Monday, April 13, 2009

An exchange on freedom

I recommend reading a post at View from the Right on What defines "left" and "right"?

A reader of the site wants to base his politics on individual liberty. He believes that the political goods favoured by conservatives will "emanate naturally" from the people if there is individual liberty and a small state.

Lawrence Auster replies that individual liberty was based on other, previously existing goods which need to be openly recognised and defended. Furthermore, the term freedom has taken on a distinct meaning, unhelpful to conservatives, in modern liberal societies.

The last point is an important one which I put this way in a post titled, In defence of what matters:

The effort to disentangle conservatism from right-liberalism also means exercising care when adopting "individual liberty" as a slogan.

Liberalism has been dominant for some time now, so when liberty is spoken of it is commonly understood in terms of liberal politics. This can mean that liberty is thought of, in right-liberal terms, as the freedom of an abstracted individual against the state or against any kind of collective. It can mean too that "liberty" is understood in more general liberal terms as a freedom from what matters: as a "liberation" from significant aspects of our own selves which aren't self-authored.

A conservative politics can't be based on liberty understood in these terms. If we are to be free, it must be as complete, non-abstracted men living as social beings within given communities.

Lawrence Auster puts the distinction between traditionalism and a liberal view of individual freedom succinctly as follows:

the key defining thing of traditionalism is the recognition of a natural, social, and spiritual order by which we are formed; we don't entirely create ourselves through our own will and choices, much of what we are, for example our sex, is not chosen by us, but comes from beyond us. Yet liberals today believe that people have the right to choose literally everything about themselves, even their sex.

Summarising Lawrence Auster's post like this is a bit disjointed, so I do encourage readers to follow the exchange at VFR.


  1. Whats the difference? Each differs only in the manner of subjection.

    Traditionalism by force of arms via a nobility over a subject peoples (Aryans over the West Romans). Liberalism by means of economic power (magnates via parliament over the serfs).

  2. "Each differs only in the manner of subjection".

    Not so. The differences run much deeper than this. Traditionalism recognises a natural, social and spiritual order; liberalism only recognises individual desire, which is to be managed by a bureaucratic state.

    This has tremendous consequences. Liberalism sets itself against important aspects of human identity and social functioning: e.g. sex (manhood and womanhood), nation and ethnicity, and objective forms of morality.

    What you end up with under liberalism is a society in which we are supposed to orient ourselves (and limit ourselves) to those aspects of life which can be chosen and pursued at an individual level: career, casual sex, travel, shopping, eating out, entertainments (TV, music etc).

    We are supposed to pretend that things which do matter (gender, ethnicity, family, virtue) are mere social constructs which can be made not to matter.

    There have to be civilisational consequences to this. The running down of family life, the loss of communal forms of identity, the passive, atomised individualism - these put Westerners at an enormous disadvantage.

    The stakes here are high. Liberalism is a form of civilisational suicide. It is important to cast it aside.

  3. 'Natural order' sounds like castes to me, corporatism, guilds, privileged classes etc. Sounds a lot like what Belloc proposed, some form of distributism hearkening back to the days of feudalism.

    Liberalism should be a god send to Christians, in an open playing field it should sort out the chaff from the wheat. However for some reason that hasn't been the case.

    Christians are leading the same merry dance to perdition.

  4. Anonymous, recognising the natural order can simply mean recognising that the distinctions between men and women have a natural basis (as well as a social one) and that the traditional family of father, mother and offspring has a natural basis. You don't have to go back to the Middle Ages to find a time in which such ideas were generally accepted.

  5. I'm unclear as to whether liberalism is to blame for changes in social functioning or is the judiciary simply responding legally to an existing situation.

    The states usurpation of education, child care, housing, security, social welfare, pensions etc. seems to negate the role of males and families.

    Is it big government of liberal government?

  6. When you say "natural" do you mean genetic or biological?

    Surely then homosexuality is natural, because science is reaching the conclusion its basis is genetic.

    One could argue then that for the greater good, biology should be overridden and homosexual behaviour suppressed.

    But aren't liberals making the same argument when they say that women should give up or minimize their natural maternal urges for the greater good?

