The collapse of the liberal regime into irrationality, contradiction and tyranny, and the inability of limited adjustments to restore it to health or even stability, suggest that a basically different direction is needed for our public life. Liberalism is an attempt to make freedom the ultimate principle of public life. The attempt makes no sense, and ultimately defeats itself, because freedom is always freedom to do something in particular and is therefore always subordinate to some more basic goal. When freedom becomes equal and open-ended it conflicts with itself. The myriad opposing possibilities cancel each other out and a comprehensive system of suppression is the result.
For example, liberalism wants to free us from interference by other people. When that goal is taken as ultimate, it ends by requiring total state control over human relations so we do not oppress each other. The only actions that remain permissible are those that are purely private and do not affect others, those that fully accept neutral market or bureaucratic principles, and those that directly support the regime. Even free discussion of public principles must be suppressed, because to put liberal principles in question would weaken them and promote oppression. All that is tyranny, and if people thought clearly and expressed themselves freely the system would become unstable. The resulting necessity of asserting and believing a contradiction corrupts thought and creates a sort of soft totalitarianism. The necessary features of advanced liberalism thus come to include indoctrination of the people, medicalization of dissent, and ritualistic treatment of democratic forms.
At bottom such a situation is the result of a spiritual problem, a disordered relation to ultimate truths and goods. Our response must be spiritual as well. Serious opposition to liberalism is particularist, anti-hedonist, and above all anti-secularist. It rejects a system of politics that bases social order on human desire and the view that men make morality for their own purposes, and accepts that social order must be referred toward something more substantive than equal freedom. Such an orientation must be central to any serious conservatism today. Politics is not the highest human activity, but it touches on the whole of life and so has a necessary spiritual component. The history of the last century shows that left to itself it makes unlimited demands and becomes tyrannical. For its own health and that of society it must refer to something higher and more comprehensive.
Since a denial of the transcendent aspects of life and the world are the root of the present crisis, it is more pressing to deal adequately with that basic issue than go immediately to practical schemes for accommodating current trends or restoring past arrangements. If the problem is technocracy—overemphasis on the purely pragmatic—the solution must emphasize principles that come before pragmatic considerations. Such an approach does not mean abstraction from social realities. The metaphysical is a social reality, since basic understandings of man and the world establish the environment in which all human relations play out. If our crisis is religious and cultural then political and social criticism must go hand in hand with religious and cultural analysis.
[From my book-in-progress.]