April 6, 2016 § 12 Comments
One of the interesting things about the intramural dynamic between left and right liberals is that it is sometimes the ‘conservatives’ or right-liberals who craft the newest, latest, most progressive innovations in the ways in which liberalism attacks and destroys the natural moral order. In order to stay respectable conservatives sometimes have to out-progress the progressives.
Back in the day the insanity defense provided a kind of compromise or unprincipled exception as a way of saving liberalism from itself. Liberalism requires public-square neutrality, so the liberal ruling class must prescind from making moral judgments. Disease is unlike moral failure inasmuch as moral agents are culpable for their moral failures but are not (necessarily) morally culpable for contracting a disease or having some sort of defect. Under the insanity defense heinous criminals could be defined as ‘sick’, thus avoiding making substantive moral judgments while at the same time still asserting a form of politically correct authority.
However, even this vestigial politically correct pseudoauthority is intolerable to mainstream pro-life conservatives or right-liberals when it comes to women who choose a particular kind of murder. Female emancipation means that when a woman chooses abortion she must face no consequences whatsoever.
February 4, 2016 § 33 Comments
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy famously wrote, in his opinion on Planned Parenthood vs Casey:
At the heart of [political] liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.
This statement is correct.
I have explained in many different ways how and why liberalism simultaneously
- Is rationally incoherent, and therefore logically implies everything and its opposite all at once; but in a way which is not immediately transparent.
- Affirms individuals in their expectations and exalts what individuals happen to desire or will over reality: cafeteria realism.
One of the interesting functions of the Supreme Court in the American political system is that it gives conservatives a strange attractor for hope and blame: a political sink to absorb their resentments, hopes, and fears while stopping short of repudiating liberalism. Authentic political freedom and republican democracy would work if only those tyrants in the Supreme Court would stop legislating from the bench. Certainly (goes the argument) it is unfair to blame democracy and liberalism – authentic classical liberalism – for the tyrannies of the Court.
The Supreme Court keeps everyone on the reservation by playing the roles of referee and tyrant. Part of the problem with populism is that sometimes people decide that liberalism isn’t what they really want: subsidiary authorities and electoral majorities will sometimes violate liberal principles if someone doesn’t keep the electorate and subordinate government bodies in line. So social conservatives end up simultaneously excoriating the Court and hoping to gain control of it, so that their truly authentic vision of freedom and equal rights can be achieved.
Meanwhile, even when the judges are appointed by conservatives – Anthony Kennedy was appointed by Ronald Reagan – those judges inevitably find (shocking, I know) that liberal principles imply substantively liberal outcomes for disputes in law.
When Kurt Gödel was applying for US citizenship he almost got his citizenship denied, because he would argue that theoretically the US could vote itself in a king or strongman dictator. His friend Albert Einstein calmed him down and reassured him that this theoretical possibility was not really a practical possibility: whatever the formal structures may theoretically allow, the United States was incorrigibly committed to freedom and equality as bedrock political principles.
I’ll just suggest that conservatives who think that liberal democracy could work out great, if only it weren’t for the tyrannical Supreme Court, are no Einsteins.
January 11, 2016 § 21 Comments
Jerry Seinfeld once wryly observed that in the context of constant team-swapping among individual players and city-swapping among teams, what we are really rooting for when we cheer for our favorite football team is the clothing worn by the players.
A similar superficiality is at work when right and left liberals cheer for their favorite teams and players in the bread-and-circuses of modern politics. In modern politics we can’t talk about anything that is actually important in its own right, on its own terms. In order to have political quiddity at all one must first doff his cap to the king and then light a pinch of incense to Caesar, to the incoherent and immortal doctrine of liberalism which rules over us. To the extent anything important can penetrate the discussion at all it must first be framed in liberal terms. The good, the true, and the beautiful are fine as long as they are packaged, shelved and inventoried for modern man to choose or not choose as he sees fit.
Because liberalism is incoherent the playoffs, I mean elections, and the political circus more generally, become all about lists of preferences: aggregations of long lists of policies, tied together by nothing more than their appeal to different market segments.
That is how most of you, dear readers, will get pulled into the dreary spectacle, become convinced to doff your own caps and, however reluctantly, light your pinches of incense. I am sure the ruling class has got something in the big basket of preferences which is targeted to appeal to you.
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.
November 23, 2015 § 35 Comments
The current incarnation of right liberalism always has a different policy agenda, in the sense of favoring different tactics and metrics, than the current incarnation of left liberalism. But they have always and still do agree when it comes to their basic view of what politics is about and what justifies the exercise of political authority. Indeed that is precisely why the left (new) generation of liberalism always turns on the right (older) generation of liberalism.
(What takes the whole thing through the looking glass is that the principles upon which all liberals agree – that the primary purpose and justification of politics is to secure freedom and 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).
The nature of the liberal insect hivemind is such that the offspring always devour the parents. Then the offspring become surprised after time passes, when they find themselves old and surrounded by larvae with knives.
So there really isn’t a stable ‘right liberalism’ and a stable ‘left liberalism’, let alone a categorically different ‘liberalism’ and ‘leftism’. There is a current ascendant liberalism, its immediate predecessor, and then prior generations before that. It is a mistake to view the little wasp nest we saw in 1776 or 1789 as something different from the monstrous hive we see today.
And even this generational model projects a discreteness onto what is really a continuous process. The march leftward takes place inside individual persons as time goes on, as they find themselves disgusted with the intolerant earlier versions of themselves and try to scrub away the despicable remnants of their own origins. Out, vile spot!
The exceptions are sociopaths.
November 19, 2015 § 25 Comments
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I’m no poet
But I’ll inflict this on you.