  7. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, hysteria and delusional disorder…….these are genetic and biological are they not? Then these would be considered natural as well, but surely not normal, average, common, ordinary, regular, expected, likely? Do we celebrate Schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? Do we have a day set aside to embrace delusional disorder? Then why do we have the Gay parades? The day that homosexuality becomes common is the day that the human race dies!

  8. "Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, hysteria and delusional disorder…….these are genetic and biological are they not?"

    Exactly the point.

    Saying something is "natural" i.e. has a genetic basis is not the best argument to use. You then have to qualify which natural urges are acceptable and those that are not.

    Liberals would say, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, it's okay. Traditionalist conservatives, as this blog calls them, would say certain urges that don't obviously hurt anyone else (homosexuality between consenting adults in private) should be suppressed to create a society they argue is collectively better for everyone.

    You appeal to this greater good here yourself:

    "The day that homosexuality becomes common is the day that the human race dies!"

    I think this blog fudges on the idea of what is "natural". Natural seems to be used two ways.

    One is in the sense of traditional, time-tested, and perhaps ordained by God. But many times, when the writer is confronted by a liberal argument (whether in an article or comments) he responds with a rational scientific argument (which is the ultimate basis for liberal thought).

    Now, using the same word with different or contradictory meanings, based on context or audience, is not necessary a problem for what is essentially a political movement. But it is a flaw in your argument (the same sort of flaw that exists in the liberal "statement of facts" as this blog consistently points out).

  9. Let me quote Lawrence Auster at length to give a better idea of what is meant by the phrase "natural, social and spiritual order".

    "The order of being means the tripartite order of existence in which we live: the natural order, the social order, and the divine order--the biological, the cultural, and the spiritual. Everything that exists is a part of one or more of those realms, with man in the middle, a part of them all and experiencing them all.

    The natural or biological would include such things as the sexes and sex distinctions, the family as a natural human unit. Growth and decay. Birth and death. All inborn human traits. and differences. Race and race differences.

    The social includes human society itself, the political and cultural traditions, bodies of laws and customs, created by men in the past, and passed down to later generations who add to it and change it.

    Then there is God, the transcendent, the divine source of all being.

    The order of being forms us and exists independently of us. We participate in it. We as individuals did not create any of these things. They are the givens which form us.

    A culture is a particular way of symbolizing and expressing the order of being.

    Liberalism denies the order of being. It denies the structure of existence. It denies the givens that form us. It says we can be whatever we want to be, that only the human will and human desire matter. Liberalism says that there's nothing outside of or higher than the human self, its rights and desires. Liberalism recognizes only the equality of all human desires. In fact, liberals get angry at the very idea of an "order of being" because it implies that there is something outside their own will which would limit their freedom.

    The structure of the world is experienced philosophically, spiritually, through rational intuition, and through common sense. It consists of all kinds of natural distinctions and hierarchies, which liberalism systematically denies.

    Are there differences in inherited human ability? Yes. Liberalism denies them.

    Are there sex differences that matter socially? Yes. Liberalism denies them.

    Are there differences between cultures that matter socially? Yes. Liberalism denies them.

    Are there race differences that matter socially? Yes. Liberalism denies them.

    Are there moral distinctions, between good and bad? Yes. Liberalism denies them and says it's not possible to make moral judgments.

    Are there differences between behavior which is higher, nobler, closer to God, and behavior which is lower, more base? Yes. Liberalism denies them. It treats the base equally with the noble or rather it favors the base.

    The order of being is not a political platform. Each culture and society is a unique and imperfect way of expressing the order of being and putting it into a form to make possible the life of a people."

    Saying that there is a natural realm which forms significant aspects of who we are is not the same as saying that everything that is part of the natural realm is good or is a source of order in itself.

  10. John, I think I usually do define the word "natural" when I use it in articles at this site.

    For instance, when I criticise a liberal for denying the legitimacy of distinctions between men and women I often do make the argument that such distinctions are natural in the sense of being biologically hard-wired.

    You're right to point out that because something is natural doesn't necessarily make it good or desirable. But this isn't my point in invoking what is natural in the above example.

