They are all around me, and they don’t know they are liberals

August 11, 2014 § 75 Comments

There are objections floating around (see the post and comment thread here, for example) to the effect that in my posts criticizing freedom as a political priority I am just begging the question and pulling concepts out of a hat. Some of my vast body of readers might find the objections of interest.

For example, it is suggested that my understanding of freedom and its necessary connection to equal rights when made a political priority is something I just made up; and it is proposed that my suggestion, that the myriad social structures of genuine subsidiarity develop organically rather than as a top-down design by civilizational engineers pulling the levers of the state, is just begging the question against the reductionists.

Whether one agrees with me or not, though, the notion that I am just making this stuff up to beg the question doesn’t really pass the laugh test, and as usual Google is your friend. On the former, just as an example, there is this:

“Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.” –Thomas Jefferson to I. Tiffany, 1819.

And as far as the latter goes, there is this:

78. When we speak of the reform of institutions, the State comes chiefly to mind, not as if universal well-being were to be expected from its activity, but because things have come to such a pass through the evil of what we have termed “individualism” that, following upon the overthrow and near extinction of that rich social life which was once highly developed through associations of various kinds, there remain virtually only individuals and the State. This is to the great harm of the State itself; for, with a structure of social governance lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked associations once bore, the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties. – Quadragesimo Anno, Pope Pius XI

Moving on to Lydia McGrew’s ugly tie test, it really has nothing whatsoever to do with making freedom a political priority. Observe that the test ‘works’ precisely because of the triviality of what is controverted. What is at issue is subjects making a federal case out of a petty insult and wasting the sovereign’s valuable time and resources with their pathetic squabble. If I were king both parties would spend some time in the stocks being pelted with rotten tomatoes, both for being jerks and for wasting my time; but certainly not because freedom is a political prior.

§ 75 Responses to They are all around me, and they don’t know they are liberals

  • King Richard says:

    If I may comment from my unusual position?
    My people do their level best to *not* involve me in resolving issues. I am very literally their last resort.
    Why?
    My decision is final.
    Think about the implications of that both politically and socially.

  • Zippy says:

    KR:
    Making freedom a political priority has the paradoxical effect of turning the omnicompetent State into a first or at least early resort rather than a last resort for controverted cases. “Freedom” makes it possible to appeal any decision you don’t like to the sovereign and reasonably expect satisfaction as opposed to the pillory. There is a reason why lawyers are so prosperous under late stage liberalism.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    I concur. Subsidiarity combined with solidarity makes the relationship between citizen and leader personal, explicit, and direct – this unsurprisingly makes you want to invoke your leader less.
    Oh, and in Edan we made lawyers Crown agents and, thus, ineligible for public office.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    My people do their level best to *not* involve me in resolving issues. I am very literally their last resort.
    Why?
    My decision is final.

    And that’s exactly the way it should be.

    In a subsidiary country, only cases that are genuine moral conundrums should make it up to the big guy (whatever title he may possess), and even most of those should probably be solved somewhere down the chain a bit.

    The ability to constantly appeal to a higher power if you don’t like what the lower one is saying results in monolithic government.

  • Mike T says:

    and it is proposed that my suggestion, that the myriad social structures of genuine subsidiarity develop organically rather than as a top-down design by civilizational engineers pulling the levers of the state, is just begging the question against the reductionists.

    You have a false dichotomy here. There is no reason why subsidiarity cannot be both organic and artificial in various ways. Reliance on one to the exclusion of the other is destructive to the principle. Europe is a strong example of the dangers of relying on organic subsidiarity whereas the US is increasingly demonstrative of relying on formal, contractual subsidiarity.

    Moving on to Lydia McGrew’s ugly tie test, it really has nothing whatsoever to do with making freedom a political priority. Observe that the test ‘works’ precisely because of the triviality of what is controverted

    A lot of people would disagree with you, based on how there is much legislation in the West today that is aimed directly at preventing hurt feelings. Oh noes! Someone insulted my race, gender, my homosexuality, throw a felony charge at them.

  • Zippy says:

    Subsidiarity designed and enforced good and hard by central authority isn’t subsidiarity.

    And I am sure that the problems caused by making freedom a political priority can be solved by insisting even more fervently on making freedom a political priority.

  • Mike T says:

    Subsidiarity enforced good and hard by central authority isn’t subsidiarity.

    In the case of federal subsidiarity between a central state and member states, it can provide a clear bright line test for when to execute a revolution. If the Kaiser decided to turn the German Empire into a total state against the imperial constitution, it would have given the other German monarchs a clear, unimpeachable case against him warranting his removal–or worse. In the extreme, it would have justified secession.

    The king (or another high central authority) isn’t the only person capable of reading a constitution and grasping it in good faith. There is a large spectrum of character between “obedience unto the leader until he orders us to gas the Jooz” and “every man is a law unto himself.”

  • King Richard says:

    Mike does have a point-
    A central authority must be Subsidiarist and make sure that lesser groups do the same; no so much ‘imposing structure’ and ‘opposing improper practices’; the various subsidiarist elements must, for lack of a better term, jealously guard their prerogatives, including the sovereign authority.
    So it is less ‘making them be subsidiary’ as ‘making sure they don’t become something else’

  • Zippy says:

    KR:
    The objection though was that my characterization of subsidiarity as organic was wrong; and not just wrong, but question-begging and (horrors) ‘amorphous’. In fact here is the exact quote, from W4’s resident midwit:

    Well, just for fun I looked up what Mike was saying, and reminded myself of why I don’t go over there much. Brrrrecccchh.

