March 3, 2018 § 96 Comments
The political term “right” (also sometimes “liberty”), used as a noun, refers to some particular discriminating authority: to the legitimate empowerment of some specific claim as superior to competing claims. Thus a property right elevates particular claims of the owner over the claims of non-owners, discriminating in the owner’s favor when those particular claims come into conflict. To have a right is to have an authoritative claim superior to competing claims in some controvertible case.
There are many ways to understand political liberalism; this blog contains a veritable catalogue of ways to do so. That there are many ways to approach an understanding of political liberalism is sometimes criticized by positivists on the grounds that not all liberal critics use precisely the same definition. This is of course an empty criticism: there are many ways to come at an understanding of rabbits, but it doesn’t follow that people who come at their understanding of rabbits through different approaches are not all referring to the same thing, that is, rabbits. Some approaches to understanding may be clarifying and others may obscure. But at the end of the day a definition is just a definition, a way of making reference to a thing: a definition is not itself the thing which it attempts to define.
Another approach to understanding liberalism is through its insistence on using the terms “right” and “liberty” for its own claims (that is, the claims of a particular faction of liberalism), while using “authority” or “authoritarian” for claims which it opposes. The underlying reason for this is that liberalism uses connotation to subvert and invert the hierarchy of authority. “Right” or “liberty” simply denotes a particular discriminating authority; but these terms connote the authority of someone lower in the hierarchy of subsidiarity. A king has sovereign authority; vassals have their rights and liberties.
Under liberalism the term “authority” has a negative connotation; the terms “right” and “liberty” have positive connotations. So the good kind of authority under liberalism is authority that inferiors have over superiors.
December 7, 2016 § 166 Comments
Liberalism is first and foremost a political doctrine: an (incoherent) view about legitimate exercise of authority. It is true that once empowered liberalism cannot be contained and ‘leaks’ into everything else. But characterizing liberalism as a grand overall religious or anti-religious worldview, rather than as a specifically political doctrine, is a mistake: a mistake easily rejected by liberals as a caricature which creates a motte and bailey social structure from which escape becomes impossible.
In order to resist our enemy you have to understand him; and if liberalism is not understood as primarily a political doctrine – a political doctrine which by its nature cannot be contained or kept as subordinate by any amount of virtue, moderation, or good intentions – it cannot be adequately resisted.
Almost every conservative or reactionary travels down the same old path, which invariably seduces him into right liberalism. The infinitesimal number of exceptions merely prove the rule: we are all liberals, and the all encompassing gravity well of liberalism will comprehensively dominate human existence until enough people reject it unequivocally.
Liberalism is ‘more than political’ only in a similar sense to which AIDS is more than a virus. By defining liberal commitments as more grandiose and religious than they are in fact, as something greater or more transcendent than specifically political commitments, we can avoid unequivocally rejecting freedom and equality as political principles (principles of authority in action). This gives liberalism a ‘motte’ into which to retreat whenever its own excesses would otherwise lead to self destruction.
Liberalism always starts as specifically political commitments, just as AIDS always starts out as a tiny invisible virus. We can rage against the snot running down the nose of the AIDS patient all we want; but if we hope to actually prevent AIDS we have to adequately grasp what causes it in the first place. Only then can we begin to know what to do about it.
December 17, 2015 § 11 Comments
The more natural explanation is that liberalism is right there in front of your nose: it is the rose-tinted glasses that you wear and most of the time you look through and not at it; ie. the mindset which is the individual’s variation of the worldview.
The image of glasses is useful because it highlights that people see much of the world through liberalism. Their perception of the world is shaped by liberalism, while they fail to see liberalism itself. I think Dalrock has used the eyeglass image as an alternative to the popular “red pill” metaphor.
But it has two weaknesses, ways in which it obscures the overall picture rather than illuminating it.
