The State Cannot Teach Men Virtue
A reader with the somewhat calculating name (perhaps expressing when the number of distinct single-digit numbers in a counting system equals the change in time of nothing, or perhaps expressing a Naval station at the mouth of a river containing many marshy streams [but see footnote]) of Base Delta Zero, writes in and asks:
Leaving aside the fact that the American Republican Party just went all-out to turn back the clock to the 1880s, isn’t that pretty much the definition of a conservative? A conservative, by definition, is someone who works to maintain (or ‘conserve’) the existing order.
I have two comments. First, let me mention the definition here, so that no one is mislead by typical linguistic distractions.
The Progressives want to change the world.
Some (the soft sell) just want to change the world peacefully and incrementally to promote what they call greater social justice, by which they mean total control of all aspects of life by the state, that is, totalitarianism.
Others (the hard sell) want to change it violently and suddenly to usher in socialist utopia, that is, totalitarianism.
The basic difference is that the soft sells would let you keep private property in name only, provided you used to as the state directs, whereas the hard sells would expropriate your property.
Both agree that the world is a ruthless Darwinian competition between oppressors and the oppressed, and one must side with the oppressed, no matter the merits of the case.
The hard sells identify the oppressed as the workingman, and the oppressor as Rich Uncle Pennybags from the Monopoly Game.
The soft sells identify the oppressed as a random collection of mascots (women, youths, certain sexual perverts but not others, Blacks, illegal aliens, Muslims, American Indians) and the oppressors as White Christian Males. Irish Catholics and Jews used to be members of the oppressed mascots, but now are oppressors. Orientals are oppressed except when they want to study hard and go to college, in which case they are oppressors. Or something like that.
So in the Progressive worldview, historical forces are always moving society in the direction of totalitarianism, that is, social justice, and anyone who opposes the forces of history is called a ‘reactionary’ or a ‘conservative’, that is, someone who wants the status quo of today maintained, or a return to the conditions of yesterday.
The implication is that there is no rational reason to prefer the past to the present, merely an inertia, or timidity, lack of imagination, or a desire of the evil exploiters to maintain the current injustices of the world for their own benefit, or a foolishness on the part of the exploited not to see their own degradation.
You see how flattering this conception is to the Progressive.
Not only is history and evolution on his side, but the opposition need no be engaged in debate, nor persuaded, nor need the details of the blueprint for utopia be discussed. Because if the causes for opposing Progressivism as always illegitimate (as in inertia, timidity, stupidity, greed, folly) the ideas used to defend those causes are always propaganda, insincere, and beyond the pale of right thinking persons. This is the Ad Hominem core of Progressive thought: it is an emotional reaction, not a rational action, merely to flatter oneself by denigrating one’s betters. Call it self esteem.
This also allows the Progressive, who is always eventually falls into the trap of mental laziness even if at first his mind is active, the lazy and sloppy habit of being able to lump all his opposition into one group. A monarchist living under an established Church, for example, in Europe can be called ‘Rightwing’ or ‘Conservative’ because he opposes disestablishment or extending the franchise to the working class; but then again National Socialists of Germany (Nazis) are ‘Rightwing’ and ‘Conservative’ because they oppose the Communist dream of one world government and abolition of private property; and Italian Fascists are ‘Rightwing’ and ‘Conservative’ because they oppose their twin brother totalitarians; and republicans who believe in the right to bear arms and freedom of speech and the equality of man are ‘Rightwing’ and ‘Conservative’ even when they are agitating for radical change, because they question the wisdom of the Utopian blueprint on the grounds that there is no blueprint, totalitarianism sucks, and man is meant for happier things.
The whole purpose of this linguistic rigmarole, the reason for the convoluted verbal balancing act as absurd as seeing a hippopotamus balancing on one toe, is to allow the mentally lazy Progressives to slander their opponents by calling the GOP ‘Nazis.’
Either because of stupidity, or because we cannot make a better terminology stick, the so-called Rightwing in America calls ourselves ‘Conservative’ but we do not use this ad hominem, lazy self-flattering definition for the term.
A conservative is defined as someone who believes in those timeless principles on which the republic was founded: limited government hindered by checks and balances, separation of powers, the rights of man, freedom of speech, press, religion, and the right to bear arms, and of the free market, as well as notions of virtue, decency and honor.
We believe in this principle because of the nature of man and the nature of reality, which does not change any more than the laws of mathematics change. There is no improving on man, and no cure for the human condition, not before the Last Judgment.
We seek to conserve where those principles are in effect, and to change where they are not in effect, and in places where they have never been known, we seek radical and sudden change, and, if need be, violent rebellion.
Where those principles were once known and have been frittered away or sold for a mess of pottage and false promises, we want them back. Any movement toward those principles is progress, and any movement back to the pre-Stone-Age socioeconomic theories of the Left, i.e. word-voodoo totalitarian tribalism, is regress.
