrained* liberty and *absolute* equality remain unachieved in majority white countries whose dominant ideology is liberalism, then the logical implication is that whites (being the majority and therefore in power) are primarily to blame for the “injustice” that is inequality and “arbitrary” restraints on liberty. Therefore we must be demonized, and then replaced with a more liberty-friendly, equality-minded race or races. Which essentially means any non-white race(s).
Recall what Noah Webster once wrote:
“Many of them [foreigners] come here with violent prejudices against arbitrary government, and they seem to make no great distinction between arbitrary government and a government of laws founded on free elections.”
When Webster wrote that the U.S. was still largely governed by the original Constitution, which of course involved lots of explicit and implicit restraints on liberty, as well as did not formally recognize the principle of equality in the modern sense.
It was also a country populated by a large white majority, albeit a sizeable number of whom were already political activist-leftists, and whom people like Webster railed against due to their destructive ideological bent, which sought to overthrow the Constitution through mass immigration of incompatible foreigners. Which is why Webster further wrote (in the same writing) that “the opposers of our government are literally wriggling their way into all sorts of company,” and that if that were to continue unchecked or unabated (which it basically has, with a minor “conservative” hickup now and again), that “we may bid adieu to the Constitution.” Which I suppose was once a fairly formidable obstacle to unrestrained liberalism, but of course that is no longer the case.
Does the desire for Liberty/Equality, for example, somehow necessitate the demonization of whites and the importation of a new people?
Non-whites should, so the theory goes, have the liberty to live here if they please. They also have a right to equality. But since they are not equal in any practical sense, a conspiracy theory in which whites collude to keep nonwhites down is necessitated. The more aggressively favored nonwhites are institutionally (with inequality of results still occurring), the deeper the conspiracy theory must go, eventually to the point where every white person is inherently racist.
That’s a rough sketch of the development of the left-liberal approach to racial issues, and how it is traceable back to the fundamental principles of liberalism itself.
You might reply that political liberty, as an incoherent proposition, could be logically connected to anything regardless of whether a connection actually exists in terms of historical development. That’s true, so the historical assertion being made by Zippy boils down to two premises:
1. A substantial number of people believe that promoting Liberty is the purpose of politics.
2. This belief is responsible for the current state of things.
If you doubt 1, then find an ordinary person and tell them that “freedom” isn’t actually what our soldiers died for, and see what reaction you get.
If you doubt 2, then ask a schoolchild to recite the last line of the Pledge of Allegiance.
I agree with what you say here, but Zippy was saying that liberalism just is the political drive for liberty and equality. It’s the “just is” that I doubt.
Well, I didn’t have the GOP chairman in mind when I quoted Christ either, at least not individually. But he is a committed liberal and does need to drop his liberal commitments just like every other person needs to. In the same way that every person needs to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Christ.
This notion you have that somehow Christ cannot be followed at a societal level, only an individual level is very, very wrong in my view. God does not seek connection with man in only the personal sense. He also seeks connection with man in the political sense. Human society is, or at least ought to be, a fractal of the family, this is the natural and divinely ordained order. Families are certainly capable of following Christ together. So too it is possible with societies.
The government is not a god, it is a collective of human beings. If you say that government will never allow itself to submit to Divine authority, then what you really are saying is that the people who make up the government will never submit to Divine authority. That’s a very dim view of humanity.
“May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.” (Psalm 72:11)
“This notion you have that somehow Christ cannot be followed at a societal level, only an individual level is very, very wrong in my view.”
That isn’t a notion I have at all. However, your comment was in the context of politics — NOT society.
When you carry your paradigm into politics you are declaring, in effect, that it is proper for you to delegate coercion of your desires upon all unwilling persons. Your faith is not to be spread by example, nor by persuasion, but rather through violence and/or the threat thereof. That does not say much good about your faith in your religion, that you think it requires violence to propagate.
In legitimizing the idea of “faith” (or lack thereof) through coercion you give the liberals all the ammunition they need. They take it and run with it.
I think ridiculous the “progressive” notion that God ought not be mentioned at all in government. I also think it ridiculous to think that true faith can be coerced by government. What one is likely to get instead is hypocritical lip service with no substance.
My point, which perhaps should have been stated more directly, is that if a family can and ought to follow Christ then a society can and ought to follow Christ. And if a society can and ought to follow Christ, then that society’s commitment to Christ can and ought to be reflected in that society’s politics and in its government.
