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

I believe in equality (sort of)

(I have a feeling I'm going to regret this...)

In the discussion in my previous entry the question arose (raised by our own esteemed Zippy) whether the present evils of society (evils from a conservative perspective) are traceable to certain notions present in the American founding such as equality and freedom. Zippy states his position quite clearly, here:

Lets suppose I made the following statement:

"Freedom and equal rights are just heuristic rules of thumb that help people get along without fighting. As rules of thumb they rank about where platitudes like 'be nice to strangers' ranks, and should never be allowed to interfere with important decisions. They are not important founding principles of our country. When more important matters come up, they need to be set aside."

A right-liberal is someone who finds it difficult to agree with that proposition. He doesn't have to find it impossible: just difficult enough that his own orientation, discourse, and decisions in practice assign freedom and equal rights the priority of governing principle rather than heuristic.

[snip]

If people don't want more liberalism - this can be viewed as a simple observation, not a prescription - they need to explicitly reject liberalism's status as the default principle of appeal in politics. That is, they need to eschew appeals to freedom and equal rights to resolve political issues, and treat such appeals by others as illegitimate: not as wrong interpretations of what freedom and equal rights "really mean": different kinds of liberals agree with each other that freedom and equal rights are supreme political principles, and disagree with each other over the implications. That simply perpetuates the problem: we've established what we are, and are merely haggling over the price.

If someone really wants to see Zippy, Jeff Singer, Tony (now our blog colleague), Jeff Culbreath, and others go at it hammer and tongs on the thesis that these problems stem from the principles of the founding (and if you're really a glutton for punishment), you can read the lengthy discussion from about a year ago beginning approximately here. To my mind one of the more interesting attempts to pin the blame on the Founders was made by Jeff Culbreath rather late in that thread. Jeff C. attributed to the more "Jacobin" founders an extremely strong thesis to the effect that "maximizing liberty is an unqualified good." I comment a bit on that thesis (mostly leaving aside the question of its historical plausibility) and on an attempt to relate such a principle to abortion (which was the topic on hand at that point in the thread) here.

Now, in this post I'd like to talk a bit about equality. The question is this: Should we say that there is no notion of "equal rights" that can or should be thought of as an important principle?

First, I tend to agree with contemporary people of trad-con sympathies when they fret over the rather sloppy way in which a phrase like "equal rights" is thrown around. After all, since we know that we are surrounded by people who are likely to think that such a phrase means support for feminism and for the homosexual agenda (among other things), and since even such topics as the wisdom of the 1960's Civil Rights Acts should be things conservatives can discuss among themselves and take different views of, why make some sort of big, flag-waving slogan out of a phrase like "equal rights"? If you put in all the qualifications you'd have to put in, in light of current issues, it wouldn't work as a slogan anymore, so why bother?

Even a phrase like "equaltiy of opportunity" is somewhat unsatisfactory. For example, does "equality of opportunity" mean that a Christian businessman who is trying to create a certain business culture and climate that does not undermine his moral values might be morally obligated to hire a homosexual living openly with his partner as the company's Vice President? After all, you have to give him an "equal opportunity," right?

The fact is that the whole issue of "discrimination" is incredibly fraught, which makes even "equality of opportunity" problematic in various not-implausible scenarios.

Having said all of that, here is the other side: There are important good things that people can mean by "equal rights." Some of them I think were in the minds of the founders of our country. Others came along later, particularly after the abolition of slavery and rising concern over things like lynchings. And all of them, I believe, are still in the minds of people who talk about equality.

To my mind good American civic education consists, inter alia, in teasing out these various ideas and in teaching young people to discriminate among them and to have, well, the right opinions about them. Probably we won't all agree about what all the right opinions are, and that's even when "we" includes only self-identified conservatives. But it seems to me in any event more profitable to state clear theses that could plausibly be meant by some phrase such as "equal rights" and to discuss whether these theses are true or false than to try to defend a large-scale historical proposition that blames the inclusion of, "All men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence for the development of the abortion regime or the passage of homosexual "marriage."

So, let's look at some true propositions related to "equal rights." I'm not claiming that all of these are "in the Constitution" (though some are). I'm not saying anything about the doctrine of incorporation or about how or whether the courts should or should not enforce these principles. I'm just saying that I agree with them and that they can plausibly be thought of as outworkings of a legitimate concept of "equal rights." Roughly, these seem to me to be related to the important notion of "equality before the law."

--America doesn't have a hereditary, lifelong king and will never, while being constitutionally the same country in any meaningful sense, have a hereditary, lifelong king.

--America's government doesn't bestow or recognize aristocratic titles as in England and other European countries.

--In America, a person's punishment for a crime should not be lessened based on his blood-line or celebrity status.

--In America, law enforcers and prosecutors should not, and especially not systematically, ignore crimes or refuse to enforce the laws, particularly laws against direct personal and bodily harm, threats, etc., because they sympathize with the lawbreakers' dislike of or desire to harm members of particular groups.

--In America, law enforcers and prosecutors should not, and especially not systematically, ignore crimes or refuse to enforce the laws, particularly laws against direct personal and bodily harm, threats, etc., because they fear reprisals from the lawbreakers or those sympathetic to them or because they fear labels such as "racism."

--American laws should not increase penalties for crimes based on the membership of the victim in a specially designated racial, religious, or other similar politically favored group.

--The American legal system should never place whole classes of human beings entirely outside the protection of laws against serious and direct personal harm such as killing, grievous bodily harm, beating, torture, or private imprisonment.

This isn't an exhaustive list, obviously. But it's hard work wording things really carefully, so I'll leave the list at that for now.

I'm inclined to think that when mainstream conservatives do what Zippy describes as "treat[ing] appeals by others...as wrong interpretations of what freedom and equal rights 'really mean'," what they are doing is treating such interpretations--say, a feminist's attempt to say that "equality" requires that she have the right to abort her child--as wrong statements about what "equal rights" should mean. And there, I agree with them. While I'm sympathetic to the idea that "equal rights" is a very broad phrase and subject to many different interpretations, especially nowadays, I also am not prepared to say that in no sense is it an important concept and that in no sense does it have something to do with what "America stands for." I don't throw it around myself, for all the reasons given, but when other people throw it around, instead of trying to get them to eschew it and treat it as something so vague as "being nice to strangers," I'd prefer to get them to get more specific, to talk about theses like those given above, and to restrict themselves to those theses and other similar ones. Then, if they really insist on doing so, they can point to such a list of clear and specific statements and say, "That's what I mean by being in favor of equal rights."

And it's pretty obvious--or should be, because I constructed the list deliberately for this purpose--how such theses are meant to support what are widely considered to be conservative positions on several timely issues.

In the course of trying to get my fellow conservatives to be more specific, I have no doubt that a number of touchy subjects (even among conservatives) will come up. I already mentioned the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. Even raising the possibility that they might not have been the wisest idea would be considered heresy by many conservatives. Other conservatives have already capitulated on the wonderfulness of special homosexual protection by anti-discrimination laws. Others consider themselves "feminists for life" and are all on-board with much of the 1970's feminist agenda. Pressing people to be more specific is hardly a matter of trying to blend into the crowd of the mainstream conservative movement as we find it in 2011.

On the other hand, what I am proposing does avoid a root and branch rejection of all talk of equality as "right-liberalism" and hence completely wrong. And since I don't reject all talk of equality, I think that hits it just about right.

Comments (183)

Well, I can't afford to get into a long conversation going into the weekend; so I'll just make one brief comment.

A "right" is a rule for determining when one claim trumps other claims: that is, it is a rule for making authoritative discriminations. We discriminate between the property owner and the trespasser and authoritatively choose in favor of the owner.

"Equal rights", then, requires our rules of authoritative discrimination not to discriminate. The concept itself is incoherent at a very basic level.

And notice - the post demonstrates this nicely - that when you get down to brass tacks and particulars, you can assert the things you would like "equality" (as authoritative political principle) to assert without ever using the term. I think you should. Once you get specific enough to start attaching coherent meaning to the label, the label itself becomes superfluous. So by using it at all, what you are accomplishing is to validate it as an abstraction inclusive of all of its wrong uses.

Articulation of right principles does not require the term "equality". It is possible, but unwise in my view, to use it to express a moral truth.

On this particular I disagree:

--In America, a person's punishment for a crime should not be lessened based on his blood-line or celebrity status.

I think that prominent persons - celebrities, aristocrats, etc - should face more severe punishments for their crimes than ordinary people; because attendant to their status is the additional crime of scandal. Also aristocrats bear greater responsibility than everyman; a transgression against greater responsibility suggests that a greater punishment would be just. Perhaps a partial compromise would be to make scandal a separate charge, I suppose.

Have a nice weekend and a great Fourth!

This will be fun.

I do not believe in equality. I do not believe in equality for the simple reason that it does not exist: look around, the world is full of inequality. If there is an inherent equality in mankind, it is a purely metaphysical equality and should be recognized as such.

That said, the American experiment does rely on two principles of applied equality: 1) equal protection of the laws and 2) no aristocracy. As for the former, Lydia's laundry list hints at it, but is far too expansive and abstract. American jurisprudence talks about it, but always in a bewildering fashion that makes one wonder what phrase the judge is even looking at. As for the latter, it's quite straightforward: the task of governance is not inherently limited to any pre-ordained class of persons. It will of course be limited in practice, but not de jure by birth, creed, or caste.

The concept of equal protection of the laws is much simpler than Lydia or the courts would make it. It means simply what it says: the same protections for everyone. Thus, no class of citizens will be systematically excluded from the protections of criminal laws that would otherwise apply. (E.g. a law specifying that it is not a crime under any circumstances to kill a black man, or that regardless of circumstances it is only a misdemeanor.) No class of citizens will be systematically denied access to or coverage by the mechanisms of the civil law that would otherwise apply. (E.g. a prohibition on black men bringing lawsuits, or a rule that a person could not commit trespass on a Baptist's land.) No class of citizens will be barred by procedural mechanisms from vindicating rights afforded to them by the substantive law. (E.g. a law allowing Catholics to bring lawsuits, but barring them from giving testimony in court.)

Beyond that, no aristocracy and no special permissions to inflict harm, equality is a phantasm and a canard, as much in theory as in practice, only good for justifying the murder of French aristocrats and unborn babies.

Ah, Titus, you weren't around four years ago. You need to go and read this old post of mine:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2007/05/a_rad_idea_about_14th_amendmen.html

I think you'll like it.

Vox Day recently wrote a post or two on "liberty of opportunity" versus "liberty of result." The former is about creating a culture that is free in the sense of everyone having maximum theoretical freedom to do whatever they want; the latter is about creating a culture where individuals are free to maximize their own abilities within the limits of others' reciprocal rights. I think it provides an interesting twist here on equality outside of legal equality.

Lydia, I like your understanding. I don't think there is truly equal opportunity, and we shouldn't pretend there is. What we mean is that all things being . . . er, well, equal, race and such legitimate things shouldn't be used to distort opportunities that would otherwise exist. It is in a negative sense that it works, not a positive sense. The positive sense is where we say "Hey we're going to make it our program is to **provide** equal opportunity for this group or everyone". That is baaaad, and leads to all manner of evil as we know.

Isn't the phrase "all things being equal" revealing? That reminds me of something Lydia. I recall saying in the past that I think "justice requires some type of equality, doesn't it?" Your retort was "I don't think so." After which you said . . . well nothing at all. It didn't go anywhere so I didn't get to cite St. Thomas, as I would have liked. But isn't this just a fact, as Aquinas said? Is there no metaphysical basis for justice? There is too much pragmatism and baggage here. People become "eliminationist" and calculate what exists in the world based on what outcome they want. Since a proper understanding of equality can't be relied upon now, rather than fix that let's eliminate it. Yeah! But that is backwards. If it appears to be a feature of the world, and I'm a philosophical realist about universals, then how is it legitimate to eliminate it? Why not just believe I need to be a teacher of the proper understanding of equality, as you are with your examples?

Isn't the only question in light of Aquinas reasoning on justice--a critically important one--what is the scope and nature of the equality? Is it only in the mind of God as some hold it? Isn't that analogous to what you recently referred to as a "Humean skepticism" of causes outside the mind? Is equality in a certain respect, as we always must (multiple things can only be equal in some limited and relevant respect) due to a feature in the creature or thing, or does God or ourselves supply it with our mental capacities?

And notice - the post demonstrates this nicely - that when you get down to brass tacks and particulars, you can assert the things you would like "equality" (as authoritative political principle) to assert without ever using the term. I think you should. Once you get specific enough to start attaching coherent meaning to the label, the label itself becomes superfluous. So by using it at all, what you are accomplishing is to validate it as an abstraction inclusive of all of its wrong uses.

Would it be fair to call this view a "pragmatic nominalism"? You seem to have more problems with equality than merely when it is an "authoritative political principle."

Articulation of right principles does not require the term "equality". It is possible, but unwise in my view, to use it to express a moral truth
.

I'm struggling with the concept of a "moral truth" that it is unwise to articulate. I can't help but think we're veering towards contradiction here. If it is "possible" to state it as a moral truth, doesn't that mean it is true to state it as such? And if so, how could it be unwise to articulate a moral truth? Likewise, if it is a moral truth, how is it so trivial as to be expendable?

If "equal rights" seemed more important and primary at the time of the nation's founding, I would think that is because at that time they lived in a monarchy with a legally recognized and official class system. Now that we don't it doesn't seem like a big deal and we puzzle over the meaning of the phrase.

What I learned in HS civics class is that the phrase referred to the idea that there should be no aristocracy, no hereditary class with special legal rights or privileges. It's just silly and ahistorical to interpret it to mean something else: "I have the equal right to have my baby killed" for example, or "I have the right to have the govt redefine 'marriage' into something unrecognizable" (I wonder why any would think that's an EQUAL right, since the person who claims that right doesn't think the rest of us have the equal right to have the govt immediately change the definition back again).

I have to agree with Titus here in saying that the concept of "equal rights" as it should be applied might be better named "non-exclusivism": simply stated, it should mean that no person or class of persons should be excluded from the protections, or the strictures, of any law. If you go beyond that you start getting into the territory that the homosexual and other, similar movements are fighting from, e.g. "Other people can get married, why can't we? That's not equal!"

I recall reading a book of historical fiction in high school that touched on this topic. Most of the book was pure adventure story, and pretty good, but there was one scene in which the main character was arguing with his father on the subject of equality. Like Titus just now, the character pointed out that the world is full of inequality. One man is born to a wealthy family, one man to a poor family. One man is more intelligent than another. One man is a genius in music, another in mathematics. All of these are examples of inequality. If every person were equal, the world would be full of clones (effectively) from a single mode. Think about the Storm Troopers from Star Wars, then imagine that no one else existed. I don't think even the most rabid proponent of "equal rights" or "total equality" would be in favor of such a situation.

Because inequality is an inherent part of human life, therefore, attempting to establish a government based on equality would be ridiculous. Now, it seems to me that the Founding Fathers were perfectly aware of this, and such statements as the "All men are created equal" line in the Declaration of Independence refer to specific equalities, rather than equality pure and simple. For instance, "All men are created equal" means, I think that all men are equal in dignity, in personhood. No man is more man than another. This does not mean, however, that all men are equal it physical endowments, mental endowments, circumstances, etc. The people who attempt to use the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to prove that they should be allowed to murder their unborn children or "marry" others of the same sex, then, are arguing based on a misunderstanding of words.

"What I learned in HS civics class is that the phrase referred to the idea that there should be no aristocracy, no hereditary class with special legal rights or privileges."

Well, yes. That's part of what I'm trying to get at. It is interesting to see how reasonably this idea can be extended to _some_ other things, such as, for example, the idea that whites shouldn't be able to murder blacks with impunity (or vice versa, for that matter), as to allow this amounts to something rather like a hereditary aristocracy with special legal rights and privileges.

Well, Mark, metaphysically speaking all men are made in the image of God. This is a type of equality (if one wants to call it that) which is a real feature of man. That is to say, all individual living human beings "have" the imago dei. It doesn't just exist _in_ the mind of God, though of course if there were no God, man could not be made in God's image. I think that, given the references in the Declaration to the creator ("all men are created equal...endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights") the imago dei was definitely in the minds of the Founders. (How any of them reconciled this with support for slavery is a wild question to which I don't have a full answer, but most ages have their historical blind spots.)

I would guess from your comments here that when I said to you that I didn't think that justice required equality, I was either being contrary or was misunderstanding you, and possibly both. I don't have time to look up the conversation just at the moment.

Perhaps the source of the contrariness or that misunderstanding was my assumption that you meant _political_ equality of a highly specific sort.

I suppose it's only fair for me to add that I don't think that countries that do have kings and hereditary aristocracies are necessarily unjust. (I'll bet Aquinas didn't either. :-)) But I think our set-up is wiser. I have a definite, and I think rational, preference for the genius of the American ideal, and I've tried to capture that in my propositions. Some of them I do think are required for justice. For example, I think it (in that respect) an unjust country or world in which whole classes of people are removed from the protections of laws against private killing.

As far as the Founder's and their level of support for slavery, that was the topic of Lincoln's Cooper Union speech, the one that launched him into the White House. I think he was right, but regardless he makes the best case for the view that they didn't want it to continue at the least. For those who disagree and think they had no problem with it, Lincoln raises a number of important questions they need to explain if they want to show their view is correct.

As far as the equality and justice issue, it will be a sad day if I can't interest this crowd in a statement by Aquinas on the matter. Lydia, I was not raising any grievance with you, but rather trying to head off all avenues for anyone to ignore arguing over Aquinas' point. Being the argumentative type, I like to try to remove obstacles to actual debate. As I've already said or hinted at least, the issues didn't begin during the period of the American founding as many think. As VDH has pointed out, the issues aren't new, but instead were apparent throughout human history.

Equality properly understood can't be divorced from justice. Equality will cease to be a principle that needs definition (and not merely enumeration, though that is quite necessary to education on the matter,) when parents stop teaching their kids about fairness. Which is to say, never. There is a reason for this. Some of us aren't used to thinking abstractly about very basic matters of human nature, but avoiding it can't be done.

The extreme discomfort many have with any non-nominalistic account of equality reminds me of the extreme fear adults have of children seeing violence now. Its a whole Liberal phenomenon. Even when children are sheltered from watching violent acts, they invent them from their imaginations. Boys make knives and weapons out of bread, and kill evil bad guys that have done the most awful things their little minds can imagine. Little girls imagine monsters get destroyed horribly. Children are very vulnerable people, so they create moral dramas where the bad guys get what's coming to them, and the good guys are heroic. But the liberal ideal is that understandings of violence come only from education, and watching it is a form of education that will inevitably bring about imitation. But libs don't get that and they've expunged all the old fairy tales and such. When they see they can't stop kids from doing this, given their discomfort, they merely make kids feel guilty about their thoughts and feelings. It doesn't work, and just adds to our moral confusion.

Equality will cease to be a principle that needs definition (and not merely enumeration, though that is quite necessary to education on the matter,) when parents stop teaching their kids about fairness.

BTW, following my own analogy, should any parents be comfortable with giving kids only examples of fairness, without any principles? Do we know of any parents except of children too young to reason who don't feel the need to lay down principles of fairness in dealing with playmates and classmates? I doubt it. It would be dangerous. As useful and necessary as examples are, they aren't enough to represent a more full understanding. For those that are capable of reasoning, a parent is negligent to keep listing examples because principles are necessary to a more full understanding.

Nominalist accounts are incomplete. It isn't enough for intelligent beings to list examples, and the classical understanding of liberal (gasp!) education is that dialectic is a requirement for the type of beings we are.

Mark, someday I'm going to post an article on "the tyranny of fairness". I think you mistake modern, western "fairness" parenting (and teaching, etc.) for something more universal and historical than it really is. Personally, I make a point of being "unfair" to my children but never, God help me, unjust. Sometimes only one or two receive a privilege, and there's no "making it up" to the others. Sometimes only one or two receive a particular burden, and that's just the way it goes. Frankly, due to a paranoid fear of parents and elders that someone, somewhere, might have an advantage, privilege or pleasure that others don't, today I really have a deep visceral reaction against any and all "fairness" talk. Granted, this reaction is probably unreasonable. I don't necessarily reject the idea of fairness conceptually. But justice, privilege, and clemency are much more precise and satisfying categories. Fairness as popularly conceived is usually little more than a disguise for envy. Does my neighbor have more than I? I still have more than I deserve, fairness be damned.

Re: Aquinas -- Aquinas doesn't discuss that kind of equality in connection with justice; that's more Professor Dougherty's attempt to square Aquinas with modern conceptions of justice and rights. I wouldn't say that he's off, but equality of nature in itself doesn't generate Aquinas' notion of justice.

I think what you've just said is very wise, Jeff, but the funny thing I find is that children really _push_ when one does what you're talking about. They certainly don't accept it easily--"She got the last piece of pie and I didn't," type of thing. "Why?" I guess that's human nature. It takes a strong parental determination to stick to one's guns not to be drawn, at lest, into a long argument.

Jeff, I shd. add something though, in honesty: I think there is a huge difference between a country and a family. I think it's perfectly legitimate and indeed important for parents to take into account children's various needs and abilities, at a very intimate and specific level, and to provide for these in ways that are appropriate and that may well appear "unfair." I think (and I'm pretty sure we'll disagree on this) that it's _highly unwise_, however, for a government to regard itself in a similarly paternal light in relation to its citizens and to try to run a country along the same lines.

Mark, I'm quite willing to avoid the charge of "nominalism" on this score by labeling what I'm talking about something like "legal equality" or "equality before the law." That seems qualified sufficiently as not simply to sound like "anything goes," and yet I do think it describes an important concept or group of concepts that are sufficiently similar in sufficiently important ways and sufficiently important to deserve a grouping label. I suppose I'm probably a little more inclined to something like nominalism than other people around here, so perhaps that won't sound strong enough to you.

If we insist that "all men are created equal" is and was nothing more than an insistance by the founders that an official and legally enshrined hereditary aristocracy is unjust and it won't be allowed here, like it or not; we can treat "equal rights" as a fait accompli and use other, more precise language to talk about things like justice.

Of course the institution of slavery was obviously irreconcilable with the idea that there not be official hereditary classes, but the elimination of slavery is a fait accompli as well.

I don't think you have to teach children about fairness, they seem to just pick it up naturally. It doesn't seem right to discourage it, it's the primitive beginning of the idea of justice. Maybe the best thing to do is to try to remember to respond to their talk of fairness with talk of rightness and justice, without actually contradicting them or telling them they are wrong about "fairness."

Of course we must keep reminding ourselves that homosexuals do already have the equal right to get married, if they can find someone willing to marry them. What they don't have the "equal" right to do is to subvert the family and attack the institution of marriage by demanding that govt attempt to treat, legally, a same-sex pair of them as if they were "married" or try to force people to call them "married" when they aren't and to affirm their lifestyle. Of course there is nothing "equal" about such an alleged right, it is a privilege they are demanding for themselves as a reward for their sodomy.

