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No Tea Party for Me

I'm just now reading the Tea Party's "Contract From America" for the first time. Not many surprises here. I sincerely wish them well and hope they achieve many of their goals. And I do mean "them", because as much as I agree with them on certain points, their underlying philosophy of government is wholly incompatible with an historically-aware Christianity. Specifically:

Individual Liberty

Our moral, political, and economic liberties are inherent, not granted by our government. It is essential to the practice of these liberties that we be free from restriction over our peaceful political expression and free from excessive control over our economic choices.

The language of "individual liberty", seemingly divorced from the context of family and community, is foreign to the mind of the Church and demonstrably corrosive of public morality. The enshrining of individual "economic choices" as something sacrosanct - as though all economic choices were equally moral, as if their social consequences did not matter and were of no interest to the state - is likewise contrary to anything resembling historic Christian statecraft.

Limited Government

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

The purpose of government is to facilitate the common good, especially the good of souls, and is by no means limited to the "protection of liberties" (liberties to do what?), the administration of justice, or public safety. Limiting government to these may be wise or unwise under present circumstances, but the Christian cannot marry himself to such principles as though they were anything more than a temporary, prudential compromise.

Economic Freedom

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

The "free market", insofar as it has existed at all, has always existed within a framework of cultural, moral and legal restraints. It would be more plausible to claim that capitalism is "the most powerful, proven instrument" of material progress - but of social progress? On the contrary, the rise of capitalism has paralleled the decline of faith, family and community from its very inception.

Caveat emptor. When one embraces a political movement, the danger is not so much in seeking the movement's desired outcomes, but in committing oneself to the movement's core principles and foundational philosophy. In this instance the Tea Party movement embraces the same revolutionary principles that undermined the Christian temporal order in the first place.

Comments (157)

There is no single Tea Party, and although there are certainly commonalities, the various organizations with Tea Party in their name have different sets of core principles. My local branch has: limited government; fiscal responsibility; free and fair markets; personal liberty and personal responsibility; and constitutional governance. These are not elaborated.

So you needn't write off the entire Tea Party because you can't accept something one of the many autonomous clubs wrote. You could simply write off Contract from America, the source of the offending text. (And recognize they probably didn't think through what they were saying. Maybe if they thought about it, they'd see your point and change the text.)

The purpose of government is to facilitate the common good, especially the good of souls, and is by no means limited to the "protection of liberties"

The only good that can come to a soul is to become a Christian. Insofar as a state makes the good of any man's soul its business, but does not do so with the specific and exclusive goal of putting the Gospel before them, it is nothing more than a spiritual tyrant. In fact, a state which sets up the trappings of a Christ-like culture, but without the actual religion at the forefront, exhorting souls to follow Christ, it is actually behaving in an openly anti-Christ fashion by encouraging a works-based path to God in defiance of our Lord's own words (none come to the Father but by me).

The Christian has only two choices: theocracy or a limited government which leaves all spiritual affairs and goods to the Church.

Mike T, I'm on the fly here, but could you perhaps repeat here an insightful comment you made in another thread that I don't have time to look up about government power, sin, and mosquitoes--something about a powerful government bearing the same relation to sin that a stagnant pool of water bears to mosquitoes.

Will, you may be right about differing local TP groups having different core principles, but I seriously doubt the problematic areas will be any better. I mean, these ideas have been ingrained in the American conservative movement for decades. Suffice it to say that if I were a politician, I could not sign the "Contract From America" in good faith, or anything like it, and the Tea Party would disown me.

Mike T., there are many ways the state might facilitate the good of souls, most of which have nothing to do with "putting the Gospel before" its subjects. That is, after all, the primary role of the Church, not the state. And the Gospel is nothing without good works - "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven".

"Liberty is not the power of doing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought." -- Lord Acton

Dear Lydia,

I found the quote for you. It is in The Modern State Against the Church post. Mike T. quotes for teo paragraphs and his comment is in the last paragraph. It reads:

{Quote}This is the great fraud. All the principles that we [Catholics traditionally] defend, state censorship of dangerous opinions, the profession of a religious view by the state, and other such principles, have all been retained. They’ve just been subverted and turned around the other way. So, there’s an anti-theology of the state. The state strictly enforces religious neutrality as an anti-theology. And the state now punishes certain unacceptable opinions as heretical. People are going to jail or being fined for having the wrong opinions.

All states are in one way or another, theocratic states because they all take a position with respect to God and His law. The state either embraces and serves God and His law within the sphere of its competence, or it rejects that obligation, and therefore says, ‘Non serviam’ [as Lucifer said to God, ‘I will not serve.’], which is a theological position. And it is a great fraud to say otherwise, but that is the great fraud of political modernity.[End Quote]

Of course, we cannot even define definitively what its competence is. There are those, for example, who insist that the state is competent at social insurance and welfare, despite the history of the 20th century which shows that a guaranteed welfare net does for sin what a still pool of water does for the mosquito population in the South...

Posted by Mike T | July 22, 2010 12:50 PM

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the free market. The market economy, driven by the accumulated expressions of individual economic choices, is the only economic system that preserves and enhances individual liberty. Any other economic system, regardless of its intended pragmatic benefits, undermines our fundamental rights as free people.

Let me restate that so it is correct:

The most powerful, proven instrument of material and social progress is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord, driven by the accumulated expressions of faith borne of love, is the only system that preserves and enhances individual life and a liberty borne of wisdom.

Their statement is nothing more than money worship dressed up in a top hat (for them, it seems, individual freedom = the license of money spending). Bow to worship individual liberty and the hat falls off revealing the bald spot.

The Chicken

I'd much rather trust people who adhere to something like this to do the right thing--for example, consistently, loudly, and unequivocally opposing Obamacare--even if for reasons stated in exaggerated terms, than to trust people to do those same right things who have no sense of the real dangers of bloated and powerful government.

Lydia,

Of course, we cannot even define definitively what its competence is. There are those, for example, who insist that the state is competent at social insurance and welfare, despite the history of the 20th century which shows that a guaranteed welfare net does for sin what a still pool of water does for the mosquito population in the South... [link]
Mike T., there are many ways the state might facilitate the good of souls, most of which have nothing to do with "putting the Gospel before" its subjects. That is, after all, the primary role of the Church, not the state. And the Gospel is nothing without good works - "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven".

Jeff, none of those "goods" will last because the state is not making confessing Christians out of those citizens/subjects. If the state pushes them toward Christian behavior without Christian religion, it only encourages them to embrace works as a means toward salvation.

I think you are failing to separate yourself from philosophical abstractions here. Your view of the state has not been relevant since a few centuries after the reformation because by the 19th century, previously Christian states stopped espousing Christianity as the state religion.

In a society where only 11% can be considered orthodox believers of any denomination of Christianity, your prescription would be disastrous. All you would accomplish, at best, is some generic believe in Christian behavior and God. Yet, without faith in Jesus, all of those people will end up in Hell anyway.

I'd much rather trust people who adhere to something like this to do the right thing--for example, consistently, loudly, and unequivocally opposing Obamacare--even if for reasons stated in exaggerated terms, than to trust people to do those same right things who have no sense of the real dangers of bloated and powerful government.

Fair enough. But would you trust people who adhere to TP principles - "individual liberty", "limited government", and "economic freedom" as described above - to do the right thing when it comes to same-sex "marriage"? No fault divorce? Abortion? Contraception? Pornography? Usury? Toxic waste? Preservation of historic buildings? National parks? Wiccan and satanic military chaplains? Incitement of jihad? Public nudity? Sex change operations? Highway maintenance? Etc. - I could go on forever.

You shouldn't. Those same principles can be employed on the wrong side of too many issues to be winked-at for the sake of achieving others.

You shouldn't. Those same principles can be employed on the wrong side of too many issues to be winked-at for the sake of achieving others.

I think Lydia is quite well aware of that. However, what I think she understands better than you do is that given the zeitgeist, the state that has the power to do those things is more likely to do evil with that power than good.

I would also add, Jeff, that you and a number of Catholics here often seem to pay lip service to the very real destruction that social welfare, medical social insurance and other things have had on morality and family life. As you point out to Lydia how her principles can be misapplied for destructive ends, you would do well to look at some of your own posts here and realize how those principles have, in the hands of politicians, often become an equal or even worse disaster.

Well, since I happen to know a few people who actual _are_ involved with the tea party and who actually are pro-life, against same-sex "marriage," etc., yes, I would. I even have a former college friend who is _very_ pro-life with a personal blog who put up a post not long ago about how the founders of our country seem to him like libertarians and how libertarianism is really just common-sense small government, etc.

Now, I know (and maybe he doesn't know) that committed, ideological libertarianism is usually in fact pro-abortion and that this is even factually true in that the Libertarian Party is formally pro-abortion. But I knew what he meant and why he said what he said.

See, the thing is, Jeff, you take these kinds of statements to be meant in some absolute sense, so that "economic freedom" has to mean "freedom to buy pornography" or "legal prostitution" or whatever--in other words, freedom to engage in any activity whatsoever if it can be called "economic." But plenty of people who would sign onto that statement that you object to think of those as social rather than economic issues and are, to put it bluntly, a lot more like me. They don't mean what you take them to mean. Which doesn't mean that they wouldn't have disagreements with you. Perhaps they wouldn't define "usury" as you do; maybe they wouldn't care as much as you do about this or that historic building. Very likely they wouldn't be as sympathetic as you are to government provision of various goods and services such as health care. But it does mean that what disagreements there are wouldn't come as a result of some sort of absolute principle that people should have freedom to buy and sell everything they want to buy and sell.

The State needs to be committed not to an explicit Catholic or even Christian angle but to the more general Tao (of CS Lewis) i.e. a traditional understanding of the ethics that rules out modern abominations and license.

Please note that pornography is banned in India and so is unnatural sex (using Natural Law definitions and argument). Recently the debate on this law was opened by Activist judges and NGOs. The opposition to this initiative was led by Muslim clerics.

Now, I know (and maybe he doesn't know) that committed, ideological libertarianism is usually in fact pro-abortion and that this is even factually true in that the Libertarian Party is formally pro-abortion. But I knew what he meant and why he said what he said.

Perhaps you should add YMMV. There are right-wing libertarians and left-wing libertarians. But it seems to me that the bulk of libertarians (including right-wing libertarians) are primarily interested in market/economic issues and the size of government. Anti-abortion laws are seen to increase the power of government. Anti-pornography laws are seen as an unwarranted intrusion into the market place, or impossible to enforce (they will provide the well-worn example of Prohibition to point out that laws never work).

Broadly speaking, we're all libertarians (conservative and liberal). The problem is that there are precious few who realize that ethics is not merely an individual choice but the business of running government. We cannot say the words "justice" or "fair" without calling on some ethical standard. The sad fact is that most of these TP folks think that the Constitution is going to protect them. It cannot when morals are viewed as subjective. If there is no Natural Law, there is effectively no Constitution -- the Constitution means whatever the ruling class wishes it to mean.

I remember a post Lydia made here a while ago, in which she recalled the occasion when she ditched the von Mises stance. I will quote a snippet for all to consider:

I remember when I decided to let my subscription to the Von Mises Institute's newsletter lapse, thus renouncing forever my right to be called a card-carrying libertarian, even with the appellation "pro-life" added. Well, all right, I don't remember the year. But I remember the occasion. It was when I realized that the Von Mises folks were so bent on showing the world that free trade is a Good Thing that they were willing to imply falsehoods regarding the horrors of China's one-child policy. Their articles on the subject, when they mentioned it at all, read like dispatches from the UNFPA--all about how all that was in the past, how China was changing. The iron fist of the one-child policy was gradually withering away like the state in a Marxist's dream. But of course the Von Mises spin was that this was one of the wonders of free trade. See what a great moral cleanser even a tiny taste of the free market is; it gradually turns totalitarian Communist countries into places of ever-greater freedom. With, of course, the unstated assumption that this process will go on and on indefinitely. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.
Well, it was balderdash then, as a factual matter, and I knew it and was disturbed by their elevation of ideology over truth.

This post of Jeff's may be the point at which some card carrying catholics ditch catholic social teaching once and for all, and for the same invalid reasons as Lydia gave for discarding libertarianism. The Christian insight into the corrupting nature of freedom is valid. The libertarian insight into the fundamentally evil and corrupting nature of the state is also valid. We must recognize this dilemma and somehow incorporate both truths into a solution. If only the Christians and the libertarians could see that they hold necessary and complementary pieces of the puzzle.

But what will happen instead is that the lvmi people will continue to praise free markets and neglect the spiritual side of man, while the catholics go on with their abysmally naive and compromising view of human government, and everyone will write everyone else off.

I wouldn't read to much into the "Contract from America" the teapartiers seem like a pretty fluid bunch and these are from a website not stone tablets. Besides the phrase "excessive control over our economic choices" allows for a fair amount of wiggle room.

It seems to me that the Tea Party movement is an excellent first step. I don't mean that in a Bolshevik, lets-infiltrate-these-useful-idiots, kind of way either (although Newt Gingrich might). For one thing, for most of us Americans it is Free Market vs. Socialism. That's all we know, that's how we think. I went to a Catholic college, but I sure never heard about Rerum Novarum there. Secondly, most teapartiers strike me as a pretty socially conservative bunch. Once society is freed from excessive regulation they probably trust/hope/pray that we will govern ourselves in a moral and ethical way, just as Adams and other founding fathers said we must. They may be in for a shock, and that is why the distributist message needs to get out and put down some American roots. To paraphrase one of Chesterton's later countrymen: "If you go carrying pictures of Leo XIII, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow." Vast swaths of the Tea Party movement would probably agree with your thinking, if the were only made aware of it. Inside every libertarian there is a distributist struggling to get out.

eli fironzelle: Keep in mind that not all "Catholic Social Teaching" is actually Catholic social teaching. The real stuff recognizes that both the radical individualism of the strict free marketeers and the nanny state are forces for corruption. The answer is that society must be made up of many different and each in their own way, authoritative, institutions: families, churchs, voluntary organizations, tradition, etc. There is far more to "human government" than the state.

Bob: Perhaps you should define YMMV.

I'm with Lydia on this one. It is hazardous to extrapolate liberal economic principles to some libertarian extreme or to non-economic issues, particularly when the complaint is about "excessive control over our economic choices." Excessive doesn't necessarily mean any control beyond the night watchman state. Lydia's anecdotal evidence about Tea Party folks who are not socially liberal is also supported by survey data. See here and here. For example, Tea Party supporters are more likely to be pro-life (+16-20%) and anti-SSM (+20%) than the general public.

The Christian insight into the corrupting nature of freedom is valid. The libertarian insight into the fundamentally evil and corrupting nature of the state is also valid. We must recognize this dilemma and somehow incorporate both truths into a solution. If only the Christians and the libertarians could see that they hold necessary and complementary pieces of the puzzle.

The reason that won't happen is that it would require personal piety. MZ, ironically, made a case against his own side by pointing out that there are 600k Catholics in his area and they couldn't raise enough money to cover their church's medical expenses (some ridiculous number like $70m, much of which IIRC was for church workers, but I digress). That is... $120/year/Catholic in his area.

There's nothing unique to the Catholic Church about this. However, the Catholic Church is the one with the most active social angle. This should raise a serious question. If its own members cannot find it in their hearts or budgets to raise such little money for their church, are the prerequisites (spiritual and resources) for carrying out that social doctrine even there?

"Once society is freed from excessive regulation they probably trust/hope/pray that we will govern ourselves in a moral and ethical way, just as Adams and other founding fathers said we must. They may be in for a shock, and that is why the distributist message needs to get out and put down some American roots."

Well said. In other words they need to read Kirk and W. Berry just as much as they are reading Hayek. We need to be reminded that "it's the culture, stupid," and not just the economy.

The best brief presentation I've seen along these lines is Lind & Weyrich's The Next Conservatism. The publisher ought to reissue that book as an inexpensive paperback and seek to get it widely distributed. It'd be good for them & good for the movement.

