What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Equality, List-Making, and Degrees of Freedom

The modern liberal order is premised on the political primacy of freedom and equality over traditional, natural, or otherwise unchosen constraints. Tradition and nature are allowed to play a political role, but only inasmuch as the roles they play are freely chosen. It is not the job of politics, in the modern liberal order, to carry out directly any natural or traditional imperative; but only those imperatives mediated by the actual choices of a free and equal body of supermen-citizens.

One way to think about equality is that it asserts identity with respect to an attribute. Therefore, there is no such thing as equality-qua-equality when applied to anything actual: equality is always preceded by a modifier which tells us the attribute that is identical from one instance to another. So we can have numeric equality, racial equality, gender equality, etc. "Equality" with no modifier at all would mean literal identity: a thing is always equal in this most general sense only to itself, not to anything else.

Still, though, this remains ambiguous. Racial equality for example raises (without answering) the question of circumstances: specifically, in what circumstances are we to treat the attribute in question - race - as identical. And in a political or moral context, what this seems to be prescribing is that there are certain true facts which must be ignored or made-as-if-not-true in the context of certain decisions. So specifying what equality means involves the creation of a master list of true facts which must be ignored and circumstances in which we are to ignore them.

Liberal polities seem very enamored with list-making, and this business of "equal rights" appears to be the main reason why. In the reality of day-to-day decision-making the "negative rights" requirement for equal treatment is a requirement for us to ignore fact F when making decision D, while the "positive rights" requirement is to alter reality in such a way that all influences fact F filtered through decision D may have are normalized out of the outcome. "Negative rights" are input-based inasmuch as the existence of fact F must be ignored as an explicit matter by the decision-maker. "Positive rights" are output-based inasmuch as the outcome is required to occur as if fact F were not actually the case, and all inputs must be adjusted until that negation-of-fact obtains: that is, the decision outcome must be made to cohere with the true fact in question being untrue even implicitly.

So in an advanced liberal order we end up with these (mostly but not entirely implicit) large tables of facts, circumstances, and decisions which are placed off-limits in the name of increased freedom. And since rights are generally always granted but rarely taken away, this table is "sticky": that is, once a row is added to the table it stays there, and the table of off-limits facts, circumstances, and decisions grows without bounds. Ever more degrees of freedom in the phase space of available choices are placed epistemically (or at least practically, though political correctness seems to imply banishment from thought not merely from act) out of bounds by this always-growing crystallized set of constraints, freezing the modern equally free superman into his ever more confined place in the social hive.

So that is the idea of freedom in the advanced liberal order: by cutting away any direct accountability to nature and tradition, the free and equal new man stands frozen in a crystalline epistemological prison of his own making.

Comments (5)

You have a different way of saying it, but it reminds me of something Fred Reed once wrote:

"What I don't understand is how come people in this country, except about five with good sense, can believe things they know aren't true... It's a talent Americans have. Most of our social policy is based on things we know aren't true...And when things don't happen that can't, we wonder why they didn't, even though we know."

I love the math analogy. I only wish I understood enough math to get _all_ of the plays on words.

(Fred Reed? So I'm not the only person who used to read him? He was a blogger before there were bloggers, and very funny.)

The thing is, I'm sure you'd agree Zippy that there are some characteristics that should not be taken into account for certain purposes. E.g. If a child has Down's Syndrome, it's immoral for his parents to weigh whether to feed him or not and to consider starving him on the grounds that he has Down's Syndrome. That's actual "bad discrimination."

To take a less dreadful example, but one where I still think wrong is being done, I think many instances of hiring "the woman" for the job or "the minority" at universities are cases where a wrong is being done--to the students, perhaps first of all, to the disfavored candidate whose time has been wasted in a rigged job process, and even in an odd way to the favored candidate. And wrong is being done in the abstract by valuing minority status and femininity in contexts (e.g. teaching mathematics to college students) where IMO those characteristics are not actually positively valuable.

I don't know if there's any way for us to talk about these cases without using the terminology of "discrimination," but perhaps this is just a matter of not being understood by our contemporaries. I'd rather just say, "It's wrong."

The thing is, I'm sure you'd agree Zippy that there are some characteristics that should not be taken into account for certain purposes.

Absolutely. It is possible to make true - or false - moral assertions in the language of nondiscrimination and equality. (Though getting people to interpret those assertions unequivocally is virtually impossible, in part because the language of equality becomes superfluous or even cognitively dissonant as we start to specify concretely where we are discriminating and where we are ruling out discrimination). The point isn't that all discrimination is good or that no discrimination is bad. It is that formal antidiscrimination divorced from substantive value judgements of right and wrong is not merely contentless but anti-content, and that at least in its advanced stages this results in "freedom" meaning a kind of self-inflicted slavery.

I'd rather just say, "It's wrong."

Precisely. But then, the entire modern liberal project revolves around avoiding saying that and mediating all authoritative judgements of right and wrong through actual assertion of the will by the free and equal new man.

Only people who believe they are inferior fight for the right to be "equal".
All the categories are simply a way of trying to find a short-cut to relating to others. None of us really wants to relate to all other people as individuals. That's too much work. So we look for these short-cuts.
But, as J.R.R.Tolkien said, "Short-cuts make long delays"; and in personal relations they create large problems.
The superficially difficult solution is sometimes the best in the long run. Dealing with each individual for the person he is is difficult, but usually less difficult than the alternative, in the end.

Given Up On Finding A Great Looking Woman Who Likes You? Follow My Guaranteed Step-By-Step System for Success with Women and I’ll GUARANTEE Your Success!

Post a comment

Bold Italic Underline Quote

Note: In order to limit duplicate comments, please submit a comment only once. A comment may take a few minutes to appear beneath the article.

Although this site does not actively hold comments for moderation, some comments are automatically held by the blog system. For best results, limit the number of links (including links in your signature line to your own website) to under 3 per comment as all comments with a large number of links will be automatically held. If your comment is held for any reason, please be patient and an author or administrator will approve it. Do not resubmit the same comment as subsequent submissions of the same comment will be held as well.