This time Lucy won’t pull the football away
September 18, 2017 § 64 Comments
It was characteristic of Michael [Novak] to frame the highest good as liberation from constraint. As he says at one point, “God did not make creation coercive, but designed it as an arena of liberty.”
The free market gives us a glimpse of the ideal society, one that features order without authority and purposeful freedom without the need for agreement about the common good beyond a procedural rule of law.
Democratic capitalism does a better job sustaining an open, pluralistic society than political liberalism, because capitalism, unlike political deliberation, guarantees freedom more jealously (and effectively).
Yet we’ve seen setback after setback, and the corporate tsunami that recently swept through Indiana after it passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act made clear the link between global capitalism and progressive clear-cutting of traditional religious culture and morality.
Needless to say, Michael Novak did not foresee these outcomes when he wrote The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism any more than I did when I thrilled to his insights more than three decades ago.
…he described the anthropology of capitalism in a one-sided way. Its fearsome dynamism speaks to part of our soul, but it neglects and even works against the part that cherishes permanence.
This one-sidedness needs to be corrected, for our challenges are quite different from the legacy of postwar consolidation that Michael responded to with such élan. We do not live in a closed, regulated, regimented world. Political correctness is a serious problem, and it has an authoritarian tendency. But it is not born of loyalty to permanent things. As an outgrowth of liberalism itself, this rigid ideology comes under the sign of choice. It is an obligatory, enforced participation in a fluid, liquefied moral world. We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are “including.”
My summary of the article:
Don’t blame us for the poison we’ve been pumping into society for decades. We had good hearts and meant well, we just accidentally neglected to keep our nice tame liberalism on a leash. No reasonable person could have foreseen a “how were we supposed to know?” stage to inevitably follow our “what could it hurt?” enthusiasms. Who would have thought that pouring acid over the moral social fabric for centuries would make it dissolve? Who could have predicted that treating human authority and hierarchy as if it were what is wrong with the world would lead to its dissolution and reconstitution as an inhuman monstrosity?
So the thing we should all do now is correct the ‘one sidedness’ of what we’ve been doing for decades. We need to work together to promote a nice tame liberalism in common sense balance with moral constraints and the common good. We need more water for the shriveled up plants in our common garden, to bring balance to the acid we plan to continue pouring on them. And that is totally, totally different from what conservatives have been doing since the founding of America. This time it will work, really. We have to adjust to the times, to find a renewed way for political freedom to flourish.
Oh, and that crank Zippy’s understanding of liberalism is a big strawman.
 Translation: our intramural team in the red shirts is so much better than the other team playing the exact same game by the exact same rules in pursuit of the exact same goals, because they wear blue shirts.