Talk About Daddy Issues

The argument I made in my last post “The Legitimate Liberal Process” elicited a strong reaction from certain circles both in its comment section and on other blogs. One reason the counter argument to the liberal system of government seems flimsy to me is because it only (as far as I have observed) attempts to poke moral and logical holes in liberalism. It never provides an alternative system as a replacement. It is fine to say that government which prioritizes the freedom and equal rights of its citizens (i.e., liberalism) is a bad form of government for this or that reason but doing this alone merely boils down to at best intellectual masturbation and at worst nonproductive whining and complaining.

One important aspect of liberalism that is often overlooked or dismissed is the adherence to the rule of law. The rule of law is important because if we are to temper the direct and arbitrary rule of men with legal structures in which they can become rulers and according to which they can rule it is necessary that these legal structures are respected and adhered to. Of course it can be argued that there are always instances in which these structures are violated in various ways. But as long as the legal structures provide an authentic system for dealing with and rectifying these irregularities then the system will hold together and maintain its integrity.

One argument made against this legitimate liberal process was that rules and regulations cannot replace actual authority. Specifically it was argued:

Rules, procedures, and written law are not capable of becoming transubstantiated incarnations of authority itself.  The crafting of positive rules, the writing of text onto paper, is not a sacrament. Bureaucracy … and formal decision procedures cannot become a substitute for kings.

I find this argument unconvincing. I assume the person making this argument includes legislatures, courts and executives (e.g., Presidents, Prime Ministers etc.) to be sub sets of the “bureaucracy” category. If this assumption is correct, I do not understand why democratically elected people in authority (limited in power by laws) cannot be adequate substitutes for kings. Clearly there needs to be people in authority to enact, interpret and enforce law. What difference does it make whether this power is defused into different branches or that the person in authority received their authority from the ballot, inheritance or a strange lady lying in a pond distributing swords? Come to think of it, no monarchy in history (to which I am aware) existed without a bureaucracy to carry out its will. It was the king who invested the bureaucracy with the authority to carry out its will in the same way that a modern electorate invests its elected officials with their authority who in turn invest the bureaucracy under them with authority. As long as there remains faith in the legitimate authority of this bureaucracy I fail to see why one system is any more or less valid than the other.

But the argument continues:

[T]he modern mind … desperately wants to believe that a politics with minimized authority is not merely coherent, not merely possible, but is the only moral state of affairs.

The argument as to whether a government can coherently limit its own authority has been debated previously and there is no reason to revisit it in this blog post. To argue whether such a government is possible seems to reflect a confused perception of reality. Self limiting government has existed (at least) ever since the Magna Carta. Not only is limited government possible but it has out competed the older forms of government which I assume this person believes were established on a more coherent foundation. As for the morality of limited government I would not argue that it is the “only moral state of affairs”. It it simply the overwhelmingly preferred moral state of affairs in the modern west.

As appears to be the case with a great deal of anti-liberals they are seemingly incapable of making an argument without launching an ad hominem attack against their perceived enemies. For example the same person went on to say:

Ultimately though reality doesn’t really care about the daddy issues of modernity. Pervasive commitment to an incoherent conception of authority doesn’t make authority go away as a feature of reality: it merely makes authority sociopathic.

The implication here is that a person who prefers to live under a liberal system of government is somehow anti-authority in general which in turn reflects an unresolved and maladaptive psychological hang up related to the person’s father (i.e., the familial authority figure). This seems to be a bit of a stretch to me. First of all, a person who prefers to live under a liberal system of government is not anti-authority but rather pro-authority of a specific type. Liberal authority however limited is still essentially authority. Second of all, it seems to me that the person who cannot seem to make an argument without attempting to shame someone who might disagree or question him is the one with “daddy issues”. As when a person is shamed by their parent they tend to want to vent this shame on those he perceives to be weak or incapable of defending themselves as in blogs, comment sections and the like. To project his own daddy issue on to his opponent seems entirely psychologically consistent and is certainly no substitute for a civil and reasoned debate.




Filed under Shame

46 responses to “Talk About Daddy Issues

  1. Terry Morris

    I’ll start this off by saying that your critique (of the reaction) in the opening paragraph is not wholly without merit, but largely is so.

    As I myself have pointed out many many times (more times than I care to count – this critique is a very common one!) to many many people, not a single one of us – not me, not you, nor Kristor, nor Zippy, nor Wood etc. – got to choose where he was born, nor the form of government he was born under that long predated his birth.

