On Politics Part Six — Barbarism, Inequality, Tyranny
Here we venture into an area where the philosopher can no longer rely merely on observations of patently obvious natural truths. In discussing the different opinions about the directions and degrees of danger, we enter into judgments where reasonable men can differ, and a perfect rigor of logic is not possible. It is possible, without any self-contradiction, for example, to regard the danger to peace and good order created by sedition to be paramount above the danger from the sovereign infringing on the freedom of speech; and likewise, it is possible, without any self contradiction, to regard the danger to the public weal caused by manufacturers fraudulently introducing defective and dangerous goods into the stream of commerce to be paramount above the legal necessity of proving negligence before tortuous or criminal liability attaches. These are not questions mere logic can solve. These are judgment calls, which depend on a nicety of discrimination, sober prudence, and a sense of proportion rightly to decide.
The central paradox of politics is discovering how to win the maximum benefit from civilization while minimizing the discontents. Political theory concerning specific forms and policies of government will differ primarily over a difference in judgment about the discontents of civilization.
On a national level, difference of political theory will differ as different opinions read the character and history of a people differently or the character of the era in which they live. On a universal level, difference of political theory will differ as different opinions read the character of man differently.
At the current time, among the nation in which I live, there are three distinct political theories in competition for the minds and souls of the next generation.
Each theory is based on a distinct view of the character of the nation and of mankind; each theory identifies a different discontent with civilization in general or our current laws and customs in particular. That is, the reason why there are three theories is because there are three general opinions as to the main danger facing mankind in general and the nation in particular.
Those who value civilization are called conservatives. For them the enemy is barbarism.
Those who value equality are called liberals. For them the enemy is exploitation, that is, the abuse of the free market by the rich or by the many to oppress the poor or the few.
Those who value liberty are called libertarians. For them the enemy is slavery, that is, the abuse of the authority of the sovereign to oppress the citizen.
The conservative view is that Man is fallen and sinful. Hence, the conservative expect that all men are equally prone to corruption and self-serving, and that no one can be trusted with untrammeled power. Their view is that each man is primarily responsible himself for his own life: hence, ironically, conservatives tend to trust voluntary mass cooperative efforts, and organically organized collectives such as churches and communities, and to mistrust bureaucracies and hierarchies.
As partisans of civilization, conservatives place a high value on the continuity of laws and customs across generations, and would prefer gradual, local changes toward the improvement of society rather than sudden wide-sweeping changes.
The liberal view is that Man is evolving. Hence, liberals expect that all men will be better, and eventually perfect, once social institutions and education has the opportunity to create better men. Their view is that the social conditions and institutions are primarily responsible for man, as well as primarily responsible for the failures and evils of man. Hence the liberal view, for example, that poverty causes crime. Their view of man is collective: liberals are more concerned with the injustice done by one group to another than individual wrongdoing. Their view of history is that primitive forms evolve or progress into more perfect forms, leaving behind injustices as progress marches on. For this reason they sometimes call themselves progressive. The primary collective injustice liberals seek to mollify or reverse is the exploitation of the poor by the rich, and the primary means is the restriction of private property or its outright abolition, if no lesser means will abolish the inequalities created by variations in ownership of property or possession of talent.
Ironically, even though all gains made by liberals in this nation have been through invisibly gradual means, or through the operations of the courts of law (which are innately conservative institutions) as partisans of equality, liberals place a high value on widespread and radical reform of an immediate, preferably violent, nature, as by a nationwide or worldwide rebellion or mutiny. This is because they see the injustice as collective, hence caused by the social institutions and conditions, and therefore logically the institutions must be abolished from foundation to crown, and new institutions based on theoretical conceptions take their place. The new institutions must be based on theory because they cannot be based on history, since historical models exist at a more primitive evolutionary stage.