I think that Tea Party liberalism is, as several have suggested, populist: that is, the average Tea Partier articulates liberal pieties because those liberal pieties are our tradition; our civic religion. Yes, Tea Partiers take conservative positions on particular social issues. But if our own history tells us anything, it tells us that liberal pieties mixed with socially conservative unprincipled exceptions on laundry lists of policies is, over time, a winning combination for leftism.

That said, I think Mike T makes a reasonable point about some Catholics who mouth pieties on social doctrine and end up (by pure coincidence I am sure) perfectly aligned with leftism. Vox Nova, anyone?

eli fironzelle, you think the reason I gave in that old post is an invalid reason to stop carrying a libertarian card and giving money to the LVMI to get their newsletter? Golly, you must think there's a pretty strong prima facie case for carrying a libertarian card and subscribing to the LVMI newsletter. I mean, no one who reads my comments is likely to think that I'm throwing the free market baby out with the pro-China bathwater!

On which note: It really strikes me as odd that anyone should be bothered by strongly worded statements in favor of the free market and liberty when we have a federal government and for that matter state governments that are so _wildly_ out of control. We have people in charge who literally believe the federal government has plenary powers, can use its "power to tax" (or was that the commerce clause?) to force you to buy anything it wants, who have contempt for the subsidiarity built into the U.S. Constitution. I could go on and on. Any conservative Christian American should be willing to kiss the ground in gratitude to God if we got even, oh, I don't know, a tenth of what the Tea Party folks want in terms of rolling back the all-powerful state. Seriously. It would leave us more free to live in peace, quietness, and godliness, as the Apostle Paul said, and to change the culture as we are able within our own spheres. Wake up. The danger to America is not the Tea Party's economic libertarianism!

Well, Mike, the problem is kind of like the proverbial snake eating its own tail. If we didn't (a) already pay such high taxes, and (b) have already gotten used to the nanny-state mentality that the state will take care of us (oops, I mean, the state social safety net) which is promoted so endearingly by the Dem-Catholics, then they might be more able to raise the kinds of funds needed to do those parts of the social doctrine that could fall to individuals and smaller institutions. Of course, it is impossible to get Catholics over the nanny-state mentality as long as they perceive the Church as saying that Christian doctrine requires that all-enveloping social safety net run by the state.

In my experience, at least 80% of Catholics who have been educated at Catholic schools, and especially at Catholic universities, simply are unaware that there are different levels of authority under which the bishops have promoted different ideas under the "social doctrine" program, and that their preferred nanny-state component of the program is not doctrine. In fact, it seems that the more years spent under "Catholic" education, the more ignorant they are of the truth. Scary, isn't it?

I should add this, though: I _do_ think there is some cause for concern not in the concern for economic freedom in Tea Party manifestos but in the deliberate decision to exclude conservative positions on social issues. It is not that I agree with the premise many here hold--that the emphasis on economic freedom is antithetical to social conservatism. I don't agree with that. It is rather that I think there are always other consequences, indirectly, of a deliberate decision _not to talk about_ or _not to emphasize_ social conservatism. As, for example, that those issues fall into the background in practice. Even if we just look at it at the barest practical level, people have only so many hours to devote to grassroots political activism. If they put all or most of those hours into activism that expressly excludes work on social issues, where will the volunteer man-hours come from for political activism on social issues? But of course there's more to it than that, because there is the concern that social conservatives will continue to be pressured to support socially liberal political candidates as part of the movement.

Ironically, it's my opinion that the correlation goes the other way as well and that they are likely to get economically more statist candidates if they support socially more liberal candidates. If an elected politician doesn't have the courage to stand up on social issues, he is at least somewhat less likely to have the courage to vote "no" on some pork-stuffed budget that increases the power of the state. It's not a perfect correlation but is a correlation that I think might surprise people who urge us to de-emphasize social issues in favor of fiscal issues.

Lydia,

It really strikes me as odd that anyone should be bothered by strongly worded statements in favor of the free market and liberty when we have a federal government and for that matter state governments that are so _wildly_ out of control.

Perhaps I am cynical, but it doesn't surprise me at all. Most Americans have no reason to value the free market or economic liberty because they, themselves, do not produce anything or have any drive to do so. Make the same points to an engineer or artist and you'll get wildly different responses from them as opposed to the average American.

Of course, it is impossible to get Catholics over the nanny-state mentality as long as they perceive the Church as saying that Christian doctrine requires that all-enveloping social safety net run by the state.

It doesn't help that many people simply have no understanding of the fact that there are a limited amount of resources that can be freed up for such a safety net. This is a general problem, as I have had this argument with family members who are ostensibly mainline protestants. The fact is that a safety net takes a surplus of wealth that exists only after business, family and government needs have been satisfied. Yet in discussions about this, the whole GDP is offered up as potential fodder!

MZ's main objection is that a voluntary system cannot provide universal coverage, but then neither can a state-run one. Every advocate of state involvement willfully ignores the fact that every health care system in the modern world is growing out of control. What they don't like is the idea that private charity would be discriminatory. It sickens them to think that charity would actually apply morals and church doctrine to who gets aid. To them, a single mother with a brood of bastards and a bun in the oven from a man she screwed in a public restroom is as deserving as a poor, married woman; a heavy drug user as deserving as a casual drinker who worked hard and kept his nose clean. Heaven forbid that there be triage!

NasicaCato: Your Mileage May Vary. That is, our views on libertarians are subjective.

==========

Lydia has a good point that economic freedom is not _necessarily_ antithetical to social conservatism. But I'm wholly unappreciative about my "freedom" to purchase Playboy or the stripper's ability to exercise her First Amendment "rights." In the meantime, the mention of God in a high school classroom is likely to bring the storm troopers down on someone. Support of the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality will get you fired. And Martha Coakley can flippantly suggest that perhaps Catholics shouldn't work in emergency rooms (how is that for an attorney general?).

It's not that I resent the average TPer's enthusiasm for economic freedom, nor am I blind to the evils of big bad government. The problem is that the focus is predominantly economic. I've been reduced from a "man with natural rights" to a "consumer with rights." We come up with crazy ideas like the airline passenger's bill of rights and patient's bill of rights. Humbug. My worth as a human person should not depend on how much I spend or save or earn. It's a far too shallow accounting of who we are and our relationship to government.

The problem is that most TPers (and most American citizens) think that we're actually protected by the Constitution. They'll point to the fact that they can freely purchase Playboy. In the meantime, they'll fail to understand the significance of The Letter from Birmingham Jail. There is a difference between human laws and God's laws, and unless we can get that straight, all this economic "freedom" is worth no more than the toilet paper our human laws are written on.

the wonderful thing about having allies is that while offering needed strength in conflict, neither party or parties may be required to adopt the others' policies and practices to a exclusive degree. The options and freedom available to a alliance member allow the pursuit of their specific ends while still working for agreed upon other ends.

Of course we can always pick up our marbles and scurry home, ceding the field to a crew of cannibals, intent and succeeding in spreading their infection, and who have amply proved the efficacy of united action within an umbrella of multiple goals, all of them ugly.

Why learn when we can pout, when we can advertise our purity, when we can sniff and walk away, convinced that our morality is to fine to mingle with a more common herd.
The left loves it.
And they go on winning.

Mike T:

MZ's main objection is that a voluntary system cannot provide universal coverage, but then neither can a state-run one.
I agree. Virtually all of the various ideological positions rely on false premises. I agree that this is one. Another one though is the "free market" as envisioned by, well, most people who use the term "free market". Always with modernity - whether so-called social democracy, communism, laisse-faire libertarianism, "original intent of the founders" Americanism, Constitutionalism, or whatever - always there is this ideal held up, this ideal that would supposedly work in reality if only we could convince enough people to actually try it. The problem is always that the ideology has been undermined, perverted, and thwarted by enemies. Never is it acknowledged that there is a problem with the reality of the ideology in the first place. "Where are the real libertarians"; "where are the real communists"; etc etc. Any failure is chalked up, not to the fact that the concept itself is unreal utopian nonsense, but to the supposed notion that it just hasn't been given a fair shake; that the horrific consequences of prior attempts were due to insufficient purity and unanimity in implementing the Utopian ideal rather than due to problems with the Utopian idea itself.

There aren't any real libertarians, communists, etc because liberalism - of which these are all species - is unreal. There is no such thing as a "free market" as envisioned by libertarians: never has been, never will be, because the concept itself is unreal.

Modern liberal politics always devolves to laundry lists of policy issues that people can supposedly agree upon: no same sex "marriage", cut spending, etc etc. Modern political movements mouth liberal pieties - Jeff provides examples in his critique of the "Contract for America" - while, since liberalism is unreal, endorsing various laundry lists of unprincipled exceptions to those liberal pieties. This hasn't been a winning formula for the traditional values of Christendom and it never will be a winning formula for the traditional values of Christendom, even when those unthinkingly mouthing liberal pieties endorse various policies which are friendly to the traditional values of Christendom.

Until we start to attack, not merely specific liberal policies (e.g. SSM, universal "health care" defined as universal access to abortion and contraception, etc), but the liberal pieties themselves; until we do that, we are just playing willing host to the parasite. The liberal left could not exist without the liberal right, and the pieties of the Tea Party - the pieties, not laundry lists of specific policies - are the pieties of the liberal right.

Those pieties have to go, and getting rid of them is far more important than any temporary holding action on some specific policy front. Some people think that alliance on some specific policy goal is more important than the civic religion itself. While I have sympathy for that point of view, it is, in my opinion, very short-sighted. As evidence for my claim I give you the actual political history of the United States of America: the actual one, not the made up "if only my ideology had been tried for real" false histories upon which so many people seem to base their politics.

So while I can agree that limited government is good, that subsidiarity is a basic requirement of a tolerable human existence, that private property is in some senses more basic than (say) the national government, that provision of all basic necessities to everyone by government specifically is an impossibility, that allies need to be able to disagree on some things and work on what is important together nonetheless, etc - while I can agree to all of these things, and can assign great prudential weight to that agreement, I can by no means do so by affirming liberal pieties; liberal pieties which take prudential concerns and transform them into ideological unrealities like the libertarian "free market".

The pieties are more important than the policies. I've explained why before, and I'll briefly explain again, with apologies for the long comment.

Most people actually care about a relatively small number of particular issues. On those particular issues, they will consider carefully and stick to their guns. On other issues they will default to supporting things based on how true various proposals ring to their pieties. Suppose there are 1000 important issues. Bob is well-informed about and passionate about 10 of them. He makes specific concrete choices on what to support politically based on those 10; on everything else, he defaults to whatever rings true to his civic pieties.

That means that ultimately, if this model is accurate in aggregate, 99% of politics reflects civic pieties; 1% reflects careful, prudent thought.

This is, I think, a consequence of the fact that ideas have consequences: exaggerating slightly (but only slightly), civic pieties are everything, and specific policies are nothing. I expect that given any large-scale ballot or policy question X, 99% or more of the decision-weight comes from pieties; 1% or less from careful, considered prudence on the part of wise choosers. Civic pieties aren't just the largest constituency: they are the only constituency that matters.

Zippy, here's an interesting test of the actual outworking of what you are talking about:

Can you name a specific policy issue, or even several of them, where you believe that people *otherwise socially conservatively inclined* have been led to support a definitely wrong policy position on that issue because they defaulted to their civic pieties? I would be interested to see if I agree or disagree with you on the issue. I'm almost afraid to ask this, because I'm not sure I'm going to want to admit it if I disagree with you on the issues. But I just doubt that I see the problem in the terms that you see it. I see rather a problem of "civic religion" where people do what they _know_ to be compromising in terms of voting for or supporting a candidate because they believe that this will be better overall somehow. There, you and I are in agreement. But that's not what you seem to be talking about here, because here you seem to be talking about people who actually are misled in their own policy beliefs by their "unreal" civic pieties.

Let me clarify, too, that I'm not just talking about _de-emphasizing_ issues for the sake of alliances. That, I see everywhere. And I agree that such de-emphasis can definitely have a hugely corrupting effect. But again, that doesn't seem to be what Zippy has in mind. He seems to have in mind somebody's saying, "Oh, okay, then I guess I'm in favor of X because X is a matter of individual liberty/economic liberty," where the person hasn't thought through the issue, where being in favor of X is in tension with the person's social conservatism on other issues in his "laundry list," and where it's a really bad thing to be in favor of X.

I, for instance, can't think of any "laundry list" conservatives who are inclined to be socially conservative on _other_ issues who are in favor of legal pornography because they mindlessly listened to somebody who told them that it is a matter of individual or economic liberty.

I tend to think that laundry lists have more power than that.

Having been invoked by name, I'll offer some brief replies.

Charity can work things that are relatively inconsequential to the giver. Health care is 15% of GDP, give or take. The free rider problem in any volunantary scheme will rear its head quite quickly. Given that we have shown an inability to take care of existing health care issues with generous elder support and support for the poorest, the idea that money will magically appear in the form of charity when that support is removed is just not dealing with the world as it actually is.

I have no issue with a health care plan that excludes abortion or contraceptive services. Their makeup of existing healthcare expenditures is miniscule. Contraceptive services in fact are often covered at the county level since they are so inexpensive to provide. Ambulatory care, oncology, cardiac care, maternity care, etc are very expensive.

We really need to stop with the nonsense that health care is too expensive for government to provide all of its citizens. Third world countries often manage to have universal health care systems. While there are problems with most any health care system, that is manifestly true of our own. This is like listening to people say national defense is too expensive for our country. Our country is wealthy enough that the list of things that are too expensive for it is a very short list. As MikeT has made clear though, cost isn't an issue for him so much as spending a single dime on people that have the mark of satan on them. He would even deny palliative care to the dying and diseased prostitute.

Third world countries often manage to have universal health care systems.

Lord have mercy.

Zippy,

I admit that I don't follow blogs (including this one) that closely. Could you enumerate the pieties as opposed to the policies?

Thanks.

Peace,
Bob

We really need to stop with the nonsense that health care is too expensive for government to provide all of its citizens. Third world countries often manage to have universal health care systems. While there are problems with most any health care system, that is manifestly true of our own. This is like listening to people say national defense is too expensive for our country. Our country is wealthy enough that the list of things that are too expensive for it is a very short list. As MikeT has made clear though, cost isn't an issue for him so much as spending a single dime on people that have the mark of satan on them. He would even deny palliative care to the dying and diseased prostitute.

Appeals to a national government for the purpose of arguing for some kind of minimal universal health care system presupposes the existence of a nation. Sadly and undeniably, the American nation is fading away. It no longer exists or won't for much longer given the current trajectory. But we still have national defense you might say. Really, do we when large sections of the country refuse to halt the Mexican invasion?

Does anyone really think it's a winning argument to say that the tens of millions who make up the white middle class, those who would be the primary contributers to such a national health care system, should happily participate in a redistributionist scheme that will disproportionately favor lower achieving minorities and Third World peoples? Peoples who have very little if anything in common culturally, ethnically, or traditionally with the heirs of Christendom?

I think at a gut level the Tea Partiers understand that the entire system is broken. They want out from under this government that has failed them so spectacularly. I also sense the Tea Partiers, as an entity, are evolving and would be open to a broader interpretation of the changes that are needed beyond merely the economic to include culture and religion.

Peoples who have very little if anything in common culturally, ethnically, or traditionally with the heirs of Christendom?

Where did that come from? Maybe if you are talking Asians and Africans (and then depending upon the specific regions). Latin Americans have as much, if not more, claim to Christian culture, ethnicity and tradition than Americans. Particularly Mexico, from where most of the immigrants arrive (at least in the W and SW parts of the US).

Zippy said,

Yes, Tea Partiers take conservative positions on particular social issues. But if our own history tells us anything, it tells us that liberal pieties mixed with socially conservative unprincipled exceptions on laundry lists of policies is, over time, a winning combination for leftism.

Like homosexual "marriage":


And while the movement she helped start has caught fire, it has also drawn fire. Some extremists, including white supremacists and conspiracy theorists, have sprung up in and around it. Opponents of gay marriage and abortion have tried to ally themselves. Martin is emphatic: These folks weren’t invited to the party.