    Moreover, not a single one of us was not influenced – for better or worse – during our formative and early adult years – by the system of government and its institutions we were all subjected to (again, for better or worse) from birth.

    That the Reaction has not as yet devised an alternative to liberalism is no indication, as you suggest, that it is mere “intellectual masturbation” at best, and nonproductive (or counterproductive) “whining” at worst. Far from it.

    The very first phase of the process (which will take decades to complete), is to recognize there is a problem. The next step or steps is to identify what the source or sources of the problem is, and to articulate and define them to the best of one’s intellectual ability. And so on. Devising an alternative system comes somewhere down the line. It will come in due course.

    As to the rest of the post, I’ll have to get back to it later.

    • I’ll be interested to see what you come up with in terms of a replacement. I suspect any return to a former form of government will not work as there has to be a reason why they were rejected in the first place.

      • Terry Morris

        Well, I very strongly suspect I will not be a part of devising an alternative in any case. In the first place, I personally don’t believe it will happen within my lifetime, and in the second, there are those far more capable than myself for the completion of such a task.

        My fondest hope – and what I have always told my children – is that I am able to inculcate in my kids and within my broader sphere of influence certain principles insofar as I understand them, and that they in turn will inculcate in their own children the same principles and take them to the next level. And so on.

        I personally have no doubt history will repeat itself. It always does given enough time. To my mind it isn’t a matter of “will it happen,” but merely a matter of “when will it happen?” As to that, well, we’re talking about step #682, and currently we’re on about step #8. Ha, ha.

      • I guess it would be inappropriate to wish you a happy 4th of July. : )

      • Terry Morris

        Not inappropriate, no. It is true that Independence Day (I prefer to refer to it as such rather than by its calendar date – I know, I know, weird!) has taken on a kind of “Day of Mourning” significance for me personally over the last 15 or so years. But that does not mean I do not appreciate the gesture. And I wholeheartedly return it!

      • That is interesting. Thank you. Although I do not share this particular pet peeve with you it did strike me that we also refer to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as September 11th. I wonder if there is some connection between the two events that gives rise to name them by their calendar dates. Could it be that they were both history altering events and therefore their relation to time is relevant?

        Now you might argue that the birth of Christ is a history altering event as well. Of course that is correct but most scholars agree that Jesus was not in fact born on December 25 and that the holiday celebrating his birth was purposefully associated with the preexisting Roman holiday of Saturnalia. So the fact that the date was not really associated with the actual event historically might be a distinguishing difference in this respect.

      • That reads a little patronizing, Terry.

  2. Winston,

    One reason the counter argument to the liberal system of government seems flimsy to me is because it only (as far as I have observed) attempts to poke moral and logical holes in liberalism. It never provides an alternative system as a replacement.

    “One reason the counter argument to drug addiction seems flimsy to me is because it only (as far as I have observed) attempts to poke moral and logical holes in drug addiction. It never provides an alternative replacement.”

    I still think you are missing the foundational argument of many of us “anti-liberals.” And that is that liberalism is wickedness predicated upon lies. I realize you disagree with that assessment, but that’s not at issue when we are discussing “alternative forms of government.” The first order of business for the individual liberal once he understands the wickedness of liberalism is to STOP cooperating, empowering, giving formal support to wickedness. If the drug addict has to figure out how he’s going to handle all the pain, “inconvenience,” what he’s going to be doing now on Friday nights, how’s he going to make it through his days without the high, etc. prior to stopping his drugs, then he will very likely NOT stop. In fact, all those “replacement” questions will very likely just trap him further in his addiction. That is why all these utilitarian questions, these replacement questions, these North Korea situations, etc fail to convince us – because they are ultimately irrelevant once you realize liberalism is evil. Moral people should flee evil; let the remaining chips fall where they may.

    FWIW I read through your posts on liberalism – and the subsequent comments – very often. I try to think through your arguments and test my own abilities, rhetorical or otherwise, to rebut. It’s been helpful to me. But often what you write in your posts seems to draw too heavily upon an animosity towards Zippy personally, as opposed to the substance of his writings. I’ll be the first to admit that its hard to wade through all that and still wish to engage here, but obviously this is your place, your rules, your interests. It does detract from the substance of your own writing though.