    If you start out with a bad definition of freedom, and you try to collar subsidiarity with a completely amorphous term “organic,” and then use organic to mean “not whatever someone else says that I don’t like”, it’s going to go off the rails in one direction or another.

    No need to dignify it, or to support attempts on the part of others to dignify it.

  • Mike T says:

    Regarding subsidiarity as necessarily organic or artificial is really missing the point. Whether people accept limits on authority by formal agreements between authorities or it’s just part of the air they breath it’s subsidiarity. In a well-governed society, both will be present because both are necessary.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Regarding subsidiarity as necessarily organic or artificial is really missing the point.

    Whose point? In the OP I respond to some criticisms of my views. If you agree with me that the criticism of my subsidiarity post was wrong, just say so.

  • King Richard says:

    I was brief to the point of obscurity.
    Subsidairity must be organic. that’s essentially what it means. That being said, sovereign authority is as “invested” in the concept as any other level of the hierarchy.

  • Mike T says:

    If you agree with me that the criticism of my subsidiarity post was wrong, just say so.

    I think it may have missed the mark, but I don’t agree with you that subsidiarity must be developed organically. The reality of modern life is that decision making has become more complicated due to the increased inherent complexity of modern life. If you cannot factor in artificial, designed subsidiarity then your model is broken or just irrelevant to modern life.

    The modern attempt to create a central state without turning lesser authorities into mere vassals is a noble experiment and one you should support. It certainly has a lot more to say for it on paper than the traditional model of one group conquering others and forcing them to become part of an empire.

  • Mike T says:

    Or in the case of countries like Spain, the smaller partner joins peacefully and then finds its people getting their culture suppressed among other things.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    I don’t agree with you that subsidiarity must be developed organically.

    Then you must disagree with my midwit W4 critic that the distinction is ‘amorphous’. We couldn’t disagree on the point if there were no definite point upon which to disagree.

  • Mike T says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that your leaving W4 was less than amicable.

  • Phronesis says:

    Zippy, I’m finding this series of posts on liberalism to be intellectually liberating. Can you recommend any books or articles that shaped your thought on this topic?

  • Zippy says:

    Phronesis:
    I’m glad you’ve found it interesting.

    By far the most coherent and pertinent overall presentation w.r.t. liberalism comes from James Kalb and his work. You can find him at the Turnabout website in my blogroll, and he has written two books both of which you should own and pass around to your friends. Don’t limit yourself to the books though: there is lots to explore there, and he writes regular articles for a few Catholic publications these days (he wasn’t Catholic when we first met).

    Fair disclosure: I am biased, because it was an email from Mr. Kalb 20 years ago or so now that got me to first start thinking about freedom and equal rights critically, and considering how bound up tradition is with language and meaning. And I made my own small fortune (such as it is) as a techno-nerd turned MBA, with all of the personal liabilities that implies, so I don’t really have the depth (or aesthetic, for that matter) of the traditional humanities and liberal arts types. (These days I expect you can’t find the kind of liberal arts education these fellows got, just a matter of decades ago, much of anywhere).

    Don’t blame my views on him though — my views are my own, nobody else is responsible for them, and I don’t generally play well with others so that is probably for the best. A good deal of my own views were hashed out by figuring out just where and why I disagreed with many of my old email, usenet, and discussion group friends. One of my professional skills (if I say so myself) is destroying bad ideas before they absorb too many resources, and my blogging doubtless reflects that somewhat. I am critical, but I really am trying to save folks the trouble of jumping down another rat hole.

    In general though I would say that I am a synthesizer (or perhaps more accurately a hack): I’ve swiped and tested ideas and bits of truth from so many different sources over such a long period of time that I can’t possibly tell you where it all comes from, and a good bit of how it all hangs together is my own fault. The best advice I can give is to read all of the people who are considered great men and take their ideas seriously — think through what it implies to suppose that they really mean what they say they mean. Jefferson, Marx, Locke, Rawls, Hitler, Voltaire, Freud, Kant, Smith, Hayek, Aristotle, Plato — pick the best, suspend judgment on the premises that don’t cash out, and see where it all leads. Think about locking Jefferson, Marx, Hitler, and Rand in a room — we know where they would disagree, but what would they all agree about? That is how you identify modernity, right from the horse’s mouth and by taking what people say seriously. That and through introspection, since we are all moderns ourselves.

    Or if you just want the executive summary of my views, that’s what I try to provide here. Blogging is a unique literary form — kind of like a book that I am continually writing, and I try to write and link it in such a way that you can enter at whatever point interests you and explore more from there until your eyes glaze over, whether that is after ten words or thousands. With few exceptions each blog post is hopefully short and sweet — as an entrepreneur and investor I appreciate it when people get right to the point and let me do more due diligence in whatever direction interests me. Comboxes are for arbitrary-length chatty Q&A sessions, but the presentation itself should not usually take longer than an elevator ride.

    So I write the blog for my own personality type — in the end all writing has an element of narcissism, and I don’t pretend that my own is special in that regard.

