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Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and the Woke Post-Liberals

Contemporary Liberalism holds itself aloof from the deeper sources of human flourishing in religion, family, tradition, and culture and has become a fideistic dogma of choice and autonomy for their own sakes. Such liberalism employs free individuals creating values through their choices that they make without rational discrimination as to the merit of those choices or whether they contribute to human flourishing. By these lights, we are pure freedom. But this liberalism will not lead to human flourishing nor will it satisfy the questioning and endlessly alienated souls of human beings. We desire to know that there is some ground of truth, some support for the very fact that we ask questions, or we would find it hard to avoid the conclusion that pure freedom is really just pure misery. Freedom to be miserable isn’t something we would persist in and we would gladly trade it for the opportunity to be ruled by an unquestionable authority.

Is this rather deplorable liberalism that I have described a truthful understanding of liberalism as a whole? Yes, say our leading post-liberal experts.

The Post-Liberal Experts

The gifted Patrick Deneen informs us in his book Why Liberalism Failed “as liberalism has “become more fully itself,” as its inner logic has become more evident and its self-contradictions manifest, it has generated pathologies that are at once deformations of its claims yet realizations of liberal ideology.” The Sage of South Bend combines classical and modern liberalism in his critique: both consume social, moral, and religious authorities and replenish nothing. We are told “that the fabric of beliefs that gave rise to the nearly 250-year old American constitutional experience may be nearing an end.” Liberalism, no doubt, is primarily responsible for our turning into dust.

The brilliant Harvard Law professor Adrian Vermeule tells us that liberalism is sacramental in character, and is a public ritual of overcoming superstition and bigotry in the name of reason and rationality. It needs a villain, someone to publicly condemn as a defeated enemy on its unending path to progress. Vermeule says liberalism needs enemies and voraciously, that is rationally, searches for and destroys them. Liberalism’s gallows are always swinging.

Ryzsard Legutko, Polish statesman, political theorist, and former anti-communist freedom fighter, argues in his 2016 book Demon in Democracy that the liberalism now practiced in Europe is comparable to the smothering ideological blanket that was communism. Liberalism’s aim, he says, is to root out and destroy the integrity of nation-states, religion, family, autonomous associations, and install in their place an unfettered individualism and a devotion to humanity writ large. Legutko proposes a return to representative government built on a nation’s historic cultural and legal identity, one bereft of the ideology of liberalism.

This is reminiscent of Hungarian President Viktor Orbán’s famous speech that called for illiberal democracy. However, the vehement criticism generated by the speech has mostly ignored Orbán’s prior observation that the liberalism enforced by the European Union on Hungary was illiberal liberalism and deeply resented by large majorities of Hungarians. Illiberal democracy is really the attempt to return political choice and sovereignty back to the people of Hungary. It is a kind of liberalism, you might say. Both Hungary and Poland are giving their people what they want.

Does liberalism as diagnosed by Vermeule and Legutko need an enemy to make itself go? That question recalls Carl Schmitt’s infamous friend-and-enemy distinction that he says is constitutive of politics. Schmitt says the essence of the political is opposition, the enemy, and that’s what activates politics and what makes the State possible. My people versus your people, and we’re both willing to aim our guns at each other, that’s politics.

Concept of the Political

Liberalism couldn’t be political, Schmitt says, it’s really only a series of negations or mediations between absolute values. As such, it’s incapable of commanding human beings into political order. Perhaps Schmitt was wrong about liberalism. Leo Strauss’s pointed 1932 critique of Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political concludes by observing that liberalism is not what, ultimately, matters to Schmitt. What Schmitt is really opposed to, according to Strauss, is not liberalism itself but the unseriousness present in a certain kind of liberalism that seeks agreement and peace at the complete expense of the fundamental human questions for meaning and purpose. Schmitt’s affirmation of politics is an affirmation of the moral, an affirmation of the seriousness of human life against the complacent humanitarian ideal of liberalism.

I think we should similarly ask, is liberalism what, ultimately, matters to our post-liberal thinkers? And one reason for asking such a question is that other than Vermeule, none of them proposes a radical alternative order to replace political liberalism, the regime they claim is pathological.

