Self diagnosis, or, the nosology on your face

June 24, 2018 § 46 Comments

You can tell that you are still suffering from liberal commitments when you find yourself suggesting that modern liberals, left liberals, or whomever are distorting a good tradition of political freedom: that left-liberals have a deformed or inauthentic understanding of political freedom and equality before the law. If this is you, you are almost certainly a right-liberal.

§ 46 Responses to Self diagnosis, or, the nosology on your face

  • Elspeth says:

    Is being right liberal a sin? No snark intended, but asking Americans to suddenly be not American is always going to be a hard sell.

    The illusion of individual and political freedom is in our DNA.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Is being right liberal a sin?

    Yes. The Catholic Church has condemned liberalism by name in no uncertain terms – liberalism of all forms, including right-liberalism, as an extremely dangerous and pervasive heresy.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ Rhetocrates:

    Got any sources for that? Not trying to call you out, I’d actually just like having some to cite myself.

  • Chad says:

    @ Just some guy
    There’s multiple encyclicals on it from the 18 and 1900s.

    Libertas is a good start
    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/leo13/l13liber.htm

    As well as the one stating Christ as King

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius11/p11prima.htm

    But here are some others

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius09/p9quanta.htm

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/pius09/p9syll.htm

  • fontesmustgo says:

    Asking whether “being right liberal” is sinful is much like asking whether killing a unicorn is sinful. That is to say: liberalism doesn’t exist, and there are no liberals.

    What do exist are political positions that advocate liberty for some people in some corners of the system. But increasing liberty somewhere means decreasing liberty elsewhere. And the decision to increase liberty in one part of the system rather than another is made based on what we believe to be good and evil.

    Notwithstanding loose, general Braveheart talk about “freedom,” everyone (except for perhaps Ancaps) at least implicitly understands that liberties conflict all the time, and the role of government is to sort these out. We know this because they say things like “your freedom to X ends where it interferes with my freedom to Y.” People we might call American right-liberals are careful to emphasize that they advocate religious liberty or economic liberty. That tells you where they want the government to come down when liberties compete. If they spend any time thinking about the question at all, they won’t say they’re in favor of “liberty” generally.

    So if “being right liberal” is code for asking the government to protect religious liberty, then it is not sinful. Of course, “being right liberal” is usually also code for asking the government to ratify immoral contracts by enforcing them. The bottom line is that advocating liberty for good things is moral, and advocating liberty for bad things is sinful.

    Another source of confusion is that the “right-liberal” states that he is willing to tolerate the commission of evil acts on the basis that they do not harm others. What he really means is that the enforcement costs exceed the harms done (based, of course, on this concept of the good). The money spend ensuring that no one has an old copy of Playboy stashed in his attic is better spent imprisoning rapists or treating a poor kid’s leukemia. Once it becomes cheaper to ban that old skin mag than to tolerate its deleterious effects on the culture, the “right-liberal” will ban it.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Got any sources for that? Not trying to call you out, I’d actually just like having some to cite myself.

    Some good answers up-thread already, but another of my favourites is Quadrigesimo Anno because it provides proscriptions of a positive order. Note the date, too: this is the Church trying to deal with the complete collapse of civilization that is the Great War and Her response to the rising tide of Fascism, Socialism, and Communism (capitalized to refer to the specific political movements in Italy, Germany/England/USA/etc, and the USSR).

    It bears careful reading because a lot of the prescriptions look to the casual eye like Fascism or related movements, but a vital (and ignored, alas) difference between Fascism and Syndicalism is the organic nature and moral rather than State coordination, and that has made all the difference.

    Effectively Quas Primas. is, among other things, a call for the perfection of the medieval guild coordination systems and bringing them up to date for the modern world.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Asking whether “being right liberal” is sinful is much like asking whether killing a unicorn is sinful. That is to say: liberalism doesn’t exist, and there are no liberals.

    Sounds to me like you’re trying to fight the same battle as Zippy, but by being a nominalist. That’s like trying to win a battle by slaughtering your own troops.

    The contradiction central to the liberal mentality is a feature of liberalism itself, not a proof of its non-existence. Irrationality is not ab-surd.

  • Zippy says:

    Rhetocrates:

    The contradiction central to the liberal mentality is a feature of liberalism itself, not a proof of its non-existence.

    Yes, that is another one of the really counterintuitive features of our current situation in general, and of liberalism in particular.

    It is important to recognize that self-contradictory doctrines – however we may characterize them in themselves, right at the ‘singularity’ of the doctrine itself, if you will – do have very real (and very deadly) effects on reality, as real human beings in real situations act out their sincere commitments to these doctrines.