You are against the idea of a confessional Christian state on the grounds that such a state will necessitate the forced conversion of unwilling souls. But I never advocated for this and I deny that it is necessary. There is no reason why an illiberal, confessional Christian state cannot also have what liberals like to call “religious freedom”. It would work far better than the state imposed secularism of today, and would be far more pleasing to God.
“Freedom of religion” could perhaps more aptly be called “tolerance of false religions” in a confessional state. After all, it is not something to which a false religion, or the adherents of a false religion, can be entitled. Tolerance is only truly tolerance when we have every right not to tolerate something but we choose to tolerate it anyway, out of charity or prudence. As such, it would be conditional. The extent and particular details of what is tolerable is limited and if a certain group of false religion adherents became unruly it would be within the bounds of justice to revoke their privilege to worship freely.
However, that being said, religious freedom would be treated as a mercy granted to those on a path of accompaniment to Christ. It has to be temporary, a concession to the fact that coming to know The Way and The Truth is a process. This is how a society brings souls to Christ through its politics and its governance: with words if necessary, but otherwise with behaviors and laws.
Finally, I don’t want this excursion down the topic of religious freedom to distract from the original point, which is that liberalism is a political doctrine which holds securing individual liberty to be the primary legitimate purpose of any exercise of government authority. This false and self-contradictory doctrine is responsible for much of society’s ills, not just today, but over the last two hundred and fifty years. It must be repudiated, at not only the individual level, but on the societal and governmental level as well. In its place I have proposed submission to Christ the King, and the creation of a confessional state. I believe this is the natural and divinely ordained solution, but I’m happy to listen to other ideas. The point is that even if you disagree with my solution, the fact remains that the problem, liberalism, is still the problem and must be repudiated.
Alan [AR: I think you meant to say “Donnie”], your confessional state leaves intact a major problem. You trust government officials to act in accordance with God’s will. What if they don’t? The seduction of power is great. The state, pretty much by definition, has a monopoly on violence and coercion. It would be an uphill battle for Church and the faithful to bring those in power to account, with lives lost.
“Finally, I don’t want this excursion down the topic of religious freedom to distract from the original point, which is that liberalism is a political doctrine which holds securing individual liberty to be the primary legitimate purpose of any exercise of government authority.”
But it’s not about individual liberty. Liberalism as currently practiced is all about control. Talk of liberty is merely fine sounding justification for an agenda of coercion. This is why the left’s agenda is always changing; without new “victims” requiring “liberty” their agenda would peter out. Treating all as equally entitled to individual liberty eliminates the “bad guys” they need to cause the masses to rally around the leftist standard.
If it were merely about liberty the left would make clothing designers do their jobs, and not merely bakers:
…or else coerce neither.
Dave, I’m not sure why you consider this a problem of a confessional state in particular. Trusting government officials to act in accordance with God’s will is a problem of any state, confessional or otherwise. The seduction of power is always great, just as the seduction to sin is always great. Human beings are fallen. And those in positions where it is possible for them to sin in enormous and horrific ways will be tempted to do so. Only God has the power to eradicate the Devil.
If you’re trying to say that you think this fact will somehow be worse in a confessional state, I don’t see how. So far I have argued in favor of two things: 1) the repudiation of that false and incoherent proposition that the primary legitimate purpose of any exercise of government authority is the preservation and/or expansion of individual liberty (in other words, liberalism), and 2) in place of the false doctrine of liberalism, we affirm that the primary legitimate purpose of any exercise of government authority is to give glory to God through its behaviors and laws. That is all I have argued for. Does it get rid of Man’s fallen nature? No. Does it bring Man closer to The Good, The True, and The Beautiful? I think that it does.
But it’s not about individual liberty. Liberalism as currently practiced is all about control. Talk of liberty is merely fine sounding justification for an agenda of coercion. This is why the left’s agenda is always changing; without new “victims” requiring “liberty” their agenda would peter out. Treating all as equally entitled to individual liberty eliminates the “bad guys” they need to cause the masses to rally around the leftist standard.
What you are correctly pointing out is that the doctrine of liberalism is impossible to implement, but I’m not sure you realize that yourself. You say, “treating all as equally entitled to individual liberty eliminated the ‘bad guys'”, as if treating all as equally entitled to individual liberty was something that a discriminating authority (e.g. a government) is even capable of doing in any consistent manner. You then go on to assert that because they are clearly not following their supposed commitment to individual liberty, they must be lying about their supposed commitment and are likely doing what they are doing for nefarious reasons (control). In reality its much simpler than that.