Vermeule’s call for some kind of a religious integralist (Catholic?) state in America comes across as an argument made after a bad acid trip. He articulates a future we can scarcely believe in. Deneen wants communities “offering actual human liberty in the form of both civic and individual self-rule, not the ersatz version that combines systemic powerlessness with the illusion of autonomy.” I’m down with that. Of course, details are needed here, but Deneen is short on those. Hmm…, I wonder if other thinkers have supplied some details in this regard. More anon. I’ve noted Legutko’s version, one we can actually see working in Poland to some extent. It’s deeply conservative in many respects and from the standpoint of the “Davosie,” an oppressive conservatism. But, then again, what kind of conservatism isn’t for that set?

The radical critique of liberalism would have to deal with the foundation of liberalism and that, Strauss informs Schmitt, requires interrogating Thomas Hobbes. But does such a critique entail the rejection of liberalism, or does it not rather entail the rejection of Hobbes’s pulverization of human nature and reason? What unites the conservative post-liberal critics above all is that their foe does not look upon nature as something to cultivate but as something to subdue or to escape. The consequence is that there can be no natural right, no natural law, nothing to ground our reasoning in truth. We have merely the claims of the metaphysically sovereign individual, a law unto himself.

Is man purely a being of will who shapes himself by satisfying his desires? Hobbes’s observation is that man is just sensible appetites and human will is just what comes uppermost in these desires. And we need desires, Hobbes says, because they develop our wit. In particular, we need a desire for power if we are to be great. The good is merely the thing desired by each particular person. But with the pursuit of desire comes conflict as we beasts brush against one another in competition for the things desired, which are of necessity good. Recall that for the social contract theorists, by sanctioning law and power, states provide the means for man to improve his estate by being able to rely on a predictable state and a civil society. With no way to order our wills or their desires, we need an incredibly powerful liberal state to compel observance of rules, to be a hedge that keeps us  from injuring one another.

Dogmatic Liberalism

But this story of the state civilizing the proto-man, told in different ways by Enlightenment political theorists, lost its appeal to the late-modern liberal. Sovereignty of the state isn’t really his choice to become more fully human. Rather the late-modern mind affirms autonomous liberty or the affirmation of yourself without really knowing yourself.

This brings us to the dogma of our times, I think, that of choice and equality for their own sakes. The liberalism that overarches this negative anthropology must be harshly opposed to any conception of man’s freedom premised on human nature, a freedom that more fully becomes itself and achieves human excellence when its choices realize and develop the goods of human nature. It’s the very fact of human nature that is dismissed by illiberal liberalism. There is, ultimately, no reason why the being entrusted with language and the giving of reasons for his actions applauds things like courage, wisdom, temperance, or prudence, as opposed to cowardice, foolishness, indulgence, or folly. Moreover, our status as embodied, finite beings who love others because of our dependency and because we are born to die signals to illiberal liberals no clear or transparent meaning about our relational human nature.

The result is a reductive egalitarianism that is theoretically unable to make distinctions about the ends of human action beyond insisting that members of minority racial groups, and now the indefinite extension of pronoun sexual identities, must be a part of the social and political bargain.

To the question “Who is man?” such a liberalism can only respond that man is pure potential, pure freedom. Freedom is not responsibility to truth, it is merely freedom from. This means that the deepest callings of our freedom, urgings that cannot be vanquished—namely a freedom with and for others, and a freedom under law—are really a source of authoritarianism. The dogma of choice struggles to place any collective institution with rules, morality, and norms of behavior on any pedestal other than that of crypto-fascism.

Thinking in particular about our American political situation, one of the fears Tocqueville expresses in the second volume of Democracy in America is that dogmatic liberalism would reduce us below the level of human persons. We would no longer see one another as distinctive beings with rights; rather we would be reduced to entities that are part of a cosmic whole. The exercise of freedom and the attempts at human greatness would cease to matter as we no longer actually believed in the worthiness of our personhood.

Tocqueville labels this pantheism, and he greatly fears its workings in democracy because we would lose the distinctive aspects of our human existence and come to see ourselves as mere flotsam in a sea of grand historical forces. The great fear voiced by Tocqueville was that “in the dawning centuries of democracy individual independence and local liberties will always be the products of art” but “centralized government will be the natural thing.” How to maintain the spirit of liberty against the viral spread of enervating equality, which reduces individuals and isolates them from one another?