So call those principles whatever you will, but whether we want things changed or things to stay the same depends on how closely law and custom adheres to the eternal truths that we hold to be self evident.
In America, the so called Progressive stands in the 1880’s. He is fascinated, or mesmerized, by Marxist notions which were out of date before Marx even took pen to paper (I do not exaggerate. The economic errors in his theories had all been explored by previous writers and exploded.)
The soft sell Progressive has an updated version of the 1880’s to include cultural Marxist ideals, i.e. Political Correctness, based on the failure of Marxist theory after World War One to establish one world government or proletarian revolution in the advanced Western nations.
The cultural Marxist continues to see the world as a Darwian war to the death between oppressors and oppressed, but does not seek violent overthrow of investors and the genocide of Jews. Instead, he seeks to change the thinking, the language, and the culture, so that the West will hate itself to the point where we will stand by in moral confusion and self-condemnation while the Muslims commit genocide on the Jews.
So the Progressive is roughly fifty years behind the times when it comes to the Sexual Revolution and the Drug Culture, and he is eager to join the struggle with his Black Brethren to overthrow the Jim Crow laws and fight the KKK. The Progressive does this by supporting the party who voted in Jim Crow and formed the KKK, namely, the Democrats, and by opposing the NRA, who armed the Blacks against the Democrat KKK, and by opposing the Republicans, who both freed the Blacks and voting in the Civil Rights Act.
Compared to a man who speaks eternal truth, the man who is always chasing the latest fashion to reach the utopia of tomorrow is the one always behind the times. Some Progressives are more modern, and a seek a type of collective existence that has the social aspects of Marxism without the poverty and violence. They live circa 1968.
I am not sure if there is a name for the informal logical error being made here by the Progressive. Perhaps Argumentum ad novitatem? It is the idea that the latest and newest thing must be true.
In this case, the Progressive ideas are not new. I’ve been hearing them since before the Moonshot, myself.
They date from roughly time of Plato, or the time of Lycurgus. Aristotle refuted them, at least to my satisfaction. The state cannot teach men virtue.
My second comment is this: Base Delta Zero says “…Republican Party just went all-out to turn back the clock to the 1880s….” I assume this refers to the recent national election, and I assume this comment was meant honestly, that is, with the intent of referring to some objective subject matter, and not merely as a rhetorical flourish.
Either Mr Zero is from a parallel universe, or he read or saw parts of this recent campaign entirely hidden from me. The campaign I saw did not have any policy discussions about changing the laws, or any any law or regulation, back to the way it was in the 1880’s. I would have been, depending on the law being discussed, much more interested, even enthused, about the campaign had there been.
Indeed, I do not recall any discussion of policy at all. My recollection is that one side argued, in a nutshell, that the government should lower taxes and create jobs for the Middle Class. The other side argued that the government should raise taxes on the evil vampire-rich and create jobs for the Middle Class. Then this same side argued that Mitt Romney was evil because he was white and rich and not one of us, that he gave cancer to a factory hand’s wife, that he did not pay taxes, that he killed Big Bird, and that voting for Barack Obama was the same as having sex.
I believe the opposition of the Catholic Church for having heathens force us to pay for abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptions so your sluts could commit fornication and abominations and baby-murder was called ‘the war on women’ — as if our mere nominal refusal to spend our hard earned money so that you could indulging in sins leading to damnation without having to spend your own damned money was the same as an act of war.
I could make myself mildly queasy merely by reciting the public policy issues I wish had been discussed, in this, the most frivolous and insubstantial campaign in living memory, at a time when the election issues where more important than any since the Civil War, the very existence of the republic hanging the balance.
Instead I will merely post a general challenge to any reader who cares to answer: Name one policy, law, or regulation that was discussed by both sides during this election, a single one, which advocated the return to a law, rule or regulation substantially the same as its equivalent law in the 1880’s. Name one.
I am not counting mere airy accusations by one side or the other that the thinking of the other side is backward. I mean, quote me a quote, one from each side, showing that each candidate or his campaign or his party addressed an issue to change a current law to the law as it stood in 1880.
Perhaps it was discussed and I did not hear it. Quote me the quote. Show me.
To aid in your memory, dear readers, allow me to remind you what the election of 1880 was about: Both major parties tip-toed around the currency issue, avoided civil service reform, supported immigration restriction and hefty pensions for Civil War veterans. Only on the tariff question did they differ; the Republicans supported high protective duties and the Democrats a tariff for revenue only. The major issue of the day was the end of Reconstruction.
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FOOTNOTE: I sadly must hung up my Geek Credentials. As it turns out, Base Delta Zero is from STAR WARS. It is an Imperial Star Destroyer code for a Star Destroyer to slag 100% of the surface of a planet and render it sterile and uninhabitable. It is an apt name for a radical Leftist, since this is their approach to civilization.