The libertarian view is that man is utterly autonomous , and that civilization and law exist only to protect the innate rights of the individual. Individual liberty is absolute, and has no just limits on its exercise, except that no man may use his liberty to invade the liberty of another man. In this scheme, the sovereign power is limited to those acts of retaliation against invaders which the individual himself could have rightly exercised in the absence of a sovereign, that is, self-defense. Libertarian theory, depending on its strictness, may also allow for retaliation against trespass against property rights, theft and conversion, or defense of a third party. Their view of man is atomistic: the conservative idea that the sovereign power should or could be used to encourage virtue in the people by the censorship of pornography or the criminalization of vice or regulation of marriage is inadmissible. Likewise inadmissible is the liberal idea that the sovereign power should or could rectify injustices or inequalities between competing classes or masses of subjects, redistribute wealth, or levy taxes to feed and house the poor or to educate the unlearned.
As partisans of untrammeled individual liberty, libertarians see the main role of the citizen is to be vigilant to curtail new encroachments on personal liberty by the sovereign power as they arise. When it comes to lawful exercises of the sovereign power, such as how (or whether) to levy taxes and raise standing armies, libertarian theory is mostly silent.
The reason why political discussions between partisans of these theories are so often futile is that their goals are unrelated to each other, and the fears of one seem highly theoretical, if not ridiculous, to the other.
The conservative, for example, sees the main enemy of civilization as the barbarian, which includes both barbaric enemies abroad and domestic elements in society which (through negligence or folly, sloth or active malice against civilization) create deterioration of the habits of virtue needed for the maintenance of peace and public order. Sloth includes a lack of love for civilization, a lack of patriotism for the nation. Barbarians include domestic elements conspiring to alter or abolish healthy social institutions.
While the conservative has no particular opposition to liberal causes such as seeing the poor fed or the wilderness conserved, he is appalled when those causes are used to introduce radical changes or abolition to institutions such as the institution of private property, which he sees as a main bulwark against threats from anarchy at home and enemies abroad. Because he has an individualistic view of man, the liberal contention (for example) that the poor cannot through their own application and industry accumulate property and substance of their own strikes him as unrealistic and absurd, something which happens in a few extraordinary cases, not as a matter of course. The liberal accusation that he hates the poor, perhaps due to a racist desire to demean and torment the poor, is bewildering and unanswerable.
While the conservative has no particular opposition (and indeed may have a great deal of sympathy) for the libertarian zeal to protect individual liberty from government encroachment, he is appalled when that argument is used to undermine vice laws, blue laws, marriage laws, and abolish the defense of territorial boundaries around sovereign states. The libertarian view is primarily intellectual, and sees men as independent sovereign individuals making an express covenant for their mutual protection. The conservative view is primarily passionate, and sees men as heir to the legacy of the past and fathers to the legacy of posterity which must be protected, tied by countless invisible threads of loyalty to family and community and church and homeland, and inevitably requires that the state have a role in protecting, by coercion if necessary, a certain degree of civic virtue in the citizens.
On the other hand, for the liberal, to whom the primary enemy is the oppressive institutions erected either by unseen inhuman forces of history or by a conspiracy of the rich and powerful, any defense of those institutions is seen as prime evidence of support for any evils those institutions have done. Again, the notion of man is he is a collective creature: hence all Whites can be accused of participation in the institution of antebellum plantation slavery of Negroes, or all Christians accused of participation in the institution of the Spanish Inquisition. The presence or absence of Northern Abolitionists who died on the battlefields of the Civil War are irrelevant to the shared guilt, and likewise the presence or absence of Papal Bulls condemning the Inquisition, or Protestant kings who warred against Spain.
The prime source of mutual misunderstanding between liberal and conservative political theory is the matter of foreign enemies. Liberal political theory is silent on the issue, and has no stance on the matter. If communist spies in the pay of the Soviet Empire are indeed infecting the State Department, or if Muslim terrorists are plotting to plant bombs in skyscrapers or in airplanes, these dangers are secondary or imaginary compared the main and real danger of Senator McCarthy using the power of Congress to subpoena witnesses to accuse the innocent of being communists or the danger of a general pogrom of lynching and race riots as White all over the world erupt into a roaring slaughterhouse bedlam of bestial violence against innocent Arabs.