Now at one level, overarching determinative theories of history seem implausible today. Marxist socialism isn’t on the horizon. And that’s also true for the sweeping claims made on behalf of liberal democracy by Francis Fukuyama at the end of the Cold War. But the problem with the dogmatic or illiberal liberalism of our day is that the freedom it underwrites is about everything and therefore it is about nothing. Even a moral pluralism must be rooted in certain truths of the human condition. A good liberal order must be seen as an opening to reason together about how we should order our freedoms. This opening is best explored by a natural law liberalism that has ample material to work with in the American constitutional tradition. This liberalism is sober, prudent, and unafraid to tell the truth about the contents of human freedom and its best uses.

The Doctrine Lives

One practitioner is John Courtney Murray, S.J., who argued that we will always need the immanent, not autonomous, reason of the natural law to shore up our civil unity, ordering it by the rule of law. And this is because the core concepts of our Constitution are suffused with the ancient natural law tradition. Take the consent of the governed, a concept that legitimates the Constitution. Why should we take political consent seriously? As our new crop of authoritarian libertarians tell us, they get the ins and outs of policy much better than Bubba. Who cares about his dumb thoughts, even his votes? And narrowly considered, they have a point.

Forgotten, however, is that this political notion is premised on the constitutional people being the bearers of a western moral tradition in their memory and conscience that they are working out and drawing from in political deliberations and judgments. The separation of powers, federalism, and representative government are the principal constitutional mechanisms by which the consent of the governed then comes to shape policy. A constitutional democracy is built on an ensemble of pre-political truths, and the act of daring, the experiment of our particular constitutional order, is that the people can be relied upon to bring to bear refinements and applications of these truths as political challenges and opportunities arise.

In his 1962 essay “The Return to Tribalism” Murray noted that reason is needed in three distinct aspects to achieve civil unity and stave off a tribal politics. We need a moral reason that discerns and elects the ends and purposes of our political life; a legal reason that provides laws that will obtain the consent of the governed and that limit government to the order of law; and we need a political reason that organizes the interests of the community in accordance with the good of the person, which requires that justice observe prudence and the arts of persuasion. What does it mean that we possess this gift of freedom to reason well or poorly about how we will live, about what we will put in common so that we can thrive in numerous ways?

Liberalism limits power and binds its necessary use with a promise of fidelity to a fundamental document, a constitution that forms and animates political life. Why? A liberalism worthy of the name recognizes the grandeur of the human person, as revealed by the person’s infinite longing and our misery and restlessness, which point to man as a peculiar kind of being who wants to know with others the truth about himself. But we also will disagree about the answers on what man should do, so we limit ourselves and our laws in respect of an authentic pluralism.

Our post-liberals have diagnosed pathologies in contemporary liberalism, but they have not dealt with the true ground of our discontents. To do so will require us to understand the human person who must live a life in common with others, but who, most significantly, is a being of eternal significance and cannot be defined by the state.

Reader Discussion

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on July 23, 2018 at 10:30:52 am

Very nice!

Perhaps, an oversimplification (not Richard but me):

How can one apprehend the Future if the Past is obscured or denied?

It strikes me that Deneen has fallen prey to this defect in reason.

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gabe
on July 23, 2018 at 11:19:11 am

A few thoughts:

One--in so far as the socially destructive tendencies of liberalism are concerned, Karl Polanyi made the point in 1944 against what he termed "economic liberalism."

Two--it is evident, based on the large number of writers on liberalism, that the answer to any particular question about the effects of liberalism depends on what liberalism is defined as or understood to consist in. That understanding has changed over time. Hobhouse's book Liberalism, for instance, written in the early part of the 20th century, presents a version of liberalism that is entirely consistent with Vermeule's thesis, which is also Eduard Bernstein's thesis (the goal is nothing, the movement is everything). According to Hobhouse, liberalism is about emancipating everyone everywhere from all traditional, customary relationships; its work is, therefore, never done. Whether you view it as an effort against political enemies or the work of authoritarian elitist libertarian technocrats, the end result is the same: an aggressive liberalism evolves into an increasingly oppressive creed.

Three--A good liberal order must be seen as an opening to reason together about how we should order our freedoms. This, I take it, is also the position of Rawls and Habermas. Yet their solutions differ from Reinsch's. I don't take liberalism itself to have any basis in a transcendental order, as Reinsch seems to by his suggestion that liberalism's ethics ought to be oriented toward truth and founded in a natural law concept. It does seem to be the case that liberalism is by itself insufficient as a political order and must be joined to a certain moral and ethical understanding that is itself not an element of liberalism. Personally, I am inclined to the kind of transcendental moral/ethical order suggested by Reinsch; I don't believe that either Rawls' version of "political liberalism" or Habermas' ethic of communicative reason is viable as an accompaniment to economic liberalism.