  • Perhaps this is off topic, but Zippy how do you define “subsidiarity”? I ask because it seems many right-liberal Christians think the term roughly correlates to a classical liberal state coupled with American notions of federalism ect. I of course think this wrong and assert that this is not the Catholic definition, after all we Catholics can and are called to support a world government, provided such a government is founded on the principles of subsidiarity.

    Does subsidiarity actually mean government action should be done at the appropriate level not “always at the lowest level? The later strikes me as anarchic.

  • I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that your leaving W4 was less than amicable.

    You’ll find the comments sections of some of Zippy’s old W4 posts enlightening if you want to know the story in that regard.

  • William Luse says:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that your leaving W4 was less than amicable.

    Yes, it’s fun watching you drop a link here and there, as you just did on the ugly tie thread, encouraging contributors over there to deride Zippy and caricature his positions without having to confront him directly. I’m shut of that site for good now, and would be of you too except that I know you’ll keep showing up here.

  • Mike T says:

    I of course think this wrong and assert that this is not the Catholic definition, after all we Catholics can and are called to support a world government, provided such a government is founded on the principles of subsidiarity.

    And this is why most Catholics will cheerfully march right into the arms of the anti-Christ, hailing Mary and then go “oh fu#$…”

  • Mike T says:

    Yes, it’s fun watching you drop a link here and there, as you just did on the ugly tie thread, encouraging contributors over there to deride Zippy and caricature his positions without having to confront him directly.

    I actually speak well of Zippy over there. I cannot necessarily the same of Zippy regarding them or them regarding Zippy. I have no dog in that race since I am not exactly best buds with any of the parties involved.

  • Mike T says:

    In fact, ironically, I just said that I consider Zippy’s position to be considered and reasonable over at W4.

  • King Richard says:

    As I mentioned there, as well, I discussed the article at the linked page with my oldest, Prince Jonathan. he said,
    “They’ll say they meant a *REAL* king.”
    Of course, we’ve both seen that before. Explain that many of the nations demonstrably ‘most successful’ by modern standards are monarchies with a Catholic base and it is a litany (pun intended) of,
    “But those aren’t REAL kings”
    “Those are small nations”
    “Well, they don’t count because [x]”.

    But then again, I have been repeating the actual definition of the term “Liberal” for years and that also seems to be a never-ending task.

    And Mike, thank you for the link to that earlier discussion. I had completely forgotten that exchange and re-read with with delight.

  • Zippy says:

    One thing among several that is rather precious is the ongoing faith, despite all evidence to the contrary, that a piece of paper will provide a check on tyranny precisely in circumstances where virtue is absent. The president may be a nihilistic tyrant, and the Congress also, but by God that legal sized piece of paper with words on it will stop them in their tracks.

    Moderns desperately wish that words on paper could be substituted for human authority, because people are human with all that that implies. But the result of insisting that words on paper are the real sovereign isn’t that human authority disappears. It just becomes sociopathic.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    If I may stretch from your comments.
    The Catholic Church understands the nature and source of sovereignty and, thus, how this authority naturally flows between and among people in a hierarchy. His Holiness and the Magisterium wield authority and are answerable to God for it.
    The rejection of this authority of men who answer to God was a keystone of Protestantism; they distrusted Man so they hoped to find a better, more Modern, solution – Sola Scriptura.
    Never mind the source of the paper; nor the assumptions around it; nor that each man may read the same words and decide different things.
    The result is fragmentation, confusion, and strife.
    Clinging to a constitution or law book is just a type of Sola Scriptura.

  • Mike T says:

    And once again, you throw the baby out with the bath water. Rather than admit the limits of constitutions but hold onto their utility you just wash your hand of the whole experiment. This is despite the fact that by providing clear boundaries on authority they provide a means by which all reasonable men can judge an authority to be acting illegally. They provide a valuable litmus test for when rebellion can be justified.

    If the President decides that making it illegal to practice Quakerism is “Good” that is irrelevant. The President’s lawful authority is regulated by the US Constitution. Were he to decide to wipe his ass with the first amendment like that, the public would be lawfully and morally within the right to depose him for unlawful usurpation of authority.

  • Mike T says:

    And yet, nothing any of you have to say about authority changes the fact that if law cannot consistently provide a moral constraint that can be appealed to by all men at all levels on authority then law itself is nothing more than the raw will of the sovereign imposed like a superman upon his subhuman subjects.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    This is despite the fact that by providing clear boundaries on authority they provide a means by which all reasonable men can judge an authority to be acting illegally.

    No formal document can provide a positive demarcation between licit and illicit authority, even in principle. And even if it could (which it can’t), it is useless in the absence of virtue.

    That doesn’t mean that it is always useless to write things down. But writing things down doesn’t actually accomplish what modern people think it accomplishes. In a sword fight I’d take a sword over a pen any day.

  • Mike T says:

    That doesn’t mean that it is always useless to write things down. But writing things down doesn’t actually accomplish what modern people think it accomplishes. In a sword fight I’d take a sword over a pen any day.