    • @Wood – I have a few reactions to your comment. First, it is true that I do not agree liberalism is wickedness predicated on lies. Liberalism is a form of government and is not really capable of being evil. It is the people who perform the governmental functions and the people living under the government who are capable of being evil. Yes, under liberalism people are more free to commit sin (I suppose) but in my mind this gives their actions more authenticity. Therefore a good act under liberalism is all the more good.

      Second, I’m not sure the analogy between government systems and drug addiction is apt. We need some form of government. Whereas people do not need addictions. The fact that we need government is precisely why it is important to have a replacement if you want to get rid of the current form of government. In addition, I am not convinced that any other form of government cannot be equally as guilty of all the crimes you people want to ascribe to liberalism. Accordingly in my mind it is better to have a freer form of government.

      Finally, I understand that you are turned off by my animosity towards the arrogant and condescending attitude Zippy chooses to vent on those who dare question his theories. However, I would caution you not to commit the ad hominem fallacy and allow your feelings towards me as a person detract from the substance of my writing.

      • Terry Morris

        Major “quibble”:

        Liberalism isn’t a form of government, it is an ideology like “conservatism,” libertarianism and so on. Democracy, Republicanism, Monarchy – these are forms of government.

      • Poor choice of words on my part.

      • Terry Morris

        Can an ideology be evil or good in your view?

      • Do you think prioritizing freedom and equal rights of citizens is evil or just that it could potentially lead to

      • Terry Morris

        Prioritizing freedom and equal rights is evil, yes.

        Btw, American liberalism has long since moved beyond prioritizing freedom and equal rights for U.S. citizens only.

      • Why do you feel it is evil?

      • Terry Morris

        For the same reason I think it was an evil, diabolical plan when Satan dangled the forbidden fruit before Eve in the Garden and essentially told her God had lied to them about the consequences of disobedience to his moral command.

      • So you equate freedom with temptation?

      • Terry Morris

        There is but one legitimate kind of liberty, and that is the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. Liberalism rejects that out of hand and (ironically) labels its promotion and advocacy “hate-filled religious fanaticism.”

        Liberalism promotes lasciviousness, murder, covetousness, lying, disobedience to and disrespect of parents and elders, and generations that came before. In other words, not just the destruction of his body, but of a man’s soul. It violates every single commandment on both tables of the decalogue as a matter of principle and practice. It is clearly a diabolical ideology.

      • Well, I am a liberal in that I believe a government made of mortal men should prioritize the freedom and equal rights of its citizens and I in no way reject Christ. The “hate filled religious fanaticism” charge of which you speak must come from some other source.

      • Terry Morris


        Well, I am a liberal in that I believe a government made of mortal men should prioritize the freedom and equal rights of its citizens and I in no way reject Christ.

        Yes, we’re all familiar with the claim. I know a Catholic woman – a bank teller – who once offered me a promotional ink pen bearing the name of the United Way. I read the inscription on it and immediately handed it back to her and told her ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ She was surprised and asked what problem I have (or had) with the United Way. I replied that they advocate abortion and “family planning”. She said, ‘yeah, so what?’ I said “you are a Catholic and you support abortion advocacy?” She replied “I support a woman’s right to choose.”

        And of course we were all recently treated to Nanci Pelosi’s diatribe about Democrats (i.e., left liberals) being the party that’s really doing God’s work. Uh, hu.

        Ignoring an authority’s teachings and commands is tantamount to rejecting him. Besides, basically all of us reject Christ in some way or the other, so claiming you *in no way* reject Christ and His authority is, well, being less than fully truthful.

      • A general prioritization of freedom is not the same as endorsing abortion. Moreover, abortion can be and is legal in non liberal countries. There is no direct connection between the two.

      • Terry Morris

        “A woman’s right to choose” – liberal principle or not?

        Which ‘non liberal’ countries that legalize abortion are you referring to?

      • Abortion was legal in North Korea for many years.

      • Terry Morris

        Abortion was *legal* in N. Korea (in the sense that a woman could procure one if that was her choice), or it was *legal* (in the sense that the state mandated abortion after a certain number of children, thus had no law prohibiting abortion per se)?

        My question is genuine. I simply don’t know the answer to it but am curious.

      • Terry Morris

        Thanks for the link.

        So women in N.Korea have “the right to choose over their own bodies,” “for important reasons.” And the language “for important reasons” is broadly interpreted by the government to permit all kinds of abortions (including self induced abortions) under all manner of circumstances. That about sums it up.

        And you say there is no direct connection between lawful abortion and liberalism. I need better examples.