  • Gabe Ruth says:

    Liberalism’s technical incoherence doesn’t mean no one is really a liberal, but it does mean that as an ideology it can justify anything, which for most people means justifying the vices to which they are most partial or from which they get the greatest profit.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Sounds to me like a big labeling brouhaha. Getting into a labeling fight with the cultural liberals is like getting into a mudslinging fight with a pig. You lose.

    Rhetocrates is on the right track with his invocation of the guild system. That includes a lot of freedom and minimal authority, but without absolutism except the primacy of God’s law. Insofar as the American founders’ system can be interpreted that way (e.g. Jefferson’s attempt to block corporate power), it is a good thing.

  • Gabe Ruth says:

    I forget who said it first, but it’s a really good line:
    “We live in an integralist state, just not a Catholic one.”

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    Sounds to me like a big labeling brouhaha. … That includes a lot of freedom and minimal authority, … Insofar as the American founders’ system can be interpreted that way (e.g. Jefferson’s attempt to block corporate power), it is a good thing.

    Another way you can tell that you are a right liberal is that whenever liberalism itself is criticized (as opposed to those really bad “liberals” over there who aren’t committed to authentic political freedom), you find yourself dismissing the criticism as much ado about labels, etc.

  • Zippy says:

    Gabe Ruth:

    Liberalism’s technical incoherence doesn’t mean no one is really a liberal, but it does mean that as an ideology it can justify anything, which for most people means justifying the vices to which they are most partial or from which they get the greatest profit.

    Yes, but the unprincipled exceptions are what make right-liberalism so appealing to normies.

  • fontesmustgo says:

    Sounds to me like you’re trying to fight the same battle as Zippy, but by being a nominalist

    Well I don’t intend to go through Nominalism. I do think, though, that because all of “liberalism” is an empty question-begging lie, there is no reason to give the people who are lying to us credit for sincerety.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    People can sincerely believe in an empty question-begging lie and be extremely flexible in the exact consequences or even definitions of that lie (one of said lie’s main strategic strengths) even while never wavering in their sincere belief. It’s one of the mysteries of sin, it is.

  • Bedarz Iliachi says:

    If one’s definition of politics is conflict resolution by any means, be it shooting rivals in cellars or debating them in public, then it is a possibility that one misses the concept of “political freedom” altogether.

  • Zippy says:

    Bedarz lliachi:

    If one’s definition of politics is conflict resolution by any means…

    Where are you getting that from? Citing precisely what you are responding to might be helpful.

  • Aethelfrith says:

    I hope what I’m about to say isn’t a derailment of the topic, but an analogue to this is why, even though I understand the anxieties of the immigration restrictionists, I don’t buy their logic. The softcore types are opposed to [illegal] low skilled Latin American migration whereas the hardcore types oppose all immigration, especially from highly skilled or professional types.

    The thing is, no matter how you cut it, the foundation of all the Americas was built upon immigrants swinging their weight around at the expense of the locals. That the current wave are poorer/wealthier, uglier/prettier, stupider/smarter is of no object here because in terms of results they are simply the latest iteration of yesterday’s wave.

    If I were to rewrite your post but plug in the analogous terms (in bold) it would be:

    You can tell that you are still suffering from nationalism when you find yourself suggesting that modernimmigrants, nonwhite, or whomever are distorting a good tradition of nation building: that nonwhites have a deformed or inauthentic understanding of nationhood and magic dirt. If this is you, you are almost certainly alt-right.

  • fontesmustgo says:

    I hope what I’m about to say isn’t a derailment of the topic, but an analogue to this is why, even though I understand the anxieties of the immigration restrictionists, I don’t buy their logic.

    To understand why your analogy isn’t even wrong, you would need to work through Zippy’s Choose Your Own Adventure-style blog posts to reach the fundamentals of his discussion of “liberalism.” Note that this has been going on for the better part of two decades, so the probability that you will get cornered by a gigantic spider in a dungeon before getting to your goal is high.

    The discussions here might benefit from a Liberalism FAQ similar to the Usury FAQ, but until the subscription price is raised to more than zero dollars, I don’t feel it’s my place to request that.

  • donnie says:

    Public Service Announcement to All:

    In addition to your other worthy intentions, please consider offering up prayers, Rosaries, daily Communions, and daily sacrifices in the hopes that God might by some miracle of the Holy Ghost inspire President Trump to appoint Professor Adrian Vermeule as Justice Anthony Kennedy’s replacement.

    End of PSA.