    Much like how a woman with a restraining order often finds that a piece of paper from an authority is useless against a former lover who is hell bent on harming her. But that’s not really relevant here. The fact is that constitutions do provide a valuable reference point wherein one even without virtue can say that the authority should not be doing something. The reason I used the Quaker example was to illustrate that you as a Catholic may find the suppression of Quakerism good for society, but that is not sufficient to overcome the fact that it is illegal under our current system of law. Were you to take power and attempt that, the people would be justified in either rebelling against you or calling on the US military to depose you in the absence of congressional action.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    You keep arguing as if someone had suggested that it is always pointless to write anything down. Who has made that argument?

  • Mike T says:

    Because much like how you attack much of what I wrote based upon your perception of my attitude, I take your dismissive tone toward constitutions to mean you regard them as barely more than a waste of time.

  • Zippy says:

    Ita:
    This is probably less of an answer than you are looking for, but it is all I’ve got time for at the moment: federalism is to subsidiarity as day care and public school are to family.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike,
    I do hope you are not including me in your ill-tempered rant. After all, I am the *author* of a constitution.
    You seem to simply misunderstand the point being made:
    -Legitimate authority and power are not derived from documents, documents are, at best, expressions of legitimate authority and power.

    I have an acquaintance that once firmly believed that if a particular rule wasn’t in the canon law or the catechism he could freely ignore and disobey it – he believed that those documents were the source of the Church’s authority.
    This is not the case! The canon law and the catechism are *expressions of* the authority of the Church.
    This is a critical difference.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Positive law is indispensable. But nobody at all argues against that ever, and positivism is pervasive. So I think my attitude is just right.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    ” federalism is to subsidiarity as day care and public school are to family.”
    Stealing that

  • Mike T says:

    King Richard,

    The source of a sovereign’s authority is not inherently the same. The kings of England had a different claim over the English than the kings of Great Britain by virtue of the fact that Great Britain is an artificial state created by “civilizational engineers” merging two nations and monarchies into a super state. This is even more true of countries like the US, Germany, Italy, France and Spain where you have multiple polities and even nations merged into a single super state by law, treaty and “civilizational engineering.” It is quite reasonable to say that the Kaiser’s authority over the non-Prussian peoples of the German Empire derived entirely from the imperial constitution as that constitution was what organized the basic law and union of the German Empire. Prior to that, the non-Prussians had no legal basis for being ordered to show fealty to the Kaiser as he was in no sense an authority over them.

    But all of this is even more complicated in a republic wherein the culture expects that the sovereignty is ultimately understood to be in the office and society, not the actual man holding it. Obama is not my sovereign, but he certainly exercise sovereign authority over me and believe it or not, I respect that. But that doesn’t change the fact that if Obama truly “lost his #$%^” that Obama is an authority morally constrained by the US Constitution and that all actions contrary to it are illegal until forgiven by the people and the other offices of the republic.

  • Mike T says:

    You seem to simply misunderstand the point being made:
    -Legitimate authority and power are not derived from documents, documents are, at best, expressions of legitimate authority and power.

    I do understand the point, I merely disagree with it. The Kaiser exercised no legitimate power and authority over non-Prussian Germans outside of what was ordered by the imperial constitution. Any exercise contrary to that constitution was an illegal act against both the people and their authorities at the imperial state level. As I said, there is a difference between a ruler whose authority arises organically and one whose position was created outside of the natural progression of hierarchy.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike,
    I would like you to answer some questions about authority, power, constitutions, and Democracy.
    First, a core idea.
    A core principle of modern Democracy is the idea of consent; specifically that Democracies derive their authority from the consent of those whom they govern. This was mentioned specifically in the Declaration of Independence but is derived from previous thought and has been more fully expanded.Indeed, Article 21 of the UDHR states,
    “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government”.
    All PoliSci 101 so far.

    Let us look at a recent case in, oh, Ukraine over the last year:
    The properly and lawfully elected government was displaced by a mass uprising of a portion of the governed – this does appear to be in line with the theory – the governed withdrew their will and then used violence to overthrow the lawfully elected governmental representatives.
    But when this occurred other sections of Ukraine gathered together and expressed the ‘will of the people’ to separate and form their own Democracies from their own will. These various groups are at war because the coup government in Kyev insists they have authority over the ‘separatists’.
    First question – what is the source of authority and power of the unelected coup-installed government over Ukraine?
    Second question – does the unelected, coup-installed government have authority over the separatists against their clearly-expressed will?
    Third question – apply those same answers to the Balkans Wars and explain which countries ‘deserve’ to exist and which do not.

    A more distant case:
    It is widely accepted by people of the day and contemporary historians that less than 50% of American colonists were actively opposed to British rule, about 20% were strongly loyal, and the remainder remained neutral.
    Fourth question: since a majority of the governed supported the status quo in one way or another, were the (minority opinion) rebels justified in imposing their will on the majority?
    Fifth question: if 40% of Americans supported transforming America into a Theocracy and only 20% opposed it and the rest were neutral, would you support it? If you would not support it, please explain clearly how this situation differs from the historical American rebellion.

    An distant, but relevant case:
    In the mid-19th Century is became increasingly clear that America was on the verge of a breakup. After exhausting formal channels a large number of states used their own internal Democratic processes to secede from the Republic and formed a new nation. The process was largely open, rather heavily-discussed, and clearly was an expression of the will of the people. Republic forces then waged a bloody war to force the people of the Confederacy to accept a government they did not support.
    Sixth question: If authority and power derive only from the consent of the governed, where did the Republic derive the authority and power to force the Confederacy to return to the Union?
    Seventh Question: In what manner did the Confederacy differ from the rebels of the Revolutionary War?
    Eighth question: Since many scholars argue that the Republican actions during the American Civil war violated the spirit and letter of the American constitution can you either refute those claims or substantiate why you continue to support a document that was invalidated before your birth?

