Pulling away from the tar baby

December 15, 2015 § 43 Comments

I’ve noticed some patterns in how folks tend to respond to my discussion of liberalism.  I’ll address a few of them, without any pretense of an exhaustive account.

One relatively uncommon response is to directly engage the arguments in an attempt to refute them.

Another is to look for pre-enlightenment citations which might be construed to support political liberalism.  I don’t deny that there are pre-enlightenment roots. I see some of that myself in Ockhamite nominalism / anti-realism, in the lollard branch of protestantism and pre-protestantism, and even in Islam.

But it is important to keep in mind here that heresies often look superficially similar to the truths they pervert.  Political liberty looks superficially similar to subsidiarity even though the former destroys the latter: even though “Your Majesty, governing the subsidiary communities  under your sovereignty with a light and tolerant hand is wise when it is possible” bears superficial resemblance to “political authority is justified by the fact that it keeps everyone from telling anyone else what to do, good and hard”.

Still another is to generalize liberalism into a vague cloud of sin as a way of avoiding addressing it specifically. If liberalism is just fallen human nature or whatever, as opposed to a specific political doctrine, then we can just live with it the way we have to live with a sinful world. This is indeed similar to how theological liberals will tend to generalize sin into a big vague lump in order to avoid addressing the specific sin of (say) sodomy or fornication or usury.

And yet another is to nominally accept the critique of liberalism, and then immediately set about trying to justify the same positions one has long held on the basis of liberalism in putatively non-liberal terms.  You’ll see this as commenters cling for example to the notion of the ‘right to bear arms’ (see for example the combox discussion which starts here).

While all of these responses are I think understandably conservative, the magnitude of liberalism’s crimes doesn’t call for conservation.  The magnitude of liberalism’s crimes calls for repentance.   Liberalism is a lie, a heresy, a terrible scourge, and must be repudiated utterly and unequivocally.

If the first thing you find yourself trying to do once you’ve realized that liberalism – including the kind you’ve always taken for granted as simple common sense morality in the political domain – is a specific lie from the pit of Hell, is preserve your favorite liberal ‘rights’ under some putatively illiberal justification, you are probably just on your way back into the mind trap.

I understand that. The world outside the padded walls is a scary, sociopathic place to find yourself.

But at least it is the real world.

 

§ 43 Responses to Pulling away from the tar baby

  • Patrick B. says:

    Zippy, do you plan on making a liberalism FAQ or ebook? Those could be helpful for introducing other people to political realism\zippyism.

  • Peter Blood says:

    You’re entirely correct about liberalism and the Low Man. I’m no longer astonished at the volume and quantity of pointing and shrieking done when I espouse something illiberal. I confess the grandiose reactions tempt me to do it just for the shock effect; in this way, opposition to liberalism can also make one infantile.

  • King Richard says:

    Something that I have observed is that the surest method to provoke people into accusing you of being ignorant, stupid, evil, or deceitful is to go to a forum or comment section, cut & paste the definition of the word “Liberal” and then list ideologies and groups that are by definition Liberal (another cut & paste).
    Even when informed of exactly what you have done the vicious response will continue as people of all sorts continue to argue with the dictionary.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    I don’t know why, but your original definition of Liberalism (“the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the primary legitimate purpose of government.”) could not breach my thick skull.

    There are several reasons why, but the meaning of primary escaped me. I thought it meant first, but you meant…first.

    It’s hard to explain my confusion except to say that your idea is so simple and that fact made it hard to grasp when I have been making mental tools for dealing (badly) with convolutions within liberalism.

    Said another way: It is as if my whole life I’ve been taught to fight fire with fire, and here you come along and say: “Try some water”. My trained (conservative) response is: “THAT’S NOT FIRE AND EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’VE GOT TO FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE!” It wasn’t that I thought you were wrong, but that you were calmly mad.

    Then, last week, for some reason, I got it when I said to myself, “Self, If all Zippy means by the error of liberalism is that freedom cannot be the judge of good-cannot outrank good, then we can agree with that, can’t we? I mean, haven’t we always agreed with the subjection of freedom to good whenever we didn’t really think about it? Yes we did.” And then, as if released from behind a barrier, many of your statements of that very sentiment came back to me. You had said that.

    I still think that freedom is, generally, a good thing and that it should be cherished when it is good. Freedom is good like power is good. Only now, thanks to you, I can allow myself consciously acknowledge what I’ve always assumed.