On the other hand, what I am proposing does avoid a root and branch rejection of all talk of equality as "right-liberalism" and hence completely wrong. And since I don't reject all talk of equality, I think that hits it just about right.

Equality as the one of the most important defining values and one of the highest (in combination with concepts like human rights, autonomy/individualism, diversity, democracy, secularism as the groundwork and 'progress') is right-liberalism. My biggest problem of the American founding is how its explicitly liberal and implicitly conservative. Now 200 years later all that is left and in power is liberalism. Why? Because the founding was explicitly liberal. I don't believe in equality of opportunity because that is exactly what leftists wanted and what are they calling for now? Equality of outcome. Calls for equality of opportunity unfortunately lead to calls for equality of outcome. Some of you forget that you give a liberal an inch and he takes a mile.

Of course there is nothing "equal" about such an alleged right, it is a privilege they are demanding for themselves as a reward for their sodomy.

A few weeks ago, a neighbor was talking about some of the anti-social behavior in the neighborhood. One thing led to another in his thinking/relating, and he mentioned some slob who used to live across from him who seemed to dedicate his life to making rude comments to/about his (my neighbor’s) then-teenaged son, who, apparently, is “gay.”

This neighbor then related confronting the fellow about his behavior, and mentioned having said something like “If you want to pick on someone, pick on me; but leave my kid alone. If he’s ‘gay,’ that’s his problem, not yours …” and then he caught himself, and realized that he’d said to me a very un-PC thing. So, he had to correct himself, and inform me that is son’s “gayness” is not “his problem,” but is rather, “who his is;” and also that he’s very proud of his son (for being “gay”).

Of course, I didn’t point out to him the stupidity of what he’d just said to me.

My point here is that “organized gaydom” demands the right to set what other people may and may not think, much less say.

This man is not proud of his son for being “gay.” Rather, he loves his son and wishes he were not “gay.” But, “organized gaydom,” and likely his son, have thrown such tantrums over the years, and he is so beat down by it, that he has rolled over and now repeats the shibboleths demand of him, which he does not believe.

" I don't believe in equality of opportunity because that is exactly what leftists wanted and what are they calling for now? Equality of outcome."

Since you are merely telling us why you personally don't believe in equality of opportunity nobody can argue with that. However, that isn't evidence or proof that equality of opportunity implies equality of outcome.

To me, both concepts seem rather vague. I vaguely support one and vaguely oppose the other but I think specific political arguments ought to be required to use less vague language.

Maybe we should treat "equal rights" as a special restricted subset of rights in general. So the right to vote is an important right and one we can cherish as a right, but because only some people (adult citizens who are not convicted felons) have it, it is not an EQUAL right--and that's OK. The right not to be murdered, on the other hand, is one of those special equal rights since if murder is always wrong everyone without exception has the right not to be murdered.

Here's how one gets from a type of "equality of opportunity" to demands for a type of equality of outcome: Start by having implicitly in your mind the assumption that population groups x and y (say, women and men) _are in fact_ statistically equal in ability in the relevant field (say, physics or engineering). "Statistically equal" meaning that, taken as a group, the innate abilities of the group in this field, if we could only measure them accurately, would form curves that would have very close to the same mean, median, and mode.

Then, demand that being a member of group x or group y be ignored in all aspects of the field in question--hiring, recruitment, etc. Except perhaps if right now one group is more strongly represented, you're allowed _not_ to ignore group membership when you make welcoming noises and remarks or put out welcoming-sounding advertising, because you're somewhat worried that members of the other group might not feel welcome and that this might be the cause of the present differential outcomes. However, when it comes to actually evaluating, you're supposed to ignore group membership in x or y. Okay, that's "giving equality of opportunity."

Now, after some years of doing this, look at the outcomes. If one group is still substantially overrepresented, you have to make a decision. You can a) question your original unspoken assumption of statistical equality between the two groups' abilities in the field, b) decide that for some reason, "ability" notwithstanding, the _free inclinations_ of the groups to enter the field are significantly different, c) decide that, however hard you tried, your process of selection _must_ have actually favored the group that now has the larger representation, or d) decide that the _significantly unfree_ inclinations of the groups are different--that is, that "society" is wrongly making the less-represented group feel that its members shouldn't go into that field or can't do well in that field.

It's easy to see how a person who starts with the assumption of equal innate abilities could easily get really _bothered_ about inequality of outcome and how there could be a tremendous temptation to rig the process in some way later on so as to make the outcomes match the expected outcome.

Lydia,

OK but since that's totally illogical can we not simply insist that whatever illogical thoughts they may want to have in the privacy of their own homes in order to make such demands of a democratic republic that protects the rights of all they have to demonstrate that "equality of outcome" follows logically from "equality of opportunity?"

This is specifically off-topic but generally concerns every topic in this blog and the basic assumptions behind it:

Lydia has shown how a liberal "equality of opportunity" has led to a leftist demand for "equality of outcome." She admits in order for that to be justified, we have to admit the truth of some assumptions that have to remain implicit (because when they are made explicit they become obviously absurd). There are other questionable or obviously untrue assumptions which she didn't mention that have to be defended in order to justify the "equality of outcome" demand.

A sort of argumentation that is frequently made here is that any kind of liberalism inevitably or naturally "leads to" the noxious leftism that this blog exposes and attacks. But it seems to me that the examples are cases where x happens to have led to y, not cases where x naturally or inevitably can be expected to lead to y. Something that is illogical or irrational cannot be called "natural" or "inevitable."

I think in this particular case (of opportunity to outcome) it's a psychological issue, Steve. People have this huge "felt need" to make it come out that we've proved in the laboratory of the world that women are as good as men, or that this racial group can do just as well as this other racial group if only given a fair chance, etc. It's that felt need that drives the bus. Faced with a failure of the experiment in the laboratory of the world to turn out the desired way, many, many people are unwilling to question their egalitarian assumptions or to continue to let the chips fall where they may.

That being said, as I indicated in the main post, I can imagine plenty of cases where it is legitimate _not_ to give "equality of opportunity." For example, if an employer has noticed that female employees that he's hired in the past tend to have babies, take three months off, and then quit, so that he's wasted his training, it's legitimate for him to be wary about hiring more female employees (especially if they're young), and to feel that all else being equal, he'd rather have a male. That's a failure of equality of opportunity in hiring, and it's possible that some woman who wouldn't do any of those things and who would have done a great job will get overlooked in the process, but the employer has a legitimate stake in deciding how his utilities are going to work out there and whether to take the chance on a given employee. I don't think that's unjust. So even equality of opportunity is not something I would give allegiance to as an across-the-board thing.

Equality as the one of the most important defining values and one of the highest (in combination with concepts like human rights, autonomy/individualism, diversity, democracy, secularism as the groundwork and 'progress') is right-liberalism. My biggest problem of the American founding is how its explicitly liberal and implicitly conservative. Now 200 years later all that is left and in power is liberalism. Why? Because the founding was explicitly liberal.

Joseph, while I might be prepared to agree with you, I find it difficult to do so because I don't know what you mean when you throw around "explicitly liberal" and "implicitly conservative". Can you explain?

It seems to me that calling the main thrust of the founding documents "explicitly liberal" is pretty difficult to substantiate, if by "liberal" you mean liberal as it proceeds in 2011. There were thousands of developments after the Founding that construed and constrained the application of those documents in ways that were not really part of the central meaning of those documents. The fact that such later meanings could be appended to them by some later liberals would be damning, if we didn't see exactly the same thing done to the Bible. Does that mean that the Bible is an "explicitly liberal" document? By no means.

Unless you can construct a more or less necessary connection between the Founders' words and concepts as they understood them, and the 21st century meaning of liberalism, such that no reasonable alternative unfolding of those documents into modern times could be conceived, then what we have is, as much a liberal document, just a document that is capable of being molded towards a melodic emphasis that was only intended to be a barely-heard harmony. Reminds me of something I heard on the radio about 3 years ago at Christmas: someone had done an arrangement of "Come All Ye Faithful" with full orchestra that was so involved, and emphasized so much besides the main melody, that it was literally 2 minutes into the piece before I recognized what it was. I think it is fair to say that (a) their arrangement sprang out of "Come All Ye Faithful", and (b) it was not a faithful development thereof. Saying that 21st century liberalism has managed to spring forth out of the Founding does not lead to the conclusion that it is the only faithful development of the Founding.

Mark, someday I'm going to post an article on "the tyranny of fairness". I think you mistake modern, western "fairness" parenting (and teaching, etc.) for something more universal and historical than it really is.

Jeff, I don't need to hear your lesson. You need to understand the lessen much more fundamental, that a wise person cannot judge something by its abuse, because this is fallacious reasoning. If you can't acknowledge that is true and self-evident, I don't know what to say.

You say I "mistake modern, western "fairness" parenting (and teaching, etc.) for something more universal and historical than it really is." Seriously? Take Lydia's wise approach of teaching by example. What individual issue can you point to as evidence that I misunderstand based on anything? Name one. Just one. Jeff, you're more liberal on individual issues than I am. I'm as anti-modern as anybody you'll ever find on issues, and a good bit more than you, unless you can give an example of an actual issue that we disagree on where your's isn't the more liberal one.

Can't you see that the main point of Lydia's post is abstract? The issue isn't whether ideas of fairness, justice, and equality have not become distorted. They have! They have! They have, they have, they have! I've said this until I'm blue in the face from the moment I stepped onto this blog a year ago or whenever. The question is whether the ideas were bad ideas to believe and teach to begin with. I say no. You say yes, or at least follow zippy's line that though they are "moral truths," they shouldn't be taught, which is a contradiction if there ever was. Or maybe you simply follow the fallacious reasoning I alluded to and think "hey they are distorted, they must be bad ideas." If you dislike my paraphrases of your position, supply your own please. That is our disagreement. That's it. That's it. You think the ideas themselves are bad, and because I hold the barest minimal theoretical claims about them that . . . un what exactly? That I must disagree with you on actual issues of fairness, equality, and such. Because I hold these ideas, and they happen to be false and lead to bad actions and other beliefs. Whereas I think you hold false beliefs from modern Liberalism that Western culture was corrupt from the start. The "original sin" narrative that leads eventually to abortion as Lydia put it.

There is no point in addressing your response about the teaching of children, because you are misreading Lydia's point, misreading me, and you've raised no interesting side points. This is an abstract discussion and until you recognize the abstract point of disagreement and the nature of it there isn't any more I have to say about it to you than I just did. If you really wish to proceed and discuss this with me, I'll be happy to hear your paraphrase of my very minimal claims. As Steve Burton pointed out some time ago, it is the minimal requirement for fruitful discussion.

equality of nature in itself doesn't generate Aquinas' notion of justice.

No, no one has said that. I said any level of justice will require a presumption about equality.

Mark, I'm quite willing to avoid the charge of "nominalism" on this score by labeling what I'm talking about something like "legal equality" or "equality before the law."

Terribly sorry Lydia to have rambled in such a way that it seemed like I was referring to you. I wasn't at all. I was referring to zippy's position on "brass tacks and particulars," and those who agree with that would shouldn't teach principles, which has strong nominalist overtones.

I take using examples to be necessary, in the philosophical sense. There are particulars, and there are universals. They are both features of the world. We form universal ideas from particulars. You know the drill. :) Or do you see a problem with this analogy?

if we didn't see exactly the same thing done to the Bible. Does that mean that the Bible is an "explicitly liberal" document? By no means.

Tony, yes! I was just thinking that the other day. Consider the strange cadre of people around on the Internet who teach that Christianity is the religion of wimps because of Jesus' statements like "Turn the other cheek" and "Give to him that asks you" and the like. These folks teach that we can only ever be manly men and defend our country, etc., if we reject Christianity and become pagans or neo-pagans. Heck, it isn't even necessary to go to that esoteric and marginal a group. There are all the liberal Christians--too many unfortunate folks have to listen to them preaching every Sunday--who say the same thing, only of course they don't use the phrase "religion of wimps," because they think it's _good_ to be what some of us would call "wimps." So they teach pacifism and totally open borders and the welfare state, etc., etc., as "Christ's commands" and hence give excuse to the first group of neo-pagans.

The funny thing is that taking the statements in isolation it actually is somewhat _easier_ to do this sort of thing with the Bible than with the founding documents. It's so obviously anachronistic to argue for a connection between "All men are created equal" and a woman's "right" to an abortion (!) that it would just be silly (I'm sorry to say this, but it would) if people didn't try to do it. But Christian pacifism has at least a fairly old pedigree, and there are Greek Orthodox who will tell you that their church has taught for hundreds of years that a soldier shouldn't receive the sacrament for some period of time after having shed blood.

In the old thread (linked in the main post) I pointed out some, to my mind, unfortunate statements about discrimination against homosexuals in the Catholic Catechism, and I think I made a pretty good argument there along the same lines. But it's actually easiest of all to do it with the Bible.

if we didn't see exactly the same thing done to the Bible. Does that mean that the Bible is an "explicitly liberal" document? By no means.

Tony, yes!

Tony, yes! This is a great an example that illustrates the principle (gasp!) that "nothing should be judged by its abuse." It is logically identical to a million analogies, but has the most import to this audience. Bravo! Effective communication in action.

"No, no one has said that. I said any level of justice will require a presumption about equality."

Justice will involve some sort of equality--the question is, what sort of equality. Aquinas' account of justice isn't the same as your account so I wouldn't cite him as an authority backing your case.

I don't think you have to teach children about fairness, they seem to just pick it up naturally. It doesn't seem right to discourage it, it's the primitive beginning of the idea of justice. Maybe the best thing to do is to try to remember to respond to their talk of fairness with talk of rightness and justice, without actually contradicting them or telling them they are wrong about "fairness."

Steve, you're being too literal. I was thinking of "sharing" and generalized with the term "fairness," because sharing is based on that. I was reminded of this on vacation a few weeks ago my wife's when seeing the great difficulty my sister-in-law was having with her daughter over sharing a bag of sweets with others and such like. Will there ever come a day when parent's won't teach kids about sharing? Of course not. Why do they teach sharing? Does it have anything to do with fairness? Uh-huh.

Now, you're right that much of our understanding about fairness comes from our nature. For one, not all kids need to be taught certain basics about it as you say. For another, I think we can even see that some higher animals understand fairness at some level, just like they display guilt, love, and such. But that doesn't mean kids don't need to be taught principles about sharing, and clearly they do need this, and clearly it isn't in their natures. Not to know this is dangerous for them.

Political ideas about sharing what shouldn't be shared with others, otherwise known as redistribution is another matter. I know you know this, but to restate for others, the question is whether there are true and good moral truths based on fairness, or whether or whether the concept is a modern political invention that has doomed us to the redistributionist welfare state.

Justice will involve some sort of equality--the question is, what sort of equality. Aquinas' account of justice isn't the same as your account so I wouldn't cite him as an authority backing your case
.

T. Chan: My account of equality is nothing more than "justice will involve some sort of equality." That is it. That is all. That is what the dispute is over, this minimal claim. You agree with me I'm happy to see.

Just so I can understand, what did you think it was over? What did you think my position was? Was it opposition from other Conservatives made you make assumptions?

Why cite Dougherty's synthesis if you didn't agree with it? Or are you just name-dropping?

All (but especially Zippy),

I'm just now making my way through this post, our comments from the previous post, and our debate from a year ago. I feel convicted as I still haven't spent much time with Pope Leo XIII although his Immortale Dei is the document you suggested to me in 2010 as better "political pieties" to start thinking about a just and right political order as opposed to the Declaration of Independence. I'm making my way through the document now, and if I read Pope Leo correctly, I get the sense from him that not only does he want God explicitly in charge (instead of implicitly through the Declaration), but he wants the Catholic Church to lay down the rules for what God means:

21. There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favour of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices. The State, constituted in this wise, bore fruits important beyond all expectation, whose remembrance is still, and always will be, in renown, witnessed to as they are by countless proofs which can never be blotted out or ever obscured by any craft of any enemies. Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is-beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.

22. A similar state of things would certainly have continued had the agreement of the two powers been lasting. More important results even might have been justly looked for, had obedience waited upon the authority, teaching, and counsels of the Church, and had this submission been specially marked by greater and more unswerving loyalty. For that should be regarded in the light of an ever-changeless law which No of Chartres wrote to Pope Paschal II: "When kingdom and priesthood are at one, in complete accord, the world is well ruled, and the Church flourishes, and brings forth abundant fruit. But when they are at variance, not only smaller interests prosper not, but even things of greatest moment fall into deplorable decay."(21)

23. But that harmful and deplorable passion for innovation which was aroused in the sixteenth century threw first of all into confusion the Christian religion, and next, by natural sequence, invaded the precincts of philosophy, whence it spread amongst all classes of society. From this source, as from a fountain-head, burst forth all those later tenets of unbridled license which, in the midst of the terrible unheavals of the last century, were wildly conceived and boldly proclaimed as the principles and foundation of that new conception of law which was not merely previously unknown, but was at variance on many points with not only the Christian, but even the natural law.

24. Amongst these principles the main one lays down that as all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people, being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler. It does choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name.

25. The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God; or as if He cared nothing for human society; or as if men, whether in their individual capacity or bound together in social relations, owed nothing to God; or as if there could be a government of which the whole origin and power and authority did not reside in God Himself. Thus, as is evident, a State becomes nothing but a multitude which is its own master and ruler. And since the people is declared to contain within itself the spring-head of all rights and of all power, it follows that the State does not consider itself bound by any kind of duty toward God. Moreover, it believes that it is not obliged to make public profession of any religion; or to inquire which of the very many religions is the only one true; or to prefer one religion to all the rest; or to show to any form of religion special favour; but, on the contrary, is bound to grant equal rights to every creed, so that public order may not be disturbed by any particular form of religious belief.

26. And it is a part of this theory that all questions that concern religion are to be referred to private judgment; that every one is to be free to follow whatever religion he prefers, or none at all if he disapprove of all. From this the following consequences logically flow: that the judgment of each one's conscience is independent of all law; that the most unrestrained opinions may be openly expressed as to the practice or omission of divine worship; and that every one has unbounded license to think whatever he chooses and to publish abroad whatever he thinks.

27. Now, when the State rests on foundations like those just named - and for the time being they are greatly in favor - it readily appears into what and how unrightful a position the Church is driven. For, when the management of public business is in harmony with doctrines of such a kind, the Catholic religion is allowed a standing in civil society equal only, or inferior, to societies alien from it; no regard is paid to the laws of the Church, and she who, by the order and commission of Jesus Christ, has the duty of teaching all nations, finds herself forbidden to take any part in the instruction of the people. With reference to matters that are of twofold jurisdiction, they who administer the civil power lay down the law at their own will, and in matters that appertain to religion defiantly put aside the most sacred decrees of the Church. They claim jurisdiction over the marriages of Catholics, even over the bond as well as the unity and the indissolubility of matrimony. They lay hands on the goods of the clergy, contending that the Church cannot possess property. Lastly, they treat the Church with such arrogance that, rejecting entirely her title to the nature and rights of a perfect society, they hold that she differs in no respect from other societies in the State, and for this reason possesses no right nor any legal power of action, save that which she holds by the concession and favor of the government. If in any State the Church retains her own agreement publicly entered into by the two powers, men forthwith begin to cry out that matters affecting the Church must be separated from those of the State.

28. Their object in uttering this cry is to be able to violate unpunished their plighted faith, and in all things to have unchecked control. And as the Church, unable to abandon her chiefest and most sacred duties, cannot patiently put up with this, and asks that the pledge given to her be fully and scrupulously acted up to, contentions frequently arise between the ecclesiastical and the civil power, of which the issue commonly is that the weaker power yields to the one which is stronger in human resources.

29. Accordingly, it has become the practice and determination under this condition of public polity (now so much admired by many) either to forbid the action of the Church altogether, or to keep her in check and bondage to the State. Public enactments are in great measure framed with this design. The drawing up of laws, the administration of State affairs, the godless education of youth, the spoliation and suppression of religious orders, the overthrow of the temporal power of the Roman Pontiff, all alike aim to this one end-to paralyse the action of Christian institutions, to cramp to the utmost the freedom of the Catholic Church, and to curtail her ever single prerogative.

30. Now, natural reason itself proves convincingly that such concepts of the government of a State are wholly at variance with the truth. Nature itself bears witness that all power, of every kind, has its origin from God, who is its chief and most august source.

31. The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude; which is doubtless a doctrine exceedingly well calculated to flatter and to inflame many passions, but which lacks all reasonable proof, and all power of insuring public safety and preserving order. Indeed, from the prevalence of this teaching, things have come to such a pass that may hold as an axiom of civil jurisprudence that seditions may be rightfully fostered. For the opinion prevails that princes are nothing more than delegates chosen to carry out the will of the people; whence it necessarily follows that all things are as changeable as the will of the people, so that risk of public disturbance is ever hanging over our heads. To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. Men who really believe in the existence of God must, in order to be consistent with themselves and to avoid absurd conclusions, understand that differing modes of divine worship involving dissimilarity and conflict even on most important points cannot all be equally probable, equally good, and equally acceptable to God.

32. So, too, the liberty of thinking, and of publishing, whatsoever each one likes, without any hindrance, is not in itself an advantage over which society can wisely rejoice. On the contrary, it is the fountain-head and origin of many evils. Liberty is a power perfecting man, and hence should have truth and goodness for its object. But the character of goodness and truth cannot be changed at option. These remain ever one and the same, and are no less unchangeable than nature itself. If the mind assents to false opinions, and the will chooses and follows after what is wrong, neither can attain its native fullness, but both must fall from their native dignity into an abyss of corruption. Whatever, therefore, is opposed to virtue and truth may not rightly be brought temptingly before the eye of man, much less sanctioned by the favor and protection of the law. A well-spent life is the only way to heaven, whither all are bound, and on this account the State is acting against the laws and dictates of nature whenever it permits the license of opinion and of action to lead minds astray from truth and souls away from the practice of virtue. To exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from life, from laws, from the education of youth, from domestic society is a grave and fatal error. A State from which religion is banished can never be well regulated; and already perhaps more than is desirable is known of the nature and tendency of the so-called civil philosophy of life and morals. The Church of Christ is the true and sole teacher of virtue and guardian of morals. She it is who preserves in their purity the principles from which duties flow, and, by setting forth most urgent reasons for virtuous life, bids us not only to turn away from wicked deeds, but even to curb all movements of the mind that are opposed to reason, even though they be not carried out in action.

33. To wish the Church to be subject to the civil power in the exercise of her duty is a great folly and a sheer injustice. Whenever this is the case, order is disturbed, for things natural are put above things supernatural; the many benefits which the Church, if free to act, would confer on society are either prevented or at least lessened in number; and a way is prepared for enmities and contentions between the two powers, with how evil result to both the issue of events has taught us only too frequently.