The first is that it obscures the way liberalism functions as the default attitude toward authority. Most ordinary people do not see the entire world of authority through liberal glasses. In the areas they care about they will adopt illiberal views, a.k.a. unprincipled exceptions. I talked about the example of “patriarchy lite” – that is, liberalism for men but not for women – here. But in the far more numerous areas in which a person is not well informed or passionate he will adopt a default liberal position on the exercise of authority. In this sense a liberal republic is basically the same as monarchy, with subjects petitioning the sovereign through the formal process of voting. The main difference is that subjects of a liberal republic are governed by a sociopathic ruling class, which governs while pretending not to govern, under an immortal pack of lies which never dies; whereas in a monarchy the people who hold authority can be personally identified and live the life span of human beings.
The second is that while the glasses metaphor is helpful in the ‘ordinary case’ it is hard to imagine eyeglasses going through the kind of phase change that liberalism goes through when it is challenged on a principled basis, or encounters something in reality which challenges it on a principled basis (witness the recent transformation of JC Wright from reasonable, devout, good-hearted, intelligent, erudite human being into an insult-flinging mouth-frothing SJW when the subject of monarchy was broached as an actually serious subject for discussion). It is hard to picture eyeglasses becoming suddenly and terrifyingly visible right as they start to rip out your entrails.
December 11, 2015 § 98 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 2, 2015 § 25 Comments
Political freedom/autonomy and equality are two modes of the same idea. You can’t have one without the other, and embracing one necessarily implies embracing the other, just as picking up a coin entails picking up both sides of the coin even if you happen to be looking at Heads.
There is no essential difference between liberalism and leftism: they are different baskets of unprincipled exceptions overlaid on top of the same basic commitment to the political philosophy I call liberalism.
Failure to recognize this keeps ‘conservatives’ locked in the mind trap. They naturally, as conservatives, feel loyalty to their ancestors and the thoughts of their ancestors — who happen to be classical liberals. And because conservatism entails a certain acceptance of how things are without thinking them all the way through, conservatives never accept that their revered classical liberal ancestors and the hated leftists/progressives just are the same sort of thing.
As a result, the function of conservatism in society is to preserve and protect liberalism from its own excesses. Conservatives are the abused enablers of progressives and always will be, mopping up the vomit and excrement after the drunken binges to make sure that they can continue.
The only way to put an end to the self abuse is to fully realize and accept the truth: that liberalism and leftism just are the same thing. The conservative disposition, with its built-in tendency to accept things as they are and not think them through to the point of critical insanity, screams against this.
But there are times when it is necessary to peel back some more layers and figure out what is really happening: to understand when certain things are built on a lie and not just accept them as given. There are times when the only option is a sociopathic option.
And if there has ever been such a time, that time is now. When society has gone insane, the place to find sanity is outside the padded walls.
November 30, 2015 § 11 Comments
The liberal narrative is that the white race is the traditional reactionary authoritarian anti-liberal oppressor-untermensch, standing in the way of the emergence of the free and equal new man, a new man emancipated from the tyrannical political chains of unfair history and arbitrary nature.
This is almost exactly the opposite of the truth. The actual reality is that white flesh encloses vastly more militantly tolerant political liberalism than all other races of flesh combined. Other races make great cultural, economic, and actual cannon fodder for white liberals. But the white race just is, congenitally as a matter of physical descent as well as cultural allegiance, the homogenized European melting pot descendants of liberals from disparate European ethnicities.
As the saying goes, guns don’t kill people: people kill people. Immigration (or pick your own favorite area of suicidal liberal policy insanity) doesn’t kill white liberal societies of generically European descent. White liberal societies of generically European descent kill white liberal societies of generically European descent.
That is part of what makes “white supremacy” so ironic: the white race already rules supreme; and its ruling philosophy is liberalism.
November 3, 2015 § 25 Comments
Liberalism can be understood as an ultimately self-contradictory attempt to escape from the messiness of natural human authority; human authority which configures itself in a disorganized, organic, patriarchal cluster of hierarchies. Human beings do often tend to abuse authority when they have it, so moderns are always looking for some way to practice politics by abolishing it: to replace humanity with technical machinery so that babies will be raised as equals free to make their own choices in the loving arms of standard bureaucratic procedures, and the right set of paper documents with just the right clauses written on them will ensure that nobody will be able to lord it over anyone else. Intolerance cannot be tolerated, society must be forced to be free, and no mere human being can be permitted to interfere with the Great Emancipation.