    And in the interest of keeping this post at least somewhat related to the OP, here is an excellent article in which Professor Vermeule astutely lays out why Patrick Deneen’s latest book, Why Liberalism Failed is actually another example of right-liberalism.
    https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2018/02/integration-from-within/

  • pilgrim says:

    While I applaud Zippy’s attack on right-liberalism’s support of usury, I am puzzled about the last bit he includes:

    and equality before the law.

    Is this not another way of expressing “no respecter of persons”, which comes to us from both Peter and Paul (separately)? To be a “respecter of persons” is to handle people so that this person is not treated as special on account of X condition when X condition is immaterial to the matter of goodness or right action, while that person is treated as special on account of X condition as if X condition were material to the matter of goodness or right action, when it is not.

  • Bedarz Iliachi says:

    Zippy,
    I had the impression that conflict resolution is how you define politics. I regret if this be inaccurate. I don’t have a satisfactory definition of political freedom myself but in practical terms, a country where one is free to criticize the State has political freedom. You couldn’t publicly criticize communism in Soviet Union as you do with liberalism in America.

  • TN Catholic says:

    I apologize for being mostly off topic, but does anyone have suggestions of what a Catholic can do if they voted for Pres. Trump? I believe that you mentioned on this page that even if one licitly voted for the winning candidate in a national election then one bound to mitigate the negative effects of the candidate’s victory.

  • Zippy says:

    Bedarz lliachi:

    I had the impression that conflict resolution is how you define politics.

    We probably don’t agree on the definition of “definition”:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2006/11/13/the-definition-of-definition/

    If you have a criticism of something I actually said, it would be helpful for you to cite my actual words where I actually said it. Otherwise when you say obviously ridiculous things and attribute them to me I have to assume that you are criticizing phantoms in your own mind as opposed to claims I’ve actually made.

    What I have claimed – observed really, since it is undeniable – is that every act of authority necessarily and always discriminates and restricts freedom. Do you deny this? If so, please provide an counterexample of an actual concrete act of authority which neither discriminates in any way nor restricts freedom.

  • Wood says:

    pilgrim,

    There are good and truthful ways of using “equality.” We are – excepting our Lord and Lady – born into this world equally carrying the stain of original sin. There are analogously good and truthful ways of using “equality” in a political context. But that is not how liberals use equality. Liberals say that people have “equality before the law” while all the while treating people unequally before the law. Liberalism (although it lies otherwise) treats people “unequally before the law” because that just is what political authority does – it must (whether all this is done justly or unjustly is a separate issue). Outside of radical anarchy – in other words in a context of law and authority – people will always be “treated unequally.”

    Our Lord will treat each man with perfect justice. But He will not – in the pertinent sense of modern equality – treat man equally (see Matt. 25:14-30)

    This post of Zippy’s really explains it.

  • T. Morris says:

    Pilgrim:

    and equality before the law.

    Is this not another way of expressing “no respecter of persons”, which comes to us from both Peter and Paul (separately)?…

    Pilgrim, you might find the following post and the discussion helpful.:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/equality-before-the-law-means-inequality-before-the-law/

  • fontesmustgo says:

    pilgrim:

    Is this not another way of expressing “no respecter of persons”, which comes to us from both Peter and Paul (separately)?

    I’m going to take a run at an explanation of why “equality” is a meaningless concept. I don’t think this has been explained in quite this way, but perhaps that’s because I’m missing something. Anyway, this is how I understand it:

    Who is required to stop their cars at red lights? On one hand we can say that “everyone” is, at least in the sense that red means “stop” irrespective of whether the driver is 18 or 81, man or woman, Turk or Armenian, Christian or Jew, rich or poor. In some sense, that looks like “equality.” But that’s not the whole story. We exempt from the requirement to stop drivers of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. We exempt drivers of cars in funeral processions and government motorcades. We might decide that if a car has a sudden mechanical failure, the driver will not be fined if he proceeds through the red light. So obviously not all people are treated equally.

    This is where you will want to accuse me of being cute: “People are treated equally by the red light laws on the basis of qualities that matter.” And I would agree with you that for the purposes of red light laws, whether the driver is obese or anorexic or Republican or Democrat is of no importance.

    Wherever we perceive two people as being different in a way that matters, we treat them differently. Whenever we perceive two people as being the same in a way that matters, we treat them the same. So saying that we’re in favor of “equality” doesn’t tell us anything, because everyone believes in that sort of equality. The only logical thing for any person to do is to treat all things that are the same as if they are the same. We treat all sevens as if they have the properties of sevens. We treat all sevens as if they have the properties that all odd numbers have.