34. Doctrines such as these, which cannot be approved by human reason, and most seriously affect the whole civil order, Our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs (well aware of what their apostolic office required of them) have never allowed to pass uncondemned. Thus, Gregory XVI in his encyclical letter Mirari Vos, dated August 15, 1832, inveighed with weighty words against the sophisms which even at his time were being publicly inculcated-namely, that no preference should be shown for any particular form of worship; that it is right for individuals to form their own personal judgments about religion; that each man's conscience is his sole and all-sufficing guide; and that it is lawful for every man to publish his own views, whatever they may be, and even to conspire against the State. On the question of the separation of Church and State the same Pontiff writes as follows: "Nor can We hope for happier results either for religion or for the civil government from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be separated from the State, and the concord between the secular and ecclesiastical authority be dissolved. It is clear that these men, who yearn for a shameless liberty, live in dread of an agreement which has always been fraught with good, and advantageous alike to sacred and civil interests." To the like effect, also, as occasion presented itself, did Pius IX brand publicly many false opinions which were gaining ground, and afterwards ordered them to be condensed in summary form in order that in this sea of error Catholics might have a light which they might safely follow.(22)

35. From these pronouncements of the Popes it is evident that the origin of public power is to be sought for in God Himself, and not in the multitude, and that it is repugnant to reason to allow free scope for sedition. Again, that it is not lawful for the State, any more than for the individual, either to disregard all religious duties or to hold in equal favour different kinds of religion; that the unrestrained freedom of thinking and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of citizens, and is by no means to be reckoned worthy of favour and support. In like manner it is to be understood that the Church no less than the State itself is a society perfect in its own nature and its own right, and that those who exercise sovereignty ought not so to act as to compel the Church to become subservient or subject to them, or to hamper her liberty in the management of her own affairs, or to despoil her in any way of the other privileges conferred upon her by Jesus Christ. In matters, however, of mixed jurisdiction, it is in the highest degree consonant to nature, as also to the designs of God, that so far from one of the powers separating itself from the other, or still less coming into conflict with it, complete harmony, such as is suited to the end for which each power exists, should be preserved between them.

36. This, then, is the teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the constitution and government of the State. By the words and decrees just cited, if judged dispassionately, no one of the several forms of government is in itself condemned, inasmuch as none of them contains anything contrary to Catholic doctrine, and all of them are capable, if wisely and justly managed, to insure the welfare of the State. Neither is it blameworthy in itself, in any manner, for the people to have a share greater or less, in the government: for at certain times, and under certain laws, such participation may not only be of benefit to the citizens, but may even be of obligation. Nor is there any reason why any one should accuse the Church of being wanting in gentleness of action or largeness of view, or of being opposed to real and lawful liberty. The Church, indeed, deems it unlawful to place the various forms of divine worship on the same footing as the true religion, but does not, on that account, condemn those rulers who, for the sake of securing some great good or of hindering some great evil, allow patiently custom or usage to be a kind of sanction for each kind of religion having its place in the State. And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, "Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will."

37. In the same way the Church cannot approve of that liberty which begets a contempt of the most sacred laws of God, and casts off the obedience due to lawful authority, for this is not liberty so much as license, and is most correctly styled by St. Augustine the "liberty of self ruin," and by the Apostle St. Peter the "cloak of malice."(23) Indeed, since it is opposed to reason, it is a true slavery, "for whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin."(24) On the other hand, that liberty is truly genuine, and to be sought after, which in regard to the individual does not allow men to be the slaves of error and of passion, the worst of all masters; which, too, in public administration guides the citizens in wisdom and provides for them increased means of well-being; and which, further, protects the State from foreign interference.

38. This honourable liberty, alone worthy of human beings, the Church approves most highly and has never slackened her endeavour to preserve, strong and unchanged, among nations. And, in truth, whatever in the State is of chief avail for the common welfare; whatever has been usefully established to curb the license of rulers who are opposed to the true interests of the people, or to keep in check the leading authorities from unwarrantably interfering in municipal or family affairs; whatever tends to uphold the honour, manhood, and equal rights of individual citizens-of all these things, as the monuments of past ages bear witness, the Catholic Church has always been the originator, the promoter, or the guardian. Ever, therefore, consistent with herself, while on the one hand she rejects that exorbitant liberty which in individuals and in nations ends in license or in thraldom, on the other hand, she willingly and most gladly welcomes whatever improvements the age brings forth, if these really secure the prosperity of life here below, which is, as it were, a stage in the journey to the life that will know no ending.

39. Therefore, when it is said that the Church is hostile to modern political regimes and that she repudiates the discoveries of modern research, the charge is a ridiculous and groundless calumny. Wild opinions she does repudiate, wicked and seditious projects she does condemn, together with that attitude of mind which points to the beginning of a willful departure from God. But, as all truth must necessarily proceed from God, the Church recognizes in all truth that is reached by research a trace of the divine intelligence. And as all truth in the natural order is powerless to destroy belief in the teachings of revelation, but can do much to confirm it, and as every newly discovered truth may serve to further the knowledge or the praise of God, it follows that whatsoever spreads the range of knowledge will always be willingly and even joyfully welcomed by the Church. She will always encourage and promote, as she does in other branches of knowledge, all study occupied with the investigation of nature. In these pursuits, should the human intellect discover anything not known before, the Church makes no opposition. She never objects to search being made for things that minister to the refinements and comforts of life. So far, indeed, from opposing these she is now, as she ever has been, hostile alone to indolence and sloth, and earnestly wishes that the talents of men may bear more and more abundant fruit by cultivation and exercise. Moreover, she gives encouragement to every kind of art and handicraft, and through her influence, directing all strivings after progress toward virtue and salvation, she labours to prevent man's intellect and industry from turning him away from God and from heavenly things.

Jeff Singer:
if I read Pope Leo correctly, I get the sense from him that not only does he want God explicitly in charge (instead of implicitly through the Declaration), but he wants the Catholic Church to lay down the rules for what God means

You read him correctly.

There's actually a good short video discussion concerning the meaning, origin and context of Equality within the American Founding, that can be found here:

http://tv.nationalreview.com/uncommonknowledge/post/?q=MTg2N2YwMDIzMzBjOWQwODEzNDc5OTEwNDM5YmIyYWU=

It's from an UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE episode.

Hmmm.

The errors in attribution being made by the commenter Mark in these threads are way too thick to do more than scratch the surface. I'll just touch on one of them:

I criticize the concept of "equal rights" by taking "equal" to be a universal (identity with respect to some attribute). When combined with "rights" as a politically relevant concept - rights which in the political sense are rules for authoritatively discriminating (e.g. between property owner and trespasser) when there are conflicts which must be adjudicated - this universal is problemmatic, for reasons discussed ad nauseum over the years.

Lydia posts in qualified support of the concept of equality by suggesting that "equality" is OK as long as it is used as a mere slogan and means just what she says it means, nothing more, nothing less.

And the problem with my criticism of equal rights as a politically supreme principle is that it (my critique) is nominalist? Really?

(FYI, I've been criticizing nominalism and its relationship to liberalism for many years. For example, I am the commenter "Matt" in this 2002 post at VFR).

Jeff Singer:

I'll briefly respond to this, since I put you onto it in the first place. But to some extent these explorations are your own journey, and you shouldn't consider me an authoritative guide or anything. I'm just some guy who happens to be Catholic.

...but he wants the Catholic Church to lay down the rules for what God means:

That may be overstating it, depending on the scope of what you mean by "rules". The Catholic Faith is not like Islam: it prescribes no comprehensive code of positive law like Sharia or political structure like monarchy (or democracy for that matter).

Think of the relation of Church and State with respect to abortion. The State has legitimate authority, derived from natural law, to make the positive law. There are cases - like Roe vs Wade - where the positive law asserts something directly against the natural law. The Church, in many ways and place (e.g. the encyclical Evangelium Vitae), asserts the contrary: a State which attempts to assert a right to abortion in the positive law not only does evil thereby, but undermines its own source of authority, which is the common good as concretely understood in the light of the natural law. (The legitimacy of the State's authority notably does not derive from the "consent of the governed").

So it isn't that Leo says that the Church is in charge of making traffic rules or passing financial legislation or whatever. Just that when it comes to fundamental issues of basic morality - the natural and divine law - the Church is the supreme earthly authority (backed ultimately by Christ's Divine authority). When the State says that equality guarantees a right to abortion, and the Church says the State is wrong and in fact is not capable of creating such a "right", you can be confident that the Church is right and the State is wrong.

The Sovereign's power doesn't derive from God directly: there is no "divine right of Kings" in the erstwhile Protestant sense. It derives from the natural law. And because the Church is a trustworthy teacher of doctrines of faith and morals - where the natural law is a subset of morals - the Church's authority on such matters is greater than that of the State. It does not mean that the Pope is authorized to step in and take over the civil authority, any more than he is authorized to step in and take over as head of someone's household.

I just hope that at some point soon Michael Bauman shows up in this thread and tell us what he thinks about Zippy's thoughts on this subject. I get the sense that there may be a Protestant/Catholic rift developing and his opinion would sort of be a good litmus test of whether or not I'm right.

That said, I can't but help read Zippy's latest comment and remain more confused. Here is my problem -- it seems like Zippy is absolutely convinced that the idea of "equal rights" is "problematic" because it doesn't make much sense once you start thinking about specific cases in which it would apply in a political context. But when Lydia tried to argue that there was an older, valid (dare I say conservative) way to think of equal rights (i.e. treat like as like) Zippy once again dismisses this effort at definition because...well, I guess because he thinks that a liberal will come along and disagree with Lydia and instead use the "slogan" for their own purposes.

O.K., I'm sure Zippy will tell me if I characterized him correctly above, but here is why I'm confused. How can any effort to develop political principles, even those outlined by Pope Leo XIII, not involve a general phrase that then requires some explanation or the potential for abuse. This was Tony's point above and Lydia's point in the earlier (2010) debate. Take Pope Leo's phrase "Hence, it follows that all public power must proceed from God." Now put the Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori in charge of figuring out what that means. Liberal disaster ensues.

So to return to Mark and Tony, aren't we really arguing over something much older -- the problem with politics isn't the Declaration but the Fall?

I criticize the concept of "equal rights" by taking "equal" to be a universal (identity with respect to some attribute). When combined with "rights" as a politically relevant concept - rights which in the political sense are rules for authoritatively discriminating (e.g. between property owner and trespasser) when there are conflicts which must be adjudicated - this universal is problemmatic, for reasons discussed ad nauseum over the years.

I'm not disputing that "equal rights" as a slogan is bad. I agree with Lydia as she states in the post, that it is problematic. You won't find me defending it. For one, I don't know what it means. Is it in the Constitution? Well even if I knew what it meant, I can't see how. So here is common ground between us. We don't like the idea of "equal rights" as a slogan and think it problematic.

But I follow Lydia's lead, though she could have made it more clear by being less provocative by stating her thesis without the term "equal rights" at all since it isn't necessary, and people are trading on the extreme baggage of that term. That has been my approach because it simply isn't the most fundamental issue. It merely raises the question of whether classic ideas about equality lead to "equal rights" thinking, whatever people take that to mean. The most fundamental issue is whether or not there is a proper understanding of equality that can be affirmed, or whether it is either 1) a fiction; 2) true, but should not be taught for one reason or other.

Zippy, you've made statements that clearly go beyond attacking the idea of "equal rights." If you stopped there we wouldn't be arguing now. But you haven't. You said that the term "equality" shouldn't be used:

It is possible, but unwise in my view, to use it to express a moral truth.

You hold out option 2 above. Translation: It is possible to use the term "equality" to express a moral truth (it may be true), but it shouldn't be done (it is unwise).

As I've already said pretty clearly, this is incoherent. Now what is true, but unwise to teach as a truth? What other ideas are so dangerous? Is it like knowledge of where babies come from? When does one get mature enough to handle it? My friends, there is a word for this. TABOO. This is where Zippy's attempt to split the baby and seem reasonable by affirming that something that seems obviously true probably is, but still exclude that something for reasons not given. That's where we've arrived: TABOO.

Jeff S:

But when Lydia tried to argue that there was an older, valid (dare I say conservative) way to think of equal rights (i.e. treat like as like) Zippy once again dismisses this effort at definition because...well, I guess because he thinks that a liberal will come along and disagree with Lydia and instead use the "slogan" for their own purposes.

Even if I stipulate an "older" way to use "equal rights" as a quasi-nominalist label for a list of very specific limitations - which is problemmatic to begin with as historical fact, but lets just let that go for a moment - the same problem still arises. If "equal rights" is a basic, fundamental political principle then over time no populace is going to be happy treating it as a nominalist label for a very restricted list of things. Principles aren't laundry lists with big signposts on them which say "no extrapolation allowed beyond this point".

Equal rights as a basic political principle is inherently unstable, and tends toward increasing its reach and scope over time. That it would ultimately encompass a right to abortion specifically was not inevitable; that it would ultimately encompass many things not envisaged in Lydia's list was inevitable. I discussed the phenomenon in this old post, which I linked to in the other thread as well. Because discrimination is simply what a government by its very nature does, these lists of discriminations which are not allowed were inevitable, and "sticky" for the reason given.

That "equal rights" as a supreme political principle ultimately requires some persons to be treated politically as non-persons is something I've written about in other prior posts.

Note that the Founders, by the way, did not make a specific restricted list as Lydia did. Perhaps they would have preferred to do so in hindsight (though I doubt you would have ever gotten Jefferson to agree to that); but they didn't in fact. So the "equal rights" established as a basic political principle at our founding in actual history as it actually happened was inherently unstable, and inherently leads to more and more things being considered "rights" over time. (Even if one doesn't want to grant me the "inherently leads", it would be ludicrous to argue with "in fact lead".)

Why cite Dougherty's synthesis if you didn't agree with it? Or are you just name-dropping?

T. Chan: Step away from the keyboard if you are too proud to admit you're wrong, or if you don't know how to bloody cut and paste. What is the point of my typing if you refuse to quote me when characterizing what I think? Where did I say or imply anything you seem to think I did in your last three comments? Please quote me, link me, or by-gum something to tell me what in God's name you're talking about.

For the last time . . .

I said this:

"I think justice requires some type of equality, doesn't it?" . . . isn't this just a fact, as Aquinas said? Is there no metaphysical basis for justice?

Was I name-dropping? Yes. Traditionally, it's called "citing." Aquinas affirms the point I wished to make, whether he's right or wrong. That's the works last time I checked. Here's an idea: why don't you try citations sometime?

But the point is, the only point I wished to make (as I said already, and yet you disbelieve) that "justice requires some type of equality." That fact is in dispute by zippy, and Jeff C., and a few others unless they wish to deny it, which they could easily do and remove all doubt that I'm not raising a straw man. Or, more likely, they'd just throw justice under the bus too. Isn't idealism great?

Mark:

Zippy, you've made statements that clearly go beyond attacking the idea of "equal rights." If you stopped there we wouldn't be arguing now. But you haven't.

Frankly, if we could all agree that any conservative who refuses to disavow the concept "equal rights" is a right-liberal, and that all conservatives ought to explicitly disavow "equal rights", I'll consider my job here done.

As for the other:

There are many ways of expressing any truth (moral or otherwise). Some ways of expressing a given truth are wiser than others, depending on context. That it is possible to express something true in a certain way does not mean that it is wise to express it in that certain way.

My argument that conservatives should not express moral truths in the language of equality and rights is a prudential argument; an argument which applies to our particular place and time, right now in this moment of history in America. They shouldn't do it because doing so is stupid, self-defeating, and destructive; not because it is analytically impossible to say anything true using that kind of language. Any moral truth which can be expressed or labeled in the language of equality (or "equal rights") can also be expressed in some other language which does not use the term "equality" or its immediate cognates. That's what we ought to do, because using the language of political freedom and equality just adds more fuel to the fire.

See? No incoherence.

Well, actually, I don't think the phrase "equal rights" occurs in any of the founding documents, but I would guess that Zippy would make the same argument about "All men are created equal...and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" which appears in the Declaration.

Doesn't it seem reasonable, Zippy, that people can use sweeping phrases in a specific historical context because they are assuming that people will read them in that historical context? And if someone takes such a phrase hundreds of years later and uses it to support something crazy, does that really mean that the original concept was "inherently unstable," or just that people are prone to think and do crazy things and to use whatever they can find to make it look good?

Suppose someone wrote a document saying, "We affirm the primacy of the family as the fundamental unit of society." One could _imagine_ ways in which that somewhat sweeping proclamation could be taken to support something crazy and bad (e.g., that parents can kill their children with impunity, because the children as individuals don't count as "units of society"), but the author might well be justified in expecting that people _wouldn't_ use what he had written in that way. Or he might rightly say that that isn't even close to what he means and that if people use it that way later, it's their fault and has nothing to do with any flaw in his own ideas about the family which he was trying to propagate by that document.

Couldn't we call just about any statement with a really ringing sound and sweeping rhetorical flair "inherently unstable" because, over hundreds of years, we can imagine that a society would build up that would take some strange possible meaning of such a statement and run with it?

Here's an interesting thesis: For any proverbial or rhetorically lofty statement or speech, it is possible to guess with a fair degree of accuracy in what direction it is most likely later to be used to support something nuts. If we think of "heresy" in the sense of a distortion of an original and fairly reasonable meaning (as a heresy in theology is always a distortion of an original truth and thus starts with that core of truth), we might be able to guess that some types of "heresies" are more likely to develop from certain original documents than others. But this doesn't indicate instability *in the concepts* intended and understood by the authors and original audience of those documents. It just means that any given statement is more likely to be abused in some ways than in others.

Obviously, people are more likely to embrace extreme pacifism in contemplating the Sermon on the Mount than to embrace war-mongering. This doesn't, however, mean that there is instability-with-an-inherent-tendency-to-pacifism in the concepts Jesus intended to convey in the Sermon on the Mount.

Similarly, one could reasonably say, considering human nature, that some brand of libertinism was more likely to develop from the statements in the Declaration of Independence than, say, crown-and-cross authoritarianism. But that comparative statement is only, to my mind, mildly interesting. It doesn't mean anything bad about the concepts actually intended and/or conveyed by the document.

Lydia:

Let me repeat a specific exchange between myself and Jeff Singer in the other thread:

Jeff wrote:

I guess you are no fan of the Declaration's natural law principles?

I responded:

To the extent the Declaration is understood to be a statement of Jefferson's liberal "Enlightenment" understanding of natural law, that's right, I've never been a fan.

Note the qualifier. The claim that the Declaration itself was explicitly liberal is someone else's claim, not my claim. (I'm not a big fan of taking any written text completely out of context). But if you take the Declaration to be expressing Jefferson's ideas as he wrote it then yes, we have a problem, Houston.

Gotta run, folks. Don't know when I'll be able to check back in.

Equal rights as a basic political principle is inherently unstable, and tends toward increasing its reach and scope over time. That it would ultimately encompass a right to abortion specifically was not inevitable; that it would ultimately encompass many things not envisaged in Lydia's list was inevitable.

Zippy, to state that X is a political principle is not to state that it is the sole, or even merely the most important principle. The reality is that there are many political principles. There are more than one fundamental political principles (for example, subsidiarity and solidarity are two such). The difficulty of politics is that the principles all have to be evaluated, weighted, and integrated into a meaningful course of action, because one principle modulates the effect of another. Virtually every time someone makes a serious error of political principle, it is because he fails to correctly adjust the impact of ONE principle with the requirements of ANOTHER principle. The "divine right of kings" crowd back in the 1500's didn't err when they noted that all authority comes from God, a very important political principle. They erred in not tempering that truth with other principles.

Equality before the law is a valid way of talking about an important political principle. Nothing about stating it that way implies, as a logical or philosophical requirement, that it must be understood to trump all other principles. The fact that some people insist on using it to browbeat society into ignoring other principles to the detriment of the common good does not tell us whether it is better to simply eschew the use of "equality" in political speech, or to correct the error and educate people in the right way to understand the principle. If sloganeering is all we are allowed to speak, then maybe we we should avoid it. But I don't intend to be limited to slogans in my political speaking, and I hope to encourage others to develop a fulsome thinking that delights in making distinctions where distinctions are needed.

Lydia, one last thing:

For any proverbial or rhetorically lofty statement or speech, it is possible to guess with a fair degree of accuracy in what direction it is most likely later to be used to support something nuts. If we think of "heresy" in the sense of a distortion of an original and fairly reasonable meaning (as a heresy in theology is always a distortion of an original truth and thus starts with that core of truth), we might be able to guess that some types of "heresies" are more likely to develop from certain original documents than others. But this doesn't indicate instability *in the concepts* intended and understood by the authors and original audience of those documents. It just means that any given statement is more likely to be abused in some ways than in others.

I don't think it is actually true that every concept is as unstable as the concept of "equal rights", because I think when "equal" is non-nominalistically applied to a non-nominalistic concept of rights as an authoritative guide for what government ought and ought not do, the result is self-contradictory.

But suppose I suspend all that and allow that what we have is not an inherently problemmatic concept, but rather a now rampant and comprehensive heresy derived from a sweeping slogan that was never meant to be taken completely seriously.

What does that say about the wisdom of using that sweeping slogan ourselves and claiming it as what we stand for now?

My argument that conservatives should not express moral truths in the language of equality and rights is a prudential argument; an argument which applies to our particular place and time, right now in this moment of history in America. They shouldn't do it because doing so is stupid, self-defeating, and destructive; not because it is analytically impossible to say anything true using that kind of language.

Zippy, I think ditching classic Western ideas, including educational ones, and thinking you can do better is pretty stupid too. Words mean things. But why do you think that merely renaming terms will work? Won't the same thing happen with the substitute words? And do Germans (or those speaking any other language) not have this problem because they have a different term for equality? Do you see where you're going? Do you really want to go there?

Any moral truth which can be expressed or labeled in the language of equality (or "equal rights") can also be expressed in some other language which does not use the term "equality" or its immediate cognates.

This is an interesting principle you've thought up. Are you sure that isn't a dangerous principle that shouldn't be taught? But I'm game. What the heck, let's try it out. Can you tell little Susie why she should share her bag of jelly beans with her brother? Or why Joe should follow the Golden Rule?

Well, actually, I don't think the phrase "equal rights" occurs in any of the founding documents, but I would guess that Zippy would make the same argument about "All men are created equal...and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" which appears in the Declaration.

Indeed he would. He's equivocating between terms and concepts to try to exclude concepts he doesn't like. It's the same Liberal anti-Western project that we all know and love.

""I think justice requires some type of equality, doesn't it?" . . . isn't this just a fact, as Aquinas said? Is there no metaphysical basis for justice?

Was I name-dropping? Yes. Traditionally, it's called "citing." Aquinas affirms the point I wished to make, whether he's right or wrong. That's the works last time I checked. Here's an idea: why don't you try citations sometime?"

