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.
The key strength of the advanced liberal state, however, is that it likes to have things run by experts, and today expertise is what we understand by knowledge. The question an expert asks himself is “what setup will provide information that allows the situation to be controlled in a reliable and verifiable manner?” If that’s the question, then informal traditional solutions automatically lose, they follow their own invisible principles and are neither knowable nor controllable from the standpoint of an outside professional, and rationalized value-free bureaucratic solutions automatically win.
Hence atrocities like social policy that promises everything and never works. Hence, for example, the preference in fighting AIDS for the condoms-and-technical-info approach used in say Thailand over the moralistic abstinence-and-fidelity approach used in Uganda or the kowtow-to-the-Catholic-Church approach used in the Philippines, even though the latter seem to work much better. “Family values”—the habits and understandings that make families stable and functional—can’t be administered, so how can they possibly play a role in social policy?
Since the advanced liberal state has locked-in support from institutional knowledge, opposition becomes ignorant and irrational by definition. If you don’t like advanced liberalism you don’t want knowledge to rule. To make any kind of reasoned argument against it you have to appeal to what’s accepted as knowledge, but that’s the very thing that’s biased against you, not (of course) in its details or rigorous implications, but nonetheless in its tendency and the grand public conclusions of its accredited representatives. That’s why whenever conservatives try to make an argument they put the discussion on their opponents’ ground, equality, freedom, tolerance and whatnot, and very soon either give away the show or stop being rational.
Since the organization of knowledge seems to be so much of the problem, what’s needed to counter the advanced liberal state is evidently a counter-organization of knowledge. But how? The obvious institutional setting for such a counter-organization is the Catholic Church. It’s the only institution with the size, tradition, civilizational status and international reach to do such a thing. It claims a special relation to knowledge, that’s the meaning of its claim to a special teaching authority, and it ought to be willing to step up and make that good when there’s a need. Besides, the current organization of knowledge began (many argue) as an attack on the Church, so why not counterattack at a time like the present, when the need is great and fundamental weaknesses in the enemy’s position have become obvious?
If everything that should happen did happen we wouldn’t always be in such a pickle. Just when modernity was reaching a turning point, so a counterattack could begin in earnest, along came Vatican II, aggiornamento and ressourcement. It turned out that what those things mostly meant in practice was letting administrators and experts formed on the modern secular model run everything, either because they were up-to-date or because they were biblical scholars who could tell us what all those sources were really all about. (Not surprisingly, they turned out like everything else to be raw material for the project of controlling current situations in a reliable and verifiable manner.)
Vatican II as implemented was a flop from which the Church is struggling to recover, so there’s a limit what is likely to happen institutionally. Still, “one word of truth outweighs the whole world,” “a journey of a thousand li begins with a single step,” and, as they say, We Are Church. If constituted authorities like Bill Moyers, Larry Summers and the University of Notre Dame don’t take the appropriate steps then it’s up to the rest of us. So here’s the concept:
- The basic goal is to overthrow the established public understanding of reason and reality that says that value is simply subjective. Once people accept that the True includes the Good and the Beautiful it will no longer seem believable that equal satisfaction of preferences is the fundamental social and moral principle, and liberalism will disappear.
- Overthrowing public reality is of course a big job, but we’ve got some advantages. The weakness of the established understanding is that nobody at bottom believes it or can believe it. You can’t think or do anything without evaluation, and to claim your thoughts and actions are justified is to claim your evaluations are correct. It follows that the established understanding, which says that no evaluation can possibly be correct because all evaluations are simply subjective, is rationally useless.
- Nonetheless, it’s practically useful to some because it makes discussion and therefore complaint impossible. It means that all evaluations have taken place before public discussion begins. It’s somehow always already known that the highest goods are wealth and power, that things ought to be run by those with certified knowledge that enables them to control those goods, bring them about and distribute them equally, and that all other authorities have to be extirpated as a threat to the established system, because to disagree with that system is bigotry, hatred, violence and fundamentalism.
- If the system depends on silencing discussion so that all issues that matter can be treated as previously resolved, then part of the solution must be to start talking about the issues and not shut up. The sudden power of moderate-conservative weblogs shows that it has recently become much more difficult to treat issues as settled that are clearly not settled, at least in a case as egregious as the Dan Rather forgeries. A system like liberalism that depends on comprehensive denial of basic aspects of reality gives rise to lots of egregious cases. We need to hammer away at them. A lot of that’s already being done, with the attacks on PC and other outrages and absurdities.
- Beyond such particulars, we need to free ourselves from liberalism in every possible way. A counter-organization of knowledge can begin with a network of criticism, analysis, retrieval of what’s been lost, and creative proposals. That’s started as well, it’s what we’re pushing here, but much, much more needs to be done.
- Counter-organization of knowledge needs to go hand-in-hand with a counter-organization of life. Subjectivism as to values permeates all life and thought. A proper response requires genuine conversion of life and thought. Since liberalism makes Nothing the principle of rule we must turn to Something.
- All of which requires a great deal more discussion than a single weblog entry. Still, every bit counts, and to clarify even slightly the nature of our situation and the size of the job that needs to be done must be something of a contribution. After all, you have to start somewhere!