The products of inception
December 9, 2015 § 49 Comments
Consider the following non-exhaustive list:
- The French-supported American revolutionary war
- The French revolution and the Reign of Terror
- The American civil war
- The mass murders of Nazism
- The mass murders of Communism
- The mass murders of feminism
Now consider the following statements about these things:
- These were products of the political philosophy of liberalism.
- These are particular instances of what actually happened when the political philosophy of liberalism crashed into reality.
I think the two statements are equivalent and true, but the latter statement may be more enlightening.
First things first. It is important to acknowledge that liberalism is not always and everywhere, by rational necessity, catalyzing mass killing. An ideology which consistently catalyzed mass killing by logical necessity would have to be a rationally coherent ideology. Liberalism is not rationally coherent, as I have explained many times. Inconsistent ideologies will not give consistent results by internal logical necessity; although they may sometimes give more-or-less consistent results, for a time, for other reasons; reasons which I will attempt to explain.
Its underlying – but not immediately obvious – incoherence is part of liberalism’s appeal and adaptability. It creates the appearance of authority and structure while in practice simply affirming people in what they want or expect, transforming as wants and expectations change, even when new wants and expectations conflict with old ones. Think of what ‘marriage’ under no-fault divorce does on the micro scale, extrapolated to the macro scale. Liberalism gives people ready-made ‘justifications’ for pretty much whatever they personally want or think is desirable, limited only by outside context – by unprincipled exceptions and ‘common sense‘. Liberalism makes people feel virtuous while affirming them in whatever they happen to want or think is expected and desirable.
Now, people don’t always want mass killing or think that mass killing is desirable or necessary. In fact mostly people do not want this or think this, most of the time. So when everything is humming along and most peoples’ expectations and desires are well aligned, liberalism’s underlying incoherence remains hidden. The sides of the coins that everyone sees are the pretty sides, and nobody notices the underlying contradiction. It is in this sense that liberalism is ‘suitable for a moral people’ — because a comprehensively moral enough people don’t really need any governance at all. If everyone is mostly a good guy, society is high trust, and informal social penalties for bad behavior are strict, you don’t really need police. Anarchy is a great form of government for people who don’t ever have conflicts. Everyone feels ‘free’ because their expectations about what they ought to be empowered to do match what they are actually empowered to do.
However, this is an inherently unstable situation because you cannot avoid reality and conflict forever. In fact peoples’ wants and expectations tend to drift away from reality over time and across generations; although this does take some doing. So eventually liberalism comes crashing into hard reality.
And that is when the mass murder starts.
“The American Civil War”
Now you are speaking plainly, not in parables.
However, this is an inherently unstable situation because you cannot avoid reality and conflict forever. In fact peoples’ wants and expectations tend to drift away from reality over time and across generations;
Too much Diversity in a pluralistic society should speed up the process.
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A rare moment for me to comment. My friend is a radical Marxist and I was shocked to find that his answer to these questions are not, “you have to break eggs to make an omelet” but rather, “yes, that is exactly what should happen”. The oppressed are supposed to -violently- act out. The more violent the better. That is the only way the oppressors will stop oppressing, allow the oppressed what they want (and if they want it then it must be good). Hit reset and start over. The great mystery to me is that he otherwise is very smart and better studied in history than I am.
“No Justice No Peace”
And liberal justice is rationally incoherent, thus impossible. So no peace.
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I’ll probably miss any reply, but I’m curious how you are defining Liberalism (I know probably I link off this page I skiped) and how such applies to the American Revolution and the US Civil War.
I can see a modern definition for Liberalism for the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. I can also see it for the other items (Nazism, Communism and such)
But that again depends on the definition you’ve chosen to apply here.
Were the American Rebels the source of Liberalism in 1776? or the Kings agents? Both could be seen as trying to preserve (conserve) the status quo. The American colonies were for the life spans of the persons alive in 1776 effectively independent of the British Crown, but still owned by Britian…..
Similarly, US Civil war, both sides could be viewed as conservative – that is both sides seemed to “tendency to love and respect one’s own people, culture, and traditions, without insisting on thinking things through too much” … Certainly one side more than the other fit that description, but the side that fit it less, would seem to be the more Catholic side by understanding that we can justly take another’s labor. That ownership of a person doesn’t fit with Catholic doctrine – see Bartolomé de las Casas who made a point in 16th Cent Mexico of freeing the Mexican slaves (owned by the Spanish). Granted las Casas supported African’s as slaves, but he was one of the earliest in Modern period to work for abolition.
Which is all a long way of saying, you post leaves me confused as to why you wrote as you did.
BTW, as for those killed during the American Revolution, it was actually for a war of the time, rather small in number, and for most of it, was soldier v soldier, not against the civilians, Same for the Civil war, although the blood letting was I think 600K+ casualties.
Well Should have read your post from Feb3, found your link where you define liberalism – you can delete both these comments if you like btw. Not sure I agree with you on it and conservatism, in particular, I don’t think people are born conservative, or liberal. I think our concupiscent has us born selfish.
I don’t either.
For that matter, liberalism and conservatism are not even really the same kind of thing. Liberalism is a political philosophy. Conservatism is a tendency to respect the traditions of our ancestors. In America, that implies – in part – respecting the liberalism of previous generations of liberals.