Mark:
When a citation actually has no basis in the text then it's mere name-dropping. As I pointed out, you're actually citing Dougherty's synthesis, not what Aquinas actually wrote concerning justice and equality. Now if you want to maintain that Aquinas agrees with Dougherty, try citing the actual primary texts. Don't say Dougherty did the work -- my contention, as I implied above, is that he didn't.

Now, whether you want to actually do the work of reading Aquinas for yourself instead of relying on interpreters, rather than just name-drop in order to lend some weight to your argument is up to you. My posts were intended for the benefit of anyone else reading who takes Aquinas to be an authority. I think your own attitude reveals how willing you are to accept that you might actually be mistaken in what you believe.

Should have edited that last one - too many instances of "actually."

Mark: So you either agree with Dougherty or you don't. If you agree with Dougherty, that's fine, but what Dougherty says about Aquinas is not what Aquinas actually teaches about justice. That's the point I've been making since the beginning.

Just to make it clear: Aquinas does not talk about equality between persons, or "rights" for that matter, in his definition of justice, so his writings in themselves are not germane to the current discussion. Dougherty tries to equate debitum with subjective passive rights--that's one way to develop "Thomism" and graft rights-talk into it, but it's not Aquinas.

The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens....May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
- George Washington, letter to Hebrew Congregation of Newport

Mr Chan, it is perfectly obvious I don't care what Dougherty says, and I don't even know because it doesn't matter to me. He paraphrased Aquinas and I cited him with a hyperlink in support of a very modest claim, which has nothing to do with rights. I see now the link citation to the Summa (ST II-II, 57, 1) on Dougherty's page subsequently broke, and I'm sorry I assumed it still worked.

But, not to worry, here it is:

Now iniquity would seem to be the same as injustice, because justice is a kind of equality, so that injustice is apparently the same as inequality or iniquity.

Which I take to support my point, which was:

"I think justice requires some type of equality, doesn't it?" . . . isn't this just a fact, as Aquinas said? Is there no metaphysical basis for justice?

Which perfectly well cites Aquinas in support of my point equally well as Dougherty's paraphrase in any case. Now you want to say when Aquinas says "justice is a kind of equality" that he isn't talking about persons. How could he not have been including persons in this statement? Do the terms injustice and iniquity make any sense in any other way?

Defending "rights" is not my project here, I never said it was, and think I said it wasn't, and in any case thought it was clear. I was bewildered that you ignored my statement. Well I take my share of the blame for using a source with a broken link, but I've never made any point about "rights." This isn't a natural rights discussion.

My statement above about equality and the Summa is quite clear, and yours that Aquinas wasn't referring to persons is absurd. If he wasn't referring to persons, what was he referring to?

But if there was any doubt, here's another quote from the Summa that might interest you that is only a few paragraphs lower:

Secondly we speak of injustice in reference to an inequality between one person and another, when one man wishes to have more goods, riches for example, or honors, and less evils, such as toil and losses, and thus injustice has a special matter and is a particular vice opposed to particular justice.

Now I know you're going to throw Aquinas under the bus now. Because it does sound like he's talking about equality of outcome, but given the day and age in which he spoke I don't think so. Anyway, of course he was including persons any time he spoke of injustice. The statements would be incoherent otherwise.

So to return to Mark and Tony, aren't we really arguing over something much older -- the problem with politics isn't the Declaration but the Fall?

Yes indeed Jeff. I've made that point from the beginning. Victor Davis Hanson makes the same point in his piece "Nothing New Under the Sun" that I linked at the start of the related discussion in the last thread, and probably this one too. The U. S. is a symbol and exemplar for the Western tradition. That is why we are attacked verbally as here, and from terrorist organizations too.

Mark, you said that your only claim is that "justice will involve some sort of equality" - nothing more, nothing less. That's great. I agree with you, and I'm sure Zippy does as well. If I had known that is all you meant, then I would have had nothing more to say about it. Mea culpa.

The problem is that the statement is meaningless for our purposes. We might also note that Injustice will involve some sort of equality, which is certainly true, but says absolutely nothing important. Lots of things involve equality, but do not rely upon equality for their raison d'tere. Justice involves equality only because certain equalities do, in fact, exist, and justice involves everything that exists.

As to your bizarre statement that you're more 'anti-modern" than I am, I'll just have take your word for it. I'm not here to outdo anyone as a conservative or a reactionary. Lots of people are more conservative than I am and that's fine with me. But my impression thus far is that you really don't have the faintest idea about what conservatism is, or what modernity is for that matter, nor do you seem to be the least bit curious about the effect of political modernity on your own thinking and assumptions, or whether this effect be good, bad or indifferent.

You asked for examples of political issues where we disagree and my position is the more conservative. I don't know your views on everything, and I'm sure we agree on quite a lot, but as for differences I would propose the following:

Repeal of the 19th amendment
Repeal of the 23rd amendment
Repeal of the 26th amendment
Repeal of 10th and 14th amendment jurisprudence
Franchise restrictions (by age, examination, number of dependents, head of household status, et al)
Censorship of pornography, blasphemy, Islamist propaganda, evolution, etc.
Repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The diabolical origin of contemporary music forms and the duty of the state to limit their influence
The duty of the state to protect, affirm, and even impose religious truth
The duty of the state to promote marriage and forbid divorce
The duty of the state to legally proscribe sexual perversions (including fornication, contraception and homosexuality)
The necessity of a privileged class (i.e. an "aristocracy" of some sort), and the duty of the state to favor this class by custom and in law

There's much more, of course, but the exercise is tiring and irrelevant. One thing that real conservatism is not is a list of "positions" on a smorgasborg of "issues". Conservatism is a way of living with deference to inherited ways of thought and action - Burke's "custom, convention, and prescription". The problem is that a conservative life in America today is thwarted at every turn: those of us with a conservative inclination are forced into a form of rebellion (truthfully: rebellion against rebellion) in order recover the possibility of genuine conservatism for our children. This is an uncomfortable place to be, and to a dedicated disciple of modernity it looks as much like rebellion and dissent as does the radicalism of the left.

That American self-styled "conservatives" all tend to be champions of an economic system that specializes in the destruction of tradition and virtue is, at best, an irony worthy of late night television comedy, and at worst the last nail in the coffin of any genuine American conservative movement worthy of the name. But that's OK. We don't need a fraudulent "movement" that imitates liberalism by politicizing everything from coffee to climate change. Unlike liberalism which seeks to make itself the final appeal, politicizing trivialities and creating what amounts to a new civic religion, the essence of conservatism is an appeal to authority beyond itself. The first duty of a real conservative in the new American wasteland is therefore to find that authority which most closely corresponds to the best of our inherited culture - and not the authority alone, but also its corresponding community with all of its history, no matter how flawed and tenuous - and humbly submit to both in love and fidelity.

But suppose I suspend all that and allow that what we have is not an inherently problemmatic concept, but rather a now rampant and comprehensive heresy derived from a sweeping slogan that was never meant to be taken completely seriously.
What does that say about the wisdom of using that sweeping slogan ourselves and claiming it as what we stand for now?

Zippy, Tony already gave a _killer_example_ of _an_important_principle. If you're point is valid, then we'd all become nihilists.

That reminds me of the joke where there's a bar where they told jokes so often they didn't actually repeat the joke, but instead assigned numbers to them. "Number five!" (much laughter), "Number 9!" (much laughter). A newcomer walks into the bar and says "What are they doing?" and a regular explains the routine. Just after, someone says "Number 12!" (silence). The newcomer turns to the regular and says "I guess joke number 12 wasn't funny, huh?" The regular says "Oh yes it is, but some know how to tell a joke, and some just don't."

Let's just give our arguments numbers and save ourselves some time.

Mark, you said that your only claim is that "justice will involve some sort of equality" - nothing more, nothing less. That's great. I agree with you, and I'm sure Zippy does as well.

No zippy doesn't, but I appreciate that you do. He tries to say it but squeaks out a denunciation in the next sentence that shows he can't leave it at that. He links the core issues of the Western tradition to the abuses, such that the abuses lead to doubt the principles, though the abuses are cyclical and ancient and only taboos are offered as replacements.

Sorry I was abrasive earlier. Not much more we can say.

Mark:

I wrote: "Aquinas does not talk about equality between persons." I didn't say: Aquinas claims justice doesn't involve two (or more) people. What I mean is that he doesn't talk about justice being founded upon the fact that people are equal because they have the same nature.

You write: "...Which perfectly well cites Aquinas in support of my point equally well as Dougherty's paraphrase in any case. Now you want to say when Aquinas says "justice is a kind of equality" that he isn't talking about persons. How could he not have been including persons in this statement? Do the terms injustice and iniquity make any sense in any other way?"

So let's be clear about what sort of equality Aquinas talks about.

Acts of justice either bring about equality or are the refraining from the bringing about of an inequality. You should have kept reading II II 57, 1:
"Accordingly that which is right in the works of the other virtues, and to which the intention of the virtue tends as to its proper object, depends on its relation to the agent only, whereas the right in a work of justice, besides its relation to the agent, is set up by its relation to others. Because a man's work is said to be just when it is related to some other by way of some kind of equality, for instance the payment of the wage due for a service rendered."

Similarly, in II II 57, 2 -- Aquinas writes that the object of the virtue of justice is "a work that is adjusted to another person according to some kind of equality."

In II II 58, 10 he goes on to elaborate on the virtue of particular justice, talking about the mean associated with the virtue:
"On the other hand, the matter of justice is external operation, in so far as an operation or the thing used in that operation is duly proportionate to another person, wherefore the mean of justice consists in a certain proportion of equality between the external thing and the external person." So what is equal? The action of the moral agent with (what is owed to) the person. (II II 80, 1) This equality is not necessarily with reference to the other person absolutely, but it could be with reference to some aspect, for example that he is the owner of this car or the car belonging to him.

In II II 58, 11 he shows how the definition of justice as the rendering to each his own is compatible with his account:
"On the other hand, the matter of justice is external operation, in so far as an operation or the thing used in that operation is duly proportionate to another person, wherefore the mean of justice consists in a certain proportion of equality between the external thing and the external person."

Hence when distinguishing the two forms of particular justice, commutative and distributive justice, in II II 61, 2 Aquinas talks about how the means associated with each form are different: "Hence in distributive justice the mean is observed, not according to equality between thing and thing, but according to proportion between things and persons: in such a way that even as one person surpasses another, so that which is given to one person surpasses that which is allotted to another." So, for example, those who contribute more to the success deserve a greater share of the reward. In contrast, for commutative justice: "On the other hand in commutations something is paid to an individual on account of something of his that has been received, as may be seen chiefly in selling and buying, where the notion of commutation is found primarily. Hence it is necessary to equalize thing with thing, so that the one person should pay back to the other just so much as he has become richer out of that which belonged to the other. The result of this will be equality according to the "arithmetical mean" which is gauged according to equal excess in quantity." If a man sells me a vase worth $10 then I owe him $10. The equality is between the vase and the $10, and the act of justice is to give him that $10.

So for distributive justice the equality is between the thing (broadly taken to include actions) and the recipient, while for commutative justice the equality is between thing and thing.

Thus Aquinas talks about how the word injustice is used with reference to an inequality between persons (II II 59, 1), but this is not some sort of violation of their "equality" but the balance that should exist between them in connection with human actions and things. Injustice is an inequality that is brought about by a human agent--Aquinas is not talking about equality of outcome, but what is brought about by an agent. If I steal someone's car, an inequality results. If I take his life without reason, an inequality results.

He goes on to further explain what the object of injustice is in II II 59 2: " Even as the object of justice is something equal in external things, so too the object of injustice is something unequal, through more or less being assigned to some person than is due to him." For some actions, like theft, the imbalance or inequality is obvious: "Hence justice hinders theft of another's property, in so far as stealing is contrary to the equality that should be maintained in external things" (II II 58, 9 ad 2) –the thief has more at the expense of the victim, who has less as a result of the theft. For other actions the “more” and “less” are understood through the plainer examples of theft and the like. An example would be murder, the one who is murdered is receiving “less” than what is owed (or, perhaps, his life has been “stolen”), while the murderer receives more by gratifying the will in a disordered way. This is somewhere in Aquinas’s commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics, I believe, but I’m not going to hunt down the citation because it’s getting late).

"Now I know you're going to throw Aquinas under the bus now. Because it does sound like he's talking about equality of outcome, but given the day and age in which he spoke I don't think so. Anyway, of course he was including persons any time he spoke of injustice. The statements would be incoherent otherwise."

You are a lousy mind-reader. My intention is to preserve what Aquinas actually wrote from those who would seek to misappropriate his texts in support of their pet project.

Defending "rights" is not my project here, I never said it was, and think I said it wasn't, and in any case thought it was clear. I was bewildered that you ignored my statement. Well I take my share of the blame for using a source with a broken link, but I've never made any point about "rights." This isn't a natural rights discussion.

I mentioned them because Dougherty does and they have been discussed in this thread.

We don't need a fraudulent "movement" that imitates liberalism by politicizing everything from coffee to climate change.

Americans don't need a fraudulent movement that censors evolution, restricts musical preferences, defends injustice by setting the age of the franchise higher than the age of conscription, and converts the franchise into an exclusive privilege instead of an inclusive right.

Unlike liberalism which seeks to make itself the final appeal, politicizing trivialities and creating what amounts to a new civic religion, the essence of conservatism is an appeal to authority beyond itself.

Jeff, hopefully this won't be offensive, but...Who is the one person here who insists that it's really important to call people by their titles and who implies (elsewhere, but publically) that men's wearing _blue jeans_, even well-kept and well-fitting ones, even for casual wear, is a sign of cultural decay which people should consider reversing? I mean, _politicizing trivialities_? No doubt both the liberal and you yourself would say of whatever the thing might be, "Those aren't trivialities," but...

Zippy objects to the use of "equal rights" in part because in modern politics that phrase is used to harmful purpose, and in part because the phrase descends to us from Jefferson, who was so heavily influenced by Locke's philosophy destructive of good political principles, particularly of the principle that authority comes from God, and does not rest in man as its origin.

Speaking to the second reason, I don't think the issue is as easy as all that: Jefferson, in addition to having read Locke, had also read Robert Bellarmine on politics. Given that Bellarmine preceded Locke, I think it is fair that in any language the two might have shared, 'sourcing' should point toward Bellarmine. I will leave it to you to judge whether Bellarmine used similar language:

Secular or Civil Power is instituted by men; It is in the people, unless they bestow it upon a Prince. This Power is immediately in the whole Multitude, as in the subject of it; for this Power is in the Divine Law, but the Divine Law hath given this Power to no particular man. If the Positive Law be taken away, there is left no Reason why amongst a Multitude (who are Equal) one rather than another should bear Rule over the Rest. Power is given by the Multitude to one man, or to more, by the same Law of Nature; for the Commonwealth cannot exercise this Power, therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some one Man, or some Few. It depends upon the Multitude to bestow it upon some King Counsel or other Magistrates; and if there be a lawful cause the multitude may change the Kingdom into an Aristocracy or a Democracy.

(The link attached provides a referenced source for this quote: Filmer claims to cite Bellarmine directly. I do not have this passage from Bellarmine directly in hand - my volume of Bellarmine's work on this topic I loaned to someone and never got it back. I should also note that although the author of the article here cannot verify whether Bellarmine's work was in Mason's library, it was known to have been in Madison's library, and Madison shared books extensively with Jefferson. It is highly probable that Jefferson had known directly and specifically of Bellarmine's writing on the topic.)

Zippy, do you reject outright Bellarmine's presentation of the matter, in his expressions, given the meanings as he intended them at the time? If not, do you have just cause to think that when Mason and Jefferson used extremely similar expressions, they used them in senses quite definitely opposed to the senses that Bellarmine had already established? And that, given that the Declaration had to be approved by a body of men not all of whom were Jeffersonian in outlook, that the meaning of the document as approved in common used such phrases in contra-distinction to the meanings given those phrases by Bellarmine decades before Locke wrote?

Tony:

The concept of equal rights as authoritative principle over government action and the concept that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed - that is, the notion that power exercised by government is inherently unjust to the extent it does not derive from consent - are distinct concepts. I mentioned the latter in a passing parenthetical, and I've discussed it elsewhere in more detail; but it hasn't been the main subject of discussion in these two threads. The main subject of discussion has been the former.

The latter is wrong, and yes, it is wrong no matter who is cited in its favor, even if we presume the person cited means just what the citer says he means and wouldn't object to the construal, or even outright disavow it in hindsight.

The former is not just wrong. It is, when understood non-nominalistically - which is the way most people are going to understand it when it is treated as a foundationally important political principle - incoherent.

In my view, conservatives should explicitly and unequivocally turn their backs on what can now be seen to be ridiculous and self-destructive attempts to graft "equal rights" onto some sort of sane political deontology.

On this:

And that, given that the Declaration had to be approved by a body of men not all of whom were Jeffersonian in outlook, that the meaning of the document as approved in common used such phrases in contra-distinction to the meanings given those phrases by Bellarmine decades before Locke wrote?

Lydia objects to the idea that the seeds of liberalism were present at the founding, and that therefore aspects of the founding need to be repudiated. Are you really suggesting that Jefferson's ideas about equal rights are not seeds present at the founding?

The question is irrelevant. The vast majority of American conservatives aren't about to repudiate Thomas Jefferson.

We are just repeating exchanges we've already had a hundred times over the years. At this point I suggest that interested parties just read the old threads.

Well, sure, most conservatives aren't going to repudiate Jefferson (except insofar as he was an infidel, of course!). But I think it's just...well...plain wrong to say something like this:

Thomas Jefferson was a shallow-thinking, fuzzy-headed libertarian with high-falutin' notions about political equality, which notions he never sufficiently pegged to prevent them from being dangerous. Therefore he's a loose cannon. This totally vague, totally loose-cannon, shallow libertarian meaning is what was commonly understood by the phrases we're talking about in the founding (such as "all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights"), and therefore it was ripe for being taken in all manner of bad, libertine directions as the nation continued.

Now, that's not a quotation from Zippy, but my _guess_ is that it's approximately where he's at on this. I would say that even if one grants all the negative stuff about Jefferson in the first part, the second part is pretty dubious, and that the sense in which American conservatives today "aren't about to repudiate Jefferson" is the sense in which most of them are committed to more defensible notions that were shared at the time of the founding rather than loose cannon notions.

I think we do need to teach our fellow conservatives to be careful not to go around saying vague things without thinking. That's why I recommended in the post trying to get people to separate out different ideas that might be meant by "equality." Do we mean by that to commit ourselves to some form of feminism? Do we mean by that to commit ourselves merely to equality before the law as in some of the examples given? And so forth. As a "splitter" rather than a "lumper," I'm always up for that kind of exercise and for urging it on our fellow conservatives. But I think most of them know full-well that "let freedom ring" doesn't mean "let the freedom ring to destroy your unborn child." However inexplicitly, I think many of them have a sense of the difference between liberty and libertinism and between equality before the law and the erasure of all norms and distinctions. It's that incohate sense we need to nurture. For that purpose I'm willing to agree that the phrase "equal rights" is probably imprudent, but I think it's going too far to extend that to all cognates of "equal." In most contexts, I don't think "equality before the law" is likely to be misunderstood.

The concept of equal rights as authoritative principle over government action

That's an interesting turn of phrase: "as authoritative principle over government action" seems to mean here, as far as I can discern, a principle so fundamental and so powerful that no other political principle limits it or constrains it or qualifies it. If that is what you mean by the phrase, then yes, accordingly all conservatives ought to reject "equal rights" as such a principle.

But when articulate conservatives out there in conservative discourse make it clear that THEY regard it as neither all that fundamental, nor overpowering, but rather at the subjection of other principles that are more necessary, then the question is more about whether such a qualified meaning is legitimately capable of being used in the current environment - a question inherently a matter of opinion and degree, since the "current environment" is made up of usage that varies from place to place, group to group, and circumstance to circumstance. A group of people who are committed to learning Catholic works like the Summa Theologica and Immortale Dei, and learning from men like Newman and Chesterton, can be expected to use expressions that would be misunderstood in a circle that is devoted to the work of Betty Friedan, but both discussions are "out there" in the public. Given that people have not ceased to debate the meaning of terms like equality, liberty, and freedom since the time of Socrates, and have intentionally incorporated those older discussions in their own debate, the "environment" to a certain extent can legitimately be described as including the ancient and medieval debates as well. (Just as we here have cited men like Jefferson, Locke, and Bellarmine, making their discussion part of our own.)

the concept that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed...is wrong, and yes, it is wrong no matter who is cited in its favor, even if we presume the person cited means just what the citer says he means and wouldn't object to the construal, or even outright disavow it in hindsight.

So, Zippy Catholic is perfectly willing to absolutely repudiate a concept of political order formally put forth in writing (and heartily defended) by a Scholastic, a saint, and a Doctor of the Church, which concept has never been repudiated by that Church in spite of many opportunities of official teaching on the subject.

Hey, it's been fun rehashing all the same old arguments again. Go ahead, take up thy shovels and keep digging; don't let me stop you.

Nice ellipses, as usual, Tony. Have a nice life.

I remember reading some scholar a few years back (wish I could remember who) who said that Jefferson's thought had a sort of split in it: on one hand, the free-thinking Lockean, libertarian side, and on the other, the agrarian, traditionalist side. The argument was that in effect, New England, and by extension the North, had accepted the former aspect of Jefferson's thought while downplaying or even rejecting the latter; the South, due partly to its inherent religiousness, had done almost the exact opposite. In other words, Jefferson's thought took root differently in the two sections due to the nature of the soil it found itself in. This may partially explain why TJ is viewed somewhat ambiguously in American conservative circles.

"The U. S. is a symbol and exemplar for the Western tradition. That is why we are attacked verbally as here, and from terrorist organizations too."

Conservatives who criticize the U.S.'s military and economic hubris are not thereby attacking the country.

"It's the same Liberal anti-Western project that we all know and love."

Ah, I finally get it. Because the modern West is liberal, and we conservatives have grave reservations about that liberalism, and because some aspects of our critique of liberalism are at times homologous to that of various critiques which are in fact anti-Western, you think we are anti-Western. The evident falsity of the proposition, however, should be self-apparent.

"The problem is that a conservative life in America today is thwarted at every turn: those of us with a conservative inclination are forced into a form of rebellion (truthfully: rebellion against rebellion) in order recover the possibility of genuine conservatism for our children. This is an uncomfortable place to be, and to a dedicated disciple of modernity it looks as much like rebellion and dissent as does the radicalism of the left."

Very true. As R.V. Young has said, it's the conservatives' turn to be the subversives.

"That American self-styled 'conservatives' all tend to be champions of an economic system that specializes in the destruction of tradition and virtue is, at best, an irony worthy of late night television comedy, and at worst the last nail in the coffin of any genuine American conservative movement worthy of the name. But that's OK. We don't need a fraudulent 'movement' that imitates liberalism by politicizing everything from coffee to climate change. Unlike liberalism which seeks to make itself the final appeal, politicizing trivialities and creating what amounts to a new civic religion, the essence of conservatism is an appeal to authority beyond itself. The first duty of a real conservative in the new American wasteland is therefore to find that authority which most closely corresponds to the best of our inherited culture - and not the authority alone, but also its corresponding community with all of its history, no matter how flawed and tenuous - and humbly submit to both in love and fidelity."