Yup: opponents of gay marriage and abortion are lumped in with white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. This is the Tea Party.

Not much time for this today, but here's a recent article on the Tea Party's liberalism when it comes to social issues:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/13/AR2010071301436.html

While many conservative organizations immediately decried a federal judge's decision last week to invalidate the federal ban on recognizing gay marriages, tea party groups have been conspicuously silent on the issue.

The silence is by design, activists with the loosely affiliated movement said, because it is held together by an exclusive focus on fiscal matters and its avoidance of divisive social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

Also:

The large tea party-affiliated organizations, including FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Nation, declined to comment on Tauro's ruling because of their groups' fiscal focus. "That's just not something that's on our radar," said Judson Phillips, founder of the Tea Party Nation. He acknowledged, however, that some in his group -- though not a majority -- are opposed to the Defense of Marriage Act.

The situation is perhaps different in South Florida, where Wilkinson said "several hundred" of the group's supporters are gay. "Our stance might be different than someone who's in Oklahoma," he said.

I think at a gut level the Tea Partiers understand that the entire system is broken.

Not so much broken as rigged carefully against them; i.e., the transference of wealth, power, and influence away from white proles (Vaisyas) and toward favored constituencies (bascially Brahmins and Dalits).

Jeff, looks like we were rounding up info at the same time. The Tea Party has patriotic and libertarian flair to it, but is finally Liberalism. Their constant protestations that "we're not racist!" shows they are yellow-bellied and lily-livered cowards.

Their constant protestations that "we're not racist!" shows they are yellow-bellied and lily-livered cowards.

I don't know about that. Shouldn't they protest false accusations of racism?

When whites gather and blacks stay away, that is "racist." Such accusations should be mocked and laughed at, not taken seriously. You can never prove to liberals that you are not racist. If you're white, that is.

As a political movement, the TP really has no choice but to take certain accusations seriously, no matter how ridiculous.

Jeff, you are right, if it's a formal political party. Is there a place for us Christians in it? We are "haters".

However, some party is going to have to break the stranglehold of liberalism, and that would include rejecting the liberal presuppositions. It's clear the Tea Party is not that party.

If your idea of Christianity is a recluse for white and upwardly mobile professionals, I'm afraid to ask what Bible you are reading.

Charity can work things that are relatively inconsequential to the giver.

MZ, that's a big assumption. It certainly doesn't hold for some givers. People like Bill Gates giving away billions, and some other people (usually older, granted) giving away half their entire wealth. These sorts do seem to be in the minority but they exist. (Perhaps what you mean is that most givers limit their giving after they have already satisfied the bulk of their pressing desires. This might be closer to true, but surely represents a failure of Christian love as such.)

Furthermore, you can make an assumption like that, given that it depends wholly on data that comes from a broken and selfishness-promoting system, and assume that it applies equally to entirely different sorts of systems that are possible but have not been tried. We simply don't have the data on other possible arrangements, ones that create different mechanisms for dealing with the very human desires to work, to contribute, to achieve, to create, and to help others.

Our country is wealthy enough that the list of things that are too expensive for it is a very short list. As MikeT has made clear though, cost isn't an issue for him so much as spending a single dime on people that have the mark of satan on them. He would even deny palliative care to the dying and diseased prostitute.

What we can't afford - indeed what no nation has ever been able to afford or ever could afford for more than about 1 1/2 generations - is a "safety net" that promotes bad personal choices, bad planning, vices, greed, lust, etc. Until liberals want to come up with a form of safety net that doesn't promote evil personal choices, (and - at least as far as I can see - therefore allocates money differently for heroin addicts who have hep C from ordinary people who got hep C through no doing of their own), others will be right to point out the unsustainability of such programs. Under the current system, using laws to allocate resources, and then demanding that the laws speak only to physical need without reference to such criteria as personal choices, ensures that the "need" will grow exponentially, beyond the capacity of any source of wealth. The end result will indeed be like the 3rd world country offering health care to everyone - at the 3rd world level of care.

As MikeT has made clear though, cost isn't an issue for him so much as spending a single dime on people that have the mark of satan on them. He would even deny palliative care to the dying and diseased prostitute.

Actually, as I have made clear, people like you are the main reason we have so many drug addicts, single mothers, etc. People like you, who uncritically demand ever more social insurance are their number one enabler. You make their lifestyle possible through bailing them out and making it so that, when they think about doing something they ought not, the potential pain it might inflict is sufficiently reduced that they see no folly in it. Far from judging the prostitute, I condemn you for enabling her.

MZ:

If your idea of Christianity is a recluse for white and upwardly mobile professionals, I'm afraid to ask what Bible you are reading.

Ready to pull out the "racist!" charge, are you? Knock yourself out.

Our country is wealthy enough that the list of things that are too expensive for it is a very short list.

In case you didn't notice, a very significant amount of that wealth was destroyed by the housing and stock market collapses of 2008.

"Any failure is chalked up, not to the fact that the concept itself is unreal utopian nonsense, but to the supposed notion that it just hasn't been given a fair shake; that the horrific consequences of prior attempts were due to insufficient purity and unanimity in implementing the Utopian ideal rather than due to problems with the Utopian idea itself." -Zippy

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried." -Chesterton

Sincere question from a young Catholic reader who is not a troll:

*What's the difference?
*Is it that Christianity has been tried and found fruitful?

Bob:

I admit that I don't follow blogs (including this one) that closely. Could you enumerate the pieties as opposed to the policies?
Things like the idea that the just powers of a government derive from the consent of the governed (concomitantly that government powers not so derived are unjust); that government exists primarily or solely to insure the freedom and equal rights of citizens; that sort of thing. Basically the foundational stuff in the Declaration of Independence. In my view the modern nanny state, the self-created free and equal new man, feminism as child sacrifice to Mammon, etc etc, all this stuff reflects the natural maturation of those basic liberal pieties/principles. What starts with Jefferson ends with Obama. And if that is true, until there is a basic change in pieties we always end up back at Obama, and wherever liberalism goes after him as it becomes more pure and potent, expunging its ancient enemies.

If you haven't read Jim Kalb's The Tyranny of Liberalism, that is canonical. He uses different terminology and comes from a somewhat different perspective, but if you want something readable, comprehensive at the high level, and prosey, that's a good place to start. Kalb's blog is also very good, as is Mark Richardson's Oz Conservative.

In America most conservatives think of modern liberalism as a break with the Founding Fathers, etc. I think that is wrong: while there is a lot of practical organizational wisdom to be preserved from the Founding (separation of powers, republicanism, etc) there are basic features of it that point right to where we are now, and must be repudiated if this isn't where we want to be.

Lydia:
Briefly, since it is all I have time for at the moment, in the discussion at my place you wrote:

When I was trying to get signatures to force [a pro-homosexual ordinance] to a referendum vote (as opposed to its being allowed to pass on merely the vote of the City Commission, which would otherwise have happened), I literally had people say to me, "I don't want to do anything against gays." It was that stark. These were not ideologues (though I met plenty of those, too). These were nice, ordinary people who simply felt that it would be bad somehow to "do anything against gays." One woman told me that she was afraid that her grown daughter would learn that she had signed and would be angry with her.
This is in my opinion an example of people responding based on pieties. You have to keep in mind that the sort of people who read this blog are unusual; analytic philosopher homemakers are more unusual still. Most people are not like us - even if "us" is taken to mean the entire Christian-political blogosphere, let alone W4 - when it comes to politics: most people have a basic set of civic pieties, and their political decisions will reflect whatever seems consonant with those pieties. "Discrimination" against anyone - including, yes, gays - violates those pieties, is a form of harm. Unless it is an issue about which he has a strong personal stake and/or passion, his decision will reflect his pieties.

I think the notion that laundry lists of policies carry stronger affinity than civic pieties has it backward. I think most people join up with others who they feel share their understanding of our civic pieties - their understanding of "legitimate" American liberalism - and the laundry lists emerge from the group. Right-liberals tend to take on whatever laundry list is endorsed by most right liberals, left-liberals do the same. Pieties are everything; laundry lists of policies are nothing.

Don C.

*What's the difference?
*Is it that Christianity has been tried and found fruitful?
Well, offhand I would suggest that Christianity is not a political philosophy, let alone a political ideology. Christianity necessarily informs politics, but it doesn't prescribe a particular political arrangement.

Without context I would interpret Chesterton's comment to mean that many people avoid the narrow way because it is hard; though I don't have the full context, and I might well disagree with Chesterton if I did.

(The old chestnut goes "I want to sleep with my girlfriend. The Catholic Church says I mustn't sleep with my girlfriend. Therefore, there is no God.")

Oh, and Christianity doesn't claim that a whole bunch of political problems will be solved if only enough people adopt Christianity. Quite the opposite, in fact, since Christianity preaches our fallenness.

Oh, and Christianity doesn't claim that a whole bunch of political problems will be solved if only enough people adopt Christianity. Quite the opposite, in fact, since Christianity preaches our fallenness.

They won't be solved, but I don't think you can honestly deny that a lot of problems would be greatly lessened if the majority of Americans had a heart-felt spiritual revival for Christ and became confessing Christians.

Zippy,

I think you and Vox Day need to toss a few cold ones back the next time you visit Italy:

What the modern secularists tend to forget is that the reason religion was historically granted a special place in society is due to its incredible power, which only the historically illiterate secularist will ignore. The idea behind enshrining the freedom of religious expression into the Constitution was to avoid the sort of power struggles between Church and Church or Church and State that tended to tear society apart. But misconceived confidence in the idea of linear progress through science and technology to a sexy, science fiction secular utopia, in addition to the judicially-dictated transformation from freedom of religion to freedom from religion, is setting the stage for a return of the very problems that the earlier form of American liberal society was constructed to avoid. This is short-sighted, because the easily demonstrated fact of the matter is that religion is far hardier and far more difficult to destroy than liberal society. The logic is simple. If there is no longer room for religion in liberal society, then liberal society will eventually be destroyed like every other force that has tried to oppose religion... assuming it doesn't collapse of its metastasizing contradictions first. [link]

I certainly agree that "discrimination is always bad" is an example of a dangerous slogan. (I like the word "slogan" better than "piety" for some reason.) And that especially in our present historical moment. It might have been a less dangerous slogan forty-fifty years ago when no one would have dreamt that it could mean anything having to do with two men claiming to be married or a male who wears a skirt and demands that you call him "Diane" and let him use the ladies' try-on rooms at Sears.

I think a lot depends on how people understand their slogans. Speaking for myself, I don't think that the following paragraph, which Jeff quoted, is in our present historical context a dangerous slogan:

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people, chief among these being the protection of our liberties by administering justice and ensuring our safety from threats arising inside or outside our country’s sovereign borders. When our government ventures beyond these functions and attempts to increase its power over the marketplace and the economic decisions of individuals, our liberties are diminished and the probability of corruption, internal strife, economic depression, and poverty increases.

It refers to administering justice. It gives a practical reason--increasing the probability of corruption, poverty, etc.--for its concern to limit the power of government. It doesn't attempt to enumerate the powers which the writers take to be legitimate to government and take to have been "relinquished to it by the people"--how does anyone know that they don't include the power to ban pornography, for example, much less abortion, which would fall squarely under "administering justice" and ensuring the child's safety from threats arising inside our country's sovereign borders? I could do without the stuff about "relinquished by the people," because I don't think the procedure is the central or only issue as far as whether a law is good or bad. Neither, I suspect, do most Tea Party members really, since they hate Obamacare despite the fact that it was duly passed by the U.S. Congress! But overall, I don't see anything in this that is especially inimical to socially conservative positions on, yes, a "laundry list" of really important issues. And it's also worth noting that, if you can only get people to understand it, the slogan "Discrimination is always bad and should always be illegal," _especially_ when applied to homosexuals, is going to conflict all over the place with the application of slogans about the importance of limited government and economic freedom.

I may have to do that, Mike. :)

Lydia:

The part where I started nodding my head most vigorously in reading Jeff's post was when I read this Contract quote:

The purpose of our government is to exercise only those limited powers that have been relinquished to it by the people ...
Um, no. No, no, no, no, and again no.

A government does not have powers because "the people" chose to "relenquish" those powers to the government.

No.

No.

A particular government body may well have only certain powers, as a structural matter, yes. Subsidiarity necessarily limits the just powers held by especially higher levels of government. Yes.

A government receiving powers "relenquished" to it by "the people"?

No.

I know just the sort of people who write this stuff. I'm even related to some. And when it comes to pieties/principles/slogans, they are wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Right, Zippy. It's not just wrong what that contract says, it's high on the unintentional comedy scale.

I don't bother with spurious political "Contracts" ever since the Gingrich (from Georgia)-led GOP stabbed us in the back in '94.

Would they vote for the gay rights ordinance, do you think, because of any of the slogans Jeff has quoted from the Tea Party manifesto? That seems unlikely to me. See, even though speaking philosophically, I say "nah" when it comes to that stuff about "powers relinquished by the people," I'm not seeing _that_ line as having bad consequences in concrete policy terms. And that's probably why it doesn't bother me as much as it bothers you.

Fortunately, that manifesto didn't include anything (at least, that I know of) about the evil of discrimination, thank goodness, much less anything about the badness of discrimination against homosexuals. For that matter, I believe there is even some formal Vatican document (the Catechism, isn't it?) that refers to protecting homosexuals from "all unjust discrimination" or something of that sort. I agree that putting the word "unjust" in there helps, but in that case, and considering that virtually all of what anybody in the real world thinks of as "discrimination" against homosexuals is _just_, why bother saying it? It's a most unfortunate line. When it comes to slogans relevant to homosexual "anti-discrimination" ordinances, the Tea Party document may well do less harm than something written by the Catholic Church!

Without context I would interpret Chesterton's comment to mean that many people avoid the narrow way because it is hard; though I don't have the full context, and I might well disagree with Chesterton if I did.

Zippy:

Thanks for the response. The context is the fifth chapter (The Unfinished Temple) of the book from which this blog takes its name. He concludes the chapter:

But we have delayed the main argument too long for the parenthetical purpose of showing that the great democratic dream, like the great mediaeval dream, has in a strict and practical sense been a dream unfulfilled. Whatever is the matter with modern England it is not that we have carried out too literally, or achieved with disappointing completeness, either the Catholicism of Becket or the equality of Marat. Now I have taken these two cases merely because they are typical of ten thousand other cases; the world is full of these unfulfilled ideas, these uncompleted temples. History does not consist of completed and crumbling ruins; rather it consists of half-built villas abandoned by a bankrupt-builder. This world is more like an unfinished suburb than a deserted cemetery.

http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA48&dq=chesterton+wrong&id=Y2ZaAAAAMAAJ#v=onepage&q&f=false

"Patriarchia"
by Sir Robert Filmer
1680

http://www.constitution.org/eng/patriarcha.htm

SINCE the time that school divinity began to flourish there hath been a common opinion maintained, as well by divines as by divers other learned men, which affirms:

"Mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please, and that the power which any one man hath over others was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude."

This tenet was first hatched in the schools, and hath been fostered by all succeeding Papists for good divinity. The divines, also, of the Reformed Churches have entertained it, and the common people everywhere tenderly embrace it as being most plausible to flesh and blood, for that it prodigally distributes a portion of liberty to the meanest of the multitude, who magnify liberty as if the height of human felicity were only to be found in it, never remembering that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of Adam.

But howsoever this vulgar opinion hath of late obtained a great reputation, yet it is not to be found in the ancient fathers and doctors of the primitive Church. It contradicts the doctrine and history of the Holy Scriptures, the constant practice of all ancient monarchies, and the very principles of the law of nature. It is hard to say whether it be more erroneous in divinity or dangerous in policy.

[This is required reading for anyone interested in examining the moral dimensions of government. Yes, Filmer blames among others "the Papists", but a confident and wise reader can perhaps overlook his bigotry, which was far less pronounced than that of most other Englishmen in his time.]

This tenet was first hatched in the schools, and hath been fostered by all succeeding Papists for good divinity.