    But how do you decide if a quality matters? Well, there’s the rub. You don’t worry for a moment about “equality.” You worry about what is right and what is wrong, and what accomplishes your goal and what does not. The goals of safety and efficiency that are achieved with traffic laws are not enhanced in any way by allowing polyglots to run the red lights that monolinguals must stop at. It makes sense to treat them equally. But as soon as we find a reason to stop treating them equally, they’re different in a way that matters, and we treat them differently.

  • pilgrim says:

    So if I get what Wood and T. Morris are saying: it is right and proper that the law treat two people “as equal” in the matters they should be treated as equal, and that the law treat the same two people “as unequal” in matters in which they should be treated as unequal. Because the law should be grounded in reality, this implies that the law should not treat the two as equal in respect to a quality or attribute or condition in which they are unequal. And, similarly, the law should treat them as equal in respect to a quality or attribute or condition in which they are equal. It all depends on the basis of which attribute on which the law is being applied.

    This is just like God, who operates by Eternal Law, which is both just and merciful. He justly treats those who, in a certain attribute, are equal, as if they were equal. And he justly treats those who, in a certain attribute, are unequal, as if they were unequal. Is not the first element of that fairly described under Peter’s “God is no respecter of persons”? And is it not also fairly described as “equality before the law” as shorthand, leaving implicit the modifier “with respect to those aspects in which they are equal”? Liberals may misuse the saying, but it originated well before them, as well as before Protestantism.

    Naturally, the disputes arise as to whether this or that condition matters to the law at hand. And errors with regard to that judgment are as old as law and government.

  • Wood says:

    pilgrim,

    Well, sort of. I think it’s important to remember that when discussing “equality” within the context of liberalism, it’s really actually liberty we are discussing. Because liberalism views the primary prerogative of politics as maximizing freedom, equality naturally (and “must”) follows given liberalism’s own commitments. Upon realizing the freedom/rights imperative to be a lie then equality literally becomes a question begging apologetic for liberalism. In other words, give up liberalism and “equality” looks as necessary as tattooes. A term deployed to make us all feel like shiny happy people. It’s the political version of modern Catholic “accompaniment.”

  • Bedarz Iliachi says:

    Zippy,
    When the question is what is this political freedom, the assertion, made without qualification, that “every act of authority necessarily and always discriminates and restricts freedom” is a non-sequitur.

    Is shooting dissidents in cellars “an act of authority” pertinent to your remarks?

  • Zippy says:

    Bedarz lliachi:

    … the assertion, made without qualification, that “every act of authority necessarily and always discriminates and restricts freedom” is a non-sequitur.

    Then it should be a simple matter for you to give an example of an act of authority which does not discriminate or restrict freedom.

  • Zippy says:

    pilgrim:

    If “equality before the law” just means that when authority acts it should take into consideration what it should and should ignore what it should ignore, then the principle is a tautology. Any time someone invokes the principle with respect to a particular case he is simply begging the question.

  • Bedarz Iliachi says:

    Zippy,
    The act of authority by which the dissidents openly discuss their dissidence.
    This act only restricts the State but frees all others.
    For what else is authority for but to enable people to be free to be what they should be.

    Is “political freedom” a subset of freedom or something else altogether.

  • Bedarz Iliachi says:

    pilgrim,
    It would be helpful to consider the actual historical cases where the equality before the law did not obtain. For instance, per-revolutionary France with privileges for nobility and clergy, or Tsarist Russia with its serfs, or Islamic states with disabilities for non-Muslims.

    Question is whether all these states of affairs are unjust.

  • pilgrim says:

    Any time someone invokes the principle with respect to a particular case he is simply begging the question.

    Were Peter and Paul, in saying God is no respecter of persons, making use of a tautology?

    If so, then sometimes it is worthwhile to make use of a tautology.

  • KevinD says:

    Bedarz Iliachi:

    >The act of authority by which the dissidents openly discuss their dissidence.

    That’s literally not an act, as in the State is not acting. If you’re claiming that “political freedom” means that the State is not allowed to act, then you’re just restating the ‘self-limiting authority’ contradiction that is central to liberalism.

  • Zippy says:

    Bedarz lliachi:

    The act of authority by which the dissidents openly discuss their dissidence.

    Lets stipulate for the sake of argument that this is an act of authority.

    This act only restricts the State but frees all others.

    So this particular act does in fact discriminate between people and restrict the freedom of some people. How, then, does that constitute a counterexample to the categorical observation that all acts of authority discriminate and restrict freedom?

    Relevant:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2018/03/03/how-liberalism-connotes-its-way-into-the-inmates-running-the-asylum/

  • Zippy says:

    pilgrim:

    The fact that all human beings, whether king or slave, are inconceivably inferior to God, is not a tautology.

    In any case, while you may not yourself have noticed that you are changing the subject away from the intrinsic and necessary nature of all acts of human authority, I have certainly noticed.

    This subject-changing is characteristic of right-liberal thought: whenever liberalism itself falls under criticism or scrutiny, change the subject or retreat to tautology/motte.

  • Zippy says:

    KevinD:

    That’s literally not an act, as in the State is not acting. If you’re claiming that “political freedom” means that the State is not allowed to act, then you’re just restating the ‘self-limiting authority’ contradiction that is central to liberalism.

    Lets suppose that Bedarz lliachi means that the dissidents have the “right” (authority) to say the particular things they want to say, where and when they want to say them, over the objections of those who object. In an actually controverted case those in authority would discriminate between the dissidents and the objectors, empowering the dissidents and restricting the freedom of objectors.

    Whatever else one may say about this scenario it remains incontrovertibly the case that any actual act of authority, in this scenario or any other, discriminates and restricts freedom.

    Relevant:

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/why-insisting-on-more-freedom-brings-about-more-tyranny/

  • pilgrim says:

    while you may not yourself have noticed that you are changing the subject away from the intrinsic and necessary nature of all acts of human authority, I have certainly noticed.

    I was not changing the subject. I was introducing a qualifier, in that in some sense it is true that “equal before the law” is part of the Christian message.

    In Romans, Paul tells us:

    <8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

    9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

    10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

    11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

    12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

    13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

    15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

    In Acts, we have Peter speaking the words:

    30And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. 33Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God.

    The Gentiles Hear the Good News

    34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

    God “is no respecter of persons” is used, in both places, to show that God does not distinguish between those who descended from Abraham from those who do not in determining whether they are righteous. To be “descended from Abraham” is not a basis for claiming “I am in favor with God”. God treats them as equal to that extent, by disregarding their parentage. Likewise, in both Jew and non-Jew, God looks to their behavior: all who “worketh righteousness” is accepted with him. They are held to the same standard, equal before the law of righteousness. Thus Peter is not merely saying that “God treats equal things as equal”, but he is making a positive non-tautological assertion about the application of the principle: with respect to being received into the Church, Jews and non-Jews are equal.

    And, there can be no doubt, Paul and (especially) Peter are telling the Christian community to emulate God in this way: to treat Jews and non-Jews alike – i.e. with equality – in the limited respect of being accepted as Christians. Thus being no respecter of persons, and treating as equal before the law of charity, is an obligation for men in following God’s lead.

    Since liberals use the expression in another sense, in which it is an error, then it is right to point out the error. But since there is, also, a legitimate and correct sense in which to use it, we should not speak as if the phrase is always used to say what liberals use it for, whether right-liberals or left-liberals.

    In no way have I been attempting to cast doubt on the (almost) tautological truth that law restricts some when it so-called “provides” freedom or liberty to others, or that the law, by restricting some treats them differently from the ones it does not so restrict.

  • Zippy says:

    pilgrim:

    Looks to me like you are jumping through a whole lotta interpretive hoops to justify the use of the phrase “equality before the law” – a liberal slogan notably absent from the (English translation of the) Scripture you quote.

    As has been pointed out many times before, it is not impossible to say true things using liberal slogans — simply because it is possible, as part of the nature of human language, to assign arbitrary labels to pretty much anything.

    But this doesn’t mean that any act of human authority whatsoever fails to discriminate and restrict freedom. So again, you may not notice that you are changing the subject. But in fact you are.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Further, God being ‘no respecter of persons’, even if the interpretation you grant it and the scope you grant it are correct (both of which are under contention), does not in any way imply or prove that human, positive law should do the same.

  • Scott W. says:

    “The discussions here might benefit from a Liberalism FAQ similar to the Usury FAQ”

    Seconded. Zippy, you can listen to your Iron Maiden albums after you’ve done your homework. 🙂

  • c matt says:

    [From the “equality before the law” linked thread]

    [The law] can only treat various controverted desires and choices justly or unjustly, by authoritatively discriminating either justly or unjustly.

    So equality before the law could mean discriminating justly – that is the law will discriminate in favor of the person who holds a valid deed to 123 Elm street properly first recorded as against all other claimants, be that first properly recorded valid deed holder Fred or someone else. That is my understanding of equality before the law. I don’t know if that makes me right liberal, but so be it.

  • Zippy says:

    Equality means discrimination: that is, it means treating people unequally.

    The phrase “equality before the law” sociopathically frames the question of how the law should discriminate as if it were a question of whether the law should discriminate.

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