Saturday, June 30, 2007

Damned Libertarians. by Bubba

[The following post was written last Wednesday by guest blogger and good friend, Bubba & edited by Yours Truly.]

Rod Dreher likes this statement of Mark Shea's

The libertarian tends to remember that government is a menace due to the fall. He does not tend to remember that he is a menace due to the fall. He wants freedom from government so that he can do whatever the hell he wants. And frequently, he wants hell.

calling it really, really good and "Chestertonian".

The Man from K Street, who is often so astute in his criticism that it's a wonder he's still permitted to comment, notes that the traditionalists share some personality traits with libertarians, particularly in their lack of a real public spirit, what K-Man calls poliphobia.

Shea, as usual, has it half-correct. ~80% of the libertarians I know are certifiable misanthropes.

Guess what, though? So are the vast majority of Paleocons I've known--Shea's "traditionalist conservatives" and libertarians share more personal qualities than I think either would care to admit, and one quality in particular:

Poliphobia. It is one of the great practical fallacies of both libertarianism and even religiously tinged Paleoconservatism. Both are philosophies that tend to attract disproportionate numbers of people who have no real public spirit whatsoever, no poliphilia.

It isn't the first time a critic of the Crunchies made this charge, as Rod addressed a similar idea fifteen months ago.

He responds, first, by saying that we shouldn't be presumptuous about the Crunchies' community activities, as if they have never been presumptuous about others. He then demonstrates having missed the point entirely by writing, "I also don’t see why it doesn't count as community activism to be involved in building up one’s own 'little enclaves.'"

("Who is my neighbor?" the lawyer asked in Luke 10. Does Rod think the answer was "only your blood relatives?")

He then says that the reason he does less community work than his father is because he works longer hours, and he "can't" do otherwise. ("Believe me, if I could work shorter hours, I would.")

I wonder if that explanation would fly with Rod for those who are more comfortable within mainstream conservatism and what he calls the "party of greed." I hope that Christian charity and simple consistency would encourage him to give them the benefit of the doubt rather than write that they're embracing convenient excuses to indulge their conspicuous lifestyles, that they really could work fewer hours if their priorities were aligned more with God, family, and the Permanent Things.

But, returning to Shea's quote, the Man from K Street misses a similarity between the traditionalists and the libertarians, something that commenter ScurvyOaks notices: the traditionalist conservative is a menace due to the fall just as much as the libertarian.

Speaking for myself and my own libertarian tendencies, I don't deny that I have been a fallen sinner in need of God's grace and redemption, but I'm not sure how salvation and the subsequent growth into spiritual maturity is hampered by limited government, or how it is enabled by people like Shea telling me what to do and having the coercive force of the government to impose his will upon me.

Immediately after the Chestertonian condemnation of libertarians, Shea writes, "The Traditionalist (and by this, I have in view the Christian tradition since it is, like, the basis of Western civilization) wants freedom in order to attempt, with God's help, virtue."

Because he too is fallen, I doubt the typical traditionalist truly desires virtue with all his heart. Because he too is fallen, I doubt his conception of what is virtuous is flawless, and because he too is fallen, I doubt that his political program for maximizing virtue does not contain serious unintended consequences.

Let's focus on the conception of what is virtuous.

Caleb Stegall wrote that finding Jesus is perhaps impossible in the suburbs, and Rod recently wrote about the virtue and possible necessity of staying in one place. When people like them endorse the view that libertarians want Hell, they may be condemning much more than the legal brothels and opium dens that some libertarians advocate: they may be criticizing the simple freedom to live where one wants.

They can believe whatever foolish thing they want, but when they want political power to be wielded to accomplish their goals, and when they criticize as literally damned those who are wary of such an abuse of power, they reveal the dangerous direction of their political beliefs.

Perhaps they should stop sighing over their own pseudo-Chestertonian quips long enough to consider something C.S. Lewis wrote, which Thomas Sowell recorded as one of his favorite quotations.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

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That's the date set for the Motu Proprio "in which Pope Benedict XVI liberalizes access to the traditional Latin Mass" as the article says. That liberal!

The comments beneath the article are really good; they're funny. Someone notes that seven seems to be a very sacred number. Another says he "fears there will have to be an element of compulsion in this decree." Umm, yeah, that's probably true.

I agree mostly with commenter "Catholicity" who notes that while a Trid Mass can be celebrated sloppily, the sloppiness "is confined to the unyieldingly specific rubrics." I've always said this is what I like about the Latin Mass, it's like a "hedge" that keeps everyone from noticing the little things, e.g., the priest's personality, and helps us concentrate on the big things, e.g., maybe the Presence of Jesus Christ, hello?

Of course, a solemnly celebrated Novus Ordo with the priest facing ad orientem and serious hymns of adoration, incense, beautiful vestments and the like might be the ideal. But, honestly.... what is the over/under on that happening at this point?

Friday, June 29, 2007


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Musing on Chesterton

The thought just came to me: would G. K. Chesterton be happy or appalled to know that there is a group of folks who read him fairly selectively and then sew their favorite aspects of his thought, along with a few perceived conclusions, into an ideological crazy quilt resembling what he might call an "insane simplification"?

Just wondering.