This ends up concentrating power into a monolithic monstrosity responsible for making sure that everyone gets with the program of rejecting authority, imprisoning the human beings who live under liberalism into tiny private cells in the hive where they are forced, good and hard, to be free and equal like everyone else. Those who cannot or will not conform and accept their imprisonment in free and equal cells along with the other emancipated supermen – those who for historical or natural reasons represent the traditional less-than-human oppressor, the Low Man – these Low Men, because they cannot or will not get with the program and accept their fate as superman-snowflakes in tiny cells along with all the other diverse individuals in our free society, tattooed with the signs and symbols of unique specialness along with everyone else – are considered less than human. Ultimately the only solution to the problem they represent is a Final Solution.
I’ve noted before that the modern project is fueled by a relentless drive to deny and avoid messy fallible human authority. Positivism attempts to do this in the domain of epistemology. Nominalism attempts to do this in the domain of language. Liberalism attempts to do this in the domain of politics. Protestantism attempts to do this in the domain of religion. Feminism attempts to do this in the domain of sex and the family. Scientism attempts to do this in the domain of ontology. Utilitarianism attempts to do this in the domain of deontology.
And the drive for ‘hard currencies‘ – for economic value which can be controlled by private individuals and groups on a massive scale divorced from the authority of sovereign governments and the economies which they oversee – attempts to do this in the domain of economics. As with all of these modernist initiatives, this cannot be ‘accomplished’ without being very careful to avoid seeing the whole picture. As we saw in the neoreactionary discussion of exit versus voice, the substantive difference between the proposal of ‘exit over voice’ and our current actual situation was to install an emperor who would be put in charge of everything, to make sure everyone got with the program of making ‘exit’ available and to create artisan polities from which the exiting superman could choose in a “free market.” And in the case of ‘hard currency’ the proposal is to put an Escrow Emperor in charge of economic wealth, so that he can ensure, good and hard, that all parties in the marketplace have equal economic rights which cannot be violated by the decisions of those awful sovereign governments. As usual, the proposal to undermine the monolithic power of government requires increasing the monolithic power of government. The cure for the disease is a more concentrated and monolithic form of the disease than we already have.
But I am sure that the Great Escrow Emperor in charge of the Big Dragon Hoard won’t actually be a human being subject to human foibles, this time. Those clauses on the papers in the filing cabinet, granting rights to the Big Dragon Hoard, will finally free us from the messiness of human authority.
August 5, 2014 § 6 Comments
Universals, categories, essences, etc are built into reality. Because Christianity is true it has, like truth in general, both a universal character and a particular character. A world view that rejects universalism is a world view that rejects reality and rationality.
Freedom – which liberalism incoherently attempts to make into a political priority – is a state of affairs wherein a subject is capable of actually choosing what he wishes to choose. Because freedom in itself cannot discriminate between good intentions and evil intentions, making freedom a political priority within any scope implies equality of rights within that scope. And since scope itself is a restriction on freedom, freedom as a political priority inherently pushes any boundaries that folks attempt to put around it.
So the only universal that liberalism allows to manifest itself is equality of rights: equal freedom. It therefore distorts the universal dignity of being human as such into something inhuman and destructive.
It is a basic mistake to see this as something that arises from Christianity in particular. Quite the contrary: liberalism is an incoherent abuse of universality as a means to the end of rejecting the authority of the truth, and specifically the authority of the particular truths found either exclusively or in their fullest expression in Catholic Christianity.
June 1, 2014 § 48 Comments
A while back a commenter asked me what I thought of the “Exit or Voice” discussion in the reactosphere. I responded as if the question were about what we human beings actually ought to do. But recently I stumbled on a statement of the “Exit or Voice” idea somewhere that made me realize that it was a technocratic discussion about designing civilizations. Folks are free to correct or clarify my understanding if I’ve got the ideas wrong.