Fourth--it seems to me undeniable that economic liberalism is predicated on a raw materialism which in its progressive evolutionary stages from the late 18th century to today has in fact dissolved and discredited the moral /ethical social life of nearly all human communities. Those destroyed social institutions grew up over time and were not understood as the fabrication of any set of discrete, identifiable individuals near in time to the societies. Another way of saying this is that those social moral/ethical orders were "organic." The problem we have today is that all proposals along the lines of Deneen's are impossible of realization because people are not going to submit and subordinate themselves to an order that is clearly the handiwork of identifiable individuals. Owenite communities failed for this very reason. People will over time submit to an order they believe to be transcendental in origin, but no degree of rationality or reasonableness of a set of moral and ethical precepts will suffice to bind individuals across even only two or three generations when those precepts have no basis in anything other than human will and reason. (I think Mormonism especially demonstrates the truth of this. Joseph Smith was contemporary with Robert Owen, yet Smith grounded his belief system in a transcendental order and Owen did not, and Mormonism has endured where New Lanark and Harmony did not).

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QET
on July 23, 2018 at 13:33:58 pm

Contemporary Liberalism holds itself aloof from the deeper sources of human flourishing in religion, family, tradition, and culture and has become a fideistic dogma of choice and autonomy for their own sakes. Such liberalism employs free individuals creating values through their choices that they make without rational discrimination as to the merit of those choices or whether they contribute to human flourishing. By these lights, we are pure freedom. But this liberalism will not lead to human flourishing nor will it satisfy the questioning and endlessly alienated souls of human beings.

David Brooks remarked on his interactions with undergrads at Yale, who felt as if they had many options, but little guidance about how to choose. Instead of guidance, they received the admonition to “find themselves.” He compared this to offering a glass of water to a drowning man.

This strike me as a plausible analysis—of the life of David Brooks and Yale undergrads (and, for that matter, for some authors here). But I question how well this analysis generalizes to people in general. Imagine the words “pure freedom is really just pure misery” coming out of the mouths of Kim Jung-un, Vladimir Putin, or Xi Jinping: How do they sound now?

In short, I can judge a philosophy only within a context. Surely, complaints about the burdens of freedom lead the list of First World Problems.

That said, for the portion of the world’s population that have more in common with a Yale undergrad than a Chinese farmer, the questions remain relevant.

It’s the very fact of human nature that is dismissed by illiberal liberalism.

When the Green Revolution swept Iran, the mullahs repressed it because, they claimed, the revolutionaries were dismissing obedience to God. And perhaps some were. But others were rebelling against the mullah’s narrow, cramped understanding of God that was being crammed down Iranians’ throats.

Likewise, doubtless some people reject the concept of human nature. But surely others reject needlessly narrow, cramped understandings of human nature that people want to cram down our throats—understandings that seem to take no account of the lives of many actual, living humans.

Does liberalism as diagnosed by Vermeule and Legutko need an enemy to make itself go? That question recalls Carl Schmitt’s infamous friend-and-enemy distinction that he says is constitutive of politics. Schmitt says the essence of the political is opposition, the enemy, and that’s what activates politics and what makes the State possible.

I’ve reluctantly come to the same conclusion. But this reflects not a critique of liberalism, but of government—or even social cohesion—in general: People seem pre-disposed to rally in opposition to a perceived threat to themselves or their kind. If we want to talk about “human nature,” let us talk about that dynamic.

Liberalism’s aim, [Legutko] says, is to root out and destroy the integrity of nation-states, religion, family, autonomous associations, and install in their place an unfettered individualism and a devotion to humanity writ large. Legutko proposes a return to representative government built on a nation’s historic cultural and legal identity, one bereft of the ideology of liberalism.

I find the idea of liberalism’s aggression toward other groups overblown. That said, yes, I regard liberalism as calling for a kind of universal standard of treatment of people that would transcend many categories that otherwise separate people. And if we conclude that tribalism reflects some immutable aspect of human nature, then liberalism faces a real obstacle.

