December 2, 2013 § 68 Comments
My understanding of liberalism has been criticized over the years on what amounts to “no true Scotsman” grounds. The idea here seems to be that because most liberals – especially the right-liberals that in America we call “conservatives” – make unprincipled exceptions to their liberalism, relatively few people out on the extreme left wing of politics are liberal in a sense that falls under my critique. Everyone else – usually meaning “conservatives” – who supports political freedom and equality is simply being sensible and loyal to his heritage, as long as his liberalism doesn’t become ideological and trump common sense.
There are several problems with this view, but here I will just point out one.
Most human beings only have so much room in their personas for political policies that they care about passionately. One faction might care deeply about (say) abortion and sodomite parodies of marriage, while in the economic domain simply defaulting to the classical liberal view of property. Another group might care deeply about different things. In those areas where they are passionate, default liberalism does not trump common sense. But in all other areas they will default to supporting whatever cursorily seems to them to be most coherent with democratic values, equal rights, freedom, and other liberal slogans.
When this process is extrapolated to society as a whole, what happens is that liberalism – the default political doctrine for both right and left liberals – trumps whatever opposes liberalism. Illiberal values are isolated and steamrolled by the combination of leftist ideology with the great mass of liberal default.
So the enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful aren’t just vehemently ideological liberals. The enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful include everyone who will reflexively default to political freedom and equal rights in areas about which he is otherwise indifferent.
And that is almost everyone in modern Western societies.
December 1, 2013 § 19 Comments
The encounter of liberalism with reality necessarily produces the Low Man. Simultaneously an oppressive tyrant and less than human, the Low Man provides liberalism with a consistent self-understanding of its failures. If it were not for the Low Man, the free and equal New Man would be living in peace and harmony with himself as a self-made creation of reason and will, emancipated from the political chains of history, tradition, nature, and nature’s God, each doing his own thing and leaving his neighbors in peace. The New Man might be personally religious, ethnic, or what have you; but he would never impose his religion on others, and the failure of all to live in free and equal peace and harmony constrained only by what is known to dispassionate scientific expertise has no explanation without the Low Man.
But of course in the real world liberalism is utterly triumphant. Sure, there are a few nutcases here and there on the Internet – yet even those communities of nutcases have unrepentant liberals in their midst, and they almost never seem quite demonic enough in their actual behavior to fill the need. Even when they are demonic enough it is frequently revealed, by simply listening to what they actually say, that the demons are themselves a form of liberal:
We all need to spend some time considering how best to defend liberty and freedom, and what unites us as a nation concerned with democratic values. – Timothy McVeigh
Liberalism is so utterly triumphant that it is frequently difficult to find enemies – actual real-world Low Men – who fit the storyline. Without a Low Man “problem” to solve there can be no Final Solution. So sometimes he has to be invented out of whole cloth.
November 27, 2013 § 14 Comments
“Maybe Hitler didn’t have the wrong idea. He just went after the wrong people. The people he should have gone after if he wanted to attain a higher level of human should be the people who run this site and those who believe there is nothing wrong with the bullshit this site pumps out.”
November 18, 2013 § 19 Comments
Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the primary legitimate purpose of government.
A liberal is a person who has a significant degree of commitment to this doctrine.
The liberal’s commitment may be derived from pragmatic considerations, or it may be ideologically derived from the preliminary doctrine that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed. But whatever the source of commitment, a person who is committed to the doctrine of liberalism is a liberal.
A liberal doesn’t have to believe that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the only legitimate purpose of government: he just has to see it as a primary legitimate purpose.
The notion that liberals aren’t genuinely committed to individual freedom and equal rights is false. They are. But the notion that they aren’t leaves the door open for other kinds of liberals to claim that their own conception of liberalism (which they may or may not label “liberalism”) is the authentic conception. Thus the fracturing of modern politics into different factions of liberalism: in the United States the two main factions are the right liberals (represented by the Republican party) and the left liberals (represented by the Democratic party). Despite the apparent division, all respectable political opinion inside the Overton window - and indeed much political opinion outside of it – is liberal opinion.
But who, then, are the authentic representatives of liberal doctrine? In fact there is no authentic conception of liberalism, because liberalism is incoherent. An authentic conception of liberalism does not exist: it is impossible in principle. Government by its very essence is a discriminating authority which initiates force to support a particular conception of the good. That’s what government is. A concept of government with the primary purpose of preventing authoritative discrimination is therefore self-contradictory.
A right is a specific discriminating authority possessed by an individual; for example a property right discriminates between the owner and the trespasser, treating the former’s claims as authoritative over the latter’s claims. The doctrine of equal rights requires that rights be distributed without discrimination: it requires that in the distribution of discriminating authorities (rights) there shall be no discrimination and no authority (equality).
Intuitively one might think that this internal incoherence would make liberalism non-viable as a political doctrine, but in fact the opposite is the case. When the doctrine one embraces is self-contradictory in a way that is (perhaps) not obvious, it is possible to derive all sorts of conclusions – even conclusions which are in conflict with each other - from that doctrine. In practice this makes the doctrine very ‘flexible’, and creates a subtle (or not so subtle) shift of frame. The frameshift makes considerations of what is true turn blurry, and makes what individuals will come sharply into focus as paramount.
So when liberals tell you that they are “pro choice” in an undistilled abstract sense independent of the actual content of those choices, they are telling the truth. The reason that each faction of liberalism in practice treats some choices as legitimate and some as illegitimate – with different understandings depending on the faction, setting up the intramural conflicts between different sorts of liberals which dominate modern politics – arises from the fact that in order to govern at all it is necessary to discriminate authoritatively. Thus the implicit corollary doctrine of the superman which inevitably appears in every form of liberalism as its self-contradictory substrate encounters particular realities.
Update 11/19/2013: tweaked the definition slightly, added the bit about other purposes of government, and made a few other tweaks.
November 16, 2013 § 8 Comments
I’ve explained before that in order to make sense to themselves, liberal societies have to de-facto divide humanity into free and equal supermen and subhuman oppressors.
Feminism is liberalism focused on the ways in which women are generally inferior to men. It views this as a socially constructed situation which must be rectified through political action in order to bring about a state of equal freedom.
Every form of liberalism has to have its bad guy: its subhuman oppressor tyrannically impeding the march of equality. Because they are wicked tyrants they are not members of the herrenvolk: they are not subjects with equal rights, they are less-than-human impediments to equal rights. They are the problem which must be solved: the low man.
When liberalism focuses its attention on sex inequalities, men are objectively superior in the materialist ways that matter to liberals. But natural superiority doesn’t fit into liberalism’s world view: superiority can only be the result of tyranny. So men in general must be sexual tyrants: rapists.
November 16, 2013 § 28 Comments
I frequently see the claim in neoreactionary circles that the goal of liberalism is to destroy whatever is good. But the goal of liberalism is not directly to destroy whatever is good. It is to create a world where freedom and equal rights are made universal through political action. It is when this political ideology encounters reality that it becomes the destruction of all that is good.
It is important to understand and articulate this, because nobody understands themselves to have the aim of destroying all that is good (even though, as liberals, they do in fact materially pursue that end).
In short, the telos (end) of liberalism is the destruction of all that is good. But liberals themselves don’t understand that to be their goal. Liberalism wouldn’t have the pervasive appeal that it has without this incongruence between the goal as understood by liberals and its actual material effect. That is, liberalism wouldn’t work if it wasn’t a lie.
(Note: this is a slightly edited comment from here).