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

The politics of repair.

As Mr. Martin mentioned in passing below, the philosophy of the ancient world, (and the philosophy of Christendom, once the former was, as has been said many times, baptized by Christian thinkers, culminating in the great Aristotelian synthesis of the Dumb Ox, Saint Thomas Aquinas) hinged upon the parallel between order in the soul and order in the commonwealth. This was an insight into the political character of man that was not lost on our more immediate ancestors, here in America. Their literature abounds with quotations emphasizing the folly of trying to erect a tolerable commonwealth upon the sifting sand of human vice or appetite

Yet a whole vital thrust of Liberalism — indeed, perhaps its most vital and enduring thrust, considering the plain popularity of a philosophy that addresses itself to the desires and passions of man — has always been the emancipation of appetite. Indeed, we can say with some authority that the emancipation of the acquisitive passion, the desire to possess, to master, to control, was at the very root of Liberalism in its initial revolt. Grounding human politics upon acquisition, as opposed to piety, or justice, unity, or similar pre-modern preoccupations — this was the original Liberal project. Its success is visible everywhere we look. The two primary forms of political economy, which have dominated modern politics for nearly a century, Capitalism and Socialism, share the assumption that the purpose of politics is to liberate men to prosper, to relieve their material privation. They both make virtue or holiness or community secondary to material advancement.

Recognizing this is not to demand an immediate overthrow of the Liberal order. Though I think his influence on the American is quite overstated, still it cannot be fairly denied that Locke and his acolytes were high on the minds of quite a number of the Framers. Liberalism has roots in America, undoubtedly; and no Conservative can contemplate the shock that would ensue upon some sudden excision of this tradition.

What we aim at instead is, in Michael Oakeshott’s fine phrase, the politics of repair. The emancipations of Liberalism, which began very sanely in the desire to alleviate brute destitution, and in an instinctual revulsion to the bloodlust of the Wars of Religion, were carried along by their firm logic to the madness we see today: Madness such as a conference at Princeton dedicated to the defense of “voluntary amputation” of “oppressive limbs”; or, more dreadfully still, the legal regime we suffer under which makes sexual emancipation embrace a ironclad right to execute the unborn.

Our political world may be observed as the wreckage left in the wake of Liberalism’s logic; and as Conservatives our duty must include a patient effort at repair.

We are fortunate, indeed, to have so rich a heritage of thought and action upon this head. Even Americans who had drunk deeply of Liberalism, such a Jefferson, were yet torn away from it by more humane concerns for community and justice. And the Preamble to our very Constitution sets forth for us six purposes, none of which falls neatly into the Liberal rubric. Willmoore Kendall once argued, even, that these purposes were “pretty clearly cribbed” from mediaeval scholastic philosophy. That is cause for hope. And there are other signs of hope, which is why we here at WWwtW say that we repudiate the “fashionable sin” of despair.

Comments (4)

"The politics of repair" is a fine turn of phrase, and implies a truth pregnant with hope: while it may indeed be futile to attempt the restoration of a nation by means of traditions and ideas imported from afar, we have scant need of this, for there is much in our own native tradition which reaches back into the mists of what once was. These resources may serve us well, if only we have the mettle to lay hold of them, to return to the sources. It is for this reason that, while the specific, direct, Christian inspiration of the Founding period is often overstated by Christians rightly affronted by the effacement of the Christian heritage of so many of our traditions, those who make quick recourse to the remarks of, for example, George Washington concerning the indispensability of religion for public order are rendering a valuable service. It cannot be stated often enough that order is neither a given of the human condition, nor a spontaneous phenomenon, but always and in all place dependent upon the order of the spirit.

The Liberal dogma on Church-State separation is manifestly a distortion of out native tradition. (I always wonder what these guys think when singing our patriotic songs, virtually every one of which calls on the name of the Almighty for blessing and protection.) Recovering the true tradition, which (for instance) allowed state establishment in the several states, is an eminently worthy goal.

Orestes Brownson argued boldly in his book The American Republic that he purpose of America, under the Providence of the Lord, was to show the world the proper system of self-government -- an effort toward which the ancients, and even, I think, the Christians, failed.

I'm sure such ambitions appeal to at least our right-Liberals. So it is always a discouragement to see how quickly they abandon the struggle to recover our true tradition when the going gets tough. Must be more of that intransigent futurism to mentioned . . .

"we repudiate the 'fashionable sin' of despair."

I'm trying. I'm really trying.

I'm trying. I'm really trying.

There. I just posted some medicine for what ails you, Bill.

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