  • King Richard says:

    Cane,
    Wait until you try to tell others about this. What will you say?
    “Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the primary legitimate purpose of government” ?

  • Mike T says:

    “Your Majesty, governing the subsidiary communities under your sovereignty with a light and tolerant hand is wise when it is possible”

    Is there a point where subsidiarity is morally obligatory?

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    There are always inherent limits to any human authority.

  • King Richard says:

    I might argue that the reverse question is more critical; when does morality indicate that you need to supersede subsidiarity?
    The four natural instincts of man in an order from “lowest” to “highest” (rough terms) are
    1) Self-preservation
    2) preservation of the species
    3) social living
    4) the truth
    so the hierarchy is from the dignity of the person to the dignity of the family to the dignity of the social group.
    The default position is “if it can be done locally, it should”. Can a family do it? Then they should. Can a town do it? Then it is theirs.
    Only when a task exceeds the capacity of the ‘lower’ group should the ‘higher’ assume that task and,
    [this is crucial]
    it must be kept foremost that these tasks are done on behalf of the more local group, not in place of. If the more loocal group changes so they can now take over the task you are obligated to give it back to them.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: Peter Blood

    Along similar lines, I have noticed in myself an occasional tendency, somewhat ironically, to think of liberals themselves as the “Low Man,” as if everything would be all right except for all these liberals running around. It does pay to be cautious.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @King Richard

    What will you say?

    The Caldo version is something like: “Liberalism is putting more importance on freedom than on goodness. It’s like power. Power is a good thing, but it should not be more important than goodness.”

  • Peter Blood says:

    According to Jonathan Haidt in “The Righteous Mind”, those who are on the extreme liberal end are much more likely to see “goodness”–as we define it, generally Christian virtues–as positively evil. (Also: authority and loyalty.) It was eye-opening to understand that these things are seen by them not as competing goods, among which a wise balance must be sought, but as evils.

    I’ve been framing liberalism as the morality of subversion, betrayal, and defilement.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:

    It wasn’t that I thought you were wrong, but that you were calmly mad.

    I get that, once someone starts to actually engage with the actual arguments. I think the first time I got called an ‘interesting madman’ was on View From The Right in the early ‘oughts, though it may have happened before then. “It wasn’t that I thought you were wrong, but that you were calmly mad” would make a great tagline for the blog.

    But you still need to take the next step, which is to realize that liberalism is a political doctrine, with respect to the exercise of discriminating authority; that politics always and necessarily involves controvertible cases and their resolution by a discriminating authority which chooses one option over all the others, restricting the freedom of any who might disagree.

  • Mike T says:

    King Richard,

    In a way, I think you addressed my question.

    What I was getting at is really is there a point where, no matter how good the actual decisions being made are, the higher authority has no natural right to make them for the lower authorities.

  • King Richard says:

    Mike T,
    you wrote,
    “What I was getting at is really is there a point where, no matter how good the actual decisions being made are, the higher authority has no natural right to make them for the lower authorities.”
    This is the default assumption, actually. Unless the lower authority cannot do it themselves the higher should not do it for them even if they would be ‘more efficient’.

    More later

  • Zippy,

    I was half-convinced before the hubbub with Mr. Wright. Now I am convinced. I may not be where you are, at least not yet, but in any case I no longer attempt to pay lip service to classical liberalism. What it entails – what it MUST entail – has become so abundantly clear to me now I’m almost ashamed to admit that I did not see it.

  • Zippy says:

    Re: subsidiarity, here is Quadragesimo Anno:

    Still, that most weighty principle, which cannot be set aside or changed, remains fixed and unshaken in social philosophy: Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them.

  • Zippy says:

    Patrick B:
    I won’t rule out an FAQ/ebook at some point, but most of the things I blog about are different from the subject of usury. The usury FAQ is both pedagogical and documents various sources, to show how ultimately straightforward and sensible the traditional doctrine actually is, backed by citations from Scholastics (mainly Aquinas) and the Magisterium. I won’t pretend that it isn’t opinionated, especially Q29; but the main goal is just to find a way to describe to modern readers the traditional doctrine and why it is so sensible, financially healthy, and coherent. There isn’t an original thought in it, at least the FAQ itself, when it comes down to it.