The dogma of choice struggles to place any collective institution with rules, morality, and norms of behavior on any pedestal other than that of crypto-fascism.

Uh … maybe. But the dogma a choice seems pretty ok with rules of autonomy and consent (even if people struggle with how these rules apply in any given context).

A good liberal order must be seen as an opening to reason together about how we should order our freedoms. This opening is best explored by….

I agree with the first sentence. Yet I suspect that Reinsch and I support that sentence because we imagine that, if only people were open to reason, of course they’d come to the same conclusions that we do. But the fact that Reinsch and I do not seem to see eye-to-eye on various things casts doubt upon the power of reason. I note that Reinsch follows the first sentence about the virtues of openness with a sentence about the virtues of his particular worldview—a view that necessarily forecloses contrary worldviews. Thus Reinsch praises openness and closedness in rapid succession, as if he cannot distinguish between the two. This gives me cause for doubt.

Hypothetical: Let’s assume that, even if we had given slaves the power to cast votes, that the majority view in any given Southern state would have upheld the institution of slavery. Would all these “post-liberals” really conclude that we should have retained the institution of slavery in deference to federalism/localism/subsidiarity/whathaveyou?

And if not, then what principle should guide our policies? Under what circumstances should the larger group impose its views on the smaller—and under what circumstances should the larger group refrain? Until we have an answer to that fundamental question, all this moaning about liberalism just seems like an endless re-litigation of the Civil War.

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nobody.really
on July 23, 2018 at 14:30:48 pm

Very *cleverly* crafted, as always.

In a nutshell, WILL YOU NOT STAND FOR ANYTHING? or is ALL just another *choice*, one amongst many.

Given human fallibility, "...what principle should guide our policies", one, while cognizant that he may be wrong MUST nevertheless CHOOSE some THING. Is it not rational / reasonable to review that which has worked previously.

Oh that's right, I get it: According to nobody, political rules like the rules of sports are ARBITRARY.
While SOME rules are arbitrary in sports (why 3 strikes not 4?), so many of the other rules are RATIONALLY RELATED to human performance / capabilities.
150+ years ago, the distance between Home Plate and First base was set at 90 feet. Athletes today are stronger, faster, etc YET a ground ball to the infield will invariably result in the batter being called out at first. How i that and what does it mean?

could it be that just like in politics THOSE RULES that bear some relation to human capability, human frailty, human (social) practice are, in fact BEST and OUGHT to be preserved?

Nobody.really would prefer that we change our rules on a whim, a fantasy, a delusion all in pursuit of some indefinable *purpose* just over the "first base bag" / horizon.

Give it a break. You are going back on the bench AND no DH for you my friend.

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gabe
on July 23, 2018 at 14:42:10 pm

People will over time submit to an order they believe to be transcendental in origin, but no degree of rationality or reasonableness of a set of moral and ethical precepts will suffice to bind individuals across even only two or three generations when those precepts have no basis in anything other than human will and reason.

"Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion."

John Henry Newman (1801-1890)

"The children of light must be armed with the wisdom of the children of darkness but remain free from their malice. They must know the power of self-interest in human society without giving it moral justification. They must have this wisdom in order that they may beguile, deflect, harness and restrain self-interest—individual and collective—for the sake of the community. "

"[The] guiding principle [is] that a realist conception of human nature should be made the servant of an ethic of progressive justice and should not be made into a bastion of conservatism...."

"The whole art of politics consists in directing rationally the irrationalities of men...."

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

(I think Mormonism especially demonstrates the truth of this....)

Did you see The Book of Mormon?

Many have criticized the musical as a crude parody of a sincere religion--and, yeah, that's fair. But the larger complaint is that it's a powerful critique of a sincere religion. Much as in the film The Invention of Lying, the conclusion is that [SPOILER:] wholesome people strive to give hope and encourage constructive behavior, and bolster their teachings by inventing some supernatural foundation for their views. The moral is that the social cohesion provided by religion is often useful, even if the foundation is fictitious.

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nobody.really
on July 23, 2018 at 15:16:12 pm

Kristofferson wrote and Joplin sang: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." So this notion has been floating around in our collective consciences for two generations.

The old Calvinists correctly identified the pair bond as the fundamental unit of society and the individual as the fundamental unit of religion.

Further, as Deneen wrote, Liberalism has revealed itself self to just another -ism where the party congress decides what is right and what is wrong. Accordingly, Liberalism has become totalitarian and must be defeated.

