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Political theory

Dialogue on liberal tyranny

What is tyranny? There are obvious examples, but like other obvious things it can be hard to say what’s there when you press the point. Is PC tyranny? The patriarchy? Determinate being as such? All those things can seem horribly oppressive depending on which way you’re pointed. Like every other judgment, a judgment that something is a tyranny depends on your overall scheme of what makes sense, what’s worth while and what life should be like.

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Complaints about 'The Tyranny of Liberalism'

A correspondent passed on the following comment by another reader of my essay “The Tyranny of Liberalism”:

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The abolition of Europe continues

I thought I’d post a couple of comments I made at Brussels Journal about the slow-motion war being carried out by European elites against their own societies and people. The first is more or less self-explanatory:

Just a minor rant on “multiculturalism”:

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More on the tyranny of liberalism

Guys like Julius Caesar and Hegel got places by dividing things into three parts, so I thought I’d do my own three-part division of liberal tyranny:

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Universality and nationhood

Why do some people say that America is the First Universal Nation when the Muslim Umma is already the first Universal Nation? To me it seems like a bad idea to imitate the Muslims.

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More on Rawls

Here are some further unsystematic thoughts noted down while reading Political Liberalism:

  1. Rawls presents himself as a theorist of democratic society. That is a misnomer. It is not the people who rule in a society in which basic issues are all resolved in advance by Rawls and other experts and the solutions enforced by coercive bureaucratic machinery in all significant social relations. There are of course democratic elements that differentiate advanced liberal society from Soviet society. Many important specifics (e.g.,the exact features of the welfare system) are determined politically, and the people could if sufficiently outraged exert a veto that would remain effective as long as the outrage lasts. Such elements are important and provide something of a reality check that helps keep the system comparatively rational. They hardly make the system a democracy though.
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Comments on Rawls

As punishment for my sins (which must be scarlet indeed) I’ve been obliged once again to read John Rawls’s Political Liberalism. Some comments (further comments as always are welcome):

  1. Rawls was evidently an extremely careful and hardworking man. He is said to have been quite shy. I met him once in a group, and would add “very awkward with people he didn’t know.” So far as I can tell, he was a classic nerd, an Asperger type who compensated for social cluelessness by conscientiousness, altruism and continual attempts at outreach.
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Life, law and the world

While I was preparing to give a talk about law, I did a little reading on the philosophy of law. One thing that struck me was what might be called the “external” point of view taken in current thought on the subject.

Here’s a quote from Blackstone:

This law of nature, being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.

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Lefties and virtues

In an email discussion a Lefty said:

The religious right believes promiscuity is bad because the Supreme Being and Creator of the Universe doesn’t like it, never has and never will. The left believes it’s good or bad depending on the consequences on this earth, in this lifetime, and those are going to change over time. The left’s morality comes from the ground, not from the sky.

Between liberals, fundies, fideists and bad education that’s quite a common view here in America. My response:

If Catholics are part of the religious right then at least one wing of the RR thinks natural law is enough to cover the point. Natural law says promiscuity is at odds with a good life here and now as the good life can be understood without reference to any specific revelation. From that point of view to attempt to deal with something that touches us as closely as sex by a sort of technical and administrative analysis of the kind the Consumer Products Safety Board might apply to microwave emissions seems inhuman and bizarre.

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Tyrants overthrown

The tyranny of liberalism is mostly a tyranny of ideas. It’s not completely disembodied, of course. Like every tyranny it’s run in a way consistent with the tyrants’ power and profit. The professional and managerial classes and bureaucratic and financial interests that maintain it benefit from the conversion of informal traditional arrangements into bureaucratic and market institutions. It’s the ideological justification for their rule.

Still, the means are mostly gentle. Diversity coordinators and federal judges may act badly but on the whole they’re not physically terrifying or brutal. They believe in what they’re doing, and people believe them or anyway don’t know how to resist what they say. The basic problem is that the advanced liberal state always wins because even people who object to it have trouble rejecting its claims coherently. After all, it bases itself on freedom and equality, so those who oppose it presumptively favor slavery and oppression.

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Thoughts on the tyranny of liberalism

What is liberalism?

The view that equal freedom is the highest public standard, and that society should be a rational arrangement to put that standard into effect.

How can liberalism be tyrannical?