    My liberalism stuff is different. It is basically just a look into a corner of the funhouse inside my head, and although I do sometimes cite (e.g.) Thomas Jefferson or whomever I am not trying to communicate an established (but mostly forgotten) understanding of the subject, as I was in the case of the usury FAQ.

    In short, I don’t plan any projects of interest here beyond blogging, at the moment. I’ve thought about attempting an actual book-length treatment of metaphysically realist finance, and maybe even doxxing myself for that project to make it more ‘official’. But I haven’t even thought about what a “Liberalism FAQ” might look like, at this point. A substantial barrier is that I’m kind of lazy, and have all sorts of projects (not just “here”) that I could and maybe should be spending more time on.

    But thanks for asking. I’m gratified that some folks find my stuff interesting enough to read.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Political liberty looks superficially similar to subsidiarity even though the former destroys the latter”

    How is “political loberty” being defined?
    Is the the nature of political liberty to destroy subsidiarity or perhaps political liberty when abused is destructive of subsidiairty?

    Belloc in the French Revolution speaks of “a sense of political freedom and of the power of the citizen to react upon the State,” as composing ends of the State.

  • MarcusD says:

    Zippy, do you have a reading list that you could provide us (regarding liberalism, in particular)? (It likely won’t surprise you that what philosophy I have studied has seemingly undermined my ability to really comprehend your arguments.)

    On another note: do you endorse/like some sort political ideology? (e.g. something on a list like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_ideologies)

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    Is the the nature of political liberty to destroy subsidiarity or perhaps political liberty when abused is destructive of subsidiairty?

    As I mentioned in the other thread, some people actually use the label ‘liberty’ to refer to subsidiarity. Far more often it refers to the individual freedom of liberalism which, when made a political priority within any scope, brings about tyranny. I have explained how this works a number of times, for example here.

  • Zippy says:

    MarcusD:

    At the end of the day I am really just a run of the mill conservative or traditionalist in the middle of an ideologically-driven holocaust, watching the civilization into which I was born set itself on fire. I tried to describe that in this post the other day. Jim Kalb once described me as a ‘regular guy with paleo-ish tendencies’.

    It seems to me that a good conservative reaction to discovery that one of his civilization’s sacred ideas is, unequivocally, a pernicious destructive lie, is to identify that specific lie as heresy, repudiate it without equivocation, and seek repentance. A conservative response to cancer is to identify and remove the tumor as soon as possible.

    I have no delusions of grandeur that I or thousands of men who think like me could save Western civilization, of course. But I’m still a digger.

  • King Richard says:

    Zippy,
    I believe that I have covered each and every base in the ‘delusions of grandeur’ arena, so you may rest easy.

  • Hoyos says:

    Bear with me, because I may be getting something wrong.

    Isn’t it the nature of human good, that it be freely chosen? The goodness or badness of the human will is contingent on free will as a condition.

    Now when God founded a state, the number of laws governing it, 613, is absolutely tiny by comparison with a modern state and seem to cover everything important, especially when you leave out ceremonial laws that only applied to the Jews in a literal sense. This would seem to imply that only a very few laws are truly necessary.

    “Liberal” thinking seems to be a problem when it applies the freedom principle to those few laws. Freedom is nonetheless a good within a hierarchy of goods and pretty far up the list at that. It doesn’t overwhelm the Good, because it is a subordinate good itself.

    So it seems to me that freedom as a default position so long as you know where the lines are, fits the script, but I’m not sure if this is your definition of liberalism.

  • Zippy says:

    Hoyos:

    So it seems to me that freedom as a default position so long as you know where the lines are …

    Yes, everyone seems to want a nice tame liberalism which says “freedom is the priority in choosing how to exercise authority, except when it isn’t”.

    I have explained in a number of places why this doesn’t work as a philosophy of authority, but perhaps there is another post in taking a look at why people are always distracted by non-political considerations (e.g. that the virtuous man is always perfectly free in the sense that he always wills the good and it is always possible to refrain from evil and do only good).

  • Mike T says:

    Hoyos,

    You sound similar to me in my early attempts to grok the freedom/political conflict so I’ll try to summarize it.

    Liberalism does not have a fixed notion of freedom that implies a set, specific set of liberties aligned with the common good and which no good authority would or should violate. It means freedom in the most literal and abstract sense which is “autonomy from imposition.” Politics is, by its nature, imposition. So what happens is that people want freedom to do as they please, but impose as they please as well. It is a form of cognitive dissonance that becomes deadly in politics because they aren’t even aware of what they are doing.