Waaallll thet thar's purty funny, 'cause I dun read a far smatterin' of the schoolmen, and I ain't niver seen nuthin in thar thet sound nuffin like his doggone notion. Would he have, mebbe, just one or two citations?

Filmer is simply wrong and he is wrong in his Church history, as well.

Mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection,

Whoever maintained that? That is a foreshadowing of Rousseau, not the Church. Indeed, it belies the whole concept of concupiscence, which, basically says that fallen man is born as a slave to his appetites. It is true that Adam, Eve, and the Virgin Mary were born free from most subjection, as they had no Original Sin, but heck, right after man was created God subjected him by telling him not to eat from the forbidden tree.

Thus, most divines and certainly the Church Fathers never held this position.

The second clause does not follow from the first, in that lack of freedom in moral matters says nothing about the choice of prudential models of government.

The second clause is, in any event, also false:

and that the power which any one man hath over others was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude."

Even in primitive man this was nonsense. The power that one man has over others may simply be due to dumb luck. If all men are blind save one, the power he has over the others is not according to the discretion of the multitudes, but because only he can see. The others may choose to ignore his warnings of the approaching lava flow, but that is not because they took away his power to lead. They simply refused to follow reason. Evolution or natural consequences will quickly disabuse the multitude that they have the final say in all situations.

In a government, if one,"has the bubble," to use military jargon and is riding the wave of understanding flowing though a situation, then he is authorized by nothing else than the truth, although it may be hard for others to see at the time. The only time the multitude can properly bestow power to an individual is if there is a natural order that allows it. There is a hierarchy of ontology between man and God, and God has allowed an analogous hierarchy to potentially exist between man and man in limited cases, as well, because, while, unlike God, no group is a supreme being and no group, ab initio, is guaranteed the right to bestow power unless that right flows from considerations extrinsic to man, nevertheless, it is right that there should be an order to activity. So, in some cases, a group may have the right to order the activity of the society, in toto, but at other times, such a right may be assigned by God, reason, or occurrences, to an individual independent of the group.

In other words, Filmer confuses power and authority. Anyone at any time, depending upon circumstances, can force another person to do something. That is power. What they force them to do may or may not be right or reasonable. To do the right thing because it is right is the basis of authority. Authority, ultimately does not reside in man, but God, the supreme basis for reason. Without God, man is reduced to the exercise of power, only, but not authority. This is where government is currently headed.

Filmer is even wrong when he wrote: never remembering that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of Adam. The cause of the fall of Adam was pride, which is a misuse of liberty in the belief of equality. Unrestrained liberty has never ever existed for man, not even Adam. He did not desire liberty, per se. He desired a particular liberty which was opposed to true liberty. In other words, he desired to be a slave to his passions, not free to follow reason.

No Scholastic nor Church Father would have thought otherwise. They are both consistently in agreement with each other. Indeed, St. Thomas published the Catena Aurea, which was a commentary on Scripture using the words of the Church Fathers. He certainly knew their opinions about the fall of Adam and about the formation of government. Indeed, St. Thomas quotes many Church Fathers on the commentary on Matthew 20: 24 - 28:

24. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.
25. But Jesus called them to him, and said, you know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27. And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28. Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
.

Indeed, St. Thomas quotes pseudo-Chrysostom at length, proving that he both knew and approved his comments:

PSEUDO-CHRYS; Indeed, to desire a good work is good, for it is within our will, and ours is the reward; but to desire a primacy of honor is vanity. For when we attain this we are judged of God, because we know not whether in our precedence of honor we deserve the reward of righteousness. For not even an Apostle will have praise with God, because he is an Apostle, but if he has well fulfilled the duties of his Apostleship; nor was an Apostle placed in honor as an Apostle, for any previous merit of his; but was judged meet for that ministry, on account of the disposition of his mind. For high place courts him who flies from it, and shuns him who courts it. A better life then, and not a more worthy degree, should be our object.

The Lord therefore, willing to check the ambition of the two sons of Zebedee, and the indignation of the others, points out this distinction between the chief men of the world, and those of the Church, showing that the primacy in Christ is neither to be sought by him who has it not, nor envied by him who teas it. For men become masters in this world that they may exercise domination over their inferiors, and reduce them to slavery, and rob them, and employ them even to death for their own profit and glory. But men become governors in the Church, that they may serve those who are under them, and minister to them whatever they have received of Christ, that they may postpone their own convenience, and mind that of others, and not refuse even to die for the sake of those beneath them.

To seek therefore a command in the Church is neither righteous, nor profitable. No prudent man will voluntarily subject himself to slavery, nor to stand in such peril wherein he will have to render account for the whole Church; unless it be one perchance who fears not God's judgment, who abuses His ecclesiastical primacy to a secular end, so that He converts it into a secular primacy.

To place the idea of freedom granted by the people to an individual to be a teaching of either the Catholic Church or most Christian denominations is simply false. Indeed, such a thing would never have led to such things as the divine right of kings.

In any case, Filmer is wrong.

On the other hand, I rarely know what I am talking about.

The Chicken


However, some party is going to have to break the stranglehold of liberalism, and that would include rejecting the liberal presuppositions. It's clear the Tea Party is not that party.

Yes, that much is clear. But I don't see any party having much success in breaking the stranglehold of liberalism in the United States, because as Zippy has explained in this thread, liberalism - sometimes "right liberalism", with duly noted unprincipled exceptions - is the deeply entrenched civic religion of the American people. That isn't going to change anytime soon, and when it does, what it becomes is anybody's guess. A thoroughly paganized blood-and-soil conservatism seems just as likely, if not moreso, than a return to the foundations of Christian culture and polity.

Zippy,

I plan to get to Kalb sometime soon, but in the meantime, I have a question about this:

Things like the idea that the just powers of a government derive from the consent of the governed (concomitantly that government powers not so derived are unjust); that government exists primarily or solely to insure the freedom and equal rights of citizens; that sort of thing. Basically the foundational stuff in the Declaration of Independence. In my view the modern nanny state, the self-created free and equal new man, feminism as child sacrifice to Mammon, etc etc, all this stuff reflects the natural maturation of those basic liberal pieties/principles. What starts with Jefferson ends with Obama.

My question for you is what would be a Zippy political piety? In other words, what would you start with so we don't end up with Obama?

Lydia:

Would they vote for the gay rights ordinance, do you think, because of any of the slogans Jeff has quoted from the Tea Party manifesto?
Most definitely, especially taking the long view: that is, people who are thoroughly indoctrinated into the cult of government-by-consent always end up asking (or being asked) questions like "when and how did The People delegate the power to regulate X to the State?" And since the State is the regulator and enforcer of private contracts (e.g. rent, employment, etc), there is no avoiding the issue by claiming that it is just a matter of private ownership: claims to that effect strike the pious ear as special pleading because they are special pleading. When private parties make discriminatory contracts, the State becomes the enforcer of discriminatory contracts.

Arguing against this isn't the point. Most people act in most contexts based upon their pieties, not upon an argument fit for an analytic philosopher.

So yes, in brief, populist chest-thumping "government by consent of the governed" types invariably, in aggregate and over a span of a generation or two if not always in every individual case, go libertine on those issues which are dominated by their pieties, as opposed to issues in which they take a special interest; which in most peoples' cases is most issues. I mean, just think about it: what do parents pass on to the next generation more effectively: their example and their pieties, or their specific position on the Don't Ask Don't Tell controversy during the Clinton Administration?

Pieties are everything, policy laundry lists of the day are nothing.

I agree with Jeff that the Alternative Right of the future is as likely to be thoroughgoing pagan as it is to be Christian.

claims to that effect strike the pious ear as special pleading because they are special pleading.

Actually, I disagree pretty strongly with that statement right there. I'll just say this much: I think my point about the Catechism was a knock-down. I mean, you can't find anything that Jeff has quoted from the Tea Party that is anywhere near as problematic, anywhere near as potentially confusing language on the very example you chose to bring up yourself (discrimination against homosexuals) as something from the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself, yet no doubt you would defend that statement because the wording allows a way out. (And for the record, yes, I did encounter a Catholic man who was confused by Catholic teaching about that very ordinance.) And in the meanwhile you try in this roundabout way to implicate the Tea Party statement about a limited state in (of all things) the fascistic use of the state to force public approval of homosexuality on the grounds that for people to be allowed to "discriminate" against homosexuals is somehow equivalent to an assertion of state power! I'm sorry, but that's lame. The wording of all kinds of things people write and sign on to allows both a way out and a use of those things as slogans or "pieties" that can lead people astray. Such is the nature of language and especially of large statements of principle relevant to public policy issues. If we're just going to talk about what something may lead to if thought of mindlessly and unanalytically as a matter of piety over a number of generations, I'm sure I could find a lot more dangerous pieties and slogans in a lot more documents that you would not want to subject to the treatment you're giving the Tea Party document.

Meanwhile, I think I'll stick the the laundry list and just try to think clearly about things as best I can and to teach others to do the same. And trying to think clearly, I can't get very worked up about a little allusion to the Declaration of Independence in the Tea Party manifesto.

Jeff Singer:

...what would you start with so we don't end up with Obama?
Before I answer, I should point out that this is an independent question. That is, Michaelson and Morley can truthfully say that the luminiferous ether theory of light propagation is wrong without coming up with alternative theory of their own. In general it can be shown that X is wrong without providing some alternative to X. So it is entirely possible for someone to accept the criticism I am advancing of our civic religion without accepting some alternative I propose, or any alternative at all.

Note too that even if other specific proposals are worse, that doesn't make the critique here wrong. Concluding that some alternative is worse than Obama and the Sodomite Putsch doesn't conjure away Obama and the Sodomite Putsch.

With those preliminaries out of the way, I'll suggest that there are some true pieties to be found, for example, here.

Lydia:

I'm not going to defend the wording in the Catechism. I've specifically been critical of the adoption of modernist-sounding language in Catholic documents before, including rights-talk, precisely because that language is confusing and difficult to make unequivocal. (I do understand projects which attempt to push language in a direction; but that just isn't my cup of tea, so to speak. I'm all about just saying it how it is).

The key difference, though, is that what the Tea Partiers mean by their words are the pieties expressed in the Declaration. Ask them. They will tell you as much. It isn't just words.

What the Magisterium means is something different from the Enlightenment concepts. Ask them. They will tell you as much.

Actually, I didn't say anything about Enlightenment concepts at all. Myself, I'm not much of an Enlightenment-basher or an Enlightenment-booster. The Enlightenment is sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, IMO. It depends entirely on which one you're talking about at any given moment.

And the bit from the Catechism I had in mind doesn't mention rights. But, just so I don't sound quite so vague, here it is:

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition

My contention is simply that if our standard is supposed to be what sorts of public policy positions people are likely to come to as a result of letting a given piety/slogan inform their thinking, and if we are talking about support for bad policies in the area of homosexuality, this paragraph is _far_ more likely to lead in the wrong direction than the statement that a government's only legitimate powers are the ones relinquished to it by the people. It's not even a close contest, especially given that the Tea Party thing says _nothing_ about discrimination against homosexuals!

If you asked people who sign on to the Tea Party statement which includes all that stuff on economic freedom (!) whether they mean by it that discrimination against homosexuals must be forbidden by the state (!), I'll wager that a lot of them would say, "Hell, no." And understandably so. The convoluted and, in my opinion, tortured and specious reasoning by which one would try to get from one to the other would pretty much negate the entire _concept_ of economic freedom _from_ the state by making all economic activity an action _of_ the state (because the state enforces contracts, etc., etc.). Why would they think the one followed from the other?

So whether someone means something vaguely described as an "Enlightenment concept" by some language is not what is important to me. What is important to me is whether he

a) means something importantly false with _real world_, importantly bad, consequences

or

b) uses language that can and likely will _plausibly_ and _without_ tortuous reading or reasoning be understood in such a way as to confuse people regarding real world and important matters.

Now, it's my position that the Tea Party quotations that Jeff gives, and particularly the Declaration of Independence allusion, as meant by the sort of Tea Party person I have in mind, pass on both a and b. Portions of the Catechism statement fail on b, and they fail with regard to a real-world, right-now, very important public policy matter.

Given that (in my opinion) the Tea Party document does better than Vatican documents on a and b, I don't know why Catholics, in particular, should worry about civic pieties informed by the former former more than they worry about the civic pieties informed by the latter. And I'm not really talking about the Enlightenment at all, here. I'm talking about fuzzy thinking and speaking about real-world issues.

Lydia:

At least we've clarified why you prefer the term slogan and I prefer the term pieties. For you the issue reduces to language and how it can be and is misused. For me, it is about ideas and practices, and only secondarily, if at all, about language.

Mind you, I haven't said anything to the effect that nobody should ever associate or work with Tea Partiers on anything, etc. Jeff's post explains why he can't be a Tea Partier, even if he wishes them well in certain respects: because of the principles they embrace. Ditto for me.

Well, honestly, I doubt that a lot of people who say the things in the Tea Party document (and it's only one branch or whatever anyway, not some national document) have actual bad ideas about actual policy matters as a result of the statement that the people have to relinquish powers to the state. And if somebody later does come to have those bad ideas by the line of reasoning you gave, I don't think the people who wrote the document can be blamed.

That doesn't mean that I _believe_ that the only just powers of the state are those relinquished to it by the people. To tell the truth, I'm not quite sure what that even means, though obviously a lot of people do think they know what it means. I suppose I could interpret it to mean that hereditary monarchy is always intrinsically wrong, which seems incorrect. I don't think it's very important one way or another. I don't think that somebody who believes it probably has some terribly bad idea that is going to lead him to have other bad ideas and engage in bad practices.

So I'm quite willing to talk about ideas and practices. I just don't think these statements in that context reflect importantly bad ideas leading to importantly bad practices. That was why I told Jeff up above that I don't think phrases like "economic freedom" should be taken to mean anything like, "Pornography should be legal," because I don't think that's what many/most people who write or identify themselves with the Tea Party statement have in mind. I don't think those ideas are what they believe and mean to express by those statements.

Lydia:

I doubt that a lot of people who say the things in the Tea Party document (and it's only one branch or whatever anyway, not some national document) have actual bad ideas about actual policy matters as a result of the statement that the people have to relinquish powers to the state.
OK. I don't doubt it in the slightest; in fact I think it is pervasive.

Lydia,

Thanks for seriously engaging the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

I'm not certain that I would so quickly dismiss "unjust" from "unjust discrimination." The phrase implies that there is such a thing as just discrimination. If anything can shock against a liberal piety, it is the idea that sometimes it is just to discriminate.

One of the debates in recent years surrounds a Church directive which states that those men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be allowed in the seminaries. It strikes many Americans (both conservative and liberal) as an unjust discrimination. I don't wish to fire up that debate here, but it seems to me that this is just the sort of thing you'd want to discriminate about regarding priests. On the other hand, there are many other jobs (n.b.: not that I consider the priestly vocation to be a mere job) in which it doesn't make sense to me that homosexuals should be excluded. Why should anyone care if their auto mechanic were homosexual?

Peace,
Bob

Why should anyone care if their auto mechanic were homosexual?

Openly? Active, with a boyfriend right now? (And remember, if the person is openly so and makes a point of making it known, even if he doesn't have a boyfriend right now, it's entirely on the cards that he will have one at some point.) Oh, I can think of _lots_ of reasons. Perhaps you didn't know this, but under such laws employees can sue you if you or other people say things on the job that they see as creating a "hostile work environment" in relation to their protected group status. So if you run an auto shop and employ an openly homosexual auto mechanic and a conversation at lunch turns to homosexuality and your un-PC opinions come out, and such a law is in place, you're in trouble. And as a customer, wouldn't you just love it if your auto mechanic started talking to you about his "spouse," maybe even introduced you to said "spouse" if the "spouse" happened to stop by the shop while you were there? I think people who say such things don't realize what this really can work out to in daily life.