That's a gem of a paragraph, Jeff C. Mainstream conservatives seem to want some sort of detente with liberalism, and this includes economics. They seem fine with state capitalism provided it leans toward being pro-business, just as the modern liberals are fine with it provided it seems to lean toward collectivism. This is a recipe for disaster.


I'll say this: I can certainly see the probability that someone who holds to all Jeff C's views (see his list, above) would not want to use the term "equality." For one thing, his advocacy of our having a privileged class in law is directly at odds with one of my propositions in the main post.

Nice ellipses, as usual, Tony. Have a nice life.

?? Huh ??? "As usual" ???

Lydia, or Jeff, did I mis-construe or misrepresent Zippy's statement about second of the 2 concepts in his 9:51 am comment?

Zippy,

Thanks for the thoughts on Leo's encyclical. I must admit that getting a handle on these various Papal encyclicals takes a lot of work -- but your "summary", I think, is a good place to start.

Tony,

I'm not sure why Zippy objects to the ellipses -- they don't seem to me to remove any crucial prose relevant to Zippy's argument there, although he does say that this proposition (the idea that it is wrong to think the "just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed") "hasn't been the main subject of discussion in these two threads." So maybe he wants more pixels to explain what he means.

Jeff C.,

You are a delight. I couldn't disagree with you more but I'm glad someone is willing to 'lay their cards on the table'. This in particular drives me totally bonkers: "We don't need a fraudulent "movement" that imitates liberalism by politicizing everything from coffee to climate change." I have no idea what you are talking about with respect to coffee (are you against Starbucks? are the liberals against Starbucks?) but the idea that conservatives are "politicizing" climate change versus the virtuous liberals is so bizarre that one almost has sympathy for the idea that "they are endowed by their Creator..." leads directly to gay "marriage". Almost.

I'm guessing Zippy's objection is to the elision of this explication of the idea he considers wrong:

that is, the notion that power exercised by government is inherently unjust to the extent it does not derive from consent

The idea may be that Bellarmine didn't actually hold that position and that therefore Zippy needn't be taken to reject something held by Bellarmine, even though he was a doctor of the Church, etc., etc., as Tony mentioned.

Now, actually, I suppose that even a Catholic is permitted to disagree with what is written by a scholastic, a saint, and a doctor of the Church. That doesn't make it the authoritative teaching of the magisterium. So I'm not sure Tony's implied criticism of Zippy on the grounds that as a Catholic he shouldn't be rejecting Bellarmine has much bite to it. I gather Zippy's point was to say something like, "If Bellarmine really thought and taught that power exercised by government is inherently unjust to the extent it does not derive from consent, then he was wrong, and I don't care that he was Bellarmine." But even there, the idea is to cast some doubt on whether Bellarmine actually believed and taught that power exercised by government is inherently unjust to the extent it does not derive from consent.

In any event, I'm quite sure that Tony didn't in any way intend to be pulling a fast one or misrepresenting. We all have to use ellipses sometimes, and Tony is, in my experience, uniformly well-intentioned and careful in discussion.

Thanks, Lydia.

If Zippy thinks that Bellarmine's text does not comport with ""the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed" in any sense at all, then my comment would have been an irrelevancy but not objectionable because it had no bearing on what Zippy laid out. If He thinks that Bellarmine's text comports with that phrase but only considered under some specific meaning and NOT the meaning of "that is, the notion that power exercised by government is inherently unjust to the extent it does not derive from consent", then he more or less proves our point, that there is a rightful way to take the phrase and a wrongful way to take it. (And, further, he unnecessarily muddied the waters by adding that elucidating clause of his own if that's not what Bellarmine meant). If he thinks that the stock phrase is essentially congruent to the notion that power exercised by government is inherently unjust to the extent it does not derive from consent and also that it comports well with what Bellarmine said, then he has repudiated Bellarmine, hasn't he?

It is true that Catholics are free to reject theories held by Catholic scholars who are saints, scholastics, and Doctors of the Church. But they are also warned: The Church has made her own the "method of St. Thomas", i.e. the foundation of the scholastics; and has declared in naming a person a Doctor that his / her thinking is especially held up for honor, and in declaring them a saint in saying that this person's way of life, both exterior and interior (and, therefore, their way of thinking) is extraordinarily well conformed to godliness. Consequently, a Catholic must needs have a very high level of learning and wisdom to feel free to reject outright what such a person taught (unless the Church herself corrected some specific teaching, that is), and normally it would seem to require, further, satisfaction that he understands fully what the Doctor has said and see why he erred. Without such care, he could be indulging in hubris, in my opinion.

Although the text I brought forward had the issue of "derived from the consent of the governed" written all over it, the main reason I brought it forward is how Bellarmine explains, rather forcefully, that the power resides in the " Multitude (who are Equal)". Whatever he means by this, he means something that is very much on point for this discussion of equality as a political principle. I am not sure I can draw out what Bellarmine means by equal. But it is not off point, I think.

I have to admit, Tony, that to my Protestant eye (and on, admittedly, a highly superficial reading) there is some appearance of tension between the quotation from Bellarmine and the long quotation Jeff Singer gave from Immortale Dei.

Excellent point about the multitude being equal. I would off the cuff take Bellarmine to be denying the existence of a God-given hereditary aristocracy or monarchy. That is, if somehow your country finds itself in need of a leader, you aren't particularly likely to find a good leader by looking around to see if the last of the Tudors happens to be living in a cottage somewhere and making him king!

Lydia, there could indeed be a perceived tension between what Bellarmine wrote and Immortale Dei, but a careful reading shows reasons why such a tension is not real. Take, for example, this illustration of IM's catelog of ill-thinking:

that each one is so far his own master as to be in no sense under the rule of any other individual; that each is free to think on every subject just as he may choose, and to do whatever he may like to do; that no man has any right to rule over other men. In a society grounded upon such maxims all government is nothing more nor less than the will of the people, and the people, being under the power of itself alone, is alone its own ruler. It does choose, nevertheless, some to whose charge it may commit itself, but in such wise that it makes over to them not the right so much as the business of governing, to be exercised, however, in its name.

25. The authority of God is passed over in silence, just as if there were no God;

Time and again, the problem is a power in the people that has no source or even reference above the people. Leo XIII makes this even clearer at 31:

31. The sovereignty of the people, however, and this without any reference to God, is held to reside in the multitude;

But Bellarmine is clear that the sovereignty he is talking about originates from God alone, and must be referred to Him.

If you re-read Immortale Dei keeping in mind at each point that the ill-thinking is people professing to be the original source of the political power, (and that they are free to bestow power on others or to not bestow political power, thus denying any polity at all), the whole passage works and is consistent internally, as well as allows space for Bellarmine's concept. Locke's format of a polity that comes to be on account of people electing freely that they want to give up their original power, when they have no obligation to do so in themselves and of their own nature, is what Leo is saying is wrong. Bellarmine is not saying that people are free to decide to not even bother to invest political power in someone, he is saying that they have freedom do invest it in X rather than Y. Natural law (i.e. man's human nature designed by God) requires a polity, but does not require this one or that one.

But the "equality" business is what I find fasciniating: in some sense Bellarmine thinks that the sort of power that resides in "the multitude" resides in them equally. Now, there is a possibility that he does NOT mean by "the multitude" all persons of whatever station, but only those who have "a say" in the matter - maybe, the barons, lords, earls, and up, when the Magna Carta was drawn up, for example. Could be, although I tend to doubt it: at the time he was writing, feudalism was passing away. But I could be wrong.

But even within a select people who "have a say", people have different capacities to make known and make people listen to their choices - it is "equal" in some sense other than the simple de-facto who spoke the loudest. What sense?

"...I would propose the following:

Repeal of the 19th amendment
Repeal of the 23rd amendment
Repeal of the 26th amendment
Repeal of 10th and 14th amendment jurisprudence
Franchise restrictions (by age, examination, number of dependents, head of household status, et al)
Censorship of pornography, blasphemy, Islamist propaganda, evolution, etc.
Repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The diabolical origin of contemporary music forms and the duty of the state to limit their influence
The duty of the state to protect, affirm, and even impose religious truth
The duty of the state to promote marriage and forbid divorce
The duty of the state to legally proscribe sexual perversions (including fornication, contraception and homosexuality)
The necessity of a privileged class (i.e. an "aristocracy" of some sort), and the duty of the state to favor this class by custom and in law"

Hummm. How is it that everyone except the two liberals let something this horrific go by without a mention. As with Zips offhand comments in the previous thread, all this "philosophy" would seem to result in a society that, well, who here would actually want to live there? Hands, please.

Jeff, have you actually done a thought experiment on this? What past and current societies would you offer as examples?

Some here are so "conservative" that they're revolutionaries.

Hummm. How is it that everyone except the two liberals let something this horrific go by without a mention.

Well, I wouldn't quite go so far as "horrific," but I have plenty of disagreements there. And neither Jeff Singer nor I are liberals, and we each mentioned it and indicated that we disagree. Jeff Singer did an even better job of that than I did, but it's hard to construe my comment as highly positive. I didn't want to derail the thread, but I've been contemplating refreshing my memory on all the amendment numbers (yes, Al, true confessions--I don't have _all_ my amendment numbers memorized) and making some exceedingly brief comment to the effect that I disagree with x out of y of Jeff C.'s proposals, where x will presumably be some rather high percentage of y.

Tony, again, my guess is that Bellarmine means by "equal" to be denying the existence of a hereditary aristocracy and/or monarchy who are endowed by God with special abilities for and special prerogatives for governing. I would assume that _that_ idea was still very much a live option at the time he was writing (Charles I certainly believed it), so it would have been timely for Bellarmine to be denying it.

Now, how to cash that out in concrete sociological terms is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Because it certainly isn't true that any randomly selected person is just as likely to make a good king as any other randomly selected person. And it isn't even true that we have no group data, politically incorrect as it is to say it. Even if we cast the thing entirely in terms of environment, unfortunately, some environments aren't very conducive to producing good and wise leaders.

However, the "divine right of kings" idea of course went a great deal farther than just noting sociological trends among groups! The idea there was that things like laws of succession really had divine sanction. By golly, if the next guy in line was a Stuart, then you'd better not thwart the will of God by bringing in a Hanover.

Anyway, I would be inclined just to take Bellarmine in that sense in relation to the ideas kicking around in his own time.

Lydia, It isn't this or that proposal but rather the sort of state any one of them implies. Step2 and moi seem to have gotten that. All you conservatives, not so much. Taken together, Stalin and Mao would be tipping their hats to Jeff. I asked Jeff for some examples as I would have thought that we learned in the last century that we couldn't just take some abstract ideas and whip up a new society.
As Chambers pointed out in his NR essay back in 1957, at some point you have no alternative but to start the executions. While I understand you may want to keep to the abstract nature of the thread, it seems to me that both Jeff and Zippy's views on equality would lead to rather brutish societies.

Al:

Either I am correct that equal rights as an authoritative political principle is a fundamentally incoherent and unstable concept, constrained only by traditions which it by nature relentlessly erodes over time, or I'm not.

If I am right, then arguing that this implies a brutish society is like arguing that gravity or the water cycle implies a brutish society.

It may or may not be true that gravity or the water cycle imply a brutish society. But in any case that implication would not constitute an argument that they are untrue.

Al, which part of Jeff Singer's, "I couldn't disagree with you more" don't you understand?

Having looked them over, the only ones of Jeff C's list of ideas that I definitely endorse are

--repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
--overturning of much existing 10th and 14th amendment jurisprudence (of course, I don't know if Jeff C. and I would want to repeal the same aspects of that jurisprudence)
--censorship of pornography
--greater restrictions on divorce (e.g., repeal of no-fault divorce laws)

Of the rest, I wouldn't be too upset by raising the voting age back to 21. (Seriously, Al? _Any one_ of these implies a terrifying, dreadful society? So _that's_ what we had for all those years when the voting age happened to be 21. Gee, we really dodged the bullet on not starting the executions! Who knew 18 was such a magic number?) But raising the voting age back to 21 isn't a huge priority for me.

I would probably be unfazed by some other restrictions on the franchise that Jeff wants, but very likely not all the same ones. For one thing, in the current milieu I think voting restriction by examination a very unwise idea. The examination would be sure to be written by leftist nuts.

Other than that, as far as I can tell, I disagree with his proposals, and with some of them very strongly indeed--e.g., the duty of the state to impose religious truth and the duty of the state to set up an official aristocratic class.

If I am right, then arguing that this implies a brutish society is like arguing that gravity or the water cycle implies a brutish society.

Because nobody has ever tried to counteract the effects of gravity or the water cycle.

But in any case that implication would not constitute an argument that they are untrue.

It doesn't have to be untrue to be uncivilized.

T. Chan: I'm sorry our exchange has been such a bad experience, and I was pretty rude to you. I apologize. It was a confusing exchange. Maybe I can explain. In any case, I'm sure it was my fault.

I may not have made sufficiently clear that I put virtually all my emphasis in my statement: "I think justice requires some type of equality, doesn't it?" . . . isn't this just a fact, as Aquinas said? Is there no metaphysical basis for justice?

On the part you agreed with when you said "Justice will involve some sort of equality--the question is, what sort of equality." That was exactly my position. Much of our discussion has been over a confusion about Dougherty's role, which was none. The second musing about a "metaphysical basis for justice" was a pure question. When I said "isn't this just a fact, I wasn't referring to it as "a fact," as I was the first. The first may be true and the second false. Maybe you said that but I didn't get it in the confusion. You're wrong that I am not open to being persuaded, at least on the second question. We just got off on the wrong foot and through confusion you think I accepted and denied things that I didn't, however it appeared.

I thought the Aquinas quote was a slam-dunk for the idea that justice involves equality, but not for the idea that there is a metaphysical basis for justice, and now I think I understand that that's what thought I was saying. That's why I was so bewildered at your continued insistence on the Aquinas citation, because you'd already accepted my view on the part I cared about by then in any case. But I'm sure the confusion was my fault.

But since I've got someone who can at least accept my first part, of course I am very interested in the second question as well. I get your point as you stated it: "What I mean is that he doesn't talk about justice being founded upon the fact that people are equal because they have the same nature."

But I did read below the Aquinas citation, and was roughly familiar with Aquinas terms for justice and what they mean before. I'm well aware of what you say about not being able to ground modern conceptions of rights and justice in Aquinas. I agree. But it isn't clear to me it does any good to say he "doesn't talk about justice being founded upon the fact that people are equal because they have the same nature," because it seems to me this just begs the question of what relevant thing it is that people share, in part because the statement "people are equal" is pretty vacuous. I'm not interested in defending modern conceptions of rights and justice. Aquinas is famously inexplicit about moral first principles, still what reasons does he give for his supreme one, neighbor-love? What is the rational basis for the golden rule, or is there one?

Lydia, It isn't this or that proposal but rather the sort of state any one of them implies. Step2 and moi seem to have gotten that. All you conservatives, not so much.

Al, I get your point, but it all depends. Amendments and laws are written for reasons, so some of the amendments are there because of our historical circumstances. And they might not have been a good idea apart from those circumstances. At least a few I'd say not. But most were necessary in my judgment. If it were feasible, it would be theoretically fine with me if certain ones were repealed now. But that would be entirely different from saying they weren't needed then. I didn't get much sleep last night for a project I was working on, so apologies if someone has already made this point. I didn't see it on a quick glance, and I don't recall Jeff saying whether he thinks they never should have been passed or just that he thinks they are no longer needed. Those are two different things.

And Al, I think you must know that "trad-con" here is used way different from the vast majority of other places. I'm the most Conservative person I know, and that most people I know know, but as Lydia said once I'm something of "an alien" here. I don't think I'm any more alien than she is on that score, but maybe she'd disagree. If so, maybe I can play the "more-alien-than-thou" card once in awhile. :)

In most contexts, I don't think "equality before the law" is likely to be misunderstood.

I agree. That is, if we have citizens not indoctrinated into false ideas of them. If the country grows as it has in population and parents are allowed to educate their kids as they see fit, invest the earnings of their labor, and move the Hell out of states that become too liberal and not let them exercise these freedoms into states in this great wide country that do allow them to exercise these freedoms, they'll not be muddle-headed enough to be confused over such simple matters. Which is why the Libs are trying to prevent this.

But the bottom line is, that Conservatives think that reality and human nature conforms to Conservative principles, and Conservative principles don't need to be educated into people so much as leave them alone to do their stuff. Now a classic education in Western principles has a strong conserving force, and ought to be done when possible in my view, but it isn't strictly necessary. Libs however believe that one must be explicitly taught abstract principles to be in in the Lib fold, and that is likely true, and that is why our schools are such a mess and they have such a negative effect now.

I would be fine with raising the voting age to 21, to 25, or to 30 for that matter. In practice, most 18 year olds cannot possibly have enough life experience to sort out reality and understand what they really see that is in any sense an independent view apart from their parents and teachers - what they are voting is simply a second-class vote for positions they were told to hold as youngsters. That is, when they bother to vote on actual ideas of the common good at all. Too often I have heard young "adults" say they were voting for X person "because he is cute", and even if they don't say it explicitly, it is clear that they are being swayed entirely by personal magnetism and nothing deeper.

The few 18-year-olds who have had some serious life experience under their belts and can see some of their own limitations would probably agree that it is doubtful a vote of their peers is worthwhile. The notion that voting should be tied to reaching your majority needs to be reviewed for soundness.

I would not repeal the 19th amendment, but completely revise it: votes by family unit sound reasonable to me, and if a mother is the head of a family unit, she should cast those votes.

I disagree with repealing the 23 amendment: I think we should give 95% - all of the residential areas - of what remains of the District of Columbia back to Maryland, and let the people have their representation as part of Maryland. The remaining federal portion that actually houses 80% of the headquarters offices of the federal government has maybe 5,000 people living in it - let them vote for Maryland congressmen as well, for all it matters. The Virginia and Maryland suburbs house about 20% of the DC-area federal government, and there is no damage accruing therefrom.

I absolutely agree with the duty of the state to promote marriage and prevent divorce - although it should not prevent annulments.

I absolutely do not agree with Jeff that the state has any obligation to promote a privileged class, if by privilege we mean people who receive benefits from their special status, and CERTAINLY not a class that passes on their status to children, which I think is pernicious in most cases. I would, however, think about providing for a special class where what they are special in is a responsibility and a burden. For example, if a business man spends 35 years building up a good-sized business and is admitted by all as being entirely upright in his dealings (at home as well); and has been seen to serve the common good at his own sacrifice, I would love to see him bestowed with the right to become a kind of "inspector general" who can demand instantly records of any operations that he suspects are shady: but he (a) has to sell his business and put his investments in a blind trust, and (b) he has to PAY FOR the cost of his demands for data out of his (blind trust) wealth, and (c) he has to submit his findings in peer-review before sending them to pertinent authority.

In other words, make "privileges" only attractive to people who are trying to promote the common good, because they don't benefit the person they are given to in any notable manner.


But Tony, how about the duty of the state to impose true religion, censor the teaching of evolution, and limit the influence of contemporary music forms?

(I don't think your inspector general idea would work. He'd be bribed in some under-the-counter way, as sure as God made little green apples.)

In any event, your inspector-general is just another bureaucrat with huge powers, hired on the basis of perceived merit for his past business activities. Heaven knows, we already have plenty of bureaucrats with huge powers. Either Jeff C. doesn't think we have enough of them, or that isn't what he was getting at.

As someone who was guilty of bringing in Stalin and Mao into this discussion before, can I just say for the record once again that even though I disagree strongly with Jeff C. in NO WAY do I think any of his ideas will bring America society even closely to Soviet Russia or Communist China (under Mao). As Lydia already wisely pointed out, America was already a great place in the 19th century in comparison to those hell-holes of the 20th century before any of the amendments and laws that Jeff C. would change came into being.

Also, I like my contemporary music:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkiLVFAIheQ

By the way, Happy 4th of July to everyone here at W4.

Today I'm going to enjoy our little local parade and picnic while educating the neighborhood kids about the most important ideas in the Declaration of Independence...that you have to watch out for the "merciless Indian Savages"...just kidding ;-)

Have a great day!

Very happy 4th, Jeff!

But Tony, how about the duty of the state to impose true religion, censor the teaching of evolution,

The state has no basic obligation to teach true science, it only has an interest in promoting conditions such that true science be taught, by someone. It certainly has an interest in seeing that true science is not displaced by untrue theory, but it has no special competence or authority to discern between the two - just the ordinary competence of anyone in authority to try to establish truth. That level of competence does not provide a special obligation about the truth in scientific matters.

The state does have a basic obligation to observe our fundamental requirement to worship the Creator in true religion - insofar as true religion belongs to the state. Back when Judaism was, simply, the true religion (say, in the time of David) the state had an obligation as a corporate (and thus derivative) rational entity, to worship God in the way He had revealed to them He wanted to be worshiped under the Mosaic law. After Christ came, he changed the sacrifice and thus changed the worship ritual, but did not change the fact that rational entities ought to worship their Creator. This does not imply imposing religion by the sword, though - please refer to my qualification: "insofar as true religion belongs to the state". If the people of a state are pagans, the state cannot have an obligation to impose Christian worship on them by legal sanction.

But because worship is a fundamental obligation of all rational beings, the state cannot dis-claim the capacity to make judgments about true religion - as do ALL rational creatures, it has a fundamental obligation to be open to the truth about religion and the final end of man, and to accept good evidence in favor of true religion. God did not refuse to provide evidence and a rational basis to perceive the reasonableness of the true religion, and Christianity has always made that claim - that Christianity can stand up to any rational investigation as to probable and reasonable basis for belief. Since faith comes from God and not from rational investigation, belief cannot be imposed from without. But insistence on the reasonable proofs that show, for example, the falseness of paganism, is NOT imposing faith from without. (The state can say to Moloch-worshipers, "you're so-called religion is false, we know it is false by rational argument separate from religious faith, and even though we cannot insist that you accept Christianity, we can insist that you do not worship Moloch in a public manner.")

In any event, your inspector-general is just another bureaucrat with huge powers,

Well, maybe you're right, but the point is he is NOT hired, he has no required job (he can just sit on his can and do nothing, too, but he receives no pay or other recompense for his position), he has to expend his OWN money to perform any investigation, and all of his spending is supposed to come from his blind trust so he is less capable of using a bribe - transparency rules can take care of most of it just fine. That's not the job description of a bureaucrat. Part of the point of taking someone who has made his wealth is that, being already wealthy, and having proven that he is not out there to simply make more and more and forever more, he would be less likely to have reason to take a bribe. CERTAINLY less incentive to take bribes than congressmen have. And his powers are only of fact-finding, not of imposing anything beyond "give me access to your books" sort of powers. The big danger is getting someone who is a crank, not someone who is a bureaucrat or a money grubber. That's why I said his "findings" have to be reviewed before being released.