    As liberalism mutates, you have competing conceptions of “freedom.” That means that politics simultaneously becomes more conflict-driven and even less self-aware of what it is actually doing. Add to that the self-righteousness that is intrinsic to most forms of liberalism and you get a recipe for unconscious dehumanization of your opponents in a way that, ironically, would probably never have ordinarily happened in most prior political systems.

    (Perhaps it is residual liberalism in me, but I do still believe in a lot of “political liberties” but I am also aware of the imposition aspect and would cheerfully use imperium to force them on the unwilling. Particularly because it’s just bloody hilarious to tell an emotionally incontinent, bubble-wrapped SJW that they have to actually live side by side with people who say things they don’t want to hear)

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Particularly because it’s just bloody hilarious to tell an emotionally incontinent, bubble-wrapped SJW that they have to actually live side by side with people who say things they don’t want to hear.

    That is tempting, similar to the temptations Peter Blood and Hrodgar talk about upthread. It is tempting to poke liberals and make them rant and scream, just because you know how — witness the recent meltdown of John C Wright, as he set himself up as a concrete example of what we have been discussing here. Now you know how to send a classical liberal into an SJW-like mouth-frothing frenzy, and it can be tempting to do so on purpose.

    And it is tempting to think of liberals as the Low Man, as hrodgar suggests, as opposed to seeing them as the lost boys in need of repentance, still bouncing around inside the padded walls that used to imprison all of us.

    But you have to be careful, because that way lies the tar baby.

  • GJ says:

    Hoyos:

    Freedom is nonetheless a good…

    It isn’t. That’s where you go wrong.

  • Mike T says:

    And it is tempting to think of liberals as the Low Man, as hrodgar suggests, as opposed to seeing them as the lost boys in need of repentance, still bouncing around inside the padded walls that used to imprison all of us.

    But you have to be careful, because that way lies the tar baby.

    I agree.

    The absurdity of SJWs makes them particularly difficult to see as lost boys because it’s a self-dehumanizing level of absurdity. They often make “Islamic Rage Boy” look like normal.

  • Hoyos says:

    @ GJ, OK I’ll bite. God created free will, freedom is the exercise of this faculty, therefore it is good.

    Slavery is reckoned as a worse state to be in in the Bible, then being free.

    God has all authority, therefore all legitimate authority is derived authority with fixed limits because it is a reflection of God’s authority. The state, my parents, my employers, everybody to whom I owe obedience has a limit where I am not bound to obey.

    Augustine says there is a difference between a true king and the biggest bandit in the city.

    Personalism as over against individualism has value. God addresses the desires of the personal heart and the conscience of the personal mind. Liberalism preaches an absolute autonomy of the individual, which is clearly false and I understand why Pius IX condemned it. It is practicing anarchism.

    I’m really not trying to be contrary, i just don’t want to have to be a Calvinist if I don’t want to be an anarchist.

    @Zippy let me know if I’m being a bad guest, because I see what you’re saying, I’m just not sure about it.

  • Zippy says:

    Hoyos:

    Your comments are welcome.

    Also, see my latest post.

  • GJ says:

    Hoyos:

    OK I’ll bite. God created free will, freedom is the exercise of this faculty, therefore it is good.

    God created free will, murdering is an exercise of this faculty, therefore it is good.

    Slavery is reckoned as a worse state to be in in the Bible, then being free.

    So what? (cue equivocation)

  • Hoyos says:

    @Zippy, that actually clears up a lot of what I was thinking about

    @GJ

    You have a verb and an object, the verb can be good and the object bad. It’s the difference between I’m eating cake and I’m eating people.

    So what? What do you mean by that?

  • GJ says:

    Hoyos:

    You have a verb and an object

    What verb?

    the verb can be good and the object bad. It’s the difference between I’m eating cake and I’m eating people.

    Right, so some eating is good, and some eating is not. Similarly, Freedom is not a good; some freedoms are good while some are not.

    So what? What do you mean by that?

    So actually make an argument about how your statement about slavery implies ‘Freedom is good’ that doesn’t involve equivocation between freedom from slavery and political Freedom.