In any event, I wasn't so much dismissing the word "unjust" as making a point about the two documents. I suspect that that paragraph in the Catechism has done a lot of mischief and probably has been abused by dissenting priests for confusing sermons. You can say that that's abusing it, quoting selectively, etc., but my point is that the document permits that by addressing the subject and condemning "discrimination," where the other document, which says nothing about discrimination against homosexuals at all, doesn't. Hence, if we're going to start talking about documents that are dangerous when people adopt them in an unthinking way, etc.

But, yes, to be honest, I think one has to stretch a bit to come up with truly unjust discrimination in that area. There could be situations where it was unnecessary or unwise. I can certainly think of individual cases where I would recommend against discriminating, but I think it would nearly always be a judgment call rather than a cut-and-dried case of "injustice."

Zippy,

I think in your attacks on the Declaration, you don't seem to appreciate the mood and nature of the people who wrote it. It was a document for a self-made country that had carved its very existence into a new frontier. Such men naturally resent the authority structure from old countries like Britain where the ruling class, despite whatever it claims in public, fervently believes that the people exist for it, rather than the other way around.

It is easy to look at it abstractly, but people's lives aren't abstractions and neither are the ways that politics intersects with them. Try explaining to a man who is about to be unjustly tried by a foreign jury in a foreign land that it's the "king's right" to completely f#$% with his due process rights "because he's the king." If his thoughts don't naturally turn, at least momentarily, to regicide, then he's a remarkable man.

Lydia,

Indeed, our crazy laws would give me pause whether I wanted to hire women or homosexuals for fear of getting slapped with a hostile work environment lawsuit. But putting the laws aside for a moment, is there anything about being female or being afflicted with homosexual tendencies that disqualifies a person from the job as auto mechanic qua auto mechanic?

There really is no defense against dissenting priests or any dissenter. The Catechism was meant for those who would adhere to the truth. In my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience, dissenters don't read the Catechism, and resent that I do read it.

Peace,
Bob

Mike T:

It was a document for a self-made country that had carved its very existence into a new frontier. Such men naturally resent the authority structure from old countries like Britain where the ruling class, despite whatever it claims in public, fervently believes that the people exist for it, rather than the other way around.
It is easy to look at it abstractly, but people's lives aren't abstractions and neither are the ways that politics intersects with them. Try explaining to a man who is about to be unjustly tried by a foreign jury in a foreign land that it's the "king's right" to completely f#$% with his due process rights "because he's the king." If his thoughts don't naturally turn, at least momentarily, to regicide, then he's a remarkable man.
I don't really disagree with any of that. I can (and do) have all sorts of empathy for the men who adopted the principles of the Declaration. No quantity of empathy though can alter where those principles have actually - by their nature - lead. Whether those usurping Windsors were justified in asserting governance over the Colonies isn't something I've discussed here; but lets stipulate that they weren't, that the relation was an exploitative violation of subsidiarity, as seems to be at least one perfectly natural reading of colonial history.

Those are just matters of geneology, of origins, of family history. If the principles in the Declaration lead naturally to the managerial liberalism of today, well, then that is where they lead.

Those are just matters of geneology, of origins, of family history. If the principles in the Declaration lead naturally to the managerial liberalism of today, well, then that is where they lead.

Certainly. I'm not arguing that ideas don't have natural conclusions. I'm pointing out that conservatives tend to attack liberalism without understanding that by the time liberalism began to arise, the old order was rotten to the core. In many respects, it was rotten to the core because it, just like liberalism, was based on faulting premises. The fact that liberalism may be quite bad or have more logical problems is still beside the point when considering what cause it in the first place and factoring that into ideas for the future.

In particular, people like Jeff are quick to attack individual liberty without realizing how unfree and arbitrary government used to be (and arguably is becoming again for various reasons). Ironically, in the "golden age of Christendom" this blog's maintainers would likely be in prison for publishing without a royal patent.

There never has been, post fall, a golden age. The wheel keeps turning, but the hamster's scenery never changes. Each generation swaps sins like hot potato. Where one excels, another fails. Rinse, repeat.

My opinion here is that if conservatives want to succeed, they need to understand liberalism and absorb some of its good habits. One of those is a skeptical view of authority. Neither blindly accept nor automatically rebel. Challenge all authority, and if it proves legitimate, follow it. Otherwise, resist it openly.

Bob,

But putting the laws aside for a moment, is there anything about being female or being afflicted with homosexual tendencies that disqualifies a person from the job as auto mechanic qua auto mechanic?

This is such an abstract question in our present social context that I think it is not worth asking. If you put in place a high-sounding moral principle (even without a law) that says that it is "unjust" to "discriminate" against a "homosexual person" in hiring for a job as an auto mechanic, then it is very likely that people holding this principle are going to consider it taboo (possibly even "unjust") to have the following dialogue:

Prospective mechanic: Oh, by the way, I'm gay.
Prospective employer: Well, that could be a problem. I'm a Christian, and I like this business to have a Christian atmosphere. A lot would depend on whether or not what you have just brought up would have any impact upon my customers, me, or the atmosphere of my business. Let me ask you a few questions. First, are you sexually active? Do you have a sexual partner?
Prospective mechanic: That's none of your damned business.
Prospective employer: Thanks, then, we won't be needing you. Have a nice day.

This fiction that the whole world is just full of people who announce that they are homosexual but who are at the same time incredibly discreet about it (??) and will understand and follow the social norms of conservatives, is really almost pernicious. There are such people, but they are rare, and I defy you to find a group of people who go about talking comfortably about eliminating "all unjust discrimination" against "homosexual persons" but who at the same time think that it is perfectly legitimate to be extremely careful and choosy, especially so, in hiring such a person for any position whatsoever, careful and choosy to make sure that he isn't going to be a problem. It ain't gonna happen.

There never has been, post fall, a golden age.

From my perspective, having followed most of this discussion, we are stumbling over the fact that history - as also the symbolizations of its different orders or periods, which symbolizations we call political philosophies - is dialectical and paradoxical, through and through. One age reacts against something in the age that preceded it, but will itself evolve to (re)incorporate that very thing in a new form or modality. This process, which is really not a process, since being a process would imply a definite directionality, isn't taking us anywhere in particular, not as a matter of necessity - there is no End of History - but rather unfolds as we act upon specific facets of our historical inheritance. We create the "logic" of "development" and "change"; this is the appearance of necessity, predicated upon the weight of the things we affirm most frequently, and vociferously, through it all.

And, if that seems all too obscurantist, what I am saying is this: we continue to affirm, in most aspects of our lives, individual and collective, forms and practices which are liberal and modernist, whether we concede this or not; we protest some of the consequences, and pretend that the implications of this can be halted at some more or less arbitrary border - and this is vanity. We either believe that consent is the foundation of all ethical norms, or we do not. We either believe that people have rights to determine for themselves the conditions of their existences, and the meaning of their universes, or we do not. If we affirm such ideals, by means of whatever language, we affirm implicitly their consequences, for human beings, believe it or not, generally refuse to be schizophrenic and psychically fragmented. Now, no such set of ideals will ever be fully instantiated, because it is written in human nature, and probably reality itself, that no undifferentiated, pure types can exist. It is not simply that we are sinful and fallen, but that we are finite.

The trouble, then, is twofold: first, the persistence of rank ideological fantasies (if only my ideology had been more perfectly observed, things would be awesome), where the attempt to more perfectly realize them would annihilate the substance of man; second, the failure of many to perceive that they are indulging in fantasy, such that they continually return to various ideological fetishes, as though, by them, they might step outside of history (we must return to the Constitution - heedless of the controversies which have ever attended that document, as of the vast differences between the social norms and unwritten laws of that time and ours; etc.) There is no path to anything else save through what exists now, where what exists now often enough exists because of something else that preceded it - and this is the cause of our discontent: that we do not agree as to what existed, and what exists now. At least it is amusing to witness some conservatives essentially longing for total revolution. As I said, history is dialectical, and paradoxical - and irony stands as accuser.

All,

I thought this discussion particularly relevant to this post:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/07/026865.php

Not surprisingly, I'm sympathetic to Voegeli (and Lincoln, and the Declaration). But I do promise to check out Pope Leo thanks to the Zippy link.

Lydia,

We talk about the abstract to determine the principles in play. For instance, that interview for the mechanic's job could have been patterned after the examples of David Morrison and Eve Tushnet who are openly gay but determined to live their lives chastely according to Catholic teaching. Would such as these be justly denied the job because they admit their homosexual tendency?

This fiction that the whole world is just full of people who announce that they are homosexual but who are at the same time incredibly discreet about it (??) and will understand and follow the social norms of conservatives, is really almost pernicious.

That's not a view I hold. I accept the Church's teaching about Original Sin.

Peace,
Bob

Bob, I think this discussion is probably OT, but in any event, I tend to think that anybody who announces that "he's gay" in an interview for a mechanic's job probably isn't somebody with the right attitude about the matter. After all, why announce it like that? If your paradigmatic people were applying for a job as a mechanic, I'd like to think that they would have the discretion to realize that they might as well not bring it up and just live out their job as good mechanics and not rock the boat. Why put the employer in an uncomfortable position? If you don't say anything, he'll just think of you as inexplicably unmarried and figure it's not his business, and everybody can get along comfortably in the shop talking about cars. But if _somehow_, for some unfathomable reason, the issue comes up, then I assume they wouldn't say that final line, would they? No, they wouldn't. And they certainly shouldn't. They should say, "Those are good questions, and in today's society, I certainly understand your concerns. Let me explain why I don't think this is going to be a problem."

And pigs are flying when we have any significant number of people who would do anything of the kind.

Frankly, I think that some Catholics are way, way too inclined to bring up a couple of highly unusual people such as those whom you have named as though this has _any relevance at all_ to principles and policies about living our lives in the real world. Myself, I support the hypothetical employer who asks those questions, and I'm not going to go around droning about "unjust discrimination," because I think it's confusing and pointless. "Unjust discrimination" isn't happening. Unjust laws preventing just and important discrimination are happening. That's what we need to be talking about instead.

Jeff Singer:

I'm fully aware that classical liberals are under the illusion (in my view) that modern liberals represent a break with, rather than continuity with, classical liberalism. Classical liberalism always tries to paint the hated enemy - modern managerial liberalism - as apostates from the true liberalism, as heirs of blood-throne-and-cross; despite the manifestly ridiculous historical illiteracy of the claim. It is precisely agreement on basic principles between right-liberals and left-liberals which creates the dialectic which sustains liberalism as supreme, ruling out any alternative modes of thought despite the unreality of the ruling orthodoxy. The manufactured opposition in liberalism's internal dialectic sucks all of the oxygen out of the room, extinguishing anything which might oppose liberalism itself.

Mike T:

On the fact that there never was a "golden age", and that there are things to be learned from any age, I concur; though Heaven knows how much agreement we might find on particulars. My view on questioning authority is that it is now necessarily a kind of paradox, where different is what everyone wants to be and questioning authority has become a supreme authoritative principle.

I'd agree that critical thinking is of extraordinary value; but then I don't think the moderns had a monopoly on critical thinking. Quite the contrary.

different is what everyone wants to be and questioning authority has become a supreme authoritative principle.

Modernity: where the only possible obedience is obedience to rebels and their rebellion.

Questioning authority!? I would that our right-liberals would question some of their authorities, the principles and master-signifiers which govern their political thoughts! It seems to me that "Question Authority!" has become an injunction, not to engage in any sort of self-reflection, but to question the authorities that oppose, or seem to oppose, one's own authority-principles. My God, the entire global economy hung suspended over the fathomless abyss (and may still, for all we know), and most conservatives, and certainly the Tea Party folks, cannot bring themselves to interrogate their own ideologies! It is still, as always, the State which caused the crisis, and the State alone; and yet also, that the State did not permit the crisis to deepen, by allowing the financial system to liquidate itself! I would that these folks would ponder what their fantasy/fetish, the "free market", really means when translated to messy reality - but no, we must instead stone the heretics.

On the whole topic of liberalism, my latest thoughts are here: http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-choice-devours-itself.html

Lydia,

The truth is: although I accept the distinctions between just and unjust discrimination, I have solid doubts about whether discrimination laws can be enacted and enforced justly.

In the moral sphere, we can discuss whether certain acts are just or unjust, and trace back to the principles behind them. But sometimes we can't write these moral principles into law.

It's not a perfect parallel, but there is the example of Aquinas's opposition to laws against prostitution. This position of his should not lead a person to believe that Aquinas didn't think prostitution was sinful, because he did think it was a sin. It's an example however of a divine/natural/moral law that might not be enacted as human law.

If there is unjust discrimination, is not always easily measurable as an exterior act. Unlike stealing and murder, most of the evidence can be hidden away in the mind, especially in the cases we've discussed above.

The Catechism is intended as an instrument to help the bishops and catechists teach the laity. It's not necessarily true that every moral law be translated into human law, although it is obvious that some laws must be (murder, abortion, theft, etc.).

On the other hand, some political documents are written to affect human law. The TP Contract is one of those documents.

Peace,
Bob

The TP Contract is one of those documents.

Yep. And there's nothing in it about discrimination. That I know of. (Not to mention the fact that it is hopelessly naive to think that Catholics don't believe that those references to "unjust discrimination" _might_ have some relevance to public policy...)

"I would that our right-liberals would question some of their authorities, the principles and master-signifiers which govern their political thoughts."

Amen to that. What exactly are today's "conservatives" attempting to conserve? Not much that I can see. They are no less guilty than left-liberals in accepting the myth of progress; they just see "progress" veering in a different direction (the expansion of global markets or of American exceptionalism or the evangel of democratic capitalism or whatever.) It all boils down, however, to Rousseauian/Emersonian b.s.

To the degree we've made peace with Enlightenment modernity we're liberal rather than conservative. The TP movement seems to be quite the mixed bag in this regard.

Zippy says:

"Classical liberalism always tries to paint the hated enemy - modern managerial liberalism - as apostates from the true liberalism, as heirs of blood-throne-and-cross; despite the manifestly ridiculous historical illiteracy of the claim."

Jeff Singer says (along with William Voegeli, the entire modern conservative movement, the Tea Parties, etc.) that Zippy is just not reading the same history books that I must be -- I mean why does Wilson bother with all that political theory about why the Constitution is out of date or Roosevelt try to stack the Supreme Court or talk about a Second Bill of Rights if they weren't trying to substantially break with the past? I could go on and on with all sorts of examples, but why bother when Zippy has decided that its all "ridiculous".

Maximos,

You say "I would that our right-liberals would question some of their authorities, the principles and master-signifiers which govern their political thoughts!" But Maximos, you don't need to bother with the right-liberals -- the managerial liberals will question the global economy all day AND enact more and more regulatory burdens for that same economy to labor under. You'd fit right in -- Maximos, UnderSecretary for the Regulation of Importation of "Cheap Crap" in the Bureau of Trade in the Department of Commerce.

Jeff Singer:

... if they weren't trying to substantially break with the past?
Of course they were trying to substantially break with the past. That is what liberalism - including classical liberalism - does.

Late to the discussion.

I too have noticed the deliberate intention to ignore "social issues." Sometimes these instructions are explicit, and spread around by libertarian thinktankers, which of course prompts me to talk about them all the more.

There is a distinction between the Tea Party Movement and the 9-12 Movement. I think the latter merits a closer look. As a Glen Beck spinoff, it is more conscious of faith and heritage. My local group actually read Benjamin Wiker's 10 Books that Screwed up the World.

Of course, the group is also into the crackpot Harold Skousen and a fringe historian who seems to pretend the early 19th century was a racially equal paradise. Intellectual curiosity has its perils.

Of course they were trying to substantially break with the past. That is what liberalism - including classical liberalism - does.

That is not a very convincing rebuttal of his point, and I say that as someone who sort of agrees with you that there are parts of the DoI that lead into the culture that created Obama (mainly the natural progression of egalitarianism). You would have a very hard time showing that FDR and Jefferson, in practical terms, agreed on much of anything politically. If anything, Jefferson would likely have wanted to lead an armed revolution against FDR for being a bigger tyrant than King George.

"you don't need to bother with the right-liberals -- the managerial liberals will question the global economy all day AND enact more and more regulatory burdens for that same economy to labor under."