    I look forwrd to your answers.

  • KR:

    It is widely accepted by people of the day and contemporary historians that less than 50% of American colonists were actively opposed to British rule, about 20% were strongly loyal, and the remainder remained neutral.

    A common myth.

    http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=1398

  • King Richard says:

    Malcolm,
    it is a good thing I wasn’t referring to the ‘1/3rd – 1/3rd – 1/3rd’ myth, then, isn’t it?
    I refer you to: ‘Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War’; ‘A Companion to the American Revolution’; ‘A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution’; ‘War for America: The Fight for Independence, 1775–1783’, and ‘The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution’ among many others.
    40%-45% were Patriots, 15%-20% were Loyalists, the rest were undecided.

  • Mike T says:

    King Richard,

    You know from previous threads that I have rejected the idea that authority is derived from the consent of the governed, so why you are bringing it up is beyond me. I have also stated quite clearly that even as a southerner I respect the Union conquest of the South under the right of conquest because the South aggressed against the Union.

    But with regard to the Ukraine issue, my view is that the chain of legitimacy, having been broken down to its very links, is probably beyond the realm of philosophers. It’ll come down to firepower. The decision to add Russian territory to Ukraine started all of this. That the USSR had no authority to dismantle the RSFSR is the original sin here.

  • Mike T says:

    The consent of the governed really does not have much to do with the validity of a constitutional government. The US Constitution was ratified lawfully by the constituted authorities of the states and thus became legally valid. The will of the people was irrelevant. Same with the revolution. Their duly appointed leaders in the various colonial governments used their authority to carry forth and support the revolution.

    About the only exception I would honor there is that the people have a moral right to abolish their authorities if those authorities fundamentally betray the nation itself. I don’t mean by changing government, alliances, etc. I mean in the sense that, for example, if the US leadership were to submit itself to a one world government that both abolished the sovereignty of this country and provided the effective means by demographics changes via global governance to alter or abolish the indigenous society, the people would have a moral right to defend the very existence as a separate people of their nation.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike,
    I apologize if you had mentioned such things before but I frankly find your statements so inchoate and self-contradictory that I would have asked again, regardless.
    So – you continue to state that in at least some cases constitutions are *solely and sufficiently* sources of legitimate authority and power?

  • Mike T says:

    Constitutions are generally a necessary precondition of legitimacy, not an actual source of sovereignty. Though as always, there can arise conditions in which the good is sufficiently threatened that they may become irrelevant in that moment.

    I apologize if you had mentioned such things before but I frankly find your statements so inchoate and self-contradictory that I would have asked again, regardless.

    You’d find them less self-contradictory if you understood that my views are formed purposefully less from theory than observation. As I’ve said to Zippy, my growing rejection of libertarianism is not because I reject freedom outright as a good (only as a subordinate good), but because I increasingly reject all ideology as a matter of principle. This is due to the fact that the pattern I see in all ideology is an attempt to shoehorn reality into a neat framework of thought wherein one can establish the variables, put them through a philosophical algorithm and arrive at a neat output. Life doesn’t work like that because given a breadth of sufficiently complex issues and a dearth of knowledge in one mind of all such scenarios, no formulated ideology will be able to actually handle real edge cases without unprincipled exceptions or “hacks.”

    At its core, my understanding of authority is derived from the literal text of Romans 13. That is to say, I understand government authority as created by God for God’s purpose and that no ruler possesses authority outside of that. Whosoever becomes destructive to God’s plan in government is necessarily a moral criminal and as he or she was a man or woman before anything else, is subject to the moral law equally in full force with authority providing no shielding from deliberately chosen, grievously wrong acts.

  • Zippy says:

    I like the whole concept of “freedom as a subordinate [political] good”. People ought to be empowered to do as they wish when it is good for them to be empowered to do as they wish, and they should not be so empowered when it is not good for them to be so empowered.

    That’s a whole lotta sausage to try to put conceptual distance between ourselves and the subject of what constitutes good governance.

    Mike T:

    I increasingly reject all ideology as a matter of principle.

    Just be careful not to get too ideological about that.

    Seriously, though, we are probably relatively close to agreement here. That’s part of why I insist that subsidiarity specifically and authority more generally is something organic, not something which can be produced by social engineers or constructed out of words on paper.

    Whosoever becomes destructive to God’s plan in government …

    I think you must mean your interpretation of God’s plan.

  • KR,

    That fairly long article spent awhile debunking that myth, but it wasn’t only about that. It was about the general myth that the Revolution was a minority war.

    Anyway, if 40-45% were in favor of a Revolution, some were undecided, and some were tories, then in a democracy (which it admittedly wasn’t yet) that would be enough to carry the motion regardless.

