December 11, 2015 § 99 Comments
Conservatism is a derivative political doctrine. That is, conservatism asserts that we ought to conserve something or other, but it doesn’t specify what that something-or-other happens to be in particular. The ‘in particular’ is necessary in order to tell just what it is we are trying to conserve.
I’ve summed this up before by suggesting that conservatism has no stable essence, although that isn’t strictly true. Conservatism is the tendency to respect the wisdom of our particular ancestors and to resist critical attack on the wisdom of our particular ancestors. In practice this resistance often implies a tendency to just stop thinking about things and move on with life; and to insist that other people should stop stirring up trouble and move on too.
This tendency to respect our ancestors and traditions, to assume that there is something wrong with criticisms directed against them even if we don’t immediately see why that criticism is wrong, is a good thing generally speaking. The burden of proof is on the critic, that burden is a very high bar indeed, and that is just how things should be. Conservatism is, generally speaking, a wise and prudent approach to the political life of the community. We can’t take the time to think everything through to its foundations personally, and if we are going to let others do our thinking for us then our ancestors have at least as much credibility as living persons with an agenda, if not much moreso. What I have found myself is that when current generations attack the wisdom of past generations, they are almost always attacking straw men.
Usury is an example I have written about quite a bit: the ignorant, often unconscious contempt heaped upon Aquinas and the medieval Magisterium on the subject is ironic in the extreme. Aquinas and the Medieval magisterium had a far clearer and healthier understanding of financing business ventures than any of the modern financial anti-realists; financial anti-realists who literally cannot tell or pretend to be unable to tell the difference, whose economic theories actively and malevolently suppress clear understanding of the difference, between property – which can be alienated from a person, possessed, repossessed, bought, traded, and sold, and the use of which may thus be sold for profit (as “rent”, “interest”, etc) – and personal IOU’s, which cannot be alienated from the person who makes the promise and do not exist as actual property ontologically distinct from the person who makes the promise. Centuries of contemptuous arrogance on the part of new generations, directed against ancestors who are not here to refute the armies of ludicrous straw men, has made these new generations – has made us – so stupid that we cannot see or refuse to see what is obvious right in front of our faces.
So the conservative tendency in politics is a good thing, a wise thing, a normal human thing. It should not be disparaged, but should be valued.
The problem with our current situation, though, is that our most immediate ancestors, going back the past few centuries, were liberals. This turns modern conservatism into a self-destructive, self-hating, ignorant tendency to protect and preserve earlier iterations of liberalism.
December 10, 2015 § 15 Comments
Bonald points out that Islam actually is a religion of peace, as long as the entire world becomes subject to a universal Caliphate, apostates are executed as the traitors against the Caliphate which they are, and dhimmis stay in their place.
I’d further point out that this is one sense in which Islam is inherently more peaceful than liberalism. At least a universal Caliphate under sharia is rationally conceivable, so it is possible in principle for war between the dar-al-islam and the dar-al-kufr to come to an end: for dar-al-harb and dar-al-kufr to shrink to nothing.
With liberalism it is a different story. Liberalism is not rationally coherent, so an end to its violence is not even conceivable without liberalism itself disappearing. Perpetual violent revolution is inevitable under liberalism, even when liberalism is universally triumphant.
So the only path to peace available to liberals, even just as something rationally conceivable, is repentance. The only even conceptually coherent path to peace from under liberalism is to come out from under it: to reject it utterly and unequivocally.
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.
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.
December 8, 2015 § 36 Comments
There is a tendency to view societies infected by liberalism as ‘not liberal’ because they still have illiberal features, etc, or because there are good, true, and beautiful things in those societies; or because those societies are only ‘kind of’ liberal. I think this perspective is a distorted view of reality, and in any case can be quite deceptive if we don’t import some additional perspective.
Liberalism is a disease or disorder, a parasite in political thought, not a kind of society; and so-called liberal societies are societies which are infected by this parasite. Just as banking and lending are not comprehensively and only usury, modern societies are not comprehensively and only liberal. Ireland is a liberal society because it is infected and even dominated by liberalism; but it is still Irish, which is not liberalism.
In general modern societies are well and truly infected by the mind virus of liberalism, just as modern banking is well and truly infected by usury. The fact that the disease progresses differently in different contexts can obscure our capacity to identify it as such.