      • Abortion was legal in the pre-Christian Roman Empire. That was no liberal society.

      • Terry Morris

        I take it that sexual liberation and open bordersism, a type of the “universal franchise” and so on, were also prominent features of pre-Christian Rome. Those (and others I could name) are liberal principles, Winston.

      • The definition of liberalism is a governmental philosophy that prioritizes the freedom and equal rights of its citizens. Neither pre-Christian Rome nor post Christian Rome fit that definition.

      • Terry Morris

        Winston, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck.

      • Definitions have meanings Terry. You can’t just redefine terms because you want to.

      • Terry Morris

        Well, I can, but I usually don’t. Why don’t you show me how I’ve redefined what liberalism is in anything I’ve said thus far.

      • You are defining liberalism to mean a regime that allows abortion.

      • Terry Morris

        Absurd. Simply absurd.

        I have been at pains to point out that pre-Christian Rome exhibited numerous liberal characteristics – sexual liberationism, open bordersism, the so called “universal franchise.” Not to mention a democratic-republican form of government, a division of political power between competing branches and so on.

      • Nine of which define liberalism. They may be policies pursued by liberal governments but they might also be pursued by non liberal regimes as well.

      • Terry Morris

        Name the “non liberal” governments that pursue them *as a body* of priorities.

      • Terry Morris

        Circular reasoning. Nice.

      • Terry Morris


        The definition of liberalism is a governmental philosophy that prioritizes the freedom and equal rights of its citizens. Neither pre-Christian Rome nor post Christian Rome fit that definition.

        The problem with retreating to the dictionary definition of liberalism (or any other political ideology for that matter – pick one) as you’re apt to do, is that it is, well, merely a dictionary definition and doesn’t therefore tell us a whole lot about what any part of the definition actually means.

        This is where word studies are sometimes very useful tools for penetrating deeper into the meaning of a given term, but a blog combox is really not a suitable place for conducting extensive word studies, as I’m sure you will agree.

        Now, you have stated, on numerous occasions before, that N. Korea can’t be liberal because it “does not respect the rule of law.” Which is fine I guess, but since I’ve shown that pre-Christian Rome operated under numerous liberal principles, you maintain that it was not a liberal society based on the dictionary definition of what liberalism is. I wonder whether you think pre-Christian Rome also, like N. Korea, didn’t respect the rule of law?

        I’ll come back to it if you like, but essentially what you’ve done is to give pre-Christian Rome as an example of a non-liberal society, and then in circular fashion (after it is shown Rome was steeped in liberalism) you come back to say ‘Rome was not liberal because Rome was not liberal.’ That’s circular reasoning; it tells us nothing substantive about pre-Christian Rome to inform us it was, as you say, non liberal.

        But in any case I’m not sure what you’re after as evidence that a given society (ancient, medieval, modern, whatever) is indeed liberal if the fact they are/were steeped in liberal principles is not sufficient evidence to your mind.

        **I’ll point out again that liberalism the ideology makes no distinction between citizens and non citizens on its advocacy of freedom and equal rights. Liberal regimes that *do* make such distinctions (the early U.S., Nazi Germany and so on) are not as “advanced” in their liberality, but they’re still liberal.

      • That’s wrong. I have argued North Korea is not liberal because it does not prioritize the freedom and equal rights of its citizens. The fact that it does not adhere to the rule of law means that we need not look to its laws to determine whether it professes to be liberal.

      • Terry Morris

        Okay, fair enough. So what’s the basis again for denominating pre-Christian Rome non-liberal?

      • Rome was not liberal because it did not prioritize the freedom and equal rights of its citizens.

  3. Prioritizing the freedom of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit is evil and cruel.

    • Tempting Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit is not the same thing as prioritizing freedom of speech and freedom of worship. To equate the two is patently ridiculous (as I am sure you are aware but don’t want to admit).

      • Terry Morris

        Well, I don’t know about ‘freedom of speech’ per se, but putting ideas in the minds of the ignorant and inexperienced – that rejecting the moral commands of the Sovereign Lord of the universe and one’s maker is a good and healthy and reasonable thing to do – is tantamount to “prioritizing ‘freedom of worship.'”

        As we all well know, “freedom of religion” means freedom to worship God, or a god/gods, or not according to the dictates of one’s own conscience. Which simply means the freedom to question, and ultimately reject, God’s authority. And as we also well know, misery loves company, so…

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