America the Beautiful, or credit where it is due
December 9, 2015 § 29 Comments
We’ve seen that the principles upon which all liberals agree – that the primary purpose and justification of politics is to secure freedom and (concomitantly) equal rights – are incoherent; so, by the principle of explosion, they logically imply everything and its opposite all at once, although in practice this is constrained by the reality in which we are situated: by unprincipled exceptions and common sense.
What happens here is rather subtle, and many people have a hard time understanding it. When our explicit principles – the authoritative principles under which we justify our exercise of discriminating authority in the controvertible cases of politics – are self contradictory, they can as a logical matter be invoked to justify anything at all, or its opposite. However, this logical production of any and all results and their opposite is further constrained by the desires and expectations that people actually happen to have. It is for this reason that liberalism as a political doctrine always tends toward making whatever people happen to want at a given point in time authoritative: liberalism destroys the Good, the True, and the Beautiful as the justifying foundation of politics and replaces them with Will.
This ‘works’ in a sense as long as everyone more or less wants and expects the same thing: that is, it creates the illusion of being a workable political doctrine as long as politics is mostly unnecessary. When politics does become necessary, liberalism attempts to abolish it: to rule while pretending not to rule. When faced with existential threat – some principled exception which brings liberalism itself into question in principle, stemming from the Low Man’s intransigence or incapacities – it becomes effervescently violent.
Americans, as I have mentioned, often mistakenly identify America with liberalism, the political doctrine. Abraham Lincoln expresses this view eloquently, describing America as “… a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
But America is not a political doctrine or proposition, or a collection of texts. America is a country: a national community consisting of many subsidiary communities and peoples with at least some shared history, law, and tradition.
So to the extent America instantiates things which are Good, True, and Beautiful, this cannot be attributed to liberalism. Attributing these things to liberalism is like attributing them to the proposition that 2+2=5.
To the extent that there are good political results in America, then, those things must be – because liberalism reduces politics to Will – attributable to a good Will on the part of some actual American people in some actual concrete situations. These good political results must be attributable to the extent to which actual American people have willed what is good, true, and beautiful; because liberalism itself is intrinsically indifferent as to what is good, true, and beautiful: it reduces them politically to the human will.
To restate it, without getting into controversy over the extent to which this is concretely the case:
Any good that has come from or does come from American politics is not a result of liberalism. It is a result of good will on the part of some actual Americans in particular concrete situations.
UPDATE: See Ed’s criticism in the comments.