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EK
on July 23, 2018 at 15:26:51 pm

You are going back on the bench AND no DH for you my friend.

A guy from an American League town is gonna deny me a DH?

Well, that's not cricket!

(It's true; I checked.)

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nobody.really
on July 23, 2018 at 15:52:48 pm

In fact I was thinking of the line "a Mormon just believes" from that musical as I was writing the point.

I think what drove Nietzsche mad was his inability to prevent himself from understanding the human origin of all morality while at the same time understanding that without the illusion or "noble lie" of some transcendental origin human societies would not cohere except under extreme human oppression (the more emancipated one is from theology, the more imperativistic morality becomes.)

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QET
on July 23, 2018 at 16:30:41 pm

Yep, good take on Ole Freddie.

Then again, judging by the wit of his aphorisms, one can imagine that he would be the life of the party.

I always found him quite hilarious; perhaps, a necessary corrective to his inability to deal with the value of the "noble lie", if that be what it is.

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gabe
on July 23, 2018 at 16:32:05 pm

No, but it may present one with a "sticky" wicket as they say.
Are you a Cubbie or a Sox guy!

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gabe
on July 23, 2018 at 16:34:35 pm

EK:

Nice on Joplin and Kristofferson. Even as a young "knucklehead" enamored of rock music, I always founf that line to be more about despair than "hipster-ism.

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gabe
on July 23, 2018 at 20:10:45 pm

“. . . the human person [may] live a life in common with others, but [seems] a being of eternal significance and cannot be defined by the state”, civilization, socialization, or religious speculation.

Considering his conclusion, Reinsch may think “religion, family, tradition, and culture” is in charge of defining the human person. I ask the forum to consider civic integrity above religious freedom, where “civic” refers to mutual collaboration for living a human lifetime.

The signers of the 1787 Constitution for the U.S. gave us the preamble (after Gouveneur Morris wrote it). It offers a civic agreement with legal power. The people’s representatives of nine states established the USA’s civic authority on June 21, 1788. But the First Congress temporally distracted the people by falsely labeling it a secular sentence; the preamble is neutral to religion, race, and gender. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution offers freedom-from oppression so that each individual may accept the liberty-to responsibly pursue the happiness he or she perceives rather than the constraints someone else or an institution would impose on him or her.

Unfortunately, the 1789 political regime was steeped in English authoritarianism and erroneously re-established Blackstone with American, factional Protestantism rather than Canterbury partnership (English Chapter XI Machiavellianism). Consequently, for 230 years, the possibility for individual liberty with civic morality has been repressed. But the civil power of the preamble is only dormant. The rest of the U.S. Constitution may eventually conform to the preamble.

The preamble’s greatest strength is that it accepts the power of the individual. Every human has the individual power, the individual energy, and the individual authority (IPEA) to either discover-and-develop integrity or not. Chapter XI Machiavellianism suppresses the opportunity to discover integrity. The preamble appeals to the people to both accept IPEA and develop integrity. Integrity leads to fidelity to actual reality or the-objective-truth.

Both government and personal gods are human and therefore cannot specify the object of integrity, because too much actual reality has not yet been discovered. Thus, humankind cannot give to the feral human infant, during his or her first three decades, the information he or she may need to establish the understanding, intent and ability to live a complete life in maturing humanity and developing integrity.

The object of integrity is actual reality, or the-objective-truth, which can only be discovered and studied so as to understand how to benefit from the awareness. Integrity is a process: discovery, comprehension, conformity to the understanding, sharing the understanding and listening to public ideas for improvements, and remaining open to new discovery that demands change in understanding. A human being may be encouraged and coached to develop integrity and fidelity, but cannot be taught what has not been discovered.

The greatest error of the 1789 political regime was establishing freedom of religion rather than freedom to develop integrity. Correcting this tyranny would empower religion to freely join the quest for integrity rather than subjugate itself to past errors. Moreover, it would free the individual to appreciate civic citizens for collaboration to provide mutual, comprehensive safety and security for living, without attention to an individual’s hopes for his or her afterdeath, that vast time after body, mind, and person have stopped functioning.

“A good liberal order must be seen as an opening to reason together about how we should order our freedoms. This opening is best explored by a natural law liberalism that has ample material to work with in the American constitutional tradition.”