Only a foolish hunter fails to watch out for rattlers while he's going after bear.

Apropos of various people's comments here (beginning in the main post) about "revolution," I'm curious: Is it the position of everybody here criticizing what they call "right liberalism" and the Tea Party movement that revolution or working against one's own government (e.g. as agents on the other side in a war) is _always and everywhere_ wrong, that it must never be done under any circumstances? That seems unlikely, since I know that Jeff Culbreath mentioned "legitimacy issues" regarding the government in another thread.

Now, I don't want to be misunderstood here: I seriously entertain the proposition that revolution against government is always wrong because of certain biblical passages that seem to imply that. But I do consider that strong position to be somewhat counterintuitive. I find it hard to believe that anyone in Nazi Germany was wrong to work as a spy for the allies against their own government, for example, or that Bonhoeffer was defying the Word of God by planning to assassinate Hitler. It may be so. It's a question on which I am not fully decided.

But I think that if the problem with the Tea Party is supposed to be their adoption of "revolutionary" language, where the "revolution" in question is the American War of Independence (!), we need to ask ourselves whether our position really is that revolution is intrinsically and/or always wrong and whether our accusations against the Tea Party language are based on that position. And for the record: Does anyone here really think that the problem with the Tea Party folks is that they are going to go and and join militias? I doubt both that they are going to do so and that this is the problem people in this thread have with them.

Mike T:

That is not a very convincing rebuttal of his point, and I say that as someone who sort of agrees with you that there are parts of the DoI that lead into the culture that created Obama (mainly the natural progression of egalitarianism).

OK, lets break it down a little further.

My contention is that modern Obama-liberalism represents a natural progression from classical liberalism: that when grandpa is a classical liberal, it is perfectly natural and expected that grandson will be a modern Obama-liberal. Part of the evidence for this is that this is what has actually occurred, in addition to the intellectual case for continuity.

With liberalism, of course, "continuity" implies continuous revolution, at least until a state of perfect freedom and equal rights has been achieved. (“Every generation needs a new revolution.” - Thomas Jefferson) That is why pointing out that (say) FDR was breaking with the past in certain ways, while clinging to the core values of freedom and equal rights trumping tradition, reinforces the point rather than undermining it.

Classical liberals devote enormous amounts of energy attempting to paint modern liberals as entirely Other, indeed as the old enemy of liberalism, monarchical aristocracy. Modern liberals are just aristocrats in disguise, goes the narrative, not the grandchildren raised on Grandmother Classical Liberalism's knee. The author of the article Jeff Singer links writes (the quoted part is Abraham Lincoln):

The argument for the welfare state belongs in the same family as "the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden."
This is precisely the sort of self-serving ludicrous historical illiteracy I am talking about.

The fact that grandpa might not approve of his grandson's understanding of liberalism does nothing - nothing at all - to undermine the point. Classical liberalism leads to modern managerial liberalism over the course generations, as liberalism works out its logic and different liberals fight over what true liberty and equality require, in the process sucking all the oxygen out of the room. It has in fact lead to modern managerial liberalism, and it makes perfect sense that it has. That grandpa might have been personally revolted by grandson's politics is irrelevant, and misses the point completely. When you raise classical liberals, in a few generations you get everything from Marxists to Nazis to Obama. That is where the liberal revolution leads; there and beyond.

Lydia:

Like you, I am sympathetic to the proposition that revolution is always wrong, but I'm not quite ready to state it definitively. As Christians, I think our options when faced with unjust government are peaceful disobediance and flight. Had I lived in Nazi Germany, I wouldn't have spied for the allies, but I would've hidden Jews in my basement.

My issues with the Tea Party don't stem from the "revolutionary" language, but with the free market/individual liberty/consent of the governed shibboleths. Now that we're swinging too far in the direction of collectivism, the TPers want to go to the other extreme of atomistic individualism, which I think is just as wrong. I really don't know where the balance point is, and that realization has completely turned me off to politics. I wouldn't want to be governed by the mandarins in Washington or the first 200 names in the phone book.

Zippy,

I think you and Vox Day need to toss a few cold ones back the next time you visit Italy:

MikeT, you do realize that the item you quoted is about the only thing they'd agree on, right? Once Vox opined that the government has no authority to prohibit suicide, prostitution, and drug abuse, I fear Bear Summitt II would be over.

Oh, and Vox would have fruity umbrella drink, not a beer.

CJ:
Well, I like all sorts of drinks and am capable of having friendly conversations with all sorts of people, so the Summit might well last until the alcohol ran out or the bar closed.

Lydia:
I think the criteria for revolution are the Just War criteria, in general. The part which is problemmatic, and I haven't worked out in any detail, is the issue of "competent authority". Revolutionaries are pretty much by definition not the competent authority.

I can envision circumstances though in which a person had leadership on behalf of the common good of a community thrust upon him by circumstances, rather than choosing it for himself. In those kinds of circumstances it is arguable that such a person, acting on behalf of the common good and not in the pursuit of selfish interests, might "become" the competent authority. So even though I don't have a worked-out moral theology on the subject I'm not willing to close the door completely on the moral legitimacy of all insurrections.

MikeT, you do realize that the item you quoted is about the only thing they'd agree on, right?

Yes, but I think it would be the sort of fight that Zippy rarely gets to enjoy from most of his opponents. Vox would probably be the only major libertarian who could go toe-to-toe with him on most subjects and hold his own.

The fact that grandpa might not approve of his grandson's understanding of liberalism does nothing - nothing at all - to undermine the point. Classical liberalism leads to modern managerial liberalism over the course generations, as liberalism works out its logic and different liberals fight over what true liberty and equality require, in the process sucking all the oxygen out of the room. It has in fact lead to modern managerial liberalism, and it makes perfect sense that it has. That grandpa might have been personally revolted by grandson's politics is irrelevant, and misses the point completely. When you raise classical liberals, in a few generations you get everything from Marxists to Nazis to Obama. That is where the liberal revolution leads; there and beyond.

One could just as easily say that about many pre-liberal beliefs, such as the Divine Right basis of leadership. Where some kings in the distant past may have been humbled by their legitimacy being from God (because they grasped the danger inherent to their souls from abusing their position), their heirs eventually began to view their subjects as property because God gave them a "divine claim" to the throne. I think this is a universal tendency. Memes mutate over time.

This highlights an inescapable problem with Sociology: it is impossible to accurately graph the way that ideas and events mix, mingle and fight to produce outcomes. We need only look at our revolution (which was executed by Christian liberals) and the French revolution (atheist liberals) to note that the introduction of different religious views radically alter the way that individuals interpret liberalism and then what extent they are willing to go.

Mike T:

One could just as easily say that about many pre-liberal beliefs, such as the Divine Right basis of leadership.
Well, it isn't like the Israelites weren't explicitly warned in the book of Judges, the poor bastards.

In any case, though, our task isn't to face up to other realities of other people in other times on their behalf; it is to face up to our reality, in our time. In our reality, raising classical liberals results in modern managerial liberalism. If we want to end up somewhere different, we have to do something different.

Now, I mentioned above that perhaps one answer is that this is as good as it gets: that is, preserve the modern managerial liberal welfare State for as long as possible because all the other alternatives one can envision are worse. That is what embracing classical liberalism in fact does: it stretches out the reign of modern managerial liberalism in time. So if we want that outcome, well, I guess there might be a tactical argument for embracing classical liberalism.

I tend to think that that conclusion is at one and the same time too optimistic and too pessimistic: it reflects the peculiarly modern idea that we are in control of events on a grand scale, and it fails to acknowledge that the truth shall set you free. But at least it would reflect an understanding of reality: "we'll embrace classical liberalism because we want to preserve the benefits of modern managerial liberalism from self-destruction for as long as possible" is at least an arguably rational choice, as opposed to the self-delusion that the two are disconnected and in fundamental opposition.

Zippy, around the turn of the 20th century it is said that Herbert Spencer was as widely read as Karl Marx. Somewhat shocking and given the passage of time, a marker on where we have gone, influence being what it is in public affairs.
Your comments on the seeming inevitably of classical liberalism [ CL] and it's unfortunate metamorphosis appear at first reading to omit the confluence of other strains of thought. That CL has taken wing and become other then what it was and it could not have been otherwise, a hint of determinism there?
But, as I hope my first para indicates, the 19th century, not alone in this, was a busy time in the fermentation and propagation of ideas. The continued rise of newsprint, the works of such as Frank Norris & Upton Sinclair, the fulminations of Teddy Roosevelt & Bob Lafollete, an expanded suffrage, the progressive movement, the union movement, socialists, the Wobblies, but the list could go on.
And it all comes down to the inevitable morphing of classical liberalism ?
I think not. But I might misread you, I've been known to do that.

Johnt:

As with all liberalisms, if only classical liberalism were taken out of actual reality and dropped into an ideal utopian plot of fertile ground in which to flourish, I am sure everything would work out for the best.

Zippy, I think that Mike T's point can be pressed a little farther, though:

Suppose that it is true of _all_ sets of ideas and "pieties," even the true ones, that if one starts with them, over the course of generations (that's a lot of historical resources, after all) one ends up with something very bad.

In that case, this is just a truth about human nature and how human beings always find the worst possible construal to put on things, the worst possible direction to go from any starting point. It is a _wash_ as far as telling us which ideas to teach. It doesn't tell in that case against classical liberalism any more than against any other set of ideas.

So if there is something _true_ that one can mean by something like, "All men are created equal" or by "it is good for people to be free from excessive government control over their economic freedom," etc., then one can't argue against believing and promulgating those truths on the grounds that over generations they will probably "lead to" something bad.

Mike:

One could just as easily say that about many pre-liberal beliefs, such as the Divine Right basis of leadership.

Zippy:

The fact that grandpa might not approve of his grandson's understanding of liberalism does nothing - nothing at all - to undermine the point. Classical liberalism leads to modern managerial liberalism over the course generations, as liberalism works out its logic and different liberals fight over what true liberty and equality require,

It all depends on what you mean by "classical liberalism", doesn't it? If you a priori define it in terms that it includes a formal component that must needs lead to managerial liberalism, then Zippy's view could be right. But if you define it to exclude such a formal component then he won't.

Then there is the question whether we ever, with the pre-and post-Revolutionary efforts actually enacted "classical liberalism" in any definitive sense, or rather enacted something that approximates classical liberalism in certain respects, and approximates other isms in other respects, and then took one of many, many different branches that could have been taken. The end result leading to managerial liberalism as a natural consequence would then hang on the interplay between different isms and different contingent hybrid processes not rooted distinctly in liberalism, rather than just the logical and necessary consequences of liberalism.

Indeed, so-called "classical" liberal thinkers borrowed from its predecessors' ideas here and there. Not least, from certain Catholic ideas. James Madison's library held works by Cardinal Bellarmine who wrote a treatise that leans quite firmly towards what would (at the time) have been thought unusual, novel, and (yes) liberal with regard to the authority of government. Maybe TRUE liberalism should refer not to Locke's for example, but Bellarmine's ideas. Then the current fads would be not liberalism's natural and necessary consequences, but liberalism gone bad down one of the many branches away from the true source due to false grafts.

I, for one, suspect that there is a root cultural connection between a historical allocation of the word "liberal" into the political sphere to the much earlier use of liberal in the idea of "liberal education" (and liberal arts), which is education for the free man, education for the man who exercises full freedom in the the Christian valid sense of freedom (wherein the truth shall set you free). If so, the further and later consolidation of "liberal" to mean a distorted sense of freedom from restraint would be a particular deviation that is not a logical consequence of Christian freedom.

While I reject totally modern liberalism and everything it stands for, I do not reject liberal education and its by-product, men capable of true freedom at both home and in society.

"Now, I have not lost my ideals in the least; my faith in fundamentals is exactly what it always was. What I have lost is my old childlike faith in practical politics. I am still as much concerned as ever about the Battle of Armageddon; but I am not so much concerned about the General Election. As a babe I leapt up on my mother's knee at the mere mention of it. No; the vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud. As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals. [...]

These things we want a man to do for himself, even if he does them badly. I am not here arguing the truth of any of these conceptions; I know that some moderns are asking to have their wives chosen by scientists, and they may soon be asking, for all I know, to have their noses blown by nurses. I merely say that mankind does recognize these universal human functions, and that democracy classes government among them. In short, the democratic faith is this: that the most terribly important things must be left to ordinary men themselves--the mating of the sexes, the rearing of the young, the laws of the state. This is democracy; and in this I have always believed."

G. K. Chesterton

Lawrence Auster on Classial Liberalism:

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/005332.html

"Is modern ultra-liberalism, with its attack on our nation and culture, a different and opposite thing from classical liberalism, or a natural outgrowth of classical liberalism? I tend to believe the latter. Writing in The New Pantagruel (“Christianity and Liberalism: Two Alternative Religious Approaches”), David T. Koyzis agrees. In a key passage he writes:

"Although the followers of the earlier form of liberalism, including Friedman and Hayek, dislike the expansive state of late liberalism, there is little if anything in their ideological commitments to prevent it. After all, if the state is a mere voluntary association, then its members are well within their rights to alter the terms of the social contract, effectively abandoning the strictly limited state in favour of what has come to be known as the welfare state—one undertaking to provide a wide variety of services to the public. Moreover, if Hobbes, Locke and Jefferson are to be believed, the parties to the contract even have the right to abolish it altogether in a revolutionary act, if it fails to do their bidding."

Koyzis has made a parallel argument to my national argument that hadn’t occurred to me before.

My argument is: classical liberalism, by reducing society to individuals and their rights, progressively erases all larger social traditions and institutions including ultimately culture, peoplehood, and nationhood, and so leaves the society helpless to stop invasion by foreign peoples and cultures.

His argument is: classical liberalism, by reducing society to the social contract made by individuals, erases all larger traditional institutions, as well as traditional restraints on institutions (since the social contract based on what we feel like doing rules everything); and so leaves the society open to the mega-state of modern liberalism. The liberal process that starts with the small state of classical liberalism, eliminates the very social factors that would contain the state, and so leads inevitably to the large state of modern liberalism.

So: On the national question, liberalism began with a belief in peoplehood and nationhood (“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people ... to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature’s God entitle them”), but, because its primary focus was on the individual and his freedoms, it progressively turned against our own people and nation (which restrict individual freedom) and delivered us to the Third-World invasion. On the constitutionalism and size-of-government question, liberalism began with the belief in strictly limited government, but, because its primary focus was on the individual and his freedoms, it progressively eliminated any principle of restraint, which in turn led to unlimited government."

Lydia:

Suppose that it is true of _all_ sets of ideas and "pieties," even the true ones, that if one starts with them, over the course of generations (that's a lot of historical resources, after all) one ends up with something very bad.

You say that as though today's "pro-choice" abortion holocaust (for example) has no connection whatsoever to Jefferson's conception of freedom and equality, rejection of tradition, and revolutions every generation. I mean, people do intransigently deny the connection - many do - but I think that ... strains credulity, is what I'll say. Whether Jefferson would or would not personally like how his ideas have worked themselves out through history, this is the way they have in fact worked themselves out through history, neither as ruthless logical determinism nor as some utterly inscrutable mishmash of "gee, how was I supposed to know, everything humans do turns out bad; sorry about the abortion holocaust and the welfare state".

Nobody seems to have noticed, but I preemptively dealt with this whole line of argument way up in the thread. I mean, we could spend lifetimes debating the merits and detriments of all sorts of ideas. But in general, pointing fingers at real or imagined problems with other ideas is not a defense of this idea.

Tony:

It all depends on what you mean by "classical liberalism", doesn't it?
Yes, what we mean by certain phrases always depends on what we mean by the words in those phrases. I said what I meant by it above: basically the foundational stuff in the Declaration, not in whatever way Lydia or the Catechism or you or anyone else choose to re-construe them - any string of words at all can be made to mean something true as long as we have infinite plasticity in what meanings we assign to the labels - but as Thomas "revolution every generation" Jefferson meant them.