  • Hoyos says:

    @GJ
    Cool, eating, by itself is good. It is only the object that is bad. Choosing is good, it is a God given faculty, therefore it is good. Choosing a bad object is only bad because of the object, not because of the faculty.

    On the second point, slavery involves lots of force, fewer choices. Not being a slave involves less force, more choices. If by political Freedom you mean democracy or self governance, I’m not defending that. I’m only really interested in individual freedom, and even then only inside of a context.

    I object to having my money taken by force to support things I believe to be intrinsically evil. I believe in having the choice to defend myself from those who would take from me unjustly. I object to people who demand obedience from me that I in no sense owe them. That’s it really.

  • Zippy says:

    As I talk about in my latest post, I think it is easy to get distracted by subjects which are – as interesting as they may be in their own right – distinct from the subject of political philosophy specifically.

    Freedom is literally nonsensical – has no coherent sense in which it can be understood sensibly – as a political philosophy, because political philosophy just is an understanding of what justifies the restriction of freedom by authority.

  • GJ says:

    Hoyos:

    Cool, eating, by itself is good. It is only the object that is bad.

    Merely asserting a point does not make it true.

    If eating some X is bad, then as ‘eating some X’ falls under ‘eating’ it follows that not all eating is good.

    it is a God given faculty, therefore it is good.

    Mere assertion.

    If by political Freedom you mean democracy or self governance, I’m not defending that. I’m only really interested in individual freedom, and even then only inside of a context.

    Backpedalling. And yes, by now you’ve realised that from ‘freedom from slavery is good’ alone you cannot get to ‘political freedom is good’ or ‘other freedoms are good’.

    Can we be done with this farce?

  • Zippy says:

    For my part I certainly do think that free will is one of the good gifts that God gave to Man. Freely given love is vastly superior to ‘compelled love’, if the latter is even comprehensible; and that a gift can be misused does not imply that it is not a good gift.

    But again, this is all very much a change of subject from liberalism, because liberalism is a political philosophy.

  • GJ says:

    Zippy:

    Freely given love is vastly superior to ‘compelled love’, if the latter is even comprehensible; and that a gift can be misused does not imply that it is not a good gift.

    Conversely, that something can be used to produce good (eg. ‘freely given love’) does not imply that it is good.

    But again, this is all very much a change of subject from liberalism, because liberalism is a political philosophy.

    All right, I’ll stop. It’s just fun to undust the logic sledgehammer once in a while.

  • Zippy says:

    GJ:

    Conversely, that something can be used to produce good (eg. ‘freely given love’) does not imply that it is good.

    Sure, a fair point. We moderns are so instrumentalist that we don’t really have the language to argue that something is good-in-itself. I think a Ruger Redhawk .44 magnum, a 1968 Dodge Charger, and a Bernese Mountain Dog pup are all good-in-themselves; even though any of them could be used for good or evil. Same with free will. The world is teeming with good gifts from God.

  • Marissa says:

    I’m waiting on Zippy to write the book “Everything There Is To Know About Positivism” and also his well-researched treatise on the Islam-Protestantism connection.

    As for John C. Wright, you’d think that the disposition of the 99.99% of Catholic saints who’ve lived under monarchy would be edifying! They didn’t lack knees and they weren’t too proud to kneel toward political authorities unrelated to English colonists of the 18th century.

  • Hoyos says:

    @GJ
    “If eating some X is bad, then as ‘eating some X’ falls under ‘eating’ it follows that not all eating is good.”

    Again, the faculty and how it is used are not the same thing.

    “it is a God given faculty, therefore it is good.
    Mere assertion.”

    Far as I can tell, an assertion backed up by the near universal opinion of the church across space and time. That’s my fault for posting a comment and not a thesis.

    “If by political Freedom you mean democracy or self governance, I’m not defending that. I’m only really interested in individual freedom, and even then only inside of a context.
    Backpedalling. And yes, by now you’ve realised that from ‘freedom from slavery is good’ alone you cannot get to ‘political freedom is good’ or ‘other freedoms are good’.
    Can we be done with this farce?”

    Prove that I backpedaled, I dare you. Regarding the “farce”, seriously, why the hostility? What did I do to you?

  • […] of the most common ways we avoid conclusions we don’t like is to stop thinking about whatever subject gives rise to those conclusions. And one of the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Pulling away from the tar baby at Zippy Catholic.

meta

%d bloggers like this: