Liberalism as a non-authority theory of authority

July 31, 2018 § 14 Comments

Liberalism treats the question of what authoritative discriminations in particular are just, as if it were a question of whether authoritative discrimination in general is just.

§ 14 Responses to Liberalism as a non-authority theory of authority

  • CJ says:

    Curious as to your thoughts on this statement from the president of Hungary.

    “The bait for this trap is hanging right in front of our noses: it is the claim that Christian democracy can also, in fact, be liberal. I suggest we stay calm and avoid being caught on that hook, because if we accept this argument, then the battle, the struggle we have fought so far will lose its meaning, and we will have toiled in vain. Let us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal.”

  • Zippy says:


    I don’t have any context so I can’t address the quote fairly. But totally out of context it looks like rationalizing hogwash. Illiberal democracy is like a chaste escort service: theoretically possible on paper I suppose, since governance structure and political theory are abstractly independent.

    But as a practical matter? Forget about it.

  • CJ says:

    Fair enough. If you’re interested, here’s the whole speech.

    I think your larger point is probably correct. In theory, a population that’s well formed regarding natural law, authority, etc. could vote on (or elect reps to vote on) prudential issues like whether criminal law or public health system is the best way to handle drug addiction or something.
    But as it stands, he’s still using language about rights to a mom and dad, rights to control immigration rather than what’s good true and beautiful.

  • donnie says:

    Zippy – If you have the time, I’d welcome your thoughts on this piece which deals with a number of the points regularly discussed here. The author is, as far as I am aware, the only mainstream figure who has realized what you’ve summarized above: that liberalism is in essence an “anti-political politics.”

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I hold out hopes, not for Orban, but for Orban’s successor. Or his successor’s successor, or etc. etc.

    He’s spouting hogwash, ’tis true. But the path from complete unreality into the light of Catholic social doctrine probably leads through hogwash.

    (I’m an optimist, I guess.)

  • TomD says:

    I suspect that liberalism with unprincipled exceptions for the true, good, and beautiful would be better than other liberalisms, but still be liberalism.

  • Zippy says:


    That sort of liberalism would be entirely superfluous and content free: the extreme end of the right-liberal motte.

    But people don’t like their cherished beliefs to be entirely superfluous and content-free; so the situation is intrinsically unstable. Liberalism has to be dropped entirely (because superfluous) or it starts to take on positive content.


  • Craig N says:

    Zippy of course proclaims repentance and full repudiation as the only solution to liberalism. On an individual level, that’s probably correct., even if the path to repentance is sometimes (always?) twisty and difficult.

    The individual level also has the advantage over the social of being actually possible to accomplish; by definition, it’s within the individual’s grasp. By comparison, trying to work out the best option for a society is a theoretical matter (which, therefore, one should be careful not to use as a distraction from what one can actually do).

    Since the theoretical question does interest me, though, I will ask: can Zippy or anyone else present an example of an actual historical society (could be smaller-scale than national, I guess) repudiating liberalism?

    The examples I’m most familiar with don’t work, e.g. France abandoned democracy a couple of times in the 19th century, but either it didn’t take (the Bourbon restoration), or it doesn’t actually look like an abandonment of liberalism (Third Empire).

  • Zippy says:

    One of the things at which modernity is exceptionally effective is distracting people from what they can actually accomplish with Big Fantasies about what they can’t. I do my best not to contribute materially to this delusion, which many folks seem to find frustrating.


  • T. Morris says:

    Liberalism is anti-authoritarianism, and anti-authoritarianism is the authoritative ideology that declares that the just powers of government derive from consent of the governed. Or something like that.

    As much as I still revere the wisdom of the founding fathers in certain ways, they sure dropped the ball on that one big time. It is easy to see how the governed (We The People) can be taken in by such a notion. Whatever powers the governed do not explicitly and formally consent to, these are unjust powers by virtue thereof. And vice versa. Except in cases where the SCOTUS has to step in and tell the people what powers, and what not, they tacitly consent to. In such cases it is authoritatively determined that they shall tacitly acquiesce until such time that they give their formal consent.

    It gets a little confusing trying to think through it at times!

  • […] [1] It takes a certain skill to effectively make ambiguous categorical assertions.  But that skill is required when the point is authoritative self-immolation of authority. […]

  • […] like – of their own coins.  Liberalism is thus ultimately a mechanism for people to beg the question in favor of their own preferred exercise of authoritative […]

  • […] This will not save you, nor will it save anything or anyone that you love, from utter destruction. Conservation of the things you love requires the unapologetic exercise of authority. Exercise of authority under liberalism is always sociopathic, carried out via unprincipled exceptions, because of the way liberalism frames the question of authority. […]

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