Rather then using the opening comments of the Contract as the basis for analyzing things, why not go to the part where they actually propose things? This would give us insights into what this segment of the TP means in the introductory boilerplate.

This is probably the most important comment in the whole thread:

"I'd much rather trust people who adhere to something like this to do the right thing--for example, consistently, loudly, and unequivocally opposing Obamacare--even if for reasons stated in exaggerated terms, than to trust people to do those same right things who have no sense of the real dangers of bloated and powerful government."

Interested folks may profit from reading this,

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/02/100802fa_fact_gawande?currentPage=all

and reflecting on how twentieth century it is to value ideology above truth.

Zippy, we can do this one of two ways: We can take each idea you describe, decide what _Thomas Jefferson personally_ meant by it, and then try to work out whether, as he believed in it, it has some actual, logical connection to the abortion holocaust, or we can take each idea you name in some _incredibly generic_ sense that allows it to be meant in a whole _slew_ of different ways and then try to work out whether some sense or other has some logical connection to the abortion holocaust. Take "equality," for example. I'm inclined to say that it's doubtful that Jefferson, personally, advocated "equality" in some sense that has a logical connection to the abortion holocaust. As for a generic meaning, I'm inclined to say, "So what?" I can take a generic meaning of "tradition" or "authority" and work it out to horrible consequences. Big deal. And, yes, this _is_ relevant, because you are the one trying to relate the abortion holocaust to the American founding, and if you're using a faulty method, this is a good way to point that out.

Or there is a third way, which I would have thought is what you would prefer. We can just try to decide what is true, in what sense all men _are_ created equal and it what sense they _aren't_, and then decide how we want to express that and where we go from there.

I'm inclined to think that the abortion holocaust bears _no_ significant causal relation to the American founding, that it's one of those workings out of human history and human depravity that do happen and that we fight when and where they happen. People find excuses for the evil they want to do. China has found an excuse for its own abortion holocaust in a far different set of civic pieties. That's human depravity for you. The argument that it is somehow bound up, in any meaningful sense, in ingrained ideas from the American founding seems to me extremely weak.

Zippy,

You say, "Whether Jefferson would or would not personally like how his ideas have worked themselves out through history, this is the way they have in fact worked themselves out through history, neither as ruthless logical determinism nor as some utterly inscrutable mishmash of "gee, how was I supposed to know, everything humans do turns out bad; sorry about the abortion holocaust and the welfare state".

You know who you remind me of? Mencius. Which is a compliment.

In response I would say the following:

1) The Tea Party and/or Republicans, whether they are deluded or not, don't see themselves as cheerleaders for the welfare state or abortion holocaust. So the fact that our body politic actually recoils against the growth of the supposed "end result of the Declaration of Independence" is an interesting phenomenon, to say the least. Of course, they may fail in their efforts, in which case you've essentially won the argument ;-)

2) I thought your response to Mike T. about whether or not another political system would be better was intriguing (i.e. "preserve the modern managerial liberal welfare State for as long as possible because all the other alternatives one can envision are worse.") Does Pope Leo envision alternatives? Do you?

Lydia:

So heads you win, tails I lose, and if the coin happens to fall on edge I lose anyway, all in the name of ecumenism with the Tea Partiers who are largely my kind of people (true) and have policy proposals on which I wish them well (also true)?

No, I don't think so.

I choose (4):

Preliminary:
It is true that ideas have consequences, and that those consequences are independent of whether or not those who espouse those ideas are aware of or in favor of those consequences;

A) It is true that elements of the American founding included false Enlightenment-inspired libertine and egalitarian ideas; (that there may be true ways to construe strings of symbols like "all men are created equal" doesn't make those ideas anything other than flatly false); I label these ideas "liberalism".

B) It is true that these libertine and egalitarian ideas work themselves out in history in a way which results in things like the welfare state and the abortion holocaust;

C) It is true that when Tea Partiers invoke these ideas, they are invoking them largely as pieties in our civic religion, preliminaries as Al would say, blissfully unaware of the consequences of the ideas they espouse, presumed to be agreed by all reasonable men. Nonetheless they are in fact those ideas, not some other meanings we might be able to come up with and assign to the labels in such a way as to avoid all of the problems associated with those ideas.

Therefore: while I might, again, be able to wish Tea Partiers well in specific tactical endeavors, etc, I cannot consider myself one of them, since I reject the foundational ideas they espouse and would like to see them reject those ideas also.

Jeff Singer:

I've said it lots of times, and I'll say it one more, hopefully last time: the truth or falsity of the criticism stands on its own merits, and doesn't depend in any way whatsoever on the existence or nonexistence of alternatives. Though "unless you have a better plan and you can convince me that it is a better plan, my plan wins" has always been a tactic of liberals. If nothing else salutary can come from this discussion, at least hopefully a few folks can come to see that rhetorical move as the awful fallacy that it is.

It is true that elements of the American founding included false Enlightenment-inspired libertine and egalitarian ideas; (that there may be true ways to construe strings of symbols like "all men are created equal" doesn't make those ideas anything other than flatly false); I label these ideas "liberalism".

Okay, maybe we could focus on "all men are created equal." Apparently you are talking about an "idea" that doesn't have to be attributed to _any actual person_ at the American founding. Correct? I'm concluding this from the rejection of my option 1. I'm assuming, I hope fairly, that the rejection of option 1 wasn't just a result of my picking, say, Jefferson as opposed to Patrick Henry, Madison, or Benjamin Franklin. And probably Jefferson would be your best bet anyway, given his infidel views otherwise. So this false libertine idea is hanging out there somewhere (held, no doubt, by plenty of people today), but its association with the American founding is still opaque to me. Really, it is. If I'm going to associate an idea with a time period, I think I need to say and have some reason for saying that real people living in that time period had that idea.

So can you explain an actual meaning of the phrase "All men are created equal" that has _some reason_ for being associated as an historical matter with the American founding and that at the same time can be argued to have a strong and plausible connection to the abortion holocaust? Because I'm not seeing it. I think you can only get from point A to point B by either taking "All men are created equal" in an anachronistic way or by adding to it all sorts of controversial other premises that cannot plausibly be attributed to the American founders.

Well, this discussion has degenerated into death by a thousand paper cuts, and I've already spent more time on it than I ought.

Lydia:
I have to think that if I said something very similar of, say, distributists in general, or of Chestertonians, for example, that you would not be taking the "see no evil, keep asking questions until he runs out of energy" approach to the discussion. I like distributists/Chesteron and some of their policy proposals, and wish them well; but I can't be one of them, because some of the ideas they have, central to their identity as Chestertonians/distributists, would have really bad consequences, and I wish they would give up those ideas.

And as a matter of fact I would say something like that, prognostically though rather than as observation of historical fact.

I leave you with another TJ:

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Zippy,

I guess a combox is not the place for you to give an alternative to the "Contract from America"; but when you start going off on the foundational principles of America, it would be nice to know what you'd like in their place. This is not a tactic, or rhetorical move -- my questions represented authentic intellectual curiosity. Let's assume for a moment I was convinced you were right and I've been wrong about the American Revolution all along -- if the truth will set me free, what does that mean from a practical political standpoint? Mencius has an answer, I was wondering if you had a similar answer. And I quoted you because you alluded to why the answer is relevant -- perhaps your criticism of the Declaration's pieties is valid and true BUT the alternatives are worse. Then we shrug and join the Tea Party and/or Republican Party and work to elect American conservatives, doing the best we can in the right-liberal American political system.

I said what I meant by it above: basically the foundational stuff in the Declaration, not in whatever way Lydia or the Catechism or you or anyone else choose to re-construe them - any string of words at all can be made to mean something true as long as we have infinite plasticity in what meanings we assign to the labels - but as Thomas "revolution every generation" Jefferson meant them.

Ah, but Jefferson is not solely responsible for the Declaration, and his personal meaning is not THE meaning of the document. It had 42 men who fought over the phrases, and who ended up signing (some for reasons other than that they thought each phrase was accurate). The sum total of meanings for all the players and all their intents is located concretely, finally, in compromise language which sometimes more and sometimes less perfectly captures the individual meanings intended. You cannot identify Jefferson's particular, and (it later became clear) somewhat excessive view of the liberal "truths" with the compromise position that was a central meeting point for the signers. It just isn't valid.

As I said earlier, since all of our laws and voted-upon documents come to be through concerted action of many, no single person's individual view is the defining view that captures the nation's "intent" for specific language. The law or document itself is the single best source for intent, but is not sufficient by itself. When the Declaration says all men are endowed with the inalienable right to liberty, they didn't mean those words simply and absolutely, even though reading them alone one could conclude that. They certainly agreed with prison for criminals, and of course a criminal in prison does not have liberty, and thus either the state does wrong to imprison him, or his right to liberty is alienable by his own actions. But they didn't put that particular qualification (which all recognized implicitly) into the document. There are other qualifications some or all might have thought applied without saying so.

There are valid ways of reading the phrases of the Declaration that you object, so that they are consistent with the prior tradition of the liberty of liberal men ruling themselves, a tradition springing out of the thinkers like Bellarmine, that does not lead, necessarily and logically, to modern managerial liberalism. That later development is just one POSSIBLE avenue that liberal men could develop from the Declaration. Other avenues could have meant eventually making more explicit that liberty in the Declaration implies something concretely related to responsibility and the freedom found in total subjection to Christ's law of charity - a meaning certainly consistent with how some of the signers understood and exercised liberty in their own personal lives. Such a meaning certainly wasn't opposed to the context of liberty as presented in the traditions of prior philosophy.

Tony:

Once the Tea Party explicitly and vocally disavows Thomas Jefferson, we can talk. Good luck getting them to do that.

Zippy, when I oppose distributism, I'm willing at least in principle to say what ideas I reject and to give you a good idea of who holds them, though sometimes I refrain from doing so through, shall we say, tact. But I'm sure I could find _lots_ to disagree with about economic matters in Chesterton himself, not in some vague distributist zeitgeist.

I can't help thinking that you shouldn't have rejected my option 1. It seems like you _do_ want to apply your method to actual ideas that Thomas Jefferson held. I think Tony's response on that is a good one, but since you seem to think TJ must have meant something bad by this stuff, I'm surprised you didn't go with option 1. Perhaps it's because "All men are created equal" wasn't the best example for your case. In any event, while the quotation you give most recently is a pretty strong libertarian statement (along the lines of "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins") it should apply to abortion, given that abortion is a deadly assault on an individual human being! That's why we do have (some) self-avowed pro-life libertarians.

Zippy, why don't you check out this website:

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/politics/pg0003.html

Here's some snippets:

“If the American Declaration is 'an expression of the American mind,' it is to say the least, something remarkable,” says Allred O'Rahilly, “that it should be such an accurate transcript of the Catholic mind.” Elsewhere he states that a laborious investigation on his part revealed that from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century some 139 Catholic philosophers and theologians uphold the democratic principle that government is based on the consent of the governed...

Bellarmine: “All men are equal, not in wisdom or grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind” (“De Laicis,” c.7)

St. Thomas: “Nature made all men equal in liberty, though not in their natural perfections” (II Sent., d. xliv, q. 1, a. 3. ad 1)...

Bellarmine: “It depends upon the consent of the multitude to constitute over itself a king, consul, or other magistrate. This power is, indeed, from God, but vested in a particular ruler by the counsel and election of men” (“De Laicis, c. 6, notes 4 and 5). “The people themselves immediately and directly hold the political power” (“De Clericis,” c. 7).

St. Thomas: “Therefore the making of a law belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who has care of the whole people” (Summa, la llae, q. 90, a. 3). “The ruler has power and eminence from the subjects, and, in the event of his despising them, he sometimes loses both his power and position” (“De Erudit. Princ.” Bk. I, c. 6).

First, "consent of the governed" is not antithetical to Catholic principles, as understood from early Catholic sources. Second, some of these Catholic sources were present to the Founders. It is impossible to maintain as definitive that as used by the Founders, such phrases as "consent of the governed" and "liberty" mean exactly and only what later modern liberalism has come to mean by them.

Tony:

As I said, get back to me when you've convinced the Tea Party to vocally and unequivocally repudiate Jefferson.

It is impossible to maintain as definitive that as used by the Founders, such phrases as "consent of the governed" and "liberty" mean exactly and only what later modern liberalism has come to mean by them.
I suppose if someone were trying to maintain that, you might have an interesting rebuttal.

I'm pretty much left speechless in a discussion in which Lydia McGrew, of all people, just flatly denies any connection of any sort between libertarianism and support for abortion rights.

I think a ruthlessly logical and consistent libertarian should be pro-life. (I even know one. Unfortunately, I know personally only one, though I know _of_ more.) That doesn't mean I wouldn't probably have other disagreements with a contemporary, ruthlessly logical libertarian. I'll bet I would. But it does mean that an extremely strong libertarian case can be made against abortion. It's funny how inconsistent American card-carrying libertarians can be. Gay "marriage" is another issue where a good libertarian should take the social-con position, though there the case is less a logical one than a sociological one. The case for a libertarian to be pro-life is pretty much knock-down.

Lydia:

I think a ruthlessly logical and consistent libertarian should be pro-life.
The imaginary ruthlessly logical and consistent libertarian, though - I think such a thing is impossible in principle by the way, since I think libertarian ideas are fundamentally incoherent - is not the standard in this discussion, or has certainly never been my standard.

My standard in this discussion has been actual humanity in possession of actual ideas, and I've been very explicit about that. Classical liberal ideas possessed and believed and acted upon by actual human beings in actual communities produce, not as some kind of logical necessity in a computer simulation or whatever but as a natural human progression, results like modern liberalism and the welfare state, etc.

All this chatter about logical necessity and whatnot addresses arguments I haven't made, and frankly which it would probably not even occur to me to make, since it deals with unreality rather than reality.

in which Lydia McGrew, of all people, just flatly denies any connection of any sort between libertarianism and support for abortion rights.

Abortion rights are a logical Vietnam for libertarianism. Either way you cut it, a libertarian principle loses. Either the mother loses control over her body, or one class of citizens gains a legal right to murder others. As a libertarian leaning person, I approach it from the perspective that ideology can never be perfectly internally consistent and say that it is far better for women to lose some control over their bodies than to let anyone have a right to take life without due process of law for a crime.

Zippy,

It would help if you would specify which form of libertarianism you are criticizing. There are at least two very divergent factions: cultural and political. Many of the things that are incoherent for the former are not for the latter.

Mike T:

... ideology can never be perfectly internally consistent and say that it is far better for women to lose some control over their bodies than to let anyone have a right to take life without due process of law for a crime.
My view is that libertarianism works great as a theory of government authority pretty much all the time, except for when there are conflicts and governments must exercise authority to discriminate between disputants and resolve those conflicts. In other words libertarianism is a great theory of politics as long as there is no politics. So ultimately politics is banished, everything important gets decided by bureaucratic experts on behalf of a population of free and equal self-made choosing subjects inhabiting the religiously and culturally neutral public sphere of value-neutral markets and consumption. IOW, the modern managerial liberal state.

It is true that elements of the American founding included false Enlightenment-inspired libertine and egalitarian ideas; (that there may be true ways to construe strings of symbols like "all men are created equal" doesn't make those ideas anything other than flatly false); I label these ideas "liberalism".

Once again, words mean what Zippy wants them to mean and nothing else. And when he cannot drive home his point that way, he claims the argument lies elsewhere.

I suppose if someone were trying to maintain that, you might have an interesting rebuttal.

Your claim was that the American Founding Fathers, as expressing their ideas in the founding documents, used enlightenment inspired expressions in enlightenment inspired senses. You argued that the American founding was an instance of those ideas put into action. But the website I linked gives the lie to that. It just isn't true. The ideas they gave expression to in the documents have a better

pedigree as developments on Catholic thoughts (from St. Thomas no less) than as Enlightenment ideas.

I'm pretty much left speechless in a discussion

For someone who is speechless you still have a lot of words left.

All this chatter about logical necessity and whatnot addresses arguments I haven't made, and frankly which it would probably not even occur to me to make, since it deals with unreality rather than reality.