“Tyranny” is usurped and abused power. The goals of liberalism are comprehensive, and it views them as a simple matter of justice and rationality. It rejects social and religious traditions, and understandings of society and human nature, that set final limits to those goals. Liberalism is therefore progressive, it always wants more, and it recognizes no ultimate limiting principle. Its demands become ever more far-reaching and the means it uses more and more comprehensive and intrusive.

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The liturgy and American constitutionalism

I was discussing America, the Constitution, the liturgy and the Roman Catholicism with an Anglican and Americanist friend. It occurred to me that the issues were all related, so I decided I’d put them somewhat together. On the liturgy I said (in an edited way):

My vote for the Novus Ordo for now would be to improve the way it’s done—improve the translations, have the priest once again face the same direction everyone else faces, and put more and more of it back in Latin. That would be very much in line with what Vatican II said should be done, and it could be carried out without any formal changes in liturgical rules if bishops and priests liked the idea and decided to take it piece by piece. If you don’t have support in the clergy for this kind of stuff you’re not likely to get anywhere anyway.

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The laws of the city

(An outline of a talk given at Montfort Academy, Katonah, New York, on April 2, 2005)

WHAT ARE THE FEATURES THAT MAKE A CITY?

Closeness and permanence.

Complexity.

Common background and future.

Public life.

Complete society.

Aristotle: man is a zoon politikon.

WHAT IS LAW?

How are things set up from the standpoint of what people owe each other and what they can expect from each other? When are those things enforceable? How do you enforce them?

Thomas Aquinas: “Law is an ordinance of reason for the common good, promulgated by him who has care of the community.”

Status: 
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A simply conservative conservatism?

A minor upset (my guess is that it rippled from this situation to this comment) suggests once again the question of whether a purely conservative conservatism, one based simply on attachment to habits and attitudes that seem to work out to the general satisfaction of those involved, is possible as a practical matter. My answer is “no.” Some observations:

  • By saying “no” I don’t mean it’s impossible for pure conservatives to exist or have an effect, or that they deserve insult. What I mean is that such views don’t make for a conservatism that’s going to go anywhere, that offers hope for bringing about a re-orientation of society away from libertine statism and toward personal responsibility, limited government, local social cohesion, and a stable and predominantly self-organizing way of life that most people find satisfying. To my mind the kind of conservatism we need today is one that presents a basis for social order, and purely conservative conservatism doesn’t do that.
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The growth of liberalism into antiliberalism

Here’s another way to state the problem with liberalism: Judith Sklar speaks of the “liberalism of fear,” Leo Strauss says modern politics tries to build solidly by aiming low, and I say moderns try to come up with machines based on principles that can be fully grasped and give reliable results. Put those points together, and it seems that the basic liberal impulse is to base government on a few simple principles designed to prevent evils like slavery and religious persecution, and also to promote basic material goods like prosperity. Government, the thought is, should be rendered controllable and harmless by strictly limiting it. Goals other than the political goals of liberalism can then be treated as matters of luck or private choice and effort.

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Is 'essential liberalism' a straw man?

Old friends continue to complain that I’m not making sense. Here’s a comment on my most recent post from a second friend (who cc’d the first friend):

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Transcendence and technocracy

A friend complains about the following passage in my last entry:

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Isn't something odd about this picture?

During the Middle Ages Europe was loosely organized politically—there was no conception of state sovereignty—and it recognized a universal Church that in principle was superior to political authorities and in practice could sometimes influence and so limit them. In early modern times Europe moved from that state of affairs to one in which the state was supreme.

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Why Summers folded immediately

The ever-active Steve Sailer has an explanation I hadn’t seen before of why Larry Summers crumpled immediately in the face of unprincipled abuse from academic female PC profiteers.

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The nature of rationality is the most practical of all issues

Canadians mostly oppose the same-sex revolution, but it appears that none of their official leaders are willing to stand up to it. In fact, recent events on Ontario, which involved pushing radical redefinition of marriage through the Legislative Assembly in three days, with all-party collusion and without a single recorded vote, suggest they’re all eager to make the issue go away through total mass surrender to gay activists.

Why is that? Part of the problem, I think, is a general unwillingness of people in responsible public positions to discuss basic issues. If you function by doing deals and getting to “yes,” you won’t like issues that can’t be compromised. Your inclination will always be to smudge things like the definition of the national community and the family as much as possible. So you’ll try to avoid taking a stand on issues like immigration and “gay marriage,” but if forced you’ll choose the alternative that fuzzes the definition. In the case of the family, that means “gay marriage.”

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