In the comment section to my last blog post Terry Morris (a frequent commenter at the Traditionalist blog called the Orthosphere ) corrected my inaccurate conception of where the Alt-Right and Traditionalism sit relative to Liberalism. Specifically he explained that, “Traditionalism is WAY to the right on the political spectrum, as compared to mainstream Alt-Right ideology.” I had previously been under the impression that the Alt-Right was as far right short of Nazism as one could get and as such Traditionalism could not be even further to the right. But the Traditionalists apparently consider Nazism to be within the liberal orbit and as such also consider the Alt-Right to be a form of Liberalism.
As I understand it, this does not mean, however, that Traditionalists are more extreme than Nazis in terms of racial ideology per se. It means as Mr. Morris explained that “Traditionalists are … radically opposed to the liberal worldview, and strive to live our lives accordingly. And that’s what places us way out to the right of center.” Indeed, he elaborated that, “Traditionalists, … wish to repeal the last 250 years of liberal advancement and return to true, authentic, Throne and Altar conservatism.” I take “Throne and Altar conservatism” to mean Traditionalists advocate a return to the monarchical political structures in existence in Europe prior to the French revolution. I assume this also means a return to a more rigidly defined patriarchy in the domestic sphere. I further assume this means a return to a partnership between Christian religion and government although I do not know whether this means a return to a united Christianity as existed prior to the Protestant revolution. I suspect not given that Mr. Morris said he wanted to erase 250 years of liberal advancement and not 500 years.
I am still a little confused on this subject, however, if we are to use the definition of Liberalism proposed by Zippy i.e., “Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is the [or a] primary legitimate purpose of government.” This is confusing because it seems obvious to me that the Nazi police state was in no way primarily concerned with securing individual freedom and equal rights. As such how could it be considered liberal? Perhaps Mr. Morris is using a different definition of Liberalism. If so, then we find ourselves back in the truly incoherent realm where different people are using different definitions for the same term which I discussed in Part I of this series. I will leave it to him to clarify this point.
Zippy makes the argument that (under his definition) liberalism is fundamentally “incoherent” (speaking of incoherent). This seems to be the position most Traditionalists take but I do not admit to fully understanding why this is the case. This “incoherence” was best explained to me by a comment written by a commenter named Donnie which stated:
1. Authority is a moral capacity to oblige another person to choose one thing over another thing. …
2. A political doctrine is a basic understanding or view about the right exercise of authority.
3. Liberalism is one particular political doctrine. It states that securing individual liberty is the primary (not necessarily sole, but primary) purpose for the right exercise of government authority. …
4. Political actions – that is actual political acts in the real world – necessarily involve the exercise of authoritative discrimination in order to restrict certain choices (i.e. restrict freedom). This is unavoidable. Politics in action is – by its very nature– the art of restricting freedom in controvertible cases to promote some particular understanding of the good.
5. Liberalism therefore is contradicted by the reality of politics. It is not possible for freedom to be the primary purpose of political action, of the exercise of authority. Not only is this not possible it is incoherent. Political acts just are restrictions on freedom.
This is why liberalism is wrong and why it ought to be repented of, repudiated, and replaced. Politics is and always will be the art of restricting freedom in order to promote some particular understanding of the good. It is incoherent for us to decide that our particular understanding of the good is individual liberty unrestricted (or, if you prefer, as unrestricted as is practically possible). Rather, it makes far more sense for our particular understanding of the good to literally be The Good.
I can understand on a broadly stated, theoretical level why the Traditionalist might believe liberalism to be incoherent although I would not use “incoherent” to describe what I believe they mean. Perhaps “self-contradictory” would be a better choice of words. Simply stated they argue by its nature government authority must restrict freedom to achieve the common good. Accordingly, it is self-contradictory to hold the belief that a primary purpose of government should be to preserve the liberty of its citizens. This makes sense as far as it goes, however, I think this conception (if I understand it correctly) is a bit too simplistic.
Why cannot freedom be a good that government can seek to preserve to the extent that it can with the understanding that it must also take some steps to restrict freedom to maintain order? Liberalism is only self-contradictory if one conceives of freedom in an absolute sense. But in my estimation, there is no need to conceive of freedom absolutely. Rather, within the context of liberal government freedom should be un-restricted to the extent possible. By using this conception of freedom (which I believe to be the general liberal understanding) there is no contradiction.
Another means by which the Traditionalists make the argument that Liberalism is incoherent is through the concept of the “Unprincipled exception.” This concept is defined and explored to great extent on Laurence Auster’s blog “View From the Right.” Specifically he states:
The unprincipled exception is a non-liberal value or assertion, not explicitly identified as non-liberal, that liberals use to escape the suicidal consequences of their own liberalism without questioning liberalism itself …
Modern liberalism stands for principles of equality and non-discrimination which, if followed consistently, would make a decent life in this world, or any life at all, impossible. But modern liberal society does not permit the public expression of non-liberal principles, by which rational limits to equality and non-discrimination, or indeed the very falsity of these ideas altogether, can be articulated. This fact forces liberals continually to make exceptions to their own liberalism, without admitting to themselves and others that they are doing so.
According to my understanding, the Traditionalist sees the need to resort to the unprincipled exception as evidence of the fundamental “incoherence” of modern Liberalism. The word that sticks out here to me is “modern.” Certainly, the liberal society of the 1950s had no problem expressing “non-liberal principles.” Personally, I hate the intellectually dishonest doctrine of political correctness but I do not see political correctness as the inevitable consequence of liberalism. To me it seems to be a perversion or perhaps the apogee of the pendulum’s swing. At the very least there is a question here that liberalism must be incoherent and it is by no means an absolute certainty in my mind at this stage in my understanding.
It is my policy not to exceed (by too much) 1,000 words per post and so I will end this exploration here for now. But before I end I must say that I truly appreciate the very helpful, informative and respectful comments made by the Orthosphere contributors and commenters here on my blog. I am well aware that hostility can often be engendered by conversations of this sort between people of such widely differing political orientations. But except for one notable exception that has not been the case as far as I can tell and for that I am grateful.