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The Nazis although they had “socialist” in their title were German supremacists and nationalists. These are conservative values and are arguably more responsible for genocide and war than the socialist policies.
We see that objection a lot: any liberalism which ends up committing mass slaughter is not authentic liberalism, by definition. The fact that all actual liberalisms end up committing mass slaughter in actual fact just means that they were not authentic.
There is also the problem that the Nazis were *reacting*, at least in part, to liberalism run amok. So when you boil it all down the “conservative values” Hitler and the German National Socialist Workers Party successfully hitched a ride on to take power in Germany was a result of liberalism going completely off the rails as is inherent to the ideology, and will eventually happen in any society ruled by liberalism given enough time.
I argued for years with Larry Auster over whether Nazism is or is not essentially liberal (because of its commitment to absolutely equal rights among the herrenvolk, etc). Whatever else may be the case though it is clear that Nazism was produced by liberalism crashing blindly (or blondely, as the case may be) into reality.
Zippy, yes, that is exactly right in my view.
I’d love to get back to this and get into your head a little, so to speak. The whole relationship of Nazism to liberalism is a sort of a new revelation for me. I only got the courage up to read Mein Kampf no more than eight or nine months ago. But reading Mein Kampf led to a whole bunch of reading of other Nazi propaganda, all of which has liberalism, in one form or the other, written all over it.
Primary sources are a light bulb. I read Mein Kampf decades ago just to try to understand what happened for myself. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is fine as one man’s interpretation of a ton of interesting facts; but if we want to grasp how someone really thinks there is nothing quite like the horse’s mouth.
Any liberalism which ends up committing mass slaughter is not authentic liberalism, by definition. The fact that all actual liberalisms end up committing mass slaughter in actual fact just means that they were not authentic.
I agree with your point, of course, but how is the above any different than Chesterton’s famous line:
Chesterton had some great quips, but he is obviously not making a categorical point about Christianity untried. To wit, the cult of the saints.
OK, allow me to play Devil’s Advocate for a moment:
The Saints are Christianity’s crème de la crème, they show the ideal that is possible when one devotes one’s life to walking in Christ’s footsteps. But even the saints weren’t perfect. Bellarmine and More believed they were acting righteously when they handed heretics over for burning, for instance.
Liberals have their own secular saints as well: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, etc. You and I can say in response that we have more Saints and that our Saints are far superior, but we’ve also had a head start for well over 1,700 years.
Liberals have to answer for their crimes of course: The French Revolution, two World Wars, the A-bomb, Abortion, etc. But Christendom has its own list of atrocities to answer for (antisemitism, burning heretics at the stake, Holy Wars, etc.). And claiming that the liberals’ body count is higher, even if it is orders of magnitude higher, is a utilitarian justification.
The liberal trump card is this: in comparison with nation’s of the past, and in particular medieval Christian states, liberal nations have seen rates of war plummet, rates of disease plummet, technological innovation skyrocket, and economic wealth shoot through the roof at an astonishing pace.
Yes, the liberals will say, we’ve had some bad apples, taken certain things too far, people died, it’s all very sad. But so did Christendom. And unlike Christendom we’ve made the world a much better place to live in, in an astonishingly short amount of time.
I think basically you are discovering or swimming in the fragility of language. A ‘winning’ argument can always be constructed by begging the question about what is essential to the referents of the terms. That is why nominalism is so appealing (and appalling).
The point I’m trying to make is that the No True Scotsman fallacy goes both ways:
“Hitler was no true believer in freedom and equality! No true believer would commit the atrocities of the Holocaust!”
“The peasants of the People’s Crusade were no true Christians! No true Christians would massacre the Jews of Central Europe!”
I want to be able to defend Christianity and Christendom by pointing out that the massacre of the Jews of Central Europe in 1096 is clearly gravely sinful and contrary to the Gospel. But if I am going to say that, I feel compelled also to allow liberals to defend liberalism by saying that what Hitler did is clearly wrong and contrary to liberalism.
The argument has to drop one step back; Christ’s teachings don’t lead to the People’s Crusade as a matter of logical necessity; the tenets of liberalism require the low-man (even if it doesn’t kill them all).
And again, you can only argue that if you ignore what the things to which you refer actually are in fact. If liberalism and Christianity refer to actual things with essences, and if you successfully refer to those actual things with the terms ‘liberalism’ and ‘Christianity,’ then you can’t do that.
The Catholic Church has never been nor is it now nor will it ever be antisemitic; anti Jews, yes.
When the Church and State were unified heresy was a capital crime and deserved death (Maestro Titta in the Papal States)
Holy Wars/Just Wars are just in the Catholic Church if certain conditions are met.
Too few understand that the powers of the Catholic Church are three fold:
The One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church has the authority to impose Temporal and Corporal Punishments including Capital punishment.
The Catholic Church is a perfect society -even moreso than the state – and she has coercitive powers at least equal to the state and she can apply any just punishment not forbidden by Jesus Christ who established her.
Yes, this sounds radical, but we do have a radical Catholic Church even if she does not use the authority/power as she ought.
A good (and short) book about these powers (and many other things) is The Church of Christ an apologetic and dogmatic treatise E. Sylvester Berry, STD.
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