Liberalism is self-contradictory and is therefore impossible to implement in any consistent fashion. The cake baking hypocrisy you bring up is actually an excellent example of this. Sodomites want to be able to buy a “wedding” cake in any shop in the country. Christian bakery owners want to be able to refuse service to sodomites who will use the work of the bakers’ hands to offend God during one of their sodomitcal sham-marriage ceremonies. The government now has to decide whose individual liberties should be preserved by the state: the liberties of the sodomites to buy cakes anywhere and everywhere, or the liberties of the shop owners to conduct their own private business how they please. There is no scenario where everyone’s liberties get to be protected. Someone is going to have their liberty trampled on by the state.
What should happen in this instance is the state tramples on the liberties of the sodomites, because their actions defy Divine law and are incompatible with The Good, The True, and The Beautiful. In a confessional Christian state that did not make the preservation of liberty its primary legitimate purpose, that is exactly what would happen. But instead the liberal state feigns metaphysical neutrality and decides the case according to its own agenda, without recourse to objective Truth. The state will say that it acted in accordance with the preservation of individual liberty. But it would have said that if it had decided the case in favor of the Christian bakers. When your political doctrine is incoherent, it implies everything and its opposite at the same time.
It’s not a nefarious plot for control. It’s just the simple truth of liberalism. Exercising authority in the name of individual liberty is incoherent, and impossible to do in reality. What actually ends up happening is those in authority use their authority as they see fit, and get to say they did it in the name of liberty no matter what they decide to do. The grand lie of liberalism is that liberalism somehow gets rid of authority. In actual fact, it just makes authority sociopathic.
“Dave, I’m not sure why you consider this a problem of a confessional state in particular. Trusting government officials to act in accordance with God’s will is a problem of any state, confessional or otherwise.”
Indeed. You insist upon an ideal confessional state, arguing that it would be the best possible arrangement. But you would be putting government in authority over the Church. I’m sure you don’t see it that way, but it’s a fact. You’d trust the authorities, with all the temptations of power, to be faithful. That is a vain hope.
“You then go on to assert that because they are clearly not following their supposed commitment to individual liberty, they must be lying about their supposed commitment and are likely doing what they are doing for nefarious reasons (control). In reality its much simpler than that.”
I’m saying they ARE lying. If it were not so, they’d be concerned about the liberty of bakers. It’s not because of some impossibility; it’s because, as I said, they have their preferred constituencies who they think are entitled to more license (not so much liberty) than others.
“The cake baking hypocrisy you bring up is actually an excellent example of this.”
Indeed it is. Gays already have the liberty to find a baker willing to serve their desires. That’s not enough for them; they want to coerce all to bend to their will.
(Note: I know some libertarian gays who do not at all buy into that agenda. They consider bakers’ rights as important as anyone else’s.)
The good news is that liberals are losing many Democratic votes because of their excesses. Major parties are alliances of many interests. Unions have been one for the Democrats. Not all union members consider the gay agenda, and other priorities of the liberals, to be desirable.
How good is that news? With many liberals in the GOP as well, I’d say not particularly good.
Donnie wrote: “In a confessional Christian state that did not make the preservation of liberty its primary legitimate purpose, that is exactly what would happen.”
It’s even simpler than that – in a confessional Christian state that rejects the incoherent notion of “equality” and the preservation of individual liberty as its ruling principle(s), the subject would never come up since everyone (including homosexuals) would understand at the outset that inasmuch as one of the state’s primary functions is to preserve order within its realm, homosexuality would be treated as the crime against nature that it is.
Doesn’t liberalism follow from or at least depend on certain metaphysical and/or epistemological suppositions?
What doesn’t depend upon metaphysical and/or epistemological assumptions?
The fact is that liberalism has infected the minds of most present day Christians. The infection vector therefore obviously gets past the metaphysical and epistemic defenses of most Christians (as well as all the non Christians with liberalism-infected minds, of course).
liberalism is a politics doctrine, but it sees itself as the only legitimate political doctrine, because it is the conclusion of a moral doctrine ()which is the conclusion of a metaphysical doctrine (anti-essentialism) or an epistemological doctrine (skepticism) such that there either is no Good, that the Good can not be known, or that all goods are subjective. Whether or no you want to call this a religion, most liberals that I know are aware that their political philosophy is a consequent of a total world view to which they subscribe. And by liberal, I mean basically everyone in the modern west. A liberal has to believe certain things on subjects other than the role of government on pain of contradiction (yes, I know there are contradictions. The whole foundation is the self-contradictory search for the objective social welfare function by aggregating incommensurable subjective preferences), but it is a somewhat coherent system of thought that extends beyond politics.