They confuse us about usury
by treating a personal guarantee
as if it were their property
and charging us a rental fee
now this is modern slavery
which rests on unreality
that banks turn into currency
for paying your transaction fee
Those Vogons have got nothing on me. I blame this on Bonald.
October 24, 2015 § 70 Comments
The modern temptation to view ourselves as uniquely ever-so-special in the history of Christianity is something ordinarily (and appropriately) associated with progressives. But it is a temptation into which many modern-day traditionalists also fall: before Vatican II things were going pretty well, it is thought or implied; but now progressives are triumphantly vandalizing the Faith.
I hate to say it, but today’s sour-faced traditionalist Catholic typically does not have an adequate grasp of the facts, and as a result is entirely too optimistic. I often find that my comments in traditionalist forums, in which I explain the parallels between progressive ‘pastoral solutions’ with respect to usury and currently proposed ‘pastoral solutions’ with respect to adultery and sodomy, flounder in the moderation queue.
I don’t really mind. These forums are welcome to publish what they want to publish and reject what they do not want published, just as I do here. And some writers, to their great credit in my view, are willing to engage the possibility that formally-not-heretical but pastorally-deliberately-amnesiac progressive triumph in the Church, often putatively justified by appeals to ‘mercy’, predates Vatican II by centuries.
But I suspect that the reason why many traditionalist forums do not seem to want to engage the nuts and bolts of usury, and in particular the now centuries-old progressively ‘pastoral’ deliberately-amnesiac magisterially-endorsed ‘triumph’ with respect to usury, is because it demonstrates that we are not really all that special. We’ve seen all of this before — and lost, with core moral doctrines of the Church not formally denied but nonetheless flushed down the memory hole.
September 28, 2015 § 84 Comments
Unprincipled exceptions to liberalism usually have to be expressed in sciency-sounding language in order for modern people not to immediately reject them by default. That’s why the term “human biodiversity” is used these days to refer to racial differences, rather than using the term “racial differences” to refer to racial differences. The sciency-soundingness of the former carries the right materialist metaphysical baggage necessary to get past the reflexive rejection by the modern mind of anything which appears to contradict liberalism. Sciency-sounding stuff is cool and hipster, so it might actually get read on the iPad at Starbucks.
The “Overton window” is a sciency-sounding way of referring to the obvious fact that, contrary to liberalism’s false conceits about itself, every society (whether healthy or unhealthy) is authoritarian and has its taboos and heresies. There are certain things which are open for respectable and respectful discussion under the conventions of a given society, and there are many things which are not. This is always the case.
Socially acceptable ideas about what is legitimately in contention are “inside” the Overton window; taboos and heresies are “outside” of the Overton window. For example in our society, mass-murdering unborn children and cannibalizing their body parts for profit in the name of science is inside the Overton window. The suggestion that possibly the female franchise is something other than an unmitigated good is outside of the Overton window.
In a thread at The Social Pathologist commenter Asher suggests:
The bottom line is that if you want to break the Overton Window you’re going to have to deal with the reality that everything will be on the table.
This idea of “breaking” the Overton window is malformed. It isn’t even wrong, as the saying goes, because it rests on an impossible premise: that the Overton window is the sort of thing which it is possible to “break.” But it isn’t possible for everything to be on the table, even in principle, let alone in practice. If everything must be on the table then one of the things that must be off the table is the view that not everything should be on the table.
So trying to “break” the Overton window is fundamentally irrational. The Overton window isn’t the sort of thing which can be “broken”. It can only be shifted to be more or less aligned with the good, the true, and the beautiful. And just because some particular person or group opposes the current configuration of the Overton window, it does not follow that that person or group is advocating better aligning it with the good, the true, and the beautiful.
With apologies to The Who, “meet the new sociopaths; same as the old sociopaths.”
August 18, 2014 § 14 Comments
One of the common postmodern hipster poses you will see around the blogosphere is the idea that because liberalism is triumphant, the traditionalists who warned us about liberalism and its consequences were ineffectual and wrong. For example the traditional natural law understanding of sexuality must be repressed and wrong, because if it were right then the sexual revolution would not have happened. The fact that society didn’t heed the warnings points to a flaw in the folks who were sounding the warning, not a flaw in society.
Be sure to remember that the next time you are thinking about throwing yourself off a cliff. If the people who were warning about that gravity thing knew what they were talking about, nobody would ever throw themselves off of cliffs. The majority is always right, and the god Evolution assures us that whatever actually happens is fittest.
March 17, 2014 § 42 Comments
61. However, they should take care lest the calamitous state of their external affairs should be the occasion for a much more calamitous error. No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. “Let no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you.” — Pope Pius XI, Castii Connubii
There is lots of hubbub these days about making a possible “pastoral exception” that endorses divorced and “remarried” Catholic couples persisting in their adulterous relationships but still receiving communion. (Other Catholics who persist in adultery will presumably be left out of the pastoral exception).
I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome of the Extraordinary Synod itself or the Pope’s actions afterwards. The Pontifical Commission on Birth Control recommended material heresy, but the end result was the affirmation of orthodoxy in the form of Humanae Vitae. That kind of thing could happen again; or something else entirely unexpected.
But there isn’t anything inherently impossible about the Church doing something phenomenally unloving and harmful in its pastoral practice and discipline. Further undermining our public understanding of marriage would be incredibly cruel and vicious, especially toward people in very difficult situations who struggle daily to do the right thing. Giving people an “easy way out” toward sacrilege and self-destruction is not merciful. It is the opposite of mercy: it is a way of patting ourselves on the back about how wonderful we are as we march God’s children into the pits of Hell.
 Receiving communion, for those who do not know, is on the “honor system”. Nobody is going to check paperwork and make sure that everyone in the line is receiving properly. So this is about what the Church officially approves and endorses as practice, not about relaxing the current tight security of the Communion line.