The Basic Liberal Conceit

The liberal conceit is that no man labors under any natural ontological requirement that he should submit to some authority, and so nor therefore can there be any legitimate authority; ergo, it is wrong, as unjust, to exert or submit to any authority, and eo ipso good to transgress against authority of every sort, and to undermine it.

The propositions in the foregoing can be rearranged ad libitum, without undermining their joint agreement or their moral effect – or their morbid consequences in human lives.

Reality being what it is, that liberal conceit tends in action always to the centralization of all power in a tyrannical … *authority,* against whom no liberal man may – or can – stand.

What is that obdurate reality? It is that, no man being he than whom no greater can be conceived, then every man is less than some other – whether an other man, or an other institution, or an other god. So the liberal who prides himself (the word is chosen advisedly) that he is himself the sole master of his fate is in fact willy nilly the servant or slave of some master far greater than he, whose existence he may not even suspect, but whose dictates he witlessly obeys.

This perhaps accounts for the spooky unanimity of our divers disparate adversaries, who all as one of an evening begin using some new phrase or proposing some new crisis or solution – or demonizing and scapegoating the victim of the hour, subjecting him to the two minute hate that destroys his life. They are of one mind because they serve one mind.

Whether you know it or not, you serve a lord. Better then for you to know who he is, and decide witly whether he is worthy of your fealty.

16 thoughts on “The Basic Liberal Conceit

  1. This reminds me that our late, great friend Larry Auster said that liberalism can only function tolerably if it is a moderating principle within an order not based on liberalism. An order based on liberalism becomes autophagous, as Lydia McGrew is wont to show time and again.

    The liberals – – though they don’t know it – – got what they want. And by the logic of things this led them straight from the frying pan into to the fire.

    “They are of one mind because they serve one mind.” That’s worth remembering.

    • The liberals – – though they don’t know it – – got what they want. And by the logic of things this led them straight from the frying pan into to the fire.

      Liberalism always ends in an orgy of scapegoating, in which no one is safe from the Terror.

      Among other things, hierarchy is a means of moderating scapegoating – or, at least, organizing it.

  2. Reality being what it is, that liberal conceit tends in action always to the centralization of all power in a tyrannical … *authority,* against whom no liberal man may – or can – stand.

    It’s worse than that. Under the presupposition that authority doesn’t exist, authority’s natural limits no longer exist, and the central guiding principle of all forms of sovereignty based on liberalism becomes nothing but force. Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.

    Of course this presupposition is wildly incorrect and so any real continuous act of governance based on such incoherent principles starts, carries on, and most spectacularly ends in naught but grinding oppression and barbarous bloodshed.

    • Just so; exactly correct. This is why moderns – raised, all, in liberal societies – cannot conceive of medieval lordship except in terms of oppressive power relations. Oppressive power relations are the only sort their philosophical tool kit is adequate to parse. So they cannot conceive of a hierarchical social order that is founded rather on love than on exploitation.

      This sort of methodological inadequacy and conceptual blindness is inherent in the use of models that improperly reduce reality to a scheme of factors too simple; as if a street map, e.g., could tell us everything important we might want to know about the underground infrastructure of a city: sewers, gas lines, water supply, and so forth.

      There were power relations in medieval society, of course. But love was its subterranean infrastructure.

      • It is worth noting that the love went both ways: Sovereign for the people, people for the sovereign. 2 Samuel 5:1-3: “Behold we are thy bone and thy flesh. (…) and they anointed David to be King over Israel.”

      • Yes. The ultimate duty of the king, and the moral basis and compensation for his authority over his subjects, was that in extremis he should sacrifice his own life for the sake of his people. Like King Jesus. This was so all over the pagan world.

      • Now when a ruler looks at his people, and a people looks at its ruler, they both throw up a little in their mouths.

      • Yes; the opposite of the affection of love – which springs at bottom from a certain admiration – is not hatred, but contempt so intense as to verge upon disgust. The scapegoat then is reviled, and must be driven out of the city somehow or other so as to cleanse and purify the polis of his sickening stain.

  3. Most classical liberals are rationalists, so they submit to authority of reason. From this it follows that they submit to what they call “reasonable authority,” a phrase that looks to me like a euphemism for egocentric utility. I think we have to grant that early liberals were capable of self-sacrifice, but granting this allows us to observe that prolonged exposure to liberalism makes a society more egocentric and utilitarian. This may help to explain the growth of authoritarian liberalism, since an egocentric utilitarian will be utterly unscrupulous. He recognizes no higher good that places limits on what he will do to secure his own good.

    I just came up from a class on what I call “the birth of modern geography.” I explain how geography changed under the influence of the modern philosophy of natural science, and identify skepticism as one of the central doctrines of that philosophy. I showed the students the motto of the Royal Society, and asked if “take no one’s word for it” expressed the spirit of our age. They agreed that it isn’t and, in line with the zeitgeist, agreed that it shouldn’t me. Skeptics are troublemakers and dissenters deserve what they get.

    • It is reasonable that 20 million kulaks should die for the Party.

      But, to be fair to the students, their aversion to idiots has been normal in all human societies *other than societies of classical liberals, such as the Royal Society.*

      • Classical liberalism is based on a false doctrine of psychology. This false doctrine maintains that all men in all ages possess the same rational faculty, and that variations are merely accidents of false teachings, most especially “priestcraft.” The truth is that the rational faculty varies from group to group and time to time, and that when one sort of “priestcraft” is removed, another must take its place. So, yes, the murder of twenty million can be approved as “rational.”

      • The Royal Society could dare to do without ostensible sacerdotal regulation – never mind that they had royal (which is to say, high priestly) sanction – only because they had all from birth been inculcated in the Church, and so trained in her moral precepts that they partook and practiced them without question, and indeed unconsciously. They had by their familiar priests been made into the most civilized sort of men.

        The university, science, parliamentary government, libertarian social order, markets, and indeed even language, and so on: all presuppose, and cannot get on without, lots and lots of such civilized men – which is to say, of noble men. Given authority and hierarchy – even the raw sort that arises between strangers organically and instantly and immediately, when they meet each other for the first time, and take each other’s measure at a glance – all men are, and indeed are by the conditions of social life forced to be, more or less noble, more or less civilized. But when authority and hierarchy have been repudiated, it’s nothing but knaves, wherever you look: defectives. In that condition of social deliquescence, even the most educated, rational and civilized men are reduced to no more than their own sort of knavery, no better than those of any other sorts of knaves.

        NB: hierarchy and authority can be ostensibly repudiated, but they cannot be eliminated, for they cannot be done without. Thus there is no utopia, that would instantly devolve into Hobbesian war of all against all: a universal chaos, and a universal death. There is always a hierarchy. Without it, there would no longer be still men roaming about the Earth.

  4. The “master of my fate” reference bright to my mind Henley’s poem, which, though identically worded, implies in context something rather different: the choice to be stoic, persevering towards a higher ideas, rather than vain and narcissistic with only material existence to one’s life.

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

  5. Meanwhile, Sir William Blackstone is not a liberal, and sums up the problem with the entire liberal edifice in one simple sentence.

    Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being.

    No Hegelian absolute freedom or ultimate triumph of the untrammeled Will here! And he’s right, of course.

  6. Pingback: Sunday Morning Coffee 02/20/2022 – A Mari Usque Ad Mare


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