I could, in sympathy for Michael Polanyi's thinking, make the case that the above quote is saying the same thing I am saying, except that “reason together” does not equate to “develop integrity,” which sometimes requires individuality. For example, humankind might not have Einstein’s accomplishments if he had been a conformist. One of his greatest gifts is the message not to lie so as to “preserve [life and lessen] pain and sorrow . . . as much as possible.” Also, integrity to self cannot be collaborative. And “natural law liberalism” does not suggest conformity to the-objective-truth, in other words, actual reality. Finally, “the American constitutional tradition” is specifically amendable, so that civil integrity may be developed.

“. . . we will always need the immanent, not autonomous, reason of the natural law to shore up our civil unity, ordering it by the rule of law. And this is because the core concepts of our Constitution are suffused with the ancient natural law tradition. Take the consent of the governed, a concept that legitimates the Constitution.”

Some people choose to use IPEA to defeat arbitrary laws or dominant opinion rather than to discover the-objective-truth. Therefore, civic morality seeks statutory justice by discovering the-objective-truth rather than by imposing religious doctrine. Plainly, government is compelled to enact and enforce only laws that are based on actual reality. For example, the Church canonized scripture that coerces slaves to accept slavery. But who would trust the god cited in 1 Peter 2:18-21?

Some 1700 years later, African-American Christianity is active and seems to posit that the Holy Bible is correct, but that humans intended for slavery have skins that are every color except black. Meanwhile, the pope has not resigned the Church with some priests who abuse children, women, and men. People who develop integrity discover fidelity to the-objective-truth and reject bad examples.

“Consent of the governed” is coercive English tradition. Citizens who adopt the preamble to the U.S. Constitution claim commitment rather than consent. The preamble suggests individual self-discipline leading to collective discipline in a republican federalism: willing citizens discipline both state and the nation. No citizen wants to be governed, but the majority want to discipline themselves for personally preferred living. Self-disciplined citizens ineluctably employ IPEA for civic integrity in personal pursuits. It’s more a matter of acquiring fidelity to the-objective-truth than attempting to force actual reality to conform to personal preferences.

The principle of IPEA used for civic integrity seems to promise an achievable better future, whereas the scholarship drawn from the past seems to promise more of the same: chaos.

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Phil Beaver
on July 23, 2018 at 21:38:51 pm

Useful summary of just a few of many analyses of the causes and consequences of the decline and fall of classic liberalism and its degeneration into modern liberalism. One could trace (and has traced) these elements of decay all the way back to Luther and the disintegrating forces of individualism unleashed by the Protestant reformation.
Yet, the overall discussion is much too abstract (if not vague) and its underlying historical tenets too debatable to facilitate well-founded expressions of agreement or disagreement or discussion of appropriate cultural and political responses.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on July 23, 2018 at 22:14:33 pm

This has to be seen in a theological context to be fully understood. Politics depends on anthropology which depends on man’s relationship to God because God is the telos of humans.. I recommend Father Romano Guardini’s “End of the Modern World” and “Power and Responsibility” as they tie directly to the historical development of mankind’s concept of mankind (anthropology) and its consequences in culture and politics.

As Vermeule points out, this illegitimate assertion of will began in the Garden.

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K.
on July 24, 2018 at 13:11:51 pm

I would submit the following:

1.) The linking of liberty and equality as goods to be expanded is disingenuous. For the most part, liberty and equality, specifically material equality, are incompatible. Attempts to expand equality beyond a metaphysical concept to a quantitative real-world ideal requires that the outcomes of individual choices and actions be homogenized to maintain some sort of observable parity. This is contrary to the notion of liberty because a.) one of the benefits of liberty is to strive for outcomes that distinguish the individual from the group, and b.) the artificial homogenization of outcomes can only be maintained by force, which is axiomatically incompatible with liberty.

2.) Liberty historically has not been an end in itself. Demands for it have served to destroy existing constraints on political freedom, to then be replaced by new constraints more congenial to the prevailing party. There is always a class of constraints that benefit a class of persons. There will always be an "oppressor" because co-existence with other human beings requires an understanding of boundaries and limits on what choices and actions can be tolerated by flourishing societies. These boundaries and limits may be religious, traditional, legal, political or what have you, but they will always divide societies into those who benefit from them and those who view them as impediments to their own interests.