Hey, it's just an idea, not a principle of how to do a good political order. I was trying to identify a sort of aristocratic position of authority, but where the authority is limited in scope and provides no significant benefits to the individual holder (and is not a position that is handed down to a child - the recipient must have made his OWN wealth, not inherited it).

Happy 4th. Please pray for our good nation. With all its defects, it still has good, and may God grant that it will turn toward the more perfect instead of away from the good.

the state cannot dis-claim the capacity to make judgments about true rethe state cannot dis-claim the capacity to make judgments about true religion - as do ALL rational creatures

You know I'm a rampaging evidentialist, Tony, but the state isn't a rational creature. It is made up of rational creatures, but it would be a fallacy of composition to say, "Rational creatures have a capacity to make judgements about true religion. The state is made up of rational creatures. Therefore the state has a compacity to make judgements about true religion." Compare, "Rational creatures have a capacity to love people. The state is made up of rational creatures. Therefore the state has a capacity to love people."

In any event, there are plenty of reasons to prohibit child sacrifice (whether to the god Moloch or to the goddess Betty Friedan) that I would not even begin to describe as "imposing true religion."

And a happy 4th to you and to all as well!!

Happy 4th, everyone. Sorry I've little time for this at the moment. The aristocracy I have in mind need not be hereditary, although that would be preferable in my view. We have this aristocracy already but in a highly corrupt form - chiefly the masonic lodges, the ivy league schools, and the titans of industry (including finance). Tocqueville believed the legal profession would assume the role of aristocracy in the United States, and perhaps he was right, although my impression is that American law is largely at the service of the aforementioned groups, and not the other way around.

So, the American aristocracy is covert, by ideological necessity, but very real and every bit as powerful as any hereditary aristocracy you can name. I think we can do better.

Off now to prepare for my exalted role as judge and referee of Orland's annual Fourth of July frog jumping contest. Last year, I was handed the cane of a retired judge for this noble task. That's small town aristocracy for you. God bless America! :-)

Jeff, I get that you disagree but your reply, like Lydia's doesn't indicate that you get the really problematic nature of the proposals taken together as well as most separately. Your most recent post confirms that.

What you fail to consider is the difference between laws that are vestigial and those that are actively enforced as well as those concerns that technological change bring into play.

Lydia's point as to what the nation was like before this or that proposal is irrelevant when not historically inaccurate.

Laws against witchcraft remained on the books centuries after the last witch was set alight. When considering the likely effect of a proposal one must consider what matters were like when folks took things seriously enough to pass a law, not when it was a dying or dead letter.

We cannot discount technological changes. We are long past the time when one could easily ride into the next territory and create a new life. The Medieval period in Europe could be brutal but it was also administratively inefficient. Central to 20th century totalitarian states was a new capacity for record keeping that was developed from the late 19th century on. We now live in the National Surveillance State; do we really want to start peeling rights away?

"Repeal of the 26th amendment,"

A society that starts peeling rights away is of a different nature than one that is expanding them. Would that be the end of the world? Probably not but I'm trying to imagine an United States in which that was possible and the only thing i'm sure of that it would be a very different country. Jeff would likely say a better one but (IMO) that reflects blind hope.

Repeal of the 19th amendment
Repeal of the 23rd amendment
Franchise restrictions (by age, examination, number of dependents, head of household status, et al)

Again, I try but cannot imagine what we would be like in order to accomplish this (MB's comment is truly apt - much of current "conservatism" is actually quite radical). Jeff doesn't state what high principle leads him to want to disenfranchise DC but taken with his others can't help but lead to assumptions about race.

Taking the vote away from women is just strange and misogynistic.

Now I assume Jeff will complain that I am not being fair as the states would still have the power to allow their citizens (with the exception of DC, of course) to do those things. I reply that he hasn't stated that and it isn't clear that his franchise restrictions aren't intended to be imposed nationally. He might see in all this a new birth of freedom in all this state empowerment. I would point to history and, again, ask all to consider the nature of a nation in which we are repealing these amendments.

"Repeal of 10th and 14th amendment jurisprudence"

"Repeal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964"

Jeff needs to flesh this out. What is the problem with the Tenth and why does he have a problem with the sentiments expressed below?

"“Without doubt,” Justice McReynolds said, liberty “denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.” The right of the parents to have their children instructed in a foreign language was “within the liberty of the [Fourteenth] Amendment.” Meyer was relied on in Pierce by the Court in asserting that the statute there “unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. . . . The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

The purpose underlying the 14th Amendment was to once and for all stamp out Slave Power and prevent its reimposition. It failed in the latter for a century due to adverse Supreme Court decisions and a failure of political will. Inch by inch African Americans managed to claw back their rights during the 20th century culminating in the Civil Rights struggles in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were necessary because Slave Power, reincarnated as Jim Crow, reasserted itself and lasted well into the last century. Assuming that Power to be finally vanquished is naive beyond belief. The ascendancy of one of our two major parties is due in large part to the political realignments resulting from the passage if the 1964 Act. The Republican Party, to this very day, depends in large part on that realignment of Slave Power to itself. Setting those still unreconstructed passions free once again would be folly (perhaps conservatives learn only selectively from history).

"The duty of the state to promote marriage and forbid divorce"

Promoting marriage (rightly understood is OK within limits but do we really want to compel unhappy folks to be tied to each other in the most intimate manner?

Below are proposals both serious and frivolous that are the foundations of a totalitarian state. Jeff, when these impulses occur, do a few thought experiments and consider what sort of state would be necessary to implement them.

"Censorship of pornography, blasphemy, Islamist propaganda, evolution, etc.
The diabolical origin of contemporary music forms and the duty of the state to limit their influence
The duty of the state to protect, affirm, and even impose religious truth
The duty of the state to legally proscribe sexual perversions (including fornication, contraception and homosexuality)
The necessity of a privileged class (i.e. an "aristocracy" of some sort), and the duty of the state to favor this class by custom and in law"

"Either I am correct that equal rights as an authoritative political principle is a fundamentally incoherent and unstable concept, constrained only by traditions which it by nature relentlessly erodes over time, or I'm not."

The problem Zippy is that all human political principles are "fundamentally incoherent and unstable concept[s]" so the question, "compared to what" should also be considered. Folks band together, making then necessary compromises, which compromises then plant the seeds for future conflict.
This is unavoidable.

We muddle through the millennia, hopefully learning as we go. All political constructs are, of their nature, created with fatal internal contradictions. These "constitutional moments" are either repaired or the enterprise fails. The Civil War and Reconstruction, taken together, was such a moment as was the Great Depression. The Civil Rights laws of the 1960s yet another. We more or less met those challenges (So, far the current such moment appears to be fatal).

Much of the discussion over equality has been way over analyzed. Titus hit things way north of here. Equality under the law means that folks facing similar circumstances are treated alike. One set of laws for everyone.

Compromises over slavery as well as the fiction of state sovereignty is at the root of most of our problems. Couple that with the inherent risks of a presidential system in an increasingly ideological climate and here we are. Focusing on a line in the Declaration is a destructive diversion.

It's important that abstract discussions be leavened with actual proposals as that is where the "monsters" become clear. The first question to be asked after ones internal wiring has produced the thought, "there ought to be a law" is "how do we accomplish that and remain a free society?" Had Jeff and Zippy pondered those questions we should have been down some comments (assuming freedom is a shared value here).

Titus hit things way north of here. Equality under the law means that folks facing similar circumstances are treated alike. One set of laws for everyone.

Al, I hate to break it to you, but I seriously doubt that Titus thinks this means two men have to be recognized as "married." Seriously, seriously doubt. To paraphrase _The Princess Bride_, "I don't think those words mean what you think they mean."

Jeff C., I can't begin to tell you how strongly I disagree with the form of argument (often, I'm sorry to say, manifested by liberals), that goes like this: "As things fall out in the world by non-governmental processes, we already have something that I can call _____________________. Now, my proposal is that *we can do better than that*, by which I mean that the government should assume the power formally to create and impose __________________ along lines that I think are a lot more rational, fair, or smart." It chills my blood. Your applying it to the creation of an official aristocracy doesn't chill my blood any less than it gets chilled when liberals apply it to government-imposed affirmative action or government rationing everybody's health care or anything else.

I hope you have a wonderful time judging the frog-jumping contest!!!

Al, I hate to break it to you, but I seriously doubt that Titus thinks this means two men have to be recognized as "married." Seriously, seriously doubt. To paraphrase _The Princess Bride_, "I don't think those words mean what you think they mean."

True Lydia, but one other thing. If you drop the last sentence you have Aristotle's "proportional justice." He states it “treat like cases as like.” The problem is that between that sentence and the last one, there is a shift in meaning of what is equality, or at least an unwarranted assumption. Gay marriage isn't treating "like cases as like,” and that is the problem. Also, we do have one set of laws for everyone. But that doesn't mean those laws for everyone should sanction homosexual marriages.

Mark: I accept your apology. I'll confess that my motives for responding weren't 100% pure and I am in need of conversion. As much as I respect Dr. Dougherty as a senior, I think he is incorrect in his attempt to harmonize a modern rights theory with Aquinas. I don't think he's modified his views since he wrote that piece (which was in the 80s), but then again, I haven't read through his entire corpus. The tendency of modern Thomists to talk about "metaphysical" bases can be rather confusing, though I can see what he is trying to do, to exact a metaphysical argument from Aquinas's theology, just as someone might try to extract an account of ethics or natural law from it. But nonetheless, I think equality of nature is mostly irrelevant to Aquinas's treatment of justice -- it is important in his explanation of charity, the love of neighbor, and that part of the Great Commandment, so it's foundational in that sense to his moral theology. But it doesn't explain what the virtue of justice is, except in so far justice is directed towards other human beings.

But I did read below the Aquinas citation, and was roughly familiar with Aquinas terms for justice and what they mean before. I'm well aware of what you say about not being able to ground modern conceptions of rights and justice in Aquinas. I agree. But it isn't clear to me it does any good to say he "doesn't talk about justice being founded upon the fact that people are equal because they have the same nature," because it seems to me this just begs the question of what relevant thing it is that people share, in part because the statement "people are equal" is pretty vacuous. I'm not interested in defending modern conceptions of rights and justice. Aquinas is famously inexplicit about moral first principles, still what reasons does he give for his supreme one, neighbor-love? What is the rational basis for the golden rule, or is there one?

The New Natural Law theorists have complained that Aquinas doesn't clearly derive the precepts of the Natural Law from human goods and the like. His discussion of the precepts of the Natural Law in I II 94, 2 is admittedly brief. But Aquinas just doesn't have the same project as the NNL theorists, who wish to focus on the precepts in their model of practical reason. Rather, the precepts are associated with the virtues, and subordinate to them.

So when he writes,
Hence this is the first precept of law, that "good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided." All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided. (I II 94, 2)

We need to know what is good for man but we also have to understand this in the context of his discussion of the virtues. He doesn't reason out the precepts for the reader, but perhaps it should be fairly obvious.

As for charity, charity extends to neighbor on account of God, who desires to share Himself with rational creatures. So those who have the same nature and end, other human beings, are loved with charity. But so are those that do not have the same nature but are higher, the angels.

Al writes:

The problem Zippy is that [not just equal rights, but] all human political principles are "fundamentally incoherent and unstable concept[s]"

How postmodern of you. Everything is a lie, but at least "equal rights" is a lie with consequences that modern liberals like, eh?

Of course people who don't want to live by lies might have a problem with that.

(By the way, is "all human political principles are fundamentally incoherent and unstable concepts" a human political principle?)

Much of the discussion over equality has been way over analyzed.

I agree with the main thrust of your point. That is why I challenged the assertion that equality as a term wasn't needed by asking for an explanation to give a child on why she should share. You can't do it without implicitly dealing with equality, if not explicitly, without divine command theory or some other unwise path.

But in many ways some are under-analyzing it. Since even the higher animals show signs of a basic recognition of unfairness (which depends on a notion of equality,) self-evident things have a hiddenness to them that makes then candidates for elimination by cynics and skeptics. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, "Actually, every normative theory implies a certain notion of equality." Justice cannot be explained without reference to equality *of some type*.

None of this keeps one from condemning radical egalitarianism in the most clear and vehement language, or explaining why one's preferred social system isn't superior, so I can only gaze in wide wonder why some some wish to eliminate the term, if not the concept, as if the term doesn't reference a feature of reality itself. Without the term then would we denounce excesses and abuses of principles of equality? Taboo won't work, even if using it weren't' a step back into primitive societies.

The answers are all in our shared heritage and culture. These questions have all been asked before. There is plenty of material to get to the basic questions we're debating. Being rejectionist about equality isn't going to help. If equality is a feature of the world, then developing a proper understanding of it and the various ways to think about it in relation to life and social and political systems is necessary.

I`m on a bus to a conference, so I`ll be brief. There seems to be a confusion between equality and identity. In heaven, all will be equally satisfied, but not identical in merit or grace. Imagine two buckets of different sizes. Both may be equal in the notion of being filled, but each will contain that equality in an individual amount. We are to love each other equally, but since love means to will the good, the specific application will be different per situation. Agustine discusses this with regards to poverty. obviously, to releave the suffering of a family of five willusually be more costly than a single person, and yet, both have ben loved, equally, but not identically. of coursre, we are all entitled to equal love, but not identical love. This is what political theories sometimes fail to grasp: God loves us equally, but individually. Equal rights cannot exist without an equality of love, first, and since most modern government refuse to humble themselves in love, their version of equality wil always be tinged with selfishness and that sort of equality, that makes love merely identical, but not equal, substitutes the group for the individual. No one loves a group. Love thy neighbor as thyself. You know, the word group is never used by Christ in a good light. So, yes, there can be equality, but only between you and me, but only if we are willing to let the other guy be equal, first.

"We are to love each other equally, but since love means to will the good, the specific application will be different per situation."

Well, Aquinas doesn't hold this. Nor does God love us equally as He gives unequally -- some receive more graces than others, and this is not on the basis of desert.

T. Chen, God does love equally. To do otherwise is to contradict Divine Simplicity. Please, cite a passage where St. Tho?as holds the contrary.

Nor does God love us equally as He gives unequally -- some receive more graces than others, and this is not on the basis of desert.

I don't see that some receiving more than others implies that God loves them more than He loves others. (I'm taking "graces" here to mean gifts such as intelligence, artistic talent, etc. If I'm wrong in assuming that's what you meant, please correct me.) After all, "Of those to whom much has been given, much will be expected." So, if Person A has an IQ of 150 and an inherited fortune of millions of dollars, he'll be expected to do more with his life than the guy whose IQ is 100 and who was born into a poor family.

MC, Aquinas teaches that God loves us according to the good that He intends (and foreordains) for each person, which good He fulfills in His providence. Since He intends each person to obtain his own individual good which differs from others, God's love for each person is different. Or, as Garrigou-Lagrange explains Aquinas, God's unequal love is, precisely, the root cause of unequal good in each individual. Unlike creatures who love a thing insofar as the thing is (or may obtain) the good, God's role is different: His love generates the good by which it will be fulfilled in one good or another. God loves men differently, because different love is the source for their different fulfillment in good. Creatures love the good that is already there, God's love causes the good to come to be there, so there could not come to be different fulfillment of good if God did not love differently. I can find the quote if needed, but not at the moment.

Below are proposals both serious and frivolous that are the foundations of a totalitarian state. Jeff, when these impulses occur, do a few thought experiments and consider what sort of state would be necessary to implement them.

"Censorship of pornography, blasphemy...The duty of the state to legally proscribe sexual perversions (including fornication,

So Al, you are saying that we lived in a totalitarian state (or, theoretically, a proto-totalitarian state) from the Founding all the way up until, let's see, about 1965 or so? Need I mention that saying that we were living in a proto-totalitarian state for a good 190 years kind of puts an odd meaning to "proto"? Especially because few other countries have managed to maintain a single order of government during the same period?

The ascendancy of one of our two major parties is due in large part to the political realignments resulting from the passage if the 1964 Act. The Republican Party, to this very day, depends in large part on that realignment of Slave Power to itself.

Al, that's incredibly offensive, and I say that even though I cannot stand half the things the Republicrats do. It denies historical reality in numerous ways, and it defies all logic to say that the party that wants to keep blacks in permanence dependency status (Dems, that is) gets a bye on "the Slave Power" when attacking Republicans for that very issue. Good grief, are really that obtuse concerning what Dems are about with the race issue? Democratic strategy would be in the outhouse if they ever gave a true story to blacks on the current reasons for their lack of equal outcomes. Your charge is so totally bogus that one can only laugh at it, or cry at how insufferably wrongful it is.

MC: ST I, 20 3
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1020.htm#article3

He makes a distinction regarding how it is said God loves some more than others which would take your objection into account.

Joe M, we ought to love the good: a thing is lovable insofar as it participates in Good. That which is greater in good ought to be loved more: an angel is greater in some goods in the natural order than a human is, and so is simply more lovable in those respects. In the supernatural order where God's own spiritual life enlivens us, some men are more completely taken up in that Spirit than others, and thus are more lovable with regards to the spiritual good. This difference in lovability has a cause: God. In God, though, the different lovability comes about because He first loved differently. Our wills are moved BY the good we perceive, God wills the good and thus it comes to be. Difference in lovability follows God's different loving.

Joe. M:

I don't see that some receiving more than others implies that God loves them more than He loves others. (I'm taking "graces" here to mean gifts such as intelligence, artistic talent, etc. If I'm wrong in assuming that's what you meant, please correct me.) After all, "Of those to whom much has been given, much will be expected." So, if Person A has an IQ of 150 and an inherited fortune of millions of dollars, he'll be expected to do more with his life than the guy whose IQ is 100 and who was born into a poor family.

Yes, I did mean graces in a broad sense, covering both supernatural and natural gifts. I don't have much to add to what Tony wrote. God can be to love more because of the effects that He wills and brings about in His creatures. If creatures differ in their perfections, it is because God has willed this difference. As Tony notes, His love is not caused but causative.

Tony, I have to say, though: Jeff's proposals do pretty clearly indicate that he endorses an outright establishment of religion. I do not grant that for the first 190 years of our country's existence the state had as its role the "imposition of religious truth." I don't know if there were laws against fornication per se; if they were, they certainly weren't widely enforced for a whole 190 years. Nor, as far as I know, were there laws against "contemporary music forms." And Jeff has now expressly said that he favors a hereditary aristocracy, which is forbidden by the Constitution, so _that_ wasn't there for 190 years. Let's face it: If Jeff hadn't deliberately included these sorts of things in his list (presumably to show Mark that he truly is super-traditionalist), things which really do point toward a pre-modern, non-American, aristocratic, confessional Catholic state (which there is other reason from other threads for believing Jeff would prefer), we'd more plausibly be able to make for his list as a whole the type of case that I would make regarding a voting age of 21--namely, "Keep your hair on, Al, we were hardly a totalitarian country when that was in place."

I wd. add though that Al's pose as the honest civil libertarian terribly shocked by a right-wing crypto-monarchist is undermined by his support for homosexual "marriage," forcing photographers to celebrate lesbian "weddings," and similar left-wing totalitarian moves.

Joe M, we ought to love the good: a thing is lovable insofar as it participates in Good. That which is greater in good ought to be loved more: an angel is greater in some goods in the natural order than a human is, and so is simply more lovable in those respects. In the supernatural order where God's own spiritual life enlivens us, some men are more completely taken up in that Spirit than others, and thus are more lovable with regards to the spiritual good. This difference in lovability has a cause: God. In God, though, the different lovability comes about because He first loved differently. Our wills are moved BY the good we perceive, God wills the good and thus it comes to be. Difference in lovability follows God's different loving.

I see. I had the order of causality mixed up.

You can't do it without implicitly dealing with equality, if not explicitly, without divine command theory or some other unwise path.

In case you haven't noticed, that is exactly what many people on this thread are doing, albeit indirectly through Aquinas.

I wd. add though that Al's pose as the honest civil libertarian terribly shocked by a right-wing crypto-monarchist is undermined by his support for homosexual "marriage," forcing photographers to celebrate lesbian "weddings," and similar left-wing totalitarian moves.

I'll add that Al likes to strike the practical man pose when arguing with philosophers, but can't acknowledge that forcing a worker to unwillingly work for an employer that wants to hire them is a form of slavery. Wages don't suddenly baptize the coercion and make it a new, free creation.

Tony and T. chen., that was my point - God`s love is apportioned individually, but that does not mean that he loves unequally. I do not believe that St. Thomas asserts that, either. My comment about heaven would be accepted by St. Thomas, so I must not be explaining what I mean. I`ll be on a bus until tomorrow, so I willtry to respond further, then, if the post is still active.

As much as I respect Dr. Dougherty as a senior, I think he is incorrect in his attempt to harmonize a modern rights theory with Aquinas. I don't think he's modified his views since he wrote that piece (which was in the 80s), but then again, I haven't read through his entire corpus.

T. Chan: I had never heard of Dougherty until you mentioned him, strangely enough since I cited that page, but I never even looked beyond the summary on that narrow point. That link must have come up when I was googling for Aquinas views. I was careless not to find the original citation.

The tendency of modern Thomists to talk about "metaphysical" bases can be rather confusing, though I can see what he is trying to do, to exact a metaphysical argument from Aquinas's theology, just as someone might try to extract an account of ethics or natural law from it. But nonetheless, I think equality of nature is mostly irrelevant to Aquinas's treatment of justice -- it is important in his explanation of charity, the love of neighbor, and that part of the Great Commandment, so it's foundational in that sense to his moral theology. But it doesn't explain what the virtue of justice is, except in so far justice is directed towards other human beings.

I've only just started to think and read about this, and mostly in thinking about what you said. But it seems to me even from what I've seen so far and my limited understanding, I can see that what you say about equality of nature in Aquinas account of justice reasonable. In my "is there no metaphysical basis for justice?" question, I was just following the justice angle of the first question. If the answer is "not in Aquinas," maybe a better question is "Are there any universal principles related to equality?" I think that is the underlying or related question.

Because I suspect that some philosophical understanding may simply not be present in Aquinas because of his purposes or understanding. I have heard it said that he was a theologian rather than a philosopher, though of course he was both to some extent. People often cite Aristotle's maxim to "treat like cases as like" as evidence that he "didn't think people are equal," whatever that means. Yet what entitles a person to even a proportion of equality? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says it is a "formal equality principle" that most think corresponds with an "acknowledgment of the impartial and universalizable nature of moral judgments." Certainly, it "demands more than consistency with one's subjective preferences." Stefan Gosepath is the author of that part, whoever that is. So the metaphysical basis is an interesting question to me, but no less than the extent to which equality must be related to things that are universal, and what that means. It's beyond my abilities to say, but I really do appreciate your willingness to discuss it. It has been very helpful to me.