Christians are not protected from liberalism because most modern Christians have imbibed
philosophical skepticism from the culture that surrounds them. It’s not as if many Christians have read the theaetetus. Most think they are just supposed to believe for no reason and so end up with a very low opinion of their own religion. This is why teenagers all apostize.
Again, I think you have it backwards and will never adequately grasp the situation as long as you continue to have it backwards. Liberalism starts as (self contradictory) commitments about the nature of the authority of some men over other men. It is most essentially and primarily a political doctrine, simultaneously compatible with many philosophies (at least superficially) and with no (coherent) philosophy.
I know a lot of right liberals who think they are essentialists, etc. If we counted up everyone throughout history with liberal commitments there are probably more Christians than non Christians.
Atheists and skeptics have always been a minority: to the extent their numbers are increasing it is because of liberalism. Liberalism drives atheism/antiessentialism/skepticism, not the other way around.
Anyone who does not grasp this has been intellectually disarmed: is at best ineffectual and more likely is just another enabler of liberalism.
I don’t think it’s deniable as a historical fact that nominalism/anti-realism precedes liberalism, as does the denial of authority which lay at the heart of the Reformation. Indeed, virtually all our present ills seem to have been well diagnosed by Plato as following quite naturally from the denial of truth, the assertion that man is the measure of all things. If liberalism is in fact simply a political doctrine (a position I find quite plausible), then I do not see how liberalism is not (to extend the analogy) the pneumonia that causes the runny nose of the AIDS patient. Perhaps the ultimate cause of death, but not the root problem.
Aristokles Contra Mundum:
We agree that nominalism and denial of authority lie at the historical root of liberalism. (Liberalism itself is a particular conception of authority). But is it accurate to say (citing the words used in the OP) that Peter Lombard, John Wyclif, and William of Ockham were “delighted” by blasphemy against God and nature? Or were their errors something to which “normal persons” are obviously susceptible?
(I actually meant infamous troublemaker Peter Abelard, who was castrated by the father of a female conquest; but I suppose his pupil will do.)
“Liberalism” is the political manifestation of the homo-sexual “nature.”
Liberty + Equality = radical sexual autonomy…
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What’s so interesting is that one of the planks of American conservatism is classical liberalism (a la Kirk, Meyers, etc) – but most of its proponents have essentially said that classical liberalism represents the culmination or fulfillment of Christian principles- not their rejection.
“Liberalism” MUST BE DEFINED on materialist grounds lest one be found guilty of authoring completely false and destructive spiritual and intellectual creation myths for the homo-sexual “nature,” i.e., the self-annihilating “nature.”
Leaving aside Zippy’s and Bonald’s criticisms (which I mostly agree with) of your definition of liberalism, isn’t your definition far too broad? There have been plenty of people who deliberately violated the laws of God and who have been excited by this blasphemy, but who antedated liberalism. Think Caiaphas, Talmudic Jews, or ancient pagans who mocked Christ and Christianity.
It was not intended to be a definition, although I can see how someone could think that it was. I was speaking poetically, seeking to convey the horror of liberalism.
I’m considering rewording it.
It is not a matter of too broad a definition for what amounts to an “ideology” of perpetuating self-annihilation. It is a matter of determining who is all in (leftist radicals including Islam, NS and wn), who is partially in (the dull masses and alt-rite) and who wholly rejects (the wS) this desire for deadly transgression.
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Mr. Roebuck, there is a quite forceful positive case to be made for conservatism. That is, a conservatism defined by its own merits and not in opposition to other ideologies is more than intelligible; it is preferable. To portray conservatism as an ideology at all is to misunderstand it, for conservatism, properly understood, is a disposition. It is the disposition that acknowledges that order is hard to achieve and easy to lose, that inherited lessons must inform our decisions, that prefers fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, and the near to the distant. What’s more, it is not a minority position among acting people, but a dominant one. It is this disposition which we invariably employ when the issue at hand is a friendship, a project which requires tools, or a game which requires officiating. Understood as such, the conservative is not the lone swimmer against a current of opposition, but the person that allows the great majority of his actions that are dictated by this disposition to influence the minority ideological space (politics) wherein others offend the inherited knowledge of the generations in attempts to map the possible onto the actual.
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