    Liberals often claim that sex distinctions are socially created and therefore artificial. This means that the liberal aim of abolishing sex distinctions becomes practicable. What is socially created can be relatively easily uncreated. Furthermore, liberals often go on to explain the existence of artificial sex distinctions in terms of an assertion of power by men over women.

    So reminding liberals that sex distinctions are natural in the sense of being biologically hard-wired is useful for two reasons.

    First, it suggests that the aim of abolishing the distinctions is unlikely to work and will be highly intrusive. Second, it suggests that the reason for the existence of the distinctions is natural as opposed to artificial and oppressive.

  11. John, one final point.

    The question of what causes homosexuality is still an open one. I suspect there might be a physiological predisposition, combined with a trigger of a dysfunctional relationship with a parent in early childhood.

    The predisposition is not necessarily genetic. It might have to do, for example, with exposure to hormones in the womb.

    Is homosexuality therefore "natural"? In the broadest sense that it is a phenomenonen in the material world you could answer yes. In the sense of it being a normal development of gender identity and sexual orientation in the human species I believe the answer is no.

    This doesn't mean that traditionalists are committed to suppressing homosexuality. We are concerned, though, to uphold the norms of the heterosexual majority in society - we would certainly defend what homosexual activists condemn as "heteronormativity".

  12. John, I never said that homosexuals should be suppressed. Why do you assume that one is a totalitarian if he proclaims, "The day that homosexuality becomes common is the day that the human race dies!"? I don’t think we need time to test the results of the outcome?

    And I asked why we have gay parades, not because I wanted to suppress them, rather to highlight a personal observation. Now if I said why we allow, permit, or tolerate gay parades; well then, your point would be well taken as an act of totalitarianism.

    I agree with Mr. Richardson argument, and I think he did a damn good job of explaining liberal’s selfish ideologies.

  13. ". I suspect there might be a physiological predisposition, combined with a trigger "

    There was a study done on twins that found this may be the case with schizophrenia. I beieve a lot of abnormal or disfunctional conditions with behavioral elements are caused by this comnination and not simply one or the other(so nature vs nuture is a false dichotomy.)

    Your mention of growth and decaybrings to mind plastic surgery. I see the explosion in use of make up and cosmetic surgery as an unintended consequence of delayed marriage and divorce culture. Women's beauty generally begins to decline in her late 20s. Ideally she would be off the market so to speak and securely married. Her need to attract a mate would be low and in fact her sexual attractiveness to other men could destabilize her relationship. But now women of all ages re looking for new partners - not the natural order at all!

    HOllywood sells the idea that worth comes from beauty and wealth and many believe they need to keep up appearances long past their prime. Frankly, it is liberating to not be expected to look wonderful and attract suiters but to be valued more as a long standing partner, mother, aunt etc.

    In this regard liberalism seems to reduce people to the physical, unchosen qulaity of age.

  14. THe Left/Right dichotomy is the hoariest in political debate. But it is based on an underlying social conflict: the tension bw lower-status and higher-status.

    I suggest an conceptualisation of this dichotomy that predicts the relationship of social stratification to partisan alignments.

    The Left supports the empowering of the Lower-status.

    The Right supports the establishing of the Higher-status.

    Right-wing parties tend to support bosses, males, whites, straights, organized religion and human dominion over nature.

    Left-wing parties will usually support workers, women, coloreds, gays, churchless and vulnerable species.

    In the post-modern era the Culture War is about the identity of social status differentials. It is about "who, whom".

    It is fought by intellectuals over the ideological validation of social stratification: which social classes, cults, colors, creeds, "crats" are worthy of higher- or lower-status. It is usually fought in the theatres multicultural diversity and sub-cultural perversity.

    What makes the Culture War poignant is that the Left-wing is not against social snobbishness itself, just the traditional forms and contents of social strata.

    Left-wing Cultural Warriors believe their lower-status clients deserve be on more elevated rungs of the status-ladder than the clients of Right-wing Culture Warriors.

    That explains the frequently snobbish put-downs that Left-wing culturalists make towards traditional members of notionally higher-status groups, such as white bogans, Bible Bashers etc