Has anyone heard about David Mamet's conversion from liberalism?

He says his journey began when a rabbi told him that to engage someone in debate one must be able to paraphrase them in a way they would say "yes, that's my view." He realized at one point that he couldn't do that. Indeed that is the minimum requirement for an academic discussion. Would that everyone did this.

Here's an example of the principle of equality in action purely from my memory. There was an admiral in the Pacific theater in WWII, perhaps "Bull" Halsey, whose son was lost at sea in a downed aircraft. I think he may have been found, but the admiral sent word to the rescue teams that the men must follow standard procedures. Namely, they could look no longer for his son than they would any other flyer, and use no other greater means than for any other men.

Was this a good thing to do? Why or why not? What is the reasoning behind it? Was it some fuzzy notion of abstract democratic principles? Would a culture that produced citizens who made such judgements of their own accord be superior to one that didn't?

Jeff C., I can't begin to tell you how strongly I disagree with the form of argument (often, I'm sorry to say, manifested by liberals), that goes like this: "As things fall out in the world by non-governmental processes, we already have something that I can call _____________________. Now, my proposal is that *we can do better than that*, by which I mean that the government should assume the power formally to create and impose __________________ along lines that I think are a lot more rational, fair, or smart." It chills my blood.

That's mystifying to me. There are many situations where this same line of thought should be welcomed as practical common sense. Vigilante justice, for example, is a form of justice by non-governmental processes, but justice is greatly improved when government assumes the prerogative. I think the chilling of your blood is related less to the argument itself than to your instinctive revulsion for both a) aristocracy, and b) government.

Having said that, let me be clear that I would oppose government creating an hereditary aristocracy out of whole cloth. The best government can and should do is conform itself to a pre-existing reality. Every sector of society has a natural leadership - regional, civic, commercial, vocational, educational, religious, arts and letters, etc., which corresponds much more closely to Jefferson's "natural aristocracy" than the faux aristocracy today's elites.

Tony, I have to say, though: Jeff's proposals do pretty clearly indicate that he endorses an outright establishment of religion.

True - but a gentle one, in temperament not unlike that of Malta today, or the establishments in the colonies in 1776.

I do not grant that for the first 190 years of our country's existence the state had as its role the "imposition of religious truth."

We are used to the left using the term "imposition" with respect to religion in a highly coercive and negative way. But the establishment of Christmas as a national holiday in 1870 was certainly the "imposition" of religion, as was the inclusion of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, and so forth. It's true that I would go further, but no further than what you, Lydia, pray for every Sunday in the 1928 BCP: "We beseech thee also, so to direct and dispose the hearts of all Christian Rulers, that they may truly and impartially administer justice, to the punishment of wickedness and vice, and to the maintenance of thy true religion, and virtue."


Nor, as far as I know, were there laws against "contemporary music forms."

For the first 190 years of our republic, many contemporary music forms had yet to be invented, and those which existed were much less of a problem than they are today. Still, in 1955 the public was sufficiently alarmed by rock music that congressional subcommittee hearings were held on the association of rock music and juvenile delinquency. Congress has also addressed the ties of rock music with illegal drug use and obscenity. Not many laws were passed, it is true, but many were considered and no conservative should give up the fight.

Let's face it: If Jeff hadn't deliberately included these sorts of things in his list (presumably to show Mark that he truly is super-traditionalist),

Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute. It was Mark who, from out of nowhere, challenged me to cite examples of positions where my views were the more conservative. I should have left it alone, I guess, because I have no interest in proving to anyone that I'm a "super traditionalist". Mark says that he's the most conservative person that he knows. Well, in my circles, I'm actually on the liberal side. Mark read some of my comments on Iraq, immigration, global warming and whatever else, made some erroneous assumptions, and I hope will now refrain from drawing hasty inferences. That is all.

Mark:

Because I suspect that some philosophical understanding may simply not be present in Aquinas because of his purposes or understanding. I have heard it said that he was a theologian rather than a philosopher, though of course he was both to some extent. People often cite Aristotle's maxim to "treat like cases as like" as evidence that he "didn't think people are equal," whatever that means. Yet what entitles a person to even a proportion of equality? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says it is a "formal equality principle" that most think corresponds with an "acknowledgment of the impartial and universalizable nature of moral judgments." Certainly, it "demands more than consistency with one's subjective preferences." Stefan Gosepath is the author of that part, whoever that is. So the metaphysical basis is an interesting question to me, but no less than the extent to which equality must be related to things that are universal, and what that means. It's beyond my abilities to say, but I really do appreciate your willingness to discuss it. It has been very helpful to me.

The Summa Theologiae is a work of theology, even if it does incorporate philosophical arguments into the reasoning. Aquinas doesn't write a tract on philosophy de novo, but his commentaries on Aristotle are primarily philosophical. Aquinas does take what he says about equality in the ST from Aristotle.

"treat like cases as like"
I've seen the maxim attributed to HLA Hart but I am not familiar enough with The Concept of Law to say that he attributes it to someone else; it's not quite what Aristotle says (or means) with respect to distributive justice.

Yet what entitles a person to even a proportion of equality?
It is difficult for me to grasp what you are saying or if you are alluding to "procedural justice," so let me throw this out there. When Aquinas discusses verbal injuries in judicial proceedings he designates them as sins against commutative justice (II II 67-71). His account could be supplemented by including deeds that are subordinate to the verbal injuries (fabricating false evidence, for example), but I don't think the substance would be altered since it's the discourse between the various parties leading up to judgment that matters. So this sort of justice should be exercised towards all in so far as they are human.

Then there is the vice of "respect of persons" -- see II II 63, 4 which talks about the sin with respect to judicial proceedings.

It seems to me that much of procedural justice are norms imposed through human law for the purpose of reducing abuses and injustice. There may also be the question of the allocation of resources and so on. Is it unjust that my public defender is not as good a lawyer as someone in private practice? Am I owed the best lawyer available?

As for laws imposing burdens and responsibilities to people -- this does fall under distributive justice, and Aquinas would not hold that everyone must have the same responsibilities or burdens because they are all equally human.

As for your example, I wonder if it would be different for a high-ranking officer, rather than a pilot. At any rate, it seems to pertain to distributive justice, "the allocation of resources."

I haven't studied questions of justice pertaining to the justice system so anything you can add regarding that, or law-making or governance, would be helpful.

For what it's worth, Christianity could be the state religion without making one particular denomination. It would be possible for the state to explicitly affirm the church councils that the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches affirm without giving greater weight to one church over the other. I don't think it's necessary to give equal credence to Christian denominations that won't even affirm church councils that have never been particularly controversial to mainstream Christians of any major sect.

Still, in 1955 the public was sufficiently alarmed by rock music that congressional subcommittee hearings were held on the association of rock music and juvenile delinquency. Congress has also addressed the ties of rock music with illegal drug use and obscenity. Not many laws were passed, it is true, but many were considered and no conservative should give up the fight.

Which just goes to show how painfully naive and in denial most "mainstream Americans" were back then. Drug use had been rampant since the Civil War when morphine was introduced to the public on a large scale. Juvenile delinquency in the 50s and 60s likely had more to do with the "Greatest Generation" systematically dropping the ball in raising the little hellions that would become the worst generation in American history.

"Mark read some of my comments on Iraq, immigration, global warming and whatever else, made some erroneous assumptions, and I hope will now refrain from drawing hasty inferences."

That's partly true, but I also think that Mark and many other modern conservatives believe that opinions homologous to those of the Left are automatically "liberal," and thus suspect, even if bona fide conservatives hold them, and whether or not they have come to them via a thought-process outside the standard Left/Right dialectic.

Anyone who can't see the ties between rock music, drugs, and the sexual revolution is in major denial. I know, because I used to be one of them.

We are used to the left using the term "imposition" with respect to religion in a highly coercive and negative way.

But, Jeff, as you've already stated that I am correct and that you do want an official established church, though a gentle one, then I was reading _correctly_ your lines about the need for the church to impose religious truth. So as far as I'm concerned, that's that as far as the relationship of your ideas to even the original constitution. I certainly don't agree that declaring Christmas a national holiday is what I would call "imposing religious truth" or including "under God" in the pledge. Look, it's the _liberals_ who don't understand the meaning of the establishment clause and who pretend that all those types of "civic religion" things were unconstitutional all along. As a sheer matter of history, we should make those distinctions and not agree with them.

Now hold on just a cotton-pickin' minute. It was Mark who, from out of nowhere, challenged me to cite examples of positions where my views were the more conservative.

Yes, certainly. It was in response to a challenge from someone else. I'm sorry if it seemed that I was implying otherwise. But it did make your list divide rather neatly, from my perspective, into "the possible" and "the outrageous."

That's mystifying to me. There are many situations where this same line of thought should be welcomed as practical common sense. Vigilante justice, for example, is a form of justice by non-governmental processes, but justice is greatly improved when government assumes the prerogative.

I don't think so. I don't usually follow that line of thought w.r.t. vigilante justice, either. I think of it rather in terms of the general question: Is punishing murderers (say) a rightful prerogative of an official state entity? I don't start out thinking of vigilantism as sort of inefficient and messy and then say, "Hey, let's improve this by having government assume the role!" That whole approach really does bother me terrifically. It seems to me a disaster waiting to happen--Mothers feed their children, but I bet a lot of them don't do it according to the latest pediatric guidelines for perfect nutrition. Hey, let's try to improve it by having all children eat in state cafeterias! Etc. And the things is, there really _are_ mothers who don't feed their children all that well. The truth is, as a very critical person, I can think of _lots_ of things that I think are being done in a bumbling or not-entirely-reasonable way in the world that I would do better. Fortunately, however, I also have a very strong objection to taking that as an argument for thinking the government should set it up so everyone makes all the decisions I would make and does those same things in my way. In fact, I think it's rather important that we develop a kind of love for the natural, bumbling, human ways in which things get done from the "bottom up" and a horror of trying to remake them "nearer to the heart's desire" from the top down.

Mark read some of my comments on Iraq, immigration, global warming and whatever else, made some erroneous assumptions, and I hope will now refrain from drawing hasty inferences. That is all.

Jeff: i don't know what assumptions I made that were erroneous. Maybe I shouldn't have said I was more conservative than you. As I'm sure we both know, the point isn't to be more conservative than thou, as the guy that swoops in once in awhile in the combox championing slavery as such and calling us all pansies for not seeing how the turning away of slavery was a liberal move, which of course it was. That is exactly how much of CW literature reads: the pro-slavery folks were called conservatives, which of course they were. I know you know all this, but I'm just saying. You're always saying what a poor and/or Conservative I am and I said something unwise.

That's partly true, but I also think that Mark and many other modern conservatives believe that opinions homologous to those of the Left are automatically "liberal," and thus suspect, even if bona fide conservatives hold them, and whether or not they have come to them via a thought-process outside the standard Left/Right dialectic.

Nice: at some point you do have to wonder about "opinions homologous to those of the Left." These require an explanation. Where my opponents are right I say so plainly. How much of an overlap with the Left one has surely determines how much a part of the Left one is. Surely it is ironic that you are complaining about my observation of your similarities with the Left, when you are the aggressive one in telling Conservatives how they are really Liberals.

I think it is quite revealing that some of the "trad-cons" here hate it when I draw similarities with left and even radical groups, yet they merely sniff "So. Even a stopped clock is right twice." Well that isn't a good answer. As if what Trotskyites shared with Leninites didn't matter. It is a reasonable question to ask what you share with those you claim to oppose. Your assertion that "opinions homologous to those of the Left" are insignificant is surely mistaken.

"I think it is quite revealing that some of the 'trad-cons' here hate it when I draw similarities with left and even radical groups"

It's not so much that you draw the similarities, as it is that you assume that the views are therefore "liberal." Russell Kirk and even Francis Schaeffer held some views on the environment which would be homologous to that of many Leftists. I highly doubt, however, that the views of either one of those fellows could be considered liberal, or that they came to their conclusions via the same intellectual process that, say, Paul Ehrlich or Barry Commoner did.

I'm really curious as to why anyone actually responds to Al. For one, he's like a leftist cartoon. He's also insufferably smug...I can't imagine what he's like in person. He shows no signs of really caring what anyone here things aside from providing some fodder to chide everyone about, nor are his criticisms ever useful as they never go beyond the superficial. He's not even reflective enough to see that his own opinions vis-a-vis Southern Americans and his 'Slave Power' bogeymen mirror almost exactly the kinds of things Southerners thought about Blacks in the past. What am I missing here? It seems to me that conservatives constantly have the problem of legitimizing their opponents by taking their blatherings seriously. Take gay marriage...why does anyone actually argue about this rather than just laughing at it and scorning anyone who seriously proposes it? It's stupid on its face...do we really need to delve into the metaphysics?

Amen to Mike T. I too am looking forward to when we can finally drive a stake through the last accursed Baby Boomer heart. I'd say we only have 10-20 years before they are all at least out of government, if not dead.

Anyone who can't see the ties between rock music, drugs, and the sexual revolution is in major denial. I know, because I used to be one of them.

Like all things in Sociology, you cannot scientifically isolate the relationships between all of the variables involved in leading up to something. You can't say how much of a role drugs and rock had as opposed to bad parenting. We know in hindsight that bad parenting was at least as prevalent back during this critical years leading up to the sexual revolution. Furthermore, you're also factoring in the influence of Alfred Kinsey in laying a "scientific" foundation for the sexual revolution.

* also not factoring

Matt, I try to take a position midway between totally ignoring the unchangeably crazy left and taking them too seriously. Sometimes I respond to Al to puncture his pose of sweet reasonableness. Sometimes I respond to him because he actually finds useful information. (He appears to be a lawyer and has occasionally been useful in looking up codes and what-not.) Sometimes I respond to him because he's sufficiently smart and sufficiently smooth that I think his "type" is particularly dangerous. I think that pose of sweet reasonableness, combined with "I have more information than you," is likely to give young people, in particular, the impression that conservatives are all crazy and only liberals are sane and reasonable. I think it can be helpful for the record to show why that is not true.

Also, when I have colleagues here at W4 with whom I strong disagree because they are more "trad-con" or "paleo" or whatever than I am, because I'm some sort of what that wing would call "right liberal," and when Al picks up on this and says, "What??" I think it's useful to respond and make careful distinctions. I can show that it's possible to be, for example, an extremely strong and unapologetic social conservative without wishing for the days of an aristocracy or wanting the government to outlaw musical styles per se.

I completely agree with you, Matt, that the idea of homosexual "marriage" is just simply insane. That's why I would never write a scholarly article on the subject. It's fit only for blogs, at the most. I don't think we should treat that perspective as some sort of respectable intellectual option. (I have the same opinion on infanticide.) Just the other day I was thinking this: American thought is incredibly, totally messed up. The liberals say, and too many people are getting brow-beaten into thinking, that noticing the *obvious biological differences* between men and women and thinking that this *makes a difference to social roles*, thinking that society has a stake in recognizing male-female relationships but has no stake in giving special recognition to male-male sexual relationships, is an irrational view, supported only by strange, parochial, religious premises! On the other hand, their view, that we should _ignore the biological sex of the participants_ in marriage and family, that we should treat it as non-existent in law, is supposed to be objective and scientific! It's completely insane. As you say, laughable.

One more thing, Matt: I don't think it's terribly healthy to be wanting to drive a stake through the heart of people, even if they have messed up society very badly. It's one thing to hope (though I have to say I think it's a thin hope, based on polling data) that the new generation will be more sensible. It's another thing to be sort of gloating over people's deaths.

I agree, Mike, but I don't believe that negates the relationship between the three. By saying that the three are linked does not mean I believe that any (or all) of them sprang up out of nothing.

I'm 58. I'm among the last of the Baby Boomers. I am a conservative who has worked all my life to do what I can to make the world a better place. I really don't appreciate being told that I -- and my many friends and colleagues in that demographic who like me work for the betterment of the world -- need a stake driven in our hearts to accomplish that goal.

That was really just a little too strong a statement to let pass.

Should have been commas: who, like me, . . .

Beth, I agree.

Lydia,

What a great post! Other than a couple of unfortunate misunderstandings, most of which have been cleared up (loved the Aquinas tangent), this has been a most fruitful discussion.

Here is an interesting recent case relevant to this very topic:

http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2011/07/the-6th-circuits-affirmative-action-decision-a-critique.php

What I find encourgaing from one standpoint is the percentage of voters in your great state that approved that referendum in the first place. What is discouraging, of course, is the continuing effort of our elites to undermine the good common sense understanding of equality exhibiited by the voters of Michigan. So I wonder if there isn't hope for the Declaration and a "right-liberal" understanding of equality after all?

They say satire is impossible these days. Apparently blatant hyperbole is as well.

It's not so much that you draw the similarities, as it is that you assume that the views are therefore "liberal." Russell Kirk and even Francis Schaeffer held some views on the environment which would be homologous to that of many Leftists. I highly doubt, however, that the views of either one of those fellows could be considered liberal, or that they came to their conclusions via the same intellectual process that, say, Paul Ehrlich or Barry Commoner did.

Nice: assume, or you wish to deny without discussion and my only choice is to assume? You and Jeff will not discuss the similarities. You refuse to explain why it is that similarity of view with those you claim to oppose is appropriate. I on the other hand am happy to do so if challenged. That is the difference. The only problem is that you use the term "Liberal" in such an expansive way that it means everything, and nothing. But I'm still willing to defend any similarities you see in my with Liberals case-by-case logically and transparently.

From what little I know at this point Kirk did have at least one or two similarities with the Left. That's a big clue that he was likely wrong on those points! Either than or you are making a tacit admission that Left is right on that point. This is the most basic logic possible. Do you see this? Kirk was a great man and a founder of much modern Conservatism, but he was wrong about some things. This fact doesn't change his greatness on what he got right. You think he was perfect? Ditto with Shaeffer. These men aren't gods. They got some stuff wrong. Shaeffer was famously wrong about Aquinas, as most reasonable people acknowledge. No matter how great you think someone was, you take their views case-by-case. No other way is reasonable.

For example, there are similarities in the anti-Democratic conservatives such as yourself with radical Islamicists view on the matter of the fundamental corruption of Western ideas and culture. And you'll no doubt insist that no inference whatever can be drawn from this and you have no need to explain yourself, as others have done here before, and you'll resent being asked to explain it and refuse. And this is all no problem at all. Do you not see the basic logic involved in the Kirk example? Are there any similarities you can see in my view, or the view of "right-liberal" Conservatives with the view of the radical Islamicists? Because I can't think of any, but if there are I'd like to know and see if there is anything I need to explain.

I'm 58. I'm among the last of the Baby Boomers. I am a conservative who has worked all my life to do what I can to make the world a better place. I really don't appreciate being told that I -- and my many friends and colleagues in that demographic who like me work for the betterment of the world -- need a stake driven in our hearts to accomplish that goal.

Beth: Sorry to be so dull, but I'm not sure what you mean by needing a "stake driven in our hearts to accomplish that goal." Can you elaborate? I suspect you may be objecting to those who disbelieve social progress is possible, but I'm not sure.

Mark,

I assume Beth was referring to Matt's 11:12 AM comment above.

I understand the Kirk example, but what you seem to be saying is that the Left is wrong 100% of the time and that therefore when a conservative agrees with a Leftist, he is wrong automatically.

Example: Gore Vidal is a Leftist. His non-interventionist foreign policy views are therefore wrong. Pat Buchanan is a conservative who holds non-interventionist foreign policy views. Because a liberal holds the same or similar views, Buchanan's too are liberal and therefore wrong.

Is this really what you're saying? That no one on the Left is ever correct? About anything?

For the record, I have no problems being in agreement with either Leftists or Islamicists on those occasions, and on those occasions only, when they're right. Truth is truth regardless of the source.

Nice, I think that certain views held by both the left and what I dub "paleo-leftists" are wrong because they are wrong, not on the grounds that anything held by a leftist must be wrong. Presumably leftists also believe the sky is blue. But I would note also a meta-level tendency on the part of both the left and the paleo-left to have proportions out of whack and to engage in moral equivalency. I've noticed it again and again. Things on the order of "civilians killed (accidentally) in Iraq are just like children killed by abortion." Those moral equivalencies, more than anything else, that lack of perspective, is what clues me in that someone who wants to call himself "conservative" is actually turning into a leftist. And when someone engages in such left-sounding moral equivalencies _all the time_, then I know the process is nearly complete. I also notice what people get exercised about. If someone gradually stops talking about the social conservative issues he shares with mainstream conservatives and talks *almost entirely* about the "evils of capitalism," there's the process going on again. And when a person is literally incapable of entering any thread on any issue--be it homosexual "marriage," abortion, or anything of the kind, where he might be expected (since he calls himself a conservative) to be on the same page with other conservatives, without _dragging in_ the issues on which he has nothing but contempt for mainstream conservatives, that's another clue. There comes to be an increasing reluctance to appear to have anything in common with those contemptible "right-liberals," even when they're opposing the slaughter of the innocent. Sometimes such people eventually won't even call themselves conservative at all. And calls for making common cause are invariably met with self-pity and sneers about how they have been mistreated by mainstream conservatives who have too much love for corporate interests.

This is how I recognize a so-called "conservative" who is really more comfortable with the left. Because he _is_ more comfortable with the left and never has a good word to say for the right, or at least never has anything but the most highly qualified, reluctant, and back-handed good words to say for the right. These things are not black boxes. One can figure out where a person is coming from, especially if one sees a lot of his comments and writing.

Just so you know.

Jeff Singer, wow, thanks for the news! I hadn't heard about the MCRI being called "unconstitutional" by some small panel of a federal court. That's _crazy_. Scary, really. That had _better_ be struck down, or we will have moved to "race and gender preferential affirmative action is constitutional" to "race and gender preferential affirmative action is required by the constitution" which is insanity on stilts.

Dear Matt,

Yes, the idea of driving a stake though the hearts of the Baby Boomers is a bit over-the-top. We did not start this. This comes straight out a reaction to the youth movements that occur after World Wars (hint: something similar happened after WWI). If you want to drive a stake through anything, let it be the Cross of Christ and let it be through your own heart. By that, I mean, if you want to undo the damage done by years of human sin, you have to first start by crucifying your own heart and bringing it into submission to Christ. Seems I remember something about specks and beams.

Also, why should we not just laugh off homosexuality? Do you REALLY want an answer and do you really need one? Ideas have consequences and mete out human suffering or glory depending upon the nature of the ideas and how they are followed. Turning a person away from sin is an act of mercy. Laughing at their point of view, often is a form of perverse pride. They need healing and you tell them that all they believe is the punchline to a joke?

The Masked Chicken said:

"We did not start this. This comes straight out a reaction to the youth movements that occur after World Wars (hint: something similar happened after WWI)."