We naturally want to think the best of our own societies. Americans in particular tend toward the ‘proposition nation’ ideal: they see liberalism the disease as what defines us, much as the homosexual sees his disorder as what defines him.
This is counterproductive, if we want to actually grasp the objective situation. Especially if we don’t want to degenerate into a fugue of self-hatred.
The homosexual needs to stop defining himself as his disorder and repent.
December 5, 2015 § 79 Comments
Liberalism is political commitment to liberty, equality, and fraternity; where liberty begets equality and fraternity proceeds from them. If we only look at one side of each of these coins, the side liberalism likes to show off in the display case, they look very pretty.
But like all coins they have both heads and tails. You can’t pick up a coin without picking up both sides, and if the coin toss doesn’t go your way things don’t look so pretty.
The flip side of the liberty coin is constraint. For every single political liberty empowering a citizen to choose what he wishes to choose, a multitude of constraints on other people are implied. “Liberty” in practice just means that you agree that the ‘free society’ puts the right sort of people in prison.
Liberty as a political priority begets the equality imperative. The pretty side of the equality coin is freedom from discrimination: equal rights. But politics just is authoritative discrimination, so this incoherent demand for authoritative nondiscrimination doesn’t actually make you free from discriminatory authority. It just makes authority sociopathic, pushes it underground, to the bottom side of the coin that you do not see, and creates an arbitrary justification for whatever the ruling class happens to will. Equality attempts to abolish politics and as a result reduces it to arbitrary Will.
Together liberty and equality produce fraternity, the universal brotherhood of the new, free and emancipated man, politically released from the chains of history, tradition, religion, and even biology. The other side of the coin though is that to liberalism, anyone who is intransigently in the way of the political emancipation of the free and equal new man is less than human. He has to be less than human, because all men are political equals, the just powers of government derived from the consent of the governed. If the Low Man were fully human he would be ‘with the program’ rather than impeding it: he would be giving his free consent to liberal governance. But he is not; therefore he is less than fully human and must be educated, rehabilitated, absorbed, or eradicated.
And it is all fun and games until the coin toss doesn’t go your way.
December 4, 2015 § 23 Comments
Consider the difference between Nazism and liberalism. They both share the same core beliefs: Nazis are through-and-through liberals in the sense that they are strongly committed to political liberty, which begets equality, from both of which proceeds fraternity.
The difference lies underneath ‘fraternity’. Most liberals believe in creating the master race through outbreeding. Nazis are liberals who have become disillusioned by this and want to create the master race through inbreeding.
“I had always hated the Parliament, but not as an institution in itself. Quite the contrary. As one who cherished ideals of political freedom I could not even imagine any other form of government. In the light of my attitude towards the House of Habsburg I should then have considered it a crime against liberty and reason to think of any kind of dictatorship as a possible form of government.”
“The National Socialist state knows no ‘classes,’ but politically speaking only citizens with absolutely equal rights and accordingly equal general duties, and, alongside of these, state subjects who in the political sense are absolutely without rights.” – Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf
Basically, Nazis and white supremacists more generally are inbred liberals.
December 4, 2015 § 16 Comments
In the case of the positive moral precepts, prudence always has the task of verifying that they apply in a specific situation, for example, in view of other duties which may be more important or urgent. – Veritatis Splendour
Negative moral precepts oblige always and everywhere. No circumstances or good intentions can justify the deliberate choice of an intrinsically immoral concrete behavior. Adultery and sodomy for example can never be justified under any circumstances and are always objectively grave matter, the matter of mortal sin. Those kinds of behaviors are the grave matter of mortal sin no matter how much sympathy we may have for the people choosing those behaviors, how good their intentions, or how difficult the circumstances.
Positive precepts – give to the poor, welcome the stranger, tend the sick, and even conserve nature – are no less important than the negative precepts. However precisely what to do and when to do it in order to carry out these positive imperatives depends upon facts and circumstances. This falls in the domain of prudential judgment.
This comes up in discussions of the Just War doctrine frequently, and the fact that whether or not to go to war is a prudential judgment is often used by supporters of a particular war as a rhetorical foil. Going to war is a positive act; and the justice of that act, like the justice of all sometimes-permissible positive acts, depends upon the actual objective facts and circumstances. Because it is a prudential judgment, we are often told, everyone is free to disagree. In this way any conclusion that a particular decision to go to war was or would be definitely unjust is rhetorically resisted.