  • […] This post by ZippyCatholic is a quick read, but the comment section is long and worth reading in full. Lots of debate concerning freedom, subsidiarity, liberalism and authority. […]

  • King Richard says:

    Malcolm,
    I am actually familiar with the article and had felt it was inadequate when i first read it years ago – Indeed, that is why I researched the topic.
    Your discussion of how Democracy works in practice is missing my question about the concepts used to *justify* Democracy.
    If a non-majority of 45% of the people is enough to impose a system of governance upon a majority (who do not care for it) this is problematic for the concept that ‘the consent of the governed bestows authority’ upon a government for all. If 45% percent is sufficient to impose upon 55% is 40% sufficient to impose upon 60%? 10% upon the 90%?
    There have been plenty of occasions where an American president won an election with a very small plurality of the vote (as low as 31%, I believe) – and 4 or 5 times when a president has been elected to *lost* the popular vote, once in an egregious deal where political parties swept aside the almost-certain winner for political expediency. This also occurs at the level of individual legislators.
    Since this fact, repeated in other ways in other Democracies, demonstrates that Democracy does NOT derive its authority from the actual majority will of the people – where does its authority come from?

  • Since this fact, repeated in other ways in other Democracies, demonstrates that Democracy does NOT derive its authority from the actual majority will of the people – where does its authority come from?

    1) Thank you, by the way, for the book recommendations. When I get the time/money I will absolutely look into them.

    2) “Majority will of the people” is not equal to “consent of the governed”, at least not in all understandings of it. In this (unofficial, as it was not actually a democracy at the time, of course) case it would refer to the fact that of all the possibilities this was the one supported by the most people.

  • Mike T says:

    “Majority will of the people” is not equal to “consent of the governed”, at least not in all understandings of it

    Indeed that is one of the things that I find irksome about the critiques of democracy and freedom here. Consent of the governed no more means majority rule on all issues than freedom means you get your way all the time or even most of the time. But you do have to conflate these ideas somewhat in order to arrive at the idea that the consent of the governed and freedom are superfluous and/or false in their entirety.

    Just look at the Ukraine situation. It doesn’t matter whether the Ukraine government is “legitimate” in the disputed territory or not. The majority have withdrawn their willingness to obey it and are adamant about rejoining Russia. Even if Ukraine wins the hot war, it’ll never have the patriotic support of the ethnic Russian majority there.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Consent of the governed no more means majority rule on all issues than freedom means you get your way all the time or even most of the time. But you do have to conflate these ideas somewhat in order to arrive at the idea that the consent of the governed and freedom are superfluous and/or false in their entirety.

    Both ideas as political priors are the ravings of madmen, and as such can be quite difficult to pin down. That ironically makes them more resilient, because any criticism can be deflected by equivocating and pretending that it misses the mark — which in a sense it does, because both notions are either banal and always true by definition or actively incoherent.

    Rational incoherence confers the power of shape-shifting on ideas, since incoherent ideas can ultimately mean anything or its opposite; tautology is an unassailable intellectual keep in which to retreat when equivocation doesn’t work. So the mind-infection persists until you fully recognize its nature and take the cure, which is unequivocal repentance from liberalism. You are either fully cured or you are just incubating the next big outbreak in your mind.

    The idea that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed – that the free choice of the governed (distinct from the common good) is in some non-trivial non-tautological sense a necessary condition of the legitimacy of authority – is just a flat out lie from the pit of Hell, one that leads people back to its birthplace. Either get it all the way out of your system or expect it to slowly devour your mind. Those are the only options.

    And I’ve already dealt thoroughly and repeatedly with making freedom a political priority. Just asserting disagreement doesn’t actually counter any of my actual arguments.

  • Mike T says:

    What is the legitimacy of Ukraine’s claim on that territory? It was given away by a supranational state most likely without the consent of the actual authority the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. How does that act legitimize the claim by this particular government to land which for centuries was under the just rule of a government with organic roots in its people? You and King Richard act as though these are simple formulaic questions that have an easy answer and the mere fact that you say you have “dealt with an issue” doesn’t make it resolved by any means. You dealt with it much like how your “essentialist critique” of “Game” dealt with my rebuttal via the martial arts comparison by simply dropping facts inconvenient to your argument.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    What is the legitimacy of Ukraine’s claim on that territory? … by simply dropping facts inconvenient to your argument

    What in bloody Hell are you talking about?

    I haven’t said anything about the particular situation in the Ukraine because I haven’t done any due diligence on it and have no opinion on it. I think this is the first comment in all of these threads in which I have typed the string of characters “Ukraine”.

    That I happen not to have an opinion about the Ukraine or any other particular situation that has your knickers in a twist doesn’t constitute refutation or even engagement of any actual argument I’ve made. In order to address my arguments you have to actually address them, and that is something you haven’t even attempted to do. You just rant on and on about how bad, bad, bad political authoritarianism is – when I’ve already shown (or at least argued) that every political philosophy is necessarily authoritarian, including whatever inchoate hodgepodge makes up your own basket of political views – an argument that you haven’t so much as addressed at all, nor even given indication that you’ve understood.

  • Mike T says:

    I have said that I understand your point that every political point of view is necessarily authoritarian. That is necessary since every political point of view seeks to impose itself on the public. That is the nature of politics. What I have disagreed with you vehemently on is that freedom is in fact a secondary good, that rulers generally cannot know what is good for society except in the aggregate and that this must necessarily entail a wide degree of autonomy to choose one’s personal affairs except when exigent circumstances arise. The more distant the authority, the less it can know about the particulars of the good for that community. As that decrease in capacity to acquire particulars increases, it must necessarily follow that the authority should recuse itself of particular judgment. That is why I and many others on the right find the idea of effective global government laughable. The very idea that a global body could provide more than the most abstract of governance to Bumblef#$% Alabama, India or Congo is just laughable. At some point, government simply does not scale.

  • Mike T says:

    But yeah, regarding the Ukraine issue I know you didn’t bring that up. I was using King Richard’s questions to illustrate a point. The chain of legitimacy was broken by the USSR and various coups. That land for centuries was Russian and then an illegitimate Communist state handed it over to another state without authority to do so (unless you wish to claim the USSR was sovereign over the RSFSR and could dismantle the RSFSR at will). Then you have the fact that foreign powers are installing one puppet regime after another. Who the f#$% actually runs Ukraine, really? But I bet King Richard has a good idea who’s legitimate and who ain’t…

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    What I have disagreed with you vehemently on is that freedom is in fact a secondary good, that rulers generally cannot know what is good for society except in the aggregate and that this must necessarily entail a wide degree of autonomy to choose one’s personal affairs except when exigent circumstances arise.

    This is the part where you quote my actual specific statements with which you disagree, or just admit that you are pulling ideas and inferences out of some part of yourself or other and attributing them to me.

  • Mike T says:

    How about we start with your statement that freedom is the ability to have your preferences, regardless of what they are, left unhindered by political authority. We could follow up with the idea that freedom is superfluous. How about that restraint and freedom are not intricately related almost like a barnacle on a whale’s hide?

    I don’t dispute that all view points are necessarily authoritarian. That’s actually one of the only things I fully agree with you here.

  • Mike T says:

    I will add though that one of the things that you have done here which isn’t helpful is that you want to be treated as a right authoritarian without the baggage of being associated with all other right authoritarians, many of whom want to do things which even you might find objectionable. I’d like to think that the tradcons that Lydia’s referenced who wish to burn Protestants at the sake for practicing and preaching Protestantism do not strike a chord with you. But if libertarianism is to be judged as a whole and individual libertarians cannot disavow some particular baggage, then neither can you be left unsullied by association.

  • Zippy says:

    Quotes, Mike. This is the part where you make actual citations of what I actually said, and say specifically what is incorrect in your view. Absent that I’m going to just consider you to be talking to yourself.

  • Mike T says:

    So you’re going to make me dig up the specific text you wrote (rather than reference it almost verbatim) and regurgitate my opposition to it?

  • Zippy says:

    Yes. Your paraphrases are inaccurate, and express your own biases. For example I consistently distinguish (as did Thomas Jefferson in the OP) between freedom in itself and freedom as a political prior, just as an example. I am generally careful how I say things, and your ham handed paraphrases tend to obscure precisely what is at issue, which leads me to believe that either you don’t understand or that obfuscation is the purpose of the paraphrase.

  • And this is why most Catholics will cheerfully march right into the arms of the anti-Christ

    You’re the one always yammering on about revolutionary violence for liberty. I’d say that’s pretty Luciferian in its most original sense.

    I didn’t say it would be pretty. I see nothing traditional about nationalism or the nation state. The market has made the world a smaller place and for better or worse the interaction of peoples and cultures across borders occurs now at rate not see before. I think there should be an authority to regulate this for the common good.

    The US Constitution was ratified lawfully by the constituted authorities of the states and thus became legally valid.

    Was it? Was the Constitutional convention convened pursuant to the procedure required by the articles? Isn’t that why they had to add all that mumbo jumbo about the “people;s will” so as to justify their coup?

    I think you must mean your interpretation of God’s plan.

    I second this concern too. Someone might consider evangelical conservative support for Israel to be treason to America. But most conservative American evangelicals see that as God’s mandate.

  • William Luse says:

    I’d like to think that the tradcons that Lydia’s referenced who wish to burn Protestants at the sake for practicing and preaching Protestantism do not strike a chord with you

    There are tradcons who want to burn Protestants at the stake?

    I would suggest – ever so gently – that the fact that you would entertain even the remotest possibility that Zippy might associate himself with such ideas is a calumny, and cloaks an ad hominem character assassination with flattery.

  • Mike T says:

    I would suggest – ever so gently – that the fact that you would entertain even the remotest possibility that Zippy might associate himself with such ideas is a calumny, and cloaks an ad hominem character assassination with flattery.

    At various points, I’ve tried to point out that libertarianism and “Game” are not monolithic movements but factional. Zippy has tended to judge the various factions as a whole. For example, the sort of libertarianism that Vox Day and Ron/Rand Paul subscribe to is rather different from the Rothbard variety in many respects, but Zippy tends to attack libertarianism as a whole. What I did was not a character assassination but to point out to him that if that works for libertarianism, it works for “right authoritarians.” It means that every extremist who wants to violently suppress Protestantism shall become part of the measure of “right authoritarianism” proper.

    Zippy,

    I’m not trying to misquote you.

    You’re the one always yammering on about revolutionary violence for liberty. I’d say that’s pretty Luciferian in its most original sense.