3.) As a consequence of #2 above, morality will always find opposition because it will always imply constraints that are viewed as oppressive by some, and because there will always be an ineradicable need for morality. Human beings need morality because human powers of reason allow nearly unlimited power of destruction, The human ingenuity that can be found in devising methods of torture, killing, genocide, exploitation, and in fact self annihilation requires some reference by which to discern the good from the bad, or more conventionally, good from evil. The authors of Genesis knew this. The proponents of Natural Law know this, and not irrelevantly, preschoolers know this. Morality, in its protean forms is not only a spiritual ideal; it is also a practical necessity that arises from the capacity of human ingenuity to destroy, to indulge in self loathing, and irrational hatreds.

4.) The difficulty confronting the progressive reformer, regardless if promoting liberty, equality, diversity or whatever, is that he can never be sure that what is advocated will not turn out to be a fad. Tradition has a track record, history provides a reference for what has worked and what has not, but resort to these things by conservatives, or even by liberal pragmatists is definitionally retrogressive.The progressive is constrained by the new, the untried and the theoretical. He has no grounds for confidence that the most elegant progressive doctrine will not morph into something unplanned and undesirable under the weight of reality and human nature. This is why the progressive must always be amenable to mandates and bans and other invocations of force that are directed not so much at ideological opponents as at the way the world actually works.

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z9z99
on July 24, 2018 at 13:35:27 pm

Thoughtful.

...force, which is axiomatically incompatible with liberty.

How can we enforce real property rights without resort to force? Or are real property rights incompatible with liberty?

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nobody.really
on July 24, 2018 at 14:12:10 pm

"...Or are real property rights incompatible with liberty?"

How very clever of you, once again.

The answer to your attempt to send the discussion down another "spur" is - "NO"

It IS the attempt to *force* an equality of property across the spectrum THAT is incompatible with liberty and NOT the force that undergirds the rightful and proper accumulation of property.

Goodness gracious, nobody, this type of cant is best suited to a high school sophomore civics class.

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gabe
on July 24, 2018 at 22:53:36 pm

nobody,

You ask two valid questions, the quick answers to which are "you can't" and "yes," but only to the extent that the words force, liberty and property rights are taken to include, respectively, any use of force, absolute liberty and unrestricted property rights. In other words, yes, unrestricted property rights are incompatible with absolute liberty, but these conceptions of property rights and liberty are both practical impossibilities. Unrestricted property rights may create externalities that make one property owner;s rights incompatible with adjacent owners. Obviously, the right of a property owner infringes on liberty of a person who wishes to trespass, but this infringement is distinguishable, for instance from infringement on the liberty to pursue an education.

The use of force to prevent infringement on a right is distinguishable in meaningful ways from use of force to infringe on that right. Likewise, the use of force to enforce property rights is distinguishable from the use of force to infringe the liberty of those who are not infringing the liberty of others.

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z9z99
on July 24, 2018 at 23:28:43 pm

Great; I take it that you get my point. But for the benefit of others:

A and B each claim title to Blackacre. They each enter the property, demand that the other leaves, and loudly claim that they will interpret a failure to leave as a threat. Then they attack each other.

From the perspective of any outside observer, their conduct is identical. But within the conceptual framework of property law, we magically re-characterize the behavior of one of these people as wrongful aggressor applying force, and the other as innocent victim applying no force, but merely engaging in justified self-defense. But we can't know which characterization applies to which person until after the fact, when we get a court's ruling quieting title to Blackacre. Such are the legal fictions that drive property law. And I say that as a property owner.

Bottom line: The more we embrace autonomy rights, the more we embrace force, even when we re-characterize it. We should not deceive ourselves about this.

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nobody.really
on April 04, 2019 at 16:53:05 pm

We have had Religious Laws and rule for 2000 + years.

The religious right have always NEEDED an Enemy and always created one. My Favorite was the blood libel and the Cadaver trials.

Left handed Children, Witches, Blasphemers, Infidels, Heretics, other tribes, Nations, Africans, Asians, Indians, Natives(Savages), JEWS, Muslim's, other Christian sects, Atheists, Scientists, teachers, translators, MEDIA, Gossipers, LGBT, Commies, Socialists, Adulterers, pornographers, Abortionists, Contraception, Doctors, Voodoo, etc etc...

Who haven't religious Zealots BURNT as enemies....?

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Craig McKenzie

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