But this begs the question, because people are not entitled to their own facts. It is either truly prudent to permit a particular wave of immigration in particular circumstances, or it is truly imprudent to do so. “Prudential judgment” is not a code phrase which entitles the speaker to beg a question of fact, and prudential judgments are not immune to truth claims.
Moral principles do fall under magisterial competence generally speaking; but moral principles do not exhaustively determine right and wrong in the case of positive precepts. Not even bishops, cardinals, or popes are entitled to their own facts. If the Pope and bishops had supported the second Iraq War that would not have made it a just war.
December 4, 2015 § 14 Comments
My readers might be interested in a discussion of usury which broke out at the Acton Institute blog in the comments to this post. [Link updated 10/18/2017: see here.] My latest comment has not been approved as of this writing, but I thought y’all might be interested in the following criticism from a fellow who believes he is qualified to advise folks on investment. Only a small couple handfuls of people have become multimillionaires by following my lead, I don’t charge for books of investment advice, and I’m not a high priest in the Church of Austrian Economics; so what do I know?
Here is the criticism:
Well you may not be aware of it, but it’s easy for anyone familiar with economic history to see that you have become a sucker for the fallacious Real Bills doctrine. And based on what I read on your blog you’re not nearly as knowledgeable about finance as you think. A little humility will go a long ways toward helping you learn real finance and banking. Your post on banking and fractional reserves shows an incredibly bad grasp of banking.
For the record, I don’t actually have a theory about the areas covered by the Real Bills doctrine. But folks are certainly welcome to draw what conclusions they may.
You also might learn a rhetorical trick or two from the investment brain trust. First, studiously ignore the actual substantive distinction being made (in this case, between actual property which can be alienated from its possessor and personal IOU’s which cannot). Next, ascribe a discredited theory on an obscure (to everyman), difficult, unresolved subject to your interlocutor so that nobody reading will bother to actually do the work to figure out that you are talking out of your hat. Finally, encourage your interlocutor to be more humble and improve his poor state of knowledge.
UPDATE (below the fold):
December 3, 2015 § 30 Comments
I am sure everyone is relieved to see my post “Whitey knows best” move down the screen, with crickets chirping in the combox. Race just isn’t a central concern of mine and never has been. That isn’t to downplay it — for all I know my ambivalence has been bred into me and is a bad thing. I’ll never be a friend of white nationalists or white supremacists though, or of anti-racism activists (oddly, also a kind of white supremacism). My heart just isn’t in it.
But if folks actually do want an honest discussion of race – people are always saying that they want an ‘honest’ discussion of race, by which I think they mean that they want to hear their own views or at least views with which they are comfortable expressed in other peoples’ voices – I’ll give ’em what I’ve got.
I actually do like and appreciate diversity. Thugs and jerks come in all shapes, sizes, and colors; and so do gracious hosts and friends. Sometimes a helping hand comes from where you least expect it, and hostility comes from where friendship should be presumed. That’s just my experience of the world as I have actually found it. Statistics may tell us what to expect on a sociological level, but persons are not statistics. It is kind of like environmental conservation or male friendship: liberalism has destroyed a lot of what is lovely about the world by turning it into pretext for political opposition. But I do love nature, camaraderie among men, and the delight of meeting folks who are quite different from myself. Life is too short to let liberalism rob it of its richness.
Sorry, racial reactionaries, but modern people really do engage in a lot of racially motivated injustice: racism. By the same token, racism is probably one of the most abused concepts out there. That’s what liberals do: they start with a basically legitimate injustice – otherwise it would have no anchor in reality – and redefine it past the end of crazy in a postmodern frenzy of self-hatred. They are doing the same thing with rape, and only a tomfool postmodern would claim that rape is an anti-concept. The irony is thick, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying to see things as they actually are.
Liberalism proposes to promote diversity but in fact it promotes uniformity: you are either absorbed into the uniformity of the free and equal superman through the principle of fraternity, which in practice means actual physical inbreeding with liberal stock to create one master race; or you are on the list of subhuman oppressors to be put on the trains and sent to the camps. Your name may be near the top of the list or it may be near the bottom, but make no mistake about it: if you are not part of the breeding stock for the master race you have a train ticket. If you will not be my brother I will crack your skull.