In the first case, the Senate is an institution and hence an instrument of inequality and oppression. It is the only source of danger. Or perhaps the ideal of patriotism, the idea that communists are enemies of the American Way of Life is the institution, and its presents a looming and immediate danger of encouraging jingoism, imperial conquests overseas, and fascistic oppression of dissent at home.
In the second case, the religion of Islam, and the terror masters funding acts of sabotage and acts of war are not an institution of the American establishment, and hence cannot even in theory be a source of threat or danger. If the Twin Towers were blown up, all the deaths are attributable to world political conditions created by American institutions, such as American institutional racism. Hence the attempt to blame Islam for conditions created by American institutional racism is not just an act of blaming the victim, it is a psychopathology of seeing a danger where none exist, a phobia, and hence a new word is coined: Islamophobia.
For the liberal theory, there simply are no foreign enemies. The category is an empty set.
The enemies are imaginary, or deliberately created, in order to justify the continued operation and oppression of American Institutions. Wars are always fought in order to benefit Oil Companies, Arms Manufacturers, or Jewish Banking Interests, never fought to curtail foreign aggression or kill tyrants or drive back the barbarian.
The idea of barbarism is as impossible and absurd to the liberal theory as the idea of Islamophobia is impossible and absurd to conservative theory.
To be thorough, I should also give the liberal theory’s view of libertarianism, but I happen to be utterly unaware of what it might be. Liberals do not regard Libertarians as an institution, hence they are not instruments of oppression, so therefore there is no need to expostulate a theory concerning them.
Libertarian views of Liberals is one of deep seated and scathing contempt. Where Libertarians are fundamentally intellectual and conservatives fundamentally men of passion and honor, Liberals are entirely emotional, and do not have the metaphysical or philosophical groundwork needed to erect an intellectual defense of their position to Libertarians, or to mount an intellectual criticism of Libertarianism.
I can only speculate as to the cause: Liberal theory holds that the Church is an instrument of oppression, and an opiate of the masses, since the theory holds all institutions are instruments of oppression.
The Church kept alive the philosophy and learning of the classical past, and incorporated it into the scholastic philosophy of the Middle Ages. Hence, in order to reject Church teaching, one must also reject classical teachings. You cannot throw away Saint Thomas and keep Aristotle.
Because Protestantism came after Catholicism, liberal theory holds Protestantism to be a needed first step in the direction of greater equality and liberty for the masses; the Enlightenment program of separation of Church and State was a second great step; the abolition of private property and contractual obligations is a needed third step which is underway.
However, Protestantism is primarily an attempt to introduce emotionalism and private feelings into religion, and the Enlightenment is an attempt to sever all ties between secular and spiritual institutions. The awaited third step is the abolition of all spiritual institutions. For the liberal, if he thinks about religion at all, he regards it as something which is beneficial only to the degree that it is private, non-institutional, spiritualized, apolitical, and offers no opposition to the political program of radical equality, especially the equality between men and women, adults and children, men and animals, mad and sane, virtue and vice.
For the liberal, if he thinks about religion at all, he regards it as something which is beneficial only to the degree that it is purely emotional without any intellectual component. There is nothing liberal theory despises more than metaphysical and theological speculation.
Ironically, liberals consider themselves to be more highly educated and more intelligent than the common muck of humanity, and especially their enemies, the conservatives, but their theory forbids the use of the intellect to address any basic matter concerning metaphysical or supernatural reality. The field is off limits.
This speculation is admittedly harsh.
It would have been gentler had I been asked my opinion in the days before I exchanged many, many arguments with liberals of all stripes. The one thing they all have in common, and this includes Catholic liberals as well as atheist liberals, male and female, young and old, all of them, all of them, all I have ever met: their argument is primarily emotional, and they interpret disagreement as a moral failure, not just an intellectual one.