    Revolutionary violence? The only violence I have strongly defended here is the moral right to fight back against the police/king’s men when they engage in illegal, especially gravely immoral acts. Perhaps you think it’s Luciferian to advocate that bystanders could, say, shoot one of the cops trying to beat Rodney King to a bloody pulp. I don’t. Several officers gang pummeling is as extreme as carpet bombing an entire village to take out one terrorist when you have a precision guided bomb.

  • King Richard says:

    Malcolm, Mike,
    I was trying to walk down the primrose path to get you somewhere, but Zippy went ahead and gave away the punchline.
    OF COURSE all forms of governance requires the consent of the governed in some way, shape, or form, (as China has oft proved when enough citizens refuse to obey no army is sufficient) but it is not the font of authority. Attempting to state such leads to the inherent contradiction that peek through effectively immediately in Mike’s post;
    “Consent of the governed no more means majority rule …”
    followed shortly by,
    “The majority have withdrawn their willingness to obey it and are adamant about rejoining Russia. Even if Ukraine wins the hot war, it’ll never have the patriotic support of the ethnic Russian majority there.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike,
    “You and King Richard act as though these are simple formulaic questions that have an easy answer …”
    Well, you certainly are not a mind reader nor good at anticipating the direction I hope to lead a discussion.My goal was actually the opposite – to demonstrate that the question is too difficult to answer with a trite turn of phrase.
    “But I bet King Richard has a good idea who’s legitimate and who ain’t…”
    See my statement immediately prior. In point of fact, I was trying to demonstrate to you that *there is no currently legitimate authority in Ukraine* and that this is the primary cause of the current conflict – the Tinkerbell Effect upon which Liberal Democracy relies has been broken and there is nothing to take its place.The strife is because there is no authority.
    I have suggested this more than once before, Mike – you obviously cannot read my mind nor are you capable of anticipating my goals, so either ask or wait.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    At various points, I’ve tried to point out that libertarianism and “Game” are not monolithic movements but factional.

    Show me the well known libertarian thought leader who unequivocally rejects freedom as a political priority. Show me the well known Game blogger who has never cited Heartiste/Roissy.

  • CJ says:

    OF COURSE all forms of governance requires the consent of the governed in some way, shape, or form, (as China has oft proved when enough citizens refuse to obey no army is sufficient) but it is not the font of authority.

    People have a really hard time separating authority from enforcement. Sure, enforcement becomes impossible without the consent of a critical mass of the governed. The problem with Jefferson’s conceit is the idea that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. As Zippy has pointed out over and over, an authority’s capacity to create binding moral obligations isn’t dependent on consent.

  • Mike T says:

    See my statement immediately prior. In point of fact, I was trying to demonstrate to you that *there is no currently legitimate authority in Ukraine* and that this is the primary cause of the current conflict – the Tinkerbell Effect upon which Liberal Democracy relies has been broken and there is nothing to take its place.The strife is because there is no authority.

    Well, glad to know we agree on something.

    Show me the well known libertarian thought leader who unequivocally rejects freedom as a political priority.

    Ron and Rand Paul tend to place freedom as a subordinate political good to the good of the nation and the preservation of its constitutional system, much of which is not actually particularly libertarian.

    Show me the well known Game blogger who has never cited Heartiste/Roissy.

    By that logic, one martial arts expert borrowing from another means they are practicing the same system.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    By that logic, one martial arts expert borrowing from another means they are practicing the same system.

    Are you denying that martial arts has an essence? Is ballet a martial art? Is chess a martial art? Or do we agree that we are essentialists and are just haggling over the price?

    Game is just the male expression of what, in women, we call slutty behavior. Any true general statement about one has a corresponding true general statement about the other, taking into consideration complementarity of the sexes.

  • Mike T says:

    Are you denying that martial arts has an essence? Is ballet a martial art? Is chess a martial art? Or do we agree that we are essentialists and are just haggling over the price?

    As I said to you in past threads, martial arts is a category so varied now that the whole spectrum has a minimalist essence. There are legitimate, widely respected schools whose techniques and philosophies are almost perfectly 180 degrees separated from one another and considered equally martial arts.

    That’s why I said that Dalrock’s biblical headmanship version of Game, Athol Kay’s secular non-PUA form, Vox Day’s form and Roissy’s are all separate but equal. You seem to not like the fact that the mere fact that they have overlap does not mean that Roissy is the measure of all things any more than Kung Fu or Karate are the measure of all international styles of martial arts.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    You seem to not like the fact that …

    It isn’t a matter of my preferences. I have given all sorts of actual reasons and arguments for concluding as I do, and I just gave you a nice new test you can apply to prove me wrong.

    Your criticism amounts to a refusal to treat Game as anything other than Ockham’s Toolbox: by nominalist fiat Game is surgically separable from its baggage. Furthermore, apart from the subject of Game specifically, validating the nominalist approach is self-defeating, because now (for example) liberalism can mean just what someone says it means, nothing more, nothing less, and any substantive criticism can be dealt with by definitional fiat.

  • […] Right liberals, with their conservative disposition toward concrete reality, are polytheistic. They view Liberty as one (perhaps even subordinate or minor) god among many in a pantheon of concrete gods. They imagine that the god Liberty will remain content in a locked room, will leave Family and Church and Christianity to their own separate domains while Liberty confines himself to whatever territory has not been claimed by other gods. […]

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