Zippy, I'm on your side here, but is it unreasonable to ask what it is, specifically, about certain ideas, whether "ruthlessly logical and consistent" or not, that takes them down a certain road when possessed by the "actual humanity" of history? That's what Lydia is getting at. You can't blame her for starting with the internal logic of the idea itself.

Let me attempt an answer.

The libertarian principle which Lydia invokes states that "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins", and therefore a consistent libertarian should oppose abortion. As a stand-alone principle, that works just fine. But it's not a stand-alone principle. It's part of an ideological framework that first asks "what are my rights?" and "where are the limits?". The underlying principle is that maximizing liberty is an unqualified good, and still more, it is the primary good of any social order. That's the hidden poison in the soup.

Because of man's fallenness, building a society on this philosophy creates a natural pressure in the direction of expanding liberty ... for those who have the power to expand their liberty. That natural pressure leads naturally to abuse. It's much like television: in one sense a morally neutral means of communication, there are features inherent in the medium that lend themselves to abuse.

We can do better than to build a society on ideas that so easily lend themselves to abuse and which are untrue in any case. Maximal liberty is not the primary measure of a good society. It is not even a close second. Before there is any hope of getting back on the rails, the libertarian principle must be thoroughly repudiated.

Tony:

Your claim was that the American Founding Fathers, as expressing their ideas in the founding documents, used enlightenment inspired expressions in enlightenment inspired senses.
Numerous times I've stated it in terms of elements of, etc. You keep pursuing the argument as if I had ever intended to argue as a matter of some logical necessity from some unequivocal meaning of certain specific propositions understood univocally by all the founders and then run through a logic machine. That has never, ever been my argument. (As I said, it wouldn't even occur to me to argue that way).

Like I said several times now, get back to me when you've gotten the Tea Party to unequivocally and vocally repudiate Thomas Jefferson. There is a reason why that is a fool's errand, and that reason is probably why you keep ignoring it.

Zippy, your 12;47, A bit irrelevant. I look for your genealogy of a decadent classical liberalism & it's connections to today and I get drops "into ideal utopian states". But who suggested a regime? Wasn't me. I guess I'll have to pass.
One question & one correction & I'm done;
a] Recall that classical liberalism was diverse & expansive enough to contain a Herbert Spencer and a Lord Acton, the last an ultramontane Catholic & one who maintained the primary duty of the State was to protect freedom. How these & others like them get tied to the crowd of corrupt clowns of today is inexplicable.

b] The "ursuping Windsors"? I think you mean the Hanovers, who ruled for close to two hundred years.

Zippy: So yes, in brief, populist chest-thumping "government by consent of the governed" types invariably, in aggregate and over a span of a generation or two if not always in every individual case, go libertine on those issues which are dominated by their pieties,

"I'm fully aware that classical liberals are under the illusion (in my view) that modern liberals represent a break with, rather than continuity with, classical liberalism. Classical liberalism always tries to paint the hated enemy - modern managerial liberalism - as apostates from the true liberalism, as heirs of blood-throne-and-cross; despite the manifestly ridiculous historical illiteracy of the claim."

My contention is that modern Obama-liberalism represents a natural progression from classical liberalism: that when grandpa is a classical liberal, it is perfectly natural and expected that grandson will be a modern Obama-liberal.

I don't really disagree with any of that. I can (and do) have all sorts of empathy for the men who adopted the principles of the Declaration. No quantity of empathy though can alter where those principles have actually - by their nature - lead.

Numerous times I've stated it in terms of elements of, etc. You keep pursuing the argument as if I had ever intended to argue as a matter of some logical necessity

Query: How many feet does he have available to keep stuffing them in? Centipede?

Jeff, this is an interesting turn:

The underlying principle is that maximizing liberty is an unqualified good, and still more, it is the primary good of any social order.

So, if I'm understanding this principle correctly, it is sort of like utilitarianism where the principle, instead of being stated as maximizing the greatest good for the greatest number, is maximizing the greatest amount of liberty in the social order.

Such a principle would of course be antithetical to any moral absolutes according to which X act is intrinsically wrong, because that would always depend on whether allowing or doing X would increase the total amount of liberty in the world/country/society (etc.)--whatever the relevant unit is under consideration. It also assumes that we have any idea of what we mean by "maximizing liberty"--as if liberty comes in pounds or something that can be counted and weighed for any given set of circumstances. But such are the problems of utilitarianism as well.

As an historical matter, do you think that a) any of the founders and b) any significant proportion of the founders of America held to such a strong, utilitarian-style principle?

As an historical matter, do you think that a) any of the founders and b) any significant proportion of the founders of America held to such a strong, utilitarian-style principle?

I would say yes for Jefferson, Paine and their fellow Jacobins - the principle was strong. For most, my guess is that the principle was weaker but definitely incipient. For a few, such as Adams and Hamilton and Carroll, the principle probably wasn't even on the radar.

Tony: Have a nice day.

All,

Without wading into the whole "was the U.S. founding Christian" controversy, I do think it is important to note that the Declaration explicitly refers to a Creator that endows us with "unalienable rights" and I do think it is important that most founders were Christian. In other words, their understanding of liberty was not the decadent "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins" form we are arguing about here. Zippy may still be right -- that once you start with the Declaration and the founding pieties of the American Revolution, you'll get to our current predicament, but I mention the Christian angle for a reason. Before the Jews and especially before Christ and Christians came along, infanticide was practiced regularly throughout the ancient world. It was Christianity that brought an end to this brutal practice and is still saving lives here in the U.S. and throughout the world. So as a historical matter, I assume that explicitally Christian states that were not governed by Enlighenment principles avoided (for the most part) the problem of people killing babies (whether in the womb or not). Along comes the modern liberal state and suddenly this is a problem again. Was the modern liberal state to blame? Perhaps (I qualify my answer as you'll find abortion all over the modern world -- Communist China, dictatorships in Africa, officially Christian countries like Britain, etc.), but we don't know how this story ends -- what if someday the U.S. protects the unborn by law? It wasn't that long ago that we did. Perhaps Christians will once again convince people that what they are doing is wrong and those folks will pass laws to outlaw abortion. In a democracy bad laws can be undone. Will Zippy then admit that maybe the Declaration's pieties aren't all bad?

In other words, their understanding of liberty was not the decadent "my right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins" form we are arguing about here.

Jeff's opinion is that something even _stronger_ than that was the understanding of liberty, explicitly for the Jacobin crowd and implicitly for enough more to make a majority--namely, that individual liberty in the abstract must be _maximized_ in a society and that this is the primary good of the social order. This seems to me rather implausible, but I will not claim to be an expert in the thought of the founders of the country. (One still gets to harm to the vulnerable only if one adds some sort of hokum to the effect that the liberty of mature, conscious individuals is worth more "liberty points" than that of others, perhaps because they can appreciate it more or some-such. This would, in turn, seem to contradict the spirit, shall we say, of the claim that all men are created equal! One might almost argue that there are checks and balances even among the high-falutin' and to some extent overstated slogans of the Declaration of Independence.)

Well, even I don't think that Zippy was claiming that the Declaration's pieties are bad in toto - more like that they were inextricably intertwined and definitively rooted in an idea set that was simply wrong, wrong in principle and wrong in eventual practice, when those principles came to their fruition. Heck, even Satan isn't ALL bad: he believes in God.

Zippy: have a nice night.

Lydia (and Jeff C.)

There are good reasons the American Revolution didn't turn out like the French Revolution and I think one of them is that Jeff C. is wrong about American "Jacobins".

Was the modern liberal state to blame?

Depends on how you define modern and liberal. It is interesting to me that American anti-abortion laws were supported in large part for reasons of monopolization by the AMA and worries over immigrant demographics, especially anti-Catholic sentiment.

http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/97may/abortion.htm

Step2,

I would recommend you read Joseph Dellapenna's Dispelling the Myths of Abortion History. It is an exhaustive historical work done on the history of abortion law by a Professor of Law that considers himself fairly neutral on the issue. He takes a shredder to the type of narrative proposed by Reagan and the fact that Pollitt does not mention him in addition to Gordon, Solinger, and Mohr says all I need to know about where she is on this issue.

Dellapenna, for the record, is neither pro-life nor evangelical. He just says that he does not like it when people lie while crafting law. He takes pro-lifer's to task for their errors regarding abortion history as well, but, as he puts it, the facts just demonstrate that one side on this argument is lying or mistaken more often than the other.

If you are truly interested in having a full presentation of common law abortion history I would check it out. Dr. Beckwith gave me a heads up on it when I was doing some research and it is an impressive body of research.

It is not necessary to disavow TJ completely. It's important to note that there were two prominent aspects of Jefferson's thought that he seemed to hold in tension, if not in contradiction: the liberal, freethinking, Enlightenment aspect and the more conservative, agrarian aspect. The Northern/New England mentality tended to emphasize the former at the expense of the latter, while the South, even though embracing TJ as one of their own, tended to find his freethinking suspect, even while they accepted his more agrarian tendencies. (Yes, I realize this is an oversimplification, but it is true as a generalization for argument's sake.)

I submit that modern conservatism, being largely "Yankee" in origin, has followed the "Northern" path here. It has accepted the modern individualistic notion of liberty represented by the "Lockean" side of TJ's thought, but has ignored that more "Burkean" aspect which the South embraced. This is why the conservative strain flowing from Kirk (and, needless to say, the parallel strain of "Southern" conservatism as expressed by Weaver, Bradford, Genovese, etc.) is so important -- it realizes that the Lockean element is incomplete and even dangerous by itself, and needs the Burkean element to hold it in check, as it were.

Of course the question arises as to whether the Lockean strain can be checked, or whether it is corrosive in and of itself. But in the current climate it doesn't seem possible (or necessary) to chuck out TJ altogether -- what's necessary is that modern conservatism stops paying so much attention to Locke, so to speak, and starts looking at Burke again.

We can do better than to build a society on ideas that so easily lend themselves to abuse and which are untrue in any case. Maximal liberty is not the primary measure of a good society. It is not even a close second. Before there is any hope of getting back on the rails, the libertarian principle must be thoroughly repudiated.

I would be fine with that, but only if people like you would repudiate all forms of social justice thought so the state can concentrate on its real spheres of competence: public order, national defense, arbitration and promoting common infrastructure.

I'm a bit torn as to whether or not pieties always lead to the libertine. Historically, it seems that pieties eventually lead to extremes. For every French Revolution, there's the development of the Califs. Pieties lead to extremes in just the areas of human weakness imported into the piety.

The Chicken

Ok yall this is my first time commenting because you have gone about 4 levels over my head. Mostly I am a simple conservative family lady, I do hold a bachelors degree in history so I can hang on with you a little on Rousseau and Locke and such but not for long. I have been to a few tea parties and what I understand about the "tea party" movement is that it is mostly a fiscal conservative movement and does not have much to say on social issues, and the tea party varies from chapter to chapter. Some chapters will have membership that is also socially conservative (in the south, and midwest). I imagine the tea parties in the Northeast and the West Coast will be more socially liberal. I think what unites them all is being fiscally conservative and desiring a more limited government that stays out of it's citizen's lives for the most part. So it is not a comprehensive ideology.

As far as solving the social woes that plague the US. I think as long as we have such disrupted family units the woes of this society will increase. It is the family unit that provides saftey and stability in this world. If you have a strong enough family unit (including extended) when tragedy strikes the family can work together and figure it out. Now the good old days were not always good, but in general families were slightly larger (thus providing more head and hands to work things out) and stayed together more 100 years ago. So when Uncle Joe lost his business or his job everyone could work together and see that he and his family had housing and food until they were back on their feet. When teenage Estel suddenly became with child by the neighborhood boy down the road the families could come together and find out was this love with poor decisions at an early age (and the two would marry and be at one of the two families house gaining wisdom and experience to spread their wings earlier than planned) or was this simple folly without the bonds of love(in which perhaps the child would be raised by the grandparents, and the foolish children would find themselves with less freedom and more opportunities to learn responsibility with oversight). Then when Grandma Lily is diagnosed with something at a ripe old age, they can together with Grandma help her make the best decisions for care and cost of treatment versus the quality of life it will bring to Grandma. The decisions can be evaluated with love. If a treatment will give her four weeks of poor quality of life at an extraordinary cost then Grandma supported by her family can make the decision she wants to make--not a gov't bureaucrat. We do live in a fallen world so nothing will ever totally fix the problems that we have today, but stronger families would go a long way to ease some of the plagues upon this country.

So how do we fix the family? Well it starts at your dinner table and in your living room. We can't boil the ocean, but you can do your part and I can do mine. If those who love the Lord teach their children Godly principals of mercy, grace, faithfulness, standing against the evil one, charity, putting people before possessions, and justice all with a huge dose of depending on Christ for wisdom then perhaps just perhaps this society has a chance and we can pull back from the brink. We see around the world that nanny states are going to go bankrupt (Greece--the EU to a lesser extent) and when they do the burden will fall to the people to care for themselves and their families. The tea parties are not going to fix societies woes, but they might make it a little easier for the Christian family to do what it is called to do if it keeps the gov't out of our pockets a little more and out of our lives.

Rob G, your 7:16, I would suggest you consume a dollop of Fisher Ames & and a dash of John Adams mixed with a reminder of just where the stronghold of Federalism was before tossing out lines like "liberal, free thinking, Enlightenment aspect".
Ames was close to being physically sickened by what he perceived as Enlightenment infection in American politics, and wary to the near point of fear of connections to the French, as he saw it, sans-culottes.
A short trip down to New York would bring us into contact with Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and Gouvenuer Morris, who were to Enlightenment as Obama is to human decency, that is, far removed.

So I would hesitate in my description were I you. Perhaps at some later date or with other luminaries I may have missed, but for now I would suggest caution.
It is true that the Jeffersonian breezes did blow north in due time, hence such phenomena as the Whiskey Rebellion, the early Republican clubs, and the French provocateur Genet.
But taken in total, the South had more the hotbed of a political libertarianism, though mixed with a social strata that needs not comment.
No offense, just an add on comment.

I am aware of what you write, John, which is why I qualified my statement as a simple generalization. My main point was that pace Zippy, I do not believe that TJ needs to be disavowed entirely.

The South kept the Jeffersonian "agrarian" idea alive in the U.S. long after it had been effectively forsaken by the North. It was unfortunate that much of that was tied to slavery, but of course that link was not a necessary one.

On the other hand, someone has said that the Civil War was in effect the final battle between Hamilton and Jefferson, and that Hamilton ended up the winner.

In any case, I'm firmly convinced that the modern conservative movement ignores the Burke/Kirk stream and the parallel Southern conservatism to its own detriment.

Rob G, with your last para I am in agreement, very sad but true.
Burke fought a rear guard battle even in the 18th century, whatever remains of Kirk may be found in Modern Age and whatever sentiments linger in the hearts of those who wonder at the old ways.
It borders on the tragic.

Jay Watts,

When NRO formed a quick symposium of pro-life experts, take a wild guess at who was on their panel. That is all I need to know about where Dellapenna is on this issue.

Pollitt also volunteers the fact that early suffragettes were opposed to legal abortion. This unflattering admission makes her more credible than every Thomist I've argued against, because they have repressed the notion of delayed ensoulment so deep you have to pry it out of them with a crowbar.

Christie, I fear that you are quite correct, but that families won't really be left alone to form sound dynamics as you describe. The liberals have known for quite some time that if they can get their hands on the kids in schools and through TV, they can inculturate the kids against the parent's wishes and desires quite effectively. And we have already seen the writing on the wall for the future: children being taken away from parents for corporal punishment, for parents' teaching that homosexuality is bad, for teaching that their religion is right, and so on. (Including, effectively, for having large families: CPS does not permit families to make mistakes, and large families do make more mistakes - things like forget a kid in a store once in a while - because the parents are more scatter-brained at times.) And the liberals will fight tooth and nail against the schools being taken away from them and their cadre of education "experts".

Everyone in this great country has to right to have their own opinion. The problem we have now with the PC crowd and liberals that run our government is that they do not like nor can they handle those who disagree with them.

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