They do not think you are wrong, my dear conservative and libertarians readers, they think you are evil. Not one I have met thinks that there can be honest disagreement with their positions, or that the matter is one where reasonable men can differ.
This is not due to the personality of the liberals I have met, but it is due to their theory. I have had an angry Catholic socialist denounce me angrily as wicked for not believing his nonsense, but I have also had a gentle grandmotherly socialist do the same in mild tones, and sneering atheist socialists utter the same denunciation in sneering tones without even bother to discover what the argument is or the objections are. The tone depends on the personality of the liberal, and they are as different as the whole spectrum the human race affords.
But the the automatic imputation of vile motives and conspiracies by one mass against another mass is not due to a character flaw in the liberal psychology. Rather, the flaw is built into their theory. It is what they have to say. They can say nothing else, since if they did, they would no longer be liberals.
The institutions of civilization are the enemy, since they and only they are the source of mass-oppression and inequality. The theory does not allow them to regard traitors or corrupters or criminals or anarchists or foreign soldiers or spies or saboteurs or terrorists as enemies because the only enemy is the institution.
Hence the liberal soon arrives at what (to the conservative) seems patently absurd results, such as: Bush is the source of danger, not Saddam. Reagan is the source of danger, not Stalin. General Motors is the source of danger, not Mao, not Pol Pot, not Timothy Leary, not Hugh Hefner.
To use a final and pointed example: for the liberal, the institution of marriage is the source of danger, since it promotes an inequality.
Redefining marriage so that it is no longer a sacrament, but merely an expression of sexual emotion, that is to say, abolishing marriage, is for the liberal a simple act of civic equality akin to allowing Coloreds to drink at White drinking fountains in the Democrat-controlled South during the Jim Crow laws.
For the conservative, it is abolishing one of the three main pillars of civilization and the basic mainstay and bulwark against encroaching government tyranny. (For the Libertarians it is a non-issue, since their theory prevents them from seeing any public purpose to the institution of marriage whatsoever).
Small wonder there is so much venom at large.
The liberals cannot even see the barbarians whom the conservative fear, and cannot imagine the general breakdown of society. Their evolutionary theory of history does not allow for such breakdowns to occur, except when caused (as it did in the ancient world) by the Christian Church. The evolutionary theory, or perhaps their native optimism, does not direct their attention to historical models and parallels.
Likewise, conservatives cannot see the sinister nature of the Patriarchy oppressing women, the Whites oppressing Blacks, the Banking System and Oil Companies oppressing whoever it is they oppress, the Jews oppressing the poor, the heteronormatives oppressing the homosexuals, the use of “he” as the neuter pronoun oppressing women, images of Speedy Gonzalez oppressing Mexicans, use of the abbreviation “A.D.” in the Julian calendar oppressing Jews, the Circuses and Chicken Farms oppressing animals, and so on. Their fixed attention on the moral and financial and military degradation of the West, which in their (and my) opinion threatens all these groups and more, make such trifling nuances or alleged signs of disrespect to the various victim groups almost invisible to the conservative mind set.
This is not due to any lack of intelligence or any evil motive or deliberate blindness on the part of conservatives. It is an outgrowth of their philosophy and worldview. The danger from Speedy Gonzalez to the Equality of Man seems frivolous, if not hysterical. It is due to a disinterest in abstractions. To a concerned and well intentioned liberal, the use of any stereotype holding any race up to mockery has the same sinister overtones and Nazi race-cleansing. They differ only in degree, not in kind. The liberal identifies disrespect for one’s fellow man as the primary cause of race-hatred, and this implies any slightest sign of disrespect on the basis of race leads to and is akin to enslaving or exterminating that race. And the same logic applies to any identified victim-group which the institutions of the West have ever oppressed, including those, like Muslims, who have never been oppressed but were often the oppressors. On the abstract level, if the logic applies to the one case, it perforce applies to all similar cases.
Conservative pride in the pragmatism of their approach — they are often (and I do not include myself here) heard to boast they conservatism is not an ideology — makes them impossible to move by such purely abstract categorizations.