The developments in youth culture after World War 1 and 2 were primarily social movements that only affected small parts of society. The Baby Boomber's were both a social and poltical movement, that changed the face of the nation forever. In this sense they are to blame.

That's fine, Lydia, but you don't seem nearly as prone to advance the "guilt by association of ideas" line that Mark takes.

I suspect that those conservatives who often criticize the mainstream right do so out of a sense of frustration with the lack of self-criticism present there. Conservatism sorely needs a Christopher Lasch-type figure to do some substantive criticism from within. This won't happen, however, as long as the mainstream right disallows any views than seem to contradict its ideology. The Left at least read Lasch and attempted to engage him. You can't even get today's conservatives to read their own forebears.

In no particular order:
They need healing and you tell them that all they believe is the punchline to a joke?

Worst humorist ever. I'm revoking your comedy license immediately :)

They say satire is impossible these days.

Thankfully, they are dead wrong.

Wages don't suddenly baptize the coercion and make it a new, free creation.

Fair wages technically mean it isn't a form of slavery either, unless any coercive act is a form of slavery. Which is an interesting twist on the abortion/forced labor debate, but I digress. I would also dispute the notion that a wedding photographer is implicitly endorsing or celebrating the event they photograph. In other words, what public or private reasons are sufficient for a wedding photographer to refuse to work for heterosexual couples? Describe when her conscience should kick in and she can say this is something I will not be involved with.

This won't happen, however, as long as the mainstream right disallows any views than seem to contradict its ideology.

David Brook's most recent ode to mendacious revisionism has him sputtering about the GOP being overtaken by fanatics who, if they continue to march off the cliff of debt default, are unfit to govern. I must say, it was mighty nice of him to figure this out after he put in such effort to get those people elected.

Monkey Boy,

You are quite wrong about your contention that the Baby Boom Generation was both social and political while the others were merely social. Contemporary history from the 1920's, such as found in, Only Yesterday, by Lewis (available on-line), documents both social and political events and shows how they interact.

Step2,

I was not trying to be funny. As someone who studies humor, I am quite aware of the ability of humor to heal and wound. Matt's comments were out of line and ill-conceived. Laughing at sin or someone's struggle to overcome it is rarely the best way to produce positive results. Just because he sees the obvious does not mean that someone, blinded by sin, would see it so easily.

The Chicken

That's fine, Lydia, but you don't seem nearly as prone to advance the "guilt by association of ideas" line that Mark takes.

N. M., I'll be frank: I know quite well what I think of your comments on the other thread, and so do you. I said what I thought there. I could also get pretty bored with an incessant drumbeat of, "Conservatives are so unreflective, etc., etc., at least leftists read x, etc." that you seem to be starting up on here. Remember: People who never have a good word to say for conservatives but imply that leftists are reflective and thoughtful--that says something. However, if you can talk about other topics, show agreement with your allegedly fellow conservatives a decent proportion of the time, and leave your other concerns on other threads, I will reciprocate by not calling you a "paleo-leftist" on the threads where you don't talk like one. Hopefully, that's a deal you can live with.

what public or private reasons are sufficient for a wedding photographer to refuse to work for heterosexual couples? Describe when her conscience should kick in and she can say this is something I will not be involved with.

Oh, that's easy, Step2: a Catholic photographer who is asked to shoot photos for a Catholic couple who pretend to get married in a pagan or new age goofball ceremony: since (under Catholic canon law) the pretense will not result in a marriage, the Catholic photographer can and probably should tell them "nope, I won't be a part of your play-acting shenanigans. Find someone else if you want to play games with something as solemn as marriage."

Fair wages technically mean it isn't a form of slavery either, unless any coercive act is a form of slavery. Which is an interesting twist on the abortion/forced labor debate, but I digress.

The sine qua non of slavery is that the employer can force the erstwhile employee to perform work without their first entering into a mutual agreement to work of the employee's free will (or as restitution for a crime).

I would also dispute the notion that a wedding photographer is implicitly endorsing or celebrating the event they photograph. In other words, what public or private reasons are sufficient for a wedding photographer to refuse to work for heterosexual couples? Describe when her conscience should kick in and she can say this is something I will not be involved with.

You're missing something more fundamental here. The photographer owns his or her labor. Society does not. The worker has an absolute right to refuse any client for any reason, regardless of how banal or prejudiced. An engaged couple no more has a moral right to his or her labor than a Chinese corporation has to the labor of a political prisoner in a laogai.

You know I'm a rampaging evidentialist, Tony, but the state isn't a rational creature. It is made up of rational creatures, but it would be a fallacy of composition to say, "Rational creatures have a capacity to make judgements about true religion. The state is made up of rational creatures. Therefore the state has a compacity to make judgements about true religion." Compare, "Rational creatures have a capacity to love people. The state is made up of rational creatures. Therefore the state has a capacity to love people."

Lydia, I agree that we should be careful to not attribute to the state too much here. The state is not a person, and cannot achieve acts that are proper to a true person. The state won't go to heaven (or hell).

Nevertheless, if the state had no capacity whatsoever in the way of respecting the Creator - itself, as the community together - then it would have no business declaring a day of prayer and thanksgiving. I believe very strongly that when G. Washington ordered a national day of prayer and thanksgiving to the Almighty God, he was both carrying out a valid political function, and was doing something more than merely asking a multitude of individuals to individually pray with him.

There is more going on ontologically when the many individuals do it precisely on account of the coordination and prescription of the ordering principle above them, than if they all do exactly the same action but merely because they choose to on their own. (Just as, say, a group of 50 people who go to the beach "together" as a group of ball players who want to celebrate a successful season is doing something different and achieving a different order of good than if each and every one of them happened to be at the beach merely on account of individual decisions.) It is good for a family to pray precisely as a community, in addition to the members praying individually. The ordination of the action of prayer by a higher ordering principle (i.e. the state) calls down from heaven God's particular notice and providential regard for that higher order as such.

But such a good impinges on the polity only to the extent that God is known to the community: the order of the derivative entity cannot exceed the building block of the community, the people and families that make it up. If all of the people are pagans, it is better for the state to expect honor to divinity than to ignore divinity altogether - that much truth is TRUE, and carries its own weight and obligation. If the people are Jews or Muslims, it is better that the state honor the ONE God, than that it profess ignorance about whether there are many gods or a false "protection" of the beliefs of pagans. If the people are Christians, it is better that the state honor the one true God in His triune reality, than that it ignore the second and third Persons of the Trinity out of false "protection" of the beliefs of a handful of Jews and Muslims.

"You are quite wrong about your contention that the Baby Boom Generation was both social and political while the others were merely social. Contemporary history from the 1920's, such as found in, Only Yesterday, by Lewis (available on-line), documents both social and political events and shows how they interact"

Can you point me to some of the political effects (not events) that linger within our current landscape that are a direct result of the political acts of these youths in the 1920's? In the same way I could easily do when pointiing to the Baby Boomers.

And political acts that were put into place due to the Great Depression don't count.

Tony, unfortunately you are going to get into some serious questions of proportions and sociology. _How many_ of the people in a country does it take for it to be true to say that "the people" of that country know the one triune God? etc. Moreover, _to what extent_ should a country with even a majority of Christian citizens make Christianity an "official religion," especially one that is _imposed_ on people? I myself don't think the recognition of a national holiday is an imposition. I actually support the establishment clause in what I take to be its original meaning. As I said to Jeff above, I think there's actually a big difference between declaring Thanksgiving a holiday, proclaiming a national day of prayer, having prayers at the opening of Congress, etc., and an "establishment of religion" as originally intended in the constitution. I disagree with the liberals on that.

Here's an interesting hypothesis: I hypothesize that when our country was founded--let's call it 1789, when the first President was elected--the overwhelming majority of citizens of the country were Christians. Be that as it may, I think the founders probably wanted the religion recognized in proclamations, etc., more generically Judeo-Christian than specifically Christian. Yes, I realize that the recognition of Christmas as a national holiday is some evidence to the contrary, but George Washington's letter to the synagogue is some evidence on my side.

"if you can talk about other topics, show agreement with your allegedly fellow conservatives a decent proportion of the time, and leave your other concerns on other threads, I will reciprocate by not calling you a 'paleo-leftist' on the threads where you don't talk like one. Hopefully, that's a deal you can live with."

Nah, not worth it. I for one don't want to be part of the mainstream echo chamber. Call me a paleo-leftist all you want. It just proves my point.

I understand the Kirk example, but what you seem to be saying is that the Left is wrong 100% of the time and that therefore when a conservative agrees with a Leftist, he is wrong automatically.

No, I'm simply stating the obvious that the level of overlap has to do with categorization. Surely you wouldn't deny that if you're a member of group A, that there is a point of overlap with group B such that you'll be categorized with them. That's the way categorization works.

Moreover, we're not talking about a few discrete points of similarity. We're talking about a broad understanding. It is harder to get any more broad than the view that the last several centuries of one's culture and history were fundamentally a mistake, and its primary ideas always false. Neither do you make any distinctions between types of liberalism, for example Liberalism and Classical liberalism as if it made no difference, which is a pretty extreme view since the gap is very wide. It's the difference between the Weekly Standard and the Huffington Post.

Finally, I'm not committing guilt by association. I'm simply asking for an explanation for this similarity, which you seem unable to provide. All similarities invite explanation, don't they? I don't see what is the problem with asking for you to think about what the reasons might be for this view. Yet I have no trouble telling you of the differences between Classical liberalism and Liberalism, or my own view compared to them or that of a radical Islamicist. I could also tell you why I think they agree where they do, and differ where they do. It isn't as if ideas people hold are attached to them in some random fashion. There are reasons for it.

I for one don't want to be part of the mainstream echo chamber. Call me a paleo-leftist all you want. It just proves my point.

And if you understand me, you prove mine. Discussing shared problems and strategy concerning social conservative issues is not "being part of an echo chamber." If you think it is, then you don't understand the importance of those issues. You are more obsessed with the desire to criticize the right than you are concerned with working together, encouraging one another, and strategizing about these very important issues.

Lydia, you are right that it takes looking at questions of proportion, and I don't know what the answer is. I am fine with the idea that at in 1789 the Founders were thinking more along the lines of Judeo-Christian standards than specifically Christian ones. That's a question of historical fact, not a matter of principle.

I do think it is a matter of principle whether a country can proclaim a day of prayer...and then be precluded from state-sanctioned actual prayers because they are specific to one idea of God - a triune God rather than the God Jews are ready to pray to. I don't think that makes much sense: if the state can sanction prayer itself, it can officially sanction THESE prayers rather than THOSE ones. After all, just the act of sanctioning prayer to God leaves atheists out in the cold, shivering in fear for their very lives. Or not.

I don't think that "impose" is the right tack to take in any case, regardless of how high a proportion: telling someone that they have to become a Christian in spite of their (ill-formed) conscience is no way to foster Christianity. But the rub, of course, is how to have state-sanctioned recognition of one religious tradition to the exclusion of others without bumping up against the conscience of someone who is outside that tradition: if you start the legislative session with the Our Father, you going to make Geia-Mother-Earth worshipers mighty angry - are you actually violating their consciences? And if so, under what grounds, are you not "imposing" religion on them? My feeling is that we CAN start the legislative session with the Our Father, (or, at least, we should have been able to until at least 30 years ago minimum), and I don't think that this could be right in principle unless the state has a right to speak about recognizing a religious tradition in a way that excludes others by not providing them an equal footing. And that this does not constitute imposing religion in the sense that is (rightly) forbidden.

Part of the answer lies in two basic claims: (1) people have an absolute moral and intellectual obligation to seek for the truth about human ends, human destiny, and ultimate human good - and to be open to real, honest evidence regarding that truth. (2) God has granted the true religion much evidence in its favor. Even if the state cannot in principle give a person faith, it can rightly point to true, reasonable, convincing reasons why certain errors are false. For a person to blatantly reject sound argument when presented with it, either because he won't listen in the first place (being uninterested at all in the final end of man), or because he won't be open to honest evidence, is for a person to fail in a moral obligation to some extent - and the state should not be held hostage to such failing. (There are, admittedly, other reasons for failure to be convinced by the truth. That's what makes the issue ever a problem, and makes true evangelization such a grave duty. But the number of people who are wholly in invincible ignorance AND who are truly outraged at being asked to merely be present peacefully while others pray in a manner they don't condone is vanishingly small, in my opinion).

Tony, I think I agree with you. I have no problem whatsoever with having Christianity and not Wicca (or Islam, for that matter) represented in prayers opening houses of Congress and also in public schools. I don't think that's contrary to the establishment clause.

I also don't think it is what (or at least is not all) Jeff had in mind in his proposals. After all, "impose" was his word originally in this thread, though as he says, he would like the state established religion to be a "gentle one."

Laughing at sin or someone's struggle to overcome it is rarely the best way to produce positive results.

That sounds tragic, no joke.

The sine qua non of slavery is that the employer can force the erstwhile employee to perform work without their first entering into a mutual agreement to work of the employee's free will (or as restitution for a crime).

That is a rather narrow definition that doesn't reflect much of what slavery is in the real world. Further, it still seems like any coercive act is slavery under this definition.

The worker has an absolute right to refuse any client for any reason, regardless of how banal or prejudiced.

Not so fast. Society does require a license/permit for the photographer to operate their business. They keep their permit on the condition that some standards of conduct are practiced.

Surely you wouldn't deny that if you're a member of group A, that there is a point of overlap with group B such that you'll be categorized with them. That's the way categorization works.

I would agree with that statement if the composition and policies of each group were unchanging. The problem is that historically conservatives and liberals had different constituencies and priorities from today.

Surely you wouldn't deny that if you're a member of group A, that there is a point of overlap with group B such that you'll be categorized with them. That's the way categorization works.

I would agree with that statement if the composition and policies of each group were unchanging. The problem is that historically conservatives and liberals had different constituencies and priorities from today.

The terms themselves have shifted radically. I made a statement about a point in time about the ideas that individuals may hold. Not change over time historically. That's another matter.

Yes, the idea of driving a stake though the hearts of the Baby Boomers is a bit over-the-top.

Well..yeah. Hyperbole, you know. They need to amend Poe's law to cover it.

We did not start this.

Well depending on what you mean by 'this', it's probable that you did not start it. The West, including the American instance of it, had been rotting at the foundations for some time before the BBs got ahold of it. However, the BBs practically leveled to the ground everything worthwhile that remained, and given that they are still in power and still perverting everything they touch, I see no reason to withhold judgment.

Seems I remember something about specks and beams.

With respect to generations? My generation is certainly no more able to govern itself or a country than the BBs, if what I see when looking around me is any indication. But, although we may well make things worse--it's practically unavoidable--we will not have started with anything decent. The BBs were born into a worthwhile world and then proceeded to dismantle it. Thanks for that. All my poor benighted fellows can do is continue the slide to oblivion. Oh, I'm sure they will...Americans get stupider and more servile every generation.

RE: laughing at homosexuality--I was talking about gay marriage, not homosexuality itself. Gay marriage is a rather public thing, not a mass of confused internal feelings that the poor dears have to suffer. And no, some viewpoints should be laughed at. If someone proposed that we should all build steel furnaces in our backyards, or that everyone ought to move out of the cities en masse and work in farming collectives, they should be laughed out of town. Because we know what happens when people take ideas like this seriously. I don't mean to make a particularly anti-communist point here, they're just the first examples that came to mind.

On the subject of dissident conservatives as crypto-leftists...I find the concern bizarre. The official conservative movement, as represented by the Republican Party and such media outlets as NRO, is officially anti-racist, mass-immigrationist, proposition-nationalist, welfare-statist, Bomb-bomb-bomb-Iranist...who're the crypto-leftists again? The two last Republican nominees were George W Bush and John McCain...who're the leftists again? If there is a serious plan to reform the conservative movement and kick out the parasites like Jonah Goldberg, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rich Lowry, Mitch McConnell, everyone with the last name of Bush, Lindsey Graham, the aforementioned McCain, oh God I could go on all day--then I'll happily join in. But I know of no such plan, so as of right now real conservatives have no political or mainstream media outlets (small exception: Buchanan on MSNBC).

That is a rather narrow definition that doesn't reflect much of what slavery is in the real world. Further, it still seems like any coercive act is slavery under this definition.

It seems like you're being obtuse. I said the defining feature that makes slavery slavery is when a prospective employer can coerce a worker into working for them without their permission. That is a narrow definition, but it neatly encompasses only those who have no natural claim to part of one's labor such as a child or spouse or a party wronged by a criminal act.

Not so fast. Society does require a license/permit for the photographer to operate their business. They keep their permit on the condition that some standards of conduct are practiced.

I'm sure it would shock you to find that while I have no inherent opposition to the state regulation of professional practices, I'm categorically opposed to the practice of licensing, be it of a worker or the creation of a business interest.

Licensing laws are pernicious because they give a false sense of security to the public while giving the state a choke collar with which to yank around workers and businesses. I'm sure it would doubly shock you that I'm a firm supporter of the Institute for Justice's campaign to shut down professional licensing laws around the country.

They need to amend Poe's law to cover it.

Which regulation was that? The one that made it a felony to not report your neighbor to the EPA for holding a talking raven without a permit or required a public alert whenever an ape is loose?

The official conservative movement, as represented by the Republican Party and such media outlets as NRO, is officially anti-racist, mass-immigrationist, proposition-nationalist, welfare-statist, Bomb-bomb-bomb-Iranist...who're the crypto-leftists again?

And I'm a big fan of NRO authors since when? Please. There are a ton of social liberals all over the place in the Republican Party on the issues I care most about, as well as on some second-tier-but-still-on-my-radar issues like immigration. Remember me? I'm the one who was treated to endless rants by commentators on this blog during the 2008 election because I said I wouldn't vote for McCain because of his position on ESCR! I'm the "purist" totally sickened by right-wing support for Scott Brown. So, please, spare me that particular rant.

What I've expressed above concerns a particular type of leftist that comes from a different wing of self-style conservatism. It has its own style, its own characteristic behavior, its own obsessions. And that was what I was describing, as my comments made amply clear. Your weird attempted tu quoque isn't even on-point for the side-discussion, Matt.

Frankly, one interesting thing to me is that _both_ types of liberals or leftists who want to be called "conservative" give in my view insufficient prominence to life issues and other social conservative issues, such as marriage. They each have other priorities which, in my opinion, should not take such priority.

"It is harder to get any more broad than the view that the last several centuries of one's culture and history were fundamentally a mistake, and its primary ideas always false."

The French Enlightenment was strongly anti-Christian; the English Enlightenment less so, but that element was still present. A movement that has anti-clericalism as a foundational idea is going to manifest some foundational problems, don't you think?

"Neither do you make any distinctions between types of liberalism, for example Liberalism and Classical liberalism as if it made no difference"

When I've criticized modern liberalism, I've called it modern liberalism. And I explained the origin of the term "classical liberalism." There is a difference between them but it's a difference in degree and manifestation, not in patrimony. Enlightenment thought is still the father of both.

"one interesting thing to me is that _both_ types of liberals or leftists who want to be called 'conservative' give in my view insufficient prominence to life issues and other social conservative issues, such as marriage."

Really? Allow me to quote from Mr. Culbreath's paragraph again: "That American self-styled 'conservatives' all tend to be champions of an economic system that specializes in the destruction of tradition and virtue is, at best, an irony worthy of late night television comedy, and at worst the last nail in the coffin of any genuine American conservative movement worthy of the name."

Consumer capitalism is destructive of tradition and virtue. Hence it's destructive of "life issues" and marriage. I'm as anti-abortion and anti-homosex marriage as they come, but I also see that a consumerist culture, which erodes traditional values and even the very concept of virtue, is a huge part of the problem. These things are not separable or able to be compartmentalized, neither in my view does one trump the other.

My problem with mainstream conservatism is that it is unwilling even to consider this line of thought. To paraphrase Chesterton, it hasn't been tried and found wanting, it's been found inconvenient and not tried.

"You are more obsessed with the desire to criticize the right than you are concerned with working together, encouraging one another, and strategizing about these very important issues."

The advisability and profitability of working together will be somewhat limited when one partner refuses to admit that he's missing a limb.

neither in my view does one trump the other.

Exactly. That's your view. God forbid that we should care more about children being torn limb from limb by their thousands every day than about the Evil Corporations. You prove my point admirably. Which is sad.

"God forbid that we should care more about children being torn limb from limb by their thousands every day than about the Evil Corporations."

And it doesn't matter that it's corporate America which helps create a culture in which the killing of children becomes acceptable? In a consumerist, throw-away society, everything is tainted, everything considered disposable -- even children, unfortunately. Abortion, SSM, etc. are problems in both root and branch, and need to be tackled as such. As I said above, doesn't it say something when the push for SSM in New York gets huge amounts of Wall Street backing?

I suggest you read some writers who have made the connection between economics and life issues: Allan Carlson, Wendell Berry, and Anthony Esolen all have good things to say in this regard. I'm sure that Mr. Culbreath could recommend others.

Lydia, you complained that paleos, or some subset of paleos, was not interested in discussing strategies for dealing with the mainstream conservative social issues of the day. I assumed you meant legal strategies, and in that case the reason the dissidents aren't interested is because it's a waste of time, because the mainstream conservative movement has no interest in social conservatives other than their votes. If it has to trot out the abortion horse every few years to get them, it will. But the Republican party doesn't care about abortion and has no plans to do anything about it. So unless we are talking about a strategy for reforming or abandoning the Republicans, we're wasting our time.

You also don't seem to understand the cultural argument given above. The idea is that without a reform of the culture, the symptoms of decadence, including abortion, will never go away. Think of it this way. Why do we have thousands of children killed every day? Because some judges handed down a ruling? No, it's because millions of American women want to kill their children. Why do they? Well, that's what our paleo friends are getting at. You don't have to agree with the criticism--maybe you think the culture is just fine and dandy and perfectly healthy. I can't imagine how you could think this, but if so it is simply no response at all to say 'you should put more emphasis on abortion and etc' because in their view they are already putting emphasis on the root cause of these things.

I made a statement about a point in time about the ideas that individuals may hold. Not change over time historically. That's another matter.

Fair enough, but that is the important point when dealing with someone who self-identifies as a paleo. They are saying basically, "I'm a part of the original Group A, you are some modern heretic (who is probably in cahoots with Group B) and have stolen my group's name."

I said the defining feature that makes slavery slavery is when a prospective employer can coerce a worker into working for them without their permission.

My point is that while it is a feature, it is definitely not the only feature. There is more to slavery than just a coercive civil penalty.

I'm sure it would shock you to find that while I have no inherent opposition to the state regulation of professional practices...

Given your previous statements, you should have a very good reason why you don't oppose state regulation. Isn't state regulation slavery, in that they coerce extra work without seeking permission and provide no compensation either?

Since I've not only allowed but also (mea culpa) contributed to a lot of OT discussions here, and since the thread has gotten very long, I've decided to close comments on this post. I hope to have something new up at the top of the blog tonight or tomorrow.