September 10, 2012 § 7 Comments
In the previous post we covered the fact that in the traditional teaching (citing the Catechism of Trent) the State’s power to inflict the death penalty derives from its mandate to protect the innocent, not from an independent mandate to dispense transcendental justice. Obviously death must not be inflicted unless it is a just punishment in a particular case; but that death is a just punishment is not sufficient in itself. The State is not God, and must not play God: its charter is to cultivate and protect the common good in the practical domain, not to immanentize the eschaton.
In fact, as Evangelium Vitae tells us, the justification for the State’s very existence as an authority is the protection of the innocent. That is why a State which enshrines abortion (or any other form of killing the innocent) as an explicit fundamental right undermines its own existence. If it fails to carry out its mandate to protect the innocent from murder the State is superfluous; if it undermines protection of the innocent from murder in its explicit laws the State chips away at its own foundations.
And this is precisely what liberalism does and has ever done: it chips away at the foundations of legitimate traditional political authority. By pedestalizing individual freedom and equality of rights as the transcendent foundation of legitimate politics – so-called ‘consent of the governed,’ with its concomitant rituals – liberalism attempts to abolish substantive politics, replacing it with procedures putatively designed to treat all substantive conceptions of the good equally. Unfortunately for liberalism it is the very nature and essence of governance to authoritatively discriminate, restricting freedoms to enforce some substantive conception of the good, discriminating against contrary conceptions of the good. By embracing equal rights and individual freedom as the primary justifications of the exercise of political power, liberalism sets up a contradiction between authority and its own legitimacy. “Liberal governance”, when taken seriously, is a contradiction in terms: authoritative discrimination resting on the premise that authoritative discrimination is illegitimate.
Across the spectrum of liberalism, from the less developed property-centric classical liberalism we call ‘conservatism’ to more consistent modern liberalism, discriminating authority resting on a substantive conception of the good, restricting the freedom of autonomous individuals, is considered the very essence of political tyranny. Opposition to the death penalty and to legal restrictions on abortion are thus both, to liberalism, opposition to tyranny. The most consistent liberal is always both an anarchist and a tyrant.