“Exit or Voice” is supposed to be an alternative civilization design criteria to “Freedom or Equality”. This misunderstands the nature of liberalism from the get-go, since there are no free societies and equal rights is a self contradictory concept. So there is no “Freedom vs Equality” trade off to begin with as something distinct from a discriminatory, authoritative understanding of the good.
But granting that “Freedom or Equality” is incoherent, “Exit or Voice” should be examined on its own terms.
The idea here seems to be that there are two possible kinds of mechanisms available to make sure that modern people are equally free to get what they want. One mechanism is “Voice”, and democracy is an instantiation of this kind of mechanism. The other mechanism, “Exit”, involves ensuring that there is a free market of diverse polities so that folks are all equally free to “vote with their feet”. The only large-scale government allowed will have the sole purpose of ensuring the superman this universal equal freedom to choose the kind of society he wants to live in from the free market of available societies.
Setting aside the ludicrous positivism involved in thinking that civilizations are the kind of thing that can be designed, this is obviously just a call for a newer, better, more innovative and open-minded “tame” liberalism.
November 18, 2013 § 88 Comments
Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is a primary legitimate purpose of government.
A liberal is a person who has a significant degree of commitment to this doctrine.
The liberal’s commitment may be derived from pragmatic considerations, or it may be ideologically derived from the preliminary doctrine that the just powers of government derive from the consent of the governed. But whatever the source of commitment, a person who is committed to the doctrine of liberalism is a liberal.
A liberal doesn’t have to believe that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the only legitimate purpose of government: he just has to see it as a primary legitimate purpose.
The notion that liberals aren’t genuinely committed to individual freedom and equal rights is false. They are. But the notion that they aren’t leaves the door open for other kinds of liberals to claim that their own conception of liberalism (which they may or may not label “liberalism”) is the authentic conception. Thus the fracturing of modern politics into different factions of liberalism: in the United States the two main factions are the right liberals (represented by the Republican party) and the left liberals (represented by the Democratic party). Despite the apparent division, all respectable political opinion inside the Overton window – and indeed much political opinion outside of it – is liberal opinion.
But who, then, are the authentic representatives of liberal doctrine? In fact there is no authentic conception of liberalism, because liberalism is incoherent. An authentic conception of liberalism does not exist: it is impossible in principle. Government by its very essence is a discriminating authority which initiates force to support a particular conception of the good. That’s what government is. A concept of government with the primary purpose of preventing authoritative discrimination is therefore self-contradictory.
A right is a specific discriminating authority possessed by an individual; for example a property right discriminates between the owner and the trespasser, treating the former’s claims as authoritative over the latter’s claims. The doctrine of equal rights requires that rights be distributed without discrimination: it requires that in the distribution of discriminating authorities (rights) there shall be no discrimination and no authority (equality).
Intuitively one might think that this internal incoherence would make liberalism non-viable as a political doctrine, but in fact the opposite is the case. When the doctrine one embraces is self-contradictory in a way that is (perhaps) not obvious, it is possible to derive all sorts of conclusions – even conclusions which are in conflict with each other – from that doctrine. In practice this makes the doctrine very ‘flexible’, and creates a subtle (or not so subtle) shift of frame. The frameshift makes considerations of what is true turn blurry, and makes what individuals will come sharply into focus as paramount.
So when liberals tell you that they are “pro choice” in an undistilled abstract sense independent of the actual content of those choices, they are telling the truth. The reason that each faction of liberalism in practice treats some choices as legitimate and some as illegitimate – with different understandings depending on the faction, setting up the intramural conflicts between different sorts of liberals which dominate modern politics – arises from the fact that in order to govern at all it is necessary to discriminate authoritatively. Thus the implicit corollary doctrine of the superman which inevitably appears in every form of liberalism as its self-contradictory substrate encounters particular realities.
Update 11/19/2013: tweaked the definition slightly, added the bit about other